Tuesday, October 31, 2006

NHS goes to the dogs - or not.

I have just read in today´s Telegraph that an NHS Trust in England has decided to use its radiology department to X-ray cats and dogs with broken bones etc.. According to the report everyone seems to be outraged by this. It sounds a splendid idea to me. Its a given that no risks whatsoever can be taken with patients health - and it is equally given that dogs will always come second. But if we can harness the love that dogowners feel for their loved ones to expand NHS provision and help pay off debts - why not. If some of the efficiency with which the private sector deals with animal injuries rubs off on the NHS, we will all benefit.

Rubbish in Vienna

Just arrived in Vienna to learn what Austria is doing with its rubbish. Some of the UK media are dismissing the move towards recycling, and the inevitable political opportunists are making hay with their populist rants. But recycling is for real - and it is time we began to take it seriously in Wales. The time is coming when we will not be allowed to just bury it, for future generations to deal with. I have been as hypocritical as anyone - but my recycling boxes are arriving next week. What happens in Vienna is that everyone has several seperate bins which are collected for free and what is left goes to incineration - and costs them big-time. Any Conservative who does not accept this move to recycling is cutting the turf from under our Dave´s feet. All this green stuff is making me one of his biggest fans.
The two Austians that I have read most about are Adolf Hitler and former EU agriculture commissioner, Franz Fischler, both of whom tried in their different ways to change the way we Europeans live. The first was a ´Socialist´, the second a ´Conservative´. I just mention this in passing.
I am meeting Jan Krainer. the Social Democrat spokesman on the ´environmet´ later today. It should be interesting because the political parties in Austria are trying to put together a coalition government following last weeks election. The Conservatives are trying to do a deal which will allow them to govern. Since I´m rather keen to tempt Plaid Cymru and the Lib-Dems into bed with we Tories next May, so that we can lead a coalition government, I am hoping to pick up a few tips on how to win them over.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Cameron talks big on Climate Change

David Cameron is really pushing the boat out on climate change. He was building up expectations again today on the BBC's Politics Show. His credibility now depends on delivery of real results - and these are not going to be popular or easy.
But I will back him when the going gets rough as it is bound to do. The Conservative Party is now committed to a 'green tax switch'. We are now committed to annual carbon emmissions targets. This is radical stuff.
While David Cameron can afford not to speak in specifics for another year or so, we have to have real policy committments in the Conservative Manifesto for the Assembly election. And because there is a real chance that we could be leading a coalition arrangement in the Assembly after next May, out committments had better be deliverable. David Melding is writing our Manifesto and he will have to give substance to what Cameron is saying about carbon emmissions, if we are to benefit from the 'Cameron Effect' in Wales.
It is a real advance to see climate change at the heart of debate. But it is now time to move on from 'talking' to 'doing'.

Dafydd El - What to do with him.

Watched today's Politics Show. Dafydd El is becoming a one-man soap opera. My deepest concern is that I usually agree with him. But I do think he is a touch hard on his Deputy. It all very well for Dafydd. He's contesting a 'safe' seat while John has got to beat the Labour machine and the odds to win Wrexham again next May.
The reason I usually agree with the PO is because both of us put the future of the Asssembly before most other political considerations. In the interview with Adrian Masters, Dafydd was utterly scathing of the way opposition parties behaved over this year's Assembly Government Draft Budget. "Trying to be the Government for 10 minutes" was his disparaging assessment. I don't completely agree with this judgement because the Government did not discuss through the 'usual channels' in the way I would expect a minority government to do - but I have to admit that it looked like a bit of a game to me. I do not know what the public made of it. Perhaps my view is coloured by being asked to deputise for Dafydd during the debate when he took his 'comfort break'. But I did think the whole charade brought the Assembly into public ridicule and did huge damage to the develpment of sensible urban/rural debate. It was very depressing to hear so much anti farming rhetoric coming from the governing party - and even more depressing to hear Carwyn Jones joining in.
We adopted a different approach in the Environment, Planning and Countryside Committee. Opposition AMs made it clear that they did not agree with the Minister and forced him to outline his reasoning - in public in front of the people most affected. The Minister made his case in a reasoned way - and we told him that we did not agree with him. But I do not want to bring the Government down and so I accept that the Government must have its budget - even if I don't like it. The voters will judge.
But back to Dafydd Elis Thomas and what we should do with him. Some AMs are telling me that it is time he went. Well I do not agree. He stands head and shoulders above anyone else. He is off the wall sometimes but he has courage, vision and resolution to make sense of the ridiculously complicated Government of Wales Bill. Having listened to the sort of rubbish being spouted by Peter Hain and Rhodri Morgan recently, we need Dafydd El. But no-one pretends that he is easy to deal with.

UK farmers depend on Fischer-Boel.

I have not met Mariann Fischer-Boel, the EU Commissioner for agriculture, but I really like the sound of her - straight talking and cares about farming, which is more than you can say for the UK Government. It is also a lot more than you can say for several Labour AMs - so much so that Carwyn Jones has to put on anti farming clothes to stand any chance of taking over from Rhodri Morgan as leader of the Labour Party in Wales.
Fischer-Boel is blunt in her low opinion of the UK Government. Only Westminster made a total horlicks of the new Single Payment Scheme - and they have already promised more of the same next year. There is hardly a farmer in England who would not prefer to be working with the Assembly. It is only the UK Government who want to renege on the EU Budget agreement for 2007/13, which the UK itself brokered - and they started reneging almost before the ink was dry. The only reason the UK signed in the first place was to get Blair out of a gigantic hole. It is only the UK Government who want to let farming take its chance in a world where almost every other country carries on with subsidy.
I am pleased that the DG Agriculture's head man on CAP reform has accepted my invitation to speak to the Environment, Planning and Countryside Committee's next meeting. It will be nice to here some answers direct from the Commission rather than hearing only the Assembly Government's rewriting of them.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Waterfront - 24 hours on

My Blogger Dashboard wasn't working last night so I could not comment on Waterfront in the immediate - but I do not want to allow Gareth Hughes' stunning performance to pass uncommented on. He was so bold. He took risks. He expressed controversial opinions. Much more of this and he will be putting bloggers out of business. I blog, in part, because the media in general just recycle spin doctor's press releases. I want to know what is actually happening.
Gareth said that John Marek will have to resign. I am not so sure. Anyone else but the be-sandaled bridgemaster and I would agree. He always seems to have a few extra points in his hand. But keep it up Gareth.

