Lib Dems - Abiding by the will of the people?

In a comment on his blog regarding which party the Liberal Democrats might support if there is a hung parliament after the next Westminster elections Peter Black says:

Liberal Democrats have said that they will abide with the will of the British people *if* there should be a hung Parliament, in deciding what our role in it will be

This strikes me as an odd, new management speak, gobbledygook phrase, which sounds good but means nothing!

The term abide is an odd one for a party with Democrat in its name to use. Abide means to live with in the sense of put up with something unpleasant or to accept through gritted teeth. For the Liberal Democrats to say that they will abide with the will of the British people is akin to them saying that they will look at the election result as one of the people have spoken – the bastards!

If there is a hung parliament, how will the Liberal Democrats decide what the will of the British people is? Will they ask a focus group? Will they ask a polling company? Will they go on the number of seats won or the number of votes cast? (If there is a hung parliament, there is a fair chance that Labour will have the most seats but that the Conservatives will have the most votes.)

Would a hung parliament mean that the people have rejected the outgoing Labour Government or that they have refused to endorse a change to a Conservative Government?

Perhaps the best interpretation of the Liberal Democrats wily words is we don't know - depends what we are offered after the event; not a good election slogan, perhaps, but at least an honest one, and one which is more straight forward than a sound bite that means that they can spin their choice, either way, as the cast iron guarantee given before the event.


Why Didn't Santa Visit Wales?

This is a short brake in my blogging hibernation in order to raise a question of the utmost importance. Why didn't Santa visit Wales this year?

NORAD is a military agency of the US and Canadian governments that monitors the skies in order to look out for missile attacks aimed at northen America. Because of their speciality NORAD is able to track Father Christmas's journey across the world. Every year NORAD shares this intelligence with the world's children so that they might know where Santa is on each stage of his journey.

Above is a map of where the great bearded one had been shortly after he had left the British Isles. The map shows that he had visited Scotland, England the north and the south of Ireland, but he appears to have flown over Wales without stopping.

Have the children of Wales been particularly naughty this year? If so the Assembly must do its utmost to ensure that the children of Wales are better behaved next year so that Santa doesn't ignore our country again! If our children have been as good as they usually are then the Assembly should contact NORAD to ask them to include Santa's visit to Wales next year.

Season's greetings to you all.



This blog is now a former blog.

Because of lifestyle changes I can't comment on hot off the press topics anymore. By the time I have thought of a response to current Welsh affairs others have said it better.

The blog wont be closed down, it is going into hibernation. Like Arthur and Glyndwr it may be awakened when Wales needs it!

Come the General Election and the Referendum, I might be persuaded to post again. But for the foreseeable future posts on this blog will be few and far between.

O let us see another day!
Bless us all this night, I pray,
And to the Sun we all will bow
And say, good-bye - but just for now!


Sir Em Reports

Here is the long awaited Sir Em report.

£1.3 million wasted on an exercise in stating the bleeding obvious i.e. that the current system of obtaining competence for the Assembly is a dog's breakfast and sometimes referendums are won or lost on issues outwith the scope of the question being voted upon.

Will the next million pound Assembly commissioned report be on the defecatory habits of forest dwelling bears?


New Welsh Poll on Friday?

YouGov has sent out invitations to panel members to take part in the second of its series of Welsh political opinion polls.

The last poll invitation was sent out on the 22nd October and the results published five days latter. If the current poll follows the same pattern then this result should be out on Friday. It will be interesting to see what, if any, changes there have been over the past month.

Any body wishing to join YouGov and possibly be selected for the next Welsh panel can do so by clicking THIS LINK


The Cost of Remembrance

There is much debate on the Scottish blogosphere about the decision by the Scottish Parliament that poppy wreaths laid by MSPs today can be claimed for out of parliamentary expenses. Most think that claiming for wreaths is insensitive and a shame on those who do so.

Others make the counter argument that an MSP isn't laying the wreath in his own right but in an official capacity as a representative of the people, and therefore the people should pay.

I could accept the public service on behalf of the constituents argument if only one wreath was laid on my behalf by one of my public representatives. But it appears that the chair of the parish council, my county councillor, the mayor of the county council, my constituency Assembly Member, 4 regional AMs, my MP, four euro MEPs, the First Minister, the Secretary of State for Wales, the Prime minister and the Queen (and possibly others) can all lay wreaths on my behalf out of the public purse. This is over representation.

The parish council should lay one wreath on my behalf as a parishioner. Any other public representative who thinks that laying a wreath is the right thing to do should do so in his or her own name and out of his or her own pocket*.

* NB I should point out, in fairness, that despite the fact that all of these people CAN claim the cost of wreaths, because they are laying them as representatives of the people few actually do so.


Is being a child a criminal offence?

A long, long time ago, before most of my readers were born, I use to play ball in the street with my mates. I couldn't understand adults who complained about our play. What harm were we doing? What was wrong with having a bit of fun? Those adults who, when asked can I have my ball back? said NO and ranted about the damage caused to their Prize Dahlias appeared to be unreasonable, miserable and sad.

Occasionally accidents happened, a broken window, an adult hurt by a wild ball, a newly cleaned car dirtied, and there might be consequences if dad was told. Sent to bed, pocket money stopped or, in the most extreme circumstances, a smacked bottom. All such sanctions appeared unjust because we were just having fun.

My father, my grandfather, my great grandfather and all my ancestors back to Adam's lads probably went through the same experience of not understanding why adults complained about boys having a bit of fun.

Now that I am a Miserable Old Fart, I understand and sympathise with those long dead miserable old farts who complained about my ball playing on the streets and I can emmpathise with the residents of Penmaenmawr who complain about kids playing football by the Spar shop in the village.

However, what I can't understand is the attitude of the Police towards the kids playing ball on the street in Penmaenmawr:
YOUNGSTERS caught playing football on the streets of Penmaenmawr risk being arrested and could face a criminal record. .... "There is a specific offence for playing games in the highway causing annoyance to road users." ..... "This is an arrestable offence and from this moment on, this is the approach we will be using. ..."This behaviour can land them with a criminal record. It’s only fair to give them all a warning first that they will face arrest if caught again".
So a child will face arrest, a criminal record and prohibition for life from any job that needs full disclosure for playing ball on the street twice? What is the world coming to?

Playing ball inappropriately is not criminal, it is naughty. Naughty children should be dealt with at home or in school, not by the police and the courts.

When naughty children are treated as criminals, childhood is made into a criminal offence. And if just being a child is seen to be a criminal offence then there is no hope for naughty boys to grow up to be law abiding adults.


Democracy Live and the Welsh Language

The new BBC Service Democracy Live is great and one that I am sure to use often. It offers live and recorded debates from eight UK parliamentary chambers, including the Assembly's Senedd.

It is also possible to embed proceedings from the chamber into blog posts. As the service is available it must be used!

Here is the discussion on the Welsh language eLCO held yesterday:

(NB the embedded video audio comes from translators for most of the debate)

Apparently it is posssible to take individual contributions out of full debates for the sake of partisan or personal embedding, but I haven't worked out how to do that yet. However, this is a debate worth following from beginning to end.

What I find heartening about this debate is the fact that its liveliness, the fire in the belly, the party political point scoring and the passion is based on an argument about which party is the greatest supporter and promoter of the language.

Listening to Tory and Liberal Democrat and Labour members criticising a Plaid Cymru minister for compromising on the language and not doing enough to defend it bought a tear to the eye; not because the criticisms might, or might not, be justified - but just because they were made.

A quarter of a century, or less, ago this sort of debate would have involved a powerless member of Plaid stuck in a corner supporting the language whilst the other three parties ravaged him or her for the stupidity of advancing the cause of a half dead language. The fact that today, a nationalist minister had to fight off attacks from members of the other parties who were falling over themselves to prove that they are the most ardent supporters and truest defenders of the language is evidence of how far the Welsh language cause has moved in so short a time.

Plaid's next big challenge is to get to a situation where all the other parties are criticising it for not doing enough to advance the cause of national self determination :-)


Welsh poll - read the small print!

Before Labour supporters start drowning their sorrows and Conservative supporters start dancing in the street in reaction to today's YouGov poll - a word of caution. Apparently The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). This has been one of the reasons why most previous Welsh polls have proved disastrously inaccurate. Wales is not a mini GB. In Wales the C2s Ds and Es are a much more important factor in elections than the C1s who swing middle England for one party or an other.

