Wednesday, August 29, 2007

October 25th - General Election.

I am working on the assumption that Gordon Brown will call a General Election on October 25th. OK, so I don't think he'll have the b**** to go for it - but I'm ready. I've been out and about in Meifod tonight and will be in Llanfair Caereinion tomorrow night. All in preparation for Llanfair Caereinion Show on Saturday. Over the last week, we've done Berriew Show and Llanfechain Show as well. We are going to keep up the pace until 1st October. Only then will I accept that its not going to happen and ease off a bit.

I really think that I'm in with a chance of winning. So many people are disillusioned with the current MP, Lembit Opik that, at times, I almost feel like defending him - almost I said! More and more people are treating me as if I was the MP - coming into the office with all sorts of issues. I'm having a job to cope. Today it was Healthcare Acquired Infections, renal dialysis, cataract treatments, inappropriate planning permissions, and a whole lot else. I have a few 'downs' but things seem to be going incredibly well.

And I've just been watching David Cameron on Newsnight. The BBC have put their best team up to test him - the kitchen sink even. I do find Michael Crick a bit of a pain though. David looks like a Prime Minister. I feel that Brown will not go for October, which is his best chance for victory by a mile, and that Cameron is going to take over as favourite to win by the spring. I'm doing the sort of work I love doing, and I genuinly believe that there is a good chance that I will be able to carry on doing it asa an MP. Over the last few days, I've taken some time out to think about life - my life. And what I want. And what I want is to have the people of Montgomeryshire elect me to represent them. I've tried three times and failed. I fear I would cry in public if I were to succeed. I will have to buy a box of tissues just in case.

Power of Chinooks

A friend of mine is in love with Chinooks. Whenever I see him he talks about them. Where other men have photographs of wives, children and/or lovers in their pockets, John has photographs of Chinooks. He has even persuaded the RAF to land the odd Chinook on his hill - and today was such the occasion for such a visit.

I went along. I've been before. It helps me 'get inside' articles about the theatre of war - Iraq, Afghanistan etc.. The sheer power of a Chinook helicopter is almost unimaginable. The visit happens like this.

First there is a drumming sound, which gets gradually louder. Then the ground starts to shake. And then this great ugly grey beast comes into sight, hugging the ground, hedgehopping, looking for all the world to be moving along on giant rails. The Chinook lands 40 yards in front of us - and the pilot gets out and gives us awestruck onlookers a casual wave. This elephantine beast then rises a few feet into the air and eases off some 100 yards to the West. And then the driver (or whatever) puts his foot on the gas and comes back about 50 feet directly above our heads. The sound is deafening. The sheer power is frightening. I can imagine a Vietcong soldier in the jungle dying of fright. I feel like throwing myself to the ground. Its just a little demonstration but it helps me understand how absolutely bloody hellish war must be. A Chinook is truly awesome - and its an educational aid as well.

Political ups and downs.

Not much blogging of late - so blogfest coming up over next hour. Been too busy campaigning. After all, there might be an election on October 25th. I don't think so, but..... Anyway, had an up and down morning in Welshpool today.

Firstly, as leaving my office, met a lovely lady named Jessie. An old friend, who told me that she'd voted Conservative in the Assembly election in May. Personal vote. I was floored. I had rather assumed that there was as much chance of Jessie voting Conservative as Dracula going vegetarian. She couldn't understand how I had lost my position as an AM of course. Bloody PR. And she's Scottish. No-one Scottish votes Conservative. She laughed when I said that I appreciated the sacrifice that she had made for me. Perhaps I really do have a chance of deposing the Celebtarian.

So, feeling good. I knew it wouldn't last. Called for a coffee at the Blue Cafe (at least that was its name 40 years ago) and caught the eye of a man who looked as if he wanted to engage in conversation. And what he wanted to say was that I was happy to speak to him since I became a politician - but before, I had been too arrogant to speak to him. And that he had every intention of of carrying on voting Liberal Democrat. I was quite upset about it. Call me a murderer, or any other sort of criminal - but don't accuse me of being arrogant.

I only have this trouble in the Llanfair Caereinion area. Problem is that I went to school there - and because I've been in the public eye ever since (YFC, rugby football, Council, Quangos, Assembly) all of my school contemporaries know what I look like. And I still have my hair. I simply don't recognise some of them - because I have not seen them change over the years. So, if you see me walking down the streets of Llanfair Caereinion, smiling inanely and waving at everyone in sight, you will understand that I am afraid some of my old school friends may be walking the streets, disguised in their much changed condition.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The way he tells 'em

I've decided to give fellow-blogger, Peter Black a bit of coverage - in particular a lengthy piece that he has written for Lib Dem Voice, which was published yesterday. I thought I should base it on three quotes (with my explanatory additions in brackets).

How about this one to start things off. "the outcome of these discussions (coalition talks) was that we (the Lib Dems) voted to go into a Rainbow Coalition with Plaid Cymru and the Tories, only to see the nationalists walk away and sign up to a deal with Labour".

Don't you just love the way he tell 'em!

And then we have "It (the One Wales Document) relies shamelessly on gimmicks such as grants for first time homeowners and free laptops for kids".

He must have clean forgot the one about free toothbrushes! Please no comments about light bulbs.

And now for the pure invention. "It is also the case that Tory proposals for tax cuts at a UK level could well lead to less money being available for services in Wales".

Tell that to the Cornerstone Group! There's plenty more as well.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The gods - they walk amongst us.

Mrs D has always had a thing about Welsh rugby playing farmers. Not only was I 'selected' from a range of suitors some 40 years ago - but her current pin ups fall into the same category (now that Henman has joined Pat Cash in retirement). The two who have been catching her eye of late are Mark Jones and Mike Phillips. I should add that her eyesight and judgement may well have improved over the years.

And I had a chat with Mike this week in Cardiff. I was relaxing in the Bay when I passed him having a coffee outside Mimosa - so I wished him luck for today's game, next month's World Cup and the battle for supremacy with Justin Marshall over the season. But if I'm honest, I cannot see what made him leave the Blues to go to the Ospreys. Well perhaps I can guess - but its not the sort of thing to say to a God when he's in relax mode.

That's the great thing about Cardiff. It may be our capit(A)l city, but its still small enough to seem almost 'small town'. Tim and Adrienne are forever texting to say they have 'spotted' someone famous strolling around the Bay. I will not be at all surprised to see Mrs D having a coffee at Mimosa next time we're down in Cardiff..

The Welsh Premier.

Peter Nicholas' Llanelli already look like the team to beat this season after this weekend's 2-1 win at Rhyl. The New Saints are still just about favorites for the title, but after the champion's shock defeat last week, it all looks a lot closer. And perhaps TNS conquerors, Connah's Quay could prove to be a surprise package this year - another good win yesterday over new boys Neath. Bangor City can never be ruled out either and will have been encouraged by a win at Haverfordwest.

At the other end, Caersws confirmed concerns about their survival post Mickey Evans by losing at home to Airbus, and remaining pointless - as do struggling promoted Llangefni who lost again. The men from Ynys Mon are finding the big league a bit tough as they went down to Carmarthen at home. Yesterday's biggest disappointment for me was Newtown's 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Port Talbot. I hope that Newtown are not going to be in a relegation dogfight again this season.