WLGA Conference - Blog 2

I was on a panel with Prof. Gareth Edward Jones, Cllr. Richard Parry Hughes, Cllr. Michael Jones, Tamsin Dunwoody and Mick Bates talking about rural issues with Rhun ap Iorwerth chairing. Incredibly Tamsin was being 'supported' by Rory O'Sullivan, one of the most senior civil servants in Cardiff plus another 'minder' from Cathay's Park. It wouldn't have surprised me if she had a few motorcycle outriders and a cavalcade to escort her through the streets of Llandudno. What a waste of resource. Didn't Rory have something better to do? No wonder our taxes are so high. Daft thing is, Tamsin can look after herself perfectly well. But that's government for you.

WLGA Conference.

I was speaking at the WLGA Conference at Llandudno today. I missed the debate in the morning about 'Deepening Devolution' which featured Peter Hain, Dafydd El, Nick Bourne and Lembit Opik. It seems that someone asked Nick if he thought Plaid Cymru would serve in a Tory led coalition after the Assembly Election next May. I'm told there was much laughter - but I don't know if Peter Hain joined in and I don't know what Nick said. I would have said "Of course they will." Plaid politicians like Rhodri Glyn and Janet Ryder are busily going around telling all and sundry that they won't - but I just don't believe it. Do they really expect us to believe that they would prop up Rhodri Morgan's crew in power - rather than work with the changed, modern, devolutionary Welsh Conservatives. People I talk to are really starting to believe that a Tory led 'Rainbow Coalition' in on the cards. I am committed to it. Surely, we can't let Labour rule for ever.
Dafydd El apparantly explained the formal position. It seems that the leader of the biggest party, probably Rhodri Morgan tries to form a government first. If he fails, the leader of the second party, probably Nick Bourne has a go. Then the leader of the third party, probably Ieuan and so on until you come to, "God forbid John Marek". That brought the house down.

Well done Scarlets.

There's no stopping the Scarlets. Discussed tonight's Heiniken Cup game with the old Irish second row, Jim Lennon who is now a TD (Irish MP) last weekend at the British Irish Intra-Parliamentary in Belfast - and neither of us felt able to call this one. Scarlets have been really great this season. Stephen Jones, the new Welsh skipper must be on a high, Regan King is on fire and Mark Jones is unstoppable. But to wallop Toulouse was a bit special in anybody's language!! From reading the Beeb report, it sounds as if Easterby and his back row colleagues were given a tough workout. I really fancy Wales to turn over the Aussies next weekend.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Out on a Patrol Launch.

After today's EPC Committee meeting in Colwyn Bay, Brynle and I took a trip, courtesy of the North Western and North Wales Sea Fisheries Committee on the fisheries patrol launch moored at Conwy Marina. It was blowing a gale and I felt a bit queezy just climbing on board. This one patrol launch covers the 6 mile wide stretch from Cardigan to Barrow. This is not adaquate coverage for such a great area. It seems that the main problem now is that the 'registered' commercial fishermen are becoming 'hobby' fishermen - and coming home with a boatful of bass at the weekend, entirely legally and unregulated. The trip brought home to me what a horlicks we make of managing our seas - no disrespect to our hosts for the day who impressed both of us. Britain needs a Marine Bill - and soon. Both Brynle and I survived.

Blogging arm of the law carries on blogging.

Environment, Planning and Countryside Committee met in Colwyn Bay today. I am keen that the Committee is seen as representing every part of Wales. Who should pop in to observe proceedings but Chief Constable of North Wales, Richard Brunstrum. Perhaps he was expecting trouble from some of the farmers who had come to watch the debate on Tir Mynydd, the grant scheme which is being cut by 40% by the Minister. Anyway, the farmers were as good as gold and he didn't have anyone to arrest. Perhaps he was looking for 'blogging' material to annoy his Police Authority members. Well done to his bosses for telling him to 'carry on blogging' - especially because he can't eat a flapjack without causing controversy. If only all bosses took the same enlightened approach. Media bosses, please note.

Final whistle in Aberystwyth - or maybe not

The Premiership 'bug' of outsiders coming in and buying up football clubs has spread to mid Wales. I am sorry to hear that the 'final whistle' has been blown on Iain Skewis' running of the Welsh International Soccer Tournament at Aberystwyth after 22 years - though I am told it was more of a 'knife in the back'than a straightforward buy-out. Iain thought of it, started it and he has been its inspiration. It has been a highlight of the last week in July and has brought a lot of money and tourism into the Town as well as putting mid Wales on the map. Key to the tournament is use of the University's facilities - and these have been sold to another party.
I remember the Ian Rush Soccor Tournament, as it was then called, being launched - and I also remember presenting a cup to a little 12 year old named Michael Owen when he captained the winning team. The photo of Michael and myself is on the front of one of the tournament brochures from the 90s that I still have. I hope the new owners are as successful as Iain was.

Hain creates division

So Peter Hain told the Welsh Select Committee today (yesterday now) that he thinks that 'regional' AMs should receive less additional costs allowance and employ fewer staff than 'constituecy' AMs. I hope this does not come to pass and I do not for one minute think Peter Hain does either. So why is he saying it. I will try to work it out.
I hear it on good authority that Labour in the Assembly want 'regional' AMs to become secondary to 'constituency' AMs. They want them to have to notify the superier 'constituency' AMs of every approach they receive from constituents. I also hear, on equally good authority, that they want a 'code of conduct' restricting 'regional' AMs included in the Standing Orders that a cross party group are currently drawing up. I will not vote for this and nor will enough other AMs to carry it into force. Consequently, the National Assembly will fail to draw up their own standing orders - which will make it look seriously foolish. It also means that Peter Hain would have to draw up the Standing Orders himself - and I can't imagine that he would want that. So he's putting the 'frighteners' on to try to force opposition AMs to come to an agreement. I am afraid it won't work. Not enough of us are willing to be blackmailed.
I do think Peter Hain is right when he says AMs should work harder though. There is no excuse for not holding Plenary sessions on three days per week and sometimes in the mornings as well. Restricting this week's Draft Budget Debate to less than 2 hours was a scandal. And there should be much more time when opposition parties choose the business so that we can dispense with the farcial Business Statement nonsense we currently have every Tuesday - and less votes when we all agree that 'motherhood and apple pie' are good.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Assembly is a soap opera

