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!

Friday, 22 February 2008

End of the World

Yes the title of this post is so very unoriginal, yes every part of the Welsh media have already used it and so has most blogs, but it's a good title so I'm sticking to it!

It refers of course to the premature death of Y Byd, the Welsh language Daily Newspaper that never got to publish. The company who had been touting the paper for over a year finally announced that it could not do so, mainly due to what it saw as a pitiful grant offer from the Welsh Assembly Government, more specifically from Plaid Minister Rhodri Glyn.

While the inner workings of a coalition government means that the decision to offer only a third of what Y Byd said it needed must have been joint between Labour and Plaid, as Culture Minister Rhodri Glyn was always going to be the man in the firing line, and rightly so.

This is Plaid's first real taste of the bad side of power. When you make unpopular decisions, you will, unsuprisingly, become unpopular! I've heard a lot of people saying that any state funding of a newspaper is undesirable, I disagree. As long as every effort is made to show that the paper is nwholly independent editorially then I would not be too concerned. After all, most of the private papers we have in the UK are slanted enough without state funding!

Let's be honest, £600k out of the Assembly's budget is far from huge, and that's why the decision to offer something not even close to it is so confusing. A Welsh language daily was part of Plaid's manifesto and, even more importantly, it was in the One Wales Government document.

So what happened? Hell if I know. Was Plaid trying to make themself look like a party of government by being tough. Was Plaid trying too hard to not pander to their core supporters? Whatever it was, it's made a lot of their voters angry with them.

While both governing parties, especially Plaid, have a lot to answer for, so do Welsh speakers. While every Welsh speaker I know wanted Y Byd, very few subscribed to it (Y Byd asked for advance subscriptions). I, along with many others I'm sure, may regret that now, but I'm still not convinced that a daily paper dependant on subscriptions would survive. And that's where Y Byd was always in trouble. Most people buy their Dailes in the shop. I read papers during lunch, something I could not do if my paper was delivered to my home. While those in the so called Welsh language heartlands would probably have no trouble finding a copy in their local newsagent, are we really to believe that demand would be strong enough in places like Newport or Monmouth that it would be stocked anywhere?

The whole saga leaves us with a Hobson's choice. Either there will be no Daily, or one will be published by Trinity Mirror, who has a near enough monopoly over all our English language papers let alone Welsh ones!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Huw Lewis' Phantoms

So both Eluned Morgan and Carwyn Jones write letters to the Western Mail disagreeing with the Newspaper's coverage of their comments regarding Labour and the Welsh language. Carwyn's letter was a little less forcefull than Eluned, merely stating that he hadn't mentioned the Valleys as the hotbed of the anti-Welsh. Eluned denied having said that any part of Welsh labour is anti-Welsh language. Apparently what she said that parts of Labour are PERCEIVED as anti-Welsh (all our fault then is it Eluned?)

Huw Lewis, probably the biggest fish in the valley contingent that we all assumed Eluned and Carwyn meant, calls the claim nonsense, bonkers and self-deluded. Apparently Huw Lewis has never come across any person in his party who is against the Welsh Language. Everyone in Labour loves the Welsh language!

Well, Eluned and Carwyn may be trying to distance themselves from the matter, but this is certaintly not the first time that prominent Labour members have made such comments...

The Wales Labour Party has been attacked by one of its own MPs for "shamefully" ignoring the state of the Welsh language in order to further the party's electoral position. Newport West MP Paul Flynn, speaking in the Welsh language current affairs magazine Barn, said greater efforts had to be made to protect the Welsh language. MrFlynn said some Labour politicians were guilty of joining a tabloid "witchhunt" against the language "in the belief that it is politically advantageous". (BBC 2001)
Paul’s (Murphy) antagonism to the Welsh language is not skin deep. He shares with MPs Alan Williams (Swansea West) and Llew Smith a tribal phobia of Welsh (Paul Flynn 2008)

Does Mr Lewis consider Paul Flynn to be bonkers then?

