Tuesday, 30 September 2008

One leak, one drip!

A meeting of a Welsh assembly committee has been abandoned after water leaked through the roof of the building.


AMs were taking evidence from teaching unions on education plans for 14-19-year-olds before giving up.

"Very, very embarrassed" chairman Jeff Cuthbert AM called it a "leak in the Welsh assembly of the wrong sort".

With this much fuss over the noise of one leak or drip, it's fortunate that there's not a war taking place - that would bring the wheels of democracy in Wales to a standstill!

Short-term volunteer required

Her husband may have joked about "no member of my family is available to work for me" in a job advert for a part-time/full-time position in his constituency office back in February 2008, but that hasn't encouraged Julie Morgan MP to follow suit.


Mrs Morgan has recently been advertising for a volunteer in her Cardiff North office. The advert has now closed, so don't get your hopes up on two-counts, in cashing in on her last few moments as an MP.

Mrs Morgan is expected to be ousted at the next election, and some might say that it's just in time to spend some quality time in retirement with the husband. I think she has sold the job rather well considering the circumstances. Retirement, any one?

Volunteer Placement
Working For: Julie Morgan MP (Cardiff North)
Salary: None, but reasonable local public transport expenses and lunch will be funded.
Contact: Please e mail morganj@parliament.uk for more details and an application form or contact Julie Morgan MP, 17 Plasnewydd, Whitchurch, Cardiff CF14 1NR or telephone 029 20624166

Closing: Closing date for the return of completed application forms, close of business 24th September 2008. Short listed applicants will be interviewed in the constituency office in Cardiff on 2nd October 2008.

Details: Volunteers will work in Julie's constituency based office in Whitchurch, Cardiff and are generally people who are thinking about a career in politics, possibly starting as a political assistant and who wish to improve their CVs in competing for paid employment.

Volunteers come into the office under a mutually beneficial placement arrangement for one or two days per week. Volunteers are introduced into the office with a formal induction session. Most volunteers usually work on a range of interesting and often challenging constituency casework under the supervision of the Senior Caseworker. There are also opportunities to get involved in other constituency activities. Save on confidentiality, volunteers are not subject to any legally enforceable terms. Arrangements relating to the length of the placement , days of the week spent in the office and starting and finishing times are binding in honour only.

Welcome to Tomorrow's Wales

Introducing a 'new' Welsh blog that seems to have been around for a while. I haven't noticed it being part of the blogroll of others. Take a look!

Tomorrow's Wales

The Executive Committee of Tomorrow’s Wales is made up of individuals who are serving in a personal capacity, but drawn from sectors such as academia, business, trades unions, the voluntary sector, the legal profession, popular culture, faith communities and all of Wales’ political parties.

A significant amount of work has already been accomplished by Tomorrow’s Wales, engaging over 300 organisations in Wales to ask for their support, and arranging events across Wales in partnership with other institutions.

Members of the Executive Committee reads as a Who's Who in Welsh life: Mr Graham Benfield, Mr Deian Creunant, Mr Cynog Dafis, Ms Catrin Dafydd, Mr Gerald Davies, Ms Philippa Ford, Mr Michael German OBE AM, Ms Meri Huws, Mr Hywel Ceri Jones, Mr Saleem Kidwai OBE, Mr David Lambert, Mr Gethin Lewis, Lord Richard Livsey of Talgarth, Ms Katie-Jo Luxton, Mr David Melding AM, Most Rev Dr. Barry Morgan Archbishop of Wales, Ms Sharon Morgan, Lord Elystan Morgan, Mr Jon Owen Jones, Mr Peter Price, Most Rev. Peter Smith Archbishop of Cardiff, Ms Fran Targett, Mr Geraint Talfan Davies, Mr Alan Trench, Mr Paul Valerio.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

What nasty attack?

The Conservatives were accused of being “the nasty party” after marking Rhodri Morgan’s 69th birthday tomorrow by publishing a highly personal attack on every aspect of his leadership – right down to his dress sense and hairstyle [join the queue].


What nasty attack? Rhodri Morgan and his government have never liked criticism, not even constructive criticism, but who does? The Welsh Conservatives are simply describing something as it really is!

The 39-page document, ‘Rhodri Morgan: Leadership Without Purpose’ rakes through the Labour leader’s career, laying into everything including: his stewardship of the economy; unique dress sense and hairstyle; erratic and unusual behaviour; claims he had “undermined the role of First Minister and embarrassed the National Assembly and Wales"; and the fact he once posed for a picture with TV presenter Timmy Mallett.
.
[which was posted HERE orginally and republished above]

A spokeswoman for the First Minister said:
What a shocking state the Welsh Conservatives must be in if they have to stoop to this level to gain attention during what should be the party’s showcase week.

Resorting to petty personal attack, rather than putting forward their policy ideas, seems to suggest that, true to form, they have very little to offer the people of Wales other than negative campaigning.

We recently delivered the most momentous change to early years education in Wales since devolution, with the Foundation Phase, a radical new vision to ensure our youngsters get the very best start to learning. But where were the Tories during this process? Offering support to help make it work?

No, carping from the sidelines as usual.
Talking about the speculation Mr Morgan may stay on after next year, the spokeswoman said:
Perhaps Nick and his colleagues ought to spend less time gossiping in the Bay and more time talking to the people they represent. Perhaps then they might come
up with some serious proposals for Wales’ future. Theresa May, when she was Chairwoman of the Conservative Party, said that they needed to shed their image
as the ‘nasty party’. Nick Bourne has undermined all the good work by his party leader David Cameron since then, by proving that they are, after all, still the nasty party.
The document draws attention to many of Mr Morgan’s gaffes, describing him as the “Clown Prince of Wales”.

