A Devoloution Precept?

Love him or loath him one can count on Guto Bebb to raise interesting points of view. Two of his latest posts on Tax and Borrowing Powers for Wales are a case in point (apparently a third is iminent). Agree or disagree with Guto, he always raises important issues worthy of debate.

The second in the series deals with weather a Devolved Wales could have tax varying powers, it is not surprising that Guto thinks not:
"Around 85% of the Welsh population live within 50 miles of the English border. This is crucial and makes a separate tax system in Wales a damaging prospect for all of us"

One of the difficulties people in the UK have with border problems is that having lived as an Island or collection of Islands, for so long we forget that these border problems are things that most countries have dealt with for a very long time. Having large populations living close to boarders with other countries is actually the norm. If Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal etc can overcome such difficulties then England, Wales and Scotland can too if they choose to go their separate ways.

But looking at the conundrum Guto raises from a Devolutionist view rather than a Nationalist one, I feel that there is a moral problem with having this level of government that has the power to spend money, but cannot be held to account for raising any of the money that it spends.

I love my free bus pass, I love the fact that I can use the swimming pool free of charge. You might argue that paying for these services means that less is spent on education, but the fact that I have these services means that I don't go to school so if I want to be selfish what care I. If providing the services meant an extra £X on my tax bill I might think differently.

The Boston Tea Party was about no taxation without representation – isn't representation without fiscal responsibility just as bad?

Even if all Guto's comments about the difficulties of differing tax systems between England and Wales are accepted, there is a way in which Wales could have fiscal responsibility.

On top of my Council Tax from Conwy Council, I have to pay a precept for the North Wales Police and a precept from my parish council.

Couldn't the Assembly also raise a precept?

Since the inception of Council Tax, Welsh councils have charged £200-£600 less than many English councils, doesn't this leave wiggle room for the Assembly to raise some of its own money through a devoloution precept?

A £100 band D Assembly precept would still make living in a band D house in Flintshire a lot cheaper than living in a band D house ascross the road in Cheshire, but would give, not tax raising powers, but tax raising responsibility to the Assembly.


Poems and Politics Tommy – Rudyard Kipling

Listening to Elfyn Llwyd's speech to the Plaid Cymru conference on the plight of veterans reminded me of a poem published by Rudyard Kipling over 100 years ago called Tommy. The main refrain of the poem is that Tommy is a hero, a Saviour of 'is country when the guns begin to shoot, but when he is not fighting for Queen and Country he is seen as a right pain in the arse.

During my nursing career I cared for veterans from every conflict in the 20th century, from the Bore War to the second Gulf War. The patients' problems were many and varied, but all of them suffered from the underlying psychological difficulty of coping with the trauma of going from hero to zero.

Soldiers are cheered through the streets on march-pasts, given the freedom of the city, hailed in the tabloids, and then they are demobbed and become just ordinary blokes! That is traumatic in itself and is, of course, added to the traumas that these people have witnessed in the theatres of war.

In his coverage of the Plaid Conference yesterday Adrian Masters suggested that this is not the sort of issue that a nationalist party, like Plaid, might be likely to be seen supporting.

I disagree!

Wales has just under 5% of the UK population, but it has supplied between 8 and 10% of the UK's military personnel every year since at least 1911. There are few Welsh families without a close member who is serving or has served in the Armed Forces. Therefore the care of veterans is a Welsh issue and the care of Welsh vetrans is a nationalist issue, and I am pleased that Plaid has taken this issue on board.

That's the end of the rant. Here is the poem:

I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool - you bet that Tommy sees!


Graffiti Posters - a shot in the arm or a shot in the foot?

The Tory election poster graffiti spoofs are becoming the defining image of this year's Westminster Election Campaign. Many of them are hilarious, some make valid points, but isn't there is a danger that they are counterproductive?

Even when they take the P*** in the most provocative way out of the Tory Campaign, they draw attention to that campaign. When the "originals" are seen on bill-boards, people are more likely to take notice of them because they will have seen the spoofs.

On the principal that no publicity is bad publicity isn't there a danger that those who oppose the Tories are giving the Conservative Party a boost by drawing huge attention to the party's campaign posters? Isn't every reproduced poster a shot in the arm for the Tories and a shot in the foot for the parties who produce the spoofs?


She's going to vote Conservative BUT.....

This is Julie Fallon from Llandudno. She is featured in a new Tory advert saying why she is going to vote Conservative for the first time.

The things that concern her, according to the clip, are schooling; community development and support for children. Things that we are all in favour of I'm sure. But shouldn't somebody have let Julie know that these are devolved issues and not of great relevance to Welsh voters in the forthcoming Westminster Election?

Her other big reason for voting for the Conservatives is because of her support for family values. Which makes one wonder why the Conservatives refer to her as Julie Fallon rather than by her married name.

