Thursday, December 31, 2009

Its the 'Response' that mattered most.

Over the last eight months, I have posted several times about the abuse by some MPs of their expenses system. In general, my comments have been about the inadequacy of response, rather than the claims themselves. I've also commented about the indiscriminate nature of the media coverage. Public anger has been directed at the sheer ridiculous of some of the claims, rather than at the seriousness of what would be fraud if others had done the same thing. People remember the moat, the duck house, the porn films, the biscuits, the pantie liners etc.. more than the phantom mortgages, the fictitious Council Tax, claims for second homes that were rented out to others. Its not so much the unfairness in this that bothers me, as the damage it does to the careers of good MPs. Today's Telegraph provides a good example.

In my opinion, John Gummer, MP for Suffolk Coastal has been an outstanding Parliamentarian. He brought something distinctive to the Conservative Party. He brought with him a genuine right-of-centre perspective on environmental issues. For some reason, green politics have been associated with 'the left'. David Cameron has done a lot to change this perception, and John Gummer has played a key role in this. Whatever, very disappointingly he announced yesterday that he's standing down from the House of Commons at the General Election. Consolation is that he's intending to increase his commitment to environmental matters.

Today the headline over the article by Rosa Prince informing us of the retirement read "MP who claimed for mole catchers will stand down". The first paragraph informs us that "...the former Tory cabinet minister who charged the taxpayer to rid his country estate of moles has announced that he is to stand down...". Now most of us accept that the taxpayer should not have been paying for mole catchers, no matter what the fees office might have agreed. John Gummer accepted that and repaid the money along with other claims for gardening. I didn't know until today that he also paid a similar amount to a local charity, and ceased claiming second home allowance altogether because he felt that MPs should accept "corporate blame" for the "flawed expenses system". That's right - accept blame. This was the response of an honourable man, who regretted having gone along with a system that he shouldn't have. If all MPs had responded as John Gummer did, there would be far higher respect for politicians today. This post is for those who read just headlines, and the first paragraphs of articles - as I often do.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Join the Donate Wales Campaign.

Holding firm opinions has its drawbacks, especially for a parliamentary candidate. Over the last few days, I've been reminded that holding the opinion that the ban on hunting with dogs should be repealed will lose me votes. But its on health related issues that it bites hardest - and on no issue harder than the decision by Edwina Hart to legislate to introduce 'presumed consent' for organ donation in Wales. I just do not believe it is right that body parts should be removed without the considered consent of the deceased. At least I'm not alone in this view. My difficulties with this opinion flow from involvement with a campaign for a renal dialysis unit to be provided in Montgomeryshire. I suspect that many, if not most, of those I work with support 'presumed consent'. The Wales health establishment, led by Health Minister Edwina Hart, and including the good people at Kidney Wales Foundation certainly do.

All the above leads to a search for some form of personal compensatory action. Which brings me to this week's launch of New Year campaign by Donate Wales to persuade more people to opt-in to carrying a donor card. Now this is a campaign that I really do believe in. So why not just telephone 0300 123 23 23 or visit the Donate Wales website, and make me feel better about my opinion. I hope the new rules which apply to what a parliamentary candidate can do from 1st January don't prevent me running an event to promote this campaign.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

'No Expenses Spared' - unfinished business.

Just finished reading 'No Expenses Spared' (the inside story of the scoop which changed the face of British politics - by the team that broke it). Even though I was one of those who devoured the coverage that began on 9th May 2009 about what some of our MPs had claimed as expenses, I was still totally gripped, and comprehensively re-shocked, by this book. For any aspiring MP, its a must-read. The final words before the epilogue are those of David Cameron. He has a talent for encapsulating the public mood in the right words.

"What the Daily Telegraph did - the simple act of providing information to the public - has triggered the biggest shake up in our political system for years.

Information alone has been more powerful than years of traditional politics. Of course it has been a painful time for politics and for individual politicians - but let us be clear, it is without question a positive development for the country.

It is information - not a new law, not some regulation - just the provision of information that has enabled people to take on the political class, question them, demand answers, and get those answers. That's exactly as it should be."

But the story lies unfinished. The people have not yet had their say. When it became clear that public confidence in the current Parliament had been terminally undermined, a General Election should have been called. It wasn't, and the second huge explosion of 2009, a world-wide financial crisis has taken 'Expensesgate' off the front pages. But it will be back. There will almost certainly be more resignations in the New Year, and the publication of Sir Thomas Legg's letters to MPs demanding repayments will probably produce more headlines over the next few weeks. And so they should. The next Parliament will be faced with huge challenges, the greatest of which will be to begin the process of reducing the public debt that will have been bequeathed by the current Government. The General Election will be about choosing the representatives that the voters believe have the character and integrity to undertake the task - and the removal of those whom the public have lost faith in. Only then can the final chapter of 'No Expenses Spared' be written.

Incredible! They still just do not get it.

I'm not a man given to apoplexy. In my youth, yes, but now I invariably take a considered view of things. Where I disagree, I try to acknowledge the genuineness of counter-argument (where it exists that is). But reading this article in this morning's Times has left me nail-spittingly apoplectic. After all that has happened, how on earth can our MPs contemplate the continuation of the 'Communications Allowance'. This despicable imposition on the taxpayer has one purpose only. It's using Taxpayer's money to fund the re-election campaigns of incumbent MPs. It seems that they may even be allowed to use it between now and the General Election. Its breath taking in its contempt for democracy, or even simple decency. Have they learned nothing?

The Communications Allowance has provided the MP that I'm challenging at the next Election with an annual £10,000 pot of money to print and post out leaflets to electors, telling them what a fine fellow he is. Its straight forward electioneering - and I'm paying for it through my taxes. Two leaflets, professionally produced have been distributed around Montgomeryshire over the last few weeks - one of them being posted out when the MP concerned was on a six day Cunard liner luxury 'freebie' cruise around the Mediterranean while all of his constituents thought he was working on their behalf in Westminster. This was an outrage. No, it was two outrages rolled into one. Normally, I just let these things wash over me, but no reference was made to it in our widely read local weekly. He gets away with it, because the people that voted for him do not know - and they do not know because the newspaper they read chooses not to tell them. OK, so it doesn't make a lot of difference, but at least I can tell you. And anyway, it makes me feel better sounding off to my visitors.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Let the wrath of the electorate be unleashed.

Tomos Livingstone's latest column for the Western Mail was entitled 'No expense spared as we end MP's annus horribilis'. The line that caught my eye was "But enough ink has been splashed, and enough trees felled a result of the expenses scandal, for now at least." For once, I do not agree with Tomos. The scandal that is expensesgate' has not been closed. Its crucial that it remains at the forefront of our minds until there has been a General Election. Worrying about ink and trees is exactly what MP's want us to do. The current Parliament is a flawed Parliament, without authority - and will remain so until the 'people' have had their say.

I have just started reading 'No Expenses Spared', written by Robert Winnett and Gordon Raynor, two of the key figures in the publication of MP's expenses by the Daily Telegraph. So much I had already forgotten - and I'm only on page 73. The efforts made to prevent the information ever becoming public, which is put at around £100,000 for lawyer's fees of our money. The blatant attempt to exempt MPs from the Freedom and Information Act. And who can forget those redacted receipts? I've still got 285 pages to go.

We know that most MPs are honest, genuine, hard working representatives of constituencies they are proud of, and want their constituents to be proud of them. We know that the indiscriminate nature of publication has resulted in some MPs being vilified (through mockery) for what seemed to me to be relatively minor mistakes, while others who seemed to me to be guilty of near-fraud escaped with hardly a mention. At times, I thought the Telegraph was going too far - only for it to be vindicated by yet more revelations. I know that many of my friends in politics now have nothing but contempt for the Telegraph, and that they genuinely believe they have been unfairly treated. I believe that the Daily Telegraph rendered great service to the British political system. The 'unfairness' was the result of the Telegraph having to do all the spade work. If Parliament had published the information itself, in an organised way, there would have been a better chance of the worst 'offenders' being highlighted.

