Thursday, 30 April 2009

Watch the Flood!

Just a quick one.

The Assembly sustainability committee launched an inquiry into flooding yesterday at St Richard Gwyn High School in Barry. The whole committee was there (except for some reason the two Plaid members of the committee and Angela Burns) plus a special guest. A certain Mr Alun Cairns also popped in, so concerned must he be with the problem of flooding that he made the trip to a school outside his constituency. I wonder if he would have gone to a school in say Ceredigion or Clwyd?

Am I being overly mischievous to suggest that the only reason Mr Cairns was there (and incidentally hosting their prize giving night tonight) is because he is desperately trying to garner support for his push for Westminster? Lorraine Barrett certainly thought so and gave him a stern stare when he addressed the hall full of school kids, press, teachers and parents, she also had a few choice words for the Parliamentary candidate.

I’m sure Alun Cairns would say, “a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do” (even if it does mean being shameless).

An interesting insight none the less.

Dewi Un


Wednesday, 29 April 2009

How many billions?

Andrew Davies (the Labour one) has made somewhat of a slip-up - massively overestimating the future of the Welsh economy in a statement to AMs. Mr Davies (a possible candidate for the top job remember) mistook Alistair Darling's (the man with the best eyebrows in the business) budget to mean that the UK government has to find £9billion worth of efficient savings between 2011 - 2014. However what the budget ACTUALLY said was that efficiency savings would have to rise to £9billion PER YEAR by 2013-2014 - the difference is massive and has a big impact on Wales' settlement.

Perhaps it was a slip of the tongue (although it was a pre-prepared statement); perhaps he genuinely made a mistake, which happens to everyone. But it can't strike confidence into the heart of the Welsh populace to know that the man in charge of the Welsh purse isn't sure of his sums!

It also can't bode well for his leadership bid - if he still wants it; will 6 AMs still stick their neck out to support him after yesterday's events?

Who knows?

Dewi Un


Monday, 27 April 2009

Podcast #19: Technical difficulties

We're not the only ones with technical problems: we've got the Labour party, the local government association and our old friend the LCO process who are all facing troubles of their own.

Welcome back to the Politics Cymru podcast - it's a Monday but we're here anyway!

As always we love your thoughts and comments so please keep them coming.

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Y Tri Dewi


Dewi Tri visits Labour Conference

So this weekend saw the final episode in the spring party conference series as Labour members from far and wide gathered in Swansea's Brangwyn Hall.

Eventually Politics Cymru was allowed entry and we are grateful to the Labour staff for allowing Dewi Tri to attend yesterday's events at such short notice. As many of you already know, due to security concerns - and, it must be said, our own sluggishness in applying for accreditation (how dare us assume that Labour would be as accommodating as the other parties!) - we were barred entry on Friday and Saturday.

But we are nothing if not persistent here at PC HQ and we gladly packed Dewi Tri off to the final day of conference where he bumped into Secretary of State for Wales, Paul Murphy.

In a wide-ranging interview the Minister was quizzed on the language LCO, Europe and Cardiff's relationship with Westminster.

Dewi also had a chat with Carwyn Jones and asked what values Rhodri Morgan's successor would need to bring to the table (he's very subtle is Dewi Tri!).

And last but not least, here's an interview with Leighton Veale, one of Labour's candidates for the European elections.

So plenty of fighting talk from all three Labour representatives but what are your thoughts on what each one had to say? Did Paul Murphy's response to Dewi Tri's question about the way the language LCO is being dealt with convince you?

Let us know.


Sunday, 26 April 2009

Vote Labour because it could be worse!

Doesn’t exactly have you running for the ballot box does it?

I've just got back from this weekend's Labour conference in Swansea where Politics Cymru was eventually allowed in (Labour are apparently pickier about who they let in on the main days of their conference). So baring in mind I'd missed all the big names (Rhodri Morgan, Harriet Harman, John Prescott and even Gordon Brown himself) it shouldn't really be a comparable experience to the Plaid and Lib Dem conferences (also my audio recorder broke so there are fewer interviews to put up).

On the whole today didn't seem like the place everyone wanted to be. There were a few cheery faces outnumbered considerably by their more tired-looking counterparts.

Paul Murphy’s speech didn't help.

There were a few half-hearted rounds of applause for party members, Rhodri Morgan and taxing rich people but otherwise the hall was quiet and unexcited throughout.

The line from Paul Murphy was the same line we've been hearing from Labour for decades: Tories bad, nationalists bad, Liberals irrelevant. Vote Labour!

Leading party members wanted this weekend to remind everyone why they were Labour in the first place: social justice, compassion and community and the fringe events certainly seemed to reinforce those values.

So what about Europe? Well all the candidates were there and on show but there wasn’t a great deal of optimism. We "hope" to return two members, "It's going to be tough".

This from the party who have dominated Welsh politics for the better part of the last century.

Rhodri Morgan was still about too but there’s still no word as to when he might choose to go so we're all left with this vague date of his birthday at the end of September with most too afraid to ask for a more specific timescale.

I was told the troops were rallied, I was told there was a renewed sense of optimism and excitement. Maybe it was on show the rest of the weekend but it wasn’t really visible today.

Dewi Tri
PS with a bit of luck there's going to be audio from Paul Murphy, Carwyn Jones and Leighton Veale coming soon!


Friday, 24 April 2009

Welsh Language LCO - putting the con into consultation?

The Welsh language LCO saga will take a new twist on Monday when it comes under parliamentary scrutiny. Ministers from the Assembly and Westminster MPs will face the Welsh Affairs Select Committee to argue the case for transferring powers to legislate over the language to Cardiff .

Those hoping Westminster will simply bow down and send Cardiff's messengers back with pockets full of linguistic rights and responsibilities should not hold their breath.

David Cornock says:

"Wayne David, if prompted, is expected to refer to the results of a Wales Office consultation exercise that insiders say proved overwhelmingly hostile to the idea of extra responsibilities on business to offer services in Welsh."

If you believe those at Welsh Ramblings (who suddenly seem to have become a blog, a pressure group and a think tank rolled into one over the last couple of weeks), that consultation will be hostile purely because of the way Paul Murphy has gone about gathering feedback from stakeholders.

"Has the Welsh Secretary tried to stitch up his 'consultation' up good and proper? You could reach that conclusion." - that's pretty much the gist of the WR message.

You can see who exactly received the letters here because some thoughtful, quick-minded individual has decided to take full advantage of the FOI Act.

So what does all this mean?

Looking beyond the moral implications, things do not look good for the Secretary of State, nor do they look particularly healthy for the future of the language LCO, for the One Wales Coalition or the future of the Cardiff-Westminster relationship (although perhaps that particular bond is already in intensive care).

If Plaid fails to deliver this LCO in a way that is satisfactory to its core support - already annoyed over the tuition fees developments - (more) serious questions will be asked about its role in government. And if the London administration cannot cooperate with its Cardiff counterpart today, imagine how things will work if and when the Conservatives enter government.

Those devolutionists within Welsh Labour who are planning on using the argument that 'Wales needs to take another step forward in the devolution process to escape the clutches of centralist government which is putting obstacle after obstacle in front of LCOs' when David Cameron's party is elected, will have no leg to stand on. Because afterall isn't that what the Labour Party seems to be doing now?

Any further difficulties in transferring powers over this LCO to Cardiff Bay will of course consolidate Labour power in Westminster. For now. But that will mean little if the Conservatives are elected next year. Meanwhile in the Senedd....

"Historic" is a word used almost daily in Welsh politics, but a small landmark looms next week," says Cornock.

He's not wrong.

Dewi Dau


Vaughan, Lembit and the Daily Sport

Translation of Jingo , by Vaughan Roderick
(yes, this post is almost two days old, but it made me giggle)

I have a sore head after trying to understand the budget's implications on Wales' government. Why not take a break in the company of Lembit's column in the Daily Sport: "Tackle these daft frogs"?

"I HOPE you didn't try getting the ferry to France this week because the English Channel was shut. A fleet of French fisherman got themselves all wound up about their fishing quotas. British fishermen would have signed a petition and marched round Westminster waving their tackle in the air... let's hope the situation gets sorted before the French run out of cider, we run out of onions and Daily Sport babe Gemma Massey has to dress up like Vera Lynn and fly across to sing about Bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover."

