Monday, April 30, 2007

A day with Ms Maria de la Paz Rodriguez Niell

Been out canvassing today, shadowed by a jounalist from Argentina, who was studying how we conduct our elections in Wales. Maria de la Paz Rodriguez Niell (Paz for short) is one of a group visiting from all parts of the world, under the auspices of the British Council. She seemed to enjoy the experience. I shall be handing her over to Rhodri Glyn Thomas tomorrow - a case of out 'of the frying pan into the fire'. Hope she'll be ok.

What did she learn ? Well, after an hour in the livestock market at Welshpool, she learned that Welsh farmers are seriously unhappy about both Labour and lamb prices. I was pleased that everyone seemed to realise by now that I am a candidate in this election. And then door knocking for a few hours. It seems this doesn't happen in Argentina. Only one man told me to f*** off. Depressing thing for me was the surprisingly high number of voters who said they were going to vote BNP. And there was a quite a bit of antipathy to the number of Poles in the area. I probably lost a vote or two by speaking about my high regard for the Polish people. I think Paz was quite impressed that I was willing to sacrifice votes for principle. I said it was just human decency. All in all it was a really positive day on the stump. And now to watch Wales Decides. And then straight to bed to recover!

Brunstrom was WRONG

I've always thought that Richard Brunstrom, Chief Constable of North Wales was a damn good policeman. Still do. I've disagreed with his approach sometimes - but he's a top cop nevertheless. But his latest stunt is an outrage - which may not be forgivable. The entire North Wales Police Authority should be ashamed.

This is what the Chief Constable did. He showed photographs of the decapitated body of a young man, who had been killed in a road accident, to a group of journalists - without seeking the permission of the parents. Mr Brunstrom claims he showed the photographs to promote road safety, and he blames journalists for breaking a confidence - he having told them that North Wales Police did not intend to release the photographs to the public. He further claims that the meeting had been deliberately distorted and misrepresented. Well, Your Honour, I beg to differ. Mr Brunstom was 100% wrong. If he has any sense, he will apologise fulsomely to the deceased man's family. Even that may not be enough. I suspect that every parent of a young man in Britain will share my outrage about what the Chief Constable did.

This is all a big shame. Today's post by Peter Black demonstrates the great strengths that Richard Brunstrom has. And I really hope he survives what is inevitably going to lead to calls for his removal from his position.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Wrexham A F C

Next Saturday could witness a Welsh football tragedy. Forget Cardiff's predictable failure to make the play offs. Forget Swansea's battle with Oldham for their play off spot. What could happen, is even likely to happen, is that Wrexham will be relegated from the Football League. An absolute tragedy for Welsh sport and a bitter blow for North Wales in particular.

I just know that Macclesfield will beat Notts County who are in mid table and couldn't give a monkey's. Wrexham must beat Boston. Its a cup final - but more important. Just imagine next Saturday night with Rhodri Morgan still our First Minister and Wrexhan in the Conference. Time to start praying.

Saved by Matt again.

Only part of today's Telegraph I've time to read is Matt's cartoon. Two hedgehogs on the pavement looking at the squashed body of their colleague who had ventured out to cross the road first - and one of them observing "Run over by a bin lorry - what are the chances of that happening?"

Needed a laugh. Tonight's big political debate was dull as ditch water. I wish Huw Edwards had asked the party leaders to read out this gag, linking it to climate change policy - instead of their two minute intros. By the time Mike had finished explaining the mechanics of the joke (which is the way he tells them) we would all have been in the mood to enjoy the the programme a lot more. I don't know why it is but some programmes just don't work. They all have another go on Wales Decides tomorrow night.

Do Plaid want a vote on Assembly abolition?

This is my first live blog. Just watching the Politics Show where Dave called for a vote to abolish the Assembly. Rhodri Glyn Thomas said that he was happy with that - as long as there was an option of a Scottish type Parliament in Wales. I didn't know this was Plaid's policy. It was Conservative policy when Michael Howard was our Westminster leader - but we have dropped the referendum option since David Cameron became leader.

Now David Melding is demonstating a greater commitment to devolution than Rhodri Glyn who refuses point blank to talk about Plaid's traditional commitment to 'Independence'. Peter Black has agreed with Melders - as I do. Pleased to see that Jane Davidson is turning her fire on Plaid Cymru today. She must believe the ITV / NOP poll of last week.

Peter Black has mentioned the 2000/2003 Partnership Government several times now. It looks as if he is setting out the ground for a repeat. Must say that Rhodri Glyn looked seriously policy light. Now Nick Griffin has just come on. Time for lunch.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Dangerous Friends

I still haven't got a grip on Facebook - and now I'm a bit worried about who I've accepted as a Facebook 'friend'. This follows a rumpus over our young candidates, Craig Williams and Harri Lloyd Davies signing up as a 'friend' of John Jenkins, who was deselected as a Conservative Assembly candidate last year over homophobic remarks he made some years ago.

This seems completely 'over the top' to me. I didn't agree with John's comments about gay men and he shouldn't have made them. But when I discussed his views with him, I didn't think he was homophobic and rather liked him. It could easily have been me agreeing to be his 'friend' - and I would have been very put out if that was taken as any sort of support for stupid comments he made several years ago. I have agreed to become a ' Facebook friend' of several people that I don't know at all. I am even a 'friend' of Peter Hain ! There could be all sorts of weirdos lurking on my Facebook site just waiting to leap out and bite me.

I am surprised by this turn of events. I don't really have much option other than to ask my trusty Phill to delete anybody from my list of Facebook friends on Monday that I do not know. Or more likely, I will de-select myself from Facebook. I really can't be bothered to go through the process of checking up on everybody in the sort of detail it seems I need to. Pity - but that's the way of the world. There are rules for politicians and other rules for everyone else.

This demonstates why some politicians steer clear of the blogosphere altogether. Last week, someone claiming to be a lifelong Conservative supporter rang my office to say that he had visited my blog and been so disgusted that neither he nor his wife would ever vote Conservative again - even though I go to so much trouble to keep it clean and proper. I think his wife had found her way onto a linked blog - but I got the blame.

Just call me King Canute

First chance to blog for days. Big commitment to Conservative cause. Finally seem to be getting into election mode and not feeling left out of things. Made my first TV appearance of the campaign on Wales Decides this week - and now at least some people know that I'm actually a candidate ! Also surprised that a few people seem to have watched the programme. I thought that only a handful of political groupies bothered to stay up that late.

Enjoyed Wales Decides - even if it was a touch flat. Good panel and I was sitting between two 'forceful' women in Jane Davidson and Kirsty Williams. At least Helen Mary wasn't the Plaid rep. Not sure that I could have coped with three of them. Alun Ffred's more like me. Alun Cairns tells me that his mate Arsembly thought I was 'wittering on' a bit. Probably right. I did think I was a touch rude when I told Kirsty to stop butting in. Just out of practise I suppose.

Just my luck that my only TV slot of the campaign accompanied a 'disappointing' opinion poll. What could I say? "All to play for". "Only poll that counts is May 3rd". etc. etc. Call me King Canute but I simply do not believe Denis Balsom's conclusions about AM numbers. ITV Wales published a poll three weeks before which I think more accurately predicted the Conservative's likley position. I thought then that Plaid's position would improve and Labour's deteriorate - even if Plaid's by less than the second poll suggests. I just do not think that Labour will come back with 25 seats - 24 more likely and possibly lower.

I also find it impossible to believe that our vote will be lower than at the last election. I still believe that because of how the electoral system works, anything less than 14 seats will be a very disappointing result for us - just as anything more would be a great result. We shall see. Seems to me that the main dynamic in the campaign now is the Plaid/Labour swing - and it seems to be going Plaid's way. I was also a touch disappointed that Denis was quite firm that he didn't expect me to be re-elected. Good job I've been practising my sheep shearing skills of late - it will give me something to do over the next few months. But somehow, I just don't believe it.

So my personal opinion poll hasn't changed. I think the result will be

Welsh Conservatives - 14
Labour - 24 (possibly less)
Independents - 2
Lib Dems - 7
Plaid Cymru - 13 (possibly more)

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Shipton Files.

Just back at the keyboard after two days politics. Knackered. Desperately in need of another steak and sancerre. Hope to blog later - and I want to read Arsembly's worst after last night's Waterfront, assuming he stayed awake to see it.

I asked Phill (my trusty PA) to put up the 'End of Term' assessment of AMs that has been running in the Western Mail all this week up as a draft - which I now publish. Let me know about the injustices. I have not seen them all, but I have heard from some AMs who are outraged. Will be back around 11.00 to check and do a post, including what I thought of the ITV Wales poll which predicts my p45 next week. Off for the sancerre now.