We do have a chance to 'clean up the system' - but its definitely not a job for the current Parliament. Its a job for the next Parliament, elected after a discussion with the voters about what is expected of them. Far from this issue being put on the back burner, it should stay on our front pages until the General Election, which should have been held in the autumn. MPs and journalists might be a bit bored with this issue, but it would a deadly blow to our democracy if the public were to feel the same way. Let the anger intensify. Let the wrath of the voters be unleashed. Any newspaper that 'turns the other cheek' is failing in its duty.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My New Year's Message.

As I type out these words on my computer, our two year old granddaughter, Ffion is helping me. In the next room, our week old grandson, Darragh is crying insistently for his mother's milk. All around me is the hub-bub of family life. This year, there are ten of us celebrating our Christmas at Cil Farm. Inevitably, all this creates a context within which I view the New Year. If all of us are here to celebrate next Christmas, healthy and content, 2010 will have turned out to be a good year, no matter what else might happen.

A General Election, to be held either in late March or early May, will dominate my 2010. The result will be important for the UK, for Wales, and for Montgomeryshire. I hope that it brings the change that is needed. It will also be significant for Ffion, Darragh and the rest of us. If I were to be elected Member of Parliament for Montgomeryshire, the honour would bring with it a huge responsibility - and demand for total commitment. It would be given. Montgomeryshire has always been my home, and it matters to me.

As a politician my aim has always been to reach out across party divisions. I find that so often, we agree with each other about what is right. My support for our soldiers in Afghanistan, my wish to help the elderly, those suffering from dementia, from renal failure, from Parkinson's Disease and Bowel Cancer is shared across all parties - as is my love of Rural Wales, the wildlife we share our world with, and the Welsh Language. Across all parties we want to ensure a fair deal for Montgomeryshire. Most of us want a world which is safer, fairer, greener and where every individual matters - even if we sometimes disagree on the best way to achieve these things. My 'political' loyalty would be to Montgomeryshire, and I promise that I would strive to could to carry out the role of MP for Montgomeryshire with pride, dignity and integrity. This blog wishes all those who visit a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

This post has been influenced, in part, by David Cameron's New Year Message.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lord Mandelson and Mr Brown

Lots of media coverage about a parting of the ways between Lord Mandelson and the Prime Minister. Lord Mandelson seems always to be involved in some skulduggery and backbiting. Being one of his friends is a dangerous privilege. This little spat looked to be fairly innocuous, until today's announcement about Higher Education funding. The BBC are reporting that the Business Secretary has written to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, informing them that the budget for higher education next year will be almost £400 million less than this year. Lots of questions follow this announcement. I'll draw attention to just two of them.

Firstly, the fact that Lord Mandelson has made this £400 million 'cut' public is significant. It totally undermines the Prime Minister's strategy of fighting the coming General Election on the basis of 'Tory cuts' against 'Labour investment'. Admittedly, it will not have huge impact immediately before Christmas, but its out there now. Watch the David Lammy interview on the BBC link, to observe ministerial discomfort. He sounds like a schoolboy after being caught with his hand in the sweet jar. Personally, I applaud Lord Mandelson for his action. Its not that I necessarily support his 'cut' in higher education funding, (I don't) but he has injected some honesty into the debate about future public spending. No meaningful debate can take place whilst the Government carries on misleading us all about the need for spending reduction. The honest debate we need is 'where the axe falls', not whether. Gordon Brown must be spitting nails today - again.

And then, there's the impact on Wales. Lord Mandelson's announcement applies to England only, but application of the Barnett Formula will deliver a proportional cut in the block of money available to the National Assembly Government. Don't know how much this will be, but 5% of £400 million is £20 million. Its unlikely that the whole Assembly block reduction will be passed on to education, because of a commitment to this sector made by Carwyn Jones, the First Minister. But it will have to come from somewhere. I hear peals of laughter and sighs of relief from an allotment somewhere in Cardiff West. Whatever, Lord Mandelson has drawn back the curtain a little on what's in store for us all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Here he is. Darragh Davies, son of Tim and Adrienne Davies (nee O'Sullivan), grandson of Glyn and Bobbie Davies (nee Roberts) of Cil Farm Berriew, Montgomeryshire - and only cousin (so far) of Ffion. He was born on 21st Dec., 2009, by Cesarean section at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. This means that should Darragh turn out to be a wing forward of international standard, he will qualify to play for Ireland (mother), Wales (father) and England (birthplace). You will note that he has a wonderful head of black hair. Apparently its the fashion in maternity wards these days not to wash the baby's head, or comb his hair. Mrs D reminded me that Tim was born with the same lusty locks. We were in the ward for almost two hours, and he was as good as gold. Must write to my good friend, Tom Taylor, Chief Executive of the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust to tell him that Adrienne has nothing but the highest praise for the way she's been treated. Mother and child will be returning home to us on Christmas Eve.

And here is seven pounds thirteen ounces Darragh Davies in full relax mode with his mum. Amazingly, despite the slow progress of the birth, and consequent move to the major maternity unit across Offa's Dyke, which all hoped would not be necessary, and the eventual Cesarean, Adrienne was the least stressed of all. It was poor Tim who was in a state and proclaiming "never again". He should have adopted my tactics when our four were born, and stayed well away from the action. I reckoned I'd done my bit nine months before, and there was no point in me getting in the way when Mrs D was doing hers. In those days fathers were not expected to be anywhere near the scene of birth. In fact, real men were not expected to deal with nappies etc.. We were onto our third before I realised how much a father misses by not joining in. Adrienne does look rather pleased with herself - as well she might.

And here is Taid, cuddling the new precious little life. The expression is one of wonder, I think. Just so hard to believe. Less than a day ago, Darragh was no more than an image in our minds (a bit more than that for Adrienne of course) and here he is today - a fully formed little person. Every birth is a miracle, and its only right that we feel a sense of wonder whenever we find ourselves close to miracles. If you look carefully, you'll see that Darragh's eyes are open in this one, just checking up on who's holding him. And that's not the Guardian on the bad table. Its the headline in the Daily Mail - something about guards. Its being kept as a reminder, in years to came of what the issues were in 2009. For us, Darragh's arrival will be the most enjoyable event of the year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Unto us a Child is Born.

Almost 23.00 hrs on Dec 21st, and unto the family Davies, a child is born. Now, what sort of a Christmas present is that. It is a grandson, to be named Darragh, to join little Ffion. Both of them with us for Christmas Day is a joyous thought indeed. It took a long, long time for Darragh to put in his appearance, after first giving notice that he was en route yesterday morning. New proud mother, Adrienne and No 3 son, Tim left for Shrewsbury Hospital early this morning. Today has been stressful for all of us. Anyway, the telephone has rung, the news has been conveyed, and all the tension has suddenly evaporated. Tim said that Darragh is already in fine voice. Mrs D and I will be visiting tomorrow, and the photographs will follow.

The Lib Dems must be worried.

No organisation is doing more damage to the environment than the Liberal Democrats in Montgomeryshire. Over the last few weeks, they must have used the equivalent of an Amazonian forest to produce all the paper they are showering onto the heads of Montgomeryshire voters. Yet another envelope, full of various self extolling leaflets from Montgomeryshire's MP has been arriving on our doormats today. Its all shamelessly boastful stuff. My secretary, and several party members were recipients - all being asked for a donation of £50! At least this folder of leaflets has not been paid for by the taxpayer, which is more than can be said for the last two publications I was given copies of. Today's pack even had a glossy leaflet from Nick Clegg in it. Anyone would think they were concerned about losing the seat!

