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Climb every mountain

Betsan Powys | 19:23 UK time, Tuesday, 19 January 2010

A few years ago, when Lord Glentoran was made Conservative spokesman on Wales in the House of Lords he infamously and very honestly admitted that "I know nothing about the politics but I know quite a lot about the geography having climbed most of the mountains".

One of the events I missed last week while up a mountain myself was the unveiling of the new Conservative candidate in Ynys Mon. Trefor Jones - if you remember - withdrew his candidacy before Christmas. Anthony Ridge-Newman, his replacement, is a Surrey councillor but in true Glentoran tradition wanted it known that he "is proud of the fact that he has climbed Mount Snowdon, not once but twice!"

I've not been up a mountain this week, rather sitting in a rather isolated conference room, talking. Thankfully the occasional text is allowed. One of those wondered what Prospective Parliamentary Candidates like Mr Ridge-Newman might make of the wording of this memo sent by Conservative Headquarters to all PPCs this morning.

Sent: 19 January 2010 10:17
To: All Battleground Directors; All Campaign Directors; All Regional Directors
Subject: Candidate description

Please note that it has been determined that the agreed candidate description for all parliamentary and local government candidates will be "The Conservative Party Candidate" (Scotland and Wales please ignore)

Welsh Labour reckon they couldn't have put it better themselves.

"What better advice than to ignore Conservative Party candidates in Wales" said a spokesman ... still chuckling and probably painfully aware that while winning Ynys Mon might be too much of a mountain for Mr Ridge-Newman to climb, it won't be a walk in the park for anyone.

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  • 1. At 9:46pm on 19 Jan 2010, Jack_Wilkinson wrote:

    I'm getting heartily sick of this Wales belongs to the proper Welsh nonsense!! It doesn't!! It's like saying that England belongs to the proper English whoever they are?

    How many MPs of Welsh and Scottish heritage are and have been MPs for English constituencies? The only way you could describe the folk of England and Wales is British.

    Imagine the horror and outrage in England, if English Labour, whoever that is? Started calling Labour within England.... 'Explicitly English Patriotic Party'!!! The days of Llafur politicians referring to themselves as Welsh Celts, or Irish-Welsh Celts!!! Is over.

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  • 2. At 10:11pm on 19 Jan 2010, Alan Jones wrote:

    Sorry Jack. That's not how it is any more. Times are changing. Are you ready for the change? People are making a difference. Mr Ridge-Newman may have climbed Snowdon's ridge but will scarcely make a dent in Ynys Mon.

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  • 3. At 10:18pm on 19 Jan 2010, John Henry wrote:

    As Betsan is aware there are significant differences in the way Conservatives refer to the party depending upon which part of the United Kingdom an election is being held ....

    In Scotland it is The Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party (informally the Scottish Conservative Party)

    In Wales it is The Welsh Conservative & Unionist Party (informally the Welsh Conservative Party)


    My question is ... what point is Betsan trying to make, is there a point other than to display an obvious antipathy towards the Conservative party and its supporters.

    Do we look forward to unbiased reporting in the run-up to the General Election I wonder.

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  • 4. At 10:38pm on 19 Jan 2010, Ian wrote:

    Fair play to the Tories. They had a credible candidate, managed to lose him and then paracute in an English man into probably the most 'are you local' constituency in Wales! This is not a slur on Ynys Mon as it has such a strong identity being an island constituency, but they had an out side chance of winning this.
    In fairness to the Surrey Councillor, I believe that his nan is from the Rhondda. That should seal it for him.

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  • 5. At 11:02pm on 19 Jan 2010, Jack_Wilkinson wrote:

    Sorry Jack. That's not how it is any more. Times are changing. Are you ready for the change?

    Sorry Alan, I'm not quite with you, could you tell me how the times are changing? And, what should I be ready for?

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  • 6. At 11:06pm on 19 Jan 2010, Dewi_H wrote:

    "His nan is from the Rhondda" - Nope she's from Pontycymer - he thought that was in the Rhondda....

