We should we prepare for having independence thrust upon us!

The response to the SNP's outstanding victory in this month's Scottish Parliament Election from unionists within Scotland and British Nationalists outside Scotland has been interesting. The general opinion seems to be that Alex Salmond will bottle out of a referendum on independence, because he knows that it will fail to deliver a Yes vote. They base this on polling results that suggest that "only" 33% or so of Scottish voters poll as supporting independence; a rather blinkered view, in my opinion.

The last two referenda on the Scottish constitution managed a 60% and a 62% turnout. If one makes the fair assumption that those who support independence are likely to be more motivated to vote than those who are ambiguous or disinterested on the No side then the current polling already suggests that the Yes side COULD gain a simple majority of votes cast if the referendum was held today. (I'm not good at maths but I think that if 33% of the electorate vote yes in a 60% turn out it gives something like a 55% Yes 45% no vote.)

Whatever our opinion about how desirable Scottish Independence is, we should all accept that it is a possibility that Scotland might become independent within the next few years and recognise that if Scotland does become independent that it will have an effect on all of us that remain in the rest of the UK.

Northern Ireland's Unionist link to the UK is very much a link with Scotland. Where does Scottish Independence leave the NI unionists? Would they want to remain a member of the remainder UK linked to England but not to their Scottish heritage?

Polling support for English Independence is much higher than support for Scottish independence, but independence has a lower priority on the political scale in England than it has in Scotland. A campaign for Scottish independence, especially a successful campaign could raise the issue of English self determination on the English agenda.

So where does this leave Wales, where polls suggest that a miserly 10 to 15% of us support independence for our country? We could have independence thrust upon us without having made any preparations for it.

Perhaps even those dinosaurs who oppose any form of Welsh self-determination should wake up and smell the coffee and prepare for the possibility that we may have to take care of our own destiny whether we like it or not!


Wales Needs A Campaign for Independence

For elected politicians being in opposition is a nightmare, you've slogged your guts out to get hold of elected office, you've had the jubilation of victory in your own patch after campaigning for the policies that you believe can change society, only to find that a majority of those elected to the same chamber thwart your vision and your mandate every time.

For political activists the opposite is true. No government does exactly what its rank and file party members want it to do, but party members have to bite their tongues and offer support despite themselves and that is bloody frustrating. It is even more frustrating if ones party is in coalition and has to compromise on issues that are held dear to the rank and file.

Opposition is a damned site easier for party activists than being in government and incredibly easier than being in coalition government.

The way that the two dominant British Parties overcome this conundrum is by having extra parliamentary groups that support their core values, and campaign for those core values, even when they are in government, keeping the flame alight.

When Labour introduced a minimum wage, rather than a living wage, the trades union movement continued to campaign for a living wage. Whilst the ConDems are increasing the tax take, the ultra Conservative Tax Payer's Alliance continue to campaign for lower taxation.

One of the reasons that the Lib Dems took a hammering in this month's elections, in every part of the UK, is because there is no extra parliamentary Campaign for Liberalism and Democracy that fundamentalists can support and campaign for as an alternative ideal out with the party's practicalities!

Plaid Cymru's period in government was partially similar to that being endured by the Liberal Democrats. On Language issues campaigners could keep their purity by supporting Cymdeithas yr Iaith's protests about the Welsh Language Measure, Welsh Language provision in Further and Higher Education etc, but on the wider nationalist issues there was nowhere for us to express our purity whilst accepting the compromises of government.

In every election that I can remember (1970 Westminster is my earliest) Plaid has said This election isn't about independence it's about XYZ, each time it has been truthful, the problem is that Plaid has done nothing since 1970 to ensure that the next election "IS" about independence, and it will not do so unless there is a non party Campaign for Independence, that puts independence on the political agenda!


They think it's the Streisand Effect, I can't Imogen why!

I am not breaking any injunction by reporting the fact that the most boring joke on Twitter, repeated ad infinitum over the past 48 hours (at least 196,000 times according to Google), is Ryan Giggs is suing Twitter I Can't Imogen why!

This is supposed to be an example of the Streisand Effect according to Wikepedia.
The Streisand effect is a primarily online phenomenon in which an attempt to hide or remove a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely.
The Footballer who has taken Twitter to court, is refuting rather than accepting the Streisand Effect.

