Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lying on the doorstep is contemptible

There's a lot of talk about a new approach to politics. Hooray for that. We can start by stopping telling straight forward lies about each other's policies. And we should also stop trying to mislead voters about other parties intentions as well. I do my utmost to stick to the truth - no matter what I'm asked. In the long run, I reckon its electorally positive. On the Radio Wales midday phone-in last Monday, I was forced to tell the Montgomeryshire Labour candidate that he was "not telling the truth". If he'd protested I'd have called him a liar. He had just told listeners that the Conservatives were going to abolish free bus passes - which they are not. And he knew they are not. Now, I've been emailed to tell me that my political opponents were out in the Garth Owen area of Newtown yesterday spreading the same sort of lies about the winter fuel allowance. What utterly contemptible people these are. How can their spouses sleep with them - if they have spouses that is.

And now we learn that Ed Balls, a Labour Government Minister is up to the same tricks. How on earth are we going to restore public confidence in our electoral system when we have senior politicians telling bare faced lies in public. Getting things wrong is one thing, but just lying knowingly is not acceptable. Mr Balls, and those who were lying in Newtown yesterday are not very nice people. They deserve to lose - which of course they will on judgement day, if not on May 6th.

Come and join us.

Here's Ffion, our only granddaughter, entering into the election spirit - and in irresistible 'come and join us' pose. Pity she lives in Ireland. We see her only once a month when she comes to visit. She would be a great asset on the doorstep.
Actually, I'm not keen on dragging children into politics. This was just a bit of fun at home. But not yesterday, I was involved in a very nice photo-op at a primary school at Newtown, when one of my opponents began sticking labels on to the children, some of them no older than five or six. Afraid I took a dim view of this. I'm not expecting the local paper to use the photograph until after the election. Lets keep some standards of decency in our democratic process.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Can keeping stolen money be anything but despicable behaviour?

There is nothing quite so nauseating as persons claiming the high moral ground when they have been guilty of even worse behaviour themselves. Same applies to political parties. Over recent years, all political parties have been tarnished by financial mis-doings of one sort or another. But its only the Lib Dems who try to pretend they are somehow whiter than others. Yet, in my opinion, the worst abuse of all was the failure of the Lib Dems to return the £2.4 million pounds donation that came from convicted fraudster Michael Brown. Read about Vince Cable being skewered on the subject today. I accept that it was not unreasonable to accept the money in the first place, but when it was discovered that it had been fraudulently obtained by Mr Brown before he gave it to the Lib Dems, the money should have been returned immediately. This nonsense that it was OK to keep the £2.4 million because the Electoral Commission decided it was received in 'good faith' cuts no ice with me. The money belongs to those whom Michael Brown defrauded, and it should have been given back, when he was convicted. At the very least, the Lib Dems should hang their heads in shame about this, rather than try to pose as better than other parties. Because they are not. And the hypocrisy makes it worse.

Show business in politics.

Pleased to see that Montgomeryshire Assembly Member, Mick Bates is still active in the Liberal Democrat election campaign, despite being suspended last week from the Liberal Democrat party. Firstly, I note that it is he who has proposed Lembit Opik as the party's candidate for the coming General Election in Montgomeryshire. Nothing improper about that of course, but I would have thought it a touch unusual for someone so recently suspended from a party to be given such a significant symbolic position. I was proposed by the hugely respected Cllr. Aled Davies, Chairman of the Montgomeryshire Association.

And then there's this report on the BBC today. It seems as if one of Mick's staff has been dressing up in a nurse's uniform for a photo-op with a Lib Dem candidate in Cardiff. Its never what it seems with the Lib Dems. Its all for show business. Now Mick himself has a bit of a reputation for dressing up in fancy dress, having once famously attended a full session of the National Assembly wearing a Santa Claus outfit. And his Montgomeryshire MP colleague (or ex-colleague) once bought on his parliamentary allowances a 'mother of all wigs'. They're an odd lot - the Lib Dems. One thing I'm not sure about is whether Mick Bates is still a Liberal Democrat AM, or an 'Independent' AM as described in the BBC report. If anyone knows, perhaps they would let us know.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Welshpool 'Hustings' tonight.

