Friday, 30 May 2008

Assembly Commission: What price... democracy?

The Assembly elections in May 2007, not only brought in many changes for the Assembly as an institution, and for its politicians, but also for its staff i.e. the Assembly Parliamentary Service (APS). The election heralded a new beginning for the staff as the split between 'The Executive' and 'The legislature' meant that former APS staff would no longer be civil servants.

The election ended their civil servant status, however, there was a popular option advised by the PCS Union - having the right to revert to their civil servant status and 'move over' to the staff of the Welsh Assembly Government [The Executive] during this period. That deadline arrived this month!!!

The Union were hopeful that the working lives of staff [approximately 300] would be positive, with the possibility of more flexible working patterns and conditions being negotiated once the commission had autonomy to make changes to existing staff terms.

Management have encouraged staff to remain with the Assembly Commission, but with possible limited career opportunities the decision remained at th eforeground to staff thoughts.

In reality, staff have been trickling back to the civil service [Welsh Assembly Government] since May 2007, which has given rise to many 'easy' promotions for existing staff that remained with the commission. This is why there's been a steady flow of new vacancies at the commission. Problem sorted!

Why not join? There could be an interesting opportunity for you.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Senedd Circular w/b 25 May 2008: Them dry bones

This article appears in The Wardman Wire:


Putting up with the stench of a dead Labour carcass, can never be described as 'robust and fun', unlike the party politics of an unhealthy party political election battle. But to lose one Labour seat in 12 months may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose two looks like damn right carelessness [thanks Oscar]. Let this Labour candidate put it all down to experience, and perhaps there will be a third time lucky - if there's a constituency that's willing to pull a well-worn application form, out from a rather tired looking red bin.
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This week, Miss Wagstaff has been climbing down from a high octane family weekend, only to pick at the odd bits of Welsh news before raking over the bones of the Labour electoral turmoil of weeks past... it seems that it will take a while before we get over recent events – London fell; Councils fell; then it was the turn of Crewe and Nantwich. It's no wonder that God invented recess!
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Attacking opponents from the last century
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In times of trouble – yes, right now - Rhodri Morgan, Wales' Labour First Minister, specialises in rummaging around in the Conservative party's distant past in order to score points, just as you or I might place our rubber-gloved-hands into the toilet pan in order to give it a good scrub with a well-used scouring pad and disinfectant, that have been sitting in the cupboard for more time than we care to remember, and now used as a desperate measure. He doesn't just do it for the press either, and can be heard to chant his anti-Conservative [Tory, of course] mantra in the Senedd too. What's always been interesting here is that Morgan rarely comments on current Conservative policy and where they are as a party at the moment. It's also not what he says that's at fault, but what he doesn't say. This makes him shockingly old-school, and predictably average.
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Put aside UK Labour politics for a moment as the problem has also spread to Welsh Labour politics. Welsh Labour needs a new leader and has found itself having to wait for a countdown not dissimilar to that of a Eurovision Song Contest, whereby the end result may be expected to a certain degree, but not wanted as a whole. The majority of us will have to wait for BBC Wales' own 'Terry Wogan' to remind us that the contest has started, and for us to take our seats.
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Glad confident mourning
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On the other side of the fence, David Cameron may be a UK party leader, but his pronouncement last week that Labour's recent performance showed the "death of New Labour" left many wondering whether to start mourning; its tremor was certainly felt in Wales, particularly in the North and South, where current Labour MPs must be putting mathematical skills to good use, before wondering whether to hit the panic button.
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Morgan's advice in the meantime is for Labour to hold firm, and not to split and turn in on itself. Miss Wagstaff suggests holding onto your hats, as a storm is brewing. Others may suggest holding on to something else, but I fear that would be too late to prevent excruciating pain.
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And finally…
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As a final thought, the words of Douglas Adams spring to mind... Don't panic!

Year of the Independent

Following on from an earlier post on the recent local election, it seems that it really is the year of the independent politician, as an Independent is set to land top role in Welsh local government.


