Monday, April 30, 2007

From the man himself

Thanks to Paul Leake posting on the Town Liar, who has drawn attention to an extraordinary Guardian interview with Ray Mallon, elected mayor for Middlesbrough, in which he points out that the elected mayor model is ripe for abuse by any power-hungry individual who may be elected to office.

He says, "But I am not going to abuse my power. I am not going to abuse my authority or do anything I should not. If you get a mayor who was power-mad, he could bring a town down or a city, so you can see I am not completely sold on the elected mayor idea. It works here because I like to think I am sane - though people who usually say that aren't. It works fine here but it is unique."

Mallon knows first-hand about the checks and balances (or absence of them) regarding elected mayors. It would be folly for Darlington to take a leap in the dark and concentrate power in the hands of one individual.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Fib Wars


The fall-out from the revelation that Cllr Steven Jones signed the BNP's North Road candidate's nomination papers continues.


Most people I've spoken to think that Cllr. Jones gave a credible account of himself here on this blog and indeed in his Echo piece, and did the right thing when he conceded that he had been incredibly foolish.


In the dock now however are the LibDem hierarchy in the town, who need to answer the following questions;


(1) Why did they sit on the information that one of their candidates had signed the BNP's papers for over a week?

(2) Had the information not been released to the press by Labour, when exactly did they intend informing the residents of North Road?

(3) The Darlington LibDem website is regularly updated (most recently to remove the items about this sorry saga - there's transparency for you). So how come the site still pretends that Steve Jones is an official LibDem candidate? Isn't that an attempt yet again to mislead local voters?


I've been passed a copy of Steve Jones' first leaflet as an independent candidate. It would be easy for me to take a few cheap shots, but in fact he's done very well to get a leaflet out under his own steam in such a short period of time. I wonder how happy the official LibDems will be that Steve is still cheekily using the LibDem logo...?


Finally, a campaigning snippet from North Road. Labour canvassers report that a few residents have pledged their support for LibDem Councillor Fred Lawton, "because he told us that he secured the money to rebuild North Road Primary School." (sic) As always with the Fibs, the bigger the whopper the better.


Needless to say, Labour's campaigning team have been putting people straight.
UPDATE - Sunday 29 April 20:10
Presumably prodded into action by this post, the LibDem hierarchy have finally corrected the candidate information regarding North Road.
If only getting them to tell the truth in their leaflets or on the doorstep were so simple....


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Members' Only Club


I deplore vandalism wherever it occurs. So I don't want any snickering about this story regarding the unfortunate Conservative Club in Knutsford...


(Hat tip to Fair Deal Phil)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Nailing the Tories' NHS Scares


I've just been sent this via email;

Following recent press reports in the Northern Echo and Darlington & Stockton Times, Councillors Mrs Scott & Mrs Swift have recently met with Edmund Lovell from the County Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust to discuss the matter further.
Mr Lovell advised that no decision on the future of the gynaecology services would be made by the Trust until October 2007 and the Social Affairs & Health Scrutiny Committee will kept informed.
3 Options have been discussed, with staff:-
Option 1 - Multi Speciality Surgical Ward - Gynaecology services move to Floor 3 to form a Women's Surgery Ward.
Option 2 - Move women's surgery upstairs to Ward 62 to include Gynaecology, Breast and Urology.
Option 3 - Move Anti-Natal and Geology out-patients services to Ward 62.
Mr Lovell has also confirmed that Darlington Memorial Hospital is not under threat and never has been.


The Tories have been running a national story about the NHS, which has sought to sow cynicism, and the pretence that any change is somehow a cut. Here in Darlington, local Tory activists shamefully have tried to suggest that the Memorial itself is under threat. I've found that on the doorstep, fortunately, people are wise to the Tories' tactics. The clarification from the DMH is therefore welcome.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Former Springfield Primary School Site


Canvassing in Kielder Drive and Meldon Close yesterday, which gave me a chance to discuss the plans for the old Springfield Primary School site with local people again.
The site is now up for sale. I reassured residents again that only the "footprint" of the school buildings and the car park can be developed, so the greater part of the area will remain open space.
The other key issue for local people has been access to the development - residents in Kielder Drive were worried that there might be a link from the new housing onto their road, making what is now a quiet backwater into a much busier road.
We pressed hard that access to the development be from Salters Lane South, and I was delighted when this was incorporated into the plans. I also spoke to officers last week about keeping the grassed area tidy and free from litter, and was pleased that a cut has already been done (albeit that the grass hasn't been collected). That'll have to be another call to the officers this morning...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

FibDem Campaigning Tactics II

Again from Haughton East, Labour canvassers report from at least 10 different residents that LibDem hopeful Dr Robert Upshall is posting "Sorry we missed you" leaflets through letterboxes on Red Hall without bothering to knock.