I had heard the name mentioned three weeks ago, chatting in the pub a few days ago everybody used the footballer's name – everybody knew who he was!

By naming Twitter in Yesterday's injunction the footballer was not causing a Streisand Effect, because that effect was already old news.

The thousands of I am Spartacus tweet drive to try and invalidate the footballer's attempts to find out who initially named and shamed him are futile!

The first tweet that named the footballer is the only evidence that we Spartacus types have for repeating the footballer's name. If the first tweeter was wrong – all 196 thousand of us are also wrong, and we have been made mugs of!

If that first Tweet that alerted us to the footballer's identity is correct, then it came from a very small privileged circle of people. Even the judge, before the story broke, didn't know the identity of the plaintiff.

So who was the individual who leaked the footballer's identity, and broke the injunction and Tweeter's T&C's by so doing?

Somebody who took the internet community for fools!

An MSM Journo who is on his / her way to gaol, I suspect!

I hope that s/he is caught and severely punished!


Promoting the National Cause

Jac o' the North has a post in which he, quite rightly notes, that Plaid Cymru has lost its way. I agree wholeheartedly with all he has to say.

The dalliance with socialism whilst ignoring the national question; the fear of upsetting English incomers who are drowning out the Party's heartlands, and putting places like Anglesey and Ceredigion demographically impossible to regain at a Westminster level, because the incomers out vote the natives are things that Plaid should deal with and should shout loud against.

When the tourist industry denies the historic fact that North West Wales is as post industrial as the South Wales Valleys, and uses this lie to stop any replacement industry to benefit local people, Plaid should be up in arms; but it tends to be compliant. The party opposes proper industry and supports Mickey Mouse tourist jobs as the only, desperate, hope for our communities.

A number of English politicians in the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, and the Liberal Democrats Party have said that immigrants should learn English; immigrants should learn British values and culture; immigrants should be forced to adapt and accept the culture of the country into which they are imigrating. But those same politicians' call me racist because I expect those who move into Wales to respect the Welsh Language and Culture - and so does Plaid!

The most sickening of the English immigrants into Wales are the White Flight ones. People who have moved into Wales because they see their communities overrun by immigrants, but object to any indigenous Welsh culture 'cos that's the sort of foreign shite they fled to avoid!

Wales needs a National Organisation to oppose the colonisation of Wales and to promote Welsh Nationalism, it needs an Organisation that promotes Independence rather than devo sops!

Jac suggests a New Nationalist Party, I'm not sure!

A new party might get a few thousand votes in the next Assembly Election, a seat by 2025, but having got that seat might start to compromise its nationalist identity in 2030 in order to get a second seat, and our grand children end up with the problem that we have!

What we need is a non party /cross party Campaign For Independence to protect our national identity and to promote independence, outwith the party political cycle. Something like Cymdeithas yr Iaith was in the 60's and 70's!


Keep Your Hat on Your Head Dafydd – It's Wasted in the Ring

I am a huge fan of The Rt Hon Dr, The Lord Elis Thomas of Nantconwy, Welsh President Emeritus.

I sometimes disagree vehemently with His Lordship's utterances, sometimes I agree wholeheartedly with the wisdom of his pearls and sometimes, despite agreeing with him, I wish he had kept his bloody big gob shut! But whatever I feel about Dafydd's ideas I can guarantee that they always make me think!

Despite the disappointing election result for Plaid on May 5th, the cause of Welsh Nationalism and Welsh nationalism has come on leaps and bounds since Dafydd was first elected in 1974. In 1974 people who agree with Carwyn Jones and Paul Davies' attitudes towards Wales would have been dismissed as Natshi Nut Jobs, rather than moderate leaders of Unionist parties in Wales.

Much of the thanks for this sea change of attitude in mainstream Welsh politics is due to Dafydd Êl's political gymnastics. His justifications for being a Welsh Socialist, a Welsh Trendy Dresser, a Welsh Gigolo, a Welsh Quangocrat, a Welsh Lord, a Welsh Republican, a Welsh Nonconformist, a Welsh Anglican, a Welsh Loyalist, a Welsh Royalist and even a self-styled Welsh President have added to the idea that you can be Welsh and anything. Whatever role you adopt you no longer need to deny your Welsh patriotism in order to play that role, thanks to Dafydd Êl.

