Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Back to the issue. I'm told that after many decades, Newtown GPs are withdrawing their presence from Newtown Hospital. This involves creating a new minor injuries unit at the GP's surgery to replace that at the Hospital, and responsibility for the patients at the Hospital coming under the care of a consultant rather than the GPs themselves. The reason this is in the public domain, and that I feel that I can post on it, is that adverts have gone out for senior nursing staff to support the Hospital based consultant.
There is a lot of other stuff behind this decision as well, but it seems to me that the only concern we should have now is that the new arrangements work out OK for the people of Newtown who need treatment. The reason I decided to involve myself in this issue was that several people were telling me of their concern about what was happening to their Hospital - and inevitable believing it to be a threat to its continued existance. No reason whatsoever to think this is the case. But the people need reassurance. I hope that there will be some immediate strategy to explain what is going on and to reassure Montgomeryshire people that a proper emergency service will be retained.
Back to the serious stuff. I'm still reeling from the full realisation that a huge row between the Assembly and Westminster about powers is now inevitable - and its the Conservatives who are instigating it. Jonathon Morgan's Legislative Competence Order, which effectively transfers responsibility for mental health to the Assembly is a real big deal. What we have is all 60 Assembly Members supporting a proposition that the National Assembly should be able to legislate on anything whatsoever to do with mental health. Our MPs will not have expected this sort of thing flowing out of the Government of wales Act. They will have been expecting some specific issue in the mental health field - not the whole b***dy shooting match. If 'Mental Health', why not 'Broadcasting' or 'Policing'. Who needs a referendum on law making powers if we can deliver it by LCOs? I see some serious turbulence on the way.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Trust Martin to do something like that. There's me openly questioning what role there is for this recently announced Convention, the general aim of which is to 'prepare the ground' for a referendum on law making powers in 2011 - when he writes an article suggesting that I should be a member of it. It seems that my strength would be that I have always had respect for the views of those who describe themselves as devo-sceptics (respectful disagreement that is) and could engage them in debate. I see what he's getting at. Now, I have no idea whether there is any chance of being involved in this Convention - but it was rather nice to see myself lined up in Martin's 'Gallery of Possibles' which included Sue Essex, best Assembly Member that there has been, and the soon to be ennobled Dafydd Wigley.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Free prescriptions in Wales - stupid but at least they paid for it with longer waiting times for elective surgery. Their choice, daft b*****rs. Free personal care - annoying but manageable because most people don't quite grasp what this means. Especially annoying because mother would like this herself - but can't afford it. But free prescriptions in Scotland, blatantly populist and introduced by the dreaded 'Nats' turned out to be a step too far. The worm turned. The giant awoke and now its too late. Some sort of English devolved government is inevitable.
Peter Hain, part-time Secretary of State for Wales is much agitated by this turn of events - as his spin-driven Government loses control. One of the reasons I opposed devolution (before the people voted for it in Sept. 1997) was, in part, because of the constitutional instability it would create. Peter Hain and Gordon Brown may prefer that the West Lothian question not be asked - but the slumbering giant has awoken and is asking it. And today, Malcolm Rifkind has answered it.
Personally, I don't support the idea of an English Parliament. There is no reason why the MPs representing English constituencies should not sit as an 'English Parliament' or 'Grand Committee' on one day per week. There would be consequences. The National Assembly for Wales would assume the same powers as the Scottish Parliament - and the number of Welsh MPs would be reduced from 40 to 26. This reduction in numbers was Conservative policy at the last General Election. I remember Michael Howard telephoning me at home to tell me about it personally. I told him that I supported it then. Of course, this would remove at a stroke, the unjustified electoral advantage that Labour enjoys because of the over-representation at Westminster from Scotland and Wales. Its no wonder Labour are squirming. Just deserts I'd say.
We do know that Sir Emyr Jones Parry is going to chair it, and we all know that he was until recently the UK's Ambassador to the United Nations. So he is a really big fish. And we also know that those who want to see a No vote in the referendum have been rattled by the netting of such 'a good catch'. No-one looks more rattled than Peter Hain, as he tours the TV studios to rubbish the Convention.
Its a damn funny thing though - setting up this big Convention and not knowing what its job is. Even those of us who see a law making Assembly as the only logical, inevitable even, constitutional position for Wales, cannot fathom out its role. So far, the only purpose I can see is to engage with the devo sceptics, show some respect for their concerns and take the debate out to Monmouth, Pembrokeshire and the North Wales Coast where the Assembly is not well regarded. Supporters of a law making Assembly have a tendency to dismiss devo sceptics as if they are in some way anti Wales. Self defeating arrogance in my view. Last week's response to a much publicised challenging article by Stephen Crabb, MP for Presceli Pembs was a good example.
I must admit that I don't like the smell of this. It looks like a PR stunt to mark the 100 days of the Assembly Coalition Government - and not much else. Another 'today's headline' not thought through. Its in danger of turning into a shambles, with Sir Emyr walking away - unless Rhodri Morgan and Ieuan Wyn Jones can tell us what his job is.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Anyway I was pleased to see the RSPB launch its Homes for Wildlife scheme this week, advising us all to leave untidy patches in our gardens, particularly areas of long unkempt grass. The immaculate garden is bad news for birds, grubs, frogs snakes etc.. So next time you are under pressure from the spouse to stop watching the football and do something useful like tidy up the garden, just say that you have developed a passion for wildlife!
This week Mrs D put up all the bird feeders - a bit later than usual. I noted that the bill for peanuts, mixed seeds, fatballs, etc. was over £250. But its worth it. I never tire of watching the power eating of the nuthatches and greater spotteds - and we await the first visit from the little flock of long tailed tits that always pop in from time to time. Mrs D is hoping that siskins will return this year - there has already been a much greater influx of all the finches (including siskin) than usual into Southern England. There have also been Bewick swans, fieldfares and pink footed geese arriving much earlier than usual. All sure signs of a hard winter - so stop tidying and start feeding.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Best comment on this remarkable change in Travelodge Man's behavior came from the company's 'Sleep Director' who said "We've put towels in the reception area. Its important that our staff know what to do when it arises".
St Peter, who had watched over this final act of creation asked "Are you not being too generous to this new land called Wales? Usually, you ensure that every land takes a share of the troubles of the world as well." A smile flickered across the lips of God as he responded "Just wait until you see the neighbours that I've given them!"
