Arise Sir Alwyn, Knight of St David

I must apologise for the petulant nature of some of my recent posts. I have been rather depressed since New Year. I was sure that Her Majesty would have recognised the huge contribution that I have made to Welsh society in the New Year's Honours list, by being given a gong. I can't understand why I was overlooked again this year!

I am feeling better now, because one of the things that Plaid has gained from its alliance with the Labour Party may be a new Order of Welsh Merit.

Come March next year, I strongly suspect that I might be a Knight of the Order of St David!

Plaid's Long and Winding Road

Whatever one's opinion of Plaid Cymru, one could never accuse the party of doing a U turn. When Plaid changes direction it does so by using good, old fashioned, long and winding Welsh country roads.

A mid ranking party member makes a comment in a meeting, that may be recorded in the local press. A maverick or a free thinking senior party member will then make a similar comment (usually in Welsh) on a TV or a radio programme with low listening / viewing figures, or in a magazine such as Barn, which has few readers but is highly respected.

The idea is then suggested in English as an aside or as a lighthearted comment during a wide-ranging interview.

Then it is announced to a wider read media a few months later as a long standing party view, or even with a statement that Plaid never ever thought differently.

This is how Plaid changed from being a liberal party into a Socialist Party, from being anti Europe to being hugely pro-Europe, from being a nationalist party to becoming a devolutionist party, from opposing Lords to selecting Lords.

Plaid's faithful were persuaded to agree to the Red Green pact rather than the Rainbow Alliance because the GoW Act 2006 requires at least 40 out of 60 AM's to vote in favour of a referendum to enact the full parliament clause of the act. Rainbow didn't have the numbers, so the only chance of getting a referendum was for Plaid to sacrifice power in exchange for a referendum (so we were told).

Plaid knew, full well, at that time, that a referendum before 2011 was not on offer from Labour. Petulant leftists had dug their heels in and said to the party leadership that there were only two choices - join Labour or split the party. Lying about a referendum promise, that wasn't on the table, was the only way that Plaid could con the majority of its members into backing the leftists thugs in order to avoid a split

Before the ink of Rhodri and Ieuan's signatures was dried on the One Wales Agreement Labour people were celebrating the fact that no referendum would be held before the next Assembly election in 2011.

David Cornock's blog (but not yet his official BBC reports) quotes Elfyn Llwyd as saying Rushing through and saying it has got to be a referendum in 2011 - I don't actually sign up to that. David seems to think that this is an U turn. No its not, its a bend in the road that Plaid has been travelling upon since June. Elfyn's comments are nothing new (sorry Ceredig). Dafydd Elis made a similar statement back in July. The three Plaid ministers have been telling village branches all autumn that what Plaid does in government is even more important than a referendum.

U turn - NO! Plaid is taking its usual long and winding country road away from the principal that was once hailed as the cornerstone of the One Wales Agreement.

Expect an announcement from IWJ about March-May, stating that Plaid never, ever expected that a referendum would be held before 2011.


Crimes and Misdemeanours

The Scottish blogger SNP Tactical Voting suggests that elections and politics are Probably the Best Spectator Sport in the World. I tend to agree.

As an armchair spectator who hates the Red team, it has been pure joy watching them being caught out over the last few weeks by the complexities of an off side rule, that they themselves introduced. It was sad to see one of the Red's better players sent off last week (and I really don’t like the sub). I am amazed that Wendy Alexander, one of the dirtiest players in the squad, is still in the team.

It's fun to see the Reds appealing to the ref that the Green/Daffodil yellow (home and away strips) team were guilty of dirty play too and that just because they had permission from a linesman first, didn't make their foul any fairer. It's even more fun to see them pointing out fouls by the Blue team 13 years or more ago and telling the ref that as they did it then you can't complain about us doing it now. Whilst forgetting that the Blues have been relegated to the opposition benches for the past 11 years as a result of their mistakes.

However that is all part of the fun of the game, the rough and tumble of politics.

As many observers have noted politics in these islands are remarkably free of real corruption in comparison to many other places. Using "aliases" to hide funds from legitimate (if embarrassing) donors, which are then used for honest politicking isn't really corrupt, its just bloody stupid.

