Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Neath Port Talbot gets Macho

News on the BBC that Neath Port Talbot has warned in a letter sent to the unions on Friday that it may dismiss its 7,000 workers and re-employ them on new terms without agreement on savings.

The council is of course a Labour Council, but I wonder who is responsible for such a letter. If it the proposal had been discussed in the council chamber or in committee then surely the opposition councillors would have (even if it was opportunist) kicked up a fuss?

Has this plan just come from Human Resources and are they making up council policy?

Neath Port Talbot has also said it will reduce its workforce by about 750 full-time posts through natural wastage, voluntary redundancies and service changes.

It is clear from this example that we are going to see major redundancies and wage cut in our local authorities. If there was just a very low average of 500 jobs in each of our Welsh Councils this would mean 11000 jobs throughout Wales and together with wage reductions and cuts in shift allowances this, does not bode well for the future.

This does not include the prospect of another reorganisation of local government in Wales as preposed by Tory guru Professor Dylan Jones-Evans which in itself will see major jobs cuts.

The Con-Lib government has already frozen any rate rises in England and clearly expects the Welsh assembly to follow suit.

The lack of funding to local government has been a major problem under successive Labour and Conservative governments who have rejected the ideas of a local income tax and still promote a rates system which is expensive to implement and not regressive. Of course Parties at Westminster are not really concerned who runs local authorities as Margret Thatcher effectively neutered them in the 80's. Who can point at a progressive council today who could seek to make public transport affordable for all through the rates?

The current recession has given all aspects of government the excuseto make cuts  that they have alway sort to implement.,and it is difficult to argue that we need to make savings. But one suspects that the highly paid executives of local authorities (who even if they are dismissed for whatever reason)  leave the Council  with huge payouts who are making such macho threats to its workforce will make much of a sacrifice.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

English and Northern Ireland Allies?

I think the people at Wales Home are deliberately provoking controversy. Firstly we had a hagiographical portraits of several AM’s, starting with Lyne Neagle by someone under the pseudonym Willy Nilly , and now we have an article by Robin Tilbrook, the Chairman and a founding member of the English Democrats bemoaning Plaid Cymru for its apparent lack of support for an English parliament.

I don’t know what Plaid’s policy towards an English Parliament is or whether they would prefer devolving power to the English regions, and of course in any of these the question of Cornwall remains. But I suspect that Plaid would not seek to support a party that advocates leaving the EU and claims part of Wales (Monmouthshire) for England to the extent they propose standing in the Assembly elections on this issue.

It would be interesting if there was a moderate (and I don’t even mean left leaning) Party advocating an English parliament but at this moment in time. Plaid should concentrate or furthering its links with the Greens in England.

However a more interesting problem occurred to me with regarding Northern Ireland. The SDLP seem to be the natural partners of Plaid and the SNP but they remain linked to the Unionist Labour Party. So is there another Party in NI. that they could embrace.

The Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) does lean to the left and I’m sure most Plaid supporters would agree with much of their social Policy but its very Unionism and it ties to Loyalist Paramilitaries probably exclude them. Bur what would the reaction be if they applied to join the European Free Alliance (EFA)?

Or if somehow there was a non-sectarian left leaning Ulster National Party advocating Independence of both the UK and the Irish Republic. The EFA would surely have to consider this. After all the fact that Ireland is an Island does not necessitate it should be united.

This of course is probably just fantasy but we should consider it in order to understand our own position

Monday, 28 June 2010

A Modragon for Merthyr.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has claimed that unemployed people living on sink estates, could be relocated to areas with job vacancies as part of a Government plan to break up Britain's 'poverty ghettos'. Duncan Smith said the move was designed to help those 'trapped' on council estates in unemployment blackspots.

Duncan Smith of course uses the term “Council Estate” rather than social housing ignoring the fact that many of these are now run by housing associations. because this has a more negative association.

This Idea has come from a member of a government whose plans to cap housing benefit will be to effectively evict families from more affluent areas where this is work , forcing them to find a home in the very “council estates “ where the housing allowances generally fall under the cap and there are no local jobs.

Before Duncan Smith’s statement. I had a theory that the Con-Lib plan was a form of gerrymandering forcing the unemployed to live in areas of high unemployment and low rent. Where the people either didn't vote for in elections for any Party; But definitely do not vote Tory or Lib Dem. Duncan Smith, however seems to be contradicting this suspicion.

Or is he? I suspect that what he is advocating will be the cherry picking of the most able of the unemployed who are victims of a form of “Post Code Lottery”. when applying for jobs. Where H.R.people discriminate against people from the so called "sink estates", or transport to work is often detrimental.because of poor public transport.

What we need to combat unemployment in such areas, is an effective strategy in these areas based on the cooperative model of Mondragon in the Basque country. Such a venture I believe would be particularly successful in Wales . Ideally such ventures should grow organically, but we can't afford such a luxury because action is needed now and the venture needs to grow fast. So we need government innovation and intervention to do carry this out. We could start such a cooperative in Merthyr Tydfil where I believe the remoteness from the paces of actual employment is part of the cause of areas of high unemployment there.We need to see how to take jobs to the people not people to the jobs naked capitalism cannot and will not do this.

Will any Party have the courage to propose this in their Manifesto for the next Welsh Assembly?

Saturday, 26 June 2010

I am really sorry but I can't support Armed Forces Day.

My late Father spent most of the Second World War in the Orkney Isles. Where his experience could be summed up by a soldier at the time

This bloody town's a bloody cuss

No bloody trains, no bloody bus

And no one thinks of bloody us

In bloody Orkney.

