Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Supporting our soldiers

Good piece in todays Journal about the way we are not supporting our soldiers after they leave the army:

Too many are ending up struggling in civilian life - the Journal rightly highlights that we need to do more to help them. I have repeatedly been to prisons myself as a lawyer and seen the evidence of the wrong type of people being sent there. Put simply veterans need our support

Membership and involvement in politics

One thing that is wonderful is the way in which more and more people are getting involved in our campaign...and energised by it
Membership and involvement with the Hexham Conservative Association is significantly on the increase. We are getting more of the 16-25 age group involved. Well over 200 people will be actively involved in the first few weeks of the campaign.
All the youngsters want to do is canvass which is great!
The facebook campaign and this site are making a huge difference. Not a twitterer myself
Already since last weekend when we were canvassing in Ponteland new members have signed up and asked to get involved, but its not just there - in Haydon Bridge and in Haltwhistle we are getting lots more signed up from the Acres and on the hill in Haltwhistle, neither of which is traditional tory territory. One chap signed up nearly a year after I organised to have the hole in his road fixed just off HordleyAcres in Haydon Bridge

Monday, 29 March 2010

Kielder - the full tour and canvass

Kielder Reservoir and dam are something else:
- the largest man made lake in Northern Europe
- enough water to fill 2.2 billion baths
- the world biggest continuous cement pour = 10 days straight to create the valve tower...
and contributing nearly £10 million to the local economy.
I was lucky enough to get the full low down on the work of Northumbrian Water and the Kielder Partnership - both of whom deserve great credit for what they are doing - as well as getting the full tour. On every level Kielder is a sight to see and behold. After the meetings were over I campaigned in Kielder, Falstone and the surrounding area before holding another grilling session in the local pub; this event doubled as a joint surgery with John Riddle the local councillor. Spent the morning in Hexham and Humshaugh and home by 10 - a long day but well worth it

Budget reflections

As always Matt says it so well!

This is the labour budget

Sunday, 28 March 2010

39 days until election day

39 days to go - having walked 20+ miles this weekend on the doorstep I am sure we are going to get very fit by May 6th!

47 Miles of roads in Darras Hall / Ponteland

Just home after a massive weekend delivering and canvassing in Ponteland. There are 47 miles worth of roads in Pont / D Hall and the team of 12 councillors, activists and the very helpful felt every one! We delivered over 4500 leaflets and spoke to countless people on the doorstep

All this to a background of escalating strikes, a bizarre budget from the world of "never never land" and yet more Stephen Byers / Geoff Hoon disasters
Even Gordon would not be so stupid as to call a general election on the day of the 4 day rail strike would he?

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Election Count will be in Hexham

Breaking news! The election count will defintely be in Hexham ...the location of the election count has swung this way and that but have had it confirmed yesterday that our efforts to persuade the Councils returning officers to have the count in Hexham have been successful - and I am very grateful to Paddy Gascoigne and his team in Morpeth.
There was a period of time [most recently told to me personally by Paddy on the 16th March] when he said he had no choice but to hold it in Cramlington - this was not going down well in Hexham, who hate the loss of Tynedale and the loss of local personality with the unification of Northumberland.
Expect a report in tomorrow Courant

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Wark Bridge Campaign

The Save Wark Bridge Campaign goes from strength to strength; have met with them several times, and the momentum is really building. This photo was taken last summer on a beautiful evening when we conducted a public meeting on the bridge itself - stopping traffic in the process!
Good supportive articles in the Journal and the Courant - with much on the petition and the need to rebuild it; it is the life blood of this community.
If you have not already joined please join the facebook campaign to save the bridge or bnetter still sign the petition in the village - any one of these gents or ladies will happily take your signature!

Saturday, 20 March 2010


Labour have had more transport ministers [26 ministers in their limousines] than new miles of motorway [25.7 miles]
In Northumberland the failure to build the A1 / improve highways / rail is key: I get asked about transport / highways more times on the doorstep than almost every other issue.
The spring has finally come but the legacy of the roads disater is everywhere - and our local Council wanted to cut the highways budget - it defies belief

Friday, 19 March 2010

Frank Field would join a Tory governemnt

Regulars attenders of the dozens of public events we have had will know of my admiration for Frank Field; now it seems that he has made it clear that he would serve in a Tory Government post election

Frank Field's interview yesterday, in which he said he would be happy to serve in a Conservative government, has predictably set the left and right alight. Frank Field is a great parliamentarian. He's an original thinker. He may not share my core politics, but he commands huge respect from people all over the political spectrum. I cannot say I am a fan of appointing politicians from other parties in to ministerial office, but if David Cameron chose to offer Frank Field a job, I suspect there wouldn't be many of us who would demur.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Wylam Direct

Just home from a top evening in Wylam - where 50+ came to Sam Butchers house for a meet, greet and grilling session. Spoke and answered questions for over 30 minutes on a multitude of topics
What was best aout the evening was the cross section of people who came - from the fruit and veg man and garage owner in the village to representatives from the parish council. Many were not supporters but the fact that they came was great. One of the best evenings we have had - and we are in excess of 30 of these evenings so far!

