Friday, 29 February 2008

Hainless transition

Guess who said this: “If both Welsh living standards and the economic competitiveness which underpins our prosperity is to grow as we all want, the private sector needs to grow very significantly, and at a relatively much faster rate.” No, it wasn’t Nick Bourne, but Peter Hain (reported in the Western Mail today).

If this analysis is true then it will represent a challenge to the Labour-Plaid coalition government which has, so far, not deviated markedly from previous Labour Assembly Government policy besides talk about referendums and conventions, which will die down if Paul Murphy has his way.

Besides more obvious 'unionist' objections one reason Murphy is keen to dampen referendum fever is to refocus Welsh Labour on its self-styled calling as effective public service managers. Welsh Labour’s 2011 appeal will be built on the idea that it is the most responsible service manager, making savings and delivering services efficiently. Plaid, on the other hand, has allowed Labour to get on with this, styling itself as a responsible alternative which will be ready for government on its own at a later date.

This strategy has brought criticism from Plaid’s stronger elements, who are concerned about key Plaid policy areas being ‘watered down’, e.g. not funding Y Byd. The problem brought by Plaid’s approach is that a party building itself as a party of government cannot be seen to in the thrall of any particular minority group, no matter how large that minority is.

Whether any of this will make a difference is still to be seen. Today’s ICM poll results show that around 60% don’t know who runs the Welsh Assembly Government. Curiously, 49% of the survey respondents said they would vote ‘yes’ in a referendum on full powers. These results might show the perils of sample-based surveys rather than reflecting the real views of the Welsh electorate. We can only hope.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Sights you don't see in the Senedd

Part 2:

A full chamber.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Labour Conference Talk: Welsh Labour in Llandudno

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.

Another year, another trip to Llandudno for the Labour faithful and, as usual, another round of media speculation about not much that managed to miss most of the interesting developments and gossip entirely.

Starting on a 'serious' note and the boulder-sized clanger dropped by leadership contender Carwyn Jones, with a little help from Labour's Airmiles collector-in-chief and sometime MEP Eluned Morgan. Someone, somewhere (perhaps his bequiffed press officer) thought it would be a good idea for Carwyn to show what a fantastic leader in waiting he is by... er... calling two-thirds of supporters and Party members 'anti-Welsh' at a conference fringe event. Ably abetted by Ms Morgan, this not so dynamic duo managed to pin the blame for Labour's disastrous Assembly election result firmly at the door of loyal Party activists in the Valleys who are, apparently, anti-Welsh. Poor policies, lack of a proper campaign and a massively botched hospital closure plan apparently had nothing to do with it. However, Valleys delegates were prepared to ignore the inane rants as part and parcel of the conference bubble. Until, that is, they opened Monday's Western Mail back at home.

On its front page, Tomos Livingstone gave a huge splash to the story (no doubt with some added briefing), beating himself into a veritable frenzy with his page 4 spread entitled "Anti-Welsh Valleys are 'costing Labour votes' ". Labour activists are outraged, as are key players from Labour-run Councils in the valleys. AMs from these 'anti-Welsh' seats are also fuming at the bizarre sleight. Matters were not improved at all after Eluned Morgan's strange 'clarification' letter in yesterday's edition, which only seemed to empty several cans of petrol onto the raging flames. This is clearly not the end of Carwyn's leadership tilt, indeed he remains the favourite in many people's eyes. But things once spoken cannot be un-said, and Labour members have long memories. Being a bit pro-Plaid is one thing, but being anti-Labour is quite another.

The conference highlight for many, though, was not one of policy, but one of personality. The ever popular Alun Davies was seen sheepishly having several strips torn off him by Torfaen terrier Lynne Neagle in full view of stunned delegates, visitors and exhibitors. Details of why Davies was getting the hairdryer treatment are a little sketchy, but word is that he made the fatal mistake of badmouthing several AMs while in very high spirits at the conference bar [allegedly]. While Neagle is more than capable of giving as good as she gets, several of Davies' other targets are of a more reticent disposition. Never one to learn from his mistakes, though, he is already up to the same tricks back in the Senedd [allegedly]. He may, however, have bitten off more than he can chew, where there is an almighty storm brewing over his alleged gossiping about a colleagues alleged drink problem. There is only so far that Rhodri's patronage will protect him...

