Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Should Lembit offer sartorial 'tips' to Assembly Members

Great story in Telegraph today about the Welsh Assembly Commission spending £10,000 on giving tips to Assembly Members on how to dress properly. Probably a bit of journalistic licence in the report, but it made me laugh. Pity it wasn't available when I was an AM. Try as I did, I was always a touch scruffy. Still am. A bit of dress tutoring might have made the difference. But then, Rhodri Morgan was a bit scruffy too, and it did him no harm. Both of us looked particularly shaggy when in need of a haircut. Now on the other hand there was the sartorial elegance of Lord Elis Thomas and the colourful flamboyance of Rhodri Glyn Thomas to set a higher standard. His Lordship was always one for Bond St. stylishness. And Tory AM, David Melding, who has been defending the spending today, was always quite a snappy dresser himself. Expect Tory leader, Andrew RT Davies to always be kitted out in vertical stripes in future.

The Assembly Commission could have recruited cheaper advice from former Montg. MP, Lembit Opik who has recently launched The London Academy Business School, where he offers himself as  a guru on public speaking and presentational skills. Am told he charges £149.00 for a 2 hr course. Its advertised as a 'personal and tailored experience' and 'provides tips to make your presentation sparkle'.  OK, I know he didn't look too good when that wrestler had him in a headlock, but I remember Lembit as always quite well turned out. He's seemed a bit unsure of career direction for a while, but could be that the desire of AMs to smarten themselves up creates an opportunity for Lembit to use his skills for the benefit of Welsh politics again.

The Badger Cull in England.

I sometimes blog on the most controversial of issues. More likely to spark a debate. And today there is nothing more controversial than the badger cull which is about to begin in England.  Its not at all  a straight forward issue. I've been involved in the debate for a very long time. Its complex. But bottom line is that I support the cull - even though I'm not wholly convinced it will succeed in making a big difference. This is why I support only a 'pilot' targeted cull.

As an adult I have always been a lover of wildlife. When out at night with calving cows and lambing sheep as a young man,  we rarely saw a badger. Any sighting was a talking point over breakfast. When I drive out over the same fields today, badgers are a common sight. Coincidentally (though I think not) I never see another much loved creature that was common then, the hedgehog.

Also when I was a young man making my way in livestock farming, bovine Tb was rare. My 120 sucklers were tested on a regular basis, and we never had a case. Today my neighbours are losing cows by the dozen, and are regularly under restriction. Bovine Tb is causing absolute havoc throughout the cattle industry, and is costing the Gov't huge sums in compensation. Because badgers suffer from and carry the bovine Tb infection, many people believe there is a link, and that badgers should be culled as well as any suspicious cattle.

Spent a lot of time on this when chairing the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee in the National Assembly for Wales, including a visit to Ireland to discuss the lessons of badger culling there. On first consideration, the Irish experience strongly supported a cull of badgers. Bovine Tb, which had been much worse than in the UK, had been dramatically lowered. But the sheer scale of slaughter of cows, deer and badgers across the nation was bound to lower incidence of disease, and I felt we could not conclude with certainty that there was a definite link - though the Irish believed there was. Also we had the Krebs Trials in England, which again failed to give support for a cull - though I didn't have much confidence in the integrity of the trial. The pilot areas were too small, and the trials were disrupted by opponents of culling. In fact there was some suggestion that the position was made worse because badgers moved into the space vacated by culled badgers.

Since then my stance has been that we need a proper trial - over a much larger area than Krebs. I would not support a widespread slaughter of badgers unless this 'pilot' showed clear evidence. 3 years ago, the then Welsh Gov't decided to implement such a pilot, but messed up the paper work, and it never happened. The new Welsh Gov't has no intention of taking things forward, except in a hopelessly impractical PR exercise (in my opinion). Seems to me this is an irrelevance.