Leighton Andrews, Rhondda, Labour
Comment: Articulate if sometimes bumptious backbencher who is surely Ministerial material.
Marks out of 10: 8

Lorraine Barrett, Cardiff South & Penarth, Labour
Comment: Better than some, has improved, but struggles to make a national impact.
Marks out of 10: 4

Mick Bates, Montgomeryshire, Liberal Democrat
Comment: Tries hard but is often difficult to take seriously.
Marks out of 10: 5

Peter Black, South Wales West, Liberal Democrat
Comment: A political anorak, matured into AM who is invariably worth listening to.
Marks out of 10: 8

Nick Bourne, Mid & West Wales, Conservative
Comment: Does a very good job in the debating chamber.
Marks out of 10: 8

Eleanor Burnham, North Wales, Liberal Democrat
Comment: Not shy in putting her views across but seen by many as off the wall.
Marks out of 10: 4

Rosemary Butler Newport West, Labour
Comment; Does a reasonable job as chair of culture committee
Marks out of 10: 6

Alun Cairns, South Wales West, Conservative
Comment: Very good at holding the Assembly Government to account
Marks out of 10: 8

Christine Chapman, Cynon Valley, Labour
Comment: Although a Deputy Minister is not up to being promoted to Cabinet
Marks out 10: 6

Jeff Cuthbert, Caerphilly, Labour
Comment: Worthy but dull – former far-left militant activist who is now too New Labour for own good
Marks out of 10: 5

Jane Davidson, Pontypridd, Labour
Comment: Can come across as patronising, but undoubtedly an effective performer
Marks out of 10: 8

Andrew Davies, Swansea West, Labour
Comment: Lacks charisma, but presides over a department that has effectively trumpeted Wales’ economic success while downplaying less positive statistics
Marks out of 10: 8

David Davies, Monmouth, Conservative
Comment: Shrewd maverick and populist who draws in support even from non-Tories. Stepping down to concentrate on the parliamentary seat he won in 2005
Marks out of 10: 8

Glyn Davies, Mid & West Wales, Conservative
Comment: Thoughtful consensual Tory who arguably would have had wider appeal as leader than Nick Bourne
Marks out of 10: 8

Janet Davies, South Wales West, Plaid Cymru
Comment: Former council leader who is not a good communicator and who could give the impression of lacking confidence. Standing down
Marks out of 10: 5

Jocelyn Davies, South Wales East, Plaid Cymru
Comment: Feisty AM good at local campaigning
Marks out of 10: 7

Tamsin Dunwoody, Preseli Pembrokshire, Labour
Comment: Hard working and approachable AM who is a presentable Deputy Minister
Marks out of 10: 7

Lord Elis-Thomas, Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, Plaid Cymru
Comment: Has done a superb job as Presiding Officer. Has quietly achieved and immense amount in driving forward devolution
Marks out of 10: 10

Sue Essex, Cardiff North, Labour
Comment: Very popular and effective Finance Minister who is unfortunately standing down
Marks out of 10: 9

Lisa Francis, Mid & West Wales, Conservative
Comment: Hardly dynamic, but has made a fair attempt to get to grips with some important issues
Marks out of 10: 6

Mike German, South Wales East, Liberal Democrat
Comment: Experienced political operator who punches above his party’s weight
Marks out of 10: 8

Brian Gibbons, Aberavon, Labour
Comment: As Health Minister has tried to get a grip on the NHS but still has massive problems
Marks out of 10: 6

William Graham, South Wales East, Conservative
Comment: Patrician, old style Tory who often fails to convince
Marks out of 10: 5

Janice Gregory, Ogmore, Labour
Comment: Well below par performer by our reckoning
Marks out of 10: 4

John Griffiths, Newport East, Labour
Comment: Principled politician who probably deserves to be a Minister
Marks out of 10:7

Christine Gwyther, Carmarthen West & Pembrokeshire South, Labour
Comment: Sacked by Rhodri Morgan as a Minister she has failed to inspire as chair of the enterprise committee
Marks out of 10: 5

Edwina Hart, Gower, Labour
Comment: An assertive Social Justice Minister whose abrasive approach is not endearing
Marks out of 10: 7

Jane Hutt, Vale of Glamorgan, Labour
Comment: Disastrous Health Minister who is doing a better job now
Marks out of 10: 6

Mark Isherwood, North Wales, Conservative
Comment: Tory with a conscience who should lighten up
Marks out of 10: 6

Irene James, Islwyn, Labour
Comment: Useless nonentity as far as we are concerned. Has added nothing to the Assembly that we can see
Marks out of 10:2

Ann Jones, Vale of Clwyd, Labour
Comment: Poor performer noted only for her obsessive support of Rhyl FC.
Marks out of 10: 3

Alun Ffred Jones, Caernarfon, Plaid Cymru
Comment: Competent former council leader though hardly inspiring
Marks out of 10: 7

Carwyn Jones, Bridgend, Labour
Comment: Could be next First Minister if he puts his back into it
Marks out of 10: 8

Helen Mary Jones, Mid & West Wales, Plaid Cymru
Comment: Very good communicator
Marks out of 10: 8

Elin Jones, Ceredigion, Plaid Cymru
Comment: Intelligent and dependable contributor to debates
Marks out of 10: 7

Laura Anne Jones, South Wales East, Conservative
Comment: Has raised her game after a callow start but will never set the world on fire intellectually
Marks out of 10: 5

Denise Idris Jones, Conwy, Labour
Comment: Very low calibre. How on earth did she get the party nomination in the fist place?
Marks out of 10:2

Ieuan Wyn Jones, Ynys Mon, Plaid Cymru
Comment: While no Dafydd Wigley he has upped his performance considerably since the disaster of 2003
Marks out of 10: 8

Trish Law, Blaenau Gwent, Independent
Comment: Not the shrewd politician her late husband was but doing her best to stand up for her area
Marks out of 10: 6

Huw Lewis, Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney, Labour
Comment: Thoughtful contributor who winds up the Nats even if his Hero of the Valleys persona is hard to swallow
Marks out of 10: 7

Dai Lloyd, South Wales West, Plaid Cymru
Comment: Effective representative who deserves another term though is endangered by Plaid’s policy of reserving top regional list placings for women
Marks out of 10: 7

Val Lloyd, Swansea East, Labour
Comment: By our reckoning has not made the transition from being a councillor t being a national politician
Marks out of 10: 3

John Marek, Wrexham, Forward Wales
Comment: Sometimes off beam but brings tremendous experience to the job
Marks out of 10: 7

David Melding, South Wales Central, Conservative
Comment: Urbane consensual Tory who wrote the manifesto and is one of his party’s main supporters for full law making powers at the Assembly
Marks out of 10: 8

Sandy Mewies, Delyn, Labour
Comment: Undoubtedly intelligent though has made very little impact
Marks out of 10: 4

Jonathan Morgan, South Wales Central, Conservative
Comment: High-flying and articulate. A credit to his group
Marks out of 10: 8

Rhodri Morgan, Cardiff West, Labour
Comment: Despite the occasional blunder is a larger-than-life national leader who defies the boring norm. We will miss him when he has gone
Marks out of 10: 8

Lynne Neagle, Torfaen, Labour
Comment: Consistently fails to impress
Marks out of 10: 3

Alun Pugh, Clwyd West, Labour
Comment: A truly bad Culture Minister who has managed to alienate virtually the entire artistic community in Wales. Will not be missed if, as widely expected, he is defeated next week
Marks out of 10: 4

Jenny Randerson, Central Cardiff, Liberal Democrat
Comment: Hardworking and greatly experience if somewhat short of the highest level
Marks out of 10: 7

Janet Ryder, North Wales, Plaid Cymru
Comment: No more than an average performer as Shadow Education Minister. Should not have precedence over Dafydd Wigley on North Wales Regional List in our view
Marks out of 10: 6

Carl Sargeant, Alyn & Deeside, Labour
Comment: Genial traditional Labour representative who injects much need working class perspective into the Assembly
Marks out of 10: 7

Karen Sinclair, Clwyd South, Labour
Comment: Very poor Cabinet member by our reckoning who was swiftly dumped by Rhodri Morgan
Marks out of 10: 3

Catherine Thomas, Llanelli, Labour
Comment: A good constituency AM but has failed to make an impression at national level
Marks out of 10: 6

Gwenda Thomas, Neath, Labour
Comment: Pleasant approach but often out of her depth in the Assembly in our view
Marks out of 10: 4

Owen John Thomas, South Wales Central, Plaid Cymru
Comment: Brought something distinctive to the Assembly with his passionate love of his home city Cardiff

Marks out of 10:7

Rhodri Glyn Thomas, Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, Plaid Cymru
Comment: Very good debater. One of Plaid’s best speakers
Marks out of 10: 8

Brynle Williams, North Wales, Conservative
Comment: Former fuel price protestor who has not shone in a group with much greater talents
Marks out of 10: 5

Kirsty Williams, Brecon & Radnorshire, Liberal Democrat
Comment: Is commanding increasing respect. Widely tipped as a future group leader
Marks out of 10: 7

Leanne Wood, South Wales Central, Plaid Cymru
Comment: Has matured into more than the megaphone politician she used to be
Marks out of 10: 7

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

More Rainbow Coalition talk.

I see that a lot of people, bloggers inc, are abstaining from any 'coalition talk' until after May 3rd. I'd sort of decided along the same lines. Don't want voters thinking I have become obsessed - not with this anyway. So I was on an NFU 'hustings' panel in Montgomeryshire tonight with Mick Bates, Plaid's David Thomas and Ukip's Bruce Lawson when up jumps a questioner - "Have you boys thought of forming a 'Rainbow Coalition' to force Labour into opposition". And then another joined in. And then another. Not sure that Mick and David knew quite how to handle this - especially when I turned to them both and, smiling engagingly said how much I admired them both and that I thought we could make a very good team who could govern Wales much better than a Labour led coalition. And I didn't want to see Labour propped up by another party. And then, blimey, Bruce from Ukip wanted to join in as well with the two AMs he expects to have after May 3rd. Its amazing what you can achieve with a bit of sweet talk. All right, so I had a job to keep a straight face. But the reality is that there are a hell of a lot of people out there who think it could work. Its only the politicians who lack the b***s and the vision.

