Thursday, May 31, 2007

For 'Wales' read 'Glamorgan'.

Rhodri Morgan, newly installed First Minister of Wales, has announced his new Cabinet today. He has cut it's membership from 9 to 7. There are no new Ministers and every single one of them is from the old county of Glamorgan. He has tried to pretend that this isn't a major slap in the face of North Wales by making Carl Sergeant his Chief Whip (a good appointment. Would you argue with him. Reminds me of a past Westminster Tory whip named David Lightbown).

Carwyn Jones - Education, Language and Culture.
Edwina Hart - Health and Social Services.
Brian Gibbons- Economy and Transport.
Jane Hutt - Budget and Business.
Jane Davidson- Sustainability and Rural Development.
Andrew Davies- Social Justice and Public Services Delivery.

Lets see if we can follow Rhodri's thinking. His only aim would have been to appease Plaid Cymru - very sensibly keeping an eye on survival. This is the only perspective that is worth looking at. Ability to 'do the job' will have been secondary.

Appointing only 7 leaves him room to make changes in the future if needed without too much disruption - and makes a coalition easier. He won't have forgotten the fallout from sacking Peter Law last time he coalesced.

I rate his appointment of Carwyn Jones into the Education and Language job is a really good move. Carwyn could make his name here.

I also rate his appointment of Edwina Hart to health. She is so straight-talking and consensual in style that she may agree a way forwards with the'gang of four' in particular.

Brian Gibbons will do Econony and Transport as well as Andrew Davies did. He had to be moved from health, so this isn't a bad move.

Jane Davidson in her wellies. Now there's a thought. She's going to have to eat all those Welsh lamb burgers at the Royal Welsh Show. A case of 'onwards and outwards'. I'd like to be there when Brynle makes his first politically incorrect sexist comment. There'll be some fur flying.

Jane Hutt at Budget and Business. I suppose the budget is such a complex subject which no-one properly understands - so perhaps Jane is an appropriate appointment. Anyway, if Rhodri has any sense, he will let Plaid Cymru write his budget. Only way to stop the 'No Confidence Motion'.

And Andrew Davies. He really must be 'cheesed off' with his move. Big job though - and he will be relieved to get away from the snapping teeth of Alun Cairns. Will be a help in cementing his appeal with all those Labour 'movers and shakers' in Local Government - in preparation for the big leadership contest, whenever it comes.

Rhodri has frozen out the nat-bashers. That'll teach you Leighton. But the 'Glamorgan Mafia' label will stick. Sandy's a cert for Deputy Minister now. Looking forward to Shipton's take on things tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Wrong Time to Laugh

The last few days in Welsh politics have been so chaotic that mockery and laughter is fully justified. And there's plenty of it. But I've stopped laughing because it is damaging my nation.

I read an article in yesterday's Telegraph about inappropriate laughter. It seems that in Sheffield, toilet roll holders are springing open and hitting innocent lavatory users on the head, inflicting injuries. The Department of Education has issued a memo assuring users that these faulty holders are going 'to be replaced at the earliest convenience'! The memo also insists that this is not a laughing matter. This set me thinking about when laughter really must be suppressed.

And I recall an incident many years ago when I was out on my farm picking mushrooms. A clearly distraught neighbour came up to me to tell me that her husband had 'sat on his b*lls'. It was deeply serious because she was so upset, and had called for an ambulance. This somewhat unusual feat had been achieved following on from major surgery in the general area. I remember being torn between concern for my friend and an almost uncontrollable urge to laugh.

And as typing, another painful memory returns. Please suspend your imagination for a few moments. I was a newly married young man and for some unaccountable reason decided to enter the marital bedroom after my late night shower with a sort of Nureyev/Geronimo leap - cracking my head on the solid oak door frame. To this day, I don't know whether my new wife laughed as I lay naked, bleeding and unconscious on the bedroom floor. But I do recall that as I was coming to my senses she was laughing like a drain.

Perhaps it is this last recollection that causes me not to laugh at the utterly ridiculous behaviour of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Rainbows Everywhere

Rainbows everywhere. Yesterday I judged the floats at Welshpool Carnival. There was only one hotly contested class - which was for the 'Visiting Queens'. And the winning lorry was from Rhayader. Not only did Miss Rhayader and her attendants look very pretty (not sure if this is the right word for a 'visiting queen') but the deck was decorated by around 20 rainbows. My fellow judge Mick Bates was an amused as I was. And there was a real rainbow over Welshpool yesterday afternoon as well.

And then on to an interview for the BBC's Good Evening Wales programme to comment on Plaid Cymru AM, Dr Dai Lloyd's warning to Rhodri Morgan that he has only a week or two until he is turfed out of office in favour of the Rainbow Coalition. Dr Dai had clearly been despatched by Plaid leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones to play hardball on the media before he opens discussion with Rhodri on his programme for government. Labour's position is hopeless. In office - Yes. In power - No. Rhodri Morgan's ability to govern will be about as real as the rainbow's shadow which threatens to engulf him.

Rhodri's New Team

So Rhodri Morgan has been spending the Bank Holiday choosing his new Cabinet, rather than looking through holiday brochures with Julie. Let's speculate on who might be up and who might be down.

He's lost two of his previous top team, including Sue Essex, who has been such a towering presence over the last few years. (In passing, if the Labour Party has any gumption, Sue would not be allowed much time to look through holiday brochres either - and prevailed upon to head East down the M4 to spend some time on the red benches at Westminster).

I don't think Rhodri will drop anyone (except perhaps Brian Gibbons - of which more later). The two I think he'll bring in will be Leighton Andrews (through gritted teeth) and Sandy Mewies. I know Leighton has been a serial 'nat-basher' but he's smart enough to know that the post-election reality demands a big change of approach - if he has leadership ambition that is (does a one-legged duck etc.). His best position would be the 'culture' portfolio - but his nat-bashing probably rules that out. So education it will be. I think Rhodri will go for Sandy because she is so sound and sensible - and he needs someone from North Wales.

Carwyn Jones and Jane Davidson need a move. Rhodri might give Jane the 'Health' job - if she promised to be a bit less school-ma'amish. There will need to be some policy reversals on health and a new face will be needed - and Jane can state that black is white with great conviction. This might mean that Brian is dropped but I expect another portfolio for him. I hope he puts Carwyn Jones in the engine room of Finance. The budget could well be the trigger for the expected 'No Confidence' motion (if they last that long) and it would test Carwyn's skills to the limit. I would also give him the 'culture' brief. It's an odd combination. It's a case of 'Who Else?'.

And now to the policy area I care most about. There really is no obvious candidate. He may give the job to Sandy. A final thought is that Rhodri will not find a place for Huw Lewis - not if he wants to stay in office for more than a few weeks.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Siesmic Shift?

Did a review yesterday of where we are at with the Welsh political scene at present with Peter Johnson on the BBC's Sunday Edition. A lot of consensus across the parties - including Labour. And this despite the latest volte-face by the Liberal Democrats at Aberystwyth yesterday, when they decided to put the 'yellow' back into the rainbow.

My contention was that there has been a 'seismic shift' in Welsh politics - even if we still have the same name on the First Minister's office door. No-one has been more associated with the 'rainbow coalition' than me - but it was always more a 'mechanism' rather than an 'objective', of which there were two. Firstly, I wanted to destroy the assumption that was in the voter's mind that Wales is a one-party state and that Labour will always be in control. And secondly, I have wanted to change the public perception of my party into a potential party of government in Wales.

Arguably, both of these objectives have been achieved. Firstly, Rhodri Morgan has been forced to acknowledge that he can only govern, courtesy of a cross-party consensus. It is clear that if Labour try any of the arrogant domineering politics that we have grown used to over the last 8 years, he will be toast after all. And secondly, both Plaid and the Lib Dems have formally resolved that they consider the Tories to be a potential coalition partner. In anyone's language, this is a 'seismic shift'.

And I will post on the most sensible response to the Lib Dem's latest gymnastics tomorrow.

