Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The year that was...

And so, as 2008 draws to an end, it's time to look back at some of this year's memorable moments from Cardiff Bay.

It was a year of gaffes for our respected politicians. Rhodri Glyn Thomas came a cropper on two separate occasions with the first matching anything Ricky Gervais could have written at his cringing best. The second was a slight error of judgment: walking into a bar with a great big cigar in his hand isn't the wisest thing for an Assembly Minister to do and it cost him his job. Given this you might expect our friend, Mr Thomas to walk the 2008 "Clown Prince of Wales" contest.

But no. As I said, 2008 was a year of gaffes in the Bay. The aforementioned title quite bizarrely went to our First Minister, the Right Honourable Rhodri Morgan. Why? Well because apparently he has ridiculous hair and wears even more ridiculous clothes. Says who?

Step forward Nick Bourne, who couldn't really remember what he had and hadn't said. Had he called our First Minister a clown? He couldn't recall doing so. But then all that talk of mutiny and unrest somehow jogged his mind, and suddenly he could remember signing that most dodgy of dossiers all too clearly.

Incredible what murmurs of rebellion and in-fighting can do isn't it! And poor Nick had plenty to deal with as the festive season began and carols were uploaded onto iPods, including his own - bought of course at the tax-payer's expense to help the Leader of the Opposition learn Welsh. Let's just hope he was listening to I orwedd mewn preseb rather than Away in a Manger.

Meanwhile in the Lib Dems' Christmas Party, Kirsty Williams celebrated her rise to the top of the Lib Dem tree, becoming the first ever female leader of a Welsh political party. And over at Plaid Cymru's bash, Bethan Jenkins was still hoping Santa would give her a 'Yes campaign'.

Elsewhere during 2008, Eluned Morgan told us she will step down as MEP in June 2009, (to take over from Rhodri Morgan?), Mike German made way as leader of the Lib Dems in Wales (to become Presiding Officer?) and Alun Cairns insulted some Italians, then got the boot and then returned.

Also this year the great and the good of Welsh politics fell out over the LCO system, David Davies helped to launch True Wales and Sir Emyr Jones-Parry began taking his All Wales Convention caravan around the country. Peter Hain resigned to clear his name (and eventually succeeded), there was uproar when this portrait of the Iron Lady appeared in the Senedd and ITV Wales' coverage of Welsh politics took a hit [links to Vaughan Roderick's Welsh language blog] - leaving the BBC pretty much as our sole broadcasters in the Assembly.

Oh, and there was also quite a bit of talk of a recession.

Here's to more fun and games (and another Grand Slam) in 2009!

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Dewi Dau

P.S. What have we left out? How would you sum up Welsh politics in 2008? Let us know.


Saturday, 27 December 2008

The Pretenders

"It’s an enormous test for devolution [this economic malarkey], a much bigger test than foot and mouth was. People just don’t realise what was done to try to keep the normality of life going in foot and mouth. That was what we thought of as a real test – were we capable? Animal health wasn’t devolved to us, but we had to pretend it was, because that’s what the people of Wales expected.

"A little like that today, we’ve got to just get on with the job of helping Welsh society."

Interesting insight into our First Minister's mindset here. Do we really expect Mr Morgan and the Assembly's other elected officials to pretend to be solving the economic crisis? Or does Mr Morgan just think that the people of Wales are too ignorant and ill-informed to know what the Assembly can and cannot do. And so just as one might humour a senile grandmother on Christmas Day, so Mr Morgan is trying to put a smile on our faces on Boxing Day by pretending to be doing something about the economy.

I can understand that, as our leader, he should want to wear a brave face and appear to be in control of events, thus increasing public confidence and hopefully encouraging high-street spending. However, does not coming out and admitting as much in the "National Newspaper of Wales" undermine his tactics?

Incidentally, who knows how deeply-rooted the make-believe-syndrome is in our political institution? Maybe Nick Bourne thought he was only spending Monopoly money...

What do you think?

Dewi Dau


Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Cheryl's Christmas present!

Out of a sense of civic duty and in reflection of Politics Cymru's attempts at increasing public engagement in all forms of politics, I provide you with a link to this blog post.

How wonderful of Cheryl Gillan to offer us this once-in-a-lifetime chance to make a difference! Quite a Christmas present from our Shadow Secretary of State, I'm sure you'll agree!

(Some useful PR for herself thrown in as well of course as she manages to cleverly lighten her workload but we won't make a fuss about that!)

Use your opportunity wisely!

Oh, and remember to respect Cheryl's three rules:

1) Nothing to do with tax - private members can't do this.
2) Nothing to do with the Assembly: plenty of legislation on this already
3) Nothing to do with Europe.

And you thought this was going to be easy!


Dewi Dau


Vaughan's Christmas spirit!

Translation of 'the politics bit' at the end of Vaughan Roderick's post: "Aros mae'r mynyddoedd bach"

We've been talking a lot recently about politicians' expenses and greed. If they misbehave they deserve everything they get. But here's another admission for you. On the whole I admire our Assembly Members, MPs and Councillors. The vast majority of them are honourable people who work tremendously hard for their constituents.

Merry Christmas to them all.

Translation by Dewi Dau


Monday, 22 December 2008

We'll keep a welcome...

Just been watching "Dom's on the case" where Dom Littlewood looked at the drugs lottery in Britain. An item on free prescriptions this side of the border saw one English village vote to apply to become part of Wales. Here's the story! The residents were dressed in traditional Welsh dress (or Dragon costumes), had replaced the Union flag throughout the village with the Draig Goch and had even renamed the local pub as Llanfairpwll......