I can't stand more but before turning back to the treasury's big red book let's quickly read the latest about the Daily Sport's campaign regarding the celebration of St George's Day.

"There is a widespread feeling that mass immigration has confused our sense of identity. Many of our values and tradition are under attack from PC loonies, Islamic extremists and Eurocrats"

Worse than that,

"Saint George's Day is in serious danger of being forgotten.. half of English people have no idea what our national hero did."

Perhaps they also don't realise that George is patron saint for Catalonia[*], Portugal, Lithuania, Ethiopia, Russia and Palestine and a handful of other countries in addition to England. It may be an idea for one of the "mass immigrants" from those countries to offer religious education lessons!

Translation by Dewi Dau

* For those of you interested the Barcelona crest makes reference to St George


Thursday, 23 April 2009

What's this? No Podcast?

That's right. Unfortunately we're having major technical difficulties which means we can't get the Podcast up this week.

We're going to try and do a special at the beginning of next week to talk about the budget and the return of the Assembly Members to Cardiff Bay.

In the meantime we'll keep blogging so have a great weekend.

Y Tri Dewi

PS all you really missed was Dewis Un and Tri squabbling over budget figures anyway!


Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The Budget, Barnett and Consequentials

I've just had the craziest day of my life which included being allowed into the Commons to watch Darling deliver his latest budget and holding up Robert Peston in the dinner queue.

But I digress! It's been a confusing afternoon but I hope to alleviate that somewhat help understand this post better it might be worth taking a look at Dewi Un's post from earlier this evening first then get back to me!

After the budget I was in a press briefing with the Secretary of State for Wales who told us that Wales would be getting £216m less revenue funding than they were supposed to be getting according to the Comprehensive Spending Review of 2007 (confused yet? Just wait...).

He then said that taking into account the “Barnett consequentials” which total £60m (and by that he means a proportion of revenue to be spent on things like Mr Darling's plan to invest in further education development etc.) there would be £156m less in total than was predicted 2 years ago (ie £216m-£60m=£156m).

Still with me?

However, the Welsh Assembly Government has since released figures (first published on Betsan's blog) that imply the £60m had already been taken into account when calculating the £216m.

These budgets are very confusing things.

ITV and PA are both reporting Paul Murphy's assessment as fact while the BBC are using this £416m estimate (which also includes £200m of capital funding which was carried forward to the end of last year so we've known about it for ages).

I suppose £60m here, £60m there, sooner or later it's starts adding up to real money...

Either way it's not great. It means that the Welsh Assembly Government isn't getting as much money as it was told it was getting and it also means that there is a distinct lack of communication between the Welsh Office in Whitehall and Ty Hywel in Cardiff Bay.

Politics Cymru will be looking into the figures properly tomorrow and expect more discussion in the weekly Podcast but from this Dewi who's just come back from a round trip to London it's time for bed!

Nos da
Dewi Tri


Y Gyllideb / The Budget

Not quite £500 million but close enough. Alistair Darling's budget has cut the Assembly's spending power by £416 million - £216 million from revenue funding and £200 million in capital funding.

The First Minister has put on a brave face, saying that they can make enough savings in places without affecting frontline services. Well let's hope the WAG are skillful enough and find enough loose change down the back of their collective sofas to protect health, education etc...

Others are not so optimistic, the opposition parties (I'm counting Plaid here), the WLGA and countless pressure groups all expecting some bleak days for the public sector in Wales, and calling on the WAG to prioritise protecting this budget and that budget...

Some good news: your old banger may get you a couple of grand, you may get some work or training if you've been unemployed for 12 months and under 25, and there's also some more help for pensioners. The SNP are chuffed because Rhodri Morgan's candidness about the impact of the budget has helped them score some political points over the not so forthright Scottish Labour Party.

The full implications are as yet unknown, I look forward to a full debate on the issue in tomorrow's podcast.


Dewi Un


Dewi Tri meets Dr Alan Butt Philip

Doctor who?!

