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.