"Cameron scoring and delivering victory for the Blues" was my favourite headline today, and every other Tory candidate's dream come true - but dream it was. Unfortunately, it was ex-Cardiff man, Cameron Jerome scoring twice for Birmingham City to deliver victory over Derby County yesterday! The dream, and headline, was no more than a little premature. We will have to wait a couple of months.

As far as the Football League is concerned, it was good to see Steve Morgan's Wolves win again - should put the BBC's Ashok Ahir in a good mood. And I reckon every neutral in the land will be hoping that Spurs beat Man Utd this afternoon. Not only will it stop the obscene undermining of Martin Jol - but it would inevitably instigate calls for Alex Ferguson to be pensioned off. I can just see tomorrow's Sun back page now. "Fergie too old - Mark Hughes in secret behind-the-scenes talks with Board." Or even worse - "Board has full confidence in 'grey' Fergie". Farmers will understand that line.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Importance of Horse Whispering

Here I go again. Risking it on my blog by saying what I think - what I genuinely think that is. I know its a risk because we have reached the stage where my innocuous and harmless little posts are being scrutinised for potentially embarrassing material. Its a good job I have Richard Hazlewood, Wales answer to Andy Coulson on hand to warn me about any little incendiaries that might be lurking amongst my random thoughts. I also accept that posting genuinely means the occasional need to backtrack - in the face of evidence. But this time, I have England's finest journalist (excepting Charles Moore and William Rees-Mogg) Boris Johnson making the case for me - in today's Telegraph.

Most of my political colleagues would have known that I wasn't the greatest enthusiast (I put in no higher because of the aversion to risk that is affecting me today) for my Party's opposition to top-up fees in Wales. All I will say is that I never advocated this policy in public myself. Sometimes I admitted that my personal view was different from the party's, if I was asked a direct question. But this isn't the point that I want to make today. The relevant aspect behind this post is that the 'No top-up fees' policy was, and is, financially credible only if the Government's targets for the inexorable rise in the percentage of young people taking degrees is reversed.

This was always rather an easy and populist argument to make. Only requirement was to rubbish 'media studies' for a guaranteed round of applause. This last week, there has been much entertainment about a degree course in 'whispering to horses'. Now you can't get much dafter than that. Except that you can. I don't know what the course in 'Equine Management' entails - but I do know that caring for horses is going to be every bit as important as caring for dogs, or cows, or cats - and no-one would employ a vet who did not have a degree. And media studies looks a very useful degree, bearing in mind the massive growth in communication that is happening across the world. This degree will be in more demand that a lot of much more respected degrees that lead only into academia. Nothing wrong with that of course. Everything as the market dictates.

What we have with top-up fees is 'the market' being used to direct students into financially rewarding careers. If they are paying for their university teaching, they are going to think about what they are going to do in the world of work later on. They will want something real for their money. And as Boris writes, every time someone makes a crack about a Mickey Mouse degree, they should be reminded that Disney has revenues on 33 billion dollars a year. So lets hear it for the horse whisperers.

Carry on Oldies

I hope my 4 kids have not read today's newspapers. And the same goes for every other young person with a parent approaching or at pension age. They would be utterly disgusted. The papers are full of 'stuff' about pensioners having sex. When I was young, I assumed sex was something that one retired from around fifty-ish. Older than that and it didn't seem at all 'nice'. Well, things have changed - and not just for the 90 year old Indian farmer I posted about yesterday.

Its on the front page of the Telegraph - and the whole of page 7 in the Mail. I dread to think what the Daily Sport did with this story. These are the facts, according to Dr Richard Susman of the National Institute of Ageing in Chicargo. 73% of the 57 to 64 year olds were still at it - as were 53% of the 65 to 74 year olds. And wait for it - 26% of the 75 to 85s were in there too. And it gets worse. In the US, warnings are going out to these silver threads about sexually transmitted diseases. Until today, all this post retirement activity had been a closely guarded secret. Now everyone knows. Edward and Karen are coming home tomorrow. I won't be able to look them in the eye. Oh, and johnny foreigner, this post should have a flag on it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Indian Summer

Nanu Ram Jogi is clearly what we country types think of as a bit of a lad. I suspect he would be called 'Ram' for short if he lived in the rural Wales. Today's Telegraph records the achievements of this testosterone charged Indian farmer. He has just sired his 21st child at the age of 90. And he has attributed his remarkable powers of virility to a dose of camel's milk every day - and 'plenty of meat'. He also makes much of his 'lustrous' moustache.

And Nanu Ram Jogi has no intention of stopping here. He intends to carry on siring children until he reaches his 100th birthday. I did twice grow a beard when I was a young man, and did not notice any significant difference in virility. Perhaps I should try growing a 'lustrous' moustache and start drinking camel's milk.

Kyffin's Kindness.

I've learned from today's BBC Internet news service that Sir Kyffin Williams has left £50,000 to the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales. I have recently taken over as President of the CPRW, and greatly appreciate Sir Kyffin's generosity. It is very good news for us. When a man with Sir Kyffin's love of rural Wales entrusts a significant part of his legacy to us, it puts a great responsibility on us to ensure that the money is used to good effect.

Mrs D was a fan of Sir Kyffin's work - and felt some affinity with him as a result of an unusual meeting. It was one of my best surprises. I told her one morning that we were going for a drive, to meet someone she admired. We drove to the small property under the Brittania Bridge that he rented, and walked up to his front door (protected by sandbags) and knocked. Mrs D was floored when Sir Kyffin opened the door. ( I had telephoned him to fix it). She recognised him immediately - even though he had only recently emerged from one of his bouts of depression.

It was a wonderful visit. We sat down and enjoyed tea and conversation. He was at his best, laying into contemporary painters as 'con artists' who couldn't even draw. He really enjoyed being a reactionary. He then led us up to his studio in his garden, where he showed us his recent paintings, in the raw - before framing etc.. We were stunned by the casual way he was tossing works of art, that we would love to own, around his cold and draughty studio, as if they were cheap and cheerful Ikea prints. Mrs D puts up with a lot - but I stored up a few 'brownie points' that day.

Into the Fire

I could be heading into a hornet's nest next week. On Tuesday, I have arranged to meet Mr Tom Taylor, normally the most mild mannered of men. But I think I can see smoke rising over Shrewsbury - and it could well be pouring from Tom Taylor's nostrils as it might from those of an outraged dragon.

Tom is the Chief Executive of the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust - which includes responsibility for the Princess Royal. Its only today that I have caught up with the news that the Princess Royal at Telford is one of the 29 hospitals that David Cameron has announced are on a closure list. It seems that Tom is unhappy about this and has asked for a correction. An apology was duly issued. But it now seems that the retraction (and apology) has itself been retracted. I am looking forward to discussing the background to all this with him next week.

I look on Tom Taylor as a personal friend - and greatly admire the way he has turned the Trust around, from a basket case into a secure financial position. But I suspect I could bear the brunt of his displeasure on Tuesday.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

William John Biffen, 1930-2007

Today, I ventured a few yards over Offa's Dyke from my beloved Montgomeryshire into the village of Llanyblodwel. Lord Biffen of Tanat died last week, and today many of us who knew him joined his family for his funeral at Llanyblodwel Church. Owen Paterson MP, read a personal tribute. It was a very respectful service for a man who was widely respected by everyone who knew him.

