Friday, November 30, 2007

The Ladies of Penybontfawr

Penybontfawr is a quiet little 'Welsh' village in the heart of Montgomeryshire. But next week, I expect Penybontfawr to be anything but quiet. It will invaded by tourists and single men looking for a house to buy. Amateur ornithologists will be strolling casually around the village looking for pippits and larks, binoculars at the ready. I wouldn't be surprised to see Council workmen turning up to repair Penybontfawr's potholes. And the reason for this invasion? The ladies of the village have cast off their kit for a charity calender. And all I can say is if the other 11 are anything like as 'tasteful' as Kim whose photograph (completely starkers) appears on page 14 of today's Montgomeryshire County Times, they won't be disappointed. It really should have been on page 3.

Last year, I took a busful of the ladies of Penybontfawr on a guided tour of our garden at Cil Farm - at least those who are members of the local Merched y Wawr. I had no idea what a raunchy lot they were. There were about 40 of them. I feel quite stressed thinking about it. If I'd known what they had in mind, I would have hired a photographer so that some appropriate, tasteful shots could have been taken amongst our borders. An opportunity missed.

But this blog wants to congratulate the Penybontfawr Ladies on their willingness. Kim Cleminson, the organising Committee Chairman, told the newspaper that the ladies responded to the loss of a friend's mother to cancer by deciding to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care. She added that the calender is made up of "tasteful nude photos" of brave volunteers from local businesses and sports clubs. After all, I did notice when I looked at the photograph again that Kim was wearing her watch. If this one photograph is anything to go by, the calender is cheap at its price of £8. I hope the ladies make a lot of money for a great cause. But the image of Penybontfawr will never be the same again.

Speaking with two tongues.

I try to restrain partisanship on this blog. But sometimes it becomes irresistible. And all I have to do is post extracts of a letter that appeared in today's edition of the Montgomeryshire County Times. The writer was my local Conservative colleague, Dan Munford, who is a long standing opponent of despoiling the uplands of Rural Wales with wind turbines. It reads as follows;

Blame Mick for future wind farm landscape

Tony Benn once said that to have a functioning democracy, you need two things. You need to know who to blame, and you need to know how to get rid of them. Of course, elected politicians do their very best to avoid taking the blame for things for as long as they can.
Montgomeryshire AM, Mick Bates has been playing this game for some time with regard to the divisive issue of upland wind farm development.
In the six months prior to the Assembly election, Mick Bates joined a cross-party 'Sustainable Energy' group which myself and Alison Davies organised.
This group produced a joint document called TAN 8 PLUS which tried to find a more sensible sustainable solution to our energy needs in Wales.
This was in place of the dangerously flawed original TAN 8 planning guidance note which focuses on upland wind farm development for political, as opposed to environmental expediency.
Mick Bates jointly signed this new document and even himself presented it to the then Minister, Carwyn Jones.
We now discover that when away in the Assembly, Mick says other things entirely. In the Assembly plenary debate of Oct. 24th. 2007, Mick in fact voted to confirm his support for the original flawed TAN 8 document. ......

......But there is something very wrong about saying one thing in one place, and quite another thing somewhere else. So for the record Mick, I want to make it very clear that you will now be held to blame for turning mid Wales into a wind farm landscape, and for ruining our glorious, natural upland environment.
Not to fight global warming, or to replace nuclear power stations, but just for political expediency. Alex Carlile would never have done this to Montgomeryshire.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

'Donorgate' getting serious

Throughout the current rumpus about the illegal donations to the Labour Party, its been assumed that, in reality, it was just a few backroom boys getting carried away. A bit of short term damage and then normality resumed. That was definitely the tone of a discussion on the Radio Cymru programme Taro Post that I took part in this afternoon. Paul Flynn, MP was on for Labour. I couldn't believe what he got away with. I was stuck on the end of a mobile, with a dodgy signal - and Radio Cymru still turn to Plaid Cymru, Labour's coalition partners as the 'opposition'. They still haven't cottoned on. Frankly, I was outraged by the tone of the discussion.

What we have is a Prime Minister admitting that his party has broken the law!! Paul was trying to compare the crime with what Plaids 3 MPs did with their Communications Allowance. Absolutely bloody outrageous. And even in this situation Labour is spinning and obfuscating for all its worth. I was surprised that Paul didn't bring Lloyd George into the discussion! Well, in my opinion, we are in new territory and we don't know where its going to end up. The Police are now investigating what is alleged to be a crime (just being careful). This could finish up anywhere.

We use the term 'donorgate' too casually. I remember Watergate. It started like this. The more we learn, the more we realise that there are things we don't know. Gordon Brown's escape route was a 100% 'clear the decks' admission. He didn't take it. Even worse, he tried to fix things by setting up a 'tame' inquiry. Its beginning to look as if he missed his chance. There was only going to be one, and it looks as if he blew it. At least the public are not fooled. Tomorrow's YouGov opinion poll in the Telegraph has the Conservatives on 43%, Labour on 32% and the Lib Dems on 14%. I've never seen anything like it. I know everyone thinks that things will calm down and the pendulum will swing back - but I really am beginning to think that it won't. What an absolute pillock Quentin Davies, MP looks now. I would really enjoy it if he was on Question Time tonight.

'Bring it on' you thickos

You soon get out of things when you move on. It wasn't until I watched S4/C's programme, CF99 last night, that I was reminded of what a cunning fox is the National Assembly's Presiding Officer, Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas. To begin with, I thought he'd been to Asda and bought up the entire stock of £30 bottles of Dom Perignon that are supposed to be on offer at the moment - and that's what I call a loss leader. His Lordship treated Vaughan Roderick, a hugely talented and experienced BBC journo as if he was a 'thick' schoolboy. Because its the season of goodwill, I will describe Dafydd El's performance as 'merely self-confident'.

My immediate reaction was "He's up to no good" - or at least something he doesn't want the rest of us to know about. The basic message he wanted to enunciate (and I suspect the only reason he had graced CF99 with his presence) was that the law making process brought in by the Government of Wales Act is so simple to understand that only a real 'thicko' can't grasp it. It was so exasperating for him to have to answer the tiresome questions of the two such obvious thickos that the S4/C had seen fit to put before him. Well, Dafydd El is wrong. Its not simple to anyone who is not part of the political 'village' - and not all of those. Peter Hain clearly doesn't think that Assembly Members understand it, because he took time out of his busy timetable to go to Cardiff yesterday to explain it to them. Perhaps he thinks that they are all thickos. Basically, Peter told all 59 (better not include Dafydd El here) that they shouldn't treat MPs as if they are all interfering thickos as well.

So what is his Lordship up to? What's his agenda? And then my light came on, and the strategy came into focus - a bit like those wierd posters which are all spots until you stare at them and after a while a picture emerges. Plaid Cymru actually want a rumpus with MPs. The bigger the rumpus the better. I wonder how many chosen ones from other parties (note the plural) are in on this game. This is how it works.

If the National Assembly bang enough of these Legislative Competence Orders down the M4, its going to be impossible for the Welsh Affairs Committee to keep up (the WAC are supposed to debate these before they are formally submitted to Westminster). Already 8 or 9 LCOs have winged their way to Westminster and only 1 has been debated by the WAC - and on that occasion the Assembly Minister, Jane Hutt told the MPs to 'mind their own business'. Huge row coming up. Plaid AMs practising synthetic outrage already. Either the WAC are frustrating the will of the Welsh people by causing unreasonable delay - or the Assembly Government goes ahead without them and sends the LCOs to Westminster without WAC debate. Either way its a mega row. The current law making system turns out not to be working after all - even though its so simple that only a thicko doesn't understand it. Ergo - the only answer is a Yes vote in the referendum on whether the Assembly should be granted law making powers without any reference to MPs at all. Give the Lord another biscuit - or another glass of Dom Perignon, if there's any left. What a star he is.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Peter Hain in town

Peter Hain was in Cardiff today. He was presenting the Queen's Speech to the National Assembly. This was an important debate which I greatly enjoyed when I was an Assembly Member. I always tried sought to be called to speak, and I always caught Dafydd El's eye. Its also worth posting that I think Peter Hain is a polished performer. I would like to have been there today. There were two big issues I would like to have spoken about, and in respect of both I would have had some sympathy with the line the Secretary of State was taking.

Firstly, the promised referendum on the devolution of law making powers. Since the referendum on 18th Sept. 1997, my opinion has been that there are only two credible ways forward for devolution to Wales - either full law making powers or abolition of the Assembly. One of the reasons why I'm so committed to the first option is that I see absolutely no prospect of the second option ever occurring. But holding a referendum on law making powers which fails would be a disaster for devolution. I share Peter Hain's view that there isn't a sufficiently wide and deep consensus in favour to win a referendum now - and probably will not be until 2011. And even that will depend on a committed and sensitive performance by Sir Emyr Jones-Parry's Convention. Those calling for an earlier referendum are more intent on creating headlines than creating an effective Wales Parliament.

And the second issue is the role of MPs in dealing with Legislative Competence Orders. When I was discussing this issue as an Assembly Member, I always said that I considered it would be wise to put forward measures as innocuous and uncontentious as possible to begin with - so that the process would become established in a way which enabled MPs to develop confidence in it. The inevitable alternative, if Legislative Competence Orders are put forward that are general in scope will be MPs wanting to discover what they might be used for and seeking to frustrate their progress. And I don't blame them. No-one is elected to the UK Parliament to be a rubber stamp. Every time I hear an 'Assembly' voice declaring something like "This is none of the MPs business. Their job is just to let our Orders through without detailed scrutiny", I hear someone more interested in making a headline rather than making a difference.