Friday, May 25, 2007

So What's New

Do you remember the story about the compulsive gambler who went on holiday with his wife, and found that his hotel was right next to a casino? After dinner, she fancied an early night, but he couldn't resist it. He decided to pop into the casino, after promising his wife that he would not gamble one penny of their holiday money. He was given £2's worth of complimentary 'chips' on entry. Two hours later after an extraordinary sequence of luck, he had amassed a fortune of £20 million. The casino had come to a standstill, and crowds of spectators had gathered. Nothing like it had ever happened before. He was packing up to go to bed, but the incredible atmosphere got to him - and he placed one final bet, putting the whole £20 million on the table. He lost the lot.

When he joined his wife in their room, she asked him how it had gone. He just shrugged his shoulders and said "I lost my £2 complimentary chips".

I thought of this story, in the context of today's events in the National Assembly. Way back last March, Rhodri Morgan was First Minister, leading a 'minority' government. And today, two months later, Rhodri Morgan is going to be elected First Minister of a 'minority' government. "Goodnight Darling, time to roll over and go to sleep."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I still believe in it.

Today I recalled the Final Budget Debate in the Assembly last December when the Tories and the Lib Dems traded insults with Plaid Cymru - following the latter's decision to support the Labour Government. It was like a remake of West Side Story. I will never forget watching Labour, and particularly 'my mate on the other side', Sue Essex enjoying herself even more than I enjoyed my first viewing of Crocodile Dundee. I made a conciliatory speech in the middle of it - and it was no more than a sort of half time breather between the combatants. I was in despair. What the hell were we going to gain by such self indulgent rubbish.

And I feel the same today. No-one can feel more disappointed than I do that the Lib Dems sunk the Rainbow Coalition last night. I was so angry after I heard the result from Llandrindod Wells that I couldn't sleep. But the truth is I am still totally committed to a Rainbow Coalition. Its not even me being anti-Labour. I just do not want Wales to be a one-party state. And the only way anything can happen to change this within the next 4 years - and probably after that, means working with the Lib Dems.

I was shocked when I read the document that Plaid's 'gang of four' and the Lib Dems rejected. There was absolutely no reasonable grounds for rejection - that couldn't have been easily sorted. We had gone even further than I would have expected. They were voting against a Tory Party of another time.

In my opinion, the sinking of the Rainbow Coalition was a very damaging blow to Welsh democracy. I am thinking about how to revive the corpse. First questionis, do we need the Lib Dems. Now even I can see that a Coalition of Plaid Cymru and my party in 2011 is a big ask, even if we have the numbers. The irrational antipathy within parts of Plaid towards 'Thatcher's Tories' will still be there. Reality is we will need the Lib Dems.

I don't know what I will be doing to further the interests of the Conservative Party in Wales over the next year or two - but I will be trying to build the confidence that people like Helen Mary Jones, Bethan Jenkins and Peter Black have in the Conservative Party. Because I want Wales to be have elections where there is a genuine choice. I do not think that 'slagging off' the Lib Dems (much as they deserve it) is going to help the long term objective. You see, I might be one of only few in the whole of Wales, but I still believe in the Rainbow Coalition.

What a Bl***y Shambles

Once upon a time, in the ancient kingdom of Cymru, three cute little bears lived in a big glass palace in the City of Cardiff. They were bullied for many years by a big grizzly bear called Rhodri, who lived with his gang in posh offices on the top floor, and ruled the whole kingdom. The cute little bears were called Green Bear, Blue Bear and Yellow Bear.

Then one day, Green Bear said "I've got an idea. I'm fed up of being ruled by the Grizzly Bear Gang. Why don't we gang up together and take over from them". Blue Bear said "What an absolutely spiffing idea. I'd been thinking along those lines myself". Little Yellow Bear chipped in, saying "Don't forget little me. I want to join in too". So the three cute little bears celebrated with a pot of honey, and out of the empty pot there rose a lovely 'rainbow'. The three said "Let this be a sign". And when they had worked out the details of their plan, they told the world what they were going to do. The boss of the Grizzly Bears, named Rhodri was very sad.

But then Little Yellow Bear went with his glad tidings to his National Executive meeting at Llandrindod Wells, where there were only 18 bears from across the land. Lo and behold, 9 of them said that Little Yellow Bear was clever and agreed with the plan - but 9 said that Little Yellow Bear was stupid and disagreed. Unfortunately the Yellow Bears didn't have any way of coming to a decision when the vote was level. (Yes really - I'm told this is true) So Little Yellow Bear started to cry and had to tell nasty Guto and Betsan from the Bears Broadcasting Corporation, who were waiting to pounce outside the door. "Our plan is now ' totally stuffed'. But I am still boss of the yellow bears".

Next day, Blue Bear and Green Bear were very angry - and stood on the great steps of the glass palace and 'rubbished' the Yellow Bears unmercifully. The rainbow disappeared, and the 'crock of gold' rolled down the great steps and sunk without trace into the Bay. But wait, some more yellow bears said "We must have a Conference in Aberystwyth to reconsider this, all over again". (The yellow bears have always had problems about deciding things). But old Grizzly Bear heard about this cunning plan, and arranged to have a 'coronation' tomorrow, before the Yellow Bear's conference on Saturday. Tonight, the Grizzly Bear gang are having 10 jars of honey to celebrate - and have sent out the sweetest little grizzly, called Jane Hutt to be humble and say that old grizzly is a 'statesman' who likes nothing more than to chat and frolic with all of the bears - except Blue Bear.

At this point Hans Christian Andersen abandoned this fairy story as being so utterly preposterous and unbelievable that no-one would ever believe it or read it. So it was never published until today.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sweaty Armpits

The first thing she said was "You shouldn't have worn that dark blue shirt. Your armpits were disgustingly sweaty." It wouldn't be so bad if I hadn't thought that the shirt was rather 'Cameron' and that the AM/PM programme I'd just done had gone rather well.

I'd been a guest on today's programme for the BBC between 11.30 and 1.00 with ex-AM, Alun Pugh and Dr Laura McAllister discussing the political goings on in Cardiff Bay and Prime Minister's Questions. There were several really interesting subjects - but when I rang home to see how things were, the only subject my wife wanted to talk about was my sweaty armpits. It does make the point that if I want to be taken seriously and have people listen to the case I'm making, I really am going to have to improve my presentation.

It was interesting to chat informally amongst some of those involved in all the discussions about the future Assembly Government around Cardiff Bay today.. There is real momentum behind the Rainbow Coalition. I think that even Plaid's 'gang of four' will accept the majority view. In fact, I have quite a bit of admiration for them. I was a lot more disappointed in the interview Jill Evans, MEP and Vice President of Plaid was giving on Good Evening Wales as I was driving home. She just seems to want her party to remain in perpetual opposition. My only real doubt is the Lib Dems, none of whom I encountered in Cardiff Bay today. Well, there are only six of them. It is odd that so much influence on how Wales is governed rests with so few Lib Dem activists. Spent a long time with Darren Millar today - and I have to say that I think he is being under-rated. He could be a bit stong willed but he's going to be an influential Assembly Member, both reasonable and devolutionary.

I am frustrated by difficulty blogging at the moment. I have had so much trouble rearranging my computer access that I am still having to travel to Welshpool at night to access a computer. Still, I should be back up to speed in a few days time. I will have a new personal line at home and will order broadband tomorrow.. By the time I read all the comments on Blamerbell's and Iain Dale's blogs, its time to go home.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I'm a Wolves fan now.

When I was a kid, most people in mid Wales were Wolves fans. Molineux was football Mecca and Billy Wright was the local hero. Today, the only Wolves fan I know is Ashok at the BBC. But now I know the new owner of Wolves, Steve Morgan - well sort of know him anyway. I've never known the owner of a football club - unless you count Mike Harris of TNS. I reckon that's good enough a reason to support a football club.