Out on the stump

First time at my keyboard since Monday - when we took dinner at the Harbour Master Restaurant in Aberaeron (Brilliant) and on to stay overnight at Wolfscastle, near Haverfordwest. Next morning out with our feisty Angela Burns to the Bush High School (?) in Pembroke - where the sixth formers were a lot more interested in politics than they were when I visited last year. And then out with also feisty Henrietta Henshall (?) at the National Botanic. And then out with our young star, Craig Williams in Cardiff West. Good candidates. Enjoyable.

Craig and I went around the houses in the little village of Creigiau, north of Cardiff. I was surprised at first knocked door when lady said Rhodri Morgan had been around knocking on doors a few days before. Craig has got him on the run - and I reckon he will take at least a third out of his majority - maybe more. I am in the mood for predictions tonight. Two houses told me that all politicians were a load of useless untrustworthy b******s, not worth a vote between them. Beginning to feel bit disillusioned when next two houses said "Hello Glyn, how are you now". The vanity in me came gushing out. Such recognition - in a little village North of Cardiff. Good job I only had an hour with Craig or I could have become all 'puffed up' like Mike German.

And then, into the lion's den. The idea was that I would face an inquisition from a panel of brutes for 15 minutes for Byd ar Bedwar next week. Now, my Welsh has come on, but its not up to a panel of brutes chucking rocks at me. And then I was dumped in a real spot. I was supposed to be selling the Welsh Conservatives to these brutes when one of them asked a question about how much money we would give her in a certain situation (don't want to spoil the programme by saying too much). I wanted to say "Why should we give you anything" - but my Welsh didn't allow me a polite way of saying it. So I sort of 'waffled' in a political sort of way. I felt ashamed of that, and the pressure almost brought me out in a sweat. Had to up to La Monde for a bottle of Sancerre and a fillet steak to rebuild my strength and morale. For those few of you who want to see me 'on the rack' big time - watch Byd ar Bedwar next week. Worst of it is that I bet Helen Mary, Carwyn and Eleanor handled the challenge better than I did. And I will never hear another word against Eleanor Burnham after the way she helped me out last night. Actually, I enjoyed the experience in a masochistic way - as some men might enjoy whips and binbags

Today back up to Machynlleth for Richard Evans on Radio Wales between 12 and 1 - and then on to tonight's 'Hustings' in Newtown. Which takes me on to the next post

Monday, April 23, 2007

Polls to take the heat off Lembit.

Just had it confirmed that there is to be Opinion poll by ITV Wales on Thursday - so look out for Nick Speed telling us how excited he is by the new findings and how there is everything still to play for. And there is to be a Western Mail/Beaufort Poll 'early next week'. Good, It is a real shame that we bloggers have so little evidence to argue about.

And it would save poor old Lembit from taking so much stick. I'm starting to feel sorry for the poor chap. But not enough to stop me sharing with you the latest offering from yesterday's Sunday Mirror. Blimey. This blog once used the word 'todger' strictly in a medical reference. I didn't know it was a word in common usage. And even yesterday's Sunday Times has the 'Lib Dem love machine' enjoying 'a fact finding tour of the Southern Balkans',nod, nod, wink, wink. He may have to apply for the job of President of Estonia sooner than he intended.

And I hear that the Western Mail is giving all AMs an end-of-term report over the next few days. Can I just slip in here how highly I rate the outstandingly good Western Mail - and remind Martin Shipton that he is this blogs reigning 'Journalist of the Year'. Mind you, this sycophancy never works. I tried it with Ashok last Xmas - and it made not a blind bit of difference. This blog will fearlessly publish the report in full when it has been completed next Friday. Just my small contribution towards distracting readers from poring over all this salacious Lembit stuff.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Let them eat celery.

Just watched a BBC debate chaired by Huw Edwards where one question was about closure of small schools. The question referred to North Wales - but is even more relevant in other parts of Wales as well. The problem is that in many small villages in rural Wales there are not enough children being produced.

Which is why 'Second Opinion' by Dr James LeFanu in today's Sunday Telegraph is so timely. The bulk of the article is about Viagra and Intrinsa, rather quaintly termed as 'lifestyle drugs', which put a bit of spark back into the batteries of men and women suffering from fading desire. Well, for those who don't like the thought of artificial stimulus, it seems that we gardeners have the answer. Celery. The sticks contain a variation of the hormone known as andosterone. I remember how shocked I was when leaving a meeting at Welshpool High School on a friday afternoon a couple of years ago, to meet a lady carrying a huge box of free contraceptives in for all the kids to use over the weekend. Well perhaps we should be sending the same lady to distribute packets of celery seeds to their parents instead !

Panic - must read the manifesto

Just been reading Spin Doctor in today's Wales on Sunday, (where this blog gets a mention) and read a mocking piece about an interview that Mike Wood, our hard working candidate in Meirionydd Nant Conwy gave on Good Morning Wales last week. It seems that when Mike was asked what our Language Recovery Unit is, Mike said "Er... I don't know. I don't know what that is."

Well, firstly its hats off to Mike for such straightforward honesty - which will win him more votes than any other possible answer he could have given. But panic for me. What on earth is GMW asking such a detailed technical question as this for? I wouldn't have had a clue either. I have just checked up, and Melding promised to create an LRU to 'examine the international evidence in this area' - this being the need to take another bold step towards the goal of creating a truly bilingual nation. And if I might say, this sounds a damn fine idea.

I'm going to settle down to read our manifesto tomorrow to see what other gems are in there. I wish it wasn't quite so long. Melding has made so many commitments. It must be obvious to everyone that we're bursting with ideas for government. And I'd better read the full costs document as well. There must be scope for plenty of 'Smart Alec' questions in there. And Steve Dube of the Westwern Mail has asked for an article tomorrow as well. I won't have much time for door knocking tomorrow. I may have to use this blog as away of summarising it so that I can remember everything.

I have just watched Antoinette Sandbatch, our Delyn candidate on a BBC panel programme and she was just superbly cool and knowledgeable. I think she's going to win Delyn.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Wobbly's back

What is Ieuan Wyn Jones playing at. Last Thursday he was telling Rhun ap Iorwerth that he would have Welsh Conservative Ministers in his Cabinet - if he were to be First Minister after May 3rd. Today, I read that he's been telling Martin Shipton that he wants Labour to talk to him about forming a coalition. Now, I realise that IWJ hasn't been off the island of Anglesey for a month - but he seems to be losing touch with the real world. I haven't been around the blogs yet - but the first class young Plaid sympathising bloggers that I visit must be finding this a bit hard to square.

UPDATE. I've just caught up with my leaders comments on all this coalition stuff. We are like two peas in a pod.

Common sense over speeding

An article in today's Telegraph brought a warm glow upon my person. In some areas speed cameras are being replaced by 'Driver Friendly' signs. Vehicle activated signs are being used in Brighton and Northumberland to tell people how fast they are going - and they are proving to be so effective in slowing people down that other areas are considering using them. I've always believed this to be a more effective way of slowing traffic than cameras, which are often used primarily as revenue raisers. If you don't believe me, drive down North Road in Cardiff - where local traffic slows down where the cameras are located, and speed up again between them. Local drivers know where they are. And the poor sap who doesn't know where they are gets done. And if you drive along any motorway in Britain at the maximum speed allowed, there will be hundreds of cars whizzing past you. It's just a matter of chance.

Have to admit that I have an interest here. I was banned for six months after accumulating 12 points about 4 years ago - six of them on North Road - both of the cases being when doing less than 10 mph over the limit, after midnight, when the roads were virtually empty. The last 3 points were for a defective tyre (marginal) which I'd asked someone else to check. I have never quite recovered from the unfairness of it - particularly since Elfyn Llwyd and Dafydd Iwan both got away without a ban after accumulating 12 points, at about the same time I was banned. The reason I felt so victimised (and still do) is that I don't speed in built up areas - but it is so easy to slip over the limit when wide roads are completely empty. And then it obviously depends how lucky you are with the magistrates.

Of course there will be plenty 'holier than thou' types who say that I would never have had a problem if I had never committed any motoring offence. And nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see their names going into the 'Police notebook'. Speed cameras are fine when located to promote road safety - but some are where the sole purpose is to raise money, and have nothing whatsoever to do with road safety. Now that the Treasury has decided to grab most of the money raised, speed camera partnerships are turning their attention to genuine road safety and finding that vehicle activated warning signs are rather more effective than their obnoxious cameras.

At least one vote against

Had an email yesterday from a Mr Meirion Bowen, which was copied to a few others. Mr Bowen was informing everyone that I am a supporter of the LNG pipeline. Well, he is correct about this. It seems to me that the UK has absolutely no choice but accept this energy supply - and that the best way to bring it in is through Milford Haven. Now I'm with maximum safety conditions and maximum openness with people in the vicinity of terminal and pipeline - but I am not going to lie to win public support. In fact, I do not believe that any politician who opposes the pipeline is being entirely honest. The alternative is that the lights across the UK will go out.

If Mr Bowen wants to criticise anyone, it should be the politicians who have sat on their hands over recent years as they used up North Sea oil supplies, watched our Nuclear power supplies approach the end of their lives without putting in place alternative energy supplies. I don't like the idea of shipping massive tankers of LNG from Qatar to Wales myself - or of building new nuclear power stations - but the procrastination of politicians have made both of these things inevitable. Its all a bit like blaming the Home Secretary for not sending criminals to prison, when previous Home Secretaries didn't build any prisons to put them in !