John was complex politician. He was strongly Euro-sceptic, a strict monetarist and a huge supporter of Enoch Powell. But I would never have thought of him as 'right-wing'. In many ways, he was not as other politicians. He was invariably ultra-courteous to everyone. He was the antithesis of 'spin'. He would be horrified at the thought of 'working a room'. I remember him coming to help me canvass in Llanfyllin in 1997. He had no interest in 'pressing the flesh'. After he had spent the first 40 minutes explaining some financial point in great detail to the first person I introduced him to, I lost him. Eventually, I found him in a queue in the local supermarket buying some milk. I decided that the only answer was to retire to the local cafe for a coffee. I can still see him now, chatting to everyone who I could persuade to sit down at our table. No side at all. I thought that he was a really top man.

First time I met him, he was Leader of the House, and I was leading a deputation from Councils and the British Waterways Board seeking a debate relating to the Montgomery Canal. When I'd finished my spiel, I asked him if he could do anything to help force through a debate. He just looked me in the eye and said "Glyn, I am not without influence in this area". It was typical understatement. After that, I met him on occasions through a mutual friend, Peter Starbuck and we sometimes travelled to international rugby matches in Cardiff together.

John was a social liberal. He was not narrow minded or particularly partisan in his views. He was most anxious that today's service should end with the singing of The Internationale. I do not know whether it is possible for a deceased person to laugh - but I like to think that it was one last personal joke on his part - and that he chuckled silently to himself as he listened to the congregation doing their best to sing the impossible. It was a lovely service, which ended up with one of the funniest renditions of music that I have ever heard. He was a good man, and wonderful company.

Not fit to lead

So Kevin Rudd is a man of straw. The squeaky clean, church going, self proclaimed family man who plans to replace John Howard as Prime Minister of Australia has been caught out touring the strip clubs of New York. From reading reports of Rudd's nocturnal activities, it became obvious that he is unfit for high office. He is reported as saying that he did not have "a completely clear recollection of whether there were semi-naked women in the club or what they were doing". Well, in my opinion, any man with that sort of defective eyesight is simply too different from the stereotype Australian male, who defies 20 foot crocodiles and eats snakes for breakfast, to lead such a great nation.

Mind you, his self confessed 'failings' will probably help him become elected. We've all read of the response of his political opponents when an aged LordPalmeston was discovered to be enjoying the ministrations of a 'second' mistress. There was a determination not to allow the rumour to spread, because it would have ensured that the old dog would have 'swept the country'.

This reminds me of an occasion when I was in the company of a Liberal Democrat MP/friend some years ago. I'd met him in the Charing Cross area, walking out of the station in a state of absolute despair. "What is the trouble dear friend" said I. "Disaster" was the sad reply. "We are going to be annihilated in the polls and the forthcoming election". After much shaking of the head he added "Paddy has been caught - having an affair, and tomorrow's newspapers are going to expose it (so to speak, much as Paddy had clearly done)" I smiled, and patted my friend on the arm in a reassuring way, and said, "Well, he's so bloody insufferably pompous and self satisfied, that his poll ratings will probably rise when the nation discovers that he's been having a bit on the side - not that I approve of course." And so it came to pass. The following morning's headline in The Sun was "Its Paddy Pantsdown". The nation howled with laughter, and the Lib Dems poll ratings went up 2%. But then Paddy was renowned for his excellent eyesight. No way he wouldn't have recognised a semi naked woman if there was one gyrating around a pole in front of hi eyes. Rudd has got a lot to learn.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Trouble with Independence

Funny how a seemingly innocuous and oft-repeated remark can suddenly take on a life of its own. Oddly, the background to this observation is my opposition to the idea of 'Independence' for Wales. As usual, the potentially troublesome comment was posted on this blog, which is subject to 'trawlers' looking for opportunities to embarrass me. And as usual, the journalist who picks up on these things with the precision of a sniffer dog on a Semtex trail is Martin Shipton. He's been on the phone today, and I'm feeling a bit tense about how what I might have said will read in tomorrow's Western Mail.

What I posted was that I saw no reason why Wales would not flourish as an 'independent' nation. And that is what I do think. There are several reasons why we should oppose 'Independence', but that Wales could not survive as an independent nation is not one of them. In fact, I regard it as insulting to the Welsh nation to assert that she couldn't survive. Wales would not be the same country if it was not a part of Great Britain - but there is no reason why she should not flourish, both economically and politically. The government of this independent nation would certainly have less money to spend without the City of London tax base - and it would probably have to opt out of the international obligations that a British government accepts. I suppose that the reality would be that Wales success would depend on how well she would be governed.

However, I do think the idea of 'Independence' for Wales is a thoroughly bad idea. At a time when the world is becoming more interdependent, it seems illogical in the extreme to create an international boundary between us and our nearest neighbour along Offa's Dyke. It is downright stupid to turn our backs on services that can more sensibly and conveniently be provided over the English border just to provide the service within Wales. The decision by the current Assembly Government to require patients from North Wales to access neurological services 200 miles away in Cardiff or Swansea gives an idea of what would happen. And where I live in Mid Wales, the area has more affinity with the West Midlands from an economic perspective than with a Cardiff dominated South Wales.

I do not believe that many people support the idea of Welsh 'Independence'. I don't - and I would not favour putting forwards the option in a referendum on future governance arrangements for Wales. It is just not a sensible idea. It is crucial that opposition to the idea is based on sound argument, not on assertions that belittle the Welsh people. As we have seen in Scotland, the people might just become offended - and bloody minded. I'm told that Martin has written 600 words for tomorrow. I may have to leave the country.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Welsh Premier.

This blog is going to cover the Welsh Premier League this season. I've lost my AM advertising hoardings on the pitches of my 4 local clubs - so I hope to do my bit to promote more interest through my blog. This weekend was the big kick-off - and it started Friday night with what may turn out to be the shock of the season. Absolutely no-one would have expected The New Saints to lose to Newi Cefn Druids - but they did 1-0. This is the equivalent of Derby stuffing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Rhyl, with victory over Carmarthen and Llanelli, with an impressive 3-0 win over my local club Welshpool will now be fancying their chances of lowering the TNS banner this season.

Newtown made a promising start, holding strong Bangor City at Latham Park. Newtown new boy, Marc Lloyd- Williams scored both Newtown goals. He has scored goals wherever he's played and should keep Newtown out of relegation trouble. I was sorry that one of the relegation favorites, Caersws lost narrowly at home. They played well by all accounts. I've always had a soft spot for the village team and I hope they can survive post Micky Evans.

Mixed fortunes for the League new boys, Neath being impressive in defeating Porthmadog on their own ground. Not such a good start for Llangefni though - going down at home to Connahs Quay. I'm hoping to get to see a few games this season.

Sunday Lunch with Friends

Started on the champagne at 12.30 today. 10 old friends out for a long and lazy lunch in the village. Big Mike (Evans) was there - which inevitable led to rugby reminiscences. Funny how we always talk about the violence - and ignore all those stunning match-winning tries I scored. He was telling me that he'd had an operation on his elbow a few weeks back, and found the remnants of a tooth. Not sure what this tells us about the way Mike played the game - but it did make me wonder about the bit of bother I'm having with my elbow. Could it be something similar. I was a bit prone to use my elbow as an offensive weapon when I played. Or maybe someone bit me. It would be a lot more interesting than the plain old arthritis which it probably is.

