Dog Days

With our friends in Westminster and the Bay on holiday / working hard in their constituencies and all the politics programmes off air for at least the next two months, what is left to discuss on the blogs during the silly season?

There is always the weather:
NHS blog doctor has come to north Wales to take the air, but the rain dosn’t seem to be doing much for his health. Perhaps he should take a tip from the Writing Man who finds that nothing beats the rain like a good old Welsh singsong.

If we want a laugh we can always pop over to Iain Dale’s post about the sheep that invaded his garden and enjoy all the Welsh sheep shagging jokes in the comments sections. For those of us who can’t quite raise a belly laugh at these sort of tired old prejudices Jan Morris’ article Mocking the Welsh is the last permitted bigotry gives pause for thought.

When we Welsh aren’t discussing politics we are supposed to discuss religion. Two Welsh religious blogs of note are the Rev Richard Hall’s Connexions and Rhys Llwyd’s English blog (Welsh speaking readers will no doubt already be aware of Rhys' Welsh Language blog).

Our other delights are of course Rugby and football, which, unlike politics, no longer appear to have a closed season.

However the most important non political contentious issue can be found on Liz’s Finding Life Hard blog - The Great Toilet Roll Debate. Although I can’t take part in it because I use cut up squares from the Western Mail in the shed at the bottom of the yard. This has an advantage over toilet roll. When I change my underwear at the end of the month I often find old news stories transferred to my underpants that I had previously missed, and then I can belatedly comment on them on this blog!


Plaid welcomes a Billion Pound Drain from Wales!

According to Adam Price MP the announcement that Swansea and Cardiff will be joined to London by an electric rail link is:

The culmination of more than thirty years of work on Plaid’s part (it became party policy in 1977), dating back to a time even before I joined the party.

Welsh Ramblings sees it as a personal victory for Ieuan Wyn Jones:

Question for the One Wales sceptics - would this have happened if Ieuan Wyn Jones was not Transport Minister?

George Monbiot noted last December that:

The railway map of Wales is a classic indicator of an extractive economy. The lines extend either towards London or towards the ports. As Eduardo Galeano established in The Open Veins of Latin America, the infrastructure of a country is a guide to the purpose of its development. If the main roads and railways form a network, linking the regions and the settlements within the regions, they are likely to have been developed to enhance internal commerce and mobility. If they resemble a series of drainage basins, flowing towards the ports and borders, they are likely to have been built to empty the nation of its wealth for the benefit of another. Like Latin America, Wales is poor because it was so rich. Its abundant natural resources gave rise to an extractive system, designed to leave as little wealth behind as possible.

The electrification project continues the drainage and extractive use of railways in Wales. The electrification project is bad news from a nationalist prospective. It ties Cardiff and Swansea to London, rather than enabling the cities to contribute to Wales as a nation.

Nothing for a nationalist to be proud of. Another proof that Plaid has ditched its Nationalist Credentials!


Scottish Powers v GoW2006 Powers

Being the first weekend of the school holidays I have been away taking the kids to visit their grandparents etc. On my return today I found a comment on my last post which is worth an in-depth answer, despite being posted by my friend Anonymous.

In my last post I mentioned the fact that many respectable commentators claim that a referendum held under part 4 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 would give Wales Scottish type powers, and noted that this was not true.

Anonymous responded by saying:

OK, then MOF, tell us what the differences are between Scottish parliamentary powers and GoWA2. I dunno.

The major differences are discussed in academic detail in a Web Journal of Current Legal Issues article written by Nigel Johnson LLB, MSc (Econ), Principal Lecturer in Law at Sheffield Hallam University. The most pertinent point that he makes is:

It is noticeable that Wales in this respect is not to follow the Scottish model, in which matters reserved to Westminster are specified and everything else is devolved. Instead the GWA 2006 adopts the defined functions model (Rawlings 2005, p 850) where the devolved powers are listed. The explanation given for this is that whilst Scotland is a separate legal jurisdiction. An important feature of the enhanced legislative competence of the Assembly is that it will legislate within a unified England and Wales jurisdiction

So the simple difference is that the Scottish Parliament is told what it can't do, but the Welsh Assembly is told what it can do. The list of things that the Scottish Parliament can't do is fairly limited. The list of things that the Welsh Assembly can do is also fairly limited.

The Scottish Parliament can do whatever it likes regarding anything other than Social Security, International Affairs, Defence, Internal Security and European Issues etc

The Welsh Assembly, even after a referendum, would only have responsibility over partial issues regarding:

Agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development; ancient monuments and historic buildings; culture; economic development; education and training; the environment; fire and rescue services and the promotion of fire safety; food; health and health services; highways and transport; housing; local government; public administration; social welfare; sport and recreation; tourism; town and country planning; water and flood defence and the Welsh language.

And even in these matters, would not be able to pass measures that effected the overall judicial unity of England and Wales in either criminal or civil judicial matters.

