Blogged off #002 - Adam Price

This time it's newly crowned 'Welsh MP of the Year,' Adam Price. Clearly, he didn't win any marks for blogging.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 7:57 pm, , links to this post


Welsh politicians are all winners

Welsh politicians swept the board at last night's Welsh Politician of the Year awards in Cardiff Bay. Funny that.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:40 pm, , links to this post


Labour & the Unions, Tories & business

Individual donations to Labour have plummeted. Hardly surprising now that the greasy pole to honours has been so publicly cut short.

As a consequence, the Labour party are now more dependent than ever on the Trade Unions - they cough up for 87% of all donations to Labour.

The Tories, meanwhile, are still accepting cash from the Midlands Industrial Council - the most recent a £300,000 donation. This despite key members from the MIC being interviewed by police in the cash for peerages affair. The crux of this story was that rich businessmen would give money to the MIC who would then donate to the Conservative party, thus preserving their anonymity. (More HERE) Very sneaky and somewhat against the spirit of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act, I think.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 10:53 am, , links to this post


Assembly politicians finger Elis-Thomas

Punch and Judy politics? Playground politics? Or simply, Welsh Assembly politics? A joke in itself these days. This is the kind of behaviour our politicians get up to in the chamber:

Watch David Davies and Mick Bates caught on camera as they give the Presiding Officer, Lord Elis-Thomas, the finger.


As I've written before, the standard of debate in the Senedd is often appalling. I watched yesterday's debate on the Queen's speech, and David Davies (Tory) was particularly noticeable for his childish interventions. Not constructive observations, not even relevant interventions, but rather little jokes and snide remarks that betrayed his obvious contempt for the proceedings.

It's no wonder the Tories weren't keen on selecting his father as a candidate in 2007.

Unless the politicians themselves take Welsh politics seriously, they've no hope of persuading the public to give a damn in the lead-up to the next election.

Still, it is quite funny. Tee-hee.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 2:14 pm, , links to this post


A Royal Mess

Assembly candidates are already getting into trouble for blogging their opinions. Alun Davies, who heads Labour's regional candidate list in Mid and West Wales, has criticised Prince Charles's decision to buy a house on Carmarthenshire's Llynywormwood estate.

He wrote:

The aristocracy can choose where they live without caring for the consequences of their easy decisions. And despite the lame questions of a feeble and obsequious media who simply report the PR of toadies and courtiers, my view is that we need to be more circumspect about the Prince's purchase - and its impact upon those people who cannot afford a week's rental of the estate and the luxury of a week's social climbing in the Royal Bed.

The Tories, in particular, have reacted furiously. But to be honest, who cares? In fact, it's rather a good blog entry.

Read more, http://www.alundavies.org.uk/

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


'Welsh train passengers are second class'

Peter Hain likes speaking out against things - tax, Guantanamo Bay, Russia. Today, he took on First Great Western.

As I've written HERE and HERE, the train company recently won a franchise from the government which involves cutting a number of key commuter services in Wales. They're now in the peculiar position of being criticised left, right and centre by Labour politicians, despite having their plans approved by the Labour Government's own Department for Transport.

Hain waded into the debate today, calling the cancellation of the 5.18 service to Swansea 'not acceptable.'

'First Great Western are treating Welsh passengers as second-class passengers and that is not acceptable. I hope that [they] will reverse their policy,' he said.

The timetable changes on December 10th, and as with all the other matters on which Hain is apparently 'unspoken,' he has absolutely no power to turn it around.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 3:56 pm, , links to this post


Hain's legislative muddle

Peter Hain visits the Senedd today for the first time. He's there to explain the ramifications of the Queen's speech for Wales. I'm watching the action unfold at the moment. (You can join the fun, HERE.) The Secretary of State has spoken, and he's now being cross-examined by leaders of the opposition parties. The overall feeling is... confusion.

The next Welsh Assembly Government will have new powers, as detailed in the Government of Wales Act. The only problem is nobody seems to know quite what they are and if Westminster will be able to block them.

Hain suggested earlier this month that Welsh Labour MPs would block Proportional Representation during the pre-legislative stages at Westminster, if an Assembly Government ever voted for it. He was pressed on this by Ieuan Wyn Jones and Nick Bourne, but his only response was that he didn't think PR would ever get through. He didn't say whether or not he'd use his powers to block it.

Under the new Government of Wales Act, the Assembly can request power to legislate on a range of issues, but Westminster reserves the right to veto this. In essence, a non-Labour led coalition could come to power in the elections next May and find their legislative programme consistently thrown out by the UK Labour Government.

Confusion? Cop out? Or just the usual course of Welsh Assembly politics?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 3:42 pm, , links to this post


Can Merthyr get any worse?

Merthyr Tydfil was recently voted the third worst town in Britain. But the Welsh Assembly is doing its best to make sure Merthyr wins the honour next time around.

They've won an appeal court decision to inflict one of Europe's biggest opencast sites on the town.

The Environment minister, Carwyn Jones, was found by the high court to have been 'biased' in favour of the scheme by apparently pre-empting a planning decision on the project. But the appeal court has now reversed that decision and so the opencast will go ahead.

Residents are annoyed that the buffer zone between the site and houses will be lower than usual for a project of this scale. In Scotland, there must be a 500m buffer between the mine face and houses. In Merthyr, it'll be just 40m.

Statistics show that Merthyr's people are already among the unhealthiest in Britain. Thanks to the Assembly it looks like Merthyr will be moving up that ladder too.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 10:55 am, , links to this post


The internet, Caerphilly and breasts

The good people of Caerphilly are prolific internet users.

According to Google Trends, Caerphilly scores highest in searches for both 'Welsh Assembly' and 'Cardiff City FC' - two of my greatest passions. Intriguingly, ranks 4 to 10 in the Bluebrids search are all English, with our great friends from Bristol in 4th place.

