Independence and Glasgow East

Since the announcement of the SNP victory in the early hours of Friday morning, there has been much speculation on blogs and in the media about why the SNP won and Labour lost. The reasons given have been many and varied, but there seems to be some consensus amongst all commentators that the one thing the by election wasn't was a vote on independence.

However in an interview with the Scottish edition of the Sunday Express, the architect of the victory, SNP First Minister Alex Salmond shatters this consensus by explaining how independence was an important part of the party's election strategy.

Meanwhile, Mr Salmond also revealed that an independence poll in Glasgow East showed 46 per cent were in favour of breaking up the Union, with just 28 per cent against and 26 per cent undecided, although he admitted there was still a lot to do before that vote was repeated across the country.

He said: “Unbeknown to virtually every commentator we polled the whole of Glasgow East on independence and got very, very encouraging results. The fact the independence vote was higher than SNP vote and the SNP vote was pretty high! We’ve got work to do but its very encouraging, that in what was previously regarded as a heartland area there is so much support for independence.”

Blog rolls and blog lists

I am in the process of getting rid of my blogrolls and replacing them with Bloggers new blog list.

The main difference between the two is that whilst the rolls were static and alphabetic, the lists note the latest posts of those that I link to, so the latest posts will rise to the top.

At the moment the list shows just the last ten posts. When I have added all my links I will increase the number (might even set it at show all). However if you are looking for a blog that you know use to be linked from here, you can still do so if you click on the show all link at the bottom of the list.

Amongst the new blogs added to my list are:

The Pwllmelyn Tangent. Another nationalist blog, which has an excellent post on the lessons for Plaid to learn from the SNP's victory in Glasgow East. It is so good I wish I had written it myself!

Caught in the Bay, the latest hacks blog from the Western Mail.

Ffranc Sais, a Lib Dem councillor from Neath.

The Right Student (on the right wing, rather than not being one of the many wrong students!)

And Pulse Wales, News and Views from the Heart of Wales, but strictly for the weekend!

Let me know if you think that I've not included your pearls of wisdom on my list.


Glasgow Victory - special pictures

If you are wondering what newly elected MP John Mason looks like - here is a picture of him courtesy of The Herald's website.

I'm not sure who the bloke congratulating him on his election is - Alex Salmond the SNP leader maybe?

Congratulations John Mason MP

A fantastic result!

Well done John, Alex Salmond, the SNP and the whole of the national cause.

Scotland, England, Cornwall and Wales are all nearer to self determination as a result of this historic win in Glasgow East.

Hearty Congratulations John Mason MP !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Its Pick-on-the-sick-time Again!

Incapacity Benefit is a horrible, cruel and devilish benefit.

It isn't a benefit in need of reform, it is a benefit that needs to be abolished and replace with a new system that is more appropriate to the needs of those who live with ill health or with a disability.

It is a negative benefit, because it underlines what a person can't do rather than what s/he can do.

Many people will be faced with a situation where illness or disability prevents them from continuing with their former careers. If a person loses a job in these circumstances that person will be entitled to incapacity benefit, but once one becomes entitled to IB they are placed into a category that says they are incapable of doing ANY work, not just their former work.

IB makes people ill.

Most of us have heard of the placebo effect, where taking a sugar pill makes patients better because they believe that something is being done to make them better.

The opposite of placebo happens too.

If you concentrate on the downside of an illness, mope about how bad things are and count your curses rather than your blessings, then you will become more ill than you need to be. By its negative emphasis on incapacity by encouraging people to look at the downside, IB can make people more ill than they need to be.

IB discourages people from attempting to improve their own health. There is a very unfunny joke that says that if Jesus went to Merthyr curing the lame and the sick he would be crucified by the benefits claimants. Unfunny it may be, but it makes a point:

If you lose your job because of ill health you are entitled to IB, you will be paid a bit more than those who are on job-seekers allowance. If you get better you lose your entitlement to IB and have to go onto the lower benefit. With little prospect of gaining a new job in the IB hot-spot areas you will, in effect, be punished for getting better.

There was a recent case in Pembrokeshire of a man who had suffered a genuine serious illness claiming benefits. His doctor told him to exercise in order to restore his health. He was filmed exercising and prosecuted for benefit fraud. The man might have been better off if he had ignored his doctor's advice and hadn't bothered with the health improving exercise regime.