Montgomeryshire matters it seems. BBC Wales ran a televised 'hustings' meeting in Welshpool Town Hall tonight. Betsan Powys started the night off by announcing the findings of an ITV Wales opinion poll which was published earlier in the day - which was good news for the Lib Dems, and not for the rest of us. The Labour candidate found consolation in that our vote dropped more than Labour's. Clearly a man easily pleased. Biggest surprise to me was the collapse in the Plaid vote. Anyway back to the debate.

Again I was impressed by the leg-biting viciousness (accompanied by a lovely smile) of Heledd Fychan. I disagree with a lot she says, but I'm a real fan. Such fighting spirit. I hope that she finds a way into the National Assembly at some stage. I remember a Labour opponent named Angharad Davies in 1997 who impressed me in just the same way. Could never understand how they let such a political talent lie unfulfilled. I suppose Heledd would inform that she intends to become MP for Montgomeryshire on May 6th. And so do I.

I wasn't impressed with Lembit at all. OK, so he was on a dodgy wicket - but he must have been expecting it. He's supposed to be this great debater, who has appeared on Question Time 14 times. Well, it didn't look like it to me. Looked as if it was his first time in front of an audience. At one stage he actually said to the people "I work harder than the people who criticise me". Honestly he did. The audience laughed like drains. And then he told Heledd not to be 'naughty' when she butted in. Sounded as if he was talking to a three year old. To me it looked as if this little girl had him by the ankles and seriously rattled.

I never watch programmes that I appear in, but Mrs D (who did) tells me that I should try not to speak as if I'm talking to a conference. And others tell me I should adopt a more confrontational. But I decided years ago to keep a tight rein on my aggression (which has only ever led to problems) - attacking only in self defence. My angry face tends frightens the horses - which was fine on the rugby pitch. Whatever, there will be a discussion on this in my office tomorrow. I thought it was an entertaining programme - to watch and appear in. I hope people enjoyed it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Shadow Minister's Visits

Local media's not covering all high profile Shadow Minister's visits - though William Hague's support last Monday won some good publicity. Anyway, here's Owen Paterson with me dropping in for a coffee at the Market Hall in Newtown and on Ricky Lloyd at his shop in Welshpool. For those of you who have little interest in politics, Owen is the Shadow Minister for Northern Ireland, and was Member of Parliament for North Shropshire.

Hosts of lovely Daffodils

Managed a stroll around the garden today - with my camera. Hosts of daffodils providing cheerful colour. Its enough to lift the spirits of a Conservative who has just studied the latest opinion polls!! Added a bit of Tory blue - though its not a daffodil. Science hasn't conquered that one yet.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Strange happenings in Montgomeryshire.

Hey voters, there are candidates out here who want to be your MP. Thousands of us - many been striving to catch your eye for years. Was all this effort of no consequence after all? You really would think so if you were to take today's media at face value. The only thing that counts is 'The Leader's Debate'. The record of delivery, or of probity, or even character of individual candidates is to be set aside. All that matters is a televised debate amongst party leaders. Well, I just don't buy it. And if it is true, we might as well hand selection of our MPs over to the National Lottery.

I watched last night's debate. It was better television than I expected. I thought all three came over quite well - except perhaps Gordon Brown when he tried to focus too much on attacking David Cameron, rather than telling us about his own policies. Nick Clegg seemed the most relaxed. He had not much to lose, and because even he does not think he's going to be the next Prime Minister, can say what he likes. David Cameron and Gordon Brown both believe that they might be Prime Minister, and can say only what they will deliver. Some people seem to think David did badly - but I thought he did really well. And I think he'll do even better next time. I also think Gordon Brown will be better, and Nick Clegg will 'bomb'. Now that we know he's a competent debater, he might be asked to explain some of his policy. His stance on immigration is particularly daft.

Must admit that I was disappointed when it was agreed that these debates would happen. I've always been unhappy with them - mainly because of the danger that they might devalue the worth and effort of individual candidates. But its too late now. These debates will be a dominant feature in all future General Elections. I want the people of Montgomeryshire to decide where to place their mark on the basis of which local candidate they think will represent them well - and the choice includes candidates whose leaders were frozen out of things last night. But I did think it good entertainment, and I'll watch next week.

