This is the epithet that Tory AMs have given Ieuan Wyn Jones.
They accused him of caving into Plaid AMs who fear being closely aligned with the Conservatives.
Sadly I fear the self-defeating irony of that is lost on most Tory AMs.
Ieuan got all angry at his press conference today.
While he was saying accusations of a wobble were “absolute nonsense” he reached across his desk to pour a glass of water.
It was a full bottle and a potentially tricky manoeuvre.
I paid close attention to his hand as he did so and can report that he held firm – did not spill a drop.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
This is the epithet that Tory AMs have given Ieuan Wyn Jones.
Friday, December 01, 2006
It proposes a "dual-key strategy board". It's the classic Welsh solution to a problem - form a committee.
Mr Pugh has had an unbelievable amount of flack about this. So when I found myself sat next to him at the ITV Wales politics award on Wednesday night I asked him for a scoop. What was he going to do with the Stephens report?
He responded by putting his hands behind his head and, in the voice of a Dalek, said: "I will exterminate the Arts Council, I will exterminate the Arts Council." Almost put me off my dinner.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Thursday, November 23, 2006
On creating a "low-carbon economy", the Assembly Government's science policy, published today, says: "The geographical location of Wales means that it benefits from extensive marine resources, a high-wind regime, significant opportunities for forestry and energy crops and substantial rainfall."
In other words, the weather's sh!t.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Pressed on how the new devolution settlement will work, he said Parliament will not simply “rubber stamp” all applications for law-making rights forthcoming from the Assembly.
Heads were already being scratched when the FM rose for questions yesterday, following Dafydd El's ambitious prophecy that the Assembly will make 18 such applications a year.
Interpret his words as you will. Perhaps Rhodri is trying to put the frighteners on the Lib Dems, saying that a coalition with Labour would give a better quality mandate - to use his phraseology - than the mandate of a Rainbow coalition.
The First Minister said: "When you put something you must show that it has been in your manifesto. You must show that manifesto has been supported in getting your majority here.
"Of course if it was a coalition government it would be manifestos I suppose.
"But really it's the quality of the mandate because that's what gives the authority to this body to say to Westminster this is what the people of Wales want."
He added: "We are absolutely clear that Parliament isn't going to simply rubber stamp every application that comes from this body."
Friday, November 17, 2006
In other words, keep it simple. It's the best advice I ever had.
The lesson sprang to mind this week when Labour AM Denise Idris-Jones made an interesting speech about culture - interesting, but there's a prize for anyone who can tell me what this means: “We use quality as our yardstick. We use it to evaluate the present and frame the future.”
Welsh culture is apparently essentially "quality based". I beg to differ.
Devolution has provided an outlet for some particularly odious jargon. Without doubt the best, or worst, example of this, and possibly the most heinous crime to befall the English language, is contained within the Welsh Baccalaureate. Its maths component is called "Application of number". I suggest the person who concocted this sentence undergo a course called "Application of knitting needle".
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Has Environment Minister Carwyn Jones got a photographic memory?
He has just recited his route to a quarry in Wrexham in astonishing detail to prove to Plaid AM Janet Ryder that he had been there, eliciting a round of applause from the Labour benches.
Perhaps it was one of those "you had to be there moments", but it was quite the most bizarre episode I have seen in the Assembly.
Meanwhile the below mentioned row between Dafydd El and John Marek spilled over into the chamber in what was quite the most embarrassing episode I've seen in the Assembly.
But both episodes are outdone in both regards by what I'm told happened in the Commons today - Jack Straw mime-hugging a hoodie.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
But he did so “with a heavy heart”, he said. Or I, and others, thought he said it.
A quick glance at the Record of Proceedings, the political equivalent of the Beano, shows the comment to be omitted.
Is this another example of him falling out with his party over its conduct on the Assembly budget. Or perhaps I dreamt the whole thing.
Update: Dr Marek is not happy.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
The bile which American candidates hurl at each other is astonishing. The defamation laws of this country would not allow it.
However, I was interested to note the average American is frankly fed up with the attack advertising. Many of them say they can't be bothered to engage with politics, or bothered to vote, because for them, politics merely amounts to a stream of very expensive television adverts in which politicians do their best to out-dis each other.
