It's a landslide for Plaid Cymru

If elections were won and lost on takeup of the social networking website Facebook, then Plaid would be the clear leaders. There are so far 144 members in the Plaid Cymru group and 38 members in its unofficial sister club. The Welsh Liberal Democrats muster only 28 members. But that's still 28 members more than Labour and the Conservatives, who don't seem to have joined the revolution yet.

And it's probably a good thing too. Facebook is for writing crap banter on your mates' walls. It's for stalking attractive women in American colleges. And it's for posting embarrassing photos of drunken misdemeanours.

Why is it that politicians have to come along with their fake hobbies and youth oriented soundbites to spoil it all?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 9:50 am, , links to this post

The price of being an arsehole

It may be tempting to think that as a blogger you are all powerful if you simply hide behind a pair of pants or some other artfully constructed conceit. You are not.

No matter how gratifying it must feel to know you are the talk of the BBC and the corridors of Cardiff Bay, getting it wrong as a blogger could be a costly business. In a landmark case in the USA a blogger had to cough up $50,000.

At the moment, the UK courts are gagging to get stuck into their first major blogging case. Bitch blogs beware: I wouldn't want to be the first.

In legal terms, blogs are as vulnerable as any other form of media, and cases would most likely be heard on grounds of defamation or malicious falsehood. But while the mainstream press enjoys certain privileges which mostly ensure its protection, bloggers would be hung out to dry. A proper journalist is usually on firm ground if he can plead he has practiced 'responsible journalism' - certain checks and balances that may save his skin. Bitch blogs, by their very nature, could never plead this defence.

Previously, British bloggers have cockily assumed immunity on the basis that most blogs are hosted in the United States. Well, that makes sod all difference I'm afraid. According to UK law, defamation occurs where the material is read, not where it is published. Further, as a recent Yahoo! user found to the tune of £17,200, foreign companies now seem willing to co-operate with local law to tackle the bigots who cower in the many dark deluded corners of the information superhighway.

It's simply a matter of time before a shit-slinging fact-fabricating blogger is reeled into court. And when it happens, it won't be with a fishing rod but with an industrial-sized trawler. Anyone with a hyperlink to the offending blog or even those who have simply allowed the offending blogger to comment on their own sites could be implicated. In internet terms, that may be considered equivalent to repeating the defamation or falsehood and so they would also be liable.

In the last few months, the Welsh blog has risen in power and influence while standards appear to have gone in the opposite direction. But the bubble will burst. All you need is a prick.

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

Riding the gravy train

I've dropped the shoulder, shimmied past a few diplomats and finally managed to escape the EU propaganda long enough to get to the internet.

But the bus leaves soon and I'd better be on it. The Europeans are putting on a friendly face but you can tell they're itching to explode as this bunch of Welsh jokers and journalists abuse the free wine and continually fail to show the remotest inclination of being able to turn up anywhere on time.

Still, yesterday at Wales House was interesting. Not so much a house really but a wannabe embassy where the Welsh assembly keeps its lobbyists. Still, it gave me a chance to find out a bit more on the whole 'what if' scenarios of Wales' place in Europe. More on that tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'd love to tell you about some of the after dark antics of our cherished local hacks but the beer was so nice I honestly can't remember a thing:)

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posted by Blamerbell @ 4:08 pm, , links to this post

Today in Brussels

Wake up. Late. Shit.

Buss full of journalists. Mocked.

Go to conference centre.

Drink lots of water.

Listen to speeches.

EU is good. Nobody knows this. Press should tell them.

Constitution is actually a treaty. It's the way forward.

EU is good. Nobody knows this. Press should tell them.

Peter Mandelson helps people in poor countries.

The EU feeds Palestinian children.

An independent Wales would really struggle to get automatic EU membership.

EU is good. Nobody knows this. Press should tell them.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 2:48 pm, , links to this post

Blogging from Belgium

Right, I'm off to Brussels on an EU freebie.

Means I have to sit through such exciting talks as 'The European Union's Communication Policy & Plan D' (Mr. Sten Ramstedt). Can't wait.

Still, Belgian beer IS unquestionably the best in the world so I'm sure it will be all worthwhile.

Anything you'd like me to say to Glenys Kinnock?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 4:39 pm, , links to this post

Blogs, Barnett and budgetary balls

Strange things are happening in blog world. Since I've put those self-congratulatory quotes in the sidebar, people have been emailing me testimonials to add to the list. I had no idea that was blogging etiquette and just pinched all the others from altogether different contexts. But thank you anyway:)

Meanwhile, the Welsh blogosphere has swelled into a Bertha-like monster, constantly spitting out blogs of many persuasions. This is beginning to be a medium for new audiences, even if my third and fourth most frequent visitors come from Welsh Office and BBC domains respectively.

And now Lee Waters, formerly of ITV politics fame, is sending me press releases. Lee is now in the director's saddle of cycling charity Sustrans. Today, they've teamed up with the BMA and National Association of Headteachers to make the civil case for reviewing the Barnett formula: the complicated method for calculating public spending in Wales.

Political parties have long called for changes in the way Wales is funded. Plaid, for example, argue that the current formula is unfair because it is based on the population and not the needs of Wales.

