Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The BBC - Worse than Tiger S**t

This morning I saw 3 truly beautiful deer browsing on a hedge - and the most beautiful thing about them was that they were several miles away from our garden. Regular readers will know of the angst caused to me and Mrs D when these voracious Bambis took a liking to our exotic bamboos and special oaks, earlier in the year. Well, since I found the best way to deal with this growing problem - and feel that I have a duty to share it with you.

As the angst dominated every social discussion I was involved in a few weeks back, I was inundated with possible solutions, which usually included Colditz like fences. Most innovative of all was a proposal, delivered with the viciousness which only a fellow sufferer could generate, was that I should deposit small heaps of Tiger S**t at strategic points around the boundary. Since this commodity is in short supply in Montgomeryshire, I was forced to come up with an alternative. In last weekend's Telegraph, Sue Hancock from Sussex suggested Wright's Coal Tar Soap hung in pop socks. Jennifer Bell from Lostwithiel suggested rags dipped in creosote hanging from the fence. Glyn Leaman from Bristol had success with a mains operated ultrasonic 'animal chaser' on a frequently varied time switch. Most common suggestions were a variety of barbed wire fence formats, or aluminium ammonia sulphate, which causes such a stink that no living creature would be willing to set foot in the garden.

Well, all I did was put a transistor radio out in the garden overnight - and problem gone. The deer couldn't stand the sound of the BBC. So John Humphrys (and Rhun ap Iorwerth if I try to fool them by switching to Radio Cymru) are more off putting than Tiger S**t. And thats empirically proven.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Dakshina and Bhakti

Regrettably, the bovine Tb problems at the Hindu temple at Skanda Vale look set to continue. Today's Telegraph reports that an 8 month old water buffalo named Dakshini and a friesian bull named Bhakti have tested positive. Same problem as Shambo. It will have to be the same result. I hope the responsible Minister, Elin Jones is contactable on her 4 week holiday in New Zealand so that she can be kept in touch with the developing situation. The decisions are straightforward - but highly sensitive as well.

The integrity of reporting by the BBC has been much in the news recently. I just make this comparison. When Shambo was taken from his temple, it was reported that he was being taken to a 'slaughter wagon'. In fact, he was being taken to an Ivor Williams landrover trailer, which then transferred Shambo to an abattoir, where he was put down. When a whale which had lost its way and became beached on the East coast of England, and had to be put down, it was reported that it was 'put to sleep'. Prejudicial use of words or what.

Ali Miraj - Poor Show

I see that tonight's headline on BBC online centres on comments made by Ali Miraj, a Conservative who's looking for a seat to fight at the next General Election criticising David Cameron. This is a really poor show by Ali, who should know better. I find it a touch disappointing because Ali once contested a seat in the Welsh Valleys, and I felt that I sort of knew him. To me, he seemed to be a thoroughly sound man.

Its not that the points he makes are unreasonable. Its the way he's said them - and to whom. I've heard others make the same points about the trip to Rwanda in particular, as well as the selection of Tony Lit to fight Ealing Southall for us. I've answered a few questions about the Rwanda trip myself. Of course it was a tough call. He was twixt a rock and a hard place. But withdrawal from such a carefully prepared visit to the Rwandan Parliament, at the very same time as the an important Conservative Policy Group was publishing its report on Global Poverty would have given a very poor message to the world. David Cameron was in a no-win position. The last thing we need is one of our own making the position worse. Thank goodness David Cameron has got Janet Daley giving him her full backing in today's Telegraph. I shouldn't think that Ali has done much for his chances of selection with these comments.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

EU Referendum Please Mr Brown

Gordon Brown is on a high - at the top of a prolonged 'bounce'. His popularity is soaring and he must feel invulnerable and all powerful. He probably thinks that he could get away with the most outrageous 'con' of the British people - which is why he's trying to do just that. This could be the pin that will prick his bubble. The British people will get very cross when they realise that the Prime Minister has deliberately misled them.

We were promised a referendum on a new EU 'constitution' by Labour. No 'ifs', no 'buts'. It was a cast iron promise - with no wriggle room. As it happened we were never offered the promised referendum because it was rejected by other European countries first - and dropped. We are being told by Gordon Brown that the EU constitution treaty is defunct, dead and buried, gone - even though 240 of its 250 proposals are included in what is now called the European Union Reform Treaty. All that's happened is that its been given a new name. The Prime Minister's attempt to hoodwink the British people is a disgrace.

This treaty goes a long way towards creating a 'United States of Europe' - with its own President, its own Foreign Minister and its own Bill of Rights. It will greatly reduce the ability of the British Government to rule itself. There are arguments to be put for and against this Treaty - and I would be happy to accept the decision of the British people. But it must be put to the British people - something Mr Brown has no intention of doing. Tony Blair found out that we don't like being lied to on a great national issue of importance to us (like going to war or handing our ability to govern ourselves to the EU). Mr Brown will pay the same price as Blair - for also believing that he can get away with anything.

Oscar concern

Shock, horror. I cannot believe it. Me, right of centre yes - but surely not agreeing with Simon Heffer. I admit that I still read his column, as much to chunter to myself something like "Its no wonder British voters stopped supporting the Tory Party if these sort of people fronted it". But I suppose it is Simon's job to be provocative. At least, he's nothing like as bad as Peter Hitchens whose column in the Mail on Sunday I can no longer read - makes me too cross.

Anyway, there it was in Simon Heffer's weekend column - my little joke in Friday's post about hoping that Oscar the cat, whose arrival to cuddle up close presages one's instant demise, would not turn up on the doorstep of Conservative Central Office. What chance have I got of winning preferment if party bosses link me with Simon Heffer. I cross my heart and swear that I thought of it myself - and on reflection, don't find it funny at all. And in passing, I agree with Simon's hard line on cannabis. And I agree that Gordon's best chance is to go to the country in October. I think I will carry on reading him.

Cats and Dogs.

I wasn't going to blog today, but then I visited Welsh Blog Index only to find that I was 'Blog of the Week'. This is my first ever 'blog award' and puts me under pressure to speak. But about what? What does a prizewinner blog about? After all this rain, I can only think of cats and dogs. And I did Oscar the cat yesterday. So it should be dogs today.

You might remember that Oscar was the moggy, all over last week's papers, which stalked an old people's home in the US, and on the last 25 time he'd sidled up to one of the residents, death had followed within 4 hours. Amazingly, the manager of the home adopted a policy of calling in the relatives to say their goodbyes, rather than simply getting rid of the cat. Today, I've been reading about Portuguese water dogs (and Labradors) which can detect lung and breast cancer more effectively than the best up-to-the-minute screening equipment.

It seems that there are chemical 'markers' in the breath of cancer sufferers which Portuguese water dogs can identify - and its a more effective diagnosis than mammograms and CT scans. I would never have believed this if I hadn't seen a Spaniel sniffing out Semtex at a demonstration put on by the Police last year. At the time, the Police were trying to persuade the National Assembly Government not to introduce legislation banning the tail docking of such. And to think of the NHS budget squillions that has gone into developing all this scanning equipment - when all we needed to do was let Portuguese water dogs breed and produce an endless supply of cancer spotters at almost no cost at all.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Maybe October after all.