Dr Alan Butt Philip is the Welsh Liberal Democrats' lead European election candidate. There's a bit more about him here.

Dewi Tri bumped into Dr Philip at the conference last weekend and asked him how the campaign was going:


Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Peter Black and friends talk to PC

Politics Cymru caught up with an avid reader of this blog at the Liberal Democrat party conference. Peter Black, AM for South West Wales, told us how the Lib Dems were attracting new voters froma cross the political spectrum.

Mike Powell is a Rhondda Cynon Taf councillor and he spoke to us about how he thought Kirsty Williams was getting on in her first conference as party leader.

Chair of Angelsey County Council, Aled Morris Jones discussed the party's chances of having a WLD MEP elected in June's European elections.

And we also spoke to the party's leading candidate for the European elections, Dr Alan Butt Philip. That chat coming soon!


Sgwrs a chlonc yng Nghynhadledd y DemRhydds

Ac felly o'r diwedd dyma gyfweliadau Cymraeg o gynhadledd gwanwyn y Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol yng Nghaerdydd.

Fe ges i gyfle i sgwrsio ag Aelod Cynulliad Gogledd Cymru, Eleanor Burnham am gael ieuenctid i ymddiddori mewn gwleidyddiaeth. Bues i hefyd yn siarad efo'r Cyng. Aled Morris Jones - cadeirydd Cyngor Môn am Ewrop a phŵer niwclear.

Dewi Dau


Monday, 20 April 2009


Here's Lembit Opik, Lib Dem MP for Montgomeryshire (and the Daily Sport's political columnist in his spare time), talking to Dewi Un at the weekend's party conference in Cardiff.

KW underestimates herself, he says. Is that accurate? She seemed pretty confident to us on Saturday! What do you think? As ever let us know!

Also check out this updated video interview with Eleanor Burnham where she talks about Twittering and neuro science!


Nick Clegg speaks to Politics Cymru

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, was in Cardiff on Friday night to greet the party's membership at the Welsh Lib Dem spring Conference.

Dewi Un and myself caught up with Mr Clegg as he was tucking into a ham sandwich in one of the Angel Hotel's suites.

Here's what he had to say:

Unfortunately there was no time to ask any further questions - these political leaders are busy people, don't you know!

But we thank Mr Clegg for affording us a few minutes of his time. What do you make of what he has to say and of his vision for devolution?

Dewi Dau


Sunday, 19 April 2009

And in the yellow corner...

Picture the scene, a hall full of people (lets say 150 people - feel free to correct me), some music reminiscent of Rocky Balboa and a slideshow of Kirsty Williams doing her thing: Kirsty with some students, Kirsty at a hospital, Kirsty on the farm (you get the idea). The tension grows, which door will she emerge from?

To a rapturous reception the new leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats strides into the hall ready to deliver her first speech to the party faithful. If you didn’t already know, the introduction was making it painfully clear that the Lib Dems have a new leader and a new image. (So keen to impress this upon us there was an absence of a certain Mike German)

So with everyone ready, the room falls silent waiting for the messages to come - blow by blow. So what do we get, a new direction? Some new policies? Anything new? Something original?

Not so much, what we get is a speech that tells us “liberal principles are the answer to Wales' problems”. Now correct me if I’m wrong but haven’ t the Lib Dems been telling us this for a while now? So much for the new direction.

I may be over egging the pudding a little here but the point I’m trying to make is that throughout the weekend everyone was talking about Kirsty Williams' first conference, about her first speech. There was a feeling of a new direction, a new start for the party in Wales. Coupled with an introduction that was dramatically over the top, fireworks were expected. After all this, to then be told exactly the same thing that we have been told for the past however many years was a little anticlimactic.

The whole event felt a little staged, I wrote on my notepad that it was very “Eisteddfodol”, which some of you may understand. This feeling came from the dramatics at the start, the wooden pleasantries, the communications director giving signals from the back of the room and a tone of voice that was more akin to someone addressing a football stadium rather than a room of roughly 150 people. Now of course I know all these things are stage managed in microscopic detail but the trick is surely to try and make it feel real, honest and engaging.