And apart from anything else, Steve Morgan has a wonderful record of delivery. He was the man who left school at 16, borrowed £5000 from his dad and went off and built Redrow, the house builders. If anyone will transform the Wolves into the force they were when I was a kid, it will be Steve. So "hang on to your hat, Ashok. The good times are coming."

Is there one twist left?

Is there any hope left for a Rhodri Morgan led Government in Cardiff Bay. Readers of this blog will know that I hope not. Following Plaid Cymru's decision to suspend talks with Labour, it looks all over. But could Lib Dem activists give Rhodri his dream? Would Rhodri take it if it was offered? Let me take this on a bit.

I've wanted to see the birth of the Rainbow Coalition for years, and since Plaid beat the Tories in the recent election, I've thought it an inevitable conclusion of the discussions that are now drawing to a close. Now I'm sure we'll be hearing from plenty of other commentators who thought it was inevitable all along as well. But its not quite all over. Lib Dem activists could scupper it all on Saturday.

All my contacts tell me that Plaid will agree the deal, no bother. Anything else would be self-destruct. But the Lib Dem activists are not so likely to be so compliant - especially when Peter Black is winding them up with his obvious distaste for the whole thing.

It is rather fun to speculate about what would happen if the Lib Dems were forced by their Saturday conference to sit on their hands in the Assembly vote next week. With Dafydd El presiding, a vote for Ieuan as First Minister would go down by one vote if Trish Law backs Labour, which I would expect her to do. What the devil happens then? I don't know. Would Rhodri be asked to form a minority government? Perhaps he'd refuse. Perhaps he'd prefer another election. Think about it.

He'd be able to say, "I told you so - vote Plaid and get Tory Ministers". He might think that the Gordon Brown bounce would help him next time. He might think that Labour's core vote would come back after giving them a kick up the backside three weeks ago. He may think that all the Plaid and Lib Dem shilly-shallying will make them look incompetent. Oh please don't let it be possible. No-one outside of Labour could stand it (very definitely including me before I have a comment suggesting otherwise). The one consolation is that the UK media would probably start covering Wales then!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sowing 'Oats' in bulk

Its been puzzling me for years. Where did they all come from. Whenever I go out canvassing in Montgomeryshire, I seem to be related to so many people who answer the doors that I knock on. And further afield too. Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith. Guto Bebb - distantly. Lovely wife of David Jones, MP for Clwyd West. And many more.

And then I read in today's Telegraph that Russian and Polish scientists have proved that Gengis Khan made so many sexual conquests in his life that he has 16 million Asian descendants - which is more than five times the population of Wales. And I thought I had a lot of relations. Its fairly obvious to me now that I must have had an ancestor with the same tendencies as the old Mongolian warlord. Now that's an interesting name to consider when our first grandchild arrives later this year.

The end of TAN 8

Today's Telegraph has gone big on 'Giving control back to Councils....'. Its part of a campaign to return power to the people. I'm really up for that. So let the new Rainbow Coalition start by scrapping Technical Advice Note 8, the obscene little rule book which forces Local Planning Authorities to give planning permission for wind farms in parts of Wales which have been given the Orwellian like designation of Strategic Search Areas.

Now I'm not sure this is the sort of issue Will catch fire in the blogosphere - but it creates a raging inferno in the parts of Wales that have been designated for visual destruction, through transformation into wind farm landscapes by TAN 8. I hope the negotiators of the Rainbow Coalition deal have this issue on their agenda. Scrapping it and redrafting the planning guidelines in respect of energy projects (including wind farms) would give the new Government a flying start in rural Wales.

The most obnoxious aspect of TAN 8 was that it was worded with the devious (unstated) intention to remove the power of local planners to decide. In an SSA - approval or costs against you by an inspector. Outside an SSA - refusal, even if its a better site. What sort of local democracy is that. Lets give the power to decide whether a wind farm should go ahead or not back to local councillors to decide. I can't see how this issue can be avoided after what the three parties were saying over recent months. I feel a surge of excitement as the glorious landscapes of Wales can look forward to being saved from the ravages of the Philistines.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Blogs will never 'catch on'

I remember my nain telling me that these 'new fangled computer things' will never 'catch on'. She was rarely wrong - but she was about this and I am pleased that for once, I took no notice of her advice. We bought something called a ZX51 (I think) which had been just put on the market by Clive Sinclair (I think) for Edward, our eldest who was 10ish at the time. This came to my mind when I read an article by Melissa Kite in today's Telegraph, complaining about the evils of the blogosphere. She seems not to have the foggiest idea what blogging is all about.

Blamerbell asked me today how I looked on my blog. I replied that it was a bit like a chat down the pub. After a beer we all tend to be full of opinion and keen to put the world right. We like an argument about some common interest. We soon learn who we don't want to chat with because we are uncomfortable with their views - and we won't go to a pub if we don't like the general conversation. The blogosphere is like that. We visit the blogs we like - and we argue with people we have some respect for, even while disagreeing. We sometimes have to admit that perhaps we weren't 100% right. Now Melissa Kite has been chatting to people she doesn't like at all, and should have kept well away from. She has even grouped all bloggers together. She has also learned that if she writes poorly prepared articles for national newspapers, readers are going to comment on their blogs. She has found that journalists are a bit more accountable for what they these days. And if she thinks that blogs are going away, she had better think about what my nain said about computers.

The New Welsh Language Act

One policy that the new Assembly Government will be committed to is a new Welsh Language Act. This will be one of the policies that makes a statement that things have changed. But it will need to be carefully handled. And one of the joys of being a blogger is that I can give advice - even if nobody wants it.

A commitment to early action is crucial to reassure Plaid supporters that the Rainbow Coalition is 'a risk worth taking' for them. But it is just as important to reassure people that what they will see as a Plaid-led Government is not going to impose unreasonable language demands on everyone who lives in Wales ( and many people will think and fear this).

Over recent months my party supported a new Welsh Language Act - even if I was not entirely clear in my own mind what this meant in practice. I'd like to see some form of external 'review and recommend' group set up with a tight timetable - rather like last year's Clos Stephens review into the arts. It would be a smart move on Plaid's part to give a high profile in this exercise to well known non Plaid people, such as Deleth Evans, Ron Davies and Lisa Francis - if any of them were interested. We need to make sure the new Welsh Language Act is something that fosters unity in support of the language. There is potential for disunity on this issue - which the new Government should try to avoid if at all possible.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Our new First Minister

Really enjoyed today's Western Mail. The journalists have accepted that the Rainbow Coalition is a 'done deal'. What is truly astonishing is that the London based media have hardly touched the story - neither Peter Black's Guardian or my Telegraph. On the front page of the WM, Ieuan is already sounding like 'a statesman' - at least in print!

Tomos Livingstone described me as being a 'cheerleader' for the Rainbow Coalition - more a believer I'd say. As soon as I realised that Plaid Cymru had beaten my party for the runners up spot in the recent Assembly election, I thought it was a real goer - and when Peter Black scuppered Mike German's plans for a deal with Labour, it became a certainty. This development is being described as 'seismic' by some - but for Mick Bates, Brynle Williams, Elin Jones and me, it is only an extension of what we had being doing in the Environment, Planning and Countryside Committee for the last two years.

I enjoyed David Williamson's Rainbow Cabinet - which is as near as dammit to the one I posted 2 days ago. I don't agree with David that we Tories couldn't take on education though. There would be no-one better than Jonathon Morgan for this job. And I would be disappointed if Mike German took the 'Economy' brief - partly because I would like to see Cairnsey doing it, but also because Mike would do a terrific job with the 'Local Government' brief.

Rhodri Morgan seems to be surprised by what has happened. He should have been tuning in to my blog. Its all too late now. But I will challenge his 'case against'. Labour did indeed win more seats, but won only 30% of the vote compared with the 60% won by the three coalition parties. Rhodri also claims that if the electorate had known what is now happening before the election, the result would have been different. This, despite him using the whole campaign to tell voters that only a vote for Labour would prevent Tory ministers. Problem for Rhodri was that voters (except the tribal Labour vote) can see that my party is every bit as committed to Wales and good public services as anyone else.