I have been totally unconvinced thus far, that there is the slightest chance of Gordon Brown calling a General Election in October. I have been convinced that he plans to go in Spring 2009, with the outside possibility of it being Spring 2008. But today's Telegraph is shaking my certainty - big time. A Yougov poll has Labour 9 points clear of us - and there are other unfavourable percentages as well. If this sort of thing carries on until September, the Prime Minister will inevitably be tempted. I would. It may be his best chance of winning an election in his own right.

In the meantime, I just hope that Oscar, the cat which can sense when patients at a nursing home are about to die, doesn't think about moving into Tory Party HQ. Oscar has been winning rave headlines today. So far he has cuddled up to 25 residents in a residential home - and they all died within 4 hours. This sounds very sinister to me. I think that Oscar should be put under surveillance.

In fact, I believe (without evidence I grant) that by September, we will be back on level terms with Labour - and pull away next year. The question in my mind is whether we can pull away enough to win a good working majority. But just in case, I will be planning my election campaign strategy over the next few weeks. It could just be October after all.

What if his name was just 'Bullock'.

Thank goodness that Shambo, the most celebrated friesian bullock in the world, was infected with bovine Tb, following tests on his carcase after he was slaughtered yesterday. Can you just imagine the fallout if he hadn't been infected - something that often happens when animals are taken from farmers after 'positive' tests. The Assembly Government would have been vilified across the entire world. I cannot believe the reach that this story has achieved. Huge picture on the front page of today's Telegraph for instance. Question is, would all this publicity have happened if the name of this rather poor quality, six year old bullock was something as prosaic as 'Bullock' or 'B8'. The monks of Skanda Vale Hindu community would have protested just the same, but the story might have remained no more than of local interest.

One point that does interest me is that if Shambo had not been slaughtered, the disease would have spread and caused other animals to contract bovine Tb - and thus have to die. How does a commitment to the sanctity of life solve this little consequence. One animal lives, but an unspecified number of other animals die as a result. Doesn't sound very humane to me.

And another question is where were Shambo's ear tags when he made his debut on TV. Every bovine in Britain is supposed to have two ear tags, one in each year. Shambo's ears were as free from adornment as the hands of a real man are free from jewelry. A few days later, two big yellow tags appeared. I wonder whether the same action will be taken that would be taken against every other farmer for similar 'offences'.

I'm really glad its all over. I know that some farmers think that the case has raised the profile of the curse of Bovine TB. Personally, I think that public sympathy has moved in favour of the monks. And I hope that there won't be anything like the same publicity when other animals are taken - as they surely will be. I daresay they are all being given cute little names as we speak.

Disappointing Result.

Deeply disappointing result for my party in a Powys County Council by-election last night - at the Oldford Ward in Welshpool. Congratulations to the Lib Dem candidate, Francesca Jump who won around 230 votes. Independent, Delwyn Williams was second with around 140 votes, Another Independent, Charles Jones was third with 98 votes, and our candidate, Association Chair, Nick Bardsley came fourth with 95 votes. Mrs D and I had been out for an enjoyable supper on our wedding anniversary to the splendid Lake Vyrnwy Hotel - but this result put a bit of a damper on things.

The Lib Dem victory was no real surprise. They run their by-election campaigns very well - and the late Merv Kinsey won the ward three years ago with over 400 votes. And crucially, the Lib Dems have accepted today's reality that party politics are a part of local government. Montgomeryshire voters of the centre/right persuasion still take the view that party politics has no place in local government - and share the votes out amongst independents and us. The same is true of much of rural Wales.

May seem odd to say, but this was the best local election campaign that the Conservatives have ever fought in Montgomeryshire (at least that I can remember). I wasn't able to play much part in the planning because we were going through the process of selecting our parliamentary candidate at the same time - and I was involved personally. I'd hoped that we would have come second (if we didn't win that is) but it wasn't to be. Largely because an old friend of mine, the former Member of Parliament for Montgomeryshire, Delwyn Williams stood as an independent. I suspect he bagged quite a lot of our votes.

Delwyn's been a bit down on his luck since losing his seat to Alex Carlile in 1983, but remains a popular man locally. I'm told that he's been going around telling people that he intends to stand at the next General Election as well - which would make my task of winning the seat that much more difficult. Like Bruce Lawson, another popular local man, who intends to stand as Ukip's candidate in Montgomeryshire, he will see the potential Tory vote as his most fruitful territory. Across the UK, the Lib Dems are in a mess, but they will be smiling in Montgomeryshire after last night's result.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Royal Welsh 2007

For me, the Royal Welsh Show is over for another year. Greatly diminished in size and enjoyment this year by the wet weather. Absolute nightmare for the organisers - and well done them for keeping the Show going for the full four days.

Shambo, the bullock at the centre of the TB storm was the top talking point. This has turned out to be a nightmare problem for the Government. Shambo might be a scrawny 6 year old freisian bullock who would never have been given shed room, let alone temple room on most Welsh farms - but his cute face on our TV screens won over millions of supporters across the world, including my own family. It became a really tough call. I always thought that there was no option but death for Shambo, and I was staggered by the High Court reprieve - which was overturned on appeal. Lucky Elin Jones, not having to don the 'black cap' herself. Elin has just gone to New Zealand for four weeks holiday. Very lucky for her that she hasn't gone to India.

Best Shambo joke of the Show was by David Fursden, President of the CLA, which put on a very grand anniversary 'do' on Tuesday. In his speech, David said that he was pleased that the High Court ruling had been overturned "because it saved the CLA from going to the trouble if becoming registered as a religion." And funniest line for me was when I pointed out to a friend of mine that his trouser zip was undone. Edward Hamer, another friend told him not to worry "because a dead bird never falls out of the nest". I'm sure its an old line, but I'd never heard it.

But as always, the Show was a fantastic event. Lets hope for better weather next year.

Alun Cairns MP ?

I was pleased to see that my very good friend, Alun Cairns was fast-tracked by the Vale of Glamorgan Conservatives last night to be their General Election candidate. I worked closely with Alun during my eight years as an Assembly Member - and always reckoned he was one of the sharpest, hardest working and inventive AMs, across all parties. He really knew how to 'hold the Government to account'. Like a dog with a bone. Although he's been an excellent and commited AM, he has always had a yen for Westminster. And I've always fully approved of this. Personally, I was a bit disappointed when Jonathon Morgan, the other highly talented Tory 'youngster' didn't go for Westminster as well. They both have Cabinet potential.

Its not that I see Westminster in any way more significant than Cardiff Bay. Its not, and in some ways its less significant. Its just that I like to see politicians moving between the different levels of Government - and I think that the House of Commons/London lifestyle is well suited to ambitious, energetic, young men and women. They can come back to the Assembly later on in life, bringing the sort of experience that came with Ron Davies, Rhodri Morgan, the two Dafydds and John Marek. Its because of my support for this fluidity that I so approve of Jonathon Evans, currently Tory MEP for Wales trying his luck in Cardiff North for the General Election. Jonathon is Wales outstanding Tory politician. I really hope he makes it.