It was a big mistake to mention the redundancy payment which I received when I lost my position in the Assembly. All my friends have a healthy disrespect for politicians, and there was so much outrage about my 'good fortune' that everyone seemed to forget that I didn't actually want to be made redundant. Our brilliant hostess, Sheila tried to change the subject by drawing every one's attention to the sun which had started to shine on us in the Caebychan conservatory. It worked - but not until Frank had muttered something about the sun shining more on some than others. Hugh was just making a funny sort of gurgling noise and chanting quietly to himself "I read Simon Heffer and I'm British". Good job I'd been sneeringly described as a Tory right-winger earlier in the week. Probably saved my bacon today.

Everyone was keen on what George Osborne was writing in today's Telegraph about scrapping Inheritance Tax on personal residences. This policy idea is a real winner - and it will still be seen as 'ours' even if Gordon Brown nicks it. I really think that the British people (I hope Hugh reads this) have realised that our current Prime Minister is responsible for over-taxing us - and they are ready to talk tax for the first time since the 1980s. I'm really getting the hang of this right wing stuff.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

How to kill a community

Been to Carno Show today. Continuation of my election strategy of making myself available to the people of Montgomeryshire. We leafleted every house in Carno last night to say I would be there today. I'm lucky that I really enjoy this sort of thing.

Paid off too. The commentator on the terrier racing, which could easily become my favourite sport, gave me a good plug when every single person was listening attentively. And Rid and Menna's Basset won a prize in the dog show. I felt quite proud. Fame through association. I've never seen a dog that I know winning a prize before. And my Uncle Cliff had come over from Pontrobert to win a dahlia cup - even if a vase of giant decs of the variety Sir Alf Ramsey was the best vase in Show.

But there was not a great turn-out - mainly because all the stock classes and the sheepdog trials had been cancelled as a precaution against the spread of foot and mouth disease. At least Carno Show didn't suffer the fate which has befallen several other shows this year - cancellation. There was a stand there promoting the cause of reopening the local Carno Railway Station, which was closed by Dr Beeching in the 1960s. What is really interesting here is that on 3rd Sept, the National Assembly is holding a special meeting locally to look at the idea, while the relevant Assembly Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones is widely thought to have already dismissed it. I will go to this meeting to observe what is a novel approach to democracy. It could be interesting.

Also visited the local school which was open for visitors and adjacent to the Show field. The School is earmarked for closure by Powys County Council. A real concern if this happens is the loss of a Welsh medium school in an area where many of the parents are non-Welsh speaking. In theory, the children could all transfer to the Welsh medium school at nearby Llanbrynmair - but the reality is that many will transfer to the non Welsh medium school at Caersws. The closure will be a blow to the Welsh Language as well as to the village itself. Today, I had a close look at how the communities of Mid Wales are being undermined. Makes me all the more keen to become the area's MP.

The Wagon and Horses

Haven't posted about a favourite restaurant for a while. So, I'm putting that right tonight. The Wagon and Horses in Newtown is unpretentious and outstandingly good. From outside, the Wagon looks like a typical 'local' pub, and indeed it is. And a first glance inside suggests that its no more than that - even if it has a real buzz about it. Its a great bar, even if you don't want to eat.

But the Wagon really comes into its own when you venture down the corridor to the restaurant at the back. The quality of the fare is terrific. We've been there 3 or 4 times over the last few weeks - and recommend it unreservedly. The lamb and chicken dishes last night were as good as anywhere we've eaten - as was the fish last time we were there. And the Sanserre was a reasonable £17 00 a bottle. But for the blandness of the location compared with the interest of the harbour at Aberaeron, I'd put the Wagon on a par with the Harbourmaster. Its safer to book early at the weekend. We're not the only ones to have noticed this gem of a restaurant in the heart of Montgomeryshire.

A Right-Winger - Moi?

Grateful thanks go to Welsh Conservative's Andy Coulson equivalent, Richard Hazlewood for sending me a copy of a press release which had emanated from the bowels of the office of Mark Tami MP. (Note deliberate use of the word 'bowels' - which gives a clue about my view of the emanated material). Mr Tami describes me as a right-winger. I shouldn't carp though, because this is rather good news for me - and I must ask him if I can use his quotes in my election literature. I have been described as a 'closet nationalist', and as a Melders-like 'pinko' - which has caused eyebrows to be raised amongst some of my more Conservative friends. It really is rather helpful to be contemptuously branded as a right-winger. And its all because of a post on my blog. Useful things, these blogs.

I'm supportive of many of the ideas contained in this weeks Redwood/Wolfson Report on economic competitiveness, which is now to be considered by the Party. I am particularly keen on the proposal that Inheritance Tax should be abolished. I'm also keen to see business taxes reduced. This is what seems to have led to the right-wing label. It all seems straightforward Conservative thinking to me.

I was basking in this new and novel blueish glow, intent on copying the evidence to my genuinely right wing friends (hoping that they would look more favourably upon me) when I visited the blog of Welsh Ramblings. Oh, No. All Mark Tami's work undone. It seems that my opinion (again expressed on my blog) that an 'Independent' Wales could be a successful nation (economically and culturally anyway) is groundbreaking for what WR terms a 'leading Tory'. Never mind that I am not in favour of an 'Independent' Wales (whatever that means). But I do think an 'Independent' Wales would almost certainly opt out of what I think of as our international obligations, and would probably give up on defence spending altogether. Thankfully, polling always puts the support for 'Independence' at about 15% of the electorate. Dangerous things, these blogs.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Talking about Tax.

I very strongly believe that taxation is too high. The 'State' takes too much of our money, and has become so dominant that the private sector is being undermined. Amongst other things, public services are failing the people and the housing market and pensions sector have been destroyed by Government interference. I know that this sort of talk is usually dismissed as 'swivel-eyed right wingery'. Problem is that I believe it. Its probably the main reason that I'm a Conservative. I also know that if the National Assembly for Wales had the power to raise tax and increase the role of the Government machine, it probably would, and there would be little chance of the coalition between Plaid Cymru and my party which I so want to see. But there is no prospect of such power being devolved - so the dream is still on!

Well tomorrow, the Conservatives will be talking about tax. We will be talking about abolishing the iniquitous Inheritance Tax - replacing it with a form of Capital Gains Tax, and exempting the family home altogether. Now, that's more like it - even if I must add that our Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne is not committed to this recomendation. And there will be talk of reducing Stamp Duty - on share dealing to begin with, and on homes as well, eventually. Great stuff. And there will be talk of cutting business taxes, which is one area where Plaid Cymru agree with us - or at least they did at the Assembly Election last May.

You will note that I have not referred to the name of the author of the report that makes all these recommendations - except that I do want to point out that the BBC has had to apologise for the prejudiced and thoroughly disgraceful way it has treated this politician over the last few days. Regrettably, whenever I mention the name, a strange mist envelopes the Welsh blogosphere, which scrambles rational debate. I must add that I do not think this anti-Tory bias has infected the BBC in Wales. Newsnight was much more fair tonight. Let the tax debate begin.

