Tuesday, 30 June 2009


David Cameron has now announced that the members of the Shadow Cabinet will give up their second jobs by the end of the year as they gear up for the general election. He also admitted that junior frontbenchers would be able to retain their outside interests until the election. Post election they under the ministerial code of conduct would have to step down from other jobs if they ended up as ministers.

A selection of Shadow cabinet member's second jobs:

£1,153 hourly rate: Shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove earned £5,000 a month - or £60,000 a year - for "one hour a week or so" of journalism for The Times.

£764 hourly rate: Francis Maude, shadow Cabinet Office minister, earned £36,700 a year from Barclays Bank for six days a year of work, including overseas meetings.

£187.50 hourly rate: David Willetts was paid £60,000 a year for 40 days' work as an adviser on pensions for Punter Southall in London's Jermyn Street.

£145 hourly rate: Oliver Letwin worked eight hours a week giving corporate finance advice to investment bank NM Rothschild, earning £145 an hour, or just over £60,000 per annum.

£395 hourly rate: Shadow Business Secretary Ken Clarke was paid £38,000 as a non-executive director of Independent News and Media, owner of The Independent (one day a month).

£346 hourly rate: Andrew Mitchell, shadow International Development Secretary, was paid £36,000 a year (one to two hours a week of consultancy work with Accenture).

£260 hourly rate: Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley was paid £25,000 a year as a non-executive director for Profero (one day a month).

Just for the record the minimum wage comes in at £5.73 an hour.

Source: Independent 30.06.2009

Monday, 29 June 2009


A £140m scheme to produce enough electricity to power every home in Glasgow, using nothing but the power of water. The Glendoe hydro-electric scheme near Loch Ness has been Scotland's biggest civil engineering project for years.

And there is some forward thinking in England too - at Settle - where they are also getting into HEP but on a smaller scale.

Very impressive - now that's what I call forward thinking!

Sunday, 28 June 2009


The Scottish Government is to produce new legislation to tackle the threat of Climate change, a target for a 42% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 (if other European Governments agree to a cut of 30%), rising to 80% by 2050, is expected to be included in the new Bill. These proposals are far more ambitious than those proposed in Westminster, where the 2020 target for cutting carbon emissions has been set at 34%.

The Scottish Government has already set out a wide-ranging vision to address climate change, which includes a drive to boost renewable energy such as wind and wave power. Scottish Ministers also aim to see significant progress in boosting the energy efficiency of buildings, increase the number of electric vehicles on the roads and aim to cut in emissions across the farming and rural sector.

This is serious forward thinking on the part of the Scottish government as energy experts have for several years been consistently warning of a serious future shortfall in Britain’s energy supplies, as a result of the rapid depletion of Britain’s North Sea gas reserves, the increasingly tough regulations on carbon emissions from Britain’s ageing coal-fired power plants and the planned decommissioning of 14 of 15 existing nuclear generating stations by 2025.

Imagine what we could do if the National Assembly possessed similar powers to develop the alternative energy sector here in Wales. In Wales, we need real direction when it comes to the development of safe and secure energy resources, power generation can provide the potential for real sustainable long term job opportunities; the renewable energy sector can and should play an immensely important role in creating more green energy jobs.

Beyond this there is a need to unify the power generation and supply companies into a single entity, preferably run on a not for profit basis, in the interests of the inhabitants of the UK rather than big businesses. It is becoming increasingly clear that it was sheer irresponsibility or a matter of sheer self-interest (it's worth having a look to see who (Conservative Minster wise) got what directorships after privatisation) for successive Government to leave the energy sector largely and effectively unregulated as the private energy companies have proved themselves almost entirely incapable of making long term strategic decisions that are necessary to provide us with safe and secure energy.


Every now and then you come across some original joined up thinking. Gwent Police and some local councillors have come up with an original idea and a different way to keep in touch with constituents.

Thursday, 25 June 2009


The new report by Customer Focus (the Energy watchdog) makes interesting reading as it flags up an interesting fact, in that the energy suppliers have not been fully passing on declines in wholesale costs to their customers - which means that Customers are being overcharged by an average of £74 on their annual energy bills.

