I am suffering major internet connection problems at the moment. Apparently my former ISP has given me the wrong MAC code, which is making it difficult for my new ISP to connect me to broadband. Whilst awaiting a resolution to this problem my only home internet access is through an extortionately expensive pay as you go service (6p per minute!!!).

So posts will be few and far between until this problem is resolved. I hope that the problem is solved soon and that my readers don't suffer too many withdrawal symptoms by being deprived of a regular dose of my pearls of wisdom


England or South Africa?

I am not very interested in sports. I have never quite understood the significance of the fact that my country is better than your country because a dozen or so of my compatriots can kick, throw, head or bat a ball better than a dozen or so of your compatriots.

Having said that I am aware of how politically significant 1966 was. 1966 was important not just because England won the football World Cup, but that it was won by beating Germany. It was the real end of the two world wars. Had England won in 66 by beating France, Brazil, Sweden or Argentina, it wouldn't have been half as significant an event as beating Germany was.

Every England supporter over the age of 21 had been born during or before the war. They had known the feeling that England had won the wars in theory but had lost out in practice. 1966 proved that England WAS better than Germany.

1966 was also important because it showed that England was a nation and not an euphemism for Britain as had been the case before. England beat the Fritz, alone in 66, without the help of Scotland, Wales or the Irish Unionists.

England won the rugby World Cup in 2003. England has probably more than a 50/50 chance of being the first country to win the cup twice in a row, but even two rugby World Cups wont add up to the significance of 1966.

But yet the thought that England might win is enough to send some of my sport loving acquaintances into fits of apoplexy - including those who claim to consider themselves to be more British than Welsh, they will be shouting for South Africa on Saturday rather than our neighbours who share this island with us. Why?

Gwe, Ceredig and Normal have written about British / Welsh identity recently and have all claimed that a dual identity is possible. Can they explain how this dual Welsh / British identity can also be so anti English?

I have little interest in the outcomes of sporting events, but as a quarter of my ancestry is English and none is South African, I wish England all the best for Saturday.

Which team will other Welsh bloggers support: England or South Africa? Let me know who and why in the comments


More on independence and devolution

There has been an interesting response to my previous post. A number of respondents take issue with my claim that devolution is designed to slow down or stop the nationalist movement. They claim that devolution is a process that will inevitably lead to independence. I am deluded for believing that campaigning for devolution harms the campaign for independence; Plaid, on the other hand is pragmatic in following a route of ever enhancing devolution.

There is no doubt, whatsoever that devolution is an ideology invented by unionists, proposed by unionists and delivered by unionists. The idea that people committed to the union; Ron Davies, Leighton Andrews, Rhodri Morgan, Peter Hain and thousands of other devolution supporters; are deluded fools who were duped into supporting independence without realising it is totally ludicrous. These people support devolution because they believe that devolution will preserve and strengthen the union.

Of course Plaid could be right. It is certainly within the bounds of possibility that as devolution progresses people might see the Government of Wales as increasingly more relevant to their lives and the Westminster government increasingly less relevant. In time we might evolve to a situation where the people of Wales think that Westminster is so irrelevant that we may as well cut that level of government out altogether.

Where I think that Plaid is terribly mistaken is in its decision to campaign for this evolutionary model. Because such a campaign is counter-productive rather than pragmatic.

Firstly. Unionists are not going to support further devolution if they believe that it will lead to independence. If Plaid supporters claim, as they do, that granting "Scottish type powers" to the Assembly is the next step on the road to independence then they will ensure that the current unionist majority in Wales will vote against any such proposal in parliament and in a referendum.

Secondly. Whereas Plaid is correct in saying that devolution is often offered in response to nationalist grievances, when this happens it is always as a compromise. The less that is initially agitated for, the lower the compromise will be. By campaigning for less than full independence Plaid is in danger of lowering the compromise threshold, thus slowing down the evolution of devolution.

Thirdly. If independence will come about through the evolution of devolution then Plaid is actually defunct as a party. The Liberal Democrats support a fully Federal Britain; enhanced devolution is Labour Party policy and is supported by many Conservatives. So if independence is the inevitable consequence of devolution one is still supporting the cause of independence by supporting one of these devolutionary parties - there is no need to support Plaid. Which brings me back to my question Why shouldn't I, as a right wing nationalist, vote Conservative rather than Plaid? (And it was a question, incidentally, not a statement of intent).

Saying these things isn't slagging Plaid off for the hell of it, incidentally. I believe that Plaid has an important role in Welsh politics, the role of promoting the nationalist cause. I think that it is a matter of sadness that Plaid hasn't fulfilled this role over the past 18 years because it has been sidelined by the devolution debate into promoting unionist regionalism. A nationalist party should have independence as its primary goal, not as a long-term aspiration. If independence is Plaid's long term aspiration then its short and medium term aspirations MUST be in the union. I may well vote Plaid and support Plaid in future elections but until it makes independence its primary goal I will also continue to criticise the party.


