The End

I had hoped to bring you news of a potentially historic step forward for Welsh politics. But as usual, the politicians have contrived to delay proceedings.

Plaid's assembly group was due to meet today to make a final decision on whether to recommend a Rainbow or a Red-Green coalition to its National Council on July 7. However, they've decided to postpone that meeting until tomorrow because Labour's Welsh Executive meets this evening.

I understand that the momentum is still with the 'Brown' deal. In the short term it may seem less ambitious, but in the long term it would deliver more powers to Wales (if they can win a referendum) and bring Plaid closer to its long-term aim of independence.

Perversely, an election campaign spent convincing people that government mattered more to Plaid Cymru than distant objectives of autonomy looks to have put Plaid in a position to push for the latter while surrendering the opportunity to take overall control of the former. It seems also that Labour's veiled threat to make life difficult for a Rainbow government in Westminster has carried some weight.

But there's also the problem of the Liberal Democrats. At the outset, they could have had a deal with Plaid or Labour. But now, a significant chunk of AMs from both parties have serious reservations whether they can be trusted. After all, they will host a leadership election in the next few months and there's no telling whether that would preempt another flip flop.

So, I won't get closure in time for my last ever post. But as this chap knows only too well, there's never a good time to bow out.

I had written a long and tortuous adieu. But I've shelved that. Instead, take a look at the archives, if you wish, and judge for yourselves.

All I will say is that I've had great fun writing this blog and watching it grow. By the end, it was almost a part-time job (albeit one that paid even less than I got on the fruit counter at Tesco). Now that I have a full-time job, I'm afraid it's not going to be possible to continue.

It's a shame, because it's been a blast. It has never ceased to amuse me that I'm hated by some for being 'anti-Plaid' and loathed by others for being 'anti-Labour'. The Tories are too jolly to care and the Liberal Democrats are just happy to be talked about. In the context of Welsh politics, that's probably just about the right mix.

This is my 600th post - time to say goodbye and hang up the briefs.

Thanks for reading.

Hwyl fawr!

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:46 pm, , links to this post


It's not over till it's over

The Western Mail is today reporting that the 'Brown' coalition is more or less a done deal. Just a few days ago, all their correspondents were still predicting a rainbow coalition.

They've also called a Lab-Lib deal and a previous rainbow pact as a formality before now.

If there's one thing this circus of tribalism and talks has taught us, it's that there's no telling what will happen next.

Plaid have a group meeting tomorrow, and the only thing that's certain is that it will go on for bloody ages. I can think of at least five AMs who will dig in for a fight. Don't expect the Rainbowistas to simply bend over and accept their fate.

UPDATE: BBC Wales' Westminster Correspondent David Cornock has given up asking his bosses for a blog and pushed ahead with his own. It's helpfully titled notabbcblog.blogspot.com

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:00 pm, , links to this post


The Blamers 2007 - A star-bereft award ceremony

The more prescient among you may have come across whispers in some far-flung corner of the internet hinting that this blog will soon be following Tony Blair into retirement. These whispers have some truth, because I started them. (As Peter Black writes today, why would cheeky Wales on Sunday Journalist Matt Withers find his own stories when he can just pinch them from someone else?)

More on that later. In the meantime, I shall press on with my end of year political awards. Of course, it's not the end of the year and on current form no politician really deserves an award, but now is my last chance.

Regular readers will know that this blog has been enriched over the past eight months by references to certain characters who have very kindly allowed me to reduce their incredibly complex personalities to simple stereotypes. Either that, or they've been too stupid or lazy to notice:)

So, I would like to present The Blamers 2007. A pair of my crusty briefs will be finding its way to the lucky winners, with grateful thanks from Wales' first and only blogespondent.

Heinz Ketchup Award for Best Source: Jonathan Morgan
After taking part in my Honest John experiment, Tory golden boy Jonathan Morgan really got into blogging. So much so, in fact, that he began to email me with other feature ideas. Would I like to start an item about 'hilarious' anecdotes from the campaign trail? JM's own offering went something like this:

"Towards the end of the discussion a man stood up and introduced himself as being from Germany. As a pro European I have no problem with this although he proceeded to lecture us on the environmental damage caused by war, and how the illegal Iraq war had been a disaster... Being lectured by a German on international conflict is a bit like being lecture by King Herod on 1st century AD methods of childcare!"

Jonathan, that's why I'm the journalist and you're the politician. Let's keep it that way.

Marmite Award for Splitting the Audience: Huw Lewis
You either love him or hate him, it seems. I need only mention his name and you will split into your various tribal camps, either extolling his virtues or hoping to wipe your behinds with his political career. I do hope he becomes First Minister one day, because I suspect a medieval battle will break out on the streets of Cardiff.

Poor Huw. I reckon what he needs is a Red-Green coalition and a great big hug from Mohammad Ashgar. They have more in common than you might think.

Carol Voredman Award for Services to Spelling: Glyn Davies
This was a close one, because Alun Cairns' crap spelling has taken on an aquatic theme of late, what with Alex Salmon AND Salmon Rushdie in the news recently. But Glyn still pips it for his 'bulldozer' approach to blogging and the English language generally, which always makes for an entertaining read.

Oxfam Award for Buying the Ties Most People Wouldn't Even Use to Hang Themselves: Peter Black
Proof that there's nothing geeky about being a blogger.

British Heart Foundation Award for Buying the Scarves Most People Wouldn't Even Use to Hang Themselves: Helen Mary Jones
It took me a long time before plucking up the courage to take the piss out of HMJ for her loyalty to pashminas. I genuinely thought she had some sort of hideous neck disfigurement and therefore it would be in poor taste to make jokes at her expense.

Turns out she just happens to really like scarves, which is to be admired as scarf-wearing can sometimes be a hazardous activity.

Armitage Shanks Award for Taking all the Shit: Rhodri Glyn Thomas
Runner-up: Carl Sargeant

By April, I considered this blog to be doing reasonably well. I made absolutely no attempt to remain anonymous and for obvious reasons, most people in Plaid Cymru knew who was behind the briefs. I was shocked, therefore, to discover that in the run up to the election Rhodri Glyn Thomas had been probing the BBC's political editor to find out the identity of the 'diawl' who continually mocked him on the internet. Perhaps if he spent less time eating buffet lunches he'd have been able to work it out himself:)

Joseph Goebbels Award for Frank and Open debate: Leighton Andrews
You lot are a volatile bunch, and no matter what I write, someone usually likes to take offence. That's why I've steered clear of taking on all of you en masse. You are most dangerous when you are united (even if you do write an awful lot of rubbish in the comments sometimes!). Unfortunately, nobody told Leighton Andrews (and if they did, he pressed on anyway). The result? This little ding dong. Hopefully the blogosphere has emerged all the stronger for it. Group hug.

