1. On the table

    Today Scottish voters go to the polls to decide whether or not their country should be independent.  But another political event is also about to begin this weekend - the party conference season. Here Brenig Davies offers a helpful score card for voters to keep a record of policy announcements

    This scorecard may assist our readers in determining their voting intentions for next year’s general election.

    You may also want to make a copy and use it for the Welsh assembly elections in 2016.

    We need to emphasise the strict embargo on completing the scorecard.

    It is not to be completed until each of the leaders of the Welsh political parties has made his or her keynote speech on Welsh day at the respective UK conferences.

    This we insist on in the interest of fairness.

    The position with Plaid Cymru is different.

    In this case it should not be completed until the leader has given the keynote speech on English day.

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    For the party policies, marks are to be given out of 10.

    10 equalscan be fully believed’ - 0 equals ‘no chance’

    You need not total up your score at the end of the conference season as there are no winners.

                                                   LAB   CONS   PLAID CYMRU  L DEMS  

    Reduce A&E waiting times

    Increase educational PISA scores

    Reduce youth unemployment

    Fill in pot holes

    Fund south Wales valley lines electrification

    Bring back grammar schools

    The Welsh business minister to give a live TV interview

    Free hot school meals

    Increase rural bus services

    Ban e-cigars

    Promote e-cigars

    Reduce public expenditure

    Increase public expenditure

    Abolish Severn bridge tolls

    Introduce a 75% rate of income tax (like France)

    Introduce free child care

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    SENIORS

    Free drink during (very) happy hour (Mon to Friday)

    Keep bus passes 

    Introduce local train passes

    Free dog/cat food for pet lovers

    Free one week holiday in Barry Island or Conwy Bay

    Ignore double yellow lines

    Free admission to rugby internationals

    Free meals on wheels



    OTHERS

    Free buggies for school run (walk)

    Free Welsh lessons for adult learners in Wales

    Free taxis to Waitrose for high-rate tax payers 

    Increase number of Welsh assembly members

    Reduce number of MPs accordingly

    Welsh Rugby Union and regions in Wales forced to talk to each other

    Secretary of State for Wales post abolished

    Dualling of entire A470 (including that bit at Rhayadar)

    Carwyn cycles, in Welsh cities

    Support GM crops

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    COMMITMENTS

    Commitment to place a statue of Tom Jones in Pontypridd

    Commitment to switch Cardiff City region to Swansea city

    Commitment to maintain Cardiff city region at expense of Swansea city

    Commitment to reopen Mumbles railway

    Commitment to abolish stamp duty

    Commitment to increase stamp duty

    Commitment to abolish VAT on Welsh products and services

    Commitment to increase VAT on Welsh products and services

    Commitment to allow patients to address GPs by their first names

    Commitment to ensure posh coffee shops serve ‘milkies’ 

    Commitment to extend landlord registration scheme

    Commitment to rescind landlord registration scheme

     

    FURTHER POLICIES

    Creation of a digital map to find University of Wales

    Agreement in principle to merge Newport and Cardiff

    Support the movement for independence of south Wales valleys

    Electrification of mid Wales line

    Free alarm clocks for shift workers

    Expand enterprise zones

    Scrap enterprise zones

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    Today’s Scottish referendum should not deflect from other issues on our politicians’ minds.

    Their party policies are always open to more input.

    Please add your favourite policy ideas.

    These will be collated at the end of the conference season and forwarded to all parties.

     

     
  2. Twitterati

    A BBC Editor publicly compared the union with England to an abusive relationship days before a closely-fought referendum on Scottish independence and as a programme about the vote presented by him was preparing to be transmitted, Wales Eye can reveal.

    Corporation staff had to be reminded of internal guidelines soon afterwards.

    A tweet by the corporation’s Welsh Affairs Editor, Vaughan Roderick, which was later deleted, said some unionists rejoiced in "threats and bullying".

    The public message to all his 6,000 followers on the social media site, was soon re-tweeted by a conservative nationalist who writes under the pseudonym ‘Jac o’ the North’.

    But a television show hosted by Mr Roderick and filmed mainly in Scotland was still transmitted by BBC Wales afterwards.

     

    imageVaughan Roderick (@VaughanRoderick9/10/14, 11:38 PM.                        

    Very odd that people who claim to love ‘the union’ rejoice in threats and bullying. It sounds like an abusive relationship.

     

    The tweet from Mr Roderick caused consternation within the BBC.