Despite some recent fluctuations in price, Crude oil has fallen from $147 a barrel in July last year to about $70 a barrel. No one is disputing that the six main energy suppliers have not cut their prices since the beginning of the year, but Consumer Focus research suggests that current gas bills should be at least 7.4% cheaper (£60.10 annually) and electricity bills at least 3.1% cheaper (£13.80 annually).

Customer Focus’s new research for the first time shows the reality, that the energy companies are pocketing £1.6bn extra, while millions of households struggle to make ends meet. Consumer Focus says its research, based on applying hedging strategies outlined by the energy regulator Ofgem, shows that energy suppliers are overcharging customers by a combined £1.66bn this year.

The Energy companies who have reaped a 500% increase in profits over the last five years have been quick to blame rising oil and gas prices, and quick to rake in the profits, as the average annual dual fuel bill has risen from £662 a year in 2005 to 1,048 in 2007. The New Labour Government has been more than happy to rake in the extra tax revenues and the Energy companies have been equally slow to pass on reductions in energy costs to their customers – the only real losers in this happy picture are the energy customers.

So what we have here is an effective monopoly on energy supply in the UK; the number of energy supply companies has fallen from twenty two to six in the last ten years, with less that £30 differential between all of the energy supply companies, which works out to be no more than a few pence a week difference in bills, what we have is an energy cartel which brings minimal benefit to hard pressed energy customers but maximum gain to it's members. Hmmmm....

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

A New Bill and the Old Bill

A new Bill which may be rushed through the Westminster Parliament by next month (with all-party support) in an attempt to restore a shred of public confidence in MPs may result in MPs who fiddle their expenses (in the future) facing 12 months in jail or an unlimited fine.

The new Parliamentary Standards Bill proposes to create a new offence for MPs of "knowingly providing false or misleading information in a claim for an allowance", punishable by up to a year in prison or an unlimited fine. The proposed new rules are expected to come into force early next year, and an independent investigator will start to police MPs' claims and there will be a new commission which will have the power to force errant MPs to repay money if they over claim.

Additionally any MP who fails to comply with the rules on registering an interest could be fined up to £5,000. The same penalty will apply to breaching the rules on "paid advocacy" – asking questions or making speeches which could benefit someone who pays them. Sadly this new tough measure will not be retrospective and so those MPs who have been exposed as cheats in recent weeks will be exempt.

The Old Bill, however, now appear to have pulled their fingers out as Scotland Yard announced last week that it is actively investigating a small number of MPs and peers – so it may be a case of watch this space, or if you are an MP or a Peer with some questionable or dodgy expense claims, it may be a case of watch your back!

Monday, 22 June 2009


The Sunday Times (21st June 2000 has revealed that members of David Cameron’s frontbench team are in a hurry to drop well paid second jobs before the July 1st deadline, will force them to declare how many millions of pounds they earn from “moonlighting” with second jobs or outside interests. The Sunday Times revealed that it had found out that members of Cameron’s team earned at least £2.7m on top of their annual MPs’ salaries of £64,766 and expenses. It also revealed that 40 members of Cameron’s top team have second jobs, including about 10 who have directorships of hedge funds, which they declined to discuss.

The Sunday Times also reported that guidance on blind trusts was also being sought by Willetts and the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Philip Hammond. Shadow International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell has announced he will step down from his job at the investment bank Lazard and the shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague will relinquish a series of jobs bringing in about £230,000 over the past year.

The Independent has also noted that Labour MPs are more enthusiastic about holding on to employment outside the Palace of Westminster. The former health secretaries Alan Milburn and Patricia Hewitt earn additional incomes of about £100,000 and £185,000, respectively. Ms Hewitt, as well as being employed by BT as a director, receives over £45,000 a year from high street pharmacy chain Boots for whom she is a "special consultant".

The Sunday Times also reported that guidance on blind trusts was also being sought by Willetts and the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Philip Hammond. Shadow International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell has announced he will step down from his job at the investment bank Lazard and the shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague will relinquish a series of jobs bringing in about £230,000 over the past year.