The bloody folk are bloody mad

The bloody roads are bloody bad

Good night the bright is bloody sad

In bloody Orkney.

However he was to take part in D-Day, where he lasted only three days before being seriously injured by shrapnel from a mine. and after major surgery he was given a plate in his head which was to be part of him until the end.

This injury affected him all his life,  He suffered fro Blackouts and was a contribution to his death nearly 10 years ago.

He hardly ever talked about his experience and it was only later in life that he applied for his War Medals for which he received three and when I see the be-medaled members of the Royal Family I wonder.

He also received an inadequate war pension which ironically was far less than if he been a member of the German armed forces.

I doubt very much that he would have approved of Armed Forces day, he rarely wore a red poppy on Armistice Day and I think that he would have wondered why another day should be set aside.

I think I know! Despite the increased politicisation of Remembrance Sunday where it appears for weeks before it is compulsory to wear red poppy on the BBC. The last government needed such a day in order to justify their involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq and the coalition will follow suite.

What would the BBC reaction to someone who insisted on wearing a White Poppy (which you can get from the Peace Pledge Union) here. Or  how would all the Media react to MP or Am wearing the White Poppy in the Commons or Assembly chamber?

Incidentally I stopped wearing the White Poppy believing that we should have separate day for remembering all victims of war: But now because of Armed Forces Day I will reconsider my position.

It is thought that 1968 is only year since the Second World War when no British soldier was killed in action.

I believe that far too many of our armed Forces have died because successive governments have involved themselves in conflicts in order to maintain the illusion that Britain is still a Major power.

We are being spun in order that concern for the safety for soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq manifest as support for government policy.

There also those in the Military complex of senior armed forces personnel and contractors who have a vested in interest in a large military force.

If you wish to take part in today’s events, do so with Pride, but remember many of us who disapprove  of Armed Forces Day also have the interest of the ordinary Soldier. Sailor, and Airmen at heart.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Three Common Misconceptions.

There are a number of misconceptions in popular culture these include.
1. The Song, "If you want to know the time, ask a policeman” refers to the politeness and helpfulness of the British Police.

In fact the song is a satire and comes from Victorian times and is actually referencing the fact that Policemen were renowned for lurking around London Docks, when a Ship of the Line was in, and waiting around, until the Sailors staggered back to the Ship, Rolling Drunk, and then, on the pretext of helping them back to the Ship, would rifle their pockets, and steal their Fob Watches.)

2.The term The Iron Duke refers to the Duke of Wellington’s steadfast leadership.

It actually this refers to his time as Prime Minster (1828-30) where as an opponent of parliamentary reform, he was given the epithet the "Iron Duke" because of the iron shutters he had fixed to his windows to stop the pro-reform mob from breaking them.

3.The Liberal Democrats are a Centre-Left Party.

They are not even a Centre Party or a Centre-Right Party. They are a Populist Party seeking to evaluate  to public attitudes and responding with their policy.

This explains why they initially opposed the Afghan War then remained silent during the campaign (afraid of being condemned as unpatriotic by the tabloids. Then when the war became unpopular again reinstating their opposition.

This populism explains their strength in local government where local leader oppose any potential unpopular measure (usually by checking the editorials in the local newspaper).

Now they have real responsibility however they will have to explain why they are supporting measures such as increasing Vat. Listening to Nick Clegg squirming on this morning’s Today programme gives me the impression that they will not be up to it

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Lib-Dems Bomb blows up in their faces.

I thought I’d wait a bit to see what the Lib-Dem bloggers in particular had posted on the budget , before I made my own comment.

Peter Black tries to brazen it out arguing.

“However, it is clear that we had no choice on both counts. Events in Europe meant that we had to act to protect Britain's creditworthiness. The state of the nation's finances and those subsequent events meant that the situation had changed between those elections pronouncements and entering government. The VAT rise was one of the few options available to us to balance the books”.

But Peter, the situation we are in was quite clear during the election. The idea that the Lib-Dems didn’t realise this is ridiculous. For you to argue that the Lib-Dems should be “much more circumspect in future election campaigns”. Is either an admission of dishonesty, or naivety, either of which shows that you and your Party are not worthy of our support.

But subordinate central carries out the Party’s reaction to an absurd level. Stating that.

“Over 50,000 workers will pay no income tax and thousands to get more of their money back”.

La pasionara (or Kirsty Williams) as she is known grabs at a single straw with this press release:. But she completely ignores the fact that this budget will see many of this 50,0000 losing their jobs. And the general consensus expressed by commentators on the budget, is that the poorest amongst us will be worst off.

And we have yet to see the full extent of the cuts in the Public sector, for which we in Wales are over reliant on due to previous government’s policies which saw the decimation of our Industrial and Manufacturing Industries.

The whole employment situation up to now been masked by the fact that so many people are now employed on short term contracts that they do not show up as redundancies.

Council jobs in particular are almost certainly will be cut and these will be amongst the poorer paid.

I predicted in my last Blog that the lib-Dems would cheery pick –popular government policies but I didn’t foresee how barren the tree actually was.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Rebellion By Rotation?

There are two interesting posts on subordinate central one is a copy of Nick Clegg’s e-mail party members on “why today’s budget is so important and so necessary.” The other is a report that Roger (Who) Williams, the “leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats in Westminster” (What) “has put his neck on the line” by saying that he would not support an increase in VAT in Today’s Budget

Both posts are passed off without comment but perhaps gives us an indication of what the tactics of the Lib-Dems will be over the next 5 years of this govrnment’s term of office.

