Sunday, 31 July 2011

Jesus was Jamaican?!

Well, kind of...almost!

The link was made recently when I was told of the connection between Cool Runnings and Madonna. Having blogged about Hans Zimmer and Cool Runnings in recent weeks, it jogged my memory of this revelation that I learned about.

As a fan of the big screen, but an even bigger fan of music, I could not believe that I had never made the link between Madonna's (in) famous 'Like a Prayer' music video and the cast of Cool Runnings.

Leon Robinson
Because yes, the actor who played the controversial 'Black Jesus' in Madonna's hit video in 1989 was the same man who played the fictional lead character Derice Bannock in the hit 1993 film Cool Runnings, based loosely on the unlikely bid by Jamaica to run a bobsled team at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

But it must be said that whilst Leon Robinson was seen by many to have been portraying a 'Black Jesus' in the Madonna video, he was apparently (or so Wikipedia tells me at least) in fact portraying the role of a saint that was supposedly inspired by Saint Martin de Porres, the patron saint of mixed-race people and all those seeking interracial harmony.

As well as not playing Jesus, Leon Robinson it must be said, was not Jamaican! He was in fact born in New York.

So in this case at least, Jesus was not Jamaican.

But I had to share the link because as a particular fan of this hit Madonna song and video and also of Cool Runnings, it bemuses me how I could've gone the best part of 15 or so years and never made the clear link between the two.

So, there you have it!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Napier St Flood Alleviation Improvements

I was contacted recently by residents living in Cardigan's Napier St concerned about flooding incidents in the street which was not being dealt with adequately by the highways infrastructure there.

At the new flood alleviation culvert in Napier St
As it happens, Ceredigion County Council had begun streetwork improvements and residents queried whether as a part of that work, a better flood alleviation system could be introduced to deal with the river of water that comes down to Napier St from Napier Gardens in times of heavy downfalls.

I got onto the Highways Department as a result and requested satisfactory alterations and they duly and very helpfully obliged. As the above photo shows, a new and sizeable culvert has been introduced underneath the road to deal with any excess water that will arise from such future occurrences.

Residents have responded positively to the works and to the fact that after much complaining without success, a resolution was found so swiftly once they had contacted me with their concerns.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

A Splendid Cardigan Show!

It's been a great day.

I've spent the day at Cardigan Agricultural Show and in the many years that I have attended the show, it has probably been the best that I can recall.

It was the 157th Cardigan Show since it was formed in 1854 and in its day it was I gather the biggest one day show in Wales. My grandfather J.R.Lewis I'm told was a previous President of the Show and was an avid competitor. Over the years my family have continued our proud association by competing regularly with our Shire Horses in his memory. It was therefore a great personal privelage for me to be the Patron of the Show two years ago in 2009 when I was the Mayor of Cardigan.

It remains a big event and today I felt was the best that I have experienced.

Traditionally held on the last Wednesday in July, the sun was shining today and we had a wonderful view looking down from our high vantage point towards the estuary and Cardigan Island. There was a great crowd to visit a large number of stalls, the exhibitions and of course to watch the competitions. I was attending today as the Vice-Chair of Ceredigion County Council and was therefore invited for the second time to have lunch with the President -this year, local insurance broker Delwyn Griffiths. I also spent time accompanying Mark Williams MP around the show and in the afternoon, my Alyson joined us! We called in to see my mum who was in charge of the CADAMM (Cardigan and District Agricultural and Maritime Museum) stand - it's always felt like a family affair to me such is our association with the show!

When I was Mayor in 2009, we had to contend with heavy and muddy ground after torrential rain on the eve of the show - to such an extent that many vehcicles had to be towed out! Not today however as the sun shone down on us righteous people of Cardigan and district and helped ensure that the atmosphere throughout was positive and enthusiastic.

A big well done and thanks to the Show Committee for planning, co-ordinating and executing a fine event once more.

Roll on Cardigan Show 2012!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Ketty Lester Vs Elvis Presley Vs Alison Moyet

Well loved songs will find that they are covered time after time after time by artistes down through the ages. I gather that the most copied song of all-time could well be Yesterday by the Beatles.

One song that I've always adored is Love Letters which was originally written in 1945. As with any song, the connection will be made by the listener to a particular artiste who has made the song his or her own. But Love Letters is one of the few with which I can't claim that that is the case. This list states that the song has been covered on at least 27 different occasions.

For me, there are a number of stand-out versions which I can't honestly seperate from each other.

Ketty Lester
This version of the popular song was performed by Ketty in 1962 but found a new lease of life when it was used on the soundtrack of David Lynch's iconic 1986 film Blue Velvet.

Elvis Presley
I adore the male take on this song and there's no better exponent of it than the King himself in 1966. It's certainly the one version that I heard more than any other.

Alison Moyet
But it was on hearing this 1987 version by the under-rated Moyet on radio recently that made me decide to blog on this never out-of-fashion song.

Personally, I could give reasons for preferring any of the above 3 versions but that really isn't the point of this post. The point is to demonstrate that a pure sound will echo down through the ages. Artistes come and artistes go but some songs are so iconic and yet so simple in their structure that they will be covered by contemporary singers the world over.

This is one of those soulful sounds that will never be lost because of the voices through the years that have given it the air from which it has breathed.

Bodlondeb Residential Home to Remain Open

A Ceredigion County Council budget workshop today decided to shelve plans to re-locate residents from Penparcau's Bodlondeb Residential Home to Waunfawr's Hafan Y Waun.

It follows a heated public debate on the issue and a recent Cabinet decision that was split on the matter as I blogged about at the time.

Today's all-party workshop looked at the current and future budgets to seek common ground on where savings can be made.

On arriving at the Council's Penmorfa HQ in Aberaeron this morning, we walked past a number of campaigners and their 'Save Bodlondeb' banners at the entrance. I spoke to them and told them that they had my complete support. Meanwhile, in the Chamber, it was clear that the decision to close Bodlondeb was deemed to be a step to far and it was proposed by Deputy Leader Cllr Ray Quant and agreed to use £75,000 out of the Council's reserves to fill the gap left by this decision to keep Bodlondeb open as it is.

This is to be greatly welcomed. Whilst difficult decisions have to be made to balance the books, the needs of the most vulnerbale sections of our society must not be overlooked. For their dignity and well-being it is therefore a relief to know that they will not be forced to move from their home to another at their time of life.

This is a victory for common sense in Ceredigion.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Glorious - A 60s Sound Perfected for the 21st Century, Pierces' Style

I'm an oldie at heart when it comes to music as anyone who knows me will testify.

There aren't many modern songs that 'grab' me. Those that do may have a 21st century sound but as long as it has a good rhythmn, beat and lyrics then I'm open minded to anything.

But in recent months, I've heard a song that I have just presumed was from the 1960s but which I hadn't heard before. But no, The Pierces' Glorious is very much a 21st century effort but it's one that takes me back (not that I was alive at the time!) to that hippy-ish American sound of the late 60s.

