The Price of Dependence

We already know the cost of dependence. Or at least, we don’t know the exact cost, but we do know that our dependence on the UK state costs us untold billions.

Every which way, the people of Wales are getting shafted.

But what price do we pay for our dependence?

Something of that nature was revealed by Andy Burnham a few weeks ago:

I conducted the last spending review of the last Labour government and I looked in detail at the Barnett formula, and concluded that it wasn’t fair to Wales and there would need to be changes to it to ensure a much fairer funding settlement… I believe Wales has been short-changed.

As Cai Larsen points out, this means that the Labour Party has known since 2007 that Wales is underfunded. Of course, it’s an open secret that everyone has known for donkeys’ years that Wales has been underfunded. But here’s the first open acknowledgement by a serving Minister, and one in the Treasury at that, that his party has known.

And the Labour Party, during its tenure of the UK Government after 2007, did precisely nothing to secure fair funding for Wales. So that’s at least £300 million per year (some say £540 million) every year since 2007 that the people of Wales have paid the rest of the UK, via the Labour Party, for our pathetic obedience to our Labour masters.

But of course, if Andy Burnham knew about it in 2007, then there’s no way his successors in the Treasury could have been ignorant of our underfunding. So the Lib Dems and Conservatives, from 2010 to 2015, and the Conservatives going solo since May, have been totally complicit in this asset-stripping of Wales.

The price we pay for praying at the altar of unionism is likely to be somewhere in the region of £400 million per year. This is when we start to realise that we’re not just having a fun political kickabout. We’re talking about people’s lives.

£400 million a year goes a very long way. Over the last 8 years, that would have meant a cash injection of £3.2 billion into Welsh public services. So let’s not pull our punches. People have died in Wales because Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem politicians have conspired to funnel money rightfully destined for Wales’ NHS elsewhere. The life chances of our children are directly damaged because our education system is underfunded as a result of Unionist largesse on the establishment. Our arts and cultural services that bring joy and delight to our lives are being pared to the bone because Unionists consider Wales to be a political irrelevance.

So the next time someone like Baroness Jenny Randerson busily tries to convince the people of Wales that we’re doing just fine and dandy, thanks to Barnett, notch it up as another Unionist lie.

And commit to never vote for a Unionist party again.

Rho sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Education, Elections, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Westminster

Labour’s Choice

Wales is one of the poorest countries in western Europe. That’s Labour’s choice.

Wales is the poorest constituent country of the UK, by a considerable margin. That is a choice made by the Labour party.

We are kept poor because there are other priorities than Wales for Labour. In fact, Wales is close to the bottom of the priority list.

Thus it will always be.

So where’s the evidence for these outrageous statements? You don’t have to look further than this document. It’s the Labour manifesto, of course. Wales gets less than half a page of this manifesto. Page 65, by the way. That’s where the scintillating “all-Wales policing plan” gets an airing.

“This is all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t prove that Labour chooses to keep Wales poor”, I hear you say.

Political parties make policies that distribute opportunities and wealth around the UK. Is it random chance that greater London’s GVA per capita is £40,000 while Wales’ is £16,900? Of course it’s not. Political parties have, over a period of many decades, made policies that promote high-income jobs in London (and to a lesser extent in south-east England, east England, Scotland etc) and to hell with Wales.

Policies like locating the highest-earning civil servants in London – for centuries – and chucking a few crumbs to the provinces. Policies like subsidising – via Welsh taxpayers’ money – massive redevelopment of east London, extravagant new transport schemes and the like. Policies like vacuuming cash from low-earners (of which a much higher proportion live in Wales) via VAT and council tax and tossing it away on vanity schemes like national ID cards and Trident (you’ll find that on page 78 of the Labour manifesto, although they call it a “continuous at-sea deterrent”, presumably to try to throw people off the scent).

How could it be otherwise? London has 73 MPs, Wales has 40. One-fifth of Labour membership is in London, 31% in London plus south-east England. 6% of its membership is in Wales. There are 34 constituency Labour parties in London with membership greater than 500. There is not one in the whole of Wales.

