Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Hard at Work in Hartlepool

The Lib Dem campaign in Hartlepool continues to build momentum towards polling day on Thursday. We have a big team of people here - a mix of enthusiastic local members and supporters from round the country. The atmosphere is similar to Brent, Leicester and Birmingham and it looks like it could be another close result.

The Lib Dem campaign is significantly stronger than any of the other parties, and a lot more positive than Labour's. The Lib Dem rally last night, featuring Shirley Williams, Charles Kennedy and Jody Dunn was packed out. All spoke well. Shirley Williams was the first politician I ever saw speak, at Stockton in 1986, and it was good to see here on such fine form. Charles spoke well too. He rightly pointed out that if, after seven years of government, we were running the kind of campaign Labour are in Hartlepool, he would be ashamed. Quite right too.

Speaking last, Jody Dunn made a confident and effective speech, focussing on the key issue of the hospital and the impact a victory for the Lib Dems could have. She finished by reminding the audience that they don't have a guarantee that she will be a good MP, but that they will have the chance to boot her out next May if she doesn't keep her promises. This seemed to go down well and there was a standing ovation at the end.

Jody is an extremely impressive candidate, and if she does win I am sure she will make her mark quickly, as Brent East winner Sarah Teather has already done.

It's good to be back in the north east. When I joined the Liberals in Redcar in 1987 I would have been laughed at if I suggested that we would one day be near to winning Hartlepool. But this week we are.

It is going to a busy 48 hours!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Happy Hartlepool

It's good to back in Teesside. Proper beer, proper fish 'n' chips and a proper accent.

It's been a hectic weekend in the by-election HQ with hundreds of helpers each day. There is a really positive atmosphere and Jody Dunn is a first rate candidate.

Just like Hodge Hill and Leicester the Labour campaign has been entirely negative and personal. This just spurs on the Lib Dem activists to work even harder.

We are getting a very positive response. I suspect it will be a close run thing on Thursday.

The only downside is that with conference last week I have hardly seen the kids. Will send them postcrads tomorrow.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

To Hartlepool

Having helped with the Leicester South campaign - where I spent my student years and served my political apprenticeship - I can now have a crack at where I grew up - or next door at least.

I'm off to Hartlepool tomorrow to help our excellent candidate Jody Dunn win another stunning victory for the Liberal Democrats.

Help Beat Howard

Excellent website this

Please visit it and do what you can to help.


All my best intentions of actually blogging from Lib Dem Conference came to nought -just too busy!

The Conference was very positive and it was great to see so many friends from round the country again.

The mood was bouyant but serious. I sense that Lib Dem activists know that we are close to a breakthrough, but that we need to remain focussed on getting our message across, rather than get carried away.

Most of my conference was spent doing the things that don't get onto TV - loads of training sessions and meetings with key seat campaign teams, regional officers and other staff.

It is clear that we are currently doing more effective campaigning in more seats than ever before. In seats ranging from Watford to Folkestone, Maidenhead to Taunton, Westmorland to Cambridge, we have first rate candidates and strong campaign teams working their socks off to win support. And the polls reflect that it is working.

On a personal note it is great to see so many of the people I have campaigned with over the years in student politics and rouns the country, doing so well.

The Sunday Rally, with Chris Rennard, Charles and a host of recent election winners, got conference off to a great start. Hartlepool candidate Jody Dunn won loads of support yestrday. And Charles finisehd things off with a coherent and workmanlike speech today.

The party leaves Bournemouth knowing there is still a lot of work to do - but keen to get on and do it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Leeds Festival 2004

Two weeks after the relative tranquility of the Cropredy Festival it was time for the slightly noisier Carling Leeds Festival.

Leeds is different from Cropredy in a number of ways:

1 There are about three times as many people
2 You can't pitch your tent next to your car
3 I had my eldest daughter with me
4 The average age of the punters is about 30 years younger
5 The noise doesn't stop

Leeds is the sister festival to Reading which I first attended in 1987. It has a big main arena and several other stages - the Radio One stage, the Carling Stage, the Dance Stage and the Comedy Tent.

Being on the elderly side I spent quite a lot of time in the Comedy Tent - which was mostly of a very high standard.

We arrived on the Thursday - along with half the planet - and got our (new,large) tent set up. Having suffered last year due to lack of sleep I did insist, much to daughter's disgust, that we go in the family camping area this year. (This involved several trips to and from the car and a very long queue).