I honestly believe that Dafydd Elis Thomas is our greatest living Welshman. In 1997 Wales was given a Parish Council rather than a National Parliament (it doesn't have much more now) but by crowning himself de facto "President of Wales" as the head of that weak establishment and, by so doing, giving it gravitas, Dafydd Elis Thomas did more for Wales than anybody since Glyndŵr crowned himself Prince of Wales in 1404.

Dafydd Êl's successes are the main reason for my belief that he would be the worst possible successor to Ieuan Wyn that Plaid could contemplate as party leader.

Dafydd is a Marmite man– you either love him or you hate him. I love him – but many of those who remain party members hate his guts.

Despite being one of the longest serving Welsh Politicians, Dafydd has never really been a politician; he's been an academic in political clothing. Much of his political gymnastics hasn't been about true held doctrine, but has been of the academic Here is a Statement:- Discuss exam type question, with Dafydd treating the party and the Welsh electorate as his students.

The idea that Plaid is so bereft of talent, that it has to re-elect a party leader from 20 years ago, gives all the wrong political messages.

Small n nationalism has become the norm in Welsh politics. The only way for Plaid to move ahead is for the party to differentiate from its opponents by puting a big N into Nationalism once again; as the father of small n nationalism, Dafydd couldn't possibly put the needed big N back into the cause.

Dafydd has done a sterling job of work for Wales, he has been a good and faithful servant, but he has made his contribution. It would be sad if his exemplary career ended on a bum note as a failed party leader - because if he is elected party leader – he will fail!


The Answer to the Llywydd Conundrum - MoF for PO !

On both Peter Black's and The National Left's blogs an anonymous commentator has resolved the Llywydd Conundrum:

Miserable old fart talking about Peter Black being presiding officer, but MOF will be in opposition as well so why does not he be pres officer?

I think that Anonymous' idea is brilliant – I would love to do the job and I'm sure that I would be the best Llywydd ever; but there is one little problem. Under present arrangements the Llywydd has to be an AM, this unfortunate little detail rules me out. Damn it!

Glyn Beddau has an interesting response to the nonny's comment:

But the idea of you becoming Llywydd is not without merit. It may be a good idea that two Presiding officers are appointed via a ballot of AMs from respected members of the Public.. They would not be allowed to vote but would have authority in the chamber. It would mean that the elected members can get on serving their constituents who voted for the Party rather than them anyway.

I'm not sure if Glyn's comment is tongue in cheek or not, but it does have some merit.

Since the Assembly's creation the people of Meirionnydd have voted Plaid Cymru with a fair amount of consistency, but they have not had a Plaid AM, they have had an independent / neutral AM – which is not what they voted for. The constituents have not had an AM who can stand up in the Senedd to plead their cause or to vote on the issues that are important to them - and that's not fair!

OK the Westminster parliament has selected one of its own to be speaker for the past 700 years – but does Wales have to slavishly follow that model?

There must be a better way of selecting a Llywydd than disenfranchising the electorate of a working AM!

(Any AM's who agree with anon that I would be a good external appointment are welcome to beg me to take up the post via the e-mail link on the top left of the blog. I expect a minimum of 40 by this time tommorrow!)


Is 50/50 best of both for Plaid?

Because of the 50/50 split between Labour and the others, my favoured coalition - that of a rainbow is now a no brainer. A minority Labour Government might (just) work, a minority rainbow coalition would be an impossibility.

Even if it was a possibility, I'm not sure that I would still back any form of coalition in either a First Past the Post or FPTP plus election, the risks of coalition are too high without the protection of a proper (STV type) proportional vote system.

Plaid Cymru's mantra since 2007 has been that the party has given added value to the Labour led government and stifled some of its excesses; the Lib Dems have made a similar claim about their influence on the Tories in Westminster since 2010. Both narratives are probably true; but neither party has benefited from it.

The problem seems to be that if you like what the Labour / Conservative led coalition governments have done you vote Labour / Tory rather than Plaid / LD. If you don't like what the Labour / Conservative led coalition governments have done you vote against their coalition partners who have enabled them to govern – a lose/lose situation.

There have been rumours that the Lib Dems are considering an agreement with Labour in the Assembly. That would be suicidally stupid! Giving the benefit of their input to two different parties and receiving the blame for the failures of both.

