Sunday, July 31, 2011

What Price Solar Power

As the threat of destruction of my home area becomes ever more real, I become an increasingly implacable opponent of onshore wind power. Inevitably this stimulates interest in other forms of energy. The biggest change for me personally was to accept that new nuclear generating capacity should be built. I now support Horizon Wylfa 'B' proposals on Ynys Mon - onshore wind or not. I also feel less antagonistic towards offshore wind, because the turbines are less intrusive. The two most significant undeveloped 'ideas' floating around are shale/other forms of gas which exist under our ground, and a Severn Barrage. the latter depends on the private sector working up a scheme that will not require Government money - so it will have to be an absolutely massive scheme to generate enough money from associated development to pay for it.

But we shouldn't forget the smaller contributors. Quite a bit of solar has come on board this last year or so. Unfortunately commercial solar development ended today. The level of Government subsidy which had been so generous that so many solar farms were planned that the cost to Government promised to become unacceptable. I did read somewhere that 100 Mw of solar power was created in the UK in 2010 - that's about 40 turbines-worth. And about 8000 Mw of solar was developed in Germany in the same year. That's about 3,000 turbines-worth. Can this possibly be true I ask myself. with luck some knowledgeable person will visit this post and enlighten us. And then theere's the 'Green Deal' to reduce demand - but that's for another day.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Raising money to defend our homes from National Grid.

Mathrafal lies half way between Pontrobert and Meifod in the heart of one of Montgomeryshire's lovely valleys. My Nain and Taid used to live nearby (at N01 Tanyffridd Cottages). He used to be the local roadman. My first road accident was near Mathrafal when I fell off Taid's bike. Today Mathrafal was the site of the Sustainable Life Festival, where thousands of people turned up to to raise money to save this beautiful area from the destructive ravages of National Grid and wind farm mega-businesses - and to have a bit of fun at the same time.

Mathrafal used to be the seat of kings and princes of Powis from the 9th century to 1212, when the Castle was destroyed by Llewelyn ap Iorwerth, and the seat of power moved to Powis Castle near Welshpool. Historically, Mathrafal has been a place where the people of this part of Wales have fought for their existence. The people of the area know that we are in for a similar fight today, and over the next few years. This time the enemy is National Grid and the onshore wind industry, whose power is derived from central governments and made fat by massive subsidies paid out of our taxes. (Its a cruel irony that we are being forced to pay for our own desecration!)

Stuck me in conversations today that people are afraid of National Grid, in the way that people might have feared Darth Vadar and other dark forces. Many local people believe these dark forces are so powerful that they cannot be resisted - a resignation that those leading the Mid Wales Connection Project have been keen to encourage. Luckily there are thousands of other people who are made of sterner stuff, and are going to fight these onshore wind leviathans to the last ditch. Llewelyn ap Iorwerth might never have won if he had been up against today's 'People Power'.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lies about wind farms at Llanerfyl

Its always a good sign that you are scoring well when others start telling 'porkies' about you. Since I began notching up a few runs over the wind turbines/pylons in mid Wales issue, a few people have raised with me a 'suggestion' that I once wanted turbines on my own land. This is simply not true. And when this untruth is deliberate, its reasonable to refer to it as a lie, and the perpetrator as a liar. While this should be my own 'private' business, I've decided to expose the porkie-tellers. This is what actually happened.

In 2006, a Spanish wind farm company named Gamesa approached 5 landowners in the Llanerfyl area, (my family being one of them) informing us that they were hoping to build a wind farm on our land, and offering each of us a generous sum of money annually if we would sign a contract granting 'exclusivity' to Gamesa for 5 years. Now I didn't want to offend my neighbours (or my family who quite liked the idea) so I exercised my right to make no reply, believing (correctly) that the proposal would eventually go away. However I declined to sign any contract, and informed Gamesa that I did not want any of their money. I have no idea what my neighbour's responses were. I should add that even though Gamesa knew of my anti-onshore wind stance, they showed me around their various wind farms when I was in Spain (at nil cost to Gamesa before you suspicious types ask). They were not the first (or last)to think I would change my mind. It was also the case that wind measuring equipment was stationed on land which I had once owned, but had sold long before anyone thought of wind farms in the area. In addition, because I was an Assembly Member at the time, opposed to the Welsh Government's TAN 8 policy, I made all this public. I still remember taking the poor BBC reporter and cameraman (who turned up wearing smart shoes) up the dirtiest roughest track possible to the site in pouring rain for an interview for Wales today. Laughed for days about that.

Doesn't worry me a damn when lies are told about me by my political opponents. But I do mind when my efforts to resist the Mid wales connection Project are being undermined. So the next time you hear someone repeating these lies, perhaps you would be so kind as to correct them.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Shedding some light on Lake Vyrnwy sale

Severn Trent announced today that it has selected United Utilities/RSPB as its 'preferred bidder' for the Lake Vyrnwy Estate in Montgomeryshire. One privatised utility company selling the bulk of the village of Llanwddyn to another. Severn Trent also announced today that no 'preferred bidder' has been chosen for the rented housing it owns in the village or the sporting rights on the Lake as yet. This is the biggest land sale in Wales for many years and the decision has outraged local opinion - for two reasons.

