Friday, 31 October 2008

The Benefits of Offline Blog Editors

This is a cross-post from the Wardman Wire, singing the praises of editing your blog offline, rather than using the Back Office of whatever blog application you use.

Offline blog editors are PC-based editors that allow blog posts to be written on a local PC and then uploaded as a separate operation. I was asked about the benefits

I've been using an offline Blog Editor called Blogdesk by Johannes Oppermann. I am very pleased with the software. This is only suitable for a PC, but there are other editors available, and I have a list at the bottom of the article. Here is what Blogdesk looks like: Click on the image for a full screenshot.

20071015-blogdesk-screendump

Offline Editor Benefits

These are the benefits of Blogdesk which I came up with. This is not exhaustive.
  1. I do maybe 95% of my editing offline, and can then "squirt" a post in maybe 10 seconds, rather than having to pfaff with online delays (and I am on a relatively slow - 512kbps - link), and I get a good editor and decent image crop / resize / borders / align utility that is v. quick.

  2. Responsiveness is massively better than any online editor.

  3. The is no need to login to WordPress every time I do something.

  4. I have maybe 25 different post templates some with WP Options and

    Custom fields set up as required etc, e.g., with all the different attribution links in for the different cartoonists each morning.

  5. In my setup I run with 2 copies of WP (the "Magazine" and "Blog" views) - and things like videos have to be posted to each separately easily.

  6. I have boilerplate phrases and paragraphs to hand.

  7. There is no need to upload pictures and photos through the Wordpress online image library feature, which is slow.

  8. I don't have problems with my connection going down or website response times while editing.

  9. I also cross-post quite regularly - I can cross-post just by ticking off boxes next to each one.

  10. I can get straight at the last 99 posts without needing to troll through the Wordpress Backoffice.

  11. I can automatically upload sound files. I only use this feature for small files since I have a tight limit set on my server for "upload" size. I usually use ftp for media files.

  12. I get a full display of categories rather than a little Window showing about 3.

  13. I can disable the WYSIWIG editor in WordPress, which removes one past source of hacker attacks. Note that it is safer now, but on this subject it is useful to be slightly paranoid.

  14. I can do Wordpress and Technorati Tags, and Customised Fields directly from my PC desktop.

  15. I can go and write in a pub over a pint, or on a train without the risks of a mobile connection.

  16. A boilerplate text storage area.

  17. Configuration was a doddle. You need to know your blog configuration settings, and what a few terms mean - but that is about it.

  18. There are decent support forums.

  19. Blogdesk is free.

  20. Blogdesk supports the blog systems WordPress, MovableType, Drupal, Serendipity and ExpressionEngine and does not support Blogger, which means that it helps get people away from Blogger !

A Wide Choice

There are a large number of desktop editors available, both free and paid. A recent post on Smashing Magazine gave summaries of 15, and there was a decent discussion in the comments.

These are the ones they list, which cover different platforms. They are all linked to their home websites in the article:

  • Windows Live Writer (Windows)

  • MarsEdit (Mac)

  • BlogDesk (Windows)

  • Zoundry Raven (Windows)

  • Ecto (Mac)

  • w.bloggar (Windows)

  • Thingamablog (Window, Mac, Linux)

  • Qumana (Windows, Mac)

  • Scribefire (Firefox)

  • BlogJet (Windows)

  • Flock (Mac, Windows, Linux)

  • Post2Blog (Windows)

  • Bleezer (Mac, Windows, Linux)

This is the conclusion reached by Smashing:

If you have little experience in blogging you might try either Flock, Windows Live Writer or Scribefire. Those three have fairly intuitive interfaces and don’t have all the advanced features that more robust programs have. Also, they are free so you can check out what application better manages to cover your needs.

Advanced bloggers looking for a bit more firepower should try Ecto, BlogJet or BlogDesk. BlogDesk works especially well for bloggers who frequently use photos in their posts (Image Wizard). Windows Live Writer and Ecto have extra functionality built in, as they both allow you to install plugins to add specific features.

Every desktop blog editor is a great benefit to any blogger’s toolkit, as it saves time and has features that traditional blog platforms don’t always have.

How to Proceed

My recommendation is to try experimenting, while accepting that some people genuinely do not get on with offline editors. If you like it, the benefits can be significant.

Scribefire is worth a look if you do not like separate applications, as it is a plugin for the Firefox Web Browser.

You may need to experiment - I tried about 6 different editors before I settled on the one I like, so patience may help.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Moving on up with Welsh Labour

You know me. I tend not to listen to rumour just as much as the next person. I tend to keep myself to myself, unless someone speaks so loudly that I can't help but hear.

Rumour has it that heads have been turned in the Assembly, in disgust at the way Eluned Morgan MEP has treated the party with contempt by first seeking re-selection for next year's European Election, only to pull out* when the prospect of bigger and brighter offers became apparent. Whatever some might think are bigger and brighter in the political world is purely speculative and remains to be seen.

Welsh Labour have already announced that each list member bounces up the list by one place, much to the delight of Lisa Stevens (Office Assistant to Eluned Morgan and next bright-young-thing in Labour's camp) whose prospect of becoming an elected politician is apparent, short of an election disaster for Labour.

Rumour has it that there are some who are eager to call for a re-opening of the Labour Euro selection process for Wales, which will undoubtedly be strongly resisted by Transport House, some even blame Transport House for their failure to make the top spot. Rumour has it that senior officers backed the selective few from very early on. In fact, if you were to have rummaged around on networking profiles during the selection process you would have seen Labour officials backing candidates that otherwise stood little chance of gaining a large percentage of votes. Oh, and these were the very same officers who were entrusted to keep the process fair and impartial.

If I were an eager observer of Welsh politics and concerned Labour supporter who cared about my party, what sort of questions would I be asking at this time?

  1. Did Labour receive any motion requests for the Llandudno conference in March that called for the Euro selection process to be halted because of concerns over a stitch-up?
  2. Was an official European office used for canvassing by candidates, against strict ethics rules? i.e. if a member of her staff called constituency secretaries to check they'd received correspondence and then asked if they would consider supporting them in the selection process it would contravene rules and standards in the European Parliament and the Labour Party.
  3. Why were calls for party hustings during the selection process repeatedly refused by Transport House?
  4. Does Eluned have any ambitions of being an Assembly Member, now or in the future?
Purely speculative, of course. You know me. I tend not to listen to rumour or gossip.

* Eluned Morgan MEP - who announced on Tuesday 14 October that she would not seek re-election to the European Parliament, after serving fifteen years as an MEP.

The full list of Welsh Labour’s candidates for the European election is as follows (as revised):

1. Derek Vaughan
2. Lisa Stevens
3. Rachel Maycock
4. Leighton Veale

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Welsh Labour in Europe

Welsh Labour has recently confirmed that Derek Vaughan, the Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council will head the Labour list in Wales for the European Parliamentary Elections in June 2009.

