Monthly Archives: Hydref 2012

Will The Conservatives Ever Learn?

This is the second of the recent Conservative pamphlets (with thanks again to BD). You may be  interested to hear that Craig Williams failed to meet the criteria for An Irresistible Offer, despite confirming that he would do so in his tweet of 1:53 AM – 21 Oct 12. The Conservatives will therefore be without an election address on this site. Their loss.

But the title of this post relates to something else. Because squirrelled away in very small print at the bottom of this missive is the information that it was printed by Mortons Print Ltd of Horncastle, Lincolnshire. Mortons Print is one of those struggling local businesses with a measly £12 million turnover. Horncastle is part of the Louth and Horncastle constituency, which has an unbroken record of being held by the Conservatives since its formation in 1997. So it seems as if the Conservatives – as they did back in April – are very keen to farm jobs off to their friends in the English shires rather than provide employment for the many printers within the constituency of Penarth and Cardiff South. Do as I say, not as I do.

So when, on page 3 of the pamphlet, Craig Williams says that he’s “Putting Cardiff South and Penarth first”, how much credibility do we attach to the claim? And given that Craig “heads up the influential Economy Committee on Cardiff Council”, the good burghers of Cardiff are probably best off battening down the hatches.

But it’s back to page 1, and the headline “Investing in Welsh Railways” that I cast my eyes now. Apparently the Conservatives in Westminster are going to be electrifying parts of the railway in Wales. Well, excuse me for not popping open the champagne, but until I can hear the crackle of the wires in Maesteg, Ebbw Vale and Treorchy I’m not going to hold my breath. Because there’s a world of difference between announcing that something will happen and actually achieving it. And Craig’s eager to have a pop at Labour for not electrifying during their 13 years’ tenure at Westminster. But since Craig is so keen to make comparisons across the border let’s have a look at England. A country where lines were being electrified in the 1930s and which has about 50% of its lines electrified already. So successive  UK governments of all colours have been happy to let Wales founder for at least 80 years in a rapidly diminishing club of non-electrified European countries that now puts Wales in the august company of Albania and Moldova.

As in the previous post, I’m glad that pensioners are receiving a significant increase in allowance after several years of (inflation adjusted) parsimony under Labour. I’ll pose the same question as last time: where’s the money coming to pay for it? At least partially, it’s coming from eroded services and cuts in benefits. But those are the choices of government.

And as in the previous leaflet, Craig is very good at trumpeting tax cuts without revealing how much better off the top 1% will be as a result of his party’s activities. And once again we see Craig’s commitment to police officers trudging the streets rather than protecting the public in ways that might actually be effective.

It’s good to see a focus on education, and Wales’ slipping down the international league tables is a cause of concern to most people. In this he’s spot on to slam Labour, who’ve presided over this alarming slump in performance since 2006. But it’s a little ironic for him to be raising the £604 less per pupil that is spent in Wales on education, because that’s just about equal to or less than the £300-£750 million underfunding that Wales suffers as a result of the Barnett formula. Get your party to fix the formula, Craig, and watch that gap fall away.

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5 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Westminster

Getting Tough on Problem Parking

You wait ages and ages and then two turn up at once. Conservative election leaflets, that is. So here’s the first one, with thanks to blog reader BD for sending it through.

And the headline issue of critical importance for a newly elected Conservative MP for Penarth and Cardiff South? Problem parking in Penarth. Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ll rest a lot easier at night knowing that if Craig Williams is elected he’ll be busying himself about the place, “leading a petition to the local council for enforcement of resident parking”.

What Craig doesn’t appear to grasp is that the roads are provided for the benefit of all the people of Penarth, visitors, businesspeople and residents alike through public taxation. They are a public provision. The availability of spaces to park in close proximity to one’s home is a privilege, not a right – so Craig is wasting his time if he thinks he will be able to legislate for residents having “every right” to “park near their homes”.

Craig makes some bold claims, including that unemployment is falling and nearly 1.2 million private sector jobs have been created since the coalition government was elected. However he doesn’t tell us how many public sector jobs have been eliminated in the interim, nor does he reveal that the number of long-term unemployed in Wales increased by 8.9% for the year ending 30 June 2012. Meanwhile, the debt – which Craig’s Conservatives are “dealing with” so admirably – has reached the highest level (as percentage of GDP) at any time since the 1970s.