That sort of conduct doesn't prosper over here. Michael Howard's denunciation of Tony Blair as a liar flopped at the last general election. This despite the fact that many, if not most people, feel the Government was economical with the actuality when it presented its prospectus for war. We prefer – or at least say we prefer - our politicians to abide by the political equivalent of the Queensbury rules, not Fight Club.
And American politics has opened up a new dirty battle front – Wikiactivity. Candidates' staff log on to open-access encyclopaedia Wikipedia and doctor their opponents' entries. The New Yorker calls it 'astroturfing' – a phony grass-roots campaign.
Democrats are racing to victory because voters are using the election as a mid-term rebuke of George W Bush and his increasingly unpopular war.
Will Welsh voters do the same when they go to the polls in May? Rhodri Morgan must fear that they will. He said Labour failed to regain Blaenau Gwent earlier this year because voters "were angry about everything from pot holes to Iraq".
Friday, October 20, 2006
The New Conservatives learnt more from New Labour than the route to the electorally fertile centre ground.
They learnt that the best, indeed the only way to shake up your party is through picking a fight with the traditionalists and winning.
I would say Mr Osbourne is relishing the prospect of another bloody good punch-up. The more opportunity he has to repeat his 'no tax cuts, your public services are safe with us' mantra the better for him.
Monday, October 16, 2006
They all look very nice, but frankly a child with a box of crayons could concoct something more aesthetically pleasing than the present offering. Scott had less trouble finding his way around Antarctica than I have finding my way around this most unnavigable of on-line labyrinths. "The worst website of its type anywhere in the world," is how one hack described it.
For what it's worth, I would go so far as saying the website actually inhibits the development of devolution, and the sooner the techies do to it what video did to the radio star the better.
It must be more interactive and have as its guiding philosophy the potential to embarrass politicians as much as possible. With some moderation, I don't see why people should not be able to publicise forthcoming protests on the steps of the Senedd or give feedback on legisation. Constituents should be able to find out who their AM is, what she or he is doing and how much she or he earns at the click of a mouse.
On the latter, we're told that while being consulted, some members objected to the idea of their incomes being so advertised. How appalling. For good measure, I think website users should be able to scrutinise AMs' monthly expenses claims.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Environment Minister Carwyn Jones has long been considered the natural successor. That assumption has been hanging around for so long now it's hard to remember why it first arose. He earned a good name for himself during the foot-and-mouth crisis, but that is a fast-receding memory.
One observer summed it up as "Carwyn is losing the PR battle".
Mr Jones has most recently been in the news because he is embroiled in a row about the Llanelli Scarlets which, the club claims, could spell the end of Wales's most iconic rugby club. In today's Daily Post he is the object of scorn for homeowners in the Conwy Valley who are dismayed at delayed flood defences.
Meanwhile, potential rival Andrew Davies, the Enterprise Minister, was writing in the Western Mail this week that devolution had precipitated a "revolution" in the way Wales views itself. Positively First Ministerial stuff from the overseer of the hated WDA's dissolution.
But Mr Jones arguably remains the best Cabinet performer. Tory AM Glyn Davies think so.
The other runners and riders include Education Minister Jane Davidson and Social Justice Minister Edwina Hart. Ms Davidson is thought to have given a good account of herself as a minister. I hear she's briefing London hacks on the success of devolved education now. Ms Hart however does not seem to like being in the public eye. Or maybe she just doesn't like hacks.
Alliances will be key. If either of these do not go for the top job then they could help candidates get crucial union support.
Cabinet members are not the only Labour AMs considering their futures. I think it's a bit early to talk of backbench leadership bids.
But a complaint I've heard that potential leaders should heed is "things have become too Cardiff-centric under Rhodri".
A question that might occupy high-command minds is what do grass-roots members in the Valleys and north Wales want done with these longed-for law-making powers?
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
They have barely said more than "Good morning" to each other in the past year. No-one can remember why.
So why doesn't Dr Marek just resign, instead of persisting with his habit of dropping hints about an impending resignation?
Such as this in the Assembly today: "I am chairman of the House Committee and I will be for a few more days."
Is that a resignation? When is a resignation a resignation?
Not that this questionable expenditure on the services of m'learned friends should go unexposed.
The idea was to promote Welsh-language Scrabble and by extension the Assembly Government's strategy of coaxing the private sector into using Welsh, instead of passing laws forcing businesses to “siarad Cymraeg”.
