Saturday, June 30, 2007

New Job.

Losing my position on the National Assembly for Wales on May 3rd has led to a reappraisal of my life. Over the next month, major personal decisions have to be taken. The first big commitment was made today. This afternoon, The Campaign for the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales elected me as its new President.

When I was first approached, I was a bit doubtful (from the CPRW's standpoint rather than my own!). Been a passive member for over 20 years - but firstly, I still regard myself as an 'active' politician. Could be a problem if I become a candidate. Secondly, on the key issue of planning policy, I don't entirely see eye-to-eye with the CPRW line. And thirdly, my idea of protecting rural Wales has as much to do with culture, language and 'community' as it has to do with landscape - important as that is. But I said all this at last year's Annual Meeting when I was the guest speaker - and they still asked me. It strikes me that if the membership were willing to 'give it a go' - so should I. After all, every one of us has a passion for the well being of rural Wales. I reckon it'll work out OK.

Its going to be a challenge though. Mrs D laughed when I said that my main role will be to spread calm and unity. "Well, that's a first", she muttered. But passions can run high in voluntary bodies and keeping things calm is not always easy. Being a Conservative through the 1990s taught me that learning to disagree without falling out is the key to any successful organisation.

The two policy areas which are likely to cause the fat to boil over are wind farms ( where I'm a sceptic without being absolutist) and planning (where I am keen on much greater use of exception sites, outside of designated development zones). But for me , the key point is that even if I am outvoted on a regular basis, I won't lose respect or regard for those who take a different view. I'm really pleased with my new position. So we went down to the Lion in the village for supper and Sancerre to celebrate.

In Praise of Stalwarts

Last night, my first speech to a Tory audience since losing my position in the National Assembly (rather unexpectedly) on May 3rd. I was the 'Name on the Ticket' at a cheese and wine do at Llyswen, near Brecon. Introduced by Nick Bourne, who said he missed my presence, and my sage advice in the Assembly. So I started off by saying what a splendid chap Nick is, and how well he's managed the shenanigans that have been going on over the last few weeks.

I don't usually plan what I'm going to say at events such as these. I just go on what I hear and see when I get there. And last night, what struck me was that so many of the audience were the same as when I first spoke at Breconshire and Radnorshire many years ago. The phrase that came to mind was 'Party Stalwarts' - loyal supporters who have stuck by us through good times and bad. Since David Cameron took over, we've been concentrating on changing our clothes and mood music as we reach out to new voters. Absolutely essential if we are going to stand any chance of forming the next government. But we must never forget the party stalwarts. And its the same in life. Lots of new friends are great. But never forget the friends who stand by you when its raining. I drove home feeling good - and remembering why I enjoy party politics.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Westminster for a change

This blog has been sucked into the almost incredible shenanigans at the National Assembly for Wales. Today's reports of Labour playing dirty tricks on Labour is too much for me. Its driving me insane. So I lift my gaze towards Westminster, where the great Brown steamroller is flattening all before it. And I start with fellow blogger Iain Dale in today's Telegraph talking Tory reshuffle. After reading it , I feel an overwhelming sense of sadness.

Iain predicts the demise of individuals that I like and respect if there were to be reshuffle. I would be very disappointed to see Francis Maude moved out of his job as Chairman. I first met Francis some 1o years ago when he totally demolished Charles Kennedy in a debate about the UK joining the Euro. Not saying much I suppose - but for me it was the start of a respect that has grown. Anyway, he has been a wonderful lightening conductor for our young redeemer. David Cameron would miss him.

Two others that I liked a lot on first meeting were Hugo Squire and Peter Ainsworth, both of whom Iain thinks might be for the chop. Hope he's wrong here. And personally, I don't want to see Boris in the Shadow Cabinet. He would probably be required to tone down his writing - and I couldn't do without the weekly fix that his Telegraph column gives me. The highlight of Iain's predictions are promotion for Caroline Spelman and Julie Kirkbride.

Personally I hope that David Cameron doesn't reshuffle for a while. It will look as if Brown is controlling the agenda. The new Prime Minister has started with such a flurry of activity that no-one would notice a Tory reshuffle anyway - unless of course, Boris were to be brought in. Come to think of it, putting Boris in the Shadow Cabinet the day Quentin Davies defected wouldn't have been a bad idea.

I add a personal word in favour of Shrewsbury MP, Daniel Kawszinski, if there is a reshuffle. This blogger has never seen such a superb ambassador for the party in terms of communication skills based on old fashioned charm. Time he was on the ladder, in my opinion.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Save Llanidloes Hospital

Over the last few months, I have supported the local campaign to keep the Community Hospital at Llanidloes open. The Local Health Board has said that they want to close it down. I hope that the new One Wales document which underpins the Plaid/Labour agreement in the National Assembly will presage a reprieve. Because we who live at Cil Farm, Berriew now have an additional very special little reason for wanting to defend the Hospital.

Yes, we are expecting our first grandchild in October - and we are hoping that it (we know but I don't know whether I am permitted to say) will be born at the Llanidloes Hospital. I am going to be a 'taid'. Mrs D has gone broody and has started knitting. I am dreading hearing some tentative reference to vasectomy reversal.

Anyway, our happy news is that our eldest son, Edward and his wonderfully understanding wife, Karen are expecting. "We're having visitors" as Miss Broxton used to say. So don't let those faceless bureaucrats even think about closing any of our hospitals - especially the one at Llanidloes.

Through Gritted Teeth

This blog offers best wishes to the new National Assembly of Wales Government. I'd have done everything in my power to stop it being created - but the Plaid/Labour deal has been struck. Apart from some daft ideas about how to tackle the problem of 'affordable housing', I do not take serious issue with much in the One Wales document - which is more than you can say for a big chunk of the Labour Party. But Gordon told Rhodri to do what he had to - and Labour's Assembly payroll was so desperate to hang on to their higher salaries that Rhodri had no alternative but to tell Lord Kinnock and the MPs to p*** off. I still think that Plaid has made a huge strategic mistake, and that Iuean Wyn Jones simply 'bottled it'. He's right not to trust the Lib Dems - but that smacks more of excuse than reason to me.

The deal is done. Thee is trouble ahead. But since this blog has the interests of Wales at its heart, I must wish these unlikely bedfellows four years (less 2 months) of blissful happiness and success. Through gritted teeth.

Thank you Lord Roberts.

Lord Roberts of Conwy has announced that he is standing down from his position as Spokesman for Welsh Affairs in The House of Lords. Wyn has been a major force in Welsh politics for as long as I can remember - 37 years in Parliament in fact. No living politician has done more to further the interests of the Welsh Language than Lord Roberts. So this blog proffers a big thank you to him for all that he has done for our nation. And I hope he enjoys many years of gentle and relaxed pleasure in what is probably the best 'retirement' club in the world.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


So the deal is done. Plaid Cymru have thrown in their lot with Labour. A Plaid/Labour Government will take over the Government of Wales before the summer recess. In theory, both of these new lovers have to consult their families before final consummation can take place. But, in reality, its a bit like asking parents for permission to marry when the lady is already six months pregnant. The crucial bit of business has been done.

Readers of this blog will know of the despair which this occurrence has visited upon the writer. OK, so the Tories become the 'official' opposition. Big bloody deal that is. Opposition is opposition - no matter what sort it is. Still hard to accept though - especially since we know that a 'Rainbow Government' including Plaid, the Tories and the Lib Dems would have been in place weeks ago if the Lib Dems hadn't blown up the whole shoooting match at that bizarre meeting of their Executive Committee at Llandrindod Wells. On such small things do great decisions sometimes turn.