The vibe for me that it chimes with is the one that goes with Scott McKenzie's San Francisco and Joan Baez' Blowin' in the Wind.

It's a cool new sound from a couple of New York sisters which in itself in my mind embraces that cool sound of old. For me at least, it's a winning combination.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Anders Behring Breivik - In His Own Words

A translated transcript of the Norwegian killers motives as said by his lawyer can be found here and on the BBC wesbite here.

It's a sad state of affairs that any human being can be consumed with so much hatred that he is willing to orchestrate and carry out the murder of nearly 100 innocent people - his own people.

This of course is in a country with a relatively small population. I gather that the death toll accounts for 1 in 5000 of the Norwegian populace. To put that into context, I think that would be he equivalent of some 1,200 British people being targetted in this way which doesn't bare thinking about.

It's a sad world that makes people resort to such desperate and devastating measures.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

The Face of Unimanageable Horror - Anders Behring Breivik

It was bad enough when I went to bed last night. At least 17 killed in total and many injured and unacounted for.

This morning, the news has spoken of an unimanageable hell.

As well as the 7 killed in the Oslo blast, at least 84 people, mainly young members of Norway's ruling Labour Party, have been killed in a murdering horror-spree on the island of Utoeya.

Arrested and it would appear the orchestrator of both events is Anders Behring Breivik who has a biography of shorts already on this BBC News website article.

Will The Sun apologise
for this shoddy piece of
fact-less journalism?
Despite the claims by many and headlined in today's Sun newspaper that this was another home-grown Al-Qaeda led attack, it now looks as if this is in fact a home-grown assault in the same mold as Timothy McVeigh who killed 168 people at the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995. Far from being a Muslim extremist as presumed by many, it would seem that he was in fact a Christian fundamentalist with strong nationalist, right-wing views. If indeed it turns out that he was a lone participant in these horrific happenings, with no links to the international war on terror, then I would expect The Sun to apologise - but I wouldn't hold my breath. There are rumours that there was a second gun-man but these have not been confirmed.

The island paradise which was turned into a hell on Earth is a sight of pure evil.

The words Dunblane, Columbine and Virgina Tech are seered into the public consciousness. Utoeya has outstripped those 3 tragedies with a combined death toll of 61. Utoeya's death toll and the way it was orchestrated, on an island where there was no escape, and for a timescale of between 60-90 minutes, is incomprehensible.

The apparently local and politically-led motives that may have led to these shootings will make it even more difficult for Norwegians to comprehend.

The home of the Nobel Peace Prize has now been transformed into the home of the worst kind of horror. My thoughts are with everyone who has been touched by his human tragedy at this dark time.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Lembit Opik Apologises for Mick Bates Slur

Earlier this morning, Peter Black AM led a justified attack on Lembit Opik for accusing his former Welsh Assembly Montgomeryshire colleague Mick Bates of being the reason why he lost his Montgomeryshire seat back in May last year. Peter's angry riposte can be read here.

Mick Mates and Lembit Opik in happier times
During the course of the day, Lembit has responded by refuting the rebuttal information that was put out on his behalf as a part of his London Mayoral campaign by claiming that it was published without his authority, presumably by a member of his campaign team. His reply for the Western Mail can be read here.

In a comment to Peter's initial post, a former member of Lembit's Montgomeryshire constituency staff puts up a legitimate defence for his former employer and goes on to state why he will lose the nomination for the Mayoralty.

In Paul's own words...

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"Lembit will lose the nomination to be the party's candidate in London like he did the 2008 Presidency, not because there is a better more well suited candidate (that's a debate for another time), but because he's chosen to surround himself by a small group of friends (namely Eric Joyce) who tell him what he wants to hear and do as he says, none of whom are experienced in campaigning, messaging, strategy & direction or communications all of something you need if you want to win. None of these people have the guts to stand up turn the problem around and say, "look we've got a problem here, if we want to win, we need to do this, this and that."

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Paul knows his stuff so I'll take his word for it. The named individual I think is actually Ed Joyce and he has been denounced on Lib Dem message boards over the past 36 hours for the way in which he responds to every slight on Lembit's character.

Is it he who has apparently written this rebuttal piece without Lembit's say-so or somebody else? Whoever it may be, Lembit needs to sort it and his media strategy out before his campaign is blown to pieces before it's even out of the blocks.

An Oslo Tragedy

The news from Oslo tonight is truly horrific.

The author perched above Oslo Harbour in 2007
The numbers of dead is increasing by the hour and whilst the deaths of at least 7 in a probable car bomb attack in the city centre is bad enough, the shootings on a remote island at a Labour Party Youth Camp is shocking beyond comprehension. It has now been confirmed that at least 10 have been killed on the island with eye-witnesses mentioning the sight of 20-25 bodies. These unprecedented attacks on Norwegian soil look as if they are linked and this minimal total of 17 deaths will shock Norway to its core.

TV stations are connecting these actions to the global war on terror. Norway is indeed involved in Afghanistan but for a country that has been on the fringes of the war on terror, it would be a shocking development if this were the case. It may be a locally based group at work. It is too early to be sure and caution must be exercised at present until more is known.

I have been in Oslo myself as part of a Scandinavian holiday with friends back in 2007. It's a lovely city and as one of the homes of the Nobel Peace Prize (along with Stockholm), I took to it quickly.

This is a truly petrifying attack and reminds us that we live in a society where our safety can not be guaranteed. As one who has visited Scandinavia, this has really shocked me. The fact that children have been targeted makes it all the more incomprehensible.

Northern Ireland Reigns Supreme as America Declines

Having been away in London last week, I never got the opportunity to comment on Darren Clarke's brilliant and emotional Open victory on Sunday.

I was watching the latter stages in Shepherds Bush and was absolutely overjoyed  to see the oldest winner in over 40 years, lift the Claret Jug.

It was a sensational victory for a man who has really gone off the boil in the Majors of golf for a good decade or so now. The loss of his wife Heather to breast cancer before the 2006 Ryder Cup also remained in the memory as his heroics for team Europe then were eclipsed by his own personal triumph this week.

Northern Ireland - The Home of Golf?!
It also adds to what is quickly becoming a legendary run of form for the golfers of Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland's Finest - McIlroy, McDowell and Clarke
Clarke's Open win was the first for a Brit this century. The last was Paul Lawrie in 1999. He however was Scottish and you have to go back to 1992 for the last Englishman to win - Nick Faldo.

Before Graeme McDowell won the US Open last year, he was the first man from Northern Ireland to win a major of any kind since Fred Daly won The Open back in 1947. Yet now, 3 of the last 6 winners are all from that corner of the Emerald Isle. What is more extraordinary is that they have not all been won by one individual but by 3 - McDowell, McIlroy and Clarke.