Just William Award for Services to Short Trousers: Alun Cairns
Runner-up: Ioan Bellin

According to his Facebook page, the Conservatives' new baby-faced Education spokesman has been out clubbing twice this week AND he's been frolicking with the rah-rahs in the annual Hunt Ball. Despite that, he still gets asked for I.D. when trying to buy bottles of Pimm's for the gymkhana and he's never been allowed onto the scariest rollercoasters at Alton Towers.

Nevertheless, Alun continues to punch above his weight in the assembly, if only because he weighs less than Eleanor Burnham's make-up bag.

And that concludes The Blamers 2007. No politicians were harmed in the making of this blog entry, though certain egos have again taken a bit of a beating:)

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posted by Blamerbell @ 6:20 pm, , links to this post


Britain's got boring

Pol Pot singing Nessun Dorma? Now, that really would be a must-see. Firstly, he'd have to rise from the grave (an achievement matched only in showbiz by Bob Monkhouse's apparent ability to be funnier dead than alive), and secondly, whatever you think about his politics, the act would at least be different.

Paul Potts, on the other hand, is just another media-manufactured 'ringtones to riches' personality. His voice is OK, but if you're ever queuing outside Madame Tussaud's in London and hear the warbles wafting across the street from the Royal Academy of Music, you'll hear better.

His story is good: mobile phone salesman to celebrity singer, we like that. But he might as well have been a hairdresser, a lollipop lady or a stuttering sixth-former. We've all seen this formula before.

Absolutely the worst aspect of this phenomenon, however, is its one trick ponyness which is, frankly, driving me potty.

Pavarotti has already done Nessun Dorma to death, so much so that it's been top of Classic FM's most whistled for decades. And boy, can Pavarotti sing. In an operatic context, the aria lives on. But in the bastardised world of 'pop-classical', other performances inevitably sound no better than a broken karaoke machine.

'Nessun Dorma' translates as 'Let no one sleep', of which there is no danger when Port Talbot's Paul is screaming down the telly. I really do wish the chap well, but I can't help thinking that if he cared so much about music, he'd have had the balls to sing something else. Becuase not only is he a pale imitation of Luicano Pavarotti, he's also a pale imitation of Russell Watson.

Working class nobody struggles against the odds to sing Nessun Dorma repeatedly on television? Yep, the media's told that story before. Frankly, what's different about Paul Potts? Answer: nothing.

No doubt, PP can make a fortune singing on floating stages and in football stadiums. But if I'm not mistaken, his ambition was to be an opera singer. Unfortunately, the world of opera doesn't drop everything to accommodate celebrity. Roles are earned through hard graft, years of training and talent.

All the signs are that Paul Potts' career will be a lot more Madame Tussaud's than Madame Butterfly. I do hope he proves me wrong.

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


Big fat amnesty event

Not another sausage roll and wine in a box gathering to keep Rhodri Glyn Thomas nourished and lubricated, I hear you cry.

Well, no.

Instead, it's my somewhat novel and absolutely not likely to happen suggestion to clear the air if or when the assembly gets full law-making powers and twenty extra members.

Over the last tortuous couple of months, one thing has become abundantly clear: some AMs are in the wrong political party.

Of course, they'd never own up to it, and there's something very British about that. It's like when we accidentally take the wrong turning in the car. The easiest thing to do is to turn around right away and double back. But something in us makes us persevere - 'If I just take this left and then follow that road it'll all be... ah, bollocks!'.

Some of our AMs, I fear, are lost in the Stevenage roundabout network. Their political compasses are way off track.

And so, when the assembly inevitably expands some time in the future, why not have an amnesty so that politicians can start again with a clean slate and stand on a different ticket?

We already know that Glyn Davies voted Plaid Cymru, Leighton Andrews was a Liberal and Alun Davies was a big fish in Plaid. As for Mohammad Ashgar, there's a story doing the rounds that he tried to join every other party (bar the BNP) before eventually stumbling into bed with Newport's hordes of Welsh nationalists.

More recently, it seems there are people in Labour who should be in Plaid and people in Plaid who should be with the Tories. There are people with the Tories who should be in UKIP and as for the Lib Dems, well, they could probably take their pick.

They know who they are. Perhaps we should send them the membership forms, just to give them something to think about?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:29 pm, , links to this post


Farcembly?

Today's twist: Labour MPs have told Rhodri to cut out his after dark soirees with Adam Price and IWJ and snuggle up to Mike German and the Lib Dems instead.

The Western Mail's Tomos Livingstone is now predicting a Rainbow coalition will rise from the ashes of the Red-Green talks, while Peter Black says everyone should get a move on.

Quite right. With more waffle than a Birdseye potato processing factory flying through the air in Cardiff Bay, little actual work has been going on. There are still no committees, for instance, so Thursdays are just used for filing fan mail and eating subsidised lunches.

Those in the Welsh political bubble think this is all just fine. These are exciting times. This is the new politics. And other such guff.

But outside, in the real world, it doesn't look quite so groundbreaking. People are simply wondering why they aren't getting on with it.

At the outset, every new twist seemed to offer endless intrigue and interest. But now, 'developments' are treading over old ground. Labour + the Lib Dems? We've been there before.

How many times, I wonder, can this cycle repeat itself before the whole thing descends into farce?

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


Labour u-turn a sign of things to come

It is exactly two weeks since Rhodri Morgan wrote to Ieuan Wyn Jones and Mike German outlining the terms of a possible agreement to keep him in government.

Since then, Plaid have been negotiating a beefed up deal with Labour, the underlying document of which is just about finished, I understand.

Now, whaddyaknow - Business and Budget Minister Jane Hutt has announced an independent commission to review the Barnett Formula and consider tax-varying powers for the assembly.

A fortnight ago, Labour offered Plaid and the Lib Dems a "seen to be independent inquiry by the Assembly Finance Committee, possibly chaired by a Liberal Democrat." In other words, not an independent inquiry at all.

In just fourteen days, Labour have gone from stubborn refuseniks to willing co-conspirators. They are, [cough, splutter, vomit] experimenting with [shh, don't tell Tony]... compromise.

We've heard a lot about the 'new politics' which is a necessity now that power hangs in the balance between the parties in Wales. Well, here's an an example of it in operation.

And if Labour can announce this before the Red-Green agreement is even finalised, just imagine what could be coming our way if and when the deal is done.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 7:34 pm, , links to this post


What Ieuan wants

No decision yesterday in Plaid's group meeting, so that means the future governance of Wales is likely to hinge on next Tuesday's weekly get-together.