In passing, I have to say that Mike German's official response to today's deal was utterly preposterous. It said "trust in Plaid Cymru is at its lowest ebb". Can you believe the brass neck of it. I strongly suspect that the main reason that Plaid kicked the 'crock of dreams' into the Bay, was that they didn't trust the Lib Dems not to do it themselves at some later date, when the going got tough. And then there's the line telling us that Mike German has "sent a note to Rhodri Morgan indicating that I would be prepared to talk to him if he wanted to discuss arrangements for stable government in the National Assembly". Just how ridiculous can a party leader make himself look?

I thought Nick Bourne's response to the deal was spot on. Resisted any temptation to vent his anger and frustration. There must be a few thousand former Plaid supporters who are as upset about this deal as I am. Many of them will be 'conservative' in general outlook. Let the message go out that they will be welcome in the Welsh Conservative Party. I've mentioned my Nain on this blog before and her response to any disaster. "Its probably all for the best", she'd say. Its now our job to make the best of this bad job.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Just not big enough

As the increasingly ridiculous musical chairs in Cardiff Bay wends its way to a conclusion which an increasing number of Welsh people are losing interest in, my life outside the National Assembly is beginning to take shape. This afternoon, I met a strange man who asked me to consider writing my autobiography. I think he was serious. I promise you that I am not making this up. 60,000 words of blogspeak - and they're willing to pay me for doing it. Tempting. But I will have to think this one through. So many things that would best be left to die with me.

And then I picked up my invitation to meet the Executive Committee of the Montgomeryshire Conservative Association next Tuesday to discuss my application to be their Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the next General Election. And hopefully, I will win a further invitation to present myself to two 'Open Primaries' which will take place on the 18th of July at Llansantffraid and Carno. Don't think this system of selection will have happened in Wales before. I hope all the Lib Dems in the constituency don't turn up and take over the meeting. Don't think many of them will support me - no matter how many cappuccinos I buy them. Anyway, I will know by 18th, at the latest, if I am to make an early return to active politics. I am feeling a bit tense already.

Back to the musical chairs. I'm told that Plaid Cymru are going to go with Labour tomorrow night. I just can't believe Ieuan Wyn Jones. He must be the only politician in the Western world who doesn't want to be First Minister. Wouldn't be so bad if I wouldn't give my right arm for the what is the best job in Wales. One month in the job would be better than 10 years as Leader of the Opposition. The man has no sense of history. When Ieuan comes to writing his autobiography, I suggest the title 'I just wasn't big enough when it mattered'.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Rabbits on Speed.

Regular visitors will already know about the damage inflicted upon our garden by rabbits and deer. The usual presentation of these two species of horticultural vandal as 'cute and cuddly' infuriates me - almost as much as all this talk of a Plaid Cymru/ Labour Coalition must infuriate Huw Lewis of Labour and Gareth Jones of Plaid.

Anyway, I now know what it is that brings the local wildlife to look upon our garden as some sort of food festival. Its the echinaceas. According to today's Telegraph, echinaceas are a cure for the common cold as well as being a more general cure-all. Our garden is full of various sorts of Echinacea 'purpurea' and Echinacea 'White Swan' as well as several of the new types such as Echinacea 'Arts Pride'. I've been left with no alternative but to take action.

I have come up with a novel way to put the deer off - by simply leaving a radio blaring out all through the night amongst the borders. Ideally, the programme would feature Gordon Ramsey talking about the various ways venison can be cooked. There was a letter in the Telegraph from Julie Juniper of Lyme Regis today asking for advice about what to do about deer. I hope she reads my blog. The only real alternative is to shoot them - which is the remedy I've initiated to deal with the rabbits.

Rabbits are a real problem - especially since Smokey, our cat died last year. They treat our garden like an olympic village, which yesterday's Sunday Telegraph reported is normally such a rabid sex fest that lorry loads of condoms have to be shipped in to prevent the host nation being overwhelmed by STDs. I've asked a friend to visit at his leisure and shoot as many of them as he can - rabbits that is. I've put a price on the heads of my echinaceas. The bunnies will not have to pay this price if they go somewhere else to eat and breeed - even if it does mean they have to put up with runny noses. Life is all about choices. I wonder whether Plaid Cymru AMs like echinaceas - or are they all going to catch a cold.

The Proper Response - (if the worst happens)

Even by the standards of direction change we have become used to in Welsh politics over the last 7 weeks, the Western Mail's description of a Labour/Plaid Coalition as 'a near certainty' in today's edition is a particularly violent U-turn. In its last edition, on Saturday, its whole top team were predicting a 'Rainbow Coalition'. If Martin Shipton's latest prediction comes to pass, I will be bitterly disappointed.

Someone asked me recently how I would have been occupying myself if I'd been re-elected to the National Assembly on May 3rd. I replied by saying that I'd have spent £1000 buying cappuccinos for Plaid Cymru AMs. Not so much to imply that Ieuan's group are 'biddable', but an admission that the key to the 'Rainbow' was implanting in the consciousness of Plaid Cymru the belief that we have really changed. It does look today as if not enough cappuccinos have been shared.

If this tragedy does come to pass, I daresay Tory and Lib Dem rottweilers will be unleashed. "Propping up a failing Labour Party". "Rhodri Morgan's crutch". That doesn't bear thinking about. Etc. Etc. Well, I won't be joining in. There would be no-one more disappointed than me - but its crucial not to lose sight of the ball when the red mist comes down. If we Tories want to be involved in governing Wales (and what's the point of it all otherwise) we have to reach an accommodation with Plaid Cymru. There is no other way. It should have and would have been done in May but for the inability of the Lib Dem leadership to deliver. And to compound the sheer stupidity of it, they reversed their position three days later - when it was too late.

Thinking long term, my next preference after the Rainbow (which is not dead yet) would've been a Lab/Lib Dem Coalition Government - but the Libs blew that as well. It would have led to Plaid and us working together in opposition - and to a Plaid/Tory Government in 2011. So that would be my new objective - if this latest twist is confirmed. "Dear Plaid, I still think could make nice music together. Ieuan, Rhodri Glyn, Helen Mary, I love you really. Do you fancy a cappuccino?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Welsh Open Goal

For decades, the Greens had been an up-and-down team. No solidity in defence. All over the place in midfield. Playing so much down the left as to be boringly predictable. No surprise that they attracted poor crowds. But did have a really promising season in '99 - but flattered to deceive and have been total cr*p ever since. And then they put a nice little run of results together at the end of last season and finished up just one game away from the Cardiff Bay title. Surprised even themselves.

Final was on a knife edge. Could have gone either way. But out of the blue, the little Ynys Mon skipper Ieuan found himself in front of an open goal. Just a tap-in for the title. Not unreasonably he wanted to savour this historic moment for his team - but then his little brow furrowed with uncertainty. "Which side of the goal shall I put the ball. Oh Dear! Should I put the ball to the right or the left. I just can't make up my mind. I know what I'll do. I'll ask the team". Problem was that some said 'the right' , while the back four said 'the left'. "Oh Dear. What's to be done now. Where's Wiggers when I need him. But I know what I'll do. I'll go and ask all of our supporters what they think I should do. This will make them think that I am the consumate team man. Nobody can blame me if I go for the wrong side. Better than taking the risk of being blamed for taking the wrong choice. In reality, I never was much of a one for decisions - used to leave that to Wiggers. I may even refuse to score at all if they don't want me to."

And the people who were watching from the stands rose up as one and roared out "What the hell is the matter with you. Can't you make up your bl***y mind. You don't damn well deserve the title. It would serve you right if someone else nipped in and pinched the ball from under your nose".