Anyway, Mr Bowen has accused me of Corporate Manslaughter of 'dispensable subjects of the realm' in the case of accident. He adds that he hopes that I won't 'get back in' at the Assembly election. I wonder who he'll be voting for - and whether his vote will be going to someone opposed to the LNG pipeline - and where that someone thinks our energy supplies are going to be coming from. Perhaps he just objects to anyone who gives an honest answer - which has become a fairly common feature of modern politics.

Stranger than fiction.

Cute little story caught my eye on the Beeb website today - which emanated from Dolgellau Mgistrates Court. It seems that Richard Keen of Barmouth was browsing through eBay and spotted a flat bed trailor for sale at £1500. He recognised it as his own trailor, which had recently been stolen - so he found out who the thief was, by buying it.

Which reminds me of a similar story involving my late father-in-law, Austen Roberts who was the principal of Harry Ray and Co, Estate Agents and Valuers of Welshpool. Around 20 years ago the firm used to run second hand sales in the Town Hall at Welshpool. Austen was selling one day when he noticed that the next item was his own bicycle. So he bought it, handed the gavel to his assistant to continue the sale,and then told everyone that he was going for a ride on his own bike down to the police station - and off he went. I believe the felon was given a good 'ticking off' and that there were not reams of forms to fill in relating to the crime. Many Welshpool people will remember Austen Roberts and his bicycle.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Dragon's Eye. - Well, most of it.

Arrived home a bit late for Dragon's Eye after a day's canvassing for Paul Davies in Presceli Pembs. Drove down through Ceredigion and was distracted as I tried to judge who wins the best contested election posters battle in Wales. I reckon Elin Jones (Plaid) beats John Davies (Lib Dems) by about 50 posters to 48 between Ponterwyd and Cardigan. In Presceli Pembs, Paul wins the poster battle by a mile. He will make a very good AM.

Back to Dragon's Eye. I switched on to hear Rhodri say that Gwynfor Evans would be "rotating at great speed in his grave" if he'd heard what IWJ had said. I'd missed what IWJ pearl of wisdom had instigated this Rhodri gem. Could have been something about renewable energy production!

And then on to the Ieuan interview. Proclaimed hugely distinctive policies from Plaid - which boiled down to a few 'freebies'. But then came the body blow. At the 5th time of asking he told Rhun that he intended to have Tory Ministers in his 'rainbow' cabinet. Ah well, I blew my chances of a ministerial car (eer) when I called him 'wobbly' Wyn Jones. I suppose its another case of what could have been. I was a bit surprised by how firm he was about not 'propping up' a Labour Government. That could come back to haunt him. I think I'll go to bed and read about Waterfront on Arsembly tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Are we talking about the right things?

So far, I'm finding that voters couldn't give a monkey's about the Assembly election. Sure, 40%+ of the people will vote - but its not the future of our Assembly that will bring them out. Very disappointing for me because I think the Assembly election is more important for Wales than a General Election. In part, its the result of the soporific impact of PR which removes much of the unpredictability.

What we do know is

1) Less people will vote Labour because they want a change (+ Blair, Iraq, Spin, Labour lies etc. etc.)
2) More people will vote Welsh Conservative because they want a change (+ Cameron)
3) Who knows with Plaid Cymru. Nobody believes their promises and there's no leadership.
4) Who knows with the Lib Dems - but fewer people will support them in Montgomeryshire where I live because of the cavorting of their Welsh leader.
5) Less people will vote for Ukip because they seem to have lost their way.

Why are electors so unengaged? Are we focusing on the right issues? So far, the whole election seems to be about the NHS, which is hugely important to people. But where are the philosophical differences - as opposed to 'managerial' differences.

Unsurprisingly, I like our commitments.

a) Higher priority for modern medicines
b) Reduce bureaucracy by scrapping Local Health Boards.
c) Suspend service reconfiguration and set up a cross-party commission.
d) Unified Care Agencies - giving local authorities a wider role in social care.
e) Streamline the social care inspection regime.
f) More support for the mentally ill through early treatment.
g) More rights to respite care.
h) More support for looked after children + protection of 'whistle blowers'.

This is all good stuff - but the only exciting 'philosophical' policy is enthusiasm for Foundation Hospitals, which I am a great supporter of.

What really surprises me is that there is almost no coverage of how we are going to govern ourselves in Wales. When are we going to give the people the chance to vote on law making powers? Why are we not discussing North/South transport links to strengthen Wales as a nation. There is almost no discussion on how to deal with the problem of access to housing. At least Cymuned are highlighting this. There are manifesto commitments on these issues - but everything has been drowned out by every party shouting out "We will manage the NHS better than you". It seems to be very different in Scotland

I've got some 'hustings' coming up next week. I hope that the debate has moved on a bit by then. I care as much as anyone else about the future of our NHS, but I want a debate about the future of our nation as well.

Thinking about Ray

Really sad to read about Ray Gravell's health problems. Grav is a special bloke and this blog wishes him well. He gave me great pleasure as a crash ball centre for Wales - and as a warm and friendly man. Get Well Ray. We're thinking of you.

Mr Salmond and the Real World

Stunning interview in today's Telegraph with Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP (Scottish National Party). It looks as if Mr Salmond has decided that he would quite like to be First Minister of Scotland. He has set about making himself acceptable to the Liberal Democrats as a coalition partner - and intends to transform Scottish politics by forcing Labour into opposition. Scottish politics is growing up. Oh that we could say the same for Welsh politics.

It seems that Mr Salmond now wants to be 'the closest of buddies' and 'best pals' with England. He seems deeply concerned by how unfair the devolution settlement is to England - which it is. But what has really shocked me is his attitude towards the Monarchy.

I had always assumed that the SNP would want to cut all ties with the Monarchy - as most of Plaid Cymru seem to want to in Wales. But No. What the leader of the SNP wants is "independent countries united by a monarchy that symbolises the social union between the two countries". Even allowing for this sounding a bit woolly, it is a pretty astonishing statement to me - and wholly welcome. He sound a bit like the Dafydd El of the Highlands.

More significant for me is what this interview says about the SNP leader's approach to government. He means business. He's given up pandering to the anti-English republicanism which has handed government on a plate to the Scottish Labour Party for so long. He's giving the Scots a genuine choice other than Labour domination. We will have to wait to see how he manages his unwise committment to a referendum on 'Independence' - but he will know that it will bring down the coalition he is now preparing for. Alex Salmond wants the politics of Scotland to grow up. You'll have to work out why I think this is so interesting to us in Wales.

The Telegraph has also decided to help Mr Salmond's cause by publishing an editorial based on this article which is so pathetic that it will ensure that almost every Scot who reads it will vote for Alex Salmond.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Byron Davies - Action Man

No point putting a wimp in the ring with Edwina Hart. So we are fortunate to have local 'action man', Byron Davies squaring up to the formidable one on our behalf in the Gower in May's Assembly election. He is not a man to be trifled with. I am most impressed.

Byron rang me yesterday afternoon. First time I'd talked to him at any length. He wanted me in Oxwich on the Gower at 10.30 this morning to address a crowd of farmers. I had only just read that Welsh farm incomes were down by 30% last year - and I knew that Tesco would be announcing eye wateringly high mega-profits today. It was not going to be an easy ride - but somebody had to face the entirely justified wrath. And Byron had decided that I was his man. His agreed speaker had let him down at the last minute - and he was not going to let the farmers down.

"I can't. I have promised Dan Munford that I will lead a campaign team in Guilsfield at 2.00", I said. End of story. Five minutes later, mobile rings. "Do you live anywhere near an airfield". As it happens, I live 5 minutes from Welshpool Airport. "I'll be there in my Cessna at 9.15 and you'll be back in Welshpool by 2.00". Nothing I could do but pack for a Gower 'short break'.

Wales is a beautiful country from the air. And I felt as safe as houses with Byron Davies at the controls. And the Gower in spring is a special place. He would make a terrific Assembly Member.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Who is Montgomeryshire's first page 3 boy?

I've been resisting it all day. But I've cracked. Lembit's cavorting in the sun has proved irresistible. Its the sound of the spluttering over the corn flakes on the breakfast tables of the bigwigs in the Montgomeryshire Lib Dem stronghold that did it for me. You can still hear the reverberations bouncing around amongst the gently rolling hills of the land I call home.

I daresay that Lembit thinks he's the first Montgomereyshire politician to make page 3 of the tabloids. Well he's not. Not my proudest moment, but I made page 3 of the Daily Sport a few years ago. Match that, Lem boy. In fact I went international and made page 3 of the Queensland Coastal Daily - as well as most other media 'organs' in the Western World. If anyone googles my name, this bloody story comes up every time. It involved sheep, the police and the absence of my trousers. No-one knows better than I how total innocence can mushroom into an international incident.

Anyway, back to today. It looks as if Lembit was having a good time - even if the £60 a night Hotel Taburiente Playa sounds a bit penny pinching. Perhaps the Montgomeryshire Lib Dems were paying, just to keep him out of the way until after May 3rd. Today's Mail reports that 'the couple were canoodling by the pool, sharing long loving gazes, while kissing, cuddling and caressing each other. Wow! Pass me the cold sponge.

Might I venture to opine that Gabriela Irimia looked extremely 'fit and well' in the photographs. Personally, I liked the heels. Its my age. I've always liked 'heels' - ever since the sixties. I fully accept that it was Gabriela's intellect that attracted Lembit in the first place - but she did look 'well'.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Brown rat chat.