Today's leaflet includes one of those bar charts that the Lib Dems are famous for. The message is that "its only the Lib Dems who can defeat the Conservatives". What it said to me was that "its only the Conservatives who can defeat the current Lib Dem MP!". The other message is that its a waste of time voting either Plaid Cymru or Labour, because it will let in the Conservatives. Again, what this says to me is that by voting for Plaid, Labour or Ukip, you help the current Lib Dem keep the seat. I suppose all the other parties could say something similar as well. The 'trend' for both Plaid and Ukip are upwards as well. Anyway, in the interests of accuracy, I'll let you know what the true position is.

2005 General Election - Lib Dems (15,419), Conservatives (8,246), Labour (3,453), Plaid (2,078), Ukip (900).

2007 Assembly Election

Constituency vote - Lib Dem (8704), Conservative (6725), Plaid (3076), Ukip (2251), Labour (1544).

Interesting to note - National Assembly elections comprise two votes, the 'constituency' vote, and the 'regional' vote - which was broken down by constituency. In Montgomeryshire, our campaign was based on asking the people to use their second vote to support me. (I was a list candidate). I cannot track down the precise results, but in Montgomeryshire the two leading positions were Conservative (approx 9,000), Lib Dem (approx 7,000).

2008 Council Election - No precise figures but in Montgomeryshire the Conservatives won 6 seats, not having held any before, ever. The Lib Dems won just two seats.

2009 Euro Election - Though the constituency was Wales, the votes cast were counted in each parliamentary constituency, The results were Conservative (approx 4,300), Ukip (approx 2,800), Lib Dem (approx 2,700).

2010 - Who knows? But I do think a look at what has happened over the last 5 years blows a very big hole in the message that the local Lib Dem MP is trying to push. I accept that there is normally a larger turnout in General Elections, which will have an impact, but I think we're justified in thinking we have a decent chance of winning.

Its me just trying to help again.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The jailing of Munir Hussain.

I accept that we do not know exactly what happened. And I've read enough newspaper reports when I was there, to know how misleading they can be. But I cannot see beyond my instinctive response to the jailing of Mr Munir Hussain and his brother. Seems to me it sometimes undervalues the intelligence of asses to be compared with the law of our land.

The facts of the case seem to be that three burglars entered the private house of Mr Hussain and his family. Mr Walid Salem, a man who's reported to make his living from burglary, and two others then attacked the Hussains, tied them up and threatened physical violence with a knife. This must have been a terrifying experience for the helpless victims. But Mr Hussain managed to free himself before any of his family were killed, recruited the help of his brother and gave chase to the three burglars. Two escaped but they caught Mr Salem, and beat him up with a cricket bat, inflicting upon him some long term damage. The judgement of the British judicial system was that the burglars should receive no meaningful punishment (two of them escaped) for terrorising an innocent family, while Mr Hussain and his brother should be sent jail. I do not know for certain, but I feel that if I'd found myself in the same situation as Mr Hussain, I would have been so mad with rage that I, too may have allowed the finer points of our legal system to slip my mind temporarily. The last thing on my mind would have been the legal requirement that I use only 'reasonable force'. I would have been protecting my own in a cloud of red mist. Anything could have happened. The sentence handed down to Mr Hussain seems to me to defy common sense and natural justice..

Its no good blaming the judge, who job it is to interpret the laws that our politicians have passed - though, like many others, I feel that a suspended sentence would have been more appropriate. Politicians should look again at the law in relation to self defence. Law that the people think is deeply unfair brings our legal system into disrepute. The law needs to be changed, so that judges don't feel they have to take decisions that almost every single one of us think is 'bonkers'. If Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Gayling is going to publish a document entitled 'Where's the Justice in That' tomorrow, which promises to consider replacing a requirement to use only 'reasonable force' with a requirement that disallows the use of 'grossly disproportionate' force, I will welcome it. Meanwhile Mr Hussain can do nothing but await the verdict of the Court of Appeal - with the support of the nation behind him.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Copenhagen - Total Failure or 'Essential Beginning?

Looking forward to reading the Sunday's tomorrow. Let's hope its not all just the pre-written 'space filler' usually served up around Christmas. Let's hope there's some serious commentary about the Copenhagen summit. Because we've seen nothing of any substance so far. Just politicians and 'summit goers' justifying their existence. As things stand at the moment, my annual award for 'Optimist of the Year' goes to Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations for his positive interpretation of the summit as an 'essential beginning'. What we need to know is whether it was a total failure, or whether something genuinely positive emerged from a meeting which involved 45,000 people flying into Denmark, from all over the world, at a cost of over £100 million and a massive carbon footprint. Hopefully, a day's reflection will enable some in-depth commentary to have been written.

Must admit I'm not sure what I was expecting. I certainly did not expect an agreement which would satisfy those who are rather dismissively described as 'warmists'. But I did expect more than we got - which was a non-binding 'agreement', prepared by the US, refined in discussion with China, India, Brazil and South Africa, and accepted by most attendees because there was nothing else on offer - and because they could not go home without any agreement at all. I'm not even clear about any timetable or scale of any emissions reduction. And we have no idea of how much money has to be handed over to developing countries as compensation for not following the same climate destroying path that developed countries have followed.

At Copenhagen, the UK may have been excluded from the real action, but as we approach the General Election, all parties will need to respond to climate change in their manifestos. And its not going to be easy - because of the catastrophic fiddling of the data that's been going on. Personally, I don't think it makes that much difference whether one believes our climate is warming as a natural phenomenon, or as a result of man's activities. The reality is that a significant rise in sea levels would cause such dramatic social disruption across the world that we had better do all we can to limit it. I believe that my generation (as with all previous generations) has a moral responsibility to leave the world in as good a nick as we found it. I suppose this puts me on the 'warmists' side of the debate. Worryingly, an increasing number of those I talk to disagree, and take a different view. And governments cannot take the sort of actions being talked about against a background of public scepticism. The scientists of the world need to start developing some communication skills. Dismissing 'deniers' as ar*****s is just not good enough. I wonder what Geoffrey Lean will have to say in tomorrow's Telegraph.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Presumed Consent.

Today, Edwina Hart, still Minister for Health and Social Services in the Welsh Assembly Government announced that she wants to introduce an opt-out, rather than an opt-in system of organ donation. This was a fully expected announcement. Mrs Hart had told us previously that she wants to introduce a system of 'presumed consent - and she likes to get her own way. There has been a 'consultation' exercise, which delivered exactly the response that it was designed to. Now, there is absolutely no argument about the need to increase the level of organ donation, but I do not believe that this is the right way to deliver it. It will be a case of 'government' taking people's organs because they didn't get around to saying they did not want then to be taken. But this post is not about the principle. That argument was lost when the Minister made her decision many months ago.

This post is about what happens next. Its the first time I have to consider a difficult moral issue - for real. To deliver on the Minister's intention, the next step will require the National Assembly to propose a Legislative Competence Order facilitating the transfer of the power to make this change of policy from the UK Parliament to the National Assembly for Wales. And it could easily be that consideration of this LCO by MPs will occur after the next General Election - and it could be that by then I'll be one of these MPs!! It might not just be me expressing my opinion on a blog. It could be for real. Blimey.

Now what does an MP who shares with me the following two opinions do? Firstly, that law making powers in devolved policy areas should be transferred to the National Assembly - and secondly, that presumed consent, a system that I consider to be morally wrong, and practically dangerous, should not be introduced. I suppose party discipline could cloud the issue - but it shouldn't, on what is a moral issue. And there's no room in this post to explore all the trans-border issues if Wales goes it alone.

Early days, but my initial inclination would be to support the transfer of the power to introduce presumed consent in Wales to the National Assembly - while arguing that AMs should oppose any subsequent measure. There's a big problem with this stance though. It might seem entirely logical to me, but I fear it would be a difficult position to explain to John Humphreys. "Explain to me Mr Davies, why you want to hand over power to another body which would immediately use it to introduce a system of which you disapprove? Tough question. Exciting prospect. Which is why I cannot understand all these MPs opting out of the opportunity to be involved in such decision making.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A brilliant talent

May not be able to blog tonight. I'm a judge at the Caereinion's Got Talent competition. Depends what time it ends. Speaking of talent, if you have a few minutes to spare, watch this clip. I took it off Retired and Crazy's blog. Its the winner of Ukraine's Got Talent. Its absolutely brilliant.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Caring for Demetia Patients.

This post should not be seen as a criticism of the Powys teaching Health Board. This morning I attended a meeting in public of the Powys tHB, which was held away from its Brecon HQ - in Newtown. I wanted to listen in on the discussion about the future delivery of older people's mental health services. I left the meeting engulfed in a cloud of despair. Those of us who have watched Gerry Robinson's recent programmes on the BBC, looking at how we care for the elderly mentally infirm, will not yet have fully recovered from the awfulness exposed. This morning's discussion only made matters worse.

Last May, Powys tHB decided to issue a consultation paper, outlining its plans to 'modernise' its older people's mental health services. Actually, its not about mental health - but about dementia. Personally, I do not regard dementia as a mental illness. It's as much a physical illness as breaking a leg or bowel cancer. Dementia is about the physical degeneration of brain cells - which in turn impacts on mental capacity. Whatever, the thrust of the Board's recommendations was to ensure sufferers remain at home for as long as possible. After watching Gerry Robinson, everyone will sign up to that. But let's not pretend this is easy - or cheap. I fear that, in reality, it will mean more people are just left to fend for themselves. But its still better than the hell many old people are currently being put through. So far, so good. The Board decided to implement the training programme needed to facilitate this change immediately.

Now for the contentious bit. For the last 10 years, the only residential provision managed by the tHB in North Powys has been a 10 bedded residential unit (located in the grounds of Newtown Hospital) named Fan Gorau. In the main, this has been used to accommodate patients with dementia at various stages - perhaps awaiting a place in a specialist EMI home, or some other treatment. The Board decided that Fan Gorau was not fit for purpose, and recommended that it no longer be a residential unit. Instead, the Board proposed to earmark three beds at the Shelton Hospital for the mentally ill, over the border in England. As a result of public objection to this proposal, the Board is now recommending an alternative solution. Fan Gorau is still to close as a residential unit, but dementia sufferers who can no longer remain at home are to be accommodated in a general ward in Newtown Community Hospital rather than being moved to Shelton. The main rationale behind this proposal is that dementia sufferers remain within easy reach of those who might visit them.

Personally, I see this solution as fraught with problems. Fair play to the the Board members. They were concerned about it as well, and deferred a final decision until next month - allowing for consultation. Over recent years, I've spent quite a lot of time in residential, nursing and EMI care homes. Because of the serious quality of life issues for other residents, separate accommodation is being increasingly developed as a discrete part of care homes. The Powys tHB recommendation flies in the face of what is happening elsewhere. It really worries me. I repeat, this is not a criticism of the Powys THB. The Board in between very hard places. Put bluntly, our society does not put a sufficiently high value on caring for our elderly people. Massive amounts of money has been, and is being put into extending life, and b***** all into making that extension a meaningful existence. Its an imbalance that needs to change.

2-0 to the Mayor

The Mayor of Welshpool dropped me in it last Saturday night. Mrs D and I attended the excellent Annual Carol Service in St Mary's Church, arranged by Welshpool Fire Fighters, starring singers from Ysgol Maesydre. Before the final carol, the Mayor of Welshpool, Miss Ann Holloway, was invited to address the congregation to offer thanks for a really great evening. After she'd finished her bit, she asked me to speak. No warning whatsoever. I'm not over-phased by this sort of thing, but it would have been nice to have some notice. I think that Madam Mayor was quite pleased to have put me on the spot. Nice score she thought. 1-0.

Anyway, this afternoon, I attended the Ysgol Maesydre Carol Concert in the same church. It was outstandingly good. But I espied on the 'order of service' that Miss Holloway was programmed to thank everyone involved before the last carol. This time I was ready for her. Thought through what I might say during the preceding carol. So was able to relax as listening to the Mayoral thanks being sprayed around, wondering whether she'd try to drop me in it again. Sure enough. "And now, the Headteacher has asked me to ask Mr Glyn Davies to address us - in Welsh." Over the last few years, I have learned to speak Yr Iaith Cymraeg, but this was a pushing it a bit. Even worse, it was 2-0 to the Mayor.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Christmas Message


"As we approach the end of 2009, we look back over a very bad year in British politics. The 'Expenses' scandal has polluted British democracy, the 'credit crunch' has piled up massive debts which future generations will have to repay, and so many of our young men and women have been killed and injured in Afghanistan."

"During the Christmas Festival we need, as a nation, to reflect on how we can do things better. All of us who aspire to public office must put our commitment to public service above personal advantage. Public office should be about helping constituents, not helping yourself. All of us must accept a new discipline that we stop spending on ourselves, at the same time as imposing massive debt burdens on our children and grandchildren. And we must offer prayers and thanks to our sons and daughters who fight on foreign fields to ensure our security."

"Christmas is also a time to be thankful for our good fortune. Living amongst the wondrous landscapes of Montgomeryshire is a privilege to savour. Whenever I spend a day in any city, I realise just how civilised our life in Montgomeryshire is. While those of us in public life have a duty to strive for improvement in the lives of those we wish to represent, let us not forget how lucky we are. And let us all have a joyous, thoughtful Christmas."

Glyn Davies, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Montgomeryshire.

Fair Play on the Battlefield.

Not often I pick up the sports section of my Telegraph and read three really cheering stories. Today is such an occasion. The first is about Ryan Giggs, just about the best example of a top line sportsman you will ever find. Despite being surrounded by greed and posturing, Giggs has remained a model professional throughout his long career. Last weekend he was voted BBC Sportsman of the Year. Personally, I thought this award should have gone to Mark Cavendish, whose performances in the Tour de France were epic. Giggs deserved something more like a 'Lifetime Achievement Award' - 900 first team appearances for one of the world's best teams, 11 Premiership titles, 2 European Cups. Tragedy that he was never able to strut his stuff on the biggest stage of all, the World Cup finals. The popular vote demonstrates how much he is admired. A worthy successor to Sir Bobby Charlton as Man U's 'decency' standard bearer.

And then there was James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who have turned their backs on the megabucks available in the Indian Premier League. These two sportsmen put pride in playing for their national team first. With this sort of commitment, we can expect to see success on the cricket squares of England and Wales.

Thirdly, there's the newspaper reaction to the vile, cowardly 'gouging' that may have been perpetrated by two Stade Francais players on Ulster flanker, Stephen Ferris. The reputations of Julien Dupuy and David Attoub will be forever sullied if they are found guilty. Shaun Edwards, no shrinking violet himself, has called for a year's ban. The whole game of rugby was disgusted when Springbok flanker, Shalk Burger and Italian wonderman were 'punished' with pathetically short bans last year. As I watched the autumn internationals, I felt nauseated to see these talented, but flawed players on the field at all. It seems that at last the game might be finally waking up to the disgust fans feel by this most despicable of acts. Gougers should be kicked out of the game altogether. Lets hope the authorities don't bottle it again this time.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Chilcot Inquiry.