However, if it's Big Tits you're after, then you're most likely a Brummy.

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


Ioan Gruffudd's Japanese admirers

Just been checking through referrals to this site and and I came across THIS - a Japanese blog dedicated to Ioan Gruffudd.

The Gruffudd Girls Blog keeps what I can only assume is a flock of Hornblower-loving Japanese women informed of all Ioan's latest escapades.

However, it starts badly, falling into the usual trap of assuming that Wales is in England. The title page - Gruffudd Girls BLOG 英国ウェールズ出身の俳優 Ioan Gruffudd ヨアン・グリフィズ ブログ - literally means 'English Welsh Actor Ioan Gruffudd (or rather Yoan Gurifizu) Blog.'

You can't argue with its nose for news, however. The latest Burberry developments I blogged on earlier are all there.

I'll certainly bear it in mind next time I want to look at some lovely Ioan pictures, like this one:

(not many faces like that in Aberdare)

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posted by Blamerbell @ 7:07 pm, , links to this post


Hain: 'Putin' the boot in

Peter Hain has attacked Russia's 'huge attacks on liberty.'

He spoke out after a period which has seen the dodgy deaths of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, and her friend Alexander Litvinenko.

I'm always amused at the timing of a country suddenly entering our bad books. Don't forget that Blair stood side-by-side with Putin as hundreds of civilians were killed in Chechnya by Russian troops.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:10 pm, , links to this post


Welsh parties can't pay for their promises

The plug's been pulled on wishful promises ahead of next year's assembly elections.

Treasury forecasts show that the Assembly's block grant will fall by at least 1% from next year. And while that may not sound like much, this is the pot of cash from which election pledges are being made.

Take Plaid's promise to double the budget for childcare provisions, which I wrote about HERE.

Plaid's leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, was asked how he intended to pay for it. He said: 'The money will be provided out of the increase there will be in the Assembly budget during [the next] four years. It doesn't come out of an individual policy area, it actually comes from the increase we expect in the budget over that period.'

But if that increase isn't as big as expected, what then?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:04 am, , links to this post


Ioan Gruffudd enters Burberry debate

Ioan Gruffudd has spoken out in the 'Keep Burberry British' debate, and now finds himself in the peculiar position of backing a campaign against products his celebrity endorses.

Grufudd was made the global face of Burberry last year, but this week he wrote a letter to the company's chief executive asking him to 'choose an alternative course of action' to the plan of closing their plant in the Rhondda, at the cost of 300 jobs.

It's something of an unprecedented move for a brand's star promoter to start lobbying against it - a bit like Jennifer Aniston telling people that L'oreal makes your hair fall out or David Beckham saying that Pepsi is bad for your teeth.

Of course, if the factory still closes Gruffudd will be in a real pickle. Does he carry on promoting Burberry, or shed his clothes for the lobbyists?

Women everywhere will be hoping for the latter.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 9:37 am, , links to this post


Plaid force the Iraq issue

As I wrote a while back, Plaid are trying to force the government's hand on Iraq by tabling an amendment to the Queen's speech.

According to the Wales on Sunday, they now have the support of 105 MPs and the ball is very much in the speaker's court as to whether he calls it or not.

I think they've probably got a chance, and they'll be making the headlines again if they're successful.

As before, why weren't the Lib Dems or the Tories leading this charge? What *do* they do all day?

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


Didn't order blowfish

I had sushi for lunch yesterday. Toro. It was tasty. Still alive today. Appears that poisoning isn't a widespread activity.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:57 pm, , links to this post


Blogged off #001 - Carl Sargeant

Carl Sargeant AM, November 2nd:
'Welcome to the weblog, its seems everyone, well most people now have one. Its either X-factor or create blog! Guess who won. Anyway, lets see how it goes for the next few weeks.'

Total number of posts: 3

Last post: November 8th

Longest nonsensical sentence:
'On a lighter note Traditional Tory ‘Melding’ lay claim to his ignorance of one of the Saturday Night TV programme presenters and while i can’t actually see Melding doing x-factor, i was surprised when he suggested that its only recently that he found out Ant ‘n’ Dec (Saturday Night Live) was actually two people. Gave me a laugh though.'

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posted by Blamerbell @ 7:04 pm, , links to this post


The monk and the willy

Thanks to Ray Bold for spotting this:

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A Thai Buddhist monk cut off his penis with a machete because he had an erection during meditation and declined to have it reattached, saying he had renounced all earthly cares, a doctor and a newspaper said on Wednesday.

The 35-year-old monk, whose name was withheld for privacy reasons, allowed medical staff at Maharaj hospital, 780 km (480 miles) south of Bangkok to dress his wound, but refused reattachment, hospital chief Prawing Euanontouch said.

"We cleaned up the wound, gave him some stitches, but he declined to have it reattached because he said had abandoned everything," Prawing told Reuters by telephone.

Prawing declined to comment on the monk's erection, which Bangkok-based Kom Chad Luk tabloid reported on its Web site.


Meanwhile, in the UK, a free machete giveaway with Nuts magazine produces catastrophic results in the buddhist community.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 6:43 pm, , links to this post


Return of the EU Constitution

They tried, they failed. But now, it's back. Smaller and lighter than before...

French MEP Alain Lamassoure, the man behind Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to bring back the EU Constitution in a slimmed down form - the so called "mini-treaty" - has spelled out the French Presidential hopeful's strategy for getting the proposal accepted by EU countries.

He said that the premise for Sarkozy's approach is that any attempt to relaunch the Constitution "could not be allowed to fail". Lamassoure has said that this means that EU leaders have to agree not to hold referendums, except in Ireland. He made it clear that the text would not be renegotiated as such and that there would be an agreement to retain the "heart of the Constitution" on which, according to Lamassoure, there had been a strong consensus. He argued that as this would only be an ordinary treaty, there would be no need to "annoy the people" with another referendum.
(From Open Europe)

I'm sure Gordon Brown will enjoy clearing that up for us.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 6:39 pm, , links to this post


Caption Competition #001

First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, and Culture Minister, Alun Pugh, in Colwyn Bay recently.