It is in sporting, historic terms, an extraorindary feat for such a small nation that will probably never be repeated.

But if you go back just a few years and include Padraig Harrington's 3 major wins for the Republic of Ireland back in 2007/08, then 6 of the last 17 majors have been won by players from the island of Ireland!

An American Decline
This has all come along at a time which has seen a welcome renaissance in European golf.

The current world rankings shows Europeans in the top 4 with Englishmen Luke Donald and Lee Westwood leading German Martin Kaymer and McIlory. Graeme McDowell currently stands in 11th with Englishmen Paul Casey and Ian Poulter not far behind in 15th and 16th. That's 6 Brits and 7 Europeans inside the World's Top 16. A far cry from the American domination of recent years (Tiger Woods' fall to No.20 a clear sign of this).

South Africa have also seen a renaissance of their own. Under the watchful eye of old hand Ernie Els, a new legion of South African stars have stepped out of his, Reteif Goosen and Gary Players shadows. Gary Players 9th and final major victory was in 1978 and a lean spell followed until Ernie Els won the first of his 3 majors to-date in 1994. Between then and 2004, he and Goosen won between them, 4 US Open titles and an Open title also. After a hiatus, they are striking back with victories for Trevor Immelman in the 2008 US Masters and wins in the last 12 months for Louis Oosthuizen at the 2010 Open and Charl Schwartzel at at the 2011 US Masters.

In all, 5 of the last 6 majors have been won by players from either Northern Ireland or South Africa. The 6th, the 2010 US PGA Championship, was won by the German Martin Kaymer.

It is therefore the first time in 100 years, since America have gone 6 golfing majors without a victory. In historic terms, what we are currently experiencing is a golfing famine for the most illustrious country in the history of the game. Their last major winner was Phil Mickelson who won the 4th of his majors to-date at the 2010 US Masters.

Indeed, the upcoming US PGA Championship will make for intriguing viewing. Because it America fails to win in a 7th consective major, it will only be the second year since 1910 that America will have gone through an entire calendar year without winning a major (the other being in 1994). Whatever happens between August 11th-14th at the Atlanta Athletic Club, the American run of having failed to win any of the last 3 US PGA Championships (Harrington in '08, Yang Yong-eun in '09 and Kaymer in '10) is its worst in the history of this most American dominant of golfing majors.

Indeed, looking comparably at the other majors, their worst run in the US Masters was in failing to win it in 4 consecutive years between 1988-1991 (Lyle, Faldo, Faldo and Woosnam). Since 1910, the same 4 year drought struck the Americans in the US Open only recently between 2004-2007 (Goosen, Michael Campbell, Geoff Ogilvy, Angel Cabrera). Of all of the majors, it is unsurprisingly, the only non-American based Open which has provided them with the most difficulty of the years. Between 1946-1969, there were only 6 American winners (Sam Snead '46, Ben Hogan '53, Arnold Palmer '61 & '62, Tony Lema '64 and Jack Nicklaus '66). Another American black patch was struck between 1984-1994 when the only winner in 1989 was Mark Calcavecchia. Another won is running at present with only one winner in the last 5 (Stewart Cink in 2009).

So whilst they've had their black patches before, looking at this list of golfing major winners shows that the current patch is arguably as bad in the round as any that has gone before.

But whilst the Americans may look ponderously at a bleak recent record at a sport in which it has excelled over the years, as an European but as a Brit in particular, it is a time to rejoice. But most particularly, if you come from that Northern Irish part of the union!

If it isn't asking too much, more of the same please!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Great Debate: iPhone, Samsung Galaxy or HTC?

I'm at a mobile 'phone crossroads in my life.

When I first went to University in Aberystwyth back in 2000, I borrowed my mother's mobile to regularly keep in touch with home. It was a brick with an ariel but was very much of its time I suppose.

My first personal mobile 'phone was bought probably a year or so later - a good decade back. I'm pretty sure that my mobile number now is the same number that I had with my first mobile. Certainly since I was elected to local government in 2004, I've had no desire to change my number as it has become well used by friends and work colleagues alike. Over the years, they have been upgraded one-by-one and as technology has moved on, have become more advanced in their functions.

I have always been with Orange as the signal over here in the west is best served with them and particularly now with the addition of the T-mobile network. My current version was purchased 18 months ago and is a Samsung. It was a particular leap forward for me as it was the first touch-screen mobile that I'd ever owned - it certainly took some getting used too!

iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, HTC or other?
But what next? I'm now entitled to a free upgrade but having asked friends for their recommendations, have unsurprisingly found that everyone has a different view.

The Samsung Galaxy 2
I've made a number of enquiries in recent days and have made progress with my view on the matter though as I'm not intending on making the change until next week, thought that this would be one final opportunity to gather views on the back of what I have learned and on the specifications that I desire.

First of all, though there has been some backing for the HTC, I have on the whole heard that it is unreliable and not comparable to the iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy.

My gut instinct was to go for the iPhone and have found that for the £40 or so per month package that I'd be looking for that I could purchase one for as little as £95 which is not unreasonable as I see it. It is of course, the status symbol mobile to own and I gather that on financial functions, it is the business. However, an android such as the Samsung Galaxy will be a free upgrade for me and has comparable if not better entertainment functions than the iPhone. It is also more accident friendly as it is more shatter-proof than the glass iPhone. I also gather that the iPhone is a killer on the battery. I'm one that has my mobile on me 24/7 and it resembles more of an extra limb for me than an inanimate object. I always charge my mobile at night but I gather that the iPhone if used regularly could need to be charged as often as every 3 to 4 hours which would be hopeless for my usage.

Apple's iPhone 4
There are positives and negatives for all types of course but another small thing that I've learnt is that on the Samsung Galaxy it is possible to watch live TV (I didn't know such a thing were even possible) but that on the iPhone it can only be done so on the iPlayer. Also, I gather that the camera on the Galaxy is 5 megapixels but barely 3 on the iPhone.

So in taking all of this in, I'm clearly edging towards the Galaxy android. But I've got a final few days to mull it over so would welcome comments from those who know about these things.

Have I underestimated the HTC, is the iPhone better than I make out, has the Galaxy got pit-falls and are there any other phones that I'm not even mentioning that should be considered?

It's a world away from my first mobile 'phone a decade ago but in moving into the android era, I want to make sure I make what for me, is the right choice.

Murdoch's Watergate? Cameron's Watergate? A Historian's Perspective

Having been away in London, I've not had time to comment on the incredible #hackgate developments.

It has been an astonishing pace of events that has shook the British media, its police and its politicians to their foundations. Much has been said and is being said about what has happened and the situation is so fluid that we can not tell where this is going to end. So the best that I can do at this juncture is to take a step back and to make some observations on what has already happened from my perspective as a historian.