Derek, who was previously Labour’s second placed candidate on the list, replaces Eluned Morgan MEP - who announced yesterday (Tuesday 14 October) that she would not seek re-election to the European Parliament, after serving fifteen years as an MEP.

The full list of Welsh Labour’s candidates for the European election is as follows:

1. Derek Vaughan
2. Lisa Stevens
3. Rachel Maycock
4. Leighton Veale

Confirming the list of candidates, the Chair of Welsh Labour’s Executive Committee, PAT BRUNKER said: “We’re delighted to be able to present to the people of Wales a strong, talented and determined team of Labour candidates for next years elections to the European Parliament.

“Derek Vaughan brings with him a wealth of experience in local government both as Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council – regarded as one of the best local authorities in Wales - and as a leading figure in the Welsh Local Government Association. He will be a real asset for Labour in Wales and for Wales in Europe.

“We’re also pleased that in Lisa Stevens, Rachel Maycock and Leighton Veale, we have three young candidates – all in their late twenties or early thirties, who will provide us with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, and will help enthuse the younger generation of voters in Wales to take part in the political process.

“We’re confident that the team we have in place will work hard in the months ahead to reach out to the people of Wales, to listen to their concerns, and to demonstrate that only a strong partnership between the Labour-led Assembly Government, a Labour Government in Westminster and a strong Welsh Labour team in Europe will take Wales forward."

Commenting on Eluned Morgan’s decision to stand down from the European Parliament, Pat Brunker added: “Both Eluned Morgan and Glenys Kinnock have served Wales and the Welsh Labour party with distinction over many years. They can both be proud of their records in representing Welsh Labour and serving the people of Wales in Europe. On behalf of Welsh Labour, I wish them both all the very best for the future."

Biographical Details of Candidates

Derek Vaughan

Cllr. Derek Vaughan is currently Labour Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, and is also the Deputy Leader of the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA). Born in Aberfan, he was educated at Swansea University, where he gained a BScEcon degree in Politics and History, majoring in European politics. He was first elected to Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council in 1995, and was the Cabinet Member for Economic Development before being elected Leader of the Labour Group and Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council in 2004.

He is a strong advocate of the links between the Labour Party and the Trade Union movement, having previously been a full time Trade Union official. He is currently a member of the TGWU section of Unite.

Lisa Stevens

Lisa Stevens was born in Llantrisant, Rhondda Cynon Taf, in 1980 and educated at Corpus Christi High School and St David's Sixth Form College, both in Cardiff. In 2001 she graduated from the University of Southampton and went on to complete a postgraduate diploma in newspaper journalism at Cardiff Journalism School.

Upon graduating, Lisa worked as a news reporter for a regional daily newspaper before taking up her current position working for Welsh Labour MEPs Glenys Kinnock and Eluned Morgan.

Among her political interests are youth issues, the environment, international development and human rights. Lisa is a member of the GMB, Amnesty International and the Burma Campaign UK.

Rachel Maycock

Rachel Maycock was born in Llanfechain, Montgomeryshire in 1981. She was educated at Ysgol Uwchradd Llanfyllin High School and Warwick University, where she graduated from in 2003 with a degree in Politics.

She worked in the European Parliament for an MEP, and then worked for the European Parliamentary Labour Party. She currently works for the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown on European affairs and links with Members of the European Parliament. She was Welsh Labour’s candidate in the Montgomeryshire constituency in the 2007 elections to the National Assembly for Wales. She is a member of the GMB and Unite.

Leighton Veale

Leighton Veale was born in Swansea in 1976, and educated at Dwr y Felin School, Neath and graduated with a degree in Social policy from Cardiff University.

He was Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Brecon and Radnorshire in the 2005 General Election, Regional List Candidate for South Wales West in the 2007 elections to the Natioanl Assembly for Wales, and has been a Labour councilor in the London Borough of Merton since 2002. He is a member of the TGWU section of Unite, GMB, Co-op, and Amnesty International.

His political interests include economic development and social inclusion. He currently works as Public Affairs Officer for Wales at The Stroke Association.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The frustrations of an internet Troll

It seems that I owe Sanddef an apology after jokingly not thanking him for the Miss Tory Staff comment. I have discovered the troll behind certain comments on my posts, which are not particularly damning and not even time consuming to delete. Any blogger will be able to tell you that it's very easy to delete comments when managing a blog.

The pointless 'Miss Tory Staff' comments that ended up - several times - in every post over the last few weeks seem to have stopped (more will come my way due to this post) which proves that the said blogger has realised his mistake. Strange to think that The Steamer has referred to me as "a well-known Labour insider". Each blogger has their own opinion of me, which leaves me none the wiser as to who I actually am. Someone will let me know one day.

Anyone who reads this blog will realise that I'm not in the habit of outing a person, but an anonymous blogger on the other hand is different due to the anonymity.

Perhaps it's because I always look for the best qualities in people that I often get disappointed so easily. In truth, I've always liked the nationalist blogger Che Grav-ara of the Guerrilla Welsh-Fare blog. For starters, we may have different political views, but I do enjoy reading his posts, and respect the fact that he includes links to a wide variety of political bloggers on his own blog (which is always a major plus in the blogosphere, and unusual of a Plaid blogger).

Any blogger is welcome to contribute in the comments section. I rarely delete comments, and if I do, I end up publishing them without the bad language and attribute them to their original owner.

Understandably, 'Che' finds it difficult that I tend to criticise the 'One Wales Government', after all, he is a "mainstream Plaidie; wants independence, has no time for New Labour, and backed the red-green when it came to it." Let's hope that he now practices what he preaches. Let's draw a line under this, 'Che', then hug, and make up.

What has been your best blogging experience?

It is always a good experience to have people comment on your blog and to start a active discussion. I have been lucky of late in that my post seem to have been getting a lot more attention. I am unsure if the content has become more thought provoking or just the hoards of bloggers that have nowhere else to go now Blamerbell has retired are choosing to spread their views around the blogs.

Do you have any prejudices that you are prepared to admit to?

What are they? Although my views are pretty fluid I do carry the stigma that all Tories are bad, all liberals say whatever you want them to just to get your vote and all Labourites are Tories. However I am happy to admit this is a generalist view and that there are a number of Tories (especially the Glyn Davies’ of this world) that contradicts that analysis and do the Conservatives a credit. Whilst they are decreasing there are still some dedicated old guard Labour members (i.e Hywel Francis) that go against the grain of Tony Blair’s spin era. The liberals……well you can’t win them all!

N.B. No bloggers were harmed during the making of this post. No slur caused by labelling someone a tory - on the person or the party. This blog has always been, and remains, non-aligned. Readers [particularly those of Labour and Plaid] should note that the blog description remains the same - as always - and can be read at the top of the page.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Are the Senior Civil Service in Wales earning their salaries?

This post has been in my inbox for some time. Other events have taken over and we seem to forget - far too quickly - how much our public servants earn in relation to the majority of the population. Since Amanwy has now pointed out the latest in the Assembly Government hierarchy, which is the brain-child of new Permanent Secretary Dame Gillian Morgan, I've decided to finish this post.

