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Sunday, April 10, 2005

Snow in Coelbren

A General Election campaign has not properly started unless I have spent some time leafletting or knocking on doors in the southern part of the lovely Brecon and Radborshire constituency. Thus it was that on Friday night I found myself delivering leaflets in the village of Coelbren, apparently situated on one of the highest populated areas of the constituency. Its isolation is underlined by a google search which shows that the nearest ten places to eat out are not in the village at all but in Aberdare, Seven Sisters, Glynneath and Ystradgynlais. Nevertheless it must be a lovely place to live.

For some reason I was completely unprepared for the weather. I live in the City and do not expect to be engulfed in a snow storm in April, but that is what happened. Although I spent Saturday leafletting vigorously in Swansea West and Swansea East I have still not warmed up.

Liberal Democrat campaign headquarters proved that they were on the ball with their latest mailshot. Normally, candidates and agents will get briefings, campaign material or assorted computer programmes through the post. Coming back from Coelbren however, I found an intriquing parcel that promised to be something different. It was a jiffy bag labelled "only to be opened in an emergency". Taking my near hypothermia to be such an emergency, I opened it. Inside was a simple three point message: "Don't panic! In an emergency (1) Take a deep breath; (2) Eat chocolate (3) phone this number..." Attached was a bar of chocolate wrapped in Liberal Democrat gold and party branding. Excellent!
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I'm glad you think Coelbren "must be a lovely place to live".

It's a shame you don't feel the same about Cardiff.

Have you apologised for calling our capital city a "dump"?
Nice to see that you’ve finally reached the Northern tip of the Neath constituency, as Coelbren is right on the constituency border, just a shame that you’re so out of touch that you need Google to tell you about places within, or just outside, your regional border!
Actually David I have apologised as you know full well see http://peterblack.blogspot.com/2005/04/at-starting-line.html.

I didnt need to google Coelbren to find out about it, as believe it or not I have been in this general area quite a lot. I googled to underline the point about the nearest eating place.
Don't you think it's high-time you sacked your gaffe-prone researcher?

Is this not the latest in a long list of howlers she has been responsible for?

You may describe your comment as "spur of the moment" but her's wasn't.
I dont sack people for showing human frailty. I am not some victorian-workhouse type employer.

I am astonished that a Labour Party member would adopt such a cavalier approach to the rights of workers and to employment laws. Is this official Labour Party policy now?

I should be surprised at your attitude to freedom of expression as well but then again I have seen too much of the Labour Party to allow that to happen.

As it happens Francesca no longer works for me anyway. She has moved onto another job within the Assembly. But her blog and her views are part of her private political life and have nothing to do with her employment.
And as far as you are concerned Peter, David is expressing his private political views – and not “official labour party policy” – just like you claim Francesca was.

You say, “Francesca no longer works for me anyway. She has moved onto another job within the Assembly” – but you fail to say that she’s still a member of the Lib Dem Support staff, is she not? So does Francesca represent official Lib Dem policy?

You then say “I am astonished that a Labour Party member would adopt such a cavalier approach to the rights of workers and to employment laws” - and we’re all frankly astonished that an elected member of the Welsh Assembly has the front to call our Capital city “a dump” – and by you saying it was done at the heat of the moment is not an excuse.

It’s quite obvious you don’t think much of your colleagues at Cardiff council – I wonder what Rodney Berman had to say about your comments!!

And by the way, you might like to advise the authors of Insideswansea that they are, after 5pm today – in breach of electoral law – by not having an imprint on their website. You have been warned!!
I am sure David is expressing his personal views and he is entitled to have them. He is though keen to hold people to account for what they say so he should not be immune from that.

Yes, Francesca is still a member of the Liberal Democrat support staff and quite evidently she is speaking for herself and not for the Party as was I, when I misspoke (to use a Bushism). I am not trying to make excuses for myself. I cannot undo what has been done, but I have apologised and I think it is time to move on.

I have a great deal of time and respect for Rodney Berman and his colleagues as well as for the good work they are doing for Cardiff. I am sure that he was as unhappy about my comments however, as I was about Francesca's.

I am not sure who is running the insideswansea blog but as it is not promoting a candidate or a party I doubt that it is subject to electoral law.
So wasn’t it “quite evident” that David was speaking for himself when he made his remarks and was not expressing Labour party policy, as you tried to suggest?