I too am trying to move from the National Assembly to Westminster - but this has not really been a long standing ambition. I truly loved being a member of the National Assembly - and only considered Westminster after losing my seat on the great roulette wheel that is PR a few weeks ago. But I do recognise that there is an exciting job to do in Westminster, not least helping devolution be successful - and a wonderful history that must inspire anyone who steps foot into the Palace as a public representative. It would be a truly momentous day for me if Alun Cairns, Jonathon Evans and I walked into the House of Commons together. And I think that it's just about possible.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Brown Rain.

A few weeks days, a bishop (I think) in the North-East of England informed his congregation that the current spell of inclement weather was down to the sinful way by which we live our lives. Most people thought it was another 'Bishop of Southwark' incident - or that he was completely barking. I don't think he was any more so that those who think its all the result of climate change. Its just been a very wet summer. Personally, I do think the reason could possibly be some thing to do with Gordon Brown. Every day since he was 'installed' as our Prime Minister, its rained. Now, that's a very clear message from on high. So 'if you want to see the sun, ditch Brown'.

Despite the deluge, I went to the Royal Welsh Show yesterday. Not everyone who set off actually made it. Quite a few turned around as soon as they hit the queues and went home. My good fortune - because it elevated me, alongside current MEPs and fellow Westminster hopefuls, Jonathon Evans and Neil Parrish into the 'touring' Conservative representation. Just like old times.

There was a pork barrel of politicians there. Ministers everywhere. Elin Jones, smiling because she has been spared the responsibility for passing final sentence on Shambo - which the Court of Appeal did for her. She was wearing a bright orange mac. To begin with, I thought she was a traffic marshall who'd had enough abuse out on the roads and come onto the show for relief. And then there was Rhodri Glyn Thomas, in full strut - looking every inch an important person. I sympathise with the civil servant charged with keeping an eye on him. Possibly the most testing job in Welsh politics. Must say 'the duchess' really looked the part of the 'countrywoman'. You could tell she used to work on a farm. I think she's going to do ok. And Jane Hutt, who reminded me that she's now education'. Its a job to keep up. And I spotted the Deputy First Minister around and about as well, just keeping an eye on things.

All in all, it was the 'Farmer's Glastonbury' - so much rain and mud everywhere. I'm back to the show today - mainly because I have invited all CPRW members to a 'Meet the President' event. As I set off the sun has come out. Must check if Gordon Brown is still the Prime Minister.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Don't Panic. Don't Panic.

No sooner do I get myself selected as a Tory candidate than I start to see headlines screaming "Conservative Meltdown". I was especially worried when I read commentators opining that "the Tories chose the wrong candidate" the day after I was selected. But it seems it was Tony Lit, our man in Ealing Southall rather than me who was in the frame. Some sort of relief. In any case, all this stuff about 'meltdown' is way over the top. Its wishful thinking by those who would like it to be so - like fellow blogger, Peter Black AM and Paul Flynn MP, both men clutching at silver linings.

But I do concede that it hasn't been the greatest few weeks for us. It began with the grammar schools 'row-over-nothing', followed by a very poor opinion poll for us in Wales (albeit commissioned by Plaid Cymru), followed by disappointing third places in Ealing Southall and Sedgefield, followed by two more polls today showing Labour ahead of us by 6%/7%. But for some reason, I don't feel depressed at all. Probably because I expected a Brown 'bounce' and a bit of internal turbulance (didn't except the Welsh poll though). Only thing that has rattled me a touch are the reports that some Tory MPs are trying to destabilise David Cameron's leadership. They must have been spending too much time in the Stranger's, or they are seriously lacking in the cerebral department.

Much more of this though, and Gordon Brown might be tempted by the idea of an October election. Fellow blogger, Nadine Dorries MP is already convinced the our new PM will go for it. But I don't buy it myself. He just doesn't have the courage. However, I do think he might be tempted if we don't succeed in changing the polls in our favour by next March. If I was putting any money on it, I would go for June, 2009, on the same date as the European Parliament Election. And I'd bet the farm on David Cameron still being our leader.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


I won't go as far as to compare my situation with that of the free world in 1945. But I do feel liberated. After 11 weeks of frustration, I have broadband installed at home, and I can blog without having to go to Welshpool or an Internet cafe. I've experienced this wonderful sense of liberation before. I remember Jan. 1st. '03, when I came home from hospital after an 11 day stay and some serious body restructuring. I'd been told not to drive for 'x' no of weeks. But the car was there - and as soon as Mrs D turned her back, I struggled into the driving seat and away I went. Gwynneth and Wyn thought a ghost had arrived when I turned in and said I'd have a cup of coffee. Such a sense of liberation it was. Mind you, it didn't last long. A few weeks later, the local magistrates banned me from driving for 6 months under the totting-up procedure. But another burst of liberation when I had my licence back.

But back to my broadband. It has taken from May 3rd, when I lost my position as an AM, until today for me to sort it out. And if it hadn't been for Edward and Sally, two of our offspring who are IT whizzers, we would have just given up. I do ask myself whether BT is the worst company in the Western world (there could be something worse in the deepest African jungle I suppose). I recall Mrs D once being reduced to tears of frustration by Sky when the television had gone awry - but nothing like BT. In a class of its own. When I was an Assembly Member, BT used to ask me what I thought of the company and its service. I wish they would ask me now!.

Anyway, I will now be able to blog properly. Not as much as Iain Dale or Ordovicios of course - but when I feel like it, not when I can. Such liberation.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Burying Body Parts.

Read in today's Telegraph that Glamorgan batsman, Mike Powell has had one of his ribs buried at the Sophia Gardens cricket ground in Cardiff. This may seem a drastic way of developing a closer relationship with his home pitch - but it seems that he happened to have a spare rib to hand, after an operation to remove a blood clot last month. Heard of sportsmen putting their 'heart and soul' into the game - but this is the first time I've heard about a rib. All seems a bit macabre to me but Glamorgan's form has been so dire over recent seasons that it can't do any harm.

Come to think of it, I'm sorry that I didn't ask for Mrs D's old knee, when Stephen White, her consultant cut it off a few weeks ago, before fitting her up with a prosthetic. I know that some people look to this blog as a way of checking on Mrs D's progress, so I should add, in passing, that she is as good as new now that the replacement has settled in. But it would have been nice to plant the old knee in the garden somewhere, with some sort of plaque to mark the spot. Apart from the odd tooth, the only part of my body that has been surgically removed (when I was treated for colorectal cancer) wouldn't add much appeal to any garden.

Burying body parts, or even bodies in the garden can prove to be a problem though. I was once approached by a constituent who had buried the ashes of her husband on a site overlooking the house where they had spent many years together - but she wanted to move them because she always felt that he was watching over everything she did. And then I had another case where a widow had buried her deceased husband a few feet in front of the neighbour's sitting room window - on a piece of land, the ownership of which had been in dispute for 20 years and had led to them not speaking except through solicitors. The neighbours reckoned they could here him laughing when the night was very still. There are a lot of very odd folk around.