Two Brown rats from Hamelin chatting about politics. "I like a strong leader and I think we should all follow him" !

Out of the Limelight.

Busily putting up election posters yesterday morning, imploring people to vote for the excellent Dan Munford in my beloved Montgomeryshire. Mobile rings. S4/C on the line. "We need to place a cover over your name at Treflan to make sure that there is no chance of anyone seeing it on TV". What's going on? Even S4/C have turned against me. Shouldn't have launched my campaign to bring back 'Garddio' or taken the p** out of them about the most expensive slash in history when they changed their logo from S4C to S4/C. I don't like it. Name recognition is important at election time.

At least, my name sneaked into Matt Withers piece on Nick Bourne in today's Wales on Sunday - even if Matt was trying to stir things between me and Nick by implying that we don't see 'eye to eye' on the 'Rainbow Coalition' stuff I've been banging on about. I think Matt is wrong on this. The young man, Bourne is playing a 'blinder'.

But back to the S4/C call. Apparently S4/C were filming yesterday's game between The New Saints and Caernarfon at Treflan, where I have an advertising hoarding at the side of the pitch, promoting my services as an AM. The first chance to get some TV coverage - and they chuck a b****y blanket over it ! I'd heard that Ann Jones AM had thrown a wobbly when her advert received the same treatment at Rhyl - so I just said OK and pretended I didn't care at all. No choice really. I'd have lost a bucketful of votes if the cameras couldn't cover the game because of my sign.

Without me watching over them, TNS lost 3-1 to Caernarfon in a bigger shock than if Alun Pugh were to win Clwyd West on May 3rd. Not been a great week for TNS, virtually certain to win the League of Wales title despite yesterday's shock defeat. There's been some talk that they will not be allowed to play in the Champion's League next year. I hope they get that blanket off pretty damn quick. They need me.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

When is a political strategy a lie

Good article by Martin Shipton in today's Western Mail commenting on Labour's Assembly election strategy. As always, Martin gets to the heart of what is happening. Rhodri Morgan's party is not telling the voters of Wales the truth about how Wales might be governed after May 3rd.

All of us fighting this election hope to win 31 seats, so that we can form a government. All of us also know that the opinion polls are saying that none of us is going to succeed. So we all know that some form of coalition is likely to be formed. The whole purpose of Labour's campaign is to tell voters that the only 'real' choice is between Labour or a 'Tory' led coalition. This is not true.

For many months (years even), I have been advocating consideration of a non-Labour coalition - which would inevitably involve the Welsh Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems - a concept which I accept is verging on the incredible (even if Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams did a deal in N. Ireland last month). My own view is that such an arrangement could only work if the leader of the largest party becomes First Minister. But Plaid's leadership has made it absolutely clear that they would not serve in a Tory-led coalition. Now, I find this disappointing, childish and rather amateurish - but it does show up Labour as trying to mislead the voters.

This of course is a matter for Plaid. But its stance could prove very expensive for the Party. It could lead to Plaid becoming an irrelevance in Welsh politics. If Labour and the Lib Dems do form a coalition after May 3rd (and they have both been reported to be preparing for it) and the Welsh Conservatives become the Official Opposition (which I believe is highly likely) - what then for Plaid. With a Welsh Conservative Party, committed to greater political autonomy in Wales and a growing commitment to promoting Welsh cultural distinctiveness - Plaid will be totally 'stuffed'. Labour's election campaign may be fundamentally dishonest but Plaid are playing games with its very existence as a mainstream political party in Wales.

Powys put the 'frighteners' on

Went into Newtown this morning for a session on the running track and called at Morrison's to pick up the Western Mail. Minding my own business in the queue, when I was accosted by an elderly gentleman who serves as a member of Powys County Council. He was seriously 'narked' by comments I had made in this blog, criticising the Council for wasting public money employing a private sleuth to investigate its own councillors about a 'leak'. (See recent post on this). I offered to discuss it over a coffee - but No, he just wanted to have a public row in a Morrison's queue. Standards of Councillor behaviour have fallen since I was on the Council.

In passing, the Council's response to my criticism, justifying its decision to use public money to employ a private investigator, said it was "to discourage further behavior of this nature". What's going on. Next there will be instruments of torture hanging up in the council chamber over a notice 'WE HAVE WAYS OF MAKING YOU TALK'.

If anyone wants to stand as a Conservative in next year's local election and shares our view that our Council should be more open and transparent and represent the people rather than try to behave like a secret service, get in touch.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The late Mick Bates.

Been a long day and I needed a laugh. So I thought I'd have a glass of red and then look at a Lib Dem website. Bound to find something funny there. And sure enough, a snigger was immediately on offer. If you visit you will find the home page reads - 'Mick Bates - Election 2008'. Perhaps he means Eleneor Burnham's bid to replace Lembit as Welsh leader of the Lib Dems - or Nick Clegg's bid to replace Ming ! Or Kirsty's bid to replace Mike German - though I would have expected this to take place later in 2007.

I wonder what will happen now that I have posted this bit of information. Peter Black will probably get his microscope out and find that where I read 2008, it was actually 2007. And that I should apologise for doing something so outrageous as suggest that Mick has cocked up his home page. But I have witnesses. Or perhaps they will just change the date to 2007 and say nothing. I await developments.

Iain Dale's Opinions - OK

Good article in today's Telegraph by fellow blogger, Iain Dale. Subject is 'Devolution - unfinished business'. This subject is the only reason I've met Iain. He was running David Davis's leadership campaign, and I wanted to speak to the great man about devolution before committing myself to his cause. I wanted to know how his ideas for 'English' governance would impact on Wales. Iain was the 'gatekeeper'.

Its a difficult issue for the Tory Party. But there is no doubt in my mind that a Scottish model Parliament in Cardiff Bay is the only logical conclusion. I know that there are many (who support other parties as well ) who would like to scrap the whole 'Assembly shooting match' - but this reminds me of a matt cartoon depicting a elderly gent in the Carlton Club insisting that all our troubles started when we let India go. Still, I have much more respect for this opinion than I do for those who support the constitutional irrelevance which is the status quo.

In time, the Tory Party in Wales will be seen as the force for 'national consciousness' and 'cultural distinction' that underpins centre/right parties the world over. It is a tragedy that we have allowed the 'left to take ownership of this policy area. Mind you, I think Ukip will help the cause by discrediting the anti-devolution cause. People will not want to be associated with it.

Personally, I quite like Redwood's idea of Westminster morphing into an English Parliament on Thursdays. I'm looking forwards to seeing what Ken Clarke's policy group is going to come up with later in the year.. In the meantime, Tories are moving in the right direction. Its just that I feel impatient. I like winning.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Dragon's Eye tonight

First item was the Carl Roberts round up of the week. Be fair to say that the campaign isn't on fire yet. There were some really nice Welsh cakes at Plaid's manifesto launch though - but nobody there to eat them except Adam Price and 4 journos. There were lots more at the launch of our AdVan - but the whole event was dominated by Alun Cairns mustard yellow trousers. I was a bit disappointed to learn that the driver turns out to be a Plaid supporter. I'm hoping to meet up with the AdVan in Welshpool tomorrow afternoon and I'm depending on a Plaid bloke to get it there on time ! Almost no-one at all turned up to meet Blair in Milford and he was filmed walking around with Rhodri and Tamsin Dunwoody. The only interesting question is which one of them people are not prepared to be seen with.

Second item was Mike German talking about the 'over 150 new policies' in their manifesto. But I couldn't stop looking at his tie which was completely off centre. He looked as if he'd had a few (even though I'm sure he hadn't - before the Lib Dem rebuttal unit are after me again). Rhun asked him to explain the Lib Dem promise 'to cut class sizes to less than 25 on average'. So Mike explained that it meant 'to cut class sizes to less than 25 on average'. Having cleared that up, Rhun nailed him by pointing out that class sizes are less than 25 now. Mike's tie almost went horizontal.

And then Nick was on, talking about our manifesto - plus our detailed costings which were hot off the press. Nick had decided to outdo Cairnsy's mustard yellow trousers by wearing a startlingly robin red jumper. I thought he coped with Rhun, who was on unusally testing form, rather well. And then Rhun tried on the tired old line that no other party would consider working with the Tories in government after May 3rd - and Nick quite rightly knocked that one down. The only thing that will engage this election with the electorate is the uncertainty of what will happen on May 4th. I don't want to see any of the options closed, except Tory/Labour - which is a step too far, even for me.

UPDATE My wife tells me she thought Alun looked like Rupert the Bear at the AdVan launch - which I think is spot on.

Tesco Tesco Everywhere

Dodgy post this. But I've always had a soft spot for Tesco. I know that this could be a risky comment in the run up to an election, but it happens to be true. Perhaps its because I knew, liked and was deeply impressed by David Malpas, who was managing director of Tesco in 1980/90s. Or perhaps its because Dr Gwyn Jones of WDA/BBC fame and a super loyal friend was a Director of Tesco at about the same time. Or perhaps its because I admire Terry Leahy as Britain's top businessman. More likely, its because my wife doesn't like Morrisons and is desperate for a Tesco to open somewhere near where we live - and Morrisons in Welshpool doesn't sell Welsh butter.

