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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Heroes and statistics

An old favourite reared its head again in today's Western Mail - the Welsh heroes poll. Questions remain unanswered as to whether this internet poll was rigged or not. Culturenet Cymru have resorted to the reason of cowards - threats and smears. They are trying to kill the issue off by threatening legal action against the former employee who has offered evidence of a fix and they are seeking to smear me by claiming that I have some personal interest because that same employee once offered to revamp my website. As anybody can see no computer expert would want to be associated with the technical amateurishness of this site but even if David Jones had seen through his offer why is that relevant?

This smoke and mirrors tactic is not worthy of a publicly funded body and no Minister should stand by and let one behave in that manner. There must be accountability for the way that public money is spent and nobody should obstruct that. To do so is to undermine the democratic process. Yet the Culture Minister remains aloof from the whole process and seems unwilling to intervene to get to the truth. Even if Culturenet Cymru are found to be innocent of all the charges their behaviour has convinced me that they are not fit to handle public money and I will be campaigning to ensure that the Government comes around to that point of view.

On the statistics front I am still trying to get to the bottom of the £100 million crime fund promised by Labour in their Assembly Manifesto. We will have to wait for the draft budget before I can be certain how much is allocated to this cause and where it will be spent, however the omens do not look good. When I asked the Finance Minister for details of the fund she gave me seven budget heads that together make up the total. Further questioning however has revealed that on one of those items, Community focussed schools, there is in fact, no budget allocated at all.

Back at last

And not a moment too soon! Seriously, I was starting to have blog-withdrawal symptoms. My absence from the airwaves was slightly longer than I had anticipated as just before I left for Reading I took my computer in to be upgraded and cleaned up. As it was a bank holiday I have only just been able to retrieve it.

The Reading Festival was a serious piece of theatre. The downside was that I was forced to stand around in mud wearing wellington boots for 13 hours. By the time I got the boots off my feet were killing me. They are still not right today, nearly 60 hours later. It was though all I had expected and we were fortunate to chose a day when it did not rain. Morrissey, despite his rather dodgy lyrics, stole the show. He produced 70 minutes of class to the backdrop of a clear dusky sky and a full moon. Franz Ferdinand were outstanding as always whilst Razorlight delivered a gutsy and original set that must mark them out for even better things. The only disappointment was The Libertines who, without Pete Doherty, were a shadow of their former selves. They seemed dispirited and depressed. By the end of their set only the hard core fans seemed to be listening.

Friday, August 27, 2004


No more posts for a few days as I am off to the Reading Rock Festival.

All postal ballots

The Electoral Commission produces an authorative and commonsense report on the all-postal ballot trials that took place in England on 10th June. Rather interestingly they reflect many of the comments made by Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords when the legislation was being considered. As the article says, "with tens of thousands of ballot papers going astray in the June 10 poll, printers unable to cope, and largely unsubstantiated allegations of fraud - compounded by widespread confusion among voters - the Electoral Commission implies that ministers did not think through the consequences of their actions." Let us hope that this time the Government actually listens.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Silly Season starts

Proof that the long awaited media silly season has started is found in the first five pages of today's Western Mail. They have devoted a large part of their paper to an attempt by a Plaid Cymru MP to impeach the Prime Minister! I had to turn to page six to find some real news.

Plaid Cymru are taking a novel approach but it is one that has no chance of succeeding, it has clearly been manufactured for political gain and it commits the cardinal sin for me at least, of once again personalising the political process. I disagree strongly with the Labour Government's actions in disregarding the United Nations and supporting the USA in prosecuting a war on Iraq, but I will not reduce this debate to the personal vilification of the Prime Minister or any other individual.

We are already moving too quickly for my liking towards a Presidential style democracy without opposition MPs, who should know better, seeking to revive long discarded devices such as this. We have a Parliamentary democracy in which the Government acts collectively through resolutions of the cabinet and the actions of its Ministers. If MPs want to raise matters of competence then the correct device is to table a motion of no confidence in the Government on the floor of the House of Commons. If Adam Price MP wants to initiate impeachment proceedings then I would advise him to move to the USA and stand for Congress.


I am rather disconcerted and a tiny bit flattered to find that Oliver Kamm has added a link on his blog to these musings. I have reciprocated. Mr. Kamm states that "Peter Black is on the side of the leadership" in the Liberal Democrats. This immediately raised my hackles and I have racked my mind to find something disloyal to say just to prove him wrong. No Liberal Democrat likes to be linked to the establishment, even the full-time elected ones. I am reassured by the fact that I was being berated only a few days ago by a senior member of the Party because of entries on this blog. The fact that I am the public face of the Party in my little part of Wales can constrain me a little in what I write here but I try not to let it get in the way too much.

Finally, I would totally endorse Oliver Kamm's recommendation that readers visit Barry Stamp's Political Diary. It is compelling reading and yes, it should be updated more often.

Update: For by-election aficionados the Liberal Democrat candidate in Hartlepool, Jody Dunn, now has a blog, and yes, she writes it herself.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Time for a change

I have long been an advocate for the state funding of political parties, not because it would make my life easier but because such a measure has the potential to remove much of the suspicion that surrounds a great many individual donations at present. People will always ask what it is that motivates somebody to give anything from half a million pounds to £5 million to the party of government as a donation. Their suspicions are aroused by the coincidences that sometimes accompany such donations - a peerage perhaps or the passing of some favourable legislation. No matter what safeguards are in place the fact remains that the motives of donors are not always pure whilst all political parties must understand that there is no such thing as a free lunch. The latest controversy surrounding the donation of £500,000 to Labour by Paul Drayson illustrates my point about people drawing their own conclusions. Whatever the facts the press will always attribute the worst possible motives. Unless there is some reform of the way that political parties are able to raise money then the political process will remains tainted.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


After months of macho posturing on Law and Order issues, particularly during by-election campaigns, at last we have some commonsense. Inevitably, these words of wisdom do not come from a politician but from a serving Police Officer.

The premise of the South Wales Chief Constable, that curfews should only be imposed as a measure of last resort, is a kick in the teeth for the new 'hang-em and flog-em' brigade in the Labour Government, who seem to have taken the stance that anything goes in the war on yobs. Barbara Wilding is not opposed to using curfews in the right circumstances but she quite reasonably points out that if we have to use them then that is a sign of failure.

She also states that we have to recognise that there are many causes of misbehaviour and that we have to deal with these causes. That is the part of Tony Blair's "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" that the Government seems to have forgotten about. In her words, "Demonising of children by putting lots of orders against them is not where I come from because it shows that the agencies have failed." She concludes that there has to be a balance, recognising the positive contributions many young people make, while managing those "very disruptive elements."

Clash of cultures

What is not being said in this controversy over the appointment of the new Chair of the Welsh Language Board is that at least one of the other shortlisted candidates is a member of Plaid Cymru. Is this a row about whether proper procedures were followed or is it about which of the two parties has the moral right to oversee the Quango responsible for the Welsh language? The war of words that has ensued as a result of the appointment process has certainly convinced me that this should be one of the bodies to be subsumed into the Assembly Government as part of the cull of the Quangos inititated by the First Minister.

Monday, August 23, 2004

David Blunkett

Outrageous but wonderfully funny nevertheless!

Sunday, August 22, 2004

The racist agenda

Nick Cohen has a very cogent article in today's Observer about racist rhetoric in modern British political campaigning. I was only vaguely aware of the fact that in 1964 the Tories secured a shock victory in Birmingham Smethwick with the catchy slogan of 'If you want a nigger for a neighbour vote Labour' but it is useful to be reminded of it if only to be aware of the slippery slope we are already on.

Mr Cohen misses the most obvious example of Labour racism in Leicester South, when that Party put out a blue ink letter referring to their candidate as the 'only truly local candidate' even though Parmjit Gill was born and raised in Leicester and went to school in the constituency. It is also worth noting the following passage for the benefit of those Labour apologists who have sought to defend their party's tactics:

'Liam Byrne, the Labour candidate, told the voters, 'I know that people here are worried about fraudulent asylum claims and illegal immigration. Yet the Lib Dems ignore what people say. They ignore what local people really want. The Lib Dems want to keep giving welfare benefits to failed asylum seekers. They voted for this in Parliament on 1 March 2004. They want your money -and mine - to go to failed asylum seekers.'

Labour didn't mention that the disputed measure was a plan to take the children of asylum seekers from their parents and put them into care, which Michael Howard had denounced as 'despicable'.

I would not dispute that the Liberal Democrat leaflet with contrasting photographs referred to in the article was an unfortunate and unnecessary example of pandering to different audiences. It is though, the only slip that our opponents can point to and, without defending it in anyway whatsoever, is not even close to the depths to which the Labour campaigns sank. I think that all three of the main parties need to get together and agree a code of conduct in these matters before it really is too late.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Hartlepool Labour candidate in a pickle

It must be difficult adjusting to change. There you are happily working within a two party system, picking up votes off those who hate the Tories, when the Liberal Democrats suddenly become a real and credible threat. What to do? It is obvious. Just pretend that the Liberal Democrats are really Tories, try to convince everybody else that this is the case as well and then pick up where you left off. Never let the facts get in the way of a good rant. Better luck next time Iain.

Friday, August 20, 2004


Free Radical, the in-house magazine for the Liberal Democrat Youth and Students, has just published an interview with me that was done on-line some months ago:

When and why did you join the Liberals/SDP? Which one was it? How old were you?

I first got involved with the Liberals in 1974 at the age of 14 when I canvassed and leafletted in the General Election in what is now the Wirral South Constituency. I had been politicised by the winter of discontent and my dislike of both Heath and the Labour Party. I felt that instinctively I was a Liberal and was encouraged in that by some of my teachers. I did not join the Liberals until 1980 at the age of 20 when I was at Swansea University. I had become interested in politics again through student activism and because of the devolution referendum of the year before.

Were you ever involved in the Party's youth wing?

Not mainstream. I used to attend Young Liberal caucuses at Federal Conference and went to a couple of training events. There was no youth wing as such in Wales at that time. Obviously I was involved with the student Liberal Society at University.

Do you do anything to recruit young members and/or encourage them to become active? What would you say to any young members reading this who aren't active in the Party?

I actively recruit members at every opportunity and seek to get them involved. I have always encouraged young people to stand for elective office. I pushed Kirsty Williams into getting involved at a National level before she became the AM for Brecon and Radnor in her twenties. I also encouraged and supported two women in their twenties to stand for the Assembly last year. One has subsequently become a Councillor.

As a Councillor of twenty years standing I am acutely aware that when I was elected at the age of 24 I was the youngest Councillor on Swansea City. Before June 10th I was still the second youngest. I am pleased that this is no longer the case and that we have a lot of younger Liberal Democrats serving as Councillors now. To those who are still thinking about getting active in the Party I would say do it. It can be fun, interesting and stimulating. It can also be hard work, frustrating and boring. But if you believe in achieving change then you have to work for it and sometimes that means standing for office and doing it yourself.

What made you decide to stand as an AM? What did you do before you got elected?

Before I was an AM I was a civil servant working in the Land Registry and a long-standing Welsh Liberal Democrat Councillor. I had no ambitions to be an MP but I could see the difference that the Assembly could make and wanted to be part of that. I felt that I could make a difference so I took the opportunity when it was presented to me.

Where do you think the Party will be in ten years?

I do not know. I have been in the Party long enough to know that things do not always work out how we want them. Our stock can go down as well as up, to coin a phrase. What I do know is that the growth and success we are getting now is solidly based and that the signs are very encouraging for more.

What are your main political interests?

Housing, Education and Local Government.

What are your interests outside of politics?

Very few but I like films and music. I like to read when I have time but only seem to be able to do this on holiday nowadays.

When and why did you start blogging? What do you feel you've gained from it?

As the Assembly was meant to be at the cutting edge of e-democracy I felt obliged to start a website shortly after I was elected. I used to do a weekly on-line diary but this died a death due to lack of time during the 2003 elections. When I was re-elected I was anxious to restart something so as to maintain interest in the website and allow me to get a two way dialogue with my electorate and others. I was vaguely aware of weblogs and so I started one of those, adapting it as I read others. The weblog is only one part of a much bigger site containing details about my press releases, speeches, articles and other documents. It also contains pages for youth and students and business as well as contact points to join the party and policy items. My biggest gain therefore is to give people a reason to come back to visit the website though I also enjoy the opportunity to share my views with others and listen to theirs - www.peter-black.net.

What's your taste in music like?

I have a very wide taste in music though essentially I am into rock music. In my car at the moment I have rock and roll collections, the Darkness, Manic Street Preachers, Coldplay, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Catatonia, Bowie, Blondie, Madonna, Elton John and All Saints to name but a few.

What was the last gig you went to?

In the last few months I have seen the Libertines in Bristol, Keane in Cardiff and the Charlatans in Newport. I have tickets to see Hope of the States in Cardiff in July and the Reading Festival in August.

Do you play an instrument?

No I have no musical ability whatsoever.

If you could introduce or repeal one law/piece of legislation right now what would it be?

At this moment in time I would abolish all fees for HE and reintroduce meaningful grants.

Which Lib Dem policy do you disagree with most?

I have huge problems with the policy on euthanasia which was passed at the last Conference.

Who's your biggest inspiration?

I have never really been into heroes. I have always considered that politics is about policy and getting things done. I cannot therefore honestly put my finger on the name of anybody who stands out more than another in their influence on me.

Are you supporting England in Euro 2004 or hoping they get knocked out?

I am supporting England. I was born in England and although I consider myself Welsh now I will support the next best thing if Wales are not available.

Ali Goldsworthy: What was the reaction in the Assembly chamber when you had your hair cut, can you show us a before and after shot?

You can read the reaction on my blog. People are so shallow sometimes. It was like being back in the school playground.

Jez Brown: Would you ever let Changing Rooms style Room B.3.12?

If they could find a more compact way of storing files then why not?

Will Howells: Do you prefer being a councillor or being an AM?

They have different attractions. It really depends on my mood but I very much enjoy being a full-time politician.

Tom Paul: Would you put yourself forward for a Welsh Assembly version of Big Brother?

Given that all the Assembly's proceedings are televised anyway it sometimes seems like Big Brother there anyway - but without the nudity, which is a blessing!

Adam Killeya: How much wood could a woodchuck cut if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

I have never been a supporter of block voting.

Jonathan Monroe: What is your view on the number of Welsh Liberal Democrat Councils working with the Conservatives and how does this affect your positioning at Assembly level?

It is very much horses for courses. We were in partnership with Labour for a time in the Assembly and in opposition at a UK level and locally. We coped by being clear to define our activities and policies accordingly. I believe that people like to see parties working together for the common good. In that regard I am happy to work with members of other mainstream parties if we have common goals and can agree on policy issues. That should not affect our work at a Welsh or a UK level as different considerations will apply there.

Dan Hilton: Do you honestly believe that your taste in ties helps deliver any Liberal Democratic policy? Can you explain your need to be both a councillor and an AM?

I have never understood this obsession with my ties. They are not meant to form part of a package in promoting Liberal Democrat policy. They are an expression of my taste and that is all. Too many people want to package politicians and sell them like soap powder. I prefer to be an individual and let people judge me on my views and my actions. Anyway we have far too many grey politicians, a bit of colour hurts nobody.

I do not understand either the problem of being an AM and a Councillor. I am representing people at different levels. Before I was an AM I was a civil servant and a Councillor. Being a Councillor is not a full time job. It has always involved people who have other jobs in the real world and that is healthy. Councils need to reflect all of the community. I want to stay a Councillor because I am rooted in my own community and believe that I still have a lot to offer them at this level.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Land of nod?

Hush, say it very quietly, something must be awry. Hartlepool has become the focus of attention from politicians all over Britain. Its residents are already receiving a small forest in leaflets every week, they are telephoned and doorstepped and yet, according to a survey by a pillow and duvet manufacturer, the town is the best place to get a good night's sleep. They are a canny lot in the North East of England.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Lembit for President

Yes, I know, once you start blogging about Lembit it is impossible to stop. He is infectious and not necessarily in a good way. I am indebted to Labour Councillor, Stuart Bruce for this piece. Lembit may be running for President of the Liberal Democrats at the moment but there was a time when he ran for President of NUS and Councillor Bruce has the evidence.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

A stumble in the dark?

I have just come back from a two day meeting of Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Members and Parliamentarians in the very picturesque Llangammarch Wells. On arriving the first thing that stood out was that Lembit Opik has a black eye. The story, according to him, is that he was on a cruise and trying to get ready for bed in the dark so as not to wake Sian. Whilst doing this he banged into a framed shaving mirror and then, whilst still staggering around in pain, he banged into it again even harder. The next day the bump developed into a very distinguished looking shiner. There is a lesson here somewhere but I am not sure what it is.

Looking for a hero

Well done John Prescott for his rescue of a Kayaker on Friday. Despite our political differences you cannot help but admire somebody who is not afraid to get stuck in when it is needed. I saw him again this morning arriving at the flooded village of Boscastle. My rather flippant side thought for a moment that he had turned up to try and repeat his rescue attempt and I half-expected him to wade into the water with the emergency services. The situation was however, rather too serious for that. Thank goodness nobody was hurt.

I have been to Boscastle before so I was shocked to see the damage done by the flood waters. I was wondering if the Museum of Witchcraft is alright but a quick look at their website indicates that it is not. "The Museum of Witchcraft has been severely damaged, leaving much of the building destroyed. During this awful event Graham King, the owner of the Museum, bravely assisted in the rescue operations using his coast guarding skills to help others. The Museum will take time to recover but rest assured it will be back, restored to its previous splendour."

Monday, August 16, 2004

Devolution under question

Parts of the health service in Wales, including waiting lists, have got worse since devolution, a report has claimed. The report, by the University of Nottingham, looked at the effect of devolution on public services in Wales and Scotland. It concluded that waiting lists had grown since the Welsh Assembly took over responsibility five years ago. The report has been published by the BBC but actually does not tell us anything new. Yes, the Welsh health service is in a mess, but our education system is better. This is a judgement on the performance of the Welsh Government not on devolution.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Comical Tommy

My fellow blogger and Labour MP, Tom Watson, may have been fired from his position of minder after going too far by accusing the Liberal Democrat candidate for Hartlepool, Jody Dunn, of being "soft on drugs" because she represented a heroin addict in court four years ago. A letter from Liberal Democrat Depurty Leader, Menzies Campbell, to Labour Chair, Ian McCartney, seems to have done the trick. As Ming's letter says:

"Jody Dunn is a barrister - she currently practices family law and previously but briefly practised criminal law. Tom Watson MP is alleging that because she once represented a client who was a heroin addict charged with theft she is herself guilty by association of being ‘soft on criminals and drugs’.

You know, and so too should Tom Watson, that under the ‘cab rank rule’ barristers are obliged to take the first case in line and do not have a choice as to whom they represent. This rule lies at the very heart of our legal system and is a professional obligation by which barristers are bound. Its purpose is to ensure that no matter how heinous the allegations, every citizen is entitled to the legal representation of their choice, and to have their case properly put.

The Labour campaign appears to be suggesting that barristers presenting themselves for election should consider their historic case records before doing so. Will Labour be applying that requirement to any barrister seeking election or re-election at the next General Election? I very much doubt it.

I am writing to request that this kind of personalised and misguided attack is stopped. Lawyers and barristers on all sides of both Houses would find a continuation of this approach distasteful and inappropriate.

There are differences of principle and of policy between our two parties on issues such as Iraq, education, health and crime. An honest debate on these issues is what the electorate of Hartlepool are entitled to. We should both ensure that they get it."

The blog Blood and Treasure reports that the letter was "a pretty sharp move by Ming the Merciful. Back in September 1999, Ian McCartney’s son Hugh died of a heroin overdose." It goes on to say:

"It would be interesting to see what Comrade Tommy and Ian McCartney have to say to each other next time they meet. It would also be interesting to know what Mr McCartney thinks of his colleague’s electoral techniques, should any professional hacks care to ask.

Meanwhile, a few questions for our Tommy. Presumably, Hugh McCartney had some legal representation in court. Should the person who gave him this representation be judged not fit to be an MP because he or she “made excuses for junkies”? Does he think that Hugh McCartney deserved a jail sentence? What does he think of the fact that Hugh McCartney's time in jail reduced his tolerance so much that “a tiny amount” of smack killed him? Is this fine by you Tommy? After all, it keeps them off the streets, doesn’t it?"

There is little wonder that Fraser Kemp, the Labour MP for Houghton and Washington West and a Government whip, has been drafted in to take over the role of minding the Labour candidate. In the meantime Tom Watson has gone on holiday for two weeks to watch the Olympics. The spirit of Tom Watson lives on however in a new spoof website known as Comical Tommy. Read it and weep.

Sound in vision

I mention this without comment. Today's Observer Music Monthly Magazine has a feature about photographer, Cambridge Jones. He took a series of portraits of famous people and asked them to choose a favourite piece of music. These photographs are to be displayed at the Proud Gallery with a tiny Muji CD player fitted at the back. Visitors can use a blue tooth hands free headset to listen to each track as they admire the photographs. For his portrait Tony Blair chose 'Crossroad Blues' by Robert Johnson. This is a song about a man who has sold his soul to the devil and who goes to the crossroads where he gets down on his knees and asks for mercy.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Joined up Government

Holding the Government to account for its manifesto promises is a major role of opposition. Thus we have been very keen in the Welsh Assembly to monitor the top ten pledges in Labour's Welsh manifesto from the 2003 Assembly elections. One of these promises was the establishment of a £100 million crime fund.

To the layperson this would appear to be a unified sum of money associated with a specific strategy designed to combat crime. Perhaps it would be dedicated to paying for more police officers, specific police operations or even activity that might prevent criminal behaviour. Nothing seems to be further from the truth.

Questioning has revealed that there does not appear to be a unified strategy nor is all this money held by one minister never mind one specific fund. There is even doubt if there is £100 million there, if all of it is being used to combat crime in the way implied by the manifesto (most of it pays for peripheral activity that has some limited impact on illegal activity) or if there has been any thought at all as to what the promise means. Certainly, most of the activity identified by the Government as forming the elements of this "Crime Fund" is worthy and needs to be done. The investment in treating drug and alcohol abuse for example is overdue and has the potential to make a major impact on the well-being of communities and in reducing drug-related crime. However, essentially that item is health spending and does not appear to fulfill the expectation created in the manifesto that this money is there to get tough with crime.

The latest answer I have had identified the budget items that make up this fund, however it failed to tell me how much money is allocated to each item, despite the fact that I asked. The answer said, "The following make up the individual elements of the Welsh Assembly Government's £100 million crime fund: Safer Communities Fund, Disaffection Grant, Out of Hours Learning, Community Focussed Schools, Drug and Alcohol Initiatives, Domestic Violence, Housing for Ex-offenders/young people/substance misusers."

I have now tabled seven written questions seeking to identify the budget for each of the seven elements listed. An indication of the confusion within the Welsh Assembly Government about this fund came almost immediately. An e-mail arrived from a Government Official within 24 hours of the questions being tabled. It said "Do you have any additional information on the Disaffection Grant so that we can identify it and answer this question?" Don't you just love joined-up Government?

Thursday, August 12, 2004


The Welsh Culture Minister has criticised the BBC for not being devolution friendly. He believes that national programmes such as Newsnight do not understand devolution and often confuse English-only issues as applying to Wales as well. I believe that his comments are a little unfair. BBC Wales actually has made a major commitment to the devolution process. Not only do its reporters demonstrate time and time again that they understand the issues and report them fairly but the organisation itself devotes a huge amount of resource and programming time to telling people what goes on in the Assembly.

The lack of understanding of devolution by BBC reporters at a UK level is not unique and I am surprised that the Minister has singled them out as he has done. It is an education process after all and people do not learn by being berated in this way. Perhaps if the Minister is so keen on changing the way that these matters are reported and increasing understanding then he should start with the UK Government. It is an acknowledged fact that there are still many Government Departments who do not understand devolution and who brief the press as if they still ran Wales.

Perhaps he should also look to his own party. The Labour manifesto at the last election advocated policies across the whole of the UK as if the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly did not exist. There was a passing nod to the devolution process but that was all. If Government and the main political parties cannot get it right then how can we expect the BBC to do so?


It seems that the Labour dirty tricks machine has gone into overdrive in Hartlepool already. The smears experienced in Leicester and Birmingham are beginning to pale into insignificance in comparison. Labour are trying to suggest that the Liberal Democrat candidate is accountable for the cases she has represented as a Barrister - their line is how many more drugs addicts and pushers is she prepared to protect - because she was the barrister at a sentencing 4 years ago. Are Labour now saying that people are not entitled to a legal defence? Shades of a police state in that I think. I wonder what the Prime Minister's wife would make of that argument? Would they like her (and her husband) to be held personally accountable for the actions of the people she represents? I think not. Clearly, Labour feel they cannot win fighting on their record or their policies. At least they have not had an opportunity to roll out the sort of racist literature they used in the other two by-elections yet.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

A National disgrace

Full marks to the Assembly's Social Justice Minister for taking up once more the unjust detention of asylum seekers in Cardiff Prison. This is one matter on which all parties in the Assembly agree despite the rhetoric adopted by some of them on the asylum seeker issue. The Home Secretary should take immediate action to end this inhuman treatment of innocent people.

Looking for the bounce

There are times when superstars just grow disheartened at the pressures of public life. The worst thing is being so vulnerable to false accusations when one is simply doing ones job. Thank goodness that justice prevailed, but will Tigger ever bounce again?

Monday, August 09, 2004

The race for the Presidency

So I was in the United States, staying just 70 miles away from the Democratic National Convention, Boston was deserted, the routes into the City were largely closed off or restricted, all the protestors were kept in a cage and most of the TV channels were restricting coverage to a few hours for the whole week in case they bored too many Americans.

My overall impression was that the whole thing was very predictable. It is early days yet and I hope that I am wrong but from watching the Convention and following the subsequent campaign tour it seems that Kerry/Edwards lack the edge to be able to beat Bush. The polls have them tied with about 10% undecided, largely because of the Iraq war. Many Americans seem to be disllusioned with this war but remain united in their opposition to terrorism and the belief that their Commander in Chief must be totally committed to that fight. The undecideds have to be convinced that there is a good reason to change the CiC midstream.

Although they are addressing the issue of terrorism, it seems to me that Kerry/Edwards are largely fighting on Bush's agenda. That will not win over any waverers. Unless they start to link the unpopular Iraq war with an increased terrorist threat and demonstrate convincingly that the World is a much more dangerous place because of the actions that Bush has taken, that America is consequently more vulnerable and that they have a way out then I am afraid they will lose. That was more than amply demonstrated by the way that Bush used incumbency to underscore his advantage. It was only days after the end of the Convention and suddenly there are terrorist alerts all over the media based on four year old information. People don't like to change horses when they are frightened.

The one star of the Convention was of course Barack Obama, the Democrat Senate candidate for Illinois. I watched his speech live and there was no doubt that it was a compelling performance. His potential is enormous. All he needs now is to (a) get himself elected and (b) find something original to say. He has a blog as well. Perhaps if he actually wrote it himself then I would be more convinced.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Two weeks is a long time in politics

So what has been happening whilst I have been away. Well for a start there has been a row about law-making powers for the Assembly. Who says that things do not change? Rhodri Morgan and Peter Hain seem to have got together to agree that they do not like Regional Assembly Members having the same rights to stand in an election as other citizens, that they do not think that they can get full law-making powers for the Assembly past the Welsh Labour dinosaur-revival Conference in September and that they plan to re-interpret the entire Richard Commission report to justify their stance. Already they have been condemned by constitutional experts, have met disdain from the opposition parties, and won some support from an unlikely source. It is always like this in National Eisteddfod week.

Another row has broken out over the appointment of a new Chair for the Welsh Language Board. This was inevitable really as such an appointment will always lead to the clash of two cultures - the New Labour control freakery of wanting to put their person into a vital post and Plaid Cymru arrogance that only they have any authority to pronounce on Welsh Language issues. Inevitably the row has led to counter-allegations and a call for an inquiry. As it is summer and the papers do not have much to print all of this got huge prominence in the Western Mail.

Meanwhile, a 6ft 9in performer was arrested in Llanelli Town Centre for stripping down to his underpants and wrapping himself up in cellophane. He was apparently accused of committing a lewd and indecent act. This immediately led a number of parents to book him for their children's parties. Obviously, the Police and Town Officials in Llanelli do not get the joke. They also have a rather old fashioned view of what is lewd and indecent not shared by the rest of Wales.

Business as usual then!

Back at last!

For those of you who have thought that postings on this site have been few and far between recently then you will have noticed that I have been on two weeks holiday. I do not intend to say too much today as I am currently in my 37th hour without sleep but I had a good time and I am sure that I will be rested once I get over the journey home.

The original plan had been to spend a week in Boston and then the second seven days in Cape Cod. However, it was only the beginning of July when I realised the reason why I had not been able to get the hotel space I wanted in Boston - it was the week of the Democratic National Convention. We spent both weeks in the Cape therefore, whilst I took advantage of the timing to watch most of the Convention on the television. As a result I do have some thoughts on the Presidential election, which I will share with you later in the week.

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