Several new 'bloggers' have started posting from the National Assembly. Why? I started because I thought it would be a bit of fun. But its more than that. We bloggers are filling a gap which is to connect with those who see life as a 'soap opera'. For them, the Assembly must be a 'soap opera' as well. Serious types will frown on this but the reality is that the National Assembly of Wales is a collection of 60 individuals - complete with their jealousies and their ambitions. Relationships develop and break apart just like characters in Pobl y Cwm.
In Wales we have no sketch writers and no gossip columns. Gareth Hughes does a bit on Waterfront. But it is not enough. What we really need is Westgate back in the Western Mail and a 'bloggers corner' on BBC Online.
I make mistakes on my blog and sometimes post things I wouldn't post if I left it for a few hours - but then no-one would be interested. It has to be what I thought at the time - not what I thought, doctored for public consumption after careful consideration. I have only had to apologise to one AM so far - for an over graphic comparison with a wild animal.
I have been forced to write this drival because nothing noteworthy happened in the Assembly Chamber today. However, Carl Sergeant did stand up and support Mark Isherwood (a first in almost 4 years) but he soon recovered with a description that not even I'll risk as a post in a response email to me when I congratulated him on finally recognisuing Mark's true towering talent. And the Presiding Officer induced widespread, though uncertain laughter when he said everyone who wanted a new Chief Executive should have one. His Deputy thinks he should only have one if he's discussed it with everyone first.
EPC Comittee in Colwyn Bay tomorrow and then I'm out in the Irish Sea in a fishing boat in the afternoon. After seeing what happened to Robin Knox Johnson, I hope the weather calms down. Weather permitting I will post again tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Trish Law shows her mettle.

Draft budget day in the Assembly - overshadowed by another skirmish between Dafydd El and John Marek. John wanted to speak in the debate - so was not willing to stand in for Dafydd when he had to leave the chamber to answer the call of nature. Who steps in but yours truly. Another 15 minutes of glory in the PO's chair. In dreamworld again - imagining myself to be Owain Glyndwr, King of Wales. Lorraine Barrett asked why John was being paid 67 grand if he wasn't willing to take the chair in Dafydd's absence. The Meirionydd Machiavelli said that he would "have more to say when he had reflected on the matter". Oh Dear! More trouble in store.
Sue Essex spoke well, as always, but it made no difference. The Draft Budget was going down - no matter what. Dai Lloyd and Peter Black made thoughtful speeches. Lyn Neagle said opposition attempts to improve the budget were a "Grubby Grab-a-Granny stunt". And then Lorraine said we were a Rag, Tag and Bobtail outfit from Cloud Cookoo Land". Obvious that Labour are trying out a new speech writer. What next? Jeff Cuthbert cracking a gag!!
It turned out to be a pro v anti farming debate. Labour have decided that there are a lot more votes in bashing farmers than backing them. Even Carwyn joined in. What will his 'buddies' in the farming unions think of that I ask myself.
The real invective of Labour was aimed at John Marek and Trish Law. Amongst the exchange of artillery I learned that there are only 29 farmers in Blaenau Gwent. But Trish was up to them. A bit of the late Peter's spirit has rubbed off on her. Since Brian Walters, the 'beenaboutabit' ex Evening Post man joined her team, she has shown a bit of Ebbw Vale steel. She is going to do Labour again in May.
Brynle was fighting the corner for the Tir Mynydd farmers,which includes my own farming business. If I lose all my farm support I can always take Carl Sergeant's advice and touch John Marek for a proportion of his DPO allowance - although he probably needs every penny to underpin his half million loan to Wrexham. A good spunky debate though.

Monday, October 23, 2006

NICE discredited again

Good news reported in today's Telegraph about access to Bowel Cancer drugs. The decision earlier this year by NICE, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (or Control of Expenditure) not to give approval for prescription within the NHS the drugs Avastin and Erbitux for treatment of bowel cancer was a deeply disappointing decision. It follows that I welcome the intervention of the High Court which has upheld the rights of sufferers to have access.
A course of Erbitux costs£11,000 for a 16 week course and in many cases extends life by several months. the drugs are still available within the NHS in Wales, where they have been judged to be cost effective - but will remain so for a few weeks only.

Blogging from Belfast

In Belfast for the 33rd Plenary Session of the British Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body. My first meeting of this odd creature, whose purpose seems to be the creation of a forum where politicians from the North and South can talk to each other. In theory this is a good idea - but the politicians from Northern Island don't turn up.
I enjoyed meeting up with Peter Brooke who started the whole peace process off in the early 90s, when none of us even knew it was happening. Today's reletive peace in Northern Island is Tony Blair's biggest success. His particular brand of charm and use of slippery language has worked wonders. He would have been remembered for this if he not invaded Iraq after lying to the British people about the threat.
Can also report that the spat between Peter Hain and Elfyn Llwyd is still festering. When Peter had finished his speech and Question Time, Elfyn was the only delegate not to applaud - not even the merest gesture.
I have to say that despite the bitter rivalries of Irish politics, the degree of politeness exercised in debate made the National Assembly look like a kid's playground.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Anyone for Brest

Just arrived at the Hilton Hotel in Belfast for a meeting of the British Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body. Had a lousy journey. Got to Birmingham International Airport early but the queue for security so long it stretched out all around the entire concourse. When I finally reached the Alton Towers type arrangement in the security hall I heard some Irish fellow shouting out "anyone for breast". Well, we all get to feel a bit like that sometimes - but it takes the brass neck of an Irishman to walk around an airport shouting out loud for it. Turned out he was doing a last call for the French town of Brest.
Then there was the demand that I took off my belt to go through the X-Ray unit. Good job Brynle wasn't with me or the public might have been treated to the sight of his entire fusilage. Anyway, finally made it and am now going to the 'Waterfront' for official welcoming dinner. I just can't get away from the programme.

Fishy Supermarket War in Powys

Sunday morning call to alert me to a strange tale of two supermarket planning applications in Powys with a decidedly fishy smell. One application is by Ross Developments in Welshpool and involves the relocation of the Town's livestock market to a site outside the town centre. Permission for the livestock market has already been granted. My mole tells me that the Planning Department are doing everything they can to frustrate the application, which has been in for several months. Last week, so I am told, the gloves came off and the planners admitted that they see Welshpool as being within the catchment of the nearby town of Newtown - so it does not need a new supermarket at all. It will have to make do with its Morrisons which does not even stock Welsh butter (see below).
Now you might ask about what this has to do with a fishy smell. Well, the Local Planning Authority, otherwise known as Powys County Coucil, happens to be the owner of the site in Newtown which it hopes to sell to Tesco for a figure in excess of £7 million. The Newtown site is a long way from the retail centre - while Welshpool is on the edge of it. Traffic problems are much more of a problem at the Newtown site than Welshpool. And with no supermarket on the Welshpool site, there will be no money for the desperately needed new livestock market to go ahead. It looks like a lose-lose situation to me.
The smell is so fishy that I hope that Carwyn Jones, the 'Planning' Minister in the National Assembly will 'call-in' the Newtown development. It is always best to check a fishy smell to make sure that there is nothing putrid causing it.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

