Welsh poll - read the small print!

Before Labour supporters start drowning their sorrows and Conservative supporters start dancing in the street in reaction to today's YouGov poll - a word of caution. Apparently The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). This has been one of the reasons why most previous Welsh polls have proved disastrously inaccurate. Wales is not a mini GB. In Wales the C2s Ds and Es are a much more important factor in elections than the C1s who swing middle England for one party or an other.

Its good to see the beginning of regular Welsh polling, but until there have been a number of Welsh polls which can be used to show trends and until there have been enough polls conducted near real elections in order for the weighting to be adjusted to reflect actual voting patterns the results of Welsh polls must still be treated with caution and digested with a large pinch of salt.



If a member of the Green Party was on Question Time would all the questions be about environmental issues?

If a member of UKIP was on would all the questions be about Europe?

If a member of the SNP was on would all the questions be about Scottish independence?

No! There would have been questions about the economy, schools, health and all the other bread and butter issues. So why were all the questions on QT tonight geared towards the BNP agenda?

I was not opposed to Nick Griffin being a guest on the programme. Having him there I would have expected a question relating to race relations and fascism, but for the whole programme to be on just the one subject was wrong and biased, and a discredits to the BBC's claim to be impartial.

And oh! When QT comes from Llandudno next week will there be any Welsh questions asked? Probably not, on past form!


Beer and Fags and Plastic Bags

The European Court of Justice has decided that Ireland, France and Austria cannot set minimum prices for tobacco products. At the moment tobacco prices in many countries, including the UK, have a great deal of variation. A packet of 20 fags can cost between £4 and £6.50. When governments use taxes to try and discourage smoking for health reason many smokers can absorb the price increase by switching to a cheaper brand, which they do rather than giving up, making the reasoning behind the health tax defunct. The EU, however, argues that binding prices restricted manufacturers’ freedom to set prices, thereby posing a risk to free competition.

Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting notes how this could have a knock on affect on plans for minimum prices for alcohol proposed by the Scottish Government. Although Nicola Sturgeon claims that the decision will not affect the alcohol proposals, like Jeff I'm not convinced.

Another knock on affect could be on National Assembly plans to reduce the use of plastic bags. A number of countries have tried to reduce the use of bags by taxing them. In some US states one has to pay a tax of between 5c and 17c for each bag issued, for example. However, the National Assembly has no tax raising powers so their plastic bag tax plan is in effect a minimum pricing plan where shops will be forced to sell bags at a set price. So the Assembly might have to think again about this policy in light of the EU's ruling.

Tanni for FM?

I have just completed a Welsh survey for YouGov. Amongst the predictable question about which party one would vote for and opinions about devolution there was this question:

Which one of these would you prefer to see as First Minister for Wales?
Katherine Jenkins
Tom Jones
Gavin Henson
Joe Calzaghe
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Ruth Jones
Ryan Giggs
Colin Jackson
Rob Brydon
Tanni Grey-Thompson
Charlotte Church
Someone else
Don't know/ no preference

I voted for Tanni. Do you agree with my choice?

Apparently YouGov will be conducting a number of Welsh polls over the next few months, which will be analyzed by Richard Wyn Jones to see how accurate they are. The panel of those polled is made up of a weighted selection of Welsh members of YouGov. If you would like to join YouGov and be in with a chance of being selected for the Welsh panel you can do so by clicking HERE


Why I won't have the flu jab

Despite not actually having gone to the Gulf my youngest sister suffers from Gulf War Syndrome. It took years of campaigning and of tribunal hearings to get them to admit it, but the Ministry of Defence do now accept that she and many other non-deployed service men and women have the syndrome. The cause of their illness is recognised as being linked to the vaccinations received in preparation for possible deployment.

One of the theories relating to the vaccine damage is that the vaccines contained an adjuvant (ingredient to make them work faster) called Squalene. In 2001 my sister was given tests by an immunology expert which shows that she has antibodies to squalene in her immune system, it is therefore extremely likely that this is what has caused her illness which includes chronic fatigue, severe headaches, nausea, muscular pain, joint swelling, short term memory loss and depression.

It is with some trepidation that I read that the Swine Flu vaccine which is being given to people in Wales from today also includes Squalene as an adjuvant, despite the fact that the adjuvant remains unlicensed in the UK and the USA.