This has been extremely successful and the game has sold out, Business Minister Jane Hutt told us in the Cabinet's press briefing today.
Someone made the excellent point that if you can no longer buy the game, what's the point of promoting it on a Christmas card?
Anyone seeking advice on copyright law is welcome to come up to the fourth floor and borrow my copy of McNae's Essential Law for Journalists.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Funny choice of ringtone. I haven't had a chance to check with him, so correct me if I'm wrong, but from the first couple of bars I could have sworn it was eighties synth-rock classic “Push it to the limit” from the film Scarface.
I think it's the music that accompanies a montage of cocaine dealer Tony Montana depositing sack-loads of money at the bank.
UPDATE Labour AMs did support that Plaid motion on hospitals (see Bound(ary) to happen). Clearly they're all Tiger Tales readers.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Conwy has become Aberconwy and has lost Labour votes.
Denise Idris Jones beat Plaid Cymru's Gareth Jones there by just 72 votes in 2003. Based on that year's vote Mr Jones will win the seat back in May. A tricky NHS reconfiguration (yes, another one of those) has done him a favour.
There's a Plaid-tabled vote on this in the Assembly tomorrow saying: “The National Assembly believes that no reconfiguration of hospital services should take place without adequately planned community provision.”
Surely nothing controversial for Labour AMs to oppose there then.
Anyway, the complex maths of the Assembly's top-up member system means victory for Mr Jones would be curtains for Janet Ryder and would create another regional Tory AM in the north. So one more Tory - 12 - and the same number of Plaid AMs - 12.
This is all based on the idea that everyone who voted three years ago votes the same way and no-one else votes, which obviously won't happen.
Nevertheless, it goes to show that without a stupendous surge in votes for Plaid, Dafydd Wigley's chances of getting elected as a regional member puts one in mind of a cat in hell.
Nightmare scenario for Plaid really - Labour do badly, but only the Tories capitalise.
He makes a good point though. The only politicians to say anything about lightening the tax burden during conference season are Dafydd Wigley and Ming Campbell.
Friday, September 29, 2006
It's a theme many constituencies identify with.
Next May Rhodri Morgan will have a good story about the health of the nation. On April 2 smoking will be banned in pubs, prescription charges will be scrapped and waiting lists will - he hopes - have met their latest target.
He needs a good story - Labour will have to go some to drown out the threat of hospital closures affecting key marginals like Preseli, Carmarthen West and Aberconwy.
Labour AMs have been caught out by NHS shake-ups in their own constituencies that they had little to do with. Health chiefs are responding to the Assembly Government's demand for a modern NHS. People have been bombarded with visions of an NHS that they don't like or understand, even if, in the long run, they don't know what's best for them.
In Pembrokeshire, for example, Tory and Plaid candidates have become the mouthpiece of opposition to threats to Withybush. Plaid has taken a lesson in grass-roots campaigning from the Lib Dems and its troops were being schooled in the art of local war at last week's conference.
Meanwhile Labour footsoldiers fear becoming the object of scorn for botched attempts at "consultation".
Thursday, September 28, 2006
So does the same apply to the First Minister who has given the date of his departure - 2009?
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Perhaps she's trying to do more turns in the public eye to boost her standing if she goes for Rhodri Morgan's job. She wasn't having any of that and gave us a decent line about loyalty, or lack of it, in the Labour Party.
She doesn't like speaking to the press. Can't imagine why on this performance. Even had a funny adieu: "You've had your rare treat. I will see you all in a couple of years' time."
Monday, September 25, 2006
Friday, September 15, 2006
In truth, Rhodri Morgan will probably need the Lib Dems' help to stay in office if Labour does badly, as many expect, next May. It's hard to see him doing a deal with Plaid if he takes a drubbing.
A possible sticking point would be PR in local elections - the Lib Dems will insist on something here before agreeing to a coalition. It might be difficult for Rhodri to sell this to his troops because PR could wipe out legions of Labour councillors.
But could Mr Morgan be getting orders from on high if the Chancellor takes over soon as he hopes? The Mirror reports that "Gordon Brown plans to scrap first-past-the-post voting if he takes over as Premier".
Thursday, September 14, 2006
How very Hemingway. But Carwyn's macho image was shattered by an offical today.