What's a Milf

I read today that the BBC's over-paid Jonathon Ross has been cleared by a committee of his own BBC bosses for calling Nigella Lawson a 'Milf' on his show. What can this mean. My spellchecker doesn't recognise it. 'Member of the Institute of Low-fat Food perhaps. He was cleared of saying a few other things as well, which I could understand all too well - language I thought more appropriate to a porn channel. What really struck me though was the reason that this committee gave when proclaiming the 'not guilty' verdict. It seems that seriously foul language is ok because Jonathon Ross "has a well established reputation for robust humour and language". What can Lord Reith be thinking?

Perhaps the BBC, now that she has decided to send all of her staff on 'honesty courses' will ask that an additional module be slipped in on 'appropriate language'. But this brings me back to the word 'Milf'. Its a word with a rather nice ring to it. Don't think I'll use it in a public speech until I know exactly what it means.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Checking out my new office.

Hope I'm not being a bit previous - but after being selected as a parliamentary candidate last night, I thought I'd pop down to the Palace of Westminster today to sus out a new office. With all this talk of an October election I thought I'd best not hang around. After all, I hear that Alun Cairns might be having a crack at Westminster as well - and if there is only one office available, he'll have his name on the door before they finish counting the votes. The boy's got form on this.

Actually, I've been in London for other reasons. Mainly to meet the top brass at the Campaign to Protect Rural England. I thing that CPRW may be able to learn from (and perhaps teach) the CPRE something useful. The CPRE office is along the river from Westminster - and I thought that I would like to walk along the embankment. And called for a coffee in the Atrium at Millbank. Sort of reminder of what I used to do a few years ago. And just to add a touch of authenticity, I tempted the BBC's David Cornock down from the top of the building to share a cappuccino and a gossip. He always did give me stick but my masochistic nature leads me to quite enjoy his company. Truth is, while I do not particularly like London, I have always experienced a great sense of awe around the Palace of Westminster. Its just a matter of overturning that majority of 7173 in Montgomeryshire. Think I'll go out canvassing at the Gungrog By-election in Welshpool tomorrow. Have to start some where and could bring the target down below 7170.

Victory for Victoria.

Victoria Otley is my heroine today. She's struck a blow for bowel cancer sufferers. Not everyone is keen to talk about this disease. Last year, I was outraged by the seemingly casual way that NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) issued guidance that the drug, Avastin was not value for money because it only extended the life of the terminal sufferer by 5 months (on average). Well, when you are dying, an extra 5 months is a very long time indeed.

Anyway, Victoria took them on. When Barking and Dagenham NHS Trust refused to provide her with the drug, she went to the High Court. And today, Mr Justice Mitting found in her favour. I don't suppose NICE will change its guidance though. Its just the way it is. After all, its only another 5 months life for someone dying from bowel cancer disease. Well Done Victoria. Some day, NICE will cure itself.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Made it through.

"I can confirm that one of you has secured over 50% of the votes". It was the Chairman of the Montgomeryshire Association opening up the formal bit after the count had been completed at tonight's Open Primary to choose the Conservative candidate for the next General Election. Matthew Groves, my opponent was on the edge of his seat, wondering which of us this 'one' was. I just said, "Of course one of us has won over 50%of the votes. There are only two of us." Which makes me ask myself what would have happened if it had been a dead heat. I'll make enquiries tomorrow.

Anyway the Chairman and the 'enforcer' from Central Office, otherwise known as Vince looked at me with blank expressions and carried on "and that person is Glyn Davies". Great news for me and disappointing news for Mathew. In passing, I thought he was a really terrific bloke. I hope he gets a winnable seat. Now its Lembit Opik's 7173 majority that's in my sights. Good night all round - so Mrs D opened (and we finished) a bottle of 'champers' as Dame Jennifer Smith, ex-Prime Minister of Bermuda calls it. Feeling great and off to bed - have to be up at 4.00 and in London for 9.00 tomorrow. That is hellish - but I refuse to be deflated. Westminster, here we come.

Saved by Patricia

I did it again last night. Will I never learn? I joined the seriously attractive Heledd Cynwal as her guest on Wedi Saith - wearing a dark blue shirt! No tie and the casual look, a la Cameron - except for the sweaty armpits. Not sure why it happens. The heat emanating from the camera lights perhaps. Or the pressure of live Welsh Language TV interviews. Or perhaps it was Heledd's mini skirt! Anyway, sweaty armpits don't show on a white shirt. That's tip No 1 for today.

But Patricia, who does all the making up for Wedi Saith was there - and she was armed with a hair dryer. So that's No 2 tip for the day. If you are of the 'sweaty armpits' tendency - always take along a hair dryer if you are doing a TV interview.

Anyway, I'm off to Llansantffraid now for the first 'Open Primary' ever to be held in wales to choose a parliamentary candidate. Tories setting the pace again. Mathew and I are up for selection at 4.30 this afternoon - and then its on to Carno for the second half, which begins at 7.30. I'll let you know how I got on when I'm home - probably about 10.00ish, unless I stop off for at the Aleppo Merchant for a drink on the way home. To celebrate or drown sorrows. I really hope that I am successful tonight. I would love to have a crack at reversing Lembit Opik's 7173 majority. I've just reminded myself to put on one of my white shirts. Thanks Patricia.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sorry about Eric.

I look on Sir Eric Howells as a friend. Which makes his public attack on the Conservative Party, reported in today's Western Mail, all the more disappointing for me. He was a leading member of the Wales Conservative Party for many years - until he disagreed with democratically arrived at decisions being taken in his own constituency of Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire. In fact, he disagreed so much that he supported one of the other candidates in the recent Assembly election. The Party was left with little option other than to expel him. Incidentally, a fat lot of good it did for Eric's newfound political friend - because the Conservative candidate, Angela Burns won the seat, against expectations. I know all about this result because it resulted in me losing my own position as an Assembly Member.

But back to Sir Eric. His impact so far on our political fortunes in the area seems to have been about nil. He now seems to hav eresorted to trying to damage the party he served with distinction for so long. So I'm doubly sorry. Sorry to lose him - and sorry that an old friend is now actively seeking to damage us. What is it that makes people behave in this way? Anyway, I expect to see Sir Eric at the Royal Welsh Show and will still see him as my friend - even if he can no longer be regarded as a political colleague.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Farmyard Socialism

Interesting Article on the front page of today's Sunday Telegraph about the 'happiness' of hens which spend their entire lives locked up in battery cages. It seems that scientists at Sydney University have developed a technology for measuring the level of corticosterone in eggs, which prove that these poor creatures are no more stressed than their free range cousins - which spend their lives strutting around grassy glades and seed laden stack yards, helping themselves at the rich plate which nature provides. Well, of course they are. Because they don't know any better. And they don't have to search for food in the barren winter months, and they aren't bothered with parasites, and they enjoy a constant temperature with no rain and frost, and they're not under threat of attack from foxes who would kill them, just for the sheer hell of it. Battery hens live in a 'socialist' paradise.