Despite being in one of the at risk groups that should be prioritised for receiving the vaccination, knowing that the injection contains this dangerous substance means that I won't be taking up the offer. It's a gamble but I would prefer to take my chances with the flu rather than risk spending the rest of my life with gulf war type symptoms.


Hang the bastards!

Since the 1960's Plaid Cymru has proved itself to be the second choice of disgruntled Labour voters. From the 1960's to the 1990's Plaid has managed to get 15%, 20% even 39% swings from Labour in by-elections but without winning a seat because of the weight of the Labour vote.

The days of Labour winning a seat despite a 39% swing against it in Wales have been over for some years.

Apart from perhaps Alyn and Deeside and Monmouth Plaid would be in a strong position to win any Welsh by-election called today. Bloody hell, Plaid even won Islwyn in 1999, despite the fact that many people in the constituency claim that Islwyn, Monmouthshire, is a part of England!

The clear problems for Plaid is that today's pissed off voter doesn't switch party, he / she just doesn't vote! That is why the Tories topped the poll in Wales for the first time in 150 years in the Euro Elections !

If Plaid can persuade the peeved to vote Plaid rather than not to vote at all, Plaid could gain, 11, 12, 15 or even more constituencies in the next Westminster election. With 20-to 30 SNP members and an outside possibility of an MK member, the national group could prove pivotal to the next parliament. Being pivotal is good for Wales, good for Cornwall and good for Scotland – Vote Plaid - Vote SNP – and Vote MK to make it happen!

The best option for Wales isn't a continuation of the present Labour government, nor swapping it with a Tory Government but a hung government where the voice of Wales counts. Lets hang the bastards by voting Plaid!


Congratulations Elin and Christianne

Hearty congratulations to Elin Jones AM and Dr Christianne Glossop on being awarded Farm Champion of the Year by the Farmers' Weekly magazine.

They were nominated for the award in recognition of their efforts to tackle the plague of TB in the Welsh cattle herd. In the words of one of the adjudicators:

The Welsh approach provides an ideal blueprint for TB eradication, from which the English government can learn a lot. Christianne and Elin's positive approach towards eradication rather than control is an inspiration to us all. Lyndon Edwards, RABDF

The award was presented by Westminster agriculture minister Hilary Benn, the man who should learn a lot from their positive approach. Sweet!

Picture source

Why should nurses pay for bankers mess?

According to multi-millionaire Osborn and equally rich Cameron, we all have to "pull together" to sort out the economic mess caused by the greedy.

Bankers and Hedge Fund owners caused the economic crisis that we are currently going through, but those who have to pay the price are people in public service who will have their pay frozen and their tax credits cut by the Conservatives. The men in red braces and Savil Row suites will be able to carry on regardless!

The public sector is the bête noire of Conservative politicians, the scroungers who are employed as state leaches, people who deserved to be hammered more than most. When they are described as state workers by the Tories they sound like the people who deserve to be hammered in order to preserve the private sector wealth creating parts of society.

The real public sector is made up of nurses, policemen, fire-fighters, soldiers, teachers and lollipop ladies. Should their pay really be frozen in order to make up deficits caused by the bankers and the wankers mistakes in The City?


Peter endorses Huw?

I was doing a family history search on the Ask search engine just now, when I came across this gushing endorsement for Huw Lewis from Peter Black:

If you click on the image it should become more readable, if not, the text reads:
This is the situation as it stood at 8am this morning. I really do not need to add anything except that the hopes and dreams of many Americans and much of the free World now rests on the shoulders of this extraordinary politician. ... Huw Lewis AM ...

Unfortunately clicking on the link leads to a post about a lesser politician Barack something


Can Anglesey have its £48 million back please?

Apart from owning a sweet shop for a couple of years, which was an abject failure as a business venture (mainly due to my own sweet tooth eating into the profits) my working life has either been in the true public sector or the quasi public sector (where private businesses are paid by the government for providing public services). So I can't pretend to understand how the real business world works.

Because I am venturing into a subject that I know little about this post might be a load of codswallop. If it is I would appreciate a word from the more business savvy of my readers to explain where I am going wrong.

Last June the Assembly and Westminster governments offered RTZ, the owners of Anglesey Aluminium a £48 million package to help secure the plants future. The offer was refused, and as a result about 400 well paid jobs will be lost on the island.

The £48 million to save 400 jobs that was offered (and turned down because it wasn't enough) works out at just short of a quarter of a million pounds per job!