Now to the content. One of the headlines from the speech was that the Lib Dems in Wales would lower taxes for middle and lower income families. This principle is all well and good but why spend time in your first speech to conference as leader to spell out a policy that the Assembly doesn’t have the power to implement? And surely everyone knows this already about the Lib Dems, so why spend so much time on it?

In saying this there was also some clear timely messages put forth by Kirsty Williams - help people not banks, time to move away from sleazy politics, time to believe in Liberalism in Wales, time for greater elected accountability.

I ask myself whether I was expecting too much? I also ask myself does a leopard change its spots? It seems to me that Kirsty Williams needs more than 4 months to forge a new direction, a new image and a new future for the party.


Dewi Un


So, what's wrong with the Liberal Democrats? #wldconf

Big ideas and sweeping statements were the order of the day at the Welsh Lib Dem conference this weekend but there's not many among us who think the little party will make a big dent at the upcoming Euro elections and they may even lose ground at the next general election. So why aren't we voting Lib Dem?

My two colleagues were so impressed with the Plaid operation two weeks ago that the Lib Dem conference had a lot to live up to. The one thing to point out about the whole occasion was that it wasn't by any stretch of the imagination a shameless plug for the party but seemed like a genuine opportunity for members to come together and talk about policy (and have a pretty good time in the evenings by all accounts).

So it wasn't slick. It wasn't modern. It wasn't particularly fresh. What we got was much of what we had expected. Many of the same ideas the Lib Dems have been banging around for years on Europe, taxation and more 'democratic accountability'. Much of it was met with a shrug from the media, a sort of 'so what'? Where's the news angle?

The predicament the Lib Dems find themselves in then it seems is that democracy is pretty boring!

It's ironic that a party that comes together at conference to actually talk about issues and to vote on the party's policy gets met with indifference while the Plaid conference that was a great show and a 'demonstration of unity' - but achieved very little policy-wise - gets lauded as a great success.

The big problem for the Lib Dems is this: the party's about to face some tough challenges, a Euro election where despite talking tough they stand very little chance of actually gaining a seat in Wales; then after that a resurgent Tory party will challenge them in 2 out of 4 of their Westminster seats while a well-funded Plaid Cymru are campaigning harder than ever and could well hurt the Lib Dems by squeezing them as the 'other party of the left' picking up disaffected Labour voters in the south.

So is it just that we don't need the Lib Dems in Wales? The country's quite left as it is, even the Welsh Tories are closer to the left than the central party. What is it that the Lib Dems offer that the other parties don't?

I should point out that there are things. But the Lib Dems probably need to make more of them. Maybe they do need to put on more of a show at conference, scrap much of that democracy lark - much like the Labour party did a few years ago.

Would that be a price worth paying for the Lib Dems? Would it actually make a difference do you think? Or are they just a bit of a hopeless cause?

Dewi Tri


Blogging Burnham

And so in the first of a series of interviews from this weekend's Welsh Liberal Democrats' conference, Eleanor Burnham talks to Dewi Dau about "crap" politicians, Twitter and neuro-science!

Watch out for more enlightening interviews - in Welsh and English - over the coming days!

Dewi Dau


Thursday, 16 April 2009

Podcast #18 - A Rallying call

And so another podcast.

This week it's all blogs, tweets and other forms of internet cock-ups!

We also chat about cuts in government funding for the Welsh Rally and have a natter about the extra funding for further education.

All this and the highly anticipated return of the PC quiz (!) on this week's podcast.

Diolch am wrando,

Y Tri Dewi

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

To Fund or Not to Fund?

The Wales Rally GB - one of the most famous legs of the World Rally Championships - faces an uncertain future after the Assembly pulled the plug on £2million pounds' worth of funding. Now the organisers are looking to take legal action against the Assembly claiming that they are breaching a contract that should see them support the event up until 2011.

It is of course a difficult time and budget cuts have to be made somewhere but the interesting point this story makes is how short some political memories are. Two years ago (granted before the proverbial hit the fan) Ieuan Wyn Jones noted the importance of the event to the Welsh automotive industry, an industry which incidentally needs all the help it can get today. And it was only yesterday that Alun Ffred Jones, the heritage minister, noted the importance of sporting tourism, this time golf.