But their application, sung to the tune of 'We'll keep a welcome', was dismissed by none other than the Assembly's youngest politician, Bethan Jenkins. Though proud of the way Audlem's residents had acknowledged how great Wales is, Bethan wasn't sure how feasible it was for Wales to suddenly start colonising middle-England!

It was quite worrying to see that the BBC's crew seemed to think the Millennium Centre is actually the Senedd: every reference to the Welsh Assembly was voiced over images of the WMC.

But at least the story shows things really aren't that bad here afterall!

Nadolig Llawen!

Dewi Dau


The name's Bourne - Professor Bourne!

This from Nick Bourne's personal blog:

"Imagine my surprise to receive a phone call from my former employer [Swansea Metropolitan University]. I worked there when they were Swansea Institute. I was employed first as head of Swansea Law School and professor of Law and then as Assistant Principal...Apparently a journalist had called them to ask if I was still entitled to call myself professor. I remember when I got the designation how proud my parents were that some of their considerable investment in money and especially time and energy had been rewarded. My friends found it a slight source of amusement and would call me prof. in a light-hearted way. I was never that fussed about the title and tended not to use it even when I worked there. Apparently as the journalist was roundly told I am entitled still to use the title – I don’t think I will be making too much use of it at work however.

And of course thanks to the journalist for there* interest!"

Is this the latest attempt by the Welsh media to find a way of ousting Professor Bourne from his post and if so surely this now amounts to a witch-hunt against the Tory leader?

Interestingly this is Nick's first post in a couple of weeks and no reference at all to iPodgate. Perhaps he's decided to follow Rod Richards' advice, and Alun Cairns' example, afterall!

*Equally enlightening is the fact that even professors can struggle with distinguishing between similarly sounding words! But their's no need to point it out to him: he has other things on his mind.

Dewi Dau


Hold your horses - says Dafydd Elis-Thomas

Anyone who bought today’s Western Mail will be in no doubt as to the stance held by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas on the referendum. The headline reads “Don’t rush law making referendum and mess it all up now”. The Presiding Officer and former leader of Plaid Cymru has always stuck with his conscience and is renowned for not always towing the party line, and today’s outburst is surely just another example. It’s not long remember since his position as Presiding Officer was in doubt following his comments about a newly appointed Israeli ambassador.

Lord Elis-Thomas says in the article that he feels 2011 is too soon to hold the referendum and believes that a vote on the future of law making powers in the Assembly should only be held when there is a clear 20% lead in the polls for the “Yes” campaign.

I wonder how his opinion sits with the rest of his party who have committed to a referendum at the start of or even before the 2011 term. I also wonder how his opinions will have been taken by Bethan Jenkins who (as is well documented by our blog) is desperately trying to get people thinking about a “Yes” campaign.

His timing seems a bit random to me. At this time of year no one is really concentrating on political news, what with shopping, wrapping and taking Woolworth sales to the cleaners to be done. Surely this is the worst time to make such a statement, if you want to make an impact? And with so long to go before the All Wales Convention reports back and no focus groups being held until January will people remember this article? I can’t see the Western Mail running the same headline again in five months' time. I’m not sure therefore that Lord Elis-Thomas is really achieving anything by doing this now.

He also takes the opportunity to have a swipe at Nick Bourne and his iPod by saying that it’s “reprehensible” that individuals receive allowances from Parliamentary bodies (although he accepts that he has benefited from this system) and is calling for a reform.

I suppose that the article will at least raise public awareness of the referendum debate, as it gets a good chunk of the Western Mail's front page. Whether people remember what he says however is another matter.

Dewi Un

Interesting point you make about the Convention there, Dewi Un.

And I feel that Lord Elis-Thomas has neglected this issue a little. Surely the whole point of the AWC is to provide the opportunity for active campaigning from both sides before a referendum is held towards the end of the current Assembly term. Failure to do so would undermine the Convention's role and would take us into a new Assembly term under a new Government with a new agenda (in London as well as in the Bay).

Where the devolution debate then goes from there will be anybody's guess.

Dewi Dau


Sunday, 21 December 2008

A Rod for Bourne's back

Nick Bourne will have been dreading picking up this week's copy of the Wales on Sunday, and understandably so. Predictably the paper does not make nice reading for the underfire Tory leader. Even Rod Richards has been wheeled out to offer his two-pence worth. "Time for him to go" is pretty much the message from Rod, backed up by the paper's Matt Withers.

Richards ridicules Bourne's justification for buying the iPod:

"He says he was using the iPod for speeches and learning Welsh. I’m sorry but there’s no politician who likes to listen to other’s speeches." Slight generalisation here by Rod: who knows maybe he would have been (even?) more successful with a few wise words from Churchill, Mandela and Blair!

"As for the Welsh – what is the end product? He has been learning Welsh for ages and I’ve never heard him speak a word of it. I occasionally see David Davies being interviewed on S4C but never Nick."

As for the trouser press, well: "That’s the kind of thing you use in a hotel" observes Richards.

So it all looks pretty bleak for Bourne. Who will replace him? Rod thinks he knows:

“Jonathan [Morgan] is an experienced hand by now and I don’t think it will be long before he has his feet under the table.”

There we go then, all done and dusted. But while we're at it, what do you think Rod had to say about Alun Cairns? Afterall did he not also divulge in the purchase - at the taxpayer's expense - of an equally expensive and unnecessary luxury?

"Alun has done everything within the rules but where he has been superior and cleverer than Nick is that he didn’t dream up some spurious explanation for the iPod. Nick was in a hole and kept digging. Alun was in a hole and climbed out."

Now there's a valuable lesson for life from Mr Richards! And that'll teach you, Nick, for trying to make up for what you've done and for being gracious and responsible enough to offer a justification to the great Welsh public. Next time you should just play dumb!