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  • 7. At 07:42am on 20 Jan 2010, penddu wrote:

    3 Stoney you are wrong. I dont know about Scotland, but the correct official designation in Wales is the Welsh Conservative Party.

    The Unionist bit was dropped years ago as too divisive.

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  • 8. At 08:21am on 20 Jan 2010, John Henry wrote:



    You are wrong penddu, The Welsh Conservative Party is officially the Welsh Conservative & Unionist Party, and is the part of the Conservative Party which operates in Wales.

    There is nothing divisive in the term "Unionist", only to those that would sunder, the nationalists.

    But you change the subject, my observation is related to the tone of a BBC reporter that shows ...

    ...an obvious antipathy towards the Conservative party, does Betsan demonstrate empathy towards Plaid I wonder.

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  • 9. At 09:44am on 20 Jan 2010, CA Jones wrote:

    Re: *8

    Stonemason - you obviously don't do 'subtle'.

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  • 10. At 10:20am on 20 Jan 2010, Bryn_Teilo wrote:

    #8

    Its known as the Conservative and Unionist Party because of its alliance with Joseph Chamberlain's Liberal Unionists in 1886, later merging with them in 1912. The Liberal Unionists were opposed to Irish Home Rule - there's a bit of a contradiction in terms there - 'liberal'- and being opposed to people democratically wanting to be in control of their own destiny. Most of Ireland subsequently achieved Home Rule and more. Is the C & U Party still opposed to it?

    I find the Tories' selection of Trefor Jones' replacement typical of the Party. Only one of its Secretaries of State for Wales has been Welsh, and represented a Welsh constituency. We're in for more of the same, if they get a majority in May. The outlook for Wales is poor, whichever of these self-serving parties is in government.

    The wording would have been more aptly written as, 'Please ignore Scotland and Wales', which is probably what they meant.

    #8

    Watching BBC News this morning at about 7.50... home ownership and affordability was being discussed. The BBC's hack made the all too often mistake of equating England with Britain or the UK - no attempt was made to correct it either. Let's not forget that it is the 'British' Broadcasting Corporation and its coverage of what's happening in Scotland and Wales throughout the UK is pathetically poor, whereas in Scotland and Wales we continually hear about what's happening in England on the UK-wide channels. The implication is that the English are not really interested in what's happening here, but that we are very interested in what's happening there.

    I can't detect any party political bias in the comments of Ms Powys - she takes a knock at all the parties in turn. That's her remit - balance at all costs - its what makes the BBC essentially untrustworthy as its not truly independent of government (in its widest sense) - also true of the other public service broadcasters - their licences insist on maintaining a 'national' balance, which ignores the differences between the four nations.

    The SNP and Plaid are not being allowed to take part in the televised leaders debate, which will be screened in Wales and Scotland even though the political structure is different to that in England. Unionism is entrenched in the system, in the electoral system and in the BBC.

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  • 11. At 10:26am on 20 Jan 2010, penddu wrote:

    8 Stoney - I still think you are wrong but I can not check at the moment as the relevant part of the Conservative website is not working.

    I do not dispute that the party title used to include the Unionist bit, but that this was dropped a few years ago.

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  • 12. At 10:55am on 20 Jan 2010, Nat_very_likely wrote:

    The Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party only came into being in 1965 when the Unionist Party merged with the Conservatives.Prior to that the Unionists had been a separate Scottish Party and although taking the Tory whip in the Commons had strong quasi-Scottish nationalist elements.Devolution was sought by many Unionists and the strong Scottish identity of the party meant it was able to have a majority of Scottish seats in the 1950s.So you see,Labour dominance in Scotland only ran from the sixties until it ended in 2007.

    The London-centric Union Jack waving Thatcher Conservative Party was in stark contrast to the Unionist Party of Alec Douglas-Home and John Buchan and was rightly rejected by the Scots voters.Cameron doesn't seem to have learned the lesson with his NHS election posters in Wales and Scotland.

    Interestingly there have been some stirrings recently in the Scottish Tory ranks of a revival of the old Unionist Party stance with talk of a separate party.