If a referendum was held and won tomorrow the Scottish Parliament could make abortion illegal, the Welsh Assembly couldn't (if either would wish to do so is besides the point. One could, the other couldn't). The Scottish Parliament could stop parents smacking children, the Welsh Assembly couldn't. The Scottish Parliament could imprison those who allowed their dogs to foul footpaths, the Welsh Assembly couldn't.

Scottish law is different to, not a part of and is independent to English law. Even under part 4 powers Welsh legislative powers will not be allowed to change the law of England-and-Wales. The Assembly will not be allowed to create a body of Welsh Law that is different to English Law. So The Assembly will have nothing close to, so called, Scottish powers!

To have parity with Scotland, to have Scottish Type Powers the National Assembly would have to be able to have control over the Welsh judicial system, both criminal and civil. That is not offered in the referendum clause. On the contrary it is specifically denied. The creation of a Welsh Legal System similar to the Scottish Legal System is not allowed under the GoW 2006 Act -So those who claim that the referendum is about Scottish Powers are either deluding themselves or deluding the people of Wales or both.


A referendum for liars?

On the new Aberconwy Conservatives blog, Guto Bebb makes a pertinant point about Rhodri Morgan spinning the case for a referendum.
According to 'Golwg 360' Rhodri Morgan, as part of an interview where he discusses the success of the 'One Wales' government between Plaid Cymru and Labour states that a referendum on "Scottish Style Powers" will be called in 2011

Guto points out (as I have done ad infinitum) that the Government of Wales Act 2006 clause does not offer Scottish Style Powers to the National Assembly!

In fairness Rhodri is not the only person to make this mistake, Archbishop Morgan, Gwenllian Lansdown and even the impartial BBC reporter Betsan Powys have made similar claims!

On the other side of the argument David Davies and his friends in True Wales argue against the GoW 2006 referendum clause on the grounds that they are against independence for Wales and they foresee a yes vote as a vote for independence, which, quite clearly from the wording of the act, it won’t be!

So if a referendum campaign starts tomorrow the referendum will be held with both sides of the argument making inflated claims. The Yes side saying that it is about Scottish Style Powers and the No side saying it is about independence.

But there will be nobody telling the truth that a referendum would actually be about a rather boring administrative change in the way that the Assembly gains legislative powers!

If both sides campaign on over-inflated lies, would a referendum have any real value as an indicator of public opinion? I think not!

We have a choice. We can have a referendum debate based on what the GoW 2006 clause actually says or we can have a debate on the real issues of Abolishing the Assembly, giving the Assembly parity with Scotland or Wales becoming independent. Anything else is just pathetic political posturing!

When Peter Hain first introduced the GoW Act referendum clause he suggested that a vote on that clause would settle the constitutional issue for a generation.

If both sides are lying about what the referendum is offering, I doubt if its result would settle anything, either way, for as long as a rainy weekend at the seaside.

Llais Dyfed?

I am grateful to Peter Black AM for pointing out that Cllr Alex Williams is not the only blogger to have commented on Plaid sacking Siân Caiach as I noted in my last post. Peter notes that the issue was raised on the Welsh Lib Dem joint blog Freedom Central on Saturday.

What is interesting about the post on FC is that it contains links back to a related story that I was unaware of. Another story that would have spread like wildfire through the Welsh blogosphere if it had involved a Labour or Tory party member.

Apparently Siân Caiach's daughter Arianwen Caiach- Taylor was expelled from the party last March for having the audacity to send an e-mail to Ieuan Wyn Jones accusing him of being a traitor over the top-up fees issue.

If Plaid is going to expel every young person (and parent of young persons) who feel betrayed by Plaid's u-turn on top up fees the party will have to kick out a hell of a lot of members. If they add those who are unhappy about Plaid's other U-turns Ieuan might find himself in a one person party!

The attitudes of Plaid and John Dixon that come through in these stories is very reminiscent of the breakdown in trust betwen the party hierarchy and ordinary Plaid members that caused the formation of Llais Gwynedd to challenge Plaid Cymru in its north western heartland.

If John and his cronies continue to give Plaid Cymru such a bad press I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a Llais Dyfed being formed to challenge the authoritarians in Plaid's south western heartlands too!


Whistle-blowing or Leaking?

One of the problems with the Welsh political blogosphere being so heavily influenced by just one party, is that when matters that might cause embarrassment to that party arise they are not aired in much detail.

As far as I can see only one Welsh blogger has raised the issue of Siân Caiach being withdrawn as parliamentary candidate for Ogmore and being baned from standing in the party's name for two years. I wonder if Plaid has issued an edict to its blogging supporters not to mention this story.

Apparently Ms Caiach has been sacked for leaking information to the press. A serious enough breach of trust to warrant disciplinary action perhaps. What is interesting is that in 2000 she was suspended from working as an orthopaedic surgeon at Prince Philip Hospital, Llanelli for leaking information about the use being made of NHS beds for private patients. At the time Plaid Cymru gave her their full support and claimed that her leaking was actually whistle-blowing and was an act very much in the public interest.