Who invited that kid in the pointy hat to the funeral?

'These triangular outside TVs are brilliant, Rhodri.'

'Alun, could you distract the cameras by making an attraction out of an abstract object - my legs have wandered off independently of my upper body again.'

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posted by Blamerbell @ 10:18 am, , links to this post


Will it blend?

My grandad only had one tooth. He could have used some of this stuff...

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:41 am, , links to this post


Civil War in Iraq

From the BBC tonight:

A wave of car bombs and mortars in Baghdad's Sadr City district has left about 160 people dead and more than 200 injured, Iraq police have said.


It's time for the politicans to stop kidding themselves. Iraq is, and has been for some time, engulfed in a bloody civil war.

The more I talk to politicians, the more I realise how normal they are (contrary to popular belief). But normal people have emotions. I would hate to be an MP who voted for the war in Iraq, knowing that my actions are partly responsible for the current slaughter.

Now's the time for some emotional and moral leadership. And may those Iraqis, and the many thousands who've died before them, rest in peace.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:54 pm, , links to this post


AMs wot blog - the definitive survey

Are politicians' blogs a genuine attempt to communicate with voters, or a plaything for geekoids who are carried away with their internet personas? And what about politicians who don't blog? Are they missing out, or simply retaining their dignity?



As you can see from the links in my sidebar, the Welsh Assembly has quite a contingent of bloggers. But they are still outnumbered by those who don't.



So, I'm going to do a survey. I'll email all the Welsh Assembly members and ask them about their blogging habits. I'll talk to the key players - Leighton Andrews (Labour), Peter Black (Lib Dem) and Glyn Davies (Tory) - the Assembly's blogistocracy.



Radio Wales's Eye on Wales recently made a programme about the Welsh blogging scene. But I'll look at Welsh Assembly bloggers in particular.



Who's at it? What drives them? Frankly, what's the point?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:10 pm, , links to this post


Virgin voters

The Isle of Man makes political history today by becoming the first place to allow 16 year-olds to vote. It was also the first place in the world to give women the vote. Truly a groundbreaking bunch.

When I was 16 I'd have given a puny, pubescent arm and a leg to vote. I had 10 GCSEs - of course *I* was clever enough.

Now, I'm not so sure. 16 year-olds have sex and get pissed, some even get hitched, but that doesn't mean they're mature.

At least the Isle of Man has opened a debate on the subject. What we need to do in the UK is have a proper discussion about the appropriate 'coming of age age' and normalise alocohol, sex, marriage and voting legislation.

Then, teenagers can have one fantastically boozy night and wake up with a hangover, a wife, a civil partner, a driving licence and a vote.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:37 am, , links to this post


5.18 to Swansea

I caught up with Robin Shaw, Director of Transport Wales, on his way to the public meeting in Caldicot last night, over the cancellation of commuter services in Wales.

We were waiting for the 5.18 from Cardiff to Swansea. From December, that service will cease to exist.

That means it'll be almost an hour between the express services to Swansea at peak time. And as one irate commuter explained, those services come from London and are invariably late and over-subscribed anyway.

As the 5.18 came in, Robin Shaw pointed out that all those people on the train at Cardiff would soon have to get off and wait for another train. He estimates around 200 people will have to put up with this inconvenience from December - hardly the best month to begin hanging around on Cardiff's exposed, open platforms.

All this has been approved by the Department for Transport, of course, against the will of the Welsh Assembly.

No wonder people don't want to leave their cars at home.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:21 am, , links to this post


First Great Western

For a company with the words 'First' and 'Great' in its name, First Great Western is pretty shoddy.

Earlier this year the company won the West England and Wales franchise. It then drew up a new timetable, which comes into place in December 2006. This met the requirements of the Department for Transport, but it wasn't welcomed by commuters who'll now see key services cut. In fact, if you're travelling from Monmouthshire to Bristol you'll see an 80% cut in services.

A campaign group has been set up, and they'll be grilling politicians and representatives from First Great Western in Caldicot tonight.

The company claims 'the new timetable, along with rolling stock improvements and First Great Western’s investment to increase the maximum speed of the relief lines between Reading and London Paddington will lead to a 20 per cent increase in seats in the morning and 30 per cent in the evening peak.'

That's increasing capacity by cutting a number of train services that are 'already standing room only,' according to Passenger Focus spokesman Simon Pickering. Some logic.

Having lived in Japan, I've become something of a train elitist. Over there they observe our transport difficulties with bewilderment. There's a word they'd probably use to describe it - wafu, meaning 'Western Style'. Not first, not great.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:24 am, , links to this post


Glyn Davies: 'Sue Essex, my diamond'

Glyn Davies (Tory AM) opens the voting with a worryingly emotional argument for Labour's Sue Essex:
She is a hard woman. Like a diamond. Tough as granite on the inside - but with the sparkle of sheer bloodyminded reasonableness on the outside. Its a big loss for the Assembly that Sue is retiring next May. I hope that the people who hand out end-of-year awards recognise the sheer talent of this woman. I supported her as my choice for 'AM of the Year' last year and I do so this year as well.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 6:34 pm, , links to this post


Annual Japanese dolphin slaughter

It could only happen in Japan (or perhaps Canada).

Every year, fishermen herd thousands of dolphins into shallow coves and slaughter them with knives and clubs. And the Japanese government pays for it.

An online statement was released today condemning the act, which has been taking place for centuries. The website, actfordolphins.org, says the cull is 'inhumane,' and claims the dolphins are then 'processed and used as pet food or fertilizer'.