    "It’s an appalling thing for a supposedly independent journalist to say", one broadcaster told Wales Eye.

    "We are days away from a neck-and-neck referendum on Scottish independence and he is meant to be telling us about it.

    "How are we to trust anything he says?"  

    The tweet was deleted soon afterwards as senior BBC management discussed the issue.

    It comes after guidelines were supposedly tightened up by the corporation following several breaches in internal rules.

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    The Wales Millennium Centre (WMC) played host to Mr Roderick and others for a debate about independence.

    His tweet was published two days before the event.

    Mr Roderick was described as a "key figure", in the debate on the implications for Wales of the Scottish independence referendum, which was organised by the Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA) UK’s Changing Union, and WMC.

    Yesterday the head of BBC Wales news and current affairs, Mark O’Callaghan, was forced to remind staff of the importance of impartiality.

    He sent them a link to the corporation’s guidelines about twitter.

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    In an internal email seen by Wales Eye, Mr O’Callaghan noted:  "With the result in Scotland on a knife edge, the BBC’s commitment to impartiality will never be more closely scrutinised than at present.

    "I’d like to remind staff that this scrutiny extends not only to our output but also to any personal views expressed on social media outlets.

    "I’ve included a link to the full guidelines below, but in short the message is to use common sense and to ensure that nothing you say compromises your impartiality."

    All BBC guidelines on neutrality were included in the official email, including social media rules:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/14_07_11_news_social_media_guidance.pdf.

    Remarkably, last night a recorded 45 minute programme was transmitted about the referendum presented by Mr Roderick.   

    This came after the published, then deleted, tweet giving his views, senior management discussions about it within the BBC, and the re-issuance of guidelines reminding corporation staff of social media rules on impartiality.

    The promotional material for the programme said:  "Vaughan Roderick asks if Wales can find a vision and make its claim for a better future."

    The controversy comes soon after a senior UK BBC Editor was reprimanded and removed from an election after she tweeted an anti-UKIP message before the European poll (see - ).

    Jasmine Lawrence had tweeted sarcastically:  "#WhyImVotingUkip – to stand up for white, middle class, middle aged men w sexist/racist views, totally under represented in politics today."

    BBC personnel were then warned not to "do anything stupid."

    The statement from Mr Roderick echoed the views of the Republican Communist Network who said:  "Let’s all end our abusive relationship with the UK state."

    But at least we know where he stands.

     

     
  3. Top division

    Overheard in Cardiff bay by Brenig Davies - the leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood, talks to her assembly members about the election.  

    "We all know that the next assembly election will soon be upon us.

    "In fact it is May 5 2016.

    "So this means we are now entering the last phase of this assembly (whispers) no hang on.

    (Clears throat)  Anyway, er, we have much to be proud of.

    "We were the largest opposition party during the second Assembly.

    "We are, er, still one of the largest,  (whisper from the side - “that’s not really an achievement, Leanne”).

    "So we should not forget the boring, um, no I mean, competent way we conducted ourselves, and always pursued Plaid Cymru policies, during our coalition with the Labour party during the second assembly.

    "This may not always have been popular with some of our supporters but it did at least give us a taste of government, and we have always wanted that, let’s be honest.

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    "I’m very annoyed actually because the voters have been a bit ungrateful, and in the fourth assembly we are still in third place with 11 AMs. 

    "But, we must not be down-hearted.

    "It is worth remembering that one of our most senior and respected members had a long and distinguished record as Presiding Officer.

    "As you all know I did not, er, always agree with him but at least he was popular.

    "Actually on that note it is a bit disappointing, frankly, that some of you lot do not think I am up to it as leader.

    "Yes I know all about the division in the party about me because I am not a first language Welsh speaker like you, and I come from the valleys.

    "Oh, yes.

    "I hear names being mentioned all the time about people to replace me, which I think is very unfair, because we all need to pull together and aim for the top.

    "Of course it is also of some concern to me that that some members do not share my, er, our party’s, view on energy generation.

    "However following our very important, energy generation consultation this year, I am sure we are all relieved that the matter has now been resolved, and the differences are behind us.

    "Just to remind you all of our new policy on energy generation  ((quietly) in case you had forgotten) we will allow wind power in mid and south Wales and nuclear generation in north Wales.

    "This seems to me a perfectly sustainable policy that voters will readily understand and support.

    "It has nothing whatsoever to do with where many of our supporters come from, and them wanting jobs.