But I'm no longer in a position to contribute to the debate - except by writing this post on my blog. I wonder whether as many people will read what I've written as would have heard me speak?

Don't forget Foot and Mouth Disease

The UK's current political game is to find new ways of 'rubbishing' Gordon Brown. No insult is considered too demeaning. Vince Cable is being lauded as if he had delivered the equivalent of the Gettysburg Address simply for telling the Prime Minister that his recent performance was akin to that of Mr Bean. A variety of incompetence's are listed as examples of this, including Northern Rock, the disappearing data-discs and the dodgy Abrahams donations. (Incidentally, can anyone explain why Jon Mendelsson, Gordon Brown's fundraiser, who knew from September that these donations were unlawful has not resigned?)

But what about the recent outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease. This should be at the head of the litany of foul-ups. Incredibly, this issue is sometimes wheeled out as an example of the Prime Minister's competence. The virus, which has visited havoc on the UK's sheep industry escaped from Pirbright, a Government research establishment. The Prime Minister, disgracefully tried to put the blame on Meriel, a US business which uses the same site, with absolutely no evidence at all. At that time, spin worked and he got away with it. It was subsequently discovered that the culprit was the drainage infrastructure at Pirbright for which the Government was responsible. It had not been properly maintained because of budget restrictions imposed by 'you know who'. So if you want to join in the game of 'Dump on Gordon' remember the Foot and Mouth outbreak which led farming leaders to predict that the Welsh sheep industry would be halved in size at this week's Winter Fair at the Royal Welsh Showground.

Thankyou Gordon

Its the least I can do. My nain always told me to thank people when they did somethoing nice - and sending me an unsolicited cheque for £200 in a very nice gesture indeed. In fact, the letter came from the Department of Work and Pensions and it informed me that the Department "are sending out Winter Fuel Payments to help meet the cost of winter heating bills". But it was Gordon who fixed it. Its well timed too. I have just paid for a tankful of heating fuel. I remember discussing the shocking cost of household heating fuel with Alun Cairns last year, after he had moved into his new house which was much bigger and thirstier than his previous house. And poor old Alun doesn't even have the Winter Fuel Payment to offset.

Anyway, this post is my way of thanking my great benefactor for the cheque which today's communication tells me is in the post. Things are not going so well for him at the moment, so a nice word from me might help put a smile on his face. Not one of these awful forced grimaces that Gordon performs when he remembers he's supposed to smile (it worked for Tony) but a genuine facial expression of pleasure. So here goes. Dear Gordon, Thank you for my £200, which will not buy me as many bottles of Sancerre as it used to, but is much appreciated nonetheless, Many thanks, Glyn

Brunstrom Again.

Just had the BBC on, asking if I'm free to do a phone-in on North Wales Chief Constable, Richard Brunstrom's latest headline grabbing activities. It seems that he's made some derogatory remarks about Ian Lucas, MP for Wrexham, which were broadcast last night. Mr Lucas has responded by announcing that he has 'no confidence' in the Chief Constable - which is politico speak for the 'P45'. Unfortunately, I've accepted an invitation to have lunch with Gungrog Infant School in Welshpool and can't do it.

I've always thought that Richard Brunstrom is a very good policeman - when he is trying to enforce the law. I am willing to accept that his innovative approach will lead to mistakes - such as the showing of photographs of a decapitated motorcyclist without the deceased family's permission. But he acknowledged his mistake and apologised. No need for a P45 here - even though many of the people he should be working with have called for it to be brandished. Neither do I think being rude about a Member of Parliament is P45 country either - though I cannot see the sense of creating enemies for the sake of it. And he does need to remember that Mr Lucus has been elected by the people of Wrexham, which means that to some extent he insults them as well. Very foolish of the Chief Constable.

I don't think he is appropriate to carry on as the head of North wales Police is because of his high profile campaign in support of the legalisation of all drugs. I have no objection to there being a debate about this issue, though I find it hard to imagine that I could ever be persuaded of the case for legalisation. But a serving chief constable is not the right person to lead the argument. In doing so, he seriously undermines the ability of North Wales Police to enforce drugs laws. In my opinion, it is Mr Brunstrom's cavalier approach to his main purpose which is to enforce the law which is the strongest reason for the P45. That is what I would have been saying on today's phone-in.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Simply not believable

As I listened to Newsnight last night, I posted that the circumstances surrounding the donations given by David Abrahams to the Labour Party via third parties being outlined by the party spokesman was not believable. And the explanation has duly fallen apart today. Probing has revealed that Hilary Benn turned down the offer of a donation from Mr Abrahams because he knew the terms on which it was being given. Mr Benn turned down the donation because Baroness Jay had told him about the terms of it - so she knew as well. So that's two senior figures in Labour who knew, apart from the now departed General Secretary of the Party.

And then we come to the case of Harriet Harmam, Labour's Deputy Leader. We are told (by her) that she took £5000 from Mr Abrahams through a third party at a somewhat strange time for her to have done so. We are also told that she has or intends to return it. And then on Newsnight tonight, a clearly irritated David Abrahams broke cover. Firstly, he told us that he had given money to Labour via third parties because he "wanted to give it privately without any fuss and bother" - which I found ironically amusing. But then things turned even more bizarre. David Abrahams told Jeremy Paxman that he had supported Hilary Benn (by personally handing him a cheque which seems to be at varience with what we have been told) - leaving us all with the impression that he had not donated to Harriet Harman at all!! It is starting to look as if someone is telling some very smelly porkies.

I think that I need to go and lie down in a dark room. This story is so complex and simply not believable. I also suspect that Gordon Brown knows that its not believable, and that Harriet Harman is in danger of being forced to resign - which is why it took eight separate attempts to extract any sort of support for her at the Prime Minsiter's press conference earlier today. There are a few more stones to be turned yet. I would rather own shares in Northern Rock than in Harriet Harman. This has the potential to become a big big scandal.

My Little Record Breaker.

Well, I've entered her in the Santa Run, to be held at Newtown on December 9th. The previous youngest 'runner' was 9 months old. Ffion will be only 9 weeks when the race takes place. So she will be breaking her first record - as long as it doesn't coincide with bottle time. The only stipulation is that she must be wearing a Santa Suit. However, she will not be required to wear a beard. I'm fairly confident that Ffion will get around the 4 mile course quicker than Lembit Opik and Mick Bates.

What's going on.

The opinion polls are incredible. Conservatives on 40% and Labour on 27% -0 in tomorrow's Independent. Since I've been active in Conservative Party politics (12 years) we have not been in the lead for any significant period, let alone galloping off over the horizon. Its all a bit hard to believe. I keep on telling my political backers to calm down. You know the sort of thing. "Polls go up and down". "Only poll that counts". "Its where you are when the race ends that matters". But.........

The Northern Rock fiasco has left Gordon Brown and his Chancellor looking incompetent. The two wayward CDs where personal details of 25 million people went missing added to the impression. Then today we have this utterly bizarre story about dodgy donations to the Labour Party. Guido Fawkes is reporting on his blog that Harriet Harman and Hilary Benn took big donations from this shadowy developer, who wants to hide away, and that there might be a major planning application involved. This is bl***y dynamite. And I'm just listening to explanations on Newsnight from a Labour Party representative that millions of people will find unbelievable. And to cap it all, a Lib Dem MEP, Saffar Karim has defected to the Conservatives today. Usually, the pendulum swings back after things calm down. But.........

I really think that Gordon Brown will never win his own mandate. Too much damage has already been done. Perhaps he will carry on until 2010, but if he does, he will take the Labour Party into the wilderness for a very long time. I know it sounds incredible but another couple of big negative stories over the next three months and the Prime Minister may have to come up with some sort of medical condition to provide cover for a resignation for Labour to have any chance of recovering.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Another 'New Stateman' Allegory

It was the New Statesman that introduced me to the word 'allegorical'. I'd heard of the Allegro, a rather boring make of car - but never heard the word used in normal speech. It cropped up after I'd accused one of the magazine's journalists of deliberately and knowingly lying. I accused the New Statesman of publishing a story about Nazi activities in Welshpool, my nearest town in mid Wales, which I described as a tissue of lies. I said on the BBC that the New Statesman should be ashamed of its contemptuous disrespect for the truth as far as this particular article was concerned.

The then editor of the New Statesman, ( his name was Peter Wilby, I think) was interviewed on the BBC (the Today programme, I think) who defended the journalist. Clearly he believed him, rather than a member of an obscure little Assembly in Wales. I stuck to my guns and repeated my comments. The temperature rose. That's how Peter Wilby and I finished up on the PM programme, where he described the article as 'allegorical'. Consequent examination of this word, on air, made clear than it was a synonym for lying. And he reassured us that the journalist would never write for the New Statesman again. I was content. Mission accomplished. The reputation of Welshpool was restored.

You really would think that this magazine would have learned its lesson. But No. Its been up to its 'allegorical' tricks again. This time it reported that my colleague, David Davies, MP had been interviewed at home for GMTV menacingly brandishing a taser gun for the cameras whilst his smiling family tucked into their corn flakes. Good story - except that it was a total lie. Well, David Davies is made of the same stuff as I am - and he took the magazine on. Another allegory, another abject apology. Perhaps the magazine should be renamed the 'Allegorical Statesman'.

Beauty and the Beast



Two Welsh Conservatives relaxing after a somewhat one-side policy discussion. The newer member is becoming increasingly opinionated by the day. I'm afraid she has already taken control.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

What's Kennedy up to?

