Sunday, 23 December 2007

Clegg Q+A in the People

Since everyone has picked up on the Times and Telegraph already I thought I would point out a nice simple little Q+A in the People (note I scan the on-line site not buy the paper).

The questions are intelligent and the answers largely to the point. The Christmas presents will make you laugh.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Almost the best possible result

511 votes is a small margin by which to become leader of a political party but when I look back on today in a few years time I suspect that I can safely say it was almost the best possible result.

Why almost? Well obviously I wanted it to be 511 votes the other way but congratulations to Nick on ensuring my record on backing the runner up continues.

but the best possible result? let me explain.

First we have a party segmented in three ways those who backed Nick, those who backed Chris and those who backed neither in almost identical proportion. This will no doubt give Nick pause for thought and an opportunity to ignore those who had he hit 65+% would no doubt call on him to only reward his friends.

Next we have shown a degree of depth in the party. This was no walkover like Cameron or stitch up like Brown this was a campaign that either candidate could have won and the closeness of the fight will only benefit Nick in terms of experience.

And finally we have come out of the campaign with three heavyweight politicians we all expected Vince to give us some stability but he has put us back on the map, Nick has proved himself the more popular candidate, yet by running him so close Chris has maintained his position and moved onto a more national stage.

For too long our party has lacked a bruiser in the John Prescott, Norman Tebbit style someone able to tear an opponent apart without thinking about it and force interviewers onto his agenda. While that might not have been the plan at the outset in many ways that is a role Chris now seems well cut out to occupy.

Its too early to play fantasy cabinets but PM Clegg, Chancellor Cable, Home Sec Huhne and Foreign secretary Campbell has a rather comforting ring about it doesn't it.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Why I'm leaning towards Chris

When I left the Welsh hustings last time round I was fairly convinced Ming would win but didn't really look forward to his leadership so two years on and 5 days after the event where has this years version left me.

First up it has still left me to make up my mind and that is in many ways the most positive thing I can think of for our party. Neither candidate scored a knock out blow in terms of hitting what I wanted to hear but nor did either say things that so alienated me that I felt I could not bear to see them as leader.

So why at this point do I find myself leaning more and more towards Chris Huhne?

I think at the end of the day it is down to a strange feeling in my gut.

In Cardiff Chris most definitely got the applause, it was easier going first, but it wasn't populist applause. Right from the start I felt Chris captured the mood of the audience and paced his presentation along with us. Even on areas that may be sticky like Trident there was a feeling of trust engendered.

Nick in contrast relied constantly on the anecdote and challenge of preconception almost for the sake of it. Don't get me wrong there is nothing wrong with talking about the little old lady in Sheffield I use the same style at work to break up a technical presentation. Its just that Nick seemed to use it every other answer. The line me thinks he doth protest to much sprang to mind.

In short I felt a greater level of empathy for Chris than Nick.

But that isn't enough to win my vote as a party we the membership drive policy and the leadership drives presentation and philosophy. Here I felt much more in tune with Chris both candidates stayed largely on established positions for the party but I felt Nick was more comfortable when talking about the state sector in a slightly negative sense.

While I approve of localism in a broad sense and welcome diversity of ideas the vision Nick laid out for decentralising resources was one around let them experiment and if they get it wrong they will be kicked out. As someone who has worked for 15 years in the local authority sector under a variety of roles this smacks of short-termism and avoiding difficult decisions its also true that the 4 year electoral cycle is too short to make real change so this is just a recipe for constant change.

Finally for me is delivery and record both have had two big challenges since Ming became leader Chris on green taxes and Nick on our plans for to move incomers out of the black economy by regularising their immigration status.

In this area I feel Chris is winning hands down that so much has now been accepted in a watered down form by the labcon party shows how correct we have been politically we have won the argument and that is down to the team that we have in environment. Nick on the other hand made a poor fist of the interviews I heard following on the parliamentary launch of the policy on immigration It may have been an off day but it was definitely a missed opportunity.

So where does that leave me, last time Cardiff swung me publicly into the Huhne camp this time he didn't quite manage the clear cut victory. My instinct remains to go that way again but I think I'll give it a few more days before clicking on the confirm and ignore buttons waiting for me on my facebook profile

Friday, 19 October 2007

Is education the victim of a wider planning problem?

The closure plans announced by Gwynedd CC of 29 rural schools comes as no surprise to those of us here in Powys facing up to similar issues. While we haven't seen a big bang approach I'm sure the numbers will come out in the same sort of ball park once all the decisions are made.