Male Sex Appeal

I've often mused about what it is that makes Brynle Williams, Alun Cairns and certain others so damned attractive to women. What is the secret behind their 'pulling power'? Yesterday's Telegraph may offer us an explanation. Its all to do with the dimensions of their faces. It seems that some men have evolved short faces between the upper lip and the brow, which makes the jaw appear larger, the cheeks more flared and the eyebrows more pronounced - all of which makes them appear more 'manly'.

This information follows research by Dr Eleanor Watson, a paleontologist from the Natural History Museum. She is quoted as saying "As the male face becomes shorter and broader, the canine teeth have shrunk so that men look less threatening, and more attractive to mates". So there you have it lads. Before you set forth to find a mate, model yourself on Brynle and file down your canines. Let me know if this strategy yields dividends.

Here and There

Been away from my blog for a few days (sorting out Tim and Adrienne's garden amongst other things) and tonight have been catching up on back copies of the Telegraph. I've taken to reading obituaries recently, which are often very well written. Tuesday's copy recorded the death of the Pembrokeshire historian, Dillwyn Miles. Two snippets caught my eye.

Firstly, the way that Miles wife informed her mother that she was to wed Dillwyn. She sent her a telegram reading "Have indigestion;taking Dill".

And secondly, the obituary reports that when Miles was posted to serve in Tehran during the war, one of his jobs was checking the mail, sent and received by soldiers. One soldier had written home to inform his wife that he wanted a divorce in order to marry a beautiful Arab maiden. His wife responded with an indignant cable "What has she got that I haven't?" Back came the reply "Nothing, but she's got it here." I wonder what happened when the war was over.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The price of mam's greed.

I enjoy reading articles by people that I know (even if only slightly) - which is why I read the article in today's Telegraph written by David Hughes, who used to be editor of the Western Mail. Interestingly, the article was placed directly under a comment piece by John Redwood, who is all over the place this week. Both were discussing the failure of 'government' to deliver the needs of the nation with the necessary degree of vision.

They are both right about this of course. And the reason is the modern day suffocation of private enterprise and innovation by the deadening hand of state sponsored bureaucracy and regulation. David writes about the great engineers of the Victorian age. Well, the great engineers of the past, who built railways, canals, dams, castles, docks and our great landscaped gardens would never have made it past the planners and other statutory hurdles today. And there's me - deeply sceptical about the whole idea of the Severn Barrage. Which brings me to the only really daft line in David's article.

"Environmentalists are torn, not for the first time. They like the clean energy, but they rail against the ecological impact. They are particularly anxious about the fate of sea birds. The same concerns were raised when the Barrage was being built across Cardiff Bay. Surprise, surprise, the birds did not roll over and die - they moved on. I suspect the birds in the Estuary might show themselves to be equally adept at self-preservation."

Yes, it is possible to compensate by creating another habitat some where else - but it will be for other species of bird. This is what happened in Cardiff Bay. Neville Waters farm, many miles away, was flooded as compensation for the loss of mudflats - but for different species of bird. Sometimes the natural world is required to make the ultimate sacrifice to accommodate human desire to live more comfortably, in our increasingly unsustainable numbers. That is why the Telegraph is also reporting today on the extinction of bird species across the world. Lets not try to pretend that this human selfishness is a cost free option to the natural world.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Crunchtime for the Tories

Really big week coming up for Cameron's Conservative Party. On Friday John Redwood publishes his economic competitiveness policy review. It will be the basis for major debate in the Party. We always knew that this particular policy review would be based on clear, precise and powerful logic- being the way Redwood thinks. Its a debate about fundamental philosophy and about what we stand for. We also knew it would inevitably lead to mindless, knee jerk accusations that the Tories are 'tacking to the Right'. It seems that the BBC have started already and are lining up Labour spokespersons to run 'the Government rebuttal' even before the report is published. In fact, the BBC will probably give Labour criticism of the report more prominence that the report itself.

I'm looking forward to reading Redwood's conclusions - and I expect to agree with them. Leaks seem to be suggesting that the proposed scrapping of regulations on business will lead to savings of £14 billion per year by the end of one full term of Conservative government. The £14 billions is described as "a tax cut in all but name". This sounds pretty good stuff to me. But its no wonder the BBC are trying to undermine it, because Redwood is reported to be going after the licence fee, which he is reported to describe as a "poll tax". Not the best way to get the Beeb on side I'd have thought!

This is the area of policy that has always established me in my own mind as a Tory. I believe that, generally, the private sector usually does it better - and the State's role, where possible should be facilitate and regulate. It follows that, in principle, I support lower taxation and a smaller state. For example at the recent Assembly election, I was much taken by the Plaid proposals to cut business taxes - even if the Assembly didn't have the power to cut them! After 10 years of Labour, the State has become suffocatingly dominant, and taxation is too high. This week, this issue is going to dominate my party's thinking. I hope it will become an election issue if the Prime Minister goes for an early General Election. It is difficult territory for us - but I'm looking forward to walking on it.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Llanfyllin Show.

Started my campaign in earnest today - at Llanfyllin Show. We had delivered 'introduction leaflets' around the town during the week, and I was there from 2.00 til 6.00. Turned out to be a really good day. Partly because of support from lots of show goers. Perhaps, we should have a small marquee next year. Only Ukip had a presence there today. I called in to see my good friend David Rowlands, and signed his petition calling for a referendum on the new European Union Constitution, which Gordon Brown is trying to slip through by pretending it is something else. Pity they work so hard in the cause of Lib Dems.

I was also a bit lucky to get a TV interview out of it. Telescope were there filming an edition of Fermio. Alun Elydir was on his usual form. I was speaking more as President of the CPRW than as Tory candidate. You take it where you can get it. But it was a good day because I enjoyed the day so much. The terrier racing was the highlight. So totally anarchic, that I haven't enjoyed a 'stunt race' so much since the camel race at Llanfair Caereinion Show a few years ago. I've seen camels going like racehorses on the sand of the Sahara on the TV - but after a huge build up, the favourite ran 50 yds and decided to lie down - and the others stopped to see what was going on. Jockey got off and kicked the camel up the backside, but made no difference. The race was abandoned but the crowd laughed all the way home.

Still the start to my campaign has gone so well that I drove home imagining myself standing up making a maiden speech talking about 'my people'. Hope my confidence isn't as misplaced as the jockey on the favoured camel.

Great Start for 'Black Cats'.

The Premiership is back. And the first game produced a great win for Sunderland. Cardiff fans must have felt a touch rueful watching Michael Chopra slotting in the winner with real style, especially since Wales top team went down 1-0 at home to Stoke later in the day. Big disappointment for Spurs though, and not good enough if they are going to challenge top four. Not many pundits are predicting Sunderland for relegation - more because of the manager than the team. The Black Cats won't be far off going down next May in my view - but won't, just. Chelsea and Man Utd to win tomorrow with Arsenal playing well for a draw.

So who is going to go down. Like everyone else I fancy Derby for the drop - together with Birmingham and Wigan. Fulham, Reading and Bolton won't be far away either. At the other end, I'm tipping Chelsea. They won't score as many goals as Man Utd but will win enough 1-0s away from home to take the title. Question is will Liverpool produce the goods this year. Third place is my tip. Arsenal will do well to stay ahead of the rest. Man City looked good today and will start well - only to slip back after Xmas.

Wolves are going to be my Championship team to follow, simply because Steve Morgan has taken over as the Club's benefactor - and Ashok supports them. So disappointed that two late goals snatched victory for Watford. Never mind - Steve Morgan is a winner. I still fancy the Wolves for promotion. At least my local team, Shrewsbury are top of League Two after 4-0 win at Lincoln.