Firstly, another bidder, Mr Rhys Jones, a businessman with strong local connections had engaged enthusiastically with local people and had satisfied them that he wanted to make major investment in the Estate, something that has been lacking under Severn Trent's ownership for many years. Inevitably, local people are disappointed because 'their' man did not win. Second reason for outrage is the cloak of secrecy surrounding the deal. Its not like its one farm - its almost their entire community. And the only reason Severn Trent made their intentions public today was that local Cllr., Simon Baynes and I did it for them last week.

I cannot criticise the actual United Utilities/RSPB bid because I know nothing about it. Its all a big secret. But local people have been desperately unhappy with the way Severn Trent and RSPB have managed things in the past. The best hope of blowing all this secrecy out of the water is Lord Elis Thomas, Chair of the National Assembly's Environment and Sustainability Committee, who is considering establishing some sort on inquiry into the sale. Now that would be fun - forcing the two privatised utility companies and RSPB to answer questions in public on the background to what looks a cosy deal. Perhaps they'll refuse to show. Perhaps Dafydd El will have them summonsed! Watch this space.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Pain of the 'Long Goodbye'

Regular readers will know that I have a soft spot for Plaid Cymru - even though I'm not sure whether it's OK to have soft spots for political opponents! Perhaps its a bit like when I had a soft spot for Warrington Rugby Club, when I played for Shrewsbury. Great club, but nothing I liked more than kicking lumps out of them on the field of play. Anyway, I'm a bit worried about the state of Plaid Cymru - and mainly its down to the lack of a leader. I do not count Ieuan Wyn Jones, because once you've announced that you are standing down, authority just drains away.

Don't suppose my advice would carry much weight, but I thought Ieuan should have announced his resignation the day after the May election - assuming he was not going to fight another election. I reckon that Lord Dafydd El took the same view which is why he threw his hat in the ring immediately. The first timetable that Ieuan gave us was ridiculous. At least its been brought forward to next spring. I don't buy this excuse that its necessary to complete a review of what's gone wrong before electing a new leader. The new leader should should take charge of the review. Whatever, its time to look at the runners and riders.

I just do not think Dafydd El wants to be the leader - what with all that discipline and example setting. Not his thing. I'd make him Ambassador to Buckingham Palace. He will find spoons to stir elsewhere. I can see but two runners, with Elin Jones the firm favorite. And Simon Thomas will make it a contest. I'd love to see my old friend, Rhodri Glyn having a pitch, but just cannot see it. Saw Adam Price last week, and Dafyydd Wigley, and I see Jonathon Edwards every week. Just saying.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lembit - take it on the chin like a man.

In the General Election of May 2010 in Montgomeryshire, I managed to inflict defeat upon the wannabe Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London - Mr Lembit Opik. Seems that Lembit does not think that I actually had anything whatsoever to do with it. And neither does Peter Black AM who thinks defeat was due to his self-obsessive and flamboyant behaviour, loss of perspective, free cruises, and his daft response to the expenses scandal - and a whole lot of others I talk to at Westminster take the same sort of line. Personally, I did not see much difference in Lembit's behaviour to that before previous elections. Whatever it seems that I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and be the fortunate beneficiary.

Lembit, in his personal manifesto, seeking nomination as candidate is putting the blame for his defeat on Mick Bates, who served as AM for Montgomeryshire, alongside Lembit for 11 years. I really do find this to be utterly nauseating. OK, so Mick's assault on a paramedic after a night on the booze might have had a marginal impact, but I worked with Mick for many years and he was a hard working AM, who I never heard make a negative comment about Lembit.

One of the things I like least about politics is the failure to take responsibility for what they say and do. The truth is that Lembit Opik went into the 2010 General Election with a lead over the Conservatives of 7000 votes (16,000 against 9,000). He came out of it with defeat by 1,200 votes - the biggest swing from Lib Dem to Conservative in the UK - and at a time when the Lib Dems were going into the Election on a roll. At Westminster it's seen as the biggest shock since Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston. My advice to Lembit is to act like a man, take it on the chin, and accept responsibility - and send a written apology to Mick Bates. And as for me, I just say "Look at the scores on the doors" and remember Gary Player who said "the harder you try the luckier you get". Think it was Samuel Goldwyn who originally coined the phrase though.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The 'Blue touchpaper' of Welsh constituency boundaries has been lit.

Since being elected a Conservative MP, I have always voted with the Government. Perhaps this loyalty was most tested when I voted (several times) in favour of what was to become the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill. Despite reservations, I accepted that I was elected on a manifesto which included reducing the number of MPs by 10% - and it would be disingenuous to vote against the means of bringing our commitment into effect. I also supported the decision to reduce the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 30. Didn't like it, but there can be no intellectual basis on which to argue that Wales should have pro-rata more MPs that the rest of the UK. In fact, the existence of the National Assembly could be (and often is) used to argue the number of Walsh MPs should be even lower.