It says: “In the last eight years the behaviour and comments of Rhodri Morgan have become increasingly erratic and unusual. “They have added fuel to the fire of critics, both within and outside the Labour Party, who believe he is not up to the job of First Minister”.

It includes his failure to attend the D-Day celebrations in 2004 in favour of a golf tournament and the two occasions he has turned up late to meet the Queen.

It also attacks him for his “unique dress sense and hairstyle” – drawing attention to an occasion four years ago when he failed to take the right shoes to the Labour Conference in Brighton – and for posing for a picture alongside “zany TV entertainer Timmy Mallett”.

And the document single-handedly blames Mr Morgan for Wales’ economic woes in the past nine years, saying the wealth gap between Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom had widened under his leadership and manufacturing jobs were being lost at a faster rate than under the last Conservative government.

Mr Bourne said:
Rhodri Morgan’s time in office has underlined the need for a long-term vision not short-term opportunism to lead us through uncertain times.

His leadership without purpose has held Wales back, and left our country ill-prepared for future challenges.

We have had no big ideas, no vision, and no delivery. What we have had is giveaways, gimmicks and gaffes.

Long after he’s gone people will still be paying the price for his freebie culture. Instead of preparing for the future Rhodri Morgan has looked to the past.

Instead of long-term investment he has squandered record levels of funding for short-term gain. Instead of admitting his own short-comings he has repeatedly blamed others.

What we have seen is a leader storing up trouble for the future, for his successors, and for Wales.

As he celebrates his 69th birthday tomorrow it’s time for Rhodri Morgan to tell us about his plans for the future.

This endless speculation about his future is damaging and destabilising. For the sake of our country he needs to recognise that before it’s too late.
One surprising response was the Welsh Labour spokesperson admitting that David Cameron had turned things around for the Conservative party by making mention of all the good work that they've done.

One day of the year when you can be seen as special

It just happens to be a long solitary walk to retirement and a handsome pension waiting for little achievement, and an even lower public and political respectability from your peers and critics, for one person.


It also happens to be the the First Minister's 69th birthday tomorrow. This blog wishes him a happy birthday. Put your feet up on the office sofa with your glass of orange juice to read your papers. Delegate more to others for just one day. Sit back and enjoy the one day of the year that you can be seen as special.

Are you sitting comfortably? Good.

I have some bad news!

Not only has someone summed up your ministerial career in a way that makes you Wales' very own Gordon Brown:
Damn right: Rhodri Morgan is the biggest disappointment to happen to Welsh Labour devolutionary hopes since Ron Davies had his moment of madness. At least
Ron hasn't given up on politics, which Rhodri clearly has. They sat on him over the Richard Commission, they undermined his ministership at every turn. He was so demoralised and knackered he had to sit back and watch while London Labour
launched its viciously anti-Welsh hacks, and now he's waiting to retire so he can watch some golf. What a waste of undoubted talent. The man has become invisible and irrelevant.

The party had high hopes of him, those of us at least who thought the future was devolution. He's like Gordon Brown: spent all his time wanting the job, then when he gets it is a big soggy squib.
Don't be downhearted, it gets better. In August I reported that Rhodri's Facebook group "Rhodri Morgan Appreciation Society" had remained static in membership. September 2007, 20 members; August 2008, 20 members. There's good news in that the membership has risen to 22 in time for his birthday.

I hear you say there must be a BUT.

The bad news is that Welsh Labour's Communications Officer Martyn Williams, and Luke Ellis 'number two' of Minister Carwyn Jones have both left the society.

Life can sometimes be difficult. Congratulations must be given to Assembly Members, Alun Davies and Joyce Watson for remaining members.

Happy Birthday for tomorrow, First Minister.

Politics Show: Wales and the West?

I'm a woman of routine and was surprised to discover that 'Wales' will not be broadcasting today as part of the Politics Show. As much as I like the West, I'll miss his cheeky little face today.

Will have to get back to cooking Sunday lunch.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

EU Regulation of Blogs: attempt to ban anonymous blogging

Hat-tip to Valleys Mam for drawing this to the attention of the Welsh blogosphere, and to Debacle for the original blog coverage:

Marianne Mikko, an Estonian centre-left MEP, is concerned that growing numbers of blogs are being used by individuals with "malicious intentions or hidden agendas".

"The blogosphere has so far been a haven of good intentions and relatively honest dealing. However, with blogs becoming commonplace, less principled people will want to use them," she said.

Mrs Mikko has proposed that bloggers should be required to identify themselves and that some popular blogs should come with a declaration of interests.

"We do not need to know the exact identity of bloggers. We need some credentials, a quality mark, a certain disclosure of who is writing and why. We need this to be able to trust and rely on the source," she said.

Chris Heaton Harris, a British Conservative Euro MP, has rejected any moves to "regulate and restrict independent media sources".

"Mrs Mikko obviously does not understand that blogs have become the life blood of a vibrant democracy," he said.

"I hope these proposals are kicked out."

Thursday's vote in the European Parliament is not legally binding but is an indicator of growing EU concern over the influence of blogs on the internet.

A recent internal European Commission report, leaked three weeks ago, found that the EU was losing the battle for hearts and minds online.

"Blog activity remains overwhelmingly negative," it said.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

For Queen, Country and Leanne Wood

Leanne Wood AM does seem to bang on about certain issues until we're all sick to the back teeth of her lack of focus on devolution in Wales. It's all very well having a strong opinion. As an AM that does seem to have a lot of time on her hands, there are more important subject matters to bring to the discussion table.

In a recent post she discusses her plans on the Oath of Allegiance:

The Assembly Chamber can be a perfect place to draw attention to campaigns that politicians are involved in outside of the Assembly. For some time I have been a member and supporter of Republic, the campaign for an elected head of state, and
I am also supporting their Challenge the Oath campaign.
Always one to protest when a crowd is seen to gather, perhaps - like Bethan Jenkins AM who seems to involve herself in a wide range of campaigns - it is high time that Leanne concentrates on those matters that the Assembly does have responsibility for.