But has it yet come to the point of no return, where either a revision of the Barnett formula or granting the assembly powers to raise tax and revenue are the only remaining options?

Moreover, in the present climate, political parties are cooing about their ability to make big changes within the present or anticipated financial package, perhaps in an attempt to appear fit for government. Today's intervention from civil society might well serve as a reminder to the politicians that it may take much more than a laptop and free school milk to reverse Wales' economic stagnation.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 9:58 am, , links to this post

Accentuating the negative: officially unofficial

So far in this election campaign, Plaid have gone all out on three campaign drives. The seven policies for 2007 (three more than some of their candidates could remember on the Politics Show yesterday), and two attacks on Labour. Never mind the 2:1 ratio, Plaid are now a righteous bunch emphasising positive politics. That, at least, is what we are supposed to write.

But a new 'unofficial Plaid Cymru supporting broadcast', which uses the Plaid Cymru logo and campaigning literature from ex-leader Dafydd Wigley, makes a beeline for the negative and more specifically for Labour's goolies. Using the innovative method of cutting from text-heavy graphics to snippets of online articles, the saving grace for Labour is that only THIS man (world's fastest reader for those not wanting to click on the link) will be able to understand it.

But you'd be hard pushed to know the video isn't straight out of Plaid's head office. The disclaimer comes at the very end, and even then in blurred italicised writing which goes on to link to the official Plaid Cymru website in any case.

There's no suggestion, of course, that Plaid are responsible for this ad, or that they were aware of it. But with social networking sites and blogs backing up parties' official campaigns, it will become increasingly difficult to distinguish top-down party lines from the bottom-up will of their backers.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 10:41 am, , links to this post

Poles to the polls

Since the last assembly election a new wave of immigrants has arrived in Wales following the expansion of the European Union. But it seems that neither they nor Welsh politicians are precisely clear about their voting rights.

I've heard AMs assert that they need to have lived in this country for a year before they vote. Meanwhile, the immigrants themselves tend not to know that Wales has a government, let alone that their votes might influence who runs it.

The simple fact is that EU citizens need only be resident in Wales in order to vote in the assembly elections. In the case of Polish people in particular, that means thousands of potential voters who weren't around in 2003. No wonder the Lib Dems are putting out Polish leaflets in Wrexham, as are Plaid in Llanelli.

The Poles are, in fact, a politician's dream. They are blank canvasses, completely without the decades of enculturation and prejudice that informs most voters. And they are willing to be persuaded. The Poles I've met are keen to hear the arguments and register to vote.

It should be the Tories who benefit most from these new constituents. Indeed, the Polish people seemed so keen on right-wing populism that they voted for it twice. What's certain, though, is that there are votes to be won. Powodzenia!

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posted by Blamerbell @ 9:38 am, , links to this post

Sassy, successful and 'single'

Ever wondered what happens when the Wales on Sunday runs out of Charlotte Church stories? Then turn to the centre spread of today's edition for the fifty top Google search results for 'Welsh female', err sorry, the fifty Bachelorettes of the year.

Sunday papers, of course, have that horrible disadvantage over the dailies of six more days to get their facts wrong. And today's WoS was no different:

"Each and every girl in our list is sassy, successful, single, and most importantly Welsh..."

Now, I happen to know number 19 quite well (you beat Miss Wales, Bethan. Well done). But I also know her boyfriend. More quality journalism there from the 'pride of our nation'.

Next week: top 50 bachelors of the blogosphere. Fingers crossed.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 2:42 pm, , links to this post

Giggs is no longer Wales' only world class player

What an uninspiring afternoon. Most of the people in the pub couldn't even be bothered to watch the football. And while we are on the subject, why on earth are our national team's games only available on satellite television? Everyone should be able to watch their country perform.

Except that Wales didn't perform today. Giggs is no longer Wales' only world class player. That's because he's not world class anymore. As captain, he should have galvanised the team and led by example. Instead, he was woeful and his complete lack of impact was epitomised by two wasted free kicks towards the end of the game.

Here's hoping for an Israel win to salvage something from the day.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 5:33 pm, , links to this post

Who's doing Ieuan's maths?

Nobody would pay for me to go to Caernarfon, so I'm afraid you'll have to go elsewhere for the big news on Plaid's conference. Like, for instance, Ieuan Wyn Jones' apparent inability to spell.

But some would doubt his aptitude for Maths too.

Right at the very end of his appearance on the BBC's Dragon's Eye on Thursday, Plaid's leader gave his prediction of the way North Wales will vote in May's election. He said:

We can win five seats in North Wales. Me as the First Minister elected from Anglesey (if the party does well in the rest of Wales) and Dafydd Wigley on the list aswell with Janet Ryder. I think this is an election where Plaid are going to make significant advances.

Significant indeed. That result would suggest a phenomenal collapse of the Labour vote. It would also suggest a big increase in the Plaid vote on the regional list at the expense of the other parties.

You can't fault Ieuan for his optimism. Plaid have said that from now on they're going to be positive about their politics. And apart from all the attack ads and negative soundbites, that's exactly what they're doing.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:36 pm, , links to this post

All roads lead to Wales

Fridays in Welsh politics are usually as dull as... err, Thursdays in Welsh politics. If Dafydd Wigley sneezes, it'll make it into the Western Mail.