This is where I get confused, if those jobs were worth a quarter of a million each, and if the cash was available to save them at that price, why aren't there 400 grants of a similar size available to 400 individuals on the island to create 400 new businesses after RTZ said No?

Indeed a quarter of the price of each job would be a huge boost to anybody wanting to start up an SME! The £48 million offered to RTZ could be £30k each to help start up 1,600 new Anglesey companies, and if each of those companies employed just one individual each that would be 3,200 jobs for the price of 400!

If the £48 million had been spread a little thinner it could have given £1,500 to each and every working age person on the island as a deposit towards self employment!

In short if the governments have £48 million to spare as (turned down) backhanders to billion pound turnover companies, why isn't that cash available to new Welsh entrepreneurs?

If Wales needs to get out of its public service culture, shouldn't we be using these multi million pound "grants" to encourage the creation of indigenous companies, rather than subsidising multinationals?

Despite the fact that I am a nurse, a public servant and part of the Welsh public service problem, I do appreciate the need for a vibrant indigenous Welsh capitalism.

If Wales is ever to stand on its own two feet it needs interim government financial support aimed towards the creation of Welsh owned businesses, rather than that support only being available to externally owned labour intensive multinationals (Like RTZ) that just happen to be in Wales whilst it suits them.


Don't be crule about Conwy Council

Cllr Jason Weyman is an independent member of Conwy County Borough Council who represents the Deganwy Ward and writes a blog here.

Today he has an interesting post which contains copies of correspondence between himself and the Chief executive of the council regarding the CE's decision to block access to blogs and social networking sites by councillors and council employees. The CE doesn't want the members and staff to read our musings because:

I have been concerned with regard to staff and elected members bringing to my attention (instead of focusing on the job), slights, inaccuracies, innuendo and froth regarding staff and councillors which has been published on blog sites.

So it appears that Conwy Councils highly paid executive doesn't want people to read blogs, FaceBook etc because people say nasty things about the council on them. To be consistent he might also consider getting rid of phones from the council offices to stop people from phoning to complain and suggest that councillors should stuff their fingers in their ears when they meet constituents so that they are unable to hear any moans about the council and its services.

On the other hand the Chief Executive might reflect on the fact that councillors are elected to represent the people and that officers are paid out of our taxes to serve us. If we have complaints they should bloody well listen to them, through whichever medium they are made, rather than trying to block them and dismiss them as "slights, inaccuracies, innuendo and froth" because they don't like what is said.


The Rhodri Conundrum

A number of commentators on the Radio and TV today have been making the point that Rhodri Morgan as an individual has a high popularity rating in Wales, but that the party that he leads has become noticeably less popular during his time at the helm. A number of reasons have been given for this – his man of the people persona; Rhodri not sorting out institutional problems in the Welsh Labour party etc.

I would suspect that the real reason is in the way that Assembly issues are always reported. The Assembly is almost invariably seen as a corporate institution rather than a political institution. Here is an example from the today's Daily Post:
"THE Labour government was accused of hypocrisy last night after announcing it was scrapping hospital car parking charges despite criticising the Welsh Assembly when it axed fees."

Throughout the article there is no mention that the decision to scrap parking fees was proposed by the Labour/Plaid government in Cardiff, it is always described as a decision made by the Assembly or by Wales.

The same has been true of almost any decision, good or bad, made since devolution. They have all been Assembly decisions never Welsh Labour Government decisions in the way that Westminster measures have been Labour Government measures. The problem that this has caused Labour is that Rhodri's popularity has been matched by the Assembly becoming more popular, rather than by Labour becoming more popular. Labour in Wales has been blamed for Westminster Labour's failings but has failed to gain from Rhodri's "clear red water" Welsh Labour policies.

This isn't just a problem for Labour however; it is a problem for all the parties.

When the Tories suggested scrapping free prescriptions recently they were seen as opposing the Assembly rather than opposing a Labour policy. When the Labour/Plaid government failed to help secure the future of Dolgarog Aluminium works in the Conwy valley last year attacks on the parties of government by the parties of opposition fell on deaf ears – the locals blamed the Assembly, and they wanted the Assembly scrapped not a change of Assembly Government!

Until we see an end to reporting of the Assembly as a corporate body, rather than as an institution that is as party political as the House of Commons, proper political debate in Wales will be stifled to the detriment of all of the parties involved in the Assembly.