I suggest one of the following for starters:
  • Agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development
  • Ancient monuments and historic buildings
  • Culture
  • Economic development
  • Education and training
  • Environment
  • Fire and rescue services and promotion of fire safety
  • Food
  • Health and health services
  • Highways and transport
  • Housing
  • Local government
  • Public administration
  • Social welfare
  • Sport and recreation
  • Tourism
  • Town and country planning
  • Water and flood defence
  • Welsh language

Whatever happened to Quid Pro Quo?

Matt Withers has reported on the first day back this week for the Assembly. There weren’t even any good jokes from First Minister Rhodri Morgan, although he did manage an aside at Conservative leader Nick Bourne, who – following an incident with a Croatian shower – turned up in the chamber with a black eye and a large plaster on his head.

I thought it was the Deputy First Minister who was meant to meet Muhammad Ali last week, not you, but I hope you make a full recovery,” said Mr Morgan.

Hardly a great gesture on the floor of the world's greatest democracy. Perhaps Mr Morgan needs reminding of how generous opposition leaders were at a time when it suited him. Hardly comparable, but I seem to recall even Mr Morgan making mention of it at every opportunity for months afterwards.

For heart scare and life threatening/changing moment, read normal procedure that many go through on a daily basis in UK hospitals - but not as quickly arranged as some.

Damn those waiting lists.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

A towering figure... of 5' 11''

Gordon Brown's wife Sarah stepped centre stage at the Labour conference to introduce his keynote speech.

It almost seemed like a mother introducing her son to a group of friends in an act of pride (that could easily have been you Pippa), building him up in only the way a mother can. Or even having to defend his actions before a headmaster after being called into school - defending him to the utmost of her ability, and with no flicker of doubt

She said she was "so proud" of her husband's achievements and praised his "motivation" to help people.

I'm so proud that every day I see him motivated to work for the best interests of people all around the country. Sometimes in a world where there is so much to do we don't perhaps have enough time to celebrate what has been done.

She went on to introduce Mr Brown, "my husband, the leader of the Labour Party, your prime minister" - who made mention in his own speech about critics of his personal style, amid poor opinion poll ratings for Labour and rebel calls for a leadership challenge.
What is it with the women in his life? A towering figure indeed.

What of Gordon's turn? Garbo summed it up well with:
Well, it was a very good speech… by Brown’s standards. And it has put the doubters in the background… for now. Brown is no Blair and he is no Cameron when it comes to public speaking, but yesterday he was better than the Gordon Brown we are used to dozing through.

This was not a speech aimed at the electorate. It was not an attempt to turn the polls round over night. It was aimed directly at the party. The snipers. It was a speech that would reassert his authority and cut down any “novices” who were pretenders to his crown. And, to a certain extent at least, it has worked

N.B. I have asked Pippa Wagstaff if I can mention her son in a post. I wouldn't want her to accuse me of using him as a post prop - he's a person! She mentioned having the same pride when dropping off her son at his first day at nursery.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Comment of the Week

I've chosen the following as 'Comment(s) of the Week' as some match my own opinion, and others confirm rumours that I've heard regarding Christopher Glamorganshire.

Thank you from Matt Wardman and myself, to all that shed some light on the Glamorganshire blog and took the time out to share their views. If you hear more, please comment further on THIS post.

(1) Not sure whether the union supported the case from the very beginning. If they did, and pulled out after a year, that's irresponsible in my book. Sounds like they led him up the garden path only to slam the door in his face at the end.

(2) As an avid reader of Welsh blogs I saw Glamorganshire's blog as being light hearted and a refreshing break from the serious point scoring political blogs. Glyn Davies sums it up well in the original media article as providing "neutral running commentary".

(3) Two things that we must keep in mind - it has not been established that he broke the rules, and it has not been established that he broke his contract.

(4) I met Chris through working in a Business Unit. He was hard working, clever, and was always eager to help. The Assembly has lost a good worker and all because of an amusing blog that did no real harm, other than to himself in the long run.
No one knew he had a blog. The majority wouldn't care. I spoke to a mate who works in human resources the other day to see what all the fuss was about and the response was "He was just unlucky to have done it at that time".

I've been told that the former Permanent Secretary, Sir Jon Shortridge who was mentioned in name by the BBC, wanted all "IT abusers" punished. This was partly down to a leak from Cabinet Secretariat at the time, and the Perm couldn't tolerate such events happening on his shift.

Monday, 22 September 2008

National Assembly for Wales Survey Results

I must say that I was alarmed (not) by the Assembly's positive spin in their statement "One of the most comprehensive surveys undertaken in Wales to gauge public understanding of the Principality’s political landscape has shown that 70% of people want Wales to have either full or partial devolution."

Lib Dem Commissioner in the Assembly, Peter Black AM has provided us with a full account:

The Assembly Commission has just published the results of the most comprehensive survey undertaken in Wales to gauge public understanding of the nation’s political landscape.

The survey was commissioned by the National Assembly for Wales and carried out by Aberystwyth University's Institute of Welsh Politics in collaboration with GfKNOP. It involved questioning over 2,500 people in June and July 2008.

When questioned, the majority of respondents (39%) wanted Wales to remain part of the UK but to have its own elected Parliament with full law-making and taxation powers. 31% of the people questioned wanted the Assembly to retain its current level of powers and 10% wanted Wales to become a fully independent nation.

Of the remaining respondents, 15% wanted to return to the pre-devolution status and 6% expressed a ‘don’t know’ opinion.The survey indicated that this preferred constitutional status was based on a robust level of political understanding among respondents. When asked to identify the scope of the National Assembly for Wales’ law-making powers, 77% correctly identified that it “has powers to make laws in a number of areas, and these can be expanded with the agreement of the UK parliament’.

