Monday, 28 June 2010

Nerys Going For It All

Nerys Evans, the Plaid Cymru AM for Mid and West Wales, announced earlier that she hopes to change seats. The 30 year old who has sat in the Assembly since 2007 said on Twitter that she’s put her name forward for nomination in the Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire seat .

“have put my name forward for the #plaidcymru nomination for Carms West and South Pembs for the Assembly election.”

This isn’t the first high profile potential constituency swap at the next Assembly election – remember that attack by Alun Davies on Blaenau Gwent AM Trish Law? Its over a year now since he announced his intention to run for her seat. Interestingly 50% of the Mid and West Wales regional AMs are now contesting other seats in the 2011 election. I wonder if there’s something in the water...

This isn’t the start of a mass exodus of regional AMs challenging for constituency seats – Peter Black has already ruled out standing in Swansea West for example. But it may be an indication that AMs who are looking to climb the party ladder feel that being a constituency AM gives them more legitimacy.

So what are Nerys Evans’ chances in Carms West and South Pembs? Well in the last two Assembly elections Plaid Cymru have not been that far behind there. In 2007 Angela Burns won the seat with only 250 more votes than Plaid Cymru’s John Dixon. But Plaid Cymru came third. With the 2007 vote being such a close race - two parties on 29% and one on 30% - anything is possible.

Angela Burns should still feel quite confident however given that the Conservatives had a 9.8% swing to them in Carmarthen West last time around. It makes even better reading for the Conservatives if you look at the Westminster election results there. Plaid Cymru nowhere near the top spot – fighting it out with the Lib Dems for third place.

So why take the risk? As the top name on Plaid's Mid and West list Nerys Evans is pretty much guaranteed to hold onto her seat in 2011. If Nerys Evans was moving to a safe Plaid constituency you could understand – but Carmarthen West? Am I perhaps being too cynical about politics? Could it be that as a local girl Nerys Evans just wants to fight for the chance to represent her local area?

Whatever the rationale behind it this is a big gamble by Nerys Evans. If it pays off it may give her more credibility as she moves up the Plaid ranks. But if it doesn’t - one of Plaid Cymru’s rising stars will be out in the cold this time next year.

Dewi Un

P.S Nerys Evans has yet to win the nomination –she has simply put herself forward.


Thursday, 24 June 2010

Child Poverty - Mini Progress Report

So this was published today – and it made me think, just how much progress has the WAG made in eradicating child poverty? :

“Deputy Minister for Children Huw Lewis has announced his intention to create several “pioneer” areas within Wales to pin-point best practice models of family support in our efforts to help lift children and young people out of poverty...”

(For more go here -

Remember the WAG has signed up to eradicating child poverty in Wales by 2020. They missed their target of halving child poverty by 2010 and one wonders, why has it taken ten years to start working on best practice for family support systems?

It also makes you think that more than ten years after the Assembly started work this was unveiled:;jsessionid=lYXJMjjp82LsT0nDQ5TgnzRmTDJn2ZNZGkbqTkZf6vyltM1QW5TJ!-395677726?lang=en

Currently in consultation phase the “Child poverty strategy for Wales and delivery plan” seeks to “set out the Welsh Assembly Government’s vision for tackling child poverty in Wales and improving outcomes for children and parents living in low income families”.

The consultation is due to finish in August. But why the need for another consultation? What’s been going on for ten years? Shouldn’t there be some sort of action plan already in place?

I appreciate that there’s been a change of First Minister in the past six months, but it’s still the same party (coalition accepted)in control – so why another consultation?

Department for Work and Pensions’ figures show that child poverty remains at the2007/2008 level of 32% for Wales. With a 192,000 children living in poverty and 126,000 of those in severe poverty. With less than ten years to go before the 2020 deadline, and a lot of work to be done, is the WAG doing enough?

Dewi Un


Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Broken Heart

There’s a very quiet crisis developing in the broadcast media industry in Wales.

In March Radio Ceredigon owners Tindle announced they had sold the station to Town and Country Broadcasting who, in turn, announced they would be moving the station from its traditional home (and indeed broadcast area) in Aberystwyth to Narberth in Pembrokeshire – already home to Radio Pembrokeshire, Radio Carmarthenshire and Scarlett FM. The station has been playing a mix of jingles and music ever since with the promise the new Radio Ceredigion will be along shortly.

Last week more than 50 jobs were lost in Caernafon as TV company Barcud Derwen went into administration while its neighbour Antena also issued some staff with redundancy notices. And this week another blow to the north west media industry as its owners announced Heart radio (formerly known as Champion FM and Coast FM) would be moving from its base in Bangor to Wrexham to form a new super station: Heart North West and Wales.