And that is the story of how the Greens lost the only chance they ever had to win the title. The Greens never recovered from the shock, and eventually disbanded as their disillusioned supporters drifted away to support other teams. Or is this just me away on another fantasy.

Where's my Dancing Shoes?

Better get my dancing shoes on. Had a call today inviting me to compete in some sort of Celebrity Strictly Come Dancing Competition. Money's going to cancer research and because I know who's arranging it, I have a special reason for wanting to join in. But of course, its immediately become more than a fundraising 'bit of fun'. Its a COMPETITION between 4 couples. There will be a WINNER. That ugly competetive streak has already taken over. At the very least, a summer training programme will have to be arranged.

Now everybody's going to think that I'm just there to make a bit of a fool of myself - because I used to be someone ( I quote the BBC's Vaughan Roderick here) . But unknown to the organisers, I have a bit of form on the dance floor. In the 1970s, no village function in Montgomeryshire was complete without a competition to the music of Chubby Checker singing 'Lets Twist Again'. And I won my share. Even now, whenever Dire Straits strike up with 'Walk of Life', every bone of Mrs D's and my body screams out Jive, Jive, Jive - and we do. All those hours of my youth that I spent at the Jeanette Perrin School of Dancing and after my training was over, gliding around the ballrooms of Mid Wales to Ivor Tanner's Band will not have gone to waste.

So remember - September 8th at Forden Community Centre.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Poles in Wales

Forced to look outside Welsh politics for interest again today, because Ieuan Wyn Jones is STILL considering his options. He's going around Wales asking party members what they think today. He doesn't seem able to make up his mind. Expect some referendums if he becomes First Minister. So I will post about the people of Poland instead, who have come to work in Wales in very large numbers.

I enjoyed only one year's university education, having left Caereinion High School, aged 16, because my father was seriously ill. I was in my early 50s when I became a full-time student at Aberystwyth. The course was International Law and Relations, and one of the modules was International History. The lecturer was an amazing character named David Steed, who seemed to share my politics - in contrast to the International Relations lecturers. No-one would accuse Richard Wyn Jones of Tory sympathies, though the cruel revelation by Blamerbell on his blog today that I voted Plaid Cymru when my vote was based on instinct rather than philosophy could be more to his liking.

Anyway it was the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and I became deeply interested in this aspect of my course. And developed a respect for the Polish people that will never leave me. This has relevance in Welsh politics today because there are many people (and several approached me when I was an AM) who have what I will refer to as a 'fear of community disruption' because so many have moved to Wales to work over the last two years. I always listened - but I don't believe that there is any real justification for this fear.

This high regard for the polish people is irrational because I have never been to Poland and it stems from reading about the awful suffering inflicted upon the Poles over 50 years ago, which would have been hugely lessened if they hadn't been utterly determined not to give an inch to the enemy in their fight for freedom. But I do think it is time to put what happened behind us, as far as we can. I thought that Poland joining the EU would achieve that.

And then I opened today's Times to read what struck me as an astonishing story. Its reported that Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the Prime Minister has demanded at this week's European summit in Brussels that EU votes should be allocated to Poland on the basis of what the population would have been if the war hadn't taken place. Instead of Poland having a voting strength based on the current population of 38 million, it should be on an assumed population of 66 million. The Prime Minister is reported to have told Polish Radio "It was the Germans who inflicted unimaginable injury, terrible harm on Poland - incomprehensible crimes - and Poles like Germans, while Germans do not like Poles". Bearing in mind that Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor is chairing the Summit, this strikes me as a truly astonishing line to take. I don't think a British Prime Minister would survive similar comments.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Decision Time

I'm in an Internet cafe (or is it shop) for the first time. Its called Crossfire, opposite the Dragon Hotel in Swansea. I'm meeting a Swansea City Councillor shortly - after the Council meeting which is considering allowing Dydd Dewi Sant as a holiday to all Council staff. I did that with my own Assembly staff years ago.

Feeling good today. I've pulled through all the trauma associated with Mrs D's knee operation six weeks ago - shopping, cooking, etc.. She drove off to Morrison's without me this morning. I felt quite emotional as I watched her drive off to shop for the first time. And the Hymac has arrived to redesign a part of our garden - partly to lay out a marquee site for son, Tim's wedding to Adrienne next July. The only member of the blogosphere whose been on a formal visit so far is our new Eurochamp blogger, Blamerbell.

Now the reason I'm wittering on about these things is because we are all getting bored by the bed hopping of the political parties in Cardiff Bay. It is time for decision. There's only so much that can be said. It still seems an even bet between the 'Brown Coalition' and the 'Rainbow'. Thats about it really. I know there is renewed discussion about a possible Lib Lab deal - but Mike German couldn't deliver it, even if he wanted to. Labour MPs really are living in another country. I hope that things might clarify a bit this weekend - so that we can start blogging about policy again.

I was interested (and pleased) to read that all parties in the Assembly agreed yesterday on a serious look at how the Assembly budget is calculated. I have always thought that there is danger in opening up this 'can of worms' but recent decisions taken by the Scottish Parliament will cause so much resentment in England, that the funding formula is bound to be reviewed sooner or later. I'm not sure what a Welsh Commission will acheive though, since any real change will be a matter for Westminster. There's still an important job for Welsh MPs to do.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bernard Manning

As Matt notes in today's Telegraph, Bernard Manning could be having a bit of trouble negotiating his entry through the Pearly Gates. I wonder what he was really like. Was he really a racist - or was it OK because he was offensive to everyone? Over the years, I've changed my opinion a touch on this. I hope my friends will not start falling about in laughter, but I've become a touch more politically correct about humour. And this is nothing to do with a last ditch effort to butter up the 'strong' females who are at the anti-Tory front line in Plaid's Assembly Group.

When I was a young back row forward, marauding around the rugby fields of the Midlands and the North of England, racist language was not unusual - and I didn't think of it as being racist. (Mind you, I wasn't on the end of it). There was certainly no intent to be offensive when black skinned opponents were called 'Chalkie' or 'Sooty' - just as there was no intent to offend when I, being a Welsh hill sheep farmer, was accused of being over familiar with my 'woolly friends'. But the meaning of words has changed. Today, such words are no longer harmless banter. They are unacceptable. My general approach is not to use language that offends if at all possible.

But comics like Bernard Manning were deeply unsettling for me - because they made me laugh. I wish they didn't. So without becoming too stuffy about it, I try never to listen to this sort of comedy. I recall going to a Ben Elton performance at Theatre Hafren a few years ago. He was foul - in a lavatorial jokes sense. The entire theatre was howling - except Mrs D who doesn't like this sort of humour. I almost did myself an internal injury, stifling my overwhelming desire to join in the 'howling'. It wasn't easy to go "Tut Tut" in such circumstances.

Thing about Bernard Manning is that he did challenge us to think about prejudice. He represented something that made me more aware of the need to be careful with language - which I suppose is why I try not to offend on this blog. The Telegraph printed some of Manning's jokes today. Best of them was....

'My sister went into the hairdresser's and said "Make me look like Barbara Streisland". So he hit her on the nose with a hairbrush.' I hope that's not racist or sexist or any other ist.

Powys Priorities

I hear that Powys County Council are close to appointing a new £50,000 communications director - in other words, a new 'super spin doctor'. That's £50,000 of our money, to employ someone to tell us that our Council Tax is being wisely spent! Anyway, I hear that there were lots of applicants and a short list has been drawn up. Perhaps they'll appoint whoever's doing 'media' for the Powys Health Board. New policy would be 'if its embarrassing, tell them nought'. The Council wouldn't have to pay so much for someone whose policy is to say nothing.

They ought to have tried to poach Carl Yapp from the BBC. I'm sure he's not on £50,000 - and they might find out who the secret 'whistle blower' was that the Council spent lots of our cash on a few months ago, trying to de-cloak. I wonder if the Council's current top media man, John Evans is in the frame. I've always thought him a decent enough 'spin doctor'. Anyway, I hope the first press release is about Council priorities.

Quango Accountability

I posted yesterday on the departure of Andy Williams, Chief Executive of Powys Local Health Board from his post with, in reality, immediate effect. For all we know he could have been sacked, because all the press release said is that he is 'leaving his post'. I'm told that the Press Office of the Board is insisting that there will be no further statement. If this is true, it is outrageous - and the media should be creating a serious rumpus.

The Health Board is a public body which should be accountable to the public. It should be accountable to the taxpayer as well, whose money the Board allocates. When the 'Boss' suddenly disappears through the door, as Andy Williams has just done, the Chair, Chris Mann or the Minister, Edwina Hart should be prepared to tell us why. Has our media really reached the level where its willing to let this body get away with this sort of contemptuous behavior. Surely Hutton didn't do that much damage!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

All Change at Powys Health Board.

Andy Williams, Chief Executive of Powys Local Health Board has resigned today. I'm told that he has gone on holiday - and is finishing at the end of June. So, in reality, he is resigning with immediate effect. And I'm also told that Chair, Chris Mann has got nothing to say beyond the virtually nothing that was in today's press release. This is all very fishy. There's a lot more to come out on this story yet.

I thought that Andy Williams was OK - even if I totally disapproved of the puerile and unprofessional public gloating that he indulged in when 'arbitration' found more in favour of the LHB in its row over funding with the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital last year. I made it clear to him and the Chair at tehtime that I thought that sort of behaviour should have been left behind in the school playground

The resignation was inevitable, once Labour lost the power in the National Assembly to force through its hospital closure plans. Andy Williams was so publicly committed to the Community Hospital closure plans in Powys that he would have no credibility left at all if he was forced to back down - which he would have been. There must be a big question mark over how long Chris Mann can stay on as Chair - particularly since there's an Assembly Government inquiry going on at present. At least an inquiry was announced by the Assembly Government last March. We await more news. The people should be told. Job for media sleuths here.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Mistaken Identity

If you happen to be in North Wales and see the stooped figure of a ruddy cheeked farmer, trudging over the mountains, bent into an angry South Westerly, with a hessian sack over his shoulders, don't get over-excited. It is not a Kyffin Williams masterpiece come to life - or Sir Anthony Hopkins 'getting into the part' in preparation for a film about the great Ynys Mon artist, who died recently.It is much more likely to be Tory Assembly Member, Brynle Williams, out looking for ladybirds. The clue to look for is breed of dog. A black collie, its Sir Anthony - a Pembrokeshire corgi and its Brynle.

How do I know this , you may ask. Well, Brynle rang me in a right old sweat a few days ago. He and Mary have moved into a new bungalow on the farm and greenfly are playing havoc with Mary's roses. The man who almost single handedly brought Britain to its knees by orchestrating a fuel protest didn't know what to do. So he turned to his old friend - me. I told him that he could take the easy way out and buy some greenfly killer from the garden centre. But if he really wanted to be ecologically sound he should introduce into the garden some fast breeding ladybirds - which eat greenfly by the thousand. Not only would it be a cheaper (an important consideration for we Welsh hill sheep farmers) but its just the sort of thing to appeal to these Plaid Cymru and Lib Dem types that we're trying to butter up at the moment. Its just the sort of policy which could be suggested by the Tories in Wales to put the Rainbow Coalition back on track.

Shift of Emphasis

Since my political ambitions are now directed towards Westminster, I need to adjust this blog's emphasis a touch. And there is no better day to start than that on which my London based daily read, the Telegraph goes big on what it calls the most important speech of David Cameron's leadership. The paper also reports that the 'Leader' wants us to use 'blogs' to ensure that the messages reach the Youtube generation. This makes me feel rather 'with it', which I suppose is not a very 'with it' way of putting it..

Things haven't been going as well for us as they could have over the last few weeks. We all needed a pep talk - and I like the sound of what I read, if that's possible! I was a David Davis supporter, but have become enthusiastic about David Cameron because of the way he's changed the way non-Tories talk about us. This is what I'd been trying to do in Wales over the last few years. Brushing out the hatred and contempt is the important first step - opening up the prospect of voters positively supporting us. In Wales the challenge remains to be accepted as a genuinely 'Welsh' party. In Scotland, the challenge is similar - only much more acute. Across the UK, its to be accepted as a party that cares about what the voters care about. That's why the emphasis on 'the environment' and the 'well-being' of people has been so important.

And I really like the line "There is such a thing as society. Its just not the same thing as the state". This could well be the line that underpins my whole campaign if I get to be fighting an election. Its even more relevant in Wales where Labour (and Plaid Cymru) seem to believe that state provision is always the answer to every problem. The Cameron vision talks about combining"collective security with individual opportunity" and "social responsibility rather than state control". During my years in Welsh politics I've not asked myself often or rigorously enough what makes me think the way I do. I did start off in my teens as a bit 'Plaidy' and once supported an Independent, who happened to be a good personal friend, in a General Election - but then I decided that I was a Conservative, and mainly because I believe that an over- mighty state doesn't deliver. So I'm a libertarian, small-state, ferociously pro-Welsh Cameroon.

I'm really getting the hang of this stuff. Must read some more Cameron speeches.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Is the Rainbow fading?

So Plaid Cymru's Executive Committee has decided to 'talk on' with Labour about forming a Coalition Government to run the National Asembly for Wales for the next four years. This will be the top news line in Wales tonight - but what does this mean for the 'Rainbow Coalition'. Is it deceased? No. I understand that the Rainbow option hasn't been dropped - so Tory group leader, Nick Bourne won't let his dogs loose on Ieuan Wyn Jones just yet. But what is poor old Mike German to do. At present, he looks to be heading for political oblivion - when all it would take is one phone call.

"Hi Rhodri. Mike here. Fancy a cappuccino? OK then. A pint in the Dog and Duck. See you in an hour."

That's all it would take. Rhodri's been on the TV, giving him the 'come-hither' look. Labour MPs are positively gagging for him to pick up the phone - with gradations of enthusiasm. Kirsty Williams, his talented and scheming successor is so bruised that she wouldn't dare try anything behind the scenes again for a while. Even Peter Black is telling him that he has given up the idea of being a 'refusenik'. He could be Deputy First Minister again. He did so enjoy strutting around Wales in his ministerial car, DFM 1. There seems so little to lose. Oh, it must be so tempting. Perhaps a little Chopin to clear his mind - and then straight for the phone to Rhodri.

Donating Blood

I've been lucky. In general, every solicitor and barrister I've ever known has been a good and decent person. But I have heard them being described as blood-sucking parasites. So you can imagine how pleased I am that our son Tim, who is employed by Eversheds, one of Wales' leading legal firms has donated his first pint of blood. I'm proud of the boy. He is so squeamish that his legs can be reduced to jelly if you just say the word 'veins' within earshot - but he still rolled up his sleeves and did it.

I started donating blood in the 1970s, after my father needed a major transfusion to come home from hospital when his condition became irrecoverable. I'd received various badges and was closing in on my half century, when I went down with colorectal cancer. I was quite upset when I went to donate blood after I had recovered only to be rejected - for ever. Anyway, Tim who is a very useful bat has opened his innings with a nervous single. Onwards to the half century that I didn't quite make. This blog encourages its readers to 'donate blood - you may save a life'.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Rat Sandwich

I recall Mrs D once putting salt in the sugar bowl on April 1st and handing it to me without a flicker of an eyelid. First mouthful of my muesli and I knew I'd been had. But rather than concede, I decided to tough it out. I cleared the dish without so much as a grimace or lifting my gaze from my newspaper. I hope she doesn't read this post because to this day I've claimed that I didn't notice the difference.