I did not expect much from the Chilcot Inquiry. Thought it would be a whitewash. Perhaps its conclusions will be. But its already told us more about the thinking of Prime Minister Blair than I'd expected - and it doesn't look good. Seems he's been advised it doesn't look good, (perhaps by his old mate, Alistair Campbell who knows a bit about presentation) which is why he decided to appear in a soft interview with Fern Britton - to draw the sting out of his own appearance before Sir John Chilcot and his panel. Anyway, I've been reading quite a bit of the reporting of proceedings. George Pitcher, writing in today's Telegraph has come up with the nearest to what I'm thinking. I can do no better than reproduce these selected extracts, explaining why he finds the former Prime Minister so unconvincing;

"...its the stammery-stuttering, glottal-stopping delivery, trying to give the impression that Fern was witnessing a spontaneous revelation, rather than something carefully rehearsed. ...Blair knows that sincerity is everything and, if he can fake that, then he's cracked it. ...Blair has again used a soft BBC opportunity to prepare his way for a tricky public performance, in this case telling the Chilcot Inquiry that he'd have found any old reason to invade Iraq: WMD, regime change, bad hair day, whatever........the really troubling aspect of this Blair interview was that he was reinventing his past again, just as he did in the old days when he said that as a boy he had watched Jackie Milburn play for Newcastle United, had stowed away on a flight to the West Indies...." - (both claims were later found to be totally fictitious.)

Personally, I found his admission that he would have gone to war with Iraq, even if he'd known there were no WMD deeply shocking - as was the earlier revelation to the Inquiry that the real aim of intervention had been 'regime change' for months before he told the House of Commons it was WMD. Our Prime Minister lied blatantly and knowingly to Parliament, in order to win a vote allowing him to take our country to war. Today's extraordinary attack on Tony Blair by Sir Ken Macdonald, former Director of Public Prosecution should be the start of a fundamental reappraisal. I cannot commit to the written word just how low my opinion of Tony Blair has fallen. He is a man without shame.
UPDATE - Decided to delete the last sentence, which on next day reading I didn't like.

Our New Tenant

A new tenant has moved onto the pond in our garden. He or she (does anyone know how to tell) has been with us for about a fortnight. Its a spectacularly beautiful bird - and cheeky too. Last week it suddenly appeared in the walled garden attached to the converted barn opposite our house, staring in through the window, hissing at daughter-in-law, Adrienne, who happened to be inside at the time. Two swans did visit the pond in March. Looked as if they were thinking about nesting, but must have found somewhere better. At the time, despite our excitement, we were unsure about whether we wanted them to stay - not knowing whether this would mean that the family of Canada Geese which have moved in to nest every spring since we created the pond would be banished. Something else you ornithologists would know. Perhaps we'll find out ourselves next March.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

AWOL Again

Following the media fuss about our Montgomeryshire MP swanning off on an expenses paid Mediterranean cruise for six days in early December, when we all assumed he was representing us in the House of Commons, thought I'd let you have sight of another email sent to me by a disgruntled constituent. It reads;

"I have lived in the Montgomeryshire area for nearly 40 years, and have been keenly interested in the difficulties of Internet access and broadband speed when it was introduced in Mid Wales several years ago. I live in ********** and have to use it everyday for my work in the ******industry, as do other businesses and households.

I happened to tune into the BBC Parliament channel, using the new Freeview access that has just been introduced. It was a live TV broadcast of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee - Oral Evidence Session - Broadband Speed.

Lembit Opik is a member of this committee, which is chaired by Peter Luff MP.

The Group Strategy Director of British Telecom, Dr Tim Whitely of British Telecom was giving evidence regarding broadband speed. He told the other 8 members of the Committee who were there; "Mr Opik isn't here, but the worst area is in his own constituency of Montgomeryshire."

The question I asked myself is where on earth was he? If he can't be bothered to attend a Select Committee Meeting on broadband speed, which is such an important issue currently affecting the people he is representing in Montgomeryshire, what good is he to this area.

I was furious to discover by accident this example of his double standards."

Just thought I'd pass it on. I do receive emails of this sort, and don't pay great attention to them. Sometimes things happen to disrupt the best laid plans. But after learning about the cruise, I think they have more relevance.

UPDATE - received another email from someone who looks at these things, informing that the attendance record is 11 out of 36. This blog strives to be fair and accurate.

Going the Distance.

I really will have to visit the Boys & Boden Ltd branch at Shrewsbury, just to confirm that this story is true. But according to a half page advertising feature in this weekend's Montgomeryshire County Times, its a fact. The builder's supplies company has installed a giant urinal in the toilet section of the salesroom, where men are challenged to urinate out to as great a distance as possible. The principle of this sort of challenge is well established. Most golf 'society days' have a 'longest drive' competition. And Landyssil's annual 'Dragonfest' had a competition this year involving spitting olive stones. The local TV naturalist, Iolo Williams came in second. He spits like a llama. I daresay such competitions have been rife amongst young males throughout history, and may well have been used as a means of challenge in the distant past. But this is a first time, in modern times, I've known it be a formalised competition.

I can do no better than post the quotes given by Mr Dean Hammond, Managing Director. I know him well, but this a side of his character I knew nothing about.

"Come and see our new toilets but make sure your bladder is full, because you don't want to be left feeling embarrassed. I struggle to shoot my pee more than a few inches but I'm sure some of the builders who come here can do a lot better. We challenge everyone to come and have a go for themselves, and see if they can impress the four onlooking girls with their peeing power."

That's right. There are four life size images of attractive women looking on, armed with a camera, measuring tape and magnifying glass. These women are electronically programmed to yell comments on each performance. It could have a long lasting psychological effect if they are programmed to laugh. There are several 'standards' to aim for - 'Managing Director' at around 3 ft., 'Average' at around 5 ft., 'Apollo' at around 9 ft., and 'Lord of the Flies' at around 12 ft.

All this reminds me of two families walking home from church, after a heavy snowfall. One family's son and the other family's daughter walked on ahead. In a while, the parents came upon evidence that the boy had urinated on the roadside. His father was very angry when he noticed his son's name 'written' in the snow. The other father was even more angry when he recognised his daughter's handwriting.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Annunziata Rees-Mogg.

The first (and only) occasion I met Annunziata Rees-Mogg was about five years ago. I had invited Conservative Parliamentary Candidates in Wales to join me for a discussion about Assembly issues prior to the last election. I was an Assembly Member at the time. I asked this young, confident young woman what her name was. She replied "Annunziata" - not unreasonable since it was indeed her name. I think she was the candidate in Aberavon. To my eternal shame I asked her what she was known as. My only excuse is that I had never heard the name before (not having had a classical education), and I was trying to be friendly. She fixed me with an unblinking look, and said "Annunziata". "You pillock" I thought to myself - me that is. Anyway, my regard for this young woman rocketed - and even more so as she contributed to the discussion in such a knowledgeable way. I immediately marked her down as a Conservative star of the future. Perhaps I was a bit overawed because I regard her father (along with Charles Moore) as one of the two finest journalists of the age.

I have no idea whether David Cameron suggested to Annunziata that she should change her name to Nancy Mogg (Nanci if she's been contesting Aberavon again). I very much doubt it - except in jest. If he'd asked me first I'd have advised him against it. Not only do I think Annunziata should stick with her name, but I'm considering changing my name to Glyn Davies-Roberts as a gesture of support. My No 3 son did briefly consider changing his surname to O'Sullivan-Davies when he married Adrienne last year. In the event, he was just too conservative to do anything quite so radical. Whatever, I'm looking forward to hearing Kevin Maguire and his prejudiced ilk having to report on Annunziata Rees-Mogg's elevation to the Cabinet in a few year's time.

The Real Cost of Food

Was able to spend only two hours at a Community Conference in Lanfyllin, Montgomeryshire today. It was organised by 'Dolen Ffermio', a charity dedicated to raising awareness in farming communities of the North/South interdependence in agriculture. I was sorry to leave, having enjoyed a 'goat burger' for lunch. It was an instructive two hours, especially when Professor Nigel Scollen of Aberystwyth University, and Professor Chris Reynolds of Reading University began answering questions about the impact of methane produced by cows and sheep on the environment. There is no doubt that the f**ting and belching of farmed animals is an important issue. Very definitely not a laughing matter. Much important research is being undertaken to reduce the amount of methane produced. It all depends on diet, on maximising life span and productive output from each animal (to reduce the number needed), and efficient management of grassland. Garlic is reputed to be good, except it makes cow's milk stink.