I can only suppose (1) LibDems are getting such a poor reception on the doorstep that they're not even trying to make contact with residents now or (2) this is a small but cynical ruse to suggest activity by the LibDems over a wide area. Either way, it's winding local people up.

Whilst we're on the subject of Robert Upshall, I've no doubt that the LibDems thought they were on to a winner when they signed up a local GP from the unelectable Greens who was prepared to stand in one of the Haughton seats. As a rule GP's have a highly-respected reputation in the community. Things may not be going to plan here, however, if this comment on the Town Liar site from Chris Smith (who lives on Red Hall) is anything to go by.

Gotta say ... one of our local candidates will purely not get my vote, as he is also my doctor. Nothing wrong with that, you may think, but if you had ever been inside his surgery it isn't exactly the tidiest of places (files literally EVERYWHERE), and if he can't keep that tidy, imagine what the local area would be like! Plus it would take away from the time he spends at the surgery as well

Nice!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

FibDem Campaigning Tactics I


So you're a LibDem candidate facing two entrenched and popular Labour Councillors in a safe Labour seat. What do you do? Work hard to identify problems which have been ignored, perhaps? Try and speak to as many residents as you can?


Of course, it's important to remember that you're a LibDem candidate, so you do neither of those things, but instead mislead local people with a phoney petition.


On March 9th I blogged that after a long campaign by Labour local councillors Chris McEwan and Geoff Walker, a bus service will be instituted between Whinfield, Haughton Green, Red Hall and Morton Palms. I wrote about a meeting with local residents,


I was able to share that the Council has now tendered for a service that will run three times a day during the week linking the estate with Whinfield and Morton Palms. The bus will be low-floor, and the service will begin in July.


Yet the LibDems Robert Upshall and Robin Cradock have placed the above petition in a local shop calling for a bus service to be introduced linking (yes, you've guessed it) Whinfield, Haughton Green, Red Hall and Morton Palms! The intention is patently to mislead residents who may not have heard about the Labour Council's initiative in July that somehow nothing is being done and only the LibDems are campaigning for a transport link.
It's the FibDems at their shoddiest, most cynical worst. How do these guys sleep at night?!

Canvassing


Spent a pleasant afternoon in Pierremont with one of the canvassing teams. I've been helping out occasionally in Pierremont since the heady days between 1991 and 1995 when a group of highly-committed Labour workers prized loose the Tories' grip on the ward. The effort was led by Barry Swift, the late husband of Cllr. Marian Swift, and he always injected his off-beat humour to the canvassing effort which made it a pleasure to do the hard work.


Barry stressed the team element when canvassing, and none of his zeal has been lost. It was overall a great afternoon.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Nightingale Avenue

Despite the best efforts of the Police and the Council's wardens, anti-social behaviour around Nightingale Avenue continues to be a problem.

The Dispersal Order, extended to run for 6 months, has certainly helped challenge years of anti-social behaviour in the area. I received a number of calls from residents over the Easter weekend, however, when gangs congregated and made life a misery for local people. The Police and Wardens were called, and where necessary, individuals were moved on and names taken.

The enforcement of the Order continues and individuals who have persistently gathered in the Dispersal Zone have been dealt with by the Courts. The Police and Council have agreed to a new Dispersal Order in the same area for a further three months, (it will have by then been in operation for a full 9 months) by which time the CCTV camera should have been installed on the corner of Salters Lane South.

