Monday, 28 March 2011

Badgers: What Peter doesn't tell us.

I am somewhat in two minds on my stance to eradicate Bovine TB in West Wales . The scientific evidence put forward by both sides constantly shifts my views one way to another. Though I reluctantly have come to the conclusion it probably the best solution.

I nevertheless respect the views of opponents to the cull reconise thet have a strong argument and this includes Peter Black and  who has been a constant critic of the Badger Cull  . What I do not agree with him on however is attempt to make the issue one of party politics.

It is clear to me that he is open to accusations of political opportunism when he constantly refers to "Plaid Cymru Minister" Elin Jonesand that this could be seen is in order to prop up support for the Libdem candidate in the Ceredigion seat of Elin Jones the minister responsible for the measure. 

He doesn't seem to mention this measure has cross party support and fails to remind us that the ConLib government has similar plans for rural England 

For the record here is how AMs voted on his motion to annul the Badger Cull.

Peter fails to tell us in his blog that three of his party colleagues (out of five) voted against his motion to stop the Badger cull including his own leader Kirsty Williams . Mick Bates who is no longer a Libdem also voted No.
I have no doubt that if the Minister responsible for this measure was an AM for a seat which the Libdems had not targeted in the next Assembly Elections he would have been as strongly opposed as he is now. I just wonder whether he would more open on the extent of support for the Badger Cull in his own party
P.S. What is the extent of support amongst Libdems particularly candidates in West Wales where the cull is proposed.? Perhaps Peter can tell us 

Friday, 25 March 2011

Labour defends Wales from ConLibs? Don't make me Laugh.

An interesting response to the Budget in the Western Mail  yesterday from Pontypridd Labour MP Owen Smith  which you can read here.

It was a reasonable attack on the ConLib budget and at times you could easily replace Plaid for Labour in the text.But his call for a plan B when his own party doesn’t have any plans for the UK in the economic crisis let alone Wales beggars belief

.As he says,
"And what about Wales? 
We barely merited a mention in the speech – the words Wales or Welsh don’t feature at all among the 51,379 words that make up the Chancellor’s 126-page plan for growth".

How many times in the Labour Budgets 1997 -2010 was Wales mentioned, how many specific projects were proposed with a Welsh Flavour were there? Of course devolution means that much have been passed to the Welsh Assembly ,but Wales has always been ignored in Westminster Budgets with very few proposals targeted to the plight of the Welsh in any economic crisis..

It seems that in opposition Labour Welsh MPs have decided to wave the Draig Goch .relying on the idea of “Clear Red Water” separating Wales from Westminster and the cuts or at least giving the impression that under Labour things would be done differently.

Own Smith is a new MP so he can't be held responsible for the fact that the majority of Labours Welsh MPs in the last government did nothing on the excesses s of the Banks, did nothing to reverse the Thatcher attack on the Unions and failed to rebuild the manufacturing base in Wales decimated by the Thatcher government in its effort to woo Middle England.

Smith writes.
"Mrs Gillan should recall from her time in Wales that we’re a shrewd lot and recognise a swindle when we see one".
Unfortunately we can't We swallowed the Tony Blair swindle and we will probably swallow Labour new “Welsh Identify”.

This will be in evidence in the Assembly throughout the ConLib government and there will be the occasional outburst from Westminster MPs whilst making sure to keep in Ed Millibands good books and be prepared to slapped down by Peter Hain if they go to far. But such independence will disappear like morning dew once they get their bottoms on the government benches again and any possible rebel will be riding in a ministerial car.

Mind you if Welsh Labour were prepared to accept Carwyn Jones as the leader of Welsh Labour and make Hain (or his successor) somehow subordinate to him it would be a start.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Changing the Goalposts Again?

According io the Libdem Blogger Ffranc Sais
"Another special factor this year, which affects Liberal Democrats disproportionately (no wonder Labour and the Conservatives were keen to see it in the legislation), is that the names of list candidates will not appear on the ballot paper".
When did this go through?  I've searched for any reference via the Web and found nothing though I've not looked in the and found no mention on the web   . Though my Library hasn't had its copy of the latest Wales Yearbook yet).  But if if Ffranc is correct, then I can see some argument for it. In that it can result in large unwieldy ballot papers. But why not reduce the party list to a realistic number of 4 names.