The Welsh Assembly Government have announced a major re-organisation at Senior level of the civil service in Cathays Park. A new layer of senior civil servants will be created in an effort to join-up government. A policy-performance-bridge between the existing heads and the Permanent Secretary. They are to be called Director General posts, with each earning a salary of £130,000 (I expect there to be a tagline of 'more available, depending on experience' added in somewhere). Expected themed responsibility will cover: Sustainable Futures; Public Services and Local Government Delivery; People, Places and Corporate Services; and Finance. Under each Director General will be the corresponding existing departments, divisions, and branches.

In an ideal world, the Assembly Government will look to outside the Assembly in order to fill these new roles, and not look to reward those that are already stagnating in their current roles within the Cathays Park-based civil service. I can only imagine how many of the existing heads will be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of promotion. This may prove to be a consolation prize for some, and only time will tell how many of them will be positioning themselves for these new roles. There are a few that had their noses put out of joint when Dame Gillian Morgan - an outsider - was put in charge back in May.

Not taking into account that dreaded word 'bonuses', the 30 highest-paid civil servants in the Welsh Assembly Government together earn at least £3.3m, the Western Mail revealed in August of this year. This new announcement is - in no doubt - partly a way to reinvigorate our perception of the civil service by bringing in 'a welcome relief' at the same time as a fresh approach, far removed from the old management style of Sir Jon Shortridge. There's no more mileage in the romantic mantra of "Don't go changing to try and please me, I love you just the way you are." Dame Gillian Morgan wants to be seen as a manager promoting something radical within the civil service - concentrating on delivery with a different approach to her predecessor, and putting to bed the theory and rumour that she's going to concentrate too much on health in Wales, given her background.

Whatever the reason, laden with good intention, some will see this as an extra layer of bureaucracy and pure empire building of old-school proportions; or even a career-laden structure to progression for senior managers within Cathays Park. I'm a healthy cynic and also believe that Dame Gillian thinks that there's too many at the top table. Weekly/monthly meetings are taken up by too many items on the agenda, and wants to keep the talking to the few. Departments are difficult to downsize, so are kept the same. The Director General 'bridges' should be able to carry forward the right messages to the top-dog in each, and via these new bridges, the message should be carried forward without fuss to the department heads below. Sadly, as noses will be put out of joint in the process, people will largely forget that those that lead the divisions will remain the same, subject to any knock-on promotion.

Being seen to look outside the Assembly and advertise externally for new talent may be seen as forward thinking, however, the wind is taken out of its sails when you find out this is not new thinking, but common public sector practice.

The salary may very well reflect the roles, but more emphasis needs to be placed on measuring whether a good job has been done in each senior civil service role. At the moment this is only carried out internally, and sometimes by the media taking pot shots - occasionally in the dark.

The obligatory public relations guff that follows the installment of these new top-dogs will soon disappear, and when the air clears, all we're left with is a layer of 'strategic geniuses' that, in time, turn out to be another layer in the silo that make little difference to policy ideas and performance when those that command the middle ranking troops remain the same.

The data shows top civil servants continue to earn significantly more than the Assembly Government Ministers responsible for policy.

The First Minister receives £78,355 on top of a basic AM’s salary of £50,692. Cabinet members are paid a top-up of £40,645.

Corin Taylor of the Taxpayers’ Alliance said: “If you’re spending a great deal of taxpayers’ money you should be accountable for what you do and how you are remunerated. If people are doing a good job and their details are out in the open we won’t begrudge them.”

Ten of the 30 civil servants with the largest salaries work in health divisions:

At the top of the list

1. Dame Gillian Morgan, the Permanent Secretary (between £160,000 and £165,000)

2. Ann Lloyd, Chief Executive of NHS Wales (between £160,000 and £165,000)

3. Dr Tony Jewell, Chief Medical Officer (between £155,000 and £160,000)

4. Gareth Hall, Director of the Department for the Economy and Transport - former WDA (between £135,000 and £140,000)

5. Dr Gwyn Thomas, who, as director of Informing Healthcare, is charged with encouraging better use of information in the NHS.

6. Jeff Buggle (£130,000- £135,000) and Bob Hudson (£120,000-£125,000) – both directors in the department for health and social services.

8. Dr Christine Daws Finance Director (between £115,000 and £120,000)

9. Simon Dean, Director of Service Delivery and Performance Management, Health and Social Services Department. (between £115,000 and £120,000)

10. Derek Griffin, Chief Executive of CAFCASS Cymru, the body which looks after the interests of children involved in family law proceedings (between £115,000 and £120,000)

11. Bernard Galton, HR Director (between £110,000 and £115,000)

12. Martin Sykes, Chief Executive of Value Wales (between £110,000 and £115,000)
13. Richard Davies, Director of the Department for Public Services and Performance, Mike Hopkins, head of the lifelong learning and providers division, and Dr Jane Wilkinson, deputy chief medical officer, are all paid between £105,000 and £110,000.

Of the next 15 top-paid officials, six are on between £100,000 and £105,000, and the remaining nine, between £95,000 and £100,000.

Who's Who in Wales

Having read the comments section of a previous post, it got me thinking about the make-up of senior management within the Welsh Assembly Government.

Comments:

Very few senior staffers are actually English, and even if they were, but they were very good and competent would that be so bad? We just want good, if not the best people.

I can't help agree with the better comments above. What I'm wondering is why so many of the Assembly's Management Board are not Welsh. There must be some
talent that we can draw towards Wales or do most talented Welsh people move to
London and SE England?
I understand that when the Assembly was set up, the Management Board* [previously Executive board], could've been described as predominantly non-Welsh. Whether this means that talented Welsh civil servants had chosen to seek better careers outside of Wales is something that I'm not sure about and remains to be seen. We need to remember that the civil service is UK-wide.

This post isn't about being anti-English, and implying that only Welsh people should staff senior posts. That would be a ridiculous statement to make, and an even greater nightmare situation for the civil service to be in given the media criticism in recent years. Selection should always be about choosing the best - ability, attitude, skills, reputation, proven performance, delivery, vision etc. - irrespective of their background, gender or where they come from.

This is what I would call a 'curiosity post', and the following is what I've managed to discover. I'm positive that I'll be corrected in the comments section if incorrect.

  1. Gillian Morgan (Welsh)

  2. Emyr Roberts (Welsh)

  3. Richard Davies (English)

  4. Gareth Hall (Welsh)

  5. Hugh Rawlings (English)

  6. Ann Lloyd (Welsh)

  7. Huw Brodie (English-born to Welsh parents)

  8. Matthew Quinn (English)

  9. David Hawker (English)

  10. Bernard Galton (English)

  11. Christine Daws (English)

  12. Michael Harrington (Welsh)

  13. Jeff Godfrey (English)

  14. June Milligan (Scottish)

  15. Tony Jewell (English)

  16. Adrian Webb (English)

  17. Kathryn Bishop (English)

  18. Elan Closs Stephens (Welsh)

Board Membership
Board Directors are appointed at the discretion of and by the Permanent Secretary. Membership is not wholly dependent on functional responsibilities; it is designed to provide balanced advice and support to the Permanent Secretary, and collective leadership to the organisation as a whole.

