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, 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!