Tuesday, January 31, 2006

"met him on a monday and my heart stood still ..da doo Ron Ron "

Rumours abound that former Secretary of State for Wales Ron Davies has decided to stand in Caerphilly in next years Assembly elections.

He is held in quite high esteem across the political divide. The only exception being the Labour party but these days being hated by labour is a badge of honour he should where with pride.

It is not clear if he plans to stand as an independent or as part of the "Forward Wales" group which currently consists of John Marek AM for Wrexham. There seems little point in standing as a "Forward Wales" candidate as the party has failed to take off. Indeed the only other candidate at the last Assembly election, Marc Jones, has now joined Plaid as have a number of other former "Forward Wales" activists.

His other option is to run as an Independent. However the track record of "independents" who are not incumbant MP's or Assembly members is not that great.

Ron would have been better off joining Plaid Cymru and standing as a "list candidate". He would have had to take his chance with other candidates but would probably have secured second place in SE Wales. Plaid were just a handful of votes away from securing the second seat in SE Wales in 2003. Ron could have made a big difference instead he is likely to fade into obscurity. He is a man of considerable ability who should be in government. Still Plaid have not yet selected their candidates so if he gets a move on maybe he could make it onto the Plaid list..

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Bye bye Lembit?

Perhaps the biggest loser in the current Lib dem debacle is Lembit Opik. He is now passing off his utter lack of judgement as a bit of a joke "the curse of Lembit" but any chance of ever being a serious political player has been lost. I cannot see him being content with nursing his constituency and being "leader " of the Welsh Lib Dems. What chance of him taking up a career as a minor celebrity? Fairly high I would guess.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Prestatyn Community Hospital

Along with many residents I am appalled by the process of “consultation”. In effect the key decision, to close Prestatyn Community Hospital, has already been taken. It is hardly surprising therefore that there is a great deal of anger within Prestatyn and considerable anxiety in the rest of Denbighshire about how decisions are being made by the Local Health Board.

There is growing evidence to suggest that a sense of community and of “belonging “ is essential to peoples long term physical and mental health. A key element in fostering a communal sense of “well being” is to maintain continuity between modern services and what has been delivered in the past. The failure of the Local Health Board to understand this and its inability to propose an “option” which takes this into account is disturbing.

The four options as presented all have very considerable flaws. Not least is that three of them involve very substantial capital outlay and yet may still require some patients to use hospital services. I believe that the only cost effective and practical use of the available capital expenditure is to improve existing buildings rather than build on new, unidentified, sites.

Option one –Extra Care Housing requires a site to be found and housing to be built incurring substantial capital costs. The provision of services is similar to those provided currently in the hospital. I am baffled as how it will be cost effective to provide in house catering services in the sheltered housing when it has not proved possible in the hospital. Unless a site has already been identified this is not a “real” option. Residents could select this as their preference and then see it dismissed due to the lack of a suitable, affordable site.

Option two a Care Home raises similar problems. Has a site been identified? What are the capital costs involved? What happens if the home is built, becomes operational and then fails to meet the standards set out by Care Standards Inspectorate? The only advantage for the patient is that they will have a private room. Will the NHS funded beds be restricted for use by Prestatyn residents only or will they be available to other residents of Denbighshire?

I cannot believe that the fourth option is serious. There are no advantages to residents and nobody is going to support a proposal to provide the same level of service but in a distant, unspecified, location.

After extensive discussion with Health Care professionals in different parts of the UK I am convinced that there is a huge opportunity to provide high quality services, at sensible costs on the current site in Prestatyn. The only practical option open to the LHB is to develop the Primary Care Resource Centre on the existing site whilst maintaining the current hospital provision.

Experience of Primary Care Centres in other parts of the UK show that the range of services that can be provided is extensive (far greater than that indicated in Your Voice in Your Future.) With other services on site the costs of running the building overall will be reduced. As three of the four options involve substantial capital outlay I assume it will be possible to extend the existing building if need be. With a substantial increase in staff and possibly out patients using the building (depending on services provided), it should be possible to provide catering facilities on site.

The current rate of two hundred patients per year using the site could be increased by allowing residents from outside the area to use the facility, although Prestatyn residents would receive priority. I assume this would require an amendment to a GP’s contract, however given that the LHB has made provision for sending some patients to an NHS hospital elsewhere this might actually represent a saving in costs.

Here is an opportunity to do something very exciting for the community of Prestatyn providing a high quality Primary Care Centre whilst maintaining and even enhancing the existing service. This debate is taking place in many communities across the UK with Community Hospitals threatened by the current NHS orthodoxy which is driven by Governments in Cardiff and London who demonstrate little interest in communities such as Prestatyn.

The Local Health Board now needs to make a leap in imagination and look at ways of providing services that suit the needs of Prestatyn rather than simply follow the current orthodoxy in the NHS. This will require levels of leadership and courage that have been sadly lacking to date. However this proposal will generate substantial public support, and I urge you to combine the development of a Primary Care Centre with the existing services at Prestatyn Community Hospital.

Yours sincerely

Friday, January 06, 2006

Lembits lack of judgement......

