Sunday, 28 February 2010

O2 Mast Demonstration in Darras Hall

Amazing coverage of our success on Friday:
500+ people manned the barricades in Darras hall trying to stop 02 from erecting a phone mast outside Darras Hall School; the rain was pouring down but I do not think I have ever seen such a sense of united community spirit all agreed on a common cause. To their credit 02 saw that a public relations disaster was about to happen and have backed down. The mast will now go in farmland.
Many spoke but the headteacher, local doctor, Karen [chief mum] and Sunil [one of the lead organisers] were the most eloquent + persuasive; Richard Dodd was the most forceful, and Ian the most passionate and hard working of all the team. The TV / metro radio coverage later was also outstanding, with Karen the star of the show.
The Journal summed it up well...

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Ponteland and Corbridge Supper Clubs

83 came to the Ponteland Golf Club on Tuesday and 37 to the Tynedale Rugby Club
I spoke on Tuesday and on Friday we welcomed the Durham North West Conservatives in a joint event, including our speaker Dr Michelle Tempest, the Candidate there. She spoke on the NHS.
People are still coming forward wanting to help and we ran our usual "What law would you like most to change" competiton.
Most popular winner on Tuesday and Friday = "Stop taxing pension fund contributions / profits as it discourages saving".
Best spoof answer was "Free beer for pensioners".
A good atmosphere at both events.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Percy Arms, Otterburn: Canvass / Get Together

A good day in Otterburn with much canvassing around Brierley Gardens and delivery of our new survey followed by a get together / grilling session in the Percy Arms. John Riddle came along as the local councillor and we faced questions from a variety of locals on issues such as the Human Rights Act, roads budgets, immigration, local jobs and housing, prisons, law and order and a variety of other issues in a 2 hour round table discussion. A big thank you to Chris Galley who organised the evening - which involved a lot of work, and the Percy Arms for letting us take over part of the place

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Greek PM meets his economic inspiration - to know is to fear...

As our debt crisis reaches a level matched only by the Greeks, so it is that Gordon welcomes the Greek PM to Downing Street.
One shudders to think what they say to each other?
One paper /blog ran a caption competition: I set out the best 3:

Both together:"Economics, it's all Greek to us!" or

BROWN: "Are you the Greek tragedy?"
PAPA: "Yes, and you're the British farce."
A two way bubble saying: "I learnt everything I know about economics from you".

If it was not scary how broke we are it would be funny...

Friday, 19 February 2010

02 Phone Mast in Darras Hall

Residents locally in Ponteland are rightly very angry that 02 are proposing to put a mast up directly outside the Darras Hall First School. Leave aside health concerns for the moment; any person would be upset when the application was rejected but the Council fails to lodge its rejection in time, thereby giving 02 permission by default.
There is a crunch meeting next week with protesters when 02 have to decide how they want to play this: they are trying to wheel out their big PR guns to persuade the community. But if a community says it does not want a phone mast outside a school, but will accept it in a field a short distance away - should they not listen to their local customers?
As a lawyer I have represented many action groups in the past and have been to this group's meetings: this action group are well organised, highly motivated, eloquent and up for the fray. 02 would be well advised not to take this particular group of protesters on, when there are reasonable alternatives for them to pursue. They have no moral right to this planning and they know it:
A good piece today in the Journal on this issue, and coverage building in Morpeth Herald and other media.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Manufacturing in crisis

I come from a family of several generations of engineers; my grandfather helped build planes for World War 2. It is in my blood, and up until recently I helped my dad run his small engineering business.
Manufacturing needs help - particularly in the North East. The papers are keen to point out the importance but continue to trumpet Labour's alleged achievements, notwithstanding the demises of Kraft, Rover and Corus.
Consider 3 facts:
- When Labour won power in 1997 they had a trade surplus of £1.8 billion
- The trade deficit is now over £7 billion
- Manufacturing has declined under Labour by well over 10%

Ask any businessman and they will tell you why:
- excessive tax and regulation
- paperwork that needs to be seen to be believed
- a government always telling them how to run a business
- excessive NI and corporation tax
Cure these simple issues and free business up to invest and grow and we will turn this around.
It is not rocket science
And all the businessmen cannot be wrong; only today Richard Branson tells the papers: "I believe the UK's record budget deficit does pose a serious risk to our recovery".

Monday, 15 February 2010

Groundhog Day - Is the Chilcot Inquiry teaching us anything new?

One of the worlds favourite films is Groundhog Day. It amuses, mocks, and then ultimately celebrates small town America and simple values; but its lexicon has changed how we see repetitive days or events forever. Few films can claim such a time changing phrase.
Into this context one places the Chilcot Inquiry into Iraq.

Following on from the efforts of Lords Butler, Hutton and others before it, the Chilcot inquiry is not a trial; it has no lawyers to assist it - although it could really do with some forensic oomph. There is little that is new that has come out of the evidence of Goldsmith, Straw and Blair. Some, such as Campbell, have fared badly. But in truth the evidence is clear and everyone on the doorstep knows it: we went to war to get rid of a terrible man, but did so in a dishonest way.