 The UK Coalition Gov't is now going forward with a cull which has won legal backing. Not sure this post needs to go into the details of how the cull is to be carried out. That's another issue. This is about where we go from here. Lots of my farming friends want to see the cull extended. I'll not support that unless there is evidence from a pilot that culling badgers is an effective control. Biggest danger is that disruption of the cull will nullify the evidence - and ironically, lead to other more extensive culls in the future. There's also the case that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the farming industry will continue to blame the badger - with inevitable consequences. I just hope we conduct an effective cull and discover with some certainty whether culling badgers works. In the long run we may find an effective treatment that eliminates the case for culling altogether. Its what we all want, But over the 20 yrs I've been involved, an effective vaccine has  always been about 10 yrs away! It still is.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lib Dem plans for successful people

Over last few days leading Lib Dems have proposed a wealth tax, a mansion tax, a tax on second homes in London, higher taxes on top 10% of earners (who curerently pay 55% of income tax), a tax on those earning over £50,000, use of pension funds to underwrite mortgages, and removal of universal benefits from pensioners who earn £1million. And as I understand it are threatening to oppose any proposal to further reduce public spending (even if they believe it's needed to deliver deficit reduction) unless these ideas are agreed to. Not sure whether these ideas have been thought through. But must be trying to say something to those of us who want to achieve success in our lives, work hard to help set up our children, or invest in our properties.

Is Powys sustainable as a political entity?

I should begin by declaring that I have never believed the county of Powys to be a sustainable creature. It is too geographically large to deliver services and has too small of a population to deliver strategic vision. This is not a criticism of those who try to make 'Powys' work, but repetition of a long held view that the job can't be done. We've already seen areas of health care being hived off from Powys to other regions. Today has demonstrated the reality in spades with changes to delivery of further education..

Powys College and Neath Port Talbot College have announced today that they are to 'merge' next year. This is a very big deal, which will not be much of a 'Welsh' story - because its mid Wales. We only make the news if its a quirky story or its destruction by wind farms. Today's announcement is being portrayed as a 'merger' and I accept it may well be being approached in this spirit. But when one partner in a 'merger' is dominant in terms of size, it usually works out as more of a 'takeover'.

Should make clear that I'm not criticising what's happening. Since Powys Council decided to retain it's sixth forms (correctly) the writing was on the wall for Coleg Powys. Falling rolls means that its not sustainable to deliver further education on a discrete Powys basis. Had no idea what sort of arrangement would emerge, but knew something would have to happen. This is it. And no reason to think there's a better deal on the table anywhere else.

Of course it will be sold as much greater capacity to deliver range of courses and greater investment. But I've been around too long to take things as they might seem. OK, Brecon marches well with Neath Port Talbot - but Montgomeryshire....... We have more in common with North Wales. And I fully expect to see more students heading over the border to Shropshire.  And why not I ask myself! After all, what matters is the student experience. I wish the 'merger' well, and hope it delivers. But Powys Council's Education Cabinet Member will have to keep a very close eye on things.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Day in the Life of..And now to bed

Today has been a difficult day - but in the end not so bad. The most important bit went well. My contribution to the Heart Rhythm Congress at the Birmingham ICC seemed to go down ok with a room full of heart specialists. But lets start at the beginning.

Began at 6.00 with an SoS from family for some help, which required Mrs D to immediately hotfoot it to Manchester. Couldn't get back to sleep so arose to prepare for my interview with Post Cynta about 'Gategate'. Prob wouldn't have agreed to speak on this issue, except that it was for Radio Cymru - and I always try to agree interview requests in Welsh Language.  And always try to use a word I've not used before. Today it was 'Cwrtais' which means 'Courteous'. Things went down hill from there.

Intended to catch train at Welshpool at 11.00, and left home in plenty of time. Came upon a flood nr Castle Caer, which I judged I could drive through. Wrong. 50 yds in and car died. Water was deep. No choice but shed trousers and footwear to push car back to dry land. Not what my consultant advised after carrying out arthroscopy on my right knee 4 days ago. Anyway, was fully dressed when a guardian angel driving a 4x4 came by to carry me back home. Left car recovery in charge of my garage, and taxi to catch train. Still on time, until nr Telford, train came to a stop - for 90 mins. Failed to reach conference in time to chair 'Big Discussions' on aspects of treatment of the heart condition, Atrial Fibrillation. But did make it in time to deliver my 15 minutes speech about the AF All Party Parliamentary Group which I chair + questions. Went well, which is more than you can say for my train journey home - 5 hours from B'ham to Welshpool.

My enthusiasm for involvement with Atrial Fibrillation is that I believe, even as a non-clinician I can help the experts.  Its an illness which is common, but not well know. I sometimes tell Mrs D that she's one in a million. Well I am - because I'm one of the million affected by AF in the UK. Thousands of people suffer strokes every year because their AF has not been diagnosed, and they are not being treated - usually by taking an anti-coagulant. Personally, my AF was sorted by cardi-version - a full-on electric shock with restored my heart rhythm to the normal 'sinus rhythm'. I just want everyone to have their pulse checked to establish whether they are a sufferer, and to take steps to avoid strokes. Been a deeply frustrating day, but on balance, I feel it was worthwhile.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

New Business Bank

Looking forward to hearing more from Vince Cable tomorrow about the new 'Business Bank' that he and the Chancellor have been talking about recently. It will need to be on a big scale if its going to shake up the lending market, which is the ambition. Inevitably the Gov't is going to have to put in a £billion or so, which will have to produce an extra £10billion on so of new lending to business if its going to make any significant difference.