I predict that come the next General Election every Lib-Dem will have rebelled at some time or other on more that one major issues. Though at no time will any rebellion seriously endanger the coalition government.

Those familiar with Lib-Dem election campaigning, will I suspect agree with me in suspecting that every candidate at the next General Election will have some criticism of government policy but this will solely placed on the shoulders of the Conservatives. Those  Lib-Dem's standing for the Assembly will be very critical of government policy that could be seen as Tory inspired. Whilst claiming they are behaving responsibly and making sacrifices for our benefit. In other words they will cherry pick any policy they can claim that is "Lib-Dem led which appears to be popular with the electorate.

How genuine these rebellions will be I don’t know, and whether this will be by an organised rota would probably be unlikely. However amongst 55 Westminster Lib-Dem MPs (less if you only include backbenchers) for them to come to some form of understanding with the whips who will know the full extent of any potential rebellion, and  it would not be to difficult for about 5 at a time to rebel without doing any damage and so give the impression that they really are on our side.

We will see the start of this” Rebellion By Rotation” this in the response and vote on the Budget.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Mabon and the parable of the sinking boat.

Most people who read this Blog will (I assume) be familiar with William "Mabon" Abraham (14 June 1842 – 14 May 1922) who was a Welsh trade unionist and Labour politician, Firstly as a Liberal, then as a Lib-Lab and then somewhat reluctantly Labour MP from 1885 to 1920.

Although an MP for 35 years, it was as a trade unionist that Abraham is most well-known. He was a somewhat moderate voice believing that disputes should be solved through dialogue, which drew him into conflicts with younger and more hard-line political figures.

He has somewhat of a parochial attitude and reflecting his nonconformist background would often refer to a form of parables.

One of these reshows  his viewpoint.

A colliery owner and trade unionist went on a outing in a small rowing boat The colliery owner (strangely) was rowing. In the middle of the lake the boat sprung a leak. The owner began frantically rowing for the nearest shore. It soon became evident that they would not make it and sink. The owner turned to the union leader and pointed out that if he assisted in the rowing then they might make it and be saved. The Union leader replied “Why it’s not my boat?”.

This was given by Mabon as an example for cooperation between union and management bit I think the story may have gone further.

The Union leader agreed to join in the rowing but despite their joint efforts it soon became evident the boat would sink.The owner then pulled out a lifejacket put it on, pointed to the distance where there was another colliery owner rowing on the lake and said “I’m sorry but I’ve only got one lifejacket and with it I can reach the other boat where there is probably only room for one more anyway. So I’m afraid you going to drown and I’m sorry that I didn’t keep the boat in god repair which is the reason why we are sinking.

Next Tuesday’s budget will undoubtedly lead to claims that we are in the same boat, but I bet some will be given lifejackets and will be able to rely on their friends to aid them.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Birthday Greetings to Aung San Suu Kyi,

I  Have taken this from the facebook group. We must never forget this lady.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate, symbolises the struggle of Burma's people to be free. She is currently detained by Burma's brutal regime in Rangoon, Burma. She has been under arrest for over 14 years. ------- Take action and sup...port Burma's democracy leader who has been under arrest for over 14 years. ------- 1 - Show your support for Aung San Suu Kyi by becoming a supporter (click on the link to the right of the image at the top of the page) 2 - Leave her a message of support on the wall, below. 3 - Learn more about Aung San Suu Kyi below and in the notes to the right. ------- Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced Ong San Soo Chee), Burma’s pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate, symbolises the struggle of Burma's people to be free. She returned to Burma in 1988 to nurse her dying mother and was immediately plunged into the country's nationwide democracy uprising. Joining the newly-formed National League for Democracy (NLD), Suu Kyi gave numerous speeches calling for freedom and democracy. The military regime responded to the uprising with brute force, killing up to 5,000 demonstrators. Unable to maintain its grip on power, the regime was forced to call a general election in 1990. As Aung San Suu Kyi began to campaign for the NLD, she and many others were detained by the regime. Despite being held under house arrest, the NLD went on to win a staggering 82% of the seats in parliament. The regime never recognized the results of the election. Aung San Suu Kyi has been in and out of arrest ever since. She was held under house arrest from 1989-1995, and again from 2000-2002. She was again arrested in May 2003 after the Depayin massacre, during which up to 100 of her supporters were beaten to death by the regime's militia. Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest in Rangoon. She is now in her 14th year of detention. She isn't allowed to see family or friends as all visitors are banned. Her phone line is cut and her post is intercepted. Take action now to help free Aung San Suu Kyi go to ------------ This page is maintained by The Burma Campaign UK on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi. Upon her release it will be transferred to her as at present she has no phone, mail or internet contact with the world.

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Friday, 18 June 2010

William & Harry win free trip to World Cup

Nice to see William and Harry Windsor on their Africa trip. The BBC news was its usual sycophantic self in reporting on these two young men (for a not too arduous visit to a few charities ) receiving a virtual free trip to the World Cup.

Pardon me I thought these two were members of the armed forces. I do not begrudge any soldier a long period of  Rest and Recuperation particularly after a long period of service in a war zone, but these two seem to have an exceptional number. Which also seem to coincide with major sporting events.

Harry to his credit course did serve on a tour of duty  as a "Forward Air Controller to Helmand Province" . where he was a lieutenant in "Blues and Royals' but was pulled after this was disclosed. and despite his and genuin wishes he is unlikely to be deployed in such a capacity again.

