Friday, November 30, 2007

Zero Carbon Britain

For a rare picture of Lembit without an adoring female on his arm (jealous? moi?), visit CAT's zero carbon pages.

Seriously, it's great news that we have swiftly signed up to the Centre for Alternative Technology's manifesto. This follows Mick Bates's consistent championing of green policies in the Senedd.

It's ironic that CAT - well worth a visit, by the way - is just outside the Montgomery constituency. However, to be fair to Plaid, Nia Griffith was in on the discussions which drew up the agenda. There is as yet no sign of the peripolitan Tories.

- Frank Little

Christine Humphreys new president of Welsh LibDems

Former Assembly Member Christine Humphreys, who was narrowly defeated by Mike German for leadership of the party in 1998, has been elected the new President of the Welsh Liberal Democrats. Christine takes over from Rob Humphries of the Swansea and Gower party.

Rob will be remembered as the President who guided us through a difficult period in the party's history with firmness tempered with good humour and ready wit.

The official announcement continues: "Christine, who was AM for North Wales between 1999 and 2001, said: 'I’m delighted to have been elected President by the membership and look forward to representing their interests over the next two years.

"'One of the most important duties of President is representing the views of our members within the NEC. Doing that effectively means travelling to as many constituencies as possible to talk to, and most importantly, to listen to, members in their own communities.

"'Having done most jobs in the party – from making tea to making policy – I’m looking forward to playing a full role in the next stage of the party’s development.'

"Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Mike German offered his congratulations.

"He said: 'I congratulate Christine on her election and look forward to working with her again in the months to come.

"'Christine has a strong record in the party, and is a well known figure across the political, charity and media sectors in Wales. She brings a wealth of campaigning experience as well as a fresh perspective on the opportunities ahead.'

"Christine Humphreys was elected AM for North Wales in the first Assembly. She retired due to ill health in 2001. A former English teacher, she is now a part time Welsh tutor at Bangor University. She is Chair of Aberconwy Local Party, and acting vice chair of North Wales Regional Committee."


The President’s role is to be “the principal public representative of the Party at large”.

The post is filled by election by an all-member ballot. MPs, AMs, MEPs and Lords are not eligible for this post.

A Review is Under Way

With acknowledgments to Liberal Democrat News

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

William Blake

Wednesday, 28th November 2007, is the 250th anniversary of William Blake.

It would be easy to claim him as a fellow-fighter for liberty. However, he would be an uncomfortable companion today. He railed against all authority and would no doubt campaign against elected governments and councils, as he used to against the tyranny of kings. There is no certainty that he would be satisfied with a constitutional monarchy as a substitute for a republic.

He revelled in the French Revolution and despised education. "The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction."

He trusted his own personal vision of God rather than the insights of scientists (or the teachings of any organised religion):
"The atoms of Democritus
And Newton's particles of light
Are sands upon the Red sea shore,
Where Israels' tents do shine so bright."

But it would be good to have him on our side in the resistance to a national identity database, to illegal wars, to forms of slavery and to corruption in high places. He was exercised by the 18th century equivalents of all these.

- Frank Little

Monday, November 26, 2007

Local councillors should have more responsibility

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published its findings on the involvement of ward councillors in their communities.

The paragraphs:

"# Community engagement: councillors need to be more actively engaged with all parts of the community if they are to be effective leaders. They need to be empowered and supported to engage with residents and community groups using a range of different tools.
# Advocacy: councillors need to be able to speak freely and openly challenge the executive."

jump out at one from the wish-list of the councillors giving evidence to the Foundation.

There is much to be mulled over in the report generally. We would be grateful for any informed comments.

Friday, November 23, 2007

You can't keep Paul Flynn MP down ...

... though, no doubt, many in the Establishment would like to.

Seriously, we were sorry to hear of his recent illness and glad to know that he is practically fully recovered.

Sustrans Connect2 wants your support

Please visit the Sustrans Connect2 web page to endorse the Connect2 campaign for Big Lottery support for new walking and cycling networks throughout the UK.

Online voting opens on Monday 26th November at

(And thanks to Paul Hulbert for correcting a mis-typed link to the Connect 2 site.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The tax credit scandal

People should be worried about the probable revelation of their tax credit records, and the associated personal details. The government assurances are worth nothing. The fact that no fraudulent activity has been detected so far means nothing.

The rogues who would know what to do with the data would also know to take their time in making use of them. They have already had weeks to decide what to do with them. At worst, they may already have been sold abroad and are sitting on one or more databases in the South-East Asia.

So, take the advice given by reputable authorities - for instance, see the BBC and the banks' UK Payments Association.

The Blame Game

Not only the current New Labour administration, but also the Conservatives, bear some responsibility for the systemic failures.

The Conservatives, because under Mrs Thatcher and Michael Heseltine, bodies which had begun to build up professionalism in management and IT in government service - The Civil Service College, the Central Computer Agency and the National Computing Centre - were swept away, reduced or privatised.