Thursday, October 25, 2007
I agree with Gordon about most things but not on the subject of future energy generation. He is fully in support of maximising the construction of wind farms on the mountains of Rural Wales - and he is adamantly opposed to new nuclear generation under any circumstances. I think that he and the Assembly Government is wrong on both of these issues.
I accept that some wind farms could go ahead where Planning Authorities and local communities are in support - but I do not believe that wind farms are sufficiently efficient to justify the damage that large scale construction of them will inflict on the Welsh landscape. I have always been vehemently opposed to the Assembly Government's TAN 8 planning guidance document which identifies 7 large tracts of Wales (Strategic Search Areas) where there will be an irresistible presumption in favour of permission being granted. Over the next few months, planning permission is going to be granted for hundreds of the things. As it happens, I accept that today's announcement is logical and I didn't oppose it specifically. If we have to have all these confounded wind turbines, they might as well be located where they will do least damage - and so it is logical that the Forestry Commission land should be considered. Even if the Assembly Government is behaving just like every other property owner and trying to maximise financial benefit from its asset - under the guise of doing social good!
I have more sympathy with Gordon James about new nuclear power stations. I have always been a sceptic because of cost and waste disposal uncertainties. But I fear it is too late. There is an approaching gap in energy provision which cannot be filled without resorting to new nuclear generating capacity. The lights are going to go out. There will first be panic - closely followed by a mad rush to nuclear with corner cutting and risk taking. Better by far to accept that we have reached the point of no return and proceed in an orderly way. Or is this too defeatist. Mrs D thinks so. She has a strong opinion on this issue. Even I would like to be proved wrong.
Stephen Crabb wrote that "the current arrangements are a confused and unstable settlement for the composite parts of the United Kingdom". I agree.
He also wrote that "abolition of the devolved institutions is not currently saleable". I agree.
He then wrote that "we should now be looking at a re balancing of the devolution experiment." I agree.
Followed by "the case for some form of law making body for just England is becoming irresistible". I cautiously agree with the principle.
Then he wrote that "reform of the relevant Whitehall machinery is also necessary". I cautiously agree in principle.
He then assumes "a reduction of the number of MPs from Wales". I agree.
He then writes that "a future Conservative Government could even look at some form of limited fiscal devolution to create the impression of a fairer and more responsible devolved system". This goes further than I think is realistic at present.
Now, I would not have written the article in the same style as Stephen. The tone is about as opposite from that which I would have used as it is possible to be. But I take almost exactly the same approach to this issue as he does. It seems to me that there is a real basis for agreement. As far as I can see, the problem is that Stephen Crabb and David Davies are not being sufficiently involved in what is being said on behalf of the Party. They are both good, rational men who should be seen as key to our devolutionary policy. They are also men who will not be ignored or silenced - and I'm with them both on that. They must not be left out. At the very least, I hope this post will lead to some re-reading of yesterday's ConservativeHome article.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
I do not know Sir Emyr Parry Jones - but he is a 'big fish' and something of a catch So I welcome his appointment. I look forward to learning what he is going to do. Is he going to consider things like the number of Assembly Members and the voting system? Or is he going to recommend that more subject areas be devolved? Or is he just going to conduct an ongoing poll of public opinion and recommend ways of persuading people to vote 'Yes'. I suspect the answer is No to all these questions. But I do not know the questions to which the answer would be 'Yes'.
The only aspect of all this that I feel sure about (and this may surprise you) is that there must be real engagement with those who oppose the whole idea. I understand why many people opposed devolution (because I was one of them) and why they are suspicious of going further - but I have found it difficult to engage with, or even find, argument that is intellectually based, rather than instinct based. The Parry Jones Convention must find a way of engaging with the anti opinion if it is to have any point. I do wish him and his team well. I will be supporting his work and campaigning for a Yes vote when the referendum comes - probably in 2011.
I'm a sheep farmer myself and currently I'm selling fat lambs and breeding ewes in the depressed market. I'm also a politician (presently 'resting'), and if I hadn't lost my seat in the National Assembly election last May, I could well have been a speaker at last night's meeting. But I went to the meeting for another reason entirely. Well, two reasons actually.
Firstly I went to register my support for the industry in which I started my working life - to be seen if you like. As soon as the Chair invited questions I took the 'mike' at the first opportunity. There were so many people present that it was the only way I could make sure everybody knew I was there! Call it shameless if you must.
The second and main reason was that I wanted to speak in my capacity as President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales. The overarching strategy I have as the CPRW President is to ensure that we become involved in the whole range of issues that have an impact on Rural Wales - and nothing is more important to Rural Wales than a thriving agriculture. I was keen that the farmers knew that they are not alone as they struggle for financial survival. I'm not sure many of them were much bothered by what the CPRW think - but it matters a lot to me that I was able to tell them that there are many people outside of farming who share their concern. Mind you, after four hours of listening to 600 people 'sounding off' in freezing temperatures, I was grateful when the Chairman called proceedings to a halt. I'm still not sure what we achieved last night - but I was glad that I went.
Its only a small application (for two houses) in the pretty little Welsh village of Pontrobert that has set my tail on fire. And I don't even know enough about the actual application to have any opinion about whether it should be approved or not. What makes me so agitated is that it may be decided by 'officers' of the Planning Department, with no input from the elected councillors. There is widespread local opposition to this development. The Community Council is vehemently opposed. The local County Councillor is opposed. There has been a history of refusals on the site. Yet it seems that the processes of the Council mean that this application will be decided by an officer, with no involvement of the Councillors at all. What the hell do we pay them their £10,000 per year for?
And another totally bizarre related matter. It seems that if the 'local' County Councillor attends the Community Council Meeting and speaks or votes on its recommendation to the Local Planning Authority (County Council) on an application, that Councillor is then barred from voting in the Local Planning Authority meeting because of what is deemed to be 'an interest'. Have you ever heard anything so stupid. It seems to be part of some great bureaucrat's scheme to undermine the principle of local democracy. As for as I can see, planning is a local authority function where there is a concerted attempt by central government to eliminate any local influence whatsoever being heard. I hope the population of Pontrobert will descend upon the Powys Council Offices in mass protest if this application doesn't go before Councillors for decision. If they do, I will be there with them.
