A tale of Two Cities - London & Cardiff

Another year comes to its end.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times for the National Cause.

Most nationalists will remember 2007 as the first time in its history that Plaid has been in government. Ieuan Wyn has won political plaudits for bravely going where no politician has gone before and putting personal ambition aside for the sake of his party.

Good times, indeed, for Plaid politicos.

2007 has been a good year for Plaid Cymru as a political organisation. But it has been a shit year for the cause that Plaid exists to support. The nationalist agenda is on the rise in Scotland and is gaining ground in England, but in Wales nationalism has been well and truly kicked into touch.

What has Plaid had out of the coallition with Labour so far? Just the Sir Emyr Convention!

The Sir Emyr Convention is a week facsimile of the Richards Commission, but, like Richards, it is just an exercise in pleasing the political elite and will be unheard of by the majority of Welsh voters. It will make a report that will be rejected or compromised upon by the Unionist element in Labour, if Labour has the chance, before it looses the next Westminster election.

Whilst Plaid awaits, with bated breath, the conclusions of Sir Emyr's Convention Plaid does nothing to promote the national cause. Instead Plaid props up the Labour Party, whilst that party is dying.

Most Labour governments have been dependent on Scottish and Welsh Labour MP's to form an UK wide majority. When Labour failed to gain a majority in Scotland or Wales this year then Plaid should have seen the Writing on the Wall for new Labour.

Before the next Assembly election in 2011 there will be a Conservative UK government! FACT

Plaid's current policy of refusing to entertain any understanding with the Tory's is harming the national cause. British Brown is not going to concede an inch to Wales or Plaid, during what is left of his premiership. A hat tip to Cameron before the next Westminster election might make the next Tory government better disposed towards Wales.

Supporting Labour whilst loving to hate the party and a cutting off its nose to spite its face attitude towards the Tories gives Plaid and Wales the worst of both worlds.

If Plaid wants to serve Wales rather than serve itself in 2008, it must ditch Labour and start negotiating a better deal than a convention for the furtherment of the governance of Wales with the Conservative Party in Wales and in Westminster.

I know that dealing with the Tory's seems like blasphemy to many in Plaid but, now, it would be a far, far better thing to do, than the party has ever done

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda


Representation for all #2

In his un liberal and un democratic attack on Dafydd Wigley for daring to raise the issue of Representation For All, Peter Black AM makes the following comment:

Are we sure for example that we have an equal proportion of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender people within the Senedd as we do in our communities? Of course not and why should we?

On the same day as Mr Black makes his homotrepid comment Pink News (hat tip Iain Dale) lists what it claims are the fifty most influential openly LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual) people in British politics. The list contains two Welsh MP's Adam Price and Chris Bryant, and three Members of the Scottish Parliament; but no Member of the National Assembly. Is this because Pink News believes that AMs are not influential or because openly LGB people have no representation in the Senedd?

If the LGB community is not represented in the Assembly, it is an equality issue that needs looking at. If the LGB community is fairly represented, but the Assembly is perceived by that community to be without influence, then the LGB community is a ripe constituency to harvest in support of additional powers in the proposed referendum.

Representation for all

After last May's election there was some disquiet in the ranks of Plaid Cymru about the party's gender balance policy of ensuring that a woman has number one spot in every list election. The main complaint was that the list preference system enabled Janet Ryder to be elected rather than Dafydd Wigley. A secondary complaint was that after Wales' allocation of MEP's was reduced by one (the "loser" being Plaid's Eurig Wyn) that Plaid has an electoral mountain to climb before it elects a second MEP. Unless Plaid gains a huge increase in votes, its voice in Europe will be female in perpetuity.

As a result of this disquiet Plaid's last party conference agreed to review its gender balance policies. In yesterday's Western Mail Dafydd Wigley suggested that the review should look at ways of enabling balance for other under-represented groups, not just women. Given his long-standing interest in disablement equality Dafydd suggested that the lists might be used to enable people who live with a disability to get elected to the Assembly.

Like Peter Black AM, I don’t think that "using the lists" is the best way of ensuring that people who live with a disability gain a voice in the Assembly. Unlike Mr Black, I don't think that Mr Wigley's comments should be rubbished and dismissed out of hand. Dafydd Wigley raises an important topic for debate. Whether one agrees or disagree with his conclusions, I think that Wigley should be congratulated for raising the issue.

This post is already longer than I intended it to be. So I shall split it and return to the subject in further posts over the next few days.


Unicameralism Petition

There is an interesting petition up for signature on the Prime Minister's petition site

The people of Wales are becoming increasingly annoyed by the lack of a separate appointed chamber to bring the assembly to account. This situation has recently become much worse with the new coalition government reducing the number of opposition members.

The people of Wales call upon the Prime Minister to end Unicameralism* in Wales by creating a second chamber, modelled on the House of Lords, entirely appointed to scrutinise the work of the elected Assembly.

The people of Wales are so annoyed by this lack of a Welsh House of Lords that so far only two people have signed the petition other than the author. One is a person called JUST SCRAP THE ASSEMBLY, IT'S POINTLESS ANYWAY and the other is named I AGREE, SCRAP THE ASSEMBLY (I don't think that these are the signatories' real names somehow).

I would have signed the petition myself as I am the ideal candidate to sit on a Welsh woolsack and I'd look real smart in ermine, however I foresee a major problem. With a coalition government in power I would need to pay cash to two parties in exchange for the honour not just the one, so the Westminster Lords seems to be the best bargain.

* If like me you have never heard of this word before here is a definition:
Unicameral –adjective consisting of a single chamber, as a legislative assembly.
[Origin: 1850–55; uni- + L camer(a) chamber + -al1]


Bah! humbug!

I have decided to wish all who know me season's greetings on my blog, because I won't be sending Christmas cards to family and friends this year.

It's got sod all to do with environmental concerns or political correctness. I just can't be bothered writing them and I'm too tight fisted to spend money on stamps to post them!

I will be using all the money saved from not sending cards for the good cause of supporting local business ventures. Most notably by endeavouring to keep my local pub in business - a very worthy cause!

Nadolig LLawen Blogwyr Cymru!

Welsh MP - English History

Gareth Young's blog regularly comments on the injustice of Welsh and Scottish MPs interfering in what are English only matters since the advent of devolution. It is a point with which I have much sympathy. One of the main reason's for the change of fortune in the devolution debate in Wales was the fact that Wales suffered so much during the previous Conservative government, partially because four Secretaries of State for Wales were MPs from English constituencies who had little knowledge of and less sympathy for Wales. I see no difference between Lembit Opik's new responsibilities for the Lib Dem's policies on housing in England and John Redwood's former responsibility for housing in Wales.

One of the issues devolved to Wales is education and the school curriculum, so I wonder what Gareth will make of Wrexham MP Ian Lucas' latest publicity stunt.

Ian Lucas has published an article in the Fabian Society's magazine suggesting that as Welsh History is taught in Welsh schools and Scottish History is taught in Scottish schools, then "regional" history should be part of the curriculum in schools in the English administrative regions.

Apart from the fact that this devolved issue is none of the Welsh constituency MP's business, Mr Lucas' plan has another fatal flaw. The administrative regions of England are not historical regions, so they don't have a shared regional history.

Coming from Newcastle, Lucas said his own schooling included none of Northumberland's rich history, yet his children's schooling in Wrexham is strong on the history of Wales. And he said the different experience of the industrial revolution around England could be reflected in what children are taught.

But Northumberland isn't an English administrative region Mr Lucas!

I have nothing against teaching local history to children, indeed it is something which deserves support, but isn't the most appropriate historic unit on which such history should be taught the ancient county rather than a non-historic region?

Of course Ian Lucas' silly idea has nothing to do with teaching local history in schools it is part of Labour's plan to "save the union" by denying England's right to exist as a nation. He wants to teach regional history for political rather than educational reasons. It is part of Labour's ploy to force regional rather than national devolution onto England, because Labour hates the idea of English nationalism ten times more than it hates Scottish and Welsh nationalism.


A few quick points about Scotland

I haven't blogged about Scotland for a while, so here are a few quick comments to make up for the deficiency:

  • 1. We were robbed! Rhydian was a much better singer than Leon on the X Factor, Rhydian should have won it!

  • 2. A poll in the Sunday Herald shows support for independence in Scotland has grown to 40%, an all time high. If this growth in support continues its upward trend for another 12 months there will be a very clear majority in favour of independence by next Christmas. Interestingly a poll in the Telegraph last week put support for independence in Wales at an all time high of 22%. The growth in support for Welsh independence is probably a side effect of the Scottish debate. How many Welsh people would support our country's freedom if Plaid campaigned as positively as the SNP does for independence rather than continuing to be a devolutionist party?

  • 3. The Labour, Conservative and Lib-dem Unionists in Scotland are trying to thwart the march towards independence by proposing a joint proposal for further Scottish devolution within the UK. None of them believe that their proposals would need a referendum before they are enacted (they wouldn't dare). If Scotland doesn’t need a referendum for even more devolution why are the Unionists in Wales so insistent that a referendum must be held in order to give Wales fewer powers than Scotland currently enjoys?
  • 15/12/2007

    Old News!

    I see that the BBC has at last picked up the story that Conwy County Council might withdraw its £300,000 grant promised to support next years Urdd national eisteddfod, which is to be held in the county next year. A story I discussed on this blog a whole two weeks ago!


    Making Excuses for Child Poverty

    Since he started writing for Golwg, Normal Mouth has written an interesting if opinionated and personal take on the politics of Wales and the wider world without appearing too partisan. His latest offering however changes tack - it is a full frontal partisan attack on Plaid Cymru over the issue of Child Poverty.

    When Plaid says that the Assembly has few powers to tackle the issue properly, Normal claims that Plaid is being defeatist and that the party is reverting to type by pointing the finger at London as a defence.

    The idea that Plaid is being realistic and honest doesn’t occur to our Labour sycophant.

    Bethan Jenkins AM is Plaid's most outspoken champion on tackling Child poverty. What I hear her say is that it is a matter that needs to be dealt with at all levels of government, Assembly, Westminster, Local Authority and EU level. Rather than pointing a finger, I hear Bethan asking for better cooperation and understanding between all levels of government on this important issue.

    Of course, if one level of government isn't pulling its weight, isn't doing all it can do to tackle the problem it is incumbent on the champions of the cause to point this out as both Bethan and Huw Lewis have done.

    Having made his accusation Normal goes on to ask Why, then is Plaid so defeatist?

    His answer is that:

    Ending child poverty isn’t the Nationalists’ issue. Through its dogged persistence Labour has made the cause its own.

    Ending child poverty is one of a dwindling number of policy areas that all shades of Labour can unite around. It reminds the party that real issues unite it in real ways. It is therefore an anti-wedge issue. The fact that the charge is led by Nationalist bête noire Huw Lewis only ratchets up the temperature. This is an issue that neither Lewis nor Labour can be seen to win on.

    I find this difficult to believe.

    It is true that everybody in the Labour Party wants to end child poverty. But everybody in every other party also wants to end child poverty. Child poverty is as universally hated as apple pie is universally loved. Indeed, one only has to look through Normal's own Questions to a Welsh Political Blogger posts to see ending child poverty pop up in answers from bloggers of all persuasions.

    Child poverty isn't, in fact, a problem in its own right. Child poverty is a misnomer, a bit of Nu-Lab spin designed to unite the party on an apple pie issue.

    Child poverty is a by-product of adult poverty. Most poor children are those who live in households headed by poor parents. The only way to take children out of poverty is to take their parents out of poverty.

    Real policies that attempted to deal with parental poverty would split Labour mercilessly along the old / new fault line and along the middle England / industrial heartland fault line. The real problem - adult poverty, is a wedge issue in the Labour party.

    My issue with Huw and especially Bethan is that whilst claiming the socialist moral high ground on this issue they persist in using the Blairite euphemism of child poverty instead of campaigning for what good old fashioned socialists use to campaign for - the ending of plain POVERTY.


    Existentialism, innit!

    I am not renowned for my fine sense of humour and I have been known to take the huff easily when I perceive that Wales is being insulted in even the smallest way. That Pot Noodle "miners" advert really p****d me off, for example.

    However I was surprised to see that 21 people had made a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority about the Penderyn distillery advertisements on the grounds that they were anti Welsh and portrayed Welsh people in a stereotypical way. I thought that they were quite funny. Rather than maintaining the stereotypes that Male Voice Choirs are boring, Welsh Rugby fans are anti English and that Welsh women are thick I saw the advertisements as ridiculing those stereotypes.


    The Flynn doth protest too much, methinks

    Hat tip to Go-English

    To protest too much is to insist so strongly about something not being true that people begin to suspect maybe it is true.

    You do like that girl, don't you?
    Answer: No! I don't! Not at all! Why do you think so?
    Reply: You protest too much.

    Protest too much comes from Hamlet by William Shakespeare; the Queen speaking: The lady doth protest too much, methinks. (Note: people do not usually use the word "methinks" when they are speaking English today.)
    To protest too much is to insist so passionately about something not being true that people suspect the opposite of what you are saying.

    Do you think he is telling the truth?
    Answer: I think he protests too much.

    Paul Flynn MP hath a blog, that doth protests the Labour Party's innocence of all charges of corruption ad nauseum


    By Our common Endeavours

    Hat tip to Sanddef for drawing attention to a report in the Western Mail about Karen Sinclair AM's contribution to Labour's Wales 2020 debate. Ms Sinclair's pamphlet entitled By Our common Endeavours - Cross boarder working in the next decade, can be read on line as a PDF here.

    Sanddef's post has caused some controversy and has been reacted to angrily by some of the AM's supporters, some of whom (given Labour's record) should consider their employment prospects before sending angry comments to blog posts. The pamphlet itself, however, doesn't appear to be all that controversial. Indeed, it appears to be so mundane that my first reading left me wondering why she had gone to the trouble of writing it.

    Ms Sinclair's basic premise is that Wales has a border with England, that people who live in the border areas often cross the border to access work, services leisure etc and that the National Assembly, relevant Whitehall departments councils and other authorities should co-operate to make sure that cross border facilities provide the best possible services for border dwellers. I don't think that many people would disagree with this premise.

    Ms Sinclair makes her case by showing how well the Deeside Hub has worked to the benefit of those on the Welsh and the English side of the Hub

    For those who may be unfamiliar with what I mean, the
    Deeside Hub is an economic sub-region of the Welsh/English
    economy covering a large area of Flintshire, Denbighshire and
    Wrexham as well as Chester, Wirral, Ellesmere Port and
    Neston in England.

    This example shows the weakness in Ms Sinclair's argument. Her own example shows that what she is calling on the Assembly and other authorities to do is precisely what the Assembly and others have been doing for the past 8 years, with a fair measure of success.

    But there is a subtext to the pamphlet that goes beyond cross border co-operation. The pamphlet is scattered with comments such as:

    Our continued economic development in the next few years into a world-class, added value area that continues to punch above its weight will rely heavily on developing an integrated transport policy that takes greater account of regional economic patterns than it does of historic, but artificial national borders.

    Recently, heavy emphasis has been placed by the current Assembly Government on improving North-South transport links, but important consideration needs to be given to improving and upgrading cross-border West-East links

    In South East Wales, Cardiff and Newport have an advantageous position near Bristol to become a financial and creative industries hub.

    The sub-text of this Labour document is that attempts to strengthen the links between north and south Wales should be secondary to strengthening the ties of the regions of Wales to Merseyside, the English west Midlands and Bristol. That as little as possible should be done to provide uniquely Welsh based services. In short, that any attempt by the Assembly at Nation Building must be avoided at all costs, because the Labour party can't abide the idea of an united, confident Wales that isn't heavily dependent on England for all things.


    Bread and Butter Politics

    With the House of Commons bogged down with arguments about the funding of political parties and the National Assembly worrying about the constitutional status of ELCO's its good to see that the House of Lords, at least, understands that real politics is about bread and butter issues. But has Baroness Gardener of Parkes taken the need to discuss bread and butter issues a bit too literally?:

    Baroness Gardner of Parkes (Conservative) Hansard Link
    Why is it that in central London you can hardly find a thinly-sliced or medium-sliced loaf of bread to buy, and any sandwich you buy in any supermarket is now made with thick bread? While the House of Lords continues to use medium-sliced—and very nice—bread in its sandwiches, even the House of Commons has moved to thick bread. Surely at a time when we want to reduce people's consumption, there should be more pressure from the Food Standards Agency, or one of the many departments the Minister speaks about, to take us back to normal-sized bread instead of these super-sized sandwiches


    Brown Doomed

    It's not name dropping or pretending that we are bosom pals, but I have been a nodding acquaintance of Peter Hain's for over 30 years, since we were both members of the Young Liberals in the 1970s. (When my sister had a poster of Donny Osmond on her bedroom wall I had a poster of Peter Hain on mine !!!! )

    Political differences apart, Peter has always stuck me as a genuinely honest person. Since he was fitted up on a false charge of robbing a bank Peter has known that you don't just need to be honest in public life, but you have to be able to prove that you are honest too. Therefore, if Peter Hain says that not registering a donation to his deputy leadership campaign was a genuine oversight caused by an administrative error then I believe him 150% without any margin for doubt.

    I have never met Paul Flynn MP, and I have never had any dealings with him. However, from what I have seen of him on TV, heard of him on the radio, read about him in the press and read by him on his blog, he has always struck me as a genuine sort of man who tends to put truth, conviction and his constituents before petty party political point scoring.

    The downfall of the Conservative party in the late 1990's came about when those who we had always suspected of being smarmy, dirty dealing bastards were caught out. The fact that, now, the good guys like Hain are caught in the cross fire of sleaze accusations and solid blokes like Flynn feel the need to spin the truth, make me feel that Gordon Brown's premiership is in a much, much more disastrous position now than John Major's ever was.

    Urdd Eisteddfod 2008 - Cancelled by the Assembly?

    I have a lot of sympathy with Conwy County Borough Council's claim that it has been given a raw deal by the Assembly in the current financial settlement.

    Conwy is the county with the highest percentage of pensioners in Wales. Because it has a large urban conurbation on the coast, the fact that most of the county is extremely rural isn't given due weighting and because the poor in the county live in the same council wards as the super rich (some wards contain more than 50 square miles) the poverty levels in the county are largely ignored when funds are allocated. Economic inactivity is higher than average in Conwy and wages are much lower than average. Despite its problems Conwy is to receive a measly 1.1% increase in its grant from the Assembly coffers.

    There is no doubt that council taxes will have to rise substantially whilst services are cut.

    The Urdd National Eisteddfod is due to be held in the county next year. Because hosting the festival is likely to give a six million pound boost to the local economy, the county had agreed to support it with £300,000. However, because of the paucity of the Assembly grant increase, the council may be forced to renege on this promise as part of its cut backs.

    If the council's support is withdrawn the Festival may have to be cancelled. The 15,000 children who take part in the Eisteddfod will be denied the opportunity to display their talents and 150,000 festival visitors will be deprived of the opportunity of enjoying the event. If this happens it will be a disaster for Conwy and for Wales as a whole.

    Canceling the Eisteddfod for the sake of £300,000 won't just be a cultural disaster, it will also be a political disaster. One of the biggest threats to a yes vote in the proposed next step referendum is the perceived north/south divide. Whether this divide is real or imaginary is immaterial, it is perceived to exist. All too often this perception is created by the Assembly its self.

    If Conwy and north Wales is unable to host Europe's largest annual youth event because of a mere £300,000 shortfall, after the Assembly has bailed out one of Cardiff's 5 concert halls to the tune of 13 million then a referendum on further powers will not be won for a generation.

    Supporters of devolution, in all parties, must realise that if they want more powers for the Assembly then the Assembly must not only be fair to all parts of Wales it must also be seen to be fair.

    Whatever the formula, whatever the justification, whatever the rational; giving Conwy, Powys and Anglesey a 1% rise in support whilst councils in the south are given up to 4% rises will never be seen to be fair to the north. Allowing the Urdd Eisteddfod to be cancelled because a north Wales council is too strapped for cash to support it, due to Assembly policy, will be seen as yet another example of a Cardiff centric government that has no interest in anywhere that is north of the Beacons.


    Teaching RE in schools

    Not wanting to be outdone by fellow bloggers Adam Price and Normal Mouth, I managed to get mentioned in Golwg this week too. Here is the translation of the article (written by Ifan Morgan Jones):

    Complaint About Changing the Ten Commandments

    A preacher from the Conwy Valley is unhappy, because he claims that a school in his area has re-written a part of the Bible in order to make it politically correct

    Alwyn ap Huw claims that his children have received a new version of the Ten Commandments that changes the Christian message.

    In place of: Thou shalt have no other gods before me, he claims that the children had received a commandment that said: Respect your god and the gods of others.

    That, he said, is the complete opposite of the central Christian message that God alone can give salvation.

    "They are trying to teach respect for other religions, but lying about religious beliefs doesn’t show respect to them at all"

    "They shouldn't try to change a child's understanding of religion by trying to make it more nice".

    "Teaching things such as tolerating and respecting the views of others belongs to another subject".

    "If lies, that do not reflect the facts of faith, are what is taught in Religious Education lessons, is there any point to such lessons?"

    For the sake of his children, Alwyn ap Huw wasn't willing to say which school had made the change, but he said that this sort of thing was common in religious education thorough Wales.

    Ifan got the gist of what I said, but not quite!

    My children were not given a new commandment. Respect your god and the gods of others, was given as an explanation of the meaning of the first commandment. However I did say that this was a totally false explanation of the meaning of the commandment, indeed, it is quite the opposite of what the first commandment says.

    The point that I was trying to make is that most religions are exclusive they are totally intolerant of other religious viewpoints. One might think that this is unacceptable in a modern, diverse society, but it is still true!

    Traditionally RE taught children how to live as good Christian citizens in a Christian country. Today RE attempts to teach a child about many faiths but it still has a role in teaching morals and citizenship. However, the moral and civic values that it teaches are secular, not religious. My complaint is that because secular mores are taught in RE the religious aspect of the education is falsified in order to fit into the secular mould.

    Learning about religions is essential to understanding the arts, the humanities and, if not pure science, the antecedents of science. Teaching false religion for the sake of political correctness hinders such understanding. (Try teaching the end of the Tudor period to kids who are taught that Christianity is a lovey-dovey nice religion!)

    During the next 15 days children in schools thorough England & Wales will pretend that a plastic doll is the baby Jesus, and will be loved by their parents for doing so. At the same time an English woman brought up on the fallacies of religious equality and religious tolerance will be in gaol for calling a teddy bear Mohammed!

    On a final point of clarification, it wouldn't need a Miss Marple to work out which school my kids attend! I didn't want to name "the" school because I didn't want to blame one school for what I see as a general problem. The RE problem is one that exists on, at least, an England and Wales basis - so picking on the school that my boys attend would be unfair!

    Ultimately, the problem is more than educational, it is constitutional! The United Kingdom is not a secular state it is a .. ym .. sort of... Christianish, if you can work it out let me know state!!!


    Sir Emyr's Convention

    I'm sure that Sir Emyr Jones-Parry is a perfectly decent person who doesn't need a sat nav to find his way around Wales. Don Touhig's campaign of kicking the man not the ball by being rude about Sir Emyr is un-needed, unacceptable and probably harm's Mr Touhig's view more than it harms Sir Emyr. However, having said that I do agree with some of Mr Touhig's doubts about The Convention.

    In theory The Convention will be inclusive and will ensure that all opinions are heard. The convention may hear diverse opinion but I fear that its true purpose is to listen to just one.

    Independence on the one hand and the abolition of the Assembly on the other are both legitimate views which are held by thousands of Welsh people. No matter how good an argument is made for abolition or how fervently the case for independence is made there is no doubt that The Convention will reject these views out of hand.

    Some options will probably not even be put to The Convention. What the Scots call devolution max - devolving everything other than defence and international affairs will not be considered, despite the fact that this option is likely to be what is desired by many as the next stage of devolution after the referendum.

    The truth is that only two options will be given serious consideration: The status quo and the option proposed in the Government of Wales Act 2006. It is a foregone conclusion that The Convention will support the GoWA proposals.

    As it is a foregone conclusion what view The Convention will favour and what it will decide one has to ask whether spending millions of pounds on such a convention is the best use of public funds at a time of tight public spending.

    Indeed, as the Convention actually has a practical remit that is political; to smooth over difficulties between Labour AM's and MP's and to promote the GoWA option it is fair to ask if The Convention should be paid for out of the public purse at all. The Convention in reality is a smokescreen for a political campaign and political campaigns should be financed by the supporters of the campaign, not by tax payers, many of whom may disagree with the campaign's aims.


    Too Many Councils in Wales

    Normal Mouth has a weekly column in the Welsh Magazine Golwg. After the mag has been printed Normal posts the original post that Golwg has translated on his blog. His latest offering can be seen here.

    It appears that Normal doesn't do the post heading! He has had difficulty with finding a heading for his current pre-translation!

    Under the title Too Many Councils? Time to Face the Truth Normal makes the case in Golwg that there are too many councils in Wales. I agree. Thirteen county councils were good enough for almost 700 years. There may have been an argument for change, but the change should have resulted in fewer rather than more councils.

    Normal makes the fair point that Kent County Council has a similar population to that of Wales. However Kent is not an "Unitary Authority" it contains 12 city, borough and district councils, not too far off the 13 "traditional" Welsh councils!

    Kent also has over 500 community and parish councils.

    I agree with Normal that the number of county councils should be reduced. My personal opinion is that we should have between five and eight county councils, reducing the number of councils to a sensible level would save a lot of money.

    However I disagree with Normal on one critical point. Normal ends his column by saying The Assembly appears eager to acquire new powers from above. It is time it looked under the stairs as well. To put it in local speak the ability to act should be taken from Conwy and given to Cardiff!

    That is a non starter!

    One of the best arguments that the "antis" made in 1979 and 1999 was that "devolution" = "centralisation" this argument has been proved. It is a truism that my local parish council was responsible for more aspects of local services in 1880 than the Assembly is responsible for today!

    The nationalist heartland voted NO in 1979, because it feared that all would be centered in Cardiff. The Yes argument in these parts was basically one that felt that, after Thatcher, Cardiff centered government would be better than London centered government.

    The fact that the Cardiff centered government can find 13 million pounds to save its local concert hall, but it cant find a piddling million quid to save the biggest employer in Conwy, makes Cardiff feels further away from Conwy than it was 10 years ago and it feels much further away than even London or Brussels are.

    The general feeling in those parts of Wales to the north of the Beacons and to the West of Barry is that Devolution has devolved bugger all, it has centralised everything in Cardiff.

    The Assembly, as it acquires more powers from above, should look under the stairs, as Normal suggests, but it should do so in order to give careful consideration to the powers that can be sent downstairs!

    Any referendum for more powers for Cardiff, that doesn't ensure that local government in the North and the West is strengthened will fail, and will deserve to fail!


    Paul Flynn MP

    I was sorry to hear that one of the stalwarts of the Welsh blogosphere Paul Flynn MP suffered a minor stroke whilst going about his work in parliament last night. Best wishes to him for a full and speedy recovery.

    Four arrested on terror charges in Cornwall

    Four men, including a senior member of the Cornish Stannary Parliament have been arrested by armed police investigating alleged terror plots against chefs Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver.

    In June e-mails claiming to have been sent from The Cornish National Liberation Army were sent to newspapers threatening to burn down the chefs' restaurants in Cornwall. The e-mails also claimed that the CNLA had received training from members of the Free Wales Army (FWA)!

    One of the men arrested, Stannary member Hugh Rowe, 53, vowed to clear his name following a dramatic dawn swoop on his home and the alleged seizure of dozens of his possessions in the early hours of Monday morning.

    The four men were held by detectives in a series of coordinated raids by armed police on addresses in Camborne and Falmouth.

    The full story can be read on the This is Cornwall news site


    Does the BBC have a pro-England news bias?

    Under a headline Allegations over BBC pro-England news bias the Western Mail reports:

    THE BBC is to launch a major inquiry following allegations that Wales is poorly served by its UK network news operation, the Western Mail can reveal today.
    Tomorrow the BBC Trust will announce that two experts specialising in politics and the media will examine the coverage of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on flagship news programmes such as News at 10 and other bulletins presented by newsreaders like Huw Edwards and Fiona Bruce.

    The BBC won't have to spend too much on their inquiry. The answer is clear, there is very little information about events in the smaller nations of the UK on programmes such as News at Ten. Indeed if one depended on the BBC's British output to find news about the Welsh Assembly almost the only thing that would be known from this year is that the Assembly killed a holly bullock.

    However I believe that the Western Mail's headline editor is mistaken, and that the BBC is asking the wrong question in their review. Rather than a pro-English bias the BBC news service has an anti-English bias.

    Wales and Scotland have their own national news services, there may be questions about quality and the inability to attract sufficient viewers, but a Scot or a Welsh person can choose to watch Scottish or Welsh national news and current affairs programmes. The only country in the UK that doesn’t have its own national news coverage is England, an English person is totally dependent on the UK service to find out what's happening in England.

    Since devolution, politics in England is clearly different to the politics of Wales, Scotland and the North of Ireland. One of the weaknesses of the BBC's (and other channels') news and current affairs programmes is that they don't acknowledge this by providing a service specifically for England.

    If there was a national news service for England one of the effects would naturally be a more balanced representation of what is happening in all of the nations of the UK in what was left of UK wide current affairs programming.

    Back from Honolulu

    My Internet problems have, at last, been resolved - normal service on the blog will be resumed shortly.

    During my absence two Labour bloggers have been selected to carry their party's banner in forthcoming elections.

    Martin Eaglestone, a glutton for punishment, has been selected to stand as prospective parliamentary candidate in the Arfon constituency. Because of boundary changes Arfon is now considered to be a "nominal" Labour seat, so Martin has the task of "defending" a seat for the first time in his career as a serial candidate.

    Luke Young has been drafted as a prospective council candidate in the May election for Blaenau Gwent County Borough.

    Hearty congratulations to both of them.


    Gibney and Brunstrom

    The death of Mark Gibney in 2003 was horrific. Mr Gibney was decapitated because he was driving so fast that when he attempted to brake on seeing an oncoming vehicle his motorbike stopped, but his head didn't.

    Mr Gibney was driving at very high speeds on the B5105. As anybody who has driven in Wales knows our A roads are not suited to high speeds, never mind the B roads. Yet Mr Gibney decided, of his own volition, to drive at a very high speed, reckless of his own fate or the fate of other road users on a twisting, rural Welsh B road. He died as a result of his own reckless stupidity.

    Mr Gibney's driving was described by the Coroner in his inquest as reprehensible. Mr Gibney had no licence, no insurance, no training and his motorcycle had a false number plate. When he died Mr Gibney was wearing a tee-shirt that showed his total contempt for the law and the safety of other road users that the law attempts to protect. His tee-shirt displayed the (untrue) slogan :


    Mr Gibney, clearly didn't think that driving on a B road at high speed without any concern for other road users, or for his own safety, was a serious criminal act.

    Mr Gibney's family have the audacity to complain about Chief Constable Brunstrom using Mr Gibney as an example of the horrific consequences of dangerous driving. If they can't see that Gibney is the perfect example of stupid attitudes to macho biking they must be in denial of reality!

    If, God forbid, a member of my family was caught up in such horrific circumstances, I would want that family member to be used as an example to others, as a warning against such stupidity. The fact that Mr Gibney's family are calling for the Chief Constable of north Wales to be sacked for drawing attention to the horrific consequences of abusing the road in the way that Mr Gibney abused it, and that certain MPs are supporting the family's view is beyond my comprehension


    I told you so! Labour & Devolution

    I have still not sorted out my ISP problems, so I apologise for not giving hat-tips or links to others who have made pertinent comments about the subject of this post.

    I have mentioned before that I am not a supporter of devolution. My personal view about a referendum is bring it on, win or lose the Scottish type stage in the evolution of devolution argument will dead,either way, and nationalists can go on to argue the case for independence.

    Despite the fact that I couldn't give a bugger about the result of a referendum, I do appreciate that Peter Hain makes a fair point when he says that those who believe in devolution as a means in itself or as a means to an end won't want to call a referendum that fails. Mr Hain says that a referendum called within the next four years will be lost.

    Peter might be a piss poor politician, but Dr Hain is a distinguished academic. As an academic Dr Hain knows that one can't make a premise without proving it. But this is exactly what Dr Hain has done on at least 4 occasions since last May. He has stated, categorically, that a referendum held before 2011 can't be won, but he has offered no reason or proof for his premise, other than his own belief.

    The academic response to Dr Hain's unproved premise is that there is no proof available. The political response is that there is proof but that the proof is too embarrassing for the Labour Party - that if a referendum is called within the present Assembly term Peter Hain knows that too many Labour MP's will renege on the All Wales and campaign for a No vote.

    So where does that leave Plaid?


    And had by its own left wing who put their own isms before the national cause!



    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.


    Mr Dales Diarrhea

    Apparently this blog is mentioned in dispatches seven times in Iain Dales new book about British Blogs.

    Sorry, I'm not impressed. I won't buy the book, I wont push the book, basically I couldn't give a sh**t.

    This isn't the 2nd best Welsh Nationalist blog in Britain or the 26th non aligned British blog and it doesn't fit in to any other rubbish British category that Iain tries to force it into.

    This is an independent Welsh Blog that doesn't give a sh*t about being categorised into Mr Dale's Best of British categories, because this blog isn't British it's Welsh, Mr Dale, totally Welsh and has F..k all to do with your UKainian imperialism.


    Renting to reduce unemployment?

    There is little doubt that two of the major problems facing Wales today are the ability of local people to afford housing and the large number of people who are economically inactive.

    The way that the Assembly Government intends to deal with the housing problem is mainly through building more of what are called affordable houses; houses that lower paid workers are able to buy. But a member of the Bank of England's monetary policy committee suggested last night that this sort of policy might actually be counterproductive to tackling unemployment.

    In a speech in London yesterday Professor Danny Blanchflower said that there is a correlation between high levels of home ownership and long dole queues and that the answer to both unemployment and housing problems might be encouraging more of us to rent rather than buy. Of the major industrial nations Spain has the highest unemployment and the highest rates of home ownership and Switzerland the lowest unemployment and the lowest rate of home ownership

    Professor Blanchflower suggests that a possible reason why higher own ownership raises unemployment is because it reduces labour market mobility. Because it is too difficult and too costly to move to where jobs are because of the ties of an owned home, fewer of us are willing to try for jobs that might necessitate moving home.

    Not being an economist like Prof Blanchflower our own Prof Dylan J-E, I can't comment on the validity of these arguments, but they sound interesting and I would suggest that looking at significantly increasing the number of decent homes built for the rental market might be something that the Assembly should seriously consider as an alternative to adding to the number of homes to buy.

    Welsh not Walian

    One of the mores of the British Empire was divide and conquer. The anti Welsh have used this with a vengeance since the advent of devolution.

    In as much as my passport, my driving licence my birth / marriage and (if things don't change) my death certificate force me to have a British Identity, whether I like it or not, the existence of the National Assembly forces a Welsh identity on those who who live in Wales but abhor all things Welsh.

    What is interesting is that this new Welsh Identity is not Welsh according to the British nationalist imperialists it is now Walian.

    Walians come in many different shapes and forms. There are north Walians, south Walians, east Walians, Welsh speaking Walians, English Walians, British Walians, west Walians, gay Walians, straight Walians, bi Walians, Muslim Walians, Christian Walians, rich Walians, poor Walians, drunk Walians, sobber Walians any sort of Walian that you can imagine that divides one Walian from another and ensures that the multi faceted community that exists in Wales can never be considered as united in a single all encompassing national identity called WELSH.

    Brit=Good / Welsh=Bad

    Don Touhig MP is worried that Wales is too immersed in identity politics, a strange thing for a Labour MP to say in light of British Prime Minister, Gordon British Brown's British speech to the British Labour Party of Britain.

    Even stranger when one remembers that the Labour in the Labour party is itself a badge of identity, which (albeit a long long time ago) use to identified the sort of person (a Labourer, a worker) who should support the Labour party.

    In its purest non-partisan form elective politics is all about identity politics. Given a choice of three or four, totally independent candidates, the choice that an elector has to make is with which one do I, as an elector, identify, which one represents my identity!

    By slaging off identity politics what Mr Touhig, is actually saying is that my Welsh Identity is less worthy than his British Identity, that the politics of his British Identity is good and that the politics of my Welsh identity is bad.


    Earliest Political Memories Meme

    I have been asked by Ordovicius to join in one of those blogging chain letter things, this time on earliest political memories.

    In my case it is the 1859 eviction, when the vicious Tory landlords evicted Liberal voters from their farms and houses leaving large families starving and without a roof over their heads, because they had exercised their freedom to vote for an MP who would represent their interests rather than that of the landlords.

    I'm not quite as old as Sanddef and others think I am. I will be 48 on Monday so I was born 100 years after the evictions of 1859, but noting the evictions as an early political memory is not being facetious.

    In the 60's and 70's part of all political campaigns was the sticky badge. Kids loved them and went from party office to party office to collect as many as they could. I can remember being told in pre-school years (the 1964 election, probably) that wearing the Tory sticky badge was an act of betrayal and shame because of the turning out. It happened again in 1966 and 1970. Even when, as a 15 year old and secretary of the Merionethshire young Liberals, when I went canvassing I heard supporters saying that of course they would vote Liberal because of the turning out. The turning out was such a big political memory in Merionethshire that I thought, as a child, that it happened yesterday.

    Thatcher's legacy in rural parts of Wales is that she created an even bigger myth of the Tory monster than that which was created in 1859.

    When I was a kid, that period up to 10 where you remember things but not properly and not in any chronological order politics was all around me. Tryweryn and Cymdeithas yr Iaith (I was once paid 6d by an avid anti nationalist to sing God save the Queen when Dafydd Iwan was speaking in a rally in Dolgellau), the FWA, the preparations for the Investiture (I threw my Investiture mug in the river to please an anti friend and then beat up a younger kid in order to pinch his mug so I didn't get a row when I got home without a mug) and, of course Gwynfor's election. But these are all a mish-mash of half remembered events, things that I knew were important but weren’t really interesting to me.

    On the world stage the two events that stick out are Kennedy's Assassination (I don't remember where I was, but I do remember being confused by the fact that a dead man was talking on the wireless) and Churchill's funeral. Churchill's funeral was particularly memorable. The lower middle classes and upper working class had bought their first TVs to watch the coronation, the lower working class (like my lot) bought their first TV to watch Churchill's funeral. We were amongst the last to have a telly in the house but some neighbours who were unemployed or pensioners came to the house to join us for the event. All in suits, white shirts and black ties, like a proper funeral.

    My first real political memory is of the 1970 election, and has to do with sticky badges again. I went into the Plaid office with some friends who were much more supportive of the nationalist cause than I was and asked for a single badge in order to show genuine support. The candidate, Dafydd Wigley, told the office worker off for wasting resources on silly children, and he sent us away with a flea in our ears. Never liked the man ever since that occasion. I went straight to the Liberal Party Office and paid a shilling or 2/6 (can't remember but a LOT of pocket money) to join the Liberal Party, despite the fact that they would have given me a sticky badge for free!

    To whom do I pass the buck? Glyn Davies, Alan in Dyfed and Vaughan Roderick are all slightly older than I am, it will be interesting to see if they have clearer memories of my hazy ones.


    Usmanov, Murray, Freedom and Responsibility

    Until earlier this week I had never heard of either Craig Murray or Alisher Usmanov.

    Like most bloggers I now know that Mr Murray is the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan and that Mr Usmanov is an Uzbek millionaire, with an interest in Arsenal Football Club, who has forced a blog host to shut down because of comments made on Mr Murray's blog claiming that Usmanov is a Vicious Thug, Criminal, Racketeer, Heroin Trafficker and Accused Rapist.

    Mr Usmanov, on the other hand, whilst accepting that he was imprisoned for various "crimes" in the former USSR, claims that the charges were false and that his imprisonment was politically motivated.

    As I had never heard of either man earlier than this week, I can't comment on the validity of either the accusation or the defence. However, the issue does raise a number of important points about blogging and libel.

    As a blogger I have sympathy with other bloggers who have been censored, especially those, such as Boris Johnson, who have been caught in the crossfire. If, on the other hand, Mr Usmanov is innocent of the accusations made against him by Murray then I can fully understand his anger and the reason for his actions.

    Most bloggers have taken the side of Mr Murray, for understandable reasons. The fact that a billionaire can use his wealth and power to hammer a blog and a blog host is, without doubt, a blow against freedom of speech. But, Craig Murray has also abused the blogosphere. Murray has made no secret of the fact that he wants Usmanov to sue him, and has used his blog to goad Usmanov into doing so. Because a blog host, as the publisher of libellous material, can be implicated in any libel case Mr Murray was wrong to drag his host into his personal campaign against Usmanov and the Uzbek government and was wrong to put other bloggers sites at risk by doing so.

    The easy answer to the problem might be to make web hosts immune from prosecution in such cases and let the likes of Craig Murray and Alisher Usmanov fight their own battles without being able to drag an "innocent" third party into their fight.

    That might be the answer where those involved are two very influential people, but what happens when the parties involved live lower down the food chain?

    What happens if I post a blog making an unfounded accusations that a neighbour is a paedophile, but that neighbour couldn't afford to sue me and / or I'm not worth suing? My host has to be responsible for making sure that I can't get away with it. My neighbour must have a means of redress that doesn't involve the time, costs and hassle of civil legal action.

    On the other hand how can a line be drawn between being allowed to say that a prime minister or president is an useless tosser who isn't fit to hold his / her position and saying something similar about the holder of any other post, a headmaster or a shop assistant for example? And if an influential billionaire really is a Vicious Thug, Criminal, Racketeer, Heroin Trafficker and Accused Rapist how do we protect the right of an individual to expose him for what he is?


    Devoloution MAX

    The Institute of Welsh Affairs poll on attitudes to Devolution gives lots of food for thought.

    One of the most interesting things about it is that it isn't a Welsh opinion poll of the usual (crap) type that we know and love in Wales. The institute has been tracking Welsh opinion on a regular basis since 1997. Even if the IWA poll has the same huge margin of error that other Welsh polls have shown, the trends that it measures should still be reliable.

    Only the 1997 and 2007 results were released in the press, the intervening results were made known on the Datganoli programme on S4C this evening. I didn't make a note of them so I hope that they will be published in full in tomorrow's papers.

    I have made no secret of the fact that my preferred option is independence. I was pleased to see that support for independence has remained fairly constant over the last 10 years, hovering around the 11 to 15% mark. Given that (a few blogs apart) there has been no real campaign for independence (even Plaid hasn't really campaigned on the issue, Plaid has taken the evolution of devolution route), it is pleasing to see that devolution hasn't killed off independence as a legitimate view, as some hoped / feared that it might do.

    Dr Richard Wyn Jones claimed in tonight's programme that the poll tracking has shown a seismic shift in attitudes towards devolution. I disagree. I agree with Penddu, that the polls don't show that much change of opinion. If you split the 1997 result between those who wanted the status quo and those who wanted devolution and compare them with those who want the new status quo (or reversion) now and those who want more than the present settlement the figures have remained the same thorough the last 10 years.

    The term used for enhanced powers for the National Assembly, that the majority now appears to support, is a Scottish Type Parliament. The Scots have had a very Scottish Type Parliament for the last 10 years, and have found it deficient. About the same number of Scots who supported devolution 10 years ago now support enhanced devolution for Scotland. Either Independence or what is called Devolution Max.

    If Scottish type powers for the very Scottish type people of Scotland have proved, after 10 years, to be deficient then a Scottish type parliament is hardly going to be good enough for the Welsh type people of Wales!

    Its almost a foregone conclusion that in a few years time, having gained Scottish type powers, Wales will be in the same situation that Scotland is now. So why shouldn't Wales skip that step, and go for Devolution Max, with Scotland in 2011?


    Plaid's Laptops (again)

    One of the most unusual policies to be put before the electorate last May was Plaid's policy of giving all school students a laptop computer. A pilot project for this policy is part of the One Wales Agreement but no announcement about when the pilot is to begin has been made yet.

    A school on a Hebridean island has beaten Plaid to it by giving every pupil in Bowmor High School on Islay a laptop. So far the scheme appears to be successful and has proved to be popular with parent, the students and their teachers.

    One of the complaints leveled against Plaid's policy (of course) was that it would cost too much. The Scottish scheme is much more expensive per head than the one proposed by Plaid. Bowmor school has chosen to spend £750 per pupil in order to purchase the best computers and the best software. But despite the cost the school's headmaster suggested that the scheme would save the school money in the long term. In fact he told Politics Scotland this afternoon that the school would be able to purchase computers for new pupils starting in the school next year out of just half of the savings that the school would make on its photocopying bill alone.

    This Scottish scheme is one that Plaid should keep an eye on as proof that some of its more unusual policies are not quite as daft or unaffordable as the other parties like to portray them.

    A Barber's Condom blogs

    Nice to see that the Right Honourable Christopher Glamorgan has re joined the Welsh blogosphere, even if it is just as something for the weekend sir!

    The Best Dreams

    A Labour MP writes:

    I was there twice before in the wonderful, terrible, hopeful and terrifying days of 1990 and 1991. The three Baltic States were teetering on the threshold of new independence. No one knew the outcome. ..... Now the the best dreams have been realised. They are three self confident nations

    If Labour believes that independence is the realisation of the best dreams for Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania three, now independent, countries of similar size to Wales; why is Labour so opposed to Wales realising the same best dream of independence?


    Other Party Conferences

    Plaid Cymru is not the only party to hold a conference this week which has been ignored by the media.

    The Co-operative party has been meeting in London to celebrate the party's 90th birthday. The Co-op party doesn't stand in elections as an independent political party, it sponsors some Labour candidates. We use to have a number of Co-op MPs in Wales at one time most notably former Attorney General John Morris in Aberafon, I'm not sure if we have any now. I can find absolutely no news from the conference in Google's news search, but Political Penguin has posted a couple of blogs from the event.

    The Green party's get together is being held in Liverpool. With an item on the BBC and another in the Guardian, the Greens haven't been totally ignored, but given the importance of environmental issues in the current political debate I would have thought that they deserved better. The Green conference has blog coverage in Another Green World.

    Is it Just me?

    I have noticed that my blogspot instructions have become German (I think) recently!

    For example, what use to say View Blog (in new window), now appears as:

    Blog anzeigen (in einem neuen Fenster),

    I have reviewed my language settings and my option is still English (Welsh not being available) so why the German posting messages?

    Is anybody else experiencing the same difficulty, or is it just me?

    Moving from the Bay to the Junction

    Gareth Jones AM is furious because of the announcement that the proposed National Assembly Office relocation project for Llandudno Junction has been put out to tender again, which will result in at least a two year delay in the starting date for the commencement of construction work on the project.

    I agree with much of what Mr Jones says. There is a feeling in the North (and in the Valleys, in west Wales and central Wales) that the Assembly is Cardiff centric, that it has little to offer our part of the country. If the Assembly is to be a truly Welsh Assembly rather than a Cardiff Assembly it must offer, and be seen to offer benefits to the whole country.

    Many local people in the Conwy area, however, have reservations about the scheme to re-locate the education, transport, health and social service departments to Llandudno Junction. The problem is that that it is seen to be a scheme to move 600 jobs from Cardiff, rather than one that will create jobs in the county. The only jobs that will be created for locals will be of the menial and low paid variety - cleaners, car park attendants etc. The big bucks jobs will be jobs for Cardiff Colonists moving up from the city into Conwy County.

    So there may be a small silver lining in the delay, it will give those of us who live in Conwy the chance to evaluate the other re-location projects - to Merthyr and Aberystwyth, to see if these fears are justified, or to be re-assured by the other projects that Assembly relocation will have a real benefit for local people rather than being just an exercise in moving bodies north from Cardiff.


    Environmental Tories

    Keir Hardly points out the hypocrisy of the Tories claim to be an environmentally friendly party by drawing attention to research from Friends of the Earth that shows that the British Conservatives and UKIP have the worst record on supporting environmental issues of all parties throughout the European Union. Our own Welsh Conservative MEP Jonathan Evans was ranked 585 out of 685 MEPs, voting for only 14 per cent of positive environmental measures passed.

    I'm sure that it was an unintentional oversight by Keir, but he failed to mention that two Welsh MEPs appear at the very top of the table with the best possible record.

    At the very top of the list, soaring way ahead of all Lib Dem, Labour and Tory MEPs are Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans and former Plaid MEP Eurig Wyn both of whom have a 100% record. (The Green Party, of course, and the DUP also scored 100%)

    I was very unimpressed with David Cameron's environmental policy announcements today, they may sound good but I can't see them having much affect. The idea that fewer people will use domestic flight if VAT is added to the cost, in particular, will have hardly any impact.

    Habit changing taxes have been tried and tried again by governments but they have little impact. Take the tax on fags as an example - most smokers can find the extra 50p or so that goes on a packet every year - so they don't give up smoking. To make a real difference the government would have to add, say, £5 extra on a packet each year, but that would prove to be just too unpopular. The same is true on VAT on domestic flights, an extra £30 or so isn't enough to discourage people from flying but Cameron daren't suggest a punitive tax level that would effectively discourage domestic flying.

    Lords Revisited

    Plaid's Conference has decided to re-open the debate on whether the party should or shouldn't have members in the House of Lords. The Conference hasn't made a decision one way or another, but has asked the national Council to look at the issue.

    I have made my opinion on this issue known in a previous post, so I shan't reiterate it here.

    During the limited coverage of the Conference on BBC2 this afternoon Gareth Jones AM for Aberconwy told Rhun ap Iorwerth that he disliked the idea of Plaid Members in the Lords, because Plaid has always opposed the idea of having unelected politicians. This may always have been Plaid's theoretical view but it certainly hasn't been Plaids practical view in the past.

    Former Plaid president Dafydd Elis Thomas is already a Lord, of course, albeit as a cross bencher rather than a party representative.

    Before the 1974 Local Government reorganisation councillors could co-opt Aldermen to serve as councillors, not elected by the general population. Plaid had a number of these including non other than party icon Gwynfor Evans.

    So with at least two former party presidents having served as unelected politicians there is quite a strong precedent for such representatives and no historic grounds, as Gareth claimed, for the party to oppose the idea of unelected people having political influence.

    Plaid Cymru Conference not on TV

    The party conference season starts today with Plaid's annual shindig in Llandudno.

    As usual, the London Parties conferences will be given wall to wall coverage on TV, but this year there will be even less coverage of the Plaid Conference than usual.

    On BBC 2W and BBC Parliament (Sky 504) there is live coverage today between 1:45 and 2:45, and the same two hour slot tomorrow. There is a conference special edition of Waterfront on ITV1 Wales at 11:30 pm tonight.

    There is no coverage at all of Saturday or Sunday's proceedings at the Conference (Saturday is usually the most important conference day), and for the first time that I recall since the channels inception there doesn't appear to be any coverage at all on S4C.


    Somewhere over a Rainbow,

    OK the "One Wales" cabinet is yet to meet, we still don't know how this Plaid Labour coalition is going to pan out in government, but it seems that we already know how Labour intends to show its hand. Every single press releases during the recess has referred to the Labour WAG or the Labour lead WAG. Plaid doesn't come into the picture.

    Plaid in this government isn't like the Lib Dems, the fourth party getting a bit of a shoo for making the numbers up. Plaid has made a huge sacrifice in order to support Rhodri Morgan's Government.

    At best Plaid has given up the chance to be the lead party in a Rainbow coalition, with its Party leader taking up the mantel of First Minister, at worst Plaid has given up the leadership of the opposition!

    Plaid needs to be treated with a lot more respect as a government partner than it has been treated so far.

    Plaid's support for Red-Green was just touch and go to start with - it wont take much pressure for those of us who knew that the Labour Party would take advantage to tip the balance that ends the coalition!

    Labour, and to a certain extent the current Plaid leadership, have between next week's Plaid Conference and next years Plaid Conference to show what Wales and Plaid can get out of this unequal marriage, otherwise the party membership will ensure that a coalition that hasn't given full respect to the Plaid side of the partnership will come to an abrupt end.

    Somewhere over the rainbow
    Way up high
    There's a land that I heard of
    Once in a lullaby

    That land may yet be Wales!