Its good to see the beginning of regular Welsh polling, but until there have been a number of Welsh polls which can be used to show trends and until there have been enough polls conducted near real elections in order for the weighting to be adjusted to reflect actual voting patterns the results of Welsh polls must still be treated with caution and digested with a large pinch of salt.



If a member of the Green Party was on Question Time would all the questions be about environmental issues?

If a member of UKIP was on would all the questions be about Europe?

If a member of the SNP was on would all the questions be about Scottish independence?

No! There would have been questions about the economy, schools, health and all the other bread and butter issues. So why were all the questions on QT tonight geared towards the BNP agenda?

I was not opposed to Nick Griffin being a guest on the programme. Having him there I would have expected a question relating to race relations and fascism, but for the whole programme to be on just the one subject was wrong and biased, and a discredits to the BBC's claim to be impartial.

And oh! When QT comes from Llandudno next week will there be any Welsh questions asked? Probably not, on past form!


Beer and Fags and Plastic Bags

The European Court of Justice has decided that Ireland, France and Austria cannot set minimum prices for tobacco products. At the moment tobacco prices in many countries, including the UK, have a great deal of variation. A packet of 20 fags can cost between £4 and £6.50. When governments use taxes to try and discourage smoking for health reason many smokers can absorb the price increase by switching to a cheaper brand, which they do rather than giving up, making the reasoning behind the health tax defunct. The EU, however, argues that binding prices restricted manufacturers’ freedom to set prices, thereby posing a risk to free competition.

Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting notes how this could have a knock on affect on plans for minimum prices for alcohol proposed by the Scottish Government. Although Nicola Sturgeon claims that the decision will not affect the alcohol proposals, like Jeff I'm not convinced.

Another knock on affect could be on National Assembly plans to reduce the use of plastic bags. A number of countries have tried to reduce the use of bags by taxing them. In some US states one has to pay a tax of between 5c and 17c for each bag issued, for example. However, the National Assembly has no tax raising powers so their plastic bag tax plan is in effect a minimum pricing plan where shops will be forced to sell bags at a set price. So the Assembly might have to think again about this policy in light of the EU's ruling.

Tanni for FM?

I have just completed a Welsh survey for YouGov. Amongst the predictable question about which party one would vote for and opinions about devolution there was this question:

Which one of these would you prefer to see as First Minister for Wales?
Katherine Jenkins
Tom Jones
Gavin Henson
Joe Calzaghe
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Ruth Jones
Ryan Giggs
Colin Jackson
Rob Brydon
Tanni Grey-Thompson
Charlotte Church
Someone else
Don't know/ no preference

I voted for Tanni. Do you agree with my choice?

Apparently YouGov will be conducting a number of Welsh polls over the next few months, which will be analyzed by Richard Wyn Jones to see how accurate they are. The panel of those polled is made up of a weighted selection of Welsh members of YouGov. If you would like to join YouGov and be in with a chance of being selected for the Welsh panel you can do so by clicking HERE


Why I won't have the flu jab

Despite not actually having gone to the Gulf my youngest sister suffers from Gulf War Syndrome. It took years of campaigning and of tribunal hearings to get them to admit it, but the Ministry of Defence do now accept that she and many other non-deployed service men and women have the syndrome. The cause of their illness is recognised as being linked to the vaccinations received in preparation for possible deployment.

One of the theories relating to the vaccine damage is that the vaccines contained an adjuvant (ingredient to make them work faster) called Squalene. In 2001 my sister was given tests by an immunology expert which shows that she has antibodies to squalene in her immune system, it is therefore extremely likely that this is what has caused her illness which includes chronic fatigue, severe headaches, nausea, muscular pain, joint swelling, short term memory loss and depression.

It is with some trepidation that I read that the Swine Flu vaccine which is being given to people in Wales from today also includes Squalene as an adjuvant, despite the fact that the adjuvant remains unlicensed in the UK and the USA.

Despite being in one of the at risk groups that should be prioritised for receiving the vaccination, knowing that the injection contains this dangerous substance means that I won't be taking up the offer. It's a gamble but I would prefer to take my chances with the flu rather than risk spending the rest of my life with gulf war type symptoms.


Hang the bastards!

Since the 1960's Plaid Cymru has proved itself to be the second choice of disgruntled Labour voters. From the 1960's to the 1990's Plaid has managed to get 15%, 20% even 39% swings from Labour in by-elections but without winning a seat because of the weight of the Labour vote.

The days of Labour winning a seat despite a 39% swing against it in Wales have been over for some years.

Apart from perhaps Alyn and Deeside and Monmouth Plaid would be in a strong position to win any Welsh by-election called today. Bloody hell, Plaid even won Islwyn in 1999, despite the fact that many people in the constituency claim that Islwyn, Monmouthshire, is a part of England!

The clear problems for Plaid is that today's pissed off voter doesn't switch party, he / she just doesn't vote! That is why the Tories topped the poll in Wales for the first time in 150 years in the Euro Elections !

If Plaid can persuade the peeved to vote Plaid rather than not to vote at all, Plaid could gain, 11, 12, 15 or even more constituencies in the next Westminster election. With 20-to 30 SNP members and an outside possibility of an MK member, the national group could prove pivotal to the next parliament. Being pivotal is good for Wales, good for Cornwall and good for Scotland – Vote Plaid - Vote SNP – and Vote MK to make it happen!

The best option for Wales isn't a continuation of the present Labour government, nor swapping it with a Tory Government but a hung government where the voice of Wales counts. Lets hang the bastards by voting Plaid!


Congratulations Elin and Christianne

Hearty congratulations to Elin Jones AM and Dr Christianne Glossop on being awarded Farm Champion of the Year by the Farmers' Weekly magazine.

They were nominated for the award in recognition of their efforts to tackle the plague of TB in the Welsh cattle herd. In the words of one of the adjudicators:

The Welsh approach provides an ideal blueprint for TB eradication, from which the English government can learn a lot. Christianne and Elin's positive approach towards eradication rather than control is an inspiration to us all. Lyndon Edwards, RABDF

The award was presented by Westminster agriculture minister Hilary Benn, the man who should learn a lot from their positive approach. Sweet!

Picture source

Why should nurses pay for bankers mess?

According to multi-millionaire Osborn and equally rich Cameron, we all have to "pull together" to sort out the economic mess caused by the greedy.

Bankers and Hedge Fund owners caused the economic crisis that we are currently going through, but those who have to pay the price are people in public service who will have their pay frozen and their tax credits cut by the Conservatives. The men in red braces and Savil Row suites will be able to carry on regardless!

The public sector is the bête noire of Conservative politicians, the scroungers who are employed as state leaches, people who deserved to be hammered more than most. When they are described as state workers by the Tories they sound like the people who deserve to be hammered in order to preserve the private sector wealth creating parts of society.

The real public sector is made up of nurses, policemen, fire-fighters, soldiers, teachers and lollipop ladies. Should their pay really be frozen in order to make up deficits caused by the bankers and the wankers mistakes in The City?


Peter endorses Huw?

I was doing a family history search on the Ask search engine just now, when I came across this gushing endorsement for Huw Lewis from Peter Black:

If you click on the image it should become more readable, if not, the text reads:
This is the situation as it stood at 8am this morning. I really do not need to add anything except that the hopes and dreams of many Americans and much of the free World now rests on the shoulders of this extraordinary politician. ... Huw Lewis AM ...

Unfortunately clicking on the link leads to a post about a lesser politician Barack something


Can Anglesey have its £48 million back please?

Apart from owning a sweet shop for a couple of years, which was an abject failure as a business venture (mainly due to my own sweet tooth eating into the profits) my working life has either been in the true public sector or the quasi public sector (where private businesses are paid by the government for providing public services). So I can't pretend to understand how the real business world works.

Because I am venturing into a subject that I know little about this post might be a load of codswallop. If it is I would appreciate a word from the more business savvy of my readers to explain where I am going wrong.

Last June the Assembly and Westminster governments offered RTZ, the owners of Anglesey Aluminium a £48 million package to help secure the plants future. The offer was refused, and as a result about 400 well paid jobs will be lost on the island.