'Asked what the Welsh public would think of Mr Bourne’s reign as leader if he did leave his post, Mr Richards replied: "Nick who?"'

Now, Rod, I'm not sure that's completely true is it after 8 days of iPodgate, uncountable Bournewatches and lord knows how many Bourne Ultimatums over the past week!

Dewi Dau


Friday, 19 December 2008

Welsh Political Awards Ceremony

Whilst channel surfing last night (there is rarely anything good on a Thursday) I stumbled across ITV’s coverage of the “Wales Yearbook 08 - Welsh Political Awards” ceremony. I felt duty bound to watch and was intrigued at the outcome in some of the categories. Here is a summary of the results:

AM to Watch: Andrew RT Davies

MP To Watch: Jenny Willott

Campaigner of the Year: Nerys Evans

Local Politician: John Davies (Independent Councillor)

AM of the Year: Edwina Hart

MP of the Year: Paul Murphy

Politician of the Year: Lord Ellis Thomas

Lifetime Achievement Award: Dafydd Wigley

I was especially interested in three of the categories.

AM of the year Edwina Hart has had a controversial year, what with her plans to place herself and future Ministers for Health slap bang in the middle of the NHS in Wales. This move has caused opposition AMs to openly accuse her of over politicising the body and of expanding the realm of government too far.

But I can totally understand why she won this award. She is a ferocious politician and no matter what the opposition parties threw at her in the chamber she swatted them aside with a glare and some socialist rhetoric. I for one would not like to mess with Edwina Hart when she was angry!

What interested me about this selection was that I wondered why no one is talking up Edwina Hart as a possible successor to Rhodri Morgan? There is a lot of talk about Carwyn Jones and Huw Lewis both of whom don’t appear to carry the profile of Edwina Hart and don’t (as far as I can gather) command the respect that she does amongst fellow politicians. I’m certain that she would be the last pick of a centrist Labour Government in Westminster who would want to avoid having such an out and out lefty in charge of Wales, but I still dont understand why she wouldn’t at least campaign for the leadership? Only time will tell.

MP of the Year went to Paul Murphy which interested me because since he became Secretary of State for Wales, there seems to have been nothing but squabbling going on between the Bay and Westminster. The other MPs cant have done much this year if Mr Murphy took home the title.

Dafydd Wigley was presented with the lifetime achievement award, I wonder if this will help him in his push to become Lord Wigley?

Well those were my main pick ups from the evening, let me know if you agree with the results!

Hwyl am y tro

Dewi Un

P.S Next year I hope we will have an invite


Thursday, 18 December 2008

Bournewatch (6)

So the BBC have caught up with us! And here's a translation of Vaughan's thoughts on Nick Bourne's decision to pay the money back.

Clever...but slightly behind.

This move by Nick is cunning for many reasons.

First of all he's trying to ensure that only the iPod question is under discussion and so that people will forget about the trouser press and bathroom improvements. Secondly, and again by concentrating on the iPod, he's trying to draw Alun Cairns into the story. This might be a message to other Tories saying that he's not willing to walk the plank without taking others with him.

Not often does one quote Jeremy Thorpe these days but for some reason his reaction to Supermac's decision to sack half his cabinet in 1962 seems appropriate: "Greater love than this hath no man, that he lay down his friends for his life".

Will this latest statement work?

Well firstly, one must consider how quickly Nick's situation is deteriorating. It's only a day since he (and Alun) felt that charitable donations would be enough to quieten the storm.

A second move in less than twenty-four hours suggests one of two things. Either things are turning into wild panic at the Opposition leader's office or he's trying to wind down the clock until Christmas. If that's the aim he's likely to succeed but it would be foolish to think that would kill the story. As they say, "join us after the break..."

Translation by Dewi Dau


BREAKING, he hasn't resigned but...

...Bourne's going to pay us all back, and so is Cairns!

Conservative Party statement (18/12/2008; 07:22pm):

'Nick Bourne, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the National Assembly and his colleague, Alun Cairns, have reimbursed the National Assembly for the iPods bought from Assembly allowances.

Nick Bourne said:

“Although the purchase of these iPods was within the rules of the Assembly and authorised by the Fees Office, I recognise the perception that this expenditure was inappropriate.

Alun Cairns and I have decided therefore to reimburse the National Assembly for these items in addition to the charitable donations we have made.

“We apologise to the people of Wales and look forward to the results of Sir Roger Jones’ inquiry into Assembly Members allowances.

“Our group will be bringing forward its own stricter rules in advance of Sir Roger Jones’ report.”'

So does this draw a line under the whole affair? Can we - and The Western Mail - now move on? Or has the damage already been done? Is this just a final effort at holding onto the Tory leadership? If so, will it work? Oh, and what about the trouser press and bathroom improvements - should they also be reimbursed?

Dewi Dau


The Western Mail: a dog with a bone

Interestingly, "iPodgate" has been relegated to the shadows of page 10 today: a far cry from yesterday when the scandal dominated the front page and more. But The Western Mail just won't let go of its iBone. Try as Nick Bourne and his supporters might to prise it from the paper's jaws, our 'national paper' just won't release it. It wants blood.

After yesterday's stinging attack on Nick Bourne himself and calls for the leader of the opposition to step down, the WM has now opted for a change of approach. Today it's appealing to the Conservative Party and its supporters to face up to the damage Prof. Bourne has done to the party, urging them to realise that failure to respond appropriately will undermine its credibility.

"A party that is unable to provide coherent answers to these questions and by its inertia continues to support Nick Bourne" says the paper, "raises inevitable concerns about its ability to govern and its very integrity. Why should anyone trust such a party with their vote?"