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    "When this policy was announced in the media, my post bag was heavy with letters of support - especially from Anglesey, I mean Ynys Mon.

    "This personally gave me great reassurance that our policy made sense.

    "So in looking forward to the election campaign we can be proud of our clear policies when so much is at stake (again quietly) despite what some of you have said.

    "We can also take strength from the fact that many of our new candidates have recently arrived from the BBC.

    "I am sure that you share my confident view, that once the fuss dies down, people will realise our new cadre of candidates, including existing AMs, will make us the most media-savvy party in Wales.

    "Also at stake is my personal position as your leader and an AM because as I said there is a lot of talk about other people who could do my job, and it’s not very nice to be honest.

    "I hear all this stuff, you know.

    "So I would like to share my feelings with you.

    "For four elections I have successfully secured my place in the assembly by being a regional list assembly member.

    "In 2016 I will be standing as a candidate in the constituency of Rhondda.

    "In my judgement I do not view this strategy as being a risk to my position or that of the party at all.

    "I want to educate you all about it - and voters.

    "Education is, after all, one of our strongest policies.

    (From side - "you’d better finish now, Leanne"). 

    "Finally in considering our election campaign we must remind ourselves that canvassing at the door-step, while heavy on foot, if it is well-organised, has proved to be our strongest campaigning strategy.

    "I do though rather embarrassingly accept - keeping in mind my particular constituency - that it is much easier and quicker to doorstep people on the terraced streets in the south Wales’ valleys compared with the sparsely populated rest of Wales.

    "Finally… er" (looks confused).

    "Let’s look at our huge achievements this month.

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    "And I don’t mean the Scottish referendum - (grins) but do you remember that phrase from the character in Toy Story who couldn’t fly, yet thought he could?

    "Buzzy Lightyear or something.

    “‘To Infinity And Beyond’ he would say.

    "Well, er, we should think like that,"  (sound of slapped forehead at side).

    "Anyway, we should also think about, um, the Silk commission recommendations.

    "And in particular the lock-step clause on tax changes.

    "We all know the matter remains unresolved.

    "I want to be absolutely straight with you, and with a sense of urgency.

    (Sudden realisation of humorous opportunity) I will certainly not tip-toe or dance around this critical issue.

    "I can’t stress enough the imperative of the lock-step being strictly addressed with a quick-step and fleet-of-foot, otherwise we will never take to the floor.

    "With some carefully selected moves the prize is there to be won.

    "Er, that’s it.

    "Diolch"

    Next week Brenig Davies overhears the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams, as she addresses her assembly members about the elections.

     
  4. The flag of nations

    By Phil Parry, Editor

    Is nationalism good or bad?

    As the Scottish referendum approaches this seems the right question to ask.

    My dad, who fought the Nazis, used to say:  “I cannot understand why nationalism is bad when it is big, but good when it is small”.

    This was when Plaid Cymru were resurgent - their representation in Westminster had just risen from one to three MPs, and the hugely-successful campaign to get road signs in Welsh as well as English, had started to establish bi-lingualism as the norm rather than a joke.

    It was a very difficult question to give a simple answer to, but I came to the conclusion - a bit like the famous West Lothian question over devolution - the response was longer and required more of an explanation.

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    The West Lothian question was first asked in the House of Commons by the Labour MP Tam Dalyell in 1977, who represented the eponymous constituency, when devolution was being debated.

    Mr Dalyell was known for getting to the heart of an issue (he asked Mrs Thatcher extremely uncomfortable questions about the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands war) and it took sixteen years before the question was answered in a commission, and has not even been fully resolved now.

    The question focused the devolution debate on why Scottish and Welsh MPs could vote on certain issues affecting English areas, while their colleagues from England could not do so the other way round.

    He asked:  "For how long will English constituencies and English honourable members tolerate … at least 119 honourable members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland exercising an important, and probably often decisive, effect on English politics while they themselves have no say in the same matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?”

    A commission which investigated it all, recommended in March last year that legislation affecting only England should normally require the support of a majority of MPs representing English constituencies.

    The debate since has been less about devolution, which is pretty much settled, and more about nationalism.

    So the reply I gave my dad was bit like the rather convoluted and lengthy response to the West Lothian question.

    There was no easy explanation - but the standard reply is that if nationalism is a way for a people to express themselves after suppression by a larger group, then it is good.

    If, on the other hand, nationalism is the badge of that larger group then it is bad.

