Track Record: Nia Griffith

I’m going to preface this article by making some assumptions. I’m going to assume that the centre-left voters who make up the bulk of the support of the Labour Party in Wales have a political persuasion that would be:

  • Strongly in favour of an investigation into the Iraq war
  • Moderately opposed to foreign wars; particularly after the Iraq and Afghanistan debacles
  • Strongly opposed to wasting billions on a nuclear deterrent
  • Strongly opposed to the bedroom tax
  • Strongly opposed to the NHS providing services to private patients
  • Moderately against introducing ID cards
  • Strongly opposed to the privatisation of Royal Mail
  • Moderately or strongly in favour of increasing benefits at least in line with increasing prices
  • Strongly in favour of higher benefits for longer periods for those unable to work because of illness or disability
  • Moderately opposed to a reduction in spending on welfare benefits
  • Strongly in favour of extra support for long-term unemployed young people
  • Strongly in favour of increasing the amount of money someone earns before paying income tax
  • Strongly opposed to raising VAT
  • Strongly in favour of extra taxation on super-high earners (>£150,000)
  • Strongly in favour of a bankers’ tax
  • Strongly in favour of a mansion tax
  • Strongly in favour of reducing tax avoidance
  • Moderately in favour of an elected House of Lords
  • Moderately in favour of more powers for the National Assembly

So what does Nia Griffith’s voting record reveal about her activity over the past five years?

Well, on several of these issues, Nia is well aligned with our imaginary centre-left voter. But there are several of them where the alignment is poor. According to TheyWorkForYou, Nia:

  • Voted moderately in favour of military aggression in foreign wars, and very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war
  • Voted very strongly against increasing the threshold at which someone starts to pay income tax
  • Voted strongly against reducing tax avoidance
  • Has peculiarly voted in favour and against a wholly elected House of Lords
  • Has voted a mixture of for and against more powers for Wales

Let’s see how Nia’s voting record pans out in the real world. It means that Nia’s in favour of people being killed, maimed and psychologically traumatised for the glory of the British Empire. The people dying are predominantly poor people: poor people in poor countries or poor people recruited from some of the poorest communities in Wales. Places like Llanelli. But when it comes to holding governments to account for their illegal wars, woah! The last thing Nia wants is a report highly likely to be most damaging to her Labour Party to be published just before the voters get to hold that party to account for it. After all, if you give these things enough time, people start to forget about them. The Chilcot report finished taking evidence in 2011.

Bizarrely, she’s voted against increasing the level of income at which someone starts to pay income tax. The Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation shows that Llanelli has several wards in which income levels are extremely low.

She’s all in favour – apparently – of big business and the mega-rich avoiding paying their fair dues in tax. Companies like Google, Amazon and Starbucks, who pay a pittance, or nothing at all, in corporation tax on their multi-billion pound activities in the UK. What does that mean? More tax for me and you, of course.

She has confused opinions in relation to democratising the second chamber of Parliament, despite the fact that it’s stuffed full of party donors, super-rich hereditary landowners and people who’ve been totally, unflinchingly loyal to their parties. People, in fact, like Nia (who has never rebelled against her party since the start of the 2010 parliament). Mind you, that level of toeing the party line comes naturally to Nia. In the 2005-2010 parliamentary session, she managed to rebel against Labour in a grand total of 6 votes out of 1,133.

And she’s happy to keep Wales – and her branch secretary Carwyn Jones – on the Westminster leash. Carwyn has said that withholding powers on energy from Wales is “wrong in principle and wrong in probably every other way”. Might that be of interest to Nia Griffith? Not a bit of it. Nia voted against the transfer of powers over energy to Wales. In fact, it surprises me that Nia was present at all to bother to vote against Wales’ national interests. After all, she was absent for 7 of the 10 key votes on transferring powers to the National Assembly for Wales.