Dog Tax now in Dog House

You know a government is in trouble when it brings forward mad cap schemes to be seen to be doing something!
A week ago the Home Secretary Alan Johnson was openly discussing the possibility of introducing compulsory insurance for all dogs. One week later after opposition from al parties and even Roy Hattersley (summed up in the attached poster) the idea has been dropped by Hillary Benn, Environment Secretary.
That must be one of the fastest u-turns in the dizzying history of this government.

Dog's dinner indeed. Alan Johnson is now retreating with his tail between his legs. More poodle than rottweiler. I'm sure you can think of a few more appropriate one Corbridge resident put it to me when I was canvassing on the weekend - "when he was a postman Alan Johnson must have been bitten by a lot of dogs to have this much against them!"

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Campaign Update

We are flat out this week and almost too busy to blog:

Have spent ..
Sunday campaigning in Corbridge area and then going to the Tynedale Point to Point

Monday going through the responses to our survey and preparing the election plan; the survey has been great as it has been entirely run by local support [we had over 40 people stuffing enevelopes] and a very large proportion were hand delivered. We have had hundreds of responses so far - some bad but mostly very good, and lots of people signing up to help, particularly amongst young voters and in Haltwhistle.

Tuesday in Ponteland - went to the Western Area Committee about 02 mast in Darras Hall - not going as I had hoped in that the Article 4 application is not going ahead as yet, but that is because the Council are stalling us.The 02 fight goes on!

Wednesday all over the place - Hexham in the morning [thank you Sharon for the invite], Haydon Bridge for canvassing and meeting Haydon Bridge supporters [lunch in the Railway] which is going very well, and Haltwhistle in the afternoon. Campaigning today going very well in
Haydon Bridge. Haltwhistle is such a mixed vote; some strong Labour support but many switchers to us who hate the big government style.
Tomorrow starting in Hexham and then heading west - finishing with a canvass and campaign get together / grilling session in Wylam - over 50 confirmed to be coming from all parts of the village

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Andy McNab and other Soldiers come out against Brown

I really want to make this blog positive. But a few issues really make my blood boil and the repeated failure to fund our forces is manifestly, totally and wholly wrong
The list of soldiers against the Labour government's failure to fund our troops is huge but a few more have been added today -for example, Andy McNab of the SAS
McNab says
"After the way Gordon Brown betrayed the Forces, there's not a single person I've spoken to from my old regiment who's voting any other way than Conservative.
"For Gordon Brown to go to the Iraq inquiry and tell porkies was outrageous.
"How little he has given the MoD to help them fight five wars in 13 years is VERY clearly on record.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Hadrians Wall Day

An amazing evening as literally thousands of people descended upon the 80+ miles of the wall. Every Bed and breakfast is sold out, every restaurant fully booked. It has been an amazing success. A real boost for the wall and tourism in the area
The view towards Housesteads as dusk descends

Looking back towards Chesters

Sunderland Central

A great morning with Lee Martin - candidate for Sunderland Central; we took 9 people down to help him on the campaign trail, from 17 to 78.
Lee is 9-2 to win in Sunderland - all I can say after 3 hours canvassing is take the bet! His slogan is "Ambitious for Sunderland" - he will take the place a long way
Home via Corbridge and some canvassing there

Hadrians Wall Day

Beautiful, crisp, sharp spring morning for the Hadrians Wall torchlit day - I wish Linda and the team a great success; they have been so lucky with the weather!

Off to Sunderland this morning with 7 of us to give Lee Martin a hand - he is fighting the key marginal of Sunderland Central.

Then home via some Corbridge canvassing and off to the torchlit illumination on the wall

Friday, 12 March 2010

Ashington - Woodhorn Colliery

Went to Ashington to the old Woodhorn Colliery: it is a great museum. Had to go to the County Records Office to help Councillor Matt Donnelly who is researching a point on Hexham's buildings.
Came home and spent the afternoon delivering and canvassing in Corbridge before heading up to Wark in the evening to talk to locals about Wark Bridge

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Torchlit beacons lighting up Hadrians Wall - do not miss it!

It is 6 days to go until Hadrians Wall is lit from end to end and is the number one tourist attraction of the North East once more. On Saturday, March 13, the entire length the Wall will be illuminated by 1,000 beacons carried by volunteers standing at intervals in a spectacular torchlit beacon lasting the 84 miles from Wallsend to Cumbria. Linda and her team at the Hadrians Wall Heritage are to be congratulated. There have been some doomsayers who say it might rain or is not worth the cost - but I disagree: I am sure it will be an amazing event. Everyone I know locally will be there watching it. All of us have got our own special points of interest from which to view it from, as the top spots at Housesteads are all gone. As I ride out between Chollerford and Housesteads I think I have a good spot! A good coverage of this once in a lifetime Tourist event is found in the Courant this week.