Alan, Plaid and the Union

Alan in Dyfed is clearly a Plaid Cymru sycophant who can't see any fault in his own party.

He has claimed, in many a comment, that I am some sort of a lesser Welshman because I'm not a party member and that those of you who are supporters of other parties are almost beyond redemption unless, of course, you have a change of heart on the road to Llanascus.

Some have suggested that Alan is such a Labour caricature of a Plaid supporter that he can't be true or that he does more harm than good to the party's cause. I disagree, I think that Alan is the true personification of Plaid's problems.

The first problem is the inability to accept that anybody who isn't a member of Plaid has Wales' best interest at heart.

Just before the 1979 devolution referendum I was in Cardiff whilst an international rugby mach was taking place. There were thousands of Welsh fans, people who supported Wales with a passion, who had Vote No stickers on their Welsh scarves. At the time I couldn't understand it; after 28 years of reflection I now realise that they wanted the best for Wales but didn't think that devolution was the best for Wales. They might have been wrong, but they most certainly weren’t anti Welsh - they opposed devolution for patriotic reasons.

Of course Alan is correct in saying that there are members of other parties who are pathologically anti-Welsh, but they are few.

Most people with an interest in Welsh politics want what is best for Wales. The national cause would be best served if nationalists accepted this fact and tried to engage with those who want the best for Wales rather than condemning all opponents as quislings, lackeys and traitors.

The second problem is Plaid's inability to distinguish between devolution and independence. Again we see it in one of Alan's posts. The Conservatives make positive noises about devolution ending with the statement that they are committed to devolution whilst remaining committed to the Union.

Alan sees this as some sort of oxymoron! How can you be committed to both the Union and Devolution? By supporting their commitment to devolution with a commitment to the Union the Tories, according to Alan, deny all that has been aforesaid.

This attitude to devolution, which is rife in Plaid Cymru, either proves that the party is naive or it proves that it is duplicitous. Devolution is a unionist issue. At best devolution slows down any movement towards independence, at worst it kills independence stone dead.

Whilst Plaid Cymru supports enhanced devolution it opposes independence. Whilst Plaid campaigns for Scottish type powers over less than a fifth of Scotland's responsibilities by 2015, Plaid is campaigning against independence, it is campaigning for a unionist agenda, it is behaving like a unionist party.

Now if Plaid is both a Socialist and, practically, a Unionist party, what reason do I have for voting Plaid in the next election? I may as well support the Conservative and Unionist Party! At least I agree with the conservative bit of the Tories' offering whereas I disagree with both Plaid's support for socialism and its support for the unionist trick called devolution.


Own Gaol?

One of the most vociferous proponents for the need of a prison in North Wales when the Welsh Affairs Committee discussed the matter last year was Hywel Williams the MP for Caernarfon. Martin Eaglestone suggests that Hywel is getting cold feet over the proposal having discovered that one of the sites proposed is in his own back yard!

I can understand Hywel's trepidation - I too believe that there should, in theory, be a prison somewhere in the north, but I don’t want an institution full of murderers, rapists and robbers built in my village thank you very much!

Having seen the list of proposed sites, I don’t think that any of them are really suitable. The best of the bunch is Bryn y Neuadd for access purposes. But Bryn y Neuadd is a former hospital for people with learning difficulties. Those of us who have worked in former institutions like Bryn y Neuadd have spent two generations trying to prove that living with a learning difficulty doesn’t equal bad.

Building a new institution for criminals on the site of an old institution for people who use to be derided as subnormal would undo a lot of the work that has been done over the past fifty years into normalising people who live with learning difficulties into mainstream society.

If one considers the needs of an ideal site for a north Wales prison, accessibility to courts, visitors and legal reps; the ability to take prisoners from south Wales and the north West of England to make up the numbers (there aren’t enough baddies in the north to justify an exclusively north Wales prison) etc. The site that stands out (for almost the same reasons) is the former Hotpoint site in Llandudno Junction - earmarked for National Assembly Offices.

How about a compromise, Hywel and Martin - Jail in the Junction and Assembly Offices in Ferodo?

Of course, if Assembly Members or Officials were serious in their desire to see a prison in north Wales they would, themselves, have spotted the Junction site as eminently suitable. The fact that they didn't proposes it as a possibility is proof that the north of Wales will never, ever have its own gaol!


Cash for Peerages - Conviction impossible!

In his most recent blog post Paul Flynn MP makes not one, but two, comments about the House of Commons' Public Affairs Committee's inquiry into Cash for Peerages. Mr Flynn seems to be peeved by the fact that the inquiry actually happened. Indeed he is so irritated by the inquiry that he looks forward to grilling Inspector Yates and giving him a blocking for daring to investigate his honourable friends.