The paper is openly determined to force Nick Bourne's resignation and seems prepared to do whatever it takes to succeed. After appealing to Nick's conscience yesterday, today it turns its attentions to the party's grassroots members, aiming to tempt them into a revolt against their leader.

Is it right for the Western Mail to hound (pun shamelessly intended!) Tory supporters in this way? Is it right for any paper to attempt to force political change? Is the Western Mail acting responsibly here?

As always your thoughts are most welcome.

Dewi Dau


Don't worry, Eleanor: you're still in the loop!

This from a Lib Dem press release (16/12/2008):

'Eleanor Burnham [Lib Dem AM for North Wales] has reacted with amazement after Cymdeithas yr Iaith revealed that the draft order to devolve powers over the Welsh Language is to be published on January 10.

Mrs Burnham said: "I am astounded that the first we have heard about the publication of the Welsh Language LCO has come from Cymdeithas yr Iaith.

"The Secretary of State for Wales was asked about this in the Assembly just last week, but refused to be drawn on an exact date."'

Mrs Burnham's source is a warm invitation extended to every AM to attend Cymdeithas' New Year's Rally:

"Dear Assembly Member,

You are invited to Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg - The Welsh Language Society's New Years Rally, which coincides with the publication of the Legislative Competence Order for the Welsh Language. The purpose of the rally is to highlight the principle that all legislative powers for the Welsh Language are transferred to the Welsh Assembly, and that we the people of Wales are responsible for our own comprehensive language measure that will ensure linguistic rights, equal status and a language commissioner that will allow Wales to develop into a fair and bilingual country.

CYMDEITHAS YR IAITH GYMRAEG by the Aneurin Bevan Statue on Queen Street, Cardiff
2pm, 10th of January:

Caryl Parry Jones
Morgan Hopkins
Bethan Williams
Catrin Dafydd".

I've spoken to a prominent member of Cymdeithas yr Iaith and apparently Mrs Burnham has taken the word 'coincides' a little too literally. What's more, and as was pointed out to me, the 10th of January falls on a Saturday. Few would expect news on the future of the Welsh language to break over a weekend.

So there we go, nothing for Mrs Burnham - nor anybody else - to get too excited about just yet...unless they're a fan of Caryl Parry-Jones!

Dewi Dau


Wednesday, 17 December 2008

No to Dafydd Wigley - Lordy Lord

Is anyone else genuinely surprised that Gordon Brown has allegedly been blocking Dafydd Wigley’s ascension to the House of Lords? If it’s true I wonder what the motive behind this action is. It’s been almost 12 months since the selection by Plaid of Mr Wigley and two others, former AM Janet Davies and Eurfyl ap Gwilym, was made. When the “Prince of Darkness” Peter Mandelson came back into government, he was made a Baron faster than you could say “resignation”.

Whilst the official line at the moment is that Plaid did not follow correct procedure, I do wonder how much truth there is in that. But the argument that Brown is purposefully blocking the decision by Plaid seems a little farfetched. Would a couple more dissenting voices in the Lords really have that much of an impact on the stuttering Brown premiership? Surely this was a golden opportunity for Brown to win some friends with the Nationalist movement whilst giving not all that much up in return. So I am a little confused. Had the whole Nick Bourne thing not kicked off (and been prolonged by the Western Mail) I wonder if this story would have had more coverage?

I doubt we’ll get an answer any time soon, seeing as Mr Brown can put off dealing with this thorny issue by saying “Sorry I’m too busy saving the World.” So I will have to remain frustratingly out in the cold wondering what the motives of the Government are on this one, because I simply don’t understand why they would want to tick more people off. Of course it could be that Plaid are simply rubbish at paperwork!

Any thoughts are welcome

Dewi Un


Bournewatch (5)

And so to the latest instalment of Vaughan Roderick's Bournewatch!

So where do things stand with the Conservatives?

Well the Western Mail's decision to commit pages one and three to a call for Nick Bourne's resignation will be a huge blow to him. I don't know who told Glyn Davies a week ago that this story would be "next week's chip wrapper" but they couldn't have been much more inaccurate. Although if you didn't know that it's been illegal for a few decades to wrap chips in newspaper you must be quite out of touch, perhaps sufficiently out of touch to believe that it's OK to claim expenses for an iPod and a trouser press.

Now there are some who say that this is no big deal and that politicians and journalists are just playing kids' games here.

Believe it or not, I don't disagree. But this is how political careers come to an end as a small matter pushes a party's members to act against their leader. There's no reason for Nick to block Jonathan Morgan's request for a group discussion - unless he senses what the outcome of that meeting would be.

Translation by Dewi Dau


Lies, Damn Lies And...

Just a quick thought...

There's a new ICM poll in this morning's Guardian that puts the Conservative party below 40% - MORI's monthly tracking poll also seems to concur.

What this means is that if there were a General Election tomorrow, a Conservative majority would be far from assured. Fancy your chances Gordon?

Dewi Tri


Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Bournewatch (4)

Translation of "Bournewatch (4)" by Vaughan Roderick

I have flu and so Bournewatch is happening from afar today.

Fortunately Betsan's keeping an eye on things. Glyn Davies, Peter Black and Bethan Jenkins have also made valuable contributions.

One of Bethan's points is especially appropriate.

"I used my discretion, and more or less thought 'What would the public be happy with AMs claiming, within reason?'"

Exactly. As Glyn points out, how on earth did Nick Bourne and Brian Gibbons, both of whom earn £90,000 a year, believe it was OK to claim five pounds for light bulbs (Nick) or £16 for a bouquet of Remembrance Sunday flowers (Brian)?