The Independent has also noted that Labour MPs are more enthusiastic about holding on to employment outside the Palace of Westminster. The former health secretaries Alan Milburn and Patricia Hewitt earn additional incomes of about £100,000 and £185,000, respectively. Ms Hewitt, as well as being employed by BT as a director, receives over £45,000 a year from high street pharmacy chain Boots for whom she is a "special consultant".

The former home secretary David Blunkett has a wide range of directorships, media work and speaking engagements in addition to his £64,000 MP's salary. The former armed services minister Adam Ingram has put together a portfolio of directorships worth up to £170,000 per annum since leaving the Government two years ago.

On top of the ongoing scandal about MP’s expenses which has been running for some weeks this will also further damage the reputation of MP’s in the eyes of ordinary people. Factor in that there are recommendations in the pipeline that suggest that there be different pay rates for MP’s who have interests outside of Westminster – many people will no doubt be surprised that said MP’s have time to represent the interests of their constituents.


The UK Government is coming under increased pressure to do something about the remaining missing British hostages in Iraq, following the murder of two of the five hostages, missing since May 2007. The low key nature of the whole business speaks volumes for the difference of approach between that of the UK Government and for example the French Government.

When the French and British hostages were held in the Lebanon - the UK played it all very low key, out of sight and out of mind. In France, pictures of the missing hostages appeared nightly just before the main evening news, with details of their names and how many days that they have been held - so that ordinary French citizens were aware of their plight. Diplomatic efforts continued publicly and behind the scenes but no one could say that they were unaware of the situation.

The key word here might be 'citizens' - successive UK Government's (Conservative and Labour) have from time to time been quite happy to allow UK citizens to disappear at the hands of questionable despotic regimes, in the name of 'British interests' i.e. commercial concessions and trade deals.

Lets hope that the hostages in Iraq are free soon to return to their families and loved ones.

Saturday, 20 June 2009


Well there we are then, it’s all OK now isn’t it? On Thursday (18th June) the House of Commons finally made a gesture towards releasing it’s sort of secret files on MPs’ expenses yesterday – the nature of the gesture is open to interpretation but if one was being polite it might be described as being of a two-fingered Churchillian nature.

At first reading, when one gets used to the sea of blacked out details, very little by way of the questionable expense claims, the practice of “flipping” first and second homes to avoid capital gains tax would not have been revealed. A number of Ministers and MP’s who have reluctantly developed new careers late in their political lives as belated and reluctant sword fallers would still be in office.

The official information which was made public allegedly detailed claims from all 646 MPs, with more than one million receipts, contains page after page of blacked out information. I suspect that this will not satisfy very many people and the revelations are going to continue.

One interesting thing to emerge yesterday was that so far 183 MP’s have repaid the best part of £475,616 – while this figure includes repayments from those sword fallers who have already been named and shamed it also appears to have exposed some other dubious claims that were not previously known about. All within the rules I am sure, but, if they had done nothing wrong, why have they started paying money back?

More locally, the current MP for Monmouth Constituency is fending off some relatively gentle questioning about the use of some £2,000 or so (as payment for services rendered to a now defunct family business) from his communications allowance - which comes in at £17,097 (incidentally he comes in at number 12 in a list of 646). Questionable payment or not - this may provide the rest of us with a mildly interesting insight into the way Conservative family relationships work than anything else.

Tory Boy: Father dear, can you help me out?

Tory Father: Sure son of mine, that will be two grand?

Tory Boy: Dear old Dad, cash or cheque?

Questionable expenses are nothing new in Monmouth. Back in the October 1900 Khaki election, on the back of a very publicly proclaimed victory in the Boer War, Dr F Rutherford Harris (Conservative and Unionist) won (for want of a better word) the then Monmouth Borough seat.

The said Doctor was a noted friend and colleague of Cecil Rhodes not doubt he too was a potential poster boy for the Unionists. However, in what has been described as “a contest of spectacular corruption” which must have been so blatant that even the good citizens of Monmouth must have been alarmed. The result was overturned by petition in 1901. The Conservatives (read New Labour perhaps) also got their comeuppance a few years later (in 1906) over a whole basketful of other issues, including the aftermath of a questionable war that had degenerated into a prolonged guerrilla war and concentration camps.