But on the same day deputy skills minister John Griffiths has succumbed to the pressure applied by further education organisations and the other parties. The WAG announced £8.93 million to keep further education colleges and local authority sixth-form provision at or above the same level of funding for 2009/10 as they are for 2008/09.

Here's a victory for direct action and democracy according to some with the Assembly demonstrating its willingness to listen to the voice of the people. But for the Conservatives, apparently more focused on the longer game here's an example of short-termism from the Government.

What would happen, I wonder, if a load of rally cars parked outside the Senedd in protest?

Let us know what you think

Dewi Un

Images used courtesy of jiscinfonet and rednut @Flickr


Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Labour Just Don't Get It

Another week, another Labour online balls-up. This time the medium was twitter – the new(ish) microblogging site that is quickly taking over the world. This article in the Western Mail exposed a couple of posts by David Taylor, aide to Leighton Andrews (that one time leadership contender- apparently).

Mr Taylor - a Man Utd fan - thought it would be a good idea to indulge in some “run-of -the-mill” banter on his Twitter page over the Hillsborough disaster, where 96 people (mainly Liverpool fans) died. He has since apologised for his comments but I think it’s safe to say that the damage has been done. Some of it may be fairly innocuous but what tipped the scales was a reference to a song entitled “You’ll never walk again” which, given the proximity to the anniversary of Hillsborough, has been widely seen as insensitive.

Does this incident show that Welsh Labour just hasn’t got its head around this internet business? It is not just something that the cool kids do: anyone and everyone can access stuff on the internet. If you write something (or post a video) someone will see it, and if you write stuff like David Taylor did then someone will get offended by it. And given that he works for the government it’s not a good idea to offend (or post something which could even remotely offend) sections of the electorate.

Welsh Labour needs to start taking the internet seriously. The digital revolution is here to stay so they had better buck up their ideas or they will be even further behind in the online battle come election time.

Dewi Un

Image used courtesy of splat @ Flickr


React-ing to the Crisis?

Recent figures show that the number of people claiming job seekers allowance (JSA) in Blaenau Gwent has risen by 70%. This article tells us that 3,338 people now claim JSA where as the previous figure was only 1,970. These statistics show that unemployment has risen sharply in areas which had not shared in the boom of the late nineties/early noughties (?).

This must be giving local AM, Trish Law a headache, and brings the successes of the Assembly's React and Proact schemes into context. A week after the 5th economic summit, figures like this show that some areas of Wales find themselves in a particularly tight spot, stuck as they are up the creek without a paddle. With a cut of £500 million expected to hit the Assembly following the budget, Rhodri Morgan and his government are going to have quite a headache in trying to decide how to prioritise that spending.

Dewi Un
Image used courtesy of J Dub Waaringotn @ Flickr


Friday, 10 April 2009

A thought for Easter

Here's the Western Mail's 'thought for the day:'

"A compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such away that everyone believe he has the biggest piece" - Ludwig Erhard

I wonder how Bethan Jenkins, Leanne Wood and Plaid Cymru's party members would respond to Herr Erhard's words of wisdom.

How does this philosophy fit in with the One Wales coalition?

We've suffered endless statements from IWJ and his closest allies about the need for compromise as Plaid look to cooperate with Labour in Cardiff Bay.

But does anybody believe that it is Plaid who is stuffing into the biggest portion of the One-Wales Easter egg this weekend? Or do Ieuan and his fellow Plaid ministers simply have egg on their faces?

Pasg hapus iawn!

Dewi Dau


Thursday, 9 April 2009

Podcast #17 - Holiday blues

Another Thursday and so time for another Politics Cymru podcast.

Not much going on this week what with everyone - including our very own Dewi Un off on holiday - but there's plenty of reaction to Plaid Cymru's conference. Also find out which one of our elected representatives in Westminster has the worst record for attending the Welsh Affairs Select Committee meetings - you may be surprised!

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Pasg Hapus iawn i chi i gyd!
Have a great Easter Weekend!

