All 11 entries tagged Wales

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May 09, 2007

The beauty of trespassing

I’ve just been revising the law of trespass ahead of my exciting Law exam next week. I probably should have revised this topic before this morning.

It turns out I’m fairly safe – I can only be sued for trespassing by the landowner himself, and seeing as he’s not likely to read this blog (nor am I likely to identify him!) I think I’ve got away with it. I also didn’t cause any damage, except a few muddy footprints.

I’m working on an exciting (can you hear the sarcasm?) story set in the middle of nowhere. Literally. The GPS system I’ve borrowed got as lost as me. I spent about two hours driving around, looking, quite simply, for an empty field which I needed to film in the pouring rain. It turned out to be at the end of a dark, muddy track and completely invisible from any man-made road.

Eventually, with a bit of help from the knowledgeable locals I found it. I didn’t trust them to begin with. I’ve heard that people with English accents will often find themselves given completely the opposite direction to the one they require while in parts of Wales. I could see on their faces a look of ‘ooh… well… shall I give him the Welsh answer or the English answer?’. Luckily the two locals both gave the same answer and it turned out they sent me the right way. Without them I would never have found it.

Not even Google Earth helped – I checked that out yesterday and it bore no relation to the roads I was looking for. Utterly useless. Maybe it was out-of-date.

Hopefully the fruits of my labour will be finished in a couple of weeks – I’ll upload them here, just so long as a certain landowner doesn’t find me first…

May 06, 2007

Lib Dem Failure = Lib Dem Power

It’s a strange quirk of the electoral system in Britain nowadays that the Lib Dems can do fairly poorly at an election and come out of it with so much power. In both Wales and Scotland, they hold the keys to power for Labour and the SNP respectively. The only difference this time round is that they’re considering rejecting the easy option in both cases.

In Wales, leader Mike German, under a great deal of pressure from his members (a leadership election is more than likely) has to decide, perhaps within a week, whether to prop up an unpopular Labour administration headed by Rhodri Morgan. He seems keen, but he could be deposed before he has a chance to sign off on it.

In Scotland, Nicol Stephen has a similar decision to make for the Lib Dems, although they would at least be propping up the SNP, who are on the up themselves. Even then, the SNP would still need the Greens to form a majority. The Greens support independence. The Lib Dems do not, and it could be a deal breaker.

Even in Westminster, it’s an open secret that the Lib Dems could have to do a similar job for Gordon Brown (or Cameron) after the next election.

It’s almost becoming the case that the Lib Dems are the bland, faceless party of coalition. They don’t seem to be threatening to lead any coalition in the near – perhaps even distant – future. And when elections become closer between the top two parties, their share of the vote often collapses.

There’s something to be said for coalition governments. But when the Lib Dems are so predictably the partner in any coalition, is there any value in voting for them?


My view is that there’ll be another election in Edinburgh within the year. The SNP’s majority is so flaky they’ll struggle to govern. Hold a new election and they’ll probably do even better. In Wales, Labour and the Lib Dems are going to struggle to come to a deal. Many in the Labour party are dead against joining with Plaid, and the Tories are of course a complete no-no. It’s going to be iffy here too.


I (honestly) wrote this before reading Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer. He makes the exact same point.

May 04, 2007

A "Mauling" for Labour?

Some of the first newspaper reports suggested it was a nightmare night for Tony Blair, Rhodri Morgan and Jack McConnell. The light of the next day leaves things a bit unclear.

In England, Labour have taken heavy losses. They’ve lost a few councils that should be their natural heartland – such as Blackburn. In total, the Tories have taken control of 15 councils, and the Lib Dems 1.

In Scotland, it’s neck and neck. Both Labour and the SNP have 32 seats in the Parliament. Most of the remaining constituency votes should be Labour ones. But in turn, most of the regional votes will probably go to the SNP. It’s going to be incredibly tight, but it will be a poor show for Alex Salmond if he doesn’t get the most seats.

In Wales, Labour are clearly on top – “contrary to others’ claims that people have ‘voted for change’”. The Lib Dems say the voters have demanded more than one party is in charge, which suggests the people have an incredible knowledge of the complicated electoral system. They’re also not the people’s second favourites, so they have to be careful.