Earlier this week he scaled Snowdon to land the first blow on the summit-top cafe as it is demolished to make way for a new visitor centre.
Sledge-hammer wielding Carwyn had some difficulty though. His efforts "hardly scratched it", we were told.
Education Minister Jane Davidson is said to have a good relationship with the teaching unions. But it seems this one does not even know who she is.
Either that or Rhodders has had a sudden demotion.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Friday, September 08, 2006
The pesky Welsh Labour Party has been at the forefront of the attempted Blair putsch.
Formerly uber-loyal Chris Bryant organised the letter telling the PM to go.
Government aides Wayne David, Ian Lucas and Mark Tami – all Welsh MPs - heaped pressure on Mr Blair with their resignations.
On September 18 Welsh Labour MPs will meet in Wales. Although convened initially to talk foreign affairs, the leadership is bound to come up.
In fact the two issues are the same for some. In August Merthyr MP Dai Havard called Tony Blair "deluded" if he thought he had any influence over George Bush. He wrote to the Prime Minister about Lebanon and accused him of a "misdirected obsession" with being a mouthpiece for Washington. Mr David said the Prime Minister showed himself to be "detached" from the Party over the summer in his dealings with Lebanon.
Labour AMs also meet the week after next, the first week of the Assembly term, at a pre-arranged away-day.
More and more in Labour think – as First Minister Rhodri Morgan suggested earlier this year – that the party will do better at next year's Assembly elections if Gordon Brown leads them into the May 3 poll.
Newport West MP Paul Flynn told me: "It goes right across the Labour MPs in Wales, this unhappiness.
"A group of Welsh MPs saw Tony Blair in June and he said to us, 'what
seems to be the trouble guys', and the first three of us who spoke said,
'You are the trouble'."
The received wisdom is that Mr Brown is more in tune with the agenda pursued by Rhodri and co.
They won a slim governing majority in 2003 under Mr Morgan's “clear red water” banner. As Tomos Livingstone says in today's Western Mail, that essentially meant: “Look, we're not Tony Blair”.
With Brown at the helm, Welsh Labour probably see electoral profit in ploughing a similar furrow next year.
I'm not sure this will keep the Tories at bay in the vulnerable Labour seats of Cardiff North, Preseli Pembrokeshire, Clwyd West and Aberconwy. But the imperative now is to end the squabbling as soon as possible - no more "noises off" Rhodri Morgan says. Keeping these seats, and allowing Mr Morgan to stay in office until 2009 as planned, will be difficult enough without an ongoing leadership crisis of his parliamentary colleagues' making.
ALSO Is the Christmas card story below something to do with Dr Who?
Friday, August 18, 2006
The substance of the events within the story are not unusual though - getting spotted on telly while signing your Christmas cards in the Assembly chamber - as Lib Dem AM Jenny Randerson knows.
ALSO: This website is utterly bonkers.
Aug 18 2006
Staff Reporter, Western Mail
LABOUR AM and Development Minister Matt Nichols was today hiding his embarrassment after cameras caught him writing Christmas Cards during an Economic debate. Minutes after the First Minister began outlining economic targets for Mr Nichols North Wales Constituency, he pulled a set of Charity Cards from his briefcase and began to add his signature and several jaunty messages.
Pictures from a member of the public clearly show him adding a beer glass to a Snowman Christmas Card and a "Nadolig Llawen" speech bubble to a Fat Santa Claus.
Mr Nichols didn't deny the incident and stated through his office that he had more than 600 cards to send this year and that as he had already read the First Minister's speech he was using his time efficiently.
Tory AM Mark Meldrum condemned this breach of protocol as "making a mockery of the debating chamber".
Mr Nichols constituents were far from happy.
Mrs Jones of Bala commented that he should be ashamed of himself and wondered haw he hoped to halt the economic decline of North Wales if he was busy writing Christmas cards.
Labour Press Officers made light of Mr Nichols Christmas Feelings, hinting that criticism was rather scrooge-like.
Yet as the costs of running this fully transparent Debating Chamber come under scrutiny, this comes as yet another hit of unemployment rates hit an all time high in the city of Cardiff.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
He said the MP Tom Ellis once described an old relative of theirs as the finest political speaker outside the House of Commons.