Modern society overuses the 'gate' suffix at an alarmingly regular rate nowadays and in all reality, none of the modern uses can really match the severity of the original Watgergate moment in history. A pretty comprehensive list can be found here and forasmuch as 'Sharongate' in Eastenders may have had the nation transfixed back in the early 1990s or Nipplegate in which Justin Timberlake revealed Janet Jackson's nipple during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII may have caught the world in awe, do they really deserve comparison with a scandal that ousted an American President? Of course not. But over recent days and weeks, as more information has been released and more people have been implicated in this mire, I get a sense in my historic bones, that something really ia afoot here and what we are watching are the ingrediants for what will be a seismic shift in our cultural politic from what has been over the past four or so decades.

(a) Murdoch's Demise?
The whole point of Watergate was that at its core, there was a rotten political centre which as it transpired, went right up to the very top of America's political chain of command to the Commander-in-Chief in the White House.

James and Rupert Murdoch facing a House of Commons
Select Committee Grilling
Here, the rotten core has been in the ethics and standards of the tabloid journalists primarily in the News of the World but wider than that, throughout the News International empire and indeed, further afield across the spectrum.

It so happens however, that the hideous and disbelieving antics of a number of reporters during the past decade at the very least, were found at News International on the Murdoch's watch. What has transpired since has been a momentus and seemingly never-ending barrage of developments that have further showed this part of the Murdoch Empire to be wrapped up in dirty and dodgy dealings. As a result, the famous and historic News of the World name was allowed to be killed off in an attempt to placate the rising tide of anger and revulsion at what was being disclosed.

But of course, one of the hallmarks of this crisis has been the way in which Rupert and son James Murdoch have been unable to keep up with events and are playing a constant scrambling game of catch-up. For a family that has for so long lived in the public eye and has made its millions by being at the forefront of media campaigns, it is an incredible volte-face that see's them now struggling to deal with the searing light of the world's media attention. They have so badly misunderstood the public mood, their reaction to events has far from calmed the growing current that has turned against them but has in fact exacerbated and made worse that tide.

In only a matter of weeks, everything has changed. Who could seriously have thought just a month ago before the recent Milly Dowler revelations were made public, that a Parliamentary motion calling on Murdoch to drop his bid for the 100% sharehold in BSkyB would be supported unanimously by all parties and that as a result of this rare show of solidarity, Murdoch would indeed drop the bid?

Who could have believed the scenes of watching both Rupert and son James on Tuesday in front of a House of Commons select committee? It was indeed a historic and disbelieving event to witness. Suddenly, here was the media tycoon whose empire has held British politicians from both the Labour and Conservative benches over the past 3 decades in the palm of his hand, being brought back to heel as he faced questions about his company, its ethics and about his role in the events that have seen its share price collapse by some 17%. Murdoch Snr it suddenly became apparent to us, was now this frail old octogenarian who is getting no younger and who is clearly past his prime and not in control of his vast media empire as many may have felt was the case.

It is apparent, that many of his fellow executives at News Corporation are seeking to stregthen their grip on the corporate managment of the company from what seems to have been the lazy gaze of its Chief Executive and his heir apparent. The sudden and dramatic share price collapse of the company will certainly have concentrated minds to this effect. Also rumoured amongst this growing discontent at the Board level is that the company may want to look more seriously at its future in the British press. It is a widely felt view that the ownership of the Times and Sun titles in the UK owes more to Murdoch Snr's pet enthusiasm which emanates from his father's journalistic background and his own earlier years in breaking through in the 1960s than to a financial imperative. For the News International stable of newspapers from a British context at least is only a small part of News Corporation's bigger picture. It may be unlikely but it is not inconceivable that post-Murdoch, these papers might be sold off and what of that? A British tabloid and quality press without the Murdoch fingerprint written all over it after over 40 years at its heart?

Murdoch showed contrition on his appearance in Westminster in Tuesday but then so he might. In a matter of weeks he has seen everything that he has created and everything that he has stood for questioned. Hackgate has made him as vulnerable a target as he has ever been and whilst he may cling on to power or may be moved upstairs to become Chairman of the company, it would seem that these events will hasten the transition from power of this once mighty media mogul. It is now also highly questionable that son James will automatically take over the mantle from his father and if it proves in time that he doesn't, then it will indeed be another humiliating blow to the prestige and power of the Murdoch brand.

Most importantly of all from this perspective is how this on-going episode will alter the relationship between the media and the politicians that run our country. Suddenly, no-one wants to be seen near the toxic Murdoch brand because that's exactly what it has become - toxic. Having a proper and respectful distance and seperation of the media and political worlds in the UK is now likely in the foreseeable future and this in itself, whatever happens to Murdoch and his family, can only be a good thing.

Maybe Vince Cable was right all-along!

(b) David Cameron's Demise?
What then of the political ramifications of these developments?

Disgraced British Prime
Minister David Cameron?
In 1974, it became apparent that the rotten core that had seen US government put under the spotlight was actually orchestrated from the very top. President Nixon was forced to beceome the first and only American President to date in history, to resign his office because of the nature of the deceit and the part that he played in it.

Only last week, it didn't seem as if David Cameron would be badly touched by these events but such has been the speed of the revelations that the bookmakers have slashed the odds of his being the next resignation fron the Cabinet.

The dodgy connection of course is Andy Coulson and whilst the Prime Minister has done his best to robustly defend his position as he did in the House of Commons yesterday, it seems as if the more that is said, the more that is left un-said. It is probably most likely that David Cameron himself is an innocent by-stander in all of this and that his only mistake was one of judgement in which he believed all that Coulson said to him. Coulson may of course be exonerated by the Judicial inquiry and so in connection, will Cameron. But if not, Cameron's judgement will be seriously questioned but of course it does not stop there.

As with Watergate, it all comes down to who knows, what do they know and when did they know it.

Cameron's repeated protestations in the House of Commons yesterday, using the same carefully-phrased legal wording, seemed to cry of Shakespeare's Macbeth: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks".

Disgraced American President Richard Nixon
What did he know of Coulson's relations with the blackened journalists? What indeed did Coulson know himself and did the Prime Minister know the same? What indeed did the PM say to the Murdoch's and Rebekah Brooks during his many meetings with them regarding the possible BSkyB takeover?

Suddenly, every word uttered by the Prime Minister takes on a much greater significance. There are many imponderables and if Cameron honestly is free from all legitimate accusations, then he will be fine. But, if like Nixon, there is a discussion along the way or a knowledge of events that can implicate him in the wider furore, then it could well be as seriously damaging and far-reaching as that American political crisis of 4 decades ago.

All it needs is for one whistleblower or for one errant remark to me made that blows yet more out of this hideous can of worms.

In the meantime, the 24 media coverege that seems to be dedicated to the sensational new twists and turns that unleash yet more interest in this story, can far too easily forget the other great stories of this time. The fragility of the Euro-zone and its impact on us and the starvation of millions in Somalia are just two stories that spring to mind that are being clouded from view by hackgate.