I suspect that the UK (and the Welsh) media have bigger fish to fry...than to worry about the exploits questionable or otherwise of potentially the highest subsidised special constable in Western Europe. Besides, there are other Tories (in Monmouth) with somewhat more questionable and more dubious historic expense claims - Sofas and TV’s all around then? What?

Thursday, 18 June 2009


The ongoing local campaigns to save Llanover Primary School and Govilon Primary Schools from closure deserve every success. No one, least of all the children and parents, would want to see a village school close, aside from the damage done by the loss of the school to the local community, and immediate result is that parents or the county council end up in the businesses or providing transport to and from more distant schools. Not to mention the fact that the communities affected end up losing yet another focus as well as losing potential community facilities and no one ends up with smaller classes.

Now while, Monmouthshire County Council (MCC) is blindly pursuing a policy of short term thinking when it comes to the closure of Primary Schools across the county, a policy that is widely suspected to be being driven by some questionable motives whether immediate short term financial gain from school closures and a more medium term motive of cashing in when it comes to disposing of the former school sites for commercial gain. Over the last few years there have been a number of campaigns to save community and village schools, some have been successful in their fight like in Ponthir, at Llanfair Kilgeddin and in and around Abergavenny as well as elsewhere within the county of Monmouthshire, and elsewhere across Wales.

This issue of retaining village and community schools is of particular importance; both MCC, other County Council’s in Wales and the National Assembly need to think again and take a more mature longer term view, and should have the courage to take a fresh look at the way small community schools fit into our education system - the English model of education does not necessarily fit in Wales. While school rolls may fall in the short-term, over the longer term population and school rolls will rise in the villages of Monmouthshire because people will want to live in these communities. The cost of building a brand new school will be significant larger than improving an older school that may has been retained for educational and community use.

Elsewhere people do things differently, they take a longer more community minded view of education, while travelling in Asturias, in Spain, a few years ago I came across rural schools that were open with school rolls as low as 10 pupils. We need to rethink the way we run our community and village schools, there is now reason why a head teacher could not be responsible for 4 or 5 smaller schools across relatively wide rural area, modern technology can be used for shared administrative services and we could even end up with smaller class sizes.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

179 Good Reasons...

There are 179 very good reasons as to why any inquiry into the events leading the Iraq war should take place in public, rather than private. The 179 brave men and women who died doing their duty, their families and loved ones and the rest of us deserve to know the reasons why... it is far to simple to merely say that Labour lied and they died, it's time for the simple truth.

Monday, 15 June 2009


The Association of Train Operating Companies report which was published today has identified (in England) some 14 lines and 40 new stations that could be developed (or redeveloped) to serve at least one million extra rail passengers. This report should be welcomed because it is the first positive thought from the railway industry towards reversing some of the cuts brought in by Dr Beeching (at the behest of the Conservative Government) in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

While this report only applies to England – the National Assembly Government, which has had the power to do stuff with the railways since The Transport (Wales) Act 2006 – gained Royal Assent in February 2006. This Act gives powers to plan and co-ordinate an integrated transport system for Wales to the National Assembly for Wales.

So the National Assembly should also actively consider what can be done in Wales to make life easier for rail travelers and to develop the rail network. The highly successful re-opening of the Ebbw Vale line in Gwent (soon to hopefully be reconnected to Newport) has proved that the public is more than willing to make use of revived rail services for the morning and evening commute to work and at other times of the day.

In south east Monmouthshire, the railway stations at Severn Tunnel and Chepstow Railway have been long neglected, they need to viewed as real assets to their communities and the years of slow neglect must become a thing of the past. Almost anywhere else in Europe and in much of the UK, these rail way stations would be viewed transport hubs which would inter-connect more fully with local bus services, regional rail services and provide links to enable rail travelers to access intercity services and beyond.