The Sheer Pleasure of Power.

Have you ever seen anyone enjoy power as much as Rhodri Glyn Thomas, the Assembly Government's new Minister of Fun. I went to the Eisteddfod yesterday, and was struck by this rising star's of the Welsh firmament's capacity to strut. And it was not the strut of arrogance that so often inflicts those who reach the higher reaches of the greasy pole. It was the strut of pleasure - almost hedonistic in its intensity. Sheer undiluted pleasure. There is something about watching a man realising that he has landed on his feet and then milking his luck for all he's worth. It creates 'sunshine' all around. I wanted to shake his hand and wish him well. And I wanted him to be a success, and smiled inwardly and outwardly as he strutted off, exuding bonhomie like an old 'Puffing Jenny' exuding steam.

And the other Plaid Ministers were there too. Elin Jones, who is such a big friend of mine that I can do no other than wish her well too. Mind you, she was a touch crousty with me yesterday about something I'd said on a previous post. Better leave it there. And then there was Ieuan himself, who needs to learn the art of strutting. I don't think he should walk around with Alan Morris as his sidekick - simply because Alan is about a foot taller than him. Not a good look. No Labour Ministers in sight though. It seems that they had even abandoned having a presence on the Maes - because they were afraid of it being abused by a few activists. Retreat into their S. Wales bunker at the first whiff of cordite. What a load of pathetic wimps.

With all these sweet words about Plaid Ministers, you might think that I will find it difficult to fight a general election campaign against the self-styled Party of Wales. Maybe. All I will say is that when I played rugby around the West Midlands, I was always at my most aggressive when playing against my friends. The more ferocious the fight, the more I enjoyed the pint that followed. Same principle applies. But I have to admit that the sight of the Carmarthen charmer patrolling the Maes yesterday, mixing politics and pleasure as only he can, might mean that I will not be quite as aggressive as I might have been.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

When Thieves Fall Out.......

Big row developing tonight between the two Foot and Mouth Disease leak suspects at Pirbright. The whole of Government wants the responsibility to be placed on Merial, the private sector research centre and vaccine manufacturer. It is desperate that the Government owned Institute of Animal Health is cleared by the Health and Safety Executive. Tonight, the IAH has gone public, pointing a noisy finger at Merial. I fully expect Merial to return fire with fire tomorrow. This is serious. Big money and bigger reputations at stake.

Tit bits of information are being leaked which are designed to lead public opinion into finding Merial guilty. A million times more virus being in play at Merial during the relevant time. A bit of the Merial site is in an area of flood risk. The IAH being allowed to carry on working - while more investigation going on at Merial. Now, I just want to know how the virus was leaked. We need the truth - real not convenient. We don't want a scapegoat that suits the Government. We must judge this one on the evidence - and not on what best suits Gordon Brown. Read the small print of any reports.

What is the Eisteddfod?

Johnny Foreigner called me a hypocrite today. Cut me to the quick. All I'd said was that I was going to the Eisteddfod tomorrow - and that I was going to present myself as a Conservative, as President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales and to appear on a platform arranged by the Institute of Politics, Aberystwyth. No mention of culture at all. At least I'm not going for a p*** up. It seems that I should have been going to enjoy the singing, dancing and reciting. Johnny and I fundamentally disagree about what the Eisteddfod is about.

This seems to me to be a good subject for debate. I accept that the Eisteddfod's basic purpose is to promote the Welsh Language through cultural activities - but I do not think it is the real reason most (or at least many) of us go there. For me it is a networking event. I would enjoy the singing and dancing - if I had time. But I'm there to represent the Conservative Party - on our stand, and through visiting other stands in the company of fellow Parliamentary candidate, Guto Bebb, and Cheryl Gillan, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales. We're going to 'tour' the Maes. And we've got a nice little surprise in store for announcement to the world at 3.00. Stay tuned. I will discuss it tomorrow night.

I'm also there to represent the CPRW which I'm told has an impressive presence on the Maes. In particular, wearing this hat, I hope to visit other stands which share our concern about the price of housing for young people, the future of the Welsh Language and threats to the Welsh landscape.

The most important cultural aspect of the Eisteddfod (and similarly, our Royal Welsh Show and other shows) is our desire to meet and talk to each other. The activities in 'the big tent' are the core of the festival, especially the major competitions - but I see our Eisteddfod as a celebration of all things Welsh. And I daresay that now Johnny foreigner has instigated this post in his name, there will be no stopping him.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Led to defeat by a 'Burger King'

I was greatly honoured to be drafted into the National Assembly's soccer squad for last weekend's sixth annual Parliamentary Shield, held for the first time in London - a tournament sponsored by McDonalds. This year we were led into battle by Labour AM, Alun Davies who set out his stall before the semi-final against the Northern Ireland Assembly team by stuffing his face with a giant beefburger just before kick-off. Not sure that our new coach, Ian Rush approved of this unique form of match preparation. I just said that it was great to be led out by a genuine 'burger king' - and I don't think the sponsors thought much of that quip.

Desperate start. Paul Mewies (Sandie's spouse) dislocated his finger in the knock-up - but bravely soldiered on. We were all over them. Hit the post. Missed a penalty. Hit the post again. Rushie then made a tactical blunder by taking me off when I was just getting into my stride. "Call yourself a coach", I muttered under my breath. So annoyed that I ate a beefburger. He then put me back on again. I was impressed by Alun Cairns, who was much fitter this year. He's primed and ready to run for the Vale of Glamorgan. 0-0 at full-time. Paul Mewies broke his arm trying to save a penalty. Spent the night in Hillingdon General. We lost a game we should have won - an assessment accepted by Pat Jennings, the Irish coach who has become something of a friend of mine. Pat has the most amazing voice, a cross between Henry Kissinger and Richard Burton with an Irish accent. Its a voice to seduce an angel - and a terrific all-round good egg with it.

Lost out to the Scots in the third place play-off. Concede they were a lot better than us. Rushie wanted to come on himself to turn things around.but the Scottish coach, Kenny Dalgliesh banned him. The Westminster team won - they had the new Minister of Sport, Gerry Sutcliffe playing. So a bad day for the celts. And just down the road our boys were annihilated at Twickenham. And Gareth Jenkins made a real idiot of himself by saying that England surprised him by their decision to put victory ahead of a bit of a pre World Cup run-out. What the hell did he expect, I ask myself. No wonder Roger Lewis had to issue a vote of confidence in him today.

Anyway, I enjoyed the Charity Shield game between Man U and Chelsea at Wembley on the Sunday. The Millennium Stadium is good - but I have to admit that Wembley is even better. And Mrs D had a chat with Lee Sharpe which rather made her weekend. Resolved to be fitter for next year in case I have another late call. So I went out walking tonight, delivering leaflets introducing myself to those voters in Montgomeryshire who don't know me. As long as Gordon Brown doesn't call an election before next August, I should be better prepared for the challenge.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Now Wigley asks questions.