But for all the words and all of the analysis, as is ever the case with such things, it is only time that will tell whether hackgate does indeed have the long-term repercussions on our society as the original 'gate' did on its American counterpart, back in the 1970s.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

My Weird and Wonderful Lib Dem Family

It's been a long weekend away in London.

The primary reason for my visit was to attend Andrew Reeves' Memorial Service in the Union Chapel, Islington, yesterday afternoon. I blogged about my long trip to pay my respects at his Edinburgh funeral last month and I wanted to do the same with his friends in London at his memorial service.

As I rarely visit London more than once a year and hadn't done so since last summer, I took this sad reason for a visit to clear my diary and to make a long weekend stay of it to catch up with old friends. What it has reminded me is that I am a very fortunate person in that as well as having my own family here in west Wales and my family of University friends, I also have a full-on pseudo-family of Liberal Democrats who span the length and breadth of Britain and it is a family that continues to grow.

The Aberystwyth Link
I arrived in London on the National Express from Swansea at 5pm on Saturday and met up as planned with old Aberystwyth University Liberal Democrat friends Alistair Mills, Jo Gudgeon and Beth Fullana at their home in Clapham where I stayed the night. They shared a house in Aberystwyth back in 2005 and 6 years later, are recently back doing the same again! I'd stayed with Alistair and Jo at their previous Clapham address back in 2009 but I hadn't seen Beth since she graduated so it was great to see them all together again and it felt as if nothing had changed from those golden Mark Williams campaigning days of 2004/2005 which resulted, with help from this great gang, in Mark's election to Parliament that May.

It got even better because I then met with more old faces from the same era as their close friends Simon Columb and his partner Sarah Meadows happened to be celebrating their mutual birthdays on that same night as I was in town. I was invited along and it was great to see them again (Simon has a really good film blog at for those who are interested) and also another member of the gang, Kaff Cornwall. After a meal by Clapham Common, we went on to the local club 'Infernos' where by sheer randon chance, we bumped into another Aber Lib Dem alumni Malcolm James who I last saw in Brussels when he was working with NATO back in 2007 - he's now working with the MoD. The chances of randomly seeing him on the dance floor of a club in Clapham must be up there with winning the Euromillions. Absolutely staggering but brilliant all the same!

Lib Dems Nation-wide
The Aberystwhyth link continued because on Sunday and Monday evening, I stayed with great mate and fellow Welsh Liberal Democrat Sarah Green and her fiance Luke Croydon in Shepherd's Bush as I have also done before. We used to share a house togeher with other friends in what was my 5th and final year as a student in Aberystwyth (again, that fateful year of 2004/2005) in the Trefechan area of town.

Before I checked in with her and Luke for the evening and a pub quiz with their friends (in which we came a frustratingly decent but could've been better 3rd place), I'd spent much of the day with another good Liberal Democrat friend Hywel ap Dafydd who has been unwell recently and who I visited in University College Hospital near Euston. I've known Hywel as a fellow Pembrokeshire lad but who has spent much of his time around the country helping the party in numerous by-elections and also particularly in London and Bristol. My fondest memory of Hywel is when he accidentally locked himself in the HQ toilet on the day of the Blaenau Gwent by-election some years back. Much of our time on that day was taken up by trying to get Hywel out of that toilet!!

On Monday, I met up at Trafagar Square with good friend Anders Hanson who is now a top bod at ALDC but who has worked in his time for Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne and also as the Mid & West Wales regional organiser back in the 2003 Assembly election campaign, based in our Ceredigion office on North Parade. It was then, as a young and keen student member that I first met him and it was nice to catch up with him over lunch before Andrew's memorial service.

Andrew Reeves' Lib Dem Family
It was an excellent turnout at Andrew's memorial service for his partner Roger and I have re-produced photos of the order of service in this blog post to show off what was a brilliant pink theme for the occasion (to which I added my brand of colour with pink-ish shirt and pink-ish tie). I'm sure Andrew would've been bemused at the spectacle but would've chuckled away at the same time. Neil Fawcett blogged here of his recollections of Andrew which sum up the man as well as anyone did in the service itself.

Caron Lindsay has also blogged here about the service itself and I can't add any more to what she said other than that it showed just how strong we are as a party. It was Simon Hughes who said (I'm pretty sure) that it is at sad occasions such as this, that we show that we're not just a party, but a family.

His words particularly rang true to me as we all raised a drink in Andrew's memory afterwards in the chapel bar (yes, you read that correctly!). I bumped into Pete Dollimore there and we caught up briefly and I noted that I only ever saw him at the bar in conference and now here we were, at a bar, at a wake. It was all slightly surreal and so it continued. Seeing good colleagues who I have not seen in some time like former Aberystwyth student Adrian Smith, top trainer-extraoinnaire Candy Piercy, Sally Burnell who I hadn't seen since she worked in Cardiff back in 2003 (full marks to her for picking me out of a crowd because I'm hopeless at such things!), Grace Goodlad and Duncan Borrowman who I also haven't seen in a long time (but who I recall first meeting as a couple when Duncan led a Pageplus artwork designing course in Cardiff back in around 2006) as well as those who I have seen more recently in conferences such as Rhiannon Wadeson and Chris Leaman, Austin Rathe and Katy Riddle, Lucy Watt and Laura Gilmore as well as countless others from across the country emphasised the point more than words could express.

Because, we are a family. We don't always get on with each other, there's often disagreements and arguments but there's a common bond that ties us all together. We all happen to believe that a liberal progressive Britain is the kind that we'd like for future generations and we have all made the decision back in our mutual lives, that the best way to bring about this positive change is through the Liberal Democrats. Like a family, we see it through the good times and also (quite aptly at present) through the challenging times. Like a family, we are so spread out around the country that we often only see each other at weddings or funerals and in our case also of course, conferences. We're a rag-bag of oddities with our quirks, our annoyances, our hobbies and our passions.

Most of all, like a family, we're there for each other in times of need and it was in that kindred spirit of mutual support and care that we gathered at Andrew's funeral in Edinburgh and again yesterday, at his Memorial Servce in London.

I'm sure that Andrew was proud of his weird and wonderful Lib Dem family and this weekend has proved to me if it didn't need proving already, that I am likewise incredibly and fiercely proud to be a small part of this wonderful extended family.

Friday, 15 July 2011

The Peculiarly Secretive World of Carmarthenshire County Council

A few weeks ago, I blogged here about the #daftarrest-gate happenings down in nearby Carmarthenshire.

Whilst Councils such as ours in Ceredigion have, as there reported, began to investigate ways of opening up local government to modern technology and greater scrutiny, it would seem from developments this week that Carmarthenshire are regressing even further backwards.

At its meeting on Wednesday, members of the public found themselves confronted for the first time with security provisions which stopped them from entering the public gallery without having to go through new and rather draconian procedures.

