Category Archives: Welsh Government

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 Suppurating Reality of Public Life in Wales

Keir Hardie would be turning in his grave. This is what the Labour party has become. A party until recently wholly committed to austerity, that repeatedly fails to vote against the wilful savagery inflicted on the poor by their Conservative-cut-accomplices in Westminster, a party that delights in lavishing untold billions on weapons of mass destruction.

And in Wales, Keir’s adopted country, a Labour machine brimming with lickspittles and toadies who want to import those nuclear warheads to Pembrokeshire, a party morally and politically spent, acting only in the interests of whatever it takes to retain its tired grip on power.

This paragon of socialist success, Wales, the victim of the longest-running one-party government in Europe.

A Labour party so replete with failure, incompetence and listlessness that its 52-page programme for government contains only the tiniest handful of measurable targets*.

A Labour party that stuffs the institutions that govern our daily lives with party apparatchiks. And the Welsh Government’s defence? That most appointees “did not declare” an affiliation with the Labour party. What they don’t mention? That you only need to declare an affiliation if you’ve been a candidate at election, an agent of a candidate, or a branch Treasurer, Secretary or Chair. That means there are potentially thousands of Labour party members quietly filling up positions in public life with a nod and a wink. What proportion of the 90% of appointees “unaffiliated” to a political party is comprised of Labour party members? We don’t know – and the Welsh Government will never tell us.

A Labour party ruthlessly determined to reduce opportunities for scrutiny and accountability. Using feeble excuses for halting publication of Ministerial decision reports. Consistently fail to meet one of the few targets you yourself invented? Not a problem for Labour. Change, or delete, the target.

So who’s to hold the Welsh Government to account? Not the NGOs. If the environment sector is a representative sample, then the Welsh Government and its agencies apparently use the threat of reduced funding to eliminate criticism.

The media? Well, for a country overly dependent on public service broadcasters such as the BBC, don’t hold your breath. This is a media that treats Carwyn Jones with the sickening reverence usually reserved for the monarchy. Not that all politicians are treated with kid gloves. Jason Mohammad’s pillorying of Leanne Wood for sticking to her principles and not singing the national anthem of another country was astonishing. But then, Leanne’s not an establishment figure, royalty or from the Labour party – goodness knows the backroom deals Labour has done to ensure favourable treatment.

The political opposition? It’s pretty difficult to get your message across if the media is Labour supplicant.

Cai Larsen has pointed out in the past that if your desire is for you and your offspring to get unfair advantage in life, then you stand a much better chance of doing so through membership of the Labour party than through being a mason.

This is what the Labour party in Wales has become. A club for sharing out the spoils of victory to its anointed brethren. An apparatus for stifling dissent, for strangling criticism, and for ensuring its own continuation. The lofty ambitions, the socialism, the ideals, the beliefs, all tossed aside. You don’t need ideals when your status in society is ideal.

Remember this, dear readers, when you flock to the polling booths next May.

Leanne Wood – in that same interview – told Jason that ‘we’re not in North Korea’. And she’s right, we’re not. Yet. But we’re a country that’s been crushed under a Labour administration that’s been in power for 16 years, with another 5 in its sights.

This is the suppurating reality of Welsh public life.

Keir Hardie would be turning in his grave.

 

___________________________________________________________________________

* Our inspection revealed just two measurable targets in 52 pages. But do let us know if you can find a few more squirreled away.

  • Increasing spending on Wales’ schools by at least 1% over our block grant, and raise the amount delegated by local authorities to schools to 85%.
  • Fund and facilitate the employment of 500 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) in Wales.

Rho sylw

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

The Cost of Dependence

We in Wales were the first ones invaded and colonised by England, then came just about everyone else in the world.

At its height, the British Empire was the largest empire in history, covering 22% of the global land area (in 1922) and incorporating 20% of the global population (in 1938).

But just as the tides flow and then ebb, such has been the history of the British Empire. It’s left as a pathetic runt of its former glory, with just Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Cornwall, the Crown Dependencies (Isle of Man and Channel Islands), and 14 Overseas Territories including such big hitters as British Antarctic Territory (population 50), the South Sandwich Islands (population nil) and ‘Akotiri and Dhekelia’ (the UK army bases on Cyprus).

There’s an intriguing list of countries that have gained independence from Britain. 59 of them, all in all (excluding the four that have since seceded from others of the 59). And not one of them has asked, begged or pleaded to be let back in. They’ve gone their own way. And even though going their own way hasn’t always been a happy tale, in every single case they’ve preferred being independent than returning to the velvety warmth of the British bosom.

Many of these countries were poor at the time they achieved independence, some staggeringly so. But that never stopped them from demanding that the best place for decisions to be taken over their people was in their country.