BBC and S4C in love again

Have just read the joint press release issued by the BBC and S4C earlier this week. It looks as if the 2 media giants (well one and a half then) have found a new understanding. For years there has been a fair bit of tension between the two. And I had always thought John Walter to be such a prickly character. Just goes to show how wrong one can be!! It seems that the two sides are going to try holding 'friendly' discussions about programming. This week we had Ian Paisley and Martin Maginnis talking, we had Rhodri Glyn Thomas making a shameless pitch for a Labour-Plaid love-in after the next Assembly election and now this. It really was cuddle-up week.
Now that S4C have another £3 million from the Beeb, perhaps they can commission another gardening programme to replace the much missed 'Garddio' which has been inexplicably dumped on the compost heap.
This looks a positive development. I just hope it doesn't freeze out the private sector producers in any way. Better have a word with Dafydd Hughes from the independent producers to see what he thinks.

Women on top at the Beeb

Pleased to see Janet Lewis-Jones taking over at the BBC. Even though Janet is (at least was) encumbered with Labour leanings, she is a first rate choice - knows her stuff and won't be pushed around. But it is going to be interesting having two strong women at the top in Broadcasting House. Expect to see some fireworks in the Llandaff area!
Rumour around the Bay is that bosses at ITV would like to scrap their political unit. I dare say they would but they have signed up until 2009 - and they should be made to stick to the deal. I hope to hear soon who is taking over from Roger Lewis, recently departed to take over at the WRU. Perhaps the well thought of Elis Owen will be required to step forward into the breach. I am told this would a good move. ITV's political output is good and I particularly like Waterfront, even if they put it on in the middle of the night. We desperately need competition for the BBC. The political output is too much like a series of spin doctors press releases as it is. We depend more and more on Martin Shipton and the bloggers for a bit of sharp edge.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Leighton Andrews

I read in Leighton's blog that he thinks I write well. I must not let this go to my head. For what it is worth I agree with Peter Hain that Leighton would make a good First Minister - if only he wasn't so grumpy. And anyway he allows himself the freedom to have opinions - so there is no future for him in the Labour Party until 'Hairbear' Morgan moves on.

Who stayed up for Waterfront on Friday

ITV must be looking for an excuse to close down its Welsh political unit - testing the loyalty of Waterfront 'groupies' by putting it out at midnight. I am a committed fan of the programme but how many of us will put up with this timing. It was acceptable last night though because it was delayed by a programme about the Aberfan tragedy.
I always enjoy watching master tactition, Sue Essex in action and greatly enjoyed shadowing her in the past. She was in good disarming form again last night and she has the ability to make Labour arrogance look like sweet reasonableness. Pity she is retiring. She would have made a super Leader of the Opposition after next May. I am looking forward to seeing how she copes in the Budget debate next Tuesday though.
And it was nice to see David Jones at the Despatch Box in the House of Commons for Welsh Questions last week. He looked the part and would make a first rate Shadow Minister.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Politicians in a tangle

Dragon's Eye was rather fun tonight as the BBC tried to give legs to a Plaid-Labour Coalition in Cardiff Bay after next May's elections. I think the Beeb missed the high point on this one. Since Mike German last week refused to insist that Proportional Representation in Local Government is a 'dealbreaker' for the Lib Dems, the Plaid-Labour pie-bald has been going backwards and Ieuan's chance of becoming Deputy First Minister has been crushed like a mobile in a 'mulcher'(see below). Since I began blatantly flirting with potential Rainbow Coalition partners a couple of weeks ago, both parties have been shamelessly offering to prop up Rhodi Morgan's gang.
Sorry Mike and Ieuan but over the next few months, a modern, constuctive, proudly Welsh Conservative Party has stepped onto the political ballroom dancefloor looking to turn heads - and quite a few of your backers are going to quite like what they see. My advice to Mike and Ieuan is to stop this simpering around the feet of fading Labour and take a good look at the Conservatives. Don't fight it. We could lead you to the promised land.
And then we had Alun Pugh talking about the veil. One minute he said that Jack Straw had got it all wrong and next minute he said he couldn't learn himself without seeing the face of his teacher. He is obviously ideally equipped to do a deal with the Lib Dems.

Tory Tax Talk

Today has been an important day for the Conservative Party. We started talking about tax again. While I have been supportive of David Cameron's strategy to re-image the party (I do not like the phrase 'decontaminating the brand'), I do not believe it is credible for us to go into a General Election without a 'lower tax' policy. I believe that we should be seen as the 'lower tax' party - if not the 'low tax' party. I accept that it is too far out from an election to make specific committments and we cannot know what the state of the nation's accounts will be. But I do think we should support the principle that the control and intrusion of the state into our lives should be 'less rather than more' and the control and responsibility of the individual over their own lives should be 'more rather than less'.
Today's publication from Michael Forsyth's Tax Commission makes interesting reading. It is the basis for constuctive debate - so here goes. I would not give top billing to cutting the basic rate of income tax. I would prefer to see the preposterous 10p rate abolished and millions on people taken out of liability altogether by raising allowances. This would roll back the state as well as help the lower end of the income scale.
Next, I want to see Stamp Duty cut. George Osborne, our impressive Shadow Chancellor has already talked about cutting this duty on shares dealing. I believe these cuts should be extended to houses as well. We are the party of the homeowner and have pushed up the level of homeownership in the UK. This policy makes no sense if we have a tax system that makes it prohibitively expensive to trade in housing. Modern employment patterns need people to move around the country and it damages the economy if the tax system discourages them. Stamp Duty has become a ball and chain on the development of a flexible Labour Market in the UK.
Not all of my Party colleagues will agree with me here but I welcome George Osborne's embrace of the 'green tax switch' principle. Increasing the level of duty on air travel would not be popular - but it is right. We must stimulate technological research into fuel efficiecy through the tax system. But the most important aspect of today's developments is that we Conservatives are talking about tax again.

Life without my mobile.

