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?