Jacqui Thompson who has found herself at the centre of this furore reported here in her Carmarthenshire Planning Problems blog at how she was effectively stopped from accessing the public gallery. In addition, Y Cneifiwr then tells us more of the inredulous hoops that members of the public had to go through as he himself at least managed to eventually make it to the public gallery.

Meanwhile, Cllr Sian Caiach added her take on the actual Council meeting on Wednesday in which she attempted to change the minutes from that infamous previous meeting to note what actually occurred but Councillors overwhelmingly voted against the facts.

Ceredigion's Bodlondeb Debate
In contrast to this incredible new twist in this ridiculous farce, Ceredigion County Council's Cabinet met this Tuesday and were faced with a packed public gallery as the future of Aberystwyth's Bodlondeb Residential Home was up for debate.

The issue of the future living arrangements of Bodlondeb's residents has been the centre of argument and heated debate over recent weeks as public meetings and newspaper comment has put pressure on the Council's Cabinet to refuse the option of transferring these vulnerable elderly residents to a new home at Waunfawr's Hafan Y Waun.

Whilst Carmarthenshire Council sought to limit the way in which the public could gain access to watch its public meetings this week, here in Ceredigion, dozens upon dozens of local residents took the opportunity to walk up the stairs at County Hall in Aberaeron and to sit, unencumbered, to watch their elected representatives vote on this most delicate of issues. They cheered those Cabinet members who spoke in favour of their plea and eventually witnessed the Cabinet defer the decision which amidst the contention surrounding the debate, is the bare minimum that they should've done.

But the point is that those who pay their taxes and wanted to see the local government decision making process in action, were able to do so without any question.

In Carmarthenshire, it's clearly not so straightforward.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Milford Haven Coastguard Centre is Saved

Excellent news this afternoon from London as the UK Government have announced a much welcome u-turn in its original decision to close Milford Haven and Holyhead Coastguard Stations.

The original plans were widely condemned as 11 of the 18 UK-wide bases were earmarked for closure under extreme measures to cut down on costs with only 3 remaining open 24 hours a day. But now, 11 will remain open and all of them will be open 24 hours a day.

A large campaign to save our station here in west Wales has proved successful as this BBC News article states. Holyhead will also remain open in north Wales to ensure that this part of the union is well guarded but the bad news is that Swansea station which was to be downgraded is now to be closed all together under these revised plans.

For us here on the fringes of the Welsh coast however, it is vindication of the campaign to ensure that we are not forgotten here in rural west Wales.

Local Pressure
The centre of the campaign to save Milford Haven was of course concentrated in Pembrokeshire itself but here in Ceredigion, we more than did our bit. Mark Williams MP wrote to the Government calling on it to change its decision as did Ceredigion County Council. We even sent a strongly felt and worded letter from Cardigan Town Council to the same end.

It's therefore very gratifying to see that public pressure and concern has been listen too by the powers that be and that this essential resource is to remain open and will allow the invaluable service that it helps provide to go unimpeded in the years ahead.

A Graduation of Aberystwyth Liberals

Yesterday was a lovely day. The afternoon was spent with Alyson on her birthday and a lovely meal in Aberaeron's Harbourmaster Hotel.

That followed the morning graduation ceremony in Aberystwyth's Great Hall where I sat on stage as Vice-Chair of Ceredigion County Council. It wasn't the first time that I've sat on the stage representing the local community but never have I known so many of those graduating in one ceremony as I did yesterday morning.

The Class of 2011
The author with graduates Tom Lister, Greg Foster
and Heather Lowe
Yesterday saw Amy Brown, Greg Foster, James Grove, Kevin Lennon, Tom Lister and Heather Lowe graduate from the Department of International Politics. They have all at one time or another been active with the Liberal Democrats in Ceredigion over recent years and I was absolutely chuffed to bits to see them graduate (and sitting on the stage, I actually saw their faces, which you don't see sitting in the congregation of students or family members!).

I then saw more liberals in Andy Cuthbert, John Wilson and Steffan John all receive their Masters from the Department and also Owain Phillips who I first met in a Lib Dem training session in Cardiff but who has now moved on to work for ITV Wales/S4C.

The ceremony can be seen here on the University's website -

The Class of 2003 & 2006
There's fewer better sensations that seeing the Great Hall in Aberystwyth full of excited and nervous students with their proud as punch parents and family members watching on from the galleries.

I have sat through the experience as a student on two occasions in that same hall. In 2003, I graduated in Modern History and Politics, just 5 weeks after the sudden death of my father and in 2006 I received my Masters in Modern History. On that latter occasion, I was an Aberystwyth Town Councillor and I made what in hindsight now was the daft decision of appearing on stage as a Town Councillor in my gown on the same day as I received my Masters. It seemed like a novel and rare opportunity to find myself on both sides of the ceremony on the same day. I can't recall whether I was a student in the morning and local authority representative in the afternoon or vice versa but either way, it was too much!

But it has all made me appreciate how magical the day is for the students but also for the family members who have in most cases, travelled far to see the pinnacle of their child's academic achievements.

The Future
Good luck to those who graduated yesterday and indeed all of those who graduate this week and especially to those names above who I have come to know over recent years and who I feel an odd kind of political paternalistic pride towards.

The future my friends, is yours.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Hans Zimmer: Trending on Twitter?!

It did strike me as slightly odd when I saw that Hans Zimmer was trending on Twitter today. I must admit that it brought about a mild amount of panic as I considered that this may have been the result of an early and untimely death but on investigation, was relieved to find out that it was probably in fact linked to an appearance on BBC Breakfast News this morning.

It did remind me however of how much of a fan I am of Herr Zimmer. His musical scores filter their way throughout my childhood with a resonance that will stay with me for as long as I live.

In an interview with the German TV station ZDF in 2005, he said: "My father died when I was just a child, and I escaped somehow into the music and music and has been my best friend". As someone who also counts my love of music as one of my best friends, I found this to be an endearing quote and whilst it must have been a tremendous loss for one so young, Hans built himself up to join the ranks of John Williams as one of the 20th century's greatest film score composers.

He has composed and produced over one hundred soundtracks and film scores. Of them, about 50 soundtracks and songs have been nominated for awards.

My Hans Zimmer Top 5
At this unlikliest of junctures, I feel compelled all of a sudden, to pay my own homage to this most talented of men but please don't see this as my opinion on his whole repertoire - no, this is merely a personal recollection of my favourite moments from my childhood that happen to have been created by this fine gentleman.

No.5 - Gladiator
This isn't a film that I have seen and yet the score is well known to all.

No.4 - Pirates of the Caribbean
Oddly enough, I also haven't seen any of the Pirates of the Caribbean films but the stirring score is one that is often played on classical radio and is one that suited the films that it was set too perfectly.

No.3 - The Lion King
I would happily state that The Lion Ling is the best Disney film ever made.