And finally, a quick game of 'Guess Who'. Which Welsh politician was allegedly seen accompanying a leading political lobbyist and a legal big-wig into the lavatories of the St Georges Hotel in Llandudno to 'freshen up' several times during a mammoth session on the Saturday night of conference? And here's a clue - it wasn't Jeff Cuthbert.

(Hat-tip to the Anonymous)

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

'Clean, lean and green'...and away with the fairies?

The One Wales agreement called climate change ‘the greatest threat facing humanity’. To tackle this threat it promised (surprise, surprise) some strategies: an energy strategy to deal with renewable energy and an energy route map. Today the environment minister Jane Davidson announced a mix of the two, a renewable energy route map that will show how we can develop a Wales that is ‘lean, clean and green’.

The press release accompanying the route map consultation followed Assembly Government house style by once again proclaiming Wales to be the first to do something (a subject Miss Wagstaff has mentioned before). With sparing and environmentally-friendly use of modesty the press release said: ‘Just as we led the world in energy development during the 19th century when our coal powered the industrial revolution, we again have a great opportunity to lead in the battle against climate change.’

Towards the end of the release, just before we all burst into a spontaneous rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, the press release says: “With the images of the end of one era – the closure of the last deep mine in Wales at Tower Colliery – still fresh in our memories we must now look to the future.” This passage will sound a little strange to residents living uncomfortably close to the Ffos-y-Fran open cast mine near Merthyr Tydfil. The last era is still alive and well at Ffos-y-Fran and elsewhere across Wales in coal, gas and woodchip burning plants.

The press release calls the route map ‘an ambitious programme’. Unfortunately for the Assembly Government a lot of the programme is hostage to decisions in Whitehall. It is deemed too important an issue for Westminster to leave to the Senedd. This is not to say that the renewable energy route map does not set out some good aims. But renewable energy, according to the Welsh Assembly Government’s own calculations in 2005, accounted for just 2.6% of electricity generation in Wales. Unless there is a serious commitment to realising the programme it will remain a (non-carbon neutral) pipe-dream.

A 'Blogging Award' from the mother of the Valleys

Since being nominated as an 'Excellent' political blog by the equally excellent Valleys Mam, I now have to nominate five political blogs and five non-political to pass it on to.

I've decided not to replicate any blogs [excellent though they are] that have already been chosen by others, but have no idea how many have been tagged into this. My political choices are not based on 'politics'. Instead I have based my choice* on what they offer - concentrating on my Welsh Political Blogroll - as my full blogroll reflects my true eclectic choice.

Political Blogs (alphabetical order):

  1. Bethan Jenkins AM (Plaid Cymru)
  2. Glyn Davies (Conservative)
  3. Normal Mouth (Labour)
  4. Peter Black AM (Liberal Democrat)
  5. Vaughan Roderick (Media)

Non-Political Blogs (alphabetical order):

  1. Chris Cope
  2. Ellee Seymour
  3. Petite Anglaise
  4. Skidmore's Island
  5. The Last of the Few (18+)

* Please note that this list is probably biased and based on those that I have recently discovered or read on a daily basis.

Update: As I've been asked again about my political choice - I read each one for different reasons and they provide me with a wide range of thought. My actual list would be much bigger and include blogs that are just as good as those selected or better.

Thought I'd clear that one up :)

Friday, 15 February 2008

One Wales: Not worth the paper it's written on

With an early call for more cash than expected for a Daily Newspaper in Welsh, the One Wales Agreement now has more cracks than my Grandmother's china. The upcoming local election will no doubt also add to the tension between the two coalition partners.

In the latest chapter from today's news, Ned Thomas, chair of Dyddiol Cyf, said they were "firmly of the opinion" the assembly government was not fulfilling a pledge in the coalition One Wales document to back moves to expand the Welsh-language sector, and set up a daily paper in the language.

This is just a short post on the subject, but considering the many events since July 2007, we can't help but think that this 'One Wales' document isn't worth the paper it's written on.

Gis a job, Rhod

Miss Wagstaff has drawn my attention to Rhodri Morgan's advertisement for a new helper. (Hat-tip to Southpaw Grammar)

Constituency Assistant at the Welsh Assembly

Rhodri Morgan AM (Cardiff West)
£16805 - £24865, pro rata.

As no member of my family is available to work for me, I am advertising for a member of staff to assist me in my constituency duties working at the Assembly in liaison with the main Cardiff West constituency office in Transport House.

Duties involve arranging school and other constituency visits to the Assembly, constituency-oriented meetings, monitoring my email inbox and responding as required, preparing constituency activity press releases, liaising with my Ministerial private office support staff and Special Advisers, the Labour AM Group Office, Welsh Labour Party HQ staff, Trade Unions and Labour members, especially as regards logistics and diary arrangements etc.

Good understanding of and sensitivity re Labour movement issues are vital. Role could be part-time but those interested only in full-time work should not be discouraged from applying.

Before anyone gets too excited about the use of humour and prospect of a vacancy, please bear in mind that one man may make a family member available reasonably soon - at the next General Election.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Early trouble at Mill: What happened to 'love is power'?

We’ve all seen or read stories about young love, where coalitions in their early years [months] experience romance so powerful that it blinds them to the rest of the world. The sometimes reckless abandon of young love is well known, as is evident in the many warnings from more experienced elders to young lovers who are just discovering the world of coalition romance.

The BBC has reported today on a little 'tiff' that is brewing between coalition partners, Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru.

Plaid Cymru's coalition partnership with Labour has suffered a Valentine's Day "lovers' tiff" over a new website. Plaid launched the site to help trades unionists opt out of subscriptions to Labour, saying some did not know they were "bank-rolling" the party.

Meanwhile, Graham Smith, secretary of the Labour affiliated unions association, Tulo, rubbished the website:
Nobody should forget Labour's roots within the trade union movement...This is Plaid showing their true colours.
But Plaid Cymru AM, Leanne Wood (famous for boycotting the Queen; calling Her Majesty 'Mrs Windsor'; and not accepting a Facebook friendship request from Miss Wagstaff), has insisted that the website is helping union members tackle a real issue:
Plaid has a long history of supporting trade unionism and workers' struggles in Wales. In the last decade, many of those struggles have been against the Labour Government. Trade unions bankroll the Labour Party; over the last six years unions have contributed £60m and many members are not aware that their money is going to the Labour Party. Plaid is launching a website today which will simplify what can be a difficult process.
The website named "Stop subsidising Labour" lets users click a link to a dozen of the UK's most prominent trade unions, bringing up a form to opt-out of political contributions.

A Labour spokesman said:
This is a particularly weak stunt from a tired party machine. Trade union members around Wales will be asking themselves where Plaid Cymru MPs were when the minimum wage was voted on in Parliament. The answer is, in bed.
Conservative Assembly leader Nick Bourne added:
If this is sort of Valentine's Day present Plaid Cymru is giving to Labour, the coalition partners are clearly in need of some serious relationship counselling. I'd hate to see what they send if they ever do fall out of love with each other. Somehow I doubt we'll have long to wait.
Looks like the two camps are unsettled before we even arrive at the local government election in May 2008.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Blogpower: Defending the blogosphere

As you can probably tell from my sidebar, I've recently become a member of Blogpower. For those of you that have never visited their blog - it's a club of bloggers who undertake to visit and promote each others blogs - simple as that.

Many thanks to those members that have left kind words, welcoming me to the club since I joined. Due to taking a break from work and blogging, I haven't had the chance to take an indepth look at the full membership, but I am looking forward to picking some fruits from the tree when I return next week.

Please feel free to take a look at their site and also browse their eclectic mix of blogs which have been imaginatively placed under the heading of Blogpower Blogroll on my sidebar.

Bloggers have children too

In case no one has noticed, I haven't posted for a few days as I'm taking a break with the family. Have noticed I've been tagged so may get the chance to respond in a few days.

Have a break. It hasn't been 1 year, but some of us need it.

