Friday, October 20, 2006

Offer them out

Why are commentators describing the Tory tax commission proposals as an inconvenience for David Cameron and George Osbourne?
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

Anyone trying to phone Tory AM Glyn Davies will encounter some difficulty today. I'm informed that he has "lawnmowered his mobile".

"The worst website of its type anywhere in the world"

The Assembly's website is undergoing a long-overdue revamp and I was among some scribblers shown dummy versions of the spruced-up site.
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

What's Welsh for Brown?

Spoke to broadcaster Patrick Hannan yesterday about Wales's Gordon Brown. Who is going to lead Welsh Labour when Rhodri Morgan steps down in 2009, or sooner if Labour get a thrashing at the ballot box in May?
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

Everyone seems to have a cold. I'm doing my best to avoid catching one.

The Assembly's audit committee was this morning told that if a civil servant is ill and goes home after 11am, it's not registered as a sick day.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Going ... going ... still going

Deputy Presiding Officer John Marek is standing down as House Committee chairman in his row with Presiding Officer Lord Elis-Thomas.
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?

Yule be sorry

Alun Pugh's Christmas cards are great fun for us hacks. Unfortunately it's the sort of story that turns people off politics.
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

Push it to the limit

Labour AM John Griffiths's mobile rang during a speech by Rhodri Morgan to launch his plan for Africa today.
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

Bound(ary) to happen

There's an interesting story knocking about on the wire today. Labour is likely to lose a seat thanks to boundary changes next year, research from Plymouth University suggests.

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.

Taxing question

Self-confessed Tory wimp Glyn Davies wants tax cuts from Cameron, despite sharing his tree-hugging, green tendency.
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.