The £48 million to save 400 jobs that was offered (and turned down because it wasn't enough) works out at just short of a quarter of a million pounds per job!

This is where I get confused, if those jobs were worth a quarter of a million each, and if the cash was available to save them at that price, why aren't there 400 grants of a similar size available to 400 individuals on the island to create 400 new businesses after RTZ said No?

Indeed a quarter of the price of each job would be a huge boost to anybody wanting to start up an SME! The £48 million offered to RTZ could be £30k each to help start up 1,600 new Anglesey companies, and if each of those companies employed just one individual each that would be 3,200 jobs for the price of 400!

If the £48 million had been spread a little thinner it could have given £1,500 to each and every working age person on the island as a deposit towards self employment!

In short if the governments have £48 million to spare as (turned down) backhanders to billion pound turnover companies, why isn't that cash available to new Welsh entrepreneurs?

If Wales needs to get out of its public service culture, shouldn't we be using these multi million pound "grants" to encourage the creation of indigenous companies, rather than subsidising multinationals?

Despite the fact that I am a nurse, a public servant and part of the Welsh public service problem, I do appreciate the need for a vibrant indigenous Welsh capitalism.

If Wales is ever to stand on its own two feet it needs interim government financial support aimed towards the creation of Welsh owned businesses, rather than that support only being available to externally owned labour intensive multinationals (Like RTZ) that just happen to be in Wales whilst it suits them.


Don't be crule about Conwy Council

Cllr Jason Weyman is an independent member of Conwy County Borough Council who represents the Deganwy Ward and writes a blog here.

Today he has an interesting post which contains copies of correspondence between himself and the Chief executive of the council regarding the CE's decision to block access to blogs and social networking sites by councillors and council employees. The CE doesn't want the members and staff to read our musings because:

I have been concerned with regard to staff and elected members bringing to my attention (instead of focusing on the job), slights, inaccuracies, innuendo and froth regarding staff and councillors which has been published on blog sites.

So it appears that Conwy Councils highly paid executive doesn't want people to read blogs, FaceBook etc because people say nasty things about the council on them. To be consistent he might also consider getting rid of phones from the council offices to stop people from phoning to complain and suggest that councillors should stuff their fingers in their ears when they meet constituents so that they are unable to hear any moans about the council and its services.

On the other hand the Chief Executive might reflect on the fact that councillors are elected to represent the people and that officers are paid out of our taxes to serve us. If we have complaints they should bloody well listen to them, through whichever medium they are made, rather than trying to block them and dismiss them as "slights, inaccuracies, innuendo and froth" because they don't like what is said.


The Rhodri Conundrum

A number of commentators on the Radio and TV today have been making the point that Rhodri Morgan as an individual has a high popularity rating in Wales, but that the party that he leads has become noticeably less popular during his time at the helm. A number of reasons have been given for this – his man of the people persona; Rhodri not sorting out institutional problems in the Welsh Labour party etc.

I would suspect that the real reason is in the way that Assembly issues are always reported. The Assembly is almost invariably seen as a corporate institution rather than a political institution. Here is an example from the today's Daily Post:
"THE Labour government was accused of hypocrisy last night after announcing it was scrapping hospital car parking charges despite criticising the Welsh Assembly when it axed fees."

Throughout the article there is no mention that the decision to scrap parking fees was proposed by the Labour/Plaid government in Cardiff, it is always described as a decision made by the Assembly or by Wales.

The same has been true of almost any decision, good or bad, made since devolution. They have all been Assembly decisions never Welsh Labour Government decisions in the way that Westminster measures have been Labour Government measures. The problem that this has caused Labour is that Rhodri's popularity has been matched by the Assembly becoming more popular, rather than by Labour becoming more popular. Labour in Wales has been blamed for Westminster Labour's failings but has failed to gain from Rhodri's "clear red water" Welsh Labour policies.

This isn't just a problem for Labour however; it is a problem for all the parties.

When the Tories suggested scrapping free prescriptions recently they were seen as opposing the Assembly rather than opposing a Labour policy. When the Labour/Plaid government failed to help secure the future of Dolgarog Aluminium works in the Conwy valley last year attacks on the parties of government by the parties of opposition fell on deaf ears – the locals blamed the Assembly, and they wanted the Assembly scrapped not a change of Assembly Government!

Until we see an end to reporting of the Assembly as a corporate body, rather than as an institution that is as party political as the House of Commons, proper political debate in Wales will be stifled to the detriment of all of the parties involved in the Assembly.


Why Plaid and the Lib Dems should stop the bickering

In the 1997 Westminster election the Conservative Party won 161 thousand votes in Wales. It was such a poor result for them that they were wiped off the Welsh political map returning no Welsh Conservative MPs.

In the recent European Election the Conservatives had the most votes of all of the parties throughout Wales and they toped the poll in a whopping 18 Welsh constituencies. But they actually gained 15,837 fewer votes in Wales in 2009 than they did in 1997.

If the Conservatives can win 18 more constituencies in Wales on a smaller vote than that which gave them no constituencies 12 years ago, then the Conservatives are not doing well in Wales. They are doing better than the others, but it is apathy that is doing well.

There was a time when the apathetic voter, the "a plague on both your houses" voter was grist to the mill for Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats, but neither party seems to be picking up votes at the moment from those who are fed up with Labour but can't stomach voting Conservative. Darren Hill noted the reason for this in an article on Wales Home last month at the moment Plaid and the Lib Dems seem to reserve their harshest phrases for one another.

A visitor from outer space landing in Wales and reading the Welsh blogs and the Welsh press would believe that the battle for World domination was a fight to the death between Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems, such is the vitriol that the parties throw at each other. The problem is that this attitude is feeding the feeling of apathy and makes Plaid and the Lib Dems look just as unsavory as the Labour and Conservative parties.

I am not suggesting that Plaid and the Lib Dems should coalesce, or work together, or form any sort of alliance, just that they should agree to differ amicably. Both parties have too much to lose from being seen as part of the Labour / Conservative problem rather than as a possible alternative to the apathy to politics created by the big two.

Whilst there is so much antipathy towards both Labour and the Conservatives, both Plaid and the Liberal Democrats have a positive alternative to offer the electorate, both parties could gain from promoting the positive and both parties will be pray to the the same voter apathy if they are just seen as junior versions of the big boys bun fight!


Magdalen Brown

I found this quote from Gordon Brown's speech today quite nauseating:

From now on all 16 and 17 year old parents who get support from the taxpayer will be placed in a network of supervised homes

I can appreciate that Mr Brown's speech was based on the opinion of focus groups from middle England rather than on Labour Party values, but still the idea that a Labour Prime Minister could be cheered by Labour party members for suggesting a return of the workhouse or the introduction of Magdalen Asylums in Britain beggars all belief.

It is not being "emotive" to make a comparison between Mr Brown's ideas and these despised and discredited institutions. If the "supervised homes" are supposed to discourage teenage pregnancies then the idea of being forced to reside in them must be something that young people would wish to avoid. If supervised homes were seen as caring, nurturing, enabling places that gave young parents advantages then they would be seen as "soft" and an "encouragement" for young girls to get pregnant in order to benefit from their services, something that the Daily Mail reading mob that the policy is aimed at would vociferously oppose.


A Welsh Speaking FM

Before The New Statesman and Marcus raised the point I hadn't considered the fact that Edwina Heart was the only candidate for the Leadership of The Labour Party in Wales who doesn't speak Welsh.

Whether Edwina can speak Welsh or not is immaterial to me, what is important is her attitude towards the language, and in all honesty I can't find any evidence that she has ever been anything but supportive towards the language.

There have been too many native Welsh speakers who have done a disservice to the language and so many "incomers" who have embarrassed us by their support of the language to say that "speaking" Welsh is the same as "supporting" the Welsh language.

I want an FM who supports the language, whether s/he speaks it or not!

80% of the people of Wales don't speak Welsh. I would encourage each and every one of them to have a go at learning Welsh, of course; but not having the language does not, and should not, exclude anybody from our national cause our from participating in our democratic processes.

I am told that Edwina is 100% in favour of supporting the Welsh Language. That is a good enough qualification for her becoming FM for me!