From now on, this blog is moving on from the 'done deal' to what this new Ieuan Wyn Jones led Government should be setting out to do. And there is huge scope for debate on this subject.

Getting 'tidy' for Blamerbell.

Been tidying up the garden this week. Firstly because 30 members of the Montgomeryshire Farming Women's Club came on a visit. And secondly, because top blogger, Blamerbell is visiting tomorrow. If I'm ever going to get my own 'Monty Don slot' on Welsh TV, I'll need to impress such a rising star of the journalistic world.

He will be stunned by the Cornus Controverta Variagata, which has never looked better. Its a pricey plant to buy (£50 for a 8 inch pot) but every garden should have at least one. Blamerbell will be equally impressed by the Pieris Formosa 'forestii', which hasn't been touched by late frosts this year.

The garden needs a cat (or two). Since poor old Smokey died last year, we've been catless - and the rabbits have moved in. Not so much that Smokey killed them all, but he did deter them. Bit like the case so many people make for the return of hanging. If only we can finish off the outbuilding conversion, my mother in law can move down to Cil Farm - along with Andy and Doody. Two in the eye for the bunny huggers - and a reprieve for the echinacias.

Its great to have more time for the garden. But I must remember that when a hobby becomes full-time, it cease to be a hobby and loses part of its attraction.

Friday, May 18, 2007

They just don't believe it.

People just do not believe it. People are so used to Labour running Wales that they cannot believe that a Rainbow Coalition, led by Plaid Cymru's Ieuan Wyn Jones is taking over. I'm sure it will take many people several weeks to accept that it has happened, even after Ieuan has been sworn in. People just don't believe that Rhodri Morgan will resign in the next few days - after being consigned to opposition - and Welsh Labour will implode as ambitious AMs launch leadership bids. I don't think Sarah Dickin believed it when she interviewed on the BBC's Good Morning Wales this morning.But they had better believe it. Because its for real.

I will be offering my odds on who will take over from Rhodri Morgan in a post tomorrow. There will be a lot more runners now that it is a battle to be 'Leader of the Opposition' than had it been to take over as First Minister, if Rhodri had gone on for another two years, as he had hoped.

It is just great to see Labour become the party that no other party can afford to work with - because of the negative public response it would attract. That used to be the Tory Party. Over the last Assembly term, we managed to change the perception of our party enough to make us an acceptable coalition partner. The next step is to build on what we have achieved and make us a party of Government in our own right.

I was tempted to post on Lembit Opik's decision to record a programme of Have I Got News For You last night, rather than attend what must have been the most important meeting of the Liberal Democrats in Wales for many years. (He is supposed to be their Leader in Wales after all) I wonder what Lord Hooson and Lord Carlile, his greatly respected and distinguished predecessors as Leader in Wales and MP for my beloved old county of Montgomeryshire think of this. But I decided not to make much of this utterly disgraceful act of disrespect to my nation and my constituency - lest people think I am pursuing some personal political advantage.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Learning New Tricks

Its like going back to school. My first shopping expedition this morning was terrifying. Morrison's in Welshpool was packed with professional shoppers as I entered, clutching my little list. First up was the veg. There was a 'choice' of broccoli. Resort to the mobile phone. Cling wrapped - not mixed with carrots in a neat plastic bag. Another mobile cry for help at the milk and yogurt section. So much choice. Disaster struck at the cheese section. There was a choice of Mozzarela - and my mobile signal was gone. In the event I did the wrong thing. I bought a 'block' for pizzas - rather than a 'ball'. The checkout was a 'breeze'. I just watched from a distance for a few minutes - and then stepped forward with an air of nonchalant confidence. My 8 years experience in the corridors of power paid dividends.

And then there was tonight's supper. I'd almost exhausted my range, having made beans on toast last night and cheese on toast the night before. I was planning on poached eggs on toast tonight - but found some fishcakes in the freezer when I was looking for some ice cubes to put on Bobbie's knee to help bring the swelling down. Tomorrow, I might venture forth and buy a Chinese take away! I had no idea there was so much involved in looking after the house. Thank goodness my mother-in-law comes down every day to do the lunch. I am finding my wife's knee replacement operation a deeply traumatic experience. Two weeks of this and running a Rainbow Coalition would be a doddle.

My Fantasy Cabinet

The Rainbow Coalition is on the point of being agreed. The electorate will crucify any party that props up the one-legged duck now. Since the deal is as good as done, I can't understand why the Beeb isn't telling us about it. I suppose it will be news when a press release has gone out putting the story on a plate for them - and bloggers will have moved on and be talking about what happens to Labour now that Rhodri is going! Is it to be Andrew or Carwyn? Or will Leighton do a Cameron?

Anyway, I have been thinking about who would be in my 'rainbow' cabinet - and for the purposes of this post I am assuming the same pattern of ministerial responsibilities as existed pre-May 3rd.

Ieuan Wyn Jones-------First Mimister
Nick Bourne-------------Deputy First Minister and Finance Spokesman
Mike German -----------Deputy First Minister and Local Government Spokesman
Rhodri Glyn Thomas---Health Spokesman
Helen Mary Jones------ Social Justice Spokesperson and Business Manager
Elin Jones------------ ----Environment and Countrtyside Spokesperson
Jonathon Morgan-------Education Spokesman
Alun Cairns----------- ---Ecomomy Spokesman
Jenny Randerson------- Culture Spokesperson

Mike German is a sort of 'second' Deputy First Minister and in on a temporary basis - and I expect him to be replaced as Lib Dem leader by Kirsty Williams in due course. Jenny is in because she did such a good job as Culture Minister last time around. I think Rhodri Glyn is the only one who is capable of handling the 'almost impossible' Health brief. Elin Jones could be changed for Aluin Ffred Jones. I would love to put David Melding in - but I cannot see how Jonathon or Cairnsey can be left out. Jocylyn Davies would make the best Busines Manager - but I can't see how I can arrange it. I haven't bothered with the Deputy positions - because I don't agree that there should be any. Too many on the payroll.

Now tell me where I'm wrong.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


I'm sorry that this blog is so obsessed with what is happening in Cardiff Bay. Will soon return to normal.

The Deal Breakers.

Why not? Why on earth would Ieuan Wyn Jones, Nick Bourne and Mike German not do a deal and turf Labour out of office into the the Siberian wilderness, that is opposition. Where are the deal breakers.

There isn't a big one for me. I just want to see Labour in opposition and 'government by common sense'. But I always thought there was a deal breaker (easy to cope with) for Plaid Cymru and another one (more difficult) for the Lib Dems. I don't think that plaid's demands for a referendum on Scottish Parliament type powers for the National Assembly should be a real problem for the Conservatives. After all, it would only be a referendum and the power to act lies at Westminster. I'd go with it.

The Lib Dem's demand for Proportional Representation in Local Government is much more problematic. I have always been opposed to this. I served as an Independent councillor for 15 years myself. The Tories won't like it. But if I was at the negotiating table, I'd accept it. And there would always be the consolation that the number of Conservative Councillors would rocket as a result - and Labour would lose the grotesque hegemony it has enjoyed for many decades on so many Welsh Councils. I'm warming to the idea as I type. Just do it boys - for me as a leaving present.

Its a Rainbow Coalition - but When

Alex Salmond has shown the way. The Leader of the nationalist party has taken over as First Minister in Scotland today. And Ieuan Wyn Jones, the leader of the nationalist party in Wales is going to follow as First Minister in Wales. The only question left to be answered is when. Will Plaid Cymru, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems refuse to back Rhodri for the top job next week - or will they abstain and wait for six months before sinking him with a 'no confidence' vote? Hard to say. Don't think they've made their minds up yet.

