Owen Temple & Margaret Nealis

Liberal Democrat campaigners for Consett North Learn more

On the road

by Owen Temple on November 9, 2012

I’ve enjoyed a couple of days of travel.

Tuesday was spent on Middlesbrough doorsteps in a mixture of heavy and light rain. I’m not often in Middlesborough but enjoyed getting out in support of our excellent by-election candidate, George Selmer. I was struck, as usual, by how pleasant most people are, even when telling you that there’s no chance they’ll ever vote for your party, and that mostly they welcome the fact that someone has bothered to come to their doorstep. Mind you, the ones who don’t come to the door probably wouldn’t say the same! If the people were friendly, not all the animals were and a colleague ended up quite unpleasantly damaged by a cat – complete with a claw left embedded in his finger.

On Wednesday I spent the day in Northumberland, including attendance at a county council meeting. It was fascinating, and much less tribal than a council meeting in Durham. That may be because it is a council where no party has an absolute majority, and no-one is quite sure whether or when they may need friends in another party. The Liberal Democrat Group runs the council, but can only do so as long as one of the other two parties does not oppose them on any one issue. Scrutiny Committees are chaired by Conservatives and the Deputy Chair is an Independent.

There are other differences, too. Every report and decision was introduced by a councillor – never an officer – so it was much easier to believe that elected members were in control of the council, and in control of their briefs. At no point was any speaker heckled. And in Northumberland they’ve maintained free transport for school and college students at 16+.

They say travel broadens the mind. It can also induce envy – except when it comes to the cats.

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