But today, all hell has broken loose.

Well, in fact Charles Kennedy has broken loose, but I presume Mick Bates et al will have him under control as he tours Wales this weekend.

Not to be outdone, the Tories have sent their entire Shadow Cabinet (minus anyone with anything better do to) to hold a meeting in Cardiff. Glyn Davies was so concerned about giving Carol Spelman a lift he drove all the way home to Welshpool to pick up his wife's Merc. I hope he remembered the hat and gloves.

Meanwhile, there's something going on in Caernarfon. Can't quite remember what. I think it involves Plaid Cymru... And despite Ieuan Wyn Jones' appearance on the BBC's Dragon's Eye last night, the coalition rumours haven't been killed off. As the Prez would sing: 'Mae nhw yma o hyd'.

I think we can presume the election campaign is now in full swing.

UPDATE: Labour's Martin Eaglestone will tomorrow present Ieuan Wyn Jones with a contract to sign, categorically ruling out a coalition with the Tories.

Plaid counter that Labour are in no position to judge them on cosying up to the Conservatives after key votes on Trident and Education were only passed in parliament with Tory support.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:46 am,

Ieuan Wyn Jones is a 'weak daffodil'

Labour's press people revealed today that they aren't just au fait with YouTube, they're a whizz at photoshop too.

So, they've turned Ieuan Wyn Jones into a sort of Tory tree monster, intended to symbolise the fact that Plaid have apparently voted over 400 times with the Conservatives in the Assembly.

This is the latest attempt by Labour to re-ignite the 'Vote Plaid get Tory' mantra, despite recent assertions by the nationalists that they hoped would not only have knocked the nail on its head, but knocked it right through into the eyes of any opportunistic Tories.

But Labour remain undeterred, if slightly lacking in imagination. The line is supposed to be that 'Ieuan Wyn Jones is a weak daffodil', whatever that is. But given Plaid's new image, surely 'floppy poppy' would have made for a more resonant metaphor. At the very best they've made him look like one of those tree people from Lord of the Rings.

Plaid start their conference tomorrow and have the opportunity to kill the VPGT rumours once and for all. If they dare.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 10:37 am, , links to this post

Carl the caveman

Primitive, clumsy and unintelligent, Carl Sargeant AM shares none of the qualities of his long-lost twin brother Fred Flintstone (aka John Goodman). Despite this, the two were re-united this week after centuries apart.

On meeting his new best pal Mr Sargeant screamed, 'Scooby dooby doo!'.

'It's Yabba dabba doo!' Fred replied. 'And take your eyes off my Wilma.'

Separated at birth:

Carl Sargeant and Fred Flintstone.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:57 am, , links to this post

Why is Google promoting the BNP?

Google News is a great thing. Where else could you read 206 different articles about Kanye West's carbon-heavy Welsh korma?

It is, in fact, quite ironic that one of the world's most popular news sites is completely devoid of any journalism at all; it being no more than a mere aggregator of news feeds from all over the globe.

I'd love to know, however, who decides which sources should be included. Surely a pre-requisite for any news provider is at least a semblance of impartiality? And at the very least political press releases should be ruled out because they are so unequivocally partisan.

Strange then, that Google only seem to have one feed from a UK political party, and that's the British National Party. Indeed, a constant stream of latent xenophobia is now a familiar part of the Google apparatus. Even the most innocuous of searches can throw up some BNP propaganda.

I've no idea how the BNP managed to get on Google's list in the first place, but there's no doubt it should be removed, lest a dangerous precedent be set. If other parties followed suit, the curious Welsh public could be bombarded with bias and spin, when what we really expect from news is an element of fairness and scrutiny.

Of course, if anyone does want to read a seemingly interminable outpouring of cobbled-together press releases, then they could always catch-up with the latest from Carwyn Jones' blog.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:44 am, , links to this post

Ian Titherington v the world

OK, perhaps the Welsh blogosphere isn't the world, but it's still a brave man who takes on the combined might of Peter Black and Glyn Davies et al.

And in his very first blog post too. What a way to introduce yourself to your new friends.

Ian Titherington, Plaid's man in Swansea West, is blogging, albeit reluctantly:

After all the promises I made to myself, I have ignored them all and created an election blog site. Well you know what they say about politician's promises!

I will fill up these pages this weekend, when I have time to do so. I do worry a little about full time politicians who actually have the time to update these things daily. With respect, they need to get a life.


Still, Swansea West could be one to watch. Plaid's Ted Jones is bigging up the chances of his mate, despite the 2,500 Labour majority. But whether he can muster an upset or not, pitching a hope-to-be First Minister against no-nonsense Ian means it's still a seat worth keeping an eye on. That's if he can find time to campaign between blogging and shopping for that perfect election handbag.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:13 pm, , links to this post

Somebody save the Lib Dems!

Concern is mounting for the well-being of the Welsh Liberal Democrat Party, missing for almost nine days.

They were last seen at the Richard Ley Development Centre in Swansea for their Spring Conference a week last Sunday. Police are said to be puzzled by a note left on their website, claiming that the conference is still the Lib Dems' 'top story'. They were alerted after a link to 'today's conference update' brought up information over a week old.