North East Manufacturing Week - Less Big Government Please

This last week has been Manufacturing Week in the North East with a good campaign supported by the Journal. I deal with the North East Chamber of Commerce a lot and they published on Friday a briefing note entitled "Championing North East Business". It is worth reading. Its key request is as follows:

"Businesses need to be able to devote the maximum level of resources, including finance and manpower, to delivering growth in 2010. The public sector must avoid placing requirements on companies which will distract resources from core business priorities.
Immediate issues include:
Certainty over tax changes to be made in the next Parliament, allowing medium-term investment planning.
Abandonment of plans to increase employers’ National Insurance Contributions due to the additional cost this will place on employment growth.
Culture and practice in local planning authorities which seeks to enable development to go ahead and ends a ‘development control’ mentality.
Broader, simpler and smarter approaches to public procurement which makes the large public sector market as easy to access as possible for North East businesses."

Less government intervention is their key requirement - I could not agree more. Every businessman, doctor, teacher, and even parent says the same thing.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Brown v Military - who do you believe?

Yesterday Gordon Brown told the Iraq inquiry that he gave the military all they needed.

For the sake of our soldiers I would like to believe him; however, how you can wage war against IEDs with a Land Rover is beyond me.

But today, Mr Brown gets both barrels from retired military chiefs in The Times and Telegraph.
“He’s dissembling, he’s being disingenuous. It’s just not the case that the Ministry of Defence was given everything it needed. There may have been a 1.5 per cent increase in the defence budget but the MoD was starved of funds.” - Admiral Lord Boyce, the Chief of the Defence Staff up to the start of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, quoted in The Times
"To say Gordon Brown has given the military all they asked for is simply not true. He cannot get away with saying I gave them everything they asked for, that is simply disingenuous." - Lord Guthrie in The Telegraph
“The real truth is the Armed Forces are underfunded.” - Major General Patrick Cordingley, quoted in The Telegraph as well.
Either the PM or the soldiers are lying; there is no other view.
Disregard whether we should be at war or not. Once we send the soldiers there we should give them everything they need. They have clearly been let down.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Tynedale Business Network - a "Paxman" Grilling

The TBN is a very successful business group who help each other out with referrals and cover all walks of business life in the Tynedale area from tyres to furnishings, from banking to charities. I have been going to some of their recent meetings in Hexham and was recently invited to be grilled "Paxman" style by 25 of them. This process lasted over an hour over bacon butties. For my part the chance to question and be grilled by 25 of the local business leaders is priceless. Was asked questions about transport, charitable trusts, business development, the deficit, future taxes, NI / corporation tax contributions, the RDA and its numbers of staff, young peoples housing, the ability to cut back the state bureaucracy, local job creation, the disaster of present apprenticeship schemes, County Council budget cuts and much more.
The best comment was by one businessman who asked why it was that government departments still did not get the chance to carry forward retained profits at the end of the year - all agreed this was a disastrous accounting malpractice.
A good morning. Was also pleased to give several business referrals: for example as I canvass so much I was able to tell the man with the internet mast business where he will do well as parts of the area's broadband reception is terrible.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Will the cash come back from Iceland?

Dark days lie ahead for Iceland - and sadly for the rest of us. It looks likely that this coming Saturday’s referendum will see Icelanders reject a repayment plan agreed to by the Iceland and UK governments last year. This will have a serious effect on Iceland's viability in the international community + a financial effect on the rest of us - as we [GB and Northumberland] are owed money by the Icelandics. The FTs has a good take on the story:

Farming and rural action manifesto

I was lucky enough to get asked to go to Newcastle and listen in to the meeting of a large number of farmers, and key players in the rural community. We discussed at length CAP reform, Single Farm Payments, deregulation and rural housing amongst many issues over a 4 hour period. We discussed localism and its effects in many forms. Came away having learnt a lot.
Our farming and rural action manifesto is set out by Nick Herbert MP below

Monday, 1 March 2010

Snowed in - but the campaign goes on

James Telfer showing how real men do not mind the snow!
The snow put paid to many of my canvassing plans for the weekend - as supporters were either snowed in [again] or understandably a little reluctant to take the fight to Gordon Brown as the flakes lashed down.

We had to put off the planned trip to Stockton South [apologies James - we will return I promise!] but ended up trying to canvass over the weekend locally in Whitonstall, south Tynedale and Prudhoe. Ended up looking like the abominable snowmen but got much credit for our effort from those we met - several Labour supporters admired our pluck if nothing else!