Also intererested in how this new 'Business Bank' is going to work. The Business Secretary tells us that more detail will be available tomorrow. Lets hope its enough detail to be confident it will make a difference. In my part of the UK, banks are keen to lend to secure farming businesses, and wind farms which are backed up by massive subsidies form Gov't. And that's about it. All the money ploughed in by the Bank of England through the printing presses has gone into de-leveraging (covering the toxic undeclared debts!).  Still, tomorrow could well be a significant announcement.

Speaking up for Chief Whip in Welsh

Writing a post to prepare myself for interview tomorrow morning (Post Cynta Radio Cymru 8.10) about the goings on involving the Chief Whip. Nothing in this interview for me of course, but I always try to do Post Cynta, Post Prynhawn, CF99, Newyddion etc. because commitment to Welsh Language is important to me and to the Conservative Party in Wales. Some of my colleagues don't seem to get this - even though support for minority languages tends to be a centre/right phenomenon across the world.

Anyway, it's clear that its a sensitive area, and I'll have to watch my step. Don't know Andrew Mitchell well, but he did come to Montgomeryshire to support me during the General Election campaign. He's just about the best flesh-presser I've ever seen in action, genuinely seeming to enjoy it. After we swept through Bear Lanes, even the babies were smiling! Mind you his judgement was a bit suspect because he thought I had no hope of winning! Also spoken to him a couple of times in the lobby about international dev't issues. And he and I were amongst the few supporters of David Davis still standing when David Cameron was elected leader of the Conservative Party. Enough there to give me good vibes about him.

No dispute that he acted wrongly when challenging the police, though there is ongoing dispute about what was actually said. Its just not right to swear at or about them - within hearing anyway. Chief Whip accepts this and has apologised. Unless something new emerges, that in my opinion should be it. I think the line to take tomorrow is "Time to move on".

What is odd to me is the portrayal of Andrew Mitchell as some sort of foul-mouthed brute who is going to sort out rebellious MPs in the media. In my, albeit limited, dealings with him, he has seemed entirely personable and reasonable - as was his predecessor as Chief Whip, Patrick Mcloughlin. But then perhaps they know that anyone telling me what I 'must' do will have the opposite effect. Anyway, so far I've not voted against the Gov't at all, and it would cause me great pain to 'go over to the dark side' by voting with Labour. So no-one can accuse me of trying to 'butter up' the new 'Chief' by speaking up for him tomorrow morning!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Role for Shale Gas

Much the most significant disagreement I have with our Liberal Democrat colleagues is about onshore wind. I have the same disagreement with some of my Conservative colleagues as well. I love the wild places of Britain, and have total contempt for the casual way some would desecrate these special places with grotesque wind turbines and even more grotesque associated infrastructure. No-where is the damage these people want to inflict greater than in mid Wales, my home. In Montgomeryshire, we already have almost 300 turbines, and they want to add a 30/40 mile 400kv line on 150' high pylons, even more smaller cables and around another 600 turbines. Makes me feel sick just thinking about it.

 Even worse, the people of mid Wales feel that their Gov't have not the slightest interest in what they think. Mid Wales - not many people live there - just trample all over them. That's what the Welsh Gov't did when they announced its TAN 8 policy guidance in 2005. Well, they've had a bit of a surprise already. They found the people of mid Wales are no pushover. Ironically, the two Lib Dem MPs representing my neighbouring constituencies, Roger and Mark Williams are part of our protest group! I have to look down at the floor to stay calm in the debating chamber when I hear despicable words of justification - and usually from my own benches!

Most of this I have written on this blog before. What's stirred me up today are reports that Danny Alexander and Ed Davey are demanding an end to traditional gas power being a part of the UK energy mix. Not read anything so daft for ages. Can only hope it's empty posturing for the Lib Dem conference. And I can only hope the Treasury keep a grip on Gov't's sanity.