They are happy and stress free. Big brother, in the form of the poultry farmer attends to their every need. They do not have to think for themselves -- best left to Big Brother. 'Health and safety' are assured by absence of predators - and they can't peck each other to death because they have been de-beaked. Their shiny faces would be the same as all those little children on the posters which proclaimed the wonderment of Mao's Cultural Revolution. Life is a doddle as long as they do exactly the same as every other hen. Mind you, step out of line in some way and its curtains. They just live in their little boxes, doing precisely what Big Brother maps out for them - and their corticosterone levels are just fine. I wonder whether any of Gordon Brown's relations are poultry farmers?

Personally, I prefer to live with my corticosterone levels going off the gauge whenever possible. Socialism is for the birds.

So its only Entertainment.

You really would have thought that choosing a Conservative candidate to contest the next General Election would be a serious business. It sure is for the contestants who want to be chosen. But my local newspaper, the excellent Montgomeryshire County Times has the big notice of this contest, to be held on Wednesday evening, and which takes the form of the first 'Open Primary' ever to be held in Wales, on its 'entertainments' page! So you can make your choice about where to go over the next few days. To a car boot sale, or the AGM of the North Powys Man. Utd. supporters club, or a playgroup 'open evening', or an 'All-you-can-eat' pizza house, or the Royal Welsh Show - or you can go to our Open Primary.

The part of the 'entertainments' page where the notice appears is under the sub heading 'PICK YOUR OWN'. There were just two options. The Wistanstow Fruit Farm, where you can pick gooseberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, new potatoes and broad beans - or you can join us and and pick a Tory candidate! I'll probably go to Wistanstow Fruit Farm on Thursday to pick some gooseberries - because as part of the general assault that local wildlife is making on our garden this year, all of our own gooseberries have been eaten by grey squirrels. I've never seen this before and I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't witnessed it with my own eyes. Just sitting there stuffing them in, swallowing the seeds and spitting the rest out. I've told friends who enjoy a bit of shooting that if they want some free 'entertainment' they can wander around the garden and thin out the hordes of these creatures that I see as rats with tails.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Exciting Day

Spent most of today at The Wales Conservative Party AGM at the Metropole in Llandrindod Wells. I try to go every year. Not enough of our elected politicians do go. Its an occasion when they can show some appreciation to the party stalwarts who help deliver the vote. AMs, Alun Cairns and Nick Ramsey were there though - so top marks to them.

Highlights of the day were splendid speeches from our Director, Matt Lane and Jonathon Evans MEP (as usual). In passing we were told that at out Spring Conference in Cardiff, a passing seagull c***ped on Matt's head. I don't know why ewe were told this but its no wonder we don't see much of Matt in Mid Wales. He knows we have ospreys flying around. And it is great to be contemplating Jonathon's return to Westminster - he having thrown his hat in the ring for selection for the Cardiff North constituency. He would be a great boost to Cameron's team after the next General Election.

Only interesting tit bit I picked up was that the Serbian meaning of the word 'excited' is 'sexually aroused'. You may ask how this cropped up. Well, during the Assembly election, it seems we recruited some part time help telephone canvassing from some Serb lads in Cardiff. For some reason during the evening, they were asked whether they were 'excited'. We'll have to pass over why they were asked this question - but they were a bit surprised to be asked something so personal. Perhaps they thought all those things they had heard about the Tory Party in the old days were still true!!

Anyway, we're going out for dinner with a Croatian lady tonight. I might suggest that we order an 'exciting' little wine - and see what she says. Croatia is next door to Serbia, so there should be some reaction.

Tom Jones Syndrome

I'm told that this blog has become far too serious - pious even. Can't have that. So....

Dai went to see his doctor because he could not stop singing the 'Green, Green Grass of Home'.

Doctor told him not to worry because it was only Tom Jones Syndrome - and that 'its not unusual'.

I daresay its an old one - but I like it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

'Moral Compass' goes awry

Talking 'morality' is a dangerous business for politicians. Best avoided. Yesterday I posted on the subject of 'marriage' - but refused to link the issue to morality. The idea that any political party, stuffed full of extroverts as they are, should stand on a platform of morality is just asking for trouble. John Major's 'Back to Basics' policy was a disaster. Blair's claim to be a 'regular kinda guy' and that New Labour was 'whiter than white' made the Ecclestone and Cash for Peerages issues much more damaging than they would otherwise have been.

As soon as I heard Gordon Brown banging on about his moral compass earlier this month, I knew he was in trouble. But it came a lot sooner than I expected. Today, according to the BBC, the Labour Party invited a convicted rapist to buy a table at a Labour Party fundraiser, for which he paid £10,000. Even more damning was the reason that Owen Oyston is reported to have given for accepting the invitation. He thought it might advantage some of his business companies! Gordon Brown's problem is that he's tried to give the impression that he and his party are as pure as the driven snow.

I watched this story being covered on Newsnight tonight. Stephen Pound, ultra loyalist Labour MP was on reassuring us that the other 599 guests were 100% pure. How on earth does he know? Anyway, ex-MP, Martin Bell made Stephen Pound's claim to look very hollow when he pointed out that the Government has failed to appoint a Chair of the Parliamentary Standards Committee for over three months. It really is best if politicians avoid making silly claims about a moral compass in their public speeches. It nearly always backfires.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More on Marriage.

Its a subject fraught with risk. But having done it once, its always easier the second time. I believe marriage is a good thing - repeating my post of last week. And I am in favour of removing the tax disadvantages that are imposed on two people when they decide to get married - and I'm in favour of removing the taxation encouragement presently given to married couples to seperate. As I expected there has been some of the "Typical Tories - knocking single mothers" - but not much of it. Perhaps we have reached the stage when we can discuss this subject rationally - without making moral judgements about people who decide to have children outside of marriage. We do not condemn this personal choice - its a matter for individual decision. But it shouldn't be encouraged by the taxation system.

I note that Gordon Brown has spotted that David Cameron is onto something here - so he's trying to make out that the tax system already encourages marriage via the Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax rules. Well, Yes - as long as you are in a position of being rich enough to pay these taxes. So its another Labour policy for the few - at the expense of the many. Interesting. From a personal perspective, I'm rather pleased that we are establishing policy that marks us out as distinctive. I don't think any of the other three main political parties will follow us down this policy road - because they will be afraid of the risk involved in tackling seriously sensitive issues.

Facing Facts

"In reality" is a favourite opener of Wales' spanking new Deputy First Minister. And its a good opener, because life is all about bl***y 'reality'. In reality, is the only place to be when contemplating future plans. This post is a riposte to comments on my blog from others, notably Cleckanndra and Christopher Glamorgan about my having turned my gaze towards Westminster - and away from the 'relevance' of Cardiff Bay.