Of course many young men, especially, have criminal records because of stupid acts. Stupidity can be mitigation in such circumstances, but it doesn’t stop the law being applied. Convictions for stupidity are one of the reasons why I am a spectator rather than a player myself. So if Peter Hain and Wendy Alexander have broken the law then no ifs, no buts the law should apply to them as much as it applied to the drunken lad who pissed against the back wheel of a police car, because (being too clever by half) he thought that pissing against the back wheel of a car was a defence.*

However, a danger in the sport of politician baiting is that we don't distinguish between what the Americans call crimes and misdemeanours. We don't distinguish between that which deserves a 10 bob fine, an ASBO or a kick up the arse and that that is inexcusably wrong and deserves a prison sentence and/or a huge fine.

If a foreman in a factory pretended that his son was on the payroll, when the boy wasn't working at the factory and the foreman submitted false time sheets to obtain wages for his son and submitted false expenses claims in his son's name, most employers would treat the matter as a very, very serious incident.

The foreman would be suspended as soon as any doubt came to light. The police would be called in immediately. The foreman would be charged with a range of very serious offences, including theft and false accounting. If the son was party to the fraud he would also be charged and the chances are both would receive substantial gaol sentences and or very big fines. On conviction the foreman would, of course, lose his job and his pension rights.

Derek Conway MP stole money in this way twice. He was not suspended pending investigation, the police were not called in and his punishment is a 10-day loss of parliamentary privileges (a fortnights holiday).

Mr Conway has been lucky. Because those of us who enjoy the spectator sport of politics have been screaming "sleaze" and "corruption" at those who may have committed misdemeanours, he is getting away with a serious crime. Complaints against Mr Conway's theft, fraud and real corruption are being drowned out by the noise of a crowd baying for Hain and Alexander's blood because of pissing incidents.

* I was a Happy Young and Foolish Burp in those days.


Plaid's Democratic Peers?

Glyn says on his blog:

Plaid Cymru have pulled off a master stroke today by electing its nominees for the House of Lords. The system of individuals being placed in the Westminster Parliament with no regard for the democratic principle does not look right in 2008. The 'Plaid Three' have made a monkey out of the Labour Government in particular, which has been 'banging on' about introducing democracy into the system of nomination to the Lords for years, but have done nothing whatsoever about it. Plaid have just done it - or at least done enough to make it look as if they've done it.

In its heady days, the Labour Government made its first reform of the House of Lords, depriving most hereditarys of their right to be part of the institution. In response to this reform two parties decided to have internal elections to the House, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru.

It is by virtue of internal election that the Rev Lord Roger Roberts of Llandudno is a Lord, not by virtue of party (or other) patronage!

Plaid also had a vote amongst party members, and they elected former party secretary Dafydd Williams, (Dai banjo) as prospective party peer. The Plaid Executive wasn't going to allow ordinary members to elect a bloke, that they had recently sacked, as a Lord. So the party decided to play the principal card. The executive decided that reforms hadn't gone far enough to purge their conscience and rejected the members' selection.

Today Dai banjo, the party members' choice was once again on the shortlist of potential peers. But party members didn't have the right to vote for him again. The same committee that decided that it was better for Plaid to have no peers rather than Lord Banjo chose the Plaid peers. Surprise! Surprise! Dai banjo was not amongst the selected.

A democratic Master Stoke! I think not Glyn!

A number of responses to my previous posts about Plaid Lords have mentioned the fact that the SNP was more principled than PC in continuing to reject peerages.

Didn't the SNP have five Lords for five minutes in the 1980's, before they all defected to the Conservative Party?


Modern Day Pharisees

A couple of weeks ago I made a post on my Welsh language blog in support of a man from Llanrwst who I believe is being victimised by officials of the Presbyterian chapel in Llanrwst. Some non Welsh speaking acquaintances of the victim who heard about the post have requested an English translation. Here it is:


Methodists are full of malice
They go to chapel without grace.

Is a very rough translation of an old Welsh jingle.

Those who read my (other) blog regularly and those who know of my posts to Maes-e, will know that I am normally quite defensive of nonconformist Welsh chapels.