Reason this came to my mind was after seeing the expressions on the faces of all those Wales Labour Executive members who were on TV tonight telling us how they supported the idea of a going into coalition with Plaid. At least the pain I will feel if the Rainbow Coalition doesn't materialise will be lessoned by the knowledge of the suppressed hatred that will be fermenting within the breast of Welsh Labour

Modern Language Skills

Been trying to master modern consultese. I'm but a down-to-earth Welsh farmer, but here goes.

'My production enterprise is committed to sharing best practice and passionate about facilitating appropriate skills through workshops and learning events around these issues, going forward, and across the piece. Monitoring, using a web based toolkit will empower users to drill down to assess local needs interactivity and knowledge transfer to ensure maximisation of utilisation of the means of production. Stakeholders will be fully engaged in a consultation exercise, breaking down barriers and pushing the envelope towards a seamless one-stop shop service. Safety and value for money will be paramount so we are investing a funding stream to put in place a supportive multidisciplinary team to head up this exciting upcoming project, going forward, providing local ownership with robust clinical governance. Doing nothing is not an option. Subject to independent review, lessons will be learnt, accountability transparentised to commissioners, providers and service users to ensure that delivery failures will never happen again.'

In other words - I'm running our family business just the same as my family has done for many decades!

Thanks go to Barry Moyse and the Telegraph

Its not all over yet

Its like one of those bed-hopping farces that Brian Rix used to appear in. And we still don't know yet who are going to settle down together when the light goes off. So many doors opening and closing. It will probably finish up an accidental union. We were expecting tomorrow's Plaid conference to decide on their favoured option. I don't now think that the delegates will decide. They cannot, without causing too much blood letting. I reckon that Plaid will decide to leave both the Labour option and the Rainbow option on the table for further discussion.

There are so many hidden agendas, false trails and doublespeak going on that it is impossible to make a judgement. I was steadfastly sticking to my Rainbow dream until yesterday, when I thought the Plaid/Labour deal edged in front. But I accept that this could be a complete red herring - just so that Plaid Cymru can claim to have done everything possible before doing a deal with the Tories (just party management). But if this option is now really the favoured one, the Lib Dems are in a real hole - enough to make Mike German give Rhodri a call (which I suspect he's done already. Rhodri did not deny it last night) which may just bring the Labour/Lib Dem Coalition back into play.

The picture that is emerging from the fog before my eyes is that Plaid had decided on the Rainbow, decided to see if they could force Labour to offer all sorts of goodies so that they could be used against them later on - and then saying "Labour hasn't gone far enough". Bob's your uncle and we have a Rainbow with Ieuan as First Minister and Labour in a succession war. Nice plan - but if Labour offer enough, Plaid would look stupid refusing it. And if Mike German does decide to phone Rhodri publicly, Plaid may not get into government at all. If Lyn Neagle speaks on behalf of others in considering STV in local government, even Peter Black and the Lib Dem Council leaders would be tempted. I feel a headache coming on.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Dragon'a Eye Tonight

Are we Tories really that bad. First of all we have Plaid Cymru trying to do a deal with Labour despite all these Labour stalwarts talking about Plaid on tonight's programme as if the 'Party of Wales' carries the Black Death. And then Rhodri Morgan appears talking about the idea of Tories serving as Ministers as about the equivilent as an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease. Bearing in mind that I believe that we are as committed to good public services as any other party, I find this all hard to take.

But there is no doubt that the Plaid/Labour Coalition now looks the likeliest option. I despair. You can tell its looking serious because there is now talk of Mike German wanting to have a chat with Labour. Not surprising because if things go ahead as it seems likely they will, the Lib Dems are in big trouble and Mike is toast. Only thing that would save him is that his probable successor, Kirsty Williams made such a total horlicks of her scuppering of the Rainbow Coalition at the now infamous Executive Meeting of the Lib Dems at Llandrindod Wells.

There is no doubt at all that Mike is being invited to pick up the phone. And it all finished up with Wayne David having another go at we Tories. Oh Dear. Why doesn't anyone love us?

The Rural Housing Crisis

Important article in today's Telegraph about the problems facing young people in rural England - who are finding the first housing ladder rung too high to reach. Something called the Commission for Rural Communities has discovered that in 53 rural areas of England, the average price of a house is over 10 times the average local salary. In many parts of England - the South, West Midlands and the North - young people are being forced to move away from their home areas just to find somewhere to buy. This undermines community stability and creates ghettos of lifeless tranquility.

So it isn't just Wales then! What makes it even more of an issue for us is that when young people are forced to move it undermines our own Welsh Language as well as community stability. This problem has attracted much talk and precious little action for years. And usually, people start talking about social and Council housing as if its the answer. To my market orientated thought process the best response to shortage is an increase in supply. We need more houses to be built - which means that Local Planning Authorities have to rethink their current approach. Not easy, I grant you. All of our planners seem to have been trained to find reasons to refuse applications rather than approve them. And there is the utterly stupid, lifestyle destroying planner's obsession with building on every green space in our villages and towns rather than on rural sites, no matter how well screened or un-prominent they are.

This is an old hobby horse of mine. Whenever I start banging on about it, people with letters after their names start accusing me of not caring about the countryside. The assumption seems to be that anything outside the thick black 'Colditz' lines on planner's maps which 'fence the people in' is on a prominent hill that can be seen for miles. Its time we expected our planners to be trained to have at least some element of subjective judgement.

I daresay the first comment will be about this change putting up the price of my own land. But I don't see why I should not be allowed to hold an opinion - just because it would benefit me. This is just about the biggest problem facing Government in Wales. Its a shame that the sheer distaste for the idea of the private sector solving the problem - and making some money at the same time - has so far proved too much for the Assembly Governments that we have had so far.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

By-Election in Meirionydd?

More gossip from Cardiff Bay. Not sure how credible this is, but heard it from two sources. Been a big swing in favour of the Plaid/Labour Coalition option over the last 24 hours - and the juicy rumour is that if it comes to pass, Elfyn Llwyd is lined up to become Consel General. It was Alex Carlile last week - but I didn't think Alex would be willing to accept the drop in salary!

If this is true, I suppose Elfyn will be naggy that I've made it public. And if I'm wrong, he may give me the Peter Hain treatment and not talk to me for six months.

Alun Shurmer joins the Beeb

Not so much gossip as old news - but I didn't know that Plaid's media wonderman, Alun Shurmer is disappearing into the all-embracing bowels of the BBC. Alun came to Cardiff with a big reputation, credited with doing all the research that enabled Adam Price to run all those amazing stories about Mittal Steel. BBC Wales is a great sponge for all the journalistic talent in Wales. Not sure that I approve of such dominance - but you can't blame the Beeb if there is no great opposition. Plaid will miss him.

Power to the Individual - Left or Right??

Been trawling the coffee shops of Cardiff today, sniffing out gossip - after doing am/pm for the BBC. Was on with Chris Gwyther, who was interestingly naughty. Gone was the unswerving Labour loyalist, and in its place a cheerful willingness to say what she thinks. Nearly fell off the sofa when she said the one law she would change if she had the power would be the disgraceful piece of Labour gerrymandering that bans dual candidacy in Assembly elections. I suppose her thinking might have changed because it could have cost her a place on the Assembly. But where were you when we needed you Chris.