However if he wants to serve in the army than he (and his brother) should relinquish all his “Royal” privileges and duties.

I also question how Harry Windsor (not Wales) became an officer. In June 2003, he completed his education at Eton with two A-Levels, obtaining a B in art, and a D. This after the best education on offer. One wonders of the standard of the education of the ordinary squaddie if they are commanded by such a person. His brother had a more respectful A in geography, a C in biology and a B in history of art.

At least the two can probably read a map.

In 6 January 2009, Prince William and Harry (Its actually Henry), were granted their own royal household from their grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II. The household the two princes will share will have three main staff members, supported by a "small" team. Sir David Manning, the former British ambassador to Washington, will work as a part-time adviser to the princes.

Although a republican I can just about accept their grandmother as Head of State until there is an elected one. But the fact that such a large number of the family also receive great privileges for very little duties is appalling.

When the ordinary soldier even if they have survived intact after serving in Afghanistan or Iraq faces massive psychological problems and a high prospect of ending up in prison (Which Plaid's Elfyn Llwyd has done so much to bring to our attention)  and the news that the  current Coalition government has followed the previous one in giving treatment  a pretty low priority. These "Hobby Soldiers" choosing glamour jobs (e.g. Helicopter Pilot) receiving such privileges is disgrace.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Savillle Reports: Establishment Reacts.

The Saville  Inquiry  which concluded that none of the 14 dead was carrying a gun, no warnings were given, no soldiers were under threat and the troops were the first to open fire, has produced the usual outburst from the establishment

First there is the “Only Britain would have allowed the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday” as quoted by Cristina Odone in the Telegraph.

Yes after nearly forty years the truth which I (and many others) long suspected has been told. Odone fails to acknowledge that the original Widgery Inquiry was nothing more that a whitewash and many suspect that report was interfered with by the government of the day. It took years of campaigning to get another enquiry and this was only granted to avoid having Tony Blair make a public apology. Odone is talking poppycock and. It’s a bit like praising someone for a deathbed confession, it may clear thing up but it does not exonerate you

Then there’s the “If the victims of Bloody Sunday deserved a public inquiry, so do those of the Brighton bombs” espoused by Norman Tebbit also in the Telegraph
I have sympathy for Tebbit he and his wife were victims of the Brighton Bomb but the perpetrators of Bloody Sunday (the Army) were our representatives and as such purported to have acted legally on our behalf for our protection They did not do so

Then there is the response of General Sir Michael Rose “It wasn't Blair who brought peace to Ulster but brave British soldiers about to be branded as criminals” in the Mail

No one questions the bravery of soldiers and we must understand the pressures they are under. but they can and do believe criminally at times, and in this case the army including the Top Brass tried to cover things up and are still trying do even after Saville’s report. That is why we have war crime tribunals and trials in the Hague this should not be restricted to the vanquished.

There may have been mitigation on behalf of the soldiers who opened fire on that day, they may well have been frightened and confused with what was happening but understanding this does not excuse their actions or the cover up. That why there should have not been armed troops confronting civilians.If this had happened in another country then the cries from all sides in the House of Commons would have been deafening.

The establishment would serve us all by accepting the truth and not look as Odone did for grains of comfort or attempt to besmirch the very idea that a great injustice was committed on that day.

Bloody Sunday is a stain on the History of these Islands that will never wash way.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

So it's March 2011 (or maybe not).

Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan, has said the aim is now to hold the Referendum on further powers before the first quarter of 2011. Why she couldn’t say March, I don’t know. Though March 1st will be a Tuesday, so that’s probably out. Gillan is not entirely clear and by now she should have at least produced an exact timetable and this only goes to show the low priority she and by implication the Con-Lib government position on this.

However the news (if it is carried out) is welcome it means that people will be aware (if the vote is yes) of what type of Assembly they will be voting for next May.

I am not convinced however that we will be successful. The behaviour of the media in general during the last election points to them being either indifferent, or more likely hostile.

Already the BBC appears to be under the thrall of the new coalition government and with the lack of any real Welsh based media, the chance to enthuse the welsh electorate will be difficult.

Never the less the Con-Lib government will probably be coming out of the “Honeymoon” period  by then and this should aid the Yes campaign.

The interesting thing is who will be backing a No campaign.

The True Wales website does not give any names only a vague statement on the Page “Who we are?”

We come from all walks of life and from over the whole of Wales - we are teachers, dentists, builders, office workers, farmers, academics, factory workers, accountants and business people - and from over the whole of Wales.”

Well that makes it clear!

It seems however one we do know about, David Davies MP becoming the Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee and his promise to not campaign against devolution in the referendum, has certainly robbed them of a major figurehead.

In 1997 I did not have a vote in the referendum as I only just returned from my London exile. I admit I was not completely enthusiastic about the assembly seeing it’s lack of real power as a mere sop. but I was reminded by a speech by Marc Philips in a rally in Pontypridd when he said something on the lines .

“That Wales if was to reject the proposals we would leave ourselves open to the derision of the rest of the world”.

That will be as true in March 2011 as it was in September 1997.

Monday, 14 June 2010

I may not support England,but I do not support this.

In my last post I hinted that my ABE attitude had perhaps gone too far. However yesterday as I passed the ranks of the Sunday Newspapers, I was disgusted by the headlines. The English tabloids are insufferable when England win (but so are we Welsh when win at Rugby). But when England fail at anything they are truly venal.