It will be madness even greater than the obsession with onshore wind if we ignore the shale gas that lies under our soil. Its been a game-changer in the US and is being developed all over the world. Now I accept there are several aspects to the debate about from where we source our future energy. Its just that I think the beauty of our wondrous wild places should be factored into the equation. And I feel that I have to shout to make people listen. Gov't policy should not be drawn up by philistines.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

How Serious is Ukip Threat?

I've always had a soft spot for the UK Independence Party (or Ukip as its now to be known). Always stop for a chat at their caravan at local shows. Never voted for them, never signed up to Better Off Out and never committed myself to supporting an EU referendum. Inevitably this leads to sharp letters of disapproval. Which is actually rather daft. I was a Eurosceptic before many of them were born, having campaigned for an 'out' vote in 1975.

This week is the occasion of Ukip's annual conference, and they are being taken a bit more seriously at the moment because they are doing OK in the opinion polls - sometimes leading the Lib Dems. And its generally thought that most of Ukip's support comes from traditional Tory voters.  I suspect that's right. So I suppose we Tories should take some note of what's happening.

Some Tories think we should look to form a coalition with Ukip - which is a good idea if you prefer the freedom of expression that comes with sitting on the opposition benches. Some Tories tell me how attractive a politician is Nigel Farage. I agree he's a bit of a character, but too shouty and rude for my taste (which makes him ideal for Question Time of course). He reminds me too much of Del Boy - entertaining if not actually in charge of any levers of power.

So what do I think. I'll support every move by Gov't to resist the advance of the EU's integrationist tentacles. I greatly welcome the change in Gov't focus towards nations outside the Eurozone both in trade and diplomacy. I'm not against a referendum in principle and I do think the crisis in the Eurozone will lead to one of some sort eventually - though probably not an in/out. I will not support a referendum unless we know the Gov't that calls it will actually take seriously and act on what the people vote for. Reason I'm deeply suspicious of an in/out referendum is that I sense the 'ins' will win and will give a bright green light to the integrationists. Perhaps I'm bruised by what happened in 1975.

The reason Ukip is attractive is that they give the impression that they really care. Less slippery language and connect on the issues that worry people most. In Wales its the extra bureaucracy created by devolution, the madness and destructiveness of onshore wind, crime and immigration. An EU referendum to Ukip is a bit like 'independence' to Plaid Cymru - fundamental as a background theoretical philosophy but nothing to do with electoral success. And the joy of politics is that I could be wrong in so many ways.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What on earth are we to make of James Delingpole, independent candidate for the Corby bye-election. He's a great journalist and mad as a box of frogs - libertarian and sort of right-wing version of Rod Liddle. From me, this is a great compliment. I'm hugely fond of frogs. Not quite the same, but we have a resident toad in our cellar. And James is standing on a single issue platform - one that I passionately agree with.

But I declare in favour of the Conservative candidate - because we are in the same team. Bit like watching Wales play the All Blacks. Desperately keen for Wales to win, but standing in awe of the wondrous Richie McCaw and Dan Carter. Anyway, James wrote a cracking piece for the Telegraph this earlier this week, and I just wanted to repeat some of his writings. He's such an eccentric that I'm not at all sure he'll see it through to polling day, but his words flow over me like a mixture of honey and bile. Here's a few examples from the Telegraph article;

"wind farms are a cancer; one of the worst crimes ever perpetrated against the country by Westminster. I want to raise public awareness of just how disastrous these bat-chomping, bird-slicing eco crucifixes are in every respect".

"their lives (the people), their livelihoods, their health, their views and their tranquillity are being ruined by wind farms".

"Its bad enough that a handful of wealthy landowners, mostly foreign owned energy companies and their hangers-on are getting vastly rich at the expense of the British public by building monstrosities that drive up their fuel bills, kill wildlife, blight views, destroy property prices, destroy the economy and make people sick - its being done with the connivance and encouragement of our elected representatives."

"The wind industry's for the environmental benefits of turbines is a lie....if there were a single plausible argument in favour of wind farms.... the wind industry is wrong in so many ways".

And he hasn't even started on the monstrosities that National Grid want to visit on many of the wild places of Britain  to connect the  bl****y things to the Grid!! I hope James does not get a taste for politics and decide to stand as a candidate in Montgomeryshire in 2015!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Time to 'Love the Lib Dems' again.

Sometimes my Conservative colleagues cause me despair. Never more than when they attack our coalition partners, the Lib Dems. I wonder what planet they're on whenever I hear references to "The tail wagging the dog". Some even advocate bringing down the coalition. Ill-considered nonsense in my opinion. Triumph of hope over reason. Its actually time for re-declarations of love, not filing for divorce.