The information that Siân is accused of leaking to the press is apparently about discrepancies in the voting procedure to select Plaid candidates for the Welsh Assembly election. This could also be said to be in the public interest, the defence of whistle-blowing rather than leaking could be made again. Abuses of democratic process are just as much a cause for public concern as abuse of NHS facilities.

Amongst the reasons for the candidates sacking are that she failed to co-operate with an investigation by the party chair into a leak of private correspondence and encouraging one or more persons to write and publish misleading stories which would damage the party.

The one or more persons was apparently one of her children, and the failure to co-operate was a refusal to supply John Dixon with copies of e-mails sent by her daughter. I find this quite shocking. If any other party had sacked somebody for refusing to hand over their offspring’s e-mails Plaid supporters would be up in arms. Her daughter's e-mails are not Siân’s to share. If John wanted to see copies he should have asked the daughter not the mother. If the daughter told him to sling his hook then he can't blame, discipline or punish the mother for that.

As to Siân Caiach's behaviour leading to "damaging coverage" for the party. Her shoddy treatment at the hands of a party that she has served faithfully over many years is much more damaging.

The Black Cat’s Blog

Browsing the web I have just found out that Guto Bebb, Tory PPC for Aberconwy, has been blogging for about a month now.

His pearls of wisdom can be found here

Bottling it

On my travels recently I stopped in a small shop and bought a bottle of water. Make the most of it the shopkeeper said as I paid for my bottle, the politicians will be banning bottled water soon. Interesting to see a political debate that is going on in Australia resonating in rural north Wales.

However, the shopkeeper is probably right. This does seem to be the sort of issue that would appeal to the Assembly. Indeed Penri James suggests that one leading Liberal Democrat in Ceredigion is already advocating the cause, despite the fact that the county has two prominent water bottling companies providing much needed private sector investment and employment in the area.

Other Welsh politicians thinking of joining this bandwagon should remember that one of the Ceredigion water companies is Tŷ Nant, probably the most recognisably Welsh brand in the world.

I can’t quite understand the environmental benefits of not bottling water. If I was unable to buy water yesterday I would have bought a bottle of fizzy pop instead. As far as I can tell a plastic cola bottle is just as bad for the environment as a plastic water bottle!


Know your own balls

The news that John Hartson is suffering from complications of testicular cancer is very sad. I wish him well and hope that he beats it.

Here is a video that explains how to check yourself:

Unfortunately some of the most at risk group will not be able to view this video. It is age restricted because it shows real testicles so people between 15 and 21 are not allowed to view it due to US obscenity laws!

Testicular cancer is most prevalent amongst young men aged 15 - 35, so a large section of those who need to know how to check their own balls are denied on line video advice! That is immoral, disgusting and unacceptably obscene!

YouTube should know better.

If you are a boy who is old enough to masturbate, you must know how to check for TC! Ask your Dad, your uncle, big bro, the man next door - anybody (sensible) to enable you to view a TC check video.

If you are too embarrassed to check your own balls for TC, you could really Die from Embarrassment.


Conservative MP Parks Illegally in Disabled Bay

This is a picture of a Conservative MP's car parked illegally in a disabled parking bay!

What do Plaid Cymru bloggers and supporters think about this abuse of a disabled parking space?

Do they think that there were extenuating circumstances that allowed the MP to park there?

Do they think that the person who took the picture is a fat arsed bastard with an axe to grind?

Do they think that those who complained about the abuse of the disabled parking place should worry about more important things?

Or are these pathetic excuses only used when a senior member of Plaid Cymru is caught with his pants down?


Does Palin now have time for dinner?

As Sarah Palin has announced her resignation as Governor of Alaska, will this mean that she now has time for dinner with David Jones MP, Stephen Crabb MP, David Davies MP and her other fans in the Cornerstone Cabal of ultra-Thatcherite Conservative MPs?

Old Farts Rule OK!

I have come across a number of words referring to forms of government ending with the suffix ocracy such as democracy, autocracy, aristocracy etc.

On tonight's BBC World News I came across one that I have never heard before. Referring to the older people who ruled the USSR some time ago - Auntie called them a Gerontocracy.

A Gerontocracy, apparently, is a political system ruled over by a Miserable Old Fart - sounds good to me!


The Tax Payers Alliance

Whenever there is a news story about public expenditure one can almost guarantee that the report will contain a comment by a spokesperson from the Tax Payers Alliance, as has been seen today in reports about AMs using expenses to rent office space from their own parties.

The impression given is that the Tax Payers Alliance is a grass roots organization who's objective is to speak up for the ordinary men and women who pay the taxes that government spends. This is a very false impression.

The TPA is, in fact, an ultra right wing organization founded by loyal Thatcherites for the purpose of promoting the most discredited and unacceptable aspects of Thatcherite economic policy.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of the way that Assembly Members rent offices one has to remember that in commenting on the story the TPA is doing so from a political position of being ideologically opposed to the existence of the Assembly. Their comments should be seen in that context and the journalists using their comments should make that context clear.