Last Sunday my wife 'mulched' my mobile. Today, Thursday I am still mobile-less. O2 have been the absolute 'pits' in sorting this out. Delivery of my replacement had been faithfully promised by 5 today - and it is now 5.30. I am seriously naggy.
So what happened. I was tidying up the alsteomerias near the edge of the 'hot' border on Sunday afternoon when my mobile slipped quietly out of my shirt pocket when I was distracted, only to settle unobtrusively in the lawn's inch long grass - which my wife was cutting at the time.. Along she came, astride our 3 ft mulcher and totally obliterated it. I have accepted that she didn't notice it - even though, only an hour earlier and in retrospect, rather suspiciously, she had commented on what a menace it was. I only realised what had happened when she asked what the 10 sqr ft of Xmas glitter was on her freshly 'mulched' lawn. Sim card gone as well. If anyone has a mobile to dispose of, get in touch. To make it worse she went off to Spain to play golf for a week a few hours later. This week I have felt desolate and unloved. I want my mobile back.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Lib Dems all at sea

The Lib Dems are having a bit of trouble deciding on their approach to coalitions in the Assembly. I hear that just after Mike German announced to their conference in Aberystwyth (after heavy trailing in the media) that there would be 'no deals, no discussions and no distractions' their Welsh leader, Lembit Opik informed us that he wants to see a deal. I am not sure with who though. We are used to Lib Dems saying different things in different places - but they are now saying different things in different parts of the conference hall. Perhaps this is what Mike means when he talks about his committment to a 'localism' agenda.

Caption Competition

A caption competition for this week. An early suggestion is 'Can I have a word in your ear.'

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Blog Report - Oct 15

Good week for the Blog - which will be rechristened tomorrow as 'Cardiff Bay Reflections'. I had preferred 'View from Room C308' myself but I was outvoted by Phill in my office who outvotes me on practically everything. And from next week, I am going to publish 4 blogs, on politics in the Bay, gardening, sport and Y Blog Cymreig.
The Blog I published titled 'Carwyn outshines his Boss' had widespread coverage in the press, made it into Danial Davies' Tiger Tales and didn't do much for Carwyn's relationship with Rhodri. Lee Waters dipped into 'Policies would be nice, Mr Cameron' but I must admit he was trying to create dissention twixt me and Nick Bourne which wasn't being helpful Lee. Also made it into ConservativeHome.com which is as big in the blogging world as Hello Magazine is in the celebrity world. And today, Matt Withers picked his 'Quote of the Week' from one of my Rainbow Coalition blogs. Can it get any better? I just need a few people to start leaving comments to make my world complete.
If Joe Calzaghe had read my blog on Sat morning he would have been warned about Bika's headbutt.

Minister of zzzzs strikes again

I was shocked to the core of my being last week by the profanity of an AM who I would describe as a real lady (female that is). She had been to hear Andrew Davies, the Minister of zzzzs giving a speech to Passenger Focus, the GB rail watchdog. She had written down everything of value that he said on a reminder card which she kindly let me read. Two words only. F*** A**. What is it about Andrew that inflames female AMs in this way. Eleanor Burnam went off like a Chinese firework when asking Andrew a question last week - and now this. He is like an old Second World War bomb found in the corner of a children's playground - just standing there doing nothing much while inciting great passions all around himself. He is a sort of John Howard of Welsh politics and a man to watch.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Congrats Joe

Congratulations Joe. Bika was a strong man. Too much showboating though. I was tense throughout round 10. I felt ok after that. Ref should have thrown Bika out - but they never do. Queensbury would have turned in his grave. Bring on Kessler. Take a payday against Hopkins if its on offer.

Congrats Annunziata

I was really pleased to see that the Tories in Somerton and Frome have adopted Annunziata Rees-Mogg as their Candidate. The seat is currently held by the Lib Dems by a few hundred only. She was a great candidate for (I think it was Aberavon) at the last Election. She is going to be a real star in the Tory firmament over the next few years.

And the best of luck to Joe Calzaghe at Manchester tonight. He will have to take Bika seriously though. It would be easy after the Lacey fight to think he can do anything but the Camaroonian could be a tough nut. Last time out his fight was stopped after a headbutt.

The vows of a Lib Dem laeder

Mike German has been telling his Party's autumn conference in Aberystwyth today that there will "No Deals. No Discussions. No distractions." Does he really expect us to believe this. At the moment he is discussing a deal with opposition leaders about what they want in the Assembly budget - which looks like discussions to find a deal to me!! He would be better off talking to the 20,000 starlings that are gathering under the pier in Aber as I type - which is such an unusual sight that it must be a distraction for all those Lib Dem conference goers.
The reports of what he was going to say concentrated on action on the environment, devolving power to local communities and giving more power to teachers. He must have been reading one of Nick Bourne's speeches. And I personally fully support any decision the Lib Dems take today on getting to grips with the Japanese knotweed problem. I would be quite happy to include all this in my next speech to my party supporters! All this makes Mike look as if he is up for a deal with the man with the best offer - wish I have no trouble at all believing.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Labour's upgraded rebuttal unit

Looks like Labour are getting there rebuttal unit into gear. We'll all have to be a bit more wary. I was caught out a touch by some slick Labour footwork today. Must be the Jo Kiernan influence. We clearly have an Alice Campbell up on the 5th floor of Crickhowell House. After years of making a complete horlicks of every little molehill, they look a bit quicker on their feet all of a sudden.
What happened. This morning Sue Essex, who dominates Rhodri Morgan more than Brown dominates Blair, put out a press release telling us that the new Assembly Building in Aberystwyth is going to be 7600 sqr mtrs. I phoned a friend who builds these sort of things and he said 'no change' out of £100 per sqr foot and then double it for the IT, security and fitting out. Well this comes to about £17 million. The first estimate for the new Assembly Building in Cardiff was a lot less that that- so I thought I would 'notify' the people of this major impact on next year's budget by press release. I thought I was quite pleased with myself. In no time at all I was being 'condemned' by Labour for opposing shifting 500 jobs to Aberystwyth. I do oppose jobs being shifted from Machynlleth to Aber but I am pleased that jobs are moving from Cardiff. That was one up to Alice Campbell.
Nothing to be done but keep my head down - and watch out for Alice in the future. Let that be a lesson that I learn.

Cardiff Bay Quadrennial Handicap - Update

Breaking News - Lib-Lab Pact up to joint favourite
Latest odds
Plaid/Labour 7/4
Lib-Lab Pact 7/4
Rainbow Coalition 4/1
Labour alone 12/1

Last night's Waterfront sparked off heavy betting on Lib-Lab Pact after jockey, Mike G refused to confirm PR in Local Government to be a dealbreaker. Under heavy pressure from ITV's answer to John Mccririck, he said everything is a dealbreaker - which is the same thing as saying nothing is. It is obvious that Mike G is willing to sacrifice any principle for a little place in the back of the winner's enclosure. Only reason for some money holding back is that the bookies are unsure whether all Mike G's stable hands are as utterly shameless as he is.
Rainbow Coalition slipped back in the betting today, following doubts about part-owner Mike G's genuine committment to the ride following exposure of his interest in other runners. The Jockey Club and the press corps really should be looking into the multiple interests of this particular rider to ensure that the punters are not being taken for a ride.
Iuean WJ is reported to having trouble in his stable where there are some new stable hands who are a bit wet behind the years and still think Plaid Cymru alone can win. Bookies tell me you can get better odds on Shergar and Red Rum.
Nick B is reported to be very relaxed about the big race and plans to let the punters see something of the Tory manifesto in the next few days. He is confident of a good result and his mount is so people friendly and sleek since being bought by a Notting Hill Consortium that the rest of the field are jumping about in a panic. Labour Alone is attracting no money because jockey, Rhodri M looks too knackered to stay the distance until the big race next May

What is it?