UK party leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, has issued an impassioned plea for information. He said: "Conferences are only supposed to last two or three days. Either the Welsh Lib Dems are still in Swansea, frantically finalising plans for a policy a second between now and the election, or something terrible has happened."

Conspiracy theories have already started to emerge, among them the suggestion that they've already teamed up with another party two months ahead of schedule.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:42 am, , links to this post

Plaid: a local party for local people

Who'd have thought independents rather than independence would define the Plaid Cymru grassroots campaign? Taking as a platform the success of single-issue independent candidates, Plaid are planning to register slogans about sensitive local issues on ballot papers in certain targeted seats.

So, in Aberconwy, Plaid will appear as 'Plaid Cymru - Save Llandudno Hospital', much to the joy of conservative candidate Dylan Jones-Evans, I'm sure.

This tactic raises questions as to what a vote for a constituency candidate in a national election actually means. Are parties standing on nationwide manifesto promises, or simply exploiting issues which may gain them seats at a local level? Moreover, does this narrow focus misrepresent what a vote for a particular party will mean in reality?

If, at the moment of putting a cross next to a name, you are swayed by an emotive campaign to save a local hospital, are you paying enough critical attention to the other facets of that party's policy?

Plaid candidates would be the first to argue that their campaign offers a far-reaching alternative vision for Wales after May 3rd. But could some voters get more than they bargained for?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:26 pm, , links to this post

I don't believe it! Peter Hain for DPM?

Peter Hain's campaign for the Deputy Leadership of the Labour party goes multi-media today.

Hot on the heels of Jane Davidson, Hain has decided that one social-networking site can't possibly be enough, so he's launched simultaneously on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Flickr. There's a swanky new official website too with celebrity endorsements from Richard Wilson (Victor Meldrew) and... OK well, just him really, but it's a start.

The pitfalls of the internet are, however, already out to derail the Hain campaign. Some joker has registered the username peter_hain and set the profile to private, while the real thing has had to settle for the username peterhain and gives an astonishingly frank account of his run-ins with a tanning machine.

And just when you thought there was no more room on the internet for Hain's virtual campaign machinery, there's also a new blog for us all to get stuck into. Only one post so far but it's meaty stuff: "We need real renewal and by that I mean a genuine open debate about what would constitute an exciting radical inspiring policy agenda that can reconnect us with that progressive majority that exists in Britain."

Good to see the television soundbites haven't wormed their way into Hain's new online empire.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 9:28 am, , links to this post

The People's Republic of Rhondda

Separated at birth...

Leighton Andrews AM and former Chinese President Jiang Zemin

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posted by Blamerbell @ 9:19 am, , links to this post

Who the hell is Priti Patel?

The BBC trucks rolled into Newport last night for their flagship political discussion programme, Question Time.

But it might as well have been Newport in Cornwall or the Isle of Wight. Gwent, and Wales in general, was off the agenda.

The panelists were all personalities of the Westminster village. Originally, there was also to be a Welsh assembly member, but she was ditched at the last minute.

But there was room for one election candidate. No, not an assembly election candidate but a Conservative A-lister who'll attempt to stand in some unspecified UK election in the future.

The topics up for discussion were the Commons vote on Trident, the Olympics budget, Tony Blair's four year-old interventionist speech and David Cameron's hairdo. Throughout the entire programme there was not a single hint that politics in Wales is now devolved.

This is the link that's missing when we all groan about the assembly's lack of popularity or the fact that only half the population appear to know there's an election due on May 3rd. Quite simply, there's no mention of devolved politics in the media most people consume; that's network news and national tabloids. Of course, this should be seen as a challenge for assembly politicians too. But they can't perform if they don't have a stage.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 6:49 am, , links to this post

Plaid fury as Wood is axed from Question Time

Plaid Cymru are enraged tonight after learning that Leanne Wood AM will not be appearing on the BBC's Question Time programme as planned. The programme makers contacted Ms Wood just hours before recording was due to start in Newport to inform her that she would no longer be required.

Despite this, Ms Wood was advertised as a guest on the Question Time website throughout the week. The page has now been changed to reflect the new line-up. In a sensational political reversal, it appears that left-leaning Leanne's replacement is the fiercely conservative columnist, Peter Hitchens.

This is also a serious snub to devolved politics in Wales. When the programme came from Edinburgh recently, two of the five candidates were Members of the Scottish Parliament and a further two were candidates in the forthcoming Scottish elections. In Newport, this evening, the Welsh assembly will have no representatives whatsoever.

Poor Leanne will just have to watch the programme on television, perhaps frantically texting the technophobic David Dimbleby just to get her views across. It could all have been very different, and Plaid will now be considering whether to make a formal complaint.

Leanne Wood's name is erased from the Question Time line-up.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 6:14 pm, , links to this post

The two sides of Welsh politics

Rosettes are being preened, tactics are being chalked up and speeches are being badly written. This is now an election campaign.

And just as politicians (and the hopefuls) are getting into full swing, the actual daily grind of politics has gone into underdrive. Since Chrismtas, the assembly has voted for free prescriptions and ratifying the smoking ban. Few people could name any other events of note.

