Christmas with Abe

Japan's first lady is a blogger. Akie Abe, 44 year-old wife of the prime minister Shinzo Abe, blogs on the personal side of politics at She has posted pictures of the Christmas bauble given to her by Laura Bush, and her husband reaching for the usual slimy rubbish that often passes for Japanese food on Christmas eve.

It is a very feminine affair, placing Mrs Abe firmly within the conventional doting wife role you'd expect in Japan. Her husband rules the country and she busies herself with, err, porridge:

"My husband had a Cabinet meeting in the morning, but returned to the residence for lunch and we had porridge. I'd like to spend the day relaxing," she wrote on Sunday.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:45 pm, , links to this post

Tories changing their minds on PR?

As we know, the Tories are eager for a non-Labour administration in Wales, and this means cosying up to Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems.

Nick Bourne got very excited about this prospect as the budget negotiations stalled. Perhaps a little to excited. Having showed all his cards Plaid hopped into bed with Labour.

So the Tories welcomed Mike German's fresh manoeuvring for power today. Could it mean the rebirth of rainbow coalition talk? Yes, says Glyn Davies:

Either Mike is looking for another Lib-Lab Pact (which he will find difficult to sell to his party without an absolute commitment to proportional representation in local government - which Labour will never accept) or it means a 'Rainbow Coalition' with Tories and Plaid Cymru.

The juxtaposition here is intriguing. If the Lib Dems wouldn't enter into coalition with Labour over proportional representation in local government, why should they do so with the Tories?

Perhaps Glyn Davies has already forgotten their pledge of just two years ago:

Conservatives will oppose any plan to introduce proportional representation into local government in Wales as the Liberal Democrat/Labour coalition is adopting in Scotland.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 3:45 pm, , links to this post

Lib Dems in shock election revelation

This from the Western Mail's ever-astute Martin Shipton today:

Liberal Democrat sources said Mr German still believed that everything was to play for, and that the composition of the post-May Assembly Government would be determined by the mathematics of the results.

It really is some bombshell. Just to break it down even more, what he's saying is that the number of votes cast will affect who has what seats. Surely a breakthrough in policital analysis.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 3:33 pm, , links to this post

Tired old arguments

In the interest of fairness, I should say that Plaid's Happy New Year Press Release also goes for the same 'Labour is very tired' theme used by the Conservatives earlier this week:

On the 3rd of May, the people of Wales will elect the third National Assembly for Wales. After 8 years in charge Labour is tired and has run out of steam.

Let's hope the Lib Dems at least come up with something original...

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posted by Blamerbell @ 3:26 pm, , links to this post

Vote Tory get Lib Dem

What better way to spend a Christmas morning than playing around with the D'Hondt method? That's the formula that calculates the distribution of seats in the regional ballot of Welsh Assembly elections.

It's actually quite simple. You take the votes cast for any given party in the region and divide it by the number of seats they already have in that region (including constituency seats) plus one. You do this until all four regional seats are filled.

Why is this important?

Well, basically, the way people vote in the constituencies has a significant impact on the distribution of seats in the regions. And it isn't good news for the Tories.

One of their key targets for 2007 is Clwyd West. They hold the seat in Westminster and are only 400 votes behind in the Assembly. Now, if they win this seat, they are immediately at a mathematic disadvantage in the region. Depending on whether gains or losses are made elsewhere, the likely beneficiaries are Labour or the Lib Dems.

In fact, I've worked on a few possible permutations, and the Lib Dems need only increase their regional vote slightly to take two of the North Wales regional seats.

So, vote Tory, get Lib Dem.

Of course, given that the boundaries have been re-drawn in the constituencies of Caernarfon and Conwy, there's no telling quite how it will all work out. But it just goes to show how difficult it will be for any party to make significant gains come May 3rd.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 2:06 pm, , links to this post

English nationalists on the warpath

Action Against Anglophobia is a filthy, narrow-minded website if ever I saw one.

"The sooner that England gets shot of those greedy whining celtic parasites the better,and as for us English being a mongrel people,well we mongrels came and took the land and made it our own and the fuckwitted inbred celts were too weak and stupid to stop us.Im proud to not be a celt," says Andy, a typical contributor.

It's yet another murky corner of the internet where those who are of the same intolerant and foul-mouthed ilk can gather to hurl primitive abuse at whatever they are against.

In this case, it's perceived Anglophobia.

I am no fan of nationalism, and sites like this make the debate about the crisis of identity within the UK ever more urgent.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:22 pm, , links to this post

David Cameron spotted in Tokyo

The Tory leader is apparently away from home this Christmas.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:05 pm, , links to this post

A big yawn for the Welsh Assembly elections

Full marks to the Tories for issuing press releases on Boxing Day - a sure sign that elections are imminent.

Shame it didn't really say anything though, except that the bloated Christmas dinner feeling seems to have crept into the language:

“Rhodri Morgan leads a tired, stale government which is yawning its way to electoral defeat on May 3.

Labour is failing in Wales and they are failing at Westminster. The people of Britain have put them on notice to quit.

