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Sunday, 31 May 2009

Successive Saturday's

Last week Aberystwyth, this week Cardigan. The only person I saw in both places, apart from myself, was a prominent animal rights campaigner who's home territory is normally Owain Glyndwr Square in Aberystwyth.
A street stall outside Siop y Pethe Aberystwyth is a prime location, I even intercepted Mark Williams and the lead Lib Dem European Candidate and had a short chat - nothing much to report from that conversation apart from Mark stating that he did read my blog. Strange thing though, they had no leaflets to distribute or any means of identifying themselves and as I watched them walking up the road many were passing without even realising who they were. Pleased with the warm response to Plaid Cymru.
Started off in Cardigan the following Saturday at the Tabernacl Coffee Morning and met many of the usual customers, most of whom I have met before. Again the scandal of Westminster expenses is reflecting badly on Labour, Tories and Liberal Democrat MP's.
I was shown a Chamber of Trade brochure with an address by the Mayor of Cardigan Cllr Mark Cole in his full regalia. Nothing unusual in that apart from the fact that it was signed off 'Cllr Mark Cole, Office of Mark Williams MP'. Is the ceremonial first citizen of Cardigan now an office boy for an MP? I know he works for Mark Williams but heaven's above surely there must be better ways of getting MarkWilliams' name in print than demeaning the office of Mayor. Smells and feels a little like the schoolboy politics for which the Lib Dems are famous.

A trip with Elin Jones

Elin recently announced changes to the plethora of schemes that farmers subscribe to, in future they will all be classified under the Glastir banner. Friday morning was an opportunity at Abernac, Lledrod for Elin to explain to the NFU in Ceredigion what it was all about. I went with her. Good traditional tea and cake to begin with (Te deg), speech and questions to follow. Since the details of Glastir are yet to be worked out between civil servants, the NFU and FUW, it is difficult to gauge a response, wait and see is probably a fair assessment. A thorough round of applause echoed around the shed when one farmer mentioned TB. Another telling point happened when another farmer mentioned a meeting with his College friends from England, they felt so detatched from their farming Minister and were deeply envious of the situation in Wales. Top marks to devolution and to Elin for making the Rural Affairs Ministry accesible to the agricultural industry.

Canvassing - Lampeter

I spent time canvassing with Cllr Rob Phillips in Lampeter this week. As expected the European election is being overwhelmed by MP's expenses and little true European issues are being raised. Offered solutions to the Westminster scandal include getting rid of the current MP (to which I agree but for other reasons), calling a General Election now (to which I agree) and introducing PR for all elections (to which I agree in principle). However, the electorate have an understanding of the first past the post system which doesn't exist for PR systems and a public information and education campaign whould be needed before such systems are introduced. I digress!. I can only report that the response to Plaid Cymru was extremely favourable.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

"no such thing as society"

A few years after I left University Margaret Thatcher gave birth to the quote that "no such thing as society", it galvanized my already antagonistic views toward the Tory Party but also encouraged active political activity on behalf of Plaid Cymru. By coming back to live and work in a rural community in Ceredigion it was patently clear that society was alive and well, despite the travails of Thatcher. To to me, as a statement, it wasn't true. An active society or community living and talking to each other, sharing their lives, educating each other, sharing work, trading with each other, supporting when in need and criticising where necessary is one of the bedrocks of a society that understand what the rules are without needing to have them written down. It is a community where conscience rather than the rules of compliance decide what is right and wrong, it is the kind of community where people feel at ease with themselves and their neighbours.
David Cameron this week talked about "good people routinely do bad things" . He must remember that it was his Party that routinely dismantled societies and communities in pursuit of a ruthless self serving political dogma. Without the checks and balances of a confident society it was only a matter of time before "good people routinely do bad things."