Finally, we're continuing to push for action to be taken to protect those residents who live around the cuts which link Nightingale Avenue and Hardwick Close, and Daryngton Close and Salters Close. These have become popular congregating points for large groups, lying as they do just outside the Dispersal Order zone. I hope that all options, including closure, will be considered in consultation with local people.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Right of Reply

This comment from Cllr. Steve Jones, the LibDem's former Group Leader who signed the BNP nomination forms was posted on a thread below. I repeat it here without editing;

Cllr Steve Jones replies.Mike Barker should stick to one story he knew about this on the 11.04.07 and decided to keep it quite when they knew it was to hit the press they called a meeting at which was discused the possible outcomes it was stated i could be sacked from the local group this was turned down by all but mike barker i was then asked to resign which i did (i was not sacked ) i was also given the assurance that my council colleagues and the party would continue to support me this has now been withdrawn, it also appears from the lib-dem site and this blog, that this was never there intention i admit i was very foolish in what i did and there was no malice attached and i appologised, as stated i have been suspened by the national party but will continue to campaign to be elected so i can continue the work i have done and wish to carry on for the residents of north road, if re-elected i will have to become an independent councillor but will continue to work hard for all residents in the ward, i am a liberal democrate and have never supported the BNP or it ideals and will never do so but i do believe in giving the local people the choice to vote for whoever they wish this is democracy. I have e-mails to back up the statments that have been made.

I deplore what Cllr. Jones' has done, and I believe he has still to explain properly why he signed the nomination papers. It's clear however, that Darlington LibDems have behaved in a shoddy and cynical manner - pretending at first that they only found out about this yesterday, when in fact they have been sitting on it for over a week, and hoping that no-one would find out.

If Steve Jones (rightly) had to go for signing the nomination papers, then those in authority in Darlington Liberal Democrats should be considering their position too. I've always had a lot of time for Mike Barker, although we are political opponents - c'mon Mike, reconcile these different versions of events.

UPDATE

Not surprisingly. the story is in most of the papers this morning - the front page of the Northern Echo, the Guardian, the Independent and the Times all have coverage. The Echo's Leader Column today is particularly damning.

The perfect storm engulfing Darlington's LibDems

Full Council this evening. You may or may not be surprised to learn that none of the LibDems' 3 councillors were present (polishing their jackboots, one wag suggested).

Since my original post earlier this afternoon, the story's been picked up by Iain Dale, and from there presumably onto the BBC website.

Steve Jones' status as a LibDem candidate seems to have fluctuated - at first the LibDems stated that he has resigned as Group Leader but would continue as a LibDem candidate in North Road. This changed within a matter of hours and now they are claiming that Cllr. Jones was sacked. It would appear that he has been suspended as a member of the Liberal Democrats.

As always in politics, sometimes it isn't the original scandal which finishes people off, but the attempts to cover up afterwards. Remarkably, Cllr. Jones has posted a comment in response to my original piece, which I will repeat above. It will make uncomfortable reading for Darlington's LibDem hierarchy...

LibDem Leader's BNP Links


The bomb has well and truly gone off under Cllr Steven Jones, leader of the LibDem Group on Darlington Council.


For reasons not yet explained, Cllr. Jones signed the nomination papers of BNP candidate Daniel Brown, who is also standing in the town's North Road ward. As Cllr. Jones also signed the nomination papers of fellow LibDem candidates Mike Barker and Fred Lawton, he was effectively placing his own candidacy in a very curious position!


Perhaps not surprisingly, Cllr. Jones has been ousted as the LibDem Group Leader as their first response to the crisis, and the local party has put out a very terse statement which leaves more questions unanswered. Principally, how on earth can an experienced councillor like Steven Jones claim that he signed the nomination papers "as a mistake?"


What local LibDems want everyone to forget is that their party has been involved in shady involvement with the BNP in this part of town before. It was only Labour's exposure of the cosying-up between the LibDems, the Tories and the BNP in the short-lived Harrowgate Hill Community Group (sic) in 2003 which caused that venture to collapse.


The tragedy is that when the three main democratic parties in Darlington should have maintained a united front against racist politics in the town during this election, the LibDem's Leader has blown away that front with the stroke of his pen. I don't think this is the last we'll hear of this story by any means.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Echo's "Pyjama" Campaign

I was copied into this email this afternoon from Olivia Richwald at the Northern Echo.

Hello,
Did you know that children's pyjamas will ignite within a couple of seconds and burn to ash in little more than a minute?
Due to a quirk in the law, pyjamas are not covered by the stringent regulations that nightdresses and dressing gowns are. While nightdresses, which are required to be flame resistant, will burn slowly, melt gently or simply self-extinguish, pyjamas turn into an inferno in seconds.
Sadly this happened to Daniel Mitchard-Harrison, a two-year-old from North Yorkshire. He suffered first degree burns to his legs and bottom and will be scarred for life. Now his family and their local paper, The Northern Echo, are campaigning for a change in the law.
To see just how quickly pyjamas burn, watch this video.
This campaign has the backing of the fire service, trading standards and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
If you are shocked then please sign this petition which will be taken to the highest level in the European Union. Your names will not appear on the website.
Then, please forward this email on to any other parents, grandparents or friends who may be shocked to know these facts.
Thanks,


I checked AJ's pyjamas this evening (from a number of retailers) and sure enough, none of them were flame resistant. The video is a graphic reconstruction as to how pyjama bottoms will go up in a matter of seconds. If you don't do anything else today, sign the petition.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Breaking News!