The Welsh public is tired of Rhodri Morgan and Tony Blair. People can make the Assembly elections a turning point in Welsh politics.

It is their chance to reject Labour’s stranglehold on our country and set it on a different course, one free from arrogance, complacency, incompetence and control freakery.

Welsh Conservatives recognise that there are no quick fixes to the endless list of problems caused by this tired Labour government.

Labour lacks the energy and ideas to meet that challenge, while recent events have shown that Plaid Cymru is prepared to prop-up that failing party both in the Assembly and local government.

The people of Wales are looking for a real alternative to this tired Labour government, not a variation of it."

So, that's the Tory line. I sense they are trying to say the Labour government is tired. But that's just a hunch.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:26 pm, , links to this post

Bloggers say the nicest things

Just spotted this from BBC Wales Westminster correspondent David Cornock:

Sounds good

posted by David | 0825 GMT |

Ciaran Jenkins, author of Blamerbell Briefs and a rising star of the blogosphere, recently described my efforts as "sound but infrequent".

Ciaran may have confused me with someone without a job or a life but at the risk of failing his time and motion study again, I'm taking some time off over Christmas...

Not a disciple of the Peter Black school of blogging then - even posting on Christmas eve after being bitten by a dog.

Indeed, Mr Black too has kind words about this blog. (If only I could fashion one of those Iain Dale style changing banners of flattery.)

And so, as you can see by this meandering 2am trudge through the results of my weekly self-aggrandizing google search, you're right David: probably best to give it a rest over Christmas.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:44 am, , links to this post

Fox hunting: the law it's OK to break

Glyn Davies AM today:

Went down to the Boxing Day meet at Welshpool this morning. What magnificent defiance. 40 horses, a pack of hounds and 1000 people looking on, just to show their support. Like many of the crowd, I had no interest whatsoever in foxhunting until it was banned...

I thought respect for the law was a fundamental Conservative principle?

The government has a democratic mandate, and it has legislated.

We can't just pick and choose to abide only by the laws we like, can we?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 10:25 pm, , links to this post

Saddam Hussein could be executed tomorrow

Shame. What on earth have we created over there?

I listened to Richard Bacon on Radio 5 live this morning. The man is a wittering idiot. He kept asking for 'normal people' to call in to his debate on what it means to be a member of a political party. Everyone he interviewed was 20 times more eloquent than him. One man from Scotland said that he and his family had been Labour supporters all their lives. After the Iraq war he protested and was ignored, so he and the people of his town voted out their Labour MP in 2005.

I haven't heard a man with such principle on the radio in years.

Voters won't forget Iraq in a hurry. People aren't as fickle as Labour's high-command would like to think.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 10:19 pm, , links to this post

Exclusive Welsh politics revelation

Not really of course.

Merry Christmas

Nadolig Llawen



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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:09 am, , links to this post

End of year newspapers are rubbish

Why is it that at the one time of year we actually have time to settle down and read a newspaper, they are filled with endless streams of formulaic tosh?

The Guardian has been an absolute travesty of journalism all this week. Each section takes a theme and elaborates on it ad infinitum until all you want to do is toss the paper on the floor to stop all the hair you've been tearing out from making a mess on the carpet.

I've had quite enough of media review of the year, news review of the year, quiz of the year, politics roundup of the year, dried fruits of the year or any other assemblage of culminatory yawns.

Radio Cymru had the right idea yesterday: they were reviewing 2005. At least that was long ago enough to be just a little bit interesting.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 2:51 pm, , links to this post


flibbertigibbet \FLIB-ur-tee-jib-it\, noun:
A silly, flighty, or scatterbrained person, especially a pert young woman with such qualities.

We discover here not the flibbertigibbet Connolly describes but a serious reader (Goethe, Tolstoy, Proust) who found her cultural ideal in 18th-century France.
-- Martin Stannard, "Enter Shrieking", New York Times, November 28, 1993

He argues persuasively that Millay's reputation has been harmed not only by academics who dread and fear her heartfelt "simplicity," but by the very admirers who wished to promote her as a kind of whimsical flibbertigibbet, a poetical Anne of Green Gables.
-- Liz Rosenberg, "So Young, So Good, So Popular", New York Times, March 15, 1992

Flibbertigibbet is from Middle English flipergebet, which is probably an imitation of the sound of meaningless chatter.


I like it.


posted by Blamerbell @ 3:40 pm, , links to this post

Ipswich murders: Contempt for what?

Would Martin Bell, Mark Lawson and even Chris Doidge please get off their high horses?

The reporting of the Ipswich murders has been a little over the top, but on the whole journalists have simply been reporting readily available information.

If having a slightly weird web profile photo were an indication of any real murderous tendencies, we'd all be guilty. But there's no harm in showing it.

What's important is that none of this stuff prejudices the administration of justice. I doubt very much that it does.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:08 pm, , links to this post

Presiding officer backs English Parliament

Dafydd Elis-Thomas, presiding officer of the Welsh Assembly, is in favour of a devolved English government.

To be fair, he's had plenty of time to come up with opinions on any number of issues, given that he is no more than a political vegetable most of the time. How tedious his job must be, and yet how much he wants to keep it.

Never mind the campaign for an English parliament, surely there must be a campaign simmering for a new presiding officer and deputy to replace the ever-tiffing Dafydd El and John Marek (Independent). It is quite ridiculous that the Labour administration continues to govern with neither of the vote-surrendering positions occupied by its members.

Any number of the Labour AMs on this page could occupy that seat with little difficulty. Indeed, some of them look as if they'd enjoy sitting around festering just as much as the current incumbent.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:49 am, , links to this post

Alun Davies, fighting for socialism

Alun Davies, fighting for socialism in Mid and West Wales:

I have already starting the cooking (another tired cliché bites the dust.) and preparations. This year the Davies Family will be treated to a monster terrine (thanks to Morgan’s Butchers of Aberystwyth) and I will be out and about searching for salmon and oysters over the next few days. I am also in the process of making cake and puddings.

And why not some champagne too, like a true socialist?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:28 am, , links to this post

Pop music is crap - Part II

I've just been reminded of an impassioned defence of proper musical scrutiny I once made over on Comment is free (under a similarly wanky pseudonym). HERE's the link for your enjoyment, though I think the most pertinent point is this:

We should be wondering about the politics of popular music and why it is about the only thing in the modern world to which people devote so much energy but about which they think so little.

A tragedy of the modern world.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:06 am, , links to this post

Marcel Berlins: You are not worthy

As I read Marcel Berlins' piece in the Guardian's dead wood edition today, I could already imagine the torrent of user-generated outrage which would inevitably appear over on the online version.

Any piece which starts "what's so great about 'ordinary' people?" is doomed from the beginning. But then some articles might at least be saved by a decent argument or some good writing. Marcel's piece had neither.

It was an ill-informed eulogy for the professional journalist whose every sentence oozed with a barely-concealed fear that for people who simply put words on paper, the game might soon be up.

"The philosophy I object to, which the internet's information explosion has fostered, is that the "ordinary" person is as - no, even more - important to the dissemination of knowledge, information and opinion as the expert or the professional," he writes.

Well Marcel, if the professionals produce that sort of tripe, who can blame us for looking elsewhere?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 3:33 pm, , links to this post

Forgetting the Flags of Our Fathers

Clint Eastwood's new film, Flags of Our Fathers, goes on general release in the UK on Friday. It depicts the battle of Iwo Jima - a key struggle in the Second World War's Pacific theatre.

The Guardian's Justin McCurry was lucky enough to be on a journos tour of the place recently. Nobody except self-defence force officials and family members of the bereaved has been allowed to visit the isolated island, over a thousand miles south of Tokyo.

21,000 Japanese died there, and so Eastwood was shocked that most modern Japanese know nothing about the place. They are still recovering the remains of the dead.

What's interesting about this project, though, is that there's a parallel film being released for a Japanese audience. Letters from Iwo Jima is told from the perspective of the island's defenders.

Now, letters are a big thing in Japanese history. In Tokyo's Yushukan (the national war museum which neighbours the controversial Yasukuni shrine) Kamikaze pilots are brought to life through their last letters home, as they are in school text books.

Immediately after the Tokyo War Crimes Trials, the convicted were humanised in just this same way - their letters appearing in best-selling newspapers and books, talking of motherly bonds and the promise of an immortal soul.

So, it'll be with great interest that I watch these two films. Because it is virtually impossible that they can be compatible. To this day, foreign correspondents in Japan get most of their stories from the fallout over the Second World War. It's still raging in the hearts and minds of the Japanese, and they're not willing to surrender just yet.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:55 pm, , links to this post

Ireland and its EU fetish

Many people, when they visit Ireland, are impressed with the cultural glue that holds it all together. There's something distinctive, they say, that makes the country feel like quite a vibrant, prosperous place.

It is, of course, EU badges. They're everywhere. Farms, buildings, roads, trains... there's even rumours they'll be emblazoned on pints of Guinness before long.

No wonder, then, that support for the EU is stronger in Ireland than in any other member state.

Eight out of 10 people see membership as a good thing and nine out of 10 believe Ireland has benefited as a country by joining, writes the Evening Herald. And you can hardly blame them when the fruits of EU membership are so visible all over the country.

Ireland's economic growth looks set to be 5.9% this year. Still no excuse for charging more than 5 euros for a pint of the black stuff, in my book.

Anyone who says Scotland couldn't go it alone should be very worried by the success Ireland has had in playing the EU game.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:48 pm, , links to this post

Brief break

Off to Dublin on a propeller-fuelled shed, so no posting for a few days.

While I'm away I hope, for the sake of interest:

a) Tony Blair gets arrested
b) Cardiff City win a football match
c) the word 'Christmas' is banned from any credible television news programmes
d) someone fixes the sticky keys on my laptop
e) Welsh politics doesn't suddenly become interesting

Right, now for that black stuff...

