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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Getting personal

Plaid Cymru's Parliamentary Candidate for Montgomery has revealed her strategy for the General Election in her latest blog post. It is to forget policy and local issues and attack the sitting MP personally instead.

In her post, Ms. Fychan hits out at Lembit Őpik for the fact that he has taken up with a 21 year old model and has joined with Katie Green to conduct a perfectly legitimate campaign on the way that model agencies play on body image and the impact that has on young people. It is a particularly pertinent campaign in the light of the work carried out by Plaid Cymru AM, Bethan Jenkins on eating disorders and the One Wales' government's new strategy on this subject. It also affects many people in Montgomeryshire.

Ms. Fychan says that she does not care who Lembit dates and yet she embarks on a bitchy and judgemental rant worthy of the strictest puritan. I can accept that she might dislike Lembit personally but that is no excuse to allow her feelings to dominate her campaign and bring it down to the gutter.

I know that Lembit will not respond to this sort of personality politics because, despite the media coverage he gets, he is a serious politician commited to his constituents and to getting things done. However, it is ironic that at a time when Ms. Fychan is complaining that all she seems to read about Lembit is news of his personal life, the Montgomeryshire MP has a piece in the County Times in which he voiced his support for local newspapers in a ‘Local and Regional Newspapers’ parliamentary debate:

Lembit Öpik said: “The local press is the key vehicle in reporting accurately and fairly on local goings-on – in scrutinising the workings of local councils and local courts.

“Unlike many national journalists, local reporters tend to live and work in the communities on which they report, so local people trust them as a source of news.

“They do not need to tap people’s phones or mobiles to get exclusives, because people trust them and talk to them, and people read the results of what they have investigated and what they write about, knowing that they are reading accurate reports about their own world.

“The County Times, which is the weekly in my area, is a classic example – a role model for how what I have described can best be achieved. It is 130 years old; it was founded in 1879, in the same year as Montgomeryshire elected its first Liberal MP, Stuart Rendel. Two great and revolutionary leaps forward occurred in that same year.

“Two journalists – Richard Jones and photographer Phil Blagg – from the County Times were in London with me last week because they believe in reporting accurately and seeing at the coal face what, in this case, their MP does, but they also do that in many other environments, whether industrial, educational, cultural or social.

"That is because they want to get it right in a way that, I am sorry to say, the national press seems not as concerned to do.

“But the problems are very serious. The County Times is part of NWN Media and is facing real difficulties. Northcliffe has just announced 30 more job cuts in Wales.

“Someone who works in the media in my area put it simply: To continue to do this we must survive as a local business. We are not asking for handouts, but we could do with some consideration from local Government. I agree with that sentiment.”

“The local newspaper business model relies heavily on advertising. It accounts for about two thirds of local newspapers’ turnover, but in recent years advertising spend has been in a general decline of between 10 and 20 per cent, but since the recession hit, advertising in key sectors such as housing, cars and jobs has plummeted.

That Heledd is an example of a good local MP using his position to fight for the interests of his constituents. You should pay attention. You might learn something.

Update: the rather predictable reaction of Plaid bloggers to this post strongly reinforces the points I made on Freedom Central a few months ago.
"a bitchy and judgemental rant worthy of the strictest puritan."

Good sir, thou art indeed harsh in thy judgement of the strictest puritans. What have they done to offend thee?

What has Lembit done here other than get a plug for his local paper and make sure he get's a nice piece in it in return. Good politics but it doesn't actually help anyone other than himself.

He does quick statements in the chamber but he never puts the leg work into anything that isn't driven by a desire for publicity.

As you say his private life is his own, but his love / hate relationship with the press is quite amazing and will obviously be a huge part of the events in Montgomeryshires election. Taking money for writing a column in a porn mag is a prime example of this relationship.
Now that is not true either Twm. He does put in the legwork in his constituency. When I met him at the Royal Welsh he had just concluded a large amount of work saving 50 jobs in Montgomeryshire. This idea that Lembit is a media creation is all part of the smear campaign being put about by Plaid and others to undermine him. As for his article, I dont think the Sport is classed as a porn magazine though it certainly is not sold by many outlets. His columns there do have serious points to them as you can read here: http://prawnfreelembit.blogspot.com/
I've read what Heledd says and I don't find it bitchy at all - I think it's entirely in order to criticise a local MP whose become a laughing stock through his media appearances. I watched him slink off Ant and dec's takeaway (the public voted him off early) and it was clear that his heart is in celebrity not politics.
His ridiculous puff piece for the County Times will guarantee him a huge chunk of free publicity (in a frankly rubbish paper) but that does not equate with the hard work of sorting out casework and meeting people in his constituency. Every celebrity TV appearance and nightclub photo-op is one less village fete to attend or surgery to hold.
I would expect nothing more from a fellow Lib Dem than a defence of one of their few Welsh MPs but you're backing a loser here Peter.
And just out of curiousity, can you explain how Lembit has saved 50 jobs - that's quite a claim.
Whatever your views of Lembit I stand by my view that Heledd's post, written by a Parliamentary candidate rival, represents the sort of gutter politics of personality that I hoped the main parties were above. Clearly, Plaid are going to fight dirty in the General Election.