I understand that a bomb is about to go off under the election campaign here in Darlington.
Keep watching....

Friday, April 13, 2007

Lies, Damned Lies...

Surveys are the lifeblood of the regional press, particularly if they cast a poor light on a town or city in the area.

I was contacted by the Northern Echo last night about a "survey" from Direct Line, which I was told showed that Darlington is the eighth most expensive place to park one's car in the country, at an eye-watering £3 for 2 hours.

So where in Darlington does one pay £3 for 2 hours? In most of our off-street car parks within the ring road it's £1.60 for 3 hours. I've just come off the phone from the press office at Direct Line who claim that their release shows us as the 19th most expensive place not the 8th, and from the story now on the Echo's website this morning, it looks like the press release at least is being properly quoted. Direct Line also say that their survey takes into account private as well as municipal car parks, and also factors in the number of car parking spaces for each charge. They say they'll get back to me with the figures to prove this. I'll await that email with interest.

I get very cross about this kind of sloppy story because at a stroke it undermines what the Council and the traders are trying to achieve to boost trade coming into town, at least as far as car parking is concerned. Media types in London may not be bothered with the minutiae of charges "out in the sticks" but to those of us who have to deal with the consequences of this kind of story, it matters very much indeed.

UPDATE

After ringing Direct Line's press office for "a little chat" I received the following email form Suzie Barrett

Hi Nick,
The information on car parks is collated on the basis of area and not local authority/ council. The researchers initially contacted the local authority in each area to determine the number of car parks by geographical area and then checked these against a map.
15 car parks in Darlington were contacted in August 2006 (including: Park Lane Station, Upper Archer St, Park-place East, Park-place West, Garden Street, Kendrew Street West, Kendrew Street East, Winston Street, Commercial Street West, Commercial Street East, Beaumont Street East, Beaumont Street North, Beaumont Street West, Abbots Yard and Town Hall)
If you would like more detail on how the weighted average price was calculated then please let me know - and I will speak again with the researchers.
I hope this helps you with your query, Many thanks, Suzie

I then replied as follows;

Thanks Suzie.
These are my figures for these car parks at the time of your survey;
Abbotts Yard: £1 for first hour then £1.50 each hour thereafter (small car park in centre of town).
Winston St, Commercial St W & E, Beaumont St E, N & W, Town Hall: £0.80 hour (majority of our spaces).
Upper Archer St, Park Place E & W, Garden St, Kendrew St E & W: £3 a day (so equates to £0.30 hour).
Railway Station (only one not in Council control) we think was £9 a day, although may have been less. Equates to £0.90/hour.
In the light of this, I still cannot understand how Darlington car parks can be said to average £3 for 2 hours, unless your researchers assumed that people would park for two hours at the station and then leave after paying for ten! In reality, with different pricing structures available around the town, people park in the car park which best meets their needs as far as cost is concerned.
I would still be interested in the weighting from your researchers, in the light of the above. The number of spaces at the station is still dwarfed by the Council's short and long stay car parks.


I'm still waiting for a reply...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Down the plughole

News reaches me that the number of Tory candidates for May in Darlington has dropped by one more, with the withdrawal of one of their hopefuls in Lascelles. That means they're down to 39 now - an all-time low. Labour has been giftd 3 free seats as a result. The Tories struggled to find candidates amongst their ageing membership in the first place, and when Labour are contesting all 53 seats, it's a sign that the Conservatives can't claim to be serious about winning outright power in 3 weeks time.

I understand another Tory candidate is struggling with an undischarged bankruptcy. Certainly in years gone by, this would have disqualified them from standing, although the rules may be different now.

Whether the LibDems, with just 26 candidates, can claim to be the new challengers to Labour is however another matter...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Prediction-Free Zone


Between now and May 3rd, I won't be making any rash predictions about the outcome of the local elections.