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posted by Blamerbell @ 7:53 am, , links to this post

The budget: who's lying?

Who do we believe? Did the budget go through because of an extra £13m or a paltry £300,000? The key distinction to be made is when the opposition parties stopped negotiating as an alliance. Plaid claim that anything agreed after that point is new money. So, here's the spin:

Plaid Cymru
- £9.6 million comes from Gordon Brown and all goes to education. In earlier talks Labour was only willing to allow £6 million of this for schools. This money came after negotiations with the Tories and Lib Dems, so it's new money. It's also a £300,000 increase on the £9.3 originally offered by the Chancellor.
- £1.7 million extra for special needs education. This offer was not on the table when the opposition parties negotiated together.
- £2 million for school heating, every year. This was initially billed as a one off payment for next year.
- "A coalition with the Tories is now virtually impossible."

- £9.3 million was always on the cards, so the only new money is £300,000.
- £2 million for heating was an earlier promise, all Plaid managed was to make it a recurring rather than one-off payment.
- The reserve £1.7 million was always there.
- "Plaid got the wobbles."

So is it a bumper investment or a reshuffling of the deck chairs? Well, it's neither.

But it is a pragmatic resolution for a nationalist party who sensed they were being damaged by the continuing talk of coalition with the Tories. Nick Bourne, for his part, probably played this one a bit too boldly. Coalition are best conducted in hushed tones with curtains drawn and pipes smoked. They're not the business of front page headlines and that, I sense, is what really irked Plaid Cymru.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 10:24 am, , links to this post

Tony Blair - worth a google

And there were rumours about Gordon Brown?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:11 am, , links to this post

Budget agreement but where's the beef?

Victory or capitulation? It's often a fine line in politics.

Anyone hoping to wake up tomorrow to a non-Labour government will be disappointed: the budget will go through this afternoon after Plaid struck a deal with the Labour administration.

Plaid will let the budget through in exchange for a promise of an extra £13.3 million for schools.

This, they claim, is "new money - meaning that no other budgets will be cut to provide the extra funds."

Hang on. New money? Where did that come from?

Rhodri Morgan said yesterday morning: "There's no more money beyond the £14.4 billion (initial budget) plus £9.3 million (that Gordon Brown made available)... It is a very very tight position to be in."

So who's right? Is it new money or not? These details - soon to be revealed I hope - will be key in determining whether Plaid and Labour emerge from this strengthened or looking desperate. After all, Labour want nothing more than to hang on to the last vestiges of power, and Plaid want nothing less than to be forced to work with the Tories.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 2:02 pm, , links to this post

Not a Cairns in the world

Right, with that meaningless pun out of the way, what on earth is Alun Cairns talking about HERE?

After their group meeting at 12:00pm they stated that they would stand shoulder to shoulder with the Conservatives and Lib Dems and vote against the proposed budget unless there was additional money for education. - at least consistent with the early part of last week.

However, by 3pm this afternoon, they had issued a statement that they were going into negotiations with Labour, privately.

At Plaid's 12pm press conference, Ieuan Wyn Jones could not have removed himself from the other opposition parties any more emphatically. He couldn't trust them and they told all his best secrets in public, he said, tearing off the head of his Nick Bourne voodoo doll under the desk.

In fact, he was positively fuming with the Tories. It was just the sort of performance many Plaid AMs and strategists had been yearning for.

Anyway, the budget awaits...

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:44 pm, , links to this post

Is Iraq an issue for Wales?

For the past couple of weeks I've been getting to know the Assembly election candidates in Rhodri Morgan's Cardiff West constituency.

The Tories and the Lib Dems are putting up young candidates, aged 21 and 23 respectively. Plaid, meanwhile, are going with an old hand, Neil McEvoy. He's a former Labour councillor whose name still makes mouths froth with rage in the First Minister's back yard.

And the reason he switched was Iraq. The Lib Dems, too, are determined to make an issue of it in the election campaign. Their candidate, Alison Goldsworthy, claims to have put in Freedom of Information requests for any statements made by Rhodri Morgan about Iraq. She claims there are none.

But Councillor Richard Cook, Rhodri Morgan's agent, says he can't understand why Iraq should be an issue. It has nothing to do with Wales, he says.

My feeling is that it has rather a lot to do with Wales. Our taxes fund the weapons we use in Iraq and our boys (and some girls too I suspect) are asked to go out there and fight.

Most people know that Rhodri personally opposed the war - his wife Julie voted against it in parliament. I wonder if his continued reluctance to put that on the record will harm him at all in next May's elections?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:55 am, , links to this post

Assembly drama: No coalitions & no budgets

Today was the day that Plaid Cymru told the Tories where to shove it.

Plaid have emerged as the key bargaining power in the Welsh Assembly's budget negotiations, and their leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, well and truly drew a line under any coalition talk.

They'll now go it alone in discussions with Labour, though they still promise to vote against the budget tomorrow unless the government can find at least another £9 million.