Incapacity Benefit replaces the benefits of getting better!

The worst thing about IB is the fact that it is a benefit that is so often abused, not by those who claim it but by governments.

From Thatcher through Major, Blair and Brown, governments have urged people to accept this negative health benefit rather than unemployment benefits because the sick and disabled don't count in official unemployment totals. It is a good benefit for massaging true unemployment figures.

It is also a good benefit for vicious political rhetoric that points the finger at the sick and disabled who receive it and show them up to be examples of those who are too lazy to get of their backsides and help themselves.

Is there an easer group to kick than those that benefits policies have brought so low?

The latest Government Green Paper aimed at “tackling” Incapacity Benefit is at least the fourth attempt by the Labour Government to deal with the problem. We had a similar Green Paper almost two years to the day ago!

The latest proposals are just finger pointing rhetoric again, rather than a real attempt to deal with a real problem.

It will fail because finger pointing exercises are bound to fail.

The fact is that the majority of people on IB are genuinely ill.

Look at the IB hot spots and compare their life expectancy rates! People die younger in these areas because of poor health!

Much has been made over the past few weeks about the fact that Glasgow East has both the lowest life expectancy in the UK and the highest rate of IB claims – the people of Glasgow East are not dying young in order to fiddle the social, they are dying young because of genuine poor health!

Of course something must be done for the 3 million people who receive this sickening benefit.

People suffering from poor health need help to fulfil their full potential.

Comprehensive health improvement campaigns that are not linked to benefit reduction are needed in the most deprived areas.

Good employment prospects need to be made available for those wishing to leave health based benefits.

But no government will provide the real answer to the real problem, because the real answers are not cheep and they don't appeal to Sun, Express and Daily Mail readers.

It is so much easier to leave the poor, the sick and the disabled on the scrapheap, to point fingers and to call names!


Wasting Money

I must apologise to the Cynical Dragon, apparently he nominated me for one of those MEME things, last Monday. I normally get to know when somebody mentions me or my blogs, but David's post didn't hit the radar. It probably means that he needs to sort his ping or Technorati or some such gubbins out, but don't ask me, I don't understand these things.

The MEME is on the Best Waste of £200,000 of public money. The best waste of such public money would, of course, be to give it to me so that I could spend it on cigarettes and whiskey and wild wild women. But I don't think that counts.

One waste of public money that I have heard mention of informally on a number of occasions, but have yet to find proof of, is that the National Assembly refused to give grant assistance for a management buyout for Dolgarog Aluminium. It needed a grant of about £1.5 Million, and was turned down, causing the loss of 170 well paid jobs in a rural area. But, because the site is an ancient industrial site (over 100 years old) apparently the Assembly will be responsible for the £10 million cost of cleaning the site, before it is turned into a holiday home complex that will employ half a dozen local cleaners.

If this story is true then it is a condemnation of the Assembly Government.

If it is not true, then the Assembly Government needs to come clean about the costs, in order to stop the rumour that is ruining support for the Assembly in the Conwy Valley area and making both Plaid's Gareth Jones and Labour's Betty Williams look like chumps, rather than representatives of the people!


Was it the blogs wot did for him?

Plaid Cymru has taken my advice and sacked Rhodri Glyn after his latest embarrassing gaff. I know that it is as a direct result of my post that Rev Thomas has lost his job, because the main stream media tells it so.

The spin being put on the "resignation" is that it was caused because he had become the butt of jokes on the internet because of his smoking-ban blunder. Vaughan Roderick has also being telling the BBC news programmes that Mr Thomas' position became untenable as a result of blogging comments about his gaff.

But the facts are quite different. Peter Black made a comment on the story yesterday afternoon, but did not name the minister in question. I then posted my comments in which the minister was named at 4.17 this morning. As far as I can see from Google these were the only two posts on the subject in the whole of the blogosphere, until Valley's Mam mentioned the rumour that the minister was about to be sacked at 5:16 this afternoon, a full 13 hours after my post. So the blogospher has not run wild with this story. The spin that it was the blogs wot done for him, just doesn't ring true. I tend to agree with Ms Wagstaf that there's more to the story yet to come to light.

Holy Smoke

Some might think its irrelevant gossip.