But on reflection, I agree with Iain about MPs checking their emails. They don't have individual seats or computers in the Chamber, as do AMs. It would involve them all indulging in that most irritating habit of constantly checking their blackberries. I find that some of them actually check them mid-conversation, giving a perfect impression of not listening to what anyone else is saying. I suppose there could be a degree of honesty about this practice! Its also the case that AMs are expected to be in the Debating Chamber rather more than MPs are because there are only 60 of them.
Mind you, I'm not at all sure that Brian Gibbons should be allowing his attention to be diverted. He has form. When he was the Health Minister, he pressed the wrong button and voted for a independent review of the Welsh Ambulance Service immediately after he had spoken on behalf of the Government, roundly condemning it. The vote was lost by one vote- and Brian has never lived down the embarrassment. Brian was also the AM who played football for our Assembly football team in the Annual Parliamentary Shield, sponsored by McDonalds, wearing a shirt with a big 'golden arches' M on the front. When a story broke about our Health Minister supporting a fast food company, Brian said that when he looked down at his shirt he thought it was a W for Wales. (He could have been joking - you can never tell with the Irish).
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Throughout my 8 year term as an Assembly Member, I was a member of the committee that had the responsibility of covering issus relating to Bovine Tb, 5 years of this period as Chair of the Committee. Throughout the 8 years, I pressed the Government to take the issue seriously. Throughout the 8 years, successive Ministers prevaricated and used every possible device to avoid taking the admittedly difficult decisions that were needed. We took evidence from all and sundry, and I visited Ireland twice to discuss the control measures adopted there. Along with the farming unions, the vets and almost every other farmer in the land, I did not believe the findings of the report prepared by the Government's Independent Science Group chaired by Sir John Bourne which was published earlier this year. This report claimed that culling badgers would be counter-productive in controlling Bovine Tb. As a result of Professor Bourne, framers have had to foot the bill for a strict regime of testing before movement, while the rampant disease in our wildlife was completely ignored. It sounded like nonsense - and now we know that it was nonsense.
During last April/May's Assembly Election campaign, Bovine Tb was a major issue in rural Wales. Every time I was questioned, I told my audience that I supported the creation of large areas of the country, surrounded as far as possible by a long coastline, where a large scale badger cull would take place - somewhere like Pembrokeshire for example. I said that failure to do so would eventually lead to a far greater cull - probably the whole of Britain. At the time, the responsible Assembly Minister sought to portray my opinion as irresponsible and not based on 'the science'. Well. now the Government's Chief Scientific Advisor has completely rubbished Professor Bourne's Report. And he is backed by the Government's Chief Vet, Debby Reynolds. His comment that the data 'does not support its conclusion' is another way of saying it was total nonsense. It should be rather fun when the Knight and the Professor give evidence to a select committee later this week.
I hope that the current Assembly Minister, Elin Jones ( who I believe shares my opinion of what has been going on) will apologise on behalf of the Assembly Government for the suffering its prevarication has inflicted on the farming industry in Wales, and for the taxpayers money that has been wasted by its refusal to face up to the obvious.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Of the rest , perhaps the most noteworthy was Caernarfon's continuing decline, losing at home again, this time to Haverfordwest. Aberystwyth scored a good win, 2-1 away at Connah's Quay, Neath beat Airbus 2-1 at home while Port Talbot and Bangor played out a goalless draw
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Ffion time makes me rather more reflective at the keyboard. Peter Hitchens in today's MoS has caused me to think again about last week's comments on drugs law by Richard Brunstrom, Chief Constable of North Wales. I have posted before about my fundamental disagreement with his campaign to legalise all drugs. "Typical reactionary Tory response", I hear you say. Except that I don't think that's justified. As it happens, I'm instinctively libertarian and my general approach to life is to favour individuals doing what they want with their own property - which includes their own bodies. This sometimes puts me on a collision course with the 'authoritarian' wing of my party. The Conservative Party will always have dynamic tension between these two philosophies - as will individual Conservative's thought processes. Case of melding suspicion of the domineering state and respect for civil order.
Back to Brunstrom. My disagreement is founded on the sacrifice of his credibility as a law enforcer, rather than what he says. I accept that the current policies are failing, that drugs use is growing, associated crime is increasing as well, and more young people are destroying their lives than ever before. Any door knocking session, even in rural towns, will elicit reports of young local 'dealers' and properties where dealing is common practice. Its the biggest problem facing society today. We have to do something about it. My opinion remains that we should enforce the law.
I ask those who advocate legalisation of all drugs to imagine a Britain where this policy is introduced. Britain would inevitably become the drugs capital of Europe, if not the world - much as Thailand became the paedophilia capital before the Thai Government began intervening. Just as financial freedoms have allowed the City of London to become a leading financial centre of the world, a drugs free for all would make Britain's towns and cities into international drug dealing centres. Britain is only an island in a physical sense. If Brunstom wants to have any real influence (as opposed to headlines) he should resign, and go and work for the United Nations (which is the best we have as a worldwide debating forum) or the EU where he could do some good by putting the case from a standpoint that wouldn't do the real harm that he is currently inflicting on respect for the law in North Wales.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
But it would have been a bad bad day for rugby football if England had won the World Cup. They play the most unenterprising boring rugby of any team in the world. Their game against France was possibly the worst game of international rugby I've ever seen. Even in today's game, the sole tactic was to attack through the pack to get within kicking distance - and use the up-and-under at every opportunity. Except for Mathew Tait that is. Boring! If that's all rugby is, no father would ever want their sons to play the game. I don't blame England for playing this negative stuff. But I can be disappointed that it has proved to be so successful.
I would like the All Blacks to have won. They play the most fabulous rugby. I didn't see their defeat because I was speaker at Welshpool Rugby Club's 40th anniversary dinner on the same night. By all accounts they lost through a late try that should have been ruled out. Pity, because the French, who defeated them, for some bizarre reason played England the only way that allowed England to win - by out boring them through the forwards!
So congratulations to South Africa, to Fiji - and most of all to Argentina, who so gloriously made the whole tournament worthwhile.
Friday, October 19, 2007
I have a lot of sympathy with the Councils which have to grapple with falling school rolls. We are simply not breeding as prolifically as we used to. I can see that sometimes there is no choice but closure. All I want to do is ensure that decisions are taken with every aspect of the debate properly considered. Firstly, there is the financial aspect where the 'cost' of pupils in a very small school is much higher. And of course, there is the educational aspect, which some people see as the only consideration. My input is to emphasise that there is an effect on the local community, where the school so often provides its heart. I bang on about this in an effort to ensure this aspect is given due weight. Its a tough call for councillors though - and while I might try to make the decision to close schools as difficult as possible for them, I'm reluctant to attack them if they do eventually decide on closures. I'm appearing on Good Morning Wales tomorrow morning as well. More publicity than when I was an Assembly Member.