It's not been a good day for the Tories. Nick Bourne looked visibly peed off that the First Minister has not made any efforts to contact him with any last minute offers. He admitted the ball is now in Rhodri Morgan's court, but it seems the First Minister doesn't want to play.

He's targeting all his energy on convincing the nationalists to come on board. And he may (eventually) get some success.

If he does and a budget scrapes through tomorrow, or perhaps more likely in the weeks to follow, expect talk of a Red-Green coalition to intensify.

One thing's for certain, that's more or less the end of any talk of rainbow coalitions and pots of gold for the Tories.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 5:44 pm, , links to this post

Save Spillers Records that my dad still has somewhere to shop to prove he has a cooler taste in music than me.

Axe Spillers and you'll unleash a whole host of goatees and anoraks on Cardiff, and there just isn't the space in the tactical war games shop accommodate them. They already look like frightened animals when they emerge from their hovel, nervously sporting their trademark Spillers Records t-shirts.

Best to let them stay in that stinking old record shop, where we can an eye on them.

Incidentally, the Guardian is a bit late on this one. It's been running for months.

Oh, and yes. It's the world's oldest record shop. Hoorah.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 7:39 am, , links to this post

Plaid will not govern with the Tories

It's been a busy day for the press secretaries of the Welsh political parties:

'Airbus investment welcome,' says Plaid.
'Airbus vote of confidence in Welsh workforce,' say Alun Cairns and Cheryl Gillan for the Tories.
'Plaid Health policy inflexible and narrow-minded,' rants Jonathan Morgan.
'Corus bidding war creates uncertainty for workers,' adds Plaid - the only party to go with that one.

But this week is only about one thing: Wednesday and the Assembly budget.

Lib Dem leader Mike German was saying today that he will not budge. Unless the opposition's demands are met, he'll vote against the budget.

The noises from the Plaid camp are much more subdued, however. Most Plaid AMs would rather cut off their right leg, put it in a mincer and eat it between two slices of certain death than go into coalition with the Tories. Yesterday, their leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, suggested there'd be no coalition before the next election. In truth, there'll be no coalition ever.

Plaid will probably find some excuse to let the budget through on Wednesday. Their plan was always to hang Labour out to dry, but they never thought they'd be hanging out there with them.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 9:01 pm, , links to this post

Welsh politics blog roundup #002

Peter Black wins BBC's 'Political Communicator of the Year' award... and then smashes it. The glass trophy is now all over the boot of his car.

Nick Bourne
reports that the Tories won convincingly in the Kinmel Bay council by-election. It's part of the Clwyd West constituency - a three-way marginal at the Assembly Elections. And it doesn't bode well for Plaid Cymru: they didn't even put up a candidate.

And finally, only Glyn Davies knows what this is all about:
"One of the young ladies had extracted from her case a black leather strappy appliance, which was fitted with two electrodes and which could be worn around the neck, the leg or the arm. There was a choice of one short pulse of electriciry, several intermittent pulses or the full works in the form of a continuous pulse. I was being fitted up at the time...."

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:48 pm, , links to this post

Is Bob Piper racist?

Labour councillor and blogger Bob Piper is in a pickle.

He's published this image on his blog:

Quite a few people, it seems, were upset by it, and right-wing bloggers in particular have been removing Piper from their blog rolls in protest. This is truly a tiff that could only happen online, and the comment thread on Piper's post is testament to all that is catty and crap about blogging.

But the question remains: Is Bob Piper racist?

He claims not. "If you think this image is designed to attack black people you need to study the art of satire, because it has clearly passed you by. [The image] is designed to show the way in which Cameron trys to adopt a chamelon-like approach to 'get with it' with young people, black people, wimmen, environmentalists in a totally false way." (Author's spelling errors preserved.)

Now, there's a chap called Mark Steven Greenfield, who has studied the racist overtones of minstrel pictures and tries to subvert them in his art.
"In my work I alter the context of the stereotype in order to buffer the viewer's visceral reaction to its grotesqueness. I challenge the viewer to suspend or embrace their emotional reaction long enough to analyze what they are looking at. I acknowledge the viewer's indignation by using text which is sometimes as counter culture as are the images," he says.

What you end up with is this:

Draw your own conclusions. I know which I prefer.

[Cheers to Praguetory for the spot.]

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posted by Blamerbell @ 9:06 pm, , links to this post

Gary Speed's secret

Gary Speed on why he can still play top flight football after 500 games and at 37 years old:

"When you saw a 34-year-old Gordon Strachan sprinting past you in training, it did register and make me realise that there was a reason why he was eating bananas and taking seaweed tablets."

Gary, don't kid yourself. With a diet like that he could only have been running to one place.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:20 am, , links to this post

Where the hell is Cardiff?

This from today's Western Mail:

Bogus officials steal city's manhole covers

Thieves believed to be posing as council workers have stolen more than 100 metal manhole covers from a city’s quietest streets, it emerged today.

County council bosses in Cardiff, south Wales, are appealing to the public to be on the look out for bogus officials dressed as workmen.