Anyway, for two nights in a row I've been at meetings where Tesco seemed to be the main target of public ire. Last night I was on a 'hustings' panel near Aberaeron run by Ceredigion YFC. Unusually for me, it was a totally Welsh Language evening - so even if I make a pillock of myself, the sheer pleasure of being able to cope in Welsh gives me an inner glow. I was sitting next to Plaid's Elin Jones on the panel and she looked after me - we seem to have been working together for months on different things! Anyway, there was deep scepticism about Tesco's recent commitment to establish long term contracts with dairy farmers at an improved price of 22p per ltr - despite it being a really good sign of things to come. Even good news is criticised. And then tonight, 60 people turned up at Newtown in Montgomeryshire to hear Tesco outline its plans to build a 40,000 sqr ft store in the town. I suspect (no proof) that 80% of local people want a Tesco store - but the entire meeting seemed hostile. Actually, I have my own reservations about a new Tesco in Newtown - even if I am wholly supportive of a new Tesco in Welshpool.

Perhaps the reason I'm posting with such honesty (saying anything remotely nice about Tesco is bound to be electorally negative) is that my fellow blogger, Blamerbell has offended me by not asking me to be on his 'politician's panel' committed to giving frank and honest answers to reader's questions. I've always prided myself on answering questions straight. Now, I'm going to watch Dragon's Eye.

Through gritted teeth.

Don't like getting things wrong - especially on this blog. But, it does look as if the Lib Dem poster I commented on yesterday has not been 'doctored'. I had their rebuttal unit on soon after I posted it, and Peter Black has posted what I have to accept looks pretty strong evidence. I have had several photographs from others which show all 5 politicians at the head of this march - but none of them destroy Peter's evidence. So much for my 'forensic' expert! I feel trapped.

I was tempted to just let it drift (the tomorrow's chip paper argument) - but I must defend the integrity of this blog at all costs. My teeth are gritted and my knuckles are white as I apologise to the Lib Dems for suggesting that they might have doctored this photograph. Actually, I did have a streak of admiration for their ingenuity - so its something of a relief that I can dispense with such an unusual and uncomfortable feeling. The comment by David Thomas, Plaid's Montgomeryshire man on yesterday's post is a much more serious charge against them - in my opinion. If that was true, it really would be shameful.

Since I posted yesterday, I have learned that 'doctoring' photographs is fairly common. I've never done it - but I know a man who has. And we all 'crop' photographs which I suppose isn't that different - so I can't be too 'high and mighty' about this sort of thing anyway. It was all so simple when I was young and the trains ran on time.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The camara never lies - or does it

Why on earth would a Tory Assembly candidate put his opponent's leading campaign photograph on his blog. But it is such an interesting photograph. And the big question concerning our office in Welshpool is "What on earth has happened to our candidate's head". Candidates sometimes do lose their heads - but not usually literally.

The photograph was taken at a cross-party march through Llanidloes, as part of the campaign to stop the local hospital from closure. Our man, Dan Munford was there as were the splendid fellows from Plaid Cymru, David Senior and David Thomas. To begin with I thought, "lucky Lib Dems" - finding a photograph with only their answer to Morecambe and Wise leading the match, and none of the others in sight.

And then we noticed Dan's legs. He had been decapitated - but his legs were still there. His wife recognised his shoes. His head (or at least 6/7ths of it) should have been between the heads of Morecambe and Wise. I'm told that there is some 'blue pixel residue' where the head should be. And some yellow 'bleed' into Mick's collar which could have come from a campaign T-shirt. Well, if you are going to be decapitated, it might as well be on a 'Save our Hospital' march with some doctors close at hand who could stick it back on again.

Poor old David Senior happened to be behind a UNISON poster, which is so much brighter and sharper than all the others that a suspicious mind might think it had been added on later. And he is generally thought to be such a good looking boy.

I think David Thomas, Plaid's very good candidate for Montgomeryshire was just unlucky. I hope he won't mind me noting that his weakest point (from a photogenic point of view) is that he is what we might call follically challenged - and that is the only bit we can see behind 'Earnie's head ! But then this could all be a mirage. Elections do funny things to people.

UPDATE - The Lib Dem rebuttal unit's been on to deny absolutely that the photo has been 'doctored'. According to them, Dan's head is directly behind 'Earnie's'. Well there is a fair bit of room there for sure. I only report what I see.

Cost of Powys 'Whistleblower' Hunt

So Powys County Council must have had five grand hanging around waiting to be blown. "What shall we do with it said the boss". Give a bit more to cash strapped schools perhaps - or a bit more to social services, or to road repairs. Maybe reduce the Council Tax increase for next year (after all, this years bills have left so many people in utter despair about how to pay). "No tell you what. We'll 'blow it', we'll 'blow it' on a 'whistle blower hunt'".

You might think this is some sort of joke. But its not. A few Weeks ago, the Council's internal procedures discovered that 44 staff, with access to vulnerable children, had not been subject to properly required criminal record checks. This was bad, but mistakes do happen in big organisations. My only comment was that procedures must be changed to ensure such a thing never happened again.

But the Council decided not to admit what had happened publicly, and somebody in the know spilt the beans - and Mr Yapp at the BBC ran a story on it. Quite right to. But the Council was tamping mad - so mad that they decided to hire a special detective to expose the 'whistle blower', the public spirited person who had made public that which the Council should have made public. And now we find out, after a bit of arm twisting that this utterly stupid exercise cost the Council not much short of £5000 (£4435-16 to be precise - must have needed a 16p special offer kit-kat to keep going) for 5 days sleuthing.

Now follow 'quotes' on this issue that the media might care to use.

"I am appalled that Powys Council have wasted nearly £5,000 of Council Tax payers money on a wild goose chase. Its the 'public's money' that the Council has 'blown'. And thank goodness the Council's sleuth failed to track down the 'whistle blower', who lifted the lid on what was going on. We should all be grateful to the 'whistle blower'."

"There needs to be a new committment to transparency at Powys County Council. The Council is there to represent the people - not pursue personal vendettas at public expense. This matter has greatly reduced public confidence in this Council as a protector of the public interest."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Peeing on your compost

Just watching Newsnight, and there was some fellow peeing on his compost. This was being portrayed as being environmentally friendly. But this is not a proper way to behave. Its not that I'm prudish about this sort of thing. How can someone who as a young man, often worked out in the fields for whole days, miles from any facilities, be prudish. Its not proper because undiluted urine is too acid and kills those valuable red composting worms. Its not green at all. If you decide to become a natural compost accelerator, keep a container of water handy. A 50/50 mix is probably about right.

Robin's nest.

Just had an emailed press release from the FUW about a robin which is sitting on three eggs under the bonnet of Neil Smith's quad bike . It seems that Tim Hughes of Smithfield Tractors of Builth Wells has stepped in and loaned Mr Smith a replacement until the eggs are hatched and the robinlets flown. I hope this press release brings new business to Smithfield Tractors.

I remember a friend of mine (known locally as Digger John - or Ginger John, until he lost his hair) finding a blackbird's nest under the bonnet of his digger when he was working on my farm. He couldn't afford to stop working so he carried on 9 -5 every day - which didn't seem to bother the blackbird at all. All four blackbird chicks fledged successfully. Our wildlife is a lot more adaptable that is widely thought.

Karen Carpenter

Watched the BBC One programme about the Carpenters last night. Deeply nostalgic. Its not as if Karen was a great beauty or sexy or anything special on the eye (sorry - but that is how we blokes talked in those days). In fact, I always thought she was rather frumpy. But she had the loveliest voice I have ever heard. There cannot be a nicer sound in this world than Karen Carpenter singing 'Close to you' or 'We've only just begun'. Maybe Eric Clapton's guitar on 'River of tears' comes closest. Or the first song of the willow warbler - which for me is much more the harbinger of summer than the swallow. The tragedy of Karen Carpenter is a 'lump in the throat' issue for men of my age.

None of us understood what a dangerous killer, anorexia was in those days. Today, she may have been saved. Just listening to that easy magical voice again last night reminded me why the Carpenters sold 150 million records - and how much of a loss Karen's death at 32 was.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Light amongst the Grasses

This is a watershed post. Not for you dear readers, but for me. I was tidying up the cortaderias when a realisation so overpowering came upon me that I have had to rush in to post - just in case I lose it again. Its one of those thoughts that have been bouncing around the dark corridors of my mind, which has suddenly crashing into the 'active' zone. It might only be the glorious sunshine but it sure puts some backbone into my politics.

It started with the question "How does a country which does not believe in separation from England come to vote for a political party that does?". (We're talking Scotland here.) The answer must be that a lot of voters are voting for Alex Salmon because they believe he puts Scotland first rather than for any policy reasoning. The SNP may talk 'socialism' but that is not why Scots are going to vote for them. I reckon that there are probably many thousands of a centre-right mindset who think a Scotland with greater autonomy can be less 'socialist' than a Gordon Brown led Government at Westminster. And I suspect they are right.

Next question is how this translates to Wales. At present, the 'Wales, our nation' camp is infected with 'socialism'. And that is because people like me have allowed it to happen. And I have just been confronted by the realisation that it has been because of a lack of courage (no other way of putting it). Since the 1997 devolution referendum, I have been going around saying "Now that we have devolution, it is not going away and we must work to make a success of it" or "I accept the referendum result because I am a democrat". I have gone further than most in my party by saying "In the interests of 'accountability' I believe we should have law making powers in devolved areas". When I think about it, how can I expect to inspire anyone with such non-visionary, feet-dragging, reluctant acceptance.