The protest, run by leading marine biologists and animal rights protesters, calls on the Japanese government to stop issuing permits for the killing of dolphins. But for the 16,000 slaughtered already this year, it's too late.

Dolphins and whales beware, Japan ain't the best place to take a holiday.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 5:27 pm, , links to this post


Slow day in Welsh politics...

... so, I've been browsing. Somehow I ended up here:

I thought the Bible said anal sex was a sin.”

This is a common misconception. Anal sex is confusing to many Christians because of the attention paid to the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual acts. However, it’s important to realize that these often quoted scriptures refer only to sexual acts between two men. Nowhere does the Bible forbid anal sex between a male and female.


Well, that's OK then.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 5:22 pm, , links to this post


How parliament tried to cheat on Freedom of Information

First, a Freedom of Information request was made, asking for a breakdown of the travel expenses claimed by individual MPs for the past year. I presume the complainant wants to know if politicians are as environmentally friendly as they say they are. I wonder how many times David Cameron or Tony Blair took a bus last year?

Anyway, the House of Commons withheld the information, claiming it was exempt under section 40(2) of the act.

The commissioner wasn't convinced, and found that disclosing the information wouldn't contravene the Data Protection Act. Therefore, the Commissioner concluded that "the House has breached section 1(1) of the Act in that it incorrectly withheld the requested information".

The outcome? The House of Commons had a further 30 days to come up with the information. Funnily enough the juicy bit isn't published on the FOI website. And I wanted to know how much that famous bicycle helmet cost...

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posted by Blamerbell @ 3:58 pm, , links to this post


Iain Dale's guide to bookselling

I've just been leafing through my free copy of Iain Dale's Guide to Political Blogging in the UK. Having got all the way to the back, something leapt off the page: £10!

I wonder how many copies he's sold, given that you can download it for free on his own website?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 7:52 pm, , links to this post


Same old English, always colonizing

This time it's cultural.

The Department for Culture, Media and Support has been running a project to choose England's foremost icons.

And the rest of the world will be surprised to discover what's deemed to be iconically English these days:

- a cup of tea
- the local bobby
- Fish and Chips
- the oak tree
- rugby
- the V sign

...and even THE WEATHER.

What a petty, misguided and divisive project for a government ministry to run.

Tessa Jowell, if she's serious about this, can come down to the Millennium Stadium in the pouring rain. 70,000 rugby fans, I'm sure, will show her that the V sign is alive and well outside of England.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 9:30 am, , links to this post


What have George Bush and Harold Shipman got in common?

Well, quite a lot actually. But among other things, they both read the Guardian.

Bush is in Vietnam this weekend. Do you think he knows the war is over?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 4:54 pm, , links to this post


Badger of Honour Watch #001

Thought I should catch up on some of these...

- ASBOs
- vomiting
- being an exile
- appointing a Turkish coach

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:51 pm, , links to this post


137 journalists dead this year, and counting...

I attended a talk by Rodney Pinder today. He's Director of the International News Safety Institute, set up in 2003 as a resource for journalists in potentially unsafe environments and as a lobbying tool for the protection of journalists in the field.

He had with him some very interesting facts:

- Almost 1,000 journalists and support staff have died in the last 10 years, most of them murdered.
- The five most deadly countries for journalists are Iraq, Russia, Colombia, Iran and the Philippines.
- So far this year 137 journalists have died, most were murdered.
- The British army only recently very reluctantly recognised the right of journalists to report unilaterally from the battlefield. Until then, they argued vehemently that embeds alone were sufficient.
- 90% of people who murder journalists are never prosecuted.
- 157 journalists have died in Iraq, most of them Iraqis.

Rodney Pinder reported from war zones for 30 years, rising to Director of Television at Reuters. He has buried many colleagues and had many lucky escapes himself.

I asked if he thought British and American troops had deliberately targeted journalists in Iraq. He said there was certainly 'plenty of evidence of American forces beating up and detaining Arab journalists' in particular. He added that it's commonplace in Israel for the military to 'target journalists - and they've been targeting them for some time'.

First we bombed Serbian TV during the Kosovo war, then Bush seriously considered bombing Al-Jazeera in Baghdad - and now journalists are routinely seen as the enemy in the battlefield, in Iraq, Israel and elsewhere.

I agree with Rodney that our own Ministry of Defensive behaved 'reprehensibly' in their recent treatment of ITN. Too often, the values of free speech and expression under which banner we stand are undermined by the actions of our governments and armed forces as we assert to fight for them.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:12 pm, , links to this post


Is there no news today?

BBC Breakfast at around 8.20 to 8.30 this morning:

- preview of this week's Panorama
- preview of this week's Planet Earth
- call for contributions to next week's BBC School Day
- preview of tonight's Children in Need

....coming soon to a terminally bored person near you.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:33 am, , links to this post


Pete Clifton cuts the crap

Nick Robinson 'gets it,' says Pete Clifton, head of BBC Interactive in Cardiff today. 'Clearly, from this political editor we get a lot more value than we did from the last one, who did it in a very different way.'

What he means is that a Nick Robinson blog entry looks like THIS. But an Andrew Marr piece looked something like THIS.

What's the difference? About 500 words and and another world of style.

Clifton wants more blogs like Robinson's - a page which currently scores 100,000 page impressions per day. Soon we'll see select 'Correspondents' blogs' - not an 'avalanche from all over the world,' but reader-friendly material from others who 'get it' too.

As I've written before, there's too much crap in the blogosphere, so it's refreshing to see the BBC opting for depth over breadth.

But where Clifton slightly misses the point is that the BBC isn't often broad enough. He's right to filter out blogging for the sake of blogging, but what's left is simply the BBC at its most mainstream.