The survey also indicated that there is an increasing homogenisation of opinion and understanding across Wales. Previous surveys had seen variations in levels of support across various regions. However, the National Assembly for Wales survey indicated that there was more consistency in people’s aspirations towards devolution across the country, and aligned to this was a greater consistency in levels of understanding. (There was a modest regional difference in understanding across Wales on the Welsh Assembly’s law-making powers, with 72% of people in North Wales giving the correct answer, compared to 83% in South East Wales.)

However, the survey also indicated that many Welsh citizens are unclear about the distinction between the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government, with 52% admitting that they know only “a little” about the National Assembly for Wales.

I was particularly intriqued by the question which sought to determine how people get their information about the Assembly and Welsh politics. In percentage terms this is summarised as follows:

TV News (87%)
Friends, family and word of mouth (66%)
Local newspapers (64%)
British newspapers (56%)
National Welsh newspapers, Western Mail and Daily Post (39%)
BBC Radio, such as Radio 4 and 5Live (42%)
The Internet (37%)
Radio Wales/Radio Cymru (36%)
Commercial Radio News (23%)

Note the relatively high score for the internet. The breakdown of which daily newspapers the respondents rely on for news is also interesting:

Daily Mail (named by 12.8% of all survey respondents)
Daily Mirror (9.5%)
The Sun (9.1%)
Western Mail (6.3%)
South Wales Echo (5.0%)
Daily Telegraph (4.8%)
The Times (4.3%)
Daily Express (4.2%)
Daily Post (3.6%)
South Wales Evening Post (3.5%)
The Guardian (3.2%)
South Wales Argus (2.8%)
The Independent (2.0%)
Daily Star (1.7%)
Evening Leader (1.5%)
Wrexham Evening Leader (0.9%)

The Western Mail confirms its position as the pre-dominant Welsh newspaper even if its circulation is lower than more local offerings such as the South Wales Echo and the Evening Post. Top of the heap though is the Daily Mail. What is that all about?

Most recognised man on the planet

You rarely see them together, and some say that they have merged to a certain degree. I say, if you work together, then why not holiday... I mean, represent Wales together. Yes... the First Minister and Deputy First Minister for Wales have held hands across the pond, and taken in a spot of diplomatic/touristic/joint ministerial venture in the USA.

Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones has presented a tribute from Wales to one of the most famous sportsmen ever - former world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali.

Muhammad Ali is the ‘favourite son’ of Louisville, Kentucky - location of the 2008 Ryder Cup competition at the Valhalla course - and he and Mrs Lonnie Ali met a Welsh delegation at an official “Muhammad Ali Welcomes the World to Louisville" event.

Mr Jones said:

Muhammad Ali [insert name here when applicable] has been an inspiration to many in my generation - and it is a great privilege to meet him in person.

We have produced our own crop of boxing greats - from Tommy Farr, the 'Tonypandy Terror’, who fought Joe Louis back in 1937 [well done Assembly Researchers], to Joe Calzaghe, a champion in our own days. Wales has followed Muhammad Ali's career in the ring with great excitement and empathy.


The meeting was one of the highlights of an official visit to the United States this week which marks the official handover of responsibility for the Ryder Cup to Wales in 2010. It took place in the Muhammad Ali Centre, Louisville, which promotes his legacy to future generations and shares the stories, and lessons from his life, with the world. During the evening, Mr Jones presented the former champion with a special Muhammad Ali 'Grogg' from Pontypridd.

Muhammad Ali is described as still ‘the most recognizable man on earth’. Over forty years after he burst on to the scene as a gold-medal winner at the 1960 Rome Olympics, he remains a magical figure, known and loved throughout the world.His success as a boxer is widely respected, but Ali's greatest triumph lies in his legacy as a champion, leader, humanitarian, and artist. His work both inside and outside the ring truly makes Muhammad Ali "The Greatest of All Time."

There's only one Plaid member that's hoping to move up/down a weight or two. All rumours and propaganda of course, but the most recognised man in Plaid Cymru, the part-time philosopher-politician himself would make a welcome addition to the corner of Plaid Cymru in most corners of Wales.

A Paralympian Congratulations and Welcome Home

Members of the Welsh contingent of the Great Britain Paralympic team will be attending a welcome home celebration in Cardiff Bay today.


At the games, Dave Roberts equalled Tanni Grey-Thompson's record of 11 golds by winning the 50m freestyle; and 13-year old Eleanor Simmonds, won 2 gold medals and achieved a World Record in the pool.

The event will take place outside the Senedd building in Cardiff Bay at 12 noon, with a procession to the Senedd led by a traditional Chinese Lion. Another excuse to pop down to the bay for a lunch-time coffee.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Whatever it takes is too little, too late

Gordon Brown has opened Labour's annual conference in Manchester with a pledge to do "whatever it takes" to sort out Britain's financial system.

One delegate stood up to urge party unity - a reference to the 13 Labour MPs who have publicly called for a leadership election [He'll be getting something worthwhile when Gordon leaves Downing street!] - and in a show of unity from the platform the prime minister was praised by several cabinet colleagues who said voters would not understand "navel gazing" at a time of economic turbulence.

Although there is a tendency to blame Wales' Labour problems on 'New Labour' rather than Welsh Labour, First Minister Rhodri Morgan, a long-standing ally of Mr Brown’s, has recently said:

I have been astonished by the outbursts of quite a small handful of people, MPs including one Minister of State. To think that you would want, in the middle of the worst financial storm I can remember, to change leader is absolutely insane.
I really do question their judgement, I think they are quite wrong. We need to batten down the hatches and deal with this crisis that’s affected the entire world. This is a global financial crisis, and this is just a diversion from the difficult issues we need to deal with.
Never a truer word has been spoken. Why change a leader during a crisis? If that principle was packaged, stamped with a daffodil/dragon motif and transported to Wales, Rhodri would've been replaced several times over by now.