The cash for peerages, Yates of the Yard, will before our committee on the 23rd. The investigation may be over but the niggles linger on.

Some of us are still irritated about the police investigation, dawn raids on witnesses houses, suspiciously timed leaks to the press from mysterious sources, all those arrests with nothing at the end. We look forward to Policemen Yates helping us with our inquiries.

Shame that Mr Flynn failed to mention the exchange between his Labour colleague Gordon Prentice MP and former Tory minister Lord Hurd in the Public Affairs Committee

Mr Prentice suggested to Lord Hurd that it would be virtually impossible to convict under the 1925 Act that outlawed selling peerages, because the police would have to have proof of an explicit agreement between the seller and buyer of peerages, whereas these deals are usually made on a nod and a wink basis - in the same way as a Mafia Godfather might say I will do something for you now, you may be able to do something for me in the future.

Lord Hurd (a published novelist) suggested that he could think of ways that a conviction might be weaved into a novel, but was unable to suggest a real life situation where a conviction could happen!

Rather than being irritated by the fact that Inspector Yates carried out his investigation, perhaps Mr Flynn should be more irritated by the fact that a law is so poorly drafted, that it is impossible to use it to convict anybody for, what is clearly, a corrupt practice hampered Policeman Yates' investigation and allowed the corrupt to get off scott free!


Ann's Sprinklers

In the Assembly yesterday Ann Jones AM had the honour of presenting the first private members proposal for a LCO. She chose a non partisan issue that received the support of the whole Assembly:
for the Assembly to acquire the ability to change building order regulations in order to insist that all new house builds in Wales have a sprinkler system fitted as standard.

Before she became an AM Ann Jones worked for the fire service in Rhyl, so she knows better than any other Welsh politician about the devastation that a house fire can cause to property, people and communities. If a person of Ann's experience says that such a measure can reduce that devastation and save lives then her measure has to be supported.

However chatting to some people last night I found a considerable amount of "concern" amongst ordinary householders about the measure.

Most of us who have smoke detector alarms fitted in our homes have had the experience of false alarms. You know the sort of thing - smoke from a neighbour's garden bonfire wafts through your open window on a summer's day and the alarms go off. - A nuisance but not a big deal. - But a false alarm that dumps gallons of water on your furniture and electric goods would prove very expensive (and make the burnt toast too soggy to scrape the black bits off).

Unless Mrs Jones and the fire service can reassure householders that the risk of false alarms from sprinkler systems are fairly negligible, I don’t see her measure gaining the popular support, outside the Assembly, that it will need to succeed. Can such a reassurance be given?


A dedicated candidate

It may be November 1st, it may be next spring, it might not happen for another year or two, but all party candidates have to behave as if an election is imminent by doing now what all candidates have to do.

Many candidates have started leafleting, attending local bring and buys etc, but can any other candidate rival Glyn Davies' dedication? Not only is Glyn leafleting and pressing the flesh in order to enhance his chances should an election be called soon, he has also started getting practice in for that time honoured candidate's activity of kissing the baby. That's dedication for you!

Llongyfarchiadau mawr Taid!
(And Nain and Dad and, especially, the new Mam of course)

Return of the prodigal

Like most who have an interest in Welsh affairs I was aware of the fact that Dave Collins had been forced to resign by Ann Jones AM because of his Welsh is a brain dead language comment. As much as I vehemently disagreed with Mr Collins' comment I have already stated that putting a young family man on the dole because of such a comment was a gross over reaction by the Labour Party, a party founded to protect the rights of workers.

Today I discovered that Dave wasn't the only employee of an AM to lose his job as a result of the brain dead affair. Apparently Marcus Warner, the author of the Keir Hardly site where Dave Collins' comments were published has also been dismissed by Irene James AM for Islwyn as her press officer/researcher, apparently for an irretrievable breakdown in trust but clearly for hosting the blog on which Mr Collins' unfortunate remarks were published.

I shan't pretend to be Marcus' biggest fan. I disagreed with about 90% of his postings as Keir Hardly and with a similar amount of his other postings as Clear Red Water and Renewed Labour. Marcus has also disagreed with many of my postings on this blog. But as Voltaire (may have) said I disagree with what you have to say but will fight to the death to protect your right to say it. But, of course, Marcus wasn't sacked for what he said, but for what (in effect) somebody said to him!

I am pleased to see that Marcus has returned to the Welsh blogosphere, this time in the guise of Southpaw Grammar.

I wish Marcus all the best and hope that he finds new employment soon, especially as he and his partner are expecting their first child.