    Thus the nationalism of the repugnant British National Party or English Defence League campaigning against immigration was (and is) wrong.

    But the nationalism of Plaid Cymru, campaigning for a stronger, more confident Wales, was (and is) not.

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    Yet over the years as more and more nations have sprung up with their own special flags, this question has not gone away and I have wrestled with it constantly.

    Surely there was a simpler answer than this.

    I am now starting to wonder whether my dad was right all along.

    Perhaps ALL nationalism is wrong, whether big or small.

    This area is a minefield but I will enter it anyway.

    The idea of the nation state with largely fixed borders is a relatively new one.

    It has long been disputed, and the key question within the debate, has a chicken and egg feel - so it is ‘which came first, the nation or the nation state?’

    Some believe the nation state came about as a by-product of advances in 15th century map-making, although most theories say it started life in the 19th century and was made possible by mass literacy as well as (cough) the mass media.

    A few nation states, notably Germany and Italy, came into existence - at least partly - as a result of political campaigns by nationalists.

    The notion of the nation state reached its apotheosis during the 1919 Versailles treaty which marked the end of the first world war.

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    There, the task was led by US President Woodrow Wilson in apportioning land, and offering self-determination according to the arguments put forward by homogenous groups of ‘peoples’.

    These groups could supposedly be ascertained by discovering peoples with, for most, a common language and a common cultural heritage.

    A succession of groups presented themselves before the decision-makers to show themselves as homogenous peoples who should be allowed self-determination.

    Even then there were problems.

    What to do about the Kurds for example, of whom we hear so much now?

    They shared the key characteristics but were, tragically, denied nationhood after they were bullied into submission by the big powers.

    They have a common language and common cultural heritage, but no real borders.

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    Then there are some Pathans who still believe they live in Pushtanistan, and which is a land that lies half in Afghanistan and half in Pakistan.

    Now, though, the problems are even greater.

    Globalisation has created a mishmash of groups everywhere.

    London is an international city where you will hear languages from all over the world.

    Cardiff could be heading this way.

    You only need to stroll through the city centre to hear a huge range of languages, along with English and Welsh.

    Bessemer road car boot sale in Cardiff is a showcase for people from all over the world.

    How many see themselves as Welsh, I wonder?

    Before the golden age of nationalism, governance boiled down to the local community or city.

    The idea of the city-state was soon born.

    A leading Plaid Cymru politician once told me:  “We need to move to a post-nation state Europe.”

    Perhaps he is right and it is time to consider trying to do this.

    Perhaps we should bring back the city-state.

    Perhaps nationalism is bad when it is big and bad when it is small.

    This is an edited version of an article for the Institute of Welsh Affairs. 

     
  5. Musical chairs

    Brenig Davies casts his eye over today’s reshuffle in the Welsh government.


    Is this the final countdown to the assembly elections on May 5 2016?

    The dynamic first minister, CJ to his friends (his NEW friends that is, not those OLD friends who have just lost their cherished cabinet jobs, cars, and civil servant minders) has proven once again he possesses a gift for giving surprises.

    He is a man of energy.

    He is above all a man of loyalty. 

    But underperformance will never get in his way.

    The underperformance of others, that is.

    Others also means his new-found enemies, now on the backbenches.

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    Or the hard seats as they are rather unkindly called, by the newly-smug frontbenchers. 

    It should be said that ‘others’ also includes those hardworking civil servants who undergo performance appraisals each year.

    Funny how performance appraisal never seems to include party leaders and first ministers.

    So to the moves:

    The redoubtable Leighton Andrews returns to the cabinet to deliver local government changes.

    Apparently to the delight of Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) officers.

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    Mr Andrews is respected for the 20-point education plan he devised last time he was in cabinet as education minister.

    Perhaps his liking for numbers is the reason he has been given the local authority brief.

    His job is to reduce the current 20 local authorities to 12 or 10.

    He seems attracted to the number 20, but maybe now he’ll halve that figure … say to 10 new local authorities.

    Who knows?

    The hot money is on 10… partly because it is half 20, that favourite number.

    Ladbrokes have apparently already opened a book on 10.

    Some will say it is rather surprising that Huw Lewis is staying put on those nice soft front benches.

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    He keeps his seat near his old mates Mark Drakeford, Edwina Hart and Jane Hutt.

    Jeff Cuthburt leaves the cabinet ahead of his decision to stand-down as an assembly member at the next assembly elections.

    Funny how Caerphilly has little luck with its AMs. 