For more information about Vaughan Williams, her main (Plaid) challenger for the seat of Llanelli, you can find his blog here, his twitter feed here, his facebook account here and his google plus here.

Rho sylw

Filed under Democracy, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Westminster

Track Record: Stephen Doughty

I’m going to preface this article by making some assumptions. I’m going to assume that the centre-left voters who make up the bulk of the support of the Labour Party in Wales have a political persuasion that would be:

  • Moderately opposed to foreign wars; particularly after the Iraq and Afghanistan debacles
  • Strongly opposed to wasting billions on a nuclear deterrent
  • Strongly opposed to the bedroom tax
  • Moderately or strongly in favour of increasing benefits at least in line with increasing prices
  • Strongly in favour of higher benefits for longer periods for those unable to work because of illness or disability
  • Moderately opposed to a reduction in spending on welfare benefits
  • Strongly in favour of extra support for long-term unemployed young people
  • Strongly in favour of increasing the amount of money someone earns before paying income tax
  • Strongly opposed to raising VAT
  • Strongly in favour of extra taxation on super-high earners (>£150,000)
  • Strongly in favour of a bankers’ tax
  • Strongly in favour of a mansion tax
  • Strongly in favour of reducing tax avoidance
  • Moderately in favour of an elected House of Lords
  • Moderately in favour of more powers for the National Assembly

So what’s Stephen Doughty’s voting record reveal about his activity over the past two and a half years?

Well, on several of these issues, Stephen is well aligned with our imaginary centre-left voter. But there are several of them where the alignment is poor. According to TheyWorkForYou, Stephen:

  • Voted strongly in favour of military aggression in foreign wars
  • Voted very strongly in favour of wasting £100 billion on a relic of the Cold War (Trident)
  • Has never bothered to vote on higher benefits for longer periods for those unable to work because of illness or disability
  • Voted very strongly against increasing the threshold at which someone starts to pay income tax
  • Voted strongly against reducing tax avoidance
  • Has never bothered to vote on reform of the House of Lords
  • Voted very strongly in favour of more powers for Scotland – but only moderately for more powers for Wales

Let’s see how Stephen’s voting record pans out in the real world. It means that Stephen’s all in favour of people being killed, maimed and psychologically traumatised for the glory of the British Empire. The people dying are predominantly poor people: poor people in poor countries or poor people recruited from some of the poorest communities in Wales. Places like Cardiff South.

He’s also gung ho for running down public services in favour of the most expensive weapons of mass destruction on the planet. That’s notwithstanding the fact that public opposition to renewing this Imperialist Viagra is resolute in opinion polls at both UK and local scales. “Bairns not bombs” as the Scottish independence campaign so eloquently put it.

He doesn’t appear to care one way or the other if sick or disabled people get more money to help them cope with being unemployed and incapacitated. That’s despite some of the wards in the constituency in which he’s running reporting the highest levels of sickness and incapacity in Wales, let alone the UK. Presumably Stephen’s counting on remaining fit as a fiddle until drawing his pension.

Bizarrely, he’s voted against increasing the level of income at which someone starts to pay income tax. Again, the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation shows that Cardiff South is replete with wards in which income levels are extremely low.

He’s all in favour – apparently – of big business and the mega-rich avoiding paying their fair dues in tax. Companies like Google, Amazon and Starbucks, who pay a pittance, or nothing at all, in corporation tax on their multi-billion pound activities in the UK. What does that mean? More tax for me and you, of course.

He has no interest in democratising the second chamber of Parliament, despite the fact that it’s stuffed full of party donors, super-rich hereditary landowners and people who’ve been totally, unflinchingly loyal to their parties. People, in fact, like Stephen (who has never rebelled against his party since being elected).

And he’s much more eager for Scotland to be granted further powers than he is for more powers to come to Wales. Far be it for me to suggest that narrow self-interest is a motive, but there are plenty of thinkers who suggest that greater transfer of powers to Wales will inevitably mean a reduction in the number of MPs.