Rhodri's Freebies

The last of Dr Richard Wyn Jones (Dicw)'s programmes on Devolution was shown on S4C last night. In the programme Dr Jones looked at some of the successes and failures of Devolution over the past 8 to 10 years.

I agreed with many of Dicw's comments. He said that the Assembly has had more successes than failures in most of its subject areas: health, education, transport, economic regeneration etc., quite right. But I must disagree with him when he claims that it is these successes that have made the idea of an Assembly more popular now than it was 10 years ago.

I went to my boys' school open day yesterday. Things in schools have changed a lot since I was a child in the Heath / Wilson era. The Assembly may have caused many of those changes, but none of the changes that I saw jumped out and bit me as Assembly driven changes.

I was poorly under the doctor when John Redwood was Secretary of State for Wales. I've been poorly under the doctor since the Assembly started too! Things have changed, but to me those changes have been at the doctor's surgery and in the hospital, not in Cardiff Bay.

The Assembly's economic policies have transform employment opportunities in Wales, but I doubt that any unemployed worker who gets a job will offer a big thank you to the Assembly, because s/he realises that it's the Assembly's economic competence that made that job available!

The thing that has put the Assembly on the map, and made it practically relevant to the people of Wales is Rhodri's Freebies.

Of course, from a moral point of view, a super rich pensioner shouldn't have a free bus pass. The children of millionaires shouldn't have free swimming sessions. Billionaires shouldn't have free prescriptions and Trillionaires shouldn't go into our museums without paying a cent. But it is these freebies that have made the Assembly immediately relevant to the people of Wales.

It’s the little freebies rather than the huge changes in health, transport, the economy etc that have made the big difference in attitude to the Assembly.

When Nain (Grandma) visits, because she can - on her free bus pass - that's when my family knows that the Assembly has made a difference!

I can think of a million and one reasons for opposing all of Rhodri's Freebies, but there is little doubt that it is they, more than anything else, that has made devolution relevant to most people in Wales.

Shame that an academic of Dicw's ability failed to recognise this fact in his analysis.


English Votes for English MPs

According to a report in Scotland on Sunday, Gordon Brown and all Scottish MPs will be excluded from voting on England-only laws under radical Conservative plans to be unveiled this week.

Tory leader David Cameron is poised to back a major overhaul of the Westminster system under which all 529 English MPs would meet separately as a "grand committee" to decide on their own legislation. MPs would then be expected to sit out any full vote in the Commons.

It would be up to the Speaker to designate legislation as English-only.

I can understand why the Conservatives are supporting this move. It is clearly wrong that non-English MPs should have undue influence over English affairs that will have no effect on their own constituents.

However there are some major problems with trying to deal with the English Devolution deficit in the way that the Tories propose.

Firstly, of course the current Speaker is a Scot. I can't see many English people being pleased if the decision to designate any issue as an UK or an English one was to be in the hands of a single Scot! (Although I understand that Speaker Martin is standing down at the next election).

More importantly is the position of Wales. Unlike Scotland, Wales doesn’t have legislative devolution - we only have executive devolution. All the Assembly can do is implement and modify laws passed for the whole of England and Wales.

Those things that have, quite understandably, upset English people such as the Assembly voting to abolish prescription charges in Wales at the same time as Welsh Labour MPs were voting to increase prescription charges in England don’t happen by the Assembly passing a Welsh Law. They happen when the Assembly decides to modify the implementation of an England and Wales Law. If the English law didn't exist, the Welsh modification couldn't happen.

So under the Conservative proposal how do the England and Wales Acts that include clauses that allow the Assembly to go its own way get passed? Clearly such laws would not be England only laws so the idea that Welsh MP's should be excluded from voting on them is unacceptable. But if Welsh MPs do take part in passing them we would still have a situation where Welsh MPs would be voting on laws that will be implemented in different ways in both countries, which will not resolve the devolution deficit in England.

Laws passed in Westminster have to be passed by both the Commons and the Lords. Defining what an English MP is is easy, but what is an English Lord? Is Rowan Williams, the Welsh born Primate of all England, an English or a Welsh member of the House of Lords? Or will Scottish Lords still be able to vote on English or England and Wales only laws?

Will English MPs be prohibited from passing reserved power Wales only laws? If not it will be clearly unfair if English MPs can vote on Welsh Laws but English laws can't voted on by Welsh MPs. On the other hand if only Welsh MPs can only vote on Welsh Laws then Wales will end up with two devolved bodies the Assembly and the Welsh Grand Committee, where as the English will only have one again unfair.

The Conservatives are to be congratulated on realising that the devolution deficit in England is a real problem that urgently needs to be address, it’s a shame that they have decided to go for a dog's breakfast of an answer. Surely the sensible answer to the problem would be for England to have its own devolved parliament or assembly.