Last week, the lethargy was so pronounced that the highlight (certainly for the celebrity bloggers) seemed to be Brynle Williams getting upside down and inside out.

And yet, this is exactly the time when Welsh politics must seem at its most relevant if people are going to be persuaded to take the time to vote. Instead, there's an inevitable sense of winding down before the campaign trail goes truly beserk. All the while, voters gaze through the glass panels into the politicians' furrow in Cardiff Bay and must wonder what exactly it is they're voting for.

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

Me and my mate, Jane

Our anti-Trident Education Minister here in Wales has signed up to MySpace. She digs us yoofs you see.

But in so doing, Jane, who is currently considering a request to be my friend, has unwittingly revealed a few truths. So, here goes, five things you didn't know about Jane Davidson:

1. She is blissfully unaware that Welsh is not yet an official language, and that this is quite a contentious election issue. Jane says: "I feel really proud of the fact that Welsh and English are official languages in Wales, although I am still trying to become fluent in Welsh!"

2. She is both 49 and 50 years old, depending on what page you look at.

3. She is friends with Jake (Fudge), a sixteen year-old salmon inspector from Uruguay.

4. Her heroes are hardcore lefties like Aneurin Bevan, Hugo Chavez, Mark Thomas and Jeremy Hardy. No mention of Tony Blair.

5. She's started the MySpace page to get more young people involved in politics. One post is entitled 'How Do We Engage More Young people in Voting?':

What was interesting today was a debate on the excitingly titled "Local Government and Public Service Committee Electoral Arrangements Report". With a name like that, I can hardly see people rushing to break the library doors down to find a copy, but it does contain some interesting recommendations on which I would like your views. The report suggests some actions to help:

1.There should be regional and national initiatives to promote voting to young people
2. There should be targeted initiatives to encourage socially and economically deprived young people to vote....

Would any of these make a difference to you? If they wouldn't, what would?

A new targeted initiative you say? Fetch me my jet pack, I'm off to the nearest polling station.

Jane, if you're going to be my friend, you've got to cut out the jargon.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:34 am, , links to this post

Breakfast with Blamerbell

I'll be on Radio Wales' Good Morning Wales tomorrow (Wednesday) sometime between 7 and 7.30ish. Do tune in if you think you can stomach me with your cornflakes...

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


One of the more bizarre letters to the South Wales Echo...

Little legs are my reminder
I have a way to remember how to speak the longest place name in Wales.

If you take the first letter of every word, it spells the station's name. Llanfairpwllgwyngyll-gogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysilio-gogogoch: Long, Long, Ago, Not Far Away.

I Remember People With Little Legs Getting Worried. You'll Never Get Your Little Legs Growing on Getting Envious. Remember Young Children Have Worries. You Really Never Doubt. Run On Believe. With Luck. Little Legs Like Ants. Never Take You Serious. It's Life Inner Obstacles. Go On, Get On, Get Over Challenging Hurdles.

JA Thompson Fairfield Avenue, Victoria Park

About as useful as a one-legged man at an arse kicking contest:)

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posted by Blamerbell @ 4:11 pm, , links to this post

Who's dreaming of more devolution?

It's 2011. Thanks to a campaign boosted by the internet and the huge popularity of his blog, Huw Lewis is First Minister of Wales.

Helen Mary Jones has bought a new scarf each day for the past decade and now has enough to be able to tie a double ribbon around the axis of the earth. She's also in charge of Plaid after Ieuan Wyn Jones started a sponsored walk without knowing where he was going. Somewhere, out there, he's still walking.

Kirsty Williams leads the Lib Dem team in the assembly and Lembit Opik is a judge on X-Factor.

Nick Bourne retired a millionaire after his shares in an energy efficient light bulb factory paid huge dividends and the Tories are resurgent under the direction of that chubby young councillor chap.

And Wales is preparing for a referendum on giving the assembly law-making powers. That's (sort of) the view of John Osmond, director of the Institute of Welsh Affairs.

But is it the view of the politicians? Plaid would be up for it, the Tories have hinted they'd go that way and Labour and the Lib Dems... well, who knows? Surely, though, this is a matter to clear up right now? If the parties are even contemplating a referendum on further devolution sometime before the next next election, they must say so. After all, 2011 might be some time away, but a vote now may very much determine what happens then.

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

Heart of Wales: policies to die for

How many Tory MPs, I wonder, can even pronounce 'Eisteddfod' let alone have the slightest clue as to what it is?

Well, I suppose that doesn't matter. The Tories in Wales do their own thing these days.

Today, they've pledged to set up a £400,000 a year fund for the National Eisteddfod with an extra £100,000 in the first year. They claim it'll safeguard the long-term future of a great Welsh tradition.

We must now eagerly await the response from Plaid Cymru and the latest chapter in the head-to-head battle to be Wales' most Welsh party. Ironically, Plaid have in the past had to convince voters they are not just a party for Welsh speakers, while the Tories have had to shed their 'Made in England' image. Now, the tables are turned.

What a confused world it is, where the Tories are trumpeting their national pride while Plaid are allegedly promoting their conservatism. There couldn't be an election round the corner, perchance?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 5:37 pm, , links to this post

Trident: not a nuclear issue like Iraq?