The current Management Board membership is as follows:
  1. Dame Gillian Morgan, Permanent Secretary

  2. Emyr Roberts, Social Justice & Local Government

  3. Richard Davies, Public Service and Performance

  4. Gareth Hall, Economy and Transport

  5. Hugh Rawlings, Constitutional Affairs, Equality and Communication

  6. Ann Lloyd, Health & Social Services

  7. Huw Brodie, Rural Affairs and Heritage

  8. Matthew Quinn, Environment, Sustainability and Housing

  9. David Hawker, Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills

  10. Bernard Galton, HR

  11. Christine Daws, Finance Director

  12. Michael Harrington, Corporate Information and Services

  13. Jeffrey Godfrey, Legal Services

  14. June Milligan, Business Development

  15. Tony Jewell, Public Health and Health Professions/Chief Medical Officer

  16. Sir Adrian Webb, Non-executive Director

  17. Kathryn Bishop, Non-executive Director

  18. Elan Closs Stephens, Non-executive Director

* such a bland label that it's been changed to the more dynamic and action-sounding one of 'Strategic Delivery and Performance Board'

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Priority Talent Pool not just a thing of the past

TAXPAYERS are bankrolling an invisible army of civil servants in Whitehall who have no jobs but still draw a salary.

Up to £1million a week is spent supporting the ghost jobs of more than 1,700 redundant workers who are placed in a Priority Talent Pool and keep getting paid until a plum new post comes up.

Despite Gordon Brown’s declaration of war on Whitehall waste the number of phantom employees has trebled in a year, pushing the total annual bill for taxpayers to £50million.

The admission from ministers comes as Britain slides into recession, thousands of workers in the private sector are being laid off every week and millions more are worried about their jobs.

Give the Assembly Government some credit where it's due with its 'first-to-do' culture. They were the first to do this. At least the UK Government has the decency to call it a 'Priority Talent Pool' and not just a 'Central Postings Pool'. The Assembly could learn a little from positive spin, but not much.

To Blog or Not To Blog Debate Videos

This is the full set of the speech videos kindly recorded by Peter Black.

The event itself provided the answer to the question in the title, when the agenda was partly changed due to "advanced feedback" after a debate on the blogs (especially here).

You can read my reflections, and also find a list of articles about the event, in my previous article about the "To Blog or Not to Blog" event.

Introduction

Part 1: Daran Hill, of Positif Politics (and the first bit of Peter Black).



Part 2: Peter Black, and the first part of Eleanor Burnham AM.



Part 3: The rest of Eleanor Burnham AM and Betsan Powys, BBC Reporter and Blogger.



Part 4: More Betsan Powys and the first part of Annabelle Harle of the Electoral Reform Society.



Part 5: More Annabelle Harle of the Electoral Reform Society, and the first part of Matt Wardman



Part 6: More Matt Wardman

and Victoria Winckler, of the Bevan Foundation.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Breathing new life into a Labour MEP

WELSH Labour Euro-MP Eluned Morgan last night tore into Business Secretary Lord Mandelson over his threat to withdraw proposals that would extend parents’ right to request flexible working hours.

There's nothing like speculation, gossip and insider information to breathe new life into a departing Labour MEP. It seems that Eluned Morgan MEP is proving that she will fit nicely into a 'possible' new role by distancing herself from Labour in London, and distinguishing a difference between Welsh Labour and the Labour party in Westminster.

Welcome, Eluned, to the Labour-Plaid coalition in Cardiff. They've been expecting you.

7 Deadly Blogging Sins

According to Windows Live there are 7 Deadly Sins of the blogging world - a far cry from Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride! Of course, these deadly sins don't apply in the world of political blogging!

The humble blog has swept the internet world by storm. Think of it as your own online journal - a place to both store your thoughts and air your views.

1. Not blogging

There is no rule when to begin. Put simply, the more often you blog, the better you will become. One thing to remember - Blogging is a commitment, set aside some time each day. It is easier to get into blogging regularly than trying to pick it up after a dry spell.

2. Blog only when you have something to say

Too many posts are an instant turn-off for most people – this is the blogging equivalent of sending e-mail forwards. Everybody wants to have a lively blog; an absolute maximum should be 4 a day, no more! Nobody wants to fall into this trap.

3. Having a meaningless post title

People blog for one of two reasons; either they gain enjoyment from doing it or for some monetary, commercial purpose. In the case of the latter - in order to gain the most blog views, people insist on cramming their title with the most vague and nonsensical keywords. Codswallop I say! The same applies for writing purely for fun; don’t use boring and generic headlines, your title should encourage people to read - not send them to sleep.

4. Not leaving comments for your friends

Being tight with your comments won’t win you any friends; it may even alienate people from your blog. Blogging should be a lively medium and encourage communication. Don’t be a scrooge and leave your friends comments as appropriate.

5. Don’t delete your comments

Your friends have spent time reading your blog – to delete their comments is just plain rude. Don’t be put off by negative feedback; if you blog often and make great posts - any bad comments you receive will quickly be overshadowed.

6. Don’t strive for perfection

Perfectionism will hold you back and will turn the simple task of writing an entry seem like a chore! It is especially easy to fall into this trap early on. To be a successful blogger you must find your own voice - don’t force it, blog in the style that feels most comfortable to you.

7. Shameless self promotion

Nobody likes an attention seeker and this rule applies for online too! Don’t promote yourself at the expense of others - you shouldn’t have to force your blog down other blogger’s throats, this is the sign of a bad blog.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Senedd Circular w/b 20 Oct 2008: Opening Old Wounds

This article appears in The Wardman Wire:

This week, Miss Wagstaff has been excited and down in the dumps at the same time, if that’s at all possible. On the one hand, she’s unwell, and on the other she has the opportunity to write a Senedd Circular post that is long overdue.

We can safely put leadership elections on the back burner for a while, the Welsh Labour leadership election has been talked to death [well, nearly!] and the Welsh Liberal Democrat election is a two-horse race that is slowly gaining momentum – and both always seem to be topical on Welsh blogs.

Plenty has happened since my last post to this column, though it appears that nothing changes when it comes to a rift between the Commons and Assembly, MPs versus AM’s in what one leading Welsh blogger has described as “…the Welsh Affairs Select Committee’s response to the housing LCO suggests that it is, illegally, attempting to make itself the Assembly's upper house.” and by another as a constitutional stand-off between the National Assembly and the Welsh Affairs Committee of the House of Commons.

You can always predict when disaster and controversy will strike at the heart of the Assembly, and it’s usually when Lord Elis-Thomas opens his bi-lingual mouth. Bi-lingual in terms of speaking - both as an Assembly Member and Presiding Officer - and occasionally mixing the two when convenient. Not this week. Though it has opened old wounds with a former adversary.