They're an odd lot, the Lib Dems. They have some good people, but tend not to give prominence to them. There is no doubt that the best leader available to the Lib Dems at Westminster is Vince Cable. He's impressed everyone since he was appointed their 'acting' leader. This blog has acknowledged the impressiveness of this man for many years. But he's not a candidate for the leadership. This is being fought out (with 'fought being an entirely suitable word) between two much lesser men.

None of this is particularly surprising or interesting. The leadership contest is turning out to be a bit of a yawn. And anyway, its not unknown for similar situations to have occurred in other parties in the distant past. A lot more interesting is the reappearance on the 'commenting' scene of Charles Kennedy, who resigned as party leader two years ago, admitting a drink problem. Fair enough, no party wants an alcoholic in a senior position - in fact, anyone who is an alcoholic should be prevailed upon to resign from Westminster altogether. But it does look as if Kennedy has fully recovered.

Last week, he was being touted as a possible candidate for the position of President of the Lib Dems - and I do think he would be vastly better than any other name I'm seen suggested so far. Today, the Mail on Sunday has him 'launching a devastating attack on the two men fighting to become Lib Dem leader.' This could be a MoS exaggeration - but he is quoted as saying "There's no clear message coming out of either candidate. It looks like a squabble about nothing". Kennedy has been around too long for him not to have known how his words would have been taken. He's up to something. It really does look as if he intends to run for the Party Presidency next year - or even the leadership if he thinks that neither 'Calamity Clegg' or Huhne are up to the job. I have a personal interest in all this. I wouldn't mind seeing another good old fashioned blood letting row break out amongst the leading Lib Dems.

Stinsford and Poundbury.

Just returned home from a friend's wedding, held at Thomas Hardy's church at Stinsford, on the outskirts of Dorchester in Dorset. Mrs D and I sat under the Thomas Hardy window during the service. The great novelist is 'part buried' alongside the path to the front door of the church. Fascinating story. When Hardy died, his family and friends wanted to conform to his wish that he should be buried at Stinsford, but his executor decided otherwise. Sydney Carlyle Cockerell insisted the body should be buried in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey. So as a compromise, the heart was removed from Hardy's body and buried separately, in the same grave as his wife at Stinsford. Its fortunate that there weren't other legs to the family.

Spent this morning looking around Poundbury, an extension of Dorchester. Amusingly, the bus taking us from the wedding to the reception yesterday had passed a large, rather odd-looking new building, which could be viewed from the Dorchester bypass. After some discussion we decided that it was probably a new Tesco's - they often incorporate a false clock tower. Discovered today that this specially commissioned architectural masterpiece was a central feature of the Poundbury development. I hope HRH doesn't read my blog.
Poundbury really is an interesting concept. A 400 acre Duchy farm developed over a period of 25 years into a town extension, accommodating 2,200 houses together with work and leisure opportunities. The whole thing has been designed to transform HRH, The Prince of Wales' ideas as written in his 'A Vision of Britain' into reality. Its nothing less than an attempt to use design and architecture to create a new way of living. Perhaps the most interesting aspect to me was the complete absence of any signs, including traffic signs. Vehicle speeds are controlled by restricting vision be house placement, and creation of corners, plus clever narrowing of the highway at strategically important places. Wearing my CPRW hat, I thought it was terrific. Big blow to the police though, because there is no income from fines!

And now to catch up on the weekend's papers. Wonder what new disaster has befallen our doomed and dour Prime Minister Brown.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Something to chew over

Iain Dale asks an important question in his Telegraph article today. Its a matter of electoral tactics versus political principle. Should the Conservative Party support the idea of a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU. As is so often the case, this matter is the direct opposite of how it appears to the majority of people who do not take much interest in politics.

There is no doubt that to propose such a referendum, with freedom for all Conservatives to argue according to their personal conviction on the issue would shaft Ukip, and be welcomed by all those who support the 'Better off out' campaign. But the reality is that this is the 'Europhile' position. There would be a lot of 'huff and puff' but the answer would be Yes - and that would be a huge green light for the integrationists. The true 'Eurosceptic' position is to support a referendum on the constitutional treaty. There would be the same 'huff and puff' but the answer would be No. So are we to go down the road of electoral tactics and nick the Lib Dems policy? Or stick with political principle?

Noe I am off to Dorset.

Please Behave.

I won't be in touch with my keyboard until Sunday evening. Gone to a wedding in Dorset. So have taken a risk and disabled comment moderation. So please no serious profanity or anything which Helen Mary Jones, the Plaid Cymru AM would find offensive.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

So its the Incongruity.

Just watching Dragon's Eye. My first look at Sir Emyr Jones Parry. Liked the look of him. I really liked the way he responded to Labour MP, Don Touhig's childish accusations that he might need some navigational aids to find his way around Wales. And then Don Touhig was wheeled out to make even sillier comments. He really does make it obvious that devolution is a dish that doesn't appeal to him one bit.

But back to the smooth, ultra relaxed Sir Emyr. He 'admitted' that he had thought it incongruous that Wales was not granted the same powers as Scotland in 1999. Well that seemed pretty clear to me - and I agreed with him. But then he went on to emphasise that by today, he has an open mind about law making powers. I was having a bit of a job to hang onto his logic here. Perhaps he just about got away with this - which shows us what a very good diplomat he must be.

The interesting thing about this though, is that Sir Emyr thinks that expressing a clear opinion about whether the National Assembly should have law making powers is inappropriate for the Chair of the All Wales Convention. Its logical that he would think this uncertainty should also apply to the other members of his Convention. Damn! That rules me out - which is a pity. I'd rather fancied being involved in this Convention. Ah well, my own fault for being so damned opinionated. Too late to backtrack now.

Mid Wales does exist.

Accepted a last minute invitation to attend a reception in the River Room in the House of Lords yesterday. It was a reception to celebrate 40 years of Kidney Wales Foundation. And a very nice do it was too. Had a good chat with fellow guest, Plaid MP, Adam Price who seems not to have taken offence at my post about misuse of the 'Communication Allowance'. That's one trouble with blogging. Post something critical, and up pops the subject next time I go out.

Anyway, I want to post about the Chairman's speech. Certainly not to be critical of Roy Thomas, a good man who so kindly invited me. In any case, he was simply reflecting the reality of today's politics, where Mid Wales has grown so far away from the consciousness of Welsh Government. Roy outlined his pleasure at increased renal dialysis provision in Cardiff - and spoke hopefully of more provision in Haverfordwest. If it hadn't been for the grandness of the place and celebration of the occasion, I would have shouted out "What about Mid Wales". We've been waiting for years for a 6 unit satellite renal dialysis in Welshpool. The location is decided. The feasibility study has been completed. The local hospital's League of Friends has raised a lot of money. I suspect that the problem is that the unit would be a satellite of the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital in England. The Offa's Dyke (or Berlin Wall) syndrome strikes again.

I know that I lost my position in the National Assembly last May, but I cannot leave this lie. It just isn't fair. The Assembly is supposed to serve all of Wales - including Mid Wales. I desperately need to have a discussion with the Chair of Kidney Foundation Wales.

'Be Tough' but also 'Be Fair'

Immigration is a sensitive subject to post about. There's not much sympathy around for anyone that the Government deems has no right to be in the UK at the moment. I accept that things are out of control and the current level of immigration is unsustainable - but we must be fair and proportionate. I've been moidering about an aspect of this issue which was discussed over lunch yesterday while I was in London. Its a question of what's right.

Over recent years, many immigrants have come to the UK to work in the care sector - often on the basis of fixed term contracts of up to 5 years. I dread to think what would have happened to our care home sector without immigrant labour. But suddenly, some of these people are being sent home. It seems to be a knee jerk reaction by the Government to the general public disquiet about immigration levels. I'm told that the Government has changed the rules, and only 'senior' care home workers (paid about £7.50 an hour) are deemed to qualify to enter the UK. People who are paid less than this figure, even if they have young children in school, are being sent back home as not qualifying to work in the UK. Unfair, unreasonable and heartless.

I detest this sort of retrospective action. It would be acceptable to enforce this ruling (if it is deemed to be necessary) on future immigrants. It seems to be deeply unfair on people who have come here in good faith. These rules only apply to legal immigrants of course. I've no doubt that there is something in the small print which the Government can point to as authority to act this way. But we are talking about fellow human beings here. I hope that there are MPs brave enough to take this issue on. They will have no thanks and it will not win them votes. But they would have the satisfaction of knowing that they were doing something good.

Long Day

1.00 in the morning and knackered. Pity because I've two issues I really would like to get off my chest. It will have to wait until tomorrow night.

Its been a long day. It all started when Mrs D offered to bring Ffion, our seven week old little jewel into our bedroom for the night. The idea was that Granny and Taid should give the stressed out parents a night off to recover. So I did the 2.30 feed and arose at 5.00 for onward travel to London. High point was lunch at Cipriani where my enjoyment was increased by a discussion about the impossibility for Gordon Brown to escape the consequences of the Northern Rock fiasco. Actually, it isn't funny at all, because it is now clear that several billion pounds of taxpayer's money has been blown - never to be recovered. More from the discussion tomorrow.

And later on, went to a reception in the House of Lords, sponsored by Baroness Jan Royall for Kidney Foundation Wales. More on this event tomorro as well.