The National Assembly took delivery this week of this very strange package. Is it a new modern ‘throne’ for the Presiding Officer? Or is it a little something that Jo Kiernan has bought for Rhodri Morgan as a ‘clean sheet’ whiter than white Assembly election battle bus – to perk up the tired out and battle weary old campaigner? Perhaps it is a sleigh for Alun Pugh, the Culture Minister to deliver all his new ‘Scrabble’ Xmas cards around Wales – all to promote the Welsh Language of course. Nothing to do with trying to save his Clwyd West seat. Better check the legals Alun. I was walking home through the Senedd late last Wed. and saw it with the cover off. It could be any of those things.

I tried to take a photo of it and immediately, out of the shadows, rushed a Dalek threatening me that I would be whisked away in a time machine or a TARDIS if I photographed it. I beat a hasty retreat and contented myself with a photo of what might be a fountain of youth with its wrapping on. You will have to wait for the new series to see it.

Another good Waterfront

More discussion about the 'Rainbow Coalition' tonight - with me pushing the boat out a bit. Since the Conservatives joined in the discussions (or mere gossip if some are to be believed), the other parties are backing off bigtime. They just do not know how to handle an ultra-reasonable Conservative Party committed to Wales and to the Assembly. They are hiding behind the blindingly obvious. Of course all of us must wait until the votes are counted - and we all want to win 30+ seats. All I have been saying is that the Conservatives should be a part of any thinking that is going on about what happens after May and that a real prospect of a non Labour Government should be before the voters.
I thought that betting on the Rainbow Coalition slipped back a bit tonight though. Mike German did his best to avoid saying that PR in Local Government will be a deal breaker. He clearly still has his eye on a deal with Labour. I was pleased that Lee forced him into making the committment.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Friends at war

Just watched the first Dragon's Eye of the new series. Thought the Hain/Scarlets story was making a montain out of a molehill - but the public war between Dafydd Elis Thomas and John Marek really gripped me and stunned me with its sheer viciousness. It is a really serious matter for the National Assembly. I have made light of this issue for the last few months but no more. Tonight's interviews were not funny at all. The Assembly has a serious problem and two of my best political friends are in the thick of it. I have known Dafydd and admired him for 25 years. He is the politician I most admire in the Assembly. John has become a respected colleague as well over the last 7 years whose advice I value. I am not at all sure that this can go on. It must end now or men in white coats will be needed. Tonight Dragon's Eye has left me feeling shaken and saddened

Fame at last

Just visited ConservativeHome.com, which along with Ian Dale's Diary is the Blogger's equivilent of Everest - and Shipton's coverage of my Rainbow Coalition stuff got the full treatment on Wed.. Fame at last - for me that is. Bang goes my chance of preferment.

Rainbow Coalition. Its in the open now.

Martin Shipman gave me big coverage in yesterday's Western Mail about my essay on the need to oust Labour from Office next May. Actually it was a draft essay that I had let Martin see. I intended to tidy it up for publication - and it was a bit of a shock to see it in print. I am going to publish it (in its draft form) on my website under the Speeches link. I was pleased with the editing and even more pleased that it took the editorial 'Comment' as well. The Comment writer suggested that my interest in a 'Rainbow Coalition' is no more than about getting a slice of the governing action for the Tories in the Assembly. Spot on - at least in part.
Too many politicians prefer the 'comfort zone' of opposition where there are no hard choices to make, and everybody loves you, and you can say what you want. Just the warm feeling of Party supporters telling you how wonderful you are. Politics is about the exercise of power. Sometimes I hear so much utter tosh from opposition AMs - supporting things that sound nice in principle but which they would not dream of doing if they were in Government.
I have not heard one word of critisism of my essay from a Conservative - although I do expect to be scragged by my regular correspondents from Newport, Pembrokeshire, Monmouth and Wrexham. However, I have also heard that the Lib Dems and Plaid, whose mad ideas I am now trying to be more understanding about are not happy bunnies at all. I am told their group meetings have become 'cauldrens of recrimination'. They just do not know what to do with a reasonable, cuddly, modern Tory Party.Some of them prefer the 'comfort zone'. I can see that the next few months are going to take me back to my teens when I was trying to wheedle my way into the affections and favours of the opposite sex who did not reciprocate my enthusiasms.

No Welsh Butter

Wife just returned home from shopping in Morrisons at Welshpool. Butter on the shelf marked as from New Zealand, Ireland, Yorkshire, Brittany and England. No butter at all from Wales. She thinks that Morrisons is the pits. Much as I admire the amazing 74 year old Ken Morrison for the way the way he has stuck two fingers up to the smart****s in the City I still say "Roll on Tescos of Welshpool".

Cutting air travel through using video link

This week, I did something which might help save the planet. (Sorry if that sounds like Lembit Opik). We beamed the EU Commission into our Environment, Planning and Countrtyside Committee by video link. Apart from one or two hiccups it worked really well. So much so that the DG Environment Cabinet's Martijn Quinn who spent 40 informative minutes with us has told the EU Commissioner for Communications and Relations with National Parliaments that this was a really good model of how the Commission can engage with the people of Europe. And the significance was increased in that we were discussing how to protect the World's biodiversity. There is no need for Assembly Committees to fly to Brussels to meet the Commission any more. It saves time, money and the environment. No more demanding evening meetings at Kitty O'Shea's. No more 'cultural' exchages with the social side of European nightlife. Sell your shares in airline companies. Cancel investment the road and rail links to Cardiff Airport. Though I do (rather sheepishly) have to admit that I am off to Belfast in 10 days time and to Vienna the week after that - and on Assembly business at that. We have a long way to go to save the planet - but at least this week my committee made a start.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Assembly today - Eleanor, Carl, Rhodri and Bill

