I'm the Hen Ferchetan. This is my take on the world through the eyes of Wales. While mostly about Welsh politics (that most famous of dour topics!) I try to scatter some humour around, but I doubt anyone but me will find it funny! Have a read, and if it bores you then feel free to never come back!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

First Female Party Leader

So Kirsty "Rainbow-Wrecker" Williams eases to victory in the all-female Lib Dem leadership campaign by some 60% to 40%. I won't comment much for now because I'm still off blogging until the Christmas holidays (although it certainly does make the Labour Leadership contest a damn sight more interesting as Kirsty will be clearly be pressing the One Wales Government skeptics (i.e. Huw Lewis) to dump Plaid and restart the Lib-Lab if he wins). I'll let Confused for Cardiff have the last word (for now) on this one:

Kirsty's new Shadow Shadow Cabinet

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Comings and Goings

So the Welsh political blogosphere loses a prominent blogger in Ordovicius. As the most regular poster around it can only be a loss, good luck to him with whatever will now take up all that time.

Thankfully the loss of one blogger is offset by the re-gain of another. The Cynical Dragon is back after he realised that retirement isn't all that it's cracked up to be. As one of my favorite blogs I'm glad to see him back.

As for this blog, I haven't posted regularly for a month or so now. Some of you will be disappointed to know that I'm not quite ready to follow Ordo into retirement just yet. Personal problems have been keeping me away and will continue to do so for a short while. I'll be back before the New Year and by February my problems will have either been solved or become such a mess that I stop caring about them and blog to take my mind off them!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

My Word is Gospel

Peter Hain 2006:
He said that there was "no way" Labour would introduce proportional representation (PR) in local elections.
Rhodri Morgan 2008:
“The only way in which this is going to happen is through proportional representation – a form of election which would, undoubtedly, improve our representation in counties such as Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Ynys Môn and Gwynedd,”

Peter Hain March 2007:
Asked by Plaid's Adam Price to clarify his position on a Labour-Plaid coalition, Mr Hain said: "I'm ruling it out.
Peter Hain 17th May 2007:
Asked by BBC Radio Wales whether his party could do a deal with Plaid or the Conservatives, Mr Hain replied "certainly not".
BBC July 2007:
Labour has voted by a big margin to back an historic coalition with Plaid Cymru in the Welsh assembly.

Adam Price 2007:

He (Hain) quite regularly takes a different view to those who actually make the decisions

Monday, 17 November 2008

Rhodri Gets Tough

So finally, at long last, after 8 years and one month into his job, Rhodri Morgan grows some cahoones. In an essay he wrote for a new book on Welsh politics the First Minister finally bites back at a few parts of the Labour Party that he has usually lain down before.

Firstly he launches a pretty damning critic of the Blair and Brown legacy. He ridicules Brown's attempts to convince us all that being British means tolerance and decency by pointing to New Labour's record of:
"bulging prisons, record incarceration of children, fortress-like asylum policies, and a progressive erosion of the distinction between ‘anti-social’ behaviour (where solutions ought to be sought primarily through social policy)and criminal conduct (which falls to be dealt with by the criminal justice system) provides an uncertain background of evidence.”
Damning stuff. He also criticises the attack on Iraq, something which he embarrassingly refused to do a few years back (when it actually mattered). But Rhodri isn't finished yet, he then turns to his own Welsh party.

Echoing views that Eluned Morgan and Carwyn Jones said in February's Welsh Labour Conference (but which they later backtracked on in the Western Mail letter page) Rhodri states that a big reason for Labour's collapse in West Wales (they do not hold an Assembly seat West of Swansea) was their public image of being anti-Welsh language. While Rhodri is careful enough to state that he doesn't believe his party is anti-Welsh language his admission that:
"it would be foolish to deny that, from time to time, strands in the party have acted in ways which have given it credibility"
is as subtle as a sledgehammer. Strands in the party? Now I wonder who he could possibly be talking about there?

It's very interesting to see Rhodri's admission that the Tories have managed to reposition themselves in front of Labour in the "pro-Welsh language" front. This would have been unimaginable only a few years ago, but there's no doubt that Welsh-speakers now feel that Labour is the party who opposes their quest for more rights not the Tories.

There are two reasons for this; yes the Tories, in the Assembly at least, have repositioned themselves well to the fore of Labour on this issue and, as Welsh-speaking Tories will always be quick to remind you, it was the Tories that (eventually) gave us the Welsh Language Act and S4C.

Perhaps more importantly though, they only have 3 Welsh MP's at the moment. So while Labour's numerous MP's lash out at the Welsh language from London, their Tory counterparts don't get much publicity when they do the same. So while the Tories in the Assembly have managed to redeem themselves to some extent, their MP's haven't - they're just being ignored. When, as is likely, the Tories find themselves with many additional Welsh MP's come the next election, it will be interesting to see if we'll still be thinking of them as pro-Welsh language?

So with the looming Cardiff v Westminster fight is about to begin over the Welsh Language LCO (believe me, the Housing LCO bickering is merely an undercard compared to the mess that the next one could cause) Rhodri has drawn a pretty big line in the sand. The question is what side of that line will the reminder of his party stand?

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

AM's Trusted With the truth

The Western Mail has a two page spread today about a Committee on Standards in Public life survey on public perceptions of honesty. The article is headed "Our Assembly Members seen as less honest than local MP's" which, on first glance, suggests that the public prefer their MP's to AM's. The key word though is "local".

Even though the survey did find that people trusted their local MP to tell the truth more than local AM (49% v 41%) in every other part of the survey Assembly Members were the ones held in better regard.

As a whole MP's were given a 30% trustworthy rating, compared to 35% for AM's. Interestingly UK government ministers received less than general MP's (29%) but Welsh Assembly Ministers significantly more than their backbench colleagues (41%) .

In encouraging news for Welsh Ministers they outscored their London rivals in every category:

Dedicated to doing a good job for the public - 49 v 40
Competent 42 v 40
Set good example 39 v 31
Do not use powers for own gain 44 v 39
Use public money wisely 34 v 27
Explain reasons for decisions 29 v 24
Tell the truth 32 v 26
In touch with public 33 v 22
Do not take bribes 58 v 55
Own up to mistakes 10 v 13

Of course, both set of politicians come off worse against most other professions, with doctors, headteachers and judges leading the way.

For some reason the Western Mail has decided to ignore all those results and stick to the one single figure that MP's trump AM's on for their headline! Could that be the reason why, right at the bottom of the trustworthy pile, well below both AM's and MP's, come tabloid journalists!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

The Forgotten Earthquake

In all the hype and excitement of the American elections, even over here, we all seemed to have forgotten that the Glenrothes election is today. The count has started and the word that's spreading is that the SNP will turn the Labour 10,000 majority to a 1,000 majority of their own.

Labour are already trying to turn such a result into a "win", saying that the defeat would have been much worse a few months ago. Sorry but I can't buy that. While they may well have lost by a large amount a few months ago, losing a 10,000 majority is nothing close to a win, it's embarrassing.