There's something about politics in Montgomeryshire. Today has been another interesting day. Montgomeryshire's Assembly Member has been told that he will face charges of common assault, and his party has relieved him of the party whip. I suppose that means that today is the first day that Montgomeryshire has not been represented by a Lib Dem AM. And I hear rumours that more news may emerge over the weekend. And to cap it all, I hear that someone has declared that he intends to stand as a National Front candidate (not even BNP) in the General Election. Maybe there is something special in the local water.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Polished up and ready to roar.

The deed has been done. She has experienced her virgin makeover - inside and out. She's been in my ownership for almost three years, has travelled almost 100,000 miles under my guidance (much of it over farmland) and had never been so much as near a car wash until today. Actually it was today and yesterday, because it turned out to be a two day job. I was stunned when I collected it. New tyres on Monday, full valet on Tuesday and Wednesday, and full service on Thursday. Talk about taking the election seriously!!

Congratulations are due to W R Davies of Newtown - and for two reasons. Firstly, they honoured the pledge that I bought from a promise auction over three years ago - and secondly for the amazing transformation they have performed on my car. As out campaigning tonight, it was a recurring pleasure every time I returned to the car - breathing in the sensual aroma which permeated every nook and cranny. I do not know the name of the miracle worker who is discussing his handiwork with me in the photograph, but I am deeply grateful to him. His handiwork may be that little bit extra that pushes me over the winning line on May 6th.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Debunking the Vince Cable myth

Blogfest. Fourth post tonight. Since the Conservatives have been making the running with the proposal not to implement Labour's reprehensible tax on jobs in full, both Labour and the Lib Dems have quite disgracefully sought to claim that a future Conservative Government would raise VAT. As far as I know, this was pure invention, and the media should be equally ashamed for giving such claims any publicity. To make it worse, the media did not believe what it was reporting. But for some reason, if Labour's new bestest friend, Vince Cable says something, no matter that its completely without foundation, its reported as if its fact. No wonder people are disillusioned with politics.

Anyway old twinkle toes has been caught out. Several blogs are reporting his conversation with Jon Sopel in today's Politics Show, in which he informs us that he made the whole thing up. Just imagine the hoohah there would be if George Osborne had done such a thing. Ah, the joys of campaigning without the prospect of actually winning. Well, I'm doing my bit to expose the house of cards that is Vince Cable by linking to the relevant Conservative Home post here. Just read it, and allow the scales to fall from your eyes.

Turning the tables on Spin Doctor.

Third post tonight. And I turn to Spin doctor in the Wales on Sunday. What would the gossipy medic do without Montgomeryshire. I don't think I've ever read a column when my old county didn't appear in some guise - though regular features on local AM, Mick Bates seem to have disappeared lately. As has he. I get the occasional mention myself, even if it is less since I suspended my attempts at humour - until after the election. Today he (if a he it is) had a little snippet about the rumour that Plaid Cymru are to win the celebrity endorsement of Sian Lloyd, and that she might visit Montgomeryshire to campaign. Sian is a good friend of mine, but I do not know whether the bit about endorsing Plaid is true. I wouldn't be at all surprised, since I know she is as proud of her 'Welshness' as I am - and is free of my leanings to the centre/right of politics.

The line that amused me was Spin Doctor's suggestion that Plaid might be "tempted to send her to the constituency of Mr Opik - the sitting MP and the former fiancee she later criticised in her autobiography". Spin Doctor, she lives there, near Aberhafesp, smack in the middle of Montgomeryshire. Plaid Cymru would not have to send her anywhere.

A visit from a fox.