Salmond to be part of the big debate

SNP Tactical Voting reports that Sky has agreed to let Alex Salmond take part in its Leaders Hustings debate for the Westminster elections. If this is true it is a huge coup for the SNP. But where does it leave Plaid's case to be part of the debate? Will Plaid be happy for Salmond to represent the nationalist cause, or will it strengthen Plaid's argument to have parity with the other parties?


Llyr or David and the Daleks - time to Choose!

Absolute proof that life under a Cameron Government would be disastrous for the human race has been revealed.

Dr Who has visited Cameron's Britain in his Tardis and has returned to the present day to warn us to change history before it happens.

This proof has been revealed by none other than David Jones MP, who warns on his blog that Dr Who is biased against the Conservatives. If David is not on Dr Who's side he must be on the side of the Dr's hated enemies like the Daleks and the Cybermen.

The voters of Clwyd West have a clear choice in the forthcoming General Election - they can vote for David Jones and his friends the Daleks or vote for a better future by supporting Llyr Huws Gruffydd, and by doing so save the whole world from Dalek domination!

Dr Llyr Who-s Gruffydd (Plaid)

David Jones MP (Conservative)


Bates Timing - WoS hits back

Last weekend I was amongst a number of bloggers who questioned the timing of a report in the Wales on Sunday about Mick Bates night out. I thought that it was more than a coincidence that the AMs moment of madness had happened in the early hours of 19th-20th January, but was reported in the press 18 days later at a time that the Welsh Liberal Democrats happened to be holding their party conference.

In today's Wales on Sunday reporter Matt Withers hits back at the acussations of political bias and sitting on the story in order to harm the Lib Dems conference.

The story, which I wrote, broke last weekend on the front of our paper – coincidentally, on the second day of the Lib Dems’ Spring Conference in Swansea.

And it’s that timing which has led to many rumours, letters of complaint and plenty of rumblings on the blogosphere. The charge? Wales on Sunday knew about Mr Bates’ behaviour at the time it occurred – and deliberately held back running the story in a bid to disrupt the party’s conference.

Utter rubbish.

Mr Bates’ night on the tiles was on January 19. I was first alerted to what is alleged to have happened on Thursday, February 4, when my editor asked me to investigate a tip-off in an anonymous e-mail.

The next two days were spent trying to verify the truth of the allegations through a second source. Eventually, on the Friday afternoon, we found a senior source who was able to confirm an investigation into verbal abuse by Mr Bates into staff at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

We were unable to verify separate allegations of assault on paramedics. These made their way into the public domain the day after the WoS story.

I phoned Mick Bates’ mobile four times on the Friday afternoon to speak to him, each time without success, and eventually spoke to the Welsh Lib Dems’ head of communications, who was aware Mr Bates had suffered an accident that night, but not that he had been allegedly involved in trouble following it.

A statement from the party confirming it was investigating their AM followed early on Saturday evening.

So that’s why the story appeared when it did, rather than a deliberate attempt by Wales on Sunday to sabotage the Welsh Liberal Democrat Spring Conference.

In fact, the most baffling thing about it is there’s so many Lib Dems who genuinely believe their conference to be of such vast importance that journalists spend their precious time concocting vindictive and deliberate attempts to wreck it.

So WoS were duped by an anonymous e-mail sent two weeks after the event into running a story designed to disrupt the conference.


Where's Ronnie?

Aberconwy voters are blessed with being able to follow the musings of three General Election candidates' blogs.

Guto Bebb (Conservative)

Phil Edwards (Plaid Cymru)


Mike Priestley (Liberal Democrats)

But we are being deprived of any web presence by Ronnie Hughes (Labour). What a shame!


Bates and the Bottle

If Mick Bates AM is guilty of assaulting health workers who were attempting to help him after he had injured himself in a drunken accident he is a yob, and he deserves to be punished with the full force of the law just like any other drunken yob who turns nasty in his cups. His excuse that he can't recall the incident (because of the bang to his head not because of the beer in his belly) is weak and his attempt at an apology, saying he's sorry IF he did something wrong is insufficient and inappropriate.

Mr Bates has not only let himself down but has also let down his family, his party, his constituents and the Assembly. The Assembly is a body that has a duty to ensure that NHS workers are protected against violent behaviour by patients, so I cannot see how Mr Bates position as a member can remain tenable if this story is true; he should resign his seat immediately.

Despite not having an ounce of sympathy for Mick Bates, there is another element in this story that causes concern. It is reported that the alleged assault happened some weeks ago. If this is the case then the matter should have been reported some weeks ago, and Mr Bates should have been forced to resign some weeks ago. If the story has been sat upon for some weeks in order to publish it on the weekend of the Liberal Democrats conference then it reeks of the most foul sort of journalistic political bias. Perhaps Mr Bates isn't the only person who should be seriously considering his suitability for the job that he is doing, perhaps the reporters and editor of Wales on Sunday should be doing the same thing.