Friday, February 29, 2008

Flippin 'eck

“Dolphins have incredibly healthy diets. Their interest is mackerel and my interest is mackerel now. And I want to be able to communicate with the dolphin to say well I’ve changed my diet to something much more like yours now.”

Rt Hon Rhodri Morgan, First Minister

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

So Solid

In Aberconwy last May, local Plaid Cymru candidate Gareth Jones - now the local Plaid AM - had the phrase "Save Llandudno Hospital" printed on the ballot paper as part of his successful campaign to rid that constituency of Labour.

So Plaid's response to an announcement by Health Minister Edwina Hart on the future of Llandudno hospital today was intriguing. A final decision hasn't been taken, but one of the reviews she launched after the election agreed with the removal of breast surgery, coronary and acute stroke services. A range of other services, including stroke rehabilitation and breast screening, will be retained and revamped in exchange.

Last March, Mr Jones said this: "Removing coronary care beds and breast surgery services, and no longer admitting medical emergencies, is, by any standards, a downgrading."

Well, today he issued a press release welcoming the "solid guarantee" that the hospital would not be downgraded and would retain its status as an acute site. He says he's going to press Edwina to keep breast services at Llandudno, adding: "The minister's promise today will come as a great relief to all those in Aberconwy and surrounding areas that have argued so strongly for the future of Llandudno hospital."

I honestly don't know if what was announced for Llandudno today amounts to a downgrading or not. But with Plaid supporters already upset about Y Byd and the closure of small schools in Gwynedd, more and more appears to be riding on Rhodri Glyn Thomas's forthcoming Welsh-language LCO.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cliche-free zone

The Welsh attempt at a national male costume (obligatory rugby shirt and farmer's cap for boys at the school Eisteddfod) always struck me as a pretty poor attempt to keep up with the girls and their traditional hat/"ffedog" combination.

Anyway, as you can see below, Rhodri Morgan doesn't go in for such hackneyed symbols of national identity. This is a picture of him briefing the press in the Senedd today, where he told reporters: "We are known as throwing a good party in Brussels for St David's Day, shall I say."

He also said some interesting things about China which you will probably read about in tomorrow's papers, or on the wire now if you are a subscriber.

Doing their level best

Not content with using incomprehensible jargon to express itself, the Assembly Government's education department is now using incomprehensible diagrams. This is how it represents "tri-level" reform of schools. And yes, I know, there are four levels.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Who said what

It's been a day of funny quotes in Cardiff Bay.
In a bid to hush-up a rowdy plenary session Dafydd Elis-Thomas said he would not allow the Assembly to become a "mini Westminster".
Tory AM Andrew Davies said "I had a McMeal I did" when telling AMs what he ate at lunch.
His Conservative colleague Darren Millar asked Health Minister Edwina Hart if she thought there were "too many fat politicians in Wales, myself included".
But my favourite came from Rhodri Morgan who said his new permanent secretary Dame Gillian Morgan, a former doctor, was "non-man and non-mandarin".

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Welsh Labour conference, Llandudno

:: A colleague and I were lurking at the back of the conference hall a moment ago. We must have looked bored because an Assembly Government minister come up to us and said: "If you like I'll set the fire alarm off and you can all go home."

:: According to the guide to fringe events, Peter Hain was due to speak. An organiser of the event confesses that he informed the Labour Party Mr Hain was pencilled in as a speaker, but then forgot to confirm with the former Welsh Secretary.

:: Just been to a conference debate on whether Y Comreds should be allowed to discuss non-devolved matters at Welsh Labour conferences. One delegate speaking in favour of the motion said it would be a good idea because then they could talk about the disestablishment of the church. Which happened in 1920. As if these occasions aren't fascinating enough.

:: There's a man down the chippy with a nice hankie who swears he's Secretary of State for Wales.

:: Always very tight security at Labour conferences. So I'm not sure how Bridgend AM Carwyn Jones got in, because his pass was accidentally issued to someone of the same name. I'm having visions of him haranguing a steward saying: "Don't you know who I am? I'm the Counsel General."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Union of the snake

:: Had a week off for recess. Llandudno tomorrow for Labour conference. First of three weekends in a row that I will be spending in Wales's answer to Bournemouth.

:: Doubtless you will have heard about the Valentine's Day tiff between Labour and Plaid. Trade union members can go to the Plaid website and click on their union. Up pops a half-completed email addressed to your brothers/sisters, instructing them that you do not want your membership fees going towards Labour-affiliated funds.
But why this strange alteration to Plaid's site? I had a look at it yesterday when an embargoed press release came through. As instructed I clicked on some unions' logos to see how it all works. Today, when I checked back, the logos had gone, to be replaced by Plaid's daffodil. Sorry, poppy.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


:: The way jobs are divvied up in the Assembly Government's Cabinet is strange. Drugs policy is a responsibility of the Social Justice Minister, but youth offending is a responsibility of the Health Minister. I would have thought it would be the other way around.

:: There has been a consultation on a Welsh-language children's channel with a suggestion that S4C2 is used for this purpose instead of broadcasting the proceedings of the National Assembly.
But substituting plenary with Planed Plant Bach might be easier said than done, I'm told. S4C is looking at whether it has the bandwith available. I don't pretend to understand the technology, but let me put it like this: Wil Cwac Cwac is more demanding than the Assembly.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

It's rude to point

:: Education Minister Jane Hutt, in her response to an Assembly committee, says she cannot include communication problems in a definition of additional learning needs because of the "unintended consequence of casting doubt on the generality of the current formulation".
What? Is this how we are all meant to talk now? Thanks to Kirsty Williams for spotting this.

:: Is it just me, or is anyone else annoyed by how many friends Hillary Clinton seems to have? Every time she appears before an audience she points and gestures to people she apparently recognises in the front row. I wish she'd stop it

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The day cometh

Even though they want a Welsh Parliament, the Liberal Democrats will not campaign for a 'yes' vote in a referendum on primary powers for the Assembly if it is held on the same day as the 2011 election. Welsh Lib Dem leader Mike German says a simultaneous election/referendum would confuse things. A cross-party 'yes' campaign could not be sustained during a bitter election battle, he says.

In America referendums on election day are not uncommon - seven states banned recognition of same-sex marriage on mid-term election day last year.

Perhaps it would help the cause of greater devolution to have the referendum on election day. Might those voters who turn out at least be more favourably disposed towards having an Assembly?

What Mischievous Mike really wants is to remind us of the broad spectrum of opinion towards devolution that exists within Labour and Plaid Cymru, the two governing parties of the One Wales coalition. He is agitating for Rhodri Morgan and Ieuan Wyn Jones to move swiftly towards a referendum, knowing full well that they dare not appear over hasty. That is why they created the convention.

There are two important elections before 2011 - a General Election and an election for a new Labour leader in Wales. Who knows what complexion that will cast upon proceedings?

Mr German can call for meetings with Rhodri Morgan about setting up a 'yes' campaign for 2011 all he wants. If they stick to their stated retirement dates, Messrs German and Morgan will be long gone as party leaders by the time 2011 comes around.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Much is made of Rhodri Morgan's common touch. Today he shows us something else he has in common with y werin: blind faith the night before the Six Nations. Here is an exert from his good luck message to Wales's rugby team. Talk about setting yourself up for a fall ...

I know that we in Wales are famously optimistic at the start of every Six Nations campaign – and perhaps we too often let our hearts rule our heads.
But I genuinely feel we could be on the verge of a new golden age, in the style of the great Welsh sides of the 1920s and 1970s.