I’ve already pointed out that people with much more knowledge about policing than myself or, it turns out, Craig, consider it a bad idea that police “spend more time on the beat”. Yet that is exactly what Craig is looking to encourage. Perhaps he’s on the wrong ballot paper?

I’m glad that the basic state pension has seen a large absolute increase under the coalition government. As ever, the question remains of who is paying for this generosity when public finances are coming under exceptional strain.

And trumpeting cutting income tax without telling people that one of the taxes to be cut is the 50% rate on those earning £150,000 is disingenuous. Even if there are a few super-wealthy households in Penarth, how many of those big earners live in Cogan, Butetown and St. Mellons?

The Conservatives have obviously learned tactics from their Liberal Democrat colleagues in Westminster, because the ‘two horse race’ raises its tired nag’s head once more. I dislike these for the following reasons:

  • The graphs universally use misleading axes in order to distort the statistical reality
  • They lie (look no further than one recent by-election)
  • Worst of all, they attempt to stifle democracy by telling people not to vote for any other than two parties

Finally, Craig is getting excitable about a National Health Scandal. While I’m sure there’s no small room for improvement in the NHS in Wales, things are not exactly smelling of roses across the border. And given that this is a field that is entirely devolved, perhaps he would be better off waiting until 2016 before standing for election.

What is a scandal – not unexpected, of course – is the absence of any Welsh language anywhere on the leaflet. So the Conservatives tell us they’re “caring and campaigning for Penarth” – but only if your language of choice is English.

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating:

…there are plenty of people who are well-disposed towards the Welsh language who can speak not a word of it, alongside the 10% plus who are bilingual. And who knows, perhaps it might just start the long process of shaking off the tag of being one of the ‘English people telling us what to do’ parties.

It needn’t even take up any more space than the current format. As I’ve mentioned here… and here, some graphic design packages are free of charge and can enable even the most computer-illiterate to design an attractive leaflet, taking up half the space (and hence allowing space for a translation).

2 Sylw

Filed under Cogan, Conservatives, Democracy, Parking, Police, Westminster

Failed Ideas and Career Politics

This is the first salvo from the Greens, introducing their candidate Anthony Slaughter, to whom I extend my gratitude for sending the pdf through so promptly.

The evidence of Anthony’s commitment to sustainability in the area is clearly laid out with his work on behalf of Gwyrddio Penarth Greening. The “policies that offer a genuine alternative to the failed ideas and career politics offered by the other parties” include:

  • a Green New Deal creating jobs in sustainable, clean industries
  • an economy working with nature rather than against it
  • quieter, cleaner, safer streets
  • stronger local communities
  • healthier, safer food

That strikes me as a wish list, rather than a set of policies, although it’s difficult to lay out a series of coherent policies in a 2-sider. Anthony’s party isn’t the only organisation to have a Plan B, by the way. Plaid Cymru even has a Plan C.

The incinerator story shows the Green Party’s position, although there doesn’t appear to be an idea of where the waste would otherwise end up. This is related to an issue I covered back here.

It’s good to have the party’s Wales branch leader’s backing, too (more detail on this confusing situation below). It’s a decent enough quote and the picture of the two of them at an event or campaign shows a nice level of activism (although it may be too fine detail for the printed version).

And the final article on air quality and sustainable transport is interesting – I like the Greens’ idea of a public consultation on Penarth’s streets.

I’m a little surprised that the leaflet is printed in Mountain Ash, some way from the constituency, although I admire the commitment to providing employment in more deprived parts of Wales. But was recycled paper used? I’m guessing not, because it’s easy enough to pop the little logo on your pamphlet.

But perhaps one thing that shouldn’t come as a surprise is the total lack of Welsh language on the pamphlet. That’s because this peculiar party is a throwback to a distant age, when EnglandAndWales was a meaningful political unit – at some point between the Acts of Union and the Act of Union. It’s the only political party in existence that has a geographical jurisdiction of EnglandAndWales. And a party with a political mindset 500 years old is scarcely going to be bang up to date on social or cultural issues. Even the Conservative Party, with characteristic self-loathing, has begun to tear itself away from the idea that the leader of the UK party is the leader of the Wales branch. And it makes me think – if the priorities of the Green Party in Wales were to differ from the priorities of the Green Party in England, which policy would be adopted? No contest.