All this brings me closer to Plaid Cymru in some ways, but drives a 'Berlin Wall' between me and the so-called Party of Wales in other ways. Plaid Cymru has become a 'socialist' party with a 'begging bowl' approach to politics, an unshakable belief in 'state interference' and a policy agenda aimed at promoting a culture of dependency. It is the anti- private sector party. It is time for devolution to be promoted as a mechanism for getting the state off the backs of the people. The case for devolution, and devolution itself is not safe in Plaid Cymru's hands.

And the joy of it is that I hardly need to change my views at all - just be more courageous about why I hold them. I believe that Wales should have law making powers so that we can set the people free from the stultifying shackles of the 'state', we can oppose the 'freebie' culture of dependency creation, we can search for ideas to help ourselves, etc.. I am a centre/right politician who is appalled by what Labour is doing to Wales from its Westminster base and Cardiff Bay outpost - and I positively want a full law making National Assembly so that Wales can cast off the great 'socialist' baggage that is dragging my proud nation down.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

You can never take the sweeties back.

What is a caring man to do. Worried about the kids getting too fat - and then Rhodri Morgan gives them sweeties, big fattening sweeties. Free swimming, free breakfasts, free prescriptions, free bus travel, etc., etc.. You know that you should take the sweeties back for their own good - but you realise that you just can't. You know from experience that, once given, sweeties cannot be retrieved.

Of course, one of the reasons Rhodri handed out sweeties to all in the first place is that he could threaten voters that you would take the sweeeties back if you had the power to do so - and when you are pragmatic and say that you will not, what is Rhodri to do. His cunning plan is 'stuffed'. His fox has been shot. I suppose it depends just how desperate he is.

I suspect that this man is so desperate that he will resort to lying through his teeth. I suspect he will try to persuade the kids that they would lose their sweeties if they do not vote for him - even though he knows this to be a blatant lie. I suspect he might try to persuade Welsh voters that Tories would end free bus travel - even though he knows this to be a blatant lie. He might even try to persuade voters that we would start charging for prescriptions again - even though he knows this to be a blatant lie as well. A little bird has told me that Rhodri intends to do these things tomorrow. I hope that he won't resort to such depths. We shall have to wait and see.

It might be possible to fool the kiddies about sweeties. It won't be so easy to fool voters. The question is "Is this desperate man really stupid enough to gamble?"

The Thin Man.

Funny piece by Matt Withers in today's Wales on Sunday. An interview with Mike German. It seems that the sole reason only 6% of welsh people recognised him in a poll was because the wrong sort of photograph was used. (sounds a bit like one of Network Rail's excuses) Apparently it was a photo of 'fat' Mike, rather than the new 'slimmed down sleek Mike' on offer at this election. According to the Lib Dems, some 40 % recognise the new 'Thin Man'.

And then 'Thin Man' says he wants to talk about Lib Dem policies rather than coalitions - and then goes on to talk only about coalitions. Never in the history of political conflict has one man been so consumed by the appeal of a ministerial car. When he finally gets arouynd to mentioning policies, its nuclear power and the green tax switch - which are both non devolved issues. Gareth Price, for heaven's sake, get a grip on your man. The Party is falling apart - even we've overtaken the Lib Dems in Scotland according to today's Telegraph.

And Mike finishes up by rubbishing Lembit. He says "I don't think it (Lem's extra-political activities) will have any effect whatsoever on our party". With this one wholly unbelievable comment, the interview lost all the credibility Mike had built up when he was talking about personal ambition.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Bloggers in competition.

I see that there's competition amongst bloggers. I've known that there has been a bit of tension between Tim Montgomery and Iain Dale for top Tory blog - but I didn't know about it in Wales. Blamerbell has started compiling a league table based on something called a 'technorati' ranking which puts his blog at number 2. This word, 'technorati' could be made up. And then there are comments from sanddef and Bethan that makes it clear there is a battle for the top spot, which is currently occupied by Peter Black.

This very all very worrying for me, because I seem to be dropping down this league. And Eaglestone didn't like my dead donkey story. I immediately feel my competetive hackles rising. I can't help it. But I'm not sure what I can do about it. Should I go for hits, visits or links. Actually I'm rather ashamed to say that I'm not sure what the difference is. And I've not the slightest how to measure these things. And I thought it was all just a bit of fun.

Parallel Worlds.

There is a National Assembly election going on. I have to remind myself. Rhodri Morgan's vile tactic of banning dual candidacy has left me feeling really flat about the whole thing. Its just not the same - not fighting a constituency seat. The problem was that because all the kids were coming home today, I decided to take the day off. I reckoned that our local candidate, Dan Munford was in Newtown with a good gang in support and I wouldn't be missed - and when I'm with Dan I have to keep on explaining that I'm not retiring from politics. Very frustrating.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, its been a gloriously sunny day. I've been tidying up the kniphofias and echinaceas (all the new varieties have survived the winter well). Three buzzards have been soaring overhead all day long, sorting out breeding territory. The sheer pleasure of watching their gymnastics, and listening to their crying is matched only by a curlew in full song. And today, there were two of them doing just that over the pasture below the house. Two pied wagtails are housebuilding in the ivy opposite the kitchen window and Mrs Canada Goose is settled on her eggs on the pond island. Today, nature has been smothering me in joyous things.

And yet, I feel flat. There is an election going on. I am envious of all those candidates who are out on the stump, asking voters to "Please vote for me" or something similar. It is just not the same going out and asking voters to "Please vote for my party list". It will be OK after tomorrow. Its Easter Sunday and no-one will be out canvassing - or at least shouldn't be. Undistracted, I will enjoy the natural world. But I won't take another day off until May 3rd.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Buying a Donkey

An old Welsh farmer sold a donkey to a young lad named Gordon for £100. But when he delivered the donkey next day, the poor animal had died in the lorry.

Gordon said "In that case, I'll have my money back."

The old farmer replied "I can't repay you, because I have already spent the money."

Gordon said "OK then, just unload the donkey."

The old farmer asked "What are you going to do with it?"

Gordon answered "I am going to raffle it off."

The old farmer exclaimed "You can't raffle off a dead donkey."

Gordon, with a wicked smile on his face said "Oh yes I can. I just won't tell anyone that it's dead."

The old farmer went home, and when he met Gordon a few weeks later he asked "Whatever happened with that dead donkey?"

Gordon said "I raffled it off. I sold 500 tickets at £2 a ticket, and made a nice juicy profit.

The amazed old farmer said "Didn't anyone complain that you had stolen their money because you didn't tell them it was dead?"

To which Gordon replied "The only guy who found out that the donkey was dead was the raffle winner when he came to claim his prize. So I gave him his £2 back, plus another £200 which as you know is double the going rate for a donkey, so he thought I was a really great guy."

Gordon grew up and eventually become Chancellor of the Exchequer, and no matter how many times he lied, or how much money he stole from the British voters, as long as he gave them back some of the stolen money, most of them still thought he was a really great guy.

The moral of this story is that if you think Gordon is about to play fair and do something for the everyday people of this country for once in his miserable dissembling life, think again my friend, because you would be better off flogging a dead donkey.

Thats another way of looking at last month's budget.

Secrecy in Powys

I read on the BBC website that Powys County Council's disgraceful 'whistleblower hunt' has drawn a blank. I had some sympathy with the Council in its difficulties when it discovered a few weeks ago that proper criminal checks had not been carried out on 44 of its staff who had access to children. Mistakes happen in large organisations and I called for an immediate overhaul of procedures to ensure that it could never happen again. that seemed proportionate to me.

But I have condemned totally the Council's secrecy about the matter. The public should not have learned about this from the BBC. It really was beyond condemnation that the Council decided to spend thousands on an external 'investigator' to track down the 'whistleblower' - who with the help of the BBC put information in the public domain which the Council should have done itself. I have issued a press release calling on the Council to tell us how much this misguided inquiry cost the Council Tax payers of Powys. It really wouldn't surprise me if the Council tried to use some excuse about 'confidentiality' to avoid telling us.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Predictable Poll

Poor Nick Speed. Trying desperately to give the impression on the Six-o-clock news that the NOP poll conducted for ITV told us anything we didn't know already. It was precisely the same as I've been predicted for months. Which is rather good news for the Conservatives.

We all know that Labour is doing badly and the suggested 25 seats is all they can reasonably expect. I think they will slip back some more yet - principally because of the outrageously undemocratic way that Brown is fixing his own 'coronation'. And we have all listened to Plaid Cymru's rather amusing predictions of 17 seats, which has been based on no evidence whatsoever. No-one has believed their rubbishing of the Tories. It has just made them look out of touch. The suggested 12 looks about right. And as for Mike German's talk of 12 seats - well, we've all had a good laugh about that. The only party leader who has been telling it straight is Nick Bourne. We know that we are doing reasonably well post-Cameron and 14 seats is about where we are at present. All of this looked predictable.

What's interesting is where we will go from here - and here are my predictions. I think Labour will slip back a touch more. Not so much because of their record but the sheer arrogance of Rhodri Morgan. Today, he has defied the electorate to vote him out, by talking of his retirement in the face of a bad result. He actually thinks his threat to retire will frighten people to vote Labour. Completely barking! And voters are beginning to smell the putrid stink associated with Labour's gerrymandering of the voting system by banning dual candidacy. There will be no justice unless Rhodri has gone in two months time. It will be the price he pays for trying to 'fix' the vote. I think Plaid might sneak on one - and I cannot see the Lib Dems improving on 7 seats while Mike, Lembit and Ming are leading the party down a blind alley. Which leaves us.