Anyway, am going to bed rather pleased with myself. Mrs D and Karen had gone to bed when I arrived home. Son Edward was in charge of the 12.30 feed. Not only did I muscle in, but we decided to have a crack at changing the nappy as well. Now neither of us has tackled this procedure before, (or not for 30 years in my case) - but we thought that between us, we ought to be able to manage it. Problem is that I'm never used one of these disposable things before. Anyway, with a bit of sciencing and struggling and little feet kicking, after two attempts, we managed to pull it off - both the nappy and the procedure. The two women of the house fast asleep in bed - and the two men of the house losing their nappy changing virginity. Who says I'm not 'new man'!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Little Hearts Matter

So many good things go on below the radar. Last night, Carole Davies arranged a promise auction at the Dragon Hotel, Montgomery at which there were 120 lots donated by local people. The money was going to a charity called Little Hearts Matter, where more info is available at lhm.org.uk. The money goes to a help-line for parents who've lost a baby. It was a super night out, where much pleasure was had, and a total of £5,500 was raised.

Top sale items of the night were a two week holiday for 10 in Florida which made £1050 (cheap at the price) and a football signed by the Man Utd first team which made £415 (also cheap at the price). The auctioneer's assistant, an Everton fan donned blue gloves in order to display the ball during the auction. Overpriced item of the night was an aeroplane flight for 3 in Lembit Opik's aeroplane. It made £100. You just can't believe what some people will pay for. To my chagrin, it made four times as much as my promise to conduct a party around my garden, plus four hostas. I bought a full car valet for £40 and a box of organic meat for £34. I was a bit lucky on a 'Walk with Iolo Williams'. I took the bidding up to £100 before I dropped out - what with farming the way it is, and no AM's salary! Anyway, it turned out that it was a walk for 10 and the buyer offered Mrs D and me two places for £20. Good business.

I suspect that this post will be the only write-up that this fantastic event will have - which is why I've done it. To me, its so much bigger a story than most of the press releases I see pouring out of political party offices.

ID Cards

Why on earth have I been so opposed to ID Cards? It is absolutely ridiculous to suggest that the 'Government' would allow confidential information to be acquired by criminals who might use it for less than benevolent uses. You can depend on the 'government' to treat any information which it might hold with the utmost care and security. Oh yes it will. Or perhaps not as the case may be.

What price ID Cards now.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Terry Grange

I was absolutely floored by the resignation (retirement) of Terry Grange, the Chief Constable of the Dyfed-Powys Police Authority today. He had always impressed me as an approachable and competent policeman, who was doing a good job. But clearly, he has done something out of order. The Authority statement said that it was investigating "inappropriate use of the police computer system and alleged financial irregularities". Terry Grange said that he had "allowed his private life to interfere with his professional role".

What does this tell us? It looks as if the Chief Constable has been using his office computer to pursue some aspect of his private life in a way so unacceptable, that the Police Authority felt that Terry Grange should go with immediate effect. This is a very serious matter, as well as being a personal tragedy for Terry Grange. This computer material must be out there somewhere. I cannot imagine that it was Terry Grange himself who brought it to the attention of the Police Authority. I hope its 'internal' and that it doesn't become public - because if its 'external', it will have a 'Sunday Newspaper' value and will become public. I liked the former Chief Constable and today is a disappointment to me. Could it be that the dreaded email spider has claimed another careless fly.

Stealing from the Taxpayer.

Believe it, or believe it not, but I have a smidgen of sympathy with the three Plaid Cymru MPs who were today found guilty of improperly using their Parliamentary Allowances by the Parliamentary Commissioner for standards, Sir Phillip Mawer. Elfyn Llwyd, Adam Price and Hywel Williams have been ordered to repay £5,ooo each because they were deemed to have spent it as part of the Assembly Election campaign to benefit Plaid Cymru. £15,000 of taxpayer's money used improperly for party political purposes in an election campaign. The smidgen of sympathy does not mean that I do anything but disapprove of what they did - but that I also believe that they have been caught when so many others are breaking the spirit of the preposterous Communications Allowance, which MPs have awarded themselves. I felt utterly nauseated when I heard Labour MP, Wayne David making a huge song and dance about the Plaid Cymru 3 on Radio Wales this afternoon. Hasn't anyone told him that his colleague, Ruth Kelly, a Government Minister was going to do the same thing until she was found out.

This blog has condemned the Communications Allowance on several previous occasions. It was outrageous that MPs distributed glossy 'information literature' (who were they kidding!) in the few days before they thought Gordon Brown was going to call a General Election. Simply because they did not ask for a vote, these glossy leaflets were deemed to be 'communications' which apparently comply with the rules. Distasteful and an affront to democracy. Well legally it might comply - but morally it stinks. Sir Phillip Mawer should conduct an inquiry, particularly into the timing of the expenditure. There should be only one way forward here. The Communications Allowance should be scrapped.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Corrected by 'Spin Doctor'

I readily admit that this blog occasionally strays into attempted 'gentle' sexist humour. Question I have to ask is "How long can it survive before being cleansed of such unsuitable material"? Wales on Sunday's 'Spin Doctor' is putting me under intense pressure. He (or she) is at it again today. The intrepid gossip hound has been reading my post last week about an Indian Man who married his dog. I admit that when advising Mr Selvakiman on the route to a contented marriage, I rather frivolously suggested that he should resort to the tried and tested technique of 'tummy tickling' which "in my limited experience works for most marriages". Now, I was being allegorical rather than precise. Nevertheless, Spin Doctor's frequent references to Montgomeryshire politicians may well require me to adjust the 'political correctness sheep dip' so that sexist humour is eliminated.

The heading of this week's Spin Doctor was 'The drunk and the jester to go head-to-head'. It was referring to an item about Charles Kennedy possibly challenging Lembit Opik for the Presidency of the Liberal Democrats next autumn, rather than allowing my opposition at the next election a virtual shoe-in against a Baroness Ros Scott. I really think an 'Ex' should have been included in the headline - although I will leave it to readers to decide where. I'm just putting the 'Ex' before attempted gender humour!

I have to admit that I like the sort of scurrilous gossip that Spin Doctor writes. There's not nearly enough of it in Wales. And I don't mind if my blog is searched for snippets which cause me to bite lumps out of the china when I read them. In fact, this week I was referred to as 'The Tory Its Ok To Like.' Spin Doctor can't be all bad.

Six Weeks On


Just thought you might like to see what Ffion looks like after six weeks. She doesn't always smile like this. She has well developed lungs which occasionally she likes to exercise. But just look at her. I accept that I may be biased - but did you ever see anyone look so gorgeous?

Lib Dem Punch-up

Alright, so I'm exaggerating a bit - there were no actual punches thrown. But the two candidates for the Lib Dem leadership couldn't hide their intense dislike of each other when they appeared on the BBC'S Politics Show today. So much for this idea that they are two Mr Nicey-niceys. Neither of them is in Vince Cable's league. Its just that they are both prettier.

I'm quoting Chris Huhne directly when describing 'flip flopping Calamity Clegg "Why are you trying to make sure that there is'nt a paper trail on these key issues ahead of the leadership if you're not trying to face both ways". Take that you two faced charlatan!! I remember watching the contest for the Tory leadership between David Davis and David Cameron, and being deeply impressed by the civility of a contest which must have been of great importance to both of them. This is the main reason why we do look like a united team. I wonder what spin AM, Peter Black, top blogger and flip flopper fan will put on this PR disaster for whoever wins.

I hope that I'm not being unduly unfair to the Lib Dems, but I thought the ability to face both ways was something of an essential requirement for their leader.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Caring for Rural Wales.

First time to be chairing Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales meetings today - in Carno Community Centre. Luckily, we just finished in time for me to get home to help bath Ffion. She just gets cuter by the day. I wish I could live my life again - and enjoy our own four a bit more than I did, before they stopped being babies! Anyway, I was very encouraged. Good meetings.

Many people look on CPRW as 'elderly, reactionary, nimbyist, single issue (anti wind farm)incomers.' This perception is wrong on all counts - except that the 'elderly' charge could, I suppose, be partly true. Almost all the informal conversation I had was in Welsh. Everyone was very keen to bring young people into the organisation. We talked a lot about the sort of housing policies we want to see - recognising that there is a real problem for local youngsters. We talked a lot about our vision, and I pluck one line out of the supported draft which sees Wales as a country where "The Character and identity of the landscapes and communities of rural Wales are diverse, distinctive, welcoming and valued." It seems to me to be a pragmatic forward thinking organisation which younger people would be able to identify with. So if you share our aims why not join us?

Plaid growing up

It does look as if Plaid Cymru is making a stab at growing up - becoming a proper party, wanting to make a difference, rather than just make headlines. At its conference today it ignored Jill Evans' self indulgent paper about resigning from Nato and handing over our 'Welsh' armed forces to the command of the United Nations. And more significantly, they decided to end their long standing opposition to nominating members of the House of Lords.