There can no longer be any doubt that Plaid Cymru have made a total horlicks of the coalition discussions which led to the creation of the Labour/Plaid Assembly Government. Today, Dafydd Wigley has joined in the condemnation of Ieuan Wyn Jones decision to sign up to an undeliverable programme of government. No other way of putting it. IWJ's failure to take the First Minister role at the head of a 'Rainbow Coalition will haunt him forever - and so it should. He should have told Adam Price and the Gang of 4 to 'grow up' and stop contaminating the Plaid brand with 'socialist' baggage.

Now, I'm sure that Dafydd and Ieuan will try to play things down - but Dafydd's speech at the National Eisteddfod must be a body blow to our grandly titled Deputy First Minister. First of all he tells us that the agreed programme is completely unfundable - in other words, not worth the paper its written on. This is a stunningly serious assessment. He says that 102 of the 217 promises cannot be afforded.

Then Dafydd goes on to describe a referendum on full law making powers for our National Assembly as unwinnable - because of the likely opposition of Labour, the party that Ieuan has sold his soul to. In other words, the key victory that Ieuan claims to have won is worthless. You can't get more rubbishing than that. Within a few months, Ieuan will be under the cosh from many of his own party - and deservedly so. What is he going to be telling his troops when the Tories are more supportive than Labour of Plaid's dreams during the General Election campaign. Could it be that Dafydd Wigley has worked all this out, and is lining up his tanks? A situation to watch in 2008.

FMD Update

Just returned home after 4 days in London to find 25 members of Brooks Gardening Club strolling around the garden. I'd put the visit in my diary for September! Mrs D not happy. But the Yuccas and the hot border were in such pomp that I was not as displeased as I might have been. The hemerocallis, crocosmias and heleniums are 'on fire' at the moment. Today, we had been to the RHS garden at Wisley, which apart from being the most interesting garden I ever visit, is only a mile or so from the Foot and Mouth outbreak in Surrey.

So where are we on the FMD outbreak. First thing to be said is that the politicians have done well so far. Gordon Brown has looked like a Prime Minister, David Cameron has made it clear that he's going to hold Brown to account for his performance, and Elin Jones has cut short her holiday to New Zealand to be around if she's needed. But there's a bit to go on this yet.

Not so much the outbreak itself, which I'm still hopeful will be confined to a small number of farms in one small area of Surrey - although it will be a few days until we can breathe easily in our beds. Its who's to blame - and who will pick up the bill that is most interesting. From the first, it looked a 'strong probability' that the virus had come out of Pirbright, either Merial or the Institute of Animal Health. This looked 'good news' to me because it seemed much more likely to be controllable. But for a Government agency to be responsible for an outbreak of FMD is very shocking and really beggars belief. No-one is going to admit a thing unless they are forced to - and compensation claims are likely to fail on circumstantial evidence. Today's report from the Health and Safety Executive told us nothing we didn't know already. I hope they can do better tomorrow.

But two things have surprised me. Why on earth were footpaths in and around the outbreak area left open until today? - opening the door for the blame to be transferred to the Government if the disease spreads. And why were the carcases taken some 80 miles out of the area for disposal - for the same reason. I know that people don't like seeing funeral pyres - but controlling the virus should be absolute priority. I hope that public relations wasn't taking over from scientific considerations.

I read that there have been some relaxations in Scotland already and that animals can be taken direct to the abattoir. This seems common sense to me, and I hope we can start making similar relaxations in Wales tomorrow - or at least as soon as possible. The last time there was an outbreak of FMD in 2001, I knew there was a disaster pending from Day 1. This time, I've felt less worried - mainly because of the link with Pirbright and that it was found in a dairy herd (now 2) which do not have much stock movement. In Febuary, 2001, FMD took over my life. Today, it did feel odd to be so close to the outbreak, limited to mixing my concern of potential disaster for my industry with appreciation of the wonders of Wisley.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Not FMD again - please

The countryside is holding its breath. We are living in the shadow of death and destruction that is Foot and Mouth Disease. We are all praying that this weekend's outbreak will be confined to the small corner of England where Derrick Pride farms - the small corner which is also home to the animal diseases centres at Pirbright.

Just did an interview for Good Morning Wales on the issue - on the telephone from Kew, which is quite near to the outbreak. In Wales, at present there is a focus on the impact and cost of the restrictions which have been imposed. I accept that this is an issue, but its not the main one. These costs and inconveniences are as nothing compared with what will happen if we have a new case confirmed today in Cumbria, or Devon, or Wales. Because the sheer horror of what happened in 2001 is still so fresh in our minds, we all know that the Government is doing what must be done. In 2001, I lambasted the Government for its incompetence from Day 1. This time, I have no complaints - so far. Clearly, lessons have been learnt since the incredible and shameful bungling that occurred then.

All fingers seem to be pointing in the direction of the Institute of Animal Health and the Merial Research Centre at Pirbright, just a short distance away from Derrick Pride's now silent acres. The coincidences are almost irresistable. As shocking as it would be to discover that Pirbright was the source of the infection, it is now every country lover's hope that it turns out to be so. And that there have been no movements from the farm which might have carried the infection elsewhere.

I have lived through two previous outbreaks of FMD that ran out of control. The first was in 1967, which began about 15 miles from our family farm, and 2001, where every animal on all the farms surrounding Cil Farm, our home, were slaughtered. I will never forget sitting out in the garden hearing rifle shooting and watching plumes of smoke marking the site of every farm between me and the horizon. And I remember the silence that followed - all summer. No cattle or sheep. Just an eerie silence for months on end. I learned a lot about birdsong in 2001. Our problems arose from not having any animals at Cil Farm - which would have been culled. We had all the animals on another farm when the disease struck in the spring, just prior to moving everything out to outlying land. So we had animals where there was not enough grass, and grass going to waste everywhere else. In financial terms, we were badly hit - but I didn't have to suffer the trauma of seeing all our livestock slaughtered. For weeks, I lived with the diseae as all sorts of people telephoned looking for help and advice - and sometimes just to talk. It was a terrible experience.

The countryside is holding its breath and hoping that we are not going to see a repeat.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Iain Dale - Brave Man

I enjoyed Iain Dale's column in today's Telegraph where he advised David Cameron to appoint William Hague as his deputy. Well, I'll go along with that. I hope I'm not posting anything that will cause me grief - but I believe William to be the most outstanding politician of this era. So Iain, I'm with you on this. But hold on a minute. What's this about your old boss, David Davis.

What really struck me about Iain's article was his suggestion that David could play some sort of John Presscott role for David Cameron. I don't care how you dress this up, it seems to me to be a risky thing to say. David Davis does not look like the sort of man to compare to a buffoon. If I was Iain, I would go back to Rwanda for a few weeks - where he might just be safer.

Glyn Davies - The Man

Did an unusual interview today. Jon Gower and Sian Parry Hughes visited the farm to record a half hour programme for Radio Wales which turned out to be intensely personal. Mrs D has already warned me about going on too much about cancer, especially as I want to be viewed as fully recovered rather than as a sufferer - but Sian looked into my eyes and I just had to answer her personal questions. It was the same when she was fronting Good Morning Wales a few years ago. She has always been more 'Vaughan Roderick' then punchy 'Felicity Evans'. Because I adopt a fairly open approach to my politics, I don't really mind this sort of interview - but I don't want to be seen as some sort of freak. I can't be the only obsessive who caught the political bug. Anyway, its going out in a month's time. I'll have to listen because when I go into freewheel speak, I'm apt to say all sorts of things.