Lets look at some of the facts.

 1) The Conservatives did not win the last General Election. There was certainly a case for 'going it alone' at the time, and instigating another election in a year or so which would hopefully deliver victory - but we didn't. We took a clear direction and decided that the economic and financial challenges were such that a coalition was the better option. Nothing has changed.

2) Its was the Lib Dems who had to make the biggest concessions - admittedly because their manifesto was hopelessly undeliverable. They signed up to higher student fees - despite promising the opposite. They signed up to a VAT increase despite making such a big deal of opposing this. 3)They signed up to nuclear power despite being supposedly anti-nuclear. And the consequence of this is that their opinion poll support has bombed. They took the massive risk of growing up from being woolly hatted idealists into hard headed realists. It was courageous.

3)Without the Lib Dems, the current Government wouldn't last long. OK, so fixed term parliaments are enshrined in law, but I do not believe we could limp on until 2015. I want to see Nick Clegg remain DPM, and the Coalition last the full five year term. I suggest some of my colleagues think how they'd feel with Ed Miliband as PM and Vince Cable/Tim Farron as DPM. Time they got real and stayed real.

I accept that I've always had a generally 'warm' attitude to Lib Dems - despite always having been committed to defeating them in Montgomeryshire. I developed my political interest working with former Montgomeryshire MPs, Emlyn Hooson and Alex Carlile, both hugely able politicians. Worth remembering that Emlyn was sceptical about the EU and Alex seems to have more support today on Tory benches than on his own party's.

And ask yourself what the Lib dems have got out of the Coalition. All their constitutional ideas have gone up in smoke. Their activists are in despair. And their biggest success, the huge uplifting in income tax free allowances, is a policy most Conservatives are delighted with.

Inevitably, there are some Lib Dems, both locally and nationally that I do not care for, and I'm sure that's mutual. Same applies between all parties and within them. Its just no big deal. Since I was selected to contest Montgomeryshire in 2007, none of my team has said one derogatory word about Montgomeryshire Lib Dems - and we pulled off the most spectacular victory at the 2010 election. Its a lesson worth learning. Some call it 'love-bombing'. Its time to buy some chocolates and flowers and turn again to our love armoury.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Trying to make sense of Constituency Boundary Changes

Soon after I was elected MP for Montgomeryshire in 2010, I was asked by my whip what I thought of the new Coalition Gov't's proposals to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600, equalising constituency electorates at the same time. Must admit to using unparliamentary language to explain that I thought it a most unwise proposal - but that I would support a bill brought forward to implement the changes because it was a manifesto commitment. Conservatives had promised a reduction in number of MPs to 585, and the Lib Dems a reduction to 500. My concerns were that it would cause huge disruption, would be seen (unfairly) to be partisan, and would end parliamentary democracy as we've known it in the most sparsely populated areas (mid Wales).

Well, after months of bad-tempered debate, MPs passed an act to do exactly what I'd dismissed as unwise. There remains just one small step to be taken. The Boundary Commissions of England and Wales are having to redraw the map of the 600 new constituencies, with MPs nodding then through in October 2013. It was all to be a 'formality'. But Mr Nick Clegg has intervened. Because MPs refused to endorse his silly plans to reform the House of Lords, he's announced (without any justification) that as an act of revenge he's going to instruct his MPs to vote against the new boundaries - which looks as if its going to totally scupper the changes. Most Conservative MPs are outraged - but I have to admit that from a personal standpoint I am absolutely delighted.

If the new boundaries are adopted, the historic seat of Montgomeryshire would be ripped asunder, with the bits cast upon the four winds. My view is that parliamentary democracy as we understand it would be obliterated in mid-Wales. Locally, I have made it clear that I could not be a candidate in 2015. All my adult life I've worked for the interests of Montgomeryshire, and I could not face starting all over again in a seat which covers a huge chunk of North Wales, attractive though it is. I wouldn't even live in the constituency!