The Tories also privatised functions within the public service. Thus the internal mail system, which used to be directly accountable to a civil servant, is contracted out - currently to TNT, it appears.

Labour, because they made desperate across-the-board cuts in civil service establishment at the same time as merging the Revenue with HM Customs. (The Conservatives would also have made swingeing cuts in the service, as their 2005 manifesto made clear. I am even a little concerned about the vagueness of both our leadership contenders' references to "efficiency savings".)

Commerce is more trustworthy?

Something I've heard in a couple of vox pops today is that, if such a débâcle occurred in private industry, the chairman, managing director and probably the board would have been compelled to resign.

I doubt it. Top jobs are under threat only if "shareholder value" is affected. Nobody resigned over the data leaks at TKMaxx, BT or several banks and building societies.

But there are no excuses for Gordon Brown's failure to heed the warnings.

- Frank Little

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Historic green belt saved

We were among the many people supporting the Bryncoch Farm Action Group in their fight to avoid this significant piece of countryside being built over.

Now it seems that the Group has been successful as planning officers of Neath Port Talbot CBC are to recommend refusal of consent for the development.

The provision of new homes at Llandarcy and the housing market slowdown may have been factors in the officers' decision, but it is not certain that Bryncoch Farm would have been saved without determined local action.

Congratulations to all concerned.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Micro-generation: government failure

As predicted, the cuts in government grants have resulted in a reduction in fossil-fuel saving domestic schemes. LibDem MP Jenny Willott highlights the effect on a fledgling Welsh industry.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thanks, Richie

Richard Northcote set up this blog (and did a lot of other things for the liberal and independent-minded citizens of Resolven and the Neath constituency in general). At times he has seemed to be cramming 36 hours into a day, juggling a demanding day job (which involved regular long-distance travel) and service to the country in the Territorial Army with the secretaryship of Aberavon & Neath Liberal Democrats.

Something had to give, and his selection for a course leading to possible promotion in the TA has forced the issue. Richie sees this as incompatible with continuing to be an activist and is consequently giving up his officerships in the local party, including editing this blog.

Thanks Richie, congratulations on the likely future captaincy, and do you want to contribute any thoughts before you go into political purdah?

- Frank Little

More broadband at last

It is surprising that the bold move to link up over a dozen North Wales business parks, from Wrexham to Anglesey, with a high-speed fibre optic trunk network has attracted little attention outside the Daily Post and the technical media.

This is a real all-Wales decision, one which I trust the Rainbow Alliance would also have taken if it had come to power. If the new network is swiftly shown to attract new businesses and improve existing ones, as it should, one hopes that the network, or a similar facility, is extended to mid-Wales.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Aberavon leisure attraction delay

The Evening Post is reporting that there are further difficulties at the 10-pin bowling alley development at Hollywood Park.

Is this going to be, like Swansea, a case of another Labour fiefdom, another leisure centre crisis?

UK teenagers world-ignorant - but Welsh youngsters better than most

British schoolchildren are bottom of the class when it comes to international awareness, according to a report today.

The British Council survey scored children in ten countries round the world, on a series of questions. On a scale of 1 to 7, Nigeria came top with 5.15. Not unexpectedly, US teenagers turned in a miserable 2.2. However, they were kept off the bottom of the table by the UK with 2.19.

The relatively reassuring news for Wales is that the nation's schoolchildren beat even the Scots within the UK. (Wales 2.43, Scotland 2.35, Northern Ireland 2.25 and England 2.17)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

London takes £3.76 million of our money

BBC Wales news is reporting this morning that the Welsh Office in London is taking nearly £4 million extra each year for the foreseeable future. This will come from the money allocated to Wales under the Barnett formula and will be spent on filling vacant civil service posts in Whitehall. It is apparently necessary to fund the Westminster end of the complicated process of preparing Welsh legislation.

Read the story and Jenny Randerson's reaction here. See also Peter Black's take under "Spin or substance" on his blog.

The messy compromise between granting full law-making powers and maintaining the status quo always seemed likely to lead to duplication and increased expenditure, and so it has proved.

Leadership electon - Cardiff hustings

If anything, the Cardiff hustings held yesterday evening emphasised the similarities rather than the differences between two excellent candidates.

Whether Chris Huhne or Nick Clegg is elected as our leader, that man is going to carry the fight for Liberal Democrat values. Both were determined to have our difference from the increasingly indistinguishable other two parties recognised in the media. Both also promised to do more to engage with ordinary voters, and to encourage more women, people with disabilities and those from ethnic minorities to come forward as candidates.

Click on the candidates' names above to go to their web-sites. If any member wants to know how to join in the internal on-line hustings, please email us.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Centenary of political milestone for women

In this year of anniversaries, it is easy to overlook the 1907 Qualification of Women (County and Borough Councils) Act which enabled women to stand for election to local councils for the first time. It was yet another instance of progress under that great Liberal government.

More details on the Chipping Sodbury and Three Rivers blogs.