Author Archives: Gareth Aubrey

Y Barcud Oren #14

Well the lawyers have released me (the academic ones, things haven’t got that bad!) to fill you in on how things are developing in Wales. After all, there’s only an election on…

I Want You To Pull My Trigger

Whatever the result at Westminster, the first item in the new Secretary of State for Wales’s in-tray will be the referendum on extending the powers of the Welsh Assembly. With the final potential roadblock to a referendum removed when David Cameron announced that a Tory government in London wouldn’t block it, all should have been set fair for the …

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Y Barcud Oren #13

No, you’re not dreaming, Y Barcud Oren service is resumed (now that my lecturers have, however briefly, stopped making me write essays on trust law!). And, with 2009 drawing to a close, it’s a good time to check in on how the answers to the year’s great political questions have developed.

Take Me To Your Cliché

2009’s first great saga was Rhodri Morgan’s retirement and, eventually, the race to succeed him. But to say that nothing happened in the Welsh Labour leadership contest would be an insult to quantum mechanics. The three people we expected to run ran, the process …

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Y Barcud Oren #12

To Wales, then, where it’s goodbye from him, and it’s au revoir from him …

And So, With Tears In Either Eye

In fairness to him, Rhodri Morgan pretty much kept to his end of the bargain in announcing that he would stand down as First Minister after the Assembly budget was agreed on December 8th (but since the promise was that he’d announce his intentions on or around September 29th, his end of the bargain wasn’t that hard to keep up). The inevitable political and journalistic encomium followed and you can’t begrudge it him; whatever his political failings, his personal popularity is unmatched in recent memory.

With the flag dropped, Larry, Moe and Curly were soon off and running to succeed him (not that they hadn’t been before, unofficially).

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Y Barcud Oren #11

Can it really be party conference season already? In Wales it can, as Plaid pop off to Llandudno this weekend where no-one will notice them (so what’s new…) In any case, what self-respecting journalist is going to waste their time on things that are actually happening when there’s good speculatin’ to be had?

Leaving On A Rhoose Plane

The target of said speculation is of course Rhodri Morgan, whose stated retirement date (his 70th birthday) is now just over two weeks away. With departure supposedly imminent, the pretenders to the throne have crept back into the shadows to avoid the appearance of giving an extra shove on the way off the precipice (Jon Cruddas’ trip to Wales to essentially endorse Huw Lewis as the “properly lefty” candidate notwithstanding.)

Mind you, Rhodri couldn’t have done a better job fuelling the speculation if he’d tried.

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Y Barcud Oren #10

Ah, the summer, that mystical time when politicians stop being lazy in their grand offices and spread their laziness across the land (or not, of course, though I suppose you can judge for yourself using the Western Mail’s list…) The summer was never going to be politics-free, however, particularly in Wales where everyone has to factor in their annual visit to Senedd-on-Sea.

Considerably Welsher than yow

Or to be more accurate, Senedd-by-the-Lakeside, as this year’s National Eisteddfod was held in Bala. With Rhodri’s 70th birthday (his promised retirement date) little more than a month away, it was time for Bridgend …

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Y Barcud Oren #9

June, it turned out, was a pretty good month to take off blogging to move house. Between the blogosphere and the twitterati putting their oar in, the European election results were pored over more thoroughly than any before (from a Welsh perspective I’d recommend Dominic Hannigan’s review on Freedom Central) and gallons of un-ink were spilt over expenses and the speakership.

I Said We’ll Consider The Results Of The Consultation And I Mean No

Still, the Assembly Government had to do something with its time and their continuing quest to look like they’re trying to get more powers while not actually getting them was happy to oblige. The last public event of the All Wales Convention was always going to fuel the speculation about the referendum that is essentially Plaid’s excuse for getting into bed with Labour, particularly when the chair of the convention, Sir Emyr Jones Parry, sounded a rather downbeat note on the level of public interest.

Mind you, the starting gun had already been fired by the once and future Secretary of State. No sooner had Peter Hain got his feet back under his desk in Gwydyr House than he was confidently telling The Western Mail that, not only would there not be a referendum before 2011, but that senior Plaid members understood that was the case.

The usual suspects (The Next Leader Of Plaid Cymru™, the Secretary General of the People’s Democratic Republic Of Treherbert and the Head of the Church of I Hate Sian Caiach) went unsurprisingly ape, but from those “senior Plaid members” whose understanding might be thought important, comment came there none. That silence may be down to Hain’s increasing irrelevance, however; his contribution so far has largely been to rage against the dying of the light in an ever more hilarious parody of every anti-Tory cliché Labour have in their arsenal.

Not that there weren’t reminders that the devolution debate is about more than Mandelson-waving. The publication of the Calman Commission report in Scotland only served to underline both how far Wales lags behind their current settlement, let alone the settlement we and they need. The Holtham Commission then put numbers to the scale of the problem, estimating that Wales would receive £300m more if it were funded according to the formula used for the English regions instead of the Barnett Formula.