To be fair to our politicians there's one thing worth bearing in mind here. All these details were released as a result of freedom of information claims launched by the BBC and the Western Mail. Because of that some of them date back to 2006/2007. So referring to the current economic climate whilst judging our Assembly Members is unfair. Maybe there is more justification (a little) for claiming an iPod two years ago than there is now.

This brings us back to Nick Bourne and another pertinent point, this time raised by Peter Black:

"There is no doubt that the Tories seem to have come off worse from this latest publication of expenses. This is partly because they have made some unusual claims but also because of the dissatisfaction within the Conservative Group about Nick Bourne's leadership and the fact that some are using his expenses as a stick to beat him with."

All true. What must be remembered is that Nick knows, or at least thinks he knows, those on the front bench and within his party who are plotting against him. His failure to take disciplinary steps against them proves how precarious his position is. Will anything take place before Christmas? I would say 60:40 against.

Translation by Dewi Dau


Monday, 15 December 2008

Week of the Long Knifes - Will Bourne step aside?

As I’m sure you’ve been following dear readers (especially in Vaughan Roderick’s brilliant “Bournewatch”) Nick Bourne’s days as Conservative leader in Wales look numbered. Enough has been written about his dodgy dossier, his liking for IPOD’s and of course his facial plasters.

What interests me about the Conservative civil war is how it will play out eventually. Jonathan Morgan has claimed that he is not in cahoots with Darren Millar to overthrow Nick Bourne, senior AMs like David Melding have come out in favour of the beleaguered leader, yet there is still this sense of doom floating around Nick Bourne, a sense that he can’t seem to shake off.

How therefore can the conservatives oust Bourne without actually ousting him? As the main party of opposition in the Assembly, the Conservatives cant be seen spending their time fighting each other. This surely makes it perfectly plausible for Nick Bourne to “step aside” whilst the Assembly is in recess to allow for them to get themselves back in order before returning to the Senedd. This possibility makes the next few days very interesting.

The Conservatives have tried recently in Wales and the UK to be a sensible party (bar David Davies' by-election stunt). Less scandal, more scrutiny. In order to try and maintain this perception in Wales (which will be tough following the expenses debacle) they have to behave admirably to each other, so no knifing each other, or their leader, in the back. This surely means that the only way some Tory AMs are going to get their way and a new leader is if Mr Bourne decides that his time in the spotlight is over. And judging by his impassioned defence of his position, I for one can't see that happening.

Watch this space

Dewi Un


Wythnos ers i Kirsty Williams esgyn i frig y Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol yn Nghymru ac mae Aelod Cynulliad Aberhonddu a Sir Faesyfed yn barod yn ceisio symud ei phlaid ymlaen.

Heddiw mae hi’n ymweld ag Abertawe cyn teithio i’r gogledd ar gyfer cyfarfodydd ym Mae Colwyn a Wrecsam ddydd Iau.

Mae hi hefyd wedi lansio blog newydd a fydd yn tynnu deunydd blogiau niferus y Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol ynghyd. Ymhlith y blogiau hyn y mae gwefannau Peter Black, Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Aberafan a Chastell Nedd, a Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Undeb Myfyrwyr Caerdydd.

Gimic? Efallai. Ond ar yr un pryd dyma gam sy’n dangos parodrwydd yr arweinydd newydd i ddefnyddio cyfryngau modern er mwyn gwthio proffil ei phlaid. Mae ei chyfiawnhad hefyd yn ddigon teg:

“Blogs allow anyone to have their say. And they bring politics to wherever you are, not some building which may be hundreds of miles from your home” meddai Kirsty.

Ond rhaid holi faint o’r boblogaeth hŷn yng nghorneli cefn gwlad Cymru sy’n debygol o fynd ar y wê er mwyn darllen syniadau diweddaraf cefnogwyr y Lib Dems. Hoffwn hefyd dynnu sylw at y ffaith taw gwefan uniaith Saesneg yw hon ac felly pa siawns o herio Plaid Cymru yn eu cadarnleodd hwythau?

Ai achos o’r Lib Dems yn cydnabod taw ym mhoblogaeth myfyrwyr di-Gymraeg Cymru y mae cefnogaeth i’w chael yw hyn?

Amser a ddengys. Ond yn sicr does gan Ms Williams fawr o obaith ennill 31 sedd heb apelio at Gymry Cymraeg a'r rheini sydd dros oedran graddio!

Dewi Dau


Sunday, 14 December 2008

Vaughan on Bournewatch

In keeping with recent form Vaughan Roderick continues to challenge us with the frequency of his blogging.

But here are translations for his latest entries discussing Nick Bourne:

"Bournewatch (2)"

I can now be clearer about the story that Betsan and I have been alluding to all week.

It appears as though Nick Bourne has lost the trust of the Conservative group. From what I understand at least seven of the twelve members want to see a change of leader. What divides them are questions of when Nick should go and how he should be persuaded to do so. Basically, Jonathan Morgan's and Darren Millar's supporters have been playing a strategic game to make sure that theirs is the man who succeeds Nick.

There are murmurs that Jonathan and Darren are close to agreeing that Jonathan should lead the group with Darren as his deputy. There are also whispers that both will lead a delegation to tell Nick that it's time for him to go.

I should explain that it's Nick Bourne's behaviour over the whole 'dodgy dossier' fiasco that is at the root of all this - not the expenses he's just claimed. I understand that ever since the hassle some of the group's most prominent members and some of its most experienced officials have been locked out of the leader's strategy meetings. According to one source, Nick's "living in a bunker with Nick Ramsey and a handful of inexperienced researchers".

This is where the costs come into play. Apparently, if the public's response to Nick's expenses claims is unfavourable and damaging to the party a move will be launched against him within days. If the whole episode turns out to be no more than an August shower, Nick will survive until the New Year - but if the situation doesn't change he will not survive beyond it.