It's haunting score, along with the moving story-telling, has a force that could move me to tears. There's a very basic story of good vs bad which is at the heart of all great Disney films here and with loveable characters that the viewer warms too.

Hans Zimmer's score is the icing on the cake of what is a truly magnificent film and the score itself won Zimmer his first and to date, only Oscar.

No.2 - Going for Gold
I know, I know, I know.

But please forgive me this indiscretion but you see, it's my age. As a 28 year old, Going for Gold was a staple part of my lunchtime viewing during the late 1980s and early 1990s on those days when I was absent from school (on average throughout my time in school, about once every fortnight).

I hadn't realised until years later that the famous theme was actually a Hans Zimmer concoction and if possible, it made me love it even more than I already did!

Here is the full theme which was almost but never quite, released as a single.

No.1 - Cool Runnings
I make no bones about it. I love Cool Runnings. I own the DVD and have watched the film countless times.

The fact that it was based (albeit loosely) on the real-life story of the 1988 Winter Olympics immediately drew me towards it and then of course, there is the legendary John Candy. This it would turn out would be his final completed film before his tragically early death.

I absolutely adore the sound track and even own it on CD also.

For me, when I think Hans Zimmer I think and will always think first and foremost above all else that he has composed and achieved, Cool Runnings. It is therefore only apt that it is my No.1.

I have therefore indulged myself in two pieces by Zimmer from the film. The first is the absolutely wonderful Countrylypso which has within it, every emotion imaginable. I bought the CD for this alone. I love that Jamaican sound which Zimmer brought to the fore and it has since I first heard it, made me want to visit that island nation. One day hopefully, it will be a dream achieved.

Finally, the climax to the film with the actual film footage which saw the dream achieved for our four unlikely heroes, is made that much more dramatic by the score in the background. No matter how many times I've seen it, the final scenes always reduce me to tears.

It's what an enduring film score should be about - that ability to take you in and make you feel a part of the story.

Thank you Hans Zimmer for the music. Trending on Twitter? Deservedly so.

Monday, 11 July 2011

A Rare Dose of Common Sense

I was very pleased to read in the Western Mail last Thursday the news that Ofcom has seen the sense to protect the legal status of the Welsh language on Radio Ceredigion last week.

As the Western Mail reported back on May 13th, the furore resulted from the application made by Radio Ceredigion's new owners Town and Country Broadcasting to cut the amount of Welsh language service that it transmits. The station is currently supposed to transmit roughly half of its content in Welsh and half in English but there have been growing concerns since the takeover in April 2010 that this service has been undercut by the back-door.

This application went against legal obligations that gave security to the Welsh language on the station that was formed back in 1992 and went further in requesting that the Welsh music output in daytime hours be reduced from 20% to 10%.

Ceryl dros Cinio
Over the years, I became a rather regular fixture on Radio Ceredigion when I'd appear every other Monday morning to give a report on behalf of Mark Williams MP of his activities in London and in the constituency.

Over the space of some 5 years, I was interviewed by many Radio Ceredigion presenters in Welsh but the most regular and the one I enjoyed the most was with Ceryl on his 'Ceryl Dros Cinio' (Ceryl Over Lunch) radio slot. More often than not, the interview was carried live (only pre-recorded on rare occasions) and over the years as we became used to each others style on the airwaves, what was an interview morphed into more of a 'fireside chat' and it was incredible the amount of local residents and friends who stopped me in the street and said that they'd heard me on the radio, fortnight in and fortnight out over the years.

When the station was taken over in April 2010 and moved down from Aberystwyth to Narberth in Pembrokeshire (where the company also run Radio Pembrokeshire and Radio Carmarthenshire), the request for a regular contribution from the Member of Parliament (and presumably also on the alternative Monday, the Assembly Member) came to an end. Maybe this was a sign of things to come?

It must certainly be said that the vibes that I have heard over the past 12 months has been one of discontent at what has been seen to be the erosion of Welsh language provision on the airwaves to such an extent that many friends I know now get their Welsh news from Radio Cymru and I must admit that my tendency has ebbed in this same direction.

Ofcom's rejection of the application made by Town and Country Broadcasting at least sends a clear signal that the protection of the Welsh language must remain a priority and should not be attacked by stealth from the sidelines.

Friday, 8 July 2011

A New African Dawn - Welcoming South Sudan as the 193rd Member of the United Nations

At the stroke of midnight, 9th July (2100 GMT), South Sudan will join the community of nations as it officially becomes an independent state.

It will step out from decades of civil war as it cedes from Sudan after 99% of voters supported independence in a referendum which has been accepted by Sudan's controversial President Omar al-Bashir.

This BBC article gives the low down on what will be a historic event.

The Republic of South Sudan will become the 193rd member of the United Nations and the newest member since Montenegro officially ceded from Serbia in 2006.

As the BBC article states, South Sudan has many challenges ahead:
  • It's one of the world's least developed countries with the worst maternal mortality rate, most children below 13 are not in school and 84% of its female population are illiterate.
  • It's relations with Sudan are contentious -  Dividing debts and oil; border disputes and citizenship are areas of friction.
  • Security is a concern as there are at least seven active rebel groups.
But for now, all I can convey is my very best wishes to a people who expressed an overwhelming desire for full autonomy as a sovereign state.

Welcome to a brave new World, South Sudan.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Final Countdown: News of the World to Close Down


It has been one of the most shocking of news storylines of recent years and it has claimed an incredible scalp.

The News of the World newspaper was first published on 1 October 1843 and its last edition will be published this Sunday until 10 July 2011.

The story can be found here on the BBC website.

Indeed, wikipedia are already ahead of the game - describing the paper in the past tense!

This is an extraordinary step but then these are extraordinary days and whilst there are journalists who now have a questionable future, the severity of the allegations means that this decision is an appropriate and proportionate response.

I never needed to boycott the News of the World as I never read it but I'm nevertheless pleased that this incredible act has been made.

Will it change the way that journalism operates in the United Kingdom? Will it merely lead to a re-marketed 'Sunday Sun' as a replacement.? We can not be assured either way of course but the scale of this crisis has run unbelievably deep.

The investigations into the hacking however must continue and those guilty, going right up to the top, must pay. This act can not be used as a smokescreen to hide away Rupert Murdoch Snr and Jnr and Rebekah Brooks and also not to cloud the issue of Murdoch's planned media takeover which the Government are currently considering.

A potential Sunday Sun which would simply be a re-hash of the NOTW, will still be run by the same people. Will the angry British public make the link and boycott any such project? I'd hope so. It is us the public that will decide. Time will tell.

Rebekah Brooks should however be ashamed of herself. It should first and foremost be her resignation on the table.

The closure of the News of the World is neverthless, if nothing else in the interim, a small victory for decency and humanity. Rebekah Brooks's resignation would be a significant other.