The one quote from Huw Lewis that made me laugh most however was this...
What people expect from Labour is first of all that they are a unifying force across Wales, [and] any party that sets out to pit one part of Wales against another is doing a bad thing.”
Considering the organised assault on the Welsh language back in 2000/01 which I discussed in my earlier post and which Paul Flynn was talking about in the first quote, I assume that Huw Lewis will admit that back in 2001 Welsh Labour was "doing a bad thing"?

P.S. If Huw Lewis wants to do some investigating into finding the anti-Welsh language parts of Labour, I'd suggest he starts here:

Chris Bryant, Paul Murphy, Don Touhig, Alun Michael, Ian Lucas, Nick Ainger, Ann Clwyd, Andrew Pelling and John McDonell

Those were the signatories of the Early Day Motion to ensure Welsh was never announced before English in train stations in the majority of Wales. (What the hell was the MP for Hayes and Harlington and the MP for Croydon doing signing such an EDM!?)

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Let's Go Kill Again!

Dave of the Tories has announced that under a Conservative Government there would be a free vote on Hunting. Apparently he thinks that having a law so often breached is "idiotic". I wonder where David Cameron was when Prif Copyn Richard Brunstrom was advocating the legalisation of drugs - now that's an often breached law if I ever saw one!

I also like the fact that the Countryside Alliance has (obviously) reacted with joy at Dave's announcement. Weren't they the ones complaining that debating the Hunting ban in 2005 was such a waste of parliamentary time? Surely if it was a waste of time to spend hours debating it's banning, isn't it a waste of time to spend hours debating it's legalisation?

Hunting is banned. Get over it.

5 Dwarves

In a he said she said they said post Tom Livingstone quotes Adam Price as saying that his Labour friends find the candidates to replace Rhodri as uninspiring. Apparently they are:

the too pro-Plaid one, the too anti-Plaid one, the too posh one, the too clever-by-half one and the too boring one.

Number 1 and 2 are pretty easy to guess (both mentioned in my Labour Love In post), I wonder who the others are? Any guesses?

(oops, just noticed that i referred to Adam Price as a she - ah well!)

Dodgy Anglesey

The blog reached a new low two days ago, and I wasn't even blogging. Someone, presumable a sexually adventurous person from Môn, typed "Amlwch Dogging" into AOL search - apparently I was the 6th top result!

Labour Love In It Was Not

So the Welsh Labour conference has been and gone, and while most of it was enough to draw a snore from even the most die-hard Labourite, there were some bits of interesting news from Llandudno.

I'll just make it clear from the outset that Rhodri's speech and "interesting" are not words I'm going to put together. It shows how desperate the media is for a bit of political news during the boring season that Rhodri's speech was considered even remotely newsworthy. What did he say? He said that there would be investment in health and education (really, who saw that one coming!), he said that there would be difficult decisions ahead on the environment (haven't we been saying that for a decade?) and finally he broke the huge shocking news that Labour would be fighting against Plaid in the May elections (Oh. My. God!).

Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy told us that we care more for services than for devolution, the exact same words he's said in every speech and interview since he became Welsh Secretary again (actually, as I pointed out before, the exact same words he's said since he FIRST became Welsh Secretary!)

No, far more interesting was the talk coming from the Cymdeithas Cledwyn tent. This is the Welsh Speaking part of Labour, whose meeting I was once lucky enough to gatecrash by accident. The time I saw them in action Rhodri Morgan and Beti Williams were being heckled and booed by an audience that was supposed to be Labour members. With his answers to questions (or, more accurately, his non-answers to questions) drowned out by the sound of rain on the roof Rhodri was accosted by an old lady who told him that the noise was God's way of telling him to shut up!