The quiet on-going neglect must stop and anyone who has been half frozen at either station while waiting for a train on dark midwinter mornings would agree that there is a need to provide better station facilities which would make a real and significant difference to half frozen and soaked rail passengers who use these stations who hail from east Newport, south east Monmouthshire, the lower Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean.

Plaid in Monmouth constituency has called for:

  • More stopping services at Severn Tunnel Junction and Chepstow Railway Stations during peak and non-peak hours.
  • The provision of station toilets.
  • More safe and secure parking facilities at the stations.
  • Better more thought out integration of Local bus services with train arrivals.
  • The provision of disabled access to the station platforms.
  • The construction of extended waiting rooms for passengers.

The Plaid driven One Wales Government, working with Monmouthshire County Council and Network Rail should work to develop safe and secure car parking, which should be combined with the integration of local bus services with train arrivals. There are still some pretty horrendous gaps in provided services, more trains need to stop at both Severn Tunnel and Chepstow; there is nothing quite so frustrating as standing on a platform watching a passenger train slow down to pass through the station without stopping or even stopping in the station – especially when you the passenger cannot get onto it.

The actual rail service aside, facilities are pretty basic, there is a real need for toilet facilities and extended waiting rooms for passengers at both stations, not to mention something must be done as a matter of urgency to provide decent access for elderly and disabled travelers, who have to make use of footbridges without lifts to access some of the platforms. If we are really serious about our rail services then let’s fix what we can fix and make a real investment in facilities and better services which will help to bring in more rail passengers.

Saturday, 13 June 2009


Sometimes the differences between what goes on in Wales and what goes on in Scotland are pretty blatant - it is becoming increasingly clear that we got a seriously flawed devolution settlement. The Scottish Government will be a full party to any discussions about the construction of any new generation of Nuclear power plants in Scotland and along with the Scottish people it will play a full part in the planning process.

In Wales things are quite different, the National Assembly may end up as a coat holder, actioning decisions made elsewhere in relation to Energy Policy in general and Nuclear Energy in particular. Now this fact should be a matter of serious concern, especially when it comes to Nuclear Energy developments that may take place within or near to Wales - any planning processes related to Energy provision should take place with the full involvement of the people of Wales and their elected representatives and alternative energy generation schemes should be fully (and seriously considered) as well - this may not however, be the case.

While the Scottish parliament and the Scottish people will be full participants in the process of deciding how and where any nuclear power stations may be sited in Scotland, in Wales, the Welsh people and their elected representatives may well end up as impotent onlookers in any discussions as long as Westminster dictates Wales’s energy strategy. New Labour’s consistent refusal to devolve control of planning consent for 50MW power generation projects to the National Assembly damages our economic prospects for only with complete planning control over power generation can Wales generate long–term sustainable job opportunities.

As far as the somewhat distracted dying New Labour Government (if one can use that word) is concerned, we have a a clear case of the lights are on but nobody being at home and there are no new fresh original ideas about solving our energy problems. Back in 2008, Gordon Brown’s cabinet’s confirmation of Tony Blair’s decision to back the nuclear option to solve the UK energy needs was both disappointing and short-sighted, but, was not unexpected. By making nuclear power its priority this failing Brown Government has effectively abandoned any serious attempts to conserve energy, and has significantly undermined its own commitments to tackling climate change.

When it comes to power generation there are real job opportunities here that need to be fully grasped; the renewable energy sector should play an immensely important role in creating more green energy jobs. We need to create a decentralised power generation system which will create sustainable long-term jobs for local people, not damage the environment and contribute to providing our local communities with a long-term viable economic energy future. Now is definitely the time for control of energy policy to be devolved to the National Assembly and time for some original non nuclear thinking and a fundamental sea change in attitude from all levels of government in Wales towards energy policy.

Useful Weblinks and Documents

Department of Trade and Industry (originally released Wednesday 23rd May 2007)

Energy White Paper Supporting Documents


Jackson Consulting Discussion Paper

This discussion paper, produced in April 2006, reviewed previous policy and practices for sitting of nuclear power stations and considered sitting issues that would be relevant to any new nuclear build.


