Sunday, June 27, 2010

Things we do

Just thought I'd put up a few photos of some of the odd things that have been happening in my life - that's when I'm not hanging around hospitals, which I'm doing too much of at the moment. Occasionally I go Chinook spotting on Pany-y-Brialli Hill. Over the last few days there have been 4 of the terrifying beasts flying around Montgomeryshire. Here's two of them taking off on Friday.
Also on Friday I helped launch a new footpath/cycle track alongside the old Montgomery Canal from Abermule to Newtown. Great scheme - fitness, environment and economy. Wynne mentioned a few blokes who cycle from Newtown to Abermule for a few beers at the Waterloo Arms before cycling back. I wonder how long it will be!!
And who would have thought that Welshpool would have its own troupe of Irish Dancers! Well, here they are performing at Gungrog Infant School's Fete - which I officially opened on Friday Evening. Its another of these little events that I went to last year which I'm trying to go to this year as well. They asked me when I was just a candidate, so I like to go along now that I'm the local MP.
And here's the Rambling Rector - a truly magnificent specimen, climbing through a flowering cherry near our house. Its will never be this good again, because Mrs D wants it cut back after its flowered. I did say that you shouldn't castrate a rector, but she was without sympathy, having known a rector that should have been castrated!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The killing of babies.

If this post by Guido is as it appears, how can anyone claim that an abortion at 24 weeks is not murder?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Letting you know where I've been

Been out of action for the last few days, a reluctant guest at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. This post is to scotch any rumours there might be of an early by-election in Montgomeryshire.

Truth is, the engine hasn't been running too smoothly for best part of a year - short of breath, urinary infections and occasionally conking out completely. I suppose the night of the General Election was an example of 'hitting a wall'. Several people have told me I looked a bit 'zonked'. Anyway, decided to call on Dr Ryan in Welshpool last Monday afternoon. It was all I could do to stop him ordering a 'blue light' to rush me to Shrewsbury as an emergency. Pleaded with him that I'd never live it down. In fact I had to tell a little white lie by letting him think Mrs D was going to drive me in.

It seems that long term severe infections can have a nasty impact on the heart, and mine was thundering along like a steam train off the rails - fast and erratic. I'd been expecting a box of pills and home. No way. Couldn't believe it. I was first up at PMQs on Wed, and had planned my maiden speech. Instead I would by on my back, with a drip in my arm pumping antibiotics and glucose into my system. I pleaded that I could come back on Thursday. Consultant said "Of course you can self-discharge if you want Mr Davies, but I strongly advise against it, and you will be taking a big risk with your life". A grown men weeping is not a pretty sight. Don't suppose I will ever come up in PMQs again.

I was allowed out earlier today. Hopefully the infection has been annihilated by the deluge of antibiotics. I'm on a few weeks of Warfarin to prepare me for being plugged into a power source of some sort to jump start my heart in the proper rhythm. Told them I've probably got a tin of Warfarin somewhere in a shed on the farm. I used it as a rat poison. Very effective until Montgomeryshire rats developed an immunity and were so sexually rampant that by today, most of the British rat population is immune. Won't be back on four cylinders until the shock treatment's done, but feeling more sparky than I have for months.

I could have said nothing of course. But the RSH is full of people I know, and if I'd said nothing, there would have been rumours of a by-election by the weekend. Even the nurse that pushed me from my ward to the heart scanning machine turned out to the daughter of a good friend of mine. Really nice to be home.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sabre rattling - or did he mean it?

Tonight, I was going to post about the interview that George Osborne gave Andrew Marr on the BBC this morning. It would have been very complimentary about the Chancellor, and about ex Labour MP, John Hutton who has agreed to prepare a report for the Government about how to deal with the unsustainable cost of public sector pensions. But with my recent record of dropping career damaging 'love bombs' I'm going to resist the temptation.