Soon, we are going to be faced with the consequences of this Act - and its going to be messy, very messy indeed. In September, we're expecting to see the Boundary Commission's first stab at future arrangements. Montgomeryshire, and other well known constituenceis, as we have known them for many decades, will be no more. Fledgling Welsh political careers of promise will hit the buffers - across all parties. The consequences of this change will hang over the remainder of this Parliament, as most MPs will be working in a fog of uncertainty about their careers. More of this when we see the BC proposals.

But there's another potentially controversial aspect to these changes - the impact on the National Assembly for Wales. Just a few weeks ago I heard Labour MPs openly supporting the aligning of Assembly constituencies with the new Westminster constituencies. I knew this could not possibly last, and warned anyone who would listen that Labour would inevitably change its mind about this. (Constitutionally, what would need to happen is that the link between Cardiff Bay and Westminster boundaries which was broken to allow the PVSC Act to be passed would have to be reinstated.) Today Martin Shipton has reported on the first salvo by a leading Labour AM against this re-linking. Expect Labour MPs to follow.

Perhaps I see bigger problems than there will be. But let us consider what could well be happening. The Welsh Government, representing a majority in the National Assembly are likely to be opposing new boundaries for future Assembly elections, forced through by Westminster MPs. Martin tells us that Leighton Andrews, speaking with the full blessing of the First Minister, will oppose this as a tactic by the Coalition Government to change the constitution of the National Assembly to prevent there ever being the possibility of a Labour majority in Cardiff Bay. I see the makings of a major rumpus here. The blue touch paper has been lit.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

What sort of Tory am I.

In today's Mail on Sunday, the great William Rees-Mogg, divides Conservative MPs into four sub-groups: the Old Right, the New Right, the Coalitionists, and the small pro-European group. (Note the Oxford comma!) - and he goes on to describe the New Right as 'Europragmatists. So, since I have so much admiration for the great man, I have to consider where I might place myself - and whether I agree that there are clear demarcation lines between these groups - and whether its possible to claim membership of two groups.

I am not a man of the Old Right, or of the pro-European group. I'm clear about that. So what about the other two. I find it difficult to decide. After much thought, I have to concede that I am first a Coalitionist. I would have preferred that the Conservatives won the General Election, and that we were not in coalition - but we didn't and we are. And the only way to go into a coalition is with 100% commitment. Of course it is restricting sometimes, but in general its worked well, and I'm happy that the two partners are making a decent fist of the teamwork.

The only problem with being grouped in with Coalitionists is that it tells readers not much about where I stand on our relationship with the EU, which is shaping up to be a defining issue of this Parliament. If my commitment to the Coalition was not so dominating, I would see myself very comfortable in the Eurosceptic New Right. Well, that's cleared that up.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Return of Edna Mopbucket to County Hall.

Fantastic news. Edna Mopbucket has been back on the phone - and up to her old tricks, listening at keyholes. Reckons she was cleaning at Powys County Hall last week when she overheard heated words and oaths emanating from a 'Cabinet' meeting. I had to explain to Edna what this 'Cabinet' is - and that it came about because the Powys Independents and the Liberal Democrats took over all the power for themselves, and kicked out the Montgomeryshire Independents, the Conservatives, Labour and Plaid. "Oh" she said "So that's why they looked so terribly 'puffed up' with importance and exuding the same sort of 'airs' that only come with new found wealth and massively increased salaries. I told her to stop exaggerating. It wasn't that bad.

Anyway, she reported much 'sound and fury' and gnashing of teeth through the keyhole. It seems things are not turning out quite as expected. She reckons one very self-important voice started complaining about these Montgomeryshire Independents getting all the limelight over the wind farms debate at Welshpool. Edna said the PIGS (I've warned her they don't being called PIGS) were furious that some ruse trying to claim all the publicity by issuing a press release to pretend it was all their idea had backfired, and that Councillors David Jones and Graham Brown emerged as stars of the day. Michael Jones, the new Cabinet Leader had to remind one very agitated chap in the back that he leads on the issue now, and he'd better fall into line if he wanted to keep his new salary. Edna reckons there was much tittering around the room at this. Told her she must be making this up.

And then another voice started complaining about formal questions that "these bl***y MIGS and Tories are tabling" - asking embarrassing questions about dismal performance in dealing with planning applications, and the comparative collapse in recycling performance. Edna reckons that there was outrage that all this stuff is public - and not being dealt with quietly, as happened under the old 'Executive Management Board'. She reckons that Mr Patterson, who seemed to be in control, told them "You voted to grab all the power for yourselves, and up your pay so its no good complaining. You took the gain; now take the pain".

I take all this with a pinch of salt because Edna's hearing is probably failing her a bit. And anyway, I approve of this new 'Cabinet' system. Always did. Great to see at Welshpool last Wednesday the 'political groups' competing to support the public, 1500 of whom had turned up to listen. 53 Councillors sticking 106 fingers (coincidentally, the same number as turbines at Llandinam) up to higher authorities. And great to see the planning and recycling performance (or non) being debated in public. As Edna said rather indelicately "Looks like they've stopped all p***ing in the same pot". As usual, I'm not sure whether to believe a word the old girl tells me, but it was nice to be in touch again.