Shortly after the tent was set up it started to rain so we sat in the tent for the rest of the day. Another family set up their (equally large) tent next to ours and we proceeded to get on well with them for the weekend.

Eldest daughter is a particularly keen Green Day fan so she was very excited to be seeing them headline Friday. She spent most of the weekend seeking out punk bands, losing various shoes and items of clothing and generally spending my money for me.

Highlights for me included: Lostprophets, Placebo, Hundred Reasons, The Hives, Ash, A, & Supergrass.

Best set of the weekend for me was the legendary Wildhearts who crammed two hours worth of energy, songs and general mayhem into a 40 minute set. They had a lot of fans there to see them but also attracted a large crowd who they proceeded to win over completely.

And The Darkness were truly brilliant as well. They peformed a real stadium rock set with a solid dollop of humour thrown in. Justin Hawkins is so over the top it is hilarious, but they are very tight musically too. And the fireworks at the end reminded me of Monsters of Rock festivals of old.

As a lifelong Queen fan it was interesting to see Green Day end their set with a cover of We Are The Champions while The Darkness were led by the crowd into performing a chunk of We Will Rock You during their closing number Love On The Rocks (With No Ice).

And having packed the tent into the car during Sunday afternoon it only took 90 minutes to get out of the place in the end. Got home at 4am!

Cropredy 2004

It is slightly disconcerting when the first thing you see at a festival is a sign which says: "Usual campsite flooded - follow signs to new campsite"!

But it didn't turn out too bad, there had been a lot of rain in the two days before the festival but it was brightening up by the time I got there. I was glad I arrived early mind, the queues were massive a few hours later.

Cropredy is the annual 'reunion' festival organised by Fairport Convention, the 37 year old pioneering group of the genre that is known as 'folk-rock'.

This was my third Cropredy and I really enjoyed it. The atmosphere is really friendly and welcoming. Many of the punters have been coming for decades. The age range is wide with quite a few family groups, teenagers, twenty and thirty somethings and right up to pensioners.

The highlight is always the Fairpoirt set on the Saturday night - where many previous members of their often changed line up turn up to join the current line up on stage. The acts are all chosen by Dave Pegg, Fairport's bass player, and always cover a wide range of folk, blues and roots music.

Particular favourites for me this year were Mostly Autumn (a sort of Pink Floydy/All About Eve prog/folk/rock group) who I saw for the first time, and Show of Hands (a folk duo playing traditional sounding and brilliantly delivered songs). The Family Mahone featuring Radio 2 DJ Mark Radcliffe on vocals and drums were very good and very funny too.

The Friday headliners were Jethro Tull who I have wanted to see for about 20 years. The set was excellent and the musicianship superb although the mix left something to be desired as far as Ian Anderson's vocals were concerned.

I really enjoyed the Fairport set this year. There is some doubt about whether the festival will continue after this year because the main organiser of the event has been Christine Pegg, Dave Pegg's wife. Unfortunately they have separated and this throws the future of the event into doubt. There were a few emotonal moments as a result - particularly whne Christine was invited onto stage to take a bow and be presented with a bouquet by Simon Nicol (Fairport vocalist & guitarist).

The Fairport set was fantastic. A wide range of their best known songs from their 37 year history including a stunning version of my personal favourite, The Hiring Fair, and several tracks from the new CD Over The Next Hill. As usual they ended the set with a touching rendition of Meet On The Ledge.

I really hope the festival continues.

Currently listening to ...

... Bruce Dickinson's rock show on Radio 6. Started with Rock 'N' Roll Ain't Noise Pollution by the mighty AC/DC followed by Butterflies and Hurricaines by Muse. Promises much Megadeth later in the show too.

For those who don't know Bruce is lead singer with Iron Maiden, a pretty good Radio DJ and a lover of all things Classic Rock.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004



Still listening to Bruce Dickinson's rock show - a fascinating interview with Dave Mustaine of Megadeth and tracks from the new album which sound excellent.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Apologies for the delay

Just as I was getting started with the blog I hit a busy patch with holidays and the like.

I've got a busy weekend too - a 'General Election Summit' with many of the party's MPs, candidates and movers and shakers. The mood in the party is very positive at present so it should be a good event.

Next week is a bit quieter so I hope to post about a few things to catch up including the Cropredy Festival and the Leeds Festival.

Anders Hanson wins the prize for being the first person I know to spot my blog - I don't plan on advertsisig it widely until I have learnt the ropes. When I work out how to do the links and stuff Anders will be top of my list. (Despite our musical differences ;-))