Instead, I'm going to post on comments given to the BBC's 'Politics Show' by Roger Williams, Parliamentary leader of the Lib Dems in Wales. Roger has informed us that he would not support any increase in VAT, if such an increase were to be proposed in the budget next Tuesday. I wonder what he meant by that. Did he just mean that he would not like it. Well I, and a lot of my friends would not like it either. Or did he mean that he would vote against the budget if it included an increase in VAT - even an increase of say 1%. That's what it looks like.

During the General Election campaign, I responded to questions by saying that I hoped a Conservative Government would not have to raise taxes at all. I also said that I hoped there would be reductions in business taxes - to stimulate the private sector to create new business. It followed that I accepted that there would have to be significant reductions in public spending. Circumstances have led me to slightly modify my position. Over the last few weeks I've accepted that there should be limited and selective increases in CGT to avoid blatant tax dodges. I support the Osborne approach that around 80% of the deficit reduction proposals should involve less public spending.

Now I don't expect to get all that I want next Tuesday. No budget has ever done that. But I expect to hear the Chancellor explain to us the reasons for any changes he proposes. I hope and expect his arguments are strong. To just say, two days before the budget that I would not vote for my Government's budget if he did something I disapproved of would have the Whips on the phone within the hour - quite rightly too. But that seems to be what Roger Williams did this morning. I wonder what Deputy PM, Nick Clegg thinks of it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Huhne on song.

Bit of a mixed week for me at Westminster. Health wasn't great for the first half, but was eating again by today - which was fortunate because I was entertained to a very fine lunch in the House of Commons Press Gallery. Received my invite as a guest of Sunita Patel of the Shropshire Star. These lunches are rather special occasions. Today's speaker was Chris Hulne, Secretary of State at the Department for the Environment and Climate Change. Must admit that I hadn't thought he was 'great shakes' at the Despatch Box, but he was very impressive today - under the sort of hostile questioning you would expect from the press pack. And he was equally impressive on Question Time tonight. Certainly made former Secretary of State for Wales, Peter Hain look petty and partisan.

Anyway he made a very good joke - which may well have been around a while - but not heard by me before...... following a dispute many years ago, the department responsible for energy issues accepted that a claim from a complainant was reasonable on the grounds that "he may have been charged for the gas which escaped and blew up his house."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lord Elis Thomas stirring the pot again.

So Lord Elis Thomas, the National Assembly for Wales' Presiding Officer has suggested that the referendum on Assembly powers should be held in Autumn 2011. This does not surprise me at all. A few weeks ago I read a piece by Martin Shipton in the Western Mail, postulating the same date. Perhaps Martin had written his piece uninstigated, but my immediate thought was that a very senior and very cunning politician had been involved somewhere behind the curtains.

I'll go further. October 2011 may have been the preferred date all along - by very senior and very cunning politicians that is. Lets look at the circumstantial evidence. It was May 2007 when Plaid Cymru and Labour formally agreed that the referendum should take place on or before the May 2011 Assembly Election. What followed was an exercise in pointless procrastination of epic proportions, that delayed the vote by which AMs formally asked the Secretary of State for Wales to hold this referendum until February 2010. Legal advice (which remained private) fell into my hands at the time pointing out how difficult it would be to meet an October/November 2010 deadline. Despite that advice, First Minister, Carwyn Jones, delayed sending on the AM's 'request' for over a week, and Peter Hain, the SoS then left the letter lie on his desk. We suspect this because of the false vociferousness of his protestations. So when Cheryl Gillan took over in May, it was too late to hold the referendum this year, before winter sets in. Again we can tell this was a pre-planned stunt because of the orchestrated protests both in Cardiff and Westminster - which I notice have died down now that the Assembly's latest legal advice has been made public. No-one seemed to have told Welsh Labour MPs before PMQs last Wed. though. They did sound daft.

So what are the choices before us. 1) We could try to hold the referendum in the late autumn/early spring - when the weather is decidedly suspect. 2) We could hold it on the same day as the Assembly Election - a stunt which would lead to inevitable defeat (in my opinion). 3) We could do as his Lordship has suggested today. I know where my money's going. What would be odd is if the Secretary of State called a referendum earlier than the Labour/Plaid Coalition actually wanted it.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Was it the Jabulani!