Here’s Stephen’s latest election missive (with thanks to reader PW).

Update: Stephen has contested some of the claims of TheyWorkForYou.com. I’ll take any comments on board as soon as I have the opportunity, and update the post as necessary.

Rho sylw

Filed under Democracy, Labour, Westminster

The kindergarten

Antoinette Sandbach’s recent elevation to candidate – and sure-fire next MP – for Eddisbury in Cheshire got me thinking. What is the party political make-up of politicians moving from the Senedd to the Commons or vice versa?

Many other commentators have pointed out that it’s implicit in the direction of the move what an individual politician regards as the greater prize. There are many possible motives. For starters, there’s the financial inducement – and I don’t just mean the £74,000 salary of an MP as compared to the poverty-stricken (£64,000 from 2016) AMs. Once at Westminster, there are apparently no end of ways to bend the rules so you can stuff your snout as far and as deep in the trough as Chris Bryant likes.

Presumably some people rather like the pomp and ceremony of Westminster, the feeling of glory associated with being a part of the greater legislative body. Even if you’re only a miniscule, irrelevant guest at the party.

Of course, some politicians feel that Westminster is little but dumb, cold walls against which to hit your head and hands.

So on to the list…

Conservative Members (Senedd to Commons)

  • Glyn Davies (1999-2007); (2010-present) Glyn had a 3-year break from politics following his defeat in the 2007 election
  • Alun Cairns (1999-2011); (2010-present) Alun was ‘double-jobbing’ from 2010 to 2011, without drawing the AM salary
  • David Davies (1999-2007); (2005-present) David held Monmouth as an AM and MP for two years
  • Antoinette Sandbach (2011-present); (2015 on) Antoinette will rescind her list seat in the Assembly

Conservative Members (Commons to Senedd)

 

Labour Members (Senedd to Commons)

  • Alun Michael (1999-2000); (1987-2012); Alun didn’t relinquish his Commons seat whilst First Secretary

Labour Members (Commons to Senedd)

  • Ron Davies (1983-2001); (1999-2003); Ron left Labour, joining first Forward Wales and then Plaid Cymru
  • Rhodri Morgan (1987-2001); (1999-2011)
  • John Marek (1983-2001); (1999-2007); John was deselected by Labour before the 2003 election but was elected as an independent. Since losing his seat he has joined the Conservatives.

Plaid Members (Commons to Senedd)

Other Members (Senedd to Commons)

  • Peter Law (1999-2006); (2005-2006); Peter (a former Labour AM) was both MP and AM at the time of his death

This list isn’t quite as interesting as I’d imagined it would be. Perhaps that’s because I’ve missed some names off – do let me know if that’s the case. And there are some politicians who’ve swapped European seats for the green benches (Wayne David), and a fair few who’ve been tempted from the Assembly by the smell of ermine.

But at the very least it gives us a clear indication that the Conservatives are much more likely than the other parties to view Westminster as the ‘real’ Parliament, and the Senedd as the Kindergarten. The Lib Dems don’t appear on the list at all. Labour politicians have tended to gravitate to the Senedd, although the prize for the party that puts most emphasis on the Senedd goes to Plaid. That’s because a huge proportion of Plaid MPs who have ever sat in Westminster since the inauguration of the Welsh Parliament have shifted from London back to Wales. The exceptions are Elfyn Llwyd, Jonathan Edwards and Hywel Williams, who are all current MPs, and Adam Price, who has been selected as the candidate for Carmarthen East & Dinefwr in 2016‘s Assembly elections.

Should this surprise us? Not really. When it comes to the relative priority that the parties show towards the Welsh national interest, Plaid really are a light year ahead of the Unionist/British Nationalist parties.

1 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Welsh Government, Westminster

Independence: Iraq

Ok, I’m not expecting great things from Iraq’s current state of affairs. But to put things into a fairer frame of reference, I’m going to try to assess the Iraqi economy prior to the unlawful invasion by US and British forces.