Y Tri Dewi


More woes for higher education

Deputy skills minister John Griffiths can breathe a sigh of relief today in the knowledge that he is not the only one coming under pressure from higher education lobbyists.

This article in the Guardian shows that schools and colleges in England are seeking to judicially review Ed Balls and the learning and skills council decision to cut their funding by 200 million pounds (this computer has no pound sign, apologies!).

At least John only had to deal with a couple of hundred protestors with placards and a few banners, he can sleep well tonight, safe in the knowledge that he isn't going to be sued, yet...

Dewi Un

P.S The sun's gone in, the bar is closed temporarily and i've finished my third book - so i had nothing better to do!


Wednesday, 8 April 2009

A Tale of Two Speeches

Apologies for the delay in posting this, I'm currently sunning myself abroad (slight hint of smugness there) and have had a nightmare with the local internet connection - let's just say it's a bit ropey. So, four days late, here are some of my thoughts on the Plaid spring conference.

There were two moments that stuck in my mind that showed the two sides of Plaid Cymru and when put side by side show an interesting contradiction at the heart of the party.

First we have Simon Wooley. The head of Operation Black Vote strutted on to the stage with a confidence and an aura that I have never witnessed before. He very deliberately adjusted his glass of water before turning to address the crowd. The invitation offered to Mr Woolley to attend the conference shows Plaid's progressive nature, the party eager to be seen working with a key player in the modernisation of politics.

Initially you could sense an anxiety amongst the crowd: here was a cockney, who mispronounced Dafydd Ellis Thomas's name and was insistent that everybod gave people they didn't know a round of applause. You could almost hear the Plaid members think "Ble ma Dafydd Iwan wedi mynd?" - "Where has Dafydd Iwan gone?" (Plaid's president was the previous speaker.)

But then he spoke, and my goodness did he speak. Simon Woolley spoke was so self-assured, he had a passion that commanded not only the stage but the whole room and he soon had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. Everybody clapped when they should, laughed at appropriate times, nodded in agreement and sat silent when he emphasised the poignancy of his message. Woolley praised Plaid Cymru's efforts to have more ethnic minority members in elected office but he also said that they, along with everyone else, must do more to improve the representation of non-white ethnic groups in politics.

I have seen a lot of public speakers (I have been to Canada to represent Wales in that very discipline) but I have never in my life been so taken, so drawn to, and so impassioned by a speaker. He was driven to be a "warrior for change" and everyone who saw him speak that day would find it difficult not to be drawn to his message of social justice. He overran by a good five minutes but no one cared (apart from the impressive Plaid machinery based next to Dewi Dau and myself): he got a standing ovation......

And then we had Ieuan.

Where Plaid were progressive with their choice of Simon Woolley, Ieuan Wyn Jones' speech showed the opposite end of the Plaid spectrum.

Tired politics: attack, attack, attack. Plaid Cymru's leader reminded me of a Jack Russel biting at the heels of his owner. He slated Gordon Brown, he slated the Tories, harped back to Thatcher, slated the Liberals and even Plaid's so called partners in Government, Rhodri Morgan's Labour Party.

How can you in one sentence praise the work of the One Wales Government and in the next slag off the Welsh Labour Party? It seems to me that the Deputy First Minister missed an opportunity to be positive and forward-looking, it was almost as if he had decided to take the easy way out.

He may have got several rounds of applause mid-sentence (all started by Helen Mary Jones I might add) and a massive standing ovation, but it didn't feel authentic.

But then he did have quite an act to follow.

Dewi Un


Sunday, 5 April 2009


Slick, modern, professional, well-organised, fresh.

Those are just a few of the words I had scribbled down in my notepad at Plaid's spring conference yesterday.

There are people across Britain and even here in Wales who view Plaid as a narrow-minded, inward-looking, backward party. Any such perceptions would have been blown way if those same people had been at UWIC yesterday.

Plaid had promised that this conference would be one of the most interactive ever. It's certainly difficult to see how this event could have been any more interactive. There was a compulsive Twitterer - including the father of the blogosphere, Iain Dale - in every corner and each update was pooled into one page using the hashtag (I still don't get this), #plaidconf. As a result anyone wanting to follow events from afar could simply log on to for a live stream of often humourous updates.