"Bournewatch (3)"

The fact that [Nick Bourne's] expenses claims are now a topic of discussion on the Conservative Home website is bad news for him. That semi-official website is widely-read and one which is used by the party to measure the temperature amongst their most loyal supporters. Perhaps less significantly the story is beginning to attract attention from other London blogs and websites.

We have mainly been discussing Nick's problem from a Cardiff perspective by asking if there will be a rebellion against him - and if so when it's likely to happen. But there is another way in which Nick could lose the leadership - via the intervention of the party in London through either David Cameron or Cheryl Gillan.

Nick is lucky that Assembly Members are already on holiday. But unfortunately for him, the MPs don't begin their holidays for another week.

Translations by Dewi Dau


Christmas Presents

As it’s coming up to Christmas, I thought we should enter into the spirit of the Nadolig here at Politics Cymru, so I’ve taken some time to draw up a Christmas wish list for the four main parties of Wales . A bit of light hearted fun for Crimbo.

Please post us some of your suggestions.


1) An AM with some charisma and profile to take over from Big Rhod after he’s hung up his boots.

2) A new Secretary of State for Wales, someone who’s a bit more pro devolution, so they can pass their legislative agenda without fighting with the Welsh Affairs Select Committee first.

3) Some good press

Plaid Cymru

1) (Early Present) The Welsh Language LCO gets Royal Assent

2) The All Wales Convention report back and say: “of course they want full powers, why were you worried!?”

3) The Barnett formula is remade and doubles the amount of funding Wales receives from central Government


1) A new Leader

2) A David Cameron Government in London

3) A long and deep recession

NB: Not an IPOD, they’ve got some already apparently

Liberal Democrats

1) A European Parliament member from Wales

2) A Welsh identity

3) A couple of AMs would be nice

Let me know what you think and post your suggestions!

Nadolig Llawen

Dewi Un


Saturday, 13 December 2008

Lembit reaching out to “real people”

Just found this article on the BBC's website: Opik made Daily Sport columnist.

Lembit says he wants his new political column to reach “real people” which I suppose is an honourable ambition.

But how many of the right-leaning readers of the Daily Sport are actually going to be converted by Lembit's wise words? And how will this play amongst his rural constituents, many of whom are probably more interested in the County Times than Celeb Babes and the colour of the new Big Brother diary room chair...

The more interesting part of the BBC article is that Lembit's Conservative rival Glyn Davies has commented on the story saying that the two of them have “different approaches” to politics – it doesn't take much to figure out what Mr Davies' line of attack will be come the next general election.

Take that line of attack coupled with a national Tory resurgence and it looks likely the Lib Dems could very well lose Montgomeryshire; a stronghold of theirs since 1983.

Dewi Tri


Friday, 12 December 2008

Trouble in the ranks?

You would think that Assembly Members would have learnt their lesson about claiming personal items on their expenses...apparently not.

There's now talk that this could cause more problems for Conservative leader Nick Bourne who's been highlighted as one of the Chamber's more excessive spenders (spending nearly £200 on an iPod – along with more than £11,700 on other things).

Bourne was in trouble earlier this year after a document he sanctioned criticised the First Minsiter's dress sense.

And now Wales Today have just been reporting that more than half of the Tory members are dissatisfied with Bourne's leadership.

Might this see a leadership challenge mounted before we return from the Christmas break? And who might lead the charge?

If you're curious, the BBC have been good enough to put expenses details online:

  • Document 1
  • Document 2

    Dewi Tri


  • Wednesday, 10 December 2008

    Vaughan Roderick: the condensed version

    It seems as though our friend Vaughan has gone into blogging overdrive recently (4 posts today alone!). We're not sure whether this is a test of our translation credentials or otherwise. Either way here's a translation of a couple of today's entries.

    "The long journey"

    Do you remember the language LCO - the application which was supposed to be published in the Spring?

    The Spring became Summer and the Summer turned to Autumn. Until today the promise was that the application would appear "before Christmas". In the Chamber today, the Secretary of State announced that Whitehall's departments had completed the process of studying the application. So the LCO will be published. When? Well, "in the new year".

    A few days ago I heard that some of Plaid Cymru's officers have written the song "All I want for Christmas is my language LCO". No chance.

    "Tick Tock" [*]

    The Assembly's Christmas holidays begin tomorrow. So why is it that most of the journalists in the Bay have chosen to work next week - and why are they calling that week "Bournewatch"?

    Could that be something to do with the publishing of the Assembly Members' expenses on Friday?

    Translations by Dewi Dau

    *I wasn't entirely sure how 'Tick Tock' is spelt and was encouraged to see that others are just as uncertain!


    Podcast #3: Hwyl yr Ŵyl - The Christmas (Number) One

    On this week's Podcast our reaction to Kirsty Williams' victory and is there any hope for the future of the Lib Dems?

    Also, is there any chance Peter Hain will be returning to government and why has the announcement on the AMs' expenses been delayed?

    Nadolig Llawen iawn a blwyddyn newydd dda i chi i gyd,

    Y tri Dewi


    Exclusive Interviews: Kirsty and Jenny

    I know it’s been a couple of days but it has been a busy couple of days so forgive me for not getting these up any quicker:

    Shortly after she won the leadership on Monday, Kirsty Williams spoke to me about her feelings, priorities and coalition possibilities...

    And not long after that I spoke to a disappointed Jenny Randerson:

    Dewi Tri


    Tuesday, 9 December 2008

    And the results are in!

    Diolch i bawb a bleidleisiodd yn ein pol opiniwn arlein.
    Thank you to all who voted in our Online Poll - not as accurate as we were led to believe...