2 February 2006
First Minister Rhodri Morgan refuses to state his views on the Iraq war. Speaking on the BBC's Question Time programme, Mr Morgan declined to give his opinion on the Iraq war because it was an issue voted upon in Westminster, and therefore not a matter for the Welsh assembly.

11 March 2007
Education Minister Jane Davidson goes public with her opposition to renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system.

On Wednesday, the UK parliament will vote on the issue. Jane Davidson is a member of the Welsh Assembly. She cannot vote in the House of Commons.

Crucially, Mrs Davidson made the remarks with the support of the First Minister:

"I have discussed it with Rhodri. He was perfectly happy for me to make this statement today. One of the important things about Rhodri’s leadership in Wales is he does encourage people to have independent thoughts."

It seems a precedent has been set. If Trident is an issue for comment, why not Iraq?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:04 am, , links to this post

Peter Black: 'Are you with me chaps?'

There follows a public information request for Peter Black.

At the Lib Dem conference later today, he will 'throw down the gauntlet to other parties on top-up fees for higher education.'

He will 'challenge the other parties to say where they stand.'

Unless I've missed something very obvious, Plaid and the Tories have positioned themselves pretty firmly in the anti top-up fee camp. If a Mrs Jane Davidson is reading, please would you make yourself known to a steward so that we can clear this matter up for Mr Black. Thank you.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 10:23 am, , links to this post

It's all white in the assembly

Lib Dem leader Mike 'German' is about as ethnic as it gets in the Welsh assembly. David Davies is part Hungarian and Bryan Gibbons is an Irishman. Apart from that, Assembly Members are as white and British as they come.

(Before Plaid-sympathising readers reach for the diatribe button, be aware: I'm talking census terms here.)

There are often calls to make the assembly more representative. It's already more than half female and attracting an increasing number of young candidates. But when it comes to ethnicity, it's all white.

And so, more or less, is Wales. In the 2001 census, 96% of Welsh people gave their ethnic origin as White British. That's 9% more than in England. Just 1.7% described themselves as members of an ethnic minority group, the largest being Asian/Asian British at 0.9%

But that still means the assembly isn't quite as colourful as it might be. If it were mathematically representative, we'd expect at least one and one fifth assembly member to be from an ethnic minority. Requiring just a teeny swing from the Tories to get a list seat in South Wales East, Plaid's Mohammad Asghar is the ethnic candidate most likely to get elected. If he were to win and then grow an extra leg he'd be perfect for the assembly's sense of balance (though perhaps not his own).

As far as I'm aware, however, there are no ethnic minority candidates contesting guaranteed or near guaranteed seats. It may well be that the assembly goes another four years with Brian Gibbons' brogue as the nearest thing to ethnic diversity. In today's Wales, is that good enough?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 10:17 am, , links to this post

Welcome to Wales: population 151

If you thought the Rhondda was the end of the earth, then you've never visited Wales.

That's Wales on the western tip of the Seward Peninsula, 111 miles northwest of Nome, Alaska.

It's a small community of just 151 people with a strong Eskimo heritage. According to the Anchorage Daily News, "the economy is based on subsistence hunting and fishing, trapping, Native arts and crafts and some mining."

Perhaps we've more in common than you'd think.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:05 pm, , links to this post

Welsh Lib Dems go by car

Liberal Democrats like to tell us that when they dream, they dream in green: no to nuclear, yes to renewables and recycling, give us your potato peelings and we'll compost it etc.

So, it's surprising that they should organise their Welsh conference at a venue that's only reachable by car. There's not a single bus stop or railway station on the handy map they've provided to conference goers. Instead, it's a tangle of road instructions that are sure to confuse anyone crazy enough to cycle there. That rules out an appearance from David Cameron then:)

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:32 am, , links to this post

Welsh blogging bug pandemic

It's sweaty pants time here in Blamerbell's Briefs as I sit back and watch the Welsh blogosphere expand relentlessly.

I'm trying to keep up, but it's about as futile as being a street sweeper in studentville: every time you spruce it up some idiot covers it in vomit. Not that these new blogs are filled with bile. Far from it. Here are some picks from the latest additions to my sidebar:

Born: March 07
Best bit: "I have my celice wrapped tightly around my upper thigh as I type."

Dragon's Fire

Born: December 06
Best bit: "We would all do well to remember that there is nothing morally wrong with corporal punishment - on the contrary The Holy Bible instructs and urges us to use it."

Renewed Labour
Born: November 06
Best bit: "You are turning Labour politics into passive consumption and not active participation, you are using people who love this party to indulge yourself in petty power politics."

The People's Republic of Newport
Born: March 07
Best bit: "Charlotte Church is pregnant! Rejoice, oh nation of Wales! Your chain-smoking, hard-drinking princess of dubious talent is about to carry a child."

So, go forth and multiply. But remember not to wash your hands of my underwear.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:32 pm, , links to this post

Plaid leader puts women in their place

Shocking news from the BBC's sound and frequent blogger, David Cornock.

Plaid's Adam Price MP has been eulogising about his party's leader in the assembly. Sorry, did I say 'eulogising'? I meant to say 'indelibly tarnishing the image of'.