Less Of The Solicitor, More Of The Country

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Y Barcud Oren #8

Forever delayed but back at last in the wake of the most important Wednesday of the Welsh political year (and I’m not referring to Lembit’s council tax summons…)

Here’s Your Starter For Spring, All Conferring

The Assembly has of course been off on recess, which gave everyone time to get through the rest of spring conference season. Having survived Tory attempts to Welshify themselves at a cricket ground and Plaid’s efforts to cast off the cottage burning we were first to the plate in the second half.

The result was record turnout for a Welsh Lib Dem conference, a jam-packed policy agenda, a great Q&A session with both our leaders and a typically firebrand keynote speech from the leader herself. The press coverage was similarly upbeat and there’s plenty of reaction from the blogosphere to get your teeth into here, here, here, and here.

But one thing that sticks uppermost in my mind is that I spent a goodly chunk of Saturday night in the bar talking to the executive member for education – in Blaenau Gwent. So don’t tell me we haven’t grown and don’t matter outside Mid Wales and the cities…

And then it was Labour’s turn, closing things off in Swansea with not so much a conference as a leaving do in the staff canteen. With Rhodri heading towards voluntary retirement and Labour generally hurtling towards involuntary booting out on their arses, they had little option but to mutter, mutter against the dying of the light. Paul Murphy did his best “You’re Welsh, You’ll Vote Labour” routine, but the BBC’s sermon metaphor rather hit the nail on the head of that one.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Get Out Of The Cock-Up

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Y Barcud Oren #7

It may be late (I blame the author’s man flu, but then I would…) but it’s a bumper Barcud this week as the end-of-term mood added an extra air of lunacy to proceedings.

I’m In Plaid, Get Me Out Of Here

Every writer submitting items for delayed publication risks being overtaken by events. Nevertheless, when I e-mailed off the last Barcud I had little fear that the sordid question of top-up fees would have developed further by the time it appeared on Lib Dem Voice barely 48 hours later. After all, there was no mention of it in the Assembly business for that week, and it would have taken a pretty pathetic and utterly disgraceful flouting of parliamentary decency for the government to schedule an announcement on such an important topic at the last minute…

Never ones to cock things up by halves, Plaid soon got to work on the really heavy-duty stupidity. Among the documents to appear in the public domain in the aftermath of the announcement was a letter from 17 year-old Plaid member Arianwen Caiach-Taylor, attacking the party for caring more about Ieuan Wyn’ Jones vehicular buttock comfort than the needs of students. John Dixon (yes, the self-same party chairman who’d gotten so much airtime representing the opposition to top-up fees among the grassroots), decided that the only measured response was to expel her from the party altogether, with the classic semantic caveat that he considered her letter to be tantamount to resignation (proving, as much as anything, that he hadn’t read it…). Still, at least she was spared the ignominy of then having to go to Plaid’s spring conference, held at a university (and not just any university, but the one in my ward…)

Meanwhile, Plaid’s fictitious wing were busily reinforcing their position as hypocrites-in-chief, railing against cuts in further education funding at a rally outside the Senedd. As this Welsh Lib Dem video so ably demonstrates, however, that railing would have been a little more meaningful if the members in question hadn’t voted for the budget that made them…

Let no man say, however, that Labour or Plaid are to be found wanting in their brazenness; no sooner had that video appeared than one of the members involved was asking for the unedited footage so they could put their speech on their website. I don’t suppose the actual response was of the nature of that given to the plaintiff in Arkell vs. Pressdram, but still…

I’m A Stupidly Named Website And So’s My Wife

One of the less publicised features of the One Wales Agreement is the incomptence suicide pact, whereby if one coalition partner is making an arse of itself, the other has to do something equally moronic to spread out the damage. In this case, Labour’s contribution was the launch of Aneurin Glyndwr, a website describing itself as the new digital voice of Labour supporters in Wales.

Appallingly, almost criminally badly written attack blogs are ten a penny, but Aneurin Glyndwr is a different kettle of fish. For starters, it opens with explicit endorsements from Peter Hain MP, Eluned Morgan MEP and Alun Davies AM; indeed, Hain described it as an “Obama moment”. Other commentators were less charitable, and rather more accurate;

• Labour’s John Redwood moment
A Howard Dean moment
The internet equivalent of watching your dad dance at a disco
Like a monkey saw a blog and tried to draw it with a crayon

But rather more unfortunately, Aneurin Glyndwr thinks it’s funny.

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Y Barcud Oren #6

Are you sitting comfortably (having recovered of course from the power of Kirsty’s performance in Harrogate)? Then let’s begin by opening our books to the odds of the One Wales Government lasting the month…

The Civil War Of Unit Three Plus One

To begin at the beginning, back in October an independent review recommended abolishing the grant that Welsh students studying in Wales receive to negate their top-up fees, in favour of more means-tested help. A month later, Education Minister Jane Hutt endorsed that review’s findings. Which was all well and good, except that Plaid stood on an anti-fees

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Opinion: Can We Win Our Young People?