I was surprised how seriously the threat to traditional livestock farming is being taken. There has been a successful campaign by lobby groups, particularly those dedicated to promoting animal welfare and vegetarianism, to link livestock farming with global warming - today's hottest issue. No-one can deny that farming animals for meat produces methane which contributes to global warming. But its nothing like as straight forward as it seems. And then I opened today's telegraph, and there it was, an article by Louise Gray under the headline 'Eat less meat and save the planet " says quango'. It seems that the Sustainable Development Commission are jumping on the bandwagon, and championing the vegetarian and organic option - despite 'organic' livestock farming probably being more methane productive than its conventional equivalent. If these people have their way, what are we going to do with all the CO2 absorbing grassland of Wales. As Marie Antoinette (or Rousseau) might say of today's Welsh people, "Let them eat grass". Its enough to make me want to start active farming again.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

No Sir, we are not all the bl***y same.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a friend informing that Montgomeryshire's MP was lecturing on a cruise liner in the Mediterranean. "So what" I thought. Another friend of mine, an authority on wildlife, does the same thing. No reason why an MP shouldn't do that in September, as long as any benefit is recorded in the Register of Member's Interests. Forgot all about it.

And then on Monday of this week, my office received another email from a very disgruntled businessman from Torquay. I telephoned him to check it wasn't a wind-up. Initially, I decided to ignore it completely. But there were other recipients of the email from 'Disgruntled of Torquay' - and its contents have appeared in the Daily Mail and the Shropshire Star yesterday, and The Sun today. In the interests of accuracy, I reproduce the content of the email. It was dated December 5th..

"Today, I returned from my one and only holiday this year.

I was on board the Cruise ship Queen Victoria. For the last five days of this cruise your local MP was also on board giving two lectures. I only attended the first. It was the most sickening self serving rubbish I have ever heard. Essentially, he was trying to convince his audience that MPs were alright really. He even laughed off the fact that he's been exposed for claiming the value of a wig for what was supposed to be a charity event.

It is also interesting to note;

He must have got paid for this either in kind or in money terms.

Parliament is sitting. Why could he not do this while Parliament is in recess? Teachers do not get to go on holiday in term time, so why do those who are governed have to follow different rules from those who govern?

What would his constituents think about him going off on a holiday cruise liner while Parliament is sitting, and while there is the mother of all recessions on? Making money to boot.

On his blog there is an entry on 1st or 2nd December (i.e. while he was on this ship) calling on Liberal activists to meet in Asda's on Friday to campaign. So the little people do the work on a rainy Friday in Britain and Lembit lives it up in First Class on a luxury liner. Very egalitarian. I bet they would love him for that....

Just thought you might like to know."

I'm not in a position to know how much, if any, of this is true - but I do note that his office manager in Montgomeryshire has reported to have responded with "No comment". Problem with this is that it reflects on all of us who are, or want to be MPs. This afternoon, I was walking down Broad Street in Welshpool, when a stranger was rather rude to me. Seems that he had read Kelvin Mackensie's article in the Sun today, and wanted to (how shall I put this?) 'share his opinion' with me. After my protestation that I knew nothing of the article, he marched off shouting "You bl**dy politicians are all the bl**dy same" Well excuse me, but we're not. In Montgomeryshire there's David Rowlands (Ukip), Heledd Fychan (Plaid) and myself all very keen to represent Montgomeryshire at Westminster - and if elected, I cannot imagine any of us going on a 'private, paid for' holiday while Parliament is sitting. All three of us campaign, at significant cost to ourselves, striving for the opportunity to represent Montgomeryshire. No sir, we are not all the bl**dy same. Anyway, I feel better now that's off my chest.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Welcome Mohammad.

I've never met Mohammad Asghar. Until today he was a Plaid Cymru Assembly Member, representing South East Wales. Today he caused a bit of turbulence in Welsh politics by defecting to the Conservative Group in the National Assembly for Wales. I thought it was considerate to the sensitivities of Plaid Cymru that Mohammad and the Conservatives announced the defection on a day when the news could slip in quietly, overshadowed by the retirement of Rhodri Morgan.

So happens that I was a guest on Radio Cymru's 'Taro Post' today - with Helen Mary Jones, who remains a Plaid AM and is a prominent spokesperson for the party, and a fellow old pupil of Caereinion High School in Montgomeryshire. Our topic was 'Rhodri's legacy' but inevitably Mohammad's defection cropped up. Helen Mary had first go, and started banging on about Margaret Thatcher and John Redwood. I couldn't make much of what she was saying, but to be fair, she was holding a c*** hand. Anyway, when my turn came, I just said how pleased we were that Mohammad had decided to join us, and that I knew he'd been impressed by the Conservative Group in the National Assembly, and the leadership of David Cameron. Playing it cool was best, I thought.

Helen Mary also said that Mohammad should resign, a call made by others, including the leading Welsh pundit, Daran Hill. I was a bit non-committal on this. In general, I support the principle that when an elected representative changes parties mid-stream, they should resign, and seek re-election carrying their new colours. If he'd been elected as a 'constituency' AM, you would probably find evidence in previous posts of my view that resignation is the appropriate honourable course. But Mohammad is a 'regional' member, and all he would do by resigning is hand the seat to another Plaid Cymru member. He would not be able to fight an election. This rather confuses the issue. Interestingly, if no-one on the list Plaid Cymru presented at the last election in South Wales East were to be in a position to step into the shoes of a resigning Mohammad Asghar, the seat would lie vacant until the next General Election. (It seems that since the 2006 Government of Wales Act, this is the correct terminology). Proportional Representation is a complex business. In summary, this blog extends to Mohammad, a warm welcome onto our team.

UPDATE - Seems that I've misrepresented Daran's take on it. Better read his blog on it, or his comment.

Monday, December 07, 2009


For the next two weeks, most countries of the world will have representatives at the Copenhagen climate summit. Its a very important conference, even if its likely to be dominated in the UK media by the Pre Budget Report - for the next few days at least. Its difficult to be certain what the aim of the Conference is, but I think it's to establish a 'pathway' to an international binding agreement to reduce carbon emissions by some agreed amount by an agreed future date. I know it sounds a bit woolly. But as a principle, I support this aim, though I recognise that many others do not. We are told that the majority of scientists in the field believe that huge reductions are crucial to prevent an environmental catastrophe for planet Earth. I suspect that most British people support decisive action to reduce emissions, and quickly - but that they do not accept the scale of policy change being demanded by some. That's about where I place myself.

But this post is about the disastrous way the supporters of most radical change are presenting their arguments. Even the generally impressive Ed Miliband, the UK Government's leading spokesman has now resorted to calling those who disagree with him 'flat earthers', and dismissing their opinions as 'irresponsibility'. This approach generates hostility, both towards himself, and the argument he's trying to make. His rudeness towards Lord Lawson on the BBC last night was arrogant and patronising, and did nothing but damage to his cause. No-one likes being called a flat earther.

I hope there is real progress at Copenhagen. Not some huge photo-op where they're all trying to cosy up to Obama, and trumpeting some media soundbite that's already been prepared. We need a commitment to real actions that will make a difference, both at the state level and internationally. The sort of thing I mean at the international level, is a compensatory package which will persuade Brazil to end deforestation, thus 'Saving the Amazon'. This can be justified from a 'biodiversity' standpoint as well. And at the national level, something like scrapping the excise licence, switching the tax to fuel consumption - or a Council Tax system tied to carbon emission levels. Not sure these ideas are workable, but its the sort of scale of change needed if any difference is going to be made.

But back to the blustering refusal to consider different opinions. The 'leaked emails from the UEA have had a defining impact. The evidence suggests that some of the most influential scientists in the world, responsible for the data on which so many other scientists have based their opinion may have been manipulating, or suppressing the figures. Suddenly, the supposed scientific consensus looks anything but. Total transparency, and willingness to engage with what are rather offensively referred to as 'deniers' will be essential to restore faith in the data. Debating with Lord Lawson, and explaining why he is wrong is better than insisting he has no right to speak. Depending on blind assertion will not persuade anyone, and no amount of bullying and denigration by Ed Miliband will make the slightest difference.