I've been looking at what happens in other Parliaments for inspiration. In a debate in the Nigerian Parliament yesterday, four MPs decided to sort things out as I used to when I was the team 'enforcer' in my rugby days - straight forward fist fight. It seems that the Presiding Officer has been accused of spending £2.5 million of Government money on tarting up her office and official travel. This led to a bit of a rumpus. I wonder how much Dafydd El has expended on this sort of thing. My money's on Carl sergeant if it gets that far. Anyway, things got so out of hand that one of the MPs died in the melee. Perhaps there's something to be said for 'sitting room politics' after all.
It seems that 'bottling it' or 'bottling out' derives from rhyming slang. 'Bottle and Glass' is a part of the body - and 'losing your bottle' has, in the careful expression of the dictionary, 'the connotation of temporary incontinence associated with fear'. So now you know. From now on, I'm going to refer to Gordon Brown having 'chickened out'.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Drugs are the greatest scourge in our society today. The only way to deal with it is through zero tolerance. Every other Chief Constable and Police Authority in Britain must be in despair as they watch their colleagues in North Wales bringing them into such contempt across the country through their irresponsibility. I have always been very doubtful about the proposal to create directly elected police chiefs. Between them, Richard Brunstrom and the North Wales Police Authority have changed my mind.
I don't know about you, but I thought Lembit Opik looked as if was sitting on a thistle tonight - and Rhun ap Iorwerth looked to be thoroughly enjoying himself wiggling the thistle about. Lots of rictus smiling. Perhaps he's feeling the pressure! For sure, he was nothing like as assured as Tory Assembly Member, Darren Millar, who looks more the part every time I see him on TV.
UPDATE - There was an even bigger thistle in the Waterfront studio. Mai was enjoying herself as much as Rhun. More rictus. What's happened to him.
Even though I'm not in a position to raise the issue on the floor of any parliament at the moment, I have promised to meet a group of farmers at Welshpool at 9.00 next Mon. morning to discuss things. And another group are trying to put together a farmers rally at the Royal Welsh Showground next Thursday. I've said I'll speak if they want as President of the Campaign for Protection of Rural Wales. CPRW does not want to see an industry that underpins the rural economy losing money and people. The farmers I'm particularly worried about are those who are not sufficiently well established to survive a year when they make a loss. The position is so dire that I cannot think of a single joke that I can link to this post.
"It is extraordinary that a Minister comes to the Assembly Chamber to make a statement and then impugns those Members who are cheeky enough to hold him to account for what is being said. You are here to be scrutinised Minister. If your decisions are effective and the proper ones, all the scrutiny that we could bring to bear will just strengthen your position. What we are doing now will strengthen effective negotiation. It is a bit rich for you to say that these things as somehow not in the public realm. They clearly are."
I haven't included anything the Minister said because he said nothing worth repeating. Now, it takes a bit to invoke the ire of David Melding in this way. It was the sort of 'tell them nothing' attitude unusually employed by Rhodri Morgan or Jane Hutt. We had expected a bit more of the Edwina Hart or Carwyn Jones approach. Everyone understands that some things cannot be said. Nothing is gained by clamming up. And all of us are now left thinking the worst - and a lot less of Rhodri Glyn. The reason I decided to throw in my two pennyworth as well as so many others is that I hope he will take a bit of notice if he hears people who wish him well being seriously underwhelmed by his attitude.
Really enjoyed the programme. It started with the 'tired- looking' Mike German (don't get snappy with me Mike - its just what everyone is saying) talking about the state of the Lib Dems. "How are things?" said Phil. "The Liberal Democrats are in good spirit. We have just had a wonderful weekend conference at Aberystwyh. There is a lot more 'territory' opening up for the Liberal Democrats in Welsh politics at the moment." Best laugh of the programme. Its the way he tells them. By the way, this was the conference at which both Mike and Lembit Opik resigned their leadership positions.
Back to this 'age' thing. I'd almost reached the point of asking for cocoa instead of coffee and for a lie down before part two when Siobhan saved the day. Phil asked her what she thought and she said that she looked on me as "The Tom Jones of Welsh politics". What about that then. I just sat back and waited for the underwear to start flying in my direction. But we went straight into Prime Minister's Questions which cooled things down a bit.
Gordon Brown was in better form yesterday, but he still smiles like a crocodile with colic. Cameron is the boss though. The PM looks at Mr Speaker most of the time, while Dave looks Gordon straight in the eye. Bearing in mind that the questions were about the dreadful state of the health service in Maidstone and the Prime Minister's refusal to hold the 'promised' referendum on the new EU Treaty. I thought he did OK. I had no idea what point Vince Cable was to trying to make when his turn came. He started off by telling us that he and Mrs Cable have a good marriage before ending the question about Inheritance Tax. Perhaps he's too old to cope! Gordon welcomed him and said that if the Lib Dems carried on changing leaders like this, every one of their MPs could have a go by the General Election. This was the only jole where he got the timing right. He's only almost too old.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Tomorrow's papers will inevitably cover Ming's reappearance in public. It will be easy for me to speak well of Ming Campbell, who has always impressed me as a decent grown up politician - a bit out of his time. And there is also a touch of sympathetic empathy with a man who recovered from cancer five years ago to continue his political career. There could also be a bit about the Northern Rock debacle. I would like there to be something about the most horrific story of the last week, which has been the incredible incompetence (and worse) which happened in the Clostridium difficile outbreak in the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Hospital Trust in Kent.
PMQs are bound to be focused on the refusal of Gordon Brown to hold the promised referendum on the EU Treaty. Even his own side should be behind Cameron on this. And I've been told that we might be discussing something about the use of agency nurses. As always I'm looking forward to it - my thespian streak coming out again.
While in Cardiff, I'm hoping to meet up with my old right hand man Phill for a coffee - if Darren Millar , his current employer can spare him. And I want to meet Brynle Williams, our 'Rural' spokesman to discuss the current disaster enveloping the sheep industry - and what pressure we can bring to bear on making the current export rules more workable. My life has been redirected from the National Assembly since May - but I daresay I'll feel a bit homesick tomorrow.
