Tuesday, June 26, 2007
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.
It's not over till it's over
Monday, June 25, 2007
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
The Blamers 2007 - A star-bereft award ceremony
Sunday, June 24, 2007
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:)
Britain's got boring
Saturday, June 23, 2007
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.
Big fat amnesty event
Friday, June 22, 2007
Not another sausage roll and wine in a box gathering to keep Rhodri Glyn Thomas nourished and lubricated, I hear you cry.
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?
Thursday, June 21, 2007
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?
Labour u-turn a sign of things to come
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
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.
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.
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:)
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
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