Tuesday, 30 April 2013

What should be the status of Welsh in Brussels?

As a fan of "Nordic Noir" crime fiction I have been enjoying  the latest BBC showing of the Swedish mini-seines under the collective title Arne Dahl .

One of the interesting aspects is that  although the series is mostly in Swedish the "A" group of Detectives all speak English fluently and use that Language not only with an FBI officer but with Police in other countries such as Estonia  and even the villains are  fluent in English..

So English is the Intentional  language of crime . as well as politics.

It helps with the plot line . But shows the huge dominance of the English Language in the World.

Which brings me the news in the Western Mule that Welsh Tory MEP Kay Swinburne that has argued thatWelsh should not become official EU language,and  that millions would be wasted each year on such a move and that the steps taken to protect Welsh over the last 20 years should be used to help protect other minority languages in Europe

Last week Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans declared that Welsh should become an official language of the EU.

She said:

We won semi-official status for the Welsh language in Europe in 2008. That was a welcome step and has done a great deal to raise the profile of Wales and our language and culture. But I see it as a step towards achieving real equality, which means full official status.
“Welsh is an official language in Wales and it should have the same status in Europe. This is about equality for all people in the EU. This is the Year of the Citizens and the debate on the future shape of the EU has started in earnest. For me, making all of our languages equal in status is essential to ensuring that people feel that Europe is relevant to them. It is about democracy and justice and I will make this one of the central issues in the European Parliament election campaign next year.”
Western Mail 30th April 2013 

But Dr Swinburne, a fluent Welsh speaker who was brought up at Llandysul, Ceredigion, said:

“Making Welsh a fully official language in the EU would not advance its cause in the slightest. It would, however, entail huge translation costs within European institutions.
“At the Parliament, Welsh translators would have to be employed on shifts at a cost of millions of pounds – largely for the benefit of Jill and me.”
Dr Swinburne said the semi-official status of Welsh already enabled citizens to write to the EU and get a response in the language.
“I’ve spoken Welsh at the European Parliament – all you have to do is give a bit of notice and they’ll arrange for a translation.”

At first Dr Swinburne seems to have a point she has been working within the EU scrutinising an report on how to safeguard endangered European languages. The report, written by Corsican MEP François Alfonsi, says urgent action should be taken to ensure such languages do not die out.

It says:

 “All languages, including those which are endangered, reflect historical, social, cultural and ecological knowledge and skills that form part of the richness of the European Union. Just like biodiversity in nature, the diversity of European languages and cultures is part of the living heritage that is vital for the sustainable development of our societies, and they should therefore be safeguarded and protected against any risks of extinction,”

However there is a great danger in Dr Swinburne approach . It treats the so called minor languages as something like an ancient monument something that should be preserved and viewed as a curiosity...

But languages need to be  seen as dynamic, relevant  and above all equal to other more widely used languages.

Dr Swinburne translation argument would be easily addressed by employing Translators who where trilingual or even more Speaking say English Welsh and Italian.

English may be widely used but you wouldn't expect Swedes even those who are fluent in more than one language to see Swedish reduced to use only in their homeland.

But let us be clear we need to ensure that we start here ensuring that Wales moves to be fully Bilingual in all aspects of life.

It may be that only when we enter the EU Parliament as a member state in our own right that we can assure the status of Yr hen Iaith there as well as any future Parliament in Cardiff.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Welsh Tories No Plan B And Certainly No Plan Cymru.

The Conservative in Wales, seem to have largely given up on the idea of the "Welsh" part of their Identity .

The Backdrop of their Spring Conference was a stylised Union Jack with only a bilingual slogan to give us a clue where it was coming from.

David Cameron's, speech offered little in a Welsh context . Indeed apart from attacking Labour's running of the Assembly particularly Enterprise Zones,Health and Education the Tories seem to offer very little in the next wave of devolution.and a  call to devolve Severn bridges. There was very little when it came to the future government of Wales

Still their Assembly Leader Andrew RT Davies did claim  that Conservatives cannot turn the clock back on devolution.

He said  said he shared the concerns of Tories who feared for the future of the United Kingdom, but they could not ignore the process of devolving powers to Cardiff.

He told the Welsh Conservative conference in Swansea that the union  was  a

"family of nations
Of course he forgets that in all families there comes a time when the children leave home and fend for

But although the Tories had campaigned for a no-vote in the 1997 referendum, he stressed:

 "We can do Conservative things with devolution."
In his speech at the Liberty Stadium, he said the Conservatives had reached

 "our Clause Four moment" on devolution.
"There are some who are still fighting the battles of the devolution referendum of 1997," he said.
"Devolution cannot be simply put back into the bottle."
We know that the union goes deeper than politics - it goes to the heart”

And although the Tories had campaigned for a no-vote in the 1997 referendum, he stressed:

"We can do Conservative things with devolution."
"We as Conservatives might not like what this lazy Labour government is doing in Cardiff Bay, but let us not oppose devolution because of what is being carried out in lazy Labour's name."