Some people have already been speculating about the way Plaid AMs will vote, with almost everyone agreeing that Ieuan Wyn Jones is in the Rainbow camp.

Of course, he would just say he wants whatever's best for Wales, which is a bit like that ruthless lady from the Apprentice saying she wants what's best for Alan Sugar.

His own personal political inflections (and ambitions) must inevitably be playing a huge part in his thinking. It's just that he hasn't bothered sharing them with the rest of us. The BBC reports that he'll be meeting party members across Wales shortly to "explain the choice he believes Plaid should make." I'd wager he'll be doing a lot more tergiversating (love that word) than explaining, given that the details of the Red-Green pact have yet to be revealed.

IWJ is a very shrewd politician, even if there is something Yorkshire Terrieresque about his television appearances. And you can bet that whichever way the group votes next Tuesday (if indeed it is next Tuesday), it will subsequently appear to be the option Ieuan has 'preferred' for some time. If you like, he has hard-boiled the egg before it has had a chance to splatter all over his face.

But in the meantime, he can influence that decision. In the end, whether we advance towards a Rainbow or a Red-Green government comes down to the fancy of fifteen Plaid AMs. Ieuan need only convince seven of them and history is his (although a few of them need no convincing).

There is, however, one problem: the deal the negotiating team have been working on feverishly with Labour. What if that document ends up matching the All-Wales Accord on most issues, and trumping it on the key issues of the Welsh language and a referendum on further powers? After all, Adam Price is involved again, and we all know what he wants.

If that were the case, the Rainbow might become very difficult to defend and some of its advocates may be forced to recognise that perhaps one of its attractions was getting closer to the Tories all along.

What Ieuan wants may not necessarily be what he gets. Either way, though, he won't let on.

1414 UPDATE: In one minute I will be respecting a moment of contemplation and support for BBC journalist Alan Johnston (left) who has now been missing for 100 days. You can sign the petition and read more about the BBC's campaign for his release HERE.

On an altogether different note, everyone's favourite dog-handling, vest-wearing bald guy has written his idyosyncratic take on the world of Welsh blogging, which you can read HERE.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:54 pm, , links to this post


The Gordon Brown meme

I've been tagged by Iain Dale and Matt Wardman to say two things about Gordon Brown.

Two words, of course, would be easy. Good off! Or bugger luck! Or something like that:)

Anyway, heregoes...

Two things Gordon Brown should be proud of:
His (Ed) Balls
His Cow's lick

Two things he should apologise for:
Supporting the England football team
Cardiff North (or was that Cherie's fault?)

Two things he should do immediately when he becomes PM:
Promote Peter Hain
Demote Peter Hain

Two things he should do while he is PM:
Favours for rich people
Make St David's Day a national binge drinking day holiday

I hereby tag fresh-faced newbie Seneddwr, Sanddef (because he loves everything to do with blogging), and anyone who'd like to share their wisdom with us in the comments because I am still struggling striving to be non-political and so I don't think I've really done this properly!

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:35 pm, , links to this post


Assembly FC

From Alun Davies AM:

Dear all,

Somewhat surprisingly, and certainly unbelievably [no kidding], I have been asked to captain the Assembly's Football Team in the annual Parliamentary Shield competition supported [somewhat ironically] by McDonald's.

This year the [pissup] event takes place in London on the weekend of the 4th and 5th August, giving us the chance to play against elected representatives from Westminster, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Scottish Parliament for the Parliamentary Shield and a [happy meal] cheque for the charity of our choice.

By taking part in the tournament we not only have the opportunity to show off our footballing skills (!) and win money for charity but we also have the chance to [get drunk with] meet many colleagues from the different Parliaments and Assemblies across the UK, talk tactics with our celebrity manager Ian Rush and watch the Community Shield match between Manchester United and Chelsea at the new Wembley stadium the following day (Sunday 5th August)! [uh oh, freebie alert]

If you don't feel you are able to join in the actual football game (but have
a husband, wife or partner who would) then you are more than welcome to join the team! [Note further gratuitous use of the exclamation mark!]

If you are interested in joining us or would like to find out more about the
tournament then please contact me and I will endeavour to answer any
questions that you may have. [!!!]

Places in the squad are limited to 15 so if I could ask that you let me know
of your interest before Thursday (21st June) so that I can ensure you are
sent all of the relevant details ASAP.

Best regards,
Alun

Alun Davies AC / AM

Llafur - Y Canolbarth a'r Gorllewin
Labour - Mid and West Wales
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Well, isn't that droll? Anyway, I'm appointing myself manager, so heregoes:

Goalkeeper: Dafydd El. Nothing gets past him, and if it did he'd glass them with a bottle of Ty Nant.

Left Back: Huw Lewis. Didn't get promoted, see.
Right Back: Where we started if Mike German does another u-turn.
Centre Back: Rosemary Butler. The James Collins of AFC.
Centre Back: Carl Sargeant. Charged with mopping up.

Left Wing: Helen Mary Jones
Right Wing: Ieuan Wyn Jones
Deputy Midfield Ball-winner with responsibility for passing sideways: Leighton Andrews
Playmaker: Alun Cairns (if he can get time off school)

Up front: Eleanor Burnham and Peter Black

Referee: Trish the Law

UPDATE: Page six of today's Western Mail - can anyone spot something funny?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:07 pm, , links to this post


What has Tony Blair done for us?

During the election campaign, Tony Blair made one fleeting visit to Wales. Even that was enough for the Beeb's Betsan Powys, who struggled to pin him down for an interview.

By contrast, Blair made four visits to Scotland. Also by contrast, Labour lost Scotland and hung on in Wales.

It's probably fair to say that by 2007, Blair isn't quite the same electoral asset he was. "Give him the send off he deserves," cried Plaid Cymru's election advert - evidently believing Tony Blair deserved an ambivalent election result followed by continual flitting between various different coalition permutations.

So, in ten years, what has TB done for us?

Devolution. Yes, that's a big one.

Alun Michael. Not such a big one.

Introduced top-up fees so the assembly could scrap them. Bit of a messy one.

We've been called the 'F*cking Welsh' for daring not to vote Labour in droves and he's been called Lionel for not being someone more famous at Rhodri Morgan's mum's breakfast table.

But otherwise?

Answers on a Best of Luck in your New Job card please...