Who knows though, the count is still young, Labour may well keep the seat.

Whichever way the result goes though, it won't have as much effect as we thought when the seat became vacant. This was supposed to be Brown's saviour or executioner. But with all the focus on Barck Obama's victory, Glenrothes has slipped from the front pages and, win or lose, won't have any substantial effect on Brown and Labour's ratngs.

Update: Rumours have now switched to say that Labour may hang on. Brown may well rue his decision to "bury" the poll by having it in the same week as the US election. If they are going to win it Labour could have done with having the by-election dominate the news instead of being ignored for weeks.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Coat-Tail Hanger On

Blog post by Lib Dem Leadership contender Kirsty Williams:
As the world turns to a new generation of leaders with Barack in America and Tavish Scott and Nick Clegg in Scotland and the UK there should be no doubt about the opportunity we Welsh Liberal Democrats find ahead of us.
Ouch. Just...ouch! What price Barack Obama makes a speech this week about how great it is that the world is turning to people like him, Tavish and Nick! I'll give you 4,000-1 odds!

President-Elect Obama

Barack Hussain Obama - the soon to be 44th President of the United States of America. It was an incredible night of drama an emotion, even from the Hen Ferchetan's living room thousands of miles away.

It was all over as soon as Ohio was called for the Democrat but nobody in our house dared call it until Virginia came in a few minutes before 4am Wales time. Waiting for California to put Obama over the edge was then a mere formality, followed by telephone calls to jubilant friends and family in the States.

It's incredible that states like Virginia and (probably) North Carolina found themselves in the Blue column. Even more incredible is Indiana, where Obama turned a 20% defeat in for Kerry in 2004 to a 0.9% victory. Yes demographics have changed all over the US in the past 4 years,but that remains a HUGE swing.

Both McCain and Obama's speeches were of the highest quality. McCain returned to the humble man of 2000, the candidate many people wanted him to be again this year. Obama has a lot of pressure on him now. He's promised Change, he's promised unity, he's promised to remake America brick by brick. Will he be able to live up to the hype? We'll wait and see.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Owain Who?

We all know the stereotype of the estate agent that embellishes a bit on the history or quality of a property they want to sell, but when it comes to McCartneys Estate Agents in Knighton, Powys they may well be able to argue that their apparent blunder is no more than another Western Mail mess up.

In the Western Mail story today we find out that McCartneys are selling Castle Hill for a client of theirs. Local tradition has it that King Arthur was married on the mountain. The Western Mail's report also tells us that:
These days there’s not much to separate it from thousands of other grassy hills that dot rural Wales – other than the buried remains of a Norman castle destroyed by Owain Glyndŵr’s forces...the Normans built a castle on the hill as a way of keeping the troublesome local population in check. But it was unsuccessful in its design, and was consigned to ruin after Owain Glyndŵr’s forces laid waste to it in 1262.
Problem is of course Owain Glyndŵr never saw Knucklas Castle, let alone destroy it. How do I know this? Owain Glyndŵr was not born in 1262, and not for another 95 or so years!

A quick history check tells us that it was Llywelyn Ein Llyw Olaf's men who destroyed the Castle, led by his general Owain ap Madoc!

What makes the mistake even more careless is that it quotes the Estate Agent's description of the property:
Available evidence suggested that Knucklas Castle was of a square construction with substantial stone walls and a circular tower at each corner. Its purpose was to remind the more or less hostile Welsh population who was in charge. It was attacked in 1262. The castle is last mentioned in contemporary records in 1316.
This description is taken nearly word for word from the Castle Wales' entry on Knucklas Castle:
...available evidence suggested that Knucklas Castle was basically a square construction with substantial stone walls and a circular tower at each corner. Its purpose was to remind the more or less hostile Welsh population who was in charge..The castle is last mentioned in contemporary records in 1316...
The next half of that last sentence on the Castle Wales website reads:
...it is very unlikely it was anything more than a ruin by the time of Owain Glyndwr's revolt in 1402.
Good old Western Mail, as trustworthy as always!

Obama Wins!

Two US towns have declared their results for the presidential elections. In Dixville Notch, New Hampshire 40 years of Republican rule has ended after the townspeople voted for Obama by 15 votes to 6.

In the other town to traditionally open and close voting early - Hart's Location - Obama's 17 votes beat McCain's 10. With Ron Paul winning two votes the town was able to declare 100% turnout and an Obama victory!

Other US towns, Cities and Precincts are so slow compared to those two bustling towns and won't start reporting results until at least 11pm our time!

Slow Seperatists

According to a study by the University of Edinburgh and the UK Medical Research Council Plaid voters were thicker than their Lib Dem, Labour and Tory counterparts at the age of 10.

Some good news (at last) for the Liberal Democrats is that their voters were the brainiest kids from the main parties (only the Greens had brighter kids growing into voters). The Tories pipped Labour to third place with Plaid voters strolling in 5th, marginally ahead of their Scottish counterparts. UKIP and non-voters were low IQ children while, unsurprisingly, BNP voters were the least intelligent as children!

The "research" tested 6,000 UK kids aged 10 and then, 24 years later, asked them who they voted for in 2001.

Of course, if you believe such research has any bearing on reality then you're not even smarter than a ten year old kid who'll grow up to be a BNP voter!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Ya Halfwits

The Scymraeg sign that came into existence due to an automated reply e-mail has now been taken down. Showing us poor blogs how it's done the mainsream media in the guise of the BBC and Western Mail finally got the story today. Yahoo even made it their main news on their UK homepage. Only problem is, someone in Yahoo can't seem to read English, let alone Welsh. The picture they've used for their story is not the sign in question, it's the sign at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantyseiliogogogoch Railway Station - a sign that has so little to do with the main story it's not even a bilingual sign (there being no English name for the long named village!)

Do as we Say, Not as we Do

David Cameron - 21st October
Lots of our small businesses provide goods and services to local authorities, with payment normally coming within 30 days. But Brentwood and Castlepoint councils have led the way in reducing this to just 20 days. These 10 days can make all the difference in paying bills and staff, and helping businesses survive, and I want more local authorities to take it up
Western Mail - 1st November

A flagship Conservative council has been criticised for paying less than 40% of its bills on time. Monmouthshire Council, one of two Welsh authorities controlled by the Conservatives, has a record twice as bad as the Welsh average. County halls are supposed to pay all uncontested invoices – bills for everything from school meal suppliers to management consultants – within 30 days. In 2007-08 Monmouthshire paid just 39.9% of bills within this period.
Oops, someone didn't get the memo Dave!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Praise You!

A good spot by the "What Is Wales And What It Is For?" blog today.

The Mule recently printed a nice glossy magazine informing us of the up and coming Welsh business to watch out for, their so called "Fast Growth 50". One page of the magazine was dedicated to the re-born blogger and Tory politician Professor Dylan Jones-Evans. A very flattering piece apparently, Prof Jones Evans was described as a "passionate champion who is ahead of his time".

The founder and Director of the Fast Growth 50 project and editor of the magazine? Professor Dylan Jones-Evans!

Time to Type

Right then, while the home concerns are still there, I need to push them to the back of my mind for a while so I'm back. Let's catch up...

Gordon Brown and David Cameron have decided that the most important thing for our leader and leader-in-waiting to address this week is not the economic crisis that has left thousands of the Welsh workforce unemployed (along with the the rest of the UK), it's not the fact that they're going to have to make huge decisions about Iraq once Obama (probably) wins on Tuesday, it's not even the fact that their respective darlings Mandelson and Osbourne have been cavorting around on yachts causing trouble. Oh no, the big issue that our leaders have made sure they address is the fact that two BBC radio hosts told someone that one of them had slept with his granddaughter. A revelation so shocking to the show's listeners that 2 of them felt the need to complain. Two. While remembering that there shouldn't really be a bandwagon over the matter in the first place (who are the Sun to express disgust at such thing, have you read their celebrity gossip column?) we certainly don't want Brown and Cameron' jumping on to it! And shock horror, David Davies MP has also called on Brand and Ross to resign. The man is like a machine, any hint of newspaper coverage and there he is, calling on someone to resign!

Talking about the "True" Wales founder, Welsh Ramblings points us towards a Daily Mail story reporting on the Monmouth MP telling the National BLACK Police Association that they were as racist as the apartheid regime in South Africa because only black policemen could join the National BLACK Police Association. While David Davies must be hurt by the negative press, I a have a feeling that what will hurt him most is the fact that it's his best friends in the Daily Mail who are lampooning him and that they had the nerve to say this:
"Many members had expected the more famous former shadow home secretary to be speaking and few recognised his namesake, who is also a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, when he stood up to speak."

Update: As Ordovicius points out, Alan Williams MP for Swansea West and Father of the House is also named in the piece as "a dud"

David Davies isn't the only Welsh MP who has had a bit of a kicking by the Mail this week. Ceredigion Lib Dem MP Mark Williams won't have enjoyed the paper's column on worthless MP's. I'm sure that this quote won't be appearing on the Lib Dems pamphlet come the next election:
"On the LibDem benches, meanwhile, we are assured that one Mark Williams sits for the electors of Ceredigion (Cardiganshire in old money). Does he? Could have fooled me. What makes this all the worse is that the alleged Mr Williams - who may well be Inspector Clouseau, for all we know - won his seat at the last general election by ousting Plaid Cymru's Simon Thomas, an outstanding parliamentarian"
Again - ouch!

Down the bay I missed the whole Lord Dafydd vs London fight. The story's been well covered by now so I won;t go too far into it apart from noting that this must be one of the first occasions in the history of the Assembly where Dafydd Ellis-Thomas caused a stir and was actually supported by all the AM's! There's no doubt that the Lord was right on this one, but whether he won or not is harder to tell. While some pro-devolutionists believe that the LCO mess will be a big boost to the Yes campaign (whenever it is created!) I don't believe it will be. Most people have no idea how the LCO's work and don't read such stories in the Mule (if they read it at all). This is a story read by us anoraks and no-one else I feel.

Welsh Ramblings also quotes this exchange from the floor of the Commons. For all those who refer to the Assembly as a talking shop, have a read of this:
Richard Younger-Ross MP: ... Blue Peter was important to me as a child ... I remember those wonderful moments with the elephant, the gentleman sniffing, John Noakes, the dogs — what were their names?

Lembit Opik MP: The Blue Peter dogs since the inception of the programme were called Petra, Patch, Shep, Goldie, Bonnie, Mabel and Lucy. There was also a dog called Meg, but it was not an official Blue Peter dog. It belonged to Matt Baker and frequently appeared on the show, so including that one, there were eight dogs.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. That is a detail which could possibly be left for Committee.
Nice to know Lembit is as focused on the important things as Brown, Cameron and David Davies!

Right then. What next?

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The Dangers of Auto-Reply

A quick post to keep you entertained while I'm on my break, the Flickr group Scymraeg has had this truly beautiful sign uploaded recently.
The English is clear enough, and the Welsh is grammatically perfect. I assume that whoever was in charge of creating the sign e-mailed their usual translator asking him what "No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential sites only" was in Welsh. He must have received a very swift response and immediately ordered the sign and had it put up.

Unfortunately the reply he received wasn't quite what he expected. The Welsh part of the sign says:

I am currently out of the office. Send any work to be translated.


Sunday, 26 October 2008

Have a Break

I know there's been a huge dip in posts recently, the Hen Ferchetan has some family issues to sort out which is succeeding in blocking politics from my mind for the time being, even with such whoppers as the LCO arguments and Osbourne and Mandelson's mischief making filling up the news pages!

I'll be back soon enough, speak to you soon!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Give Me a H!

So True Wales have decided that one line of attack they will use to make people vote "No" is to remind us voter about all those AM's with their snouts in the trough spending all those expenses. It could prove an useful argument for them, after all what voter wants to see their money being used to fund someones excessive second home, food and hotel expenditure?

It could be worse you know. Imagine if those AM's claimed 5 times more expenses than they currently do! Sound insane? Well it is possible, all they need to do is change to a very similar job in London. If they want advice about how to do so, then I know who they can ask...

Average AM Expenses Claim inc Travel: £6,682.73
Maximum Expenses Claim inc Travel Made by any AM: £12,500
True Wales Founder David Davies MP Expenses Claim inc Travel: £33,375

% of AM's claiming more than 99% of the maximum allowance: 16%
% of maximum allowance claimed by True Wales Founder David Davies MP: 99.96%

Can I hear someone saying "hypocrite"?

(David Davies MP Expenses figures from here)

Monday, 13 October 2008


The Lords have amended the government's terror legislation to remove the extension of the time limit for detention without charge.

It comes to something when we have to depend on the unelected, elderly, white, posh males (majority speaking) to bring sense and justice back to the fore.

Hopefully the matter is now dead, and Gordon Brown won;t try to push his evil pet-project through with the Parliament Acts

Check Facts? Nah, Who Cares!

The anti-Brunstrom campaign continues with a Tory MP and London Media bursting in mock outrage against North Wales Police' Chief new policy to remove "Police" from squad cars and leave them with just "Heddlu". First up let me state the obvious, North Wales Police don't have such a policy and, if they did, it would be illegal as Police forces in Wales are required to be bilingual.

The comments attributed to Brunstrom came from a forum on the Welsh language where he was discussing the lack of the word "Heddlu" on squad cars when he first started. He said that people who resisted the addition of the Welsh had argued that it was dangerous and people could die due to misunderstandings. He pointed out that if that argument held any water, which it doesn't, then in areas where most were first speakers Welsh it should have been in Welsh only.

Cue Tory MP and London Media.

David Jones, Tory MP for Clwyd West, had a chat with the Sun, who printed the story under the heading Take 'police' off all my cop cars. The Tory said:
"We cannot allow this nonsense to continue. It's bad for community relations and it's got to stop"
Reading the article it is sad but predictable that the Sun totally misstates his words. They state:

"Mr Brunstrom rejected claims that English visitors would not understand what the police cars were if they were marked only as ‘Heddlu’.

He said: “There were many false arguments that people would die if Heddlu was used.

“It was absolute arrogant nonsense.” Now that's not what Brunstrom said. While the quotes are correct, he was not referring to it being a false argument that people would die if it was only marked as Heddlu, he was referring to the old argument when people objected to making the cars bilingual. But hey, when has The Sun ever bothered about getting it's facts right.

Unsurprisingly the story was then picked up by the usual hit squad of the Mail and the Times, using the same quote in the same distorted way.

The best quote though comes on the BBC website The BBC, unlike the other three bastions of journalism, bothered to check the facts with North Wales Police before just writing a story. North Wales Police explained what I have done above, namely that there is no such policy and there will be no such policy, and quite right too. Of course the rent-a-quote Tory MP couldn't accept he was wrong and insisted that he stood by his comments, even though they made no sense once the facts were revealed.

The quote I enjoyed though was not from David Jones MP but from Jeanette Miller, president and chief executive of the Association of Motor Offence Lawyers. She said that there was no doubt that removing the word Police would cause problems:

"I think there would be a good argument that a motorist was unaware of any requirement to stop if the word police is removed from signage on police cars"
It's a car with blue and yellow stripes, a huge blue flashing light at the top, a loud siren and two uniformed coppers inside - I wonder what it could be!

The Irony of Truth

The laughably named True Wales now have a website! It doesn't contain much yet, but it's already a step further than the Yes campaign. Interesting to read their Vision Statement though:


Our Wales is a beautiful, diverse country which belongs to all who live here. There are many versions of 'Welshness', all to be respected and celebrated. We believe in equality and fairness for all citizens, regardless of linguistic preference, ethnicity, faith, political persuasion or gender.

There is no place in our Wales for discrimination or prejudice against any group or country. We value all the settlers who have contributed to our cultural diversity and our shared heritage within the United Kingdom.

True Wales advocates:

  • spending priorities that reflect the needs of all the people
  • restoration of a cohesive, tolerant society
  • no increase in the current number of AMs and MPs
  • keeping the Secretary of State for Wales
  • the maintenance of a strong position within the United Kingdom
  • that any application to draw down Legislative Competence Orders from the United Kingdom Government must have the support of the majority of Welsh people
Wait a second..."restoration of a cohesive, tolerant society"? "No place for discrimination or prejudice"? I thought this was supposed to be a No campaign for the referendum? Is the implication supposed to be therefore that those who want a Yes vote are discriminatory, prejudiced bigots? That's the picture True Wales seems to be painting.

It's also interesting to note their vision that every LCO should have a referendum on it. Are they mad? We're talking anything between 5 and 11 LCO's a year, how many millions do they intend to spend on referendums (seeing as how they've declared themselves the protector of public money)?

Betsan also comments on the lies and slights of hand printed in the No Campaign's first door to door leaflets. It makes a mockery of their name, "True" Wales indeed. It's also interesting to note which part of Wales has received these scaremongering pamphlets. The leafy suburbs of the South-East, the most likely of areas to vote No and therefore the least likely to pick up on the spin and deceit in the No leaflets.

The problem is that while the two Davids are peddling lies and innuendo the Yes campaign is still waiting to be launched. What's that saying about lies being able to run twice around the world before the truth puts it's shoes on? We need a Yes Campaign now, not tomorrow.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Martin, You Forgot Your Pen!

Wales' 40th best blogger (apparently) Martin Eaglestone has resigned as Labour prospective Parliamentary candidate for Arfon.

Martin states personal reasons for his resignation and having lost four elections in a row I guess that kind of thing does get personal. Arfon is, technically, a Labour seat. Although it has a Plaid Cymru sitting MP it's boundaries have been withdrawn to the extent that the seat is considered a very marginal Labour one.

Having been trounced in the first post-boundary change election (Assembly 2007) there was no way Martin Eaglestone was going to "retain" the seat for Labour. So what is Labour's plan? Have they found a heavyweight candidate and therefore forced Martin to step down? (Betty Williams will certainly have some free time come the next election, and she does have roots in the area) or will they now effectively concede the seat and pick an unknown young candidate to "train him up" for the next set of elections?

With Llais Gwynedd winning seats on the Council, do Labour think that their best option is to pick a sacrificial lamb and hope the anti-Plaid coalition called under the Llais Gwynedd banner will unseat Hywel Williams? I Doubt it, if Llais Gwynedd have a chance anywhere (and I don't think that they do mind) it would be Elfyn Llwyd they'd be targeting, not Hywel Williams.

Update: It is now apparent that Martin's decision to step down was, unusually for politics, purely personal. I hope you'll enjoy your life outside of politics Martin.

Lover's Tiff

A final note for now, it seems that two of our small world's heavyweights, Most Improved/Best New Blog and Sauregurkenzeit Award winner Pippa Wagstaff and Best Welsh Political and Best Welsh Nationalist Blog Ordovicius have a bit of a lover's tiff going, with Welsh Ramblings also getting in the mix.

Pippa's Monarchist post set it off and I have to say I can see where the criticism came from. While there's clearly an argument to be made for the Monarchy, it's not the one Pippa made, and it's certainly not one that needs to be preached with such arrogance. And while we all enjoy the occasional bash at the Lord of Wales that is our Presiding Officer, when Pippa labels him the "self-appointed Lord Protector" in a pro-Charlie post, you have to ask who she's talking about, our elected AM and Presiding Officer or the bloke who was given his title at birth?

I don't know, I always assumed Miss Wagstaff Presents to be a Tory blog at heart, but with
subtlety and wit and with a clear dedication to not preaching a party line (unlike plenty of Plaid and Labour blogs). There seems to be a bit less of the former and a bit more of the latter recently, I do hope it's only a short blip.

Heard It All Before

A reader pointed me in the direction of a Daily Post column from last month where writer Tom Boden commented on Adam Price's Assembly ambitions, ending his piece with:
"But as we are at it, how about Carmarthen East AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas - of the lit cigar pub scandal - deciding to stand down from the Assembly, swapping his candidate's role with Mr Price, who could then sweep into Cardiff Bay? You saw it here first."
Two months too late I'm afraid Mr Boden:
"One final note on this whole saga, there is one possible after-effect that needs be considered. In 3 years it's National Assembly election time again - will Rhodri Glyn be standing? Having been a minister and now returned to the back benches will he have the desire for another 4 years? If not then it would open up an Assembly candidacy spot in Carmathen East and Dinefwr. Can anyone think of a politician from that area who may be looking for an Assembly seat come 2011?"

