Who will Rhodri share his new toys with?

Labour may be feeling gloomy about the Scottish elections but in Wales it's a rather different story

THE prospect of a Scottish showdown between Gordon Brown and Alex Salmond has, understandably, prompted acres of excitable newspaper coverage south of the border, but 200 miles west of Whitehall another election contest has been meandering along, almost un-noticed.

Anyone who has followed the Scottish campaign, will, if they suddenly switch their attention to the Welsh Assembly poll, immediately recognised the carefully, complex choreography that the party leaders are engaged in. In Wales, as in Scotland, coalition politics is here to stay, and who’s flirting with whom is a key theme of the election.

There’s one key difference between these Celtic elections, though – in Wales there is no prospect of anyone other than Labour, led by the idiosyncratic but popular Rhodri Morgan, being the largest party.

They currently hold 29 of the 60 seats, and most pundits, me included, expected them to get 24-25 this time around.

That means deals need to be done when the results are in. Most likely is a Lab-Lib coalition, although the prospect of a Lab-Plaid Cymru arrangement has also been floated, sending sparks flying within both parties. An outside bet is a Plaid-Tory-Lib Dem coalition, which would represent a political earthquake requiring a new scale to measure it.

The prospect of the Tories in Government, albeit working with others, has been used by Labour to try to frighten its core voters into turning up on May 3. Plaid have thrown a spanner in the works, however, by insisting they wouldn’t serve as a junior partner to the Tories.

The fight for second place, therefore, takes on added significance. Early polls pointed to a Tory revival, with a mix of the Cameron effect and the Welsh Tories’ re-positioning as a pro-devolution party helping to put them ahead of Plaid. But more recent surveys show Plaid – who, for once, have some money to burn – back ahead.

All this coalition talk risks turning off voters, of course - after all, likes being taken for granted. Despite their habit of telling pollsters they do like devolution, only 38% of Welsh people turned out to vote in 2003. This year the figure may creep up, but not by much.

Surveying the scene on May 4 will be Mr Morgan, the Labour leader who has been left largely to do his own thing in office, and his own thing in the campaign. A long-standing proponent of a Scottish-style parliament, he’ll have more powers in a new, half-way house system after the election. But who’ll he choose to share his new toys with? We’ll have to wait and see.

Tomos Livingstone is Political Editor of the Western Mail. Raised in Pembrokeshire he studied at LSE before going into journalism.
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Why is it called Storm Doris? The psychological impact of naming a storm

“Homes being destroyed and lives being lost shouldn’t be named after any person.”

“Oh, piss off Doris,” cried the nation in unison this morning. No, it wasn't that everyone's local cantankerous old lady had thwacked our ankles with her stick. This is a different, more aggressive Doris. Less Werther’s, more extreme weathers. Less bridge club, more bridge collapse.

This is Storm Doris.

A storm that has brought snow, rain, and furious winds up to 94mph to parts of the UK. There are severe weather warnings of wind, snow and ice across the entire country.

But the real question here is: why is it called that? And what impact does the new Met Office policy of naming storms have on us?

Why do we name storms?

Storm Doris is the latest protagonist in the Met Office’s decision to name storms, a pilot scheme introduced in winter 2015/16 now in its second year.

The scheme was introduced to draw attention to severe weather conditions in Britain, and raise awareness of how to prepare for them.

How do we name storms?

The Name our Storms initiative invites the public to suggest names for storms. You can do this by tweeting the @metoffice using the #nameourstorms hashtag and your suggestion, through its Facebook page, or by emailing them.

These names are collated along with suggestions from Met Éireann and compiled into a list. These are whittled down into 21 names, according to which were most suggested – in alphabetical order and alternating between male and female names. This is done according to the US National Hurricane Naming convention, which excludes the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z because there are thought to be too few common names beginning with these letters.

They have to be human names, which is why suggestions in this list revealed by Wired – including Apocalypse, Gnasher, Megatron, In A Teacup (or Ena Tee Cup) – were rejected. The Met Office received 10,000 submissions for the 2016/17 season. According to a spokesperson, a lot of people submit their own names.

Only storms that could have a “medium” or “high” wind impact in the UK and Ireland are named. If there are more than 21 storms in a year, then the naming system starts from Alpha and goes through the Greek alphabet.

The names for this year are: Angus (19-20 Nov ’16), Barbara (23-24 Dec 2016), Conor (25-26 Dec 2016), Doris (now), Ewan, Fleur, Gabriel, Holly, Ivor, Jacqui, Kamil, Louise, Malcolm, Natalie, Oisín, Penelope, Robert, Susan, Thomas, Valerie and Wilbert.

Why does this violent storm have the name of an elderly lady?

Doris is an incongruous name for this storm, so why was it chosen? A Met Office spokesperson says they were just at that stage in their list of names, and there’s no link between the nature of the storm and its name.

But do people send cosy names for violent weather conditions on purpose? “There’s all sorts in there,” a spokesperson tells me. “People don’t try and use cosy names as such.”

What psychological impact does naming storms have on us?

We know that giving names to objects and animals immediately gives us a human connection with them. That’s why we name things we feel close to: a pet owner names their cat, a sailor names their boat, a bore names their car. We even name our virtual assistants –from Microsoft’s Clippy to Amazon’s Alexa.

This gives us a connection beyond practicality with the thing we’ve named.

Remember the response of Walter Palmer, the guy who killed Cecil the Lion? “If I had known this lion had a name and was important to the country or a study, obviously I wouldn’t have taken it,” he said. “Nobody in our hunting party knew before or after the name of this lion.”

So how does giving a storm a name change our attitude towards it?

Evidence suggests that we take it more seriously – or at least pay closer attention. A YouGov survey following the first seven named storms in the Met Office’s scheme shows that 55 per cent of the people polled took measures to prepare for wild weather after hearing that the oncoming storm had been named.

“There was an immediate acceptance of the storm names through all media,” said Gerald Fleming, Head of Forecasting at Met Éireann, the Irish metereological service. “The severe weather messages were more clearly communicated.”

But personalising a storm can backfire. A controversial US study in 2014 by PNAC (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) claimed that hurricanes with female names lead to higher death tolls – the more “feminine” the name, like Belle or Cindy, the higher the death toll. This is not because female names are attached to more severe storms; it is reportedly because people take fewer steps to prepare for storms with names they perceive to be unintimidating or weak.

“In judging the intensity of a storm, people appear to be applying their beliefs about how men and women behave,” Sharon Shavitt, a co-author of the study, told the FT at the time. “This makes a female-named hurricane . . . seem gentler and less violent.”

Names have social connotations, and affect our subconscious. Naming a storm can raise awareness of it, but it can also affect our behaviour towards it.

What’s it like sharing a name with a deadly storm?

We should also spare a thought for the impact sharing a name with a notorious weather event can have on a person. Katrina Nicholson, a nurse who lives in Glasgow, says it was “horrible” when the 2005 hurricane – one of the fifth deadliest ever in the US – was given her name.

“It was horrible having something so destructive associated with my name. Homes being destroyed and lives being lost shouldn’t be named after any person,” she tells me over email. “I actually remember at the time meeting an American tourist on a boat trip in Skye and when he heard my name he immediately linked it to the storm – although he quickly felt guilty and then said it was a lovely name! I think to this day there will be many Americans who hate my name because of it.”

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.