The coverage of Robert Green’s blunder with the banner headlines like 'Hand of Clod’ on the front page and 'Stars and Tripe’ on the back in the N.O.W.(and others were just as bad)  showed exactly the sort of people who work in the media today. A player makes one (admittedly costly) mistake and he is vilified. Not withstanding that Goalies are seldom praised, to treat one player in this way for an error such as this (for which the new designed ball may have been partly responsible) is appalling.

The Tabloids in particular relish in building people up only to knock them down again. It is bad enough when they do it to celebrities, but they will do it to ordinary members of the public with glee. Especially those who may have sold their story to another paper.

This gutter journalism although not started by Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of the Sun in1969, has grown worse over the years and one of the great tragedies of this  is that a once fine paper like the Daily Mirror was brought down to the Sun’s level.

The Tabloid treatment of Green left me sick in the stomach. I really don’t know what I want. Clearly their attitude if England win the World Cup will be to much for me: But to see decent players like Green, metaphorically  hang drawn and quartered if England go out early by English Tabloids editorials is something I do not relish.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Golf, Che, Sardinia and Football.

I completed the “Beating of the Bounds” in Llantrisant yesterday, Thousands turned up in glorious weather and the only drawback was we were not allowed to cross the local golf course as is our custom. Since the event is staged every 7 years I find the claim that that the were holding a tournament dubious. Why does golf hold so much power? I think the answer is obvious. They regard themselves as an elite and are indulged as such.

Still after the journey my friends and I retreated to a local pub to ease our aching limbs where the England-USA was on TV. I has changed my T-shirt for one that dictated Che Guevera wearing Sardinian headdress with the motto “Hasta La Berritta Siemmpre”. Which translates as something like “The berretta is for ever”, referring to the headdress and possibly a Sardinian pun on the weapon.

Nevertheless the irony of myself wearing a Che T-shirt, whilst cheering the USA did occur to me, and perhaps I am carrying the Anyone but England (ABE) a little to far.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Beating the Bounds.

Today I’m of to nearby Llantrisant for the Beating of the bounds. This happens every 7 years to celebrate the granting of the Royal charter im 1346 I am a Freeman of Llantrisant which is passed down from father to sons or to the husbands of the daughters of Freemen (so not exactly equal). And in theory this grants me certain rights on Llantrisant common.

The Freemen are the guardians of 290 acres of common land  Apparently,Hugh le Despenserwas was granted a Royal Charter  in 1346. The long-held belief that it was granted due to the courage shown by the Llantrisant longbow men at Crecy is however untrue, since the battle took place five months later . Though some claim that those returning from the war were created Freemen..

Of course being a Republican and a Nationalist, part of me baulks at celebrating anything that relates to the crown of England. But the knowledge that I have links with the area that I’m from, going back over 650 years is too much to ignore.

However does this make me more of a Welshman? My mothers maiden name of Goronwy suggest that I have very deep roots but when it comes to my nationality I think my state of mind is of more importance.

Remember Nick Griffin’s remark “That there are no Black Welshmen”? It was answered by the comedian Russell Howard who showed a photograph of Colin and simply said "Colin Jackson pretty much Welsh pretty much Black".

Anybody who saw Colin carrying the Welsh Flag with pride after winning Gold in Stutgartt in 1993 could not deny this.

So today I will celebrate my ancestry in Wales, and in Llantrisant in particular, but knowing that there are many people who cannot trace theirs back very far (or at all) who are just as Welsh as I am.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Today Programme Fawns Over Cameron

 Listening to the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning, I couldn’t help but noticing the almost sycophantic reporting on David Cameron’s visit to Afghanistan. Indeed, since the formation of the coalition the BBC reporters and commentators have appeared to fall over themselves in speaking favourably of the government. There may be a number of reasons for this.

  1. It may well be a traditional attribute of the BBC to support a new government in the early stages and the Beeb has always been conservative in that it tends to support the establishment in its News, and too much criticism may be seen as unpatriotic.
  2. The BBC clearly has been alarmed at the apparent closeness of David Cameron to Murdoch’s News International and that organisation’s demands for the BBC’s output to be curtailed, and James Murdoch’s further call for the market opened to further freemarket enterprise (meaning themselves). In which the Conservatives have already indicated that they would look on in favour and was one of the reason why  News International (eg. The Sun) switched to the Tories during the last election. Murdoch junior would also like Sky to emulate Fox (its sister company in the U.S.A) in ceasing to be balanced when reporting on political issues, and we all know where that will lead.
  3. The Reporters and Commentators represent in themselves the same public school Oxbridge ethos that makes up most of the Coalition Cabinet. This in itself has been reflected in the lack of reporting in the media in general of the "Eton Mafia "and propose a sinister defence in which anyone critical of this has been accused of pursuing a class war.I suspect all three of my possibilities are true. The first I can live with (as long as it doesn’t last to long). The other two however threaten our very democracy but it could expose the position of commentator who claim we live an equal and fair society to be protecting their own interest group.




Thursday, 10 June 2010

Flying the Flag.

I have posted before about my time in London and how I drank in The Stag’s Head in Camden. The Stag’s (alas no more) was an Irish pub, in which not only Irish exile congregated, but Welsh and Scots, as well as people from throughout the World.

One memory is of the European Football Championship of 1996 which was held in England of that year.. The city was bedecked with English flags but the Stag’s remained bare of any.