(NB this is not an endorsement, if I had a vote I would probably vote for Huw)


Royal Mail Rip Off

I need to send a letter to the Open University in Milton Keynes that must arrive by September 29th. If it doesn't arrive on time I might fail a course that I have put a tremendous amount of effort into over the past twelve months.

If I send the work by first class mail with a 39p stamp it should arrive at the university's offices tomorrow morning. By buying a first class stamp which should enable delivery within 36 hours one would have thought that I am entering into a contract with the Royal Mail to provide the service that I am paying for.

Oh no!

To guarantee that the work does arrive on time to be marked and accredited I have to pay a whopping £5.40 Special Delivery fee. If any other business charged more than 13 times the basic price of a service in order to guarantee that a job that they have promised to do is done, they would be bankrupt within days.

So how does the Royal Mail get away with such a rip-off?

The Royal mail claims that about 95% of its first class mail does arrive on time. Which makes one wonder if the 5% deficiency is caused by systems failures, or if it is part of a cynical attempt to raise doubts in order to force people to pay an extra £5+ for a service that should be guaranteed for 39p!


In favour of "The Politics of Envy"

The buzz term on Tory blogs this week is The Politics of Envy. I have seen the term on so many Tory blogs that I can only suspect that it has been sent out by Tory HQ's propaganda office as The word of the Week.

The Politics of Envy, apparently, is to support any policy that suggests that billionaires should pay more tax than those on the national minimum wage - a shocking idea according to Tory central blog control.

Sorry to disappoint my "New Tory" friends but I am sticking to the old fashioned idea of one nation conservatism, that people should be taxed according to their means!

The Ballad of Caernarfon Gaol

When the Liberal Democrats decided to axe the St Tathan bombing school without reference to their Welsh colleagues there was much merriment amongst Plaid bloggers. London LD axing 5,000 Welsh jobs without consulting with their Welsh counterparts! Shocking!

Of course it was all faux outrage. The Liberal Democrats do not, and never will have, the power to make a decision on whether or not the St Tathan bombing school is built or not.

The decision to abandon the building of a gaol in Caernarfon is different and much more serious. This is a decision that is going to lead to the loss of 700 potential jobs in a deprived area which were promised by the Labour Government and which the Labour Government has decided to axe without any discussion with party colleagues in the Welsh Assembly Government.

The argument made by the Minister on Welsh news programmes that prisons are not a devolved issue is weak and pathetic. This is an issue that is much bigger than a simple issue of Law & Order, it is an issue of jobs and an issue of the rights of Welsh Prisoners to be incarcerated in their own communities. Enforced exile is seen by the United Nations as a cruel and unusual punishment, a cruel and unusual punishment that many incarcerated men from north and mid Wales and all incarcerate Welsh women are forced to endure.

I agree entirely with Plaid Cymru councillor, Dyfrig Jones, (Google Translate) that if the Welsh Labour part of One Wales is so weak and ineffectual that it can't influence these sorts of decisions that One Wales isn't worth the paper that it is written on.

The idea of giving up government in order to coalesce with the Labour Party was that Plaid could have more clout on important issues. Caernarfon Gaol is of utmost importance to Plaid's heartlands, if it can't use its influence on this issue it should pull out of the agreement with Labour.


OOPS! I touched a raw nerve!

I am told that my musings about a female successor to Adam price has touched a raw nerve in the Plaid camp.

Mr Price, apparently, had a male heir all lined up and in situ to take over the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr nomination by default.

An heir who, I understand, is now spitting blood because somebody who is not even a f***ing party member has suggested that Price's successor should be a woman and is spoiling his f***ing chances with feminist crap!

Oops! Sorry! I was just thinking out loud about Plaid policy, rather than trying to scupper any bloke's chances!


No Mabon for Carmarthen

Following the comments published on this blog and elsewhere about potential successors to Adam Price as Plaid hopeful in the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituency Mabon ap Gwynfor has asked me to publish this statement:

Plaid Cymru, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr - Mabon ap Gwynfor

Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid Cymru Co-ordinator for Dwyfor Meirionnydd and Ceredigion and former Parliamentary Candidate for Brecon and Radnorshire has announced that he will not be putting his name forward as a candidate for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, following Adam Price MP’s decision to stand down at the next general election.

Mabon said:

“It’s an honour and a privilege to have been named as a possible candidate for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, but I will not be putting my name forward for nomination. Having seen the other names that have been mentioned as possible candidates it is obvious that the party has no shortage of quality politicians in the waiting, and I know that whoever gets nominated to follow Adam will be an excellent candidate.

“If there will be any role for me in Welsh National politics in the future then I would like it to be in Cardiff Bay. But my focus is on raising my family, and ensuring a successful election result for both Elfyn Llwyd in Dwyfor Meirionnydd and Penri James in Ceredigion.”

Mabon added, “I must take this opportunity to wish Adam the best of luck in the U.S. , and hope that we will see him serving the people of Wales again soon, but next time in Cardiff Bay!”



Referendum for young voters

The Scotsman reports that the Scottish Government has announced 16 and 17-year-olds are to be given a vote in the independence referendum it intends to hold next year.

As the idea of lowering the voting age to 16 has been supported by Liberal Democrat, Labour and Plaid AMs I wonder if they might consider lobbying for 16 & 17 year olds to be given the right to vote in the Government of Wales Act referendum.

Adam and Eve

There has been much speculation on who will replace Adam Price as the MP for Carmarthen and Dinefwr, most of the names bandied about have been the names of men, John Dixon, Dafydd Wigley, Llŷr Hughes Griffiths, Mabon ap Gwynfor, Peter Hughes Griffiths et all. But, as I noted in a comment to a post by Vaughan, there will be a lot of pressure on Plaid to put up a female candidate as successor to Price. Plaid prides itself as a party that believes in gender equality, but all nine of the MPs that the party has sent to London so far have been men. Llanelli, an outside bet for a Plaid victory, is the only seat in the party's top ten hopes that has a female candidate.

I doubt if Plaid will introduce an all women shortlist for the constituency, and local branches can be fiercely independent, so I wouldn't go as far as to say that a female candidate for the seat will be inevitable, but there will definitely be pressure from certain influential quarters of the party for the successor to be a woman.

But who are the likely candidates?

From a national perspective one would have to pick Gwenllian Lansdown as a potentially good MP, but she has no local connections. 12 months ago Siân Caiach might have been a name to listen out for. Two other possibilities are the AM's Bethan Jenkins and Nerys Hughes Evans, but for Plaid AM's to be seen as moving from Cardiff to Westminster might give the wrong impression, especially given the narrative of Plaid's big guns, Dafydd Wigley, DET and Cynog Dafis choosing Cardiff Bay as their natural home, and Adam himself as well as Elfyn Llwyd making similar noises.

So the question is who are the local ladies who might throw their hats into the ring?

Does any reader have any local insight?

The other question being raised since Adam's announcement is where he will stand in 2011? Given the tight timetable involved in his academic sabbatical to Harvard, the answer might be nowhere. Indeed he might be wise to see how the dust settles in Wales after a Conservative Westminster victory and hold off re-entering the electoral fray until 2015.

Correction I apologies to Nerys Evans AM for mixing her name up with that of the Rhyl superstar and brilliant actress Nerys Hughes. I'm sure that both would make exceptional MPs.


The Green Green Grass of Home

I was using Google to search for reactions to Adam Price's decision to resign from Westminster at the next election, and came across the Pink Paper's report.

The Pink Paper on line edition has a related story link, headlined Peter Tatchell calls for a Cornwall Parliament. I assume that the link is Celtic nationalism. The story is quite old now, dating from August 7th, but it's new to me, I wasn't aware of it before stumbling upon it today.

Gay campaigner and Green Party parliamentary candidate Peter Tatchell has compared the fight for LGBT rights with the little-known movement for self-rule for Cornwall.
Both the campaigns for gay rights and Cornish rights involve challenging injustice," he said ahead of Cornwall Pride tomorrow.
They are different, but they share the same commitment to extending democratic freedoms and human rights.
Mr Tatchell said he would be carrying both a rainbow flag and the Cornish national flag at the event as well as a placard reading:
"End ban on gay marriage."
Cornwall has a population of just 531,000, but has historically been recognised as one of the "Celtic nations."
Mr Tatchell, the Green Party candidate at the next election in the Oxford East constituency, said he advocated a "Scottish-style Cornish parliament (that) would bring power closer to the people and ensure a stronger focus on the needs and interests of Cornwall."