The Welsh Local Government Association is expected to be led by a non-Labour politician for the first time in its history.

John Davies, the Independent leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, has been nominated to take up the role for the next four years (A farmer and fluent Welsh speaker from Cwmbetws, near Eglwyswrw, he was previously WLGA’s Education Spokesman).

The final ratification will take place on June 27.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Toffs v the WC: There is no working class!

Following on from my earlier post on the Crewe and Nantwich By-election....


After a despicable and very dirty campaign by Labour, I'm so glad they didn't win. Stick to policies, not personalities and gutter snipe politics, and please let this issue of class die a death at election time.
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The Conservatives have achieved their first by-election gain in 26 years, taking Crewe and Nantwich from Labour.
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Tory candidate Edward Timpson won 7,860 more votes than his Labour rival, overturning a 7,000 Labour majority at the general election - a 17.6% swing.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Empty properties

20th May at 2pm in the Senedd:

Q1 Trish Law: Will the First Minister outline the changes that have taken place since April 2008 to the rating of empty property? OAQ(3)1036(FM)

20th May at 2pm, an example of an empty property:

A different Dunwoody: AM to PPC

Working class, ready for a class war, and proud.

Clearly some have been watching a very different Dunwoody to me. The only Dunwoody I've seen, is a desperate to win at-any-cost, brittle, playing on stereotypes, unimpressive, spinning, own-career wrecking, cold, and quite possibly misguided by someone/something greater than herself.

Even if you overlook the convenient name change from 'Moyra Tamsin Dunwoody-Kneafsey' to 'Tamsin Dunwoody' and her recent pretentious behaviour, this woman is certainly not her mother's daughter - one chip off the old block does not make a block.

Certain qualities have a habit of skipping a generation, and people get found out when they try to re-write their history.

Ask the PM - Submit your questions now!!!

Just when you find yourself at the end of your tether, and feeling the strain from being snowed under in work, you notice an email message that raises a smile.

The Prime Minister has launched a regular initiative, 'Ask the PM', where he will be responding to the most popular questions submitted by the YouTube community. Here's your chance to ask the Prime Minister about whatever is on your mind. Submit your questions now and come back soon to vote on your favourites. The PM will answer the top-voted questions at the end of June.
Gord help us...

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Priorities of the Welsh Assembly Government

Priority Projects Team

They are in place to help deliver on what is seen as a priority for the 'new' government.

...to ensure efficient delivery of the top priorities that have been decided on by the fairly new government in Cardiff Bay. It's high-profile work, but mainly carried out by people who have - on one side - plenty of experience in project management and on the other - people which have dabbled in project management during their day job. It has been described by one insider as a team of 22 staff managing a variety of 14 projects over a period of two years; by another, as a team of staff put together as a project itself.

Priorities include:
Internal Communication, Laptop roll-out to kids, work on new legislation competence orders (LCOs).
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Sounds like a tall-order for staff of a small number when priorities shift so quickly. What happens when things go wrong as they generally do with project work? Is there any back up for a small team or are consultants brought in, adding to the cost?

It's my guess that we'll find out in the media or by leaks from the usual places.

So near, but yet so far...Cardiff

Fans of Cardiff City FC must feel very proud of the remarkable feat that has been achieved this season, despite missing out on overall success.


I'm not a football fan myself, unlike others, to name but a few.

What impressed me, was the interest in Cardiff, which was astounding, and I became a fan, if only for the day. The atmosphere in the city was wonderful, and more importantly - memorable for both myself and the little one.

The players, management and residents of Cardiff and further afield should feel very proud.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Independent Revolution, May 2008

Independents rule Welsh councils. More than a third of all Welsh local authorities will be led by independent councillors over the next four years.

Two weeks after polling day, coalition deals have been struck across Wales after only four councils were left with clear majorities for one party.

The Lib Dems will have the largest influence among the political parties, joining 13 administrations. Labour will keep a position in running nine councils, Plaid Cymru will feature in eight and the Tories in seven.