Commenting on the current debate about the need for a new Welsh Language Act, Glyn Davies said;
"The Welsh Language is a hugely important feature of life in Rural Wales. Protection and promotion of the Language must inevitably be a major issue for the CPRW. This may be a controversial issue but I believe that there must be a detailed consideration of the need for a new Welsh Language Act. Current legislation has succeeded in stemming the decline of the Language, but many people believe that it now needs to be strengthened if this success is to move forward to a position where the use of Welsh can increase further, and we can be confident about its long term survival.
I have always believed it is absolutely vital that any change in legislation must be carefully considered and sensitively handled. The continuing public and private investment in the Welsh Language depends on the goodwill of non Welsh speakers and it would be disastrous if this were to be sacrificed. I expect the Assembly Government to begin a review of how the current Welsh Language Act is operating and how the legislation can be improved. I hope that the CPRW will be able to contribute to this debate."
I hope this plan is killed stone dead by the Assembly Commission tomorrow - even if my favorite Labour AM would be the biggest loser. My favourite Labour AM used to be Sue Essex, but is now Carl Sergeant. Carl's a top man, tribally Labour, but with a sense of fun. But he doesn't deserve an extra £26,000 a year - unless he is promoted to the Cabinet (and there are too many of them already). And Chris Franks doesn't deserve his extra £15,000, or William Graham his extra £12,000 (good man though he is), or the Lib Dem whip the extra £6,000. Sorry William.
I see that Ireland is setting something of a precedent here. Well, I've never thought we should be modelling ourselves on Irish politics. This is money for old rope. This is pork barrel politics at its worst. If this goes ahead, it will do great damage to the credibility of the National Assembly. The Assembly Commission must do its duty.
Politics has its own language. When a political party's President says on the BBC (as Simon Hughes did on Sunday) that the Leader 'must do better', it is a yellow card, verging on the red. When a political party's Deputy Leader says on the BBC (as Vince Cable did yesterday) that the Leader's position is 'under discussion', its a red card, verging on an invitation for a buyer to come in. These two men made Ming's position completely untenable. There is nothing wrong with this of course. Their job is to do what is right for their party. But let's not pretend that they did not systematically and deliberately push out the honourable and respected (by me anyway) Ming Campbell.
Ming's problem was that he is not a beautiful man. He has a great intellect, capacity for reason and is hugely impressive in calm debate. But he looks gaunt, old and old fashioned. Today's politics insists that the Lib Dems new leader will have to be pretty. So even though the best candidate by a mile is Vince the Vicious, he has no chance. Clegg or Huhne it must be.
Monday, October 15, 2007
The Reader's Digest encyclopedia of garden plants describes the Rhodochiton Volubile thus - 'The maroon to purple tubular flowers are flared abruptly at the mouth, and hang down from slender stems. Each flower hangs within a bowl-shaped, red-purple calyx. The dark green leaves are ovate and sometimes slightly lobed.'
Panellist, Anne Swithinbank made reference to 'hardening off' these tender plants, and warned that they would 'shrivel up' in cold weather. When the presenter asked another panellist named Bob Flowerdew (absolutely true) for his opinion, he replied "I've never seen one close up, and not that colour!". Anne Swithinbank then said "I've never seen one in my life. They don't like the cold and as you can imagine they shrivel up and look very unhappy. They need a good long growing season before potting them up and potting them on and eventually hardening them up." Now you know. My BMW will never seem quite the same again.
On page 6 there were 5 sample questions for Oxford's Politics, Philosophy and Economics Admission Test. The first two questions required answers that were subjective, but the next three demanded straight forward, right or wrong answers. So I tackled them 'against the clock'. They took me 5 minutes and 20 seconds. I then tackled the 'Gentle' Sudoku on page 24 (which is really for beginners) . This took me 5 minutes and 40 seconds. I did feel in quite good form today but I reckon No 2 Son, Patrick would have polished them off in less than 4 minutes. So that's it - official. Oxford's admission tests are easier than a beginner's sudoku.
Now I accept that this is not an entirely scientific assessment - but it certainly makes you think. I would have expected an Oxford Admission Test to be a bit more challenging than this.
This is a seriously messy resignation. Unusually it takes effect immediately. Ming was not even prepared to make the announcement himself. Simon Hughes and Vince Cable did that. My guess is that there has been a blazing row between Ming and Vince Cable, who looks to have been the wielder of the knife. Simon Hughes, who has been publicly undermining Ming has probably been party to the political assassination as well. You've got to hand it to the Lib Dems. They really do treachery better than anyone else.
So who will take over. From a personal interest perspective, I hope its Chris Huhne, who has always seemed a bit too smarmy to my taste. Nick Clegg looks the part, and could be a bit of a threat to us because he is so 'conservative' in outlook. But what's the betting on Charles Kennedy coming back. Now that would be a serious threat to us. Perhaps we are in for a bloodbath. I can but hope.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Glyn Davies, new President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales has called for the rural campaigning organisation to put retention of local services at the heart of CPRW policy. In a wide ranging speech about the future of the Welsh countryside, delivered to Caernarfonshire CPRW on Saturday, Glyn Davies outlined his ideas about how he believed the organisation should set about engaging with the people of Wales and attract more members.
In his first speech as CPRW President, delivered to a well attended meeting at Abersoch on the Lleyn Peninsular, Glyn Davies said:
"There are great and increasing pressures for change impacting on Rural Wales, and there has never been a greater need for a campaigning organisation where people who care about the future of the countryside can meet, discuss and influence policy which drives this change.
Too many people see CPRW as always 'against everything'. This is totally wrong. CPRW accepts that there must be new housing, new business, new energy sources and improvements to the transport infrastructure. What we seek to do is ensure that these changes are implemented with the greatest possible sympathy for the physical beauty and cultural traditions of Rural Wales.
Too many people see CPRW as only a campaigning body against on shore wind farms. This is a total misconception. It is true that, in general, we disagree with the Assembly Government's planning policies on renewable energy, which puts far too emphasis on wind farms. We see the Government's policy as damaging to the landscapes of Wales and as undermining local democracy. But CPRW is about so much more.