Not much happening today. I had expected round 9 of the Dafydd El v John Marek battle in the debate on the APS budget but it didn't happen. I had been looking forward to the fireworks but I suppose it is all for the best. It is bound to come though. I have this image of female mud wrestling in my mind.
Eleanor Burnham was on fire today. She launched into Arriva trains like a tigress on heat. Made Andrew Davies, the Minister of zzzzz look just like the Minister of zzzzz. And I am not being nice to Eleanor because I am smoooooooothing the path to a 'Rainbow Coalition'. I am really sorry that I said, rather ungallantly, that she intervened on me stupidly last week.
In the middle of her rant Eleanor said that Arriva trains are so slow that she has often thought about getting out to push. And up jumps Carl Sargeant to say that she would have to push bloody hard if both he and Brynle Williams were on board. Now I don't want to be sizist but I do not think Carl and Brynle should be allowed on the same train unless it is going downhill - and then only after a recent check on the braking system.
Rhodri Morgan continues to amaze. He was asked a very sensible question about the increase in the number of prisoners in the UK and he says they have multiplied like the pidgeons in Trafalgar Square. Was this a reference to prisoners flying free?. No-one had a clue what he was talking about. And then William Graham started talking about 'wild weekends' in Newport. I think Bill has been reading history books about Gladstone going out on the street late at night to show 'ladies of the night' the path to redemption. I am not sure he has ever recovered from his spell as our Social Justice spokesman and his 'spititual coupling' with Lemmie.
At 5.00 I met a group of Canadian students who had watched the session and were fascinated by the fuss over the cost of Alun Pugh's Xmas cards - which had fired Ieuan WJ into a proper little paddy. It seems that Alun had decided on a depiction of himself with a Welsh Language scabble board. This cost mega-money in legal fees. Rhodri reckoned this card would advance the prospects of the Welsh Language - and the rest of us thought it was intended to advance the interests of Alun. Sorry Alun but our young Darren Millar will be sending out Assembly cards under the banner of Clwyd West AM next Xmas. I finished up the day standing in for the Presiding Officer at an event to celebrate the 150th anniversery of the South Wales Institute of Engineers. I do enjoy standing in for the PO. It is the nearest I ever get to understanding what it is like to be a 'Royal'.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Llanelli Scarlets

It would be a tragedy for Welsh rugby if the Scarlets were to go out of business because of Carwyn Jones' decision to 'call in' the club's planning application for alternative use of Stradey. I also read they are asking David Pickering for a loan to see them through the 12 months or so that it will take to decide things. This would be a tough call for new supremo, Roger Lewis. Why don't they just ask Wales' new 'sporting banker', John Marek for a loan. He could have a bit left over after his loan of £500,000 to Wrexham football Club.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Blogging - the future

I had no idea how successful 'blogging' can be in connecting with other people. No longer are quotes taken out of context or without the qualifications that change their meaning. Neither can the 'blogger' escape his or her words. I learned lessons about this last week after I published a page under the heading "Policies would be nice, Mr Cameron". My fellow AM, Peter Black republished it on his blog which attracts many more people than mine - because he thought it might cause me a bit of a problem. And then Lee Waters, who presents Waterfront used it to 'discomfort' Nick Bourne in an TV interview on Thursday. And then,on sunday, I logged onto ConservativeHome.com, the blog run by Tim Montgomery which reaches hundreds of thousands of people and there was one of my 'tongue in cheek' blogs reprinted in full.
What is good about a blog is that I feel able to say what I genuinlly believe. A blog is personal and is what I actually think. In the debating chamber I sometimes vote against what I believe because I am subject to the party whip. Well, the whip does not reach my blog. If I think Welsh students should have to pay top-up fees as they would if they lived in England, I can say so in my blog. If I think that thousands of Welsh students are going to Welsh universities instead of the best university for them simply because they do not have to pay top up fees is a most unwelcome development, I can say that as well. Over recent years politics has become pitiful as the party spin machines have taken over. The blog is the alternative route for free thinking to survive - and I am only now beginning to realise how much I am going to enjoy it.

World Ostomy Day

I spent Saturday morning at Macarthur Glen (if that is how its spelt) the shopping centre off the M4 near Bridgend. I was lauching a 'stand' manned by the various ostomates support groups in South Wales on World Ostomates Day. Ostomates are people who for various reasons cannot pass bodily waste through the usual orifices. I am involved in this because as a result of surgery to remove a cancerous tumour in my rectum four years ago, I have a colostomy - so I no longer have a rectum or a backside at all. I suppose I am an inspiration to many sufferers simply because I can live an entirely normal life. I am also a rare bird in Britain, in that I colonically irrigate (every other morning) - so, unusually, I am an ostomate who does not have to wear a 'bag'. Anyone with a colostomy who wants to know more about this should give me a ring on 07968082891. It is not right for everyone - but it works for me.
I am very public about what happened to me because I know that the reluctance of most people to mention matters to do with their bowels leads to thousands of people dying unneccesarily every year. This reluctance to talk about 'toilet matters' also means that these illnesses and diseases have a lower profile than they should have - and less public investment. There were representatives of colostomy groups, urostomy groups and ileostomy groups at Bridgend. There are a lot of really great people involved - many of whom have faced the prospect of an early death. Much of my life is spent with people who are selfish, shallow and obsessed with ambition. The people I spent Sat. with are not like that at all. There is nothing like a close encounter with the next world to increase your appreciation of this one.

Joe Calzaghe - or Nicole Cooke

Wales has this year's two best British candidates for the title of 2006 Sports Personality of The Year.
Joe Calzaghe sounded a very frustrated man this week when he rightly predicted that he wouldn't win - but I do not agree that it is because he is a winner, not a loser. But he does have a point. If he had broken down in floods of tears after his magnificent victory over Jeff Lacey earlier in the year or invented a story about how he had overcome some sort of emotional problem when he was a child, he would walk the title. It not about sporting acheivement any more. Perhaps if he gives the Viking Warrier, Mikkel Kessler the same treatment in 2007 as he gave Lacey in 2006, he will be in with a shout of the title next year.
But Joe would not have my vote anyway. It goes to Nicole Cooke, the Bridgend cyclist who has been Britain's top sports performer in 2006. She is the first ever British world No.1 cyclist (man or woman), she is the current World Champion roadracer and she won the 2006 Tour de France. What more can she do? And she is a wonderful ambassador for world sport as well. Nicole Cooke is a genuine all round champion. And its not as if women's cycling is a minority sport. There are just as many professional female cyclists as there are female tennis players. But Sharapova flashing her knickers is more eye catching than Nicole in a helmet wearing cycling shorts. Anyone who cares about the future of sport should vote for 'Cooke' this year.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Waterfront again