These days there are only a handful of people working out of the studios in Parc Menai (pictured) but the implications of the move are more wide reaching. For starters the station was obliged by Ofcom to broadcast a certain number of hours of Welsh-language programming every day, Welsh language news as well as Welsh music – none of these issues have been formally addressed by Global Radio to my knowledge.

They’re issues that have prompted a statement by Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Gymraeg – see a partial translation below:

Gerallt Roberts, a member of the Gwynedd/Môn branch of Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Gymraeg, said:

"For months Cymdeithas Yr Iaith has been in dialogue with officials from Heart FM about our concerns that the station no longer reflects the community it’s supposed to serve by playing a very high proportion of English music. We feel that the decision to move the studios from Bangor to Wrexham will do nothing to alleviate our concerns about the future of the station as a forum to discuss and reflect the full range of Welsh life in Gwynedd and Môn.”

Osian Jones, Cymdeithas’ organiser in the north added:

“This decision proves Heart FM isn’t serious about its claims to be a community radio station. We’ve been worried for months about the Welsh language offering on Heart FM, this decision will do nothing for Heart FM as a Welsh-language station for Gwynedd and Môn.”

“We’re asking OFCOM to reconsider the Heart FM licence, because it’s become obvious that the station no longer fulfils it’s licence obligations...”

That will be a tall order for Cymdeithas. Ofcom announced in April that radio companies would have far more powers to alter their licence obligations without seeking approval from the authority.

But the implication are wider still. Real Radio no longer wants to broadcast a radio station to North Wales, instead proposing a new national service (based in Cardiff) and other than Radio Maldwyn which is still going in Newtown there is no local commercial radio outside Cardiff, Swansea, Narberth and Wrexham.

So why do we care?

For starters there’s no longer a training ground for young talent in mid and north Wales. Aled Haydn Jones – now one of the most successful radio producers in the country – started his broadcast career at Radio Ceredigion in Aberystwyth. Many presenters on Radio Wales, Radio Cymru, Real Radio and S4C are veterans of these dying stations too. In the medium and long term, it could prove to be an almighty blow to the creative industries in Wales and an obstacle for any young people with an ambition to inform, educate or entertain through broadcast media.

And what of the local communities who listened to their local station to hear people who talk like they do and talk about the things they care about? The lives the presenters of the new Heart FM lead in London is far removed from the lives their listeners lead in Pwllheli, Menai Bridge and Conwy. In an era where localism seems to matter more than ever, and there are more powers being devolved to the Assembly and local authorities there will be fewer individuals keeping watch over them and fewer people informed of their activities as a result.

The future is very uncertain indeed. This is by no means the end of this story.

Dewi Tri


Cheryl's Welsh Questions

Just watched the honourable member for Chesham and Amersham’s first Welsh questions on the BBC’s excellent Democracy Live. Here are some highlights:

Cheryl Gillan announced that she has sent a preamble and question to the electoral commission – who will now road test them for 10 weeks. Mrs Gillan claimed that she’s done more in her short time in office on the issue than Peter Hain ever did.

Peter Hain took exception to her account of his work and wasted a question trying to vindicate his legacy. It’s nice to see such unpartisan politics on this issue.

Mrs Gillan again announced that she would be staying impartial during the referendum campaign – to which she was roundly jeered by the opposition benches . It appears than neither she or her junior minister have an opinion on the matter.

Alun Cairns, half in Cardiff Bay - half in Westminster, opened his Welsh questions account - jumping to the defence of the St Athans and calling for progress.

David Jones said that the treasury had more pressing matters to worry about at the moment, when quizzed on Barnett reform. He said the Government would wait until Holtham reported again in the summer before making any decisions.

John Bercow, the speaker, got stuck in a few times – keeping the MPs (especially Huw Irranca Davies) in check. Perhaps most notable was his impression of a primary school teacher. He made a point of telling Mrs Gillan to face the front when answering questions - just like teaching an Eisteddfod recital.


Hopefully the standard will improve as people get used to their new roles. The opposition will feel like they missed an opportunity today – they didn’t take advantage of a nervy Gillan and Jones.

The Labour frontbench wasted questions. Hasn’t Wayne David got anything better to ask other than “How many times have you been in Wales since your appointment?”. I understand the point he’s trying to make – but surely there’s a better way to make it? Plus Susan Jones had just asked a similar question minutes before.

But it was quite feisty at times, giving me hope of some Welsh questions gold in future.