What strikes me as I knock on doors in the last few weeks has been the repeated reference by voters to the Iraq war and the way Blair deceived parliament. This has been most prevalent in some surprising places - West Wylam is natural Labour territory,yet they were scathing about the former Prime Minister. Yet I do not believe that Chilcot will necessarily change that much.
On this issue I found once more and post here Matthew Parris brilliant piece on Chilcot in the Times

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Winter Olympics lacking snow - should have come to Allenheads

No - this is not Vancouver, home of the "snow free" Winter Olympics, or even the French Alps: this is Northumberland where the Allenheads ski area has been doing a storming trade. Have been too busy to go myself of late but the snow has been good since before Christmas. And if things are a bit chilly the apres ski in the Hemmel Cafe and the Allenheads Inn are hard to beat. Which other ski resort has its own brewery?
Check them out on

Friday, 12 February 2010

Haltwhistle + Langley Village Hall

Spent the afternoon at Kilfrost in Haltwhistle - the company that ensures planes can fly by the application of their patented gycol de - icer to the wings of planes; they employ 41 people in Haltwhistle. They have much to be proud of, as they are expanding. They are a local success story run by local people.
In the morning around 40 people braved the sheet ice to come to Langley village hall. They came from far and wide - from Ayle to Ninebanks, but mostly from Langley. One nice lady strode down the hill and came in "out of curiosity," and then added after having stayed for over an hour, "just because I stayed, you must not take my vote for granted!" I love these days and the questions are ever changing and never predictable: I was grilled about all matters from pensions to the deficit, the sheep ID scheme and the state of the GP out of hours service.
Did some canvassing later in the day but with the rain beginning to come down headed home.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Labour housing minster on repossessions

Two things to report on as the dust settles on this week:
1. A labour housing minster described how for some people "it can in fact be the best option have their home repossessed." Read his comments in full and the papers take on it. And this is a labour minister!

2. We had the result of the Easington by election; now I know they are upset that we went to help last Saturday as the Labour vote went down 20+%; things are changing - even in Easington - as our reception on the doorstep showed last Saturday!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Newcastle International Airport Visit

Wendy and I in front of one of the new fire engines at the Airport with the airport team:
Any time you get to drive down an airport runway, mess around with a fire engine and go to the Air Traffic Control Tower is a good day!
Wendy Morton - the candidate for Tynemouth - and I were given a wonderful tour by the team at the airport - who are rightly very proud of their airport, their facilities on site and the contribution they make to the local economy.
The air traffic control tower is 150 feet high, the runway tarmac is very smooth and feels like a pool table and the fire engines all have a schnozzle - which punches holes in planes and goes to the heart of the fire! You could not make it up
Also worth noting is the amazing college that is run there providing state of the art aeronautical engineering courses amongst other things

In the afternoon I went to the Ovingham Green Fair - where Debbie and her team had laid on an amazing awareness raising fair. Was most impressed by the team from Ovingham First School and had a great chat to the headteacher and the kids.
Evening spent in Ponteland - and sat in on the town council meeting.

P.I.G.S. in trouble

The PIGS are not our porcine friends, but Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain...the 4 weakest economies in the Eurozone.
One of their number, Greece, is defaulting on its debt, and approaching bankruptcy. Only the Germans can save Greece, we are told, with another bail out. The Euro does not seem such a great single currency after all - as our ability to navigate our way of the Brownian fiscal mess is at least aided by our ability to cut interest rates and control our economy.
The financial mess we are in would be worse if we were stuck in the Eurozone - as even my good friend Lord Mandelson, that arch-Europhile acknowledges. We are better with control of our interest rates and economy, rather than being a Euro job lot at the whim of an unelected banker in Brussels.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Easington by election

An amazing day campaigning in Easington, County Durham, began with a packed Ponteland Branch AGM with everyone keen as mustard to get stuck into the campaign trail. We have so many helpers now in Ponteland as the election approaches...Gordon Brown is an amazing recruiting sergeant.
Then on to Easington to give Richard Harrison, the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, a hand in a by
-election he has got in Easington itself. It was a foggy misty day, but we joined Margaret Reid and her team of supporters who were taking the fight to the enemy in and around Easington.
Margaret, Richard and the team after a pub stop

The response on the doorstep was very good; given that Easington is a traditional Labour town, they were delighted to see us and very approachable. We found plenty of switchers from Labour in and around Nursery Gardens and Thorpe Road for example.
You can see things are changing in the North East when a labour bastion like Easington is welcoming to us, and our candidate Richard Harrison is clearly making a name for himself.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Farmers and the Supermarket - an unequal struggle

Good article today by Charlie Brooks on the failure of the government to protect farmers and to keep the power of the supermarket in check. Peter Atkinson, and others, including myself have fought a consistent campaign to improve the farmers lot in Hexham, but bear this in mind:
Of every pound spent in a supermarket, only 8p makes it back to the farmer.
Nick Herbert is doing a great job with specific policies to curb the power of supermarkets and promote farmers - 3 examples are easily identified:
- The honest food Labelling Campaign
- The Supermarket Ombudsman
- Encouraging councils to source their food locally
All robust common sense stuff - and farmers approve!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Gordon suddenly loves voting reform

Gordon Brown has spent 15 years opposed to voting reform; suddenly, 80 days before an election - and after repeatedly having made it clear that such a system does not give the great British people a chance to kick out governments they do not like he has changed his mind...again. Like St. Paul on the road to Damascus ...[an election defeat], with a hung parliament / deal with the liberals in the offing it seems like a good idea. We live in very interesting times...and as always Matt's cartoons express it well