Morgan senior said he gave Rhodri these gentle words of advice when he was a very nervous newly-elected MP: "'For God's sake,' I said. 'Pull yourself together. Remember what Tom Ellis said'. That gave him a lot of confidence when he went into the House for the first time."
Monday, August 07, 2006
The clamping did not involve his chauffeured first ministerial car, but his personal people carrier which, another Pen and Wig patron told me, "looks like a minibus".
Such a vehicle will be needed to transport the growing Morgan tribe. Mr Morgan probably popped in for a pint to celebrate the birth of his newest grandchild - his sixth in six year.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Far more interesting than the speeches by Mr Hain, Mr Morgan and Lord Elis-Thomas (about Mr Hain, Mr Morgan and Lord Elis-Thomas) was the guest list.
The usual political hangers-on attended. But so too did Cardiff City's charismatic chairman Sam Hammam. I didn't have time to ask him if he thought Mr Hain was right in his assertion that the Act settles the constitutional wrangle over devolution for ever and ever and ever Amen.
For the record, I don't. Although it means Wales will pick up a long-overdue Scottish-style parliament after a referendum, it doesn't say when that referendum will be. It will need the agreement of the Welsh Secretary, Parliament and two-thirds of AMs before it can be put to the people - but as far as I can tell Assembly Ministers can call for one whenever they want.
Labour say there is no demand for one in the country yet. Cue ceaseless squabbling about when the time is right.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Friday, July 14, 2006
"Breakfast Clubs are The Best, amazing, bendigedig, fantastic and good for children ".....................says Connor Summerwill ( age 8) from Ysgol Gynradd, Trallwen, Swansea.
Connor was so chuffed with his free breakfast, he wrote to FM Rhodri Morgan and Education Minister Jane Davidson to say "cheers", and invited them round for some Frosties. The heart-warming and not-in-any-way contrived dispatch continues ...
Connor has also written a story of a boy who couldn't get out of bed for school. The tale has a happy ending as "young Rhodri " starts attending a breakfast club ... and his life is transformed.
In his reply to Connor's letter the First Minister wrote "I love stories and I really enjoyed reading The Kid Who Would Never Get Up For School."
And today I winced with excitement when one popped into my inbox that read: "DAVID DAVIES REVEALS DISAPPOINTMENT AT EURO EXIT". What's this? The Tory MP for Monmouth berating his leader's new EU alliance? Sadly not ...
Commonwealth gold medal winning swimmer David Davies has today revealed his disappointment at the prospect of missing out on the opportunity to clinch a podium position at the European Championships later this month (26-30 July 2006).
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Pedants will know the Government is getting ideas above its station if it thinks it can generate energy.
The amount of energy in the universe is constant. It can merely be used to create electricity.
Now they are too hot. Something of a competition seems to have broken out about how hot it actually was in the Senedd during the recent heatwave.
Lib Dem AM Peter Black blogged that it was 28C.
But the highest yet comes from Tory AM William Graham. "Twenty-nine my thermometer said. Perfectly horrendous."
Thursday, July 06, 2006
But Sir Alistair got some light relief from these weighty matters of state when the body he chairs, the Committee on Standards in Public Life, took evidence from First Minister Rhodri Morgan on the Electoral Commission in a Cardiff hotel today.
Mr Morgan kicked off proceedings with this little ice-breaker: “The last time I was in here was for a knees-up.”
Said 'do' was for the wedding of the brother of the FM's successor as Cardiff West MP, Kevin Brennan.
Not for the first time I struggled to follow the FM's thread, but the party involved a karaoke-related altercation whereby the talented Brennan clan outsang its guests.
Eventually, Mr Morgan said, someone cried: “Isn't there anybody in the Brennan family who can't sing?” The public must know.
Recounting the bizarre story must have been a nice diversion for Mr Morgan from stories such as this which abound in the press today.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Independents Dai Davies and Trish Law thumped Labour in a surprising double victory.
They took up their seats in Westminster and the Assembly yesterday – and their welcomes could not have been more different.
Mr Davies's entry to the Commons was reportedly greeted with Labour cries of “There's a traditional socialist” and “Enjoy it while you can”.
Meanwhile new AM Mrs Law, who took up her seat exactly 10 weeks after it was vacated by the death of her husband Peter, was applauded when she strolled into the Senedd chamber.