A Parrott in the Welsh Assembly!

That's Eluned Parrott, the Welsh Assembly's newest member, of course!

After what has been a fraught few months for the Welsh Liberal Democrats, culminating in the vote on Aled Roberts' re-instatment to the Assembly yesterday, I think it's time as a naturally glass half-full type, to accentuate the positive.

Eluned Parrott AM
Eluned Parrott AM
Few outside of Welsh Liberal Democrat circles are likely to have been aware of Eluned before her sudden elevation to the Assembly as she swore her oath yesterday as John Dixon's replacement. But this excellent article from today's Western Mail shows that she has bags of experience not only in the real world as a community engagement manager at Cardiff University but also, as a mother of two young children.

As a young 30 something with worldy experience, she has a particular passion for education and will be an excellent addition to Kirsty Williams' team in Cardiff Bay.

An essential character trait as she enters the Assembly alongside Peter Black and that collection of ties, will be a sense of humour! But we're ok because as Eluned herself explained when saying that she enjoys sport, she "is a very poor cricket player" but I'm nevertheless confident that she'll be bowling a few googlies towards her political opponents over the years to come!

Good luck Eluned. The Welsh Assembly's South Wales Central region, comprising as it does the constituencies of Cardiff Central, Cardiff North, Cardiff South and Penarth, Cardiff West, Cynon Valley, Pontypridd, Rhondda and the Vale of Glamorgan are I'm confident, in safe and capable hands.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Natural Justice for Aled Roberts AM

It's been a tough day.

I've not long returned from the funeral of a close family friend who will be dearly missed by everyone who knew her.

I at least returned to the good news that Aled Roberts has been re-instated to the Welsh Assembly after a vote by his fellow Assembly Members (including the newly elected Eluned Parrott AM).

The Elias Report, without saying so in so many words, exonerated him from any blame for the mess that has surrounded the Assembly over the past two months. It was clear for any reasonable person, that natural justice should be served and that the error made by the Electoral Commission should be expunged by this vote.

Aled Roberts AM

Whilst I'm delighted that he won the simple majority necessary, I can not comprehend how 20 of his colleagues still voted against him. The final score after a free vote, was 30 in favour, 20 against and 3 abstentions. The tally sheet can be found here.

Of those who voted against, 14 were from the Labour ranks and 6 from the Conservative benches. I am personally disappointed that Labour's Llanelli AM Keith Davies voted against as I'd heard that he was going to vote in favour. I also feel let down by the Conservative interim leader Paul Davies' vote against having previously spoken high of him in the past in this blog.

It's interesting that of the 3 that abstanined, two of them were Plaid Cymru's leadership possibilities Elin Jones and Simon Thomas. They were joined by Labour's Huw Lewis. My comment here is why abstain? If you're bloody stupid enough to vote against then so be it. But abstain? Can't you make up your mind on the issue one way or the other?

Either way, for those who did the right thing in voting back into the Assembly a decent and honourable human being, they have my great respect. For those who didn't, they have gone down in my estimation.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

An Honourable Decision - John Dixon Stands Down

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams AM, has just made this announcement with regards to the 'Lib Dem 2':

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“Tomorrow, Assembly Members will be asked to consider whether it is proper to lift the disqualification of Aled Roberts and John Dixon. The advice of Gerard Elias QC enables them to do so with regard to the facts of each case.

“The Elias report treats each case differently, since the circumstances are very different.

“In the case of Aled Roberts, Gerard Elias has confirmed that ‘at each stage of his selection and nomination process, Aled Roberts followed the guidance provided to him by the Electoral Commission and mirrored on the National Assembly website’. He also confirms that the information provided to him referred him to incorrect guidance. Finally, he says that he finds that ‘Aled Roberts did eveything that he could reasonably been expected to do in ensuring that he was not a disqualified person.’

“Gerard Elias also deals with the fact that the guidance offered to Aled Roberts in the medium of Welsh was incorrect and states that ‘he was entitled to assume that the Welsh version would mirror the English version at all times and in every respect.’

“I would like to welcome the statement by the Electoral Commission who have acknowleged their error and offered an apology.

“It is clear that this is a case of enormous importance to the future of the equality of the Welsh language, to the reputation of the Assembly and to Welsh devolution. I will do everything I can to perasuade colleagues that Aled Roberts should take his rightful place in the Assembly. Based on the contents of the Elias report, it is hard to see how any reasonable person could conclude otherwise.

John Dixon
“In the case of John Dixon, Gerard Elias concludes that “he honestly believed that he was eligible to be a member of the National Assembly”. However, he also concludes that he had a responsibility to check the Order but did not do so. I have already accepted the responsibility that the Welsh Liberal Democrats share in this failiure.

“It has always been my view that the disqualification of both men should be lifted. Whatever the rights and wrongs of either case, to impose a ban on either from taking up their seats represents a punishment out of proportion to any error made.

“However, given that Gerard Elias’ report makes clear that the responsiblity to check the Order rested with John Dixon, I do not believe that there is any likelihood of a majority of Assembly Members being persuaded to disregard the disqualification.

“It is with huge regret therefore that the Welsh Liberal Democrats, with John’s agreement, have decided to withdraw the motion to disregard the disqualification of John Dixon.

“John has already served the public diligently and with distinction on Cardiff Council. I have no doubt that would have been an enormously effective and hard working Assembly Member. He is paying a very high price for his mistake. It is personal tragedy for him and I desperately wish that it were different. But I cannot change the facts any more than I can change the opinions of Assembly Members.

“I hope now that Assembly Members will now be able to focus on the case of Aled Roberts and ensure that justice is done.”

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It is with great regret that it has come to this as John Dixon would've made a fine Assembly Member. The fact that the WLGA leader Cllr John Davies said as much during the recent WLGA conference speaks volumes.

Eluned Parrott
I think that John has made an extremely honourable decision to fall on his sword at this point instead of forcing it through to a vote in the Assembly Chamber tomorrow afternoon. It was a mistake that was made that brought about this situation but not one that would've brought any financial gain. We are all human and this is a personal tragedy for John and for the South Wales Central region because he would've served its residents with great distinction.

He and the region are at least blessed in the knowledge that he will be replaced with Eluned Parrott who I know will be an excellent replacement. Married and with a young family, Eluned will be a new personaility within the Assembly Chamber and I know that she will do her region and her party, proud.

Aled Roberts
Aled Roberts
This leaves us with the morale battle to re-instate Aled Roberts to the Assembly tomorrow afternoon.

As Kirsty has said in her statement, the report shows that Aled was innocent of any wrong-doing and that it was the Electoral Commission's error that brought about this regretable situation.

That criticial line again in the report:

"Aled Roberts did eveything that he could reasonably been expected to do in ensuring that he was not a disqualified person".

As Kirsty added: "Based on the contents of the Elias report, it is hard to see how any reasonable person could conclude otherwise".