True to form and still hiding his head in the sand - although the sand is further afield than usual - Mr Morgan said it was clear voters were blaming the Government for the economic downturn.
It’s always the government’s fault. It’s an iron law of politics, if times are tough, you can’t get a mortgage, banks are toppling in America, you get a feel-bad factor and people blame the government.
The general public think more deeply than than Mr Morgan. If you patronise us, we'll patronise you. Off to sleep with a cup of cocoa and chocolate digestive (without the chocolate of course) and dream of better times.

Thinking about it, make that a glass of water (tap, not bottle in Cathays Park), as you made so much of your 'life changing moment' last year. Bring on the new man with fresh and reconstituted ideas.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Brown and Potter: The stuff of Children's Stories

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has donated £1m to the Labour Party, the party has announced. Ms Rowling said she was motivated by Labour's record on child poverty and opposed a Conservative plan to give tax breaks to married couples.

According to the BBC, her donation will boost Gordon Brown as he tries to calm unrest among party members at Labour's annual conference.

Just as other political parties are burning their Potter books in disgust, a new print-run has been made to keep the British public content.

  • Harry Potter and the Chancellor's Stoney Face

  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Commercial Crisis

  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of his own Destiny

  • Harry Potter and the Gordon in line to be Fired

  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Public Boot

  • Harry Potter and the Half-Brained Schemes

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Silence among his MPs

Update: Tory Bear has more on this and sticks his paw where it hurts. So does Iain Dale with his "Arise, Baroness Rowling of Hogwarts". We should all try and stop being so cynical ;)

Friday, 19 September 2008

The 'Welsh' Civil Service Code v Christopher Glamorganshire's Blog

Matt Wardman has been busy on my behalf digging up a version of the 'Welsh' Civil Service Code. We've both been wondering whether any of you readers of Welsh blogs remember the Christopher Glamorganshire blog. It was also known as 'Who Would be a Leader in a Wicked, Wicked World', or simply as 'Glamorganshire' according to some Welsh blogrolls.

If you have long memories (we are talking about over a year ago), how do you think it fares with the 'Welsh Code'? Did his blog break the rules? Was it near the mark? Is the Welsh Assembly Government's reaction an attempt to suppress blogging among its staff by nipping it in the bud?

In short, according to the BBC's source, was the blog "contrary to the civil service code" and "has the potential to cause an embarrassment to the Welsh Assembly Government", therefore breaking the code?

Over to you in the comments section.

The Welsh Civil Service Code

Civil Service Values
1. The Civil Service is an integral and key part of the government of the United Kingdom(1). It supports the Government of the day in developing and implementing its policies, and in delivering public services. Civil servants are accountable to Ministers(2). They are in turn accountable to the National Assembly for Wales(3).

2. As a civil servant, you are appointed on merit on the basis of fair and open competition and are expected to carry out your role with dedication and a commitment to the Civil Service and its core values: integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality. In this Code:

* ‘integrity’ is putting the obligations of public service above your own personal interests;
* ‘honesty’ is being truthful and open;
* ‘objectivity’ is basing your advice and decisions on rigorous analysis of the evidence; and
* ‘impartiality’ is acting solely according to the merits of the case and serving equally well Governments of different political persuasions.'

3. These core values support good government and ensure the achievement of the highest possible standards in all that the Civil Service does. This in turn helps the Civil Service to gain and retain the respect of Ministers, the National Assembly for Wales, the public and its customers.

4. This Code(4) sets out the standards of behaviour expected of you and all other civil servants. These are based on the core values.

Standards of behaviour

Integrity
5. You must: fulfil your duties and obligations responsibly; always act in a way that is professional(5) and that deserves and retains the confidence of all those with whom you have dealings; make sure public money and other resources are used properly and efficiently; deal with the public and their affairs fairly, efficiently, promptly, effectively and sensitively, to the best of your ability; handle information as openly as possible within the legal framework; and comply with the law and uphold the administration of justice.

6. You must not: misuse your official position, for example by using information acquired in the course of your official duties to further your private interests or those of others; accept gifts or hospitality or receive other benefits from anyone which might reasonably be seen to compromise your personal judgement or integrity; or disclose official information without authority. This duty continues to apply after you leave the Civil Service.

Honesty
7. You must: set out the facts and relevant issues truthfully, and correct any errors as soon as possible; and use resources only for the authorised public purposes for which they are provided.

8. You must not: deceive or knowingly mislead Ministers, the National Assembly for Wales or others; or be influenced by improper pressures from others or the prospect of personal gain.

Objectivity
9. You must: provide information and advice, including advice to Ministers, on the basis of the evidence, and accurately present the options and facts; take decisions on the merits of the case; and take due account of expert and professional advice.

10. You must not: ignore inconvenient facts or relevant considerations when providing advice or making decisions; or frustrate the implementation of policies once decisions are taken by declining to take, or abstaining from, action which flows from those decisions.

Impartiality
11. You must: carry out your responsibilities in a way that is fair, just and equitable and reflects the Civil Service commitment to equality and diversity.

12. You must not: act in a way that unjustifiably favours or discriminates against particular individuals or interests.

Political Impartiality
13. You must: serve the Government, whatever its political persuasion, to the best of your ability in a way which maintains political impartiality and is in line with the requirements of this Code, no matter what your own political beliefs are; act in a way which deserves and retains the confidence of Ministers, while at the same time ensuring that you will be able to establish the same relationship with those whom you may be required to serve in some future Government; and comply with any restrictions that have been laid down on your political activities.