So let us consider the crazy position we are now in. All main political parties have decided to begin adopting candidates for the 2015 General Election on the current boundaries in two months time. Later this month, I will inform the Montgomeryshire Conservative Association that I would like to be considered for selection as their candidate. No doubt, the Association will begin planning and campaigning. And then towards the end of next year, (well into our campaign plans) we will have a vote in Westminster about whether we should introduce new boundaries, wiping Montgomeryshire and other equally loved constituencies from the electoral map - with all parties starting again and selecting a whole new slate of candidates. Its such a bizarre situation that I'm not confident I'll be able to explain it to anyone. Equally bizarre will be the position of the current Montgmeryshire MP if he's faced with a 3-Line Whip from his party to vote for new boundaries and an instruction from his constituency association to vote against! Even I'm beginning to find this whole scenario difficult to grasp. So better stop now.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Reshuffles, Rebellions and Coalition Tensions

Back to the politics of Westminster tomorrow. Warming up on Post Cynta from the Newtown studio at 8.10 in the morning. Don't know what its about except that its a sort of 'first day back' interview. So expect to hear stuff about 'reshuffle', rebellious backbenches and coalition tensions. I'll be doing my best to sound as if everything is under control. Which it is - or is that me practising!

Lets take these issues in turn. I am so sick of reshuffle talk - especially when its focused on individuals I like. No point in thinking about the big guns, who I would be shocked to see moved. And already made my support for Cheryl Gillan known in a recent blog. She's been good to me.  And I have huge admiration for Sir George Young, Patrick McLoughlin and Ken Clarke, who are often included in the gossip. But the PM will have to make some room for new faces - and the two I'd really like to see in the cabinet are Chris Grayling and David Laws. But I've never seen the point in reshuffling for its own sake.

The media is really trying to make a big issue of Tory backbench rebellion - and yet all the newspapers today can do is repeat the same few names of a disloyal half dozen. In any case, there's nothing wrong with disagreeing with the 'party line'. We all do that sometimes. The disloyalty comes from the 'where, when and how' its done - if its a genuine conscience disagreement, or a desire to undermine. They know who they are. Personally, I reckon the Conservative Party is as united as its reasonable to expect.

And then there's coalition tensions. No point in arguing that our coalition partners are not under pressure. The Lib Dem opinion poll indicators are dire. It would be very surprising if Nick Clegg wasn't making a few noises off to establish his 'independence' and 'distinctiveness'. In a few weeks time he has to face his activists at the Lib Dem party conference. I'm keen for the coalition to stand together, so want the DPM to stay - and feel sure he will.

All in all, I'm feeling quite relaxed about the politics - even if I cannot say the same for our public finances. Perhaps Gary Owen will want to talk about something else altogether in the morning. One of the joys of the 2010-2015 Parliament is that I have no real idea of what's going to happen tomorrow - which is why there is so much scope for us to gossip.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

In Memory of Gwynfor Evans.

Gwynfor Evans was a great man of Wales. He was born 100 ago today - which is why he's been in the news. I never met him, but felt that I knew him. I did go to his funeral at Aberystwyth in 2006, representing the Conservative Group in the National Assembly. I was very proud to do so.

Generally, Gwynfor Evans is remembered for his threat to refuse food unless the Conservative Gov't of 1979-83 established a dedicated Welsh Language television channel. It had been a promise in the Conservative manifesto at the 79 election, and there was much concern that the promise would not be kept. I've heard a few versions of what happened, some of which portray Gwynfor Evans' role as being crucial to the decision to go ahead with S4C - and some which credit Willie Whitelaw, Nick Edwards (Lord Crickhowell) and the great Lord Roberts of Conwy of being the main influences on Mrs Thatcher. Anyway, its not important because to me that wasn't Gwynfor Evans' greatest achievement anyway. That was ensuring the survival of a modern political party, Plaid Cymru through its formative years - holding the ship together.

The Welsh Nationalist Party was set up in mid-1920s. Gwynfor Evans formed a local branch at Oxford University. In 1949 he was elected to serve on Carmarthen County Council, where he was particularly well known for campaigns to improve transport links - leading to him being known as 'Gwynfor duel carraigeway'. But the party didn't make much progress until 1966, when he was elected Plaid's first MP - for Carmarthen following death of Labour's Megan Lloyd George. He lost at the following election but regained the seat in 1974, when he was joined at Westminster by the two Dafydds - Wigley and Elis Thomas. Plaid Cymru had 'arrived'. In passing, I wonder what he'd have thought of the positions these two hold in political life today? His greatest achievement (in my opinion) was to carry Plaid Cymru through the 50s and 60s.

Gwynfor Evans politics were very different from mine. I'm a man of the centre/right. He was a pacifist and conscientious objector. But he loved and lived for Wales and he had a passion for the Welsh Language. On these issues we were as one. That is why I was so honoured to represent my party at his funeral and why I very much hope that the campaign to raise a permanent monument in his memory in Carmarthen is successful.