As Adam Price gave his predictably motivational speech, I glanced to my right to find Bethan Jenkins, AM blogging away - offering a live interpretation of the MP's words. In her speech Ms Jenkins confirmed everybody's suspicions, stating quite confidently that Saunders Lewis was never on Twitter or Facebook! But she said this is a party that has never been afraid to try new things and suggested this new interaction between the party and its supporters will encourage transparency and openness.

Everywhere you looked modern technology was being used to excellent effect. Sat at the back close to the team managing the whole operation and led by Plaid's impressive campaigns officer, Morgan Lloyd, Dewi Un and myself were amazed at the organisation and sophistication of the process. There were vision mixers, audio operators and of course an indefatigable Twitterer in amongst them. Jingles were played between items and videos on the big screen introduced speakers.

Dewi Un and I asked a few of the delegates what they thought of this new emphasis on using modern technology and the general consensus was positive for the party. Members told us they recognised the need to embrace these opportunities and saw their advantages, particularly in attracting younger supporters. (Youthful - that's another word I had written down.)

There were a few who still favour the tried and tested formula of knocking on doors mainly because they have no idea about computers. This is something the party will have to be wary of. Plaid can't abandon the old ways and risk losing the support of older members of society. Rather it must look to supplement the old ways with these new exciting opportunties. However as was pointed out (oh, so frequently) yesterday, the web-based formula is also tried and tested. Afterall this is the forumla credited with giving America its first black president.

Peter Hain and Eluned Morgan's infamous Delilah video, was supposed to be Labour's 'Obama moment'. That attempt at using the web was ridiculed at yesterday's conference. And with good reason. If any party has been able to grasp the opportunities offered by the web, it is Plaid and they must be praised for that. Even Iain Dale readily conceded that Plaid Cymru are "streets ahead" in their use of modern technology.

Plaid Cymru may yet look back at this conference as its 'Obama moment' - the moment when perceptions changed and the party was praised for its readiness to change with the times.

Dewi Dau

P.S. Leader of the Plaid group on Cardiff Council, Neil McEvoy also reiterated the party's support to the '.cym' campaign - another example of PC using the web to further their own ambitions.


Saturday, 4 April 2009

PC's Politics Cymru plug!

Braf gweld dylanwad Politics Cymru ar gynhadledd y Blaid:

Great to see Plaid Cymru advertising Politics Cymru at their Spring conference today:

Mi fydd mwy o ymateb i'r gynhadledd yn ymddangos yma'n fuan gan gynnwys cyfweliadau ag Elfyn Llwyd, AS ac Iain Dale.

More reaction and interviews with Plaid's leader in Westminster and Iain Dale to come.

Dewi Dau


Thursday, 2 April 2009

Podcast #16: What a week!

Where to start on this week's podcast?

There's quite a bit about that video, a little about those expenses, and (even) more on Edwina Hart. We also talk about plans to cut further education funding.

All this as well as the usual fun and games on this week's Podcast!

Y Tri Dewi


Land of my father's fathers...

Can't imagine this is going to be a very popular idea but Lord Garel-Jones (former Tory Minister for Europe back in the 90s) has told the All Wales Convention that the people in Wales shouldn't be the only ones who have a say on whether or not the Assembly gets more powers but Welsh people everywhere should be allowed to get in on the action...

He points out that several countries across Europe allow non-residents to vote in elections.

It's an interesting argument and those who have what Lord Garel-Jones calls a “patrial connection” with Wales would certainly add to the debate and take it beyond the border. But if you've left the country then how much of a right do you really have to dictate to those of us who still live here how we're governed?

And how Welsh would you have to be to get to vote?

Lord Garel-Jones says: “Clearly one wouldn't want to reach the point where a couple of hundred thousand people in Southern Argentina, who left Wales in 1850 were voting, but I think if the principle of Welshness is accepted then I think it would be good.”

Fair point. But how do we determine who's Welsh enough and who's not? Show of hands?

Not sure this one's going to happen somehow...

Dewi Tri