14. You must not: act in a way that is determined by party political considerations, or use official resources for party political purposes; or allow your personal political views to determine any advice you give or your actions.

Rights and responsibilities
15. The Welsh Assembly Government has a duty to make you aware of this Code and its values. If you believe that you are being required to act in a way which conflicts with this Code, the Welsh Assembly Government will consider your concern, and make sure that you are not penalised for raising it.

16. If you have a concern, you should start by talking to your line manager or someone else in your line management chain. If for any reason you would find this difficult, you should raise the matter with the Welsh Assembly Government’s nominated officers who have been appointed to advise staff on the Code.

17 If you become aware of actions by others which you believe conflict with this Code you should report this to your line manager or someone else in your line management chain; alternatively you may wish to seek advice from your nominated officers. You should report evidence of criminal or unlawful activity to the police or other appropriate authorities.

18. If you have raised a matter covered in paragraphs 15 to 17, in accordance with the relevant procedures(6), and do not receive what you consider to be a reasonable response, you may report the matter to the Civil Service Commissioners7. The Commissioners will also consider taking a complaint direct. Their address is: 3rd Floor, 35 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BQ. Tel: 020 7276 2613 email: ocsc@civilservicecommissioners.gov.uk If the matter cannot be resolved using the procedures set out above, and you feel you cannot carry out the instructions you have been given, you will have to resign from the Civil Service.

19. This Code is part of the contractual relationship between you and your employer. It sets out the high standards of behaviour expected of you which follow from your position in public and national life as a civil servant. You can take pride in living up to these values. June 2007


Notes
1. This Code applies to all Home civil servants who are members of staff of the Welsh Assembly Government. Other Home civil servants have their own versions of the Code. Similar Codes apply to the Northern Ireland Civil Service and the Diplomatic Service.

2. In this version of the Code, "Ministers" means the First Minister for Wales, the Welsh Ministers, Deputy Welsh Ministers and the Counsel General to the Welsh Assembly Government. The Counsel General to the Welsh Assembly Government may not be an Assembly Member but he/she may participate in Assembly proceedings.

3. Constitutionally, civil servants are servants of the Crown. The Crown’s executive powers are exercised by the UK Government on nondevolved matters and by the First Minister for Wales, the Welsh Ministers, Deputy Welsh Ministers, or the Counsel General to the Welsh Assembly Government on devolved matters in relation to Wales.

4. The respective responsibilities placed on the First Minister for Wales, the Welsh Ministers, Deputy Welsh Ministers and the Counsel General to the Welsh Assembly Government and special advisers in relation to the Civil Service are set out in their Codes of Conduct: www.wales.gov.uk/civilservicecode

5. This includes taking account of ethical standards governing particular professions.

6. The whistleblowing legislation (the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998) may also apply in some circumstances. The Directory of Civil Service Guidance gives more information: www.wales.gov.uk/civilservicecode

7. The Civil Service Commissioners’ Appeals leaflet gives more information: www.civilservicecommissioners.gov.uk. This Code does not cover HR management issues.

N.B.

  • The Welsh Assembly Government had no policy on blogging at the time and is now in the process of getting one published.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

A Betsan by any other name would smell as sweet

Another Welsh blogger has taken to reporting about the fate of Christopher Glamorganshire, with more success than I when it comes to the latest gossip.

Betsan Powys' latest post covers what she's heard in "Free speech, huge bills?":

"If you were born in Cardiff, why didn't your parents call you Betsan South Glamorgan?"

A question endured in school over and again but now, of course, I know the answer. As Christopher Glamorgan has proven, it would have been too dangerous a name to adopt.

Who is Christopher? He is - or was - a civil servant of many years, employed by the Welsh Assembly Government and who was sacked as a result of publishing an anonymous blog.

Whether the case against him stands up or not has been a matter of some discussion in parts of the Welsh blogosphere (particularly here) already.

For what it's worth, this is what I know.

The latest suggestion is that his tribunal case is going ahead, that it's unlikely to be heard until next year but that it will be discussed in an internal meeting, presumably in government offices in Cathays Park, next week.

Why was he sacked?

His thoughts on "Who would be a leader in a wicked, wicked world" drew the attention of someone in Cathays Park in July of last year. A flurry of confidential Emails started:

"This is the blog I mentioned earlier - reading it all and the profile places the individual in the Bay picking up plenty of insider stuff on WAG".

The then Permanent Secretary, Sir Jon Shortridge, gets involved.

"The Permanent Secretary has asked me to check if any emails have gone out to this blog site (or if people apart from ... have browsed). The site has contained some detail which may have links with leak enquiries".

He was sacked and and as things stand is taking his case to tribunal, despite his union, the PCS, heeding advice they've been given that he has some mountain to climb, such a mountain, carrying the threat of such a big bill at the end, that they've decided he must climb it alone.

Solicitors acting for the government don't mince their words. In letters I've had sight of they sum up the conclusions of the Employment Judge (and bear in mind I'm quoting their own summing up here, not quotes from a transcript) like this:

the "claim has little reasonable prospect of success", the blog was "contrary to the civil service code" and "has the potential to cause an embarrassment to the Welsh Assembly Government", therefore breaking the code.

Had 'Christopher Glamorgan' been guilty of "excessive internet abuse and potential copyright infringement" alone the judge seems to conclude that a final written warning would have been enough. However the blog, "the most serious of the issues", means dismissal "would fall within the band of reasonable responses available to a reasonable employer".

The letter ends on what I'll call a blunt note: go ahead and we'll apply for a full costs order against you, one that covers all fees, charges, disbursements and expenses incurred by WAG.

Give in now and we won't.


Thanks for the hat-tip Betsan.