"a city's quietest streets"? "Cardiff, south Wales"? Surely, anyone reading the Western Mail knows where Cardiff is, and also knows that in Wales it isn't merely a city among others, but pretty much the only city of any real size and scope.

I wouldn't even wait until tomorrow to wrap my fish and chips in that twaddle.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:10 am, , links to this post

Tories turning back time

An 'analogue politician in a digital age,' a 'roadblock to reform,' a man 'completely stuck in the past'.

Yes, Peter Davies is still on the Tory list of approved candidates for the Welsh Assembly elections, despite the leader, Nick Bourne, demanding that he be "urgently" removed last month. This news comes from David Cornock, BBC Wales's sound if infrequent political blogger.

And what embarrassing news it is too. Just as the Tories claim to be the most competent party in the Assembly. Just as they, by most people's judgement, have actually begun to take the whole thing seriously. Just now, they don't need an anti-devolution dinosaur in their ranks.

But, in Peter Davies, as I wrote HERE, that's what they've got.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 10:57 am, , links to this post

Leighton Andrews and the blog police

Leighton Andrews is frequently mentioned as one of the Welsh Assembly's most famous bloggers. He's linked to in all sorts of places, and gets a lot of attention for doing something a great deal of ordinary people do quite routinely.

However, he's an elected representative, and therefore his willingness to at least make some effort at communicating with people via his blog is commendable.

But Leighton doesn't seem to fully understand the medium.

Blogs have comments, and other bloggers are commenters. The internet is democratic, and it is now more than ever about debate.

Some bloggers wish to moderate comments and that, I suppose, is fair enough.

But policing comments is something totally different. I've now remarked a few times on some of Leighton's posts, but he seems to have chosen not to publish them.

This would be somewhat against the spirit of blogging. Politicians already inflict their monologues on the traditional media; there's no way they should do the same with what is meant to be a discursive and democratic medium. Blogging is, more than anything else, a conversation. Otherwise, get a column.

Peter Black, the other 'Assembly blogger', gets it. And his blog is one of the best political blogs on the block.

I hope it's just a technical error and that Mr Andrews's site can become a forum for some genuinely interesting debate.

UPDATE: Comments are now appearing on Mr Andrews's site once more. Good stuff!

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:22 am, , links to this post

Chris Doidge and Bangladeshi children

Labour blogger Chris Doidge is in an ethical quagmire this morning after reports that ASDA is paying its Bangladeshi workforce as little as 3p an hour to produce its clothing range.

Mr Doidge has been widely tipped to become the new face of George, ASDA's flagship clothing brand, in January, when it needs to push all the crap it couldn't even sell over Christmas.

Mr Doidge, a known wearer of the brand, would have featured in the supermarket's new campaign to tap into the blogosphere, with Iain Dale also rumoured to have been offered a three figure deal to promote its range of cheap ties.

A spokesman for Mr Doidge is still asleep, and therefore unavailable for comment.

Photo: Another person called Chris Doidge, holding a fish.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:12 am, , links to this post

Labour coup to take Tory council

In a move more reminiscent of politics in Thailand than in South Wales, Labour last night seized control of Vale of Glamorgan Council.

The council was being run by a twenty-strong group of Conservative councillors when the 16 Labour members made their move, backed up by Plaid Cymru and the Independents.

The row centers upon social services provision; Labour claims the Tories were failing to implement the Welsh Assembly's free care packages.

The Conservatives reacted furiously, with Local Government spokesman David Melding, saying "Labour sees local government in Wales as theirs by right and will do everything possible to undermine and destabilise those who threaten that power."

He added: "People will not forgive them for riding roughshod over local democracy in such a cynical, opportunistic manner."

There are no tanks on lawns, but with over five months still to go until the Assembly elections, the battle lines are being drawn at every level of government in Wales. And, there's still next Wednesday's budget showdown to look forward to before Christmas.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:16 am, , links to this post

Prime minister's approval falls bellow 50%

Oh dear. Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has seen his approval rating fall to just 48.6%, says the Japan Times.


George Bush enjoys just 33% of his country's support, while Tony Blair scores a paltry 27%.

Then again, I suppose Abe has plenty of time to catch up with his allies. He need only push through unpopular constitutional changes, increasing privatisation and talk of developing nuclear weapons.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 9:43 am, , links to this post

Cattiest AM of the year award

Goes to Huw Lewis, AM for Merthyr.

It is a shame that there’s no Olympic event in backtracking because I think we’d have a nailed on gold for Ieuan Wyn Jones following the recent coalition “will they, won’t they” shenanigans. Bourne and German will have a fine battle for silver and bronze.

If push ever does come to shove, this is what a coalition of vested interests is going to look like. One step forward, two steps back, three side steps, and then all scurrying in different directions looking for cover.

More importantly, what on earth does "we’d have a nailed on gold" for Ieuan Wyn Jones mean? Sounds painful. Still, if you believe some Plaid AMs, that's the least he deserves.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 6:12 pm, , links to this post

Assembly budget wriggle room

The Assembly have finally agreed on the budget. Well, not quite, some of them have agreed there's now some 'wriggle room' after Gordon Brown gave them an extra £9million today.

