Friday, September 29, 2006

Death by a thousand cuts

The Lib Dems reckon they have evidence that Swansea's Singleton hospital is heading for big cutbacks.
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

Do lame ducks swim in a one-legged circle, or something

When Tony Blair announced he will be gone within a year, Rhodri Morgan said "giving a date now would have eroded his [the PM's] ability to make decisions".
So does the same apply to the First Minister who has given the date of his departure - 2009?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Yeah but no

I can't help notice how Ieuan Wyn Jones and Nick Bourne increasingly dispense with the once-customary caveats of "yes, but we won't discuss that until after the election" that used to precede answers to questions about post-May coalitions.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Cabinet press briefing given by Social Justice Minister Edwina Hart today. Frist time in living memory.
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

Stand and deliver

GB got a 2.40 minute standing ovation at the Labour conference, according to Sky's Adam Boulton - five seconds less than Ieuan Wyn Jones got from Plaid Cymru's conference in Swansea last week.

Brown (almost) announces tax raid on aristocracy

Watching GB address the Labour conference. He just said: "There are still noble purses worth fighting for."
I thought this was a warning to the upper classes. Sadly he quickly corrected himself to noble purposes.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Lib/Lab cabinet a step closer?

Labour and the Lib Dems have been busy denying stories that they have secretly sown up a post-election power-sharing deal.
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


The not-so-old man and the sea

Journalists recently got a flotilla of pictures emailed to them of Environment Minister Carwyn Jones fishing for sharks (I think for scientific purposes) on board a boat off the Welsh coast.
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.

Taking the peace

A press release from the NASUWT advises us that schools will observe Peave Day next Thursday. An event in Cardiff to mark the occassion will be attended by "Christian Malcolm (Welsh 200m runner), Rhodri Morgan (Education Minister), John Mayes (NASUWT senior vice president)".
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

September 18

I feel I should point out that the below-mentioned meeting of Welsh Labour MPs has been called off, so my colleagues at the TUC in Brighton are told.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Shalalala putsch putsch

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?