Rhodri Glyn Thomas was kicked out of a pub for lighting a cigarette (or possibly a cigar) on Wednesday night

The No Smoking in Pubs rule was made by the Assembly.

It is a law that I support, but one which, we all know, has pissed off a number of Welsh people who enjoyed a fag with a pint. The fact that a senior member of one of the parties that strongly supported the law should have been caught ignoring it is an embarrassment, not a joke.

Rhodri Glyn has been the minister who has ditched the Plaid promise for a Welsh Language newspaper, reneged on the promise for a Federal Welsh Medium Collage, failed to get a Welsh Language LCO before the Assembly, embarrassed himself by announcing the wrong winner in a book prize and has now added to his gaffs by smoking in a pub after voting to ban smoking in pubs.

The man is an imbecile and an embarrassment. Time for a Plaid reshuffle - the man has to go!
Wales Online now has the story in more detail and with a reaction from Nick Bourne


And another new baby

Welsh politicians seem to be breeding like rabbits at the moment. Hot on the heels of Huw Lewis AM and his wife Lynne Neagle AM, David (TC) Davies MP for Monmouth has also had an addition to his family allowance.

Llongyfarchiadau Dafydd!

The Best Chance?

Adam Price MP's column in the current edition of Golwg (translation by Ordovicius) makes the case for holding a referendum on further powers for the Assembly on the same date as the 2011 Assembly General Election.

My personal opinion is that a referendum is not needed and that Plaid made a boo-boo by not insisting that the referendum clause in the Government of Wales Act 2006 was dropped as part of the coalition agreement with Labour last year. But that is now water under the bridge, I suppose that we now have to live with the reality of a referendum being held sometime.

Adam makes a fair point about the way in which Alex Salmond's proposed referendum on independence may affect the Welsh referendum campaign:

With the Bill being presented in January 2010 it's likely the referendum - on opening independence negotiations - would be in October. Whatever the result is, the Scottish campaign will overshadow the very different question that will be before us in Wales.

I agree with this point. But I would say that this is an argument for holding a referendum sooner rather than later. There is little doubt that from the minute that the referendum bill is put before Holyrood that the British media will give "independence" a lot of coverage. Independence will be in the mind of Welsh voters during any post Scottish referendum - and the NO side will make sure it stays there. Because Plaid has failed to make the case for independence over the last 25 years then a Welsh referendum held after the Scots one will be lost.

Adam argues that a good reason for holding the referendum and the Election on the same day is that supporters of devolution (are) more likely to come out to vote in an Assembly election than those who oppose devolution. He is probably right, but I think that this is a poor reason for holding the referendum and the election on the same day for a number of reasons.

In the first instance I doubt that such a tactic would be beneficial to Mr Price's own party. Holding referendum and election on the same day is sure to entice many who oppose devolution into the polling booth for the first time ever during an Assembly election. Having gone to vote No in the referendum they are likely to vote in the election too but not, I suspect, for Plaid Cymru!

Secondly, Plaid has done this before! Swapped support for Labour referendum plans in exchange for some cynical supposed advantages to the Yes cause. In 1979 the trick was to hold the referendum on St David's day. In 1997 it was to hold the referendum in the wake of a huge Scots Yes, a week after Scotland had voted. Both tricks backfired. They highlighted doubts and uncertainty in the Yes camp which were seized upon like Manna from Heaven by the No campaign.

If there are convincing arguments for extending the Assembly's powers then they can and should be made on their merits, without the need for dirty / clever tricks.

Thirdly, if giving the Assembly legislative powers is seen to be an important enough issue to demand a referendum, then it is an important enough issue to justify it's own campaign period where the arguments for and against can be made clearly, rather than being muddled with a general election campaign.

Finally, I can't see how electors can decide who to vote for in the election if they don't know what sort of body the candidate is to be elected to. Will all parties have two manifestos in 2011, one for a legislative parliament (if Yes wins) and another for a consultative Assembly (just in case the vote goes No)? What if I prefer the Tories Assembly Programme but the Lib Dems Parliamentary programme? Before casting my vote I would have to second guess the outcome of the referendum!

Holding the referendum and the election on the same day is bad politics, bad democracy and bad tactics. It is totally unacceptable and should be opposed now, before it becomes the cosy Plaid / Lab consensus!



