Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday Morning Smile

Personally, I was never a great Muppets fan, but here's a highlight from 1982.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Saying Thank You - and Saying Goodbye

Over the past few weeks, I've been campaigning with Dari Taylor MP and her team in Stockton South.

They have a hugely impressive set-up - communicating with voters and addressing their concerns is something that happens week-in, week-out, on the streets of the constituency and via telephone contact, not simply at election time.

Last Thursday, I went along to a club in Thornaby, where Dari had hired a room to pay special thanks to party workers who give their time and expertise so selflessly. 9 were presented with framed certificates, and all were thanked.

Sadly, three party workers had died recently - framed photos of them sat on the bar, and Dari spoek movingly about how important they had been to her and to the Labour Party. Their relatives had been invited along, and Dari presented them with personal letters of condolence from the Prime Minister. Gordon attracts a lot of abusive nonsense from opposition politicians and the press, but it's initiatives like this, which obviously gets no publicity, is precisely why I admire him so much as a national leader.

At the end, there wasn't a dry eye in the room. Political parties, like any successful organisation, operate at their best when they become like families to their members - that certainly is the case in Stockton South.

Comment Moderation RIP

I have to confess that it's been pleasant not having to dash home over the past month or so to delete racist burblings from some BNP sock-puppet. Comment moderation has meant that i'm not constantly checking my email for yet another wacko/deeply offensive comment.

Still, now that I'm back in harness, I guess it's time to turn comment moderation off. The vast majority of contributors to this blog are decent people (even if we have wildly different approaches to politics). Let's see how it goes

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Stockton & Darlington

Norton on Saturday evening, for a function with Stephen and Stockton North's Labour PPC Alex Cunningham.

Alex was a great selection for Stockton North, and his help and those of other SN party members in the European campaign will be invaluable. Still, it felt very close to home, as two of the party faithful were long-standing Darlington FC supporters who had been at the game this afternoon. Commiserations ensued.

Earlier in the day, Stephen and I met with Darlington Labour Party members, before moving on to campaign again in Harrowgate Hill. Now, you wouldn't expect me to divulge canvassing returns, but suffice it to say that if the results from the Bensham Road area of the ward were replicated region-wide, not only would Stephen and Fay be returned, but I'd actually be within a whisker of election myself!

It is the case that a lot of the media froth at the moment is simply that, and Labour's vote is far more durable than the polls imply. It's also true, as both Alan and Stephen attested, however, that the very good response we've had in Harrowgate Hill has owed much to the hard work of local Labour Councillor Mark Burton, who's a real party star. His regular glossy Little Red Rosette is appreciated by local residents whatever their political persuasion, and he has helped lots of people in the ward in the 2 years that he was elected as councillor.

Mark's newsletter won a regional award last year, and he remains one of the Party's most effective communicators. I'll be joining him to camapign for Labour throughout the European campaign.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Short Campaign

Apologies once again for failing to blog recently - well, it's been for well over a month, but then, who's counting... ;)

In truth, as Mike rightly guessed, playing a heavily active role in Labour's North East Euro campaign ahead of polling on May 4th meant that something simply had to give - and that was the blogging. That doesn't mean I've been neglecting my other duties, be they at ward or Cabinet level. My employers will be glad to learn that I've been putting in the hours there too.

In the past few weeks, on the European campaign, I've been travelling up and down the region helping with events. That means you've been spared details of my speech in a very windy Victoria Square in Middlesbrough to 250+ members of Unite and the GMB on the Posting of Workers Directive, or indeed trying not to slip up talking about the finer points of the EU in front of the Foreign Secretary in South Shields.

Today has been as busy as ever - door-knocking with our local MP Alan Milburn and party members in the Mayfair Road area, followed by a street surgery with Helen Goodman in Shildon, and then a dash up the A19 to Easington for a meeting of the CLP together with Stephen Hughes MEP.

The so-called "short campaign" has now begun in earnest.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tough Gig

To Lingfield Point yesterday lunchtime, where I was part of the panel on a post-Budget Northern Decision Makers special. You can see the full programme here.

The audience included a high proportion of members of the Institute of Directors, and the session was expertly chaired by local IoD chief Alistair Thompson. In a budget that the Telegraph felt heralded the return of "Class War", and in the midst of the most difficult economic conditions since WWII, it was always going to be a hard sell.

Graham and I did our usual turns for our respective parties, and there were thoughtful contributions from the 2 other panellists - John Orchard from Marchday (responsible for the fantastic Lingfield Point development), and Alan Cook from Arlington Financial in Hartlepool.

In truth, I was slightly disappointed that a question about the so-called 'class war' element of the Budget didn't turn up. It's surely right to ask those earning in excess of £150,000 to take their fair share of the burden the country is now facing - particularly those in the financial sector where executives have been pocketing huge bonuses during the good years, and now bear a fair amount of responsibility for the situation we now find ourselves in.

And it remains the case that 1% of our population earn 21% of the national wealth, and that's after 13 years of Labour Government. So the Jacobins are hardly at the gate. Even if I am now sounding like Tony Benn. You should see the chopping hand movements here.

The measure raises important revenue to help address the country's deficit. And what has been the Tories principal tax promise over the past 18 months? - giving £200,000 away to the richest 3,000 estates in the country via a loosening of Inheritance Tax.

The Tories opposed many of the measures in the Budget to help the people suffering most during the downturn - young people without work, for example, pensioners and homeowners facing repossession. The priorities of the country's two principal parties could not be clearer. Voters ahead of the next General Election should take note.