Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bit of a break from the campaign

Well, rather that turning up the heat with the campaign as I hoped, unfortunately, I am going to have to take at least two weeks break. Yesterday, I was diagnosed with a DVT - blood clot in my leg - and I'm off work and off the campaign trail until that's cleared up. Mainly bacause I can't walk! I was in too much pain on Sunday and in hospital yesterday when I should have been writing to all the schools that are under threat, and writing press releases so have completely missed the boat in terms of the local press this week. Plus I won't make it to any of Glyn's meetings unfortunately as I'd planned to. I am, however, a hundred per cent behind any campaign that the schools decide to run. I'd hate to see any of them close, and think we need a full and frank discussion about all the options and the future of education in the County before any decisions are taken. This issue is far too important not to consult on. And I will be writing to the schools later this week to express my views and to ask their opinions. Hoepfully they'll forgive me for not being in touch earlier.

One thing I have to say though is how brilliant the NHS have been. I have Nurses coming to see me daily and they have been so incredibly kind and answered all my questions fully. Its amazing the level of care I've been given already and I'm extremely grateful.

So yes, apologies if I am not responding as quickly to emails or campaigning as I should be. I do 100% still want to run the best campaign ever in the election, and I would love to be Montgomeryshire's next MP. But for now, my health has to come first. But I will be back, and fighting fit as soon as possible!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

School Closures in Powys

So Lembit Opik has had a public meeting last night on the issue, and I hear Glyn is having one next week. Am I tempted to join in, and hold my own one? No, and I'll explain here why.

Now, since reading about the news on Glyn's blog last week, I've been talking to people since then and trying to find out more. Basically, these plans haven't taken the schools by surprise. In fact, they have been in discussion with the Local Authority about changes for a few years now and they will get a chance to input into the options before they go out for consultation. So there will be plenty of opportunities for teachers and parents to have their say on the matter. From what I gather, therefore, there's no need to immediately panic - there's time to think these plans through properly.

Personally, what I'm going to be doing is talking to the schools if they'll be willing to, and listening to their views and those of the teachers and parents in Montgomeryshire. Plus working with my fellow Plaid candidate in Powys - Colin Nosworthy - so we as a party have a realistic response for the whole of Powys. Yes, I could panic and organise a rushed and ill thought meeting, but why do that when schools knew this review was underway? I think it will be far more effective to let the schools and parents themselves lead on this, and be there to support them when they need it as well as attend any meetings they might organise on the issue.

I find it incredibly stupid that Lembit in particular organised an emergency meeting on the issue last night, and also to see him and Kirsty responding so rapidly against the plans. Surely, given the role of the Lib Dem Councillors in forming the proposals, they knew this was on the cards? If teachers were aware, then why hasn't he been consulting and talking to them way before this? Or does he not talk to his Lib Dem councillors and is completely out of touch with what's going on? And if he did know, then he needs to take responsibility for that rather than just reacting like this.

Of course, any proposals to close down schools are worrying and if any plans would worsen the standard of education in the county, or the availability of Welsh language provision and so on, I would be the first to join the teachers and parents on any campaign. But let's wait and see for now, and let the experts lead. Yes, you'll see some politicians try and score some points my whipping up a frenzy, but that's not going to enable proper debate which is what is needed when discussing difficult issues such as these.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Peter Black on Lembit

Missed this until tonight, because I'd got bored of debating with Peter Black. I find that's easy to do since he seems to love attacking me and jumping to Lembit's defence. Never done anything to directly upset Peter as far as I'm aware - well except refuse his repeated requests for me to be his facebook friend - but never the less, he seems to hate me. Ah well. He seems to have taken it to heart that I've dared say out loud what everyone else is saying about Lembit Opik. And thinks I can learn some lessons from the Lib Dems in how to run a clean campaign. The difference between me and them though is that all I've said about Lembit has been true! I haven't made anything up at all. Unlike the Lib Dem tactics in Ceredigion when they campaigned against Simon Thomas.. Now that was dirty politics at its worst.

To give you some background, this is some of what I said:

"A considered and honest response on Montgomeryshire would be appreciated by you as well as your honest opinion about Lembit and the damage he’s doing to the party. You must admit it’s bad for the party that you’ll have to fight so hard in a constituency that you should be winning easily? And what are you going to do as a party about all the members that are abandoning you because of his public persona?

I do find it sad and pathetic that you as an elected representative have taken it upon yourself to be as petty and bitchy towards me at every possible opportunity. I don’t think there’s any point in rising to it, but maybe you should think carefully before always jumping to Lembit’s defence. Something has gone wrong in Montgomeryshire for you as a party, and you need to address that rather than attack those who dare to point out the truth about the situation. Throwing a few punches at me might make you feel better, but it doesn’t tackle the internal problem. Something for you to ponder over anyway."

This is what I got in response:

"Heledd, my honest answer is that I have no problem with Lembit whatsoever and neither does Kirsty. She may be critical of some things he has done but that does not mean that she does not think that he is an outstanding MP and an asset to the Liberal Democrats. It is also why she has been out campaigning in Montgomeryshire with him.