Because the best he could do to describe the man whose responsibility it is to be the face of Plaid in these testing pre-election months was to say:

"He's a good country solicitor, that is the way he comes across."

Well, if the local Rotary Club can spare him to take part in the policy writing process I shall look forward to reading about planning disputes and divorce proceedings in the Plaid manifesto before long.

Most surprising, however, was what came next:

"He's punctual, he's a good negotiator, a good man and woman manager, he gets the job done. That is what a lot of people are looking for in a first minister."

Yes, a decent bloke and someone who knows how to deal with the missus. I suppose it depends on how you read the stress:) But with women like Leanne Wood and Helen Mary Jones sitting stubbornly in the Senedd, and the almost unbendable Bethan Jenkins soon to join them, he'll need all the woman managing skills he can muster.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:34 am, , links to this post

Lost property: 123 Lib Dem policies

So, what is today's Lib Dem policy? Any ideas? No, me neither.

Back in January, the Welsh Lib Dems said they'd be announcing a policy a day in the run up to the Welsh Assembly Election on May 3rd. That's something in the region of 123 policies.

But what are they? And just as importantly, where are they?

Take a peep at the Welsh Lib Dem home page and there's no mention of it. Strange, most parties find it hard enough to promote one or two key policies, let alone pledges in excess of one hundred.

In fact, just about all that's memorable about the Lib Dem campaign so far is Mike German's suggestion that PR in local government might no longer be a deal-breaker for any coalition agreement.

The only way the Lib Dems could hope to get even a fraction of these policies recognised is by asking Eleanor Burnham to organise a military coup and taking control of state television. Perhaps, at their conference this weekend, they'll be a little less ambitious.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:59 am, , links to this post

Give Gillan a grilling on TV tonight

It's interactive, it's live and it's a chance for you to put your points to Shadow Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan.

18 Doughty Street web television, 9pm this evening.

Oh, and there'll be a short film from Blamerbell too.

See the Tories shine:)

[Pic: Cheryl Gillan ends child poverty by growing children as ears.]

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posted by Blamerbell @ 5:30 pm, , links to this post

Tory TV: the Welsh dimension

Find out what David Cameron thinks about devolution.

See the Tories squirm on coalition talk.

Heck! Tune in just to get another glimpse of the effervescent Glyn Davies.

Yes, it's the story of the simmering debates the Tories kept miles from the conference floor on the weekend.

And you can see it on 18 Doughty Street (if they can read the video format).

Cheryl Gillan will be on to respond.

9pm (I think).

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

Caption Competition #3

Helen Mary: 'That damn Dafydd Wigley got elected after all. Now I'll never be leader.'

Ieuan: 'Snout to be worried about. Look! Either we're hanging from the ceiling or that pig is off the ground.'

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:45 pm, , links to this post

Plaid AM in search of the blatantly obvious

Rhodri Glyn Thomas is the sort of man who looks like he'd open another bottle of wine at three in the morning. But he also seems to be the type of chap who puts two and two together and gets a bizarre polemic.

That's what has happened in his latest (rare) blog post.

"Where in the media is the space for people to talk about decisions that affect their lives?" he asks.

"We are living in a time when people are taking control of their media but we haven’t got the platform to do this in Wales," he writes. On his BLOG. Free, and available to all. A space to, err, take control of their media and talk about decisions that affect their lives.

And for those of you who are already reaching for the standard 'only half of Welsh homes have broadband' retort, let's be clear. That's still an awful lot more people than read the Western Mail.

But Rhodri saves the best till last. At the end of his rant about the the top-down Welsh media and the lack of space for normal people to talk back, we get this little gem: "comments are closed".

Is there really space in Welsh public life for two gaffe-prone Rhodris?

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

Does Labour's attack ad break the law? #2

The backstory: Labour release attack ad on the net. Ad contains the famous Redwood failing to sing anthem footage. Does the Labour party breach copyright?

The juice: I have it on good authority that Labour haven't received permission to use the Redwood pictures. YouTube policy states that videos which infringe copyright should be taken down.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:16 pm, , links to this post

Tory conference: snap, crackle but no pop

What a weekend. I haven't been surrounded by so many dreamy Conservatives since my days at Cambridge:)

But with the conference closed, the Tory to-do list is still crammed:

- agree a position on upgrading the assembly to a Scottish-style parliament
- decide whether to commit to PR in local government
- work out how to play Plaid Cymru: the only viable coalition partners
- hope Westminster approves the manifesto wish list (it's like a letter to Santa Claus says one notable hack)

The Conservatives did a very good job of keeping these debates away from the conference hall. But only the fuddiest of delegates would have left without sensing that this was a bit odd.

Make no mistake: behind closed doors these debates will take place. The results could make or break their next five years.

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

Welsh bloggers uncovered

See Peter Black blog under the duvet by torch light. Watch Glyn Davies explain what's happened to the Scotsman's testicles. And find out about Luke Young's hovel beyond the socialist fortress.

Oh, and Blamerbell comes out from under the cover of his trusted briefs too.

All is revealed on today's Politics Show: BBC1 midday.