And perhaps this helps explain the continuing languishing of the Green Party in the polls. After all, even the large Unionist parties have cottoned on to the paper exercise of putting Welsh in front of their names on the polling cards. It’s all the more surprising when you consider that the Scottish Greens (notice the difference?!) are one of the two pro-independence parties with a presence in Holyrood, along with the SNP.

I can’t tell whether it’s Anthony who’s doing his party a disservice or his party doing a disservice to him. Perhaps a bit of both. After all, there are plenty of people who are well-disposed towards the Welsh language who can speak not a word of it, alongside the 10% plus who are bilingual. And who knows, perhaps it might just start the long process of shaking off the tag of being one of the ‘English people telling us what to do’ parties.

It needn’t even take up any more space than the current format. As I’ve mentioned here (to Anthony) and here, some graphic design packages are free of charge and can enable even the most computer-illiterate to design an attractive leaflet, taking up half the space (and hence allowing space for a translation).

7 Sylw

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

The Line-Up

So it’s official. The by-election for Penarth and Cardiff South will be on 15 November, the same day as that for the Police Commissioners.

The Police Commissioners’ election could scarcely be less relevant. After all, Police Commissioners are opposed by all parties in Wales (nominally the Welsh Conservatives are in favour, but a shoe-in for at least 3 Labour politicians to high profile jobs for life must seem a bitter pill for them to swallow on behalf of their Westminster masters). And it’s a policy that could seriously backfire. Not least because the one thing you can guarantee voters will want is more bobbies on the beat. And as far as the Audit Commission is concerned, wandering the streets is a “not effective” way for highly-paid police officers to be tackling crime.

Why are no such elections happening in Scotland and Northern Ireland, by the way? It’s because policing and criminal justice is devolved to those countries, and their governments appear to have more sense than the UK Government, which is grimly pushing ahead because it’s a manifesto commitment (not that that appears to be a major impediment). And as I’ve previously suggested, given the majority support in Wales for devolution of policing, the Commissioners could be out of a job before too long in any case:

Stephen’s going to have to get used to being branded hypocritical. Because in relation to police numbers, if we look north to  Scotland, police numbers are actually rising. But then police and criminal justice is devolved to Scotland (and Northern Ireland), so they’re much better equipped to withstand the ‘vicious cuts’ that Stephen is so concerned about. Perhaps he’d be better off asking Peter Hain why he thought policing would be better off financed by London than Wales than bleating about 750 officers being lost as a result of Labour’s failure to devolve when they had the chance…

I’m with Stephen that privatisation of the police forces a la Lincolnshire – policing for profit – is a bad idea. But the only cast-iron way of ensuring it doesn’t happen in Wales? Devolve policing and criminal justice – something, incidentally, that’s supported by a substantial majority of the Welsh public.

But irrelevant as these elections are, there’s one thing that keeps me from taking Lord Ian Blair’s advice and not voting in the election. And this, despite my reluctance to give any credence to the grotesque and not credible advertising that the Home Office has been taking out in its desperation for this election not to be the farce that many expect.

Regular readers of this blog will know that Alun Michael’s not my favourite politician. And it’s not just for the reasons I gave here:

I won’t be shedding many tears over Alun’s departure. His awful performance as First Secretary to the National Assembly for Wales along with his ‘strong support’ for the Iraq war and for renewing the UK’s nuclear arsenal are a matter of public record (I guess it’s easy to be generous with other people’s money when you’re on an MP’s salary). I just hope that the general contempt in which he appears to be held in Penarth is replicated throughout south Wales and he fails to get the £85,000 top job at South Wales Police. I know of die-hard Labour supporters who either abstain or vote Labour with a peg on their nose and with gritted teeth because of Alun Michael.

A few people I know are more than a little disgruntled because they’ve never received responses from multiple attempts to contact Alun Michael – and yes, these are constituents of Penarth and Cardiff South. Active citizens who’ve given up on their MP because of his poor record on communication. So Alun, you won’t be racking up a vote from this blog – in fact I’ll be having a think about the best tactical vote to be made to give you an early retirement. I figure if someone’s crap at communicating as an MP they’re not likely to be much ‘cop’ as a Commissioner – where communication with the plebs is crucial.