Iraq’s modern borders were mostly demarcated in 1920 by the League of Nations when the Ottoman Empire was carved up. Lucky old Iraq was placed under the authority of the United Kingdom as the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. A monarchy was established in 1921 and the Kingdom of Iraq gained independence from Britain in 1932.

In many senses, then, Iraq doesn’t fit the format of other former colonies, not least because it was only under the British hammer for 12 years. But the Empire made good use of those 12 years. For starters, the Commissioner Sir Percy Cox initiated a policy of close cooperation with the Sunni minority, which was to lead to all sorts of problems down the line.

One specialist in this area, Fanar Haddad, comments:

the roots of sectarian conflict… becomes a question of how you divide the national pie. And I think that’s the main driver, the main animator behind sectarian competition in Iraq. That’s a very new one. The state was established in 1921. Not too long after that, you start hearing about how the majority — the Shias — are being neglected, excluded, marginalized, or what you have you.

This favouritism of the Shias led ultimately to the ascendancy of Saddam Hussein. After all, Saddam is believed to have immersed himself in the anti-British and anti-Western atmosphere of his youth. And thus to the British invasion that cost the lives of 179 servicewomen and men, and the Treasury £8.4 billion – or £134 per woman, man and child. Not to mention the wholesale destruction of much of Iraq’s infrastructure and mass fatalities.

Enough of this history lesson – how about the economy?

It’s proven impossible to find any figures for the size of the economy in 1932. Suffice to say that oil was found in Kirkuk in 1927, with pipelines to the Mediterranean opened in 1935 resulting in a ‘noticeable increase in construction, foreign trade and educational facilities’. Despite this, the economy was mainly agricultural until 1950, but development was quite rapid after the 1958 revolution.

Given the best estimate (using US dollars from 1990) of GDP per capita $1,000 in 1913 and $1,364 in 1950, let’s say it was $1,187 at the date of independence (increasing at the stunning rate of $9.84 per annum). The UK’s GDP per capita in 1932 was $5,148, so Iraq’s economic strength was just 23% that of the UK. Better than Egypt was doing at independence day, but not much.

How would Iraq fare in terms of today’s GDP? We already know that the UK’s GDP per capita in 2013 was $42,423. Iraq’s would be $1,984 in 1990 dollars, or $2,750 in 2013 dollars, which would put it in 135th place in the global ranking, between Bhutan and the Philippines. But instead, Iraq – despite suffering a sequence of devastating wars with the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives – is ranked number 97, with $5,790 per capita GDP. That’s a 110% improvement on its potential under British beneficence.

Date of independence GDP at that date ($ 2013) GDP in 2013 ($) Independence ‘bonus’
USA 1783 1,110 53,392 +301%
Egypt 1913 1,190 3,110 +68%
Iraq 1932 1,640 5,790 +110%

 

Rho sylw

Filed under Independence, Westminster

Proposed Devolution Settlements: Scotland and Wales Compared

I don’t think this needs much commentary. With thanks to SP for the analysis.

After the St. Andrews and St. David’s agreements…what will the Scottish Government be able to do which the Welsh Government won’t?

The Scottish Government will have responsibility for:

  •  Administering justice, including:
    • Civil, criminal and family law
    • Youth justice
    • Managing and operating tribunals
    • Providing legal aid
    • Regulating the legal profession
    • Allowing the use of languages other than English in courts if it chooses to
  •  Policing and public order, including:
    • Administering police forces
    • Preventing and detecting crime
    • Setting powers of arrest and detention
    • Running prison, probation and offender management services
    • Maintaining criminal records
    • Controlling anti-social behaviour
    • Setting drink driving limits
    • Controlling dangerous dogs and hunting with dogs
    • Licensing alcohol, entertainment and late night refreshments
    • Regulating fixed-odds betting terminals
    • Regulating private security and CCTV
    • Regulating safety at sports grounds
  • Controlling aspects of social welfare, including:
    • Providing housing and employment top-up benefits through a regulated social fund
    • Administering certain benefits for people with disabilities, carers, children, young people and those with industrial injuries
  •  Protecting consumers, including:
    • Regulating the sale and supply of goods and services
    • Ensuring consumer safety
  •  Controlling Crown Estate assets
  •  Consenting energy projects over 350MW
  •  Conserving energy by prohibiting certain activities
  •  Setting Air Passenger Duty
  •  Controlling Sunday trading
  •  Setting bank holidays
  •  Registering births, marriages, Civil Partnerships & deaths
  •  Administering land registration and Land Charges
  •  Setting teachers’ pay and conditions