I wasn’t going to comment on Liberal Youth’s latest endeavours in eating its own young while the executive elections were ongoing; for all the passions they’ve engendered, the candidates themselves aren’t the problem. But I felt I couldn’t let Jenni Clutten’s contribution to Lib Dem Voice yesterday go unanswered; not because what she said was wrong, but because what she didn’t say was…

When I talk to people in the party about Liberal Youth I ask them one simple question; what has it actually done? Reading University branch is a great success, but that’s because Gareth Epps is an outstanding …

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Y Barcud Oren #5

And now on ITV 17, “Welsh Labour Politicians Say The Stupidest Things”…

Excuse Me While I Hate Myself

Our first clip comes courtesy of Rhys Williams, the Labour PPC for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr. A strongly Welsh-speaking area, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr is fairly iconic for Plaid; it’s the successor to Gwynfor Evans’ old seat and is now represented by The Next Leader Of Plaid Cymru™ and The Minister For Smoking In The Eli Jenkins. Equally, having been held by Labour so recently, it’s also often identified as vital for Llafur in re-establishing its Welshness.

Nevertheless, Mr Williams went in all guns blazing in a magazine article, chastising the Welsh-speaking community for using the language as a weapon of exclusion. Not that he has any problem with individual Welsh speakers; that would after all be quite difficult as he is one himself…

In a competitive seat, it would indeed have been electoral suicide, but Plaid were already going to open a big can of electoral whupass on Mr Williams anyway, so for him the greatest consequence will likely be a reminder of his idiocy on BBC Wales’ election night coverage. In any case, no-hoper Llafur candidates saying stupid things quickly took a back seat as the professionals got into the game…

L’Etat, C’est Morgan

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Y Barcud Oren #4

Greetings from a less-than-snowy Cardiff, where the lack of meteorological chaos has allowed the business of devolution to continue unabated. More’s the pity…

Power To The Pobl

The big news is, of course, that the Welsh Language LCO is upon us. To the uninitiated (and, indeed, most of the initiated) it might seem strange that Welsh language powers aren’t already devolved, but that would be to assume that the current devolution settlement was designed with … well, anything really.

Not that the LCO does anything like devolving Welsh language powers anyway. Instead, it spends three pages caveating its way around the

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Y Barcud Oren #3

A new year naturally focuses minds on new things and Wales has been no different in this respect. But the contrast between the official story and the reality in January has been stark…

The Bandwagon Departs

That official story began in the unusual surroundings of the Seaside Social and Labour Club in Port Talbot, which hosted the first public consultation event of the All-Wales Convention. This was a moment of such earth-shattering importance that the BBC even wheeled out Wyre Davies to cover it on the Six O’Clock News (in probably the first national news story about Welsh devolution since …

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Y Barcud Oren #2

Rushing headlong into a year-in-review column feels somewhat precipitate, given that this is only the second flight of the kite (as it were). Then again, I’m always keen to fulfil my contractual obligations to the blogosphere and it seems positively churlish to let the highlights(sic) of 2008 in Wales pass unmarked…

All Quiet On The Socialist Front

It seems rather strange to say that the party with twenty-nine of Wales’ 40 MPs, twenty-six of its 60 AMs and in power in both Westminster and Butetown had a quiet year, and yet that’s what it was.

Part of that is down to the One Wales Government’s failure to do, well, anything much in particular. Equally, however, it reflects the increasing efforts of Welsh Labour to divorce themselves from anything yon Scunner Broon might get up to. Even the year’s opening gambit, Peter Hain’s resignation from the government over problems with donations to his deputy leadership campaign, failed to stick to Welsh Labour so much as to Westminster in general.

One area where the divorce strategy clearly failed was the local elections, which were nothing short of calamitous. Llafur lost one quarter of their councillors, 124 in all, and lost overall control of six of the eight authorities they had held previously. The losses in those authorities were dramatic enough (eight apiece in Blaenau Gwent and Newport, nine apiece in Merthyr and Caerphilly, thirteen in Flintshire and sixteen in Torfaen) but the decimation that occurred in places where Labour weren’t even running the show locally (nine losses in Wrexham and fourteen apiece in Carmarthen and Cardiff) was perhaps even more remarkable.

And yet Llafur continued to fly under the radar, letting their Westminster brethren and their coalition partners take the hits.

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Y Barcud Oren #1

See, there was I, happily preparing to start writing this fortnightly missive on all matters arising west of the Wye in the new year when, in a dramatic departure from normal practice, Wales’s politicians decided to spend the last week before their Christmas break doing things. Damned liberty, if you ask me…

The W Factor

Then again, I can’t exactly blame Kirsty for the leadership election finishing this week; that would be the fault of our conference reps. Still, the hustings are over, the bunting is down, the mad hysteria is at an end and the member for Brecon and Radnorshire has …

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