Archive for September, 2011

Rippon tips

Last week was not the best of weeks for our venture with only three places out of the card. Although those who took the advice and backed each way would have made a modest return as the odds of the three were quite high.

This week we’ll return North to Rippon to the ‘Garden’ racecourse as it’s nicknamed because it’s in very picturesque settings.

Now they’ve been racing thoroughbreds in Rippon for well over three hundred years.

It’s a right-handed oval of approximately 1m5f with a 5f finishing straight. Ripon used to be known for the manufacturing of spurs but it is doubtful if these will be on display at the meeting. There are some strange rules nowadays against using them, our nags last Saturday could have benefitted from there use.

Old John Wesley preached in Ripon and built up a minority community there, he might have had better success if he hadn’t preached about the evils of gambling.

This will be the last fixture of the year in Ripon so let’s hope it gives us enough winnings to last us through a long winter.

2.10 Its Mark Anthony or Meandmyshadow as an each way bet. The former gets my money

2.40 Dark Don gets all the tipsters excited but this one is going for Ashken

3.15 Spirit of the Law it looks like the one to beat

3.45 Rio’s Rosanna or Solar Spirit

4.15 Murbeh or Kanaf

4.50 Having spent much of my working life listening to Select Committee I’ll have to go with this

5.25 Tricks of the Trade is the only one that can beat Yasir who is the tipsters favourite

6.00 Just crossed the Crimea to Llandudno today and gets my vote

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Conference hall politics

Oh, dear did she have to be so nasty to dear Cheryl. I’m referring of course to Kirsty Williams in her speech to the Liberal Democrat conference.

And what did she say you may ask.

‘I am already working with the leaders of all parties in Wales to build a coalition of support that demands the respect of politicians in Westminster. ’¨ The coalition agreement included a firm commitment to develop a Scottish Calman-style process to devolve financial powers to the Welsh Government.’¨ But conference, do you think we can rely on a Conservative Secretary of State to deliver?’¨ The Conservative understanding of devolution is too shallow.’¨ The Secretary of State’s accountability to the people of Wales too tenuous.’¨ The Wales Office’s belief in giving away power too ’“ well it’s non-existent.’¨ That is why we need Liberal Democrats in Government to really push forward radical reform.’¨ And I know that at every stage Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander are pushing the case for Wales.’¨ Well, Cheryl, somebody’s got to do it.’¨’

Ouch!

Now, of course, there’s always a temptation when addressing your own members to get carried away but this wasn’t a spontaneous remark or two but part of a well thought out speech. Of course, it presses the right button with the delegates in the hall. The Pavlovian response of delegates to such remarks got her the customary standing ovation, but outside the hall, what?

Is it good politics to set about to do over so publicly our dear Secretary of State, especially when there doesn’t seem to be any tangible political advantage in doing so?

Now there was almost an indecent attempt in this conference by some Liberal Democrat Ministers to parade themselves as there own men and women. Indeed not a speech was delivered that didn’t try to convince how they were acting as a break to the Genghis Khan tendency of their coalition partners.

How they just loved portraying themselves as the Liberal Democrat tail that was wagging the Tory dog. But as Ministers they do have some influence on government policy within their own portfolios.

But in the Welsh Office there are no Liberal Democrat Ministers to influence decision-making. If Kirsty Williams had been a more mature politician she would have seen this as an opportunity to get close to Cheryl Gillan and provide that authentic Liberal Democrat view on the Welsh world. And Cheryl Gillan’s response – without doubt she would have welcomed such an ally.

Kirsty Williams, if she’d chosen to play that particular card, the influence surely might have been greater than the clout she has leading a group of five in the Assembly.

By playing to the Conference gallery and waging a very personal attack on Gillan she has traded possible long-term advantage and influence for the very temporary adulation of her own.

Stateswomanship it’s certainly not. It’s not even good politics ’˜cos where’s the gain.

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Take control

‘We believe that external challenge and support can best be provided through a Ministerial Board with an independent chair with a legal background and other members with the necessary expertise to challenge the Council in the core areas for improvement. I will announce the membership shortly. I have spoken to the Leader of the Council this morning.’ So said deputy Minister Gwenda Thomas in dealing with Pembrokeshire County Council’s failure to protect children and young people.

Now this government has form in putting their own team in to sort out our local councils. They currently have teams in Ynys Mon and Blaenau Gwent.

A pattern is developing. If a local authority errs, the Welsh Government ride in wearing their white hats and then put their own folk in to sort things out.

The Minister with responsibility for local government Carl Sergeant sees councils as lacking ‘performance leadership, critical mass, specialist expertise and efficiency.’

His answer is to have six regional bodies that will deliver some of the major services that are currently delivered by local councils.

And it’s not only Sergeant that has a low opinion, but many others in the cabinet share the view that local councils don’t cut the mustard.

All this begs the question, why don’t they cut the middle man out and do it themselves.

After all if the idea is to have six regional authorites to deliver education, social services and some aspects of environment and sustainable development. Why not save the money and just have one ’“ namely the government itself.

Yes, scrap the county councils and let the Welsh government take on the role. They can then decentralise responsibilities to other organisations such as the schools themselves or of course to those democratically elected bodies ’“ namely the community councils if they see fit.

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