Parti Cut Lloi

Been to a concert today. It was held at Welshpool Livestock Market, at 2.00 this afternoon. There were probably 200 members of the local farming community there. S4/C were filming for Wedi Saith, and Dai Llanilar did the introduction - the sort that only Dai can do. I cannot look at him now without thinking of the programme he presented from a hot tub.

The entertainment was Parti Cut Lloi, 18 men of the Dyffryn Banw soil, led by the very feminine Sian James, harpist and singer of renown. They sing in the 'Plygain' tradition. I have an interest in this group, in that a few of them are 'family' - including Sian. Alun was in his suit, straight from his legal firm office, while most were in their normal livestock marketing clothes. If my Taid Coedtalog, or Uncle Wat Penparc were alive today, they would probably have been there. It was half an hour's splendid entertainment.

So if you see a Parti Cut Lloi concert advertised, buy a ticket. You'll enjoy it. Or buy the CD they were promoting today - 'Y Dyn Bach Bach'. If you want to buy the CD, email . Parti Cut Lloi translates to Calf's Kit Party, and Dyn Bach Bach translates to 'Little, Little Man'.

UPDATE - I'm informed in comments that Parti Cut Lloi translates into Calves Shed Party. I should add that I may have been wrong, but not because I translated incorrectly. I thought the word 'kit was an English Language synonym for 'shed'. That's how I, and everyone who worked for me on the farm always used it. It could be one of those things that established itself in my mind when I was very young.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

How many Welsh MPs are needed?

I have no private knowledge about Conservative intentions regarding the number of MPs who should be representing Welsh constituencies in the House of Commons. This post is merely a personal observation on an issue receiving a fair bit of coverage at present. The latest contribution has come from the Institute of Welsh Affairs, here, where its Director, John Osmond writes about a speech delivered by Professor Robert Hazell, Director of the Constitutional Unit at University College London. The title sounds awfully impressive, which is probably why he's usually wheeled out whenever there's discussion about this sort of issue in Wales.

There are three strands to this debate. Lets consider them in turn. Firstly we have a proposal from David Cameron that there should be a 10% reduction in the total number of MPs. This suggests a reduction of 4 from the current total of 40 Welsh MPs. Its a proposal that seems to have been well received, and I'm content to support it.

Secondly, we have another Cameron suggestion - that the ratio of electorate to member should be equalised. Personally, I reckon there should be some recognition of population sparsity, and some allowance for anticipated population growth. Whatever, this proposal would mean that because of the current comparatively small electorates in Wales, there would inevitably be a further reduction in the number of Welsh MPs. This extrapolation seems to have been missed by Professor Hazell (or by John Osmond). Notwithstanding the two above considerations, I cannot see this is anything but reasonable. But I'm not able to calculate precisely how many Welsh MPs we're now down to.

And thirdly, there's what Professor Hazell refers to as a "devolution discount" - a reduction in the number of Welsh MPs to reflect the lesser workload of an MP, where there's a devolved Parliament or Assembly. However, I've not seen this proposal emanate from a Conservative source, so don't know how much credence to give it. Something similar did feature in the last Conservative manifesto, but I've heard nothing of it since. Personally, I would not support this, even if it is logical. It could easily be interpreted as a 'threat' or 'punishment' in the run up to a 'powers' referendum, and that will never do. Its a case of pragmatism before logic.

I've tried to avoid self interest in this post, presenting the issue on the basis of facts as I see them. Now here's the question - 'How many MPs would be able to do that if all this became a reality?'

Saturday, December 05, 2009

What is Carwyn Jones talking about?

Carwyn Jones has made a very disaappointing start as First Minister elect, spouting one-eyed drivel about the need to protect Wales from a future Conservative Government. This makes him sound like a pale imitation of Rhodri Morgan. Perhaps he's been spending too much time with his old boss and Peter Hain during his leadership campaign. The BBC tells us that he believes it would be difficult to have a "constructive relationship" with a future Conservative Government which cut public services in Wales. He's supposed to have said "I don't think that a Conservative Government would hold Wales best interests at heart" plus a lot more bilge in similar vein. He's clearly allowed himself to be carried away by his margin of victory over Edwina Hart and Huw Lewis.

Let's just get real here. It's a Labour Government under which the UK economy has disintegrated to such a level that its spending £200,000,000,000 more than it is earning this year - and planning to continue doing into the distant future. It's a Labour Government which has instigated the Governor of the Bank of England to inform us that current public spending plans threaten our nation with bankruptcy. It's a Labour Government that has created a situation where there will have to be real reductions in public spending for years to come, which ever party forms the next Government. There is not a single commentator, outside of the Labour Party who thinks otherwise. And it's Labour and Labour led coalitions that have delivered a Welsh economy in free fall, with unemployment levels hitting record highs, and an education system worse funded than anywhere else in the UK. The rhetoric that Gordon Brown and Peter Hain use is akin to the protestations of a drunk driver blaming the emergency services for the injuries inflicted on the innocent pedestrian. What Carwyn needs to do is not ape this nonsense, but tell us what plans he has to repair some of the damage inflicted on our nation during the shameless 'give-away culture' so loved by his predecessor. I suppose the next thing will be an attack on the wealth of the Conservative AMs, unless there will be more millionaires in his Cabinet that on the opposition benches.

What an A**hole

How often have you been forced to put your head in your hands when watching someone putting forward a shared viewpoint in a totally disastrous way. Just think about how all those who are arguing that we need massive cuts in carbon emissions felt when watching Newsnight tonight. Martha Kearney was chairing a debate between an academic from the University of East Anglia, and a rather loud climate change sceptic from the US.

I suspect most of us started out with an instinctive warmth for the professor. At least he was willing to go public and try to justify what seems unjustifiable. But what an incredibly arrogant and unpleasant advocate he proved to be. After demanding that he should be allowed to justify the 'tweaking' of information uninterrupted, he ended the programme by observing of his quite jovial opponent "What an asshole". As Lord Lawson might say "With enemies like that, who needs friends".

Friday, December 04, 2009

Backing Red Meat

Sir Paul McCartney is a good singer. Well he might be a good singer. I was a John Lennon man myself, so I'm a bit biased against him. Whatever, he makes a whole lot more sense when he's singing than when he starts preaching about the impact red meat has on the environment. Charlie Brooks, writing in today's Telegraph shares my low opinion of Sir Paul's prejudiced opinions. I have no problem with those who prefer to be vegetarian - as long as they don't start telling the rest of us what to eat. Yesterday, Sir Paul was in Brussels outlining his belief that eating red meat is a major cause of climate change, and to promote the idea of Meat-Free Monday. What he's doing of course, is piggy-backing the climate change debate to pursue his 'holier-than-thou' preaching about vegetarianism. As Charlie Brookes writes, his opinions might count for more if he wasn't one of the worst carbon footprint offenders on the planet.

So happens this subject came up last night at a meeting of the North Powys Grassland Society annual meeting last night, where I was one of a 3-member Question Time panel. Inevitable the subject of cows breaking wind had an airing. I do not deny that this is an issue. I understand that sheep burping from the 'other end' poses a similar a similar problem. What we need is more research into cattle diets to reduce the problem. We ostomates understand the issue only too well. After my lower bowel resection in 2002, I had to learn not to eat anything that would lead to embarrassing 'noise'. Same with cows. There's a lot of good work going on at Aberystwyth University and in the US. Apparently feeding them garlic improves things hugely.

