Thursday, October 06, 2005

Rhondda Boys.......

I wonder what the Rhondda did to deserve being represented by Leighton Andrews in Cardiff Bay and Chris Bryant in Westminster? Perhaps it is some form of bizarre punishment for the, sadly brief, period when Rhondda elected a Plaid assembly member and a Plaid Council. Neither seem to have anything worthwhile to contribute to the debates in the institutions to which they are elected.

In the case of Chris Bryant this is only to be expected. In a previous life I was a Lib Dem political assistant in Hackney when Bryant was a Labour councillor and a whip for the Labour group. Before the Labour group split in 1996 they had run the council for 30 years or more and achieved the distinction of the highest council tax in London and arguably the worst services. A group of councillors left the Labour group claiming that the Labour leadership was not willing to back an independent enquiry into the Mark Trotter affair. Trotter was a Labour activist and senior trade union official, who worked for Hackney Social services, against whom three seperate allegations of child abuse were made and never properly investigated. After his death it emerged that merseyside police were investigating him regarding allegations of abuse.

One faction in the Labour group resigned the Labour whip and formed a new group called Hackney New Labour.Eventually this group disbanded and its members found their way into the lib dem and Tory groups. There were various enquiries and attempts to sort out the boroughs problems were made with no great success.

Of all the Labour councillors who remained in the Labour group only Chris Bryant has gone on to hold any form of elected office. Why has he escaped the "curse of Hackney" when no one else did. Anybody who has witnessed his performances in the Commons or in the media would confirm it is unlikely to be purely on ability. Perhaps he just got lucky.

Leighton Andrews on the other hand is a complete mystery to me. His splenetic rants in the Assembly debating chamber are the stuff of legend and there was a fine example in the budget debate the other day. Yet the Leighton Andrews I observed in the Liberal Party in the 80's was a very different character. Always associated with the ALC/Liberator self appointed keepers of the radical flame element he was a fluent persuasive speaker with impeccable anti authoritarian views.

It was astonishing to see him in Welsh Labour and his contributions to the assembly seem utterly at odds with his previously expressed opinions. One of the handful of Lib dems who still speak to me was in Llandudno recently . Over a beer or two he concluded that the only explanation for Leighton Andrews was alien abduction. He had know Leighton well as a member of the Liberal party and was convinced the two people could not be the same. Confronted with photographic evidence he suggested the real Leighton had been kidnapped by aliens. Who can argue with this?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

High spot of September....

The best part of September just gone was the Plaid conference. This may seem surprising to those who were not able to make it and followed the event in the press. On the eve of the conference there was what seems the annual Lord Ellis Thomas press story that then overshadows the conference.

Anyone who attends conferences knows that the most important parts are what happens away from the prying eye of the press. This conference was about putting in the hard work preparing a policy programme for the post 2007 assembly and improving the party's campaigning and communications skills. The re-launch of the partys youth movement as cymrux is very welcome even if attending their late night gig in the Cwps brought home to some of us that we can no longer do two early morning a day.

Sadly most of the press missed the fact that....the party is now fully united on all issues of substance....that it has realised the key task is to update its approach to campaigning in order to get its message across. We can hardly complain if the media are given negative stories about the party by people who lack the self discipline needed for real political success however we are entitled to a bit of a moan if the media do not also take the trouble to see what else is happening in the party. One journalist ...Tom Boden ....did notice that Adam Price has now taken over responsibility for directing election campaigns and realised how significant it will be. Given that Adam will be working alongside Simon Thomas and Helen Mary Jones who have responsibility for policy and communications, most sensible commentators will conclude that Plaid will present a strong challenge to Labour in 2007.

Back by popular request.....

As the political season seems to be back in full swing I was wondering if I should start the blog again. Both my fans have asked me to return to blogging.....Peter Black AM will be happy I am not filling his comments section to the same extent ....and at least one journalist has another blog to look at ......

Have recovered from the general election and was fairly pleased with my own result as our vote actually went up slightly....some important lessons to be learnt at national and local level for Plaid...and quite a few for me if I am a candidate once again......