This is good news for Wales - as well as being good Plaid Cymru. Wales needs every party to take the Lords seriously. It needs an injection of individuals who are very obviously 'Welsh' or have demonstrated a genuine commitment to the governing of Wales. I'm not going to comment on my Party's position (this is a matter for David Cameron and I'ld get myself into trouble) and I've already suggested 3 names for Plaid Cymru. To be fair, the Lib Dems have always taken Welsh presentation seriously and have a strong hand - so that leaves Labour. Come on Gordon. Pick up the phone to Sue Essex and Deleth Evans, two women who have already shown us what they're made of.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Where are my Pink Specs

We once met Jimmy Savile when we were on holiday. Sally called him Jimmy Saddle, and that's been his name in our house ever since. Anyway, he was mugged yesterday by a woman who stole his famous pink spectacles. The Telegraph reports that he responded by saying "Its the first time I've been jumped on by a woman for nearly 50 years. Today, the UK Retailers Association reports that Specsavers are having difficulty meeting an inexplicable surge in demand for pink specs from elderly gentlemen of a certain kind.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dragon's Eye

I think it was a bit unfair to put a kindly looking idealist named Arfon Rhys, speaking for Plaid Cymru up against Chris Bryant, the articulate Labour MP for the Rhondda on tonight's programme. OK, so Jill Evans MEP had put forward (apparently in all seriousness) the most idiotic proposal to scrap the Wales' membership of Nato and put all of our Welsh troops at the disposal of the United Nations. Plaid Cymru, very wisely decided to hide under the desk and leave poor old Arfon to it. But it does make you wonder what sort of a country Wales would be if Plaid Cymru were to be in charge. I have a message for all those Plaid supporters who must have been holding their heads in despair as Rhun ap Iorwerth was reading out the garbage that their only MEP had written, and watching with disbelief as Arfon made a bad position worse. I've said it before. Take a serious look at joining the Conservatives. You know it makes sense.

Not much of a Story

I 'appeared' on Radio Wales and Radio Cymru this morning to talk about Wales' flagship agri-environment scheme. Wales' Auditor General, Jeremy Coleman published his report today into how Tir Gofal is being managed. I was wearing my non political hat as President of CPRW - so no politics! Even so, I would like to have found a stick with which to beat the Government - if only to raise the profile of my contribution. But to be honest, I couldn't really come up with anything - which is not to say that anything doesn't exist. Its just that its a job for AMs when they discuss this with Minister Elin Jones next week. The two areas where criticism might be appropriate is whether incorporating the management of Tir Gofal into the Assembly Government last year has led to any increase in the proportion of the budget going into administration, or whether it has led to a poorer delivery. This morning's programme suggested there might be an issue here. One for Brynle to get his teeth into.

Today's Report said that there was a need to consider sustainability of the accepted improvements in farming practice - obvious in a scheme which is based on 10 year contracts. It also called for improved evaluation which sounds sensible. And then there is the inevitable need to introduce scope for change and flexibility in the operation of Tir Gofal - inevitable because its being going for 8 years and things move on.

I was on Good Morning Wales with Gareth Vaughan of the FUW - and chatting afterwards, (he's a good and old friend) we both agreed that Tir Gofal is a valuable scheme which is likely to be the most acceptable way of supporting farming to the taxpayer. I think we both feel that the future of agri-environment schemes is hugely important to farming - but that there wasn't much 'meat' in today's story. Nonetheless, I'm grateful for the publicity!! Odd thing is that I had 5 farmers telephone me on the back of the programme - almost as if I was still an AM. Two of them were from Ceredigion, where there local AM is the Minister. At least it keeps me in touch.

Ultimate Challenge

My first thought was "What have I done?" When I was in London on Tuesday, I took tea in the House of Commons with David Davies, MP for Monmouth. This was an exploratory parry to assess what chance I have of recruiting David to support the campaign for transferring law making powers to the National Assembly. My next, rather easier challenge is to try to persuade Brynle Williams to go vegetarian!

And then I read today's BBC online headline 'David Davies to retire in 2012, admitting that"Mae Hen Wlad fy Nhadau is the only song which will make me start crying".' My first thought was that the intrepid devo-sceptic had come on board, giving up on Westminster to return to Cardiff Bay as soon as the 2011 referendum approves law making powers for a Welsh Parliament. But No. It was our Welsh swimming star, the other David Davies announcing that he was retiring after the 2012 Olympics. Imagine my disappointment. Looks like there will have to be a few more visits to the House of Commons.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

AM/PM Awards

My early offering for Newcomer of the Year is Darren Millar - with Alun Davies as runner up. Darren has surprised many with his ability to communicate in a reasoned and considered way. Darren is the Tory to watch. He will lead the Conservatives in the National Assembly at some stage. I particularly like the way he has not become puffed up with his own importance - which is more than you can say for every AM.

Bow Wow gets married

So Mr P Selvakiman, a 33 year old Indian farm labourer has married his dog. It seems he took a shine to Selvi when he spotted her wearing an orange sari and garlanded with flowers. Oh, and she'd just had a bath which suggests that some beguiling fragrance may have played some part in turning Mr Selvakiman's head. It all sounds rather romantic. However, the Telegraph reports that Selvi was a touch overwhelmed by the full blown, 200 guest reception and ran away. But everything ended happily because she was recaptured, returned to her betrothed, who rewarded her with a glass of milk and a bun. Most men would have had to fork out for champagne and a gold brooch in similar circumstances.

I do recall someone once telling me that his best mate had married 'a dog', but I took this to be a derogatory term for a woman whose appearance had not met with his approval. I should add that this is not a term that I've used myself. And I recall another acquaintance referring to 'the bitch indoors', but again I took it that he was using a derogatory term born of transient anger. I also know of an MP who likes to be referred to by his girlfriend as Bow Wow. It does take all sorts. Under normal circumstances none of this is particularly noteworthy. But today is the first occasion that I have read reports of a man actually marrying his dog.

I hope that the RSPCA keeps an eye on the situation. I accept that the Indian legal system could be somewhat different from ours, but I suspect that there could be potential for something legally dubious in all this. Finally, It would be churlish of this blog if I did not wish the happy couple a long and stress free marriage. Everything will be ok if Mr Selvakiman carries on tickling her tummy. In my limited experience this works for most marriages .

Blog Power

It was just chance. And the only reason I agreed was because Anne Smedley from Welshpool is such a very nice woman. I'd had no real connection with Parkinson's Disease - except that I remain a great fan of Mohammed Ali, as I've been since he won the Olympic cruiser weight gold as the garrulous Cassius Clay, when I was training to be a boxer myself. He's an example to us all of how cruel Parkinson's can be - and how brave some people are after falling prey to its cruelty. So when Anne asked me to be President of the Montgomeryshire Branch of the Parkinson's Disease Society, I agreed. Attend the odd coffee morning was about all that I was expecting.

Anyway, Anne telephoned me a few weeks ago. She'd received an odd phone call from a complete stranger who wanted to make a small donation to her local branch. Did I just write 'small'. Well, when Anne, having expressed her gratitude asked "How much", she thought her hearing was playing tricks when she heard this complete stranger say £10,000. Its fortunate that her telephone is not made of bone china!! I can only guess how the conversation went after that because Anne's current annual budget would be no more than the proceeds of a couple of coffee mornings and a raffle. It finished up that a cheque for £10,000 winged its way to Parkinson's Disease Wales on condition that £1,000 of it is spent in Montgomeryshire.

It seems that this blog is responsible. It turns out that this complete stranger is a reader of my blog, and when he read about my appointment as Anne Smedley's new President, decided to acknowledge the occasion with a 'small' donation. Trouble is that I now feel responsible. I want the money to be spent wisely. So this week I've been to Cardiff to meet Simon Hatch, Director of Parkinson's Disease Wales, and yesterday I met with the 'fairy godmother' himself for a most agreeable lunch in London. The 'no-longer-a-stranger, lives in the South East of England. And now I'm hungry to learn more about the disease, and how to promote awareness of symptoms, which are so varied and incremental that they so often go unnoticed. Don't think I've ever made a speech that had as much impact as that little blog post which informed my readers that I had said 'Yes' to Anne Smedley.

Haydn

Hadyn Williams was an extraordinary man. He would be very surprised that I should write about him in this way because he did not see himself as such. He was a Berriew man, and a Dolfor man in that he lived there for a few years. He did see himself in this way. Hadyn died earlier this year after suffering from cancer for two years, aged just 50. His will was published earlier this week. It caused quite a stir.

Hadyn was extremely successful in business, having founded Technocover with an associate, which was based in nearby Welshpool. He attributed much of its success to the efforts of local people and was always determined to recognise this support by sharing a lot of his wealth with local organisations. We do not know the extent of his generosity because it was unheralded and unpublicised. He just did it privately - but because I know most of the organisations he supported, so I've a fair idea of the magnificent scale of it. But his will was public.

Hadyn left £100,000 each to St Beuno's Church in Berriew, to Berriew Community Centre, to Berriew Recreation Association and to Dolfor Community Hall. He also left £250,000 to Cancer Research UK AND £20,000 to Pentre Llifior Methodist Chapel. I last saw Hadyn when he officially opened Dolfor Community Hall as he was nearing the end of his life. I was sitting next to his wife, Elaine at the ceremony and she told me that he had made a great effort to prepare for an occasion which would have been a breeze for him, had he been well. He was much into amateur dramatics and the Young Farmer's Club movement. I have been deliberately unemotional in the language of this post because the subject would have wanted it that way. He saw himself as being not extraordinary at all - which was the one thing about which he was most mistaken.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Unsettled Contemplation

Today has been an important day in my life. One of those 'culmination' days when the blindingly obvious suddenly emerges from behind a cloud. Sometimes these things creep up on you like bowel cancer symptoms. I was just sitting there in Starbucks, eating a granola bar all on my own, gazing out over the bay, just chewing my cudd like an absent-minded bullock. It sort of hit me all at once. One of life's certainties just slipped down quietly into the water.

Today, I think I became a better Tory. Reading Janet Daley's column in the Telegraph only nailed down the way I was already thinking. Government and all the politicians and back up millions of officials (who cost millions of pounds) are not as important as I had previously thought . This great bureaucratic structure cannot deliver anything that maximises human benefit without the involvement of the private sector and/or the voluntary sector.