    John Griffiths has also disappeared.

    A really ‘good egg’.

    Never mind - at least there is still a Griffiths in the Cabinet, Lesley looking after communities and tackling poverty.

    A tough, yet important brief if ever there was one.

    Good luck to her.

    Carl Sargent becomes Minister for Natural Resources.

    A good appointment, yet a loss to housing and regeneration.

    Ken Skates becomes Deputy Minister for  Culture, Sport and Tourism, under Edwina Hart - so perhaps he now will not be keen on live broadcast interviews either.

    But do not forget another deputy minister, Vaughn Gething, who pleasingly becomes Deputy Minister for Health

    Another good day at the office for CJ.

    Good luck to all - let us hope they do not go back again on those horrible hard seats.

     
  6. Growing conviction

    A Welsh campaigner who spent 11 years in jail convicted of a murder he did not commit has told Wales Eye the latest high profile miscarriage of justice case highlights why the death penalty must be abolished.

    Michael O’Brien had been part of one of the longest serving miscarriage of justice cases in Britain when he was released 16 years ago.

    Now he believes the successful prosecution of two mentally disabled half-brothers in America wrongly convicted of the rape and murder of a little girl, will bolster the growing campaign to abolish executions.  

    Henry Lee McCollum spent 30 years on death row in North Carolina, and Leon Brown was serving life in jail, after his sentence was reduced.

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    DNA evidence showed the pair had been wrongly found guilty of killing 11 year old Sabrina Buie in 1983.

    Mr McCollum’s time on death row was coming to an end and he was facing execution.

    If Mr O’Brien’s alleged crime of murdering a Cardiff newsagent, had been ‘committed’ a generation earlier, he too could now be dead.

    He said:  "The death penalty has no place in a civilised society and this case is a clear example of why it should be abolished immediately."
     
    Mr McCollum, now 50, and 46 year old Mr Brown have always claimed they were forced to make a false confession.
     
    But the white prosecutor in Robeson county, which is a stronghold of the Ku Klux Klan, insisted that they were still guilty.
     
    The police in North Carolina now have a new suspect, Roscoe Artis, revealed by DNA on a cigarette at the crime scene but which was not tested at the time.
     
    It is uncertain whether Mr Artis can now be prosecuted.
     
    He is in prison after confessing to the rape and murder of a little girl.
     
    But Joseph Britt, now 78, who conducted the prosecution against Mr McCollum and Mr Brown, said:  "So they found DNA on a cigarette that was not handed over to the defence - that means nothing by itself".
     
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    Mr O’Brien and two others, Ellis Sherwood here on his right and Darren Hall on his left, were released in 1998.
     
    They had been wrongly convicted of the murder of a Cardiff newsagent, Phillip Saunders, in 1987.
     
    "The case of the two men in America is appalling.
     
    "It has huge implications", he said.
     
    Mr O’Brien still suffers with severe depression after his release but has rebuilt his life and is now a writer, campaigner and motivational speaker.
     
    He experienced the loss of his child Dylan who died of an undiagnosed condition and he has now begun a charitable foundation thedylanobrienfoundation.com.
     
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    The case of Mr O’Brien, from Cardiff, Mr Sherwood and Mr Hall, was first uncovered by the BBC Wales current affairs series Week In, Week Out.
     
    The miscarriage of justice case in America follows a series of botched and lengthy executions where lethal injections were delivered incorrectly.
     
    Depending on the state, the death penalty can be carried out by electric chair,  gasing, hanging, lethal injection and firing squad.
     
    But opinion polls in America now indicate falling popular support.
     
    That is likely to continue while it is revealed people convicted of murder were in fact innocent.
     
  7. Don’t call the boys in blue

    A North Wales Police officer was severely reprimanded after a botched investigation into an extraordinary attack over the internet and death threats which followed afterwards, Wales Eye can reveal.

    The force had to issue a formal apology and one of the officers at the centre of the inquiry, PC Steven Robins, was ordered to receive management training from his senior inspector, according to internal documents we have seen.

    The police inquiry focused on statements by Royston Jones on his website.

    Mr Jones is a  a right of centre nationalist who uses the pseudonym ‘Jac o’ the North’.

    In a virulent published attack he targeted Jacques Protic who writes for another website Glasnost.ORG.UK.

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    Mr Jones wrote, in the first statements on his blog in August of last year:  I was hoping to avoid this, but it has to be said – Protic is a Serb” (Mr Protic’s father worked for the Yugoslavian National Bank and he left the country when he was a teenager).