1. Hinkley Point
2. Sizewell
3. Bradwell
4. Dungeness
5. Hunterston
6. Hartlepool
7. Torness
8. Wylfa
9. Heysham
10. Calder Hall
11. Oldbury
12. Chapelcross
13. Berkeley
14. Trawsfynydd

Source: Jackson Consulting report, April 2006

UK Government Energy White Paper (originally released in May 2007)


Thursday, 11 June 2009


The French Government is now in the process of drawing up a bill to compensate veterans of French nuclear weapon tests – better later than never as many French veterans are dead or dying. This decision leaves the UK standing alone of the old Cold War powers in denying general liability for health problems suffered by those servicemen who were present at nuclear tests. The French decision has followed a gradual acceptance in the scientific and medical community and pressure from veteran’s organisations that veterans who received relatively low doses of radiation could suffer health problems.

Of the the remaining major Cold War powers that tested nuclear weapons:

  • The USA offers one-off payments or health care costs to military and civilian test workers; the US government has made $45m (£28m) available to people affected by testing on the Bikini and Eniwetok atolls in the Marshall Islands.
  • In Putin's Russia, the government passed a series of decrees in 2004 to provide health care and small monthly payment to test participants, though there is no blanket compensation scheme. The Kazakh Government, Kazakhstan which contains the Semipalatinsk test site, pays compensation to the local population there.
  • In the People's Republic of China, the government is believed to have a secret programme to compensate nuclear test personnel, but it has scrupulously avoided any public discussion of the issue.

Meanwhile, in the UK, successive Conservative and New Labour government has maintained that there is no evidence of abnormal levels of illness in test veterans and family members. The New Labour Government says that it compensates where liability is proven, but argues that claims currently being made were brought too late to be considered.

So UK Veterans have continued their long campaign to press for recognition from successive Conservative and New Labour Governments. At the High Court (in London) passed a ruling on Friday (5th June 2009) which means that a group of more than 1,000 veterans has won the right to sue the Ministry of Defence for compensation, but conveniently from an MoD (and Treasury) perspective any case is likely to take years to reach any conclusion.

Find out more about the veteran's campaign at: http://www.bntva.com

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Saving Wales and The Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England

The on-going struggle to retain the Livestock Market in Abergavenny has touched on number of key issues which affect our communities - large and small. We need a real debate about Town Planning (in Monmouthshire and elsewhere) and the implications of ill-thought out and over-development in our communities – no longer must the interests of individuals, small businesses and local communities be brushed aside by elected and non-elected officials who seek to serve the questionable interests of big business at the expense of the communities they should serve.

The views of the citizens should be regularly sought and heeded, rather than regularly avoided and ignored – both Westminster and the Plaid driven One Wales Government must seek to take a lead, actively working with Local Authorities to ensure that the views of the citizens are actually listened too and the unique character of our large and small towns preserved. So rather than acting as mere agents for an unholy alliance of town planners, secretive county council cabinets and carpet-bagging development companies, our Local Authorities and elected representatives should actually stand up for their local communities.

An excellent piece of work on this very subject was produced by 'The Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England' (CPRE) - their report: ‘A Real Choice’ has exposed the damage done by superstores to the small town rural economy something that should be seriously considered in relation to any proposed retail development that would affect small towns across Monmouth constituency - and would make excellent bedtime reading for the ruling Conservative Group on Monmouthshire County Council (MCC).

The CPRE report makes a valuable indirect contribution to the on-going debate over the future of the rural economy in Monmouthshire (and the rest of Wales). When it comes to the really big issues and a sustainable and prosperous economy in every one of the small towns of Monmouth constituency is one of the biggest, it is important to be able to think outside the envelope and make long-term rather than short-term cash focused decisions. The redevelopment and retention of a living and breathing economic heart in our small towns is vital not just to the town’s continued prosperity but to the surrounding rural economy.