This is not the first rule change on the Regional List prior to the Last Assembly elections a candidate could stand in a consistency and be on the regional list. Again there was some justification for this, in that it resulted in candidates with a relatively low vote in the consistency still being elected to the Assembly.
Howeve this suited Labour in Wales who changed the law as they are not largely dependant on the Additional Member List. But in Scotland where they are there was no change. So the rule was changed because it suited Labour.
Similarly Ffrank is correct that could aversely affect the Libdems (and this applies also to Plaid) in that having a name of a prominent candidate on the top of the regional List may attract extra votes.
As people who read this Blog are aware I'm no fan of Peter Black but he is a AM who is prominent and presumably would be noticed as the top spot of the Libdem list and attract extra votes.
So I can only see the reason for this is to give advantage to the Labour and the Tories and ask again who passed this?

If the Parties see that the Additional Members List iis not working , then making it more undemocratic or twisting it to serve Labour or Conservative interest is not the answer.

There is a way of making elections to the Assembly more democratic and proportional its called STV but with Labour to dominate (as I expect) the assembly for at least a decade and the Conservatives Westminster for the same period, coupled with the fact the Assembly can't run its own elections or make the rules I can't see any change coming.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Libya what can we do?

If you were walking down the street and saw a man beating his wife you might consider the following options.

  1. Consider it a domestic dispute and whilst regrettable, unfortunately there's nothing you can do about it and carry on.
  2. Call the police and hope they arrive in time but realise it will probably be to late and carry on..
  3. Recognize the man is a friend of yours so do nothing except shake your head in despair.
  4. Recognize the man is someone you dislike but has a number of bigger friends so do nothing. 
  5. Recognize the man is some one you dislike and has few friends intensely and
  6. Call out "stop you bastard and "hope he will
  7. Realise you are bigger and him and therefore intervene by hitting him .
  8. Realise he's bigger than you and therefore it would be wise not to intervene.
  9. Call on passer by to help intervene, even if some of them you know beat their wives but choose to ignore and even include them as friends.
It seems to me that similar options have been faced with Western Governments over what is effectively  the Civil war in Libya and its a dilemma which we all should face up to.

Few I think would disagree with the argument that Gaddafi is a ruthless despot whose sanity can be called into question, and that he will (if he is victorious) if not invoke genocide on the rebels, kill many of them including civilians. But should we try and stop him.

Reluctantly I say Yes.
Even if it means we are effectively choosing sides in a civil war
Even if we would not intervene if Libya was bigger and more powerful,
Even if we are being hypocritical and allow so call allies to oppress their citizens.
Even if we fail to intervene in other civil wars in Africa which are as bloody as Libya has the potential to be.

The simple answer is we just can't walk by but our response must be to prevent the attack in civilians and  this will not be easy. But we do this then the attitude of democracies to oppressive regimes must change we can no longer turn a blind eye as we do to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and other State like Uzbekistan.

We are entering a course of action that is despite the propaganda's of the Western Governments and media is still humanitarian but it may well make matters worse if the West particularly the USA and the old colonial powers of France and Britain think they can intervene because Gaddafi is some one they don't like and is a small enough  for you to be successful whilst ignoring other "Wife Beaters" in the rest of the world..

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The "English" Problem.

Most readers of this Blog will be familiar West Lothian Question – named after the constituency whose MP, Tam Dalyell, first raised the problem in 1977 of Members influencing legislation which did not affect their electorate which was used against the devolution referendum  of 1979 and still emerges from time to time as English MPs rightly point out that Welsh and Scottish Mps (Though Northern Ireland MP's are seldom included in this debate) can vote on matters that solely affect England.

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said a commission examining whether MPs should be stopped from having a say on issues which do not affect their constituents would be set up later this year.

This at first glance seems fair and in the absence of devolved power to English regions or to establish an English Parliament  seems reasonable; But it will not solve the actual problem and could result in a worse situation

For Christmas my sister give me a T Shirt with "I support two teams Wales  and whoever England are playing." She gave a similar one to a Scottish friend of ours. None of us are Anti-English but we are all exasperated with the media failure to see that England are not the only team in these Islands and that we other national sides should be treated as equals when it comes to reporting.

This will be the problem if the House of Commons becomes effectively an English Parliament as well as an UK one with them  running both in tandem perhaps declaring a colour code system where say English proposals are called Red papers instead of Green and only English MPs (What about the second Chamber?) can vote on it.

But  just as with Sport the media who already have a huge problem with reporting on such issues will naturally fail to distinguish between "English" Law making and UK wide policies.

It will further mean as (already happens but more so) UK General Elections being fought almost completely on English Policies  such as the Health and Education.and there will be no attempt to distinguish the differnce between the devolved powers. There will be chance of English people to have an election solely on English laws so they will be frustrated.

Some might argue that we who called for devolution for Wales and Scotland (again Northern Ireland will not be mentioned) are responsible for this But the responsibility lies in England .

There could be an English Parliament or devolved powers to the regions with a specfic understanding of the position of Cornwall and the creation of a new type of Parliament based on a federal structure  as I've argued in a previous blog here

So the West Lothian Question is now an English Question which the English must resolve themselves perhaps the difference of emphasis  between a overwhelming left of centre Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament and a dogmatic right of centre ConLib government in Westminster may increase a campaign amongst some Labour members for devolved power to the English regions, but I can't see any of the Westminster Tories going for this and the silence from the LIb-Dems formally the most pro devolutionist of the London parties seems deafeningly quiet.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

SIX: S instead of X.

In May 2011 the British Government will be asking people in  a referendum to vote whether they should replace the First Past the Post  system (FTP) in British General Elections  with the Alternative Vote AV.

Given that Nick Clegg described AV as a "miserable little compromise" of limited electoral reform as the price of propping up Labour in a hung parliament and now campaigns for it as part of propping up the Conservatives. We will have only one choice in this referendum this is not good enough.

What we need is a method of expressing our views,

I've started a  facebook page  to argue that people who support the Single Transferable Vote (STV) can make their preference by writing a S instead of a X in the Box provided
You can place a X in the Yes box if you want SYV but are willing to accept AV for now.

You can place a X in the NO Box if you want STV but do not want AV.

This should not mean your vote will not be counted as a spoilt vote as you will have clearly made a  preference.

If however significant numbers  do place an S then we may well have a case for these to be individually counted.

What ever happens in the referendum we will be stuck with either AV or FPTP possibly for a generation. If we are to have a Voice I urge you to back SIX.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

How many Welsh Speakers are there?

It seems people in England are perplexed when opening their census forms and seeing this

Of course we in Wales see what the Question  should have been.

I am assuming the question refers to Gaelic use in Scotland and Irish in Northern Ireland?

It seems to me that it would have been cheaper and more interesting if the question(s) were to be asked throughout  the UK.

I know a number of Welsh speakers of varying degrees living in England . In 1993, S4C,published the results of a survey into the numbers of people who spoke or understood Welsh, which estimated that there were around 133,000 Welsh-speakers living in England, about 50,000 of them in the Greater London area.

If we are ro have a census of Welsh language speakers then it would be interesting how many are there outside Wales nd if the C figures are close then it greatly increases the numbers who speak the language.

Why are the census compilers prepared to look ridiculous by not asking a question which may be of some use.

that is if you think this expensive form of data collection is of any use anyway.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Heres the New Voice same as the Old Voice.

Apologies to the Who but I don't think the people of Aberconwy will be fooled again.

But it shows that Slogans are meaningless.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Three Wales, Two Wales, One Wales?

It seems that National Left predictions on the referendum  results made in January was close .Heres what I predicted

The Yes campaign will be won a though with less than 50% voting. there will be a Yes majority in Cardiff. Only Monmouth, Newport and Flint will vote No.
As I said close but alas  no cigar. Though I'm delighted to be wrong.