    Mr Jones engaged in an ‘expose’ of Mr Protic and in another post wrote:  By whatever route he reached his present state, I conclude that Jacques Protic is a broken reed, still capable of making ugly noises when a Welsh breeze catches him, but a man of little consequence; an irritant, but nothing more.

    "After what I’ve unearthed I’m almost feeling sorry for him.

    "Almost."

    Soon after the publications, Mr Protic received a number of harassing telephone calls.

    He was told he should be put down "like a mad dog" and his car tyres were slashed.

    One of the telephone callers to his home said: "I will do your fucking head in"

    This violent message was on speakers and upset his 10 year old daughter who was listening.

    But Mr Protic, whose home town is Chester and who now lives somewhere in north Wales, was deeply alarmed by the standard of investigation undertaken by the police which followed the published comments of Royston Jones, and he launched an official complaint.

    Some of his points were not accepted, but one was formally conceded.

    The documents, seen by Wales Eye, reveal that PC Robins did not even examine the website which, according to Mr Protic, may have started the campaign against him.

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    Inspector Ian Verburg of North Wales police gave details of the internal investigation they conducted.

    Inspector Verburg is considered a high-flyer in the force.

    He was the district inspector in Llandudno Junction last October when it was announced crime had fallen by 16.4 per cent.

    Describing a ‘good citizen scheme’ he said:  This is one of a number of initiatives in Llandudno Junction aimed at reducing anti-social behaviour and the crimes that affect the community.”

    Following the inquiry into police handling of Mr Protic’s case, a report by Inspector Verburg, dated March 24, was compiled.

    It states: "The complaint is upheld in relation to Pc Robins investigation into report xxxxx.

    "Pc Robins should have reviewed (the Jac o’ the North) website… in order that he could make an informed decision as to whether there were any criminal offences at that time and any risk that needed managing coming from the complaint.

    "Pc Robins will receive management action from his Inspector.

    "This action will be in the form of structured advice and learning as to what should have happened in order to prevent this occurring again.

    "I would like to offer an apology in respect (of) this part of the complaint on behalf of the Organisation.”

    Another part of Inspector Verburg’s ‘finalisation report’ reads:  "Feedback to be given regarding officer being spoken to and District Inspector being updated.

    "Result – District Inspector is xxxx.
     
    "He has been spoken to and has devised an appropriate action plan.
     
    "This includes a number of actions including a warning marker being placed on the home address of Mr Protic to inform future reports.
     
    "A specific point of contact (SPOC) has been allocated by xxxx for Mr Protic and this is to be Temporary Inspector xxxx  and he will make contact with Mr Protic to go through all the points on the action plan."
     

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    The apology from North Wales police, and acceptance of responsibility, is highly unusual.

    It followed a bungled investigation involving a number of officers, which came after the article by Royston Jones, and the series of telephone calls to Mr Protic’s home, along with the vandalisation of his car.

    Mr Jones is known for his outspoken views and has over 600 followers on Twitter, but comments he published on his website about disabled athletes provoked controversy two years ago.

    One of the lines which caused particular offence, was:  "Am I alone in thinking there’s an element of a Victorian freak show in the Paralympics?

    Afterwards a post on the Republic website concluded:    ”(Royston Jones was) awarded … that week’s Full of Shit award.

    "It was well merited (as this was a) primitive attitude to disabled people.”

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    After the award it was revealed by Wales Eye (see ) the ‘Jac o’ the North’ website is now under investigation by another police force for possible breaches in the laws on incitement to racial hatred. 

    An earlier blog post resulted in him being shut down.

    Mr Jones said:  "My first blog was closed down … 

    "My current hosting arrangement makes it more difficult for such pressure to be applied.

    "Which is why I’m wondering if WalesEye is allowing itself to be used as a cat’s-paw by more sinister elements hoping to close down dissenting voices".

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     As one commentator who has closely scrutinised the work of Royston Jones told Wales Eye:  "This is the poisonous bile of a conservative - with a small ‘c’ - nationalist."

    Even so he does have his supporters while Wales Eye stand accused of being  "un-Welsh".

    A writer on the blog Y Cneifwr said:  

    "It (Wales Eyeset out with the aim of being a sort of Welsh Private Eye, combining satire with investigative journalism, but there has always been something deeply puzzling and rather un-Welsh about it from the start.