While I'm sure things were far more civil at this meeting, the shots fired by certain high profile Labour members were just as powerful as the words of that old lady. King -to-be-Carwyn and Eluned "We don't do Welsh in Brussels" Morgan were the ones quoted delivering cannon-ball sized shots across the bows of the ever-strong Valley contingent in Welsh Labour. When they said that the 2007 elections were lost due to the anti-Welsh agenda of the valleys it was not hard to see who was sitting in their sightlines. Step forward Leighton Andrews, Huw Lewis and of course the pathetic Chris Bryant. While there was clearly a little bit of blame-shifting in the allegation that it was the anti-Welsh ramblings of the valley types that lost Labour the election, there's undoubtedly truth in it.

Labour has no presence in West Wales at the Assembly. And when I say "West Wales" I don't just mean Llanelli! There is not a single Labour AM in the North or South West, most of which forms the so-called Welsh language heartlands. Labour lost big seats in the West (even though Nia Griffiths MP still hasn't realized it!) And is there any doubt after the attacks the Welsh language have had from Labour over the years.

While it's very refreshing to hear Labourites being so open about their anti-Welsh problems, it's a bit rich for them to try and pin the blame on a few rouge elements in the valleys. After the 1999 drubbing of Labour, where they lost big seats in the valleys, Labour went nasty. With the help of the newly-formed Welsh Mirror and the ever reliable journalist Mr Paul Starling they made a conscious effort to dump the Welsh speakers. The tactic was simple and effective. Welsh speakers are a minority that Labour decided they could win without. Facing electoral danger from plaid, Labour decided to turn Welsh politics not into Labour v plaid, but into monoglots v bilinguists. The thinking was that if they could identify Plaid with the bilinguists and themselves with the monoglots they'd be guaranteed big wins.

Looking back at that part in politics you shudder by how nasty things were. Hardly a day passed without the Welsh Mirror deriding a prominent Welsh speaker as racist. While some Labourites denounced the tactic (Paul Flynn in particular) most, including those at Cledwyn, sat back and hoped the plan worked. Eluned herself caused a stir at the time when she and Mrs Kinnock refused to speak Welsh to a group of Welsh language children visiting Brussels. When one of the Children asked Mrs Kinnock why she answered their Welsh questions in English, Eluned jumped in and told them 'leave Glenys alone, you have an obsession with the Welsh language'. The presentation became a bit of a slanging match which I would have paid good money to see!

The anti-Welsh tactic paid off, with Labour getting a working majority at the next election and Plaid thrown into the curry-conspiracy madness (another Welsh Mirror coined phrase!). But the cost was huge, both to Wales and to Labour. The relationship between Welsh and English language Wales was badly hurt, as a Welsh speaker I still come across people who see all of us as racists. While Plaid eventually recovered from the assault, Labour was damaged badly out West. I know a lot of Welsh speakers who see Labour as a bigger enemy of the Welsh language than the Tories even.

While it is very refreshing to hear parts of Labour doing the political version of standing up at an AA meeting and admitting their problem, their words will not have much effect while Chris Bryant and his lot keep up with crap like the train announcement early day motion!

Break's Over

A week is a long time in politics they say - really? After nearly a week and a half away I struggle to find anything really interesting that's changed while I ignored newspapers and blogs.

Yes OK in Wales we had Rhodri's big speech ("we will fight Plaid at the May elections" - waw, what a shocking revelation!), in the UK we've had the first nationalization of a company for goodness knows how long, in Europe we've had the birth of the new nation of Kosova and in the World we have Obama becoming the Democratic frontrunner - but to be honest there's nothing there to excite me too much! I really was hoping for a Rhodri dogging scandal too!

Oh well, if there is one thing I've learnt in the first few weeks of blogging it's that there's always something I can find to say about even the most boring of subjects, so here we go again....!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

See You Soon

Well the kids get off school tomorrow, it's half term and the Hen Ferchetan won't be posting. Even if Rhodri is brought down by some shocking dogging scandal between now and the end of half term you won't hear a peep from me.

Enjoy the next week or so, don't bother wasting time coming to see if there's anything new here because I can assure you there won't be!