This negligence of Wales isn’t restricted to the Labour party, of course. The Conservatives couldn’t give two hoots about us either. You want proof? How about David Cameron’s whirlwind trip to the Celtic fringe this past week. In Wales, he visited a brewery in Gower. His visit to Scotland was more like a visit to an independent country’s prime minister, reported in every broadsheet. What a stunning snub to Carwyn Jones, poor dab.

The big difference is that Labour pretends to stand up for Wales. The Conservatives have never pretended to.

So Wales is poor because the Labour, Conservative and (most recently) Liberal Democrat parties choose it to be so. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

1 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Independence, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Westminster

Vampires and Blood Banks

Well, the chickens have really come home to roost. In the blood bank, with a vampire as the overseer.

Remember how the ranks of unionist Labour politicians sallied forth to hold back the devolution of further powers to Wales? Well now they, and the rest of us, are going to be on the receiving end of some of the worst excesses of a Conservative ideology.

Let’s take this back to the Silk Commission. This was the Commission established by the Lib Dem-Conservative government to determine the scale of devolution that should be offered to Wales. It was – according to its author – going to bring a stable devolutionary settlement to Wales “for a generation, let’s say… 25 years”. I don’t know why anyone involved in the devolution process bothers making these ridiculous statements, or why they’re taken seriously. After all, I’ve shown that Peter Hain and Owen “end-game” Smith have got it humiliatingly wrong in the past. At any rate, Paul Silk’s ‘generation’ lasted all of 11 months, by which time its devolutionary limits had already been surpassed by the St David’s Day Agreement, which promised yet greater powers over, for example, electoral arrangements and energy.

But the Silk Commission was a work of compromise. The party representatives on the Commission (Part 2 – policy) were as follows:

One can only guess that these political appointees were carrying out the wishes of their respective parties. And given the Plaid aim of full independence, and the Liberal Democrat objective of ‘home rule’, it’s fair to assume that the hopeless policy recommendations of the Silk Commission were made so restrictive by a combination of Labour and Conservative intransigence.

So a combination of factors have conspired to leave Wales at the mercy of Conservative malignance. Firstly, a consistently feeble Assembly – not Parliament – with a devolved – not reserved – model of powers that left it wide open to constant legal challenge. This all put in place by the Labour party. Second, a risible selection of powers devolved. No police, no criminal justice, no taxation, no decent powers over energy, no broadcasting, the list goes on. This all put in place by the Labour party. Third, any chance to radically increase the scope of devolution to approximate Scottish powers consistently thwarted by the Labour and Conservative party. And now, fourth, a Labour party that promised to protect Welsh communities from the onslaught of Conservative policies falling apart in an election it couldn’t lose. Thereby leaving Welsh communities defenceless against that onslaught in all those policy areas that unionist Labour politicians fought tooth and nail to keep the preserve of Westminster.

It’s a classic case of Labour duplicity, incompetence, self-interest and downright malice. I should at this point state that although visiting right-wing policies on the Welsh people is a joint preserve of Labour and Conservative, I don’t blame the latter. They’re totally explicit about their chosen path. People who vote Conservative know what they’re getting.

So what lies ahead?

  • Ripping up the Human Rights Act. Michael Gove (who in 1998 was all for bringing back hanging people) will take sheer delight in making the UK (and Wales as the unhappy corollary) join Belarus as the sole European states unbound by the European Convention on Human Rights. This could have been avoided by the Labour party, if only they’d pushed for the devolution of criminal justice on the Silk Commission.
  • Dismantling the BBC. John Whittingdale, new Culture Secretary, believes the BBC licence fee is “worse than a poll tax”… “we are potentially looking at reducing a proportion of the licence fee”. This happens, of course, with Labour’s blessing. Because the Labour party could have prevented this happening in Wales through full devolution of broadcasting.
  • Caroline Dinenage is the new Equalities Minister. She voted against gay marriage in 2014. Equalities legislation could, of course, be the preserve of the National Assembly for Wales. If only the Labour party had pushed for it to be part of the devolution settlement.
  • The new Disabilities Minister, Justin Tomlinson, voted against protecting benefits for disabled children and cancer patients. He’s now in charge of the Access to Work Fund, which provides money to help people with disabilities get work. Any damage this man will bring to people with disabilities in Wales could have been avoided by the Labour party, if only they’d pushed for the devolution of benefits to Wales.