First meeting of the day involved the private sector 'care' provider I have just started doing a bit of work for. I realised I was thinking about how we could benefit people in need of care - without any thought of how it would 'appear' to others, or about how it would fit in with some policy or contribute to some target. I just wasn't thinking like a politician. And then I went to a meeting called by my very good friend Brynle Williams, where a group of us met to consider what 'Government' might do to mitigate the consequences of the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak that, in all probability, Government itself visited upon the livestock industry of Britain. There were no answers. We were trapped by bureaucratic restraint. The industry has been far too controlled by politicians and not enough by the market for decades. It should be thinking more about how to look after itself.

Finally a meeting with Simon Hatch, Wales Manager of the Parkinson's Disease society. We were discussing a major donation to the Society that I have had an involvement with. Don't know yet whether I can blog on the detail of this. And it was just after the BBC had telephoned me about the will of a friend of mine who died recently. Hadyn left huge amounts to local organisations and cancer charities, which will have more impact in terms of delivering real benefit to people than most politicians ever do. You can read about this on the Mid Wales BBC online page. Its a special story and well worth a read. It all just makes you think about how we organise ourselves - when the mists of contemplation descend. Off to London tomorrow. I wonder whether I will still be quite so impressionable?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Kill the Squirrel

Its late and I'm just catching up with the Sundays. Ffion has been dominating. She arrived this morning, and we sat for a while just looking at the greater spotted on the nut feeder. And then it was feeding time. Later in the afternoon it was bath time. Five weeks old and this was a first for me. She absolutely loved it. Cute or what! And then it was Strictly Come Dancing, when Ffion was 'dumped' on me because she was seriously agitated about something. I accept that I am already developing a 'special' Taid's skill for calming her down - but only with limited success today. So no chance to read the papers or visit my keyboard til tonight.

As pointing out the woodpecker to Ffion this morning, I also pointed out the horrible grey rodents scurrying about the garden that make rats seem not so bad. There are grey squirrels everywhere. I hope my granddaughter will have been subliminally inculcated with my antipathy to this horrible pest. At least readers of today's Sunday Telegraph will have seen David Richardson's half page outlining his hatred of greys. The headline is 'KILL THAT SQUIRREL'. And about time too. For too long we've treated this monster in our midst as a 'cute little animal'. 'Cute it is very definitely not. Now red squirrels are an entirely different matter. They're almost as cute as grandchildren.

Who's the Leader

Nothing pleases my old friend from Newport, Councillor Peter Davies more than causing a bit of a rumpus. So he will be quite pleased that his letter to the Western Mail on Saturday has prompted some discussion in the blogosphere. I have not seen the letter, but I understand the gist of it to be questioning who's the Leader of the Conservative Party in Wales.

I've heard this question asked several times before. It seems to me to be straight forward. David Cameron is the Leader of the Conservative Party throughout Britain, which includes Wales. As a member of the Shadow Cabinet with responsibility for Wales, Cheryl Gillan is our link with the Leader. Nick Bourne is the Leader of the Conservative Group in the National Assembly for Wales, which is also a very significant position within the Party.

Where Coucillor Peter is mistaken in his letter, (or so it seems to me ) is that he thinks Nick is elected by the Conservative AMs in much the same way as the Leader of a Council Group would be elected. This is not the case, as far as I understand things. The Leader of the Assembly Group is elected by a ballot of all members of the Conservative Party in Wales - from names put forward by the AMs. Confusion may have arisen here because when his predecessor, Rod Richards resigned, Nick Bourne was the only name put forward by his fellow AMs. So he was elected unopposed, without a national ballot. This has been the only leadership election since the National Assembly was established. And Nick remains the Leader until such time as he resigns, or a majority of AMs officially seek a national ballot which he goes on to lose. If I have any of this wrong, I will probably hear about it - and correct this post!!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

2011 and no sooner.

Two silly National Assembly stories in the Western Mail today. The first concerns the soon-to-be ennobled Dafydd Wigley contemplating the end of the Labour-Plaid Coalition Government. No chance - and what a disaster for Wales if it did collapse. Well, not until Rhodri Morgan retires as First Minister and accepts the Welsh Rugby Union's invitation to take over from the sacked Warren Gatland in 18 months time when he's uncerimoniously 'booted out' at the post match dinner after Wales lose in a friendly to the Lebanon. Much as I desire the Rainbow's return, I do not see it coming into vision for at least 18 months. Plaid Cymru have made their bed - now they must lie in it. Dafydd bemoans the inadaquacy of Treasury funding, and claims that a central commitment of the One Wales Agreement was a review of Assembly funding via the Barnett Formula. He knows, and knew before climbing into bed with Labour, that even if the National Assembly review Barnett til the cows come home, there is no requirement on the Westminster Government to take the slightest notice. In fact, as Tomos Livingstone points out in his 'Opinion' column in the same paper, any review could produce less funding for Wales. So my advice Dafydd is "just cuddle up to them and do your best to squeeze some pleasure out of the experience".

And on the same page, in David Williamson's article, Plaid AM, Helen Mary Jones is bemoaning the difficulties that AMs are having in providing proper scrutiny of Ministers. This is supposed to be justification for increasing the number of AMs from 60 to 80. Well, I'm sorry Helen Mary, but all I can say is that if you tried scrutinising your own Government's spending programmes a bit more, instead of appearing on TV to say how fabulously well the Government is delivering on its promises, this comment would carry more credibility!! I, too believe that when full law making powers are granted to the Assembly - sometime after the referendum on May 5th 2011, there will be a need for 80 AMs - but its a total waste of print to be writing about it now. The people of Wales would just not wear it - and quite right too.

Go away - Millwall style

Listening to 5 Live today, I heard a reporter describing the scene at the Altincham ground an hour before kick off against Millwall. "The stand looks a bit more dilapidated than Millwall are used to. Some of the letters which make up the sign, Altincham Football Club are falling off. An '0' and an 'L' have already fallen off, and as the hundreds of away supporters make their way into the ground, it looks as if we'll soon have an 'F' off as well". If the reputation of Millwall fans is to be believed, there will be several - every time the referee makes a decision against one of their own team.

New Lords and Ladies

The Western Mail today is running the story that Baroness Sian could be elevated to the House of Lords as one of Plaid's first nominees after they finally decide to nominate to the Upper House. As much as I would derive enjoyment from such an elevation, regrettably I just cannot see it happening.

I'm told by one who is in the know that Plaid could 'qualify' for three nominations - and there are three obvious candidates. Firstly there is he of the dark brown voice who would be able to resume the dual of the Dafydds which has given us all such pleasure over the years, from the red benches. And then there is Lord Elfyn Llwyd. I recall being the host of a dinner in Newtown soon after Dafydd Elis Thomas took the ermine, where Elfyn was present as the newly elected MP. I wonder if he remembers me congratulating him on becoming an MP - and wishing him a successful period of office until he too became drawn by the attraction of the red benches. Everyone laughed. Well as Bob Monkhouse used to say to those who had doubted his ability to become a successful comedian, "They're not laughing now."

But who is to be the third new Plaid peer of the realm. Sorry Sian, but it has to be Laura McAllister. She always talks so much sense and is admired by politicians of other parties - well me anyway. So there we are - Lord Wigley, Lord Elfyn and Lady Laura. And if Labour elevate Sue Essex, Wales will have a terrific presence in the House of Lords

Friday, November 09, 2007

Dragon's Eye disappointment.

Its well known that I have a soft spot for Helen Mary Jones, the Plaid Cymru AM who puts the fear of hell up lesser men. She's always struck me as being a genuine politician and a fierce debater to be respected. Which is why I felt so disappointed watching her participate in that ridiculous double act with Labour AM, Alun Davies on last night's Dragon's Eye on BBC.

We all know that the Assembly Government's block grant for the next 3 years is going to give the Coalition huge problems. We can see that the 'free laptops' and '£5,000 grants for first time buyers' have had to be dropped - or almost dropped (and a good thing too, in my opinion). Other things have had to go as well - and 'no loss' was my response. But there are going to be actual reductions in the spending plans for Local government and Social Justice, Education, and Economic Development and Transport. This is serious. By ignoring the impact of inflation and 'spinning' figures like a Catherine Wheel, the Government are trying to make out that the position is one of increasing spending. I was not surprised to see Minister, Andrew Davies at it - or Alun Davies for that matter. I've heard them both insist that black is white before. Its just that I thought Helen Mary was better than that

President's Message

The Autumn edition of Rural Wales was delivered to members of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales today. First page was my President's Message - which follows;

I have contributed several articles to our excellent magazine, Rural Wales over the last few years. This is my first contribution as your President.

Some of my friends were surprised to see me take up this position with CPRW because so much of my work in public life over the last 30 years has been concerned with the promotion of economic development in Rural Wales. I counter this by telling them that they suffer a misconception about what CPRW is. It therefore seems appropriate that in my first editorial, I outline what I see as our role in the life of Rural Wales.

My friends see CPRW as a body that 'opposes everything'. Since they know that I don't, my appointment intrudes into this perception. We cannot be opposed to the principle of new housing, new factories and new roads - and retain credibility. However we can demand that these new developments take place with as much sympathy for our landscapes and as much respect for our quality of life in Rural Wales as possible. Sometimes this means higher cost and inconvenience to developers. So be it. Sometimes our view will be that the damage to Rural Wales will outweigh the benefit, and in such cases we will oppose the developments.

My friends also dismiss CPRW as no more than 'anti wind farm protesters'. They will know that I do not hold such an absolute position myself. But they will know that I am deeply sceptical about on shore wind farms, largely because they seem an inefficient way of generating power and require large public subsidies to be economic. They will also know that I have been strongly critical of Assembly Government policy which gives a virtual 'carte blanche' to multiple wind farm developments in specific regions of Rural Wales. In my opinion, any organisation charged by its membership to protect Rural Wales is bound to adopt such a sceptical attitude.