Anyway, I came upon a 'Godfather' of the Labour movement taking coffee in Brazz. Joined him and conversation drifted into political philosophy - as it does. I was explaining that a fundamental strand of my conservativism is an antipathy to the all-embracing state, and the notion that society is improved by the state maximising its power and influence. Whereupon this Labour 'guru' claimed that his 'Labourism' was based on the same thing!!

I have a feeling that if we had finished off a bottle of Sancerre, we would have started up our own Anarchist Party!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Still Backing the Rainbow

BBC have just gone big, under the heading of 'Breaking News', that Plaid Cymru are considering propping up Labour in office for the next four years. A senior figure from Plaid has been talking to the BBC before a party meeting tonight. Could it be that a representative of the 'Gang of Four' who really don't fancy working in coalition with my party is trying to create some momentum before the meeting. More likely, I think that Rhodri Glyn Thomas has been chatting to his constituency mate, Adam Price and has decided to test the water - test the water seriously that is, and Ieuan Wyn Jones' patience at the same time. But I do expect that when tonight's meeting is over, there will be a communique announcing further exploratory talks with Labour - with no commitment of course.

But I still agree with Peter Black, who is nearer to the action than I am these days. I still think the most likely option is that Wales will be governed by a 'Rainbow Coalition' of Plaid, the Lib Dems and my party. If my view is changing at all, it is that it is likely to happen sooner rather than later. Still, the BBC wouldn't be saying what they are saying without reason. So, I'm left wondering.

I'd been trying to think what issue might trigger the 'No Confidence' vote. Would it be nurse's pay - don't think so. What about Welsh Language Act - possible. Maybe the Budget - but I think Rhodri would let Plaid Cymru virtually write it. No, in the end, I still think they'll do it - basically because they can, its worth the risk and Ieuan wants to be First Minister. So let them do it in three weeks time - and give the new Ministers the summer recess to master their briefs. I'm on AM/PM tomorrow where we will be discussing the latest twist.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Throwing My Hat in the Ring

The last time I settled down at a 'live' 4 hour musical extravaganza was at a Bruce Springstein concert. But last night, it was Kerry Eisteddfod. I was the Evening President. Fantastic standard, as performers, some of whom might have been giving a trial run to their entries for the 'National' in August. Before the 'President's Address' I was introduced by my old dear friend, Hefin Bennett, who is one of the few people who remember that I'm something of a bard myself, having won two Eisteddfod Chairs in the late 1960s. Anyway, the fabulous welcome that I received convinced me that I must 'put in my application' for the right to try to become Member of Parliament for Montgomeryshire.

First step was to win a place on the Conservative Party's official 'List of Candidates' - which was last week. The next hurdle is to try to win the nomination to become the candidate for my party in Montgomeryshire. I have to take this decision today, because this week is the last chance before the application window closes. So, tomorrow I will be throwing my hat into the ring - entering the competition to become Conservative candidate for my home area at the next General Election.

And don't you know it. Following discussion of all this on ConservativeHome, this blog's Journalist of the Year has been on the phone today. The Western Mail's truffle hound, Martin Shipton wants to know whether I'm going for selection. So I told him that I am. And now the BBC's truffle hound, Mark Palmer has been on as well. Yes again. I tell them that my fate is now up to the to the Montgomeryshire members.

Why do I want to do it? Well, firstly I really enjoy the constituency work I've been doing in Montgomeryshire for the last 30+ years, in one way or another. Secondly, I really miss being part of the building work that is going on, creating new political structures in Wales, an important part of which takes place at Westminster. And thirdly, I am desperately keen to continue my involvement in changing the way the people of Montgomeryshire and Wales think of my party. And there are a host of other reasons as well.

Inevitably, I suppose, Martin wanted to know what I think of the incumbent MP. What I can say is that my decision has got nothing whatsoever to do with Lembit Opik. I accept that I have said in the past that I, personally don't much like the 'celebrity' style of politics but I've always got along very well with Lembit - and if I am successful with my application for selection, I wouldn't want there to be any change.

So there we are. The hat is in the ring. Now, its just do my best and hope for success.

Natural Headaches

Lovely sunny Sunday. Too hot and muggy to work though. So, lie down in the sun instead for a zzzz. And then the blackbirds start up again. Its hard to believe that one of birdworld's finest songsters can create such a monotonous 'tinny' racket for hours on end. Problem is that a tawny owl has taken up residence in the building opposite the house, close to where the blackbirds have their nest. Tawnys are definitely not welcome, and the blackbirds are trying to drive it away. As any housing manager will tell you, when neighbours fall out, you have disturbance.

And we were disturbed earlier in the week by one hell of a jackdaw fight outside the bedroom window at around six in the morning. I've never heard anything like it. Don't know what it was about - but their was one very dead jackdaw on the ground next morning. This was probably a family fight.

But none of this compares with the angst being caused by two red deer which have taken to visiting the garden in the early morning (I think). I've only seen them once. I read about two deer hunters during the week, who were fined big money for hunting deer with dogs. I accept that the law must be upheld - but as I walk amongst my chewed off bamboo shoots, my instinct was on the side of the hunters. You would not believe the damage these destructive 'bambis' cause. I've been getting up at 5.00am and putting a radio on at full volume in the part of the garden that is being attacked. It seems to be working at the moment. I just hope they don't get to like some early morning programme and invite all of their mates along to listen. A bamboo shoots party - with music!

And the reason I garden is to relax!!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Smooth Transfer of Power

I can just see now. Tuesday morning. Rhodri Morgan shambles into a Cabinet meeting and settles into his chair. "Shove over, Carl. How much bl**** room do you want. You're not a real member. You're only here as a sop to the gogs - and mine's with 'two sugars and a splash of milk". The First Minister falls silent and a look of distant contentment envelopes his being. He looks around his team and starts to speak - slowly, measuring every word as if he was arranging delphiniums. He has a copy of yesterday's Western Mail, open on the table.

"I've been reading Lembit Opik's comments. I accept the sense of what he advises. I've worked hard as your First Minister for 7 years. I've been worried about the arithmetic since May 3rd. I think we should just give up and hand our ministerial car keys over to Ieuan, Mike and the Tories. I should be given 'the option to retire with dignity'". Rhodri leaned back and a wistful smile crossed his face. "Oh, I do like the sound of that".

Lembit says that the other parties will 'cut me some slack to go gracefully'. I really like the feel of this. I have come to the conclusion, for the well-being of Wales, for my people, that we should work to create a 'smooth transfer of power' to a Rainbow Coalition. We should ensure that Nick Bourne becomes Deputy First Minister with the minimum of fuss. Carwyn, Andrew, why are you smiling? Don't worry Jane - you won't have to pronounce the death sentence on Shambo now. Why have you turned purple, Leighton? Where are you going Huw? I wonder why he slammed the door. Where the h***'s that tea Carl".

And all the Cabinet rose up (except ex-Deputy Minister, Huw Lewis who was still in the lavatory) and cried out as one "Hail Rhodri, the 'Great Leader'. You are so wise. Let us be done with office and embrace political oblivion. Onwards to a 'smooth transfer of power'. Long live the Queen".

Don't you just love the Lib Dems. Reminds me of the first time I reached the final of the Montgomeryshire Open Squash Championship. Bit cocky and said to Mungo Munro, my opponent and good friend. "Now, look here Mungo. I'm a better player than you. Why don't you just feign an injury and hand me the title without having to go through the public humiliation of defeat?" I thought it might hit his confidence. Trouble was, it gave him the desire he needed to win. I won the title the next year though.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Big Guns join 'Gang of Four'

I once remember going for a p** when Man Utd were losing a European Final with just seconds to go. When I returned, Man Utd had won the Cup. At present, Welsh politics is a bit like that.