Alleyways, cheques and chukkers

I have never been much good at spelling, I rely heavily on Google's ABC check when writing this blog and comments on other blogs.

But spellchecking tools are not perfect, they only pick up words that don't exist; they can't differentiate between a shirt and a shit, for example!

Apparently, my last post had Stephanie Ashley dancing with death! I had an e-mail from a person who didn't want to point the mistake out in the comments, telling me that Dib Lemming had 15 minuets of fame re her comment on death in Llandudno.

Minuets and minutes, is one of those "corrections" that always cause me word blindness, I can never tell which is the correct one without a dictionary. Another one that always foxes me (and many other bloggers) is definitely and defiantly.

It dose make a deference of curse. The Tories defiantly campaigning in Glasgow East isn't quite the same as them definitely campaigning there!

As the pedantic arsehole kind person who pointed out my mistake said:

Alleyways cheque you're smell chukker

Dib Lemming

I have added Dib Lemming, who has been blogging since February to my blog roll.

It is written by Stephanie Ashley, a Lib Dem branch officer from Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, who had her 15 minutes of fame when she caused some controversy by describing Llandudno as a place where people from the north west of England go to die


Canvasing tales

The one thing that political activists, of all parties - from across the political spectrum, share in common is the love of the funny canvasing tale.

I recall an occasion when I spent some time trying to persuade a potential voter in Rhyl of the virtues of Plaid Cymru, only to be told that the party, the candidate and the policies sound like a load of shi*e to me!

Who are you going to vote for then? I asked, so that I could record his opposition accurately on my returns!

Well me mate Neil Taylor, of course said voter.

Neil Taylor WAS the Plaid candidate!

I was tickled by this story from Kezia Dugdale's account of canvasing in Glasgow East:
The Tories are in a spot of bother. A couple of guys in my blitzing team this afternoon chapped every door in a street where the Tories had sent direct mails. Problem was, the Tories didn't put enough postage on the letters and each voter had to go to the Post Office and pay £1.27 to retrieve it - you can imagine how well that went down!

True or not, it made me giggle!


Wales Heralds, Dragon Pursuivant etc!

A number of bloggers have noted the rather weird new coat of arms that has been granted to the National Assembly. The one that includes rose, trefoil and thistle - so that we know that we are part of the Anglo-Scots-Irish Union, and not a country in our own right.

What I can't understand, however, is why the coat of arms is signed off by The Garter King of Arms!

The senior officer of arms for Wales is the Rouge Dragon Pursuivant, we are also served by the Wales Herald Extraordinary. Why didn't these two design the Welsh arms between them? If they can't do something as Welsh as the Assembly arms, what are they for?

One doesn't like to be rude to dignified people such as heralds at arms. But might I suggest that the Garter King of Arms takes his nose out of Welsh arms and allows our own heralds to design a suitable Welsh coat that gives us independent respect outwith the Anglo-Scottish-Irish Union?


New Baby

Congratulations to Huw Lewis AM and his wife Lynne Neagle AM on the birth of their second son over the weekend.


Lembit loses in love again

Sad news in today's News of the World.

MP Lembit Opik has been DUMPED by his Cheeky Girls fiancée, the News of the World can reveal.

GIRL POWER: singer Gabriela has ditched MP Lembit
Furious Gabriela Irimia is refusing to see the Lib-Dem politician or take his calls after a series of bust-ups.

I am almost moved to tears

(HT Mr Eugenides )


Labour set to keep hold of Glasgow East?

According to a poll to be published in tomorrow's Sunday Telegraph Labour is set to hold Glasgow East with a fairly healthy majority:

Labour is on course to win this month’s crucial by-election in Glasgow East, according to an opinion poll.
The ICM survey for the Sunday Telegraph puts the party on 47 per cent of the vote with its nearest challenger, the Scottish National Party (SNP), on 33 per cent.

Liberal Democrats are on nine per cent and the Conservatives on seven per cent.

The poll, the first conducted within the rock-solid Labour seat, is a big boost for Gordon Brown.

Update UK Polling report has some interesting thoughts as to why this poll might not be quite the good news for Labour as the published figures might suggest


All the best Chris

This is just a short note to wish the Rt Hon Christopher Glamorgan all the best in his industrial tribunal. I believe that Christopher is at least the fourth member of the Assembly's staff to be sacked for blogging.

