Friday 20 August 2010

What does losing look like?

In an interview with the BBC, Nick Clegg has confessed his party is likely to lose ground in the next couple of years:
In an interview with the Westminster Hour, to be aired on Sunday evening, he conceded that his party was likely to suffer in the local elections next May, saying: "I think it is one of the oldest rules in politics that parties in government... tend to get a dip in their popularity."

"Do I think we are going to be able to defy those rules of gravity at a time we are taking very difficult decisions on deficit reduction?" Mr Clegg added.

"No. I think that is unlikely."
No surprise there but how badly could the party lose out in Wales at next year's Assembly elections?

Taking into account current polling trends, I've tried to think ahead (far ahead) to next May to see what the outcome might be for the Liberal Democrats here. Much like predicting the weather though - changes in the political climate between now and then will inevitably change this outcome...

At the moment the party hold 3 constituency seats (Brecon and Radnorshire, Montgomeryshire and Cardiff Central) and 3 of the regional seats (in North Wales, South Wales West and South Wales East).

Brecon and Radnorshire

Kirsty Williams’ seat. If they lost here it would be a devastating blow to the party in Wales and across the UK. Ms Williams holds a majority of 5,000 in the seat she’s held since the creation of the National Assembly. Her nearest rival was a Conservative while Labour and Plaid came a distant 3rd and 4th. If the Lib Dems were going to lose this seat, one would have to ask to whom would they lose it? Labour need to find 13,000 votes if they’re to come close – that’s about as many as they, the Conservatives and Plaid had at the last election here. Roger Williams’ majority over Labour and Plaid is even more impressive and with Lib Dem voters unlikely to abandon the party to vote for the Conservatives I dare say Kirsty Williams could well cling on.


They lost this seat at the General Election, and this time they don’t have an incumbent candidate. It wouldn’t be a total surprise if the Lib Dems aren’t able to get their vote out here because of the coalition deal, while the Conservatives are – they could well take this seat. However, like Brecon and Radnorshire, all other parties come a distant 3rd and 4th in Montgomeryshire and the Conservatives (who traditionally don’t always have the best showing in Assembly elections) might struggle to meet expectations – after all having Lembit Opik as his opponent probably helped push Glyn Davies over the mark in May. I’d put Montgomeryshire as too close to call.

Cardiff Central

Jenny Randerson made an all important breakthrough for the party by winning this seat in 1999. The area had traditionally been Labour but the Government in Westminster wasn’t quite living up to expectations (as they never do) and so the Lib Dems snuck in – winning the corresponding Westminster seat in 2005. The tables could well turn this time around. Labour need an increase of 7,000 votes this time but anger and frustration might just about rally their supporters enough, and bear in mind Jenny Randerson is standing down this time too. This seat could well be a loss for the Liberal Democrats next year, they’ll be fighting bitterly to save it.

The Regional Seats

Due to the peculiarity of the Additional Member Voting system the more constituency seats the party loses the more regional seats they pick up (that’s assuming the vote doesn’t completely and utterly collapse).

If the party lost the Powys seats they would almost certainly pick up a seat in Mid and West Wales – likewise in South Wales Central. Because of their poor showing at constituency level in South Wales East and West but a reasonable vote on the list (by comparison to other parties) those seats would likely not be lost.

Their North Wales seat is under threat (that’s Eleanor Burnham). The party polled just 15,000 votes across the whole region at the last Assembly election while other competitive parties all had more than 50,000. The Conservatives could well gain some constituency seats, as could Labour, and Plaid look competitive. If any constituency seats change hands and the Lib Dems lose regional votes (and they don’t have to lose that many) through a fluke of maths (and democracy I suppose) they will lose this seat.

So where does that leave them?

Not looking too shabby actually – but then they are starting from a low base. The party is unlikely to gain in the Assembly election but they may only come away with a net loss of 1 or 2 seats. Which wouldn’t be devastating. They always did want to break that six seat deadlock they’ve had since the Assembly came into being but it’s a long way of Kirsty’s Project 31...

Dewi Tri


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