If the Beeb is really 'to get' the blogosphere, it must recognise its rebel culture. So, when a story breaks on Israel-Palestine, it's not enough to hear the professional thoughts of Jeremy Bowen, we want to hear from the explicitly pro-Palestine and Zionist camps too.

In the blogosphere, it's not enough to report these opinions, they need their own platform. And if the BBC won't provide it, they'll do it somewhere else.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:03 pm, , links to this post


Marek v Elis-Thomas

Fireworks in the Assembly yesterday.

This from Welsh Labour:

John Marek, who is also the Assembly's Deputy Presiding Officer, is
involved in a drawn-out argument with Dafydd Elis-Thomas, the Presiding
Officer, over the appointment of a senior civil servant.

Today John Marek lost his temper in the Assembly chamber, shouting accusations at Lord Elis-Thomas. Welsh Labour responded by saying Dr Marek was embarrassing his constituency, which wanted him to concentrate on local issues.


Marek and Elis-Thomas have a long-running feud, which will be nicely resolved next May when Marek is defeated and Elis-Thomas is ousted from his plush presiding officer's chair.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:26 am, , links to this post


Iain Dale and the establishment

Iain Dale tells us he's a blogger, an Essex Boy, West Ham season ticket holder, Audi lover, golfer, iPod addict and so on.

But he's also a signed-up member of the establishment.


Strange then that his new internet TV station, 18 doughty street, should pretend not to be. It's 'anti-establishment TV,' all about 'empowering the little people,' says Dale.

Recent guests include David Trimble, Ann Widdecombe (twice) and David Davis. Little people, if they are there, must be so small they aren't showing up on the screen.

But last week, Dale admitted what we knew all along. 'Guido and I have joined the media Establishment according to the Press Gazette's LIST of the 50 People Shaping Online Journalism,' he writes on November 10th.

So why deny it? Dale could soon be a Tory MP, and he's already getting irate at suggestions from certain Welsh bloggers that perhaps he isn't being as frank as he'd like to be.

There's a pub around the corner from 18DS. Here's a map. Iain, if you're reading, get down there, talk to people and start taking the establishment less seriously.

It may be fun talking to big names, but that won't empower any little people.

[Note: This entry was mistakenly published with an October entry date earlier today. It's now republished with the correct date. Iain Dale responded thus: 'Saucer of milk anyone?']

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


Freedom of Information junky

How much information does one person need?

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act has produced some fantastic requests, and some intriguing answers. HERE are the BBC's picks.

But one chap has made over 750 FOI requests. And now the authorities have had enough.

Public Authority: Sussex Police
Summary: In response to a request for information made on 22 October 2005, Sussex Police notified the complainant that they considered the request vexatious. The complainant is known to have made over 750 requests for information to various public bodies during the previous year. In line with Freedom of Information Act 2000 Awareness Guidance No 22: Vexatious and Repeated Requests, the Commissioner considered whether the public authority had demonstrated that the requests would impose significant burden, have the effect of harassing the public authority, or could otherwise be characterised as obsessive or manifestly unreasonable. In addition the Commissioner considered the number of the requests and the manner in which section 14 exemption had been applied by the authority. The Commissioner concluded that there was a demonstrable pattern, and so judged that Sussex Police had applied the exemption correctly.


Sounds like someone with too much freedom of time on their hands.

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


Marek on the way out

Did he? Didn't he?

Well, John Marek finally stepped down as Chair of the House Committee at the National Assembly this week.

The Presiding Officer, Dafydd Elis-Thomas, had 'resigned him' back in September, but Marek then refused to confirm whether or not he'd left the post.

Tory AM William Graham now takes over the role with Marek's influence at the Assembly rapidly fading, as are his hopes of re-election in May.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 3:06 pm, , links to this post


Coalition chatter on the blogs

There's over six months still to go until the Welsh Assembly elections, but the political bloggers are already wondering who they'd like to get into bed with on May 4th. Will it be Lib-Lab? Or a rainbow coalition of everyone else? Or even Plib-Plab - everyone but the Tories?

Peter Black (Lib Dem)

The Welsh Liberal Democrats, as they demonstrated in the last partnership government, are not in the business of seeking power for its own sake. Our objective will be to implement as many of our policies as possible and we will not be abandoning important principles just to save Labour's hide.

Glyn Davies (Tory)

The alternative must be a Government without Labour - or in other words a Plaid/Lib Dem/Tory Government led by the biggest party after Labour - which I have not the slightest doubt will be the new, modern, reasonable Tories.

Some people don't think that I am serious about this. Well, think on this. I am going around being really nice to and about Mick Bates (really nice man) which for me is the political equivilent of eating cooked rat.


This is going to run and run. Especially since the Tories, Lib Dems and Plaid have only half a year to find red, green, indigo and violet parties to join them.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 10:08 pm, , links to this post


Partial to martial law

So, how do you feel about martial law?

'Well, it's OK I suppose. No big deal,' says Thailand's PM...

posted by Blamerbell @ 9:54 pm, , links to this post


Plaid: 'Bring the boys back home'

Plaid and the SNP are frantically trying to gather names to back an amendment to the Queen's speech on Wednesday.

The amendment calls on the government to outline their Iraq strategy before parliament breaks for Christmas.

I spoke to Plaid's Adam Price MP earlier, who said that they need at least as many votes as Liberal Democrat members in the house to get the amendment called by the speaker. He was enraged that the prime minister will give evidence to the Baker study group in America, but won't speak to his own parliament about the issue.

There's a historical precedent for the move - in 1923 the Liberal Party tabled an amendment to the King's Speech, which demanded withdrawal from Mesopotamia (now Iraq).

I'm told the Queen's speech hasn't been successfully amended by opposition politicians in forty years.

The nationalists, backed this time by Ken Clarke among others, are punching above their weight in Westminster yet again. It's unlikely they'll get this amendment through, but if it's called, it will at least liven up what is usually a pretty turgid parliamentary session.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 7:17 pm, , links to this post


Google blog search

"Burnley"

posted by Blamerbell @ 7:13 pm, , links to this post


Children, Children, Children

It's been a day of 'For God's sake think about the children' in Welsh politics today.

First, the Conservatives promised to change the 9 to 5 culture of the British workplace.

Alun Cairns, the Welsh Tories' Enterprise spokesman, told me that he wants businesses to become more flexible, so that parents can fit their work around parenting routines.

The Tories will give rate relief to businesses that change their ways, so that more parents can pick their children up from the nursery at midday, as Alun does.

But Plaid think they've trumped that: they'll give parents money towards childcare.

Ieuan Wyn Jones, Plaid's leader, told me that if they are elected in May's Assembly elections they'll make sure every family has access to cheap, affordable child care.

And all this on the back of Labour's pledge on Saturday to eradicate child poverty by 2020.

No word yet on childcare from the Welsh Lib Dems. They obviously haven't heard that over one in four Welsh children live in poverty.

But it won't be long before we hear from the Lib Dems too. Most of the political parties have realised that children aren't voters, but they *are* vote winners. Expect many more family friendly policy announcements in the run up to May.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 5:58 pm, , links to this post


Match report

What the Observer says...

posted by Blamerbell @ 12:06 pm, , links to this post


Burnley - a disgrace to civility

Burnely fans vent their anger at this blog:

http://blamerbellbriefs.blogspot.com/2006/11/burnley-disgrace-to-football.html#links

And struggle with the concept of xenophobia:

http://boards.footymad.net/mboard/fmb.php?tno=104&fid=297&sty=2&act=1&mid=2135142995

Because Burnley's not a racist place:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/lancashire/2994563.stm

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:09 am, , links to this post


What did the Tory say to the disabled person?

Golden rule of blogging: never re-tell a bad joke, especially when it's about disabled people.

From Glyn Davies AM:

Tory - Lib Dem Cooperation.

I'd called a meeting tonight in Welshpool for people interested in a Consultation Document about the future of hospital services in Shropshire. About 250 people turned up, including one man in a wheelchair who couldn't get into the meeting because the lift was inaccessible. Mick Bates had dropped in for the first 10 minutes of the meeting - so Mick and I held hands and created an arms cradle to carry the gentleman up the flights of stairs to the meeting which had been moved to the Town Hall because so many people came. This was cross party cooperation of the highest order. Maybe a sign of things to come?

We were not really prepared for so many - so had not organised a mike. My voice is quite strong but those asking questions could not be heard at the back of the hall. The Mayor of Welshpool, Ann Davies, sitting in the front row suggested that I ask questioners to stand up - just as the man in the wheelchair indicated that he wanted to speak. I couldn't resist it. I told the meeting what Ann had said and asked him to stand up to ask his question. It brought the house down. Although I already knew from our adventure getting him in that he had a real sense of fun, looking back, I suppose it was still a bit of a risk. It was a joke that could easily have gone wrong.

As a general rule I try to treat disabled people as if they were not disabled at all. Tonight, it was the right thing to do and the man in the wheelchair made an excellent speech.


Well, that's OK then.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 7:59 pm, , links to this post


Burnley - a disgrace to football

Cardiff City are clear again at the top of the Championship tonight after overcoming a Burnley team who were more interested in kicking shins than footballs.

Burnley's thugishness was epitomised in the behaviour of their brutish defender, Frank Sinclair, who not only committed horrendous fouls, but didn't have the sportsmanship to acknowledge them. Instead, he barked at the referee and whined at the linesman - all a futile attempt to distract from the fact that he's not a very good footballer anymore.

Burnley play football like lumberjacks: they're big and they chop down what's in front of them. The thing about lumberjacks is that they are lousy footballers, and so are Burnley. Quite how they were third place in the Championship going into this game is beyond me.

But despite the negativity of the opposition, Cardiff persevered...and prevailed. Ricardo Scimeca curled in a wonderful strike mid-way through the first half to secure a deserved victory.

Burnely deserved nothing and got nothing, except another axe to grind.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 6:31 pm, , links to this post


Our dead, not yours

The conditions here are terrible. There is sewage everywhere. It pollutes our water. Most people use buckets and plastic bags for toilets. Our children suffer all the time for diarrhoea and other diseases because it is so filthy.
Mary Akinyi, Nairobi, Kenya


The United Nation Delveopment Programme's latest human development data was released this week. You can see it HERE.

It reports that a sixth of the world's population still doesn't have access to safe, clean water, while over a third doesn't have access to sanitation.

But do we care?

Here's what you get if you search for a story about it in our mainstream press: Telegraph, Times, Guardian, Independent, Sun, Mirror.

Virtually nothing, with the exception of the Guardian.

Today we purport to remember our war dead. The papers are full of their usual second world war inspired bombast.

Never mind the 5,000 children who die every day because they can't even get a clean glass of water.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:16 pm, , links to this post


Beaujolais is nouveau again

The Japanese calendar is nothing if not predictable. So, for example, on February 3rd each year everyone knows that they must go out onto a roof, throw off a handful of beans and shout "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" ("Devils out, happiness in").

Similarly, the third Thursday in Novemeber is always Beaujolais time. Japan goes crazy for young, fruity French wine at incredibly inflated prices. People have parties, give each other presents for no reason and the whole of Japan wakes up with blue teeth and bad breath.

I don't remember anyone in Britain ever getting excited about a new batch of wine, except perhaps Jilly Goolden. But then I don't remember anyone in Britain ever gettting excited about anything in the way Jilly Goolden does about wine.

In Japan, however, something ain't worth doing unless everyone does it. And so the release of new Beaujolais is an event on a par with Christmas. Within two weeks nobody wants to look at the stuff, and it plummets in price so that fad-ignorant foreigners can guzzle it up out of season.