So England managed to scrape a draw against the US tonight. "Fantastic" I say - through gritted teeth. The American's equaliser was one of the worst blunders in world cup history. The ball was trundling towards the English goal with about as much venom as a Bangladeshi 'slower ball'. Little Ffion could have stopped it. But the West Ham keeper, Robert Green just let it roll on by. Perhaps he's read so much about the way the Jabulani swerves and swings that he was completely taken aback when it just rolled straight up to him. Adidas reckon the Jabulani is the 'roundest ball' ever made with a 'grip and groove' texture that gives it unmatched flight characteristics. Tell Robert Green that.

Pleased to see that Wayne Rooney stayed on the pitch. It seems that there's a crackdown on profane language at this world cup, and our Wayne is reputed to curse like an Irish jockey with a thistle in his pants. Read somewhere that the referees have been mugging up on English swear words, hoping to catch Wayne out. But do they know what these words sound like in Liverpudlian? Perhaps Wayne has learned to do his cursing in Welsh, though this is not guaranteed to be successful. When Malaysian negotiaters needed to communicate with each other during peace discussions with Indonesia in the 1960s, they completely fooled the eavesdroppers by speaking to each other in Welsh. They had both been students at Aberystwyth. The Brazilian referee tonight might easily have been an ex-Aber man.

I'm overcome with uncertainty about what attitude to strike when watching England play in South Africa. Normally its quite straight forward for any Celt. We just back whoever's playing England. Nothing to do with not liking the English. Its always been like that - a 'Big Brother' thing. Bit like the Milibands I suppose. Anyway this time, David Cameron has stuck an English flag up in Downing St. and told us all to back England. I almost choked on my bara brith. Well OK, but on one condition. If Wales reach the semis of the rugby world cup next year, and the other home nations are out, I want the Welsh flag up on No 10. Deal?

The mountain to climb just got higher.

New Zealand 66 - Ireland 28. - with the All Blacks switching to cruise mode for the second half. Best of luck to the Welsh boys next week. But I suppose that since I managed an unlikely 13.2% swing against the Lib Dems at the General Election last month, there's no reason why Gatling's team can't pull off an equally unlikely victory in New Zealand. I sense that we're going to surprise them. Wales to win by 5 points.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Hope of some common sense on wind farms

This blog hasn't visited the issue of onshore wind farms in Montgomeryshire for a while - mainly because there's been a hiatus when nothing much is happening. Perhaps things are about to change. Whatever, here's a few random comments.

Firstly, there is still no announcement about the location of the National Grid sub-station in Montgomeryshire. This announcement was expected six months ago. Rumours suggest it will be in either the Abermule or Llandinam area - which indicates that the 400kw cable will run 40 miles down the Severn Valley from Ironbridge. Just like slashing a Picasso. Final confirmation will be a huge media story, but in this post I'm just considering the impact of delay. The completion date for the line was supposed to be end of 2015 - when the sub-station announcement was expected before last Xmas. Is this delay going to mean that this date will be postponed again? Is it possible that I see wind turbines disappearing into the distance?

Secondly, I hear that there's to be a 'trial run' of lorries that carry turbines through Montgomeryshire during the next two or three weeks. I rather approve of this - along the trunk roads. But I cannot see how this can happen on the narrower 'county' roads. Lots of road widening, ditch filling and verge removing will be needed before these lorries can use 'county' roads. They're going to make one hell of a mess, and get stuck, if the lorries follow the routes before the improvements have been made. And the whole exercise will prove nothing. I'm hoping to try to cadge a lift in one of the lorries if its a Monday or Friday. Just to see the problems first hand.

Thirdly, I'm hearing more involved people mentioning 'cumulative impact' as a serious planninmg consideration. And so it should be. When the Assembly Government first embarked on its idiotic TAN 8 journey in 2005, 'cumulative impact' was ruled out as a material consideration. Now it's not. Great news. More onshore turbines disappearing over the horizon I think. OK, so these wind farms don't make much of a contribution to our energy needs, but I can live with the odd few turbines. What's frightening in its horror is the transformation of Montgomeryshire's special landscapes into hideous turbine parks - as Assembly Minsiters have decreed.