The role of local shops and local retailers in our communities across Monmouth constituency and beyond is coming under increasing threat from:

  • Supermarket domination of the local retail economy
  • Over regulation– which places a disproportionate burden on small businesses and damages their competitiveness
  • Inconsistent interpretation of planning polices which fail to take into account the impact that supermarkets have on independent retailers and the economic consequences of their demise on market towns and villages.
  • The proposed withdrawal of the Post Office Card Accounts; and
  • The General lack of information about food and where it comes from.

There has been an increased recognition of late of the benefits of local food economies and the important role of local shops and retailers, despite this government has increasingly caved into pressures to weaken the ordinary people’s involvement in the planning process. The CPRE report exposed some of the real costs that are paid by local retailers and small businesses and consumers as retail planning policy is increasingly driven to benefit large scale superstore developments, which continue to aggressively expand their market share at the expense of local retailers, suppliers and customers.

Surveys (in 2005) revealed that 70% of British Shoppers would like to buy local food and 49% would like to buy more than they do. The continued expansion of the supermarket sector market share is at the expense of independent shops – this means that shoppers have little opportunity to buy fresh, seasonal, traditional and easily traceable distinctive local food.

This is not about nimbyism, because Supermarkets and high quality food stores definitely have their place in the urban and rural economy but their contribution could be significantly enhanced if they stocked more locally grown, produced and clearly labeled local foodstuffs as they do in Brittany, something that would bring benefits to both farmers and consumers alike. The continued popularity of local farmers markets across South Wales has shown that the public is more than happy to buy quality local produce and to support local retailers. Yet most supermarkets have between 1% and 2% turnover from local food producers, something that badly serves local food producers and customers alike.


The Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England

The Real Choice report published by CPRE and Plunkett Foundation is based on surveys by Caroline Cranbrook over eight years monitoring a broad area of towns and villages in East Suffolk. It reveals that local foods are flourishing and growing since a planned superstore was turned down.


Not so much lame duck as dead duck...

We live in interesting times, having toughed it out with his internal (and not so internal) critics and from his increasingly beleaguered perspective, having dropped some dissenting fellow travellers over the side, Gordon Brown has survived to limp on. The reason why this is interesting is because having had an electoral pasting all Gordon can offer labour MP's is the less than palatable choice of hanging together or hanging individually.

In Wales for some of Gordon's motley crew that is not much of a choice, especially as 15 of the constituencies held by sitting Labour MP's were lost at the polls on Sunday evening. The note of quiet and despair that surrounded the handful of Labour activists at the count on Sunday evening was noticeable, I think that the next few months are going to be particularly interesting.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Watch New Labour unravel before your eyes!

Just in case you missed it catch the BBC Newsnight Programme from Friday 5th June 2009 (on the BBC IPlayer) to see Peter (the Pain) Hain get flayed alive before your eyes by Kirsty Wark - the resemblance to startled rabbit caught in a set of full beam headlights in the middle of the M4 is quite striking - on a par with the famous Paxman interview with Michael Howard (where he continually refuses to answer a direct question) in this case Mr Hain has definitely not been briefed and has no clue as to what's coming next. Superb TV entertainment - 9 out of 10.

A matter of days?

On November 20th 1990 - Margaret Thatcher (with a 10,000 yard slightly crazed stare in her eyes) said "I fight on, I fight to win'

2 days later she was history...

On Friday 5th June 2009 - Gordon Brown (with a 10,000 yard slightly crazed stare in his eyes) said "We fight on"

I wonder how many days will pass before Gordon is history...

Today is the 65th Anniversary of D-Day

Today is the 65th Anniversary of the D-Day landings, when the liberation of Western Europe began, at significant cost, on the beaches of Normandy. This anniversary has been seen as significant by many ordinary people because it will be the last organised visit by veterans, who have an average age of 84 years and nine months.

The failure to invite the Queen to the 65th Anniversary commemoration of the D-Day landings certainly does not lie with the French Government, the responsibility lies with Gordon Brown and his Government. It was the UK Government’s job to monitor events, and secure an invitation for her if necessary. Now until a few weeks ago, the anniversary was intended to be a low-key affair, quite unlike the 40th, 50th and 60th.