Unfortunately some times the jingle is proved to be correct. Occasionally things arise in the chapel community that are totally indefensible. I recently heard of a case relating to a chapel in Llanrwst, which can only be condemned by true Christians and others who belive in fairness and justice.

The case involves a decision by the officials at Seion Presbyterian Chapel, Llanrwst to send a solicitor's letter to the tenant of the chapel house threatening him with eviction just three days before Christmas. Whilst chapel members were celebrating the festival of good will to all men, the chapel was behaving with incredible ill will towards its tenant. Whilst chapel members were remembering the sadness of there being no room in the inn for Joseph and Mary, the chapel authorities were using the forces of law to make it clear that there was to be no room in the chapel house for the tenant either.

Apart from considerations of religious hypocrisy, the timing of the letter was generally underhand. The notice to quit was sent at that time of the year when many offices and advice centres were closing down for almost ten days. The tenant was forced to "celebrate" Christmas in uncertainty without anywhere to turn for advice or legal help.

The reason why the tenant is being made homeless is a matter of childish spite.

A few weeks previously the tenant was given notice that his rent was to be increased by 60%. Shocked by this huge hike in rent and what it would do to his already meagre finances, he went to Conwy Council to ask if the chapel as landlords were allowed to increase the rent so much. A council official agreed to write to the chapel to mediate between tenant and landlord to see if a reasonable compromise could be made. Rather than accept any form of mediation the chapel decided to evict the tenant for being so rude as to even dare to seek advice about a decision that they had made.

To decide to make a person homeless just three days before Christmas for such a petty reason suggest that the Seion chapel's deacons are more like followers of Peter Rachman than they are followers of Jesus Christ.

If any members of Seion Llanrwst happen to read this post I appeal to them to press upon their church elders to reconsider their actions with regard to the chapel tenant. This sort of incident gives a bad name, not just to the individual deacons involved, but to the Christian church in its entirety.

Contact details for the Presbrytarian Church of Wales can be found here


Fine for the rich

On his excellent blog Wales World Nation,* Jeff Rees gives an example of a fair system of fines that exists in Norway.

A millionaire real-estate magnate and art dealer from Setesdal in southern Norway has been fined NOK 425,000 (USD 85,000) for drunk driving, and been further required to chop wood for 30 days.

In the fall of 2006, Kjetil Uleberg, 55, had enjoyed an evening with his friends drinking red wine until past midnight. The next morning, he got into his car to drive to a business meeting. When he was stopped by the police, he was required to take a breath test, which showed him to have a blood alcohol level of 0.7. The legal limit in Norway is 0.2.

In Norway, fines for drunk driving are based on the driver’s income, which meant Uleberg ended up with a whopper of a bill for his hangover.

If I remember rightly, Mrs Thatcher's government trialed such a fair fines policy in England & Wales, where offenders were fined points rather than pounds. The amount you paid per point was based on your income.

Unfortunately the trial failed. Those who could afford good accountants to "prove" that they had little or no income to pay tax on, used the same accounts to prove that they should pay the lowest level of pounds per point if they were fined. Those who were too poor to pay accountants paid the most pounds per point.

It may be an iniquity of the capitalist system, but it is a fact that a person who is £5 million pounds in debt is richer than the person with £500 in savings in all aspects of financial life other than accountancy.

I would be interested to know how (or if) the Norwegian system overcomes this accounting problem.

(* Jeff translates his site's title as Cymru Gwlad Fydol which actually means Wales a Worldly Nation. Worldliness is a sin Cymru - Gwlad Byd Eang might be a more appropriate translation).


There ain't nothing like a broad

I have some sympathy with Tony Blair's former aid de camp, John McTernan, when he complains about the influence of Presbyterians on British Politics. Deputy Welsh FM, Ieuan Wyn Jones was raised in a Presbyterian manse, as was Northern Irish FM Ian Paisley and Union PM Gordon Brown - the Presies do seem to have a lot of influence in these Islands. But these three don't seem to make up a cohesive "narrow" force somehow!

Like Mr McTernan I too dislike "narrow" nationalism.

A quick flick through my blogroll proves that Cornish, English, Scottish and Welsh nationalist are far from being a single narrow group. Alan, Bethan, Charlie, Dick, Gethin, Gareth, McNumpty, Ordo, Tartan Hero, Tommy and many others show how broad an inter-faith community (as Adam would say) the nationalist cause is.