He added:
 "I fully understand the concerns of some who think devolution is about moving towards a breakup of the United Kingdom.
"I didn't go into politics to break up the United Kingdom. I am a proud unionist. We are proud to say that we are Welsh and British.
"These are concerns that I share too, but ignoring the process and not engaging in it will not make it go away."

His speech comes as the UK government considers the findings of the Silk Commission which recommended that the Welsh government should acquire some tax-varying powers.

 But apart from announcing  commission into childcare there seemed little to offer Wales apart from expecting us to simply follow the policies of the Welsh Tories Westminster masters.

Forgive me if I'm wrong  but any Welsh Solutions to Welsh problems ( which is the ethos of devolution) this seems to have largely passed  the "Welsh Conference" bye

The Tories may not want to turn the clock back on Devolution. But from what I saw this weekend they seem keen not to wind it at would like it run down and probably stop all together.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Etonians are not taught to serve but to rule.

Tory MP Jesse Norman  has at least started a debate in defending  the number of old Etonians in government or claiming that Eton was better than other schools at promoting a "commitment to public service".

Jesse Norman, the Tory MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire, himself an old Etonian, suggested on Saturday that its pupils received the best grooming for office because of the values the school instils in them. "Other schools don't have the same commitment to public service. They do other things," said Norman, who was one of two old Etonians to be promoted to top policy roles by Cameron last week.

He added:
 "It's one of the few schools where the pupils really do run vast chunks of the school themselves. So they don't defer in quite the same way; they do think there's the possibility of making change through their own actions."

Actually this is not something new . The public school system  has always claimed that they instill a superior ethos on their pupils previously instiled by as system of fagging and bullying.

But of course even they could't claim that these days.

The Duke of Wellington is supposed to have said that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. (Though it unlikely .)

What this was supposed to have meant was that the British system of education which educated and formed the character of those who became the elite officers of the British Army was responsible for that  victory.

Of course the contribution of Blucher's Prussians  is nearly always conveniently ignored.

The University of Oxford and Cambridge often claim that the high percentage of public school pupils in the dreaming spires is because they enthuse more confidence than similarly academically gifted state school pupils.

It's all utter nonsense of course.

What the public school system does is not a commitment to public service",. but a belief in their own superiority an right to be in charge.

You could equally argue . That the slaughter on the Somme was due to the arrogance of the Officers Class  brought up on the public school system.

Actually that may have more truth.

Cameron and his elite cabinet are there not  out of a sense of service but because they believe that they have been groomed to run Government and have an absolute to do so.

It is a system that sees Harry Windsor enter the Army Officer Class after  he completed his education at Eton with two A-Levels after achieving a grade B in art and D in Geography having decided to drop history of art after AS level.

At least he probably can read a map.

Qualifications which would see him finding it hard to get a University place and probably a junior office job.

But that doesn't matter. It is assumed that he has been bred and educated to lead.

People are still swayed by a Etonian accent. If Boris Johnson spoke like an ordinary Londoner he would find it hard to get elected to Camden Council people regarding him as a buffoon

What we need to do is stop regarding arrogance as confidence and that some people are more gifted than the rest of us simply because they had a more expensive education.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Welsh Questions show we are not "Better Together".

The Western Mule reports that Plaid Cymru says English MPs are asking too many questions during Commons' Welsh session.

Just six of the 15 MPs who won a slot to ask the Welsh Secretary a question in the House of Commons represent a constituency in Wales, sparking concern from Plaid Cymru about a lack of effective scrutiny.

The session has now been cancelled because parliament had been ended in the archaic system leading up to the  of the Queen’s Speech on May 8.

Is it not about time we run Parliament from Election to Election and have only one official opening?

But as far as the scrapped Welsh questions  Plaid argues the present system of holding the Welsh Secretary to account is not fit for purpose.

If Welsh Questions had gone ahead, the first seven would have been asked by English MPs, with Harlow’s Robert Halfon kicking off with a query about what discussions Secretary of State for Wales David Jones has had with the Welsh Government about reducing the cost of living.

Plaid MP Hywell Williams  said that the current system was “constitutionally unsatisfactory” and called for the launch of an English Parliament with similar powers to the legislatures in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Arfon MP said this would allow English MPs to “debate their own problems without hampering the accountability of the ministers responsible for the other nations of the UK.”