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posted by Blamerbell @ 10:26 am, , links to this post


Hain, Gay, Cornish, Cym

Now, there's a title which is sure to wreak havoc with the search engines:)

Anyway, thank you, dear readers, for your patience with yet another post about possible coalitions. Heaven forbid that anything else should be happening in the world. But I do get emails and messages from time to time from people with various motivations (not all of them sanitary), so I thought I'd flag up a few...
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A chap called Philip Hosking emails to ask for my views on the 'Cornish Question'. Much to my surprise, it is not "butter or clotted cream or both?" (to which the answer would be both), but rather the extent to which Cornwall be granted autonomy from the United Kingdom:

"I am a Penryn born Cornishman from the United Kingdom and a growing Cornish and Breton speaker. I have been raised by a family and community that has endowed me with what can be best described as a Cornish national identity, another way to look at it would be of Cornish ethnicity.

The UK government has so far failed to recognise the Cornish people under the Council of Europe's framework convention for the protection of national minorities.

The UK government has failed to give the people of Cornwall the democratic referendum on greater autonomy and a devolved assembly that they have shown a demand for.

I would like to know your position on national and linguistic minorities and in particular the Cornish question in the United Kingdom."

Personally, I'm all for the idea of Cornish independence, if only because it would create a nation with a worse football team and indigenous accent than Wales.
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Peter Hain will leave no stone unlobbied in his bid not to finish last in the Labour party's Deputy Leadership Contest.

He might not get more votes than the other candidates, but he proudly writes on his blog that he has more Facebook friends than them. That's still almost a thousand friends fewer than Ming Campbell, who by Hain's logic must be the most successful politician of all time.

So that's the yoof and the unions covered, they mutter at PHHQ, now for the gays...

Hain informs us (his devoted Facebook chums) that PinkNews is running a Labour leadership survey, which you can sabotage HERE:) The message is accompanied by a list of all the wonderful things he's ever done for the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bacon and Tomato) community, though he makes no mention of services to tanning.
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And Sion Jobbins of dotcym.org (who would surely prefer to be Sion Jobbins of dotcym.cym) emails to remind me of the ongoing campaign to put cym on the map (just as long as we don't tell the Russian porn barons how to pronounce it).

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


Lib Dems won't do a 'Lib Dem'

A while back, I wrote a post titled Red + Green = Brown. It seems I was being more prophetic than I had intended, since it was written on the day Gordon Brown came to town. From that moment, the Red-Green deal has had a whole lot more momentum.

Why?

Well, Gordon doesn't really fancy beginning his premiership with two rogue Celtic states gnawing at his ankles. A rainbow coalition in Wales would see the Tories back in power and would give David Cameron a huge PR boost. Worse still, Labour would look like a party of opposition again.

New Labour arguably won the last two general elections on the waning momentum of their enormous first victory in 1997. Ten years ago, Tony Blair had his cake and ate it, feeding on a Britain bloated with optimism. Now, there's barely a crumb of that good will left.

Gordon Brown is going to have to rebuild. Scotland is already lost, but he can't afford to lose too much more ground. Rhodri Morgan says he spoke to the PM in waiting about the situation in Wales. I'd imagine it was the other way around. Brown probably spoke to Rhodri and told him to sort it out.

But Rhodri being Rhodri decided he'd muddy the waters by opening the door to the Lib Dems again and the media have rushed to have a merry little walk around Mike German's well-worn garden path.

There isn't much else Mike German can say other than if Plaid and Labour agree on a document, he'll go back to his party and "look again". He's still "committed" to the All-Wales Accord and has no intention of "steering that ship up onto the rocks". Hardly the words of a man with his hands on the rainbow rug, poised to pull.

And if he did pull, he might only fall flat on his arse. By that time, a Red-Green document would already have been drawn up. Much like the All-Wales Accord, it would be released to the public and, if the election results are anything to go by, it would excite more people than any Lib-Lab alternative. But much worse than that, it was the Lib Dems who were ridiculed for steering the rainbow ship up onto the rocks; they could really suffer from sinking the Red-Green ship too.

UPDATE:
Something for the Lib Dems to sing and dance about at last: Britain's Got Talent winner, Pol Pot, is a former Lib Dem councillor.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:33 pm, , links to this post


Blamerbell en Paris

What's happening then?

Don't expect me to tell you:)

As you may know, I've been away at the CNN European blog awards, which I'm pleased to say I won.

I went to Paris for the ceremony on Friday and it was actually rather a big deal. There was a huge media fair being held at the Porte de Versailles which, for future reference, is not really taxiable from the centre of town (unless you are willing to remortgage your maison).

The awards ceremony itself was quite a grand affair - there were a number of elaborate speeches before I was eventually called. I was given the prize by a chap called Emmanuel Chain, who is sort of the French Jeremy Paxman (for looks, think David Ginola rather than Tony Adams). I'm sure he said some nice things about my blog but it was all in French and all I can remember from GCSE is how to ask for an ice cream or report that my cello has been stolen.

And that is very much how the rest of the evening went - much French being spoken and much failing to understand on my part. Later, I went to a student party with the guy who runs the second placed blog, drank a couple of beers and asked for lots of ice creams.

Incidentally, if you want a taxi in Paris, don't automatically assume that a taxi sitting in a taxi rank with its light on and door open is necessarily willing to take you anywhere. I got in, sat down, said 'Gare du Nord', even said please (though now I wish I hadn't bothered) before I was unceremoniously ejected by an all too rude Frenchman.

So, it's good to be back in the UK. And it's great to see that Welsh politics has been as unpredictable as ever in my absence.

Hopefully, I'll catch up with all that later, though I hear Plaid are now leaning towards a deal with Labour, if only because Labour will find it almost impossible to deliver it.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:54 pm, , links to this post


What's happening to the assembly on the telly?

Once upon a time I went for a chat with someone in the assembly's Cathays Park building.

I had to wait a while before the meeting, so I sat in the lobby. It's quite a grand place actually - lots of marble and columns and that kind of guff.

Anyway, my most vivid memory of this little spell was sitting next to a giant screen which, after a while, began broadcasting live coverage of the latest plenary session.

The receptionist, clearly fed up with the likes of Janice Gregory and Eleanor Burnham breaching her peace, stood up and turned it off. And that was that. Even the assembly can't stand to watch the assembly.

So it's no surprise, then, that it may soon be impossible to watch proceedings live on television. S4C2 currently broadcasts those thrilling debates each Tuesday to Thursday when the assembly is in session. But it now has plans to broadcast Welsh language children's programmes instead.

This story appeared in the Western Mail at the beginning of May and Sanddef flagged it up soon afterwards. Then, a fortnight later, S4C published THIS consultation paper detailing three possible ways forward:

Option 1
• Continue to broadcast the proceedings of the National Assembly during term and fit the new programmes around it.

Option 2
• Cease broadcast of proceedings of National Assembly and broadcast an uninterrupted New Service 7 days a week.

Option 3
• Continue to broadcast National Assembly proceedings as at present and also broadcast an uninterrupted New Service 7 days a week using additional and new capacity. (unlikely)

I'm not entirely sure where we are with this at the moment, but I've heard that the service could be moved entirely online. Given the reliability of the assembly's website, this would be a real blow.

Statistically, I wouldn't be surprised if more people watch the Ironing Channel than S4C2's political coverage. So in the end, it comes down to profitability versus public service, and nothing obliges S4C2 to continue to pump out the Senedd's mostly inconsequential drones.

Nevertheless, I'd be sad to see it go - I really like the 'totty' who present it:)

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By the way, I'm now off to Paris for the CNN Blog Awards ceremony so I'm afraid there will be no posting until Sunday evening at the earliest.

That means I won't be able to react to Plaid Cymru's National Executive meeting on Saturday or any other minor political events I would normally blow out of all proportion. There are, of course, plenty of other great blogs to check out in the meantime, including THIS offering from the Western Mail's new Senedd correspondent.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 3:51 pm, , links to this post


Something else!

Some of you may have seen an earlier version of this post, relating to the CFJ/CNN European award for the best student news blog.

Suffice to say, though, that I am nominated for the award, where I will have to fight off tough competition from France and Serbia.

(Even that) is something of a shock really, given that I mostly specialise in strained metaphors and the kind of news most people wouldn't touch with a bargepole covered in their own faeces.

Thank you all for contributing not just to this blog but to the emerging Welsh blogosphere in general, which was virtually non-existent (with some notable and excellent exceptions) when I started back in October.

As I sit and watch assembly members coax each other into a deep and intensely boring slumber in the Senedd, it's good to know that there's a potentially unlimited space online for lively political debate. The medium has certainly proved itself in recent months and long may it continue.

On another note, Rosemary Butler is chairing her first session in the chamber. Pink jacket, red hair - is that wise?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 3:12 pm, , links to this post


Plaid won't do a 'Lib Dem'

There's been a lot of chatter over the past few hours about Plaid re-opening talks with Labour over a formal coalition.

Some of the usual suspects, bless them, have been getting quite upset. Stomp, stomp, stomp. We want our bloody rainbow.

Well, as I said yesterday, they are still odds on to get it. So kem down.

Have any of Plaid's rainbowista AMs publicly changed their position? No.

Has Plaid's leader given any indication that he's keen on a deal with Labour? No.

Has Gordon Brown suggested that he'd whip up Labour MPs to get a referendum on further powers through parliament? No (in fact Tomos Livingstone reports Labour MPs saying quite the opposite).

Were Tory and Plaid AMs drinking together in the Eli Jenkins last night? Probably.

Do we know who the identity of the 'senior source' that broke the red-green story? No.

Worth bearing in mind, I think, that I've seen people quoted as 'senior sources' before who were fourth placed constituency candidates in the assembly election. Can this chap persuade the majority of the party's AMs, party members and national council to change their mind? You decide.

But taking all that's been said in the past few weeks, it seems Plaid's assembly group still overwhelmingly back a deal with the Tories and the Lib Dems. They wouldn't have dismissed the red-green option so quickly on the previous occasion if that wasn't the case.

And it is they, ultimately, who will make the decision which will go forward to the national council in July. The national exeucitve, which meets on Saturday in Aberystwyth, is merely an advisory body. So, whatever happens, there will not be another Lib Dem moment, whereby a bunch of obscure councillors and receding hairlines overrule directly elected politicians.
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Plenary Live:

Alun Cairns has had a hair cut - makes him look even more like the work experience kid.

Eleanor Burnham just attempted to break the world speed-speaking record while asking her tabled question to the new Sustainability Minister, Jane Davidson.

According to Ms Davidson's website, incidentally, she's still the Education Minister.

Of course, to the majority of the population, all this means nothing at all, so I may stop now. They're talking about footpaths again...

Has Brynle Williams been sunbathing - or has he just done up his shirt collar too tight? He's certainly very red. Perhaps he's getting worked up about those badgers he's prattling on about.

Now, the moment we've all been waiting for: Questions to the Minister for Education, Culture, the Welsh Language, Laid-back Self-confidence, Going Grey Gracefully and Everything Else on the Universe just to make Jane Davidson feel bad.

Alun Davies quotes from Alun Cairns' blog. The little man favours academic selection. Of course, I expect Alun Cairns to retaliate with a quotation from Alun Davies' blog: 'Happy Christmas'.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:22 pm, , links to this post


How long has Rhodders got?

That's the question I was asked today. And for once I didn't chafe my precious parts sitting on that well-worn pundit's fence. Instead, I leapt tentatively into the 'He'll be gone by autumn' camp.

Predictions are usually wrong in Welsh politics and there are plenty of twists and turns yet. But you'd have to say that, on current form, the rainbowistas look set to make a move, perhaps before the summer's out.

Quite simply, Ieuan Wyn Jones wants it too much. Tactically, it might be better to keep the Labour option open as long as possible to at least make it look like the rainbow was forced to make a move. But at the moment, IWJ's poker face is about as convincing as a Didier Drogba dive.

If it were to go ahead, though, I think one of the biggest changes might be in 'foreign affairs'. I know that isn't exactly part of the assembly's remit, but with a nationalist first minister in Scotland and a sympathetic ear in Northern Ireland, the rainbow would look to put pressure on Westminster as part of an alliance with the other devolved institutions.

This could be anything from stating a view on foreign policy (remember Rhodri's refusal to have a view on Iraq?) to demanding greater representation in negotiations with the European Union. I had a chat with Plaid's Adam Price MP about this yesterday before a programme on Radio Scotland, and he suggested the Celtic clout of the devolved governments would look to work as a pincer movement on Westminster to secure, for example, a better financial settlement.

Alex Salmond has already made calls for the resumption of Joint Ministerial Committees between the devolved institutions, and also 'Council of the Isles' style meetings (including the Republic of Ireland), with the UK government.

Of course, these may go ahead whether Rhodri stays or not, but I imagine a Plaid-led government would be anxious to sign-up and secure added legitimacy for the assembly as a national institution in its own right.
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The latest offering from the sparingly-used poll tool:

When will Rhodri go?
Between now and the summer recess
Just after the summer recess
The autumn budget
Christmas
Sometime in 2008
Sometime in 2009
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com


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UPDATE: Impeccable timing as ever.

Vaughan Roderick reports that Plaid are set to agree to further talks on a deal with Labour in their meeting this evening.

Labour have apparently offered at least three cabinet positions and firm promises on a referendum on further powers, a commission to review the Barnett formula and a Welsh Language act.

To be updated...

Sources in Plaid say it'll have to be an offer they can't refuse. Could Brown sanction the passage of a referendum through the Houses of Parliament? After all, he can't be keen on the idea of starting his premiership with Labour in opposition in both Scotland and Wales.

Either that, or Ieuan Wyn Jones has finally got control of his poker face. This might just be the smokescreen that enables him to say Labour can't deliver.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 4:00 pm, , links to this post


Wee bits and bobs

I'll be taking part in a live debate over on BBC Radio Scotland this evening (10pm) about the future of devolution.

The new Scottish government, led by Alex Salmond, isn't too pleased that Tony Blair apparently struck a deal which could lead to the Lockerbie bomber being sent back to Libya to complete his prison sentence without informing it.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State and the First Minister in Wales are on such good terms that Rhodri Morgan is backing Harriet Harman for the Deputy Leadership of the Labour party.

You can listen to the programme, Scotland at Ten, online this evening.

I am also booked to pop up again on tomorrow's AM/PM on BBC 2 Wales - better than Big Brother every time:)

In other news, Plaid's Ieuan Wyn Jones has torn up Labour's olive branch, ground it into sawdust, shoved it in his mouth and sprayed it all over Rhodri Morgan's surprised face shouting "Boo hoo to you, Sir!"

He still fancies forming his own government, you see.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 7:25 pm, , links to this post


Tories Cook up a storm

You all scoffed last week when I hinted the Conservatives might try and bring down the government over lack of movement on a new Welsh language act.

But with travel agent Thomas Cook appearing stubbornly monoglot in its unwillingness to embrace the Welsh language, the Tories made the first move.

They are calling for a review of the Welsh language act. You'll remember that Labour's legislative proposals stopped short of it, though it's a big deal in the proposed rainbow coalition programme for government.

Plaid have since chipped in with their own calls for increased Welsh language legislation. Well, they do everything together these days, don't they?

Labour's masterplan is to exclude the Conservatives from the consensus they have been seeking. They are trying to raise issues which isolate the Tories. But the men in blue are attempting quite the reverse and on today's form, seem to be having some success.

UPDATE:
Q: What's the worst thing you can do when you're embroiled in a storm about the Welsh language?

A: Put up a bi-lingual sign which butchers it.

Even Jade Goody would do a better job of public relations than that.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 3:22 pm, , links to this post


A Great British Summer

Apologies in advance that blogging will be somewhat intermittent this week. I have limited internet access while I try to get my life sorted.

In the meantime (the possibility of any work permitting) I'm hoping to indulge in a few of the summer activities I missed out on last year in Japan.

First it's off to Cambridge for a garden party. Chinos, Pimm's and chamber music: lovely.

Then, I'm hoping to go to Wimbledon to see some tennis. I'll bring my own strawberries this time after choking on the nine carat gold pips of the world's most expensive fruit on previous visits (read THIS for my previous take on overpriced fruit - yes, I write articles about everything).

If I'm still unemployed in July, I'll take in some Proms. These are quite wonderful occasions which are unfortunately marred by the sweaty, vapid flag-fest of the last night (read THIS to see exactly what I think about that).

What strikes me about these activities, though, is that they are all unquestionably British affairs. And while I'm all for cultural independence, I'm in favour of a good dose of cultural interdependence aswell.

Perhaps I'm just out of the loop, but what exactly would a Welsh summer entail? I know a fair few of this blog's readers will be roughing it in whichever town the Eisteddfod happens to collide with this August, but other than that we don't seem to make the most of the summer months here in Wales.

Or maybe we should just get over our inverse snobbery and gorge on a bit of croquet instead? It's much more fun than you'd think.

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By the way, please do keep those little tidbits of gossip coming for my Wales on Sunday column. It's for one week only.


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UPDATE: This blog is one of twelve to be nominated for the CNN blog awards - a contest to find the best student blog in Britain and France. Whooppee!

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:28 pm, , links to this post


Blamerbell on Sunday

This week, I shall be deputising for Matt Withers while Wales' favourite only Sunday political journalist goes off to Italy to bronze his bald patch.

The column is called 'Spin Doctor' because 'Matt Withers' didn't sound sexy enough for the cesspit of sleaze and crap metaphors that is contemporary Welsh politics.

And so, I am asking you please to send me little tidbits of gossip and amusing goings-on from the Welsh political world this week. There's got to be something interesting happening. Do it for the sake of your own vanity, or to bugger your boss. Whatever, just whop it in an EMAIL to me.

It kind of defeats the point if you write it in the comments section, so let's reserve that for made-up gossip instead.

I'll make a start...

Peter Black is Swansea West Warhammer champion, 2007.

Carl Sargeant turned down the Economic Development, Health and Education portfolios before eventually settling for the 'You get to sit around the cabinet but you can't make notes' brief.

Jonathan Morgan has announced he won't be contesting Cardiff North in the next general election so he can concentrate solely on becoming Nick Bourne's biographer.

And Plaid's Gang of Four are currently in the recording studio preparing to release a single - "4 become 1". It's thought to include the lyrics, "Be a little wiser baby, put it off, put it off."

And that's as near as you'll get to a popular culture reference from me:)

Email address: blamerbell@googlemail.com

Before Thursday please.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:20 pm, , links to this post


Red + Green = Brown

Hardly the most inspiring colour, is it?

And yet, whether Wales is a car or an aeroplane, there seems to be mileage in the red-green Plaid-Labour idea again. Adam Price is all for it. And Edwina Hart used her first interview since the twentieth century to put her weight behind it too.

(Quite how any assembly member has managed to dodge the Welsh press for so long is a complete mystery. After all, there are only sixty of them. There should probably be a Dragon's Eye rota, just to even it out. At least that would give Helen Mary Jones some well-earned time off to go scarf shopping.)

Plaid and Labour in a grand coalition? Lefties everywhere are getting erect nipples just thinking about it.

But they haven't had to face Ieuan Wyn Jones. Does this man really fancy playing second fiddle to Rhodri's 'same-old' septet?

No.

He'd quite like to captain the ship himself. That's why the opposition are already behaving like a government in waiting in Cardiff Bay, with joint strategies and chummy tell-all telephone conversations between the leaders.

Adam Price is evidently doing everything he can to make a deal with Labour more palatable. After all, his father was a miner don't you know.

For all it matters, Ieuan Wyn Jones' father might as well have been Aneurin Bevan. He's still pushing for the rainbow.

Six weeks, then, to make or break a government. And at the end of it, most of the parties in Wales could be faced with seismic splits.

Labour is set for an internal battle whether it teams up with Plaid Cymru or not. And if Plaid go with Labour, Ieuan Wyn Jones' position would look very shaky. But then again, a deal with the Tories would cause a massive rupture with the left of the party. Meanwhile, Mike German and Nick Bourne really need to deliver the rainbow coalition to be sure of their jobs.