This week’s main tension comes from the to-ing and fro-ing of work by the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee and our own National Assembly. This has resulted in resident villain [usually], or as others call him, Presiding Officer Lord Elis-Thomas [Dafydd Elis-Thomas to his friends, I’m told] in having to stick his nose in where it needs to be for a change - in policing the remit of LCO's. His lordship has taken time out to write to two-time Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy, expressing concerns and accusing the Welsh Affairs Select Committee of MPs of "anti-devolution sentiment". Elis-Thomas is no stranger to offering his opinion on a whole range of ‘constitutional’ matters.

It may sound odd, but even other Assembly members have queued up behind the Presiding Officer, not just fellow Plaid members this time, and called for him to be heard as the voice of reason.

This fistfight between Commons and Assembly has happened before and was largely seen as a straight fight, with the Assembly’s proposal dumped from a great height without sound – simply no remit to turn this into law. This time it’s different.

The present bout over the Welsh Assembly Government's request for powers to legislate over the so-called right-to-buy-scheme. In short, the Welsh Ministers are asking for more than they originally sought and are being ticked off by the Welsh Affairs Select Committee. The committee’s jabbing response is one of - you do have the right to do both, but you only discussed suspension of the right-to-buy when you talked to us about it originally. Because of this we believe you should stay within the original draft.

On this occasion the common sense approach is needed as much agreed by those that generally take a step back from those MPs that it directly affects. MPs do seem to be interfering too deeply into matters concerning the remit of the WASC when it comes to dealing with LCOs. Their role as committee members is to work within the remit of the Government of Wales Act when it comes to guiding LCOs through their part of the process. Anything more, and they run the risk of being accused of standing in the way of devolution, the Assembly, sometimes their party colleagues, and what their future has in store for them.

Too much interference may stave off extinction of some of their numbers, and will – in some cases – harm their legacy as Welsh politicians. Common sense and mutual trust is a must, but sometimes hard to come by, even within members of the same party.

And finally…

A welcome back to blogging to my old friend, Matt Wardman after his short trip to Wales, where he took in the ‘To blog or not to blog’ debate. I hope it was all worthwhile after the blogging banter that arose beforehand, and that the best side won.

Since writing this article it seems that blogging won the day, although I turn my face as there was much stick for anonymous bloggers – “Not accountable? True enough. Not reliable sources? Fair enough. Malicious? Some can be. Unchristian? Now hang on ... “

I’m still not convinced that I should ‘out’ myself!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Sink or swim for Civil Service in Llandudno

Llandudno, Queen of the Welsh Resorts, a title first implied as early as 1864 is awaiting the birth of a regional office of the Welsh Assembly Government. First Minister Rhodri Morgan recently [some might say, finally] announced the intended contractor for construction of the new office in Llandudno Junction [to pacify the good people of North Wales by bringing democracy closer to the people].

Construction activity will start as quickly as possible and aims to be completed by spring 2010. This will be followed by a period of internal fit out of furniture and ICT prior to the building being occupied summer 2010.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan said:

Everyone including myself will be genuinely excited by this announcement and know that this is the positive news that people have been waiting for. It is our intention at this stage, subject to the outcome of the standstill period, for the contract to commence on 20 October 2008.

The decision to re-procure the contract will be fully justified due to the improvements made and the demonstrable value for money achieved. I am unable to say more at this stage due to European Union procurement regulations but will make a further announcement at the end of the standstill period.

The new building will provide approximately 8,800 square metres of mainly open plan office space, and will accommodate up to 650 staff.

Some readers might remember my post on the first anniversary propaganda of the opening of the Merthyr Office. The situation is more or less the same, but over a greater distance for staff, and some of you will remember my post "Llandudno will be the Cardiff of the North" from 11 months ago.

Most of the staff are not keen to move from their various offices spread across North Wales, never mind those jobs that have been 'transferred' [uprooted] from Cardiff. When I say transfer, I mean the actual job transferring, and the person staying behind in Cardiff if they are not up to commuting or happy with the upheaval of their family across country. A kind of special Welsh job creation, only with one person left in desk limbo in Cardiff for as long as it takes, and the other [often newly recruited] having to step into the breach for the person in limbo.

On top of this, staff in Caernarfon are becoming fed up with management promises. Both Assembly Government management and politicians have consistently stated that the future of the Rural Payments Division is safe, without actually stating what this means. This brings back bad memories of promises made prior to the closure of the Ruthin Office, and of life prior to the bonfire of the quangos.

This has prompted Rural affairs Minister Elin Jones to meet with management and the union.

Back in the pool for some. Straight to the deep end for others.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Cutting-edge Union

It must be time for some pointless idle gossip again.

Many (okay, one anonymous person) might be wondering what happened to the staff of Aberystwyth and their key-cutting nightmare that I covered in an earlier post:

Staff in an Assembly office in Aberystwyth have been asked to sign for pedestal keys; with a penalty of £22 if lost. This local policy has been as welcome as a wet-weekend in Cardigan Bay, and the union have advised staff not to sign for keys. Instead, meetings were instigated to convince management of the worthwhile idea of attaching keys to the security pass which is issued to all Assembly staff. This has not been adopted. The union is concerned that this local initiative will spread Wales-wide. What will staff be asked to pay for next?
You'll be pleased to hear that thanks to the Trade Union and their intense talks with management, the charge will not now be introduced. What a good example of the union working with local management for mutual benefit.

Who ever said the union is powerless and a damp squib??

Next week:

Union negotiates with management and succeeds in allowing staff to use three sheets of toilet paper, per person, for each trip to the loo.

[Thanks to the anonymous email]

Monday, 20 October 2008

Senedd Blogging Debate Updated Programme

After some kerfuffle last week around the debate on the usefulness (or not) of political blogs organised by the Bevan Foundation, I've been invited to join the panel to give a blogger perspective.

This is the new agenda quoted from the Bevan Foundation website:

To Blog or Not to Blog? !!!! NEW PROGRAMME !!!!

6.00pm to 7.30pm on Tuesday 21st October 2008

Conference Rooms C&D, Ty Hywel, National Assembly for Wales

The line up now is enthusiastic bloggers Peter Black AM, Matt Wardman and Betsan Powys, Political Editor of BBC Wales, along with scepticism and commentary from Eleanor Burnham AM, Annabelle Harle from the Electoral Reform Society, and Victoria Winckler, Director of the Bevan Foundation. The discussion will be chaired by Daran Hill, MD of Positif Politics.

This event is being held in the Assembly with the support of Peter Black AM. Refreshments are provided with the support of Positif Politics. We are trying also to get the discussion streamed.

All welcome - please confirm your attendance can you email Daran Hill on daran@positifpolitics.co.uk
I'll be going down for early afternoon on Tuesday on the train. If anyone is going to be around drop me a line on mattwardman AT gmail DOT com and we can meet up for a coffee.