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

Welsh Conservative Conference #2

Having spent the daylight hours at the Tories' big day out, I can confirm that the biggest talking point is still the free light bulbs.

William Hague delivered a good speech. But it was about Mirek Topolanek so nobody cared.

Francis Maude revealed the Tories' latest Gordon Brown metaphor: 'the big clunking spider at the centre of the Labour web'. (I wonder how many overpaid speech writers it took to come up with that?)

And Shadow Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan took a swipe at Rhodri Morgan, the 'Worzel Gummidge of Welsh politics. She also came up with a new nickname for Peter Hain - 'Mr three jobs, one ballroom and an aga Hain'. Can't see that one sticking.

Tomorrow: Cameron. After a wet opening day - I arrived damper than a Brynle Williams armpit - let's hope he brings the sunshine with him.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 5:07 pm, , links to this post

Welsh Conservative Conference

Off to Sophia Gardens now to hear about the Conservatives' key election pledge: free light bulbs.

Whose bright idea was that?

More later....

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:42 am, , links to this post

Ted Jones v Tories

Welcome to the first 'Handbag Watch' post. In this exciting new feature, I'll be scouring the blogs for the cattiest remarks as we build up to the assembly election on May 3rd.

Here Plaid blogger Ted Jones takes on his pet hate, the Tories:

"The big problem that the leadership of the Tories face in the Assembly is that their Welsh based MPs are decidedly off message... Their Westminster group if anything are rebelling against the Assembly group – intent on maintaining the nasty right wing, little Englander approach which we all know is the core of the Tories anyway."

Handbag rating: 5

Scores poorly for using only one negative adjective, and even that's quite gentle. Not a bad first attempt. May wish to sharpen the knives before the Tory conference.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:40 am, , links to this post

Does Labour's attack ad break the law?

Welsh Labour took to the blogs yesterday to promote their internet-only party political broadcast attack on the Tories. Huw Lewis, Leighton Andrews and Rob Newman all proudly linked to the ad, though it still wasn't enough to rouse Carl Sargeant from a four month blogging exile.

The video itself is pretty naff: a collage of Tory scare stories from another era flanked by those famous images of John Redwood failing to sing the national anthem. But who owns them? The Redwood footage looks like it's been lifted from another YouTube video, possibly the one you can see HERE. But who really owns that? Not the Labour party, I imagine.

Of course, people rip and burn on the internet all the time. But then, we aren't the party of government: representatives who are elected to make laws, not break them.

Perhaps Labour actually secured the copyright owner's permission to distribute. If not, they are contravening section 17 of the Copyright Act 1988 and there's a case to answer.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:52 pm, , links to this post

Peter Hain: assembly election candidate

Well, not quite. I've seen the list of Labour candidates and his name isn't on it. But if he were to stand, and if he won the Labour leadership in the assembly, he'd be entitled to 'rule out' a coalition with Plaid Cymru.

That's what he did yesterday in the House of Commons in his position as member of parliament for Neath and Secretary of State for Wales. Eh?

Has he consulted with Rhodri Morgan? Is this the official Labour party line in Wales? "I don't think there is going to be much of an appetite for it," is all the First Minister's spokeswoman would say, leaving the coalition door ajar.

But hang on. If it's been 'ruled out' then the First Minister's hands are tied: a 'can't do politician' if ever there was one.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 7:16 am, , links to this post

New Labour, New Media, Old Arguments

The Tories are 'too offensive for TV'. That's what Labour are saying by launching a savage attack on the Tories exclusively on YouTube (follow this link to see the video).

The ad reminds voters of the 'failures' of the Tory years and features such popular politicians as John Redwood, Margaret Thatcher and Edwina Curry**.

Of course, attacking another party's record in government is nothing new, even if we are now looking back a generation. But putting it up online is a fresh American-style development for Welsh politics.

Will the Tories now respond? After all, there's plenty of Rhodri Morgan gaffes to choose from, although THIS video has already been doing the rounds.

So much for positive politics.

**See comments for clarification.

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

Dydd Gwyl Dewi - St David's Day

Here's wishing a happy St David's Day to you all. Shame it's not a holiday but the measly UK government has decided we don't deserve one.

At least George Bush is with us. He sends his greetings today via the US Ambassador:

"Today, the people of the United States and Wales stand together promoting liberty and equality around the world, but never forgetting the admonition of St David himself to 'do the little things'."

Ah, good old St David and his funny little quote. He said nothing about not doing the big things, though, so I guess all the wars we've been having lately are just fine and dandy.

One little thing schoolchildren better not forget to do is dress up today. Girls wear traditional Welsh costume (see picture) and boys, resulting from a sort of cultural desperation, dress either as miners or scrawny rugby players.

So it's all a bit of a joke really, since the 'traditional costume' was an invention of the aristocracy in any case. Yes, the reason girls decorate themselves with that silly hat and dinner cloth is that Lady Llanover decided in 1834 to force her servants to wear the costume and so forge a new tradition. And like many of the nineteenth century's essentially Anglo-centric cultural inventions we now accept lazily as 'Welsh', it worked.

Beth bynnag, dyma dymuno Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus. (Peidiwch a gweithio'n rhy galed!)

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posted by Blamerbell @ 9:14 am, , links to this post