He said:

 “This ballot draw for the next Welsh Questions is the latest in a string of events and reports highlighting the UK’s constitutional impasse. Plaid Cymru MPs do not vote on matters which pertain only to England.
“It is perfectly reasonable for members representing Welsh constituencies to question the eagerness of some English MPs to participate in debates on issues that don’t impact them. Plaid Cymru have long-called for an English Parliament as a simple solution to address the UK’s democratic deficit.
“This would tackle the problems stemming from the fact that the House of Commons is currently trying to do two jobs – being the English Parliament and the UK Parliament. This would not only answer the West Lothian Question over whether non-English MPs should vote on English-only matters and vice versa, but also remove any obstacles to the true accountability of ministers who are currently getting away with light scrutiny.
“With only 30 minutes per month granted to Welsh MPs to raise their concerns about Welsh matters, and these 30 minutes currently being dominated by MPs from English constituencies, the flaws in the current constitution of the UK could not be clearer.”
Seems perfectly reasonable to me so what was the reaction of the Unionist Parties?

An answer to the separatist slur from Labour for Independence,
 However, A UK Government spokesman defended the status quo, saying: 

Plaid Cymru are a party of separatists and want to break up the country. This is the United Kingdom and we believe that all Members of Parliament should have an equal right to raise whatever issue they wish at whichever First Order Questions they choose.“Plaid Cymru can continue in their separatist vein if they wish, but this Government believes we're better together.”
So Better Together means only 6 out of 21 Welsh MP's get to ask questions in a slot  of 30 minutes each year.

Hardly a Union of equals!

Labours response was not much better.


Newport East Labour MP Jessica Morden also opposed changing the system, saying: 

“We’re a UK parliament. I don’t think the system should change and there’s a strength in having voices from across parliament.

She said that MPs with seats near Wales had raised important issues, such as the safety of cockle-pickers.

It’s up to MPs to use their own sense,” “If they have a genuine interest in Welsh issues that’s good.”

However, she doubted the motivation of some MPs taking part, saying:

 “We welcome if people are genuine but sometimes you wonder if they are being asked to fill up the time.” 

There are 26 Labour 8 Consevative, 3 Plaid and  3 Liberal Democrats.representing Welsh constituencies

Surely that enough to ask questions about wales even ones about cockle pickers (and I'm not belittling what may have been an important question) could be asked by a Welsh MP.

The whole farce points out that we are not better together , will never be equal in a Westminster Parliament even a Federal one and that Independence is the only solution.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Stalinism on Children and Young People Committee.?

All to often the public so not pay enough attention to the various Committees at Westminster and Cardiff Bay. Because this often where the nitty gritty of government take place and committee members often are less servile to the party Leadership preparing to be more independent when it comes to Amending Bill etc i.

There may be occasional changes in the committees as people are promoted or demoted by the parties and it would make sense to include some one on a committee especially if he or she have a particular expertise in a forth coming bill

Still its a bit of a shock when yesterday  when clearly under the orders of Carwyn Jones the Chief Whip Janice Gregory has summarily removed three Labour members, including its chair Christine Chapman, from the   Children and Young People Committee.

A motion in plenary yesterday afternoon replaced Christine Chapman, Julie Morgan and Jenny Rathbone with Ann Jones, David Rees and Keith Davies as members of the committee, including  installing Ann Jones as the new chair, moved over from the chair of the Communities Committee, which, in a swift swap, is now chaired by Christine Chapman.

Since the changes take place  with immediate effect.  it could be argued that it was necessary because today the committee is starting a day of evidence taking on the long and complex Social Services Bill, including evidence from the Children's Commissioner.

Still the three moved members must have been spending the last months preparing and being being on the forthcoming sessions.

Bethan Powys suggest that it this evidence which  may be the  raison d'être behind the changes .

She points out that.:

The pressure group Children Are Unbeatable are among several groups who are pushing for the Social Services Bill to be amended in order to make it a legislative vehicle for a ban on smacking children.
Last week, during the Health committee's scrutiny of the Bill, Plaid Cymru's Lindsay Whittle said he would move amendments to write a ban on to the face of the Bill. He was urged against his by the Deputy Minister Gwenda Thomas during her evidence. (I've corrected this paragraph, by the way, to get my committees straight.)
In 2011 Julie Morgan and Christine Chapman co-sponsored a motion in the Assembly calling for a smacking ban. Another sponsor was Lindsay Whittle.
Were the Government worried that the three Labour members would side with Mr Whittle rather than Mrs.Thomas when their committee comes to lay amendments? That's what the opposition parties think and its difficult to think of another explanation for a wholesale change of personnel at such short notice. We've had a quick chat in this office and reckon it's the first time we've seen it happen.
With the three Labour votes, the smacking ban amendment would have been carried by the committee, which would have left the Welsh Government being forced to re-amend it at stage three in full plenary to remove it.

As Noted Labour AM Christine Chapman, was one of four members to have tabled a motion to be debated in the Senedd, 
Back in October 2011 she said she hoped Wales could become the first of the UK countries to ban smacking 

She said: at the time:

The UK is completely out of step. Thirty other countries across the world have banned smacking." