BA = B**** All

In the 1970's a job was advertised in the local press for a Librarian in Dolgellau Technical Collage. Applicants had to have a minimum of two O levels (GCSEs in new money). The successful applicant had 6 O levels and 1 A level, so he was heavily over qualified. The current holder of the same post, I am told, has a Masters Degree and a Post Graduate Certificate in Librarianship qualification.

I am a Registered Nurse. The minimum qualification needed to apply for nurse training when I did so was one O level. I had 5 O levels and 2 A levels when I applied, I was over qualified for the course. Today, one needs to gain a degree in order to become a registered nurse, and one needs a sackful of stared GCSE's and, at least, three A levels to get into a nursing course. Yet first year qualified nurses in these days are much less competent than they were thirty years ago!

When I was in the sixth form (year 13) those who failed to get two A levels could go to Teacher's Training Collages to train as Primary School Teachers. Today you need a degree and a postgraduate certificate in teaching in order to become a primary school teacher.

Listening to Assembly Members (and bloggers) argue about the costs of Higher Education, leaves me in a state of despair, because they don't ask the most basic questions:
Why do we need so many bloody graduates?

Why does a job that needed two O Levels 30 years ago need three degrees now?

If I have been a competent nurse for the past 30 years, without a degree, why does my son need a degree to follow in my footsteps?

Harold Wilson's government raised school leaving age to sixteen years old and lowered the age of majority to 18 years, which left the unqualified school leaver just two years to learn a trade before attaining adulthood. Before Wilson, those who chose the apprenticeship or the graduate route to employment would both qualify at the age of 21, when they became adults.

The answer to the funding of higher education problem is simple! Go back to the situation where two O levels are good enough for a simple clerical job. Allow 14 year olds to become 7 year apprentices for skill orientated jobs; and use the universities to educate just the top percentile of our national intelligentsia, where an university education is absolutely necessary, rather than forcing all and sundry to gain an unneeded university education for the sake of being politically correct!


Wales is for sale

Very little seems to have been made of one part of Darling's financial package announced on Monday. To help finance some of the tax and borrow plans the government is considering a new tranche of privatisations, three of them which will be of particular importance to Wales.

I suppose that the reason why we have heard so little about these privatisation plans is because the Tories are generally in favour of privatisation, and those that use to complain about the policy in the Labour party are keeping their gobs shut out of loyalty to party rather than loyalty to principal.

One of the few to comment on the story is Dai Hudd, the deputy general secretary of public service union Prospect who made the pertinent point that:
Any attempt to sell them off now would be economic madness. In the current climate the market value of these public assets will be way below their real value. It would be a case of sell in haste, repent at leisure. Government will face the justifiable anger of taxpayers if they see these national assets sold at bargain basement, credit-crunch prices.

The three which are going to have a big effect on Wales are privatisation of the Royal Mint, which is currently in Llantrisant, the DVLA the major employer in the Swansea area and the Forestry commission.

Privatising the Forestry commission is a matter of particular concern. One out of every seven acres of the surface of Wales is owned by the Commission, the idea that Mr Darling could sell 14% of our country to private investors who may have little or no interest in our country is sobering, the thought that one seventh of our country could be owned by a Russian oligarch or a huge multinational with its headquarters half way around the world by this time next year is frightening. The fact that most of our elected politicians seem have ignored this issue is scandalous.

The Daily Pundit has some rumours of potential buyers, apparently Tesco is in the frame for buying the Forestry Commission and Vladimir Putin has his eye on the Royal Mint.


Tory Child Killers?

According to a report in today's Sunday Times a Conservative Member of the Scottish Parliament wants headmasters to have the right to use the death penalty as a means of punishing naughty schoolchildren

Tory MSP Alex Johnstone told the paper:

School discipline is reaching crisis point and giving individual headteachers the power to decide whether or not to use capital punishment would be a good move.

This issue is certainly worthy of debate in the Scottish parliament because it is one that needs to be dealt with.

Perhaps Mr Johnstone should be given the cane for not learning the difference between capital and corporal punishment.


Same old Labour

I have been going through a backlog of blogs and news stories that I have missed during the past week or so. The big story of the week seems to have been the publication of the IWA's new book Politics in 21st Century Wales, and especially Rhodri Morgan's contribution to it.

Many have commented on Rhodri's belief that the Labour party is perceived to be anti-Welsh by those of us living in the west. Personally I think that Rhodri's views are dated. What he says would certainly have been true 25-35 years ago, but I don't hear the same animosity to the Labour party in these parts as I heard in the days of George Thomas et all in the 70's. In general the attitudes towards Wales and its language expressed by the likes of Ian Lucas, Don Touhig and Chris Bryant are seen as oddities within the Labour Party these days rather than the mainstream view.

What struck me as most interesting in Rhodri's comments was his attitude towards Proportional Representation. Peter Black and Betsan Powys both touched on this subject, but neither of them noted the audacity of the First Minister's suggestion.

What Rhodri wants is PR in areas where Labour is under represented - like the West, but for First Past the Post to remain in those areas, such as the Valleys, where Labour thinks that it can get a majority of seats through the current system. He only supports PR in those areas where it will benefit Labour but is dead against it in those areas where it will harm Labour.

Rhodri's view on PR is so typical of the arrogant divine right to rule attitude of Welsh Labour that it is almost incredible. I suspect that it is this anti democratic streak in the Labour party that is the cause of its recent disappointments in Welsh politics, and that Rhodri's belief in PR for Labour but not for others will add to the party's decline throughout the country.


Fagging Own Goal

I have smoked since I was nine years old, when I was persuaded that smoking was a sign of being a proper grown up man. By the time that I realised that smoking was really a sign of being a proper mug, I was hooked and, as yet, I have failed to beat the addiction.

As the old joke goes giving up smoking is easy - I did it seven times last week. Knowing how addictive smoking is and how difficult it is to stop, having started, I am generally supportive of any measures that encourage today's youngsters not to start the silly habit.

I have never been convinced of the value of warning notices on cigarette packages. I have smoked thousands of packs with the message smoking kills on them without batting an eyelid. If you were to ask which notice is on the pack in my pocket I would have to look at it to answer. So not very effective.

I have noticed that some packs have started to show pictures on them rather than just words. I'm sure that pictures might be a little more effective than just words.

There is one pictures, however, that I feel defeats the object. This one:

My two teenage boys have always hated the idea of smoking, but they loved this joke and begged me not to bin the pack, so that they could take it to school and show it to their mates. This puerile joke is one that appeals to young men and makes the fag packet more attractive!

The medical facts of erectile dysfunction amongst smoking men is based on studies of 50 year old smokers. Apparently 60% of long smoking 50 year olds suffer from the problem in comparison to 12% of those who have never smoked. So a message aimed at young men is based on research on men who most youngsters would consider past it anyway.

The fact is that most smokers in the age group that this picture message is aimed at could provide simple proof positive that the message is not true. And if that message can be proved to be untrue then it weakens all other messages.

An own goal by the health bods! This image and message should be withdrawn from the campaign!


Can I borrow a shilling for the meter, please?

Valleys Mam highlights an issue that many who are worried about fuel poverty have brought up over the past few months. The fact that people who obtain gas and electricity through prepayment meters are being ripped off.

Mam notes that
Companies could be making up to £550m a year from extra charges they charge on prepayment meters.

and that

These customers who pay by prepayment meter subsidise customers who can get the cheapest deals.

This is clearly wrong. The poorest customers, those least able to pay, shouldn't be giving profit boosts to the energy supply companies, and should absolutely not pay extra in order to subsidise "deals" offered to better off customers.

However I do have a serious concern about campaigns against prepayment meter charges. Prepayment is more expensive to collect than monthly direct debit or quarterly bill payment. If you charge your gas key in the village shop's PayPoint machine, then both the shopkeeper and PayPoint expect to be paid for offering the service. The customer who has the convenience of paying in this way should expect to pay the costs of that convenience. We mustn't forget that the being able to pay for utilities at £3, £5 or £10 a time IS convenient to most of those who use the service.

Some time ago (in the mid 1990's) the Water Boards offered a similar service to poorer customers. They could pay their Water charges in the dribs and drabs that they could afford using a charge card. It was a service that millions of poorer people subscribed to, voluntarily, because it made payment easier for them.

Unfortunately some Socialist do-gooders who could, no doubt, afford their own water rates, complained to the courts about the legality of the scheme, and it was withdrawn. The withdrawal of the scheme made many of those who were happy with the system unable to pay and plunged them into a debt that they couldn't afford.

In supporting any campaign to get costs down for prepayment customers, I do hope that the campaigners don't throw the baby out with the bath water (sorry for the pun) as they did with water prepayment. Losing the ability to prepay the energy bills a little at a time would be a disaster for most low income families.

Apologies for Absence

I note from the comments to my last post that at least one person has been wondering about my lack of postings for the past week.

It has been a very bad week as far as family matters are concerned. At the beginning of the week I attended the funeral of my great aunt Mari who was the last of my grandmother's generation. At 90 years old her death was not unexpected but it was, nevertheless, a matter of great sadness for members of the family. On Thursday my nephew, Gwyn, was killed in an horrific car crash.

So I apologise to loyal readers for my lack of posts, but some things are more important than politics.


Glenrothes Revisited

There has been a huge amount of analysis in the weekend papers about the result in the Glenrothes by-election. Most commentators seem to concentrate on Alex Salmonds' arrogance or on Labour stirring up a local council issue of community care fees, rather than Westminster issues. Others refer to the Brown Bounce and the financial crisis. I feel that all of the commentators, whatever their political bias, have missed one crucial factor. The most shocking figure in the by-election was the turnout!

The average turnout for the whole of the UK in the 2005 general election was 62%. Glenrothes was one of those constituencies that dragged the average down. Only 55% of the good folk of the constituency bothered to vote. In by-elections, turnout is usually considerably lower. The average by-election turnout in the UK for the past 10years was just 38%, it would not have been surprising if fewer than 30% voted in Glenrothes. But in this by election the vote was only just down on the constituency's 2005 turnout at 53%.

The SNP was not expecting to get more than the 13,000 vote that it had. Both SNP and Labour returns were showing that level of support. With a 38-45% turnout 13K would have given the SNP it's expected win. What went wrong for the SNP and gave Labour the victory was that about 8,000 people who shouldn't have voted in a by-election did vote.

Nobody from any of the parties, or amongst the pundits, saw this extra vote coming. When the polls close the expectation was that it was in the bag for the SNP. So where did this extra surge come from?

One could go for the conspiracy or fiddle theories, I suspect that it has more to do with boozing!

The people least likely to register on canvas returns are the under 25 year old voters. When they are at home their Mams or their Dads will answer the door or phone to canvassers. Many of them are absent voters in their collage residences.

Usually it doesn't matter because they don't bother to vote anyway. But with the SNP's policy (opposed by its own student group) to raise the legal drinking age to 21, I suspect that many of the unexpected votes came from young voters.

I respect the SNP's commitment to tackle Scotland's binge drinking culture, there is no doubt that it needs to be tackled, but it is a fact that the nationalist vote is also the youngest vote in Scottish (and Welsh) politics. The SNP needs to look at ways in which to address the drink culture in a way that doesn't demonise the young, because if it loses its youth vote (as I suspect it did in Glenrothes) then it will find itself up the world famous creek without a paddle!


Hello again Marcus

After an absence of about six months Marcus Warner is back blogging, his latest site goes under the name Sweet and Tender Hooligan. Marcus previously blogged as Renewed Labour, Clear Red Water and Southpaw Grammar.

Congratulations Lindsay Roy MP

Disappointing result in Glenrothes. The Labour party has not only held on to the seat but also increased their share of the vote.

However the SNP did increase its vote by 13% so the result hardly bursts the SNP's bubble or ends Alex Salmond's honeymoon, but disappointing nevertheless.

Congratulations to Lindsay Roy MP.


Poems & Politics: In Flanders Field

When I am not blogging politics my other delight is family history.

My family tree is full of those who lost their lives in the First and Second
World Wars. Some are famous, like my cousins removed Hedd Wyn and Wilfred Owen. Others were just ordinary people like my great uncles John and Hugh Humphreys, my second cousin Thomas Bitton and my uncle Hywel Griffith.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of the two World wars I will Wear my poppy with pride and I will remember them!

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae


Congratulations Obama o Fon

The First Black President of the USA! But also the Ninth President of the USA of Welsh Descent!

I am in tears because of both facts.

Wales should proud that one of our boys is the first African American President of the USA.

His paternal ancestry is in Kenya, but his maternal ancestry is in Wales!

He is the first African American President, but let us not forget that he is also the Ninth President of Welsh descent too!


Bloging the Presidential Race

Welsh language magazine Golwg has been blogging the presidential race since lunch time. Ifan Morgan Jones, the deputy editor of the organ intends to stay up until the early hours posting as events unfold. He also wishes to link to other Welsh bloggers who are going to join in the fun, so even if you can't read Welsh pop over to the Golwg blog and let Ifan know that you will be up until the crack of dawn to keep him company.

Ordovicius, The Right Student and Chris Cope also intend to blog the night away. As for me - I might stay up, but I might go to bed - it depends how things develop and how the nectar flows.

For Scottish and McCain supporting commentary see Malc's blog

Plaid voters are thick, but SNP voters are thicker!

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, voting patterns reflect the IQ's of those voting. The cleverest people vote Green, absolut thickos don't vote at all. Those of us who vote Plaid aren't the top of the class, but we have a little bit more upstairs than our friends in the SNP.

Average IQ scores at the age of 10 for people voting in the 2001 general election for various parties were:
Green 108.3
Liberal Democrat 108.2
Conservative 103.7
Labour 103
Plaid Cymru 102.5
Scottish National 102.2
UK Independence 101.1
British National 98.4
Did not vote / None 99.7

The IQ's of those who write such tosh and expect it to be belived have not been verified!


Welsh-athon Challenge

I Found this challenge on Facebook, it sounds like an interesting way of encouraging people to learn Welsh and of of giving those who have started learning the language during new academic year an extra boost to their studies. On the other hand learning a new language can be a very stressful experience, would adding a semi-political and charitable goal add to the stress in a negative way?

Ever fancied learning Welsh? Ever fancied raising lots of cash for your favourite charity? Would doing one, convince you to do the other?

Then take up the challenge of learning Welsh to fluency before the 2011 census, (so you can proudly proclaim you speak Welsh on the next census return), and get yourself sponsored for the challenge, seeing how much money you can raise for your favourite charity! :o)

Our goal is:-

Anyone could do it, but it's a BIG CHALLENGE! Here are the 10 steps you have to take:-

1. Select an excellent charity you wish to support (perhaps a Welsh one?)

2. Gain as much sponsorship as possible for your charity for the following challenge:-

"I challenge myself to become a fluent Welsh-speaker by the 2011 U.K. Census!"

(If you already speak a little Welsh, you only have to convince your sponsors that the challenge of becoming fluent is a big one! (Clearly it is - it's as arduous a challenge as any marathon, but thankfully you don't have to be physically fit!) If you have a head start in your learning, perhaps you could start your challenge later in the course of the event.)

3. (The difficult bit) LEARN WELSH TO FLUENCY, before the month prior to the 2011 Census, when you will have to prove your achievement! The challenge is possible within the two years study time available!

4. Don't learn alone - network with other 2011 WELSH-ATHON participants, share learning ideas, and learn together! Also please see the resources for learning Welsh that will be uploaded to 2011 WELSH-AHTON sites, as well as tips and recommended courses.

5. Attend the/an official 2011 WELSH-ATHON exam where your fluency will be tested - one month before the census is conducted - you'll be expected to translate the front page of the Welsh language daily newspaper "Y BYD,"[*] or a selected article from a Welsh language magazine, under exam conditions.

6. Notify the 2011 WELSH-ATHON reporters of how much you've raised, and what your chosen charity was, after passing the exam, so the success of the challenge can be reported by the Welsh media!

7. Attend the post-exam party, where people will be celebrating their newly learned Welsh, and how much they've raised for so many excellent causes!

8. Submit the funds you have raised to your selected charity!!!

9. Proudly indicate your ability to speak Welsh on your 2011 census return! :o)

10. Find out how many people can speak Welsh in Wales after the Census results are published, and enjoy the Welsh you've learned for the rest of your life, encouraging others by telling them how you succeeded in the challenge!


The Facebook group is here Facebook Welshathon. Those who do not have a Facebook account can contact the organisers on

[* Challenge 5 needs updating!!!]


Odd Odds

During the Glasgow East by election I mentioned the weird tale of a Labour committee member who supposedly collected £1000 from party supporters and used it to bet on a Labour victory in order to skew the bookies reported odds in favour of his candidate. In the Times and the Scotsman yesterday there were reports that an SNP activist has e-mailed party members encouraging them to pop down to their local bookies and put £10 on the SNP candidate in Glenrothes in order to swing the odds in the nationalists favour.

During my 150 years experience of political campaigning I have never, ever heard of anybody changing their voting intention based on the bookies odds. If SNP supporters have a tenner to spare they know that the best way to use it in order to influence the vote is to donate it to the campaign fund, rather than donating it to William Hill.

I didn't believe the Glasgow East tale and I don't believe the Glenrothes tale, both stories smack of a bit of spin from bookies trying to drum up trade, rather than honest political reporting.

HT Jeff