Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spent an awful lot of today in queues - at the post office, in the supermarket where the most inefficient system imaginable proved that every little didn't help at all, and in the traffic to get home. All told, jobs that usually take less than an hour and a half and leave plenty of time to spend with the people for whom the jobs are being done, today took almost 3 hours in total. Good job I'm British and know how to queue peacefully!
More election literature from other parties dropped through the letterbox. It's always interesting to see what they're saying;)
The third of the leader debates is over and the Com Res poll results make for interesting reading. Cameron and Clegg almost neck and neck with Brown trailing behind. Sadly, I had to explain yet again to several people today that the voting system we have here is so unfair that we could still end up with a Labour majority in Parliament even when well over half the country doesn't want it.
Bring on Fair voting - the only losers will be the MPs who sit in "safe" seats at present ignoring their electorate. The winners will be several million people who'll have a real representative at last.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Labour Ignores the North East

Who says? One of their own MPs, our very own Dari Taylor. She's calling on Gordon Brown to visit the area. Could it be that she sees her seat disappearing from under her? Jacquie Bell, the Lib Dem candidate for Stockton South says "LibDems are taking on the challenge in Labour's traditional North East heartland. Whillst the public and media are aware of Mr Brown's absence on the local campaign trail Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have visited the region several times. The TV debates have given both a floor and people have found that when met face to face they both show an understanding of the region and its issues."
Of course for the rest of us the campaigning isn't about whether we're on TV or whether we have important visitors. It's about getting out on the streets, meeting people and listening to what they are concerned about and being able to give them the facts about our policies so that they can make informed choices on the ballot paper. And that's what we keep on doing, day after day.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

One short walk today and I could look at two recent improvements in the ward. Egglescliffe & Eaglescliffe council's effort on the play area at St Margaret's is nearing completion. The play equipment is pretty well installed and the infrastructure almost complete. I'm really looking forward to seeing the children and young people playing on it.
The small wooden equipment still needs moving from the corner so that we can plant the trees there to shield the housing from some of the play area. We also need to be sure that the paths and the grass mat are laid properly. Another month and we should be able to enjoy the official opening.
A little nearer home I went to look at some of the new signs on the Teesdale Way. For a long time the signposting through the housing estate has been less than brilliant, but now there are nice green footpath signs showing the way. I noticed also that the giant hogweed warning signs have gone up - one of the less pleasant indications that the seasons are changing. The sign shows how much the river is meandering at this stage in its path to the sea. Walking through the estate, Yarm is only about a mile but follow the river and it's more than twice as far. Much more scenic, though!
A link to an amusing video to relax with was sent by my daughter. Enjoy!

Friday, April 23, 2010

St George & the Dragon

Interesting to see the number of St George's flags flying proudly from houses, cars and wheelchairs today. I love our history and heritage and want people to know about and celebrate the good while knowing about and learning from the bad in the past. St George of course is nothing to do with England other than being our patron saint, but the story of one man against a fire breathing dragon is a good rip-roaring tale and maybe an allegory for some of our present activities.
We heard today of the desperate phone calls being made to some residents in Stockton South by our MP, telling them that voting Lib Dem is a wasted vote and will let the Tories in. Does she really think that people want 5 more years of Labour? We can't afford Tory rule but we certainly don't want Labour. Vote Lib Dem and get Lib Dem is my message. More people seem to want Vince Cable as chancellor than anyone else - there's only one way to get that!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The biggest difference between my role as a Parish Councillor and a Borough Councillor was epitomised this evening. As a Parish Councillor I am expected to present myself to the Annual Assembly of the Parish. Everyone is entitled to turn up and to question us about what we do and why and how we spend the money raised through the council tax. It really does bring home to me that we are elected by the people of the Parish to do our best for them and the area. We do have to listen and to act accordingly. Tonight, as chairman of the Recreation Committee, I had to report on the delays to the completion of the St Margaret's Play Area, our unsuccessful lottery bid for Amberley Way play area and our work towards the memorial park. A large part of the council's expenditure goes through this committee and needs to be dealt with transparently.
Maybe if the Borough council had to do that once a year there'd be more openness in how it deals with projects. And if MPs had to do that once a year, who knows where we'd be. I'd hazard a guess that we wouldn't have had the expenses scandal of last year!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's quite rare these days to have a site visit for a planning application but today we had two. Photos and plans just hadn't been enough last month to let us make a decision about a housing extension and today we went to look for ourselves. There are some applications which are really difficult to determine and whichever decision we take I'm left wondering if the other one would have been better. I think this is going to be one of them. It really won't be easy.
Then on to the site of a proposed wind turbine. Again, neighbour objections, but I couldn't help wondering if some of the objections weren't so much about the visual impact as about the relationship with the neighbour. Again, whichever way we vote tomorrow there are going to be some aggrieved people.
The evening was taken up with a meeting of Protect Preston Park, the community group set up to run the campaign to save the park from any inappropriate building projects such as a new secondary school. Some very encouraging reports of work that's been done and lots of enthusiasm still from people so no doubt some activities will be organised soon.
Anyone wanting to get in touch with the group should email

Have you got a poster yet?

Download and print your own Lib Dem window poster here.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What a mess a volcano makes!