I watched Waterfront again last night. It is becoming compulsive viewing. Lee Waters is becoming a real handful. What a waste it will be if he ever goes into politics himself! I could have done without his reference to me as 'troublesome' though. He made me sound like some rabid right winger - which will please one of my Newport friends who accused me yesterday of being a 'soft old b*****'after I backed the Government's support for poverty in Africa. I could have been wrong on that but I do admit that I can be a 'bit soft' on this sort of issue.
But the real big mega story last night was that there have been discussions going on between Nick B, Ieuan WJ and Mike G about a coalition after the next Assembly election. I could have fallen off my chair. I expected it to be the story of the day today. I suppose the BBC played the story down because it was ITV Wales. Surely they will look for a different angle on the story on Sunday and then run it as their exclusive!! Six months ago, I would have been downright 'troublesome' if I had heard this. But things move on. The way Labour are trying to 'fix' the constitution in Wales to suit the 'government of the day' makes it imperative that they are forced to try opposition for themselves. If it takes a coalition to deliver a lesson in how to build a constitution - so be it. When I update the betting on next May's Cardiff Bay Quadrennial Handicap, I would not be at all surprised to see Rainbow Coalition take over the favourite's spot.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Carwyn outshines his boss

In yesterday's debate about widening the legal protection for playing fields, Carwyn Jones put down his marker. Lisa Francis had put in a spirited performance as moving her proposal. There was cross party support and only Karen Sinclair spoke in opposition - and even she seemed more pro than anti. Approaching the end of the debate and the Labour benches filled up and a creased looking Rhodri Morgan slumped down in his seat. The stage was set.
Carwyn stood up to respond for the Government, tall and strong, oozing confidence from every pore, noteless, like a sleek young lion 'strutting' before a pride of suddenly aroused females - while the mangy knackered looking old leader of the pride looked down with tired eyes, trying to recall the days when he could stir their interest. But Labour rules are not jungle rules and Rhodri will go on and on. That is why Labour will not win next May's Assembly Election.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Cardiff Bay Quadrennial Handicap

Breaking News. 'New favourite for next year's big race'.

Latest odds
Labour/Plaid Coalition 7/4
Lib-Lab Pact 2/1
Rainbow Coalition 7/2
Labour Alone 10/1
50/1 bar

Heavy betting in the tearoom over the last few days has propelled the previously unfancied filly, Labour/Plaid, into the frame as favourite for next year's big race. The smart money is moving away from previous favourite Lib/Lab Pact, following questions about whether she has the legs to clear the last fence, Proportional Representation in Local Government. Coming up fast on the outside is Rainbow Coalition, following rumours from the Labour 'stable' that a few of the handlers fancy a spell in opposition. And some of the promising untested riders in the Labour stable are champing at the bit to take the reins, unseating Rhodri M, the increasingly fretched, knackered looking, current rider.
Race organisers are worried about public interest in the event because it’s a case of same old arguments and same old riders as in 2003. Jockey's colours have changed a bit. Rhodri M is still blood red even if a bit coagulated, Nick B is now racing in green and Ieuan WJ is now in daffodil yellow. Only Mike G is riding under the same 'every hue under the rainbow' colours as last time. Expect a big effort to sell tickets.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Building a house - Cameron style.

There has been a lot talk around the Tory Party Conference about how to build a house and how important it is that it should have sound foundations. The house in question is No 10 Policy Avenue. The avenue will be lined with lovely oak trees and there will be equal proportions on girls and boys singing lovely songs about how optimistic they are about the future. As it happens I am something of a 'brickie' myself, having once built an entire cattle shed with my own hands.
The architect, Mr Letwin and the building contractor, Mr Cameron have very wisely decided that the house should be built on somewhere known as the 'Centre Ground'. Quite a few other architects, not as important as Mr Letwin, think there are too many houses there already. The house is going to have a windmill on the roof, an extra large bike shed and there are 300 architectural assistants working on distictive features that will make it more people friendly than all the neighbouring houses. The house is being designed to appeal to people who have never aspired to live in Policy Avenue before and it is hoped will hold as many people as a 'big tent'.
Mr Cameron the builder says that since he does not have to put the house on the market for several years, there is no hurry to decide what the walls are going to be made of. The only problem is that some relatives who live in Wales and Scotland want to move into the house next May and will have to say what the walls are made of when they apply for a mortgage.
The only way forward as far as I can see is to build two little annexes in advance of the main structure which are big enough for the relatives from Wales and Scotland. I hope my bricking skills come in useful over the next few months.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Assembly Rainbow Coalition

Watched myself on S4C's Manifesto today saying that I can no longer 'turn my back on' the idea of coalition government in the Assembly which involves the Conservatives. It pains me to admit that I meant exactly what I said.
A few months ago I would not have touched the idea but Labour's attitude to the Government of Wales Act 2006 has changed a lot of things. The utterly disgraceful ban on candidates fighting for a constituency seat if they are also on the 'party list' is a constitutional outrage and is typical of the partisan attitude that Labour has carried into the discussions about how the National Assembly will function from next May - when the provisions of the Act take effect.
The problem is that Labour thinks it will always be in Government and so wants to 'fix' things to unfairly favour the Government of the day. Labour cares nothing for the rights of opposition parties or for the principles of democracy or accountability because it will never apply to them. Now it will be great if another party were to win an overall majority next year (especially if it were to be the Tories) but I just cannot see this happening. Seems to me that the only way to allow Labour to experience the needs of 'opposition' is if the other three mainstream parties could settle on some sort of 'arrangement' which would allow a limited compromise programme to be carried out without them.
The only way to persuade the rational mind to accept what seems at first to be unpalatable is to make sure that the alternatives taste even more foul. This truism has affected my thinking - and we must find a way of applying it to Welsh Labour.
There could be some serious head-scratching going on next May 4th.

Vinnie Jones the political enforcer

Last Friday, on Radio Cymru's Dau o'r Bae, Vaughan Roderick asked me who would be in my 'Fantasy Cabinet. "Anyone except a serious poitician" he said - so, without hesitation, I replied "Lembit Opik, and his job would be to give public support to all my political opponents". His record of destroying careers by lending his support is unparalleled in modern political history.
I should have gone for ex-footballer Vinnie Jones, who I learn from today's papers wants to be a Conservative MP. I'm not sure what this would do for David Cameron's compassion agenda but he could be just the man to take on Gordon Brown. Prime Minister Brown's right hand man and probable Chancellor of the Exchequer would be the very talented Ed Balls. Bearing in mind the squeeze that Vinnie was so famously caught on camara putting on Paul Gascoine's, just think how eye-wateringly effective he would be in dealing with Gordon Brown's.