Monday, 18 May 2009

Plaid call on Royal Mail to stop distributing illegal BNP leaflet

Plaid Cymru have once again being doing their homework. Apparently the BNP cannot find individuals in the UK willing to pose for photos. The story ran in the Mirror yesterday under BNP poster campaign for British workers uses American actors. Here is the Plaid Press Release:-
Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price has today called on the Royal Mail to stop distributing an illegal BNP leaflet. Research by Plaid Cymru has shown that the BNP “supporters” quoted on their election address are in fact stock photos from
The leaflet that is in the process of being delivered to millions of homes in the UK, includes pictures of a Doctor, a group of "British" workers and an elderly couple. The
individuals are quoted as giving their support to the BNP. However, the Doctor who is quoted as saying he will be “voting BNP” is a model whose picture was taken by a US based photographer. The elderly couple who are quoted as saying they want to see pensioners put before asylum seekers are the Italian parents of another photographer, and the “British” workers are actually worker on US building site. None of the photographed individuals are British or supporters of the
As well as deliberately misrepresented people’s opinions and being in breach of copyright rules, the BNP leaflet is also a breach of Royal Mail's rules on the distribution of election material. As a result, Plaid Cymru is calling on the Royal Mail to immediately halt the free distribution of this leaflet.
Plaid Cymru’s Director of Election, Adam Price MP commented:
“The BNP has attempted to hide their racism behind a veneer of respectability with professional leaflets and well presented candidates. But the truth is that they rely on lies and deceits to get their message across. On their leaflets they use a series of photos of supposed BNP supporters. However the truth is that the ‘British’ workers in front of the union jack are actually American builders on a site in the USA. The ‘Doctor’ who says ‘he’s voting BNP’ is actually a stock photo of an American actor, who probably has never heard of the BNP and I would be very surprised if he was eligible to vote here. The Pensioners featured in the leaflet were totally unaware that their photo has been used on this leaflet in such a way.
"It is a sick irony that the people photographed, and indeed the photographers are from other countries - the very people that the BNP seeks to demonize.
"These leaflets hideously misrepresent the views of the people photographed. I believe that they have breached the guidelines set out for electoral communications and I call on the Royal Mail to stop there distribution immediately.”

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Watch out Brunstrom's about

I wonder if the MPs in North Wales who ran a populist bash Brunstrom campaign have checked their expense claims. The 'Prif Copyn' has sent a shot across their bows, I will investigate your expenses if necessary. Overt populism always comes around to bite your proverbials!

Conscience and Compliance

The disgraceful expense claims made by some MP's have been truly astounding and I remain perplexed on how they have managed to get away with it. Having been exposed to a tight regime in local government where officers permanently scrutinise the expense claims of councillors, it begs the question what exactly has the Parlimentary Fees Office been doing? It seems they are either intiminated and in awe of MP's or believe that the 'Honourable Member' would not stoop to exploiting the spirit of the rules. Nick Robinson has a wonderful blog on the fate of the honourable member.
One of the most perceptive comments during the week came from Jonathan Aitken - there's nothing like a poacher turned gamekeeper for insight! - who said that the conscience has been replaced by compliance as the measurement of right and wrong. Its now not a matter of whether a course of action is right or wrong as determined by your conscience but rather, whether it is within or without the rules put in place by a compliance code. This cannot be right. I was reminded during the week by a well known BBC correspondent that the Corporation once had a training event for its journalists on accurate reporting and knowing the difference between right and wrong. His riposte was that he learnt that difference as a child in Sunday School.
Honourable Members who don't know the difference between right and wrong are ten a penny this week, they have lost the respect of the electorate and have brought the democratic process into disrepute. When it all is settled I hope they reflect on the damage they have caused and hope that in the European elections the electorate don't over react and vote for the extremist views of the BNP and UKIP.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Impressions from Cambridge

I returned yesterday from my annual agricultural industry study tour in Cambridgeshire and East Anglia. It often clashes with elections at the begining of May but this year there is nothing to report. No evidence at all of the European Elections on 4th June.

Farmers were generally happier, market prices for beef and pig were higher, cereals had a good year in 2007 and there were no real supply side concerns. There are three over-riding impressions. No rain, crop waste and reduced organic production.