According to the Japan Times, this year's batch "strikes a good balance between fruitiness and acidity". So, that would be a sort of 'winey' taste then?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:44 am, , links to this post


Plaid's alternative Queen's speech

Plaid's playing fantasy politics again today by imaginging what they'd do if Wales had a proper parliament. They've unveiled an alternative Queen's speech which you can read in full HERE.

There's a lot of waffle, but the key proposals are a ban on plastic bags in supermarkets, a bank holiday for St. David's day and a national bank of Wales run by the post office.

They're mostly sensible suggestions, but it won't take long for Labour to say it's easy to come up with ideas when you don't have the money or the means to implement them.

As ever in Welsh politics this is an argument which will go round in circles.

'Give us the power> No> Well if you did we'd to this> But you don't have the power> So give us the power> No....'

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


Going Japanese in the Assembly

The Japanese ambassador was at the Assembly yesterday. They kept that very quiet.

Good job we have so many blogging AMs to fill us in on the details.

Carl Sargeant blogs on the ambassador getting into an awkward corner with the irrepressible Brynle Williams.

And Glyn Davies tells us how Japan only won the war with Russia in 1905 thanks to Welsh support - at least according to the first minister:

Rhodri Morgan was in fine form - telling us about the historical effectiveness of Welsh - Japanese cooperation. It seems that in the war between Japan and Russia some 100 years ago, it was the link with Wales that delivered victory to the Japanese. At that time early knowledge of the approaching fleet was crucial in sea battle - with both sides looking out for the smoke rising from ship's funnels, before the ships themselves came into sight over the horizon. The Japanese used Welsh coal which did not create any smoke at all which gave the Japanese the winning advantage. As Rhodri said, when Wales and Japan work in harness, they can overcome the most formidable challenge.


Of course, the Japan-Russia war came after a brutal war with China and just before the annexation of Korea. It kickstarted Japan's imperial adventure which then resulted in the second world war. Glad we could help.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 10:02 am, , links to this post


Silencing the Tory dissenters

This blog is fast turning into a sort of 'Tory watch'. It's certainly not intended to be, it's just that the Tories keep coming up with great stories.

The latest is that they've sacked (or 'resigned') the man in charge of making them more colourful and representative.

This from the Times:

The deputy chairman of the Conservative Party responsible for recruiting more ethnic minority MPs has resigned as the party was rocked by the second race row in as many days.

Bernard Jenkin quit his position in a wide-ranging Conservative reshuffle as a leading ethnic minority candidate denounced his own party, claiming that Mr Jenkin had told him that he would not be selected for a seat because he was not white.


This comes as no surprise to anyone who has met any grass-root Tories. They are miles away from the party leadership on a wide range of issues.

At the Welsh Conservatives policy forum in Cardiff, some members called for the abolition of the NHS and for tighter controls on immigrants who continually 'sponge off the state'.

Cameron's gift is not necessarily in changing the Conservative party but, as a former PR executive, in spinning the dissenters out of the equation.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:25 am, , links to this post


Test yourself on web logos

This is a bit of fun I spotted. How good is your brand recognition? Give it a go HERE.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:43 am, , links to this post


f**k off and get a real job you welsh tw*t

We're having a right barny over on The Croydonian's blog this evening.

Peter Hitchens was talking out of his arse, so I corrected him.

Unfortunately, Peter Hitchens doesn't like being corrected and so he told me to...

**** ****

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:49 pm, , links to this post


Tory candidate farce

The Welsh Conservative party is trying desperately to have Peter Davies removed from their list of approved candidates for the May 2007 Assembly elections.

Why?

Because he wants it abolished.

There was a time, of course, when every Tory candidate stood on an anti-Assembly platform. One of the reasons the Tories weren't so successful in 1999 was that they were trying to get elected to an institution for which they had no appetite. As recent as the 2005 general election their policy was to offer Welsh people the chance to scrap it.

But when David Cameron took control the Tories didn't just go green, they went red too. The new Tories embrace devolution. They even claim to be the party of the Welsh language.

So it wouldn't look good to field a candidate who fundamentally opposes devolution, even if he's the father of an existing assembly member.

These days a Tory candidate should preferably be young, blonde and blogging. Speaking of which, the word from the tory blogs on this is... nothing. All blogs, no balls.

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


The Republic of Scotland

There's a "clear consensus" for an independent Scotland, says Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party.

What he means is that one poll had 51% in favour of independence yesterday. I dread to think what would happen to the hyperbole if there was ever a bigger than 2% gap in opinion.

But the fact remains that of all the devolved governments, the Scots are the most keen on going it alone.

Tony Blair said that people would soon realise the "folly of the SNP position."
But if the SNP gain power in next year's elections (or indeed, ever) they have promised to call a referendum on independence within four years. You could then excpect calls for an English parliament to become more potent, especially if a Scot was presiding over Westminster. There are already a lot of frustrated Englishmen out there, among them the vocal Campaign for an English Parliament. Logically, they have a strong case and they know it.

Never mind Iraq, Tony Blair's legacy might just be the break-up of the union.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 10:06 am, , links to this post


Big Brother's Glyn says 'Vote Plaid'

Big Brother's Glyn Wise was at the Welsh Assembly today to try and encourage young people to vote.

More specifically, he was *instructing* young people to vote Plaid Cymru at the Assembly elections in 2007. Somewhat fortuitously, a bus load of schoolkids turned up on cue to scream and swoon, though they didn't seem that receptive to all the political chatter.

The event was organised by Plaid's youth movement, Cymru-X, who are hoping Glyn will bring out some young voters for them in May.

Four out of five registered voters between the ages of 18-34 did not use their vote in the last Assembly elections, so he has his work cut out.