As it happens we fight every seat hard and never take anything for granted. That applies to Montgomeryshire as much as it does to Ceredigion, Swansea West, Cardiff Central and Newport East. It is part of the service we offer to voters that we as politicians are accessible, hard-working and approachable.

We have no worries about Montgomeryshire, I am confident that we will hold it comfortably, much as you predict. Obviously with a national swing back to the Tories we will have to work a bit harder to achieve that but that is not a problem.

As for bitchiness, you have taken it upon yourself to fight a nasty, personal campaign against Lembit in which you have questioned his morality and his integrity. I have never stooped that low with you and do not condone that sort of campaigning. I have though responded robustly to you when I have felt you have overstepped the mark. There is a rule in politics that you may wish to familiarise yourself with, if you cannot take it then you should not dish it out."

So there you go, the Lib Dems in Wales are fully behind Lembit Opik and they don't think he's done anything wrong. Plus they don't care that they're losing genuine supporters in Montgomeryshire because they don't think there's a problem. Reading Hello or OK magazine during a debate in parliament, like Lembit did, is perfectably acceptable if you're a Lib Dem. As is going on a paid for cruise whilst parliament is sitting. Oh, and living with your girlfriend, renting your flat out, and claiming for it. And don't get me started on his latest Daily Sport column. All ok, and perfectly acceptable if you're a Lib Dem. I could go on, but I think the point has been made...

Schools situation in Powys

I was really taken aback by the plans that are being propsed for secondary schools in Powys. I have been fully aware of the funding problems with education in the county, but I'm surprised and horrified by what seems to be proposed.

I think all parties will need to come together on this issue, and fight any closures which could have a hugely detrimental impact on education in the county, particularly welsh-language provision. We'll also need to come together to fight for a better financial settlement so that Powys can afford education.

Before commeting further, I would like to see the plans formally announced tomorrow. But it's hugely worrying.


Got to love Kirsty William's response to Plaid's general election pledge regarding pensions in today's Western Mail: "More importantly you can’t implement a policy in Westminster with just two or three MPs.”

So, no point voting for any other party other than the Tories or Labour then based on that logic? After all, the Lib Dems don't have any chance of becoming the largest party there, so based on Kirsty's logic, Lib Dem MP's can't achieve anything of worth or influence policy so no point in them trying to do anything or thinking of any good policies.

Maybe Kirsty just isn't aware of the strong possibility that there will be a hung parliament at Westminster next time, and that when that happened before, Plaid Cymru MP's were able to influence the Government to implement their policies. Also, Plaid works with the SNP in Parliament and is therefore the fourth largest group there with influence on a number of committees. Our MP's actually do speak out on behalf of the people of Wales. And do get results. Maybe Lib Dem MP's should try it?

Those who criticize Plaid's plans shouldn't be so hasty. After all, have they examined how an increase could be achieved in the pension before dismissing it? We have and they obviously haven't. No point going into it here as it's been widely reported. But Plaid is now a party of Government, and we know how to deliver. We promise what is achievable and I'm amazed the three other parties have so readily dismissed this idea. Don't they care about the elderly? Don't they want to try and find ways to help them? Our proposals are sound, otherwise it wouldn't be part of the election campaign.

It really frustrates me when politicians attacks other parties policies without having read up about them properly. Well, either that, or they simply didn't understand the economics. It's easy to critize other people's ideas, but what about coming up with your own and offering a credible alternative? Did they do that? No. So there we go.

Vote Plaid and we'll deliver the best for the people of Wales and offer credible and achievable policies. We'll also campaign for greater powers for the Assembly, so that more of these policies can be delivered in Wales, hopefully by a Plaid led Government after the 2011 election. We're obviously doing something right if the opposition has to join forces to attack us!

So there you have it, as Kirsty suggests, no point voting for the Lib Dems in the Westminster election as they won't achieve anything. Thanks! I'll make sure the people of Montgomeryshire know that.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

This cannot continue

This topic has been well covered on the blogosphere today, but I thought I'd also join in the call from Valleys Mam for Clegg to step in and sort Lembit out once and for all.

Opik has undoubtedly crossed a line (once again) in his Daily Sport column this week in which he said the following:

“As you probably know, Northern Ireland MP Iris Robinson had an affair. The press went bonkers about it because, like in the film The Graduate, Mrs Robinson had got friendly with a much younger chap. This time it wasn’t Dustin Hoffman, but Kirk McCambley – who was 19 at the time. The fiery politician is married to Peter Robinson, head of the Northern Irish Assembly. Some claim that she was involved in financial wheeling and dealing too. Irate Iris is quitting the politics game, and her husband hasn’t managed to dodge the flak either. Poor Peter’s stepped down as boss of the Assembly for the next six weeks while things get sorted out. But is it fair? No! It’s easy – and dopey – to simply ogle an MP’s private life and pretend that it’s about politics. But why the hell should the Robinsons’ marital matters be splashed over the papers as if it’s the biggest story on earth? Iris’ affair is between her and her husband and should not be treated like an episode of EastEnders. And as for the financial stuff, unless we’re now all expected to grass on each other – and our partners – it’s unreasonable to expect Mr Robinson to be his wife’s keeper”.

The text really does speak for itself - but what's clear is that Mr Opik doesn't deserve to be an MP if he holds these kind of views. He seems to think there's nothing wrong is dodgy dealing. Does he honestly think MP's are above the law, and that people shouldn't "grass" on them when they've done wrong? Then again, he's not exactly whiter than white on the expenses business and there's been THAT cruise. Completely unacceptable.

This is utter disregard for democracy and decancy and if Clegg doesn't call him up on this, then he'll be letting down all Liberal Democrats in Montgomeryshire.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Predicting the result

Have just been reading Tom Bodden's blog, where he reports on ITV Wales's latest poll results for the next General Election. He makes the point that the Tories in Wales came first in 17 out of the 40 seats in the European election, as though this is indicative of the General Election result. And one seat on that list is Montgomeryshire.

Yes, the Tories did top the poll here in Montgomeryshire at last year's European election. BUT, and this is one thing political reporters continue to ignore - they also topped the European poll in the county in the previous European election only to be thrashed by Lembit Opik in the following General Election. One win doesn't necesserily mean another.

Journalists have certainly bought into the Glyn Davies hype, which has largely stemmed from the popularity of his blog and the confidence he has in his campaign. He's also campaigning hard, and has been for ages, and is lucky that the media give him as many opportunities as when he was an elected official. If not more! His campaign is certainly quite effective, and he is doing everything possible to win. But will this be enough in the end? Personally, I wouldn't place a bet on it.

Whatever I think of Lembit Opik, he does have one things that every politician would like to have within the county (but not for the same reasons I hasten to add!) - name recongnition. Everyone, from young to old, know who their MP is, and how many other politicians can boast of that? Yes, Glyn is well known in all the right circles. But do those people who aren't interested in politics know who he is? And what about the young? Does he appeal to the majority? What can he offer them? And how is he different from any typical middle-aged politician? That's definitely not clear. To overturn Lembit's majority, Glyn will have to appeal to these people and I'm not sure, personally, if he will be able to do so. He is a man of his generation, with traditional views and a traditional approach to politics. Yes, like Lembit, he is a bit of a maverick and he doesn't just toe the party line. But he is in general quite safe, and his ideas not that radical and different. And though he may think its manly not to use deodrant, as he confessed on his blog, sweat doesn't really appeal to the electorate!

It's an interesting battle for me to be involved in. Obviously, there isn't the same amount of pressure on me as Plaid traditionally come fourth in the seat. Yes, I'm determined to increase the vote, I'm running to win and I'd love to do so. But by being in this position, I can be quite objective in looking at the race between Glyn and Lembit. Those who are predicting publicly that Glyn will definitely win should spend time in the seat and actually speak to the electorate, rather than just observe via the blogosphere. I think you'd find a different reaction to both Glyn and Lembit there - one which would probably surprise you. Which is exactly why I think there's still everything to play for, and that I'm asking for more volunteers and fundraising ideas to be sent my way for anyone who's interested in helping my campaign.

Election night should certainly be interesting and I honestly think the result will boil down to the campaigns once the election is called. Roll on the comments anyway. And Glyn - sorry. Just being honest!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Weather Woes

Nearly everyone has been affected by either snow, ice or both over the past week and its likely to continue. Whilst we all might complain, the vast majority of us have coped by either working from home, stocking up on a de-icer, avoiding icy paths and turning the heating right up. Maybe even getting the old hot water bottle out to heat us up at night.

But what about the most vulnerable within our society, those who are poorly, elderly or physically disabled? What is being done to help them? Carers might not be able to visit them, they may not be able to attend hospital or doctor appointments, meals on wheels might not arrive and most of all, they might not be able to afford extra heating.

Another winter, and another plea for the UK Government to do something once and for all to tackle fuel poverty and ensure that everyone can heat their homes. Yes, some might get cold weather payments but that won't help the majority. And that's still given in cash form, rather than allocated specifically towards heating in the form of vouchers or credit. What we need is a fairer system, in the form of the following:

- Same price fuel for those who pay by direct debit, cash or by token or card. It seems grossly unfair that those who 'pay as they use' gas or electricity pay more than those who pay by direct debit, i.e. those who are usually better off
- Automatic credit towards heating for the most vulnerable within our society in winter - paid upfront rather than in retrospect
- Better plans to cope with snow and ice - and clear pathways.

There's also a duty on all of us to be more considerate in this weather and think about ways we can help neighbours and older relatives, be it offering to go to the shop on their behalf in case they slip, clearing paths, taking meals round etc. It's easy when you're young to take your health and ability to get around for granted so spare a thought for those who aren't as lucky.