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

I Demand To Be From Gwent

A bizzare quote in the Western Mail today in an article about computer databses still not recognising the names of the "new" unitary authorities. I've seen the same thing myself, with online forms offering me South Glamorgan for Cardiff, and it is rather pathetic.

The quote in question comes from a David Jandrell from Cwmcarn in Caerphilly.

"Caerphilly is Cardiff, basically. You go over the mountain and there it is. People of my age were brought up in Monmouthshire and then Gwent."

He said he always listed his address as Cwmcarn, Crosskeys, Newport, Gwent but that he regularly got sent items addressed to Caerphilly – despite not using the county name on outgoing correspondence.

“It’s taking away my right to have a choice of what my address is. Sometimes when you speak to people [in offices] they ask you for your name, house number and postcode and then they tell you what your address is. I find that a bit presumptuous.”

A bit presumptuous? What? It's your address mate! We don't have a "right to have a choice of what my address is" - we choose our house name and the Royal Mail does the rest. Maybe I want to change my address to Hen Ferchetan, Amlwch To Magor House, Jamaica - but I haven;t done so because I doubt my mail would arrive!

The Counties changed in 1996 - 12 bloody years ago. Get a life David!

Best of Friends?

Gliding through the Welsh blog land (I hate the word blogosphere!) today I read a very interesting post by Mr Martin Eaglestone (the guy who lost his pen to Adam Price at the Plaid convention, remember?) concerning the ever protesting Tony Benn's visit to North Wales.

The ex-Labour candidate must be commended on blogging about an evening that could not have been too comfortable for him. According to Hen Ferchetan's secret spies (well...paying guests at his "Evening with... in Caernarfon") the government got a whole lot of kicking from Mr Benn.

Eaglestone acknowledges this, but claims that the Tories were abused more by the veteran politician. Not quite what I heard! Apparently Mr Benn considers Tony Blair to be the first Prime Minister he's ever met (and he's met them all since Chburchill) who's word he considered to be compleately untrustworthy. While Blair is obviously no longer our Prime Minister, Gordie hardly faired better.

Apparently the MP for the constituency next to where Mr Eaglestone keeps trying to get elected, Betty Williams, spent the whole evening tutting and moaning to her friend about the opinions Tony Benn was making very clear about his Labour collegues.

All in all I hear the evening was a great success, with Tony Benn proving to be very popular with the crowd. This may explain why Betty Williams was nice enough to put her disagreements and tutting away at the end and walk up to Benn, who was signing his books in front of a big crowd, give a big sloppy kiss to "Tony Darling", and say (very loudly) that she had to dash but would see him "back in London".

Seeing as how Betty had apparently talked to Benn at a private function earlier in the night I'm sure we should give her the benefit of the doubt and state that it must have been Tony Benn's old age that made him give a look like he was struggling to remember who she was!

(By the way, type "Betty Williams MP" into Google Images and on the third page of results you get this image - I make no comment!)

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Super Duper Tuesday

Today is Super Tuesday, when more than half the American electorate get to cast their vote for either the Democratic or Republican candidate. John McCain seems likely to win the GOP's nomination tonight, but the Democratic party's election will probably rumble on for a while yet, even though today will have a big say in it.
A shock from the McCain camp came with a little family photo I found:

What the hell is an ugly sod like him doing with a quite hot daughter? And one with a Welsh name as well! (even if she does spell Meghan a bit funny!)

Americans are obsessed with celebrities, Oprah's support for Obama is seen as a massive boost to his campaign, people actually vote for him beause Oprah's told them to! I propose a change to the American electoral rules. Everyone picks their strongest celebrity backer, and they fight it out for the Presidency. Imagine the money for the TV rights! Who would win?

Clinton would be a no-hoper, her biggest celebrity backer is her husband, and he is not well known for fighting skills! McCain would be confident with the Govenor of California Mr Terminator on his side, but no-hoper evangelical Huckabee would hope to trump Arnie with the support of his celebrity backer, the legend that is Chuck Norris.