    I like Jac.

    "To me, and I suspect some other Welsh bloggers, Jac is the black sheep uncle your mother and aunts hope won’t show up at the wedding, but you know he will liven things up.

    Wales Eye have carried pieces from leading figures in all political parties and criticised the policies of them all.

    Last month we revealed the link between a leading Welsh Labour MP and a ‘glamour’ photographer (see )

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    But the Y Cyneifwr writer remains convinced Wales Eye are a secret vehicle for a political party.

    He said:  “I used to think that WalesEye was run out of Labour’s spin machine in Cardiff, but perhaps it is really a Ukip front.

    "Either way, it’s hard to tell the difference"

    In this case it seems ‘livening things up’ may have resulted in death threats, slashed car tyres, and a bungled police investigation, while "deeply puzzling" and being "un-Welsh" remain the blog’s key criticisms of Wales Eye.

    Meanwhile, Jacques Protic believes the articles about him on the Jac o’ the North website and the police inquiry which followed, could have been prompted by his public views on Welsh language education

    Mr Protic is concerned by what he believes are the extremely bad effects.

    He said:  ”I simply could not ignore the deceit applied by the Welsh government in imposing Welsh language that was damaging children and effectively stealing their future from them.

    "I expected support from North Wales Police after what happened to me but I didn’t get it."

    Freedom of expression in an open society is important.

    But the importance is cast in a different light if it leads to a campaign of harassment and a botched police inquiry.

     
  8. 00:30 9th Sep 2014

    Notes: 2

    Tags: comment

    Wetweatherland

    The British are world-renowned for an obsession with the weather.

    But this talking-point has now become a central plank for complaints about the Welsh television programme Y Gwyll/Hinterland - it is simply set in the wrong weather conditions, according to some viewers.

    The dark and brooding Welsh TV drama is hotly-tipped to add to its tally of trophies by winning a BAFTA Cymru award, and is leading the field with nine nominations.

    But families around Aberystwyth where it is set are apparently less pleased.

    The "bleak and depressing" programme gives a false impression of mid Wales, and could be improved by showing sunny days, says one.

    The letters pages of local newspapers in the area are full of concerns about the show, and the bad impact it has on business in the town and the surrounding countryside.

    image

    Why cannot programme-makers show the area in good weather, asks one viewer?

    The beautiful views are in fact "corpse-free" states a letter.

    But Ceredigion council also get a battering for putting £150,000 into the drama while cutting the same amount from their CCTV budget.

    Marilyn Jones of Aberystwyth says Hinterland is "depressing and detrimental to the tourist industry."

    She adds:  "Perhaps a condition of the £150,000 possible funding should be that some of the programmes - especially those showing tourist attractions - should be in brighter, or dare I say sunny weather."

    image

    Hinterland, starring Richard Harrington, has been filmed ‘back-to-back’ in both Welsh and English and has been shown on S4C and the BBC.

    It aims to do for mid Wales what Wallander has done for south Sweden and The Killing did for Copenhagen.

    The programme has already won a prestigious ‘Golden Eagle Award’ for television fiction, and is on course to win even more honours at the BAFTA Cymru night on October 26.

    But these awards do not impress viewers in the Aberystwyth area.

                            image

    The programme’s grim storylines are just not good for business, according to local people.

    Kate Skalka of Llanrhystud says the show is "morbid" and "excessively violent".

    She writes:  "There’s more to do in Aberystwyth than sitting about of an evening yanking Granny’s teeth out!"

    One viewer combines his complaint about the programme with his concerns about the BBC {which partly funds S4C, the makers of Hinterland) 

    He describes the BBC as indulging in "overkill" by sending large numbers of staff to overseas events, all paid for by the licence fee-payer.

    But Brian Jones of Aberystwyth, appears to come to the defence of Ceredigion council.

    He writes:  (The) BBC can afford to send dozen of staff for overkill coverage of anything abroad, yet in hard economic times for local authorities they expect to scrounge £150,000 off them.”

    But the programme does have its admirers, although the comments come laced with irony.

    Barrie Lynn of Aberwystwth writes:  "As a fan of TV’s Hinterland I was pleased to see that Ceredigion Council can afford to contribute £150,000 to the filming of the new series whilst coping with cuts of £11m next year.”

    But most views concern the image of mid Wales.

    Pity about the weather.

     

     
  9. For the Tories a time of growth

    Overheard in Cardiff bay by Brenig Davies - the leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies talking to his assembly members about the election. 