I hadn't realised that Mr Tatchell was now a leading Green. I had always thought of him as the Labour Candidate in the Bermondsy by-election in one of the most prejudicial campaigns in modern history. This safe Labour seat was lost to the Liberal Democrats and elected Simon Hughes The Only Gay from Colwyn Bay, as he was once called, after a particularly homotrepid campaign.

Mt Tatchell apparently has a moderate chance of being elected as one of the first Green Westminster MP's in next year's elections. I wish him well and I hope that he wins.

Peter Tatchell's support for Cornish self-determination is in line with the Green's attitudes towards Scottish independence. The Scottish Green party is an independent part, that gives some support to the principal of independence for Scotland

It appears that the Greens support self determination for Cornwall and Scotland, but where do they stand in relation to Welsh self determination?

Why is the Green Party in Wales an EnglandandWales organisation, rather than a separate party similar to the Scottish Party?

Why does the Green movement in Wales portray an image of "Good life" colonisation by hippies, interested in preserving everything other than the culture, values and national identity of Wales?

The latest Victory by the eco movement in Wales was to gain planning permission for a Lammas Village in Glandwr. Lammas, being the Anglo Saxon Feast of the Harvest Crop. Celebrated a full 10 weeks before the traditional Welsh Diolchgarwch am y Cynhaeaf (Harvest Thanksgiving).

Whatever the rights or wrongs of the Glandwr development, it would have taken 2 seconds of sensitivity and 5 minutes of research to call the plan Pentre Diolchgarwch rather than the Anglo Saxon's who couldn't give an F*** about Wales Village (which is what Lammas in Wales means)!

Without such sensitivity, the Green cause will never flourish in Wales


Cultural Nationalist Right Wing Anti-Tories

Glyn is feeling hurt by Adam Price's attack on the Conservative Party in his conference speech.

I cannot fathom the strategy at all. At the very time when I would have expected Plaid to seek to influence Conservative policy (in that we have a decent chance of soon becoming the British Government) Adam seems intent on fostering enmity.

The rationale behind the speech is quite simple:

In the European elections the Labour party lost many thousands of votes, but those who couldn't stomach voting Labour again stayed at home, they didn't transfer their vote to any other party. Because these people stayed at home the Conservatives topped the poll in Wales for the first time since secret ballots began.

Adam's logic is that the stay-at-homes would never, ever, consider voting Conservative – because they believe in the myth of the Hairy Arsed Tory Monster. Adam's attack wasn't an attack on the Conservative party, but an attack on the Labour Party. What he was saying was that Plaid are as good, if not better, than Labour at fighting monsters; so if you want to battle the monster don't stay at home - Vote Plaid.

As a political tactic it is a good one. There will be a damned sight more disillusioned former Labour voters in the next Westminster election in Wales than disillusioned voters of any other party. If Plaid can get Adam's message out on the doorstep as forcibly as he made it at conference then there could be some unexpected gains for Plaid in the next election.

The problem that Plaid has, however, is that despite its desire to appeal to the disillusioned Labour voter, most of its current core support is not a part of the hard left.

What was interesting about Adam's speech was that it attacked the Tories, not from the left, but from the cultural nationalist position. The appeal to the history of Wales would have made Gwynfor proud! And the speech might be seen as a smidgen of belated acceptance that those of us from the cultural right part of the national cause still have a part to play in our nation's politics!


Plaid Conference

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Adam Price MPs address to the Plaid Cymru Conference this afternoon. Agree with what he has to say or not, nobody can deny that the boy is an exceptional orator, who knows how to hold and entertain an audience.

I was particularly pleased with Adam's comment that there is room in Plaid for "small C conservatives. That was some concession coming from the big beast of the party's left wing, and perhaps the beginning of an acknowledgement that the continuous over emphasis on creating a hard left image is harming the party in some quarters.

Most of Adam's speech was dedicated to an attack on the big C Conservatives. I was surprised that the political commentators, Rhun ap Iorwerth and Richard Wyn Jones, couldn't understand why Adam should do this. They thought it was odd, because all of Plaid's main challenges are either in Labour seats (Anglesey, Aberconwy and Llanelli) or a Liberal seat (Ceredigion). However it seemed perfectly obvious that Adam wasn't trying to win over Conservative voters in his speech, but that he was trying to appeal to peeved Labour supporters.

Elfyn Llwyd's speech earlier in the day didn't quite hit the mark. I couldn't understand the point of his comments about what a Plaid Cymru (Westminster) government would not have done. There never ever will be a Plaid government in Westminster and I wouldn't have thought that the party had aspirations to form one. Given Ieuan Wyn's earlier concession to the traditional supporters of the party that Plaid no longer needs to be embarrassed by its aspirations for independence it might have made much more sense If Elfyn had said that an independent Welsh government wouldn't do things such as send troops to Iraq.

I had hoped to pop into the conference for a couple of hours today as an observer but circumstances got the better of my plans. All I saw of the conference "in the flesh" was about five minutes on Friday night when I went into the Venue box office to pick up some tickets for a show next month. Still I had a chance to say a quick hello to Elfyn Llwyd and Angus Robinson, and to wave to the remnants of the old Hydro group who were enjoying the sunshine and an al fresco bottle of wine.

However from what I have seen on the telly and read on the blogs Plaid appears to have had a fairly successful conference on the whole.

Party Leader Wins His Marbles

An insult often thrown at political opponents is that they must have lost their marbles. Reports from Cornwall prove that this is not an accusation that can be made about Mebyon Kernow leader Dick Cole!


Blogging for change!

There is a short, but interesting, exchange of views on one of Simon's Plaid Conf post.

Simon says:

From my experience, whether we're talking about blogs or twitter accounts, it's clear that online Welsh politics is very much an in-crowd of professional and amateur anoraks. Sure, anybody can blog (or leave a comment) on Welsh politics, but in reality anyone interested enough in the subject to do so pretty much falls into the anorak category anyway.

Al Iguana responds:

But WHY is it the preserve of anoraks? Surely everyone who votes should be discussing and dissecting? Why doesn't mainstream politics fire people up?

What Simon says is true. I suspect that 99% of the people who read my musings on a regular basis are people who write their own political blogs. My readers are those who are dyed in the wool supporters of their own political persuasion who will never be influenced by even the most passionate of debates in the comments section. Most of us who blog politics and/or comment on political blogs do so because we enjoy the sport, not because we believe that our pearls of wisdom will change opinion.

But Al's question is an interesting one. Politics does fire people up. Even people who claim not to be interested in politics usually have an opinion on the matters of the day. The difference between them and us anoraks is that politics isn't their prime passion, so they are not going to read blogs that are exclusively or mainly political, like mine, like Simon's or like Al's.

I was in Blaenau Ffestiniog yesterday afternoon, waiting for a train, where I overheard a conversation about the local football team. The footy conversation ended when one participant said I don't like Gwilym Euros' politics, but his blog always has the team's latest result the conversation then developed into a discussion about the merits of Gwilym's politics.

Gwilym is not the only poli-blogger to throw in the "aside interest" amongst his political posts, many others do so. But the starting point of his blog is the politics of being a local councilor; he is as much of an anorak as the rest of us.

But overhearing this conversation makes me wonder if the "trick" of influencing people is not to write a political blog at all!

If you really want to influence people the best way might be to write a general blog / a community blog etc where most of the posts are of general or local interest but only a few push a particular political line. A blog dedicated to Llaregub, which mainly does the local gossip; the hatched, matched and dispatched; the happy birthday, the get well soon, John Jones passed his driving test etc; but noted that the parish would be better off in an independent / socialist / liberal / conservative Wales in an irregular political comment!

Nobody buys the Sun because of its political coverage! People buy the Sun because of page three, the crossword, the sport, the celeb gossip etc. The shitty political influence just seeps through as an aside.

If Plaid really wants to influence the Welsh blogosphere it doesn't need a Welsh Iain Dale. What it needs is hundreds of community bloggers who can subliminally slip its message in between posts about the church organ fund and the village show!


Doctor! Doctor!

Last week, when the A level results came out, the daughter of a friend of mine had, what she called crap results. She had one A and three B's.