However there is a clear difference in the result for 2011 and 1997 and lets not forget the 1979 referendum which was rejected by every area of Wales by 79.7% to 20.3%

It may be possible that Wales has moved on from the "Three Wales Model " proposed by Dennis. Balsom in 1987.In this the  regions were the Welsh-speaking heartland of the north and west, Y Fro Gymraeg; a consciously Welsh - but not Welsh-speaking - 'Welsh Wales' in the South Wales Valleys; and a more ambivalent 'British Wales' making up the remainder, largely in the east and along the south coast.

I've bee searching  for a map of this model (I've mislaid my copy of the original article)but it doesn't seem to be on line  because it resembles so much the vote in the 1997 referendum Here where Y fro Cymraeg and Welsh Wales voted Yes and British Wales voted No.(Green-Yes Red-No.

But the Map does show the then divide in Wales and if we were to reproduce the Map for 2011 only Monmouthshire would be Red today .

It would be wrong to say this a permanent and decisive change but it does show that attitudes may be changing.and er may well have moved on from Dennis Balsoms Model though I think we are some distance from One wales. With polls suggesting that the majority of people are in favour of devolving policing and criminal justice together with the ability to vary taxes it seems that devolution is winning the hearts of the people.

The next assembly will see the first Laws for the whole of Wales made passed solely in Wales and it will be interesting to see the Party Manifesto's for the May elections to see if there are any Bold and exciting proposalscomining from the parties. I suspect a degree of timidity however from them all.

I would like to put a challenge to every candidate to propose in their main official leaflet. One law  the Assembly can pass they would like to see.

Perhaps these can then be placed on line for public comment and approval. The top one could then become the first Law drafted by  the New Assembly and the New Wales.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Time to take the stabalisers of the Bike.

Today the people of Wales can make a decision that will see the Assembly make laws in those regions where power has been dissolved to it.

To my mind to it this must result in a resounding Yes vote. I believe the arguments put forward by the supporters of True Wales, have not even reached  a level where they could be seriously debated against.

Indeed the only sensible questioning of the value of the new proposals came from the Jaxxlander team.

If you need to know what we can do with the new powers then consider the latest legislation past by the assembly (after Westminster agreed) requiring developers to fit a sprinkler system in all new homes. .Wales has become leaders in Europe on this

Ann Jones, Vale of Clwyd aAsembly member, introduced the legislation after winning a members’ ballot, but it took three years to pass, because it had to be approved by Westminster Politicians

It will be many years before the true life saving value of this will emerge and Ann Jones may not be around in the Assembly to receive the credit she deserves, but this shows that we can pass legislation  that leads the way not only on in the UK but in the World .

Although I accept the argument that rushed laws are bad laws 3 years to pass legislation almost the life of the Assembly is far too long.

Not for one moment do I believe that the Assembly will be perfect in it's Law making and I'm sure they wil pass laws tat I will oppose.

but this is what democracy is and It time we in wales behave like a democracy and began to take responsibility for our own actions.

So say YES today and lets take our country forward.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Ireland may abolish it's second Chamber. So does Wales need one?

One of True Wale's argument against further powers is the question of scrutiny, as the Assembly is Unicameral. The idea however that we need a second chamber to do this is a common one even among proponents of Independence.However  it is interesting therefore that the new Fine Gael government in Ireland will advocates the abolition of the "Seanad" and it said that it will hold a referendum on 'Constitution Day', in which voters will decide on the proposal, within 12 months of coming to office.It's likely coalition partners the Irish  Labour party too would like to see the Seanad abolished.

'Labour believes that a nation of our size, scale and composition only needs one strong, single chamber,' its manifesto said'.
It will be interesting to see the debate in Ireland over the next few months this but it does show that it is possible to consider passing laws without the benefit (or hindrance) of a second chamber and mature democratic parties will consider this.

Personally I believe that if  the committee structures set up within the Assembly are vigorous and have a independent mandate.Then we also, considering  the size of our Nation and of course the actual limit of the law making powers that we will have in the event of a Yes vote on Thursday, really do not need an unelected or even elected second chamber to scrutinise law making.Certainly not  at this time.And certainly do not need politicians in Westminster to act as one.