Now any half competent Government with an eye to events and growing public opinion would have at least considered that the Queen or another senior member of her family might wish to go, and have liaised with the French to make it happen. Nothing happened because New Labour did not see this event as being of any real importance.

Only when it was announced that President Obama would be attending (because it was the right thing to do, rather than to pursue any votes) did New Labour wake up and wade in to try and salvage things from the growing diplomatic fiasco.

The whole sad business is a perfect example of Brown's utter indifference to the D-Day veterans, and to the public who have been utterly abandoned by New Labour - who were too busy chasing their globalist agenda .

Friday, 5 June 2009

You could not make this up!

Just when you thought that Wales had finally got shot of the last of the Kinnocks - Gordon Brown (who is busy rearranging the furniture on the boat desk of the New Labour Titanic) finds the time to put the other Kinnock into the Lords and brings Peter Hain back from the political dead to revitalise the Gordon's Team Zombie...you could not make this up! Am I dreaming this?

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Saying it the way it is...

Sometimes you just have to say it the way it is...this from Cambria Politico - The Political Blog on the exploits of Lady Kinnock...value for money..definitely NOT...

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Bring it on!

Next week Plaid Cymru and the SNP are tabling a motion calling for the dissolution of Parliament and a resultant Westminster General Election, while this is not a motion of no confidence, it will be debated on Wednesday 10th June. With New Labour poised to get a pasting in the European elections and the Local Government elections (in England) on Thursday (4th June) and Cabinet Members (and MPS) who have been caught with their fingers in the till dropping like flies this should make for an interesting and very public debate.

Elfyn Llwyd (Plaid leader at Westminster), told the BBC:

"The Conservatives are in favour of an immediate general election, the Liberal Democrats likewise and several of the smaller parties and there are many disillusioned people, if I can use that word, on the Labour benches as well. The immediate effects were it to succeed would be a general election. We are trying to do that because we believe the legitimacy of Parliament has long gone. People have got no faith in this institution and, therefore, it is wrong that they are governed by it."

Regardless of the result, and I suspect that New Labour turkeys will not vote for Christmas, it will make interesting viewing. In truth what we have at the moment is a Government that is no longer governing or even going through the motions of governance. The Westminster Parliament has gone beyond a joke, with fingers in the till revelations drowning out anything else, any faint shred or tattered scrap of credibility that Gordon Brown’s government once had is now long gone.

Enough is enough, this sad farce has gone on long enough, and from talking and listening to people over the last few weeks the ordinary people have lost patience with the failed New Labour Government and with Gordon Brown - with regard to a Westminster General Election, simply bring it on!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

An age of consequences?

The current crop of MP's can be said, if one was being kind, to live in an age of consequences, where their actions will hopefully come back and haunt them, especially on polling day, whenever that comes. The recent BBC Ipsos-Mori Poll makes interesting reading with almost 50% of people believing that at least half of all MPs are corrupt.

The new Poll also suggested that there is strong support for independent regulation of Parliament with most adults of voting age, 85% (of those surveyed) would prefer an independent judicial body to scrutinise MPs' affairs. Interestingly enough, despite the detectable fury the Ipsos Mori poll of 1,001 adults suggests that most people - 80% - don’t just blame MPs but believe that the "parliamentary system" is at fault.

The BBC-commissioned telephone survey (which was completed between May 29th and 31st with a 1000 + sample of over 18 year olds) discovered that 7% believed all MPs were corrupt, 17% felt most were corrupt and 24% felt "about half" were - which when you add it all up suggests that 48% of people believe at least half of all the current 646 MPs are corrupt. Yet, some 47% believed only "a few" were corrupt - and 3% believed none were.

When it came to the matter of being asked if they trusted MPs to tell the truth, only 20% said they did and 76% said they did not - this being up from 60% three years ago. Interestingly eough this figure was much lower, 44%, when people were asked about their local MP.

Some 62% of those who were surveyed said they believed MPs put their own self-interest ahead of the country and interests of their constituents. Of those surveyed some 79% supported the idea of some form of recall mechanism which would allow voters to petition to trigger by-elections if they get enough signatures.

All in all roll on Polling Day...