WHO RUNS YOUR COUNCIL?

  • Blaenau Gwent: Independent led, with People's Voice and Liberal Democrats
  • Bridgend: Labour led, with three Ind
  • Caerphilly: Plaid Cymru led minority, with two Ind
  • Cardiff: Lib Dem led, with Plaid
  • Carmarthen: Ind led, with Lab and Lib Dem
  • Ceredigion: Ind led, with Lib Dem and Lab
  • Conwy: Plaid led, with Ind, Lab and Libl Dem
  • Denbighshire: Ind led, with Plaid, Lab, Lib Dem and Cons - TBC
  • Flintshire: Ind led, with Lib Dem and Conservatives
  • Gwynedd: Plaid led board - details TBC
  • Merthyr: Ind led board, with Lab and Libl Dem
  • Monmouth: Cons
  • Neath Port Talbot: Lab
  • Newport: TBC - possibly Cons led with Lib Dems
  • Pembrokeshire: Ind
  • Powys: Ind
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf: Lab
  • Swansea: Lib Dem led with Ind and Plaid
  • Torfaen: NOC - details TBC
  • Vale of Glamorgan: Cons
  • Wrexham: Lib Dem led board, with Ind, Cons and Plaid
  • Ynys Mon: Ind led, with Plaid, Lib Dem and Cons

A turning point in the blogosphere...

I have to agree with Ordovicius in that it's good to see Deputy Minister Leighton Andrews AM having something to blog about for a change...

I see Leighton Andrews is continuing his one-blog protest against the Assembly Commission. Well, at least it has given him something to blog about for a change.

Keep it up Leighton, but please feel free to compulsory blog about Cardiff City FC on Sunday morning - there's only so much others can do on your behalf ;)

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Air Force One... for one

Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones told Conservatives he had used the service 42 times since its launch a year ago.

Plaid said it was "no surprise" the only north Wales cabinet member used it more and it was a "tiny proportion" of 14,000 journeys taken on the service.

The Anglesey-Cardiff flight's subsidy from the Welsh Assembly Government is £2.4m over three years.

Mr Jones is AM for Anglesey, as well as economy and transport minister.

Mr Jones celebrated the first anniversary of the service last Friday by joining a special flight on the 18-seater aircraft. He said that the service, operated by Highland Airways, was a "huge success", beating expectations.

The airline said it had been "astonished" at the uptake.

Flying Cabinet

  • Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones - 42 journeys
  • Education Minister Jane Hutt - six journeys
  • Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones - three
  • Heritage Minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas - two
  • First Minister Rhodri Morgan, Finance Minister Andrew Davies, Social Justice Minister Brian Gibbons - one journey each
  • Sustainability Minister Jane Davidson and Health Minister Edwina Hart - no journeys
Numbers of flights between Anglesey and Cardiff, up to 16 April 2008.
Source: Welsh Conservative Party

This gives some free publicity for the service, with a huge recommendation and thumbs-up from the Deputy First Minister. Within time, perhaps other transport links will be improved and receive such a ringing endorsement.

Improving transport links between north and south Wales - Air first, rail next??

Monday, 12 May 2008

Accepting blame and wiping a bloody nose with dignity

David Cornock (BBC) reminds us what selective politicians have been trying to remind themselves and their party after the local elections:

A different blame game

Some respite for Gordon Brown, currently more beleaguered than a relegated Premier League manager. Ken Livingstone isn't the only Labour figure prepared to take responsibility for this month's electoral drubbing rather than blame someone else.

Lynne Neagle chairs the Labour group in the Welsh Assembly. She is also AM for Torfaen, where Labour had a pretty grim day on May 1.

Here's her take on what the elections mean for Welsh Labour:

"The electorate has just told us that we haven’t done enough – and what we have done clearly hasn’t been communicated well enough."

"The very idea that none of what happened in the local elections in Wales has ended up at the door of the Assembly is monumentally worrying – it must make us question just what kind of an impact the institution has made on the Welsh psyche?