I thought Charles Kennedy was doomed when lembit Opik appeared to be the only MP willing to back him. Indeed lembit seems to be relishing the media exposure and in fairness he does handle himself well.

What I couldn't understand is why was he so combative? His praise for kennedy has been lavish and seemed to overlook the obvious fact that his "brave personsal statement" was forced by ITN. Kennedys behaviour has been covered up by friends, denied by colleagues since at least the last leadership contest in 1999. Incidently complaints by Kennedy's surviving allies about anonymous attacks are ironic given the depths to witch his supportes stooped in the leadership campaign in 1999.

Lembit has stayed aggressively loyal even as 25 MPs sign a letter saying they will not serve under Kennedy from next week. Others are turning already...(see Peter Blacks excellent but slightly anguised blogg)so why not Lembit. Has he just extended himself so far and cannot back down without looking foolish or is he positioning himself for a leadership bid? As a super loyalist he would be well placed with some in the party memebrship who may not want to reward an "assasin".

My guess is that Kennedy will be kicked out in a motion of confidence next week and Lembit will emerge as a leadership contender.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Are they cuckoo............

The Liberal Democrats certainly managed to brighten up my Autumn and then very kindly brightened up my Christmas as well.

The long sorry saga of the dodgy donation from a guy in Switzerland drags on and on.

In brief. The Lib Dems stated party policy is that they believe donations to political parties should be limited to £250,000. They accepted a donation of £2.4 million. The donation was made by an individual who is not entitled to give money, under the law as it currently exists, to a political party in the UK. However the money was donated from a recently established company registered in the UK. When this companies accounts for the relevant year are published we will see if they were actively trading at the time of donation. If not then the Lib dems will have to pay back the money.

Investigations by the Times newspaper revealed that the donor had a colourful background. In fact he was a "fugitive from justice" according to the Times. It seems he was found guilty of bouncing a series of cheques in the US then left the USA whilststill on bail. The Times claim he bounced a cheque on his lawyer who secured his bail which I thought showed a particular level of bravado.

In similar circumstances the Labour and Tory parties have paid back donations....the Libdems of course cannot afford to do so even if they felt so inclined. They now stand condemned as hypocrites with standards even lower than the Tories or Labour.

In all the arguments about Kennedys leadership no-one has mentioned the dubious donation. Yet Kennedy and his team of advisors were directly involved in obtaining the donation, and free flights etc which they forgot to register etc...are the attacks on kennedy's judgement and leadership a result of the awful publicity they have received about this donation?

As an opponent I hope the Lib Demleadership problems drag on and on however I would have thought they would have enough sense to shut up about it soon. Still lets hope for another installment...

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?

David Aaranovitch

I hope my spelling is write. I have followed this guy's career as a columnist in first the Independent then the Guardian and latterly the Times.

Its tempting to write that I have never ever agreed with anything he has written but of course that is not true.He has written about the rise in anti-semitism and its promotion in many Middle eastern countries. Cannot disagree with him on much of what he says on this issue.

In the run up to the general election when I wanted the "Blairite line" on something I just waited for David to put the message out. I particularly enjoyed his tortuous defence of the council tax. His robust defence of the invasion of Iraq and subsequent events is however slightly painful to observe. His own talents as a writer actually expose the paucity of his arguments rather than concealing it. In a recent attack on fellow columnist Mathew Parris he challenged Mathew and others to admit that nothing would have changed in Iraq, evil things would still be happening under Saddam, 1000s would be dying as a result of sanctions etc. No doubt this is true and I am sure Mathew Parris will have responed far more elequently than I can manage.

The question for David Aaranovitch and others is why was Iraq so special? David and others have abandoned the arguments about WMD and claim that the war was an act of liberation. So why have we not invaded Russia to liberate the people of Chechnya(the few Putin and the Russians have not exterminated that is)? China has a terrible record on human rights but their leaders are feted in Downing Street(and the pages of the Times!). Clearly an invasion of either country is impractical in military terms but surely we could manage to invade the Congo, Sudan Zimbabwe perhaps Burma certainly Syria and if we are after terrorists perhaps Saudi Arabia. There are numerous other countries around the world with atrocities taking place why were they not invaded for their own good?

One of the things I admire about David Aaranovitch is that he admits his personal faults in writing. He was devastatingly honest about battling a weight problem ( and I recognised all the same excuses he trotted out as examples) and admits spending time looking for references to himself on the internet.In this he shows that he is on the same level as the rest of us. If you spot this David perhaps you would leave a comment.....

Doing it properly...

Yes well here is the new blogg in all its glory. A while ago journalist David Banks challenged me to start blogging again and to enable comments on my blogg. The original blogg was set up with help from "So Now who do we vote for" and comments were placed on their main website. That site has now been archived and so to allow comments I have set up this new blog.

In part it will be a vehicle to promote our various campaigns and community issues in the Vale of Clwyd where I act as Plaid Spokesman on Assembly., Westminster and various community issues(and where all being well I will be a candidate in the Assembly elections in 2007).

It will also act as an outlet to get various things, usually political, off my chest. These bloggs are really designed to bring out the egotist in all of us and I am no exception.....

Up and running....

The world has waited with baited breath for CymruMark to return to the world of blogging and here he is!!!