On the other hand the UKainian nationalists do seem to have a very narrow view. A narrow nationalism that I join Mr McTernan in condemning.

Whats in a name?

Blog surfing, again, I came across this interesting post that shows name meanings when they are written in other languages. Amongst them are:

Adam (Arabic) skin (I hope that it is thick skin!)

Alan (Indonesian) comedian (What more can I say?)

Jim (Korean) baggage.

Alwyn is not in the list, but I do happen to know that it is the Anglo-Saxon word for a faithful and trusted friend!

Lefty Saxon Gnat

I came across this blog whilst blog surfing earlier today:

Rebellion Sucks

A Socialist English Nationalist Blog. Most Welsh and Scottish nationalist blogs are left wing. English Nationalism seems always to be portrayed as right wing.

Now, being a tad to the right myself, I usually have more sympathy for the English national cause than I do for the lefty Welsh national cause. But it is good to see that there are some lefties who support England's self-determination.

Now where are the right in Wales who support my Welsh Nationalism and me?


The New Emperor of Europe

For all the flaws in its system, the USA is in the process of electing its president. Meanwhile the worlds second biggest power block, the EU, is in the process of stitching up a deal amongst a handful of the great and the good to give the job of European President to one of its own.

Amongst the candidates for the job of second most powerful man in the world is Tony Blair. Personally I can't think of a person less suited to the job and sincerely hope he doesn’t get selected. However the reasons the French establishment have given for not backing Blair are a cause for concern. According to Friday's Telegraph:

Valérie Giscard d'Estaing, the former French president and the father of the now defunct EU constitutional treaty, said that Europe's first president must have majority support from his home country, which should be a nation that "respects all its European commitments". Something that he claimed Britain did not do.

"Tony Blair cannot be president of Europe," agreed Edouard Balladur, the former conservative French prime minister close to Mr Sarkozy, writing in yesterday's Le Monde newspaper.

Despite his "declarations of good intent," for 10 years, Mr Blair "did nothing to put an end to Britain's special status", with its opt-outs in the fields of justice and home affairs and non-membership of the euro and border-free Schengen zone.

These comments don't just rule Blair out but, in effect, say that nobody from the UK could ever be EU president unless or until the UK toes the French line. They also show the fatal flaw in the SNP and Plaid's policy of Independence in Europe.

No country could ever be independent in Europe, because the movers and shakers who are at the heart of the institution and who are responsible for its development don't see the EU as a federation of independent nations. They see it as the restoration of the Napoleonic or Holy Roman Empires.

The SNP and Plaid's aims are in practice policies of leaving the British Empire in order to be a peripheral part of the New European Empire.

I much prefer the English Democrat's policy of getting out of the UK and out of Europe.

Getting Abreast of Economic Indicators

The Welsh blogosphere's economics guru, Prof DJE, is currently on a research trip to the USA (nice work if you can get it).

On his return I wonder if the Prof will be able to adapt the latest US economic indicator to the Welsh economy. Apparently the state of the American economy may be gauged by the number of boob jobs performed each year, and some plastic surgeons are predicting that 2008 will be ... ym ... er... flat !

I think I should bring this post to a premature close now, before I make any unsavoury comments about the pair of tits that are currently in charge of the Welsh economy or say something sexist about Helen Mary's cleavage. (I don't want to be accused of being vulgar again!!!)


Another New Blog

Another New Blog for the New Year is one maintained by the Bontnewydd branch of Plaid Cymru.
Amongst those posting to the blog is the soon to be ennobled Dafydd Wigley.


With Friends like Paul....

As I have noted in a previous post, I have known Peter Hain since we were both Young Liberals many, many years ago. From that knowledge I can't accept claims made by some that Peter is some sort of a "sleazy crook". However my faith in the man's integrity cannot hide the FACT, that Peter has failed to declare large donations to his campaign that he should have declared according to law.

In fairness to Peter, he has admitted that the way that the financial affairs of his deputy leadership campaign was handled was a bloody mess, he is doing his best to sort the mess out and he has accepted that he is ultimately responsible for the situation by not keeping a closer eye on what was happening.