Dewi Un


Monday, 21 June 2010

Brace yourselves

What can we expect in tomorrow’s budget? The government’s warning it’ll be a hard pill to swallow...but this morning’s Financial Times has new research that suggests it will be a slightly tougher pill to swallow for those in places like West Wales and the Valleys than it is for those in London and the South East:

I don’t suppose that’s anything new.

Will be interesting to see how it plays somewhere like Ceredigion...

Dewi Tri


Green Fingered

Darren Millar and Mark Isherwood have declared their shock in today’s Daily Post at the level of WAG spending on flora and fungi.

Over the past five years £175,000 has been spent looking after various shrubbery in WAG buildings – which, according to the two Conservatives, is far too much. Mr Isherwood *cleverly* uses gardening puns to get his message across.

“This Welsh Assembly Government must take a leaf out of the book of good financial husbandry and root out the deep waste in its own back garden.”

So just how much should an institution the size of the Assembly spend on its perennials? Would there not be outrage if guests and workers at WAG buildings were greeted by the sight of dead and dying daffodils? Don’t our AMs have better ideas how to save some cash?

Permenant secretary Gillian Morgan responded to Mr Millar and Isherwood by saying:

“Whilst plants have been used to improve the public and working environments in buildings with very low levels of natural light, these costs are currently under review given the current financial and economic situation.”

Interestingly £175,000 over 5 years is less than the cost of an AM for the same period – some may argue that the flowers are a better use of public money....

Dewi Un

P.S Here’s a good site for some green fingered cash saving tips – maybe the WAG should take note?


Friday, 11 June 2010

The Big Ideas

What now for Labour? The big question. It’s the subject of a 2 page spread in this morning’s Guardian G2 magazine. Journalist John Harris has asked 9 “leftwing thinkers” what “big new ideas” the party should embrace.

Here’s a selection:

  • Proper voting reform
  • Focus on fathers
  • Get more women into politics
  • Establishing a green investment bank

    The thinkers include Will Straw (from Left Foot Forward), Neal Lawson (Chair of pressure group Compass), Sunder Katwala (of the Fabian Society) and a little-known Labour politician called Carwyn Jones.

    So amongst the calls to put VAT on private school fees, introducing a 35 hour week and looking at breaking up this big banks, what are the big ideas our First Minister thinks will set the world on fire...

    Here’s an extract:

    “We need to clamp down on dangerous and nuisance driving. I get this time and time again on the doorstep: people complaining about cars racing up and down roads, a hell of a noise...we should fight the idea that speed cameras are a bad thing. They’ve saved a hell of a lot of lives.

    I also this we should investigate the activities of pubcos [big pub companies]. We’ve had a problem over the years with pubs being turned into flats and house - if you take a put out of a small community, you rip its heart out.”

    I wonder if these will be the transformational policies the Labour party need to revive their fortunes? You never know...

    Dewi Tri


  • Wednesday, 9 June 2010


    Welsh Lib Dems have come under fire for their No vote on an amendment to the Queen’s Speech proposed last night by the nationalist parties and the Green Party asking for Trident to be included in its Strategic Defence and Security Review.

    The amendment was voted down 27-330. Ayes included all three Plaid’s MPs, Caroline Lucas the Green MP and Welsh Labour MPs Paul Flynn, Nia Griffydd, Dai Havard and Siân James.

    Welsh Lib Dems Mark Williams and Roger Williams voted against the amendment.

    This morning Elfyn Llwyd said: “I am quite frankly aghast that two of the three Welsh Liberal Democrats have gone against their convictions, and their previous commitments that Trident should be included in the strategic defence review - if not scrapped altogether.

    “At a time when they are part of a government telling us that we must leave no stone unturned in finding cuts to make, they are happy to splurge £100billion of money that we apparently don’t have, on an immoral weapon that we will never use.”

    He goes on to bitterly attack both Williams’.

    Trident was specifically named by Mark Williams in a statement during the campaign as an area the Lib Dems would look to cut so that it would have no knock on effect to Welsh funding.

    It’s worth pointing out Plaid Cymru have been accused of similar hypocrisy over their coalition at the Assembly...well, they are politicians after all...

    Dewi Tri


    Tuesday, 8 June 2010

    No News is...

    The IFNC pilot proposal is dead. Under plans outlined in the Labour government’s Digital Britain report, they were set to fund 3 pilots (one in Wales) that would replace and run the news on ITV. The winning bidder was Wales Live, a proposal by UTV and North Wales Newspapers.

    Jeremy Hunt as Shadow Culture Minister argued all along these proposals were not in the best interest of the industry and promised to scrap them if he got elected. Job done.