For years I've been depressed by the blinkered idiocy of Assembly Government renewable energy policy. But some shafts of light seem to be filtering into the dark thinking that has dominated this policy area for years.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Maiden Speech material

I suppose I should express fulsome thanks to the former MP for Montgomeryshire, Lembit Opik. Firstly, his high profile defeat on May 6th ensured that I began my Parliamentary career in a conflagration of publicity. So much so that fellow newcomer to the House of Commons, Simon Hart MP was heard to observe that the people of Montgomeryshire had pulled off the incredible achievement of electing as its new MP an even bigger 'media tart' that the previous one. I think it was a comment meant to amuse.

Anyway, I'm hoping to make my maiden speech on Tuesday (if I can catch Mr Speaker's eye that is) and will need to follow the convention of paying tribute to my predecessor - and wish him well in whatever career he chooses to follow. Never has a maiden speaker had so much material. Not only has Lembit already launched a career as a 'stand-up comic' but has also become a ventriloquist, using a talking shoe as his prop. And he's started writing a column for my local weekly newspaper, advising his successor (me) how to do the job.

Not all new MPs pay tribute to their predecessors of course. Here's an extract from John McDonnell's maiden speech (courtesy of the Government Gazette) "...Despite my respect for the conventions of the House, I shall not perjure myself by praising my immediate predecessor. Many saw him as a Tory buffoon....He was a stain on the character of this House, the Conservative Party which harboured him and the good name of my constituency. He brought shame on the political process of this country....He demeaned the House by his presence.....Thankfully, my constituents can now say good riddance to this malignant creature."

Lateral logic.

Just read one of those silly little emails which amuse me. Message is that if you find reading about how much damage drinking does to your health, its best to stop reading. My favorite of this 'genre' (a word that seems to have slipped out of fashion) is about the foursome of roughish county lads expressing their frustration on the 18th green in vivid Ramsey-esque terms. The 18th was immediately below the clubhouse terrace, which happened to be occupied this day by several delicate ladies, taking tea from equally delicate cups. They felt there was no option but to complain to the club 'committee' - which considered the matter carefully, before coming to the only reasonable conclusion. They banned ladies from the terrace.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Re-united with a Legend.

There he was, resplendently decked out in a sharp new dark blue suit - awaiting my arrival in the Great Hall at Westminster. Bang on time as befits a well organised man. Phill Carlick has arrived in the House of Commons to manage my office. I was relieved to see him. Felt a bit like someone with an excruciating pain espying the anaesthetist arriving on the scene. At last I have someone who can get to grips with the mountain of correspondence on my desk, and the hundreds of emails in my parliamentary inbox.

Actually its not officially my desk. The point is it,s not anyone's desk. A few days ago, when I found a door unlocked in the Palace of Westminster, and an unoccupied desk behind it, I just moved in. Welcome to the weird world of a newly elected Member of Parliament. It seems that the first rule in this place is that possession is everything, whether it be a seat or a desk. Hope I don't get a call from the 'whips' office tomorrow.

Anyway Phill was my PA during my 8 years at the National Assembly. We suit each other. Like DC and NC. Or Laurel and Hardy. He's organised and I'm not. He's an IT whizzo and I'm not. So that's Phill in London, Jan at Welshpool (shortly to be moving to Newtown) and Pam working part-time from the Association Office at Welshpool. Capello and I announced our final squads on the same day.

Only problem is that Phill hasn't got a desk either. So he's using mine (to the extent that I can call it mine that is). Which means that I have to decamp to work in Portcullis House, the Terrace, or the Member's Tearoom to work - where its a job to avoid the Miliband brothers rushing around putting themselves about. Been here almost a month, and starting to feel in control. My predecessor reckons it took him 8 years.