If anything is going to save Peter's skin it will be the openness and honesty he has shown to the authorities and the general public about the shambles he has found found himself in. What is likely to condemn Peter is friends, like Paul Flynn MP, trying to excuse and cover up the shambles, and trying to hide Mr Hain's mess by pointing the finger at others.


New Blog - Hen Ferchetan

Here is a link to a new Welsh political blog that started posting yesterday Amlwch to Magor by Hen Ferchetan

According to the Author
This blog, if it survives more than the two weeks or so most blog survive for, is mainly about politics, mainly Welsh politics. Whether I'll be bothered enough and interesting enough to maintain a blog on that for any length of time is anyone's guess. So please, have a good read. If, to my eternal surprise, you find it interesting, then feel free to comment. If you find it more boring than a combination of the Daily Mail and Daily Post then feel free to bugger off and never return!


Sir John Harvey Jones

During the late 1980's I spent a short period in exile a little to the east of Offa's Dyke in one of the most friendly of England's towns Ross on Wye. One of my fellow residents of the town was Sir John Harvey Jones, a great man. One could read Sir John's contributions in the posh papers in the morning extolling the glories of some of London's best restaurants and then bump into him in the evening in the local Chinese or chip shop. If one was rude enough to mention the mornings paper and suggest that he was "slumming it" he would always retort by making the point that quality and service were what was important in business be it at what is perceived as the top end or the bottom end of a market and that the local chippy offered quality and service.

In the days when industrial relations seemed to be dominated by the intransigence of the likes of John Macgregor on the one hand and Arthur Scargill on the other it was refreshing to know of a big industrial boss who appreciated the value of his workforce and whom those who worked for him acknowledged as a good boss. One of my favourite Sir John quotes is: Leadership is the priceless gift that you earn from the people who work for you. I have to earn the right to that gift and have to continuously re-earn that right.

A good man and a good example to all leaders of industry. I was very sad to hear of his passing. My sincere condolences to his family and friends. RIP.



The one post wonder that was Nationalist View claimed that the author had to look at this blog to see what was happening in Cornwall. I doubt that that was ever true, however two Cornish national blogs have started posting more often in recent months:

Cornish Democrat. This appears to be a group blog that posts about the political scene in Cornwall and also posts press releases / information from the Celtic League.

Cllr. Dick Cole is the leader of Mebyon Kernow, The Party of Cornwall, currently the third largest party in the country. MK trails behind the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives but beats the Labour Party.

Before their merger with the SDP the old Liberal party depended on the three Celtic Countries to provide its representation in Westminster. There was a time when almost all the Liberal MPs came from Scotland Wales or Cornwall; this is one of the reasons why the Liberals and the Lib Dems have been favourable to devolution in Wales and Scotland. As Cllr Cloe has to point out on a regular basis, the Lib Dems are the cuckoo in the nest in Cornwall - enjoying a lot of support in the country whilst doing nothing to support its national aspirations.

If you haven't done so already, both sites are worth putting in your blog reader or noting as regular places to visit.

On the subject of Cornwall I wonder if any supporter of the Campaign for an English Parliament or the English Democratic Party can enlighten me as to their attitude towards Cornwall. Whenever I post anything in agreement with the CEP or the EDP I can guarantee a response from somebody criticising me for supporting organisations that don't recognise Cornwall's national existence. But I can find nothing on either organisation's websites or on supportive blogs to confirm or deny that this is true.


Policing & Politics

Professor Dylan Jones Evans makes a point on his blog that many have made before about the controversial subjects on which Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom has commented over the years. The point that whatever the validity of his views the Chief Constable's job is to catch criminals, not to comment on political matters. Or as the Prof puts it legislation is the job of the lawmakers in Parliament and not that of a civil servant such as himself.

I find this attitude difficult to understand, and if it is extended to other publicly funded occupations it starts to sound ridiculous at best and dangerous at worst.

If there are problems in health care provisions I want to hear from doctors and nurses on the matter, so that I can inform my view on the subject. Would the Prof say their job is to administer to the sick, not to comment on health policy; health policy is the job of policy makers in parliament?