I've been saying for a while that anything less than 14 is a poor result for us and anything better than 14 is a great result. I know that things can change - but its looked like that for months. Well, I think we can do a bit better than that now. The Labour Party is in free fall and deservedly so. I've given up discussing what sort of coalition all this might lead to, until after the May 3rd poll. But I'm going down to the Black Lion in Berriew for supper tonight with a smile on my face. Things are going OK for the Welsh Conservatives.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Rise of Stumpy

The world of film has a new star - Stumpy. According to today's Telegraph, Stumpy made his TV debut yesterday, at the tender age of 8 weeks old. The thing about Stumpy is that he has 4 legs. Now the number of legs on a duck is of particular interest to us in Wales since Rhodri Morgan famously asked "Does a one legged duck swim in circles" when Jeremy Paxman (I think) asked him if he wanted to be First Minister. Perhaps when Jeremy asks Rhodri if he is going to resign after a catastrophic result on May 3rd, he'll reply by asking "Does a four legged duck swim backwards"

As it happens my wife has gone to see 'Torville and Dean on Ice' in Birmingham tonight. It just struck me that if Stumpy's pond freezes over, he could show off his quadruple toe-loop! Anyway I'm sure that Rhodri will join me in wishing Stumpy a long and successful film career.

Public Duty.

Walked into a council office today. And there he was. Just sitting there, looking at his monitor as if nothing has changed. Just sitting there contentedly enjoying a fag. He looked so happy and contented. I looked him in the eye and saw no guilt whatsoever. I don't think he knew the law had changed. Millions spent on advertising to no avail.

Question is 'what should I have done'? Should I have snatched the disgusting, polluting weed from his lips? Should I have reported him to the 'authorities'? Should I have lambasted him with supposed facts about what harm he was doing to himself and everyone else who would have to set foot in his revolting office? What was my public duty? I'm afraid that I just smiled inwardly and retired. All I wanted was to know the way to another office. Modern life is so complicated for a libertarian.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

BBC won't so I will

I posted about this story on my blog yesterday. I didn't issue a press release even though I thought it should be known because I didn't want it to be seen as political. I fully expected the BBC to start the ball rolling - but No. For some reason, which completely escapes me the BBC doesn't think this is worth reporting. So I will have to do it myself.

Last week, Jonathon Osbourne, Consultant Otolaryngologist with the Conwy and Denbighshire NHS Trust wrote to Miss Andrea Price from Llangurig, near Llanidloes - one of my constituents.

Dear Miss Price,

I am writing to update you on the current situation regarding the funding of your cochlear implant.

As you know, Health Commission Wales recently produced a document which denies cochlear implants to all adults in Wales apart from those patients who had previous meningitis (a minuscule proportion of the total). I went to see the Minister of Health (Brian Gibbons) on 5th March 07, to protest about the situation, and was left informally under the impression that he might be able to help. Sadly, in response to a question in the Assembly today, he has confirmed that Wales will not be providing cochlear implants to nearly all adult patients.

Wales is therefore the only home nation to deny this treatment to deaf people. Cochlear implantation is a well established treatment that is more cost effective than renal transplantation or coronary artery bypass grafting, there is no effective alternative treatment and in my view this policy is cruel to people like yourself having to cope with the handicap of profound deafness.

Having failed to help you through the appropriate channels I see no alternative to publicising this outrageous situation prior to the Assembly elections in May. We will be mounting a campaign via the good offices of the Royal National Institute for the Deaf. Please let me know if you are happy to be contacted by the media. In the Meantime please feel free to act independently and contact your local Assembly Member/Member of Parliament.

I know that this news comes as a devastating blow to you, but please don't give up hope. In the long term having Wales behave like a third world country is not a sustainable situation and I believe it is just a matter of time before we get this decision reversed. Kind regards

Yours sincerely, Jonathon Osborne, F.R.C.S, Consultant Otolaryngologist.

I looked through some of the stories that the BBC decided should be reported on today.

a) Police believe thieves are targeting pubs.
b) Part of a kitchen is found under a driveway.
c) A local post box is stolen.
d) Halkyn Mountain is to be surrounded by cattle grids.
e)American High School band visits Wales.

UPDATE - I am told that the Minister Brian Gibbons has now allocated £750,000 for the provision of cochlear implants for adults. The consultant, Mr Osborne has contacted me to inform that the Minister's decision will now allow Andrea's treatment to go ahead, which is great news for her and others in the same position.

Lib Dems Need Help

Just in after a day's canvassing in Machynlleth with Dan Munford. Lib Dems are in free fall if our experiences are anything to go by. Apparently it was the same in Llanidloes last week. No wonder the Lib Dems are getting desperate.

Iain Dale has posted a copy of an email which has just been sent out by the Lib Dems, begging supporters to go into their Cowley St. Call Centre in London to telephone people in Wales. It reads thus

Help Wales and Scotland to Win.
It is only five weeks before the elections to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. The importance of these elections cannot be overstated. In Scotland we are being squeezed on all fronts and the SNP's polls are looking impressive. In Wales we are facing intense opposition from Plaid Cymru and Labour. On Tuesday night we are telephone canvassing from Wales and Scotland from Cowley Street at 7.00 pm onwards. It is really easy to do and requires no knowledge of either situation. Just dial and ask how people are going to vote.
If you can help, please ring...... We really do need the help so if you could spare an hour then it would be appreciated.

So if you have a phone call on a Tuesday night asking which way you are going to vote, you will know that it is probably from some Lib Dem in a call centre in London who has no knowledge of the Wales situation.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Confusion in Montgomeryshire

Been around Welshpool Livestock Market today with impressive local Tory candidate, Dan Munford. But the truth is that no-one had much idea of what we were about because they didn't understand the Assembly Election voting system. Most people we talked to thought that I was retiring from politics. I suppose they could be right - but I think they meant voluntarily! It really is maddening that Peter Hain and Rhodri Morgan have got away with their shameless gerrymandering. The ban on duel candidacy is even more confusing than I thought it would be. Regrettably, there is not much 'opinion' in the Welsh media. Otherwise, they would have been crucified. Not sure it will make much difference to the result though - but I do think the confusion will result in a poorer turnout.

Even more confusion at home. A grey wagtail has fallen head over heals in love with my car mirror. It spends all day trying to mount its reflection - and standing on top of it c***ping all over the glass. If only we humans could express our disgust with those who con us in such a direct way.

And to cap it all, an incredibly handsome cock pheasant has fallen for my wife. It follows her around the garden whenever she walks out to see the magnolias. Poor fellow must be going through a real identity crisis. For a while, we both thought it was a 'gay' cock pheasant - a bit like Boysey's 'gay' bull. Normally, this time of year cocks are strictly territorial and harem building - but this fellow was 'dropping his wing' at a fellow cock in the most suggestive way. I think that I am going to blame Peter and Rhodri for this confusion as well.

Warped Priorities

More NHS shame in Wales. A constituent, living near Llanidloes, in Montgomeryshire has lost her hearing. A Cochlear implant would give this young woman (around her mid-twenties) her hearing back. Her consultant tells us that Wales in the only UK country where the NHS refuses to pay for these implants, which I am told would cost around £32,000. Her consultant has described Health Commission Wales' treatment of my constituent as "outrageous" and "cruel" and her treatment as akin to that of a "third world country".

Ironically, I received a copy of the consultant's letter on the day that prescription charges were abolished - costing the NHS in Wales well over £32 million.

Ah well! That tells you something about Welsh Labour's priorities. Apparently its OK to give free prescriptions to the 15% of the population which was paying for them - and leaving a talented and dynamic young lady (and thousands like her) without treatment that would be available in England and Scotland.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Right to Disagree

I like Councillor David Fouweather, even if I quite often disagree with him. One reason I like him is that he has opinions and isn't afraid to express them. This week he wrote to the Western Mail, outlining his disagreement with Welsh Conservative Party policy on devolution. Fellow blogger, Peter Black describes this rather melodramatically as 'Open Revolt'. Lets examine this proposition a bit further.

David would like to see the National Assembly scrapped. There are a lot of people in Wales, across all parties (except Plaid Cymru) who agree with him. I'm surprised that Peter doesn't know Liberal Democrats who agree with him - because I know some. The only question to be asked is what percentage think devolution should be unwound. Its my belief that its lessening, and that there is no prospect of the Assembly being abolished.

David Fouweather and I were of like mind until the referendum in September '97. But I accepted the result, even if it was only a wafer thin 'Yes' vote on a 50% turnout. As driving home from the Powys count in Llandrindod Wells, I also accepted that the only constitutionally sound devolutionary settlement is full law making powers in devolved areas. It may be that there isn't a majority in our party for either David's opinion or mine. But we are both free to express our opinion. Far from being 'open revolt', that is exactly how it should be.

Tolerance of dissenting opinion is crucial to any political party. In Cameron's Party at Westminster at present, there is a wonderful flowering of ideas driving the Renaissance in Conservative politics. Over the next 12 months there will have to be tough decisions about what becomes 'party policy'. I will be very surprised if I agree with everything - but I will accept the majority opinion. Its called democracy. "So carry on holding your opinions David Fouweather. I don't agree with the contents of your recent letter and I will carry on trying to persuade you otherwise. Mind you, I'd prefer if you didn't write to the Western Mail again until after May 3rd."