For me, the signal that spring has arrived in when Mrs Canada Goose settles on her eggs on my duck island. They have come every year since I made the pond, (about 8 years ago) and always nest in the same spot at the beginning of April. I expect them to hatch out on election day. I suppose the ducklings being yellow at birth is not much of an omen.
Well, this goose in not going anywhere. I took this photograph this week, as she was lying where she fell - on the house drive. From time to time we see our local fox stalking the geese. He had one last year. Reason I know it was a fox is that Mrs D, who had become attached to a goose on her eggs, was contemplating the dead body though tears, when the fox just strolled up and to finish off his previous night's supper. I left this girl where she was, intending to bury her next day - but Reynard had been to collect. I found the remains down by the bamboo walk this afternoon.
Just thought I'd put this photograph up for all those who think the fox is a nice cuddly little fellow, that means no harm. The fox is a gratuitous killer - as vicious as it is beautiful. Its living proof that its possible to love and hate a living creature at the same time.

Hustings - and the rest of week one.

I'm giving this election a real crack. One of the casualties is this blog. Not enough hours in the day. But it's Sunday night, and there's time to spare. Actually there's been enough time today to catch up with what's happening in the garden, (next post) where I'm intending to spend four hours on May 7th. All I did today was look, and snap.

Much of my time had been spent writing for leaflets and media articles - including another piece for Guardian Comment is Free. And delivering some of them. And walking the streets, meeting people. Lots of interesting discussions. Spoke at length to one man yesterday. Thought I had his vote in the bag. Then he told me he lived in Radnorshire, thought the Lib Dems were for him, and he never voted anyway. Then I met a lady who was in a real state. She'd been waiting for a late train, had been taken short, and had "wet herself" because there were no toilets at the station, and she suffered a bladder complaint. Not sure whether to contact Arriva Trains, the local council or the urology dep't. I thought she had a legitimate point, and its one I'll follow up.

We have a spate of hustings coming up in Montgomeryshire. First one was in the Black Boy in Newtown this week. Main focus was the environment, and there were about 50 there. Ukip and the Independent, Bruce Lawson were not there. Don't know whether they were invited, but seems to me that the Ukip candidate has got a good case for inclusion. In the last big election ( to the European Parliament) Ukip came in second in Montgomeryshire. It was nice to see the Labour candidate finally put in an appearance. He showed himself to be a man of many opinions, most of which were totally contrary to Labour Party policy. I rate Heledd Fychan, the Plaid Cymru candidate. We disagree about a few things, but I feel I can have a discussion about ideas with her. Strange how its possible to disagree with someone, and at the same time have respect for them. Lembit Opik did not impress me at all. Now, I'm as mild mannered as you can get, but even I was forced to intervene on one of his answers. He was trying to claim that he had delivered improvements to the idiotic new traffic light system that has crippled Newtown. Total B******s. It was nothing to do with him at all. It was the work of Newtown's Councillors, and was already in place before the publicity stunt he organised. He was just trying to claim credit for someone else's work - and not for the first time. So I told him so in public.

Should have a bit more time to call by my blog this week, though William Hague is calling by Montgomeryshire tomorrow to give me some support. I'm a big fan, and I'll enjoy that.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Tomorrow on the campaign trail.

Now that we know tomorrow is the day on which the starting gun is going to be fired, I will be using this blog (and my facebook site) to tell helpers and supporters what my plans are for the following day.

Tomorrow morning, I will be calling on commercial properties in Newtown.

Tomorrow afternoon, I will be leafleting and talking to those I meet in Pontrobert, and attending a meeting in the Village Hall at 3,30 (on a non-political matter).

Tomorrow at 5.30, we will be meeting outside our office on Broad St. for a leafleting session at Welshpool. We were going to hit Newtown big on the day the election is called, but we're printing a 'Newtown leaflet' which will not be ready until late afternoon, Wednesday.

On Wednesday, we'll be in Llanfair Caereinion in the morning, and Newtown thereafter.

Anyone interested in joining in - or 07968082891.

No Referendum in 2010?

It seems that the Secretary of State, Peter Hain may have succeeded in delaying the referendum on transferring all law making powers in devolved policy areas from the Westminster Government to the National Assembly until March 2011. Personally, I believe this to be a mistake, which will make a 'Yes' vote less likely. But then, we know that Mr Hain does not want there to be a referendum at all before the next Assembly election, to be held in May 2011.