Likewise would the Prof say that it is a teacher's job to teach and that teachers are wrong if they raise educational issues of political concern? Would he say that teachers shouldn't inform debate on an area of their expertise because they are not elected to Parliament?

When there are problems facing the Welsh economy do we expect to hear the opinions of leading experts in the field, such as Professor Dylan Jones Evans? Or do we tell him to shut up and go back to the job he's paid to do, lecturing students, and to leave the job of solving Welsh economic problems to the elected members in Cardiff Bay?

If there are serious issues facing policing and the application of law and order I want to hear what the experts in the subject who work in the field on a daily basis have to say about them, because that is the only way that the ordinary members of the public can be informed enough to make a judgment about how good a job the lawmakers in Parliament are doing in drafting the legislation that the police have to implement.


Blaming the sick doesn't make things better!

Antur Waunfawr and Menter Fachwen are two world leading projects that enable people who live with learning disabilities to play a full and valuable role in their local communities. They provide things such as cafés and recycling services that enable some people with quite serious disabilities to work. It's fair to say that the work that some of the disabled workforce do is not commercial and that most of them still receive government benefits in order to enable them to have a basic standard of living. However the people with, sometimes, quite severe disabilities that work in Antur Waunfawr and Menter Fachwen do work and they do help provide a valuable service for their communities.

In comparison, the suggestion that almost a quarter of a million people in Wales and two and a half million people in the UK are too incapacitated to play any role in society is clearly absolutely wrong. It shouldn't be so, it doesn’t need to be so and it is absolutely immoral that it is so!

However the blame for incapacity should not be laid upon the so called incapacitated, it should be laid fairly and squarely on the present government and its Conservative predecessor who created incapacity as a means of reducing true unemployment figures.

The whole system that leads to incapacity is flawed. Lets take, for example, a registered nurse who develops epilepsy. Clearly s/he can't carry on with that job. Nobody wants a nurse who might have a fit just when s/he's about to stick an injection in your bum! So job lost on the grounds of ill health, automatic claim for short-term incapacity granted for six months. No help or advice is given within that first six month period to consider what else s/he can do other than nursing. At the end of the six months long-term incapacity kicks in.

Once you receive long-term incapacity benefit (ICB), the authorities (not you) have said that you are incapable of any work. If you apply for a job that you think that you could do, despite your illness, the application is a declaration that you are fit for work, so you may loose money by applying for a job that you might not get. Who in their right mind is going to take that risk?

You can't even apply for training in a new occupation whilst on ICB, because if you're able to train you're able to work, so if you train you loose out!

So when a deaf, epileptic, former nurse who can lip-read finds out that there is not a single Welsh language lipreading tutor in the whole of Wales, but is told that his family will be impoverished if he dares to go on a lipreading tutor's course, can you blame him for saying no to the opportunity? Can you blame him for being absolutely pissed off and disgusted that such an employment opportunity should be denied to him by bureaucratic intransigence and unfair financial risks?

Lets suppose you do take the risk of applying for a job, because you are so pissed off with not working and you really do want a job. The Mail, the Telegraph, Tory blogs, David Cameron and even Peter Hain have gone on so much about the lead swinging, work shy, lazy, scrounging, swindlers who claim ICB. So who in the hell will even give you an interview, never mind a job, when your CV says claiming ICB for the last 4 years? No sensible employer would want to employ the caricature of the ICB claimant that is rife in journalistic and political circles. Given the choice between an eastern European desperate for work to help his family back home and a lazy git who has fiddled the country for the last four years and will probably fiddle your business too, who would you employ?

The current system of dealing with illness / disability and employment is flawed - it is in desperate need of change in order to enable those who can contribute to society through mainstream employment to do so and in order to ensure that those who are unable to get out of benefits, for what ever reason, are encouraged and enabled to fulfil some sort of valued role in their communities.

If Wales can be inovative and lead the world by providing a valued role in society for those who would have been condemned to the back wards of the assylum thirty years ago, suerly we can do better for our 250,000 incapacitaed than resorting to blame and fiscal punishment!


Well Laid

Adam Price MP thinks that Plaid has lost its virginity by going into government with New Labour in the Assembly.

To lose ones virginity one has to be f**ked. Adam is right, Plaid has been well and truly f**ked by New Labour!