This will probably come as a relief to colleagues, as every time local polls approach I become increasingly gloomy about our chances, whatever the circumstances. Come polling day, I can make Cassandra look like a fun-lovin' party girl..


This is by way of an introduction by a bombastic post on the Darlington Future website by the curiously-named "Election Atcher" (I guess he's a bit of a Tory Anker). Anyway Mr Atcher regards Harrowgate Hill, Pierremont and Cockerton East as wards where Labour really should be waving the white flag, apparently. We'll see, we'll see.


The funniest part of the post (albeit unintentionally) is his observation that in Haughton East, the Lib Dems are "way ahead in polling returns". It is a truism of modern British politics that the FibDems are always in a strong position, at least as far as the alternate universe that is the Focus leaflet is concerned. I think voters in Haughton East have already been treated to the LibDem "it's a two-horse race" story (with the ancient graphics above). No doubt Tory voters will soon be assailed with the news that "only the LibDems can win here".
When they then finish miles behind, LibDems hope that voters will forget this bit of naked political chicanery. Unfortunately for them, you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Darlington Bond Scheme

A quick plug for the Darlington Bond Scheme, which was set up to bridge the gap for people wishing to move into private rented accommodation but who cannot raise the usual first month's rent or bond.

The scheme provides a guarantee to Darlington landlords to underwrite their costs in the event of loss or damage to their property, up to an agreed limit.

It plays a key role in the town in helping to combat homelessness, but has to rely on supporters, who make a pledge or pledges which cover the cost of any tenants who may default. To give you an idea of the scale of the scheme, they have registered 166 people in the last 6 months, and have provided advice to a further 27 people. They currently have 50 lettings covering bonds totally £13,560.

Each pledge is valued at £100 pa, but don't panic - only a small proportion of that is ever needed, which this year was 12% (and so each pledge "costs" £12). I've just sent off this year's cheque for my pledges - if you would like to contribute to this vital Darlington charity, you can do so by emailing bondscheme@firenet.co.uk or ringing 467617 and asking for acting project officer Bridget Chapman.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Starbucks


Further evidence of the continuing health of Darlington town centre comes with news that another well-regarded company is looking to move into town. Along with nail and juice bars, coffee houses seem to have typified new trends in the early 21st century High Street. A prospective new entrant is Starbucks, who have just submitted a change-of-use application to trade from Nos. 2 & 4 Queen's Arcade (what was the always over-priced Bakers Oven).


I've liked Starbucks when I've used them elsewhere. They have a decent record on ethics, promoting at least one Fairtrade coffee, and serving in cups made from recycled material. There's more here.
It was also good to read that there's a planning application to turn the old cafe at 6 Bakehouse Hill (opposite the Dolphin Centre) into a pub/restaurant. Anyone wanting more details on either scheme can contact planning officer Lisa Hutchinson on 388588. The plans can be viewed at the Town Hall too - the Starbucks application is under 07/00279/CU and Bakehouse Hill under 07/00311/CU.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Postscript

Well, it's been a long day, but a minor curiosity to leave you all with. We had two pieces of election material through the letterbox tonight - one from Labour's Tom Nutt and Veronica Copeland (I live in neighbouring Haughton North ward) and one from Conservative candidate Bob Donaghue. Labour's literature, printed on A3 in colour with the map in the middle, looked good.

Bob's literature on the other hand, photocopied on double-sided A4, singularly made no mention of his running mate Brian Pavey, who is the other Tory candidate for the ward. Are the Tories campaigning separately now? Do Bob and Brian not see eye to eye? Maybe a Tory panjandrum could clear this up - I'm easily confused!.

Nominations for May 3rd

The nominations for May's elections have now been published.

Firstly, the good news is that Labour is already 2 seats up - in Eastbourne and Park East where in both wards there are only 2 opposition candidates.

Secondly, the list underlines the continuing decline of the Tories in Darlington. In 2003 they stood 47 candidates for the 53 seats - today only 40 candidates were announced. In several previous Tory target urban wards, the Conservatives have been reduced to standing candidates with exotic rural addresses - 2 of the Cockerton East candidates live in Summerhouse and Dalton-on-Tees, for example. In contrast, the LibDems have 26 candidates (14 last time). As I blogged yesterday, Labour is standing a full slate again.

The news the Echo I hope won't centre on are the 8 BNP candidates (in Pierremont, Cockerton West, Cockerton East, Harrowgate Hill, North Road, Lingfield, Bank Top and Northgate) although this is a similar number to the 6 who stood last time. All 3 main parties I'm sure will take a robust line against the filth these characters peddle in their leaflets and on the doorstep.