During the afternoon I may make a couple of videos around the Bay area. If you see someone holding a balloon at arms' length in protective gloves, that will be me trying to find out whether it is a threat to life and limb as reported by Betsan Powys back in the Spring. (*)
q-prisoner-rover-1-small
I'm also hoping to get cameo interviews with as many Welsh bloggers as possible, and I'll be looking for recommendations of Welsh Blogs that us uncivilised oiks on the other side of Offa's Dyke should be reading for self-improvement purposes.

Unfortunately it is a steam powered video recorder which records to a small 1Gb hard disk. So I won't be attempting to record the debate itself, as I hope that somebody else will be doing that.

In the debate I'll be focusing on specific examples where blogs have achieved things that would not have been possible - or at least would have been very difficult - if they did not exist.

I am told that bookings are OK to give a decent debate, but there is still some room left for more.

(*) For the record, Latex allergy is a problem worth taking very seriously but banning children's balloons is totally wrong-headed in my view, unless you are going to ban a whole lot of other things as well - including stress balls, rubber keyboards on calculators/computers, bananas and the wrong sort of carpet underlay.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Asking Miliband a question!!!

Returned home from a tiring day out with the Wagstaff family and now discover that I'm suffering from the flu. What could be worse? What about receiving a junk email; trying to think of a good question to ask Miliband; posting it on a website, and then waiting for the response. It's at times like this that I hate blogging!

Email

My name is Mr X and I am co-founder of http://www.yoosk.com/ (a platform for the general public to submit and vote on questions for people in the news.) I am writing to bring to your attention a project our website is currently running with the FCO?

Following David Miliband's visit to Wales, he is interested to hear from Welsh people [only Welsh people?] with any questions they may have for him.

This is an extract from the FCO Press release:

"David is visiting Cardiff on 16-17 October. He will meet a wide range of people from different Cardiff communities. He will talk to them about how foreign policy issues such as climate change, migration, trade-investment and international conflicts are not just foreign policy issues, but have an affect on our daily lives. He will hear from these groups what foreign policy means to them and the impact these challenges are having on these communities.

Are you affected by these global issues?- Are you worried about the impact of global trends on your community?- Would you like to know how the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office affects Wales? - Have you always wanted to comment on an aspect of our Foreign policy?

If so, now is your opportunity to ask and comment to David direct!

During the next week, he invites you to put your questions on these and other related foreign policy issues to him via Yoosk. And he will respond to your questions on this site."

Cabinet Members have consulted the public before in similar ways but usually they reserve the right to choose the questions which they will answer – the difference with this interview is that David Miliband will actually answer the questions which people most want answering. If you think this is something which your readers may be interested in contributing to, we would be very happy if you could find time to give it a mention.


What is Yoosk?
Yoosk is an interactive interview magazine which enables you to participate in the news gathering process by putting your questions to politicians & celebrities.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Contrarian blogging - in somebody else’s comments box (an example)

As it's a quiet Friday in the office and I wasn't planning on a lengthy post myself, thought I'd pick up on what I read in the comments section of a post the other day. Interesting comment made by Matt Wardman in the comments section of "Welsh business not confident in Assembly Government".

The post in question is about the economy and Welsh businesses showing no confidence in the actions of the Welsh Assembly Government.

Number of comments for this post is 33. Number of comments on topic, 8. This leaves the number of comments speculating as to who I am as 25, which is typical given all the rumour and gossip I've been hearing lately.

Matt has posted on a wide range of topics since he first started blogging, particularly in the area of blogging and freedom of speech. Thought I'd share his comment and original post with you. Makes you wonder!

This may sound like a strange idea, but there can be considerable benefit in letting part of your blog be hosted on somebody else’s site - in their comments box. You get the benefit of a possibly wider audience - and therefore lots of attention.

Chris Paul has had a “sceptical about Tories” blog since before I started, and it is hosted in Iain Dale ’s comments box. I reckon that he gets his largest readership from this “alternative” not the real one hosted at Labour of Love; it has something like 350 entries.

The unputdownable Dr Irene Lancaster FRSA has developed a whole series of pro-Israel blogs in the comments of (for example) Ruth Gledhills blog (228 entries to date) and the Spectator (42 entries so far),

There are certain limitations, such as your alternative blog posts having to have some distant relation to the subject under conversation - but that doesn’t seem to slow some people down.

If you select your host correctly, you can even develop an anonymous blog. Guido provides an “anonymous blog hosting service” in his comments box. In this case it is an “anonymous” group blog with more than 4000 entries .

It’s one approach to think about on a Bank Holiday.

A picture paints a thousand words

Welsh Economic Summit

Welsh Assembly Government met business and union leaders in a yesterday between 9 and 12, with 15 mins for coffee.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan said the summit was "remarkable" and showed Wales was "stepping up to the plate".

There was me thinking that they've had the responsibility for doing something for some time, after all, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Welsh Politico Award: Gold, Silver, and Bronze

The results are out for the Welsh Politico Award in which four judges chose their favourite posts from the last 12-months in the Welsh political blogosphere. All nominated posts can be found here. Congratulations to Ordovicius for organising the award.


Gold Post: ...Go on, say something! Author: Amanwy Blog - Bevan Foundation Blog

Silver Post: Beth yw pwynt Llywydd Plaid Cymru Author: Penderyn Blog - blogmenai

Bronze Post: Welsh Conservatism and devolution Author: Dylan Jones-Evans Blog - Dylan Jones-Evans

The debate started before the Cardiff Blogging Debate began

I'm pleased to hear that from the uproar in the comments section that was caused by my good friend's post discussing the future 'Cardiff Blogging Debate', Matt Wardman has now been invited to join the pro-blogging panel.

It goes to show that a small amount of constructive criticism goes a long way in blogging.

Update: It says a lot about the Welsh economic downturn when we have to import English bloggers due to our home-grown being too expensive [laugh].

What if...


Following on from Senedd Whip's earlier post speculating on Eluned Morgan MEP's gap two-years, my mind started to wonder or even wander over a glass or two of wine.

What if... Welsh Labour have designs on Eluned Morgan becoming leader in Wales. She is a woman and we all know that they prefer equal representation in Welsh democracy (and even in the civil service, moving on to Dame Gillian Morgan from Sir Jon Shortridge).

What if... Jane Davidson AM was persuaded to 'resign' her seat in the National Assembly, after all, it could be for personal reasons and she hasn't got to disclose them if she leaves sooner than expected. No scandal over an unnecessary by-election. She's already forewarned us about her intention to stand down in 2011.

What if... First Minister Rhodri Morgan considers it a good idea to prolong the leadership contest, after all he's feeling better and healthier than he has done for years; and is known for supporting Labour-friends above and beyond the call of duty, as seen with Ministers Jane and Jane.

What if... a by-election was called in Pontypridd before 2011 and a certain leading figure in Welsh Labour and constituent friend of Rhodri's was 'convinced' to stand for the good of the party, and won.