My prediction: I'll go out on a limb and say that three of the parties will have different leaders by the next assembly election. Within the next few months there'll be some sort of deal between the parties. And that means losers as well as winners.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 2:03 am, , links to this post


Bob Atkins

I will not be blogging today as a mark of respect for Bob Atkins, Director of the Diploma in Broadcast Journalism at Cardiff University, who died last week. His funeral will be held today at Thornhill Crematorium.

Bob was probably the best broadcast journalism trainer in the UK for the past fifteen years and I feel greatly privileged to be among the last few to learn from him.

Before that, Bob was editor at Radio Wales and an executive producer at the BBC World Service.

There's hardly a newsroom in the country that doesn't have someone fed and nurtured on the Atkins diet. He was a stickler for accuracy and good writing above all else, and I'll always value the advice he has given me over the last year.

I still can't believe he's gone. He was a funny, kind and inspirational character whose dedication to his students was so great he'd even listen again to our breakfast shows in the bath at home.

Journalism won't be the same without him.

Cheers, Bob.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 2:39 am, , links to this post


What is Wales?

A little known fact about the new Government of Wales Act is that there is now provision for a minister, outside the cabinet, with responsibility for metaphors.

So far, the theme has been transport.

"We have got a new car," said Rhodri after the election. "We are certainly not going to leave it in the garage."

Then, this week...

"Wales is an aircraft, and I am its pilot," Rhodri told the Queen.

"Can you ask the trolley lady to bring me a little something," said Dafydd El.

Still to come, Wales is a boat, a bicycle and a blimp.

After that, we'll be moving on to vegetables.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 10:13 am, , links to this post


Rhodri's letters

Here's what Rhodri Morgan is offering Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems in exchange for keeping him in power. Compare and contrast...
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Dear Ieuan,

How about some of this?

1. To take part in an "even-handed" and "seen to be independent" inquiry by the Assembly Finance Committee, possibly chaired by a Liberal Democrat on the Barnett Formula - which determins the way the Assembly is funded.

2. Bilateral "early" discussions on the Assembly's Budget.

3. A moratorium on existing proposals for changes at community hospital level and that already agreed changes in District General Hospital serves are not implemented unless and until associated community services are in place.

4. to involve other parties in significant public appointments e.g. chairs of NHS trusts.

5. a joint group to be set up involving Plaid Cymru and Labour members in the assembly and Westminster to assess the pre-conditions suitable for a referendum to be triggered on Scottish-style powers and to advise on the preparations which would need to be put in place prior to a referendum being called.

6. regular meetings between the First Minister and the leader of the opposition e.g on a weekly basis.

Tories r evil 4 eva.

Rhodri. xxx
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Dear Mike,

Fancy a ride on my aeroplane? Here's what's on board:

1. an opportunity to work with government ministers on bidding for the powers to legislate on the Welsh Language and affordable housing.

2. To take part in an "even-handed" and "seen to be independent" inquiry by the Assembly Finance Committee, possibly chaired by a
Liberal Democrat on the Barnett Formula - which determines the way the Assembly is funded.

3. Bilateral "early" discussions on the Assembly's Budget.

4. A moratorium on existing proposals for changes at community hospital level and that already agreed changes in District General Hospital serves are not implemented unless and until associated community services are in place.

5. to set up a cross-party team to explore and report upon the practical experience of introducing proportional representation (the single transferable vote system) in local government in Scotland.

6. to involve other parties in significant public appointments e.g. chairs of NHS trusts.

Let's do it. Yeah. Groovy.

Rhodders. X
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So, Rhodri's taken the sting out of the health issue by giving in on hospital reconfiguration, for the time being.

But how come the Lib Dems get offered deals on the Welsh language and housing and not Plaid?

Looks like Rhodri's trying to become the prism which splits the rainbow.

The opposition parties could, of course, do most of this themselves with Labour in opposition. But without taking power "willy nilly", will they be given the opportunity to get worked up enough to justify a vote of no confidence?
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Plaid's Adam Price MP is blogging again. Today he sets out his conditions for a deal with Labour, which he says is preferable to an arrangement with the Tories. These include a formal coalition with Plaid AMs in the cabinet, a joint programme for government and a referendum on full law-making powers within four years.

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


Reasons to disagree on first day back at the office

Rhodri Morgan today unveils the Labour manifesto his government's legislative programme, with the emphasis on CONSENSUS.

So committed is he to this cause, he failed to take part in a televised debate with the leaders of the other parties to explain to the people of Wales what this might actually mean in practice.

If the intention was damage limitation, the effect was quite the opposite; the other leaders spent almost the entire programme reminding viewers of the first minister's absence.

Never mind, Carwyn Jones was deputising and, as ever, sounded like someone from a self-help tape. He managed to tell those agitated nurses to bugger off in really the most relaxing way.

Anyway, the point that the would-be rainbow coup leaders made repeatedly was that the assembly is today being presented with a legislative programme, and yet there was no consultation with the other parties in advance. Labour seem to be saying take it or leave it.

Mike German got as close as possible to facial expression number 3: visibly annoyed. And the others didn't seem too happy either.

I gather the front page (or thereabouts) of the Western Mail will report Ieuan Wyn Jones saying the government has six weeks to deliver or face being kicked out by him and his triple alliance lieutenants. He denied that on television. Apparently he said there would be a 50:50 chance of a putsch vote of no confidence within that time frame.

As I said right back when the Lib Dems finally got their knickers out of Alex Carlile's twist, people will expect the rainbow to move quickly if it is to move at all.

The six weeks figure is a calculated move from Plaid to give Rhodri the spooks. It's playing politics again. But this game is getting a little tiring, so it'll be interesting to see if there's any disagreement today.

Labour are expected to put forward the same bunch of policies they previewed so enthusiastically during the election campaign. For the other parties, there's not much to get worked up about except, perhaps, the issue of the Welsh language.

If Labour go with the legislation they proposed back in April, they will set in motion the process of appointing a Dyfarnydd, falling well short of the new Welsh Language Act demanded by the opposition parties and a number of lobbying organisations. Carwyn Jones tried to prepare the ground for this last week. But it went down as well as a vomit smoothie.

This could well be the first sticking point for the new consensus-building regime. And if there's no agreement - what then? Do the Tories topple Labour because there aren't enough rights for the Welsh language? Or can a government only be brought down over something a bit more life and death?

All the signs are that there'll be a lot of huffing and puffing in the next few weeks, but not much blowing the house down.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:34 am, , links to this post


Time to talk

It's 'don't turn up' Tuesday.