"We control education, health, housing, community regeneration – and according to some – we’ve established clear red water between ourselves and an unpopular UK Labour Government.
"And yet on May 1st, the clear red blood of good Welsh Labour councillors ran thicker and faster than their counterparts in England. It is time to take some responsibility.

"Playing the blame game just undermines the value of the Assembly in Wales – and indeed there was little in the results of last week that wasn’t foretold in the Assembly elections of last year. Our reaction to that result has been sluggish, and we’ve paid the price.

"The communities for whom only Labour will ever deliver are tired of waiting for lasting change and they’ve just got that message across in the clearest way possible.

"It takes a strong character to ask for a discussion with the person who has just bloodied your nose – but that is what Welsh Labour must do with the electorate, starting today."

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Senedd Circular w/b 04 May 2008: Rounding Up the Blogs

Matt Wardman has been rounding up the daffodils earlier and Miss Wagstaff had a night on the tiles (allegedly). So this is “Matt” standing in this week with a special “link blog” Senedd Circular roundup.

Blog Snippets

Rounding up the Daffodils/cennin Pedr

There’s a big kerfuffle happening about cennin Pedr and why they should be purchased in Wales and not imported from foreign climes such as Cornwall (for example). Read these links to understand:

I wonder whether someone is going to appeal for a European Union Protected Designation for daffodils as Welsh. If so - prepare to get sued by the Ghost of Wordsworth .

In would be more fun if the Welsh did “red-faced nationalists on the point of exploding”. Unfortunately they don’t; that’s just Tunbridge Wells, a certain brand of Conservative, and Alex.

The Gossip

And - on the gossip front - I only just tumbled to the fact that Blamerbell the Underpants is a sibling of young Ms Jenkins from the Senedd .

Ordovicius tells me that “everyone (apart from me, apparently - pity the English) knows about “the Jenkins Clan from the Rhondda”. [I thought they were from Merthyr]

Isaac Asimov had a race from outer space called the Jenkinsites who survived by carrying a cylinder of cyanide gas to breathe - as that was the atmosphere on their home planet. I’m sure there’s no connection - the Asimov Jenkinsites also had six legs and a carapace.

Wrapping Up

Ok - enough. Miss Wagstaff is back next week.

Buying Welsh vs Free Trade: Exploring the tension

Fellow blogger Matt Wardman's latest 'Welsh' offering is in response to Prof Dylan Evans-Jones' piece on Welsh procurement.


Prof. Dylan-Jones Evans is arguing that there should be a preferential option for local suppliers over to foreign suppliers. Examples Dylan quotes include foreign organisations from as close as Sheffield or Cornwall.

You can read Matt Wardman's article HERE, which is a balanced piece and includes a link to Dylan's article.

Matt is hoping to blog-interview an AM from each party to tease out the more serious points about a preference for Local Production vs EU Procurement Rules early next week. Let’s see if they will talk to him.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: What next, Rhodri?

At best, a pair of hands - not a safe one - that gets on with the job, whether good or bad. At worst, an embarrassment and a liability to both his party and country.

Please stop wearing the casual gear when it isn't appropriate, and blaming UK politics for all of Welsh Labour's failings.

Rhodri has always relied heavily on there being no other Welsh Minister with enough of a profile to take over from him. Many in the party believe him to show too much arrogance and reliance on his down to earth attitude with the Welsh public. This has kept him in a safe place in Labour's hierarchy after the awkward departure of Alun Michael.

Miss Wagstaff has pointed out in the past that "Labour in London" or "Unionist Labour" is seen as a good description for the ‘old enemy’ and is constantly used by Plaid Cymru. Senedd Whip is concerned that Welsh Labour is now dangerously close to choosing this option.

It's time for Rhodri to carry out the decent act for his party and step down for another to take over and settle in before the next Assembly term.