Top of my personal agenda is the threat to the local services which underpin our rural communities. In Rural Wales at present, there is a huge threat to our small village schools and to our network of rural post offices. The heart is being torn from our villages at an alarming rate. I see CPRW as a key player in persuading Government to recognise the importance of these services to village life. During my first year as President, my ambition is to broaden the range of subjects where we are seen to be championing the cause of Rural Wales"
UPDATE - Monday 6.00. Ming has gone with immediate effect. He did not even make the announcement himself. Vince Cable takes charge.
So let me share with you what I think actually happened. Peter Black treats his blog as I treat my red hot pokers. He protects it with great care. He posts what he genuinely thinks. When he said that he would stand against Mike German to force a leadership election, he meant it. They were not just empty words. Problem was that he needed another AM to support him. Now they don't come much more cunning than Mike German, and the old ivory tinkler spotted an opening.
There are only 6 of them. Mike knew that Eleanor Burnham wouldn't support Peter because she wants to stand herself. He also knows that Kirsty Williams is gagging for his job, but knows she is deeply out of favour with the Party at the moment because of the way she scuppered the Lib Dem's chance of power in a Rainbow Coalition. An election delayed for 9 months would do nicely. He knew that Mick Bates would do whatever's necessary to get his Powys based colleague into the leadership. After all he has a skin to save at the next Assembly election. And finally, he knew that Jenny Randerson would just do whatever he wanted - out of sheer loyalty. So Peter was 'stuffed'.
I don't think Peter Black minds that much. Look at it from his standpoint. A few months ago, he probably decided that as long as Lembit Opik, Ming Campbell and Mike German were leading the Lib Dems in Wales, they had no chance. Well Lembit's gone. Ming will be gone by Xmas. And Mike will be gone in 9 months time. My advice to every ambitious Lib Dem. Don't cross Peter Black. The 'Black Spot' is deadly.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
My favorite stretch of road in all the world is the drive from Dinas Mawddwy to Dolgellau. Today was brilliant. Not too sunny and cloudlets of mist floating amongst the mountains. The mountain tops were lost in low cloud. Its special climbing up the winding road to the top, hemmed in by mountains on both sides - only to emerge onto the plateau which runs gently down to Gwanas, with Snowdonia as the backdrop. Here, its easy to imagine the voice of Tom Gwanas soaring amongst the hills. Today my imagination was drowned out by a Springsteen CD - 'The Rising' which he wrote after the attack on the World Trade Centre. At the time, I was playing its second track, 'Into the Fire' at full volume. This track will always be special to me because I played it over and over when I spent some time in hospital recovering from surgery in 2002. "May your strength give us strength. May your faith give us faith. May your hope give us hope. May your love give us love". So many images crowding in at the same time. Keep your mind on the road Glyn.
Worst part was that I missed little Ffion. I was not expecting a visit today, because Karen has not yet fully recovered from the birth. But visit the happy threesome did in my absence. Sally, Verity and Mrs D all had serious cuddle time. I'm told that No 2 Son, Patrick showed the first ever glimmer of paternal interest - as did No 3 Son, Tim. Anyway, Ffion is coming over again tomorrow. I expect to have my turn.
But when I read the bitterness in some of his reported comments, I had to ask myself whether there is more to this than is obvious at first glance. At today's Lib Dem conference in Aberystwyth he launched a bitter attack on those in his party who have been undermining him by criticism behind his back. And I'm told repeated this to the media. I agree with Lembit about the distastefulness of this sort of thing. Most politicians suffer from it occasionally, but normally things have to be really venomous to 'go public' about it. This aspect of his resignation comments makes me think that he might just have been pushed, and chose to jump first.
Anyway, I feel some sliver of satisfaction. Montgomeryshire once again has an MP who is promising to give more attention to the constituency. I hope that the General Election contest in Montgomeryshire turns out to be a ferocious battle between candidates who have a total commitment to the constituency. I will play my part. Let battle be joined.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
If I'm totally honest, I am not surprised by the news that there is a revenue deficit in the WMC's finances. I was Tory Culture Spokesman at the time it was built, and I knew that Russell Goodway was warning that the figures didn't stand up. But I didn't have the evidence to challenge the Minister. Jenny Randerson, the Lab/Lib Dem Coalition Government Minister at the time was firm in her assurances that the budget stacked up - and it would have been difficult to resist it. Alun Cairns made the good point that it does look as if this nugget of bad news has been known to the Government for a long time - and would have been better made public by public statement than a TV programme.
Great to see Angela Burns looking the part on Dragon's Eye tonight. And it was fun to see Labour AMs queuing up to rubbish the Lab/Plaid Coalition document on the programme. I had been fairly sure that the Coalition would last the full four years - but I'm becoming less sure by the day. One of these days there may well be a scoop on Dragon's Eye that Rhodri Morgan and Mike German's successors are seen dining together at a Chinese in some secret location.
This afternoon, we visited one of the European Care Group's recently acquired properties located at Porth in the Rhondda Valley. It has accommodation for around 80 and is a mix of residential, EMI and nursing beds. I was deeply impressed by the standards of care. Over the years I have visited several homes of 'mixed' quality. Ty Porth was the best that I have ever visited.
One of the reasons I decided to become involved was my longstanding concern about the way we treat old people and those suffering mental illness. This is one of the biggest problems facing Governments across the world as people live longer and we become more aware of mental problems. I was pleased to see that Jonathon Morgan has 'won' a ballot in the National Assembly to formally request a transfer of power from Westminster to Cardiff Bay (a Legal Competence Order) to reform Mental health legislation. And this morning I was listening to a Westminster Government Minister outlining plans to spend an extra 170 million pounds on mental health illness. At long last this policy area is getting the attention it desreves. I am employed only for about 6 days a year, but I expect to be spending a lot more time on this issue over the next few months.
There is nothing necessarily wrong with this - but it is interesting. I know the bus operators are deeply concerned about it. It would be reassuring if the Council's Chairman or Chief Executive put out a public statement about what has happened.
What is known is that Mr Goodman arranged the advertising and awarding of all the new school bus routes in Powys during this year's summer holidays. I'm told that Mr Goodman went on holiday on the day that the autumn term started, and was away when the balloon went up. We also know that Mr Goodman is no longer in the Council's employment - but at whose instigation he left is not known. And now I'm being told that Mr Goodman is to start work for Veolia later this month. I'm not surprised that bus operators are so concerned about this. And all this 'innuendo' is not fair on Mr Goodman. I suggest a public statement from the Council to clear the air.