Which begs the question, who’s the vampire – and whose blood is being drained? Is it Conservative Ministers draining British institutions? Or is it Labour hegemony sucking dry the people of Wales?

Rho sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Equality, Labour, Welsh Government, Westminster

The Social Media Battle: Llanelli

Synopsis: One candidate is a jedi master. The other is an ewok.

Social media engagement is important. It helps energise people, it gets people involved, it makes people feel that they have a stake, and it enables politicians to reach sections of society that traditional media and door-knocking might not be able to reach.

Nia Griffith has 554 likes on her Facebook account, which means she’s attracting likes at a rate of 111 per year. It’s hardly surprising the recruitment rate is so poor; it’s little better than Kim Jong Un in its capacity for regurgitating state propaganda (in this case, it’s a feed from Nia’s ‘blog’). Still, she somehow manages to get 56 on Likealyzer. Nia posts less frequently than once every two days and averages 23 engagements per post – in total about 10 engagements per day.

Vaughan Williams has only 364 likes on Facebook, but his recruitment rate is 182 per year, or about 63% better than Nia’s. He’s posting a good variety of memes, videos and images, along with lots of links to articles. Likealyzer rates Vaughan at 73, which is pretty good. He’s posting 1.8 times per day with 18 interactions per post: 32 interactions per day.

Nia comes across as relatively novice using twitter. She’s got 2,638 followers despite tweeting just 640 times in the last three years. That’s an average of one tweet every other day, although she has upped her frequency to 2 per day recently (Riffle). 153 of her folllowers are in the Llanelli area, with a further 50 in the vicinity of Swansea. So she has about 200 or so followers in the constituency. Far more important to Nia is London, which provides 498 followers. Mind you, a quarter of the accounts following Nia have been inactive for at least 3 months. There’s almost no engagement going on with Nia: a very small proportion (8%) of her tweets are ‘contact’ tweets (those that begin with someone’s twitter handle (name)). Over the last month she’s had 2,127 mentions on twitter. Llanelli ranks at number 5 in the list of locations used by Nia’s followers. Numbers 1 and 2? UK and London, of course.  The median number of followers of people who follow Nia’s twitter account is 396. The most frequently mentioned accounts by Nia are @llanellyhouse, @colegsirgar and @fmwales (Riffle). Nia’s best ever tweet got 80 retweets, which is pretty impressive… until you learn that it was posted back in 2012. Her best tweet this year received 35 retweets, with 5 tweets this year getting more than 20 retweets. Nia’s Klout score is a remarkable 57; she also has a LinkedIn account but no google plus presence. As we’ve seen (above), Nia has her own website.

The Twitterati won’t be surprised at some of the stats relating to Vaughan. Vaughan’s got 2,086 followers and has a humungous 27,200 tweets to his name, with a phenomenal 89 tweets per day (Riffle). That’s 45 times as much as Nia. And it’s not just quantity. 14,347 mentions over the past month tells you that people are massively engaged with Vaughan. 118 of Vaughan’s followers are in the Llanelli area, with 33 or so in Swansea. But unlike for Nia, Llanelli is much more important to Vaughan than London (which only provides 85 followers for his account). There’s a good proportion of contact tweets with Vaughan, and given the total number of tweets, that’s a lot of contact. Median followership of Vaughan’s followers is 465, so they’re more influential than Nia’s followers. They’re more active, too, with a quarter of them having tweeted in the last hour (at the time of writing). Nia had five 20+ retweet tweets since the start of the year. Vaughan has had five over the course of 24 hours (2 May)! Vaughan’s top mentions are @plaid_cymru, @plaidllanelli and @seanllanelli. I don’t know what algorithm Riffle uses, but Vaughan’s Klout rating of 61 seems rather low. Vaughan doesn’t appear to be on LinkedIn, but my word has he got to grips with google plus, where he’s had 33,158 views! He also has his own blog here.

The scores on the doors?

