Category Archives: Conservatives

Carwyn Jones – Mr Anonymous

There was a time when Carwyn Jones was regarded as an asset to the Labour Party in Wales. Regard the party political broadcast for the 2011 election which was basically the Carwyn show. And who could overlook the analyses by Roger Scully, which for some reason use polling data, rather than the revolutionary new method we’re about to reveal. Roger noted in December 2014 that:

Carwyn Jones remains by some way the most popular party leader in Wales

Let’s consider that Carwyn has been First Minister since December 2009, a full six years. That would be a decent length of time for someone to make their mark. But I get the feeling that Carwyn’s star has fallen a long way since its ascendency in 2011. Perhaps he’s taken everything (and everyone) for granted for so long that people just don’t care about him – or his opinion – any more. I’d be astonished if Carwyn gets the airtime in this election that he enjoyed in party political broadcasts last election. What leads to this radical conclusion?

It’s the New Year Twitter test.

As First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones’ new year message of good will was retweeted a grand total of 4 times (up to the end of 4 January), one of whom is a candidate in the coming election, and another Wayne David, MP for Caerffili. To be fair, his Welsh language version was retweeted 5 times. But two of these had already retweeted the English language version. Grand total? 7 retweets.

How did other First and Prime Ministers do?  Nicola Sturgeon only managed 419 retweets. Pathetic really for someone who’s been in post a shade over one year. David Cameron managed 1,300 for the cheesy ‘Happy New Year’ tweet, with a more modest 363 for his actual message.

How about the other party leaders in Wales? Kirsty Williams didn’t get a single retweet for her message, Andrew RT Davies netted 12 retweets, Alice Hooker Stroud got 7 (not bad for a month’s tenure!) and Leanne Wood achieved 34.

But we’re not really comparing like with like. It’s hardly a fair contest to pit opposition leaders – of varying tenure – against the profile of someone who until recently was Wales’ most popular party leader. Nor is it fair to pit the leaders of England and Scotland – both much bigger countries – against that of Wales. So here goes, with a quick look at some equivalent leaders.

  • Panama – population 3.8 million – President Juan Carlos Varela 158 retweets
  • Jamaica – population 2.7 million – Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller 11 retweets (great message, by the way… “May 2016 see your dreams come true. May you shine as never before, believe as never before and soar as never before”)
  • Macedonia – population 2.1 million – Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski 19 retweets

To be fair, there are plenty of mid-size countries whose leaders aren’t on twitter or didn’t bother with a new year’s greeting. My personal favourite is the Prime Minister of Lebanon, who clearly hasn’t managed his settings to avoid every post he makes on Facebook appearing in his twitter feed.

But there’s a bit more of a serious point here. If the First Minister of Wales can’t get a single elected politician in Wales other than Wayne David to retweet his new year message, maybe it’s not just the plebs who are losing faith in Carwyn. Perhaps the rot has set in within his own party.

By the time 2016’s out, there’s going to be another leader of the Labour Party in Wales, which of course means a new First Minister.

3 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Welsh Government

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 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

Welsh Politics Changes – for Good

The news that Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Green Party will participate in two of the three televised leaders’ debates has created a seismic shift in the power relationships of politics.

Plaid has faced problems of apparent legitimacy across swathes of Wales for decades. One memorable story is told of a young woman who, having been selected to stand for Plaid back in 2005, visited a relative in Newport to relay the good news. Her aunt was aghast, telling her “What on earth are you doing with those extremists!”

But that legitimacy has now been handed to Plaid on a silver platter. Because it’s very difficult for people in any corner of Wales to argue that Plaid isn’t relevant to the political discourse at a Wales or UK level when they’re on TV screens, beamed into 30 million homes from Islay to Islington.

One of the enduring myths of Welsh politics is that a vote for a particular party is a wasted vote; it’s one that it particularly commonly used by the Labour party to persuade people not to vote for Plaid. But as I’ve argued before:

…some parties will try to persuade you that your vote is wasted if you vote for so-and-so party in a UK election. That’s blatantly false, because it’s the one species of election where your vote is almost guaranteed to achieve nothing but send a message, regardless of the party you vote for.