There I was, wondering when the Rainbow Government was going to take over - when out of the blue, along comes Dragon's Eye tonight. There was Edwina Hart, the new Health Minister and Adam Price, Plaid Cymru's 'policy guru' talking about beginning an affair - with marraige in mind. Poor old Ieuan Wyn Jones must be spitting nails. And King over the Mountain, Dafydd Wigley must be tearing his hair out. And imagine the smug grins on the faces of Helen Mary Jones' 'Gang of Four'. Doesn't bear thinking about.

This change of mood is serious. Adam Price had been saying much the same to Tomos Livingstone of the Western Mail yesterday. He means it. And Edwina Hart giving interviews to Dragon's Eye! Whatever next. In desperation, expect to see one of Ieuan's stormtroopers, probably Dai Lloyd being despatched around the studios tomorrow to savage Labour and salvage Ieuan's dissappearing dream of an audience with the Queen. No, Adam wasn't saying that at all. Well actually, Yes he was.

Nerves before the big decision.

At my keyboard after two glasses of a dry and fruity white. And just read Boris' article in today's Tegraph berating Minister, Caroline Flint for proposing that in future, I should never partake of such nectar unless it is poured from a bottle decorated with a label warning me of the terrible danger to my health of such simple pleasure. It was one of his best ever. I've been laughing into my emptying wine glass. He may have learned his journo skills at Eton - but I like to think that his act was polished up when he stood in the next door constituency in 1997.

Apart from Boris' brilliance, another reason for my laughter is a sort of tense nervousness. Monday this week, several Welsh parliamentary constituencies invited applications from the Conservative Party's List of Approved Candidates to put their names forward for selection. This is of interest to me because 1) I have just been assessed as a suitable person to be placed on this list and....2) My home constituency of Montgomeryshire is one of those concerned. Lots of people have been encouraging me to 'throw my hat in the ring'. I know that there will probably be a string of brilliant young politicians called Boris applying - but its still a big, potentially life-changing decision. I'll have to send my application off on Monday, so I've told the family that the decision will be made on Sunday night. Just going to pour myself another glass.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Tea for Two in Cardiff

"Good afternoon, Ma'am".

"Good afternoon, Rhodri".

"Its a nice day, Ma'am".

"Indeed it is, Rhodri".

"The sun is shining, Ma'am".

"Yes, Rhodri".

"Its a very nice afternoon, Ma'am".

"Yes, Rhodri".

"This first official meeting between us is a very important meeting for Wales, Ma'am".

"It is indeed, Rhodri"

"It is vital for the future of Wales and for the new Government of Wales Act to function effectively, that we meet to discuss important matters of state and that I keep you informed about what my Government is planning to do over the next four years, Ma'am ".

"What are you planning to do, Rhodri".

"We are going to build new aeroplanes, with strong wings so that we can deal with all the turbulence, Ma'am".

"How many jobs, Rhodri?"

"Just one, Ma'am. Mine."

"Are these aeroplanes for security or for the growing export market? What sort of wings will they have, Rhodri?"

"No, they are to keep my Government air-bourne. They are going to have a left wing, a right wing, a nat wing, a progressive wing, a consensus wing, and a listening wing - and all these wings are going to be fitted with anti-rainbow radar protection systems, Ma'am".

"I've never heard of an anti-rainbow protection system before Rhodri".

"Its a 'made in Wales' innovative solution. There is a dangerous rainbow on the loose which can strike at any time. One of the power crazed rainmakers has warned that it could strike in six weeks. We need these planes with special wings to be in the air as soon as possible, Ma'am".

"Is there anything else, Rhodri?"

"No. Nothing else matters Ma'am".

"Thank you for this historic meeting. I feel that Wales is much safer now that your Government is taking defence of the nation so seriously, Rhodri".

"Thank you Ma'am. We must meet again next year. We will be able to discuss all the matters that really matter to the people of Wales again then".

"Good afternoon, Rhodri".

"Good afternoon, Ma'am".

Doing Damage to Wales, our Nation.

Went out to the newly opened Castle Kitchen at Montgomery this morning (deserving of a separate post). Bought the Telegraph to read reports of yesterday's Royal Opening of the Third National Assembly. There's a report about a police inspector from Surrey who intends to put another officer on the beat in Brighton for the next full moon - and other equally riveting items. But of the Royal Opening - zilch.

Oh, except a dismissive piece in Celia Walden's Spy column about the two AM's who didn't attend because they are republicans. Really big help for Wales that was - I don't think. I've no objection to anyone being a republican - even if I think they are misguided. I don't object to them staying away - or telling their mates. And I've no objection to anyone who believes that Britain would be better off if we ditched our royal family from arguing for what they believe in.

But what these two did was publicise their intention to be absent for the purpose of spoiling and detracting from what was a great day for Wales - and for the creation of a law making Parliament for our nation (and I suppose theirs). They set out to ensure that almost every interview and every report of the event was undermined - and they succeeded to some extent. Leanne Wood and Bethan Jenkins caused damage to our nation and its people yesterday. Thankfully, the damage was limited and it still turned out to be a great day - even if the Telegraph readers have read none of the positives.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Royal Day Out

The 21 gun salute would have put the wind up the rabbits that are causing havoc in our garden, thought I, as all of us stood to attention. The Queen looked absolutely stunning in turquoise. And Prince Phillip looked incredibly fit and showed great interest in all the mayoral chains that were on display

Today, I have been at the Official Royal Opening of the Third Assembly. It's been a very important day for Wales. Hopefully, a new dawn has broken over our nation. Tomorrow, an Assembly Government will unveil its legislative programme. I would love to have been a part of the procession. But I felt emotionally charged up (in an Owain Glyndwr sort of way) just looking down on proceedings from the Oriel - courtesy of the BBC who were employing me for the day.

The Queen spoke as clearly and eloquently as usual. And Rhodri Morgan was his usual self on such occasions - very good. But Her Majesty must have wondered what he was on about when he started talking about 'moments of turbulence' to come. She only appointed him as her First Minister last week.

After Rhodri's speech everyone is asking how long the Labour 'plane' will fly for, before it hits turbulance. One thing's for sure. Rhodri is not going to make the 'No Confidence' vote easy. Watching 'The Duchess on yesterday's Politics Show was a revelation. She was oozing 'consensualism' from every pore - sweet reasonableness personified. She was obviously under instruction to be nice to everyone - especially Plaid Cymru.

The hats were magnificent. The wearers of the hats were so elegant. Manon was there sporting a little white number with three feathers. Claire Clancy was just super elegant under a gorgeous grey hat with a flower our rabbits would die for. Carmilla, looking fully recovered and stunning, wearing a lovely matching fawn hat with just one feather. And the Qheen was a shining star with her turquoise hat dressed with a delicately pink rose/paeony type of flower. I was captivated.

Just outside the Sennedd there was a fairground with a merry-go-round with 60 little horses going round and round, and up and down - providing lots of entertainment for the little ones who had gathered to watch. The National Assembly gets back to work tomorrow.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Tories New Team

Only just catching up on Nick Bourne's new team in the Assembly - announced today. One or two surprises - which is great for we commentators on the political scene! Lets run through them. Since I'm a Tory myself, I hope you'll forgive me concentrating on the more positive points.

William Graham - Chief Whip, Business Manager and Group Chair. He is going to be very busy. The Business Manager bit of the job is going to be demanding and Bill will have to be quick on his feet. I think the jag will be in the Assembly car park rather more than it used to be. I hope he can cope with the stress and the orchid doesn't start to wilt.