Since she was a little girl she had always wanted to be a Doctor. Unfortunately her results weren't good enough to give her access to any medical course in any UK university.

A couple of weeks ago Leanne Wood made the pertinent point that:

Welsh NHS Trusts are facing problems recruiting doctors because of new immigration rules.

There are up to 25 per cent vacancies in some key specialities with some Trusts having an over-reliance on locum or agency doctors. Nearly 200 vacancies have been identified at just four of the NHS Trusts in Wales.

At the risk of being called racist, why are we refusing medical training to Welsh girls who could fill some of these vacancies?

If there are 200 vacancies for doctors in Welsh NHS trusts, why are Welsh medical school entry requirements so high as to discourage 200 Welsh school leavers from attempting to train to fill those vacancies?

My friend's daughter has embarked on a nursing course. Something that was available, in my day, to those with two C grade O levels – what a waste of an education! What awaste of public fund investment in her A level education!


Black or Right?

In the spat between Peter Black and some Plaid bloggers on how to react to the BNP I am firmly on Mr Black's side of the argument.

I don't like the idea of thought crimes. I am fully in favour of political correctness as a form of etiquette, but etiquette should never have a basis in law.

The problem with making opinions illegal is that those opinions become unchallenged in the public arena. If it is illegal for me to make my prejudices known in public, then my prejudices cannot be challenged in public. If my prejudices cannot be challenged they will be confirmed by the fact that they are never challenged.

The only way of defeating the BNP's obnoxious opinion is by allowing them the freedom to express it, and using our freedom of expression to show how unacceptable their opinion is in a decent society.

The wider problem, however, is not the BNP itself, but certain newspapers, who claim that they oppose the BNP but push propaganda amicable to the fascist cause on a daily basis. A campaign against buying those newspapers would be more beneficial than a campaign to stop the BNP from having a small tent in the Llaregub Village Show


Welsh Lefties

These are 16 Welsh entries in the Total Politics top 100 left of centre awards list:

11 (59) Guerilla Welsh Fare
16 (73) Blog Menai
30 (39) Adam Price MP
31 (60) Welsh Ramblings
33 (-) Syniadau
39 (47) Cynical Dragon
48 (-) Pendroni
61 (35) Bethan Jenkins AM
62 (-) Politics Cymru
67 (-) Borthlas
68 (-) Leanne Wood AM
69 (-) Sweet & Tender Hooligan
78 (-) Gwilym Euros Roberts
82 (90) Paul Flynn MP
87 (19) Ordovicius
93 (-) Huw Lewis AM

I'm not sure that I would class them all as left wing, but what is interesting is that only two of them support Labour. Some might claim that this is further evidence of a Plaid inspired stitch up, I think that it is a sad but true reflection of Welsh Labour's internet presence.


There are 17 Welsh entries, I missed Plaid Wrecsam at 41. Sorry PW!

Plaid Llandudno Conference Retro!

Anybody stopping here next weekend?


The Shame of Annabel Goldie

As I have said before, if it was my call, based on personal prejudice rather than the need to look at things like precedence, the rule of law etc, I would have let al-Megrahi rot in gaol if he is guilty of the murder of 270 innocent people.

Because the rule of law is above personal prejudice, however, I suspect that the justice secretary of any makeup of a Scottish Parliament would have come to the same conclusion as that made by Mr MacAskill, so the political posturing on the issue is rather sick.

The sickest posture that I heard in the debate today came from Tory leader Annabel Goldie.

Ms Goldie suggested that Mr al-Megrahi could have been released on bail to serve his dying sentence out in a Scottish hospice.

Hospices provide a haven in which people with terminal illnesses can die in peace. They tend to have no "visiting policies" they keep "rules" to a minimum, they are relaxed and allow terminally ill people the space in which to die in a loving and caring environment.

If one of my loved ones happened to be passing his or her last days in a hospice, I just wouldn't want him or her to share that last dwelling place in life with a notorious terrorist. Full Stop!

The thought that I might have to go through a cordon of policemen, to be stopped and searched; even to be refused entry because of youthful misdemeanours, whilst my granny, my parent, my spouse or my child lay dying there is absolutely sickening!

Did Ms Goldie think this posture through before she proposed it in the Scottish parliament? Or is she just a heartless bitch who couldn't give a damn about the others who might have had to share the hospice with Mr al-Megrahi? Or is she more interested in political one upmanship than the care of those living out their last days in the bosom of the Scottish Hospice community?

Could WAG have done more to help young people get to university?

Prof Dylan Jones Evans asks:

Could WAG have done more to help young people get to university?

The answer is probably YES.

The question that I would ask is slightly different - Should WAG have done more to help young people get to university?

Isn't the real problem that we send too many young people to university in our days?

When I was of university age only 10% of young people went to University, only 8% of the population would gain a degree. The numbers gaining 1st class degrees and doctorate use to be a minuscule percentage of the general population.

There are jobs that would have been available to a CSE failure 30 years ago that now require a degree and a post graduate qualification!

"A" levels and degrees, even MA's and PhD's seem to be like incapacity benefit now: a way of keeping young people off the unemployment statistics for x number of years. As many of them will be on the dole when they graduate the highly educated workforce argument doesn't ring true!

Instead of pouring more and more money into universities wouldn't it be better if we used that funding to give real on the job training to enable 16 year olds to do proper jobs that are needed in our society rather than wasting millions in keeping them in education for an unneeded 5 to 10 years just in order to massage the unemployment figures or in order to create a fake idea of a nation that is more educated than it really needs to be?

Rubbish of the day?

In a response to a quote by Helen Mary Jones that ".....aboloshing prescription charges has helped people in Wales gain access to the vital medicine they need" Dave at the Cynical Dragon says:

Less than 10% paid for prescriptions when they were abolished.

I'm not convinced of the veracity of the comment that only 10% of people had to pay prescription charges, before the abolition of prescription charges in Wales. I understand that the truth is that only 10% of the population had to pay ALL prescription charges. The remaining 90% included people who had pre-pay certificates, those who had their first prescription issued in a hospital rather than a pharmacy and those who were exempt from condition limited charges (such as ex-service personnel who were allowed free prescriptions relating to their war pension ailments, but not other conditions).

As Lyndon notes in a comment, the trouble with the old payment system was that it was arbitrary, illogical and of a completely unfair nature.

I am prescribed anticonvulsants. So, if I had won an Euro Lottery roll-over of £90 million and had invested it in a dodgy hedge fund that gave me a 1000% return, I STILL wouldn't have to pay the charges under the current English system.

If the NHS in Wales needs to re-introduce charges, then the charging system must be fair and equitable. Unfortunately the Assembly doesn't have the competence to introduce fair prescription charges at the moment.

If there are good economic arguments for reintroducing prescription charges (and I am not convinced that there are) then they cannot be reintroduced until the Assembly has the full competence to create fair and equitable charges. With the eLCO system of gaining competence for the Assembly being so long winded there are many more pressing issues that need to be dealt with ahead of this one!


Top 60 welsh Blogs

Here are Total Politics Top 60 Welsh Blogs:

1 (1) Guerilla Welsh Fare PC

2 (6) Miserable Old Fart NA

3 (18) Blog Menai PC

4 (10) Adam Price MP PC

5 (15) Welsh Ramblings PC

6 Syniadau PC

7 (12) Vaughan Roderick ME

8 (7) Cambria Politico NA

9 (11) Cynical Dragon PC

10 Plaid Wrecsam PC

11 Cardiff Blogger CO

12 Pendroni PC

13 (14) Valleys Mam NA

14 (17) Hen Rech Flin NA

15 Polemical Report LW

16 (1) Peter Black AM LD

17 (22) David Jones MP CO

18 (8) Bethan Jenkins AM PC

19 Welsh Bloggers NA

20 Politics Cymru LW

21 (4) Miss Wagstaff Presents NA

22 (25) Borthlas PC

23 (2) Glyn Davies CO

24 Leanne Wood AM PC

25 Sweet & Tender Hooligan PC

26 (9) Betsan Powys ME

27 (5) David Cornock ME

28 (37) Gwilym Euros Roberts LlG

29 (31) Dylan Jones-Evans CO

30 (23) Paul Flynn MP LA

31 (3) Ordovicius PC

32 This is My Truth LW

33 (35) Huw Lewis AM LA

34 Plaid Bontnewydd PC

35 Freedom Central LD

36 Blog yr Hogyn o Rachub PC

37 (19) Lone Voice CO

38 UK Progressive NA

39 YmGom LA

40 Rural Studies PC

41 Wales Home NA

42 Blog Answyddogol PC

43 Stonemason CO

44 (24) 07.25 to Paddington ME

45 Alun Williams PC

46 Denverstrope CO

47 No Good Boyo LW

48 Welsh Noted NA

49 A Change of Personnel NA

50 Wrexham Socialist LW

51 Disgusted of Llandrindod Wells NA

52 (33) Leighton Andrews AM LA

53 Rene Kinzett CO

54 (26) Blog Dogfael PC

55 Don't Trip Up LW

56 Morgan Hen RW

57 Ian James Johnson PC

58 (28) Andrew Nutt PC

59 Blog Rhys Llwyd NA

60 Wrexham Against Racism & Fascism LW

Congratulations to all

Obscure Welsh Tory MPs

There is rather an odd post on the Aberconwy Conservative's blog in which a poster criticises Carwyn Jones AM for wasting his time reading the web site of the Cornerstone group. Apart from the fact that the Tories in Conwy shouldn't attempt to censor what Mr Jones reads in his own spare time, the attitude of the post's author to the Cornerstone group is quite revealing.

The author seems to suggest that Cornerstone is an unimportant grouping of relative nobodies in the Tory party; that it is a bit nutty (insane even) and that it's extreme right wing policies are an irrelevance to current conservative thinking. The group is hardly mainstream we are told and an obscure right wing think tank.

What the author doesn't tell us (perhaps s/he doesn't know) is that two of the three current Welsh Conservative MPs David Davies and David Jones are members of the Cornerstone group. So the Welsh Conservative group in Westminster is nutty, irrelevant, insane, hardly mainstream and obscure - not my opinion, but the opinion of Aberconwy Conservatives!

The Laws of Compassion

Whoever was responsible for the Lockerbie air atrocity showed no compassion for the 270 people who died as a result of the action. The bombers didn't give a dam about the family circumstances, the children, the parents or friends of those who perished as a result of their actions.

If Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi was one of those responsible then I don't see why he should be shown any more compassion, because of the fact that he is dying, than the compassion that he showed to those who he was responsible for killing. He wants to be with his family and loved ones when he dies, his family and loved ones want the comfort of being with him too – a comfort which was viciously denied to the victims of Lockerbie.

However there seemed to be a possibility that he was not guilty, that he was a scapegoat and that he had a chance of a reprieve based on the strength of his case for appeal. But it appears that he will not live long enough to see the outcome of that appeal, so the appeal has been dropped in order to enable the Scottish Justice authorities to expedite either his release on compassionate ground or his return to his homeland to serve his sentence there on compassionate grounds.

This totally confuses me and confirms the law is an ass theory.

By dropping his appeal he accepts his guilt. If he is guilty he deserves no compassion.

By continuing with his appeal he maintains his innocence and leaves open the possibility of doubt about his guilt. I can accept, given his poor health, that where doubt remains he might be given the benefit of that doubt and be shown compassion. I could understand if he was released on bail or sent to serve his sentence in Libya, prior to returning to Scotland (should he live) for the appeal.

The fact that he can only be shown compassion by admitting his guilt (even if he is really innocent) makes an ass of the law and a complete bollocks of the concept of true compassion!


Plaid Top poll, Labour in third place!

As far as I'm aware only three Welsh MPs blog, and all three have been placed in the top 10 MPs at the Total Politics blog awards. Adam Price is at no 7, David Jones is at no 9 and Paul Flynn at no 10.

Could this result be seen as a mini opinion poll of voting intentions at the next Westminster election? Plaid topping the poll, with the Conservatives pushing Labour into third place? :-)

Congratulations to all three MPs.

Blog Awards

The Iain Dale and Total Politics blog awards are trickling through. Although I am not a fan of these awards, congratulations to the winners, so far declared.

So far the ones that have been published are the top 30 Councillors list, the top 20 Northen Ireland list the top 20 Libertarian list and the top 40 media list.

There are no Welsh entries in the top 20 NI list (for obvious reasons) but my favourites has been mentioned in dispatches: A Pint of Unionist Lite, a blog that really truly believes in the UK and gives genuine arguments to defend its existence. Something that is missing in the union cause on the mainland where too many wear Unionism like underwear - something they believe is essential but think should be hidden and never mentioned in decent company, an attitude that stifles debate on an important issue. Llongyfarchiadau O Neil!

I can't find any Welsh entries on the Libertarian list either – are there no Libertarians in Wales? Iolo Morganwg and Dr Price would be sore disappointed!

There are three Welsh entries on the Councillors list Blog Dogfael, Rene Kinzett and Gwilym Euros Roberts. It appears that some councillor's blogs have not been included in the councillors list – composite councillor's blogs such as Plaid Wrecsam and Plaid Sir Gar and councillors who have "higher" profiles such as Peter Black and John Dixon. However the three mentioned are worthy recipients.

Dogfael doesn't really write a political blog. Most of his posts relate to the cultural, religious and pedestrian life of Aberystwyth the sorts of thing a parish councillor should be interested in! When he raises his baton as a councillor he shows how important the role of the parish councillor is in being the most easily accusable local rep and a conduit to the great and the good in "other" places.

Gwilym and Rene probably wouldn't agree on the size of an inch, they are polls apart politically, but they are both examples of what makes political blogging vibrant. Read either blog and you either want to kiss the screen and say halleluiah somebody understands or you want to stick a brick through the screen in disagreement with them. Two councillors who know what political discussion is about, that it is about debating the issues and not providing middle ground platitudes that please everybody and nobody at the same time. Both are worthy recipients of their accolade as the two best councillors blogs in Wales.

The Media blogs include four from Wales in the top 40 Vaughan, Betsan, David Cornock and Tomos Livingstone. All of them worthy recipients. The most notable thing about the media blogs is that Cambria Politico has fallen off the list. I suspect that this is because one of the main contributors to the blog, the Archdruid of Welsh journalism Clive Betts has been off sick for most of the year. Clive has started to contribute a few articles again to CP of recent months; if his health permits I'm sure that the site will rise again to the heights that it deserves by next year.


Dig for Victory!

Today marks the beginning of National Allotment Week, apparently. I don’t like these national days and national weeks particularly – there are too many of them to start with! But I would like an allotment.

Yesterday I had a very nice Sunday Dinner: Pork from a local butcher and all the veg grown in my own garden. Unfortunately my garden is very, very small, so the home grown dinners are a very rare treat. I need an allotment so that I have a patch that is big enough to feed the family all season.

Jonathan T Clark of Plaid Monmouth stated on a recent post that The 1908 Small Holdings and Allotment Act says the council has a duty to provide land if they are satisfied there is demand and if six electors petition that council, their representations have to be taken into consideration.

I wonder if I have five readers who live in Llansanffraid Glan Conwy who would like to join me in petitioning the local council. (If there is interest my e-mail address is at the top the left side bar).



I am now a Member of Parliament, not any old parliament like that thing in Westminster, but a Member of The English Parliament.

If you believe that England is a nation that deserves its own national parliament you can become a member too by joining The English Parliament online.


Stop the Bus – Some Want to Get Off!

Whenever I discuss Plaid Cymru’s policies (which I always do from a supportive, if sometimes critical, viewpoint) I can guarantee a defensive comment in support of Plaid Orthodoxy from Rhydian Fôn of Plaid Bontnewydd. I was quite shocked, therefore, to see Rhydian slapped down by one of his heroes this week.

Adam Price is peeved that Rhydian has suggested that the end of universal bus passes for the elderly might be a good idea. This puts me in a difficult position. I enjoy upsetting them both so much I don’t know who to support and who to oppose:-)

Logically I support Rhydian. Universal benefits always mean that those who have no need gain extras that they can well afford out of their own income.

During the Welsh Festival Season a regular thing that pisses me off is that rich pensioners get concessionary entry into Llangollen, the Royal Welsh and the Eisteddfod, but a hard working bloke on a minimum wage has to pay full price for himself, his wife and his 2.5 kids which often means that visiting these iconic festivals is well beyond the means of working class families.