Poll Ponderings

Next up is a new poll data for us to pore through. The Assembly Commission's huge poll asked people, once again, about their views on the Welsh Assembly, a Parliament and independence.

Andrew R T Davies will take a small fall from his high horse with the news that support for independence doubles in the under 24's, but much more interesting is the party by party data, but any pleasure Plaid will get from that would be cancelled out by the fact that the poll states that only 27% of their own voters want independence.

Peter Hain told us just last week that:
“Welsh Labour members – and even more Welsh Labour voters – are currently overwhelmingly against an early referendum, and I do not see that changing for some years to come.”
Some asked at the time where he got that piece of information from and it seems even more codswallop than before today as the poll discovers that only a third of Labour voters would vote No. 50% of Labour voters want a Parliament or independence. As I said last week, Peter Hain is nowhere near the wavelength that his party's members are on.

The most bizarre finding though is that 2% of Plaid voters want to scrap devolution all together. Do they know who they're voting for?!

Note: The call for a Yes campaign increased today with the launch of an online cross-party group calling for a referendum, see here. Not being a Facebookian myself I can't join but I hope you do!

All Change

Right then, a whole basket of topics to talk about today so let's start with the hello's and goodbyes.

Jane Davidson will be off in 2011. The ex-Education Minister has told Labour's Pontypridd branch that she's giving up the job. Not a sniff of a scandal around Davidson so there's no reason to treat it as anything other than early retirement.

Mike German has also, finally, stepped down. The race to be his replacement begins and we should have the first female party leader in the Assembly by December. In his goodbye speech to the party faithful he stated that the Union was "dead" and that the only options for the future was a federalised UK or an independent Wales. He warned that Wales was in danger of getting left behind in the devolution race, echoing Peter Black's recent call for a Yes Campaign.

Jenny Randerson immediately put her hand up as a candidate which, after Kirsty declared herself to be a candidate last month, means that the Lib Dems have a contest. Peter Black has immediately written Randerson off as "more of the same" but she has collected heavyweight support in the shape of the Lib Dems only "safe" MP, Jenny Willot and the leader of Cardiff Council Rodney Berman. Unfortunately for her though she's also attracted the support of serial loser-backer Lembit Opik. Unsurprisingly Peter Black, a staunch Kirsty backer, immediately declared his support for Opik's opponent for the UK party presidency!

Even though Ordovicius clearly thinks otherwise I'll give the Libs the benefit of the doubt and state that this could be an interesting contest. It will be the first leadership contest between two females for one thing and, as the UK Lib Dems have showed us over and over, when it comes to Lib Dem leadership issues they can be pretty nasty with each other.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Flynn's Words of Wisdom

"No, No, We're Welsh, Welsh and Welsh and even more Welsh and our association alongside Scotland and Northern Ireland's party line is that we want to keep our independence and that is so important to us."
Bryan Flynn, U21 Wales Coach when asked whether he supports a Team GB for 2012.

British Olympic Association Chief Simon Clegg stated on Dragon's Eye today that politicians like Plaid's Adam Price and Labour's Lesley Griffiths were "jumping on a bandwagon, this is a sports issue not political". I have three issues with that. Firstly where was Clegg's objections when UK Minister for Sports Andy Burham says:
"I just hope we can overcome any differences and bring a strong British football team to the London Olympics."
Secondly, of course this is political not a sports issue. If it was merely a sports issue the BOA would listen to British football fans and shelve the whole idea. They would listen to the Welsh, English, Scottish and Northern Irish fan Federations, all of whom are against the very notion of Team GB. Finally, seeing as how the definition of jumping on the bandwagon is following the crowd, is Simon Clegg admitting what we all know anyway, that the crowd doesn't want a Team GB?

And by the way, when Dragon's Eye tells us that the FAW's worries over losing independence exist despite Sebb Blatter giving reassurance to the contrary they're simply lying. Blatter, the President of FIFA, has made such comments in the past, 5 whole years ago, but his most recent comments on the subject is this:
"If you start to put together a combined team for the Olympics, the question will automatically come up that there are four different associations so how can they play in one team. If this is the case then why the hell do they have four associations and four votes and their own vice-presidency? This will put into question all the privileges that the British associations have been given by the Congress in 1946"
Sorry BBC, but I'm not "reassured"!

Another True Blue?

In a 3 minute interview on Dragon's Eye Tory AM Andrew R T Davies managed to mention that 10% of Welsh people wanted independence while 90% were "passionate Unionists" a total of FOUR times!

Was the interview about independence or about the referendum even? Nope, it was an interview about whether or not we should have events celebrating 40 years since Charles was investitured and whether there should be another pompous ceremony at Caernarfon Castle when William (maybe) becomes Prince of Wales.

Can anyone else spot the relevance of quoting independence figures because I surely can't! I'm sure David Davies and David Rees will be very proud of him though.

Update: Ordovicius has the transcript here

Barack Jones

The new Barack Obama advert has actors playing the part of McCain's campaign staff in a strategy meeting.

Reminds you a lot of Plaid Cymru's hugely successful Party Political Broadcasts last year (before you ask, my definition of a "hugely successful" PPB in Welsh politics is very very low, all that a PPB requires to reach that level is that I can just about remember what happened in them - that "We know what's best for Wales" line still chills my bones!)

Who knew the next President of the USA was such a buff of Welsh politics!

Hat Tip: Vaughan

Seb Coe's Groupies

It seems that there are a handful of people who agree with Seb Coe that the FAW, WAG and Welsh football fan Federation should have their objections overridden. The Welsh Assembly website gives us voters the ability to start a petition, similar to the Number 10 website that has had a lot of publicity.

One of the petitions currently running states:
After the great success of team GB at the Beijing Olympics, a great example of our united strength. We call upon the National Assembly to lobby the Football Association of Wales to work with the three other football associations in the UK to put aside their vested interests to allow a Team GB football team to compete on home soil in London 2012, hopefully adding to our medal haul.
The petition was written and added by a David Rees. I wonder if this is the same David Rees that sleeps in the same "No" bed as David Davies!

One of the signatories is an Alwyn ap Huw - I very much doubt that that's the Miserable Old Fart!

The petition's nemesis, a petition calling for a Welsh Team in the 2012 Olympics found here, is well ahead in the number of signatories at the moment, but there's plenty of time left to sign either!

That's Why Councils Go To Iceland

The list of Welsh Councils who have money stuck in Icelandic bank account continues to grow, with Caerffili announcing that they have £15m deposited in the island's troubled institutions. They join Ceredigion (£5.5m), Powys (£4m), Gwynedd (£4m), Fflint (£3.7m), Rhondda Cynon Taf (£3m), Mynwy (£1.2m) and Gwent's Police Authority(£1m) in sweating on the fate of their deposited millions. (Neath Port Tabot is still checking!)

Update: Neath Port Talbot have confirmed they have £20m in Icelandic banks, putting them squarely at the top of the "Welsh Councils Crapping Themselves" list, South Wales Police have £7m in jeopardy while Dyfed-Powys Police complete the list with nother £2m and and bringing the total of Welsh publc money at risk to £66.4m.