Adequate rain had not fallen during the last 8 weeks, peaty Fenland soils were powder dry and needed irrigation before crops were planted, sandy Breckland soils had dust storms in the breezy weather, and crops in chalky soils were showing signs of stress unless irrigated. One farm on chalky soils were constructing a 35 acre resevoir to cater for their irrigation needs over the next 20 years and farmers openly compared the husbandry of their vegetable crops to agricultural practices in Israel. Climate change is already upon us and action is urgently required.

Recently supermarkets have recorded reduced organic sales and this is being confirmed on farms with serious thought being given to reducing organic crop areas. A moral dilema tied to climate change exists as well, one pass with a tractor using pesticides for weed control equates in fossil fuel terms to seven passes with a tractor on an organic system to achieve the same control. Debating the use of pesticides vs the use of fossil fuels has to be addressed, I need to look for the CO2 emissions per hectare of organic vs conventional crops for some guidance.

Finally, we saw significant food waste. Approximately 25-33% of a lettuce plant is packed for human consumption, the rest is ploughed back in and there is likely to fe further waste befor the plant is eaten. Most of what is discarded is edible. Some beef systems make use of vegetables deemed to be too big, too small, wrong length or the wrong shape. Again they were perfectly edible carrots, parsnips, potatoes and beetroots. Humans are too fussy by far, or have we been conditioned by the supermatkets to think like that. I think we have. Should the UK ever find itself subject to food shortages then reducing what is being thrown away as waste is a first step.

Lettuce before harvesting (see cracks in soil due to dry weather as well)

Size of lettuce being packed

Lettuce waste after harvest

Potatoes delivered for feeding to beef animals

Dust on a pig farm

Reply to Peter black AM on tuition fees.

Thank you for the policy reference here, it certainly is an interesting document full of the usual Liberal Democrat euphemisms. Much of what is proposed is already policy in many institutions. I need not remind you that its Plaid Cymru policy to oppose tuition fees in Wales, unfortunately it cannot be implemented in coalition with a larger party with an alternative policy. It remains Plaid Cymru policy and Plaid Cymru will continue to try and implement its policies at the earliest possible opportunity. Would implementation have been possible in an alternative coalition considering the lack of backbone showed by Liberal Democrats in 2007. I suspect not.

It still doesn’t answer my central charge that Liberal Democrats say ‘we will scrap tuition fees’ without stating what comes in their place and more importantly how it will be funded. This is realpolitik time, the economy is in tatters, Wales has been given a bad Budget Settlement, you cannot consider policies in total isolation of the amount of money available. The closest we get is 'the income they currently receive as a result of fees will continue to be paid by the government.’ Where does the money come from? This will not, for example, close the funding gap between Welsh and English Universities and is a clear financial black hole in your policy.
Its gets even more nebulous – this is the Lib Dem policy - ‘We therefore propose that the government should develop with the banks an accredited Career Development Loan system which would address some of the problems with the current arrangements. The loans would not be state-subsidised in terms of interest repayments like the undergraduate loan scheme.’
Will Career Development Loans have more favourable terms than those offered by the Student Loan Company? If so then how will you legislate to such effect? (Note:- ‘Interest repayments’ are a contradiction in terms. The term ‘interest’ is a payment for borrowing money whilst the term ‘repayments’ gives back money that has been borrowed from others and applies to ‘capital’ not ‘trading’ items. Lets assume what you mean are ‘interest payments’). There is absolutely no proof whatsoever that students will be better off with Career Development Loans and, since this is meant to be a commercial arrangement, might indeed be worse off. If there are no interest subsidies then it will cost the individual more.
Transferable and flexible credits are an interesting idea but incur additional administration costs not budgeted for in the document, another financial black hole.
Finally, the document requires corrections. Foundation degrees are not old HND, they are 2 different forms of learning which do and can run together. We do it successfully here at IBERS Aberystwyth.
The General Election campaign over the next year will provide the opportunity for closer scrutiny of Liberal Democrat policies. "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."