Usually we here about the devastation caused for the people living near to a natural disaster but this one is having much more impact on people who've never heard its name before. Almost everyone seems to have a relative or friend who's stuck elsewhere in the world. I had a phone call tonight from relatives stuck in America who should have arrived home tomorrow morning but now are booked on a flight in 12 days' time. People not able to go to work or to school or to visit family or friends or to have the holiday of a lifetime or get to a funeral or a wedding - the list is endless. Someone commented today that the world seems to be falling apart, quite literally. Earthquakes and now a volcano and we're only up to April this year. She could be right.
Meanwhile we've had a phenomenon I haven't experienced for many years - clear blue skies and no con trails.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Our Manifesto

What do Liberal Democrats stand for in Britain in 2010? Read all about it here. And if I were asked to sum it up in one word? Fairness - for everyone young and old, rich and poor. Which of course means some people paying more towards the services we need in order to allow some to pay less. It means have responsibilities as well as rights. It means letting local people make the decisions for local areas. And much more - read about it, watch the videos, see what you think.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

So where did the sun go? Started the morning in the rain today in Billingham centre where the BBC reporter tried to get people to stop and talk! It was much easier once we were able to go and talk to people on their doorsteps - a good reception again with people wanting to know about policies.
This evening there was a discussion meeting at church about the kind of society we have and how we should take our share of the responsibility for it, including voting in elections. By no means is the church trying to tell people which party to vote for but it's suggesting issues which people should ask about. It was a very interesting discussion and one which could have lasted a lot longer.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fair Taxes

By a happy coincidence this morning the sun shone on Yarm, Stockton Lib Dems went out to talk about Fair Taxes there while Vince Cable and Nick Clegg launched the policy in a press conference. We'd have happily shared the sunshine with them!
Jacquie Bell was interviewed by local radio for their constituency profile and then we got on with sharing the good news of our policy. It certainly had a good reception but there were other policies which people wanted to discuss. What were we going to do about stabilising the energy supply in a sustainable way in this country? What are our views on Preston Park and the school controversy? (much easier to answer that one simply - we need a new school building in Eaglescliffe and we need more school places easily accessible for the young people of Ingleby Barwick.) What are we going to do for pensioners? And so on. All good points to discuss and there was a sense that some people at least in this election are going to vote after listening to policies and deciding between them.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Today's campaigning was tinged with a hint of farce. Our favourite lunchtime stop turned out not to be serving food today. At our second choice a table collapsed under the combined weight of cutlery and canvass cards! and to cap it all they had the nerve to run the Grand National before we'd finished what we wanted to cover.
Joking apart, there were some interesting conversations. Many people are concerned about immigration at a time when the economy is struggling. I was pleased that people do genuinely seem to think that those fleeing conflict, torture and so on need to be given sanctuary. What worries them is uncontrolled migration and they seemed reassured that we would have a quota system based on regional needs.
Lots of people say they are still undecided as to how to cast their vote. People really do want to know what makes us different and are trying to work out which party will bring improvement most quickly and least painfully.
We also took the opportunity to show Jacquie Bell the sad state of Witham House, partly demolished now thanks to Labour & Tory governments taking some of our rent money to subsidise housing in othe boroughs. Lack of money for maintenance and replacement led to stock being transferred to Erimus Housing who now say they can't afford to replace the building in the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, older people in Eaglescliffe who want to rent sheltered housing can't because it's not available. They can buy, but what's available is expensive. How is that fair?

Friday, April 09, 2010

Stockton North Opens up

The long discussed possibility became a reality today when Frank Cook MP, representative of Stockton North for the last quarter century, announced that he'd parted company with the Labour party and was standing as an independent. So we now have the incumbent standing as independent against the newly selected Alex Cunningham, until recently the cabinet member for children and young people at Stockton Council. As Philip Latham, the Lib Dem candidate in the fight, says "This contest is now wide open and the Liberal Democrats are the only party offering real change based on the principle of fairness for the people of Stockton." Philip did a really good job on his interview with BBC Look North and we look forward to the media interest in the constituency picking up for a while.
I missed the excitement of the announcement by being at a funeral service for a Guiding friend. As so often it was an opportunity for a bit of a catch up with some of the surviving Guiding family, and not a completely sad occasion. A combination of the musical traditions of the Methodist church, Guiding and Tees Valley Youth choir made certain the music was upbeat and uplifting. Typical of Carolyn!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

As expected, the election is to be on May 6th. Gordon Brown did at least have the grace to admit it wasn't a surprise. He could have made a step towards fixed term parliaments by announcing the date last autumn and letting everyone plan properly, including the Parliamentary business. Instead he chose to play games and we have the ridiculous situation of the great Parliamentary wash-up - not making sure the pots are clean before going away but rushing through important legislation without proper scrutiny.
Time for a change - get out and make sure that every single Lib Dem voter puts a cross on a ballot paper next to a Lib dem name.
The long weekend is over, the press is full of the assumption that GB will go to the Queen today and the longest election campaign in history will be given its official closing date, the sun is shining and there is work to do for the Western Area Partnership Board.
Life promises to be busy over the next 4 weeks, and at the end of it if we've done the job properly, there'll be a change of direction in Westminster that will bring a degree of fairness to Britain not seen in far too many years. Exciting times to live in and be involved in!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday

A very thoughtful piece in this morning's Independent by Mary Dejevsky questioned whether we've lost the rhythm of the seasons in this country as a result of becoming such a determinedly secular society. Still in parts of mainland Europe and other countries shops would be closed, church bells would toll at 3pm, there'd be no newspapers - a fairly sombre quiet day, in preparation for the joy of Easter day. Whether Christian or not, surely we all deserve a little quiet time - a rest from the hurly burly and a chance to reflect?
I did spend the day quietly, some of it working on things I enjoy doing and some of it thinking of things that still need doing in our campaign for the election that hasn't yet been called. But I also took the chance to go to church for the service of the Burial of the Body. The solemnity of the psalms, the intoning of the familiar story of Christ's death and the procession to lay the body(figuratively speaking) to rest, placing single blooms around the "tomb" and emerging into the garden where the lightest of rains was just beginning to fall and the fresh smell of damp earth and the sight of the shrubs in bud spoke of fresh hope and new life - all the symbolism of spring and Easter renewal.