The 'right' date would be October - well before the Assembly election in May 2011. Anyone campaigning in a referendum in March is going to have an eye on the Welsh General Election two months later. But it looks as if its not to be. For an October referendum to happen, the enabling legislation must be sorted out before the Summer recess - and for that to happen, the question to be put needed to settled before the General Election. And Peter Hain has refused to deal with it. The request forwarded to him (eventually) from the Assembly First Minister is still lying on his desk. I'm sure Nick Bourne and Cheryl Gillan will tell us that its gathering dust. Its unthinkable that Plaid Cymru and Labour AMs are not party to this. They are playing a very dangerous game.

Not sure what all the Plaid supporting bloggers think of this. They'll probably find some hook on which to hang their usual 'Blame the Tories' rhetoric. But it won't wash. This is down to one man - Peter Hain. It really is time that he was given a role on Labour's opposition backbenches - well away from anything to do with Wales.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

How long does it take an MP to learn the ropes?

This is the second time I've linked to a post by my Plaid Cymru opponent in Mongomeryshire, Heledd Fychan. In part, that's because its another good post. But also because I was goint to blog on the same issue myself. I, too had been sent a copy of this week's Tanat, Cain and Vyrnwy Chronicle, which included submissions from her, me and the incumbent MP, Lembit Opik. Heledd's gone for it in what is becoming typical of her style - which I rather like. Daresay, I'll find myself in the firing line over the next four weeks. My intention was to take issue with one pretty stupid comment included in the piece - a comment which seems to be part of his 2010 pitch to Montgomeryshire voters. Lets nail it now - in the same way that I'll nail it when he raises at the various panels we're on before May 6th.

It seems that our current MP is of the view that it takes eight years before a new MP 'learns the ropes' sufficiently well to become effective. Well Lembit, go tell that to Nick Clegg - who was elected to lead the Liberal Democrats after being an MP for just four years. Or Chris Huhne, who almost beat him, who had also been an MP for only four years. Or David Cameron, who was elected to lead the Conservatives after four years. Or William Hague (who entered the Cabinet at just 34) - or William's political hero, and subject of his first book, William Pitt the Younger, who became Prime Minister aged 24, after less than two years as an MP. Perhaps if Lembit had spent a bit more time on his 'parliamentary' duties, and less time pursuing 'other interests', it wouldn't have taken him quite so long. And another interesting fact is that the average length of time that an MP serves in something less than eight years.

And while I'm at it, there's another comment which rankles - one I've heard before (and which is likely to be used 'spontaneously' on several occasions over the next month). It seems that he does not consider himself 'perfect' (in a self-pitying sort of way) - and that if the voter's want someone perfect, they must await 'the second coming'. No they don't want someone perfect, and they don't have to wait beyond May 6th. Montgomeryshire voters just want someone who will take the job of representing them seriously, and put serving our old county before 'other interests'.

The 'real' world of politics.

David James has written an article for today's Wales on Sunday titled "Politicians say the silliest things". Now, he may be right in principle, but in the real world of politics, he's talking ********. His proposition seems to be that anyone standing for election to one tier of Government, should not express opinions, or campaign on matters that are the responsibility of other tiers. My guess is that since the National Assembly for Wales was established in 1999, no Welsh candidate, at any level, has stuck to this principle. That's because those of us who face actual voters know that 'all politics is local'.

The two politicians David singled out are Maria Caulfield, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Caerphilly, and Nick Smith, who is standing for Labour in Blaenau Gwent. I met Maria at our recent conference in Llandudno, where she spoke in a health debate - and I was much impressed. Very confident and articulate, without a note in sight. I don't know Nick. But what I do know is that the voters of Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent would be seriously unimpressed if either of them did not speak about health and transport issues - and local government, and environment, and education, and..... Very few people have a clear knowledge of where the various responsibilities lie - and they don't care. Perhaps the answer that would lose Maria, Nick or me most votes would be "Sorry, can't answer that - because its devolved".

Most of the issues on which the Montgomeryshire election will be decided are devolved issues. Secondary school reorganisation, Newtown By-pass, access to health and other public services. The Lib Dems realised years ago that pavement politics wins elections - at all levels. And we are sick of losing in Montgomeryshire. When I became the Parliamentary candidate almost three years ago, we established a 'team' approach, involving Conservative candidates across all tiers of Government. Our six Montgomeryshire councillors, Nick Bourne AM and myself discuss issues, and try to find an approach that we can all agree on. Our aim is that we can all respond positively to constituents on all issues. And we'll carry on doing that - which is my advice to Maria Caulfield and Nick Smith.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Disunity amongst the Churches at Easter.