Obama might well emerge victorious however, as he has a secret weapon on his side, step forward the legendary Hulk Hogan!

The Curse of Lembit

French president Nicolas Sarkozy will sleep a little sounder tonight after Montgomeryshire's favorite son (for now) leapt to his defense among widespread disapproval of his marriage to a gorgeous model.

With the French media and opinion polls laying into the recently divorced leader, he must have thought he was all alone in this world. But thankfully Lembit Opik has reassured him, through radio 4's Today programme that having a beautiful partner does not dent political effectiveness.

Someone better warn Sarkozy of Lembit's history of supporting horses with broken legs (Charles Kennedy, Oaten, Peter Hain)

By the way, here is the new Mme Sarkozy

And the one day Mrs Opik (plus sister)

Yes Lembit, I'm sure you know exactly how Mr President feels having such an attractive partner!

Mr Pussycat Hisses

Well if it's dead why dig it up again?

Language is a living thing or nothing at all if you ask me. And the rest of us, by a stroke of luck, are in possession of a tongue worth the weight of Ben Nevis in gold. The English language is our greatest asset and the government spends far too little spreading it even wider.

There are more people who speak Punjabi in Scotland than have the Gaelic. Can you imagine the outcry if the government gave £50 per week per head to subsidise Lahore TV?

And more people speak Polish in Scotland than speak Gaelic but Gdansk TV could only dream of such a subsidy.

Soon we will have bi-lingual signs, and alphabet soup on every street corner.

If a handful of people in Scotland want to keep this obscure language alive, they can do so. Like the Amish in the United States, let them be self-sustaining.

'We're not even spending enough teaching our own kids how to speak, read and write our own language properly'

Sounds like the crap that was directed at Welsh when S4C was launched doesn't it? This is George "I Thought I Saw a Pussycat" Galloway in the Daily Record lashing out at those damn extremists who want a channel in their native language. Seems that when it comes to sad pathetic idiots with a chip on their shoulders some things never change. Doesn't Gorgeous George (!) remember that he's no longer a Scottish MP, and is certaintly not a MSP? I guess when you manage the humilating feat of emulating Kilroy and having to leave your own party you'll lash out at anything if it gets you a bit of media coverage.

Oh Happy Days

Bring on the Scots! (Click on the photo to see the happy moments in full)

Friday, 1 February 2008

Three Cheers For Me!

Well this is my 50th post, so I thought I'd give myself a clap. Yesterday was a big day for this blog, the first time that the majority of people came here directly instead of accidently landing here from another blog or a random google search (someone found this blog by searching for "urine pee", I didn't think my standards were that low!

I've survived longer than the two weeks I feared I'd last, and it seems that someone at least is actually bothering to read what I write.

Big thanks though to every blog who's linked to here, with special thanks to Miserable Old Fart, Normal Mouth who's welcome posts sent a whole lot of people this way. It seems that my posts now appear on the Welsh Political News (thanks for the tip Miss Wagstaff), which might explain the bigg surge in readers today, and the Welsh Blog Index has also helped by linking some of my posts.

There'll be no posts from me this weekend, if you need to ask why then you're clearly not Welsh (C'mon Cymru!).

Will This One Think?

So the new Welsh Secretary's first piece of business in Wales is launching a new Welsh Labour think tank. Before the Electoral Commission start grinding their swords and Paul Flynn starts preparing his defence I should point out that this think-tank seems ready to do a whole more lot of thinking than Hain's version!

Apparently Welsh Labour have never really had a think tank all for their own (depending on the London think tank I guess, just as they depend for the London party's finance). From the report in today's Western Mail it seems that one of the leading lights of this think tank will be ex Labour parliamentary candidate (i.e. failed candidate) and cultural historian Peter Stead. The quote from Mr Stead is exactly what you'd expect from a combination of a politician and historian (confusing!), so I'll try and translate for you.