England reached the semi-final and were to play Germany at Wembley,and we gathered in the Pub to watch it. Just before the start a number of Germans nervously entered, and trying to appear as inconspicuous as possible, settled in to watch the match.

Within 3 minutes Shearer had scored and there was a cheer from the English supporters in the Pub but I could the surprise on the German faces as most of the clientele were silent. Then at 16 Kurnz scored from Germany and the pub erupted. The Germans were now totally perplexed ,and a friend of mine turned to them pointed to a number of the cheering customers, and said “they’re Irish, they’re Welsh and I’m Scottish we don’t want England to win.

Germany went on to win by penalties and eventually win the trophy.

I tell this story because David Cameron yesterday announced that he would be flying the flag of St George over Downing Street for the World Cup and called on all MP’s wherever they come from in the UK pointing at the Nationlist grouping in particular to cheer on England.

I welcome David Cameron’s decision to fly his country’s flag but doubt if Scotland or Wales were the only qualifiers we would have seen the Draig Goch or the Saltire replacing the Union Jack over Downing Street, and his arrogance in expecting our support is an example of the reasons why I, (and many Welsh and Scottish people) will not be supporting England in this contest.

I welcome, and support any English person living in Wales to fly the flag of St George on their cars and from their Houses. What I do not welcome, is our supermarkets (for example) bedecking themselves in this flag as if we were in England, and I wonder if there is a difference in how they treat Wales and Scotland in this respect. (Miserable Old Fart has just returned from Scotland perhaps he can help me here?)

I will not be supporting England in the world Cup. Perhaps when they cease to expect my support.One day I will.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

No News from Wales Then.

When S4C began broadcasting, I naively believed that this would lead to the other broadcasters producing more programmes in English on Welsh themes. This sadly never happened and even on St David’s Day the output from what we now call the terrestrial channels has been poor in most case, and often as not non existent.

It is true that BBC Wales has recent years produced many more programmes on a Welsh theme, but all too often they seem to confuse a programme “Made in Wales” for one “About Wales” and the news that the next series of Torchwood will be less Cardiff centric points to interference from London.Nether the less there has been a programme increase but one can only watch Derrick Brockway climbing Pen-y-Fan only so many times.

Programmes on Channels 4 & 5 have been almost non-existent though 5 did show the Philip Madoc series "A Mind to Kill". Which ITV turned down.

But the biggest disappointment has always been the former HTV Wales. Even in its heyday it produced very little “Welsh” programmes or even any other programmes and was embarrassingly outshone by HTV West (which made Robin of Sherwood amongst others). But since the merger with ITV plc and its renaming ITV (Wales) things have got worse and one rarely sees programmes about Wales these days and certainly no drama.

Indeed, I used to be annoyed with the TV guide from the Sunday newspapers being based on output from London and having to scan the regional list,but these days there is virtually no difference.

Then ITV bosses began to plan to end “regional” news citing cost. But in the mist of the gloom there would be some provision for out put of news on the channel about Wales.

However a pilot scheme to provide a replacement news service for ITV Wales is to be scrapped,. The UK culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said that it would be "inappropriate" to spend scarce public money propping up expensive regional news services.

This is appalling. It is time all terrestrial broadcasters realise that they should at least accommodate reports of Welsh news. But ITV, and the UK government have an especially  moral duty to ensure that the people of Wales know what their government in Wales is doing.

The realty of devolution means that in many issues there is no single “British context” and the failure for instance of the London news to fail to mention that Health or Education decisions only refer to England are unforgivable.

The Con-Lib government have fallen at the first hurdle on this and it shows the indifference the leaders of the coalition Parties have for Wales and does not bode well for the future.

We need a urgent review on Terrestrial broadcasting with the regions and (more importantly) the Nations of these Islands failure to do so would threaten our democratic process/

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The Last Voyage of the SS Subprime

When the SS Subprime set sail on her final voyage. Few had expressed concern over her sea worthiness. Afterwards some like Lieutenant Cable dug up some reports they has written, where they pointed out some of the parent company failing: but in truth it wasn't as devastating as he and some of the Media were to latter claim.

At first sight the ship looked fine: but a fresh paint job hid the rust and cracks in the infrastructure and because of the Company owners and management cutbacks the boilers were in a poor state of repair. After the Subprime sank of course the media would use the phrase “a disaster waiting to happen” in article after article, but in truth they were in themselves responsible for it for, failing to read the signs.

It proved that to be in Mid Atlantic that one of the boilers blew up rupturing one of the sides of the ship and the Subprime began sinking.

It was then discovered that because of company policy which (successive boards) had allowed) there were only a few life boats and not enough lifejackets for every passenger and crew member.

The result was that mostly only first class passengers and senior crew members were allowed on the lifeboats. It would later be shown that some of these were company owners & mangers who had allowed the SS Subprime to get into its appalling state. Some suffered an appalling time but they all were to survive the disaster.

Most of the second class passengers and the rest of the crew were given lifejackets and although a large number were to perish most managed to survive the disaster.

None of the third class passengers and some of the lower order crew were given lifejackets. Nearly all were to perish.

A year on and there was reshuffle on the watchdog that supervised the industry. The previous chairman Mr Brown was replaced by Mr Cameron who in a surprise move Made Mr Clegg (a former vocal opponent of his) his deputy and Lieutenant Cable was given a seat on the committee  where he was to remain strangely silent... The reshuffle however made no difference.