Going out to a cocktail party tonight, pre-Guilsfield Show, which has just been cancelled - the show that is. Bloody nuisance. This was supposed to be the start of my election campaign. Will have to delay the start for two days - until the Llanfyllin Show in a week's time. Off to London in the morning to star in the Wales football team. Its McDonald's Parliamentary Shield time again - which has moved from the Millennium Stadium to Wembley this year. Alun Davies, AM has organised our team - and I'm greatly honoured to have been drafted in to give a bit of bite to the defence. I can still kick 'em - when I can catch 'em that is. Geoff Hurst calls me the Norman Hunter of the Welsh side - which makes me so proud. Anyway, my plans are London tomorrow, Charity Shield on Sunday, Kew Gardens on Monday and Wisley on Tuesday - so blogging could become a bit intermittent.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Phil Drabble 1914-2007

Phil Drabble death at the weekend was a coincidence for us in the Berriew area. As the man who put sheepdog trials on the map was dying, the local annual trialing competition was taking place in the next field to our garden. There were 92 dogs this year and the competition lasted until late into the evening.

I never competed in trials myself. Never had enough control over Brock when I was full time sheep farming to put our skills on display. Brock only became fully trained when his arthritis meant he could no longer run - and just sat in the back of my landrover and barked whenever prompted by my tooting the horn. Not sure what Phil Drabble would have thought of that.

Phil Drabbles voice was "soft as country rain, as right for the world of five-bar gates and grass chewing as John Arlott's was for cricket". 'One Man and His Dog' started in 1975 and continued for 17 years, sometimes attracting audiences of over 6 million viewers. I was an occasional viewer, but my father loved the programme. I daresay he was as outraged as I was when S4C dropped 'Garddio' last year. Reading his obituary in today's Telegraph, I realised he was ' a cussed countryman' who would not be told what to do. No wonder I liked him.

Strategy to Win?

Be a damn nuisance if Brown goes for an election on 25th October - but I reckon its no more than a 10/1 shot. Decided on my strategy to tackle the General Election today, and I do not need the PM going to the country until May 2008 at the earliest. Key stratagem is to contact directly every voter in Montgomeryshire over the next 9 months, and repeat as much of the exercise as possible during the campaign. Campaign starts next Wednesday in Guilsfield, followed by presence at local show the next day. And then repeat the exercise on a regular basis throughout the constituency. Sounds ever so easy!

Also decided on some policy issues today - in part as a result of an essay by an old friend of mine, Delwyn Williams in today's Western Mail. Delwyn, who was Tory MP for Montgomeryshire 1979-1983, says that he is going to stand in Montgomeryshire as an 'Independent' - basically on a 'Scrap the Assembly' ticket. There will be no hedging of bets on my part. I can see no future for the Tories in Wales without a positive attitude towards strengthening the Assembly - so I am for law making powers in currently devolved areas. Might not be a vote winner - but its what I believe.

Another clear policy statement will have to be made as a result of the decision by Bruce Lawson to stand for Ukip in Montgomeryshire. Again, Bruce is an OK locally based man, but he too seems to want to undermine my campaign as his main objective. I do describe myself as a Eurosceptic and I do call for a referendum on the EU reform treaty - but I am not for pulling out of the European Union. Its just not serious politics. Its like Plaid Cymru calling for an Independent Wales.

Politics is a funny old business. Two local candidates, whom I would consider to be well to the right of me (in a general sort of way) are committed to ensuring an easy ride for the Liberal Democrats, with whom both fundamentally disagree. But both will liven things up a bit, even if they will make my task that much more difficult. At least the campaign should be enjoyable - Delwyn is a likable character. But I do need a minimum of 9 months before it starts.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Just not Cricket.

Who would have believed that the humble jelly bean would become the subject of an international incident. But it has. An England close fielder, widely thought to be Alastair Cook has been depositing jelly beans by the stumps when Zaheer Khan was about to bat. In fact, Cook has denied that it was he, claiming to be a fruit pastille man, so suspicion falls on Kevin Pieterson, who has form on this sort of thing. I've known Rugby players who drank bovine blood from the local abattoir before a game and tennis players who feed bananas in like starving baboons - but jelly beans! Its supposed to be a man's game.

It seems that Zaheer has a bit of trouble with his weight and something of a sweet tooth. It was thought that this might rattle him. Well it sure did. It rattled him so much that he took 9 wickets and was declared man of the match. If I was Dravid, the Indian captain, I would make sure that a few Jelly beans were slipped into the pocket of any batsman going out to bat with Zaheer in the next match - with orders to surreptitiously place them on the wicket when drinks are taken, and blame the England fielders. And then stand back and watch the beamers, the shoulder charging, and Zaheer bowling like a mad bull. When I'm old and in a nursing home, I'll be asking "Where were you during the great jelly bean series".

So who wants to be Mayor of London.

Since I thought that I might be interested in standing at the next General Election, I have suspended any comment on the activities of Montgomeryshire's current MP. But I cannot let pass today's utterly ridiculous story about him running for London Mayor. I couldn't believe it when journalists started telephoning me to comment on this 'hot' news. I didn't say anything to the media, because I didn't want to be quoted in tomorrow's papers, seeming churlish - but I didn't believe a word of it. I can say what I like on my blog.

My immediate instinct was that Lembit had started the rumour himself - simply so that he could then rule it out, declaring an eternal loyalty to Montgomeryshire. Of course, I have no way of knowing if this is the case, but the immediate prediction that I made duly came to pass. What I said was that there was no way Lembit could be the candidate and represent Montgomeryshire, 200 miles away. And that the rumour would probably have been started by one of his mates - and that he would wait long enough for the story to run on the news, and then deny his interest. It was a complete non story. At least the TV and radio that I've tuned into has dropped the story like a hot brick. Quite right too.

Bowen and Sons of Cefn Coch

Went to a party tonight. It had been going on all day - and looked to be settling down for the long haul when I left. I'd only expected there to be a handful of customers there - but there were hundreds of them. An informal social occasion which urned out to a great, if unexpected canvassing opportunity - and all I had to do was meet up with a lot of Montgomeryshire people whom I hadn't seen for a while. And a good opportunity to speak Welsh as well. It was the 100th birthday party of Bowen and Sons of Cefn Coch, a quarry and associated business.

Over the years, I've been to dozens of these sort of dos - but this was the most enjoyable I've been to. Hardly a suit in sight. Just local people who understand how important this company is to the economy of the area. No whinging about the quarry being a scar on the countryside - which it undoubtedly is. Everybody knows that it is needed - so we accept it. Which is more than you can say for the 17 bloody great wind turbines on the hill overlooking the quarry. Now that is a scar on the landscape that's going to produce b****r all - except a bit of welcome income for the farmers involved.

Actually, I wasn't interesting in canvassing at all. I just went because I like the boss, and know a lot of the workforce. And there is a strong link with our garden. We have the biggest stone ever to come out of the quarry on the island in the middle of our pond - and the gorsedd circle we built in 2003 all came from the quarry. Not for us the ridiculous plastic rubbish they use at the National Eisteddfod.

But a lot of people came up tonight, saying things like "I've voted Liberal all my life, but not next time. I'll be voting for you. Really pleased you've decided to stand". Not going to get carried away - but I really am starting to feel optimistic about my chances at the next election.