Plaid AM Chris Franks said today:
"When I was a councillor I met with local authority treasurers, my first question was always 'are you sure the money is invested in a safe haven rather than in accounts that paid the top interest rates'. I would hope members of local authorities in Wales would have asked similar questions."
If that was meant to be a political dig towards Rhondda's Labour controlled council, as Vaughan suggests it was, then it's a stupidly misguided one. Until a week or two ago the Icelandic banks were considered totally secure and no amount of questioning his local authority treasurers would have suggested otherwise. That's why Kent Council has £50m there, why Transport for London have £40m there and why Welsh Councils have more than £36m there, £19m of which, and take note Chris, was put there by Plaid Cymru controlled councils.

Franks isn't the only one to speak nonsense on this issue. The Taxpayer's Alliance also seems to totally misunderstand how the world works. Their spokesman stated:
"People will be shocked that the councils had this money stashed away in the first place. Every year we hear that councils don’t have enough money and need to raise taxes but it seems they have had sufficient excess tax to salt tens of millions of pounds away. The fact that they have invested this money and seem to have lost it is even more shocking and is sadly yet another reminder of the poor financial management in local councils. In short, they should not have stashed this money in the first place and they simply weren’t equipped to try to be clever in the markets with it.”
Council get their funding in blocks from the Assembly, what does the Taxpayer's Alliance think they should do with it through the year, stash it under the mattress?

Why Use The Stick?

Rhetoric Innes comments on Peter Black's speech and repeats the mistakes Peter did in that speech.

As I posted yesterday I think that what Peter said needed saying and I agree with most of it. But it makes it harder for me to see it as a honest, passionate plea for a Yes campaign when he peppered it with petty point-scoring.

What on earth does London's mad ID-card scheme have to do with establishing a Yes campaign, or Edwina's new Health policy. Even more bizarre, what do ASBO's and curfews have to do with it?| Nothing of course, but I guess that as a politician Peter Black is unable of resisting the urge to try and score points.

Does Peter honestly believe that the best way to get Rhodri and Ieuan to start a cross-party campaign with his Liberal Democrats by calling them "devo-doubters" and by slagging them off on affordable homes and "Y Byd". His speech should have been a call to Labour and Plaid to work together along with the Lib Dems to bring forth a Yes campaign, not just an attempt to bash them in public.

Rhetoric Innes does the exact same thing, stating that:
If you are reading this outside of Wales. It is the Welsh Liberal democrats who are at the fore of Pro-Devolution. The Separatist Plaid Cymru do not want this compromise. Both the Welsh Conservatives and Welsh Labour do not recognise or choose not to recognise that Separatist Nationalism will increase under a Tory government with people in Wales feeling disenfranchised at being ruled by a government they largely did not vote in.
Yes it gives us all a good laugh to imagine the Lib Dems being at the fore of anything, but again you have to ask whether calling Plaid "separatist" and telling the Tories that they'll be a government that nobody wants is the best way to promote a cross-party campaign.

If you want everyone to co-operate and work together for the good of a Yes campaign, don;t start by slagging them all off in an attempt for party political gain.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Our Creators

The Daily Mail has recently printed a list of the 50 people who "wrecked Britain". Apparently these are the people that made Britain "the ugly, ignorant, beer-ridden and brawling place it is today".

Wales' very own "Prif Copyn" Richard Brunstrom makes the list (honestly) along with such awful people as Princess Diana, the man who invented the mini-roundabout and Jimmy Saville. Imagine how much happier we'd all have bee without these people...!
A few more deserving souls anmed in the list are Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Maggie Thatcher and Janet Street Porter. There is also a special mention for Wales' first First Minister:
"A dismal little doormat called Alun Michael. To look at, he is not a striking proposition, a careworn creature with the hunched shoulders and lank hair of a natural loser."
And the annoyance of all bloggers (Just kidding, love you all really!) also get a mention - Internet Anons!

But surely, pride of place in the list must be reserved for the truly evil, the god-awful, the child-corrupting Topsy and Tim. Apparently these cpreaches:
"A Britain peopled by disciples of Topsy and Tim would not last long in the world of international terrorism. If we succumb to the worldview of Topsy and Tim, we might as well give up now."
I still can't believe people actually read this paper!

I Say Yes, You Say No

Peter Black made a speech in Plenary today calling for the establishment of a Yes campaign for further powers - I can't agree more.

The One Wales Agreements commits the government to a referendum before 2011 with the caveat that they can pull out if they think they'll lose it. I understand the need for the caveat, if it was clear that a referendum would end up in a 1979 drubbing then it would set back further devolution for a decade or two. But there's an increasing worry that Labour and Plaid are planning to rely on that clause just because they cannot be guaranteed of a win.

That is poppycock.

Washed-up Has-been Peter Hain is telling us that there shouldn't be a referendum before 2011 because people don't want further powers. Of course what he really means is that Labour MP's don't want further powers. When he says that the majority of Labour members and voters are against it then he should cast his mind back to last year when his party's members voted for the One Wales Agreement by about 79% to 21%. If it was only Peter Hain making that argument then it would be easy enough to ignore, nobody listens to him anymore anyway (as proven by the 79% who wanted a coalition with Plaid even though Peter had ruled it out, and that was before his disgrace and resignation). But he isn't the only one saying it. We keep hearing that we need to be sure we'll win before we announce a referendum, that we need to be sure that we'll win before we launch a Yes campaign.

That is poppycock.

The whole point, the only point, of a Yes campaign is to convince Welsh voters that further powers is a good thing and that they should vote Yes (that's why we call it a "Yes" campaign!). Unless we put forward the case for further powers, the undecided voters will not be convinced. How can we win enough support to be guaranteed a victory if we never start campaigning for a Yes vote? It simply makes no sense.

Polls and research show more people supportive of further powers than are against it. There's enough undecided to swing the vote either way. But there's no use sitting on our arses waiting for those undecided to switch to the Yes camp, the only way that will happen is if we set up a Yes camp and start using our energies to convince them it's worth voting Yes.

It's about time Rhodri and Ieuan pulled their finger out and start putting the case for further powers.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Mea Culpa

Nick Bourne, having last week denied having any role in the Clown Prince of Wales dossier now admits that he had singed off on it. Apparently, being so busy preparing for the Tories' Convention he only speed-readed the dossier and didn't notice the paragraphs which he ended up denouncing. He's apologised to Rhodri Morgan and apologised to his staff for dropping them in it.

Will it be enough to save his job? If I was a betting girl, I'd say yes.