This scenario couldn’t be a worse result for the ‘big UK’ parties. Instead of bickering amongst themselves to show who has the thickest fag paper to put between each others’ policies, they now face the prospect of policy humiliation by a determined, intelligent and telegenic trio of anti-austerity party leaders. The delightful schadenfreude is that it’s a result that’s been brought about by the parties themselves attempting to score cheap political points. David Cameron’s bluff has been called – he didn’t want to participate unless the Greens were also invited to the party (clearly he was unwilling to go into a contest where the only likely outcome would be his party bleeding votes to UKIP). But Ed Miliband can’t now refuse to participate, because of the extraordinary scenes in the House of Commons a few weeks back when he branded the Prime Minister ‘running scared’ for his stance and his Labour MPs ‘clucked like chickens‘. And with three left-wing parties in the fray, Ed Miliband now stands to lose the most.

In Wales, valleys seats that were formerly impregnable Labour fortresses will now start to drift into accessible territory for Plaid. The combination of new establishment-gifted legitimacy, the platform of the TV debates itself, and UKIP eroding Labour’s vote from the right mean that some veteran coasting MPs the like of Chris Bryant and Wayne David will have to start to work their constituencies.

It also signals the beginning of the end of the two-party system in the UK, and the one-party system in Wales. Although change happens relatively slowly under the first-past-the-post electoral system, the days of people sacrificing their principles to vote, with gritted teeth, for a candidate who is slightly less unappealing than the other candidate, are coming to a close. When people have a genuine choice over their options, they’ll give less of a fig about some fictitious formula where only X party stands a chance of being in government. The fact that every political pundit is saying this is the hardest election to predict for 100 years tells you that the field is wide open.

This 7-party debate, which I among many would have thought totally fanciful (although I participated dutifully in the social media to bring it about) has changed Welsh politics for Good.

Finally, it also vindicates the stance taken by Plaid of forming a bloc with the Greens and SNP. Some commentators (Simon Brooks, for example), have criticised Plaid for working with the Greens in the run-up to the UK election. However, it’s extremely unlikely that David Cameron would have used either Plaid or the SNP in the way he did the Greens in order to try to avoid the leadership debates, and which has ultimately led to this significant step forward for democracy in Wales.

 

1 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Greens, Labour, Plaid Cymru, SNP, UKIP, Westminster

Independence: the United States of America

I’ve taken an executive decision. For the time being I’m going to stick with the 59 countries that have become independent from the UK. There’s a whole heap more that have become independent from Spain, Portugal, Russia, France and others. But I don’t want this series to bog me down forever, and 59 might just take me near enough to that.

The USA was the first of the former British Empire colonies to leave, in 1783.

GDP per capita at date of independence (actually, 1789) – $55.10, or $1110 in money from the year 2000

GDP per capita in England/UK at date of independence – £180 million/8 million people – £22.50, or £1,643 in money from the year 2000 (which is going to be my basis for calculation)

In the year 2000, one GBP was worth roughly 1.5 USD. So that means that at the date of independence the per capita GDP of the USA was 1110/2465 = 45% that of the UK.

What a piss-poor country the USA was.

To put in into context, let’s look at today’s GDP. The UK’s GDP per capita in 2013 was in the region of $42,423 (using the most generous measure). In today’s terms, the USA would be around $17,708. They’d be rather poorer than Trinidad and Tobago.

But the GDP per capita of the USA in 2013 was $52,392. If you’ll excuse the shorthand (conflating $ from the years 2000 and 2013 for both the UK and USA), then the GDP of the UK has increased from $2,465 to $42,423 over the last 230 years, or an increase of 17.2 times. Hardly seems worth all the effort, eh! And the USA increased from $1,110 to $53,392, a 48.1-fold increase.

So what use has independence been in pure economic terms to the USA? Economic growth has happened at a rate roughly three times as rapid as for the UK such that if the UK wanted to become a state of the USA today it would be the second-poorest state, just ahead of Mississippi.

Unionists will say, yeah, sure, but look at all the resources the USA has got. They’ll want to have a look at the academic evidence that indicates that countries blessed with plentiful natural resources tend to end up economically cursed.

Because what really matters is the ability to control your own destiny. The power to shape society so that the direction you collectively take sits comfortably with the people of the country. Setting taxes that distribute from rich to poor, not the other way round as Labour and Conservative alike are either busily planning or actively doing.

Independence? I’m sure the USA would be better off without!

Finally, I’ve scoured the internet and have yet to find any movement wishing to repatriate the USA as part of the UK (although there are UK journalists mooting the UK becoming the 51st state).

Funny, that.

2 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Independence, Labour, Westminster