At one point last night, it almost seemed Tony Blair might go out on a high. It didn’t work out like that, but he’s also not going out in a blaze of shame either. The doommongers got it wrong, and while Scotland might prove to be a disappointment for Labour, elsewhere the picture could have been much, much worse.


I got to bed at 7am after a very long, but adrenaline-filled night at ITV Wales. ITV were typically getting the results faster than the BBC were in Wales, but then took longer to get the relevant graphic on screen. All told, it was probably a victory for the Beeb, but that shouldn’t be a surprise – they had a much bigger kitchen sink to throw at it.

March 23, 2007

Cameron tries to win over the Welsh

Doidge Meets Cameron

David Cameron’s fishing for votes in Wales. His Conservatives have eleven seats in the Assembly, and are hoping for a big increase in May. But he might have to do better than his flying visit today, where he didn’t announce any policies for Wales and didn’t hang around long either.

He told me Plaid Cymru stood for nothing, and that his Conservatives could protect the Welsh identity better. Perhaps a contentious claim.

And he’ll have to work better on his stage management. In an attempt to look eco-friendly, his shadow cabinet followed him in minibuses. Not entirely becoming for Theresa May and her sparkly shoes. And with one bus completely empty, plus two others only half full, you have to wonder whether their environmental concerns are genuine or half-hearted. Mr Cameron himself got out and walked so we couldn’t see what gas-guzzler he’d arrived in.

The whistle-stop tour included a meeting with Conservative Assembly members and a brief – and not entirely natural – chat with children from a local primary school. He’ll be pleased to know they approved, even if his new hairstyle got a less enthusiastic reception.

March 10, 2007

Tinkering with the television

I’ve just joined a new Facebook group. It’s called ‘I Hate BBC Wales’. True, this is the organisation that brings you Doctor Who, and for that we should be grateful. Their news isn’t too bad either, even if it suffers from the tedious banter associated with all local news programmes.

But what winds me up – and considering the existence of a Facebook group, it seems to annoy others too – is the constant tinkering with the schedules on BBC Television. You sit down to watch Top Gear on a Sunday evening and they’ve replaced it with the Welsh Open snooker. Even though there’s no-one Welsh in it and eight million people watch Top Gear (presumably some of them in Wales). You try and watch the first round of University Challenge, but you can’t because in their infinite wisdom, BBC Wales have decided not to broadcast it. Are the questions too hard for Welsh people or something? I think not.

Then there’s the sport. Whenever there’s an FA Cup match on a Saturday evening, BBC Wales ignores the pre-match build-up and cuts across (mid-sentence) to what people in England are watching seconds before kick-off. For anyone wanting to know anything about the game, it’s useless.

By far the worst example of this spectrum abuse is the torrent of programmes about ‘Welshness’. Instead of University Challenge you get a biography of a Welsh bloke you’ve never heard of, in which you learn how Welsh he is. Or perhaps, if you’re lucky, you’ll get a programme in which Huw Edwards goes to London and … wait for it … tells you how Welsh it is! I kid you not, this last show was stretched over a whole series.

This would be fine if it was occasional. But with the exception of the snooker, I can’t think of a programme that BBC Wales has crammed in the schedule that wasn’t a documentary about Welshness. It seems the place is run by Plaid Cymru!

Imagine the uproar if BBC Two featured nightly programmes about the exceptionalism of the English!

February 18, 2007

I Hate the Welsh…

...TV Schedulers.

I’m settling down, eagerly awaiting tonight’s Top Gear. It’s the best thing on television in Britain.


BBC Wales, in their infinite wisdom, have replaced it with sodding snooker. It’s not on until 10pm. It’s a Sunday night. I quite fancied an early one. I also wanted to watch the show that’s on afterwards. And they’ve gone and buggered up my evening. And my housemates’ evening. Top Gear is the only thing we all watch.


And you thought I was going to write some general slur against the Welsh people.

EDIT: It’s getting silly. It’s 10.40pm, Top Gear’s supposed to be on by now, and we’re being treated to A RUDDY GREAT BIG END-CREDITS SEQUENCE!!!! I HATE YOU, BBC WALES.