    In third place: Kirsty (12 votes)
    Runner up: Jenny (18)
    But the winner is: I couldn't care less! (22)

    ...but then again, who knows?

    Maybe the contest just didn't do enough to interest those who simply don't care about the Lib Dems, about Welsh politics, and so on and so forth...(yawn). So even if the silver and bronze medal places in our survey may be up for dispute, who can say that the gleaming gold hasn't gone to the worthy winner?

    Kirsty may have her work cut out after all to get those 31 seats she's set her heart on!

    Dewi Dau



    Translation of "Wps!" by Vaughan Roderick

    "Anybody who claims to know when the economy is going to bottom out is being very foolish. Anyone who claims to know when the recession will end knows nothing"

    -Rhodri Morgan in a press conference this morning.

    "I am forecasting growth of between 1 ½ and 2 per cent in 2010. In the years after that, the economy will continue to recover."

    -Alistair Darling.

    Translation (though the quotes were already supplied in English!) by Dewi Dau


    Mike's Motives

    Someone once said that a politician never steps down voluntarily, there is always an ulterior motive. So I began to think more about the motivation behind Mike German’s decision to step down from the Lib Dem leadership.

    Is it simply because he feels that he has run his race? That he can’t take the Lib Dems forward? Or (drum roll please) is it that he has a higher ambition?

    "What can be bigger than leading your own party?" I hear you cry. Well listen up.

    Convention dictates that the Presiding Officer is from an opposition party (see where I’m going?) Plaid are picking up votes, and could very well be in Government again (in coalition). Some might say that Lord Ellis-Thomas should therefore reprise his role?

    So what experienced AM from an opposition party is there to step into the role? Well cor blimey Mike, you’re free nowadays!

    This is purely hypothetical of course but if I’m right you heard it here first!

    Dewi Un


    Monday, 8 December 2008

    Here Comes the Girl

    So it’s official, I couldn’t predict the outcome of a race between a tortoise and a hare! More importantly Kirsty Williams has been elected the leader of Welsh Liberal Democrats and by a far larger majority than ever expected (60%).

    I would like to point out at this stage that Politics Cymru were the first to break the story (check our Twitter feed!) I hope this reassures you, dear reader, that we have our finger on the pulse of Welsh politics.

    What does this mean? Well first thing's first, the Liberal Democrats have elected to go for youth over experience. The decision to elect Mrs Williams as leader is a clear statement of intent from the Lib Dems to try and rejuvinate the party and focus on attracting younger voters. We witnessed a lot of this strategy during the campaign with both candidates using social networking sites like Facebook and Youtube to drum up support.

    But what impact will this change have? Well some people that I have chatted to today have unkindly likened the outcome to putting a featherweight boxer in the ring with a heavyweight, and two middleweights (you decide who’s who), but I suppose that we will only begin to realise the impact of this historic decision when Kirsty Williams actually starts work as leader, so not long then (tomorrow's First Minister questions).

    There is one topic that I would like to open up for wider discussion, many of Kirsty Williams' supporters have claimed that she is youthful but also experienced, bearing in mind she has been in the Assembly since 1999. My question is, does the fact she’s been there from the start matter more than what she’s achieved? For example the oldest team in the football league is Notts County (1862) but they have achieved far less compared to Liverpool, Man Utd etc. Your thoughts are welcome on this point.

    Anyway Welsh politics has changed and we are all witnesses to a new dynamic in the Senedd, I for one am waiting to see what will happen next.

    Dewi Un

    (P.S apologies for all the sporting analogies)


    It's Kirsty!

    Dewi Un and I are down here at the Millennium Centre where Kirsty Williams is the winner (by quite some margin) of the Welsh Liberal Democrats' leadership election.

    It was announced little under an hour ago in front of a crowd of the party faithful that Kirsty had taken 60% of the vote!

    There's more going online in a bit (including some audio from the winner and loser).

    Are we surprised?
    Dewi Un certainly is! I am less so...

    Dewi Tri


    Sunday, 7 December 2008

    Gadewch neges...

    Stori ddoniol (a phennawd arbennig hefyd) yn y Wales on Sunday heddiw. Mae’n debyg bod yn rhaid i’n Haelodau Cynulliad wasgu 14 (ie, 14!) botwm er mwyn gwrando ar eu negeseuon ffôn! Fel mae’n digwydd, roedd Dewi Tri yno i weld cyfraniad holl-bwysig y Pleidiwr, Mohammad Asghar yng nghyfarfod y Cynulliad ddydd Mercher. Aelod Cynulliad De Ddwyrain Cymru oedd y dyn dewr a gwestiynodd gyfleusterau cyfathrebu ein sefydliad gwleidyddol.

    Stori ddoniol efallai ond mae yna gwestiynau eithaf difrifol yn ymddangos o’r holl beth. A fyddai mawrion gwleidyddol San Steffan yn gorfod ymdrafferthu â theclynnau mor syml â pheiriannau ateb fel hyn? Mae’n anodd credu y byddai gwleidyddion yr Undeb Ewropeaidd, ble daw ieithoedd lu at ei gilydd, yn gorfod gwastraffu amser wrth gadarnhau eu henwau, eu rhifau ffôn a’u hieithoedd er mwyn gwrando ar neges gan etholwr neu gydweithiwr.

    Sut all ein sefydliad ninnau obeithio cael ei hystyried yn gorff gwleidyddol aeddfed a chyfrifol os na all ein cynrychiolwyr ymdrin yn effeithiol â’r dasg weddol sylfaenol o wrando ar negeseuon ffôn?