    Earlier this year, the Welsh Assembly passed a motion by the Welsh Liberal Democrats supporting the pilot in Wales. At the time their spokesperson Eleanor Burnham said: “I believe that this pilot provides Wales with an opportunity to restore momentum to English-language news provision. It is vital for our democracy that the people of Wales receive high quality local news from more than one source.”

    The motion was opposed by the Welsh Conservatives.

    Today Mr Hunt, now the Secretary of State, said: “I have long believed that the lack of high quality local TV is one of the biggest gaps in British broadcasting. Why? Because, ironically, in an age of globalism people feel the need for stronger not weaker connections to the communities in which they live...

    “[The] plans for Independently Funded News Consortia were misguided.

    “They had the positive benefit of stimulating new and imaginative thinking amongst local media companies for which I am grateful – and I want to carry on talking to those who submitted bids about your ideas.

    “But, fundamentally, they were about subsidising the existing regional news system in a way that would have blocked the emergence of new and vibrant local media models fit for the digital age.”

    See a full transcript on the DCMS website.

    Plaid Cymru have been the first to respond today. Their MP for Arfon, Hywel Williams, said: “In a country with very few news outlets and many difficult political decisions ahead – the referendum and next year’s Assembly elections to name but two – this is disappointing news for the Welsh public, who will now not be allowed a wider spectrum of news.

    “I am extremely disappointed that the ConDem government have not at least allowed these pilot schemes to get underway to see whether or not they do work. It appears that the time and effort put into these developments have been wasted.”

    So what does this mean for national news in Wales? There’s a fear in the industry that ITV, having pledged their commitment to local news will seek to further cut budgets with unknown consequences.

    Jeremy Hunt will publish further plans for local media in the autumn so I guess we’ll find out then – it’s often been said his favoured option is city-based TV (a licence for such a station in Cardiff was awarded last year but no one has used the spectrum since) but the viability of such proposals was brought into question by the demise of Channel M earlier this year.

    So what awaits the Welsh media? We’ll wait (slightly nervously) and see...

    DISCLAIMER: The Dewis (Steffan Powell and Glyn Tansley) worked on the IFNC proposal for Tinopolis – a rival of the Wales Live bid

    Dewi Tri


    And the nominees are..

    Choosing Select Committee Chairs is a long and drawn out process - and I'm not an expert in the ins-and-outs of it!

    I do know however that the Welsh Affairs Select Committee will be chaired by a Conservative and as the nomination process draws to a close the only Conservative (or indeed Member) to be nominated for the Chair of Politics Cymru's favourite committee at Westminster is Mr David Davies of Monmouth.

    Guto Bebb and Alun Cairns are among his backers.

    The elections are being held tomorrow so there's still time for any other keen Conservatives to put their names forward - but I wonder if they will? Given Mr Davies' backing for the True Wales campaign, I can't imagine he's going to be many devolutionists' favourite choice...

    The House of Commons has a full list of all Select Committee Nominations (up to the end of yesterday) together with their list of nominators. Nominations close tonight.

    Dewi Tri


    Wednesday, 2 June 2010

    For One Night Only...

    Usually when an MP isn't an MP any more they take up a job as a consultant or a lobbyist or perhaps even as a non-executive board member. I think it's fair to say Lembit Opik was never a usual we probably shouldn't have assumed he'd be a usual ex-MP either.

    This evening he'll be appearing as a stand-up comedian at Cafe Koha in Central London. £7 entry. I wish I could be there. Really I do.

    Dewi Tri


    Tuesday, 1 June 2010

    Setting the date

    When the new Con/Lib Government at Westminster announced the date of the next UK General Election it raised more than a few eyebrows in Cardiff Bay and at Holyrood because it clashed with something else they had planned for that particular day in May 2015...

    Now an adviser to the United Nations has warned of the extent of the dangers of holding the two elections simultaneously. This article from The Guardian over the weekend is focussed on the Scottish perspective but much the same arguments apply to the Assembly.

    Previously on this issue, Vaughan Roderick has blogged:

    "I don't think for a second the Electoral Commission will allow the two elections to go ahead on the same day.

    So what are the alternatives? Extending or shortening the fourth Assembly would be a possibility but there is another solution. They could postpone the 2011 election for a year.

    Perhaps I'm cynical for suggesting it but that would suit certain parties down to the ground."

    Hmm...I'm not so of the legalities or practicalities of that...I think it's more likely this is going to be one of those issues that rolls on and on well into the next Assembly and prove to be another point of contention between the administrations in Cardiff and Westminster.

    Dewi Tri