However before we all stand up and shoot the messenger its worth reflecting on the causes of the problem.

Back in the mid 90's Welsh Office planning guidance under Viceroy Redwood insisted on local councils creating hierarchies of settlements. Larger rural towns would see the bulk of the new housing with some of the smaller villages only expected to grow by a couple of properties every 5 years.

Now planning policy takes time to have an effect but we are beginning to see it now. While Crossgates, 8 miles east of Rhayader, has had about 40 new houses in the past 5 years, Llangurig the same distance the other way has only had half a dozen. Little surprise then that as Crossgates school has had a major building programme this summer Llangurig is now set to close.

But its not just schools that are under threat, the combination of limited housing stock, people retiring to the area and taking advantage of the relatively cheap housing prices, and lack of well paid jobs places the whole fabric of rural life on a knife edge.

So as we reflect on these closures it is worth all of us with planning responsibilities taking a close look at todays plans and ask ourselves what problems we are leaving for our successors in 15 years time

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Leadership elections : Wales

Well there you have it no elections for 2 years then three come along at once. Lembits decision on Saturday was a bolt from the blue, but Mikes plans to stay on were the worst kept secret in Aberystwyth.

So where does that leave us here in Wales. Certainly there are those who are disappointed that Mike didn't step down with immediate effect and I include myself in them, but in many ways he has done us a favour. His "outstanding tasks" and the challenges he has set his colleagues will give us a great opportunity to see the real calibre of the potential candidates.

But more importantly it means we have a conference in hand before the real elections in which to sort out all the constitutional niceties around a merged leadership and not least of those is ensuring that there is a constitutional mechanism to ensure that anyone who wishes to stand is not prevented from having an opportunity to do so by the need to have one other AM nominate them.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Leadership elections

Some good news at last from a Welsh Lib Dem executive.. regardless of your views on who should be the party leader news that this issue will be sorted once and for all in the next eight weeks can only be good for the party.

Mike has led our Assembly group ably for the past 8 years and if he gets the support of the party at large I will be more than happy to see him remain for at least another 4, However two elections of no progress means it is time to look for a new impetus.

The next four years are likely to be challenging and we need to have a leader who can take on the new administration in Cardiff. That means we need a change at the top and I for one hope Mike realises that and steps aside thereby allowing all our AMs the opportunity to consider their positions without having any feelings of a misplaced loyalty to him.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Water Water everywhere

Well I'm not flooded out the Wye is about 20m below me in elevation but I should have been staying in Upton-on-Severn on Wednesday evening. However this gives cause to reflect on the implications of government planning policy.

Tewkesbury was where my grandmother spent her final years and I can recall several visits where the fields around town were flooded when I visited her in the late 1980s. Yet many of those same fields are the flooded estates of today.

Certainly the Environment minister may hide behind the exceptional nature of the event of the past few days but surely the name flood plain gives him a clue. As we take stock and as our new PM thinks about how we meet the challenges of climate change may I offer him a simple thought.

We have concentrated too much into too small a part of our country.

Of course such observations are not overly welcome but in a modern high tech UK now is the time not to spend massive amounts on building flood defenses for new houses known to be at risk of flooding. Instead we should be decentralizing our economy and ensuring appropriate growth and job opportunities are available in our more remote areas.

Of course a new estates of 20 houses in every Powys village being build year on year however small they are may not meet with overwhelming approval from some. But the costs to the UK of supporting our current flood prone landscape isn't something that appeals to me either

Sunday, 22 July 2007

The education challenge

While the big education news here in mid Wales has been the threat to our smaller village schools very little has been said about the problems facing the larger urban schools.

Take my sons school three weeks ago we were told he would be in a shared year 3/4 class with rumour had it 32 pupils. Why was this you may ask well two teachers were leaving and the falling roll meant there wasn't enough cash to replace them.

Some serious letter writing and what do we find three days before the end of term but the cash has been found for a one year post with no guarantee beyond that date.

Call me cynical but that is the same timeframe as the review of the two nearby village schools the authority wants to close would complete.

So there we have it the stark choice Powys seem to be putting to us is keep the rural school open and push class sizes up in the towns or close a rural school and keep a teacher in the town.

Opening up

Opening up a blog seems to be the in thing but what to write is an interesting challenge. Those that know me in the real world are like to tag this as a Lib Dem blog but as it is likely to veer into hill walking, trigpointing, geocaching and GIS I have opted to split that side of life off into another site.