Plaid's Manefesto

Plaid Cymru launched its Assembly Manifesto yesterday, the first of the political parties to do so. As the parties launch their manifestos one would expect, in a mature democracy, for the political debate on the policies to begin. I have been rather disappointed by the reaction so far.

Nick Bourne for the Conservatives dismisses Plaid's manifesto as the Biggest Wish List in History. Professor Bourne, obviously, doesn't have children and doesn't know how long a letter to Father Christmas can be. Much longer than the 36 (illustrated) pages of the Plaid Manifesto I can assure him! Plaid's wish list actually only contains seven wishes, which comes to fewer than two wishes per year for the term of the next Assembly Government. I would have thought that a much more valid criticism of this manifesto is that it is too light.

Plaid's seven wishes cover a number of important points. Reducing energy use, affordable childcare, giving schoolchildren a technological advantage in a technological world market, student debt, housing, business taxes and community health services. I hope that the Conservatives too have wishes on all of these issues - if they don't they don't deserve a single Welsh vote.

Labour's response to Plaid's manifesto was typical. The sums don't add up. Coming from the Labour Party this is a bit rich. In their 2003 manifesto Labour promised free home care for every disabled person in Wales and free breakfasts for all children in Wales - they discovered that they were unable to afford these promises and reneged on both of them. Their 2003 manifesto didn't add up, so can their opinion on the sums on any party's policies (not least their own) be trusted?

The trouble with budgetary arguments is that national budgets deal in sums that the ordinary voter can't be expected to be familiar with. A million pounds for policy x seems like a hell of a lot to me in comparison to the price of tea bags. I don't know what a billion is - is it a thousand million or a million million? (My dictionaries give different definitions).

Wouldn't it be better to discuss what Wales needs? And if the Assembly budget can't meet those needs (such as the need for Labour's policy to support carers) to criticise those who leave Wales without the means to fulfil its needs - like the London Labour Government that left two of Welsh Labour's flagship policies of 2003 in the lurch?

The most damming condemnation of Plaid's Manifesto, born out of a deep political analysis of the needs of the people of Wales, however, comes from Liberal Democrat Jenny Randerson who says:

This is a manifesto without substance. It covers 36 pages, but many of those are pictures of models. Are they too embarrassed of their candidates to show people what they look like?

So the Lib Dem response to Plaid's Manifesto is we don't like the pictures

I am not a member of Plaid or any other party. Many of Plaid's seven keynote policies raise question of debate that I would like to see discussed before deciding how to cast my vote.

Will laptops give our children a technological advantage or will they put our children in danger of internet abuse?

Will the £5,000 grant for first time buyers enable more people to buy a house or just add £5K on house inflation?

Are long term targets for energy efficiency valid - wouldn't a guarantee of short term targets say 1% within 6 months 5% within two years be a better measurements by which to judge the efficiency of energy reduction policies? etc

Plaid's Manifesto raises a number of issues that need debating, sensibly, in Wales. As the other parties reveal their manifestos other worthwhile issues will be raised.

Wouldn't it be better if Wales could actually discus these issues sensibly, rather than continuing with petty party based slanging matches?


Ireland 3 - Wales 0

Not only is Wales deprived of being able to field its own team in the Cricket World Cup and the Olympic Games, as Ireland is, it appears that we are excluded from another world stage by not having our own Defence Forces.

Defence Forces Soccer defeat Italian Army 3-0

Irish Defence Forces 3 - Italian Army 0

In a fantastic victory the Defence Forces soccer team overcame a strong Italian Army team today at Home Farm FC. This historic 3-0 victory means the Defence Forces soccer team qualify for the first time for the World Military Games Finals to be held in India in October 2007.

Ireland led 2-0 at half time with goals from Philip Gorman and Thomas Hughes and another shot hitting the crossbar. The third goal came from Alan Corboy in the second half for the Irish to seal a great victory. The Italians had three shots on goal throughout the match and were surprised to have lost as they were considered the favourites for the European slot for the World Military Games.

This is the first time the Defence Forces soccer team entered the competition and are delighted to qualify for the Councel Internationale du Sport Military (CISM) World Military Games. 127 nations are members of this sporting alliance and compete in a vast array of sports.

Soccer was one of the first sports to be played in CISM competition since its foundation in 1948.


Political Party Funding

I give a very lukewarm welcome to Sir Hayden Phillips' suggestions about political party funding.

I accept the suggestion that there should be a cap on the maximum that any individual should be able to donate to a party.