The only footnote is that, with thanks to Elfyn Llwyd, we finally have cast-iron proof of the gutless, spineless individual that is Carwyn Jones our First Minister. Apparently putting his head in his hands is the appropriate response to being denied devolution of policing by his “great friend” Owen Smith MP . With friends like Owen…

Rho sylw

Filed under Labour, Westminster

Independence: Egypt

We had to wait nearly a century and a half before the next country broke free of the iron grasp of the British Empire.

The nationalist sentiment in Egypt is described as having been “limited to the educated elite” prior to the outbreak of the First World War. But Britain having poured masses of foreign troops into Egypt during that legalised mass murder, while also conscripting 1.5 million Egyptians into the Labour Corps, mobilised pro-independence sentiment throughout all classes in the population.

In 1919 a mass movement for full independence became mobilised at a grass-roots level using civil disobedience, and emissaries requesting independence and international recognition were promptly arrested and exiled in Malta. Killings followed, with villages and railways destroyed by British vengeance. Demonstrations and strikes across Egypt became an almost daily occurrence until normal life ‘ground to a halt’.

The British decided to have an enquiry into the causes of the disorder, and two years later, in 1921, the report recommended the end of the Egyptian Protectorate (some Protection!). London issued a unilateral declaration of Egyptian independence in 1922, although the following matters were still reserved to the British:

  • Security of communications of the British Empire in Egypt
  • Defence of Egypt against foreign aggression
  • Protection of foreign interests in Egypt
  • Sudan

In the years leading up to the insurrection, it’s easy to see why dissatisfaction would have fomented amongst the elite. Government expenditure in Egypt never got above 10% of GDP until the onset of the war; over the corresponding period, government expenditure in the UK was seldom below 20% of GDP, and up to 40% of GDP.

Statistics on GDP before 1950 – for many countries – is patchy. But one source at the University of Groningen estimates that in 1913, per capita GDP in Egypt was $902 (using 1990 US dollars). That makes it $1,190 in US dollars from the year 2000.

GDP per capita in the UK in 1913 in US dollars from 1990 was $224.6 billion/41.3 million people = $5,438, or $7,160 in US dollars (2000).

So 10 years before independence, Egypt’s per capita GDP was just 1190/7160 = 17% of the UK’s. And I called the USA ‘piss-poor’!

Once again, let’s put it into the context of today’s GDP. We already know that the UK’s GDP per capita in 2013 was $42,423. Egypt’s would be $1,850*, which would put it between Ghana and Nicaragua, in 143rd spot in the world rankings.

But where do we find Egypt in 2013? The GDP of this country that was left smashed and brutalised by the British occupation has managed to haul itself up to 127th in the world rankings, with per capita GDP of $3,110 – a full 68% improvement on where Egypt might be expected to be.

So independence for Egypt has resulted in a 68% increase in GDP relative to where it was at the end of the British occupation. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the benevolence of the Governments of His/Her Britannic Majesty.