It means that the Labour Chief Whip would get an extra £26,000 per year, the Plaid Whip would get an extra £15,000 per year, the Tory Whip would get an extra £12,000 per year and the Lib Dem Chief Whip would get an extra £6,000 per year. Just imagine what the proposals would be if there wasn't an eye wateringly tight budget settlement for the next 3 years! Tell me what you think of this. And remember that comment moderation is on - so really profane language will be rejected.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Today's Comprehensive Spending Review is interesting because the Government has chosen to 'spin' it as a statement about tax cutting. It is nothing of the sort of course (in fact it signals an increase in tax). But what's interesting to me is that it is suddenly respectable to talk about tax cuts again. Instead of attacking the Conservative's proposal to cut Inheritance Tax, Labour have tried to pretend that they are doing the same. Even though they are not. The doubling of the level where IT becomes payable from £300,000 to £600,000 makes no diference to many couples - becuse they were enjoying this benefit already. Where the spouse who dies first leaves £300,000 to the children and the rest to the other spouse, there is already £600,00 free of IT. This proposal is nothing more than sleight of hand - again. You really can't believe a word they say.
No wonder Brian Walden, the Labour MP turned television interviewer has had enough of it. He's going around giving speeches explaining why he will be voting Conservative at the next election. I could do with some high profile defections from the Lib Dems to me in Montgomeryshire.
In Wales, we must wait to see what Plaid Cymru Ministers are going to be saying. Throughout the 8 years that I was an AM, all Plaid did was hold out the begging bowl and say that Wales was not having enough to spend on public services. Well, they are going to be having a lot less from now on. I see some turbulance ahead for the unlikely couple. Watching the contorted faces of Helen Mary, Leanne Wood and Dai Lloyd in this year's Assembly budget debate is going to be priceless.
Monday, October 08, 2007
A most enjoyable evening. Bit testing for my Welsh when Cynog Dafis started speaking - and downright impossible when he and Elystan started debating a technical legal point. It would have been very confusing for any student who arrived late - having been told that there were to be representatives of the Conservative , Plaid Cymru and Labour Parties on the panel. It would have been quite difficult to tell which was which from the discussion. I suppose that my cold blooded pragmatism about devolution and the open neck shirt would have given away my identity as the Tory! Nothing much else would have.
As driving home, I reflected on which way I thought the audience would be likely to vote. Its never possible to be sure and its unwise to assume - but I reckon a fair few would be in the Plaid Cymru camp. I further reflected that if they were, they should all vote for me (at least those who have a vote in Montgomeryshire). As I pointed out (in a disgracefully self serving way), there is likely to be a Conservative Government in Westminster after the next election - and a Conservative MP in favour of a law making Assembly is likely to have much more effective influence in that direction than another Plaid Cymru member. I'd sort of hinted at this during the discussion. And if I say it often enough, I'll get to believe it myself!
In particular, I think we should be told if Mike German has decided to stand down as leader. If he has, I expect to see Jenny Randerson's hat in the ring. She would win. But what if Mike intends to soldier on. The only other name I've heard openly campaigning for the job is the ever-colourful Eleanor Burnham. Is Peter going to back Eleanor, or is he going to stand himself, or is he going to back Kirsty Williams who might be thinking of emerging from the shelter of the barricade behind which she's been seeking refuge since she shafted the Rainbow Coalition last June. Now that Gordon has finally stopped dithering, UK speculation is turning to how long Ming will last. It will be a great loss to Wales if Lib dem leadership battles are going to be confined to the Palace of Westminster. Time for a post on this issue Peter.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Everyone in Britain with an iota of interest in politics knows that Gordon Brown wanted to call a 'cut and run' General Election to take advantage of his comfortable lead in the opinion polls. And if he hadn't gone to Iraq to re announce the withdrawal of our soldiers, in the middle of the Conservative Party Conference, with the purpose of nauseatingly 'playing politics' with our armed forces, a General Election it may well have been. Whatever, it was the astonishing turnaround in the opinion polls which caused him to call it off. We all know that. And what does this dithering heap of jelly go and do. He tells us "I want the chance to show the country that we have a vision for the future of this country" and "I want to get on with the job of change in this country and I believe that I have got to show people that we are implementing the changes....." blah, blah.... Problem is we all know the truth. He called off the election because he did'nt think he would win - or at least win with as big a majority as he has now. He 'bottled it'.
And our Prime Minister has messed up in another way. Because he knew that no-one would believe this version of events, he selected the compliant Andrew Marr of the BBC to become the conduit by which this stuff would be released. I wonder what Nick Robinson, the Beeb's chief political reporter thought of this. I wonder what the rest of the media thought of it. What price Andrew Marr's independence now. And to really mess up Brown's day, David Cameron gets better with every interview.
Having written all this, I have to admit that personally, I am pleased that he didn't call an election. It may well have been Gordon Brown's best chance for winning his own mandate as Prime Minister, but it would not have been right, And it would not have suited me in Montgomeryshire either. We weren't ready. By 2009 we will be. Today, probably for the first time, I really believe that David Cameron will be the next Prime Minister, and that I will be the next Member of Parliament for Montgomeryshire.
Before I spoke last night, Club Patron, Ithel Gilbert Davies made a very nice speech. Ithel is rather special to us all, in that he has suffered from polio for as long as I have known him. He has always been a real champion of the club. I joked that he was the only one we always had to carry into the pub!
During his speech he recited that hoary old joke about three surgeons discussing what group of patients they liked to operate on. One said Germans - became every moving part is so well engineered and reliable. One said Japanese - because everything is so technically advanced and all the tubes and wires are colour coded. And the third one said politicians - because they only have two working parts, the mouth and the anus, - and they're interchangeable. Brought the house down of course. I was toying with the idea of starting off my speech by telling the assembled diners (who had had a few by this stage) that since my lower bowel re-section following colorectal cancer almost 5 years ago, I don't actually have an anus. But I decided against. Thought it might put a dampener on things.
Best laugh of the night for me involved another hoary old joke from Mervyn. He was talking generally about the limited IQ of the Welsh forwards in the great 70s team (fabled but probably untrue - but who cares). Supposedly when Phil Bennett came in to partner Gareth Edwards behind the scrum, he developed a code which informed everyone which way he intended to take play if the ball was won. For some reason (which I don't recall), if he shouted out a word beginning with a P, he intended to go to the right - and if he shouted out a word that began with the letter S, he intended to go to the left. And everything worked well until Phil shouted out the word 'Psychology'. It usually takes forwards a few seconds - but backs get it immediately! Now I've heard this before so I took my enjoyment from everyone else's pleasure.