I'm not sure who came up with the phrase, but it's all over the blogs. Well, not all over the blogs, but it's in two of them, and that's good enough for me:

Peter Black:
Commenting on the Chancellor's statement, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Leader, Mike German points out that the chancellor’s £9m is not enough to solve the problem, but it gives us some wriggle room.

“I hope that Labour will use this to re-open talks with all parties so we can agree a budget which ensures our teachers won’t see their jobs axed, and that students in our universities are not at a disadvantage compared with those in England. The ball is firmly in Labour’s court. Welsh Liberal Democrats remain committed to negotiating a budget which can be agreed by a majority in the National Assembly.”

Nick Bourne:
The Chancellor’s pre-budget report announces more cash for Wales over the next four years, although not a great deal in the next year only £9m. This does, however, provide some wriggle room for the First Minister and Sue Essex in terms of the budget.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 6:07 pm, , links to this post

Hain wins Welsh politician of the year (again)

Yes, Peter Hain is so good he's been crowned Welsh politician of the year for the second time in a week.

Also, Peter Black won Communicator of the year, I presume for writing his rather fine blog.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:38 am, , links to this post

Budget crisis means new cars for the Tories

Wales briefly entertained the prospect of a non-Labour government today, before Ieuan Wyn Jones pulled the plug on it all with this statement:

'Any discussion of a coalition is unrealistic. Labour are the party in Government and they have the responsibility to deliver that budget. The issue remains whether or not Rhodri Morgan will put more money into education,' he said.

Word is that Plaid AMs forced him into a corner and poked him in the ribs until he clarified his earlier position, which hinted that he'd be prepared to go into coalition with the Tories and the Lib Dems if Labour was defeated on the budget.

The Tories, bless them, got somewhat carried away with it all. And the slightest sniff of power brought out their true colours, as they got to work on the blogs, dreaming of all the perks government would bring.

Alun Cairns:
Glyn and I had checked out the Ministerial cars to decide which one suited us best. I had visions of the chauffer picking me up in the morning, carrying my red box. I have always fancied Rhodri Morgan’s office and wondered whether I could negotiate an agreement with the others, in view of my need for a play pen for Henri. (Well, worth a try!) and wondered to where would my first overseas Ministerial visit be; New Zealand, Australia - I may even catch the Test Match...

Glyn Davies:
Bang goes my chance of being a Minister. No huge Ministerial salary. No Ministerial car. No huge staff to prepare my speeches etc. etc. etc.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 7:41 pm, , links to this post

Crunch time for Rhodri

Followers of Welsh politics will know that the Assembly budget was rejected by opposition parties in October.

What should have followed was weeks of negotiations, eventually leading to a settlement which had something for all parties.

Today, that settlement wasn't reached.

The opposition parties held a joint press conference this afternoon outlining their continued opposition to the budget, after the latest talks faltered again last night.

Rhodri Morgan insisted he'd stick with the budget, and hinted he'd resign if defeated in the chamber next Wednesday.

The opposition said they'd form a coalition government if the Labour government were to resign over a defeated budget.

The sticking point is over public service investment. Labour finds itself in the strange position of facing a humiliating defeat because the Tories are demanding more money for public services. Surely, nothing better demonstrates the weird world of Welsh politics than that.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 6:44 pm, , links to this post

How much is your AM worth?

Currently £46,191, plus very generous expenses. But the Western Mail reports today that they could get a pay rise after the Senior Salaries Review Board meets next year.

After May's elections, Assembly Members will technically have more law-making responsibility, and this could see their incomes rise.

Here's a novel idea: Why not link Assembly Members' pay increases to any rise in the lowest income rates in Wales? That way they have a vested interest in actually making a difference to people's lives, rather than simply rewarding themselves automatically.

Wales already has the lowest incomes in the UK. On average, men earn £20,000, and women earn just £14,500. Politicians might like to think about addressing that problem before giving themselves another slap on the back.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:18 am, , links to this post

How to become a transsexual

Transgender roadmap. Use with care - there's no return journey.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:11 am, , links to this post

Badger of Honour Watch #002

This week's badgers of honour:

- physical and mental abuse
- women shopping
- and from Carpeted Pet Steps: 'post-comtean red and guardless, with the arrow-patterned answ'ring Tecumseh.'

The badger is confused.


posted by Blamerbell @ 10:54 am, , links to this post

We have ways of making you eat

Not content with having more CCTV cameras than the rest of the world, smart cards are now routinely used in some schools to monitor our children's eating habits.

The Innovations Report piloted the scheme last year, concluding that:

Smart card systems could be used to help schools with healthy eating programmes through personalised feedback on food choices, or reward schemes for children who choose healthy options.

So, basically our children are being watched, analysed and conditioned.

And why stop there? We could put a microchip in each child's head so that we're aware of their location at all times. This could hook up to a CCTV system so that we can see them at all times. Then we could track all their purchases through a smart card, and throw in routine lie detector tests in case they've scoffed a hamburger behind the bicycle sheds.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:38 am, , links to this post

Dance music is crap

It just is, OK.