First thing to say is that I didn't want to lose my position on the National Assembly on May 3rd. I would have liked to be part of the complex process of bedding down its new constitutional settlement. I've already posted that I would probably have spent my entire salary of the last few weeks buying cappuccinos for Plaid Cymru AMs, in a desperate attempt to get the 'Rainbow Coalition' to fly. Its the nearest I've ever been to being politically desperate for something. And before anyone comments, there would have been nothing in it for me. I'd made clear two years ago that I would not take a front bench position - even if one were to be offered. But I would have hoped for a key cross party role - something like Chair of the Finance Committee, if in opposition. But I lost my seat. I'm out on my a*** for 4 years at least, and perhaps permanently. That's reality. An absolute 'bummer' - but the reality that I've had to face.

So what to do. Rebuild my life. Not happy to be only a farmer and gardener. The Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales is a valuable voice for the countryside - and I've taken on the challenging job of President. I have today become a Director of the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust, another potentially challenging position. And I have agreed to set up and chair a Welsh Advisory Board for a private sector business in the field of mental health and care of vulnerable people - details of which will not be public for a month or so. But I don't want to end my interest in Welsh politics.

Which is why I hope that Montgomeryshire people, at an Open Primary next Wednesday, will select me as their Conservative Candidate for the next General Election. If they choose someone else, I will look for some other role in the Party (but won't seek selection for any other seat). If I were to be selected, and then elected, I would see my main interest as working within the Houses of Parliament to ensure devolution is a success. This aspect of devolution does not receive anything like enough attention. In reality, this seems to me the best way I can make the contribution that I want to make. I hope that clears things up.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Under Starter's Orders.

It will be very hush-hush of course. Mustn't be too previous - at least not seen to be. But you can be sure that the runners in the Succession Stakes are loosening up and shaking their fetlocks. Oh Yes. The favourites may well be carrying on as if nothing has happened - and the stents are still carefully packed in the anti-septic polythene container that they came in. But you can bet a pony that they are under starters orders.

Early favourite is Bridgend Hoggin, a rangy stallion with the same big stride that made Party Politics such a favourite with the punters - simply eating the hurdles. And he has the same Welsh bloodlines too. Second favourite is Slippery Jack, another stallion out of a Swansea stable, with a reputation for reaching the tape first when the going is tricky. And third favourite is The Duchess, a handsome filly with a striking mane, who tends to run through the hurdles, rather than jump them. Not to be discounted if she finds a good line in the slipsteam of the pacesetters.

A couple of pushy stables, with an eye on the future opportunities may enter as make weights. And after all, the favourites may burn out if they set too hot a pace. Expect to see some 'throwaway' betting on Rhondda Rebellious and some 'for the hell of it' betting on Merthyr No Hope.

But this blog wishes First Minister, Rhodri Morgan a full and speedy recovery. None of us would want to see ill health force him into retirement. In passing, Brynle was deeply impressed when I rang him to discuss things this morning. When he had his heart attack last year, he had only one stent. Rhodders had two! Of course there's no medical reason why Rhodri shouldn't be back to top form in a few weeks time. For sure, he will be up shouting on his beloved Cymru in Paris later in the summer. And when Alfie lifts the World Cup, after Hook drops a late goal to pip the All Blacks in the Final, Rhodri Morgan will announce the date of his departure from high office. Well, it would be a good moment.
Phill's New Job

Two most asked questions since I lost my seat in the National Assembly have been "Are you going to stand against Lembit Opik" and "What's happened to Phill". Phill ran my Assembly office for almost the whole 8 years I was there - and he ran it like clockwork. He made sure that I turned up where I was supposed to turn up - armed with whatever papers I needed. Whenever I used to mutter something like "I wish I could find that damn report on 'whatever' that I read 6 years ago - it would materialise on my desk a few minutes later. Brilliant. People used to think I dominated Phill. The truth was that Phill dominated me. We were a good team. He was my 'eyes and ears' around the corridors - and loyalty was his middle name.

It seemed odd to me that none of the newly elected Tories did not want to take Phill on. I suppose he is a bit different. Well, this morning he started work in Darren Millar's office on a half time basis. Darren has made a smart move here. My opinion of the boy Darren rises every time I meet him - and I don't give a stuff what Alun Pugh used to say about him. He's going to have a big influence on the Welsh Conservative Party over the next few years.

So that's the Phill issue settled. Now, what about the other question. I'll be able to answer that in 8 days time, after the Montgomeryshire Conservative Association has chosen either me, or a very pleasant young man named Mathew, who's from Surrey, at an Open Primary in Montgomeryshire next Wednesday evening. Anybody who is on the electoral roll in Montgomeryshire can come and vote at Llansantffraid at 4.30 or Carno at 7.00. I must ask Phill to ring me and remind me to turn up on time.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Bowel Cancer Advance

Brr, Brr. Brr, Brr. Hi! Tracy here. My heart missed a beat. My stoma nurse was on the phone. Now I'm sure that every red blooded male who spends a long time in the care of a specialist stoma nurse falls a little bit in love. And after all, Tracy has done things to me that would make your eyes water - and that Mrs D has never even have thought of .

Anyway, Tracy wants me to speak at an ostomy conference of some sort at Shrewsbury in September. "What do you want me to speak about" I ask. "Tell us what it was like for you", she said - for 15 minutes and then another 15 minutes questions. Like it was for me when I underwent a lower bowel re-section to remove a substantial part of my body when I contracted bowel cancer in 2002.

This blog does occasionally refer to matters concerning bowel cancer - because the writer is so keen to raise awareness of the disease. And the reason for this is that early diagnosis often leads to full recovery. And early diagnosis is often a matter of luck - depending on where the tumout is in the colon or rectum. I was lucky. So many are not. There is a good article by Nic Fleming, the Telegraph's science correspondent in today's edition about new research, which enables identification of the first common gene defect linked to an increased risk of contracting bowel cancer. Good to see that progress is being made by scientists - even if Government screening programmes remain hopelessly inadequate. I shall enjoy speaking to Tracy and her colleagues in September. They do a fantastic job.

Marrieds with Children

Wait for the explosion of synthetic rage. Purple-faced outrage against 'Same old Tories'. Much talk of 'unreconstructed bigots' and 'cruel attacks on single mothers'. None of it justified of course. But I still think that David Cameron is taking a massive risk by making the case for marriage - even if he has sent IDS out into the war zone to test for land mines. Its a big risk and I agree with him absolutely.

Lets get our defense in first. Of course there are many wonderful single parents, bringing up very successful well-balanced children. And this debate shouldn't be anything to do with morality, sexual exclusivity, homosexuality, etc.. Live and let live I say. The debate is about averages, and facts that have to be faced - and about how we tackle the social breakdown that causes such a swathe of destruction across our country.

On average, children are much less likely to become criminals or drug addicts if they are brought up by two parents living together. And the two parents are much more likely to carry on living together if they are married. The children are much less likely to fail at school. And much less likely to become parents themselves whilst they are still children. That's not to say etc.......