But Glyn hopes one day they'll be voting for him. He re-iterated his desire to become first minister of Wales, despite admitting that he didn't know the difference between an AM and an MP.

'Glyn to win' he beamed. 'Vote for Plaid Cymru because the English government does nothing for the people of Wales,' he shouted, as his young audience fiddled with their mobile phones and a couple of teenage boys mock-humped each other.

'Any questions about politics in general?' asked one of the organisers. Blank-faced girls stared back at her, the teachers looked mortified as none of their students opened their mouths, the teenage boys moved on to mock fighting.

If Glyn can't sell them politics, who can?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 6:18 pm, , links to this post


Fireworks for fools

While it's still November 5th I thought I'd just say what a load of twaddle bonfire night is.

The best we can do for a day of national celebration is to have a party because someone was burned alive.

We're already muttering about the Iraqis botching the Saddam Hussein trial. So should they now reserve the day of his execution as their flagship family night out? 'Penny for the noose' etc.

Fireworks have entertained British audiences for centuries. Nothing quite comes close to making an occasion truly special.

But you first need an occasion. I find it very hard to get excited about burning Guy Fawkes. In fact, I usually end up feeling rather sorry for the chap.

What's that, Ian Huntley's passed away? I'll get the Catherine wheels...

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posted by Blamerbell @ 9:11 pm, , links to this post


Demolition Tories

Not content with just an A-list the Tories are now planning to draw up and X-list.

The list will bring together buildings the public would like to see knocked down, the Observer reports today.

But even though it would be tempting to demolish a number of eyesores, who's to say that today's Milton Keynes won't be tomorrow's Venice?

The Germans and the Japanese have a particular habit of doing this. When the Germans knocked down the old East German parliament building they bulldozed a part of their history.

Some buildings are, of course, beyond repair, but in most cases old buildings are sacrificed for the sake of modern blandness. Far better to re-purpose them so that they speak of the past and to the present. Or are we done with postmodernism already?

(left: top of the X-list?)

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posted by Blamerbell @ 4:06 pm, , links to this post


Poppy watch

Every year there's a race to be the first politician to put on a poppy.

Then, as soon as someone makes the move, the world of public figures obsesses about the redness of its lapels. Nobody wants to be left out. And so it's only a matter of time before people start to wear two or three poppies, just to show how compassionate they are.

The man to blame for the madness this year is Jim Devine MP. He sported his poppy in mid-October, which means he was wearing one before they even went on sale. The British Legion begins selling two weeks before remembrance day, but makes them available in advance to politicians and the media. Goodness knows why, two weeks is quite enough.

Katherine Jenkins (left) launched the appeal in a dress made of 2,500 poppies. I've heard that Huw Edwards, not wanting to be outdone, is thinking of reading the news all week from a bath full of them, a la American Beauty.

A spokesman for the legion said: "People can wear them when they like and where they like. We're just grateful and thankful to the millions of people who wear them with pride."

I can think of one place I wouldn't want to pin one.

(Incidentally, I've no idea why Katherine Jenkins decided to launch the campaign in front of the Berlin Wall.)

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


David Cameron backs top-up fees

Another interesting tidbit from David Cameron's visit to Cardiff yesterday:

Top-up fees are certainly there to stay in England, he said. But the Welsh Conservatives can do whatever they like.

The Tories had always opposed university fees. In fact, the only mention of top-up fess on their website seems to be in the 2005 general election manifesto, in which they promised to scrap them.

As Shadow Education Secretary, Cameron led the charge against fees in parliament. But he's now done a complete u-turn and is even not ruling out lifting the £3,000 cap when it comes up for review in 2009/10.

Cameron said the Tories can act as they wish in the Welsh Assembly, as long as it's "within a conservative framework".

Quite how a Conservative framework can simultanesouly be for and against top-up fees in principle is a mystery.

Just last year Nick Bourne, the Tory leader in the Assembly, said English Labour's support for fees meant Welsh labour was left in a fog of uncertainty.

It's suddenly looking a bit murky for Conservative education policy.

With top-up fees planned for England, it looks very likely Welsh Labour will go down the same route.

In the Assembly, the Welsh Conservatives have fought tooth and nail against university fees, but the impact of Blair's plans will undoubtedly have huge and dreadful repercussions.

If you want to guard against top-up fees, the message is clear: vote for a Conservative government in Westminster.


Not anymore.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:04 am, , links to this post


Cameron: Elfyn who?

David Cameron's in Cardiff today talking tough love on anti-social behaviour.

Over 7,000 ASBOs have been issued since their introduction, and 40% of these have been breached.

Cameron's solution is to be tougher on those who cross the line. He wants more young people imprisoned for breaching ASBOs - somewhat controversial given that most of the individual offences in ASBOs wouldn't normally result in a custodial sentence.

So it's tough love for the delinquents and tough luck for the prison service who'll have to house them.

***

Speaking at a press call today, Cameron couldn't remember the name of Plaid's leader in the commons.

Elfyn Llwyd should probably stop missing key votes sponsored by his party if he wants to make more of an impression on the big political hitters.

Cameron was under the impression that Adam Price was Plaid's main man in Westminster because he's the most 'voluminous'.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 6:26 pm, , links to this post


Plaid Cymru's new website

Plaid Cymru have a new website.
It's very user friendly, but there's a notable lack of blogging going on.

I'll do a review of all the parties' efforts shortly.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 4:56 pm, , links to this post


Westminster summer of nothing

They already decide on their own pay rises and lucrative expenses claims. And today MPs vote to preserve their extensive summer holiday.

The Commons vote this afternoon on whether or not to sit during the first fortnight of September.

I wonder what the outcome will be? Remember that this year they couldn't even be persuaded to get back and discuss the war in Lebanon.

And will this right be extended to other public servants? How would nurses vote if they could decide their own pay and holidays?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:27 pm, , links to this post