In 1997 there was a suggestion that formula one racing was exempted from the ban on tobacco companies sponsoring sporting events as a result of a million being given by Bernie Ecclestone to Labour. The enquiry into cash for honours is still on going. Even if these accusations are unfounded the perception that donations buy influence is a good enough reason to prohibit large donations.

What I find unacceptable in Sir Hayden's recommendations is the idea that the shortfall in donations caused by the loss of the big givers should be compensated for by paying the political parties up to £23 million from taxation. £23 million is chickenfeed in comparison to the overall tax budget, but still, like all taxes it is money raised from individual taxpayers. Is it right to ask individual taxpayers to contribute from their earnings towards a political party that they abhor? I certainly don't want a penny of my earnings donated to the Labour Party and I would be sickened by the thought that even the slightest fraction of a penny of my money was to be given to the BNP. But this is what will happen if taxpayers are forced to finance political parties.

One of the reasons why the parties have been chasing the big money is because it is a lot easier to get 5 million from one individual than it is to get a fiver from a million individuals. But ensuring that the political parties have to chase the fivers would do much to re-connect the masses with the political process.

When I first became interested in politics garden parties, coffee mornings and jumble sales were an essential part of raising money for the cause. In those days the local candidate had to be present in each and every such fund-raising activity - this made the candidate more accessible to, and more accountable to, the people who organised and supported those activities. The opinions of the people who supported and organised those activities was also important and in being important influential.

I agree with capping donations, but I would much prefer to see politicians going back to the old system where they had to persuade me to support them financially rather than being forced to give them that financial support through my tax bill.

Cymraeg Hen Rech Flin: Ariannu Pleidiau Gwleidyddol


Plaid's Laptop

When I first heard of Plaid's policy of giving Laptops to all Welsh schoolchildren, my knee jerk reaction was the same as Peter Black's Having had time to reflect I have changed my mind

When I was in school, many moons ago, there were no computers. We had dictionaries and like most teenage boys I use to engage in the thrill of looking up dirty words in them; we had biology text books and like most teenage boys I use to ogle at the pictures in the reproductive chapters, my schoolmates and I even use to search out the lurid bits in the Bible during RE lessons. Nobody suggested banning schoolchildren from owning books in those days because hormonally driven teenagers abused the books they had.

A side effect of abusing books for teenage pleasures is that, in my dotage, I can now use dictionaries and textbooks with ease and I have a good knowledge of the Bible.

Computers, for better or for worse, are going to play an essential part in our children's lives. If they are going to succeed in life then they must have the best computer skills that our educational system can offer them.

Yes! There are dangers in Plaid's Laptop Computer scheme. Yes! Children being children, will abuse their laptops, but a Luddite reaction to Plaid's policy will put our children at a disadvantage as the world grows to depend more and more on computer technology. The best approach is to embrace Plaid's policy of enabling Welsh children to be at the forefront of computer knowledge by giving them an individual laptop, whilst also ensuring that they learn well the dangers as well as the benefits that computers can bring.

Cymraeg Hen Rech Flin: Cliniaduron y Blaid


Light and Deafness

The Australian Conservative Government has already announced that it is to make incandescent bulbs (the old fashioned type bulb) illegal. A National Assembly Government wouldn't have the right to follow Australia's example, but the Welsh Conservatives have announced a policy that follows the same path, by offering to swap incandescent bulbs for low energy versions.

This Conservative policy in Wales and Australia is welcome, as is any practical policy towards tackling global warming. But, I have a personal difficulty arising from the policy.

I am extremely hard of hearing; I use a loop system to hear my television, radio and phone. Low energy light bulbs make a buzz on the loop that makes it impossible to use. My doorbell, my fire alarm, my telephone ringer and my alarm clock all make the lights in my house flash, but not if I use low energy light bulbs.

In welcoming any policy that helps reduce global warming, I would like to have an assurance from those who promote the use of low energy light bulbs that they are also encouraging research that will ensure that deaf and hard of hearing people will not be deprived of a full and safe life as incandescent bulbs are fazed out.

Cymraeg Hen Rech Flin: Goleuni a byddardod

Selling the Goods

For all his faults one has to admit that Rhodri Morgan is always an entertaining speaker. I have heard Ieuan Wyn, Nick Bourne and Mike German speak recently; all three are bloody boring in their delivery.

Nick Bourne's speech to the Conservative Conference last weekend was a perfect example of a man who had something worth saying, but who didn't have they ability to say it in a way that was worth listening to.

Good products are only half the marketing battle; good salesmen are the other half. The three opposition parties have the goods, but they definitely don't have the salesmen

Cymraeg Hen Rech Flin: Gwerthu'r Nwyddau