The anyone who can operate an abacus can work out that our tax system (and every other Government system) should be geared towards encouraging parents to get married if they have children - and encouraging them to make the accommodations needed to stay married when things get a bit rocky. It certainly shouldn't be encouraging the opposite. This all seems very logical and uncontroversial to me. But I find myself in total agreement with Janet Daley in today's Telegraph and with the Cornerstone Group in general. Maybe there is a right wing butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. At least, I have the comfort of knowing that David Cameron seems to be thinking the same way.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A Time to Stand

Its not just that I disagreed. I was utterly nauseated. The standing ovation given to Tony Blair on his last appearance in the House of Commons was an affront to the dignity of the Houses of Parliament. That was my opinion at the time. I read in today's Wales on Sunday that David Davies, MP for Monmouth remained sitting in his seat when all around him stood up to heap applause on a most undeserving recipient. I quite often disagree with my good friend, David - but this time he was spot on. I wonder if I would have had the courage to stand out and not stand up as he did, if I'd been an MP.

No-one has done more to debase parliamentary democracy during my lifetime than Tony Blair. His politicisation of the Civil Service, his contempt for the House of Commons, the sheer dishonesty of the 'spin' which he surrounded himself with, inflicted great damage on our politics. If it hadn't been for the good work he did in Northern Ireland, when the ambiguity of his language actually worked beneficially, I really do believe that Tony Blair would have been the worst Prime Minister that Britain had in the 20th century.

The reason I feel such disillusionment with Tony Blair, is the same reason that David Davies didn't stand up in the House of Commons. Its that he so comprehensively deceived us over the reasons for the Iraq invasion. At the time, I accepted my Prime Minister's solemn assurance that Britain was under threat. Nothing else would justify the inevitable loss of life that would follow. It was not possible that our Prime Minister would mislead us over the intelligence. But deceive us he did. And thousands of lives have been lost - and thousands more will be lost. no way did this man deserve a standing ovation. More a collective 'good riddance' as he left the crucible of British democracy for the last time. Tony Blair will not be missed. Well done David Davies.
Acronym Entertainment

So Gordon Brown has wreaked mayhem amongst Whitehall's computer world by renaming the DTI as the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR). It seems that most of the Whitehall computers recognise this acronym as 'database error'.

The Telegraph reminds us today of Tony Blair's intention after the General Election in 2005, also to rename the DTI, with the consequence that the responsible Cabinet Minister would be known as the Productivity, ENergy and Industry Secretary!! I suppose he imagined the new title would have given the Minister more standing in cabinet meetings.

The reason this attracted my attention is that last Friday, I was invited to attend a meeting of the Montgomeryshire Uplands Conservation group. I hope the meeting wasn't to exciting. It could have been all over in 10 seconds!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

After the Deal

So the deal is done. Later on today, Wales will have a Labour/Plaid Cymru Coalition Government running the National Assembly. Yesterday, the Labour Party signed up to this deal by a bigger majority than many of us expected, and Plaid are going through the motions this afternoon. So One Wales it is.

This deal is a very significant event in the development of Welsh politics. If we Tories get it right, Labour's historic tendency to arrogant hegemony will be gone for ever. You can't blame me for wanting to push us into this special moment! I'll post on this aspect of the new arrangements later - probably tomorrow night when I'm back home.

So who's going to be 'in' and who's going to be 'out' of the Cabinet come Tuesday night. I expect Plaid leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones to take a 'core' brief, possibly Finance. I expect Rhodri Glyn Thomas, his deputy to take the 'Culture' brief - he likes an easy life and he could do that job standing on his head after a bottle of wine. The 'Education' part of the current Education and Culture job could emain with Carwyn Jones - be too much work for Rhodri. I still think that Jocelyn Davies could be the third Plaid Minister - but only if its the 'Business Manager' role. Ieuan may prefer to bring Elin Jones in to do the 'Countrtyside' job - and soften the pill for where the main disillusionment in Plaid with the deal is centred. If Elin is in, then I would expect Alun Ffred Jones to be Deputy Minister rather than Jocelyn.

And who's 'out'? It looks like Brian Gibbons to me. Pity, because I like him - but that's the way it goes. I really don't know which current Deputy Minister gets the chop. I had expected Huw Lewis to resign - but perhaps the extra £25 k has helped persuade him to stay inside the tent. I suspect Rhodri will be tempted to leave him there ( direction in which he will be p***ing etc.) Can't see Leighton getting the push so soon after his deserved elevation. So its got to be John Griffiths or Mrs Gwenda Thomas. Sorry John, but my money's on you. Anyway, we'll know by Tuesday night.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Top Quality Rubbish

From time to time we all say something silly. Any search through the writings of Aristotle, Churchill, Seneddwr or even Martin Shipton will find something that would have been better left unsaid. But experience has taught me that it takes a very clever man to say something that is total c**p. Which brings me to Adam Price, Plaid Cymru MP and occasional nonsense talker.

According to David Williamson in today's Western Mail, Adam is saying that the Conservatives have reached a 'high water mark' in Wales, unless it severs its links with the Westminster Party. He glosses over the fact that his own base is Westminster. Adam is reported to have said "I'd be the first to rejoice at the creation of a genuinely autonomous Conservative Party, but I don't see it happening because I don't think the social base is there for them." All I can do is wonder what on earth he's talking about. In any case, I don't believe that he would rejoice. And what is this social base he's on about? And then we have the rather dismissive comment that "They were prepared to live with Nick Bourne's support for a Plaid Cymru led government because of the prospect of power". He seems to be forgetting that Plaid Cymru were content to enter coalition with us until the Lib Dems cocked it up. And is he trying to tell us that the prospect of power is something that isn't supposed to be an objective of any political party.

Well I believe that Adam Price and his Gramsci inspired colleagues are in for a bit of a surprise. Despite the decision of Plaid Cymru to throw in their lot with the Labour Party, Nick Bourne is not backing off his commitment to devolution one inch. Quite right too. Absolutely correctly, he is telling the people of Wales that Plaid Cymru have rejected a document, the All Wales Accord which may be a 'work in progress', but tells the people of Wales about the general direction in which we have changed. Its Adam, armed with his misguided, socialism-driven, intellectual thought processes that has persuaded Plaid to make a monumental mistake.

The next stage of Conservative development in Wales will be through its preparation for the next General Election. The focus is going to move from the Nation Assembly to the attitude of Westminster MPs and candidates. And what Adam will find is that the Consevative appeal to Welsh electors is going to be more devolutionary than that of the Party he's just climbed into bed with. Like a lot of other Plaid supporters he's going to find himself thinking about another bed in which he would find rather more comfort. While he's busy compromising, theorising and retro-fitting, the occupant of the other bed is going to become ever more enticing. The Conservative Party didn't want devolution - but when we were forced to accept it in 1997, we resolved to make a success of it. The long term consequence of this is that the purpose of Plaid Cymru is going to be extinquished. All Adam Price is doing is speeding up the process.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Facing up to the WI

I was a bit lucky with the first question. "What would you do if you won a million pounds". Fellow panellist Gareth Vaughan, President of the Farmers Union of Wales said he would give it all to charity - so I couldn't go down the 'worthy' road. I just said that I would "carry on farming until it had all gone". I know. I know. Its an old gag but it worked well and set me up for what promised to be a challenging evening. We were facing up to the Women's Institute, in the heart of Montgomeryshire, at what was billed as a 'Brain's Trust'. I've always been wary of the WI, especially since they chewed up Tony Blair and spat him out in slivers, after the Tory Party had failed to make so much as a dent in his armour over several years of opposition. Anyway I went home with a bottle of red wine in appreciation of my efforts and the ladies best wishes. Was hoping for survival - and it had turned out a success. So tried out my prize when I got home.