Alun Cairns - Education. Replacing William, and will be totally different in style. Expect some turbulence. He can't be kept down. Wouldn't surprise me if he has something interesting to say about top-up fees. He will be a huge loss from the Economy brief - but needed a change for his own personal development. But will the loss of his 'economy' brief turn his eyes to Westminster? We'll soon find out.

Paul Davies - Culture/Welsh Language/Sport. Will do a first rate job here - but I hope he doesn't stay too long. He's too good to be pigeon-holed because he is a fluent Welsh speaker.

David Melding - Economy. A surprise. I didn't see this one coming. Very much new territory for David, but he is a man of remarkable ability. So he'll do ok. Perhaps he and Brian Gibbons can carry on talking about health if it all gets too much!

Darren Millar - Environment/Planning. Darren is going to be the surprise package. He has taken a lot of c**p because he has strong personal beliefs. But he's strong and is going to make a name for himself. It's not going to be a smooth road, but in 4 years time, he'll be a lead player in the Tory group.

Angela Burns - Finance. This is a tough brief for a newcomer. The budget debates will be a real challenge. I just don't know Angela well enough yet. Need to put that right. So its a case of 'wait and see'.

Jonathon Morgan - Health. He is a top man, but I thought he might want a change. I'd predicted the Economy brief. The highly sensitive debate about where neurosurgery is to go will be a real tester for him. Question we're all asking is about his Westminster ambitions. Soon find out now.

Nick Ramsey - Local Government. Nick is some one that I know , and yet don't know. So it will have to be wait and see. He's had experience as a councilor though and should do ok.

Brynle Williams - Rural Affairs. Who else!

Mark Isherwood - Social Justice. Another who picks himself for the job.

Andrew Davies - Transport. Another surprise for me. I expected his 'countryside' knowledge to be used to play him in to the role of AM. I hope his experience as Westminster candidate for Brecon and Radnor leads to him giving priority to the A470. Another case of 'wait and see'.

What is going to be interesting is how the profile of the Assembly group is going to be effected by the General Election. The Party has realistic ambitions in at least 10 seats - and will inevitable want to give a much higher profile to our Westminster candidates. I have never known Welsh politics to be so fluid.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Unintended Consequences

So the Government is going to ban private golf clubs from placing any restrictions on female players (today's Sunday Telegraph). I have to say that these limits on when female golfers can play and where in the clubhouse they can go have always seemed very 19th century to me. I just can't understand what drives men to want a female free environment. My only concern about this new law is the unintended consequences. Such as - for example.

It was a steamy hot day. The exhausted fourball had staggered onto the 18th green, which was located just under the clubhouse terrace, where some rather refined ladies were taking tea in bone china cups, relaxing after an earlier round. The fourball were a bit on the yobbish side - but when one of them missed a two footer to lose the match, he exploded into stream of profanity which made the china tea cups rattle. The rather refined ladies, not unreasonably complained to 'The Committee'. A special meeting was called to consider the complaint - and after careful consideration, came to the only logical conclusion. Henceforth, ladies were banned from the terrace.

Since the new rules only apply to mixed clubs, I wonder how many clubs will now ban women members altogether!

Saturday, June 02, 2007


Lawns all freshly mulched. Alsteomerias and kniphofias giving the borders a Jackson Pollock look. Bamboos exploding from the earth with phallic promise. The new grasses border paying out a handsome dividend for last year's careful pre-planting preparations. The garden pool as busy as Morrisons, with two Canada Goose families, a Mallard family and eight little cootlets bombing around.

Two black spots in this idyllic heaven. First, the bloody rabbits are eating the echinaceas. Which makes me wonder what sort of mad person would have stolen a rabbit hutch from outside a pet shop in Welshpool last week (reported in today's Montgomeryshire County Times). Since Smokey died, we have been overrun and they've even started to stretch out on the lawns like sun worshippers on these £5 holidays in Crete that are being advertised. Don't house them - shoot them I say.

And secondly, Hoppity has started to attack the postman. This is Hoppity, the pheasant with a limp - not Hoppity the wife who is making fantastic progress after a prosthetic knee replacement three weeks ago.Hoppity is a 'cock' pheasant - a word I use in defiance of the RSPB. It seems, according to the Mail and the Telegraph that I should be referring to Hoppity as Daddy Pheasant to avoid causing offence. What is going to happen when I post something like "On this cold winter's day, there were a pair of blue tits frolicking outside the window, visiting upon my senses a pleasure that can only be described as sensual". I might easily have posted such a line in all innocence.

All this wonderment is my escape. But there must be something to escape from. My month of quiet reflection, free from political pressures, is almost over - rather the same as if I had been elected last May 3rd! Last weekend I subjected myself to the judgement of the Conservative Party's Parliamentary Assessment Board, where assessors decided whether I'm a suitable person to be placed on the Approved Candidate's List for the next General Election. And if I have managed to surmount this hurdle, I will have to decide whether I tackle the next big hurdle, by throwing my hat into the ring, seeking consideration for selection as Parliamentary Candidate for my beloved Montgomeryshire. And what else should I do to advance the cause of our modern 'Welsh' Conservative Party - and to indulge my passion for the 'countryside'.

Ah well, its back outside to face the aggressive Daddy Pheasant and put some chicken wire around the echinaceas - and mental preparation for a week of decisions coming up.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Opposition teams in Cardiff Bay

So Rhodri Morgan has posted up his team sheet - and we've all had our say. Welsh spin on my blog was best at prediction. Now for the 'shadow' teams. Chance for a bit more fun. Too many new faces for me to predict the full teams - but lets speculate.

Health needs some new faces. Jonathon Morgan (Tory) and Rhodri Glyn Thomas (Plaid) have been terrific in the last Assembly - but this portfolio needs a fresh start. So David Melding (Tory) and Helen Mary Jones (Plaid) it must be. It'll be a love-in with Edwina.

Economy is difficult. It needs people who can actually understand what Brian Gibbons, the new Minister is saying. Top man here is Alun Cairns, but if he is going to be the star I expect him to be, he needs a change. But I come from the 'Its the economy stupid' school of thought - so this portfolio needs the best. So I'll go with Jonathon Morgan and Alun Ffred Jones (Plaid).

Education, Language and Culture. I'd go with Alun Cairns and Rhodri Glyn. What a contest it would be between three top performers.

Sustainability and Rural. Has to be the 'Rainbow Coalition' that performed with such distinction before the election. Brynle Williams (Tory), Elin Jones (Plaid) and Mick Bates (Lib Dem). If they carry on working as a team, they should be too strong for the 'Duchess'.

Social Justice and Public Services. Its Mark Isherwood (Tory) and Dai Lloyd (Plaid) for me - as long as Mark promises to stop going on about Flintshire County Council all the time. There's a case for Leanne Wood here - but its pushing it a bit if Ieuan Wyn Jones wants to be First Minister. After all Leanne's Mrs Windsor who makes the appointment these days.

So that leaves William Graham (Tory) and Jocelyn Davies (Plaid) to shadow Jane Hutt at Business and Budget. Discussion will be awfully polite.

Of course, some of the portfolios will be split - and Plaid will do that to bring Janet Ryder into the top team - but I really can't guess where.

I haven't put any of the new Tories in the top team, but perhaps Nick Bourne will want to make use of Nick Ramsey at Local Government, Andrew Davies to support Brynle, Paul Davies at Language and Culture, Angela Burns at Health and Darren Millar to support William Graham.

The Lib Dems are just impossible to predict - so apart from Mick Bates I haven't bothered. Perhaps we should just toss a coin - or put them in a cockpit to fight it out amongst themselves.