Something for the weekend: Hen Wlad fy Nhadau

Hello from Llandudno, North Wales, where you find me wi-fi-ing away in Venue Cymru, the conference centre currently hosting the Welsh Liberal Democrats’ spring conference.

Rare bits in today’s innuendo-packed Something for the Weekend from Wales: Jenny Willott’s future; David Steel’s past; Nick Clegg’s tongue; Vince Cable’s underwear; and more!

» Good Week

It’s been a good week for Granite. While a different type of Rock has been taken over by the state, the offshore company Granite continues to get its hands on the best bits of the newly-nationalied Northern Rock’s business (the arrangement sounds very complicated and I don’t pretend to understand it all) but wasn’t itself nationalised, leaving the country holding the detritus. Apparently, says Yvette Cooper, “It is on the bank’s balance sheet” but “it is not being taken into public ownership and is not in fact owned by Northern Rock.” Erm…

One man who undoubtedly does understand it is the Liberal Democrats’ Shadow Chancellor, Dr Vincent Cable, and it’s been a good week for him to as he charitably resisted the temptation to storm naked into the House of Commons, wearing only a pair of Northern Rock branded underpants and the words “I told you so” tattooed across his chest.

No, I don’t know where that image came from either.

» Bad Week

It’s been a bad week for Toshiba (although its share price rose) as speculation mounted that it would abandon its HD-DVD platform for high definition DVDs. Blockbuster, uber-retailer Wal-Mart and major US film studios have declared their support for Sony’s rival, the not-as-dirty-as-it-sounds platform Blu-ray.

I’m sure the media will be hoping that this runs for a little longer as the chance to trot out VHS/Betamax comparisons over and over is too good to miss.

» Also in the news

A jury in Peterborough has taken a massive two weeks to find three former Labour Party members guilty of vote-rigging, with some charges still being considered.

The Evening Standard reports that, as more and more post offices are threatened around the country, all three branches in the Palace of Westminster will stay open.

A Lichfield restaurant has apologised after a staff member took revenge on complaining customers by sending a sweary message via their bill.

Headline of the week, from Metro: Penis artist enters himself for prize.

» An ambition for HMRC

Our favourite arm of the state, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, has taken great strides towards towards not losing personal data and not messing up the tax credits system: they’ve got a new slogan.

According to the Daily Mail, 405 senior staff members went on away days costing a total of £1.5 million to brainstorm the inspirational new phrase.

Among the rejected ideas were a “pink and fluffy” logo spelling out “Thank You” to those who paid their taxes and a steel-grey “Elite Enforcement” title warning tax evaders they would be “hunted down”.

So what did they settle on?

HMRC Ambition.

LibDem spokesman Danny Alexander said: “People will be astonished that hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money was spent on this bureaucratic exercise.

“After the lost data debacle, I can think of lots of other words other than ‘pink and fluffy’ or ‘ambition’ for the HMRC.”

» Congratulations, Jenny W

Gossip from Wales! Cardiff Central MP Jenny Willott is engaged to be married after her partner Andrew proposed to her in Paris on Valentine’s Day.

She’s now trying to work out when Gordon might call a general election so they can set a date. It’s another excellent argument for fixed term parliaments.

» Brian Paddick’s dirty tricks

The Liberal Democrats’ London mayoral candidate Brian Paddick appears to have opted for a dirty tricks in his attempt to replace Ken Livingstone.

Brian is running the London marathon this year (you can donate to his three chosen charities here, here and here) and he’s challenged Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson to take part too.

Could his secret plan be to see Ken and Boris overcome by fatigue after a strenuous 26-and-a-bit mile run? Brian, meanwhile, will be “running for mayor” and showing that he’s “fit for office” – and judging by some of the comments on his Facebook page, some voters reckon he’s “fit” in more than one sense…

Before we leave London, let’s make another to check to see if the London boroughs section of Boris’s website – which was first to be launched on January 14th and for the rest of January “to be launched later this month” – has appeared yet.

Oh dear. It’s still to be launched “later this month”.

(There’s still time to vote for the most effective anti-Boris video in the latest Lib Dem Voice poll.)

» Bore da, Mr Clegg

Nick Clegg AS (that’s Welsh for “Nick Clegg MP”) spoke at the Welsh party conference yesterday morning.

“You’ve set me a linguistic challenge,” he began, before getting his tongue round a respectable-sounding (to my ears) sentence of greeting in Welsh.

He went on to point out that Llandudno was the venue for David Steel’s 1981 “Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government” speech.

(Our taxi driver on Friday pointed out the crossroads a few yards up from our hotel as the site of an apparently excellent al fresco speech by Paddy Ashdown during the 1997 general election.)

Nick’s appearance in Wales is also mentioned in yesterday’s Guardian leader. (Hat-tip.)

» Welsh conference round-up

More important tidbits from Wales.

Last night, in the obligatory fundraising raffle, I won a letter opener donated by Assembly Member Kirsty Williams. I’ve been warned not to try to open e-mails with it as my laptop may not survive.

Other fundraising included what was, I suspect, the first ever Lib Dem round of Deal or No Deal, in which London bureaucrat Mark Valladares (accompanying his fiancée, who was speaking) crossed wits with the Banker (Cardiff West’s Alison Goldsworthy).

And a big Lib Dem Voice hello to Roger Roberts, aka Lord Roberts of Llandudno, who revealed himself to be a regular Lib Dem Voice reader.

» Facebook groups of the week

Artworkers familiar with his handwriting will have sympathy for Andrew Garratt’s group Andrew Garratt is not a font; he’s a real person.

Barack Obama fans might like to join Brits for Barack and/or Liberal Democrats for Obama.

We’re going to change Britain! WANTED: 2 Million People wants two million people to sign up to its campaign to make the country a friendlier place:

“We the members of this group will defy British culture by smiling, saying hello and potentially sharing a wave with people we do not know in order to change Britain.”

» Coming up

You can watch Nick Clegg at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday from 12pm, and Lembit Öpik will be on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions? on Friday.

» And finally…

We’ve mentioned David Steel, so I guess we should mention The Other One…

* Something for the Weekend – Lib Dem Voice’s lowest common denominator. Something for next weekend? Drop us a line at [email protected]

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