Those close to him, if they are loyal to their party, should advise Rhodri to go in the next couple of months. This should give them enough time to select a new leader. A fresh face, a new challenge, and hopefully new ideas and a new style and attitude to political life, whether that be within Wales, the UK or the wider world.

Please stop blaming others for Welsh Labour's failings. Please dress appropriately for the job and give Wales and the office the respect it deserves.

Rhodri, you've had a good run within Wales, more than making up for previous disappointment at Westminster... please...stop!

I don't think the Welsh public are asking for too much.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

New Bloggers

I continually update my blogroll whenever I notice new and interesting blogs. I thought I'd bring your attention to new (or fairly new) Welsh blogs that I've added to the roll in recent weeks/months.

A warm welcome to blogging, even if some of you are not blogging for the first time.

P.S. Welcome back from your travels Ordovicius. I'm not at all envious ;)

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Senedd Circular: Local Election Special, 2008

This article appears in The Wardman Wire:

Today is not only Miss Wagstaff’s birthday, but also - by strange coincidence - a day for local elections. I bet some of you thought it would never arrive!

Senedd Snippets:

  • Who runs Wales at a local level?
  • Decline and fall of Labour?
  • What a turn up for the books.
Acting Local

Yesterday saw the last full day of campaigning in the local elections, and many will be wondering whether there will be a sting in the tail for the coalition partners in Cardiff Bay. Will the electorate hold them to account over their performance since this coalition emerged from the ashes of last year’s Assembly election? Will this be an opportunity for a warning shot across the bow of a Labour Government at Westminster? Or will we all vote as usual and wake up with the results not even changing one single part of our lives?

As it currently stands, Labour holds or shares power on nine Welsh county councils, Liberal Democrats on six, Plaid Cymru on five, Conservatives on four, and independent or other groups on 11.

In the not too distant past a decrease in Labour’s vote in Wales would’ve seemed as plausible as a man becoming pregnant [Doesn’t count! Well, I suppose he did ‘used to be’ a woman].

No longer...

Who runs Wales at a local level?



(Map thanks to Matt Wardman . Will need updating. )

Blaenau Gwent: Labour
Bridgend: Liberal Democrat / Conservative / Plaid Cymru / Independent
Caerphilly: Labour
Cardiff: Liberal Democrat
Carmarthen: Labour / Independent
Ceredigion: Independent / Liberal Democrat / Labour
Conwy: Independent / Conservative / Plaid Cymru / Liberal Democrat
Denbighshire: Independent / Conservative / Plaid Cymru
Flintshire: Labour
Gwynedd: Plaid Cymru
Merthyr: Labour / Independent
Monmouth: Conservative
Neath Port Talbot: Labour
Newport: Labour
Pembrokeshire: Independent
Powys: Independent
Rhondda Cynon Taf: Labour
Swansea: Liberal Democrat / Independent
Torfaen: Labour
Vale of Glamorgan: Labour / Plaid Cymru / Independent
Wrexham: Liberal Democrat-led Board
Ynys Mon: Anglesey Forward / Radical Independents


Decline and fall of Labour?

There was a time in Welsh politics when it was said that even a sheep under a Labour banner would get elected in Wales. Times have changed! Before devolution in 1999, Labour remained in control of well over half of Wales' 22 county councils, and was a significant force in a handful of others.

This dominance of ‘red’ councils was dramatically knocked back in 1999, as Plaid Cymru won control of both Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf in the Valleys. A successful campaign to regain these councils in 2004 was deflated with Labour losing control of Bridgend, Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham to the Liberal Democrats and their coalition buddies.

In Wales, the Conservatives returned from no-man’s land to control Monmouthshire and the Vale of Glamorgan (for a short period). This was an age that brought an alternative option to Labour in Wales, even if it was to the regular chant of ‘Coalition is King’.

What a turn up for the books

This has been a typical election campaign with the usual nit-picking, back biting, tooing and froing of political ‘worn and new’ tennis balls, with the odd cannon ball thrown in for good measure and extra effect. There’s even been mixed messages from UK party leaders on their election visit to Wales.