Practically I agree with Adam. Means testing is bad! Unlike Rhydian or Adam I am old enough to remember means testing at its worst. The official from the social coming round to measure poverty in the most disgusting of ways. Your eldest daughter is over weight for a poor girl, your youngest is under weight – you don’t need help you need to balance portions more accurately! That was how means were tested forty odd years ago!

The problem with means testing, even in a less cruel world, isn’t with the people at the rich end of the scale – the millionaires who have free passes and prescriptions (which in all honesty they are unlikely to use) but on the borderline cases.

My grandfather paid into a superannuation fund which left his widow 6d a week too rich to get any state help for anything. My mother in law – just 15 years ago - was 50p a week too rich to get any state help because her late husband had a company pension paying half rates to his widow. So my grandfather and my father-in-law paid to make their widows poorer!

That is a means test trap that is bad for the economy. I will not risk paying into a pension fund that may put my widow into a similar situation. Because I won’t take that risk I put a greater burden on the state - my wife and I could both live to be 110 without a penny of self provision!

A guarantee of universal benefits for older people makes paying into a pension fund a worthwhile exercise, an exercise that will reduce the overall burden of age on the state!

Of course ideologically I disagree with both Adam and Rhydian. A strong capitalist Welsh economy would enable more Welsh pensioners to enjoy the riches of old age without the need for state intervention at all!


W Ambrose Bebb - A Welsh Hundred

W Ambrose Bebb, (grandfather of Aberconwy Tory candidate Guto Bebb), was a prolific writer in the Welsh language in the period before and after the 2nd World war, being the author of two dozen or so books and a countless number of articles.

Although the first of his books was written eighty years ago and the last almost 50 years ago much of his work has stood the test of time and is still very readable to the modern reader.

Some of Bebbs works are now being published in English translation by AuthorHouse, the first in the series being A Welsh Hundred:

A Welsh Hundred combines in one volume and for the first time in English two of Bebb’s most popular works originally published in Welsh in 1941. These two newly translated works Y Baradwys Bell (The Faraway Paradise) and 1940: Lloffion o ddyddiadur (1940:Gleanings from a Diary) introduce English-language readers to one of 20th-century Wales most colourful and provocative personalities for the very first time. Bracketing an important century in the life of Wales, A Welsh Hundred opens with the 1841 diary of Montgomeryshire farmer and church deacon William Bebb, as conceived and imaginatively reconstructed by his great-great-nephew W. Ambrose Bebb. By 1940, it’s the turn of Ambrose Bebb himself to document touchingly, enthusiastically, sometimes starkly the daily rhythms of life in and around the college town of Bangor, North Wales, on the eve of Europe’s second all-consuming world war.

A Welsh Hundred [ISBN 9781434359919] is published by AuthorHouse both in the United Kingdom and in North America. Direct orders (priced £6.80/$9.90 per copy) may be placed with the publisher online it also available via major online retailers, including Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and Borders.com (priced £8.95/$14.49 per copy).

The translator also has a Welsh Hundred blog, which he uses to promote the book.

It has been some years since I first read these books in Welsh and I look forward to obtaining a copy of the translation, which I sincerely hope lives up to the great man’s original masterpieces.


Labour – a bad bet for Aberconwy

I have never bet on a political candidate, because I don’t know how to. I once went into a bookie in Bangor and asked to put a fiver on Syd Morgan wining in Pontypridd, the lady behind the desk told me that she didn’t think that there was a race track in Pontypridd and that there was no horse called Syd Morgan running anywhere in Britain that week. Good result actually, because Syd lost and I saved my fiver!

Even if I knew how to bet on political outcomes and was a regular betting man I wouldn’t risk 5p, never mind £5 on the result in Aberconwy.

According to the UK Poling Report, the new Aberconwy constituency has a “notional” Labour incumbency with a majority of less than 0.9% over the Conservatives. So it is a tight Labour / Conservative marginal. However in the Assembly elections the seat was won by Plaid Cymru. Plaid also won the Conwy constituency in the European Elections, all be it by the tightest of possible margins. The Liberal Democrats, although failing recently, have a good record of coming close in this area, so they can’t be written off.

The seat offers hope to so many parties that the Westminster election has already started in earnest in this area, despite the fact that the election is yet to be called, and probably won’t be called for another 6 months or more. During the past 2 weeks I have had leaflets from all of the big four; indeed I have had two leaflets from Plaid and the Tories!

Plaid, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have all delivered their leaflets by hand, they have spoken to constituents out gardening, on the street etc, the candidates have pressed the flesh and made themselves known whilst delivering the papers, but the Labour message came by post. The post wasn’t even sent by the Labour Party, it was sent by Tangent Direct a mass mailing company based in Cramlington, Northumberland.

I suppose that the message from Northumberland may mean that Labour is ahead, that it doesn’t need local activists to do the donkey work, because it has the money to invest in alternative campaigning methods. On the other hand it may mean that Labour doesn’t have the activists locally to do the donkey work so it has to pay people to do what enthusiastic activists are willing to do for love of the cause in the other three parties. Whatever the reason, receiving a mailing shot got up my nose. It struck me as a lazy and impersonal way of contacting constituents and very bad form. It added to my feeling that Labour has already conceded defeat in Aberconwy, that the junk mail was an unenthusiastic response to the slog that all the other contenders are putting in with gusto.


Dog Days

With our friends in Westminster and the Bay on holiday / working hard in their constituencies and all the politics programmes off air for at least the next two months, what is left to discuss on the blogs during the silly season?

There is always the weather:
NHS blog doctor has come to north Wales to take the air, but the rain dosn’t seem to be doing much for his health. Perhaps he should take a tip from the Writing Man who finds that nothing beats the rain like a good old Welsh singsong.

If we want a laugh we can always pop over to Iain Dale’s post about the sheep that invaded his garden and enjoy all the Welsh sheep shagging jokes in the comments sections. For those of us who can’t quite raise a belly laugh at these sort of tired old prejudices Jan Morris’ article Mocking the Welsh is the last permitted bigotry gives pause for thought.

When we Welsh aren’t discussing politics we are supposed to discuss religion. Two Welsh religious blogs of note are the Rev Richard Hall’s Connexions and Rhys Llwyd’s English blog (Welsh speaking readers will no doubt already be aware of Rhys' Welsh Language blog).

Our other delights are of course Rugby and football, which, unlike politics, no longer appear to have a closed season.

However the most important non political contentious issue can be found on Liz’s Finding Life Hard blog - The Great Toilet Roll Debate. Although I can’t take part in it because I use cut up squares from the Western Mail in the shed at the bottom of the yard. This has an advantage over toilet roll. When I change my underwear at the end of the month I often find old news stories transferred to my underpants that I had previously missed, and then I can belatedly comment on them on this blog!


Plaid welcomes a Billion Pound Drain from Wales!

According to Adam Price MP the announcement that Swansea and Cardiff will be joined to London by an electric rail link is:

The culmination of more than thirty years of work on Plaid’s part (it became party policy in 1977), dating back to a time even before I joined the party.

Welsh Ramblings sees it as a personal victory for Ieuan Wyn Jones:

Question for the One Wales sceptics - would this have happened if Ieuan Wyn Jones was not Transport Minister?

George Monbiot noted last December that:

The railway map of Wales is a classic indicator of an extractive economy. The lines extend either towards London or towards the ports. As Eduardo Galeano established in The Open Veins of Latin America, the infrastructure of a country is a guide to the purpose of its development. If the main roads and railways form a network, linking the regions and the settlements within the regions, they are likely to have been developed to enhance internal commerce and mobility. If they resemble a series of drainage basins, flowing towards the ports and borders, they are likely to have been built to empty the nation of its wealth for the benefit of another. Like Latin America, Wales is poor because it was so rich. Its abundant natural resources gave rise to an extractive system, designed to leave as little wealth behind as possible.

The electrification project continues the drainage and extractive use of railways in Wales. The electrification project is bad news from a nationalist prospective. It ties Cardiff and Swansea to London, rather than enabling the cities to contribute to Wales as a nation.

Nothing for a nationalist to be proud of. Another proof that Plaid has ditched its Nationalist Credentials!