Nia 12.3/30

Vaughan 19.4/30

 

Rho sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Westminster

The Social Media Battle: Ceredigion

Synopsis: Mike Parker edging ahead of his LibDem rival

In the Ceredigion Facebook dual, Mark has 2,461 likes. It looks pretty engaging stuff – decent images, lots of local stories and so on. That’s reflected in the Likealyzer score of 81. Mark averages 49 interactions per post, but has a response rate to people of just 26%. Still, you can’t argue with the stats. 8.1 marks for Mark.

Mike’s site has gathered 1,567 likes. Given that Mark’s been an MP for 10 years, Mike’s total is pretty good in comparison. Mike’s content is focused on policies rather than engagement. Presumably that’s because he leaves his engagement principally for twitter? Mike gets 89 interactions per post, and a response rate of only 3%. See previous sentence. But despite having fewer likes and poor response rate, Mike’s Likealyzer score is 85. Way to go.

Let’s have a look at the Twitter battle. Mark’s following is 4,810, which is pretty good by the standards of politicians in Wales (bearing in mind that the Deryn graphic is 18 months old). But fascinatingly, just 301 of them are from Ceredigion. 654 are from Cardiff and 832 from London. The median number of followers of Mark’s followers is 321. And the two most frequently named places in the ‘location’ field of Mark’s followers are “UK” and “London”. Ceredigion – since you ask – is 7th in the list. Mark tweets 6 times per day (Riffle), and it’s mainly images of various groups of people (largely the same people, looking at them) taking selfies or chowing down on food. Which is fine if you’re on holiday, but not really engaging in a political sense. Mark’s top mentions (from Riffle) are @nuswales (could it be he’s looking towards the student vote?!), @youtube and @kirsty_williams. No place for Nick Clegg in there. Just three of Mark’s tweets have been retweeted more than 20 times, with a top mark of 40. Mark has a Klout score of 59 – although with just 6% of his followers being geographically eligible to vote for him, a lot of that Klout is misdirected. Mark’s not on LinkedIn nor google plus.

Mike has 2,485 followers, with 167 from Ceredigion. I suspected that Mike uses twitter to engage, and boy was I right. A very, very high proportion of his tweets are ‘contact’ tweets – conversations with people. Ceredigion is 8th on Mike’s list of ‘location’ for followers, but instead of UK and London, Mike’s two first-placed locations are “Wales” and “Aberystwyth”. These followers are likely to be considerably more useful to Mike than his London-based fans will be to Mark, and the median following of Mike’s followers is 343 – slightly better than Mark. Mike’s tweeting 12 times per day, including the entertaining ‘canvassing competition’. It’s an altogether more engaging fayre than the offer from his rival. Intriguingly, Mike’s top mention is also @nuswales, with @plaidcymru and @penrijames following. Although given that the official party account is @plaid_cymru then either Riffle or Mike is getting unstuck. His top tweet has been retweeted a whopping 708 times, with an additional five gathering more than 20 retweets. Mike’s Klout score is 58, and with a shade under 7% of his followers based in Ceredigion he’s hitting a marginally higher proportion of potential constituents (but fewer in absolute terms). Mike doesn’t appear to be on LinkedIn or google plus.

So the verdict is a nail-biting:

Mark 14.0/30

Mike 14.3/30

1 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Westminster

The Social Media Battle: Ynys Môn

It’s over-egging the pudding to suggest that 2015 is the year that digital media wins the UK election. But digital and social media are an increasingly influential aspect of campaigning. Any politicians – particularly at parliamentary level (Welsh and UK) who haven’t yet joined the masses are in serious danger of being left behind and rendered irrelevant.

So let’s check out how our protagonists, Albert Owen and John Rowlands are doing on social media.

Starting with Facebook, unless I’m very much mistaken, Albert Owen hasn’t actually got a Facebook presence, and therefore gets 0 out of 10. John Rowlands’ page is here; he’s got 290 likes, which is hardly setting the world on fire, but we all have to start somewhere. More importantly, there’s a fair bit of content being generated, with several posts a day (which is probably about right: too many and people get inundated and jaded). A solid 4 out of 10.

Turning to Twitter, Albert Owen has a pretty good following of 2,046. Albert’s tweeting fairly regularly (14 times per day according to Riffle), but I have to say that the content is – well – boring. We get the occasional weather observation, for example, and rather few images overall (and still fewer taken by Albert – does his phone have a camera?). Top tip for Albert, sometimes it’s better not to tweet than to tweet stuff that is inane.