Later after an initial attack on the company and calls for reform by both Media &  some Board members it was argued that the third class passengers were responsible for their own fate. It was said by one of Mr Cameron 's spokesmen that "they should have tried harder to be more inventive and worked harder to escape", and the 1st class passengers would be later "applauded for their courage and given as an example of how to survive a disaster".

After all said Mr Cameron when it comes to plans for the future "We are all in the same boat".

Monday, 7 June 2010


The current row over Carwyn Jones’ rejection (Why him and not the Education Minister?) of Cardiff Council’s plan to shut an English-medium (EM) primary and replace it with a Welsh-medium (WM) one in Canton is an unfortunate echo’s of the past.

When Welsh-medium education expanded under the old Labour Party, dominated council. There was often opposition from the Anti-welsh elements within the Labour group but also genuine opposition from parents as they saw their English-medium schools transferred to Welsh-medium.

The WM schools often took over old Victorian buildings however, and a large percentage the children would (still are) be bussed to the school. Nevertheless this has shown time and time again  the commitment that the Parents (most of whom came from monoglot English speaking homes) had to WM education. However where I live we have had a purpose built WM school (Castellau) and the old Rydyfelin Comprehensive has moved to brand new campus.

So what’s the problem in Cardiff?

Partly it is due to an anti Welsh element that still exist; But mostly it the political opportunism that all parties portray when it comes to school policy.

When Plaid in Gwynedd put forward plans to reorganise schools it cost them control of the council.

But then Plaid will oppose plans for closing School in other counties and all the other parties are just as hypocritical. Trying to reform (which means closing some schools) in power and supporting parental campaigns against them when in opposition.

So what do we do?

We need an all party convention of MP’s. AM’s and councillors to hammer a long term strategy on school buildings in Wales.

This should include plans to increase WM education through out Wales and should not rule out the ambition to make all schools Bilingual throughout Wales in 25 years. Or even trilingual if they can do this in the Netherlands we can do it here.

It time we took the Welsh language out of politics, and it is in our schools policy we must start.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Right Field.

News that David Cameron has appointed former Labour welfare reform minister Frank Field, to repeat his role that he carried out for Tony Blair in 1997 comes as no surprise.

Field was told by Blair ('to think the unthinkable) in terms of social security reform but his plans fell, after they met hostility from both Gordon Brown and Harriet Harman.

Field an admirer of Margaret Thatcher has long perplexed me in wondering just what he was doing in the Labour Party . I know that under Blair Labour was often only a "Hair Breath" from the Conservatives but his views often matched them.

One wonders how someone who already has “thought the unthinkable” can keep an open mind on the subject, and how long he needs to confirm what he obviously believes should be carried out?

Field's position on welfare shows the contrast between the Media treatment of left wing dissidents within the Labour Party, and right wingers like himself who are portrayed as an Independent minded hero. To his credit He was a significant critic of the abolition of the 10p tax rate but the reason for the praise lauded on him from the London press was because of his right wing credentials and an opportunity to embarrass Gordon Brown.

I have no doubt that Field is sincere in his views on welfare reform , but that does not make him right ,and it certainly means he can not have an open mind in when he carries out his enquiry.

All Field is doing is legitimising the Con-Lib freemarket agenda (which he probably agrees with) and the part played in this by Ian Duncan Smith and David Laws. Neither of who can be seen as relating to the poor of these Islands.

Clearly it would be impossible for the Con-Lib government to reject any proposals that Frank Field delivers but then they (as I do) already have a good idea what the outcome will be.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Alun Cairns gets the Oscar

News that Alun Cairns seems to have been ordered not to resign his regional seat of South Wales Central after being elected to Westminster for the Vale of Glamorgan has led to some speculation.

Conservative Porthcawl town councillor Chris Smart, who was in line to take over if Mr Cairns had stood down as one of the Assembly’s 20 AMs elected through the “top-up” regional list system, last week said he was “flabbergasted” by the decision..

There has also been somewhat hypocritical comments from Peter Black (Who as well as a regional AM is Swansea City Councillor and Alun Davies who represents Mid & West Wales in the Assembly (bur who is also nursing the Blaneau Gwent seat in another region).

Conservative Porthcawl town councillor Chris Smart, who was in line to take over if Mr Cairns had stood down as one of the Assembly’s 20 AMs elected through the “top-up” regional list system, last week said he was “flabbergasted” by the decision.

There has been some speculation that Mr Smart is considered to be on the right of the party and as a young man he was bound over to keep the peace after posing as a school inspector in an attempt to “stop truancy”. Therefore he might well have proved to be an embarrassment to the Party.

However there has been a long tradition of dual mandate AM/MPs from the onset of the Assembly's creation but these mostly consisted of constituency MP’s . The only precedent was Alun Michael who later resigned his Assembly seat in a pique when he could no longer be top dog.

Alun Michael', like Alun Cairns, represented a Parliamentary seat that was not in the region which he represented in the Assembly So the criticism of Alun Cairns in this case has some justification. Especially since Mike German has resigned his regional seat as he enters the Lords. (incidentally is the fact that his Wife being number two on the Lib-Dem list has taken his Assembly seat, point to any prior knowledge of his ennoblement?)

However I think that the reason Cairns has been ordered to remain a AM, is because it would show the position of Mohammad Asghar to be untenable. A regional list AM for Plaid Cymru for South Wales East, defected to the Tories last year December. The seat was allocated to Plaid and If “Oscar” was to resign (or unfortunately die) then surely the seat were to pass back to Plaid.The current position whilst legal is hardly moral.