Production of red meat is the main form of farming in most of Wales - and its a sustainable industry. In Wales the main part of the diet is grassland, which requires little ploughing up of the turf, which does release CO2. Grass takes CO2 out of the atmosphere, offsetting the gas that is emitted by the grazers. I suppose Sir Paul McCartney would prefer us to plough up our land every year, piling on the fertilizer and sprays - probably onto GM into the bargain, to grow grain for humans to eat without converting it into meet. Its always sensible to look at the wider picture. You see more - if you have your eyes open that is. Sir Paul was speaking 'yesterday' - and that was one of my least favourite.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Climate Change Debate

Today, a huge new wind farm was opened off the coast of North Wales. Now what is one to think about it - in the context of climate change discussion. Over the last few days, such discussion has been transformed, especially in the US. The publication of 'leaked' emails, emanating from Professor Phil Jones' previously hugely influential Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia has exploded into the debate like an Exocet. Prof Jones standing down today has added to the mayhem. Almost the entire 20,000 strong cast of delegates filling the planes which are filling the skies as they head to Copenhagen this coming weekend are trying to play it down. But the sceptical juices of the non participant public is now in full flow.

I've always found this whole debate difficult. Instinctively, I've been on the side of 'believers', but some of the rhetoric seems so 'over-the-top' that 'believer' is no longer a description I'm comfortable with. Much of it does not seem to be based on common sense. In today's Telegraph, Charles Moore reminds us that Gordon Brown thinks we have just a few days to "save the planet". The article is worth reading - because its representative of what is being written all over the world since the leaked emails hit the headlines. Suddenly, Lord Nigel Lawson has the audience he has been striving to find for years. Prince Charles has said something along the same lines as the Prime Minister. I simply do not believe it. And once part of the rhetoric becomes unbelievable, everything is questioned. And then we find out that the data on which much the science is supposed to have been based has been deliberately 'skewed'. There must be a thoroughly and genuinely independent inquiry into what Professor Phil Jones' CRU has been up to.

But back to the turbines off the Rhyl coast. I don't like off shore wind farms at all, but accept them - just as I've come to accept new nuclear power stations. Neither do I object to the huge new development called Gwynt y Mor, off Llandudno. Still do not think onshore turbines are worthwhile though. The landscape damage is too high a price to pay for pathetically little. I wonder how many turbines would be needed to counter the carbon footprint of the Copenhagen Conference - assuming the wind blows all weekend. Maybe Professor Jones can work that one out, while he's on his unexpected extended leave.

Choosing a Cabinet.

As touring the blogosphere tonight, I note that Carwyn Jones is having lots of advice about who to appoint to his first Cabinet. So I don't see why I shouldn't join in - at least in general terms. The first requirement will be for the new Leader to put his stamp on things by springing a surprise or two - but not easy when you think about it. He will also have to disappoint someone that's seen as his friend. Successful leaders have to be seen as tough, and willing to take decisions that are not welcome in their own kitchen. I'm assuming that Plaid Ministers will all stay put.

Some long standing Ministers will probably be asked to leave the Cabinet, if they haven't decided to go anyway. I'd expect Andrew Davies, Jane Hutt and Brian Gibbons to fall into this category - and maybe the retiring Jane Davidson (but Carwyn may feel he cannot afford to lose her and say that she's going in the summer - dangling a carrot in front of Deputy Ministers). He will probably bring in his campaign manager and leadership opponents, though he might be tempted to offer Huw no more than a Deputy role. (Probably not though). Everyone expects promotion for best mate, John Griffiths - but this could be where Carwyn demonstrates his ruthless side! (But again, probably not). Maybe he'll repeatt he trick of an AM as Counsel General. This would leave room for the splendid Carl Sargeant, as a nod in the direction of North Wales. I should also make reference to Carl's outstanding ability - or I'll have Aneurin Glyndwr targeting me.

Beyond the above, he must do something 'different' to make a mark - so everyone else will come from the backbenches - and I just do not know the AMs elected in 2007 well enough. Perhaps he will just go for Lesley Griffiths or the media ever present Alun Davies, but if he does, its all so predictable. He's got to come up with something to surprise us - Carl as Minister for Sport perhaps. Perhaps Jane Davidson will have to go after all. Only problem with all this is that its so predictable. Go on, surprise us First Minister (elect). Surely there'll be one surprise.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

When is an 'Announcement' not an 'Announcement'.

Today, the Assembly Government Health Minister issued a letter to Assembly Members informing them that new Renal Dialysis units are to be located at Welshpool and Llandrindod Wells Hospitals in Powys. I thought I was hearing things. Ironically, at the very same time, I was being skewered on Radio Shropshire for the delays there have been to promised developments of a Welshpool Unit over many years - because Welshpool renal patients are currently being turned away from Shrewsbury Hospital. They are being forced to even further afield, because of a lack of capacity at Shrewsury. You might ask why I should be taking stick for this, but once you cross Offa's Dyke, anyone who has or has had anything to do with the National Assembly is treated as one single amorphous blob.

Let's just go back a bit. There's been a campaign for a dialysis unit at Welshpool for many years. Promises have been made and broken. And then almost a year ago there was great joy locally when every relevant person in Wales met at a crucial one-day conference in Cardiff and decided that Powys should have joint top priority in Wales for investment in new dialysis provision. This decision was forwarded as a recommendation to the Minister, who had already made significant financial provision for increasing dialysis capacity across Wales. Great celebrations locally. I joined in. In early summer, we were told that £2.6 million had been 'set aside' for such provision in Powys, and a 'project board' was established by the Welsh renal network to deliver the Welshpool unit. I read emails from Assembly officials predicting that a temporary 'demountable' unit would be in operation before the end of the year. Now its true that the Minister didn't make an official 'announcement', but her officials have left no doubt in our minds that a unit was going ahead in Welshpool. Over recent weeks, local campaigners have become increasingly frustrated as this 'Project Board' has progressed with the urgency of an arthritic snail. We've begun to wonder if it will ever happen. People who have raised money are diverting their donations to other local charities. A recent meeting of the local League of Friends was left stunned by the negativity shown by the leader of the Project Board when reporting on (lack of) progress. You can see why I was so underwhelmed by today's announcement. It's great to hear the Minister provide reassurance. But what she really needs to do is put a rocket up the backside of the officials who have responsibility for delivering her policies. I'm tempted to name names Maybe next time. A particularly explosive rocket will be needed.

Tesco call off store opening in Newtown

I'm not in Mrs D's good books - or those of Pam in the Conservative Office, or Maggie in the CPRW Office, or daughter-in-law, Adrienne who has just moved into the Barn opposite, or every other person that I've met today who shops. And the reason for this witholding of geniality from my person - I supported Powys County Council in its decision to take legal action to prevent Tesco opening its new supermarket in Newtown, Montgomeryshire next week, unless all the associated road works have been completed. After careful thought yesterday, I issued media comment encouraging Powys Council to 'get tough' with Tesco. Well, Tesco decided this morning to postpone the opening of its new store from Dec. 7th until sometime after Xmas. Makes no difference that the Council were right, or that Tesco were right. Reality is that almost everyone I know has been looking forwards to shopping at Tesco's, and are thoroughly disappointed by today's news.

Must admit I was floored when Tesco contacted me this morning to inform me of this decision. Never known Tesco to take a backwards step before (if this can be so described). It wasn't what I expected - which was for the supermarket giant to move a 500 strong (or thereabouts) workforce in to finish off the road works. Last night, I was thinking of Tesco as preparing to "bulldoze its way through planning conditions". Tonight, its more as a responsible, responsive developer, willing to put its responsibilities before profit. That must be a first.

But the reality is that if Tesco had opened when the roadworks were not finished, there would have been traffic chaos in Newtown. Its been bad enough over the last several weeks, with motorists waiting for what seems like hours. Just imagine what would have happened with another 20,000 (?) shoppers a day piling in as well. But none of this 'justification' cut any ice at all with Mrs D. I could now find myself dispatched to Morrison's to do some of the shopping as punishment.