In a funny sort of way Plaid might be in the best possible position, if it resists both a Coalition or a Supply & Confidence agreement with Labour.

There are things that a Welsh Labour Government will want to do that the ConDem Westminster Government won't want them to do. Plaid is in a position to trade its support by squeezing a bit of blood from both sides!


The Llywydd Conundrum

We know who is going to be First Minister in the Assembly without any doubt.

The big question is who is going to be Presiding Officer?

With Plaid having lost 4 seats in the Assembly Election the party, clearly, can't afford to lose one of its biggest beasts, Dafydd Elis Thomas, by him being tied up in the President's chair. Unless Labour goes into One Wales #2, which is looking unpalatable to both parties at the moment.

Labour can't afford to put up a candidate for Llywydd, if it did it would lose its 50%.

I doubt if any Conservative would want the job, given the fact that they are now the official opposition and need all their amo to prove themselves as an "effective" opposition.

With 3 newbies out of 5 AM's and Kirsty out of the loop as party leader the only candidate the Lib Dems have is Peter Black. Having scraped in on just over 50 votes, and having to give up his high profile blog for the sake of neutrality, would Peter take up the chalice?

I suspect that what will happen is that Labour will attempt to go for One Wales #2 in order to keep Dafydd in the chair.

If Plaid swallows that bait, it needs it's bumps feeling!


Has AV made many vote 1 2 3 by mistake?

I have just come back from the pub, having popped in for a couple after the polling booths had closed. There were only about 20 locals in and only 8 of them had voted, about 40%, which is about right.

The worrying thing, however was of the 8 who voted 4 had voted 1 2 3, rather than X. having been confused by the AV publicity. Ok 8 voters in my local aren't a scientific sample, but it does suggest that one of the more interesting things to look out for as the results come in is the number of votes spoiled by virtue of voting for more than one candidate.

A Boring Prediction for a Boring Election

My prediction for Friday's result in the Assembly election is one of no change (ok Blaenau Gwent will turn real Labour rather than pretendy Labour). I doubt if any constituency seat will change hands.

I can't see any Green, UKIP or BNP candidate making the breakthrough on the lists.

Tinkering at the edges might result in some list candidates swapping places from second to third etc, but I don't think that the actual numbers will change.

A boring prediction for what has been the most boring election I've known in the 35 years in which I have followed elections.


Why rumours are less reliable than Welsh opinion polls

I don't have a lot of faith in Welsh opinion polls; they are conducted on a UK, even worse an USA model. A model that can predict the outcome of a 650 seat legislature cannot, without immense refinement, predict a 60 seat legislature with any accuracy. To make things worse the Welsh polls use an UK weighting method to predict their seat distribution. Wales is not a mini UK.

The ITV/YouGov polls are a welcome addition to the Welsh political scene; I hope that they continue; but all they are showing at the moment is trends – they cannot make seat predictions in their present form.

If we can't rely on the polls, then the next best thing that we have is the ear on the ground, the rumours from the constituencies, the party's canvassing results that we are fed that say there may be a shock in constituency X. But these are even less reliable than the polls.

My first experience of political campaigning was in the February 1974 election. I had agreed to be part of the Liberal Party's canvassing team in Merionethshire. I put a poster supporting my candidate in my bedroom window; but when Dad came home he ordered me to take it down in case somebody put a brick through the window or in case he was sacked from his job by his employer of a different political persuasion!

I hadn't realised that democratic differences could cause such animosity, so on my first canvassing outing I wore brown trousers because I was really frightened of being physically and verbally abused by those who were going to vote against my man. I was pleasantly surprised. At every door I knocked on I was received with courtesy, nobody assaulted me, nobody set the dogs on me, everybody said they would consider voting for my candidate. I honestly thought that we would win handsomely from my canvass experience – we came a miserable fourth!

And another thing, when parties are quietly confident of winning a seat or retaining a marginal, they tend to keep that confidence quiet; rather than alerting the media (and their challengers) of their confidence. When parties need to big up their chances in a particular constituency, it's because their returns show that they are not quite there yet so they need spin in order to give an impression of winning here.

We can't trust polls, we can't trust the rumour. The only thing that we can trust is that, with just four days to go, there are still votes to win and opinions to change – so put your blood and guts into supporting your candidates over these last few essential days!