The issue is all to with with how it looks to the public. Rhodri Morgan will want the voters to think he has been unfairly treated, by three parties interested in power for its own sake, all winning less seats than Labour - so he might force them to vote him down rather than ask Ieuan to try forming a government. The others will want voters to say that with only 30% of the vote Labour has no right to govern - and just do it anyway. However, they might decide that its better to let Rhodri 'die by a thousand cuts' and leave it until Xmas before kicking him out. I think Alex Salmond has tipped the balance in favour of taking the plunge and putting Rhodri out of his misery next week.

In any case, I will be naming the Cabinet I expect to take over tomorrow. I've already pencilled Rhodri Glyn Thomas in as Health Minister. He's the man for the poisoned chalice. I will welcome any advice.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tough Choice on Health

My wife has returned to the bosom of our home after a full knee replacement. The op went really well and its 'so far, so good'. She was a private patient with the bills being picked up by Norwich Union. In the next room was another lady, who was paying for her operation - which cost a lot of money. She had not been able to have treatment within an acceptable timescale on the NHS and her family had 'dug deep' to find the means to pay for her desperately needed treatment.

I hear a lot about how important it is that the NHS is free to all, at the point of delivery. This is a load of tosh. It isn't free to all now. It wasn't free to the lady in the next room - and it isn't free to the many thousands who are using up their savings to pay for treatments that they are in too much pain to wait for.

The reason this is in my mind tonight is because I have been reflecting on the big health issue in today's Telegraph. Should NHS patients be allowed to pay for drugs which have been deemed by NICE (The National Institute of Clinical Excellence) as not cost effective as an additional part of their treatment? This is a huge issue - because if it were to be allowed, it would introduce the likelihood of two levels of treatment for patients in adjoining NHS beds. But how long can we maintain a position of refusing to allow patients access to the range of new effective-but-costly drugs that are coming forward - just to maintain a principle which is already being flouted by some hospital trusts. This ideological principle is causing patients to suffer and die when they would not otherwise do so. Makes me think "Stuff the principle". This is going to be a tricky issue for the new Rainbow Coalition Health Minister.

Time for Rhodri Morgan to go

Still no Government in Cardiff Bay. Despite what some commentaters say, this is very good news. It means that neither Plaid Cymru nor the Lib Dems are willing to prop him up. Labour may try to go it alone next week - and they may succeed in the short term - but I hope and believe that the Rainbow Coalition will fuse and simply vote him out. It will be a big deal if the three parties refuse to vote for Rhodri Morgan as First Minister - but I really think this is a growing possibility. This will be hugely exciting development for Welsh politics - and quite a bit of credit will have to go to fellow blogger, Peter Black, whose political courage made the Lib-Lab pact undeliverable.

I'm not a very partisan politician, but I will rejoice when Rhodri is removed from office. I will never forgive him, or Peter Hain from bringing in the ban on dual candidacy at the Assembly election. With that one act of constitutional vandalism they showed themselves as unfit to govern. I will also rejoice if Peter is rejected in his quest to become Labour's Deputy Leader for the same reason. It is time for Rhodri Morgan to go.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Flying High Again

After a depressing few days, my spirits are soaring again today. I've just visited Mrs D in hospital and her recovery is amazing. Three days after a full knee replacement, she's walking with confidence on her crutches. We've just celebrated with a Magnum Classic and a glass each of Cava in Room 11 of Ludlow Ward at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital in Gobowen. And son Patrick is back at work after having an ingrowing toenail removed. (Sorry- but he just wanted a mention on the blog). I'm going to suffer when she gets home though. I have never really shopped in a supermarket - except to buy the Telegraph! Don't know whether I'll be able to handle the checkout melee.

And the garden was looking fantastic this afternoon. Yesterday's rain has given it a zest and vigour that should inspire the 30 ladies who are coming for a visit on Wednesday. I planted a Sorbus aria Lutescens and a rather nice yellow Metasequoia today. And I saw a common partridge in the garden - a first.

And my view of politics has changed as well. I went to Dan Munford's 'thank you' party yesterday and everybody was commiserating about the unfairness of the electoral system that cost me my place in the Assembly last week. And you know what occurred to me. I've been damn lucky that this cock-eyed election system enabled me to be a part of the first 8 years of devolved government. I'm a Tory from Montgomeryshire for goodness sake. How bl***y lucky is that. I hope all the hoo-hah hasn't detracted from the wonderful effort by Angela Burns to win her seat in South Pembs. She'll make a really good AM. And I see that the WoS 'spin doctor' has joined Arsembly in speaking well of moi - so I've celebrated that by applying for entry on the candidates list for the General Election. The tunnel of depression was much shorter than I'd been expecting.

New Website Name

I've changed my website name from to

But its about power, stupid

Over the last two years I've been banging on about a 'Rainbow Coalition' to run the National Assembly, as an alternative option to a Labour-led coalition. Quite a few members of my own party have disagreed with me about this - and I've accepted that it would carry some political risk for my party. I've been variously accused of living in a 'fantasy world' - and the 'naked pursuit of power'. Well, it doesn't look such a fantasy now, with Plaid's Deputy Leader talking up such an arrangement in today's Western Mail.

So what will be the Tory group's reaction to all this. If I'd been there, I'd have been right up for it - and I'd expect Nick Bourne to be the same. But its a big ask for our new Assembly Members, who have just come out of bruising campaigns against the very parties I would like to see as coalition partners. I can understand their wariness. Its a time for some real leadership.

I'm amused when people accuse me of just being interested in power- because Yes, I don't see much point in being in politics unless the objective is power - to put into practise what has been preached. Opposition is the pits - and after eight years if it, I'd had enough, and I'm sure Nick has as well. So if our AMs can hear my voice echoing down from the mountains of mid Wales, "Take your chance of power if its there and let's see Conservatives taking a role in governing our nation".

Sunday, May 13, 2007

What are 'Reasonable Expenses'

I was disappointed to read criticism of Auditor General, Sir John Bourn in today's Mail on Sunday. I know Sir John (not well) but he has always struck me as a man who did a tough job with a human touch. I recall a period when a Quango I chaired was criticised by the Public Accounts Committee - which had been advised by Sir John Bourn. At the time I felt very hard done by, but not by Sir John, who did a very fair job. But that's not the issue today.

It seems that Sir John has taken 43 overseas journeys over the last 3 years, at a cost of £336,000 - to outline the role of 'audit' in government. £76,000 of this has been costs incurred by Sir John's wife, who accompanied him on 22 of those trips. Its easy to shout "Shock, Horror" as at least one MP has done - but the question is whether this cost is reasonable. I can imagine much tut-tutting over this but I don't think it is unreasonable.

The UK has a lot to teach the world about how to 'govern' and it is a thoroughly good thing that we spread our democratic principles around. There is no-one better qualified than Sir John Bourn to do this and I applaud his willingness to take on such an incredible amount of overseas work. I also think it is reasonable that spouses be encouraged to go as well - and be paid for if they work. Today's MoS attack was an unfair cheap shot.

A Deal of Convenience

Matt Withers reports in today's Wales on Sunday that Plaid Cymru are poised to do a deal with Labour on a new Assembly Government. This doesn't look much more than an interim 'Minority Government' to me. But unless the three previous opposition parties are prepared to take the 'Great Leap Forward' and form a Rainbow Coalition, something of this sort is about the only option left on the table. The Lib Dems are in such total confusion until they lance the 'leadership' boil that they seem to be out of the game in any meaningful way. But I have to post that it would be such a disappointment to me if the Rainbow Coalition is put off until 2011. Rhodri Morgan carrying on 'business as usual' will be very dispiriting.

The interesting issue would be what Plaid Cymru manage to extract as a price - especially in the face of the seriously tight budgets we are expecting to see over the next 4 years.. And the important one is a referendum on the Scottish model of devolution before the next Assembly election. I'd expected this to be the issue of the next election - so any deal would have to advance the timetable to be anything worthwhile. Its going to be an interesting few days.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Shambo and Blair

What on earth can Tony Blair and Shambo the bull have in common. There could be several private blessings which only Cherie should know about. But we do know that both generated irrational adoration from their millions of followers, both are surrounded by believers who defend them against all the evidence - and both must be killed off (purely in a political sense in Blair's case of course).

Its more of a pity about Shambo, who has done nothing to deserve his fate. Just imagine if we Tories had won 31 seats (including me) and Nick Bourne had asked me to take on the 'Countryside' brief and Shambo the first item in my in tray. What a nightmare. There is no choice. Shambo has failed a Tb test, and he must be slaughtered - end of story. I've had to be ruthless with several much-loved Charolais bulls on my farm. It was never the bull's fault that they couldn't generate the desire to service 40 cows in a matter of weeks (be a bit of a challenge for most of us)- but that was the deal. Do the business - or off to the abattoir.

Now Blair deserves his fate. At present, everyone is saying what a great leader he was. I don't agree. He was a hugely charismatic politician, who attracted massive support. He is probably great company. But he didn't know how to govern, and he did serious damage to the body politic in the UK. Anyone who saw Michael Howard fillet Alistair Campbell on Newsnight will have heard the case against Blair put by a man who did not command public popularity - but knew how to govern.

Even I admit that Blair could make a wonderful speech, even if I found the 'quivering lip' and the shallow soundbites sick making. But he did not tackle the big issues facing our country, he developed a culture of 'spin' (lying) which has drawn contempt onto the heads of most politicians - and he lied over the case for toppling Saddam Hussein. As all these plaudits are bestowed on Tony Blair, I am left reflecting on the huge damage the man did while holding that great office - and I am really pleased to see the back of him.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Labour will go it alone - temporarily

Back home from hospital and Mrs D is as well as could be expected after her full knee replacement.She was complaining - about the oxygen mask. I was greatly encouraged.

Reflecting on last night's discussion on Radio Cymru on the state of play in coalition discussions. Talks are going on - or at least talks about talks. Rhodri Morgan has held talks with his own AMs - which is a departure from his previous style. A sure sign of weakness. Rhodri is supposed to be talking to the Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru. Ieuan Wyn Jones is talking to everyone. Mike German is talking - but we don't know with what authority. And Nick Bourne is saying nought - except that the Rainbow Coalition is still on. And very sensible too.

BBC's political goddess, Betsan asked the 5 of us (one from each party and Elin Expert) what we think will happen.

Carwyn Jones - Rhodri will be First Minister on June 1st - ("I will not answer")Elin Jones - Lib Lab Coalition. (Not if Peter Black has his way).
John Davies - Plaid Labour Coalition. (Think of Huw Lewis' face if this comes off).
Elin Expert - Can't remember. Probably expertly non committal.
Glyn Davies - I reckon its a Labour Minority Government - until a vote of no confidence in Sept/Oct. And then a Rainbow Coalition.

Just take your pick.

The Cure for Pain

Made a discovery today. Though not a very useful one. A 'dead cert' way to erase a matter that is causing great distress is to find something that causes more. I used to find this when I played rugby. Go on the field with a sore finger - and forget all about it when one of the second rows stands on your throat. Or the little kid crying for a dummy only to get "something to cry about".

Mrs D's just had a knee replacement at Gobowen Hospital - and all other worries have been totally superseded. I'm blogging as displacement activity before going in to see how the op has gone. The hospital have said that its gone OK - and I can see her at 7.00. So I'm just catching up on the papers.

Now the Assembly elections are done with, and Conservative success has dumped me out on my ear, I'm going to take a greater interest in what David Cameron has been doing to my party when I was looking the other way. And I must spread my wings a bit since Iain Dale has added me to his 'must read' sidebar.

Luckily Oliver Letwin, our policy guru (Westminster version of David Melding) has been explaining everything in yesterday's Telegraph. I already knew about the Cameron change from GDP to GWB (General Well Being) - and rather approved. But it seems that things have become a bit more complicated.

According to Oliver, "Cameron Conservatism is an attempt to shift the theory of the state from a provision-based paradigm to a framework-based paradigm" - and that a Cameron Government would be "an agency for enabling families, individuals, associations and corporations to internalise externalities". In general, it seems that politics "once econo-centric, must now become socio-centric". George Jones in the Telegraph reported that Oliver considered this snappy one-liner to be his very own 'neoligism' - and a vote winner.

Over the last few years, I've been quite keen to change 'the language' of the Conservative Party in Wales in order to alter the perception that others hold of us. So its no surprise that I've fully approved of David Cameron's efforts to do the same at a UK level. But its obvious that things have moved on quite a bit while we've been distracted by electoral matters this side of Offa's Dyke. There's a fair bit of catching up to do.

Off to see Mrs D now.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

For whom the bell tolls.

Oh, but the BBC can be so cruel. Yesterday, the Corporation invited me on to Richard Evans midday show to discuss the current state of Welsh politics. I felt rather 'bouncy' - and do you know what they did? As soon as I was on, Richard went live to hear the bell, which calls Assembly Members down to the Chamber for official business. And then asked me "What do you think of that, Glyn?". The cruel man. If I hadn't been two hours away in the Newtown studio, my internal programming system would have kicked in, and drawn me to the Chamber as a low energy light bulb attracts an unthinking moth to its inevitable doom.

We listened in as the newly elected AMs, bestowed the honour of Presiding Officer on his Lordship, Dafydd El and the position of deputy on Labour's Rosemary Butler. Two sensible decisions. Incidentally, I thought Claire Clancy's Welsh was top class - as she called for nominations to start the proceedings off. The whole thing was over in 20 minutes - and I was reminded of the number of times I had to drive down to Cardiff (a 5 hour round trip) for no worthwhile reason. A new perspective creeping into my thinking on the loss of my position perhaps? Maybe - but I will still miss responding, when that bell tolls in future.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Wales and Worcester

Catching up on what's happened over the last week or two. Mike Ruddock has gone to coach Worcester in the Guinness Premiership. I support Worcester - nearest top club to my home, friends live there, daughter Sally fell in love with both Greame Hick and Alan Border - and Owain Glyndwr.

Not everyone knows this, but in 1405, Glyndwr's army stormed and looted Worcester and set up camp ten miles from the town on Woodbury Hill, waiting for Henry iv to launch an attack. Nothing happened. Henry just poured himself another gin and tonic and left Owain sitting on the hill, waiting, waiting. If Glyndwr had gone for it, London was there for the taking. But he just sat there, got bored and hungry and then went home to Wales. With courage and leadership in 1405, by today we could have had the English begging for us to give them a better deal under the Barnett Formula.

Which brings me to Ieuan Wyn Jones, who may be complimented by comparison with our greatest historical figure - even though I've claimed him as a Tory (in international policy terms anyway). Ieuan has the chance to claim the glorious mantle of First Minister - but has he got the b***s. Or at least are they big enough to ring his pals Mike German and Nick Bourne to prepare a strategy to create a coalition government. Or will he prop up Rhodri Morgan's 32% Labour vote - either in formal coalition or as compliant Leader of the Opposition (a la Dafydd El). Go on Ieuan. Surprise us. Cast off the wobbly sobriquet. Stand up tall (well, as tall as you can) and take your place in history. I am behind you.

A Challenge Looms

Since I lost my Assembly Member position, I have been under much local pressure to consider standing against Lembit Opik in Montgomeryshire, in the next General Election. While I don't really like Lembit's "celebrity" approach to politics, (in fact I detest it) I wasn't sure that my home county shared my distaste. That is, until I looked at last Thursday's voting figures in detail. I haven't done the research yet, but I'm sure nowhere else in Wales produced such an odd result.

This is what happened, in the 'constituency' vote, the Liberal Democrat candidate, Mick Bates, polled around 2,000 more votes than our man, Dan Munford - a great effort by Dan which makes Montgomeryshire a marginal seat. But the 'list' vote was as staggering as its been unnoticed. The Conservative vote surged up to 7,191 while the Lib Dem vote collapsed to just 5,111. We won by 2,080. For the first time ever, we absolutely hammered them.