January 13, 2007

Plaid Cymru and the Tories should make friends

Blamerbell, an increasingly influential Welsh blogger, suggested this week that the chances of Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives joining forces after the May Welsh Assembly elections was as likely as Lembit Opik becoming a Benedictine monk.

Mathematically it might do them a favour though. Dr Richard Wyn Jones and Dr Roger Scully of the Institute of Welsh Politics have done the 'electoral math'1 and say that the election in May this year is likely to result in:

Party Projected seats
Plaid Cymru
Lib Dems

There's lots of possibilities. Labour and Plaid Cymru might get together. Labour and the Lib Dems might amble along. But if the Tories want to have any say, joining with the Lib Dems - while politically practical - would be mathematically daft. They'd be trounced. Plaid's their only partner if they want to lead. And as Blamerbell said, it's not likely.

If the figures are accurate, it looks like a Labour/Plaid coalition is inevitable. And that means the next term's going to be even more explosive than this one.

1. A West Wingism that I love.

December 06, 2006

Does Gordon love Wales?

Welsh politics is in a bit of a crisis at the moment over its budget, and is looking to Gordon Brown to solve it when he announces his Pre-Budget Report.

The Labour leadership in Cardiff say there’s no more money to be spent on education or health, but the opposition parties are refusing to sign off on the budget before they find some.

So they’re looking to Brown for more cash.

But there’s personality politics at play. First Minister Rhodri Morgan is regarded as little better than a Liberal Democrat by Brown and Blair, and know that if they refuse to help him out, they might be able to get rid of him.

Let’s see whether Gordon’s in a helpful mood.

October 12, 2006

The Science of Headlines

Amanda Powell, editor of BBC News Wales websitesWhat makes a good headline?

According to Amanda Powell (right), editor of BBC News Online in Wales, there’s far more to it than you’d imagine, and it’s all about trying to feed you the bare bones of the story as quickly as possible.

At the moment, users of BBC News Online spend an average of 3.12minutes on the site every time they visit and Amanda says they’re trying to get you to view more stories in those 3.12mins.

How do they do this? By feeding you as much information as they can at the top of the story, and that means in the headline and the summary. As a result, a lot of work goes into getting these right.

BBC News WalesBelieve it or not, the BBC’s content production system makes you choose a headline of 31-33 characters, which is pretty precise. This is so it can work on Ceefax and mobile phones, as well as the web.

Check out this story from the Press Association:

“European Commission enters UK cheese row”

This headline seems to strike a delicate balance between describing what is essentially a dull, albeit amusing story, and grabbing the reader’s attention. The words “UK cheese row” offset the audience-killing “European Commission”.

But if the aim of the exercise is to help you read as little of the story as possible in order to understand it, is that necessarily a good thing? Aren’t journalists shooting themselves in the foot if they try and help you consume as little as possible of their work? It’s an interesting one and makes me feel reporting can sometimes be a little artless.

October 01, 2006

Land of the leek and the leak

So, I’m here in Cardiff and finally have internet access (albeit limited by my own incompetence when it comes to understanding routers).

My gosh, it does like to rain here, doesn’t it? They say that when it rains, it pours, and that does seem to have been the case so far. Luckily Rachel bought me an umbrella for my birthday so I won’t get quite so soaked as on Thursday when I was still wet when I went home at 5pm from my 10 minute walk to uni at 9am that morning. Not pleasant.

The Welsh are much more protective of their identity than us English lot. I think we’ve realised that we’re mostly a load of chavs, wasters and good-for-nothings, but the Welsh don’t seem to have realised (yet) that they’re just as bad. You’d think that Goldie Lookin’ Chain and Charlotte Church would have been a good indicator though.

As part of my journalism course we have to choose a patch such as “Cardiff Central”, “Business” or “Welsh Assembly”. It’s all very political. Some of our Welsh colleagues seem to think us Englishers wouldn’t understand the Assembly (hey, it’s bureaucracy, I’d be amazed if anyone could) and we’d probably be better off covering planning applications and funerals. They might be right. We’ll find out soon.

Welsh politics is predictably small scale because of the limits on Assembly business. Things might change next year though as its powers increase.

In the meantime, I’ll try and find some interesting gossip and laugh at Tories. Business as usual, really.

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