AMs appeared to be climbing over each other to welcome her. Deputy Presiding Officer John Marek sent out a notice advising hacks that he would be “on the front steps. (Not Senedd)” at 11am to meet Mrs Law.
Not wanting to be outdone, his boss Lord Elis-Thomas fired off an email 30 minutes later announcing he would be “on the steps of the Senedd at 1.45” to escort the new AM into plenary.
How ironic that her arrival now gives the Assembly more female than male members. It was a row about an all-women shortlist that prompted the late Mr Law to leave the Labour Party in the first place.
Monday, July 03, 2006
Welsh Sports Minister Alun Pugh promises he was not supporting Portugal during the nail-biting penalty shoot out. Not that you would want his advice on footballing matters - on Saturday Colwyn Bay girls under-12s put five spot-kicks passed him.
These children were of course the offspring of potential voters in his ultra-marginal Clwyd West seat. Did Mr Pugh perhaps let the girls score lest their Mums and Dads withhold their votes if he leapt like a be-gloved salmon and saved their efforts?
No, says he, because they were "all in the bottom corner. I couldn't get near them."
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
I think I can shed some light on this. Mr Isherwood was, a Tory AM told me, "the only one paying any attention". Frightening.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Who is responsible for this internet sabotage? I swear I never did nuthin.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
"Because Brian Gibbons might have just started World War III."
Our correspondent refers, of course, to Brian's button blunder in the Assembly chamber yesterday.
AMs cast votes by pressing a button on their desks. It's very confusing. One button is red and the other is green.
And sadly poor old Dr Gibbons, the Assembly Government's Health Minister, had the misfortune to press the wrong button yesterday.
He was voting on an opposition-tabled demand for a public inquiry into the ambulance service.
The Government, which opposed the idea, would have won the knife-edge vote and torpedoed the inquiry had all Labour AMs pressed the right button.
But they didn't, and thanks to his unwieldy digits Dr Gibbons became the first politician I know of to trigger an inquiry into himself by pressing the wrong button.
When I caught up with him I asked if he was embarrassed. "What do you think?" he replied.
One minute he was angrily denouncing an inquiry into the beleaguered ambulance service. The next the minister was sheepishly admitting his mistake to the rapturous applause of opposition AMs.
But he wasn't the only Labour AM to get it wrong. An Assembly Parliamentary Service spokeswoman said Jane Hutt, Dr Gibbons's predecessor as Health Minister, did not vote at all.
Never mind. At least the Government can stuff the inquiry with a yes man and hope for a white wash.
Hang on. They can't do that either because the Labour AM for Swansea East, Val Lloyd, voted against her group on a separate amendment to create a cross-party panel to choose the inquiry's chairman.
Perhaps Dr Gibbons was dazed by the stunning beauty of Catherine Zeta Jones who he met earlier in the day. She was in Cardiff to visit a children's hospital.
This isn't the first time people have voted the wrong way I understand. But Presiding Officer Lord Elis-Thomas is always quick to dismiss complaints about the voting system. I think it's fair to say he has more faith in the computers than he has in some of the politicians elected to use them.
Monday, June 19, 2006
However the invitations have been put in the wrong envelopes.
Rhodri Morgan's has gone to Lib Dem AM Peter Black while, we're told, Mr Black's has gone to Tory AM Glyn Davies. Plaid AM Dai Lloyd was shocked to find an invitation for Brynle Williams when he opened his.
"Maybe it’s fancy dress and you have to come as the person whose invite you receive?," a Lib Dem source says.
Sadly not. The Wales Office says it's a "clerical error".
I'm reminded of the Tory MP who sent me a Christmas card postmarked January 2006.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
First Minister: Clear Red Water this is.
(Thanks to one of Tiger Tales' many thousands of readers for this alternative caption to this wonderful piece of photojournalism)
Monday, June 05, 2006
Having followed both candidates around Ebbw Vale market in the rain, I got the impression that a lot of people were considering voting both ways. But a split ticket will probably become less likely as the campaign drags on.
The election will be both an interesting test of Labour's popularity vs. the-name-of-the-Law, and an opportunity for Rhodri Morgan to regain his Cardiff Bay majority. But such lofty politics turns on the earthiest of issues. The most pressing concerns I heard up there involved the lack of “ash men” (local parlance for refuse collectors) in Aberbeeg.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Friday, May 26, 2006
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Monday, April 03, 2006
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Sunday, March 26, 2006
THE BBC's Politics Show has just reported some trade unions and Labour figures have approached Welsh and Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain to see where his ambitions lie in a post-Blair government.