The reason this matters to me is that the 'list' vote in Montgomeryshire was highly likely to have been a personal vote for me. I really am quite shocked by this - and there is a little voice inside me (which is getting louder by the day) saying that I really should have a crack at the General Election. I was going to take a month out before deciding what, if anything, political I was going to do. I feel this timetable is shortening.

I already know that I can't let it go. I love politics too much. For years I've worked to develop a Centre/Right party in Wales, committed to a successful future for the Welsh Language and everything that makes my dear country of Wales the culturally distinctive heaven that it is. In particular, I love selling this concept to my very 'English' friends. And they almost all buy into it. I don't think I can just let that dream go. I just want to hug people like Helen Mary, Leanne Wood, and the new girl Bethan and squeeze their misguided 'socialism' out of them. Now, that is one unlikely dream. Thinking like this is nuts of course, because I have just lost my seat of influence. But all my life I've lived on dreams - and some of them came to pass.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Curse of Lembit

Following Peter Black's call for Mike German to step aside from leading the Liberal Democrat group in the National Assembly, I see that Lembit Opik has given Mike his full support. Well, that should destroy any chance Mike had of surviving. About 15 months ago, at the time of Charles Kennedy's resignation, I issued a press release which remains largely relevent today - with the odd word changed. At the time Lembit managed to support Charles Kennedy, Mark Oaten and Simon Hughes in quick succession only for them to step down after admitting firstly, to a drink problem - secondly, to taking part in sexual acts with rent boys - and thirdly, to lying about being homosexual. Managed to find press release. It read as follows.


Glyn Davies, Ex-Conservative AM for Mid and West Wales, has disappeared from public view in order to limit the risk of being struck down by a mysterious new virus known as 'The Curse of Lembit'. The most obvious symptom of this deadly virus is the sudden appearance over your shoulder and out of thin air of the Liberal Democrat MP, Lembit Opik. Without immediate action, disintegration of the career of the interviewee is total and terminal. The world has seen nothing comparable since the late Eric Morecambe was prone to appear in similar fashion.

The United Nations has acted decisively and appointed a specialist in intra galactic viruses, and the Security Council has gone into special session to consider an emergency strategy should all the politicians of the world refuse to carry out any interviews until the threat has passed. Tony Blair has appointed a Tsar to deal with the panic. Both Paddy Ashdown and Mike Ruddock refused to take the job on because the challenge is far beyond anything that they have taken on before.

Commenting before going into hiding, Glyn Davies said,

"My home county of Montgomeryshire seems to be the epicentre of this deadly virus. I am not one to panic, but this virus is particularly difficult to control. I've decided to go into hiding and I encourage others to take precautions. The best defence is to keep well away from any cameras, and any persons who may have been in contact with 'The Curse of Lembit'. If it is impossible to avoid a TV interview, insist on standing up against a wall, leaving no space for a human type form to slip in behind you. Always remain vigilant because this virus appears without warning and jumps from behind one shoulder to the other with great agility, searching out the best camera angle. The virus is particularly threatening to anyone who harbours any sort of ambition.

I have discussed the threat of a pandemic with Roche International, who are working around the clock to find an antidote. The company is working on the theory that the virus may have emanated from outer space and have set up a hot line to the Estonian Centre for inter galactic diseases. The company is facing problems because no-one with a shred of ambition is prepared to work on the project. Roche has also announced that because of unprecedented demand, priority groups will be identified for early treatment. First to be treated will be young Liberal Democrats, followed by weird people with beards and sandals and anyone who has the ability to face two ways at the same time.

The situation has deteriorated today when Mr Lembit Opik, in an unprecedented statement, said he was unavailable for comment. He was last seen roaring away into the sunset on a Japanese motorbike with a pillion rider shouting out "Touch my bum". This will be my last press release until the danger has passed

Another Powys Council Mystery

Powys County Council is hugely important to the large area of Wales that it covers. I know many of the councillors and staff - good sound people committed to the county. I am on the Council's side - except in respect of the increasing tendency for keeping matters of public interest secret.

Last Friday, I'm informed that the Council cancelled the Montgomeryshire monthly planning meeting. No great shakes there, except that it's never happened before. Now, I take an interest in this because I chaired this Committee for 6 years in the 1980s - and I simply do not believe the reason that I am being given for this cancellation. Perhaps I would have believed the 'spin' 6 months ago - before the 'whistle blower' row, after the Council tried to keep some important news secret.

The 'spin' is that there were no applications to be dealt with - despite local developers telling me that they are waiting impatiently for decisions. I feel it in my water that there is something else behind it. And its like puss in a blackthorn wound - it will have to come out in the end. I hope the media will dig around this one - and if there is any attempt to hide something unsavoury from the public again, the balloon should go up big-time.

Feeling angry again

Since I gave up active farming to become a politician, my farm has been managed by Sue, an absolute trooper. Bet I've spelt that wrongly! Anyway Sue recently went down with breast cancer and a few weeks ago, had a breast removed at Llandudno Hospital. All went well. I was particularly upset about Sue's illness because she was diagnosed some time ago and didn't go in for the operation until the lambing season was over - and she insisted that I was not to be told until she had gone in. Because, like everyone else I would have insisted that her health came first. It is just not possible to believe what misguided loyalty will persuade some people to do.

Now, to the point of this post. Last Friday Sue travelled back to Llandudno for some follow up - a 4 hour round trip for a pre-arranged appointment. She waited all day and was finally told that no-one could see her - and that another appointment would have to be arranged.

Two things. I felt so angry that such a super person should be treated in such an appalling way. And I felt so ashamed at my self pitying response to losing my position on the National Assembly. It really is about perspective.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Lib Dems in Turmoil

I can't resist joining in. Fellow blogger, Peter Black has been p***ing in the fat again. He has launched a full blooded campaign to oust Mike German as leader of the Lib Dem group in the Assembly. We shouldn't be surprised. Peter has form on this sort of thing. Last year, he started a mini campaign to oust Lenbit Opik as Welsh leader - even though he later claimed it was only to wind up the love god. Make no mistake, this is a full blooded assault on Mike's leadership. I reckon he is acting on behalf of at least half the group. Maybe Mike shouldn't have had the his new Deputy Leader headed notepaper printed. Could be a waste of money - and an unnecessary hit on his carbon footprint.

While we're on about the Lib Dems, I can say that I have been inundated by calls to take on the love god myself in the General Electon since I lost my Assembly seat. This will take a lot of thinking about, and it begs a few questions - not the least of which is whether Lembit will actually be standing again. Montgomeryshire is rife with various rumours that several local Lib Dem big wigs who want to see the back of him. He is very lucky that Peter Black doesn't live in Montgomeryshire.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

First Green Shoots

Evan Edwin Jerman (1912 - 2007) was buried today. I don't suppose he knew much about blogging - and I don't know whether there is a blogosphere in the ever after. If there is and Edwin reads this post, I just want to say "Thanks Edwin". I daresay you are wandering if my mind has gone, along with my seat in the Assembly! Let me explain.

At the request of the family, I read a 'eulogy' at the funeral this afternoon, which took place in my local Berriew Church. There was a big congregation and I needed to get it right. I had to forget the pathetic self-pity I've been suffeering from since losing my Assembly seat on Thursday. For an hour or two the only thing that mattered was 'getting it right'. And then it got better. Over the sandwiches, almost the entire room seemed to be commiserating with me and begging/challenging/ordering me to stand against Lembit Opik in the next General Election. I felt the first green shoots of recovery emerge out of the oppressive blackness of electoral defeat - a bit like the first stirrings in the loin area after my bowel cancer operation.

Politicians are odd people. Many of us love our jobs in a totally irrational way. They take us over like an alien force - and when we lose, our world simply fall apart. Edwin Jerman was the father-in-law of Delwyn Williams, a former Conservative MP who lost Montgomeryshire in 1983. I talked to Delwyn about this after the funeral and he told me that, at the time he felt like a turkey with its head cut off. I did a good job today, and met a man who understands - and 'lo and behold' here I am back at the keyboard.