I could try and tell you why in an elongated musical analysis, but essentially it's coming through my floorboards as I write and it sounds like we're in the middle of an earthquake.

It is so very very sad how something as inspiring a phenomenon as music could be reduced to the shit that is the modern dance/drug/idiot music scene. But it's happened, and the only way to deal with it is to drive anyone who likes it out into a secluded forest and put a bullet through their head.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:27 pm, , links to this post

Hamid Karzai's brother is 'major dope dealer'

Alex Thomson is just back from Channel 4's week of news from Afghanistan, and he's brought a suitcase full of gossip back with him.

Unsurprisingly, he was most scathing of the Ministry of Defence's attempt to ban ITV journalists from embedding with the British military. He said it was 'stupid, irrational and inexcusable.'

But by far the most interesting thing he had to say was on the president of Afghanistan.

'[Hamid' Karzai's brother in Kabul is a major dope dealer,' he said. 'I can say this without fear of libel.'

Ahmed Wali Karzai, a political representative for Southern Afghanistan, has been frequently linked to the drug trade, an allegation he vehemently denied to the Telegraph last year.

But the Channel 4 team exposed just how open the drugs trade in Afghanistan is at present. It would be no surprise if, as Thomson suggests, it goes right to the very highest level of government.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:35 pm, , links to this post

Caption Competition #002

'Kids, there's no such thing as Santa Claus.

Aliens, on the other hand...'

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posted by Blamerbell @ 9:43 am, , links to this post

I loathe Peter Mandelson

Came across this on some audio I have. Thought I'd share it with the world.

Charles Reiss (former political editor of the Evening Standard):

"I have intensely loathed Peter Mandelson ever since he was Director of Communications for the Labour Party. I think he’s a bully and he thinks I’m an idiot."

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posted by Blamerbell @ 9:42 am, , links to this post

Welsh politics blog roundup #001

I was going to call this feature 'CymBlogs' but I thought that would get referrals from google for all the wrong reasons. I've already had big breasts and anal sex on the site recently, and I wouldn't want this blog to become as smutty as its author. Anyway, onto the politics...

Leighton Andrews on Michael Grade - he's 'one of the most self-indulgent people in a self-indulgent industry.' [politics, of course, being a completely selfless business]

Peter Black
caused a bit of a stir by backing Kirsty Williams for Welsh Lib Dem leader. There's no vacancy yet...

...but there is a gaping void in the place where David Davies and Mick Bates should have a brain. They decided to liven things up in the chamber this week by making rude gestures. Glyn Davies has more.

Alun Cairns gets confused over what a Welsh parliament could mean for England and for the Tories.

Huw Lewis writes about the decision to go ahead with a massive opencast project in his constituency, and tries to sweep it under the carpet. The problem for Huw is it'll take one hell of a carpet to disguise 10m tonnes of coal, dust, noise and pollution.

And Daniel Davies proves that you don't need to be able to spell to be a Welsh political journalist.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:58 am, , links to this post

Expensive bit of kitty

How much is that kitty in the window?

18.9 million yen (or £82,641.14).

A Richard Lloyd Parry find. Good blog that, by the way.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:50 am, , links to this post

Rhodri and Hardie

The first ever Labour MP is now officially commemorated in his constituency.

A bust of Keir Hardie has been unveiled outside the council offices in Aberdare - he won what was the Merthyr and Aberdare constituency in 1900 and held it until his death in 1915.

I wonder what he'd make of Rhodri Morgan's '21st Century Socialism'? Probably not much more than he'd have made of Morgan's 2003 election gimmick, 'Clear Red Water'.

It's all pre-election gobbledygook, isn't it?

He certainly wouldn't have been happy that Ann Clwyd was the MP to unveil him. Hardie was an ardent pacifist who fervently opposed the Great War. Clwyd, by contrast, makes no bones about her support for the war in Iraq.

Merthyr, Aberdare and Wales used to be political melting pots, formative of some of Britain's great ideas and ideals. But back then we had real heavyweight politicians. Hardie said, 'mankind in the mass is not moved by hatred, but by love of what is right.'

But mankind is also moved by great leaders. Regrettably, most Welsh ones are now statues.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 7:48 pm, , links to this post

It was THIS big

Famous politicians devise hand signals for the size of their egos.

1. Neil Kinnock

2. Rhodri Morgan

3. Tony Blair

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posted by Blamerbell @ 5:42 pm, , links to this post

New blog #001 - Rhodri Glyn Thomas

The Assembly has another blogging AM. I spotted a link to Rhodri Glyn Thomas's blog on Adam Price's site.

Only two posts, so far, and both in Welsh.

If he says anything interesting, I'll translate.

The one thing I've noticed so far is that Welsh speakers refer to Rhodri Morgan as 'y prif weinidog.' This translates as 'Prime Minister' rather than 'First Minister,' which is usually used in English.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:52 pm, , links to this post