However, the CPRW is about so much more. We are concerned about our local communities and the services that support them. We are opposed, wherever possible, to the closure of our local schools and to our local post offices. We recognise that the Welsh Language and Welsh culture are an integral part of what makes Rural Wales special. When I tell my friends that I want all development to be as respectful of our special environment as possible and that I want to protect the cultural uniqueness of what makes Rural Wales the special place that it is, they are much less surprised that I am writing this editorial.

No I wouldn't Nerys.

Tomos Livingstone, writing in today's Western Mail reports Plaid Cymru Assembly Member, Nerys Evans as saying

"The Conservatives... ... portray themselves as 'devo-friendly and support a Welsh Parliament in the Assembly, but the second they arrive in London, they do all they can to stop further powers coming to Wales".

Nerys should be more careful with her wording. It may be true that current Conservative AMs portray themselves as 'devo-friendly'. It may also be true that the three current Conservative MPs who represent Welsh constituencies are more 'devo-sceptical'. What is not true, as far as I know, is that any Conservatives have changed their minds 'as soon as they arrive in London'. I would like to reassure Nerys that I support the granting of law making powers to the National assembly in all devolved areas - and that I would rather cut off my toes than change my mind if I were to be elected as MP to represent Montgomeryshire at the next General Election.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Definitions

Saw this on a blog today. Can't remember whose it was. Definition of pure democracy is "Two wolves and one sheep discussing what's for lunch". It seems that this is sometimes incorrectly attributed to Benjamin Franklin.

Ruth Kelly pays up

Readers will know that I become 'outraged of Montgomeryshire' whenever I post on the Communications Allowance that our MPs have awarded themselves. They will know that I regard this £10,000 per year as an 'election expense' by another name. They will know that I believed those who had gone ever more blatantly 'party political' than the rules allowed should have to pay for their glossy literature themselves. Well, I'm pleased to note that today's Daily Mail reports that Labour Minister, Ruth Kelly will now meet the costs of such literature herself. I really do think there should be an investigation into how this allowance has been used - especially the coincidence that all these glossies happened to appear during the last few weeks, just before a General Election was expected.

Unusual excuse M'lud

I have always been amused by some of the excuses given before our judges and magistrates. The BBC is reporting today that a 27 year old man from Mid Wales has been ordered to undertake 100 hours community service for exposing himself to a lady motorist as she was overtaking him - and also ordered to pay the lady £250 as compensation. His excuse for doing this was that he was taking a photograph of his genitals to send to his girlfriend!! I do find it difficult to imagine just how he was performing this manoeuvre. The BBC did not inform us whether he was also given 3 points on his driving licence.

Wildlife and the Queen's Speech

I've long had a great interest in wildlife - and been none too impressed by the cavalier way Government so often dismisses its interests in favour of man's prejudice and selfishness. For example, it disappoints me that we continue to ban hunting with dogs despite the benefit that the practice brings to our wildlife. Personally, I don't care to participate in country sports of any sort, including fishing - but I totally support their continuance because of their associated economic and environmental benefit. So I'm interested in the assessment of how the Queen's Speech is regarded made by The Wildlife Trusts. Its as follows;

The Queen's Speech 2007 - Heel dragging on the natural environment.

"This is a disappointing bag of measures for the natural environment and wildlife. At a time when we are already seeing the effects of climate change, we should be making decisions which enable it - and us - to survive.

The Planning Bill is promoting changes which push the planning system away from valuing the natural environment. The latest round of planning reforms have been fast-tracked though the system. The proposals started to emerge from the Barker Review - reported less than a year ago. A White Paper followed this May. No draft Bill. Yet today there is the promise of a Bill.

By contrast a much needed Marine Bill is slow-tracked. Year after year we have been tantalisingly close to getting a Bill into each Queen's Speech. A Bill was a commitment in Labour's 2005 manifesto. Since then we have had two consultations. Now we have only reference to a draft Bill, with no guarantee of it reaching the statute book. This Queen's Speech gives the Marine Bill a low priority.

One kernel of hope is the Climate Change Bill. It should provide some focus for enabling Government across the board to consider how we adapt to climate change. For our natural environment and wildlife, many decisions taken by Government could help or hinder our natural environment to adapt. But will the other powers in the Queen's Speech undermine the Bill's carbon reduction targets."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Why Heffer's Wrong

Stephen Heffer is a good writer, even if I personally do not like his writing style. He will not care about that, particularly since I still read the stuff he writes. Today, his Telegraph column defends the reputation of Enoch Powell - and expounds his belief that Nigel Hastilow, the former candidate for Halesowen and Rowley Regis should not have been pressurised and, in effect, forced to resign. Several Conservatives have told me that they take the same view as Stephen Heffer. I think that they and he are wrong - I will outline why.

The defence of Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' speech (and Nigel Hastilow's comments is based on the dictionary definition of the words used. This is never the whole story. The meaning of words depends on the context in which they are used. The meaning of words varies, depending on where and when they are spoken. And words mean both what the speaker/writer intends and what the listener/reader understands.

Now, I do not know Nigel Hastilow, but assume that he is an able man. And I have read enough of Enoch Powell to know that he was a truly brilliant man. He was far too clever not to have known that his words would have been heard as having racist undertones - even if there wasn't a racist word uttered (in the dictionary sense). What Powell did was make it impossible to have a rational discussion about immigration (without accusations of racism) for decades. His indulgance crippled objective debate - and I speak as an admirer of the great man.

I absolutely believe that immigration is a serious issue for Britain, which politicians should be addressing with honesty and urgency. Predicted levels of population increase have reached frighteningly high levels. I see the consequences for the countryside, for wildlife, for housing, for public services and for social cohesion as serious issues for debate. Over recent months, the debate has taken off - without any significant accusations of racism. David Cameron has played a big part in this and has made the hugely significant statement that immigration levels should be lowered. Trevor Phillips has supported what David has been saying. Real progress was being made. By linking the debate with Enoch Powell's speech, Nigel Hastilow has made this debate much more difficult. If my party is serious about leading a real grown up debate about immigration, Nigel Hastilow had to go.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The NHS - 2007

Mr X is 82 years old, almost 83. He lives in Mid Wales and he suffered a heart attack this summer, which necessitated a triple by-pass. His first appointment at a specialist heart treatment hospital at Stoke in the West Midlands was cancelled approx. three weeks ago. However last week his family was contacted at midday to say that the operation would take place the following day - and could they bring Mr X in by 9.00 the next morning. The family set off at 6.30 and arrived in good time. Unfortunately there was no bed available, but Mr X was told that one may well become available if he waited. At 12.30, the family was informed that there was a bed after all, and that the operation would take place at 14.00 hrs and last for 3 hours. Mr X went for his pre-med, and his family returned home to Mid Wales. At 17.00 hours, they received a telephone call informing them that the previous operation had overrun, and as a result Mr X would not be having his operation after all - and could he be collected. The family set off from Mid Wales and returned home with Mr X at around 22.30 hours. During what must have seemed to have been the longest and most stressful day of his long life, he had been given some toast, jelly, tea and an apple. Do you feel the same sense of outrage as I do?

Our Kingdom.

Our Kingdom is one of my favourite blog sites. Today it includes a contribution from me. It sets out briefly, some of my thoughts about my new role as President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales. Its the third post down. Thanks to Jon Bright for publishing it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Coalition Arithmatic

Steve Thomas, Chief Executive of the Welsh Local Government Association does have a tendency to occasionally slip into jargon - but today he was talking straight. The subject under discussion was today's announcement by the Assembly Coalition Government's draft spending plans for the next three years (I hesitate to call it a budget because it includes only the spending side of the equation).

I had to take note of things because Radio Cymru were down to me to speak on behalf of the Conservatives on Post Prynhawn. The structure of the piece was interesting. Rhodri Morgan to set out the Government's position - as expected. But then it was over to Alun Ffed Jones for what seemed like a response - which took the biggest chunk of the remaining time. For all the world as if he was representing the 'opposition'. Has the news that Plaid Cymru are now in Government reached the Bangor studio yet? Or that the Conservatives are now the official opposition in Cardiff Bay. Still, I suppose I was only on the programme to ensure it could be claimed there was political balance.

Interesting headline figures though. We have been told that the overall Treasury block grant has increased by just 1.8%. Yet today we are told that Health spending will go up 4.2%, Education up 4.0% and Local Government up by 2.2%. Must be a bit of smoke and a few mirrors around Cardiff Bay ! About the only solid information we can glean out of this is that local government spending is receiving half the increase of other main public services. So Steve Thomas toured the studios to tell us straight that Council Tax is going to go up, and Council services are going to be subject to '1000 cuts' - especially in North and Rural wales. You have been warned. But just remember that the Government is a Labour/Plaid Coalition.

And did you manage to keep a straight face when Finance Minister, Andrew Davies said he was going to light "A bonfire of inefficiencies"? Did you manage not to fall about laughing when he talked about saving £600 million over the three years. It really is the way he tells them. He could earn a living writing scripts for Max Boyce.

More on Communications Allowances

Over the last few weeks, I have occasionally posted on the absolutely outrageous 'Communications Allowance' by which an individual sitting MP can spend £10,000 per year on glossy leaflets to support a re-election campaign. The shocking aspect of this is that it is entirely within the rules that Parliament has written for itself. Its a legal disgrace. It really is almost beyond belief that some MPs are not satisfied with this huge electoral benefit - and go beyond even these rules to secure an even bigger advantage.