I can't read my usual bloggers though, because Cairsey told me that they are littered with kind comments. Even Arsembly for God's sake. And there's another strange thing. I can't read nice comments without crying. Now, I'm no 'new man' on this issue. When I was young, real men didn't emote - until the brilliant yob, Gascoyne came along - the big girl. But since that 4 days on morphine, after the surgeon cut away my rectum, anus etc in 2002, I cry at the slightest provocation. My eyes go all misty and my voice goes squeaky and breaks up. If only I could control this like Blair does, it would be politically useful.

And what about politics. I haven't looked yet. I hope Nick Bourne is on the phone to Ieuan and Mike about a coalition. Please don't tell me we have to wait another 4 years. If we have a Labour government, propped up by the Lib Dems, with Ieuan as Leader of the Opposition and Nick leading a noisy 'ginger group', I could be thinking what the hell have I been so depressed about over the last day or two. And come to that, I wander whether Mike German has been asked to resign as leader yet? The emoting Kirsty must be plotting. Just blogging has perked me up no end - and I swear the shoots have become a smidgen greener over the last few minutes.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Bag of Nerves

Almost midnight and still no idea whether I'll be an Assembly Member tomorrow. I'm blogging from a BBC computer in Cardiff - and I'm feeling tense. Wife and I went to the Custom House earlier and we looked through the 2003 results. Have to admit there is a scenario in which I could be out - and I must admit that I would be upset about it. Nice wine with the monkfish though. Recommend the Custom House.

Just did Call to Order with Patrick Hanaan and his first question is what is my prediction. Answer - same as its been for a year. Labour 24, possibly 25. Plaid Cymru 13, possibly 14. Conservatives 14, possibly 13. Lib Dems 7. Inds 2. Next question was about coalitions and I started going on about the 'Rainbow Coalition' again. When I said that my main objective was to put Labour into opposition, Patrick snapped back as I knew he would "So its anything for power!". Well, Yes Patrick, politics is about power. No point just sitting on the opposition benches as a powerless 'ginger group'.

Blamerbell is having a sickening level of promotion tonight. The BBC are bulling him up as Wales premier political blogger. He is good though. Compulsive reading for me. Its wonderful how relaxing a few minutes blogging is. I feel almost serene. Now its back to the Panel to comment on the results. Going to be a long night.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Last Post

Today was a disappointing last lap in the election campaign - or more like half a lap by the time I'd sorted out my transport. That's if strolling around in sunny Montgomeryshire can ever be described as in any way disappointing. But I was out to win votes - and I don't think I added a single vote to our cause today. Now I should add that I am not depressed about this. I don't need my friends to phone me to lift my spirits, as I suspect happened after some previous comment of mine. These days, Tories are so nice and look after each other in times of stress. So what happened today?

a) Met several former Lib Dem voters who were switching to us because of Lembit's private life. I just smiled wickedly, nodded sagely and accepted them.

b) Met a lady postman who was so p***ed off by how many leaflets she'd had to deliver that she was never going to vote again. And she sounded like one of ours. And there was absolutely no calming her. Flippant remarks fell flat.

c) Met a lovely couple who had moved from Pontypridd and who always vote Tory. My eyes lit up until they said they are not yet registered to vote!

d) Met more people who want me to denigrate the Poles - and I just can't stoop sufficiently low to make the noises needed to win their votes.

e) Met several committed Tories who had already sent in their postal votes.

f) Met a young man who had definitely decided to vote for us - but when I asked him what time he was going to vote he said "I didn't know it was tomorrow" Hopes dashed again.

g) Met one very switched on couple who said they had decided not to vote - because there was no real difference between the parties. Gave it a go but I have to admit that the two minutes I did to sell my party on Post Cynta this morning could have been the pitch of the Lib Dems or Plaid. They wouldn't say how they will vote.

h) Heard more support for the BNP - but not one mention of Ukip all day.

Apart from one fellow who started to rant about 'that evil woman' everyone was very friendly - but apathy rules. Finished up shaking Dan Munford's hand, wishing him victory (and I really meant it) and feeling a bit flat. Actually, I'm watching Francis Maude for us and Vince Cable for the Lib Dems on Newsnight competing to play down expectations - both so flat they're horizontal. This low key line of mine is clearly quite fashionable. Good job we've got Alun Cairns to bite a few ankles.

And now Betsan is on Newsnight - My God, network has realised there's an election going on in Wales! And now Ieuan's on! Bet he's wetting himself. He's only been off Anglesey for 5 days. And Jeremy's just asked him why he is prepared to work with the Tories. And Ie looks up for it. Laugh if you must - but the 'Rainbow Coalition' looks on. Its not my fantasy after all. Some of my fellow Welsh bloggers (who I now rather cockily refer to as teenage scribblers) and who have mocked me over this matter had best prepare to crawl before me and acknowledge my avuncular foresight. So I finish this last post before my computer is switched off on a high note after all. Vote 'Welsh Conservative for a Change'. Another Captain Oates moment.

Was I wrong about free prescriptions?

Nothing worse than when an opposition politician makes you doubt the wisdom of something you've been banging on about for months. It can make you look 'sheepish' at best. But Dr Dai Lloyd has managed it - over the issue of free prescriptions for all. I have been totally convinced that it is a daft idea - which takes £30 million plus out of the NHS budget every year, by providing free prescriptions to the 11% of the population who had to pay, and who could afford to pay. A Labour idea to 'buy' votes with public money. But Dai has sown the seeds of doubt.

We were the only 2 AMs on a panel, arranged by people who work with sufferers of Alzheimer's Disease when the question cropped up. I take some interest in this area of ill health and recently became President of the Montgomeryshire Parkinson's Disease Group. Anyway, Dai's argument goes like this. Ending charging in a system where 89% don't pay will greatly reduce the cost of bureaucracy and remove the inevitable injustices. (So far, the unconvincing 'freebie' argument). But wait for the next bit. Dai also thinks we would save as much or even more of the cost of this by greatly reducing the range of prescriptions that GPs should be allowed to prescribe. This isn't as daft as it sounds at first. Doctors do stop prescribing drugs over time e.g. cough mixture is no longer prescribed. He could have a point.

I am not saying that this is practical. I can imagine the hoo-hah if some drugs were to be refused. But it does shift the basis of the debate. Dr Dai Lloyd is a GP, and he would not have made this point lightly. I wonder whether the other Assembly GP, Dr Brian Gibbons agrees. I should add that this is a case of genuine self questioning - and not some devious 'Rainbow Coalition' softening up move on my part!


Last day of campaign and my car has died on me - on the way back from the studio where I did a 2 minute slot for Post Cynta this morning, explaining why tomorrow you should all vote 'Welsh Conservative for a Change'. I'm waiting to be collected by our loudspeaker car - and I'm going to spend the day being driven up and down the streets of Mid Wales proclaiming that 'the end of Labour is nigh'. My car is parked up on the side of the A483 near Abermule - and I've put a notice on it to say "This defunct car's name is Rhodri!"

I've just read the Telegraph reports about the fall from grace of Lord Browne of BP fame. He may be mega-rich, but he'll be feeling desolate this morning - and some current AMs will probably feel the same tomorrow. Some jobs take over your life and it hurts when the phone stops ringing. In fact, the pain is nothing like so intense for a 'list' AM, which I am, because it will not be laced with the bitter taste of rejection. I still remember the pain when I was effectively forced to resign from a high profile Quango position in 1994. I felt the bitter taste then, intensified by a poisonous sense of resentment arising from its unfairness. It's no joke and I will sympathise with the defeated ones. And make a reminder note to telephone them in a months time - when everyone else has forgotten them.

And just had a call from the great Ashok at the BBC, inviting me to do some commentary for Radio Wales tomorrow night - and another call to say that 'the cable had come loose from the alternator and she was losing charge'. Now, I'm not entirely clear what this means - except that my car should be alive and well again by 3.00. Like me, and probably Rhodri, it takes a bit of time to recharge the battery these days.