There are some pretty neat tools out there that can analyse twitter feeds. So we learn that Albert does nearly a quarter of his daily tweets between 7 and 8am. And according to ‘My Top Tweet’, Albert’s most noteworthy tweets have been retweeted 28 times (2 tweets). Startlingly, at number 10 in Albert’s top tweets of all time is this effort, retweeted a grand total of 5 times. The median number of followers of people who follow Alberts is 378. Finally, is there something Albert’s not telling us? His top mentions are of @vaughan_wms, @hywelplaidcymru and @plaid_cymru.

Albert’s Klout score is 55. That means he gets 5.5 out of 10 for his twitter exploits. I haven’t been able to trace a google plus account for Albert, nor a LinkedIn account.

How’s John doing? Well, his following is just 438, which is pretty poor. But then he’s been on twitter less than a year, so let’s not be too harsh. His activity is largely retweets, which means he hasn’t really got the hang of it. But with a week to go, it’s probably not a bad strategy to be retweeting people who know what they’re doing. In John’s case, this is principally Rhun ap Iorwerth. John’s top tweets have been retweeted 18 and 14 times, which for someone who’s a novice isn’t bad. His top mentions are more aligned with his party than Albert: @plaid_cymru, @plaidcymrumon and @rhunapiorwerth. And interestingly, the median number of followers of people who themselves follow John is 429.5. That means that they have rather more clout than Albert’s followers.

John’s Klout score is a surprisingly high 47 – quite possibly because John’s twitter feed is being consumed by twitter users of a considerably higher tweet power.

John has a google plus account, although it’s clearly not being used at the moment, alongside a LinkedIn account with 420 connections (1/5  and 2/5 points for those).

Final score:

Albert 5.5/30

John 11.7/30

Rho sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Westminster

Track Record: Albert Owen

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
  • Strongly in favour of a transparent UK Parliament
  • Moderately in favour of more powers for the National Assembly

So what does Albert Owen’s voting record reveal about his activity over the past five years?

Well, on several of these issues, Albert is well aligned with our imaginary centre-left voter. For example, unlike his Labour colleague Stephen Doughty, he voted in favour of more benefits for longer periods for those unable to work because of illness or disability. But there are several of them where the alignment is poor. According to TheyWorkForYou, Albert:

  • Voted moderately in favour of wasting £100 billion on a relic of the Cold War (Trident)
  • Voted both for and against 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
  • Voted for and against a transparent UK Parliament
  • Has voted a mixture of for and against more powers for Wales, but voted in favour of more powers for local councils

Let’s see how Albert’s voting record pans out in the real world. It means that Albert can’t decide whether or not he’s in favour of people being killed, maimed and psychologically traumatised for the glory of the British Empire. He didn’t even turn up to the vote declaring war on Iraq in 2003. People dying in these conflicts are predominantly poor people: poor people in poor countries or poor people recruited from some of the poorest communities in Wales. Places like Ynys Môn, which is one of the poorest places in the whole of the UK, and far and away the poorest in Wales (measured as GVA per capita). But when it comes to holding governments to account for their illegal wars, woah! The last thing Albert wants is a report highly likely to be most damaging to his 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.

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.

Bizarrely, he’s voted against increasing the level of income at which someone starts to pay income tax. The Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation shows that Ynys Môn has several wards in which income levels are extremely low – most especially in Holyhead, which ironically is Albert’s home town.

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.

And he’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 Albert Owen? Not a bit of it. Albert voted against the transfer of powers over energy to Wales. In fact, it surprises me that Albert was present at all to bother to vote against Wales’ national interests. After all, he only bothered to show up for 2 of the 10 key votes on transferring powers to the National Assembly for Wales.

You’d probably expect a record such as that for a puppy of the Labour party. He’s voted against his party a grand total of 8 times in 908 votes. But while he was happy to do down the Welsh people through voting against our interests or not bothering to turn up to vote, he was happy enough to transfer more powers to local councils.

For more information about John Rowlands, his main (Plaid) challenger for the seat of Ynys Môn, you can find his twitter feed here, his facebook account here and his LinkedIn account here.

2 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Westminster