I’ve got a theory.

The British Empire was – and still is – an extractive empire. Many African countries were exploited for slaves, the profits from which helped fuel the industrial revolution. The same is apparently true of India – which from the second largest economy in the world at the start of British Rule grew by zero percent for 90 years until they left, which is hardly surprising because there were huge cash transfers from India to London for the entirety of that period. Malaysia was a source of rubber and tin; and so on.

That’s not altogether surprising. Every empire has done the same. It would be rather pointless colonising somewhere and then investing more in that place than you’d reap from it. That would hardly please the natives back home.

And so to Wales.

There’s absolutely no doubt that the British state used to be an extractive operation. I don’t need to remind anyone of the history of extraction in Wales. The legacy of the water, slate, coal and steel that have been extracted are drowned communities, shattered lives and poverty-stricken communities. And a wonderful array of dazzling architecture – a small proportion in Cardiff, but mostly in London – paid for by the short, nasty and brutal lives of people in Wales.

But is it still extractive? After all, plenty of politicians tell us we’ve never had it so good, that we shouldn’t be ashamed of our poverty, that British beneficence is a marvellous testament to Unionist generosity.

Let’s think who makes the rules on funding. Who decides that the London Olympics were of such benefit to Wales that we paid our full share, despite them eschewing every single Welsh venue and building a hill in Essex rather than bringing Olympic mountain biking to the Afan Valley? That would be Westminster. At a cost of £8.9 billion.

How about Crossrail, the mega-project to make Londoners’ lives easier when crossing the megalopolis from east to west? Yes, we’d still be paying our full share of that – of course, it’s for the benefit of the entire UK, silly – if only the Scots hadn’t got all uppity and started voting for the SNP. The decision in 2007 that it was expenditure for the UK? That would be Westminster. Total cost = £14.5 billion.

Any other rail projects spring to mind? What about the white elephant known as HS2, coming in at a whopping £50 billion? Even the catatonic Labour Party in Wales has sprung into action, salivating at the prospect of £2 billion in Barnett consequentials. And the news from those holding the purse strings in – you guessed it – Westminster? All together now: “this project is for the benefit of the whole of the UK”.

Then there’s Trident – with costs estimated between £97 billion and over £100 billion (what’s a few billion pounds between friends?!), one of the most expensive projects imaginable. Wales’ share of that would be £5 billion. If you want to know how many hospitals that would build, Left Foot Forward has the answer.

And while we’re on the subject of warmongering, it appears that the British Empire’s attempt to exert influence in Afghanistan – that dismal, horrible failure of a campaign – cost £40 billion. For which the people of Wales shelled out £2 billion, or £670 for every child, woman and man in our country. Does that sound like value for money to you?

These are just the big projects, the ones we hear about because their expenditure is too colossal to sweep under the carpet. How many other decisions are taken against the interests of Wales because of inter-departmental jiggery-pokery?

Fancy giving £140 million to Cycling England? Sure. Does it operate in Wales? Hell no. Barnett consequential? Not on your nelly.

And to take just one more example, there’s all the highly paid civil servants in London. Now we know that civil servants are spread around the UK. But the ones at the very top of the tree?

This document is rather revealing. It tells us that in 2011 there were 3,192 Senior Civil Servants in UK, British or EnglandandWales government departments. And where are those departments all headquartered? London. The average salary of the lowest-ranking senior civil servants (pay band 1) is £73,000 (the highest-ranking (pay band 3) gross an average of £133,000). Most of the top echelons of the civil service will have been private-school educated in the Etons and Harrows of this world, raking in £100,000-plus and living in the shires. The whole system is designed to scratch the backs of the people with plenty. Who decides that these jobs are based in England? Why, that would be Westminster.

How many Senior Civil Servants are in the Welsh Government? A grand total of 123.

Let’s assume an average salary for these mandarins of £80,000. Wales’ share of those salaries (let’s not go near the bonuses, the pensions and the perks). The London salary packet is a shade over a quarter of a billion pounds per year. And Welsh Senior Civil Servants gross £10 million, or 23% less than we might expect is our entitlement if we got our Barnett share.

The list is probably endless. Every which way, the people of Wales are getting shafted.

Because these are the costs of dependence.

A series of posts is on the way. We’ll be looking at countries that have escaped from the punitive strictures of dependence to become free, independent, outward-facing countries on the world stage. I’m sure we’ll all be intrigued to find out whether or not having control over their own destiny has proven positive or negative for these vile splitters, nasty separatists and narrow-minded nationalists.