We’ve all been expecting this, but what haven’t we been expecting?

Former MP, AM, and Secretary of State for Wales, Ron Davies is hoping to return to politics and is standing as an independent for the third time. Mr Davies is hoping to represent the area - Bedwas and Machen ward - where he was born and where he was first elected as a councillor 39 years ago. The ward elects four councillors. Together with his Independent running mate Colin Hobbs – another former Labour councillor – Mr Davies is up against one Plaid and four Labour candidates.

Popular Lib-Demmer, Vince Cable MP, was in Cardiff rallying the troops this week. Mr Cable said the party had won power four years ago in Cardiff, Swansea, Wrexham and Bridgend on the back of the Iraq war which had disillusioned voters with Labour.

He said: “I think even holding our position will be a good result. Four years ago we were very strong. The Iraq war effect was a factor. If we do make advances that will be a tribute to the way the work of our councils is perceived across Wales. We are starting in a difficult position this time. Four years ago we were in a very strong position on the back of the Iraq effect.” A true definition of ‘fighting’ talk if ever I heard one.

At a more local level, Peter May, a Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate and councillor has been accused of printing election leaflets for his party’s opponents. Today, he will be defending his council seat in the Uplands ward of Swansea, however, an organisation he runs next to his home in the city is printing election literature for independent candidates across Swansea, some of whom are up against Liberal Democrats. You couldn’t make it up.

Usually you have to wait until you’re 18 to cast your first vote, for some it comes surprisingly early. At the other end of the age scale, it seems that certain golden oldie councillors can’t stay away from the ballot box and front line politics. A former councillor who received money to retire under a ‘golden goodbye’ scheme is standing for election again. In 2004 Eunydd Thomas (formerly of the Labour party) accepted a payout designed to encourage long-serving councillors to make way for new blood. He told a newspaper that supporters had persuaded him to stand again this year for Carmarthenshire Council. He will be attempting to spring back into local politics under a different banner – Independent.

An Assembly Government spokesman said: “...However, for legal reasons it was not possible to include in the regulations a provision which would prevent a recipient of an award from standing in a future election."

Keeping an eye on bigger fish, Plaid’s Chief Engineer and bridge builder, Adam Price MP, has outlined Plaid’s greater ambitions in suggesting that “There’s no veto as far as talking to the Conservatives” in the off chance of there being a hung parliament at the next general election.

But at least one AM who opposed Plaid going into a “rainbow coalition” involving the Conservatives following last year’s inconclusive Assembly Election yesterday said she thought Mr Price was right not to rule anything out. Mid and West Wales AM Nerys Evans said: “He is completely right. We need to be keeping all our options open.

I guess power can be an aphrodisiac - Once you’ve tasted it, there’s no going back.

And finally…

Taking a few minutes out and looking at the situation objectively, while taking into account the goings on of UK and Welsh politics over the last year, I predict that the Welsh Conservatives will be the big winners in the local election stakes:

1) They’re doing well at UK level, even if it is partly down to a tired Labour Government.
2) They have the most to gain at local government level in Wales (in terms of improvement).
3) They didn’t enter into a coalition in Cardiff Bay and won’t suffer from the backlash.
4) Even if they had entered into a Cardiff Bay coalition, core members probably wouldn’t have turned against them.
5) They’re generally seen as being an effective opposition in Cardiff Bay and Westminster.
6) The other parties in Wales have more to lose and less to gain after the events of the last 6-12 months (short-term memory of the indecisive voter).

The question is whether the electorate as a whole take this into account, and let those parties that fizz during their campaign go flat overnight.

As a final thought... While we’re all tucked up in our beds with our warm milk and being read a bedtime story by our chosen partners, spare a thought for those tired officials having to count your vote, whether that vote counts or not in your constituency.

What day is it?

It's my birthday and local election day! What more could a girl wish for?

Happy Birthday to me. Happy election to everyone...

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