First of all, Plaid AMs Leanne Wood and Bethan Jenkins will give the Queen's official opening of the assembly a miss, then Rhodri Morgan will be the only party leader absent from a Week in Week Out special examining what the hell is going on at the top of Welsh government.

Fresh from gaining Wales' first super-ministry, Carwyn Jones will deputise. A sign of things to come, perhaps? Nevertheless, the first minister's absence does rather undermine the point of the programme.

We want answers, and only Rhodri Morgan truly knows what cocked up went on over the past few weeks. It'll certainly be interesting to see how upfront the leaders of the other parties are willing to be about a timetable for a possible rainbow coalition coup.

What are the bottom line issues? And even then, can the government do anything to save its back?

The reality is, surely, that the opposition parties can keep upping the anti. If Labour put all their eggs in one basket, the rainbow partners can just crack them in their face. Labour may offer concessions over hospital reconfiguration, for example, but if they don't go as far as Ieuan Wyn Jones and his buddies demand, then they could have the rug pulled from beneath them at any time.

Personally, I can't see consensus politics going beyond agreeing that this afternoon's champagne is indeed a very good vintage.

Which brings me back to those dungaree-clad social workers, as some of you have so crassly described them in the comments to what was an otherwise quite interesting debate.

And that is surely the point. We had a debate.

Whether or not you agree with Bethan and Leanne, it is vital that we have the argument about the role of the monarchy from time to time. Unfortunately, there is almost no space for the type of views held by these two politicians in the mainstream media, despite the fact that they are shared by a sizable proportion of the population.

Do we elect our leaders or does the Queen appoint them? Are we subjects or citizens? Who decides whether or not we go to war? And is the Queen really the best person to open our assembly?

These are all questions of fundamental importance. They deserve to be discussed. Regrettably, opportunities to do so are all too rare.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:43 am, , links to this post


More new blogs (don't tell Leighton)

The Welsh blogosphere continues to expand like a nineteenth century Western empire. The only difference being that we don't throw pineapples at Alun Cairns pygmies. We're much more friendly than that.

As far as I'm aware, the latest additions to the Welsh blogging family are as follows: (I use family in the dysfunctional mother hates father has three illegitimate children with uncle, two of whom enter the civil service while the third lives in a squat in Aberystwyth with a parrot called Cynog Dafis sense of the word)

Assembly Notes, gwe, Amanwy, Sion Owain, Petha' Bach, Glamorganshire, The Silurian.

If you've been overlooked, holler in the comments. I'll be putting these in the sidebar shortly. If you don't link back, I'll pee in your letterbox.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 3:22 pm, , links to this post


Everyone's a winner on the Tory front bench

The Conservatives have announced their new shadow ministerial team.

Alun Cairns makes the Education portfolio a Bridgend affair. He is also just about the only assembly member who could literally squeeze into Carwyn Jones' shadow.

All the baggage that goes with that brief has been dished out to Paul Davies, who takes Welsh language, Culture and Sport. Expect this chap to be wheeled out as the Tories' token Mr Welsh over the next four years.

Elsewhere, Brynle Williams gets 'Farming', which is a bit like giving Darren Millar 'Christianity' (unfortunately he gets Environment instead) and Jonathan Morgan sticks with Health.

You can see the full list HERE.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 11:45 am, , links to this post


The Queen

I hate to spoil a surprise, so you'll have to wait until later today or even buy the Wales on Sunday to find out the identity of the two Plaid AMs who are giving the Queen's assembly visit a miss next week.

They'll be visiting a homeless charity in Swansea instead, as you do. And a number of eminent republicans are backing them.

But why aren't there more of these eminent republicans within the ranks of Plaid itself? After all, this is a party which wants to see an independent, socialist Wales. One would have thought the idea of a British monarchy was pretty inimical to that goal.

Of course, Welsh nationalism has often gone hand in hand with a sort of soft royalist tradition which has served both sides well. After all, much of the idea of 'Welshness' we now treasure was concocted by dreamy sycophants in nineteenth century London boozers.

Are Plaid Cymru today really so different?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:59 am, , links to this post


M4 Ministers

Much has been made of Rhodri's so-called 'Glamorganshire Cabinet' (see below for Mumph's take on it). It is certainly odd that the only people deemed to have any ministerial talent hark from a narrow corridor in South Wales.

This plays right into the hands of Ieuan Wyn Jones, of course. He still wants to form an all-Wales government, albeit one with barely a constituency seat to show for itself in and around the capital.

But as far as valleys dwellers are concerned, the man is from a different planet. He may bang on about supporting the Newport Gwent Dragons, but most people in these parts put on 888 even when he's speaking in English.

And so, if and when a rainbow coalition makes its move, they'll have the very opposite problem. How can a bunch of North and West Walian nationalists propped up by dickie bow wearing Tories possibly earn the trust of South Wales' industrial heartlands?

Answer: the gang of four won't just have to get behind a rainbow coalition if that's what their party decides - they'll have to be its chief cheerleaders. This will be (a) hilarious and (b) very unlikely. I can't see Helen Mary Jones polishing off her pom poms to extoll the virtues of Toryism just yet.

At the moment, the assembly seems to be split along regional lines, with Labour ruling from the centre and the fringes poised to give the capital a kick up the backside. I think it's true to say, therefore, that if there were such a thing as a a genuine all-Wales agreement it would have to involve a Plaid-Labour pact rather than a rainbow coalition deal. Glamorganshire sausages with some country spice, if you like.

The problem is Rhodri's M4 cabinet doesn't appear to feature in Ieuan's roadmap to power. For the time being, at least, all roads lead to Anglesey.


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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:47 am, , links to this post


Gone fishin'

No blogging today.



Making the most of the sun and the relatively calm waters of Cardiff Bay.



In the meantime, thanks to anon for flagging up the latest musings of Simon Jenkins (no relation):


Wales's Labour administration under Rhodri Morgan has been much the same. It is proto-nationalist in all but name, denying affinity to its London parent and buying the Plaid Cymru ticket on everything from broadcasting to bloated public payrolls. It has backed Welsh language and culture, but neither Morgan nor his nationalist rivals have shown concern for such emblems of Welsh nationhood as its landscape and coastline or its historic houses towns and villages, or even its chapels. Instead, if the British want to give Wales money to despoil the Cambrian mountains (like the Highlands and islands in Scotland) with wind turbines, then nationalism means grab the money.

I have no doubt that if Birmingham and Liverpool proposed to flood Welsh valleys for cash today, as they did in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Welsh assembly would ask simply, how much?


Good job I only buy the Guardian for the sport these days.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:38 pm, , links to this post