 The whole situation shows that the current electoral system for our AMs is in its self untenable. With what amount to two tier AM’s with different electoral mandates. If Mr Cairns or Mike German had resigned a constituency seat then would be a By-election and with just a year to go for the next Assembly's election there could be a justified claim to defer the election because of cost to the local tax payer but this cannot be argued fo regional AMs who are simply replaced (as Mike German was by his Wife) by the next on the list.

Why can’t we sort this out and have legislation banning dual mandate MP/AMs (the EU already has) but the real answer to introduce STV and have AMs and MPs on a equal basis.

There has been some speculation that Mr Smart is considered to be on the right of the party and as a young man he was bound over to keep the peace after posing as a school inspector in an attempt to “stop truancy”. Therefore he might well have proved to be an embarrassment to the Party.

However there has been a long tradition of dual mandate AM/MPs from the onset of the Assembly creation but these mostly consisted of constituency MP’s . The only precedent was Alu Michael who later resigned his Assembly seat in a pique.

Michaels, l like Alun Cairns represented a Parliamentary seat that was not in the region he represented in the Assembly So the criticism of Alun Cairns in this case has some justification. Especially since Mike German has rosined his seat as he enters the Lords. (incidentally is the fact that his Wife being number two on the Lib-Dem list has taken his Assembly seat point to his prior knowledge of his ennoblement?)

However I think that the reason Cairns has been ordered to remain a AM is because it would show the position of Mohammad Asghar, a regional list AM for Plaid Cymru for South Wales East, I to defect to the Tories last year December. The seat was allocated to Plaid and If “Oscar” was to resign then surely the seat were to pass to Plaid. The whole situation shows that the current electoral system for our AM’s is untenable. With what amount to two tier AM’s with different electoral Mandates. If Mr Cairns or Mike German had resigned a constituency seat then would be a By-election.

Why can’t we sort this out and have legislation banning dual mandate MPs/Ams (the EU already has); but the real answer to introduce STV and have AMs and MPs on a equal basis. We will have to wait for a true progressive government it wiil be along one,

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Why we must fight for the NHS

Last night I watched a programme on channel 4 called Bodyshock- “I'm Turning into a Giant”. I don’t normally watch such programmes, as they appear at time to resemble a freak show. However I had a personal interest in this programme, because it dealt with acromegaly, a condition I myself had suffered from.

In 1994 at the age of 41, I started to feel very ill and was eventually rushed into the Middlesex Hospital where I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

However the medical staff began asking me strange questions. Had I noticed any differences in my appearance? (No) Had my shoes got tight? (Yes) Had rings got tight? (Didn’t where any) had anyone noticed any change in my appearance? (Friends were probably too polite to say so.

Eventually they told me they suspected I had Acromegaly, and a series of test confirmed this.

From then on I was a bit of star patient (only about 3 people in a million have the condition) and saw many medical students.

However once the condition was confirmed and my diabetes under control (I began injecting myself with insulin daily). I was released from hospital, but told I would be needing surgery.

Within a fortnight I was in the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN). Where in a few days I was operated on successfully.

I can consifer my lucky I was living in London at the time (Indeed close to the NHNN)
Such was the success pf the operation ,that not only was the acromegaly dealt with, but after a short time I started producing my own insulin again and ceased to have the symptoms of diabetes.

I may possibly be the only person to claim that diabetes saved my life! In that it is thanks to that condition the acromegaly was diagnosed before any serious damage was done.

However the main point of this article is that thanks to the NHS I was treated successfully and never once did I have to worry about the cost of it  or how I was going to pay. I wonder how the people in the USA featured in the programme managed

David Laws the former Lib-Dem cabinet minister was one of the writers of the "Orange Book" . In the book the group offers  free market liberal solutions to a number of perceived problems in society, such as public healthcare, pensions, environment, globalisation, social and agricultural policy, local government, the European Union and prisons. It is was written by those Lib-Dems who are most comfortable in Con-Lib collation.

Laws in the book referred to "soggy socialism". But it was socialism that inspired our NHS. Some Liberals will say that it was Beveridge but I believe that Nye Bevan was largely influenced by his own  South Wales Miners Federadition’s medical scheme. If it wasn’t for this far sighted scheme by our own people I might not have been around to write this blog, and it is time they were given the credit they deserved.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Who will guard the guardians?

The Con-Lab government has announced that it attends to replace local Police Authorities with directly elected police commissioners.

The elected commissioners would control budgets, target setting and policing plans, while chief constables would be in "operational control" of their force.

This of course part of their supposed plan for the “big society”, with the claim of devolving power to the people. It is nothing of the sort.

There are failings on the Police Authorities, which are composed of local councillors and independent members. They often fail to scrutinise the Authority properly and sometimes do not get the enough cooperation from the Chief Constable, but this is the case for strengthening the role of Authorities who members can express different views which reflect all aspect of the electorate.

What the proposal will lead to is, candidates for the office of Police Commissioner competing on popular issues, and calling for increasing draconian measures egged on by the Murdoch and local media (especially the Sun). The prospect of any liberal reform candidate will be impossible as they will be labelled as soft on crime.

I’m sure those on the right would like to see all Police policy directed by these commissioners, and will increasingly call for more and more policy control.

Where does this lead “Liberal reformers” in the government can’t they see that this is the politicisation of police force and that it plays into the hands of the right?

This proposal is a typical Tory measure. Masquerading as given local people more power it will only empower the media further. Do you really want the Commissioner of South Wales Police being made by the editors of the Sun or even the South Wales Echo?