I won’t be offering publicity to the candidates this time round because I’m focused on the real issue of the day. If we’re still saddled with the donkeys of Commissioners in four or five years’ time I’ll reassess.

But we can put Commissioners to one side for the time being, because this post is really about the fantastic line-up of articles coming your way in the next few weeks. Last month I said:

On sequential days running up to the by-election I will publish an election message from each candidate in the election. The election address should be no more than 500 words, and I will publish it unedited (provided it doesn’t include defamation, incitement to violence etc.).

I confess it may not be possible for me to post one after the next each day, but I’ll do my best. In any case, all candidates who fit the criteria I stipulated here will get their election messages in time for the election.

So barring mishaps where a candidate fails to pass on their election material in good time, this is the line-up we’ll get on 8 days leading up to 15 November:

  • Stephen Doughty (Labour)
  • Roberth Griffiths (Communist)
  • Andrew Jordan (Socialist Labour)
  • Bablin Molik (Lib Dem)
  • Luke Nicholas (Plaid Cymru)
  • Anthony Slaughter (Greens)
  • Craig Williams (Conservative)
  • Simon Zeigler (UKIP)

Candidates: you should send your election messages (500 words or less) to penartharbyd[a]gmail.com to arrive no later than 31 October. And as a final caution, don’t think that you’ll earn any favours by not continuing to pass on your election material after your election message has been published!

Good luck persuading the electorate…

8 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Labour, Police

Electoral Strategy for UKIP 2017

One half of all the UKIP councillors in Wales represents Sully.

UKIP’s historical success has come in elections with an element of proportional representation – principally, European elections (the next of which is in 2014). It’s hardly surprising really. For a political party that could only rustle up 12 candidates to contest 1,223 seats (Anglesey excepted) in May’s local elections, UKIP always stands a better chance in elections where they only need one candidate to take one-quarter of the seats on offer. A much bigger question for UKIP would be how to capture a greater number of seats across Wales – but fortunately for me, my main concern is Penarth.

So as for the Greens, Liberal Democrats and Independents, the challenge for UKIP is to find more candidates. But which ward should the new candidate(s) stand in?

I previously described that UKIP:

don’t seem to have an electoral strategy other than picking up votes from disaffected Conservative voters. By which I mean right-wing Conservatives. Certainly the Conservatives themselves appeared rattled by UKIP’s performance in May and the recent polling in Wales clearly demonstrates they have most to fear from UKIP.

Given the likely main source of their polling, it would seem most fruitful for them to target Plymouth ward next. Why Plymouth? Firstly, Plymouth is the least-deprived ward in Penarth and Sully is a close second, so the demographic is likely to be relatively similar. And secondly, UKIP already provided a tremendous surprise by taking one of the seats in Sully, for which I had previously forecast:

Sully will also keep its incumbent councillors, Conservatives Anthony Ernest and Sarah Sharpe.

And my prediction for Plymouth?

Plymouth will keep its two Conservative councillors forever. Councillors Maureen Kelly Owen and Clive Williams will retain their seats until they drop.

After what happened in Sully, now I’m not so sure. An Independent and/or UKIP challenge in Plymouth could lead to a very interesting result in 2017.

In the wider Vale there are key characteristics of certain wards that UKIP could exploit. Multi-member wards with a strong Conservative showing would look most vulnerable, so they should look to target Cowbridge and Rhoose, and they could probably have a pop at Llantwit Major to test the water.

And the chances of UKIP finding enough candidates to target these four additional wards? Not good. But they’ve got just over 4 years to do it so they should be able to challenge in at least one other ward by 2017. Shouldn’t they?

2 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, UKIP, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Nose-Spite-Face

I can’t be the only one to be surprised at the row rumbling on at the Supreme Court over whether or not the National Assembly for Wales has exceeded its jurisdiction in its first piece of primary legislation.

That law – sexily entitled “The Local Government (Byelaws) (Wales) Bill” – aims to simplify procedures for making and enforcing local authority byelaws. But it turns out that the Bill would have the effect of cutting out the Secretary of State for Wales from the process of approving byelaws in Wales. And there’s the rub – the National Assembly may not alter the role of any Secretary of State without their express consent unless those powers are incidental to or consequential on other provisions – and it looks as if Cheryl Gillan didn’t provide that consent. Some people have argued that the Welsh Government didn’t do much of a job in seeking it. But Alan Trench has helpfully coralled all the information that shows the extent of communication between the Welsh Government and the Secretary of State.