    Anghofiwch y ddadl am ehangu’r cytundeb cyfansoddiadol. Wedi’r cyfan sut byddai Mr. Asghar a’i gyfeillion yn ymdopi â mwy o waith a chyfrifoldebau heb gyfleusterau addas ar gyfer eu defnyddio?

    Efallai'n gyntaf dylid galw’r technegwyr (os nad ydy hynny’n rhy gymhleth yn y lle cyntaf) a holi am beiriannau ateb newydd.

    Byddai gobeithion yr ymgyrch ‘ie’ dros y fath achos dipyn yn well, dybiwn i!

    Dewi Dau


    Saturday, 6 December 2008

    After the break

    A translation of “Ar ôl y toriad” by Vaughan Roderick

    The election to decide the next leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats is drawing to a close. Up until yesterday, 62% of members had voted. While this is a high percentage I would've expected a better response. After all the party has some two and half thousand members and a high proportion of those are activists. Of course it is possible that the percentage will have increased by the deadline on Monday. There's a tendency in postal votes either for people to vote straight away or to wait until the last minute. By the way, I've just noticed that the Lib Dems have chosen the name “Freedom Central” for their new headquarters in the Bay. A little more original than “Tŷ Gwynfor” round the corner!

    The BBC don't accept advertising but I'm going to make an exception! They're expecting your call now!

    Translated by Dewi Tri


    Friday, 5 December 2008

    Peter Hain - Not Guilty

    So Peter Hain has not been charged for his misdemeanour during the Labour Deputy Leadership race. The inquiry has decided that there is insufficient evidence to charge the former Secretary of State for Wales after his late declaration of £103,000 worth of donations.

    I’ve always wondered how he “forgot” to declare the £103,000 it’s almost as if he found the receipt down the back of his sofa one day.

    Speculation is rife as to whether he will return to Government, and as I far as I can see there are two contradictory perspectives.

    1) The Government is stuck between a rock and a hard place and bringing an experienced ex-minister back can surely only help the cause.

    2) With the government under pressure for its conduct during the Damian Green fiasco does bringing a disgraced MP back into the cabinet really help things? Because rightly or wrongly people are likely to associate him with electoral fraud.

    Either way the next few months will be interesting for the Neath MP.

    As always thoughts are welcome

    Dewi Un


    Footloose and fancy free...

    Translation of "Traed yn Rhydd" by Vaughan Roderick

    The Crown Prosecution Service's decision not to to take legal steps against Peter Hain will be a relief for the former Secretary. I think it's fair to summarise the decision thus: "there was a crime - but nobody was responsible for it" - i.e. the campaign's financial arrangements were a mess or to use Gordon Brown's word, they were "incompetent". From reading the decision it's also obvious that Peter himself was cleared quite early on in the process - the possible responsibility of some of his campaign's organisers can explain the length of the investigation.

    I wasn't able to say this before but I'm absolutely certain that the CPS has come to the right decision in Peter's case. I have a reason for believing this. Only days before the story about the contributions to his campaign broke I was at a dinner with Peter where we were discussing a similar squabble. He laughed heartily when somebody suggested he would have to glance at his own accounts. Either Peter is one of the best actors I have ever seen or he didn't have a clue that there was the slightest possibility of a problem.

    Adding to Peter's torment over the last months, of course, was the fact that this wasn't the first time he had been unjustly accused. If you're not familiar with one of strangest stories in our political history, the details are here.

    The next question is whether Mr Hain will be returning to the cabinet. I reckon that it's quite likely. If the Secretary of State for Wales post continues (and that's likely) it would be easy enough for Paul Murphy to make way. Nevertheless, it's unlikely, I would say, that such an event would happen before a more extensive reshuffle. Peter's advantage over Paul is that he can multitask and would be able to occupy another post as well as being Secretary of State for Wales. His reappointment depends therefore on the timing of further changes to the government.

    Update: I had forgotten that Peter was also facing an investigation by the House of Commons' Standards Commissioner. That also affects the timing of any reappointment.

    Translation by Dewi Dau


    Counting the costs...

    A review panel has been set up to examine if Welsh Assembly Members are good value for money.

    At £50,000 a year plus £13,000 expenses how could they not be?!

    On an interesting note, there was a question in plenary put forward on Wednesday to ask the Assembly Commission how much the recent Freedom of Information request on members’ expenses cost.

    The answer was £26,555.68.

    One might wonder how it costs quite so much money to add up…and how much will this next review of expenses cost?

    Dewi Tri


    Thursday, 4 December 2008


    Translation of “Gwahoddiadau” by Vaughan Roderick

    I’m not a man for invitations and events. This is despite having half a dozen or so arrive at my door every week.

    For example, the “Countryside Alliance” were holding a prize giving night in the Senedd Building. The invitation arrives under the name of Dafydd Ellis Thomas and prizes are to be presented by Elin Jones. Also present is Simon Hart the Chief Executive, who incidentally is the prospective Conservative candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembroke.

    How many Labour members will turn up I wonder? My guess is roughly the same number that would turn up to an appeal by the W.I, the establishment that is of course busy organising a bra exhibition. Not any old bra exhibition, but one based on the bra’s of famous Welsh women. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea and cant even hazard a guess as to what they’ll do next.

    Then tomorrow Amnesty International are putting a cage outside the Senedd building, to protest against Guantanamo Bay. There is I understand an opportunity for anyone to have a go inside the cage, and don’t be put off by the orange jumpsuit, that’s optional.

    Now I’m sure the farmers of the prize night are good lads (like this perhaps). I’m sure there is a noble purpose behind the bra museum, and I understand the point Amnesty is trying to make.

    But despite all this, excuse me if I’d rather go for a pint!

    Translation by Dewi Un