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  • 13. At 11:23am on 20 Jan 2010, The_Druid wrote:

    For some background on Ridge-Newman's selection, see: http://druidsrevenge.blogspot.com/2010/01/youre-long-way-from-virgina-waters-now.html

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  • 14. At 12:44pm on 20 Jan 2010, gedguy2 wrote:

    # 10 Bryn_Teilo

    If you think that there may be anti Welsh bias in the BBC reporting you should check out what is happening with BBC Scotland. It is blatant anti SNP propaganda and totally behind the Labour party. Scandalous!

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  • 15. At 1:03pm on 20 Jan 2010, Nat_very_likely wrote:

    Gedguy is not exaggerating Bryn.

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  • 16. At 2:17pm on 20 Jan 2010, John Henry wrote:


    Off topic but to pass on to the debaters hereabouts ... The National Assembly have started debating issues at ...

    http://nationalassemblyforwales.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/welsh-honours-petition/

    ... it is being sponsored by The Petitions Committee

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  • 17. At 2:28pm on 20 Jan 2010, Bryn_Teilo wrote:

    #14 & #15

    I can well believe it!

    There is bias. By and large Wales is invisible on the BBC, particularly in its News coverage and on its News Channel. Even a BBC Trust report confirmed it, although very little has been done about it since.

    I read the BBC's Scottish blog regularly. This Wales blog has a small handful of very nasty anti-Wales and anti-Welsh (people and Language) contributors, one or two are worse than neo-conservatives and are imo nothing short of fascists. They rail against the Language incessantly, no matter what the blog topic is about.

    Back to this topic. The Conservative Party is essentially an English party. It has very few MPs from Wales and Scotland. Its a party which wishes to preserve class-based wealth and privilege - which hardly exist in Wales. They've had more electoral support in Wales, simply because the Labour Party has long since deserted its founding principles and millions are disgusted by its leader and the mess the Labour government has created. The gap between rich and poor has widened under both parties. The undemocratic two-party electoral system in Westminster drives many to vote for the only alternative which the system allows.

    Thankfully, both Wales and Scotland can opt out of the dreadful English-dominated Westminster system, and the mess it has made of the UK. The SNP government in Scotland has been a breath of fresh air, and opposition to it in Westminster, the media and the press, is a sign that they are afraid of Salmond and his party.

    Sadly, Plaid has made the mistake of supporting a failed Labour party in the Assembly, and they are paying the electoral price for it. I fear that worse is to come for them in the GE. IWJ did it in order to get a referendum. IF there is one, and IF it succeeds, then Wales will still have an Assembly which falls far short of the powers of the Scottish Parliament. I don't think it was a price worth paying for Plaid. They would have been better to have kept their hands clean, and built more electoral support instead. Many people in Wales want a proper parliament which has the powers to make Wales a better place for all its people, not a shoddy weak half-way house.

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  • 18. At 4:59pm on 20 Jan 2010, Neocromwellian wrote:


    I am also concerned about the lack of coverage on BBC News and other news channels of Welsh issues and politics. It seems they have also received a memo that says (Scotland and Wales please ignore)

    In many ways its a double edged sword in that the good bits get ignored while issues of social injustice and maladministration fail to get the oxygen of publicity.

    If the same things happened in England the press would quite rightly be after blood, its all part of the scrutiny process to create a sense of balance. Moreover the best deterrent against wrongdoing is the likelihood of being caught.

    This creates a holier than thou attitude that Welsh politics is cleaner than Westminster, but because of the lack of press coverage this has to be balanced by probability that Welsh politicians are less likely to get caught.

    Openness and transparency safeguards us all irrespective of our political views or aspirations on self determination.

    Its sad that some of us have to us this blog to bring issues to light in the public interest only to be lambasted for being anti Welsh.

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  • 19. At 6:55pm on 20 Jan 2010, gedguy2 wrote:

    # 17 Bryn_Teilo &
    # 18 Neocromwellian

    The only way that we have been able to counter the blatant propaganda of the Scottish media on 'Blether with Brian' is to counter the Unionists claims with facts, which is something that Westminster have been frightened of supplying, in case the regions(?)(Scotland & Wales)realise that the lies they have been issuing for decades may cause such a storm that the people will vote for the break up of the UK into its constituent parts. It is not up to me, as I am not Welsh, to tell the Welsh people what they must do, I can only advise you to counter lies with facts and leave it to the good people of Wales to decide.