Can Never Change His Spots

I didn't see the Politics Show today, but apparently Peter Hain appeared on the show and stated that he would argue against a referendum in Wales before 2011, even though the Welsh branch of his party had voted for one. His reasoning was that there was division in Labour about the subject and that without the support of the whole of Labour the referendum would be lost. In other words, instead of trying to convince his colleagues that a successful referendum would be good for Wales, instead of setting out to prove his colleagues wrong, Peter Hain wants to do exactly what he did in drafting the Government of Wales Act 2006 and put the unity of the Labour party before the good of Wales. I can't say I'm surprised, I just hope that Labour's Assembly group ignore the busted flush member for Neath.

The Double Century post!

Sunday Sillies

Sunday is a day of rest - no work, no night out to plan, nothing to do. That's why we get the big fat papers on Sunday and that's why Sunday's are usually the day bloggers, commentators and forum users bicker about stupid things to waste time.

Today seems to fit that bill perfectly. The News of the World prints a story saying that the One Wales Government is going to scrap free prescriptions. Straight away alarm bells should be ringing in a reader's head. Firstly, it's the News of the World. Now while that should be enough to make the reader suspicious of the truth of the story there's plenty more.

The paper's source is from Whitehall, that makes him an English Health Department source. Recent months have seen plenty of tension between Edwina in the Bay and Ben Bradshaw, the English Health Minister. If the WAG were about to scrap their free prescription policy then you can be sure that Bradshaw's department would not be the first to know. Another reason to cast doubt on it all is the reason given, namely that Doctor are prescribing over the counter medicine and that the cost of the policy has ballooned due to all those millionaires abusing it. As I've noted before, the rise in the amount of prescriptions issued since the scrapping is virtually the same as the rises that occurred every year for the past half decade.

So surely anyone with any knowledge of Welsh politics would have written this story off as Whitehall mischief making. Apparently not. Tory Health Spokesman Jonathan Morgan is quoted as saying:
"This news destroys the Welsh Assembly Government’s remaining fragments of credibility over health policy. Ministers in Cardiff must now give clear answers as to the future of this initiative."
Glyn Davies also seems desperate to believe the story while Miss Wagstaff, not a fan of free prescriptions, barely pauses to question it, and the same is true of David Jones MP.

Personally I'm no big fan of free prescriptions. As long as the means test limit is set high enough to cover the people who need it then people like me who earn enough not to be on the breadline should fork out for our pills. Having said that I don't see it as a disastrous policy, neither do I see it as just a gimmick. After all our Health Service is supposed to be free, something it simply would not be if we paid for our prescriptions. But even though I'm not a fan of the policy, I'm not going to jump on an obviously false story to try and make a political point of it.

Glyn Davies believes that this is a huge story unless the One Wales Government issue a categorical denial with no weasel words.
"The story in today's News of the World is absolute nonsense. We told the newspaper on Friday that we have no intention of 'pulling the plug' on our free prescription scheme, which is highly popular, and we're delighted that Scotland and Northern Ireland are following our lead. We're at a loss to understand where this story has come from"
Categorical enough for you?

Friday, 3 October 2008

Shocking Shuffle

So the Welsh Secretary job survives once again and Murphy doesn't join HTV's 17 employees on the dole. Whether Brown even considered amalgamating the Cabinet post for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland who knows, the stories have been around since time immemorial.

The big story from the Cabinet reshuffle though is the return of Peter Mandelson. Having entered government twice, and being sacked in disgrace twice, no-one predicted a return for Mandy. So what is Gordon thinking? Surely he can't believe that bringing back Mandelson would be a hit with the voters, and with his new minister's track record surely Gordon didn't pick him as a safe pair of hands.

I can only think of one plausible explanation for bringing back Peter Mandelson to the Cabinet. Gordon Brown wants to remind us that as much as we all hate him, there's someone we hate more!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

At The Opticians

Senedd Whip seems to believe we all got a bit hot under the collar with Lord Coe's "Fuck 'Em" moment (or "alleged" moment!) because that he's a Tory.

Sorry Mr Whippy, it has a bit more to do with the fact that we're told he told us to Fuck off!

As I said on the previous post, the story disappeared quite quickly. Here's a copy of the printed version (courtesy of Dougthedug)

Coe hasn't commented on the story because he's in the opticians (honestly!) but the London Olympics committee says that it doesn't sound like him and that they've asked for a retraction. Skip past the expletive though and the general gist is just the same. Sky News, being a tad more restrained than theLondonPaper, tells us that Lord Coe spoke "bluntly" on the subject and when asked what about the objections of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish FA (along with WAG, FAW, FA of Northern Ireland and the Fans Federations of all four home nations) he said that they would be "over-ruled".

So whether he said "Fuck 'Em" or not, and (as a present for Senedd Whip) be him a Tory, Labourite, Lib Dem, Celtic Nationalist or Monster Raving loony Party member, I still think he's a prat!

The Bourne Supremacy?

Nick Bourne appears to be in some trouble. First is the rumours that the long (long) awaited Richards Report into the Tories' position on further devolution which Cameron is refusing to read at this moment will advocate supporting a No campaign. Bourne has been banging the drum of further devolution for some time. If his party goes against him on the matter what will he do. Will he try and lead his AM's to breaking the party line and campaigning for his desired Yes vote? Or will he do what Glyn Davies seems to be doing already and backtrack so that he can bow-tow to his London leader?

Secondly the fallout from the "Rhodri Files" could be very damaging for Nick. Vaughan seems to believe it is will be very bad indeed for the Welsh Tory leader. Having seen the negative reaction to the dossier ridiculing Rhodri Morgan, Nick Bourne now claims that he had nothing to do with it and has apparently apologised to Rhodri in private. Tory insiders claim that Nick actually signed off on it while Glyn Davies sticks the knife in a bit further by stating that Bourne is acting like a captain walking off the field when the game gets hard.

So Mike's gone, Rhodri says he's going, Nick is in trouble - Ieuan should better make sure there's not a whiff of curry powder in the air!

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The Lord Doth Speak

TEAM GB will have a football team for the 2012 Games, Seb Coe has confirmed, whatever opposition is put up by the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish.

The creation of the team has been opposed by the Football Associations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who are concerned it may compromise their individual status within Fifa.

But he said the BOA, which selects teams for the Games, has decided to press ahead with a football squad despite the opposition.

When asked last night about the opposition from the Welsh and Scots, Coe replied bluntly: “F*** em!”

The feeling's mutual mate. Prat.
Hat Tip: Gareth Young

Update: Interesting update to this story, the above story was printed in The London Paper, it is no longer available online. The Metro then wrote a story headed "
Seb Coe denies 'f*** 'em' Olympic row" and now that story has also been taken down!

Monday, 29 September 2008

What Did I Just Say?

Cheryl Gillian, Tory Shadow Minister for Wales

“People deserve honesty from Plaid Cymru. They deserve to know where the party stands. They should trust the people of Wales by making it crystal clear where they stand on the question of Welsh independence."