When I first posted on this issue, I did not think of it as being directed at any political party. I suspected that MPs of all parties would have used this allowance. If I were an MP, and given a 'Communications Allowance', I may well have used it myself - for genuine communication rather than for the blatantly personal promotional material that I've seen. MPs are supposed to be 'Honourable Members' after all!! However, I note on today's ConservativeHome that this is not necessarily always the case. It names several Labour MPs of possibly breaking the rules, including Ruth Kellly, the Transport Minister who has already apologised to the Sergeant-at-Arms. The other names mentioned are Bridget Prentice, Gisela Stuart and Julie Morgan, all Labour MPs. At the very least, wherever this allowance has been improperly spent it should be refunded.

Speaking with two tongues.

Been speaking at a Federation of Small Business today. Very lucky to get there. As I was showering in preparation to go, I realised that I didn't know where the lunch was being held - except that it was somewhere in Newtown. Rang my contact number. No reply. Panic. Rang those people I thought might be going. No joy. Rang every feasible venue in Newtown. Still no joy. So searched the FSB website, and managed to find Russell Lawson's mobile number. Saved at the last minute. Don't suppose its the first time there's been a politician with a lot to say, but with absolutely no idea what direction he's going!! Oh, by the way, the lunch was at the Royal Oak in Welshpool.

I was speaking as the President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales. So kept off the politics completely. First question was about the recent outrageous changes made by the Chancellor to Capital Gains Tax - and the second demanded that I explain how the UK's membership of the EU is of any benefit to Mid Wales!! I should have guessed as soon as I saw Bruce Lawson, the local face of Ukip in the audience. In fact it turned out to be a really good session. It helps that I rather like Bruce (no relation to Russell) despite the electoral damage he does me. FSB are a very important body for the Conservative Party. So had to leave the feeding of Ffion to Mrs D this afternoon. Everything has its price.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Ruth Kelly should Refund the Money

Rarely do I become 'Outraged of Berriew'. But I have posted before about the outrage that invades my soul whenever I'm reminded of the 'Communications Allowances' that our MPs have access to. As far as I can see, it is nothing more than a licence to spend taxpayer's money for election purposes. Most of the MPs stick within the rules of course - but wasn't it the most amazing coincidence that before we knew that the Prime Minister was going to 'chicken out' of calling an election (please notice that this blog does not use 'bottle out' because of the lavatorial connotations of the phrase) MPs were distributing thousands of glossy leaflets and newspapers telling their constituents how fantastically hard they have been working. I still remember the Labour MP for Chester on Newsnight almost boasting to Michael Crick that she had distributed about 40,000!! I've had dozens of Lembit Opik's glossies given to me. I wish I could bottle the outrage they exhibit when I tell them that they the taxpayer probably forked out for them!



But Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary went too far, according to today's Mail on Sunday. The MoS claims that she used her 'Communications Allowance' to distribute leaflets repeatedly using the words Labour, Labour Party and Labour Government. It was reported that she has apologised and will contact the Sergeant-at-Arms - and abide by his decision as to what she should do. She shouldn't need telling. She should pay it back. MPs, and Cabinet Ministers in particular should not be using taxpayers money to pay for their election campaigns.

Baroness Sian of Montgomeryshire

Today's Mail on Sunday is tipping weather-lady, Sian Lloyd (when did she stop being a weather-girl) to become a Baroness. It seems that she is top of Plaid Cymru's first ermine list. Of course she could become Baroness Lloyd of Maesteg, but that wouldn't be nearly as entertaining for us as Baroness Sian of Montgomeryshire. And anyway, she has been closely associated with my old county since she was working for the Development Board for Rural Wales in the 1980s. I must admit that I was amused by this report. However, I suspect that not everyone would share my amusement or pleasure!!

Lib Dem Non-Battles

Fellow blogger, Peter Black must have resolved to increase the number of visitors to his site. Today's post is an absolute cracker- which is why I'm drawing your attention to it. You will be able to judge for yourself what sort of atmosphere there must have been in the Assembly's Lib Dem Group over the last few months.

Personally, I can't quite follow Peter's logic. He wanted a leadership contest so that there would be a debate about policy. Now, he wasn't too fussed who took on Mike German, the current leader, as long as there was a contest. Peter even told us he would stand himself to ensure this happened, and it seems he had the support of another AM (Mick Bates perhaps) which would have enabled him to do so. But it then seems that the other four Lib Dem AMs said that they would scupper this plan by allowing Peter to assume leadership of the Group and of the Party in Wales without a contest at all. Must admit that I'd have said "Thank you very much, suckers" - but we're not all the same. He could then have initiated the debate that he wanted. But no, this would have been far too straight forward. Peter wanted a fight - so he didn't go for it. He just let Mike German carry on (for a specified,though flexible period of time). The great man can now stand down 'in his own time'. I realise that this will all be entirely logical within the complicated mechanism which passes for the Lib Dem mind. But I would be grateful if any of my readers can have a crack at explaining the logic behind it to me. We should all thank Peter for letting us know all about it though.

Good Luck Joe

Its been a long day. 1.00 and I've just returned home from a splendid concert in Caersws Village Hall - having spent most of the day building a bonfire (apart from having to give gorgeous little Ffion a bottle that is). The whole brood always come home for 'Bonfire Night' - so there's Edward and Karen (Ffion's mum and dad), Patrick and Verity up from Maidenhead, Sally over from Nottingham, Tim and Adrienne up from Cardiff - and Norm of course (Mrs D's mum).

Anyway, bonfire was over by 8.00 and I went to the concert where Andy and Iona topped the bill, supported by Glyn Williams, a versatile tenor, and Angharad, a local violinist. Ivor and Dilys, who organised it asked me to do the draw. Ivor asked me to speak as well. I couldn't think of anything to say, so I mentioned Ffion - she's only four weeks and she gets everywhere. First ticket out was Delme's, dinner for two in the Aleppo - so I will join Delme to enjoy it( + Mrs D and probably Eileen).

I also said that we all needed a good concert to cheer us up - with Ray Gravell dying in the week. So many anecdotes about Ray. He came to Caersws a few years ago to do some programme and asked an elderly lady "You lived here all your life, cariad?" "Not yet" she said. I liked that.

Anyway its too late and I'm too tired to listen to Joe's fight tonight. It will be a great occasion in the Millennium Stadium with 50,000 cheering him on. I went to watch the first big fight in the Arms Park when Lennox Lewis just about beat Frank Bruno in 1993. They're all talking Kessler up to be a real threat - but they did the same with Lacy, and Joe demolished him. Joe is a class act, and he seems a decent sort as well. I really hope he puts a smile on the downcast face of Welsh sport tonight. Good luck Joe.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

What will they say?

I'm always keen to show my reactionary side. So here I go again. This time its factual rather than opinion - but the inference will be clear.

During the 200th anniversary discussions on the abolition of slavery which have continued throughout the last year, many commentators have reflected on what our descendants in another 200 years will look back on, as today's deeply immoral practises. Which brings me to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee about abortion last week.

This Committee (which did not take into account ethical considerations) want abortion to be made easier. It seems that the 200,000 abortions that take place annually at present is not enough. And they do not think that the legal age limit where a foetus can be aborted should be reduced below 24 weeks. It was comments on this issue by Professor Stuart Campell, the pioneer of images of babies in the womb that caught my ear. According to the Telegraph, Professor Campbell explained in some detail on the Today programme that a late abortion (over 20 weeks I assume) takes place by inducing the birth of the foetus. If it has not already been killed by an injection to the heart (not always the case) then it is allowed to die. To me this seems rather like murder, by another name. It may be that it will not take 200 years before this deeply shocking practice is judged as repugnant.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Blair and Brunstrom

I have nothing against Chief Constables. Honest, I haven't. In fact, its my high regard for the position that leads me to expect the highest standard from those selected to carry the responsibility which goes with the job. Which is why Sir Ian Blair should resign forthwith. The killing of Jean Charles de Menezes was a shocking occurrence which resulted from 'corporate failure' under his watch. This makes the Chief Constable's position totally untenable. If he stays the public's confidence in the Metropolitan Police will be much compromised. That is case enough. He should have gone already.

I've also posted in the past that Richard Brunstom should resign - but not because he's done anything wrong. He's always seemed to me to be an effective Chief Constable, even if a tad too keen to pursue publicity - but it has always been to promote the purpose for which he is employed, law enforcement. His attempt to seek a high profile for his desire to promote the legalisation of all drugs, will have the effect of undermining the purpose for which he is employed - which is to enforce the law as it stands. He's entitled to his opinion that the law should be changed, and he's been in a far better position than most of us to develop a view on the matter, but its my view that his vociferousness has undermined respect for our drugs laws. His campaign undermines the law. It doesn't fall within a Chief Constable's discretion to choose which laws should be enforced and which should not. If he wishes to pursue his opinions he should go and get another job.

As it happens, I have no objection to debate about the legalisation of drugs - even if I cannot imagine being convinced that it would be sensible. I was supportive of one of my fellow Conservative Assembly Members when he invited Lemmy, a former drug addict rock star to outline his case in the National Assembly about 3 years ago. It was and remains clear that our current approach to controlling drug use is failing. It also seems logical that if the laws are not going to be rigorously enforced, they might as well be discontinued. But at present, I believe that cannabis should be reclassified as a dangerous drug, and our Chief Constables should be enforcing the drug laws. Call it 'carrying a big stick if you like'. Thank Goodness that most Chief Constables understand what their responsibilities are.