3 Sylw

Filed under Independence, Labour, SNP, Welsh Government, Westminster

A Revelation

This blog has been vociferously independent since day one. In case you need proof, here’s an extract giving ratings of some of the Penarth councillors prior to the 2012 elections:

With a fabulous 4 points – Cllr. Sophie Williams (St. Augustine’s, Conservative)

A thrilling 3 points – Cllrs. Janice Birch (Stanwell, Labour) and Anthony Ernest (Sully, Conservative)

It’s not a party political blog and has no intention of becoming one.

But I’ve got a revelation for you all.

As from now, this is a pro-independence blog.

Our reasoning is as follows:

  • Social justice, quality of life, fulfilling employment, good health, strong connections with local communities, well-being are all important goals. This isn’t just our opinion; study after study indicates that these are the things that people value most.
  • The net result of the 92 years of this Union (since the secession of the Irish Free State) is that society in the UK has become more atomised than ever before, more unequal than ever before (and one of the most unequal states in the developed world), more miserable than ever before. We’re labelled as consumers whose sole purpose is to spend, to drive growth in the economy, to funnel more cash to the 1% and their friends and colleagues in the media, politics and big business. In other words, everything we value as humans has been eroded as a result of “the most successful union in history“.
  • The Westminster machine has shown how hopelessly unable – and unwilling – it is to make meaningful change. Despite Owen Smith’s entreaties that the Union is “a living, breathing means to an end allowing us to pool risks and share rewards between us all“, all it appears to have done is to pool the risks of bankers’ profligacy amongst us all, and share the rewards among the 1%. Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor. If the Union is “an embodiment of Labour values“, it doesn’t take a leap of faith to deduce just what those values are.
  • Organisations like the New Economics Foundation offer these pathetic ideas for reducing inequality. I say ‘pathetic’ because they seem to think there’s a chance that Westminster might act on any one of the five. Let’s get real, Westminster will never act to change the system.
  • Logically, if Westminster is unwilling to act, we need to search for alternatives. The only alternative that presents itself to permanent Westminster rule is self-rule. Independence.

The Scottish referendum has been a major factor in this realisation. The social media and blogs have been simply stunning. To have persuaded 45% of the population to vote for independence in the face of a ‘traditional’ media onslaught and the full might of the Union’s apparatus of spin, fear-mongering and bribes is the most significant achievement of social media in these Isles.

Some of the most influential blogs in the run-up to the independence debate include Bella Caledonia, Wings Over Scotland, Wee Ginger Dug, Lallands Peat Worrier and Newsnet Scotland. You might want to check them out.

And so it falls to Penartharbyd to join the ranks making the case for independence in Wales, alongside colleagues DailyWales.net, Syniadau, Borthlas, Dic Mortimer, Welsh Not British, Blog Menai, Jac o’ the North, Oggy Bloggy Ogwr, National Left and possibly Glyn Adda.

This is not a party political blog and has no intention of becoming one. So rest assured, we’ll be as independent and critical of the only party currently giving an outlet for independence-minded people as we will for the unionist parties.

This post has been updated to add some fellow independence bloggers

5 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Independence, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Welsh Government, Westminster

How Long is One Generation?

It came to light recently that the Labour Party in Wales is moving towards the devolution of further powers to Wales. The nature of the offer is covered in more detail elsewhere, but one thought on Owen Smith’s comments got me digging through the archives.

Mr Smith – Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, no less – is quoted as saying:

While devolution will evolve we are getting closer to the end game

Servini

I wonder how much he knows about the history of Labour Party activity in this area?

It was the blink of an eye in political terms when someone else – as it happens, someone mentioned in Nick Servini’s immediately preceding tweet – expressed a firm opinion about the state of devolution in Wales:

The Welsh Assembly will not need further devolution for another generation… Whatever changing circumstances we face over coming years there will be no case for a successor Government of Wales [Act] in the decades to come

The omission of the word [Act] from the quote might have been a slip of the tongue. Or he might have been quite serious that no Government of Wales other than the one in place in 2006 (Labour) has a place in Wales regardless of “changing circumstances”.

Anyway, Peter might want to try explaining the futility of his work to Paul Silk, and of course to the Liberal Democrats who wrought the Silk Commission as part of the coalition agreement with the Conservatives.

Of course, Peter Hain’s got a great track record in political fortune telling. After all, he did tell us that the 2011 referendum bestowing primary legislative powers on the National Assembly for Wales couldn’t be won under:

any [foreseeable] circumstances

I suppose in one respect Owen Smith is correct. After all, any further devolution of powers is closer to the end-game if the end is federation, independence or ‘more devolution’.

Which of these comes under Owen Smith’s definition of foreseeable circumstances?

Update: It turns out we have a new definition of the length of a generation. While Peter Hain defines a generation as 8 years, Paul Silk has defined it as 25 years. Hands up who thinks the devolution offerings in Silk will bring “stability for a generation – 25 years”?

2 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Welsh Government, Westminster