"A new culture has been developing in Wales which has largely been led by other groups and it has not always been clear what Labour’s role in that has been."

Welsh Labour is so divided it's hard to know what we stand for

“I think Labour needs to tap into the cultural energy that is now around in Wales, which in a sense is more important than the details of the constitutional developments. "

Don't mention the referendum

"It’s quite ironic that Wales is being allowed more freedom now, at a time when its economic freedom within the UK has diminished from the days when we had a thriving coal industry, for example"

Remember the miners? Proper Welsh they were. They voted Labour you know.

“There was a lot of negativity around at the time of the Blaenau Gwent by-elections, which is not good for Wales."

People in Blaenau Gwent hated Labour. That's bad for Labour.

“The example of Tower Colliery, on the other hand, is inspirational and had an enormous impact in persuading people that they could do things for themselves. A lot of people in Wales are not natural entrepreneurs, and we need to get away from the victim culture. It’s the kind of energy exemplified by Tower that Labour needs to tap into.”

Weren't the miners great? They voted Labour, that's us. What a wonderful age that was, when being proper Welsh meant voting Labour

Hope that clears things up for you!

Fun and Games Down the Bay

Over the recent week or two there's a feeling that the Assembly is getting periously close to the farce that was the seating arrangement debate. We have had a recent flood of opposittion motions criticising the London Government over all kind of things.

The Lib Dem and Tory tactics are clear, propose these motions and watch with glee as Plaid vote against them even though they really support them. The latest edition of this cat and mouse game had the bizzare situation of both Labour and Plaid AM's agreeing with the motion, voting against it, then privately criticising London anyway, telling them that voting against the motion hurt badly.

Each and every party in this mess needs to look at themselves a bit closer, none more so than Plaid.

There's no doubt that for the Tories and Libs they can make a lot of political point scoring from this tactic. Whenever a Plaid AM or Plaid candidate mentions one of these subjects in the future, the opposition can point out that Plaid voted against them. On the other hand by using Assembly time (and, more importantly, the rare commodity of Assembly publicity) for petty point scoring they are hurting the whole Devolution project. Welsh people want to see the Assembly DOING things, not arguying back and forth on whether they should criticise London or not. Whether these motions were passed or rejected does not make one tiny difference to the life of any Welshman (apart from the AM's themselves of course).

Then there's Labour. What on earth are they doing refusing to criticise London, then privately doing so anyway? Clearly this is an indication that, to the Welsh Labour in the Assembly, protecting the party in London is more important than being honest about what they, and Welsh voters, actually think. Devolution was supposed to bring in a whole new style of government. By refusing to criticse London even when they disagree with them Labour AM's are making the Assembly Government look like the little kid of the London Government, not allowed to do or say anything to hurt the masters over the border. Labour AM's should look at to who they owe the greater duty, the people of Wales or the British Labour Party.

Finally we come to Plaid. Now, with all the other parties I've managed to explain why they are doing what they are, and why I think they are wrong. With Plaid I can't even do the first part. What possible logic is there in Plaid voting against these motions? Is it some misplaced loyalty to Labour? Plaid members voted for the One-Wales Government. That government was based on a very specific document which stated:

"Matters reserved to the UK Parliament, other than those mentioned in this Programme, are outside the scope of this Agreement."

In other words, there is no duty on Plaid AM's to blindly follow Labour on these issues. So why are they doing it? Voting for these motions would do no damage to the One Wales Government, only to the London government and the Labour party (and that would be very minimal damage in all honesty).

Yes, being in Government carries responsibility and is a steep learning curve. But by voting against motions which they actually agree on, Plaid are doing themselves, the Assembly and the One-Wales Government serious damage.

Let's hope that the Lib Dems and Tories will grow up very soon, that Labour will realise very soon it is supposed to represent the people of Wales and that Plaid realise even sooner that they have merely joined Labour in Government, not merged parties.

These people are supposed to be acting for OUR benefit, not their own.