Alan previously described the Welsh Government’s position as weak, if not hopeless. But there’s a bit more to it. In testimony this week we’ve seen the startling revelation that the Secretary of State has used this tremendous power all of, erm, well, never, since the establishment of the National Assembly. So in 13 years, this power, which the Attorney General is so keen to retain on behalf of the Secretary of State, has remained unused.

Now we see that the Welsh Office is considering sending for the Attorney General for the second ever Bill to be passed by the National Assembly, the National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Bill. This is a Bill whose impacts are restricted solely to the activities of people who work in the National Assembly for Wales, but we could be keeping the Supreme Court busy yet again in the near future.

And rumours are already doing the rounds that the presumed consent for organ donation Bill (Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill) is lining up to go to the Supreme Court.

This has all coincided with a quite remarkable poll by ITV which showed that people in Wales overwhelmingly want the Welsh Government/National Assembly for Wales to have the biggest say in how Wales is run.

Now one of the few things that can be guaranteed to turn someone who is ordinarily a mild-mannered apolitical into a font of political activism is the idea that London is interfering in the business of Wales for no good purpose. And as we can see above – and as you can read in countless articles online – it appears that there is no good purpose to the Attorney General’s interventions. Given that two Unionist parties are fighting this battle, Nationalists must be rubbing their hands in glee.

As an aside, I have some sympathy with the Welsh Government’s representative Theodore Huckle QC, who argues that there should be a Welsh judge on the Supreme Court in instances where Welsh legislation is being considered. The reason there isn’t is because EnglandAndWales is one legal jurisdiction and there are three judges on the panel representing EnglandAndWales and anyway “it’s difficult to identify what constitutes a Welsh judge“.

Theodore’s answer: “We know one when we see one“.

Rhowch sylw

Filed under Democracy, Welsh Government, Westminster

Electoral Strategy for Independents 2017

It’s with a certain reticence that I write this post. After all, Independents by their nature come from such a wide range of interests and political leanings that very little unifies them. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that Independents are a major force in Welsh politics – at the local authority level. With 313 councillors (excluding those in Anglesey), they’re the second-biggest force in politics at this level, and they control Pembrokeshire, Powys and Anglesey councils.

In the Vale of Glamorgan there are 7 Independent Members, making it the joint-third largest grouping (along with Plaid). Four of these are the Llantwit First Independents, and then we have the unaffiliated Richard Bertin (formerly a Labour councillor) in Court (Barry), Philip Clarke in Rhoose and our very own Bob Penrose in Sully.

So how can the Independents become a major political force in the Vale?

It won’t be easy. Because of the traditional ding-dong between the Conservatives and Labour, and the often knife-edge results, other parties tend to get squeezed a bit. But the consistent success of the Llantwit First Independents, as well as the advent of three new independent councillors this time round, indicate that the ground may be surprisingly fertile for independent candidates.

So let’s think big. If the Independent grouping wants to have a chance of controlling the council they need to win an additional 17 or more seats. It’s unlikely they’ll achieve that any time soon, but here are some pointers for how they might go about their strategy.

First, they need to be putting up candidates in as many wards as possible. And as for all the political groupings, chances of success are increased by having local candidates (although that’s not essential as we can see here, here, here and here, for example). But where should they target their resources? Richard Bertin aside, all the Independents have captured seats in what might be described as traditional Conservative territory. So it would seem sensible for more of their resources to be targeted towards these wards than the others. In Penarth that would mean a stronger effort in Sully (unless Kevin Mahoney could be persuaded to join an Independent group in the event of them forming a Cabinet) and targeting Plymouth ward. And elsewhere it would mean a push in the rural Vale.

The Independents’ gender balance is the worst of any of the groupings, with a full house of male representatives. It’s something they’ll need to rectify if they start to become anywhere near a major player in the Vale.

And a final point for Independents. You’ll want to be vociferously opposing the creation of super-wards across the Vale when the boundary review process restarts. The experience from Llantwit Major notwithstanding, it’s going to be an awful lot more difficult for one or two candidates to cover a 5-Member ward than a 2-Member ward.

5 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, Vale of Glamorgan Council