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  • 20. At 07:28am on 21 Jan 2010, plaidman wrote:

    The real issue, of course, is to explain why the Tories have evidently given up the ghost on a seat that they have in the past held, and dreamt of retaking.

    Is this selection a sign that they have calculated that they should allow Plaid to have a free tilt at depriving Labour of another seat?

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  • 21. At 07:32am on 21 Jan 2010, plaidman wrote:

    #18 Neocromwellian

    Welsh politics IS cleaner than Westminster politics.

    I think that was clearly established by the recent expenses scandal and also the ongoing Iraq enquiry.

    Fair play.

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  • 22. At 08:07am on 21 Jan 2010, John Henry wrote:


    Plaidman observes that "Welsh politics IS cleaner than Westminster politics."

    .... or is a lot more secretive, much goes on behind closed doors that should be in the public domain.

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  • 23. At 10:19am on 21 Jan 2010, comeoffit wrote:

    very true Stonemason. Also, Westminster is up against a critical media which exposes their mistakes. This media would rip Welsh politics to pieces given half the chance!

    Can you imagine Ieaun Wyn Jones on Channel 4 news being interviewed by Jon Snow when he was trying to hide that Transport document from the public domain! IWJ blood would have been all over the floor.... but of course here in Wales, BBC Cymru and ITV's 'the blunt end' barely even covered the story. One word sums up being a politician in Cardiff Bay... "Cushty"

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  • 24. At 11:14am on 21 Jan 2010, Nat_very_likely wrote:

    23. comeoffit
    "Also,Westminster is up against a critical media which exposes their mistakes."

    The media is now just a news factory with far too few journalists to do the work.No time to do in-depth reporting or even check facts.All to save on costs so the shareholders dividends won't be affected.Their dividends are starting to be affected now though as newspapers are going down the tubes.Fewer and fewer people trusting what they read as they know the papers are just cutting and pasting press releases written by PR firms.The papers and TV news people just following the stories put out by the news agencies who are themselves very understaffed with little time to check.So the agencies themselves like PA just take press releases and regurgitate them.

    The Telegraph did a good job in exposing the MPs expenses scam.The trouble with it though is that it may have given people the false perception that the media is on the ball.Apart from the expenses row the media gives Westminster politicians a relatively easy ride.Not necessarily through choice.A lot of journalists would love to have the time to do their jobs properly.

    You mentioned Jon Snow and Channel 4 News comeoffit.A good programme but very much the exception and not with a big audience.The rest of TV news is just part of the news factory system.

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  • 25. At 1:18pm on 21 Jan 2010, jacothenorth wrote:

    Jack Wilkinson never misses the opportunity of denying the existence of a Welsh nation; in fact, it seems to be all he's ever got to say.

    So he argues that we're all British and so it doesn't matter where political candidates come from. Wrong. The truth is that EVERYWHERE people would like the politician representing them to know something about the area he or she is representing. This even applies in his beloved England when people object to the major parties 'parachuting' favoured candidates into safe seats.

    And in the USA, where Obama has just suffered a setback in Massachusetts - but would it have happened if the Republican candidate had been from Alabama? Or how would the voters of Alabama take to a Yankee candidate?

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  • 26. At 5:40pm on 21 Jan 2010, Lyn David Thomas wrote:

    Interestingly enough of course the Liberal Unionists were against the plans of Gladstone, but supported a scheme of devolution all round. In this scheme the four Nations of the UK would have got "Grand Councils" to look after local affairs. Much weaker than the proposed Irish Parliament but part of a devolutionary package all round.

    The National Assembly has been far more open than Westminster, that is clearly the case - as has the Welsh Government. The fact that a minister declined to release information was news worthy in Wales because of its rarity, at Westminster its a near daily occurrence.

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