It is high time that the Assembly accepted that blogs now exist as a part of the norm of current affairs in Wales, and that people interested enough in public service to work for the Assembly are going to be interested enough to contribute on the Welsh political blogosphere.

Of course there are issues of confidentiality and lines that must not be crossed, but I can't remember a post by Christopher that was either reveling or controversial, certainly nothing that would appear to justify his dismissal from public service.

So good on you Christopher for standing up for freedom of expression - sue the buggers for millions!

Holtham Calman Confusion!

To celebrate the first birthday of the coalition between Labour and Plaid Cymru, the One Wales Government has announced a commission to investigate how Wales is funded - the Holtham Commission. Hip-Hip Hooray. High Time. I wish the commission all the best!

But according to the BBC, the Holtham Commission will run in parallel with the Calman Commission, which is investigating Scottish devolution!

The Calman Commission is the body set up out of spite by the opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament in order to attempt to undermine Alex Salmond's minority SNP government.

So what on earth is a commission, set up as part of an agreement with Plaid Cymru doing, giving legitimacy to a body that only exists to undermine its sister party in Scotland?



Family Matters

According to yesterday's Western Mail The Liberal Democrats are accusing Plaid Cymru of dirty tactics in their campaign to win a Ceredigion council by-election tomorrow. Plaid, of course, deny the accusation vehemently.

I know that Plaid can play dirty, so I couldn't defend the party against the allegation. But the Welsh National Champions of Dirty Campaigning are, without doubt, Lib Dem Barcharting FC. Sounds like the Pot calling the Kettle Peter to me!

However, the interesting point about the spat is that Plaid Cymru candidate, Aled Davies, accused of foul play by the Lib Dems, is the brother of Lib Dem council leader Ceredig Davies.

There is nothing like a bit of brotherly love to bring the best of family values into an election campaign!

Knobbling the Favourite

I'm not much of a gambler. The odd pound on the National Lottery, a couple of bob each way on the Grand National is the whole extent of my experience.

One thing that I do know about gambling though is that the bookmakers set the odds to ensure that no matter what the result they will make a profit. The form has little to do with the odds, stick a million pounds on a donkey and the donkey will suddenly become odds-on favourite.

I've never put a bet on the outcome of an election. If I was to do so I think that I would bet to gain a consolation prize if my candidate didn't win. If the SNP win in Glasgow East - that will be prize enough for me. The return on a tenner, if Labour wins, might ease the cost of drowning the sorrows.

That is why I have never understood the obsession that some political commentators have with who the bookies say are "favourites". What the bookies say is all to do with money placed for diverse reasons, not what the electorate is likely to say.

I doubt if anybody in any constituency changes their vote, based on the bookies starting price. I was going to vote Conservative, but the odds on the Liberal Democrats has shortened to 5/2 so I'm voting LD now!

However if people were influenced by the bookies odds, then the political system could be manipulated by rich people backing donkeys!

The Herald suggests that this might be happening in Glasgow East:

But don't place your money until you hear the apocryphal tale of the election agent encountered in the street during one campaign with a large wad of banknotes protruding from his sports jacket.

His plan was simple. Having collected £1000, a sizable sum, from committed supporters, he was hotfooting it to the local betting shop to skew the odds so wildly that there could be no comeback for the opposition. It was one week out from the vote and the agent reckoned timing was everything. He was right - once the money was over the counter all bets were off and the agent's man was the bookie's surefire winner.

What's the price on democracy down the bookies?!



The Shame of Flynn

The by election in Glasgow East is going to be unusually important.
On the one hand it will be seen as a measure of just how unpopular Gordon Brown's government has become. If Labour can't hold on to such a traditionally Labour stronghold in his own back yard Mr Brown's days as PM are suerly numbered.

On the other hand the by election will also be an important measure of how well Alex Salmond's SNP government is fairing. Making a mark in places like Glasgow is going to be imperative if Mr Salmond hopes to form a majority government in 2011 and be equally important in any independence referendum.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the battle for Glasgow East is going to be passionate, hard fought and at times even dirty. Having said this I have been pleasantly surprised so far having read the Scottish blogs and newspaper comments sites. So far there has been no evidence of the foul sectarianism that has blighted the city's politics in the past.