You are of course quite wrong in claiming that Lembit does not do the work as a constituency MP possibly because you are relying on media stories and innuendo for your information. Lembit does huge amount of casework, he is out and about in his constituency meeting people, attending events and fetes on a regular basis and he is accessible and communicating with his constituents. He does not let his 'other interests' interfere with his work as a good constituency MP.
Heledd should be congratulated for drawing this response.

gets her more coverage and highlights the key problem for the Lib dems in Montgomery that their "MP" is a liability...
No-one who has heard Lembit speak at conference (as I have done over a dozen years) can doubt that politics is close to his heart, far closer than celebrity.

"Smear campaign being put about by Plaid and others to undermine him"?!?!

As someone who is a plaid activist I can tell you that the idea that there is an organised anti-Lembit campaign is laughable for two reasons.

1. Motive: Why would Plaid want to get rid of Lembit. We are very unlikely to win in Montgomeryshire and the regular stories about Lembit help make the Libs a bit of a joke.

2. Means: Since when has Plaid been able to get the London papers to print stories at will? Yet Lembit is ridiculed in all papers (except the sport) on a regular basis.

The truth, Peter, is that Lembit has a very strange attitude to celebrity and that a lot of people think this is odd.

I admire your attempt to defend him, but even you know that you are on very dodgy ground here.

Sorry to post twice in a row. But only just read your last comment.

How on earth can you, as a Lib Dem, call Plaid campaigning negative?

I'll ignore Lembits "I could be banging Adam Price" comment but did you see your Norwich North leaflet about the Greens?

Even your own bloggers say they "have my concerns about how the party campaigns on the ground. I do think that the party is relatively complacent about unethical behaviour (although this is exception and not the norm) and I deplore the pettyfogging culture that it engenders." (quaequam blog)

People in glass houses really shouldn't throw so many stones.
For the MP to say - "I could be banging Adam Price and it wouldn't affect my ability to do my job"? - is far more personal and gutter politics than anything I've read from Ms Fychan.
Mark, I am surprised that you are prepared to join Heledd in the gutter on this one. However, you have confirmed Plaid Cymru's general tactic in Montgomer, which seems to be to play the man rather than debate the issues.

Twm, I have not alleged an organised Plaid campaign only that your candidate is fighting dirty and that it seems everybody in Plaid is prepared to jump in and support her in that. I cannot see anything wrong with the Norwich North leaflets. They attacked the Green candidate on the basis of his views not his personality. I did not accuse Plaid of being negative, I said that your candidate was being personal. James Graham is in a minority in the party on his views of the Norwich North leaflets.

J.G. I think you actually need to read the full quote. Lembit was not attacking Adam Price he was criticising the way that the media report him and pointing out that who he was seeing is irrelevant and does not impact on the way that he does his job.

I happen to think that Lembit is head and shoulders above all of the alternative candidates in Montgomery and that when it comes down to it all this tittle tattle will amount to nothing.
plaid bitchyness and all the two bit plaid bloggers supporting her little
personal attacks...politicians being stars engages the average person with politics..rather this than hiding away like most plaidy a.m.s do
yeah ,i forgot heledd will come 3rd behind lembit and the tory blogger
Peter...why be surprised? You know where I learnt to campaign and who my tutors were....
Since when has Vaughan Roderick been a Plaid blog?

And how does pointing out where you are wrong justify calling me sexist?

That blog police position has gone to your head! I think your loosing the plot Peter son. lol
I have never claimed that Vaughan's blog is Plaid or sympathetic to your party. His points have already been answered in the comments here.

Nor do I accept that I was wrong about anonymous Plaid staff attack blogs, Colin. The fact that you have employed sexist terms in attacking the Welsh Liberal Democrats is not relevant to this discussion though it remains a fact.

The only people who seem keen to police blogs from what I can see are anonymous Plaid staff bloggers.
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