Pippa x

Thursday, 7 February 2008

How to make enemies and alienate people

As every member, staffer, cleaner and indeed visitor at the Senedd knows, there is little love lost between Mid & West Wales Regional Labour AMs Alun Davies and Joyce Watson. Which is odd when you consider that as both were elected due to serving Labour AMs getting the boot last May, both would be counting their lucky stars to be there at all.

While Ms Watson has pretty much taken that line, rumour has it that the ever-friendly Alun has not. You see, it is understandable that Alun Davies wants to be king-pin in this region, and views Watson very much as an annoying source of competition. It's alleged that with the tacit approval of a senior figure within Welsh Labour, he's been setting about undermining Watson at every available opportunity. This simmering hatred has, however, bubbled just beneath the surface for the past eight months, with Watson taking Davies' petty jibes with something approaching good grace.

Indeed, even while Davies appeared to be groomed as one of Rhodri's trusted 'briefers' to the media, Watson got on with - shock, horror - trying to represent the people who [sort of] elected her.
Now, here's where it gets really nasty. You see, a few days ago the BBC broke a story that the Welsh Conservatives had made an official complaint about Joyce Watson's misuse of Assembly postage and resources to mail Labour Party members. The thrust of the coverage was pretty clear in its agenda - she should have known better, the rules are clear, and that her regional AM colleague Alun Davies may suffer in the fall out through no fault of his own etc etc.

But dig a little deeper, and alarm bells start ringing. For example, how would the Welsh Conservatives have ever found out that Watson had been mailing Party members? Of course, from a Labour source in her patch with an axe to grind [allegedly]. But which Labour source drinks with 'leaky' Conservatives on a regular basis in the pubs and bars of Cardiff Bay? And received almost universal sympathy in all the coverage of the story?

Now let me think...
(Hat tip to the anonymous)

AM Bloggers: A Remedy

Glyn Davies and Peter Black AM have recently aired their views on the Assembly's guidance to Assembly Members blogging.

Glyn Davies lets us know what his close friend Edna thinks of it all - I hope he's paying her phone bill for all these tit-bits he's being offered.

As the most active of current Assembly bloggers, Peter Black speaks from the gallows that Jeffrey Cuthbert has built:
Reading through the note it was difficult not to feel that they were protesting just a little bit too much. In the second paragraph they assert: 'From the outset, we would like to stress that we do not intend to suggest that the use of Blogs by Members be prohibited in any way.' Just four paragraphs later they tell us again: 'Members should not be discouraged from using Blogs – this note is simply trying to make members aware of the potential hazards of using the sites inappropriately.' All-in-all one could not help but get the impression that what they are really saying is that: 'We don't like blogs and we dislike bloggers even more, however we cannot do anything to stop you. If you must persist with this odious activity then watch out, because we are going to get you. 'So much for openness, transparency and the use of new technology.
N.B. Assembly Members that blog could carry on as usual or heed to the advice of the Standards' Committee. There is a third way - playing it safe like this man.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Botanic Gardens Bail out: A rose by any other name

The National Botanic Garden of Wales is to receive up to £1.9m extra public money to pay off its debt.

Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said it was a one-off grant to put the £43m garden on a sound financial footing to attract private investment.

The money it receives each year from the assembly government will rise from £150,000 to up to £550,000.

Managers of the garden at Llanarthne in Carmarthenshire welcomed it as a "monumental milestone". Two months ago, it emerged that garden managers were in talks with the assembly government to remove the debt and increase its annual grant.

Revealing the outcome of those talks, Mr Jones told AMs that the garden had met all the recovery targets it had been set.

Carmarthenshire County Council also announced that it would convert an existing £1.35m loan into a grant and provide a further package of financial support to the garden, with funding matched by the assembly government.

Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said:

... it was vital to value our national institutions, wherever they may be in Wales. The National Botanic Garden of Wales has proved, beyond doubt, its value to the people of Carmarthenshire and beyond. It has the potential, however, to make an even more valuable contribution addition to maintaining the current visitor offer there needs to be further work in attracting new and returning customers...The funding would allow the development of a range of new projects, including science and education programmes.
Miss Wagstaff says:

Value our national institutions, wherever they may be in Wales [no disrespect to North Wales and what I may have said on previous occasions].

Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said it was a one-off grant to put the £43m garden on a sound financial footing to attract private investment [A rose by any other name would smell as sweet].

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Top 20 Posts Meme (First 3 months of a blog)

Now that this blog is officially 3 months old (such a cute anniversary) and I've returned from a weekend spent with the family, thought I'd take a look at the posts so far and compile a list of what seems to be the most popular ones. Difficult to qualify as what exactly is a popular post? I've chosen ones that have caused the most comments - whether good or bad - and ones that have drawn other people to this blog over the last three months.

Top 20 Posts in the life of this blogs first 3 months (in no particular order):

Why not turn this into a meme and tag others, I thought. As this is my first attempt to create a meme I've decided to tag all those that are included in my blogroll to date - are still active bloggers - and hopefully they will post on their Top 20 popular posts from their blogs in the first 3 months of their lives. If some of them take part it'll be interesting to see what was dominant in the news at the time of starting their blogs and also what they were passionate about.

Alan in Dyfed, Alex Williams, Alun Cairns AM, Andrew Nutt, Bethan Jenkins AM, Betsan Powys, Ceredig Daily Post Blogs Damon Lord Daniel Davies David Cornock David Davies MP David Jones MP David Peter David Williamson Dylan Jones-Evans Glyn Davies Guerrilla Welsh Fare Half-Blood Welshman Homage to Catatonia Huw Lewis AM Independent Wales Johnny Foreigner Julie Morgan MP Leanne Wood AM Leighton Andrews AM Llanelli Journal Luke Young Mark Young Martin Eaglestone Matt Withers Miserable Old Fart Morgan Hen New Welsh Right Nick Bourne AM Normal Mouth Ordovicius Paul Flynn MP Penri James Peter Black AM Pilchard Red Anorak Senedd Whip Southpaw Grammar Steffan Lewis Stephen Crabb MP The Bright Side of Insomia Thoughts of Oscar Tom Bodden Tomos Livingstone Valleys Mam Vaughan Roderick Wales World Nation Welsh Blog Index Welsh Independence Welsh Ramblings Welsh Womens Voice What is Wales? Amlwch to Magor Adam Price MP David Jones MP Nick Bourne AM Paul Flynn MP Coffee House Justin Webb Mark Mardell Nick Cohen Nick Robinson Tom Bodden Tomos Livingstone Vaughan Roderick A Liberal goes a long way A Very British Dude An Englishman's Castle Beau Bo D' Or Bob Piper Boris Johnson MP Burning our Money Charlie Marks Chris Paul's Labour of Love Cicero's Songs Conservative History Conservative Home Croydonian Daily Referendum Dave's Part Devil's Kitchen Dizzy Thinks Dodgeblogium Donal Blaney Edland Ellee Seymour EU Referendum Bloggerheads Grendel Guido Fawkes Hunter and Shooter Iain Dale's Diary J. Arthur MacNumpty James Cleverly Jon Swift Kerron Cross Laura-Rose Saunders Libdem Voice Liberal England Little Man in a Toque Luke Akehurst Lynne Featherstone MP Man in a Shed Michael Meacher MP Mike Rouse Ministry of Truth Monkey with a Blue Rosette Mr Eugenides Nadine Dorries MP Newmania in Lewes Nicolas Webb Norfolk Blogger Nourishing Obscurity Paul Bristow Paul Burgin, Mars Hill Paul Linford Political Betting Praguetory Quaequam Blog Reactionary Snob Recess Monkey Rob Newman Shane Greer Skipper Slugger O'Toole Stumbling and Mumbling Susanne Lamido Tartan Hero The Ink The Last Ditch The Waendel Journal The Wilted Rose Thunder Dragon Tory Radio UK Daily Pundit Wardman Wire Wardman Wire (UK) Westminster Wisdom Westmonster Womble on Tour Annie Rhiannon Blog Cymru Blog Power Chris Cope Everything is Electric Girl With A One Track Mind Hoby Cartoons Menopausal Old Bag Mutley the Dog No Good Boyo Petite Anglaise Rachel North London Skidmore's Island Smiling Under Buses The Last of the Few Theo Spark Wife in the North Welsh Political News Welsh Poliblogs Scottish Political News

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