Date of independence GDP at that date ($ 2013) GDP in 2013 ($) Independence ‘bonus’
USA 1783 1,110 53,392 +301%
Egypt 1913 1,190 3,110 +68%

 

* The University of Groningen estimates that GDP per capita in Egypt was $649 in 1870, twelve years before the British occupation in 1882. At independence in 1923, per capita GDP was approximately $905 (all in 1990 dollars). So per capita GDP over the period of occupation grew at around $4.83 per annum. If we assume the same growth rate under a British occupation extending to 2013, we would get an additional $434.7, for a total of $1,334.7 in 1990 dollars, or $1,850 in 2013 dollars.

1 Sylw

Filed under Independence, Westminster

Plaid or Green? A Constituency Guide

I’m not going to tackle the merits of Plaid’s stance on the Greens and vice versa. Suffice to say that some voters will be torn between two party with solid left-wing, anti-austerity, pro-democracy ideals.

This post then is simply to provide a guide. If you want to back an anti-austerity party, based on the turnout for each party in the 2010 UK election, then this is who you should vote for to have the biggest impact:

So there we have it. Out of 40 constituencies in Wales, the anti-austerity progressive voters should plump for Plaid in 40 of them.

Are things as simplistic as this? Of course not. There are many factors other than past performance that will sway us one way or the other. Syniadau helpfully provides his analysis here.

I’ve thought long over this section of the post. But it’s worth posting, if only to get a definitive response from Green Party chiefs. Because, with thanks to WelshNotBritish for highlighting it, my attention was recently brought to a rather stunning confession (if true) from the Wales Green Party.

stunning confession

If that’s the attitude of the Wales Green Party then it’s worrying for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it suggests that the Wales Green Party believes the Welsh language and culture to be ‘regional’. That means they consider Wales to be a region – presumably of England and Wales – not a country. That puts the Wales Green Party to the right of most political parties in the UK, including UKIP.

Secondly, it indicates that they couldn’t give a monkeys about the Welsh language. In fact, their interest in the Welsh language is clearly displayed for all to see. Just click on the ‘Cymraeg’ tab at the top of the Wales Green Party website to see just how much content is in Welsh. To save you the trouble, I can tell you. The entire ‘news’ section is in English. Then there’s one subtitled English language party political broadcast from the European elections, a 3-page manifesto for the 2014 European elections plus 2-page flyer, and a rather more comprehensive manifesto for the 2012 National Assembly elections.

Thirdly, that the Wales Green Party considers irrelevant all the time, effort and money that committed individuals across Wales expend on securing a thriving future for the language. That’s because it’s not one of the things “we really must get right”.

Fourth, that a ‘democracy that works for everyone’ clearly doesn’t include the Welsh language. Which begs the question: how can democracy work for everyone if non-English languages don’t form a part of it ‘for the future’?

Progressive? Left-leaning? If that’s the opinion of the Greens in Wales then you don’t need to know any more detail.

Of course, the Wales Green Party doesn’t exist as a separate entity from the EnglandAndWales entity. And you can imagine just how prominent Wales is in the eyes of the party top brass. Or you can see for yourselves by putting ‘Wales’ into the search engine on the website. Why search engine? Because Wales doesn’t feature anywhere on the home page, other than being described as a ‘sister party’. Which is bizarre, since the Green Party is the Green Party of England and Wales. How can a sister party be a miniscule sub-section of the same organisation? Now that gives a bad name to sorority!

This recent exchange on Twitter might clarify things:

Derw Cymru

According to the Wales Green Party, it is “as independent from the England and Wales Green Party as Wales is from England”. That would be “not independent at all”, then.

You might be confused by all this. Me too.

Until the Green Party can sort out its internal mess and get to grips with its colonial attitude to Wales it’s not going to pull many votes – or members – from the indigenous population. Its apparently 19th Century approach to the Welsh language is horrendously out of kilter with the polling that indicates, time after time, that the people of Wales – bilingual or not – are hugely supportive of it.

So for the sake of completeness, if you’re a progressive left-leaning voter there really is just one party in it.

Rho sylw

Filed under Democracy, Greens, Plaid Cymru, UKIP, Westminster