Tory policy on further devolution


Tories "dossier" on Rhodri Morgan

“unique dress sense and hairstyle...erratic and unusual behaviour...undermined the role of First Minister and embarrassed the National Assembly and Wales”

Tory Mayor of London

Tory Chair of Assembly’s Finance Committee, 25th September

I would have a strong and equal relationship with Westminster and the other devolved governments and I would demand our fair share, I would lobby for more powers to keep money in Wales for Wales. I would like to levy a small charge on some of the companies that use us as a gateway and I would re-invest that money in developing business"

Tory Chair of Assembly’s Finance Committee, 27th September

Misquoted, never asked for tax powers - "What I am suggesting is that we need to think smarter and work harder to make money being invested in Wales work better for Wales"

The Welsh Conservative Party - so consistently inconsistent!

Friday, 26 September 2008

Media Mess

So ITV Wales is, for all extent and purposes, no longer. The industry regulator, Ofcom, has announced that Welsh news coverage on the third channel will be reduced from 320 minutes a week to 240. Even worse is that non-news will fall from 240 minutes to just 90.

What this means in practical terms is that the evening Wales Today will be the only Welsh news on the channel, with the mid morning and weekend lunchtime programmes dropped. As for non-news ITV Wales' current flagship programmes like Wales This Week, Sharp End, Soccer Sunday, Fishlock's Wild Tracks and The Ferret will find themselves fighting for scraps.

ITV Wales' head of Drama was scathing in judging the proposals:
“This is the kind of vested interests and cultural arrogance we have seen over the years where they have deliberately undermined our attempts to represent Wales on the UK network."
It's already clear that coverage of devolved politics in Wales is abysmal. With the UK written media practically ignoring the Assembly all together and the Western Mail's circulation flatlining under 40,000 and seemingly concerned only in copying and pasting Adam Price's blog posts the only place the Welsh public learn about devolved politics is through their TV set. With the BBC being attacked for ignoring devolved politics and ITV now cutting their coverage to the bones things look quite bleak.

The barrenness of the media coverage was reflected by the recent poll which showed that over 30% of Welsh people interested in politics got their fix from the internet. Credit where it's due, the BBC Wales news website churn out plenty of stories, but, being the BBC, they are lifeless and simply contain quotes from government and opposition politics. The same pattern is employed by the Western Mail and her sister paper. What this means is that there is no-one left to actually investigate Welsh politics, to dig deep into her secrets and complexities. If Peter Hain had just been the Welsh Secretary and not the Secretary for Works and Pensions, would he have escaped disgrace? Because I can guarantee you that neither BBC Wales, ITV Wales nor the Western Mail would have any ability or interest to expose him.

With the possible end of Wales this Week and the Sharp End, and a further cut in Welsh news, what we are left with in this country are a few reporters. What we need is investigative reporters, but don't hold your breath.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

True To Their Word

Apparently we now have a wannabe official No campaign. (Such campaigns are not official until the Electoral Commission specifies them as "the chosen one", that won't happen until we actually have a referendum called).

It seems that someone had a quiet word in David Davies' ear about his suggestion of going with the slogan "Wales for the Union" so the name is now "True Wales". While the idea behind the name is that:
"members felt that those who support Wales' presence in the United Kingdom have been for too long unfairly categorised as "anti-Welsh". True Wales aims to represent the true feelings of the huge majority of people in Wales who wish to remain in the United Kingdom"
Hmm....representing the huge majority of people in Wales who wish to remain in the UK? Funny, I thought that we were talking about a referendum on further powers, something that apparently more of "people in Wales" (not "Welsh people" note) support than oppose.

As a flashback to 1997 True Wales is led by a Tory and an unknown Labour Councillor (what happened, was even Llew Smith refusing to work with you David?). Apparently the group consists of Labour, Tories and Independents, although no names yet apart from those two - I wonder if there will be anyone else we've heard of (apart from the other Welsh Tory MP's, who we can safely assume will follow David anywhere).

So what kind of debate can we expect from True Wales? The fact that they're already talking of representing those who wish to stay in UK gives you a hint of what their tactic will be. The same theme can be seen in these two recent statements from True Wales' leading men:
"...the devastating impact separation from Britain would have on Wales."
"Granting full lawmaking powers to the Assembly would be a huge step along the rocky road to full independence for Wales, which is what many people in the Yes camp actually want. Make no mistake – independence would drag Wales down to Soviet-style poverty"
So expect True Wales to try and turn the referendum into one on independence instead of debating what the referendum actually is for, a devolved Parliament, weaker than that of Scotland. It also seems that they'll colour this theme with sweeping statements like above, telling us that there is no way on God's earth Wales could survive a Yes vote and independence without becoing a third world ghetto.

Will the formation of True Wales mean a Yes campaign is set up soon? There will be lot of pressure on Labour and Plaid to form one but don't hold your breath, I have a feeling the One Wales Government has decided to wait until after the All Wales Convention before they make any such move. While that may or may not be a good idea, those in favour of a Yes vote should better start banging their drums a little louder, even if the first signs from the No campaign seem a bit weak. After all, it's important that they remember that the 1997 No campaign that so very nearly derailed devolution was also lead by an unknown Labour Councillor from the Valleys.

Time for Fisitcuffs

Between Jenny Randerson sending out three announcements in a day and this video appearing on YouTube I guess it's fair to say that at least someone in the Welsh Lib Dem is up for a fight. Well, there's a first for everything!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Wow, Thanks Big G!

So here's those brand spanking new promises made in Brown's big comeback speech, the things that will benefit all of us who have young kids or are old, poor or sick and make us all love Labour again...

1. Free drugs for cancer patients

2. Free universal check ups for over 40's

3. Free broadband vouchers for low-income families

4. Free nursery for 2 year olds

Anyone see the link?

Here's a hint. When Gordon said this:
"In April a Labour Britain will become the first country in the whole world to offer free universal check ups for everyone over 40."
he was very much lying.

The Times thought they'd spotted the link, but still managed to mess it up...
"Free universal check-ups for the over-40s? Extension of nursery places? No prescription charges for cancer patients? A commissioner for victims of crime? More children connected to the internet? All England and Wales only, I'm afraid."
I despair sometimes!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Money Money Money

So Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire Tory Westminster candidate Simon Hart has received £40k from a hedge fund to beat Labour MP Nick Ainger in the next election. Apparently Mr Hart is an avid Countryside Alliance member and huntsman and the good old folk at Christofferson, Robb and Co are buddies of his.

While the hedge fund's HQ is in New York there's nothing dodgy about the gift as it comes from their London office, which is registered as an UK company. But you have to say it's an interesting gift. The ban on Fox Hunting had a majority of over 200 in the Commons - Simon Hart won't change that by any measurable extent.

While the Western Mail's article on the story, mainly a copy of a blog post by Plaid Cymru candidate John Dixon, puts great emphasis on the New York link I see that as a side issue. Both John Dixon and Nick Ainger seem to have realised that the best way to attack this gift is to emphasise that it came from a City hedge fund - the people most of us seem to blame for the current economic turmoil.

With Simon Hart already odds on to win Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire for the Tories, could his generous friends be more a bother than their worth?