What if... the leadership contest of the Welsh Labour party was then held after a reasonable and respectable amount of time post by-election, and certain 'said constituency friend' of Rhodri Morgan had the backing of the man himself, the Welsh Labour party, and the unions.

This would - of course - annoy quite a few members in the process.

They say that 'What if...' is a game for scholars, of which I am not... but... what if...

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The old chestnut of all-women shortlists

What would happen if Labour continued with their old plan of introducing all-women shortlists? It failed to work when attempted previously in a true Labour heartland.

Would it work in Cardiff West? Would an 'intended incumbent' be happy with this if she was already told?

But what if...

[Hat-tip to Mr Anonymous]

Cardiff Political Blogging Debate misses the point

A day after writing a piece about the Slugger Awards celebrating blogs as a tool for creating a greater involvement in politics by ordinary people, I have run across an example that is in the opposite direction.

There will be a debate about the value of political blogging organised by the Bevan Foundation in the Senedd on Tuesday 21st October:

To Blog or Not to Blog?

6.00pm to 7.30pm on Tuesday 21st October 2008
Conference Rooms C&D, Ty Hywel, National Assembly for Wales

You are invited to attend a debate on the value of political blogging.

Speakers are Peter Black AM and Betsan Powys, Political Editor of BBC Wales, and Eleanor Burnham AM and Annabelle Harle from the Electoral Reform Society. In the Chair is Victoria Winckler, Director of the Bevan Foundation. This event is being held in the Assembly with the support of Peter Black AM. Refreshments are provided with the support of Positif Politics.


I think that that list of names for this debate, comprising two professional politicians, a specialist in the political process and a big media journalist, misses the point. It is also a symbol that the most important aspect of political blogging - the potential for engagement in the political conversation by those who would not do it otherwise - may not yet been sufficiently absorbed.

I can't help asking why Valleys Mam (for example) - or somebody (anybody!) using a political blog to comment on politics from below - is not speaking in this debate? It may be that the focus is "the value of political blogging for politicians", in which case the focus itself is in the wrong place.

I'm not trying to show disrespect for the participants - all of whom are excellent in their own right - but it is the wrong group of people.

My suggestion is that there is still a week to go, so why not add a couple of political bloggers into the debate? I'd also invite Mick Fealty to give a 20 minute address + 20 minutes of questions afterwards about what can be done.

Slugger Political Awards Report: Changing not circling the political process

q-banner-sluggerotooleThe Slugger Awards have just taken place in Belfast, described thus

For the last six years, with all its various eyes and ears, Slugger O’Toole has been a particularly avid watcher of the political scene. We have endeavored to pick up and share the best journalism and research and keep a close eye on Northern Ireland’s nascent political process. In our own informal way, we’ve acted more as a critical friend than fawning acolyte or jaded oppositionalist.

At Slugger we think that we have a fantastic opportunity to improve politics in a way that institutional reformers will never be able to. We want to reward better politicians, better politics and better governance. We’d like to reward those that have succeeded in reaching out to the public and involving them more effectively in local governance.

So today, with the support of our launch sponsors, Stratagem NI Ltd, we are announcing The Slugger Awards 2008.

Rather than bloggers patting bloggers on the back, this was an award ceremony where a blog is giving awards to other players in politics for "conversational politics".

The work that Slugger is doing is (as far as I know) unique in this country: a blog having a measure of impact in seeking to strengthen the political process, rather than simply trying to make different things happen using the existing political process. That's what we need for blogs to fulfil their potential.

Slugger Awards Podcast

The Digital Circle podcast from Sims Digital Media reported on the event (and the audio is on my Wardman Wire post).

Other reports of the awards

Who won the Slugger Awards?
(Reformatted from the Awards site).
  • Best MLA: Naomi Long for her speechcraft and fluent (and combative) contributions to Assembly debates. And for getting Alliance noticed!
  • Up and coming politician: Daithi McKay for his work on the Giant’s Causeway controversy (his one of three winners whose award related explicitly to that particular issue).
  • Local Council: Belfast City Council, for scale and profile and running a tidy fiscal ship but also for its leadership role in the Open Cities initiative.
  • Local Councillor: Deirdre Nelson, one of a new generation of outward looking local councillors.
  • Journalism: David Gordon by proving that not everyone in the world of mainstream media has succumbed to ‘Churnalism’.
  • Best blogger: Mr Nevin Taggart, who by diligence and close attention to local affairs proves that you don’t have to be big to be clever.
  • Assembly Committee Chair: Danny Kennedy.
  • Local Newspaper: Impartial Reporter (Fermanagh) has stuck to its last and consistently brings real news and strong analysis to its local readership.
  • Representatives external to Northern Ireland: Peter Robinson for marshalling his disparate band of troops and leaving Westminster a calling card that he’s now the man back in town.
  • Jobsworth Award: Assembly Commission.
Wrapping Up

In my view this is an example for the other countries in the UK. The interesting question is this:

How long will it be before any "mainland" blogs are taken sufficiently seriously to be able to mount such a set of awards in London, Cardiff or Edinburgh (or - I suppose - in Brussels)?



I don't think I have seen any reporting of the Awards in the British press or on British blogs. That is a pity - NI is streets ahead of any other part of the UK in this respect, helped by the fact that politicians in Northern Ireland perhaps haven't realised yet that they are supposed to be an Elite living in a bubble. Long may this ignorance continue.

[Update: formatting tidied.]

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Eluned Morgan MEP: Open parachute

The plane is flying over from Brussels and the cargo door is clearly open. Everything depends on how good the pilot's skills are, and the need to take into account his vision. The parachute is also visible and open. It's all down to how safely she can land in either Cardiff West or Pontypridd.

Born in 1967, she was educated at Atlantic College and the University of Hull. Eluned formerly worked as a researcher for S4C, and the BBC, and in 1990 worked as a Stagiaire in the European Parliament. She was the youngest MEP when she took up her seat in 1994 as the Labour member for Mid & West Wales and was subsequently re-elected in 1999 and 2004 as MEP for Wales.
Update:

In her letter to the Labour party on standing down to spend time with her family, Ms Morgan correctly refers to the party in saying "The Labour Party is my family" and remembered to thank the unions, "I would also like to thank the trade unions with whom I have cooperated with over the years to ensure that the voice of the worker has been heard in the corridors of Brussels where more has been done to further social rights than anywhere else."

In the bag, just not in time to take the leadership as well... unless....

Just saying!

No more fantastic imagery from the breath of the dragon

I wasn't planning on posting today, but in typical fashion I made the mistake of browsing through the blogs and came across the sad news that The Cynical Dragon is no more. David from Newport has decided to call it a day in what he sees as inevitable.


This blog is now dead. A former blog. Due to work and personal commitments I've found it impossible to keep up and know that these commitments will consume more
of my time in the coming months. I've enjoyed the experience. Thanks to all my fellow bloggers who've helped, commented and offered support.
All I can suggest is that you keep the blog open in case you get the urge to blog again, even if your posts will be sporadic. Finding time to blog is always difficult, and I've noticed this morning that the rumour mongers didn't sleep last night on this blog. In truth, I have felt the same way as David on two occasions over the last year, and found that my work-life balance wasn't working out for me - I wasn't having much of a life.