Friday, 12 September 2008

WAG and the Assembly Commission catching up with the times...eventually

There have been developments within the Assembly corridors in relation questions on blogging and social networking. Assembly Member and Welsh blogfather, Peter Black, has been asking the First Minister certain questions relating to 'principles for participation online'

Peter Black AM has received the following response from the First Minister:

Following the discussion on this blog and others following Miss Wagstaff's exclusion from Facebook at the beginning of August I have now had a reply to my question to the First Minister as to whether the UK Civil Service guidelines entitled 'principles for participation on-line' apply to employees of the Welsh Assembly Government.

In a letter to me Rhodri Morgan explains: 'All civil servants are subject to the requirements of the Civil Service Code. Separate Codes exist in Wales, Scotland and England reflecting the differing legal position of civil servants in relation to their respective ministerial accountability. A Welsh Assembly Government Civil Service Code was introduced in July 2007 reflecting the legal position of civil servants in relation to Welsh Ministers. The provisions within the Assembly Government Code are the same as those that apply to Whitehall Departments and other devolved administrations.The 'principles for participation on-line' are published by the Cabinet Office as guidance for all civil servants with reference to how they relate to the Civil Service Code. Work is underway to supplement the Assembly Government ICT Usage Policy with a social network and blogging policy to ensure that the principles are reflected in the new policy.'In other words, watch this space. I think some more questions need to be tabled on timescales.

In a more recent post, Peter Black reports that he has received more information on the matter, which demonstrates that the Assembly Government has finally woken up to the internet, but is still drowsy:
I reported a week ago that the Welsh Assembly Government are putting together a social network and blogging policy for its employees to reflect the UK Civil Service guidelines entitled 'principles for participation on-line'. I now have more information.

In an answer to a written question Rhodri Morgan tells me that 'the Social Networking and Blogging Policy is currently under development, the first draft is expected to be complete by 18 September 2008. Following completion of the draft, the policy will be put to consultation with Legal Services, Human Resources and Trade Union Side. The agreed period for consultations of this nature is eight weeks. Provided that further amendments are not required, the policy should be communicated to staff at the beginning of December.'

The Assembly Commission is also developing its own policy
.
This has no impact on me as I am not a servant of the State, but I did make me review my previous posts. Looking back over the last several months, it does bring some former discussions back to life...
.
Why was Christopher Glamorganshire sacked from the staff of the Welsh Assembly Government if no blogging policy was in existence?

I've recently reviewed the online media and there's still no mention of a tribunal, and little relevance in the argument of not abiding to the civil service code on either the UK government website or that of the Assembly Government.
.
I shouldn't admit to reading blogs while on holiday. Will have to write further on this when I return to blogging in the next two weeks.

Straw that broke the camel's back

On Friday, Plaid Cymru party leader and Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones will reject claims that a referendum on further assembly powers will not be held on or before the next assembly election in 2011.

Mr Jones is expected to say that if there is support for full law-making powers "then it should happen" and suggest that a "new confidence in Wales" could help the process.

Dafydd Iwan, the newly re-elected party president, will explain how he hopes to get the party to expand its membership and embrace new technology, in a speech on Saturday. Let's see how long this embrace will last.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Not Nice

Matching up expensive drug treatments with limited funds is not easy. Today Anna Wolfenden published her open letter to the Assembly Government health minister about a cancer drug that is not yet available on the NHS. She is not the first to complain about the decisions of NICE, the body with the difficult task of deciding which treatments can be funded.

During debates of this sort you can always rely on someone to invoke the ghost of Aneurin Bevan by mentioning the 'principles of the NHS' (namely that treatment is free at the point of need). But health expenditure is going to simply carry on rising all the time - and faster than our ability to pay.

Are these 'principles of the NHS' really fit for twenty-first century healthcare purposes? Surely equitable health outcomes for all might be a better principle to aspire to rather than holding fast to a mechanism for delivery that was not planned with these expensive drugs in mind. Anyway, in England (and for the moment in Scotland) you have to pay for your prescriptions, so treatment is already not free at the point of need across the NHS.

Monday, 8 September 2008

There's only one Clive Betts (if signed-in)

I don't mind answering emails while on leave, and today, took time out to answer one that was sent by the journalist Clive Betts of Cambria Politico. He's felt the need - and quite rightly so - to remind everyone that we shouldn't believe all that we read on the internet. He goes into detail in his post 'Forgery on the blogosphere and a lot of internet rubbish' - which is understandable.

Speaking for myself, I only believe the commentary of other bloggers is said with conviction if they've 'signed-in' to leave a comment. The comments made by those that are anonymous are always welcome, and received and taken with a pinch of salt.

This blog always welcomes anonymous comments under our own set of terms - this is done for numerous reasons. Whether those comments are from those that try to help in some way; those that don't; those that have clearly had one drink too many; and even those that are clearly insane (mainly politically).

If I ever decide to come out of the blogging closet, I am sure to agree to meeting up for a coffee with Mr Betts, gladly chatting on life and blogging down the bay.

Now that I've felt the need to write a post of my own on the matter, I can go back to reading my book. Holidays are better spent without internet access!

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Healthier fresh face for the Welsh Blogosphere

I may be taking a short break at the moment, but thought I'd point you in the direction of a new Welsh blog. Take a look, and follow its progress when you have time to spare.

BMA Cymru Wales

As someone who's interested in health, politics and blogging, I thought you
might be interested in a new blog by the BMA's Welsh Secretary, Dr Richard
Lewis. Hopefully the blog will update you on health issues and BMA comment.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Total Politics Results: Top 100 UK Political Blogs

Five Welsh blogs (numbers 58, 59, 61, 72 and 79) have made it into Iain Dale's Top 100 UK Political Blogs list for his Guide to Political Blogging in the UK 2008-9. Last year's position is in brackets.