I was bitterly disappointed, on turning to the Welsh blogs, to find that one of our own MPs, Paul Flynn, has started throwing the sectarian dirt re Glasgow East:

But there is deep reassuring loyalty from the ‘Labour until I die’ folk of Glasgow. There are more of them in this constituency than anywhere else in Scotland. Religion may be a factor with a Baptist SNP candidate and a Labour one with an Irish name.



Wankers need a Welsh Language Act.

When I first saw this sign courtesy of Maes-e and Scymraeg, I laughed. My wife and my 12 & 13 year old kids laughed too.

The Welsh “translation” reads This is a Wank Away Zone!

Very funny on first seeing it!

But reflect a bit!

How would you feel if an English Language road sign was erected on your road, outside your children's school or on the way to your workplace declaring it to be a Wank-Away Zone?

I would suspect that most people, who saw such a sign, would be angry, very angry.

How would you feel if a pervert used such a sign to justify masturbating outside a school and got away with it, because of what the sign says?

This sign complies with the current Welsh Language Act, it complies with voluntary codes on use of the language in the private sector and is, therefore, a practical example of why a new and comprehensive Welsh Language Act is desperately needed!


The great the good and the resurected

The names of those who will serve on the Sir Emyr convention have been named. How exciting!

But hold on the names include Marc Phillips former Plaid serial candidate and Nick Benett former Tory MP, I'm sure that I attended the funerals of both back in the 1990's!

Same Old Tories

Glyn Davies' most recent posts is in praise of a private health care facility in Newport to treat bowel cancer:

Now I'm not going to play politics with this issue. It matters too much to me. I realise there are complex arguments, but I do hope that people suffering from bowel cancer are not being required to pay with their lives for some ideological prejudice against using the private sector

Like the ideological prejudice that those who can't afford this private facility are left to die in pain. No doubt!

A group blog for the irregulars?

When I read through Welsh blogs, I feel that there is a vibrant discussion on Welsh politics going on in the blogosphere. But when I read my "hits" statistics I have serious doubts.

The most people who have read this blog on one day is 3276, the least is 14, the average is about 200. 200 readers "thinking" about what I have said is hardly going to set the world alight. Given that many of those readers have come here by "odd" Googles such as Gordon Brown Sex Pervert, and been bitterly disappointed, the real readership of this blog is less than the statistics suggest.

There is some evidence to suggest that group blogs are more popular than individual blogs. So that if half of us, especially those of us who don't post on a daily basis, amalgamated and created just one Welsh Politics group blog our total readership would be grater than the sum of our individual parts.

A number of very good bloggers have thrown in the towel because they can only blog once a week / month and the stats for such blogs are pathetically low, so we miss their valuable contributions. Contributions that could be accommodated within a higher readership group blog.

If one agrees with group blogging should there be one or many? Labour Blog Wales, or Liberal Blog Wales etc

I'm not advocating group blogging, at the moment, just throwing out the general idea. What do other irregular Welsh politics bloggers think about it?


Pendroni is the Welsh word for brooding, wondering "why?"

Aptly the blog Pendroni wonders why Interest in this blog seems to have taken off this week. The author, Heledd Fychan, a researcher for Plaid in Westminster has been posting since Saturday May 17th.

The answer to your question Heledd is that you didn't let anybody know that you were blogging. David Cornock told us about you and then Che Grav-ara, Annie Craven and Sanddef linked to you.

Since I started blogging I have tried to link to every new Welsh politics blog that I come across, not for any ulterior motive, but simply to try and add to the online conversation about politics in Wales. Sanddef and Normal are also generous linkers to new posters as are many others.

There are four ways of letting others know that you have a new blog
1: Link to their posts in your posts
2: Link to other blogs in your side links
3: Post a comment on other blogs
4: E-mail other bloggers to tell them of your existence

But if you don't let the wider Welsh poli-blogosphere know that you exist, your pearls of wisdom are wasted, nobody knows about your post on May 17th!


If you'r not English...

If this is the way non English "Britons" are treated when they compete for Britain - its time we had Welsh, Scottish, Cornish - yes even English - teams and individuals in all sports and say stuff representing Britain up your Parson's nose!