Not that I want this post to be dominated by bad news. On a better note Dylan Jones-Evans has decided to return to blogging. Welcome back Dylan.

On this sad day there's only one person in Wales that will be pleased with this outcome, and the rest of us will notice that there's a place in the Wales Top 40 that will be noticeably empty.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Switzerland is known for chocolate, cheese, taxation, and banking

In light of the Icelandic issue, Nick Bourne AM recalls a question from a recent meeting of the Assembly Finance Committee that was raised by Labour AM Huw Lewis.

"Astoundingly, though money tends to be drawn down from Whitehall, neither the minister nor his officials did not know in response to questions from Huw Lewis where WAG banked nor how much was held in the accounts - reassuring isn’t it?"
This has unexpectedly prompted Rhodri Morgan to take action, and could it be the reason why he's taken a trip to Switzerland days before an All-Wales economic summit meeting? After all, he doesn't seem to be there for the joyous singing of hymns.

What's that pin number again?

Welsh business not confident in Assembly Government

Since we grow deeper and deeper into despair as the weeks roll on, it seems that the Welsh Assembly Government has taken on board the ideas of a Welsh Conservative, Dylan Jones-Evans in his review of 2007, as highlighted by a renowned commentator on the Welsh economy.

Dylan Jones-Evans (29 December 2007)

Finally, we have a new Minister for Economic Development whose party has always supported the notion of creating a strong indigenous business base in Wales.

As discussed, the challenges he faces in turning round the Welsh economy are enormous but by encouraging enterprise and innovation, especially within our academic and private sectors, he could start delivering the type of change that has been sorely needed here in Wales.

In particular, I would urge him to consider calling an economic summit in early 2008 to bring new ideas to the table from the successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople we have here in Wales. At worst, it would be a wasted few hours for those attending but, at best, there could be the emergence of a whole new approach that finally turns around the fortunes of the Welsh economy.
The Welsh Assembly Government announced on the 8th October 2008 that it would be holding an All-Wales economic summit to discuss the present financial crisis and its impact on the Welsh economy. The meeting, which will take place next Thursday, will be chaired by First Minister Rhodri Morgan and attended by Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones with responsibility for the economy and transport plus Secretary of State for Wales Paul Murphy.

If there was ever proof that this Assembly Government is seen as reactive rather than proactive, then this is a prime example.

First Minister:

I have convened the economic summit meeting next Thursday because I want to hear at first hand from businesses on how the current financial crisis is having an impact on them. The aim is to discuss in detail the challenges that are facing us as a result of the credit crunch and to examine how we can respond further to its impact on Wales.
Deputy First Minister:

The Assembly Government is already taking wide-ranging action. In the draft budget announced on Wednesday, more than £290m has been allocated to fund the Flexible Support for Business programme – to provide businesses in Wales with more effective and straightforward access to Assembly Government backing. We have also recently introduced a £7m package of rate relief to help smaller businesses.
We will also be announcing a series of measures over the coming weeks to help individuals and companies deal with the current economic challenges.

But we want to make use of next week’s summit to bring together the widest possible range of views and experiences and to explore in detail every single possibility that we in Wales may be able to reinforce or add to measures to help our businesses overcome the challenges they are now facing.

I happen to agree with Valleys Mam when she sees Ieyan Wyn Jones as looking "all cliches and no substance" and "... it really made me realise what an uniformed, blinkered team we have at the top of WAG. They really have to step up their game."

I couldn't have summed it up better myself, and it makes a change from pointing out the incompetence of top officials.

Moving on to the heading of this post 'Welsh businesses not confident in Assembly Government' it appears that businesses in Wales are now accusing the government of stifling the business end of the economy. The fact that reserves [rainy-day money] is now being spent on areas already 'provided for' in the coalition agenda isn't going down well in the business community. The Assembly Government only has one pot. For reserves, read, money that has been held back over time from worthy areas that are devolved in case the proverbial hits the fan.

When it comes to the economy and business, it's clear from the following that confidence in the Assembly Government is not full to the brim in Wales.

European funding is being taken by the Welsh Assembly Government and kept for itself.

The West Wales Business Initiative is calling for a full investigation into the Assembly’s use of European aid money.

On Tuesday, its representatives will present a petition backed by more than 40 companies asking the Assembly’s petitions committee to instigate an inquiry.

The Assembly Government’s Welsh European Funding Office website shows that of £127.7m allocated under the Convergence programme so far, £102.1m has gone directly to the Assembly itself.

A further £17.4m has gone to local authorities while the voluntary sector has had £5.5m. Only two private sector projects with grants totalling £2.8m have been approved – one by a subsidiary of Corus to redevelop the former steelworks site at Ebbw Vale, and another to create a centre of excellence for Welsh food in the Conwy Valley.

In a letter to businesses seeking support for the petition, West Wales Business Initiative secretary Wyn Price said little, if any of the new funds would reach “the sharp, business end of the economy.”

He said,“An example of what is happening is in Carmarthenshire, where the local authority is in control of Convergence Fund monies allocated to economic development and, in particular, the funds for the building of new factories,which are in short supply.

“The question is why the local authority has the power to determine private sector applications, while at the same time submitting its own plans to develop a new large industrial estate that it will then rent out to the private sector at so-called market rates.

“They have already limited the access to these funds by designating just one area of Carmarthenshire as a strategic priority, Cross Hands, where co-incidentally, it intends to develop the new estate.

"This effectively means that no direct benefit is derived by productive businesses. It does benefit the council which will derive future income to supplement its rapidly inflated size."

Since writing this post on the weekend, Dylan Jones-Evans has returned to blogging - if only for a day - to post his Western Mail article "The Assembly and saving the Welsh economy" in response to the current economic crisis.

Running the risk of being accused of being a Tory blogger by Nationalist bloggers - yet again [laugh] - at least Professor Dylan Jones-Evans is thinking outside the box, which is more than can be said of our Assembly Government.

New Welsh Blogger: Hywel Williams MP

Hywel Williams MP (Caernarfon)

Fi ydi Aelod Seneddol Caernarfon (neu Arfon ar ol yr etholiad nesaf, a chymeryd
y caf fy ail-ethol!). Rwyf yn AS ers 2001, a fy mhrif ddiddordebau gwleidyddol
yw Polisi cymdeithasol; Diwylliant a Iaith a'r celfyddydau.
Welcome to the blogosphere. This new addition is more welcomed than most due to its uniqueness among the majority of Plaid bloggers - in being a Plaid blog that actually links to a wide variety of non-Plaid blogs.

A rarity in the world of Welsh political blogging, and a new addition that simply doesn't just provide an act of blogging fallatio in a desperate attempt to seek approval from the master.

BBC UK Politics

BBC Welsh Politics

WalesOnline

Welsh Political News

UK News from Times Online

Telegraph Politics

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