Otherwise there are 2 Greens and 3 independents - in MSG (Bill Maybrey), Hurworth (Peter Foster) and Eric Thompson (Heighington and Whessoe). All 3 have been councillors before, and should prove stiff opposition for the sitting Tories there. The single UKIP candidate in Mowden (who lives in the ward) may also give the Conservatives a few sleepless nights.

You can read the full list here.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Labour's candidates for May

Labour was the first political party today to announce all 53 of its candidates for May 3rd's election. Cllr. John Williams said today announcing the list, “Residents in every ward will have a chance to vote for the party which has delivered 8 brand new schools in Darlington; brought 3,000 new jobs to the town and which has invested £25 million in roads and pavements.”

“Now we need to look ahead as the future of the town is decided. It seems likely that Labour will be the only political party which has the confidence and ability to stand candidates in every seat across the Borough. This gives people in every ward the chance to have their say on our ambition for the town.”

The list has a number of young first-time hopefuls for Labour cutting their teeth politically in the election. They include Daniel Taylor in Cockerton East, Esther Taylor in Hurworth and 20-year-old Richard Copeland in Hummersknott. He said, “I will probably be one of the youngest people standing in May. This is an interesting and exciting experience for me, finding out first-hand how local government works. I really want to make a difference.”

Ward Candidates

Bank Top Stella Robson John Williams
Central Isobel Hartley Edward Jenkinson

Cockerton East Paul Baldwin Daniel Taylor Bryan Thistlethwaite
Cockerton West Jennifer Chapman David Regan

College Elaine Hope Maureen Klein
Eastbourne Bill Dixon Roderick Francis Lee Vasey
Faverdale Sandy Thorne-Wallis

Harrowgate Hill Mark Burton Liz Hart John Vasey
Haughton East Chris McEwan Geoff Walker
Haughton North Tom Nutt Veronica Copeland
Haughton West David Lyonette Andrew Scott Nick Wallis
H'gton & C'scliffe Allan Day Philip Williams

Hummersknott Richard Copeland Harold Baldwin
Hurworth Valerie Pringle Esther Taylor
Lascelles Wendy Newall Jacqueline Maddison
Lingfield Ian Haszeldine Lynne Haszeldine
MSG Philip Crumbie Liz Muggleton
Mowden Daniel Klein Jacqueline Saint
North Road Michael Nicholson Susan Richmond Bal Shukla
Northgate Eleanor Lister Dorothy Long

Park East Cyndi Hughes Joe Lyonette Glen Reynolds
Park West Kim Baldwin Amanda McEwan

Pierremont Stephen Harker Patrick Heaney Marian Swift
S’brge & Wh'soe Ian Black

Monday, April 02, 2007

Tory Boys


Well, remarkably I haven't seen this anywhere else, so I'll blog it first - according to the authoritative ConservativeHome website, Conservative HQ announced last month


Five more seat selections have just been announced by CCHQ:
Dagenham and Rainham
Darlington
Ealing North
Poplar and Limehouse
Sedgefield
The closing date for applications to these seats is 2pm on 2nd April


That's today, and yet there hasn't been a peep from Darlington Tories about it. Why the silence? - I'm sure the town will be agog to learn what Tory boy (and with the demise of Cameron's A-list it probably will be a boy) we may be entertaining between now and the next General Election.

Out and about

My blogging may get a bit sketchy over the next few weeks, as we enter the "short campaign", so apologies for that.

I've spent the weekend getting out about half of our first leaflet of the campaign - it makes the point on the front cover that Labour has delivered big improvements to the whole of Darlington - 8 brand new schools opened in the last 4 years, and 6 more on the way; 3,000 new jobs created with Council help since 1997; £25 million invested in roads and pavements since 1997; South Park restored to its former glory; newly-refurbished Dolphin Centre; 11 full-time community wardens and more state-of-the-art CCTV cameras; and finally that the new town centre Pedestrian Heart is nearing completion.

Inside, though, the point is hammered home that Labour works in every community too. We've got a map of the ward on the inside pages, which in the case of Haughton West has 22 examples of where the Labour Council and Labour Councillors have made a difference - some big some small schemes, but all which have made a difference to the quality of local residents' lives. At a time when politics is becoming more and more local, it's a strong message to highlight how voting Labour really does change things for the better.