Yesterday was a good day all round. Returned to my old school at Llanfair Caereinion to do live 'Taro Post' at lunchtime. Good show. I was really taken by the articulateness (?) of the students who were on the programme. We were never that confident in my day. They were so full of opinion - on anything and everything. I always enjoy Taro Post.

And then straight down to Welshpool Town Hall to present myself to the Executive Committee of the Montgomeryshire Conservative Association. It was the shortlisting session to decide who should go forward to the Open Primary on July 18th when the people of Montgomeryshire will decide who is to be their Conservative Candidate at the next General Election. Pleased to say that I made it through to the play-off. On Taro Post, Dylan asked me why on earth I would want to be an MP, when all the real action is taking place in Cardiff Bay. I ventured to snort disdainfully (in welsh of course). Hasn't he been watching. There hasn't been any real action in the National Assembly for months. In fact, when people tell me that they see no point in the Assembly at all, it becomes a bit difficult to argue when the Assembly Members (collectively) seem to be doing their level best to make their case for them. Perhaps we should put the WI in charge. They wouldn't put up with all the dilly-dallying.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Mixed Feelings

Really sorry to see that Francis Maude has lost his place as our Party Chairman. Perhaps he's overdone the pessimism! Anyway I'm a big fan of Francis and will remain so. He's done a lot for us and has played a big part in the repositioning that has happened over the last year or so. Reason my feelings are mixed is that I am also a fan of Caroline Spelman. I acted as her chauffeur for the day when the Shadow Cabinet met in Wales last March. Not only was she a great companion and superb communicator, but she's a rugby enthusiast. Her husband was a player ( Harlequins I think) and so are her sons. And she's a sportswoman herself. Will comment on the other changes after reading the detail tomorrow. Especially, the appointment of my neighbour, Owen Paterson (well 20 miles) to Northern Ireland, which totally surprised me.

I fear that Hugo Squire has gone though. But perhaps Julie Kirkbride, Daniel Kawszynski or one or more of the Welsh boys will have been promoted to assuage this disappointment as well.

The appointment of Pauline Neville-Jones, former Head of the Joint Intelligence Committee to Shadow Secretary for Security looks to be a real coup for us. And the appointment of Sayeeda Warsi as Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion looks interesting as well. Remember her ripping into another of my neighbours, Nick Griffin (well 10 miles) on Newsnight. She doesn't mince her words, for sure. This is a good response to the Brown changes. Pity its being overshadowed by the terrorism issues.

Poor Sense of Priority.

Really disappointing letter in my mail today - from the Welsh Council for the Blind. The employment of Nicky Balsom as the Council's Sports Development Officer is to end - along with its Sports Development Project. No money. The letter tells us that "Nicky has personally done great work, and has set up a number of clubs for visually impaired children. He is currently working with 231 children in three different areas, and the plan was to move on to create a further three clubs". What a shame this is.

My approach towards anyone suffering any sort of disability is to ignore it as far as possible - whether it be blindness, deafness or even recovered cancer patients like me who have to set aside an hour every two days to colonically irrigate. We should try to ensure that every person can do the same thing, as far as possible - and that includes participating in sport. I well remember my Assembly colleague, David Melding, telling me when we were discussing the new Assembly Building that it should be designed to allow the physically disabled to enter through the front door like everyone else. It was difficult because of the levels, but David had no time for the idea of entry only by some form of lift. Quite right too. A very disappointing letter indeed today.

Day out in Newport West

Down to Newport West for a Sunday lunch 'Hog Roast' yesterday - out on the Chairman's lawn. Rain and wind, but good company. Dangerous territory for me - being a tad too much of a pale blue wimp, and too 'nat' sympathetic for one or two of the regulars, who tend towards the 'Right' on the Conservative continuum. My old friends, David Fouweather and Peter Davies (who, disappointingly wasn't there) will be quite pleased with that line. The need for friendship and understanding between different strands of thought within our party became the theme of my speech. In fact, its my 'theme of the month'.

First question up was about scrapping the Assembly - followed by one on immigration - and then one about the iniquities of proportional representation. There wasn't a question about the European Union though. As it happens, I welcome this sort of questioning, because it reflects what worries many of our members. And if we don't talk about these issues, it opens the door for those political parties that talk about nothing else.

I said that I didn't believe that the Assembly would ever be abolished - and that I support a National Assembly with full law-making powers. I don't think that the Assembly is worthwhile as it stands at present. And I said that I thought the UK should have much more accurate knowledge of, and control of the scale of immigration. And I also said that I'm a 'first-past-the-post' man myself - but if we are to have proportional representation, it should be by Single Transferable Vote, rather that the dog's breakfast of a system we have at the moment.

Newport West remains one of my favourite constituencies.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Bustard Flush

If you're out walking in Dorset, or on the Somerset Levels, its entirely possible that you'll flush a bird which weighs 50 pounds and has an 8 foot wingspan. You will be correct to exclaim that this must be the heaviest flying bird in the world. And no, you won't have walked into a David Attenborough film set and you won't be dreaming either. You will be looking at a Great Bustard. Never mind that you think, as I did, that the Great Bustard became extinct in the 1840s. Its back and flying wild in the South West of England - for the time being at least.

I'm grateful to the Telegraph for reporting on the attempts by the Great Bustard Group to re-introduce the bird. It seems that 40 eggs are imported from Saratov, 700 miles South of Moscow every year, and reared in a pen with 8 foot high fences, near Salisbury. Eventually, the chicks hatch, grow and fly over the fence and join millions of other tourists by heading down to Dorset and Somerset. Its a marvellous story and this blog wishes the experiment success.

In my homeland area of Mid Wales, we have already seen the Red Kite recover from the very edge of extinction over the last 30 years. And we have seen Ospreys, probably en route to Scotland, stopping off in Wales to nest again over the last three years - one pair nesting successfully in Berriew, the village near where I live. I get excited about these things and like to share them with those who visit my blog - hoping that they too will be overcome by excitement.

Moment of Madness.

My apologies go to Mr Tony Springer for bringing this to wider public attention. But I have just read about it in this week's edition of my County Times and I can't resist it.

Biggest cricket match for Montgomeryshire last week was the top of the table clash in the Shropshire Premier League. Pacesetters Newtown were away at second placed Oswestry. The home side batted first and scored 154 for 7 - a good effort on a difficult wicket. Newtown in reply found it tough going and struggled to 117 for 9 with just one ball to go. Tension all around the ground. Could Tony Springer, who had batted well for his 32 not out keep the last ball out and ensure a draw, and keep Newtown on the top of the table. He was run out! I wonder who bought the first round in the bar afterwards. Unless Tony went straight home of course.