1. (2) Guido Fawkes

2. (1) Iain Dale

3. (4) Conservative Home

4. (3) Dizzy Thinks

5. (-) Political Betting

6. (-) Devil's Kitchen

7. (9) Spectator Coffee House

8. (12) Burning our Money

9. (42) John Redwood

10. (14) Ben Brogan

11. (20) EU Referendum

12. (15) Tim Worstall

13. (-) Tom Harris MP

14. (13) Archbishop Cranmer

15. (54) LibDem Voice

16. (16) Mr Eugenides

17. (-) Hopi Sen

18. (85) Daniel Hannan MEP

19. (-) Three Line Whip

20. (70) Stumbling & Mumbling

21. (35) Donal Blaney

22. (128) Boulton & Co

23. (-) Liberal Conspiracy

24. (8) Nick Robinson

25. (-) People's Republic of Mortimer

26. (11) Recess Monkey

27. (56) Adam Smith Institute

28. (27) Comment Central

29. (72) Luke Akehurst

30. (47) Waendel Journal

31. (38) LabourHome

32. (30) Ministry of Truth

33. (22) Tom Watson MP

34. (33) Nadine Dorries MP

35. (46) Dave's Part

36. (-) Letters from a Tory

37. (17) Norfolk Blogger

38. (-) Shane Greer

39. (-) Sadie's Tavern

40. (45) Samizdata

41. (32) Slugger O'Toole

42. (111) A Very British Dude

43. (21) Harry's Place

44. (-) SNP Tactical Voting

45. (61) Quaequam Blog

46. (104) UK Polling Report

47. (182) Socialist Unity

48. (59) Daily Referendum

49. (53) Liberal England

50. (172) Lynne Featherstone MP

51. (18) Paul Linford

52. (68) City Unslicker/Capitalists at Work

53. (51) Our Kingdom

54. (-) Labour Outlook

55. (63) Millennium Dome Elephant

56. (155) Paul Scully

57. (-) A Very Public Sociologist

58. (90) Peter Black AM

59. (78) Glyn Davies

60. (195) Obsolete

61. (99) Ordovicius

62. (-) UK Libertarian Party

63. (40) Biased BBC

64. (7) Croydonian

65. (69) James Cleverly

66. (-) Is There More to Life Than Shoes

67. (-) J Arthur MacNumpty

68. (120) Normblog

69. (-) Raedwald

70. (-) Three Thousand Versts

71. (-) Tory Bear

72. (-) Miss Wagstaff Presents

73. (52) Bloggers4Labour

74. (-) Pint of Unionist Lite

75. (151) Theo's Blog

76. (-) Kezia Dugdale's Soapbox

77. (71) Beau Bo D'Or

78. (25) Bob Piper

79. (-) David Cornock

80. (-) Forgesian Thinking

81. (-) Heresy Corner

82. (103) Love & Liberty

83. (125) The Daily (Maybe)

84. (161) Peter Hitchens

85. (81) Melanie Phillips

86. (0) Redemption's Son

87. (10) Ellee Seymour

88. (0) Lenin's Tomb

89. (83) Liberal Burblings

90. (-) Scottish Tory Boy

91. (-) Stuart King

92. (86) Matt Wardman

93. (34) Pickled Politics

94. (0) Ewan Watt

95. (41) An Englishman's Castle

96. (0) Centre Right

97. (0) Never Trust a Hippy

98. (0) Red Box

99. (76) Chris Paul's Labour of Love

100. (50) Last Ditch

The full list and entire series can be followed by clicking on the following link to Iain Dale's Diary.

Welsh Blog Index Awards 2008: Results

Having been away for nearly a week, I'm humbled to have returned to the following news from our very own Welsh Blog Index Awards 2008.

A big thank you to everyone that voted for this blog, and a hearty round of applause to my colleagues - Dotcommentator and Senedd Whip - for their huge effort over the last several months.

I can only assume that those who voted for Miss Wagstaff Presents in the 'Most Improved Blog' category are old readers that have stuck it out since the beginning :)

Total Politics Results: Top 100 Right of Centre Blogs

Five Welsh blogs have made it into Iain Dale's Top 100 Right of Centre Blogs list for his Guide to Political Blogging in the UK 2008-9.

28. Glyn Davies
85. Lone Voice
95. David Jones MP
98. Linguanaut
99. The Right Student

The full list and entire series can be followed by clicking on the following link to Iain Dale's Diary.

Total Politics Results: Top 100 Left of Centre Blogs

Nine Welsh blogs have made it into Iain Dale's Top 100 Left of Centre Blogs list for his Guide to Political Blogging in the UK 2008-9.

19. Ordovicius
35. Bethan Jenkins AM
39. Adam Price MP
47. Cynical Dragon
59. Guerrilla Welsh-fare
60. Welsh Ramblings
73. Blog Menai
87. Amlwch to Magor
90. Paul Flynn

I would never have described The Cynical Dragon as left of centre.

The full list and entire series can be followed by clicking on the following link to Iain Dale's Diary.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

All at sea


Here's the new front page of the Assembly Government. Let's hope it is not an artist's impression of the ministers.

Monday, 1 September 2008

The Editorial Policy of Leighton Andrews AM

The blog of Leighton Andrews AM - holding up the fine tradition of blogging Ministers:

Editorial Policy
This blog does not publish anonymous comments, unless they are really witty and I like them. If you have something to say, then have the courage of your convictions and use your name or an identifiable alias. Even then I reserve the right not to publish comments that are malicious, defamatory, stupid, pointlessly cynical or boring.

There are very few [no] comments on the 'Look at Me' blog of Leighton Andrews AM, and that's only if you include the posts on Cardiff City FC. Senedd Whip demands to have him removed from the No. 33 spot on Iain Dale's list of Top-40 Welsh Blogs. Partly for its pointless use of space on the web, and mainly for being the definitive boring political blog.

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