First time for days that I've had time to read my Telegraph, or attend to my blog. While I've been away, its become clear to me that I'm not a suitable person to be appointed the Archbishop of Canterbury. Its a job which requires a politician as well as a theologian, and one who is ultra careful with words - examining every single word with meticulous care before its utterance. My tendency to commit random thoughts to print would probably lead to a return to great wars about religion.

I'm a bit of a fan of Archbishop Rowan Williams. I know he's a 'leftie' but he is Welsh, and he's an intellectual, and he has such a rich, dark brown voice. But he's really put his foot in his mouth this time. And at the Easter weekend. He's told the BBC that an Irish friend had told him that "its quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down the street wearing a clerical collar". And he went on to refer to the Catholic Church in Ireland as "an institution so deeply bound into the life of a society, suddenly becoming - suddenly losing all credibility..." I understand that he might have been a bit narked when the Pope Benedict offered unsettled members of the Anglican Church an easy transfer to Catholicism last year. But this was surely going over the top. No apology is going to put the lid back on this one.

This issue has engaged my mind because yesterday, I attended a Good Friday event in Welshpool, where all the Churches marched together behind a wooden cross, in a show of unity. There were several mini sermons and hymns, including 'How great thou art'. There was also a smidgen of disunity about the absence of a Welsh hymn. Easy to find trouble when religion and culture clash. Personally, I do not think the words of Archbishop Rowan Williams were well chosen. Its true that the Catholic Church has handled the paedophile cover ups incredibly badly. But he was just about the last person in the world who should have been pointing it out. Its like Arsene Wenger commenting on Manchester United's performance this afternoon. This row is going to cause one hell of a kerfuffle. Good job that neither the Archbishop or the Pope write a blog.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The High Sheriff.

Yesterday I attended the Shrievalty Service and Declaration Ceremony of Mrs Jennifer Anne Thomas as High Sheriff of Powys. Jenny lives near my village of Berriew, and is a family friend She looked very fine, all kitted out in the proper gear. While I'm a huge fan of the office of High Sheriff, I still look on it as High Sheriff of Montgomeryshire - which means that for me the role exists fully only for one year in three. Radnorshire, and Breconshire do the providing the rest of the time. Three years ago, we ceremonially declared another good friend of mine, James Turner, at an event which was also subject to a blog post.

As usual a High Court judge is present to read the Royal Warrant. This time it was His Honour, Judge Philip Hughes. As is traditional, he gave us a bit of the history. The post of High Sheriff has existed continuously for over 1000 years, and is only beaten by as an office of state for longevity by the Monarchy itself. And of course the Monarchy did have a gap after Charles 1st was executed. Another interesting aspect of this office is that it was an early example of devolution. Up until Henry the Eighth's centralising ways, the office of High Sheriff in Wales had developed in an entirely different way from that in England.

We heard, as we did three years ago, about a previous High Sheriff who, for fund raising purposes, kidnapped all the mistresses of the clergy in his patch, demanding ransoms for their return. Don't know whether he stole mistresses because they commanded a better return than wives. Perhaps stealing mistresses was deemed more morally acceptable. He also told us about another High Sheriff who raised money by combining fund raising events with executions. One invitation sent out inviting guests to a fund raising function read "He drops at 8, breakfast at 9".

Anyway, it was a good do. Berriew Church was full. Quartet from Llanfyllin High School entertained us. (much better than an execution!). And then we all went over to the Lion far a drink and bits afterwards. In three weeks time we have Her Majesty coming to Welshpool for the morning as one of Jenny's first official occasions. They don't come much bigger than that. If Radio Cymru cover the visit I'll probably have another chance to use 'Gwerinllywodraeth', the enunciation of which gave me so much pleasure on my recent appearance on Pawb a'i Farn - when I was the only person in the studio to oppose the idea. Yesterday, there was probably not a single one of the 200 of us who agreed.