The policies he passes in Northern Ireland have more in common with Rhodri Morgan's government in Cardiff Bay than Tony Blair's in Westminster - banning the 11-plus, for example.
Perhaps he would like to perform a John Prescott-type role - the Politics Show said - speaking up for the party at large?
Some might see traces of that in Mr Hain's pronouncements that Labour needed to renew its links with the grassroots and trade union movement, made at the Welsh Labour conference in Swansea last week.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
“It's nice when Team Wales can include the media,” she said.
Naturally everyone here is very proud of David, who is one of Ms Hutt's constituents. But what exactly is Team Wales? And how does one join? Do we have to line up against a wall while Rhodri Morgan picks a team, leaving the rubbish minsters, swimmers and journalists on the sidelines?
Reporters were not able to pose these supplementary questions as Ms Hutt had to dash off after a very brief briefing.
Team Wales is the name of the Welsh team at the Commonwealth Games. Why the Welsh team cannot be called “The Welsh Team”, or any other grammatically correct variation, is another question Ms Hutt was not asked.
But there is another group rejoicing under this name. This Team Wales is invoked by the Welsh Assembly Government when things go wrong. No announcement of job losses can be made without Economic Development (soon to be Enterprise) Minister Andrew Davies summoning Team Wales.
Team Wales is like the A-Team of the Welsh economy, springing into action at times of crisis to perform the economic equivalent of turning a rusty old combine harvester into a tank. My best guess is that this Team Wales is meant to describe the cooperation between the Assembly Government, councils, quangos and enterprise companies.
To which Team Wales is Ms Hutt referring? It's all very confusing, and just goes to show how an aversion to grammar could lead to the nightmare scenario of journalists swimming for Wales in Melbourne while swimmers are asked to attract inward investment.
Monday, March 20, 2006
Last week he reminded AMs why he is the two-time winner of an award for gobbledegook when he said Plaid Cymru's analysis of the impact of EU money on Wales was “like saying, if my aunty was a bloke, she would be my uncle”.
His off-the-cuff remarks can go askew, but when they work they get to the heart of the matter more effectively than the soundbytes other politicians spend hours crafting.
In a recent interview he talked about “The Three Bs”. They are not a 1960s beat combo, but proof of Labour's record, he said. They are the bill, the building and the budget.
Labour's Government of Wales Bill will deliver the prospect of full law-making powers for the Assembly. Labour has built the magnificent (if intermittently leaky) Senedd for the Assembly. And Labour secured another £1 billion to spend on reviving Wales's poorest communities through the EU budget.
But can Mr Morgan claim credit for these?
When the bill was published Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said it was a red-letter day for Wales. Strange. I seem to remember Mr Morgan using the same phrase to mark the publication of the Richard Commission report which recommended a bigger and more powerful Assembly than envisaged in Labour's bill. The bill is a politically clever piece of legislation, but it does little to answer critics who say it slows the process of devolution because MPs fear seeing their power handed to the Assembly ministers who crave it. It's a skip after the hop, when some wonder whether Mr Morgan might have preferred to proceed straight to the jump.
When the full powers do eventually arrive, assuming a referendum can be won, the debating chamber of the new Senedd will expand. It has space to accommodate more than the current 60 AMs, should they be too few to cope with the augmented legislative workload appropriate for Welsh democracy's new home. Its Royal opening on St David's Day saw the First Minister at his oratorical best, even teasing a smile from the Queen with a self-deprecating speech. This was despite him initially opposing the building. Now he says he's a convert. His insistence that it was delivered on time and on budget depends on your interpretation of “on time” and “on budget”.
And the budget. I'm not sure what part Rhodri Morgan played in the negotiations for the EU budget deal which brought another round of financial aid to Wales when it was struck late last year. As far as I'm aware it was Angela Merkel who salvaged Tony Blair's offer of a revised EU spending plan. Should the people of Wales return their Labour AMs to Cardiff Bay because the German Chancellor decided to boost her standing by throwing her weight behind the Prime Minister of Great Britain?
To convince them they should Mr Morgan will need all the rhetorical skill he demonstrated as Royal jester on March 1.