There followed a lot of whispering on the next table - and after about 40 seconds, when Mervyn was half way through his next story, a big bloke on the next table, who looked like a prop began roaring with laughter. For me it was the funniest moment of the night.
Did you ever see anything so cute in your life. And did you ever see a taid so comfortable holding such a gorgeous little package.
There has been a lot of dithering over the name - but a decision was arrived at before Gordon Brown stopped his dithering. Libby, Sioned, Megan and Carys had been in the frame. Ffion was a late entry. I like Ffion - and not only because the wife of my favourite politician shares it.
The family returned home to Carno this afternoon. I think they are coming to stay with us next weekend - so I'm really pleased that Gordon eventually decided against holding an election this autumn. I promise not to put a new photograph up for at least a week.
Saturday morning and it was over to Aberystwyth to see the new little one (separate post) - and then back to Llansilin for more campaigning in the afternoon (Gordon was still dithering), before Welshpool Rugby Club's 40th Anniversary dinner in the evening (separate post). And then this morning it was new Mayor of Newtown, Sue Lawson's Civic Service (separate post tomorrow).
At the same time as all this was going on Northern Hemisphere rugby comprehensively scotched the widely held notion that Southern Hemisphere rugby is streets ahead. And Gordon Brown 'bottled it'. He'll never recover the authority that he had before the Iraq trip. A very satisfactory weekend all round.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
We had all hoped that the birth would be in Llanidloes, but it wasn't to be. Karen was taken into Aberystwyth and, in the end, it was a caesarian. But its all over and we are a taid. Edward sounded quite calm when he rang through with the news. Bit late to open the champagne. Bloody hell - its a relief. Did somebody mention an election.
And then David Cameron produced a fantastic speech at Blackpool. He looked like a modern Prime Minister, talking to his audience, rather that at them. Again, some of the commentators got it wrong. I heard Mathew Parris, normally so astute, on 5 Live today saying that Cameron's style had sacrificed authority and didn't look like a Prime Minister. I thought this to be just about the poorest judgement that I have ever heard Mathew express. I reckoned that the public would think it was a great 'reaching out' speech.
So I'm waiting for the weekend polls - hoping they will stop Brown 'cutting and running'. Tomorrow's polls have the Labour lead collapsing - to between 1 and 4%. I reckon the weekend's will be the same. Brown's chance has gone. Great news for me if it has. I spent this morning in Caersws, blatantly canvassing - finishing up in Feast for Food for a chat with anyone who wanted to call in to see me. I really enjoyed it. And that is why I do not want an election yet. I enjoy canvassing and discussing issues and problems with Montgomeryshire people - and dealing with them. In truth I'm operating as a voluntary MP. OK, Lembit has got a good majority, but I am going to give him one hell of a fight. He is going to have to spend a lot more time in Montgomeryshire if he wants to hang on to his seat - and the longer I have, the better my chances are going to be. So fingers crossed for the weekend polls.
UPDATE. A YouGov Poll for Channel 4 tonight gives Labour a lead of 4% over the Conservatives, while a Populus poll for the Times tomorrow gives Labour a 3%lead. I'm being told that a Gaurdian poll tomorrow has the lead at 1%. Well, Mr Brown, "Whats it to be?"
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
So I consider myself to be midst an election campaign. I was in Caersws today leafleting the village. My leaflets were inviting recipients to join me tomorrow at a new coffee shop called Feast for Food. Four people rang me tonight to say they are coming along between 10.30 and 12.00. One man rang me to ask whether the cost of my leaflets are going to be included in my election expenses - miserable sod. It was quite a funny afternoon. First house I went to there lived a man named Hadyn who remembered when I captained Berriew Youths in a cup game against Caersws Youths. Now that's going back a bit. As it happens, I also remembered the game because I was given the task of 'softening up' a brilliant 13 year old called Micky Evans who was just beginning to make his name. Micky was a lot too good for me and I never got anywhere near him - which was no surprise because he went on to enjoy a very successful career in the Football League. Bit further on and John opened the door. He used to play rugby for Welshpool - and reminded me of his last game, a 'friendly' against a Shrewsbury Guest team. I was playing openside for Shrewsbury and one of my Figi-type hits on him cracked a couple of ribs and forced him into retirement. Thats the problem with standing for Parliament in a place where you've spent the whole of your life!
While I was in Caersws current MP, Lembit Opik visited - in a huge motor home plastered in posters, which looked every inch a campaign vehicle. He's on a several days tour of Montgomeryshire, being an MP. He's also been posting out glossy literature telling everyone what a wonderful MP he's been. I suspect that all of this is coming out of his Parliamentary allowances i.e. paid for by you and me. It is pretty clear to me that other sitting MPs are doing this, having anticapated that there was going to be an election some time ago. The MP for Chester was on Newsnight tonight, not even bothering to deny that she was using her allowances to campaign in all but name. She had sent out 42,000 glossy magazines to every ratepayer. It seems that it is all ok if there is no request for a vote. I can honestly say that I never did this with my expenses when I was an AM. It is outrageous - and I would never do it if I were to be elected. This sort of thing only makes me more determined to give it a real go.
Simon Heffer thinks we should shoot them. Got to catch them first! Truth is its been a losing battle. There are reckoned to be five million of them in Britain. The genuinely lovely red squirrels have been driven out of most of Britain by the greys and their diseases. Millions of our trees are dying because the greys have removed bark from their trunks. We simply do not know the scale of the damage they do to songbirds by raiding their nests. Grey squirrels are not cute - they are horrible creatures.
But salvation may be to hand. Contraception may do the trick. First time I heard about this, a few years ago, I thought it was a joke. But it seems that it's serious. I should make clear that we're not talking about little rubber sheaths - but an oral contraceptive. The only problem left to be solved is how to deliver it without sterilising the the entire population of wild creatures that might help themselves to what the squirrels leave behind.
I have been thinking about using traps after a friend told me how effective they are. But I'm not sure how I would kill them - being a bit soft-hearted. My friend is rather a gentle lady named Ivernia, who rather shocked me by telling me that she keeps a water butt close by and simply drops the trap into the butt. Official advice is that they should be ushered into a sack and beaten to death with a stick. It's illegal to let them go. What a tragedy it is that grey squirrels were ever imported to Britain.