    We publish it with the following statement on the advice of one of our readers, a writer on the blog Y Cneifiwr:

    "This is a hilarious satirical piece which you will find very funny.            If you don’t expect to hear from our lawyers."


    "We all know that the next Welsh assembly ELECTION will soon be upon us.

    "In fact it is MAY 5 2016.

    "Unfortunately from my point of view it is right in the middle of the SOWING season for my cabbages.

    "Putting the season to one side, this means that we are entering what could well be our final phase of OPPOSITION.

    "Er, just a minute while I think about that.

    "Anyway, to continue, there is much to be learned from our long period of OPPOSITION.

    "We should be proud that we have been in OPPOSITION longer than any other Welsh party.

    image

    "Yes I know I’m SHOUTING a bit, but I can’t help it.

    "As I was saying, we must build on our huge success and continue to secure our present POSITION.

    "Much is at stake.

    "The POLICY we announced last year on grammar schools is already gaining tractor, er, traction.

    "During this final year I will set a ROARING example I would like you all to follow.

    "You will never find me being QUIET on any issue.

    "Working together like a team of plough horses will be the ESSENCE of our approach.

    "We have so much experience of reforming harmonious groups (whispered from the side - “please don’t mention the sackings, RT”).

    "It could be a GAME-CHANGER with the voters.

    image

    "You may have heard that I am a FARMER.

    "As a farmer I know we must leave no STONE unturned in the field of party politics. 

    "We must SHOUT our message but keep it SIMPLE.

    "Together we will sow the seeds of an economic recovery in Wales.

    "We must learn to BROADCAST our huge success from every hill-top.

    "There is no room for subtlety when canvassing on the door-step or at the garden gate.

    "At all times we must be STRAIGHT-FORWARD.

    "Keep a straight furrow so to speak.

    "As we begin our preparations for GOVERNMENT, our aim must be growth throughout all seasons.

    "Let me emphasise the importance of continually disabusing the voters, at every street corner and in every Welsh market town, that we are just a ONE-TRICK PONY with the publicity given to our grammar school policy… farming in Wales…er, sorry, didn’t mean to say that.

    "We have many, many policies to attract voters.

    "Finally, as your LEADER, I will be the only red face - sorry blue face - on television.

    "You have a critical role in writing  to your local paper explaining our GRAMMAR SCHOOL POLICY.

    "Finally, er, I’ve said that before haven’t I? 

    "My motto is follow RT - follow ME into power”.

    Next week Brenig Davies overhears a talk by Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood to her assembly members about the election.

     
  10. Lesson for life

    A senior politician has called for the leader of her local council to consider resigning after a series of scandals, it has emerged.

    The demand by Janet Finch-Saunders the Conservative spokesperson in the assembly on local government came after criticism of Conwy council’s corporate governance and large overspends, despite the authority admitting earlier they had been taught a "harsh lesson".

    Last year the council said a £4 million scheme to build a key bridge into Llandudno had gone overbudget by a million pounds.

    In May 2013 the council said they had learned from the experience but admitted they could not guarantee a similar controversy would not erupt again, following revelations of the overspend on the Maesdu road bridge.

    image

    The council’s chief executive Iwan Davies said at the time:  "The regrettable thing is the amount we spent on consultants.

    "We have learned a harsh lesson."

    But more controversy has followed.

    Two months ago it emerged the cost of refitting a ‘celebrity chef bistro’ in a watersports facility called Porth Eirias was about £350,000.

    A request under the Freedom of Information Act was submitted but it was revealed a report on the cost of the refit was exempt from the public on grounds of "commercial interest".

    The report was only made public when it was presented to the council’s cabinet in August.

    Further controversy has been generated by the level of income the watersports facility generates.

    It has been reported that Colwyn Bay Watersports, the only tenant, paid just £1,500 of rent to Conwy Council.

    Clwyd West MP, and former Welsh secretary, David Jones said: “People need to be assured that money is being wisely spent, which is why the council discussions should take place in public.”

    image

    Now the assembly member for the area, Ms Finch-Saunders, has said procurement processes are "opaque" and those responsible should consider their positions.

    There is considerable local concern over the way business is conducted by those leading this council,” she said.

    "I would seriously be asking the leader of the council, Councillor Dilwyn Roberts to consider his position, along with the responsible cabinet member, Councillor Michael Priestley."

    Perhaps calls to resign are another harsh lesson for Conwy council.