David is not a publicly elected representative, you are – and as such, you should expect to be held to account for what you say and do – that’s exactly what the both of us are doing here!

Maybe you should ask your colleagues in County hall who is writing it then, because some of the statements that have been made in recent weeks are truly disgraceful; and quite obviously, they originate from a member(s) of the coalition. Therefore they represent the Lib Dems, the Tories and the Swansea independent association.

I have referred this website to the Electoral commission – and I expect a reply in due course.
I think you need to chill out a bit Martyn!
I’ll “chill out” on May 6th – when Alan Williams is re-elected in Swansea West, Sian James is elected in Swansea East, Martin Caton is re-elected in Gower, Peter Hain is re-elected in Neath, Hywel Francis is re-elected in Aberavon, and Ross Hendry knocks out Adam Price in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr!!

I am merely standing up for the good people of Cardiff.

The last thing our fantastic capital city needs is a South Wales member of the Welsh Assembly describing it as a "dump". This is insulting to the cities thousands of hard-working familes.

Your comments are not disimilar from those of your Lib Dem collegue Jody Dunn, when she described everyone she met in Hartlepool as either "drunk, flanked by an angry dog or undressed".

The whole thing was summed up when Charles Kennedy was too ashamed of his party’s record to come to Cardiff during his high-profile visit to Wales.

Charlie never left the airport during his "whistle-stop tour" of the capital city, last week branded by one of his most senior Welsh politicians as a "dump", and where his party has made a mess of the local council.

It's all very well you telling Martyn to "chill out". Do you expect the people of Cardiff to feel "chilled out" after your insult?
Honestly, David I think you really are dredging the bottom of the barrel now. Your sole motivation is to secure the maximum embarrassment for the Liberal Democrats from my honest mistake.

There is no similarity with the comments of Jody Dunn as firstly, I would never describe the people of Cardiff in those terms, I have too much respect for them, and secondly Jody's comments were taken out of context anyway.

As I have said several times, I have apologised for my remark and I am now moving on. The fact that you are incapable of (a) accepting that apology and (b) moving on yourself says far more about you than me. I am sure that the people of Cardiff recognise my sincerity in this.

Charles Kennedy, like other party members, is very proud of the record of the Liberal Democrats in running Cardiff. We are starting to put right the wrongs of decades of Labour misrule. His visit last week was to launch the party's campaign in Wales and he will be back to Cardiff later to support our very able candidate there.
"Your sole motivation is to secure the maximum embarrassment for the Liberal Democrats from my honest mistake."

You're so cynical Peter. I care about the people of Cardiff and am proud of our capital city, as are many people, from all political parties (except, yours prehaps).

I'm, however, glad to see you are distancing yourself from Jody, and do not agree with what she, a Darlington barrister said about the people of Hartlepool, describing them all as "drunk flanked by and angry dog or undressed".

However, I do not accept that you have any respect for the people of Cardiff whatsoever, otherwise you wouldn't have described their city as a "dump".

I agree with you that, on this occasion, the people of Cardiff won't doubt your honesty and sincerity - you were brave enough to tell them you thought their city was a "dump". And if that's how you feel, well done for being honest, prehaps you are turning over a new leaf.

You say that Kennedy will be back in Cardiff to support your "very able candidate" there. Does that mean you have only one able candidate standing in the city?
‘oops I’ve done it again….’

I applaud your honesty Peter, but I don’t think your party’s candidates in Cardiff North, Cardiff West and Cardiff South & Penarth are going to be too happy with you when you they see you only give the Cardiff Central candidate any chance of success….

Is this an admission of defeat already Peter??
I really am not going to waste my time playing these sixth form debating games with you two anymore. I have said what I have to say on Cardiff and Charles Kennedy and that is it.
Typo of course - should have read candidates!
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It's a shame that you didn't walk throught the village and find the Price's pub, a welcoming village pub with food so good we seldom have to drive far to have a friendly night out.
As for Coelbren being on the northern edge of the Neath constituencey.... well it's close and to be honest we are in Powys... a great county whose services far exceed that of our neighbours in Neath.
Our greatest problem is that automated postcode entries are defaulted to place Coelbren in 'Neath, West Glamorgan'. Not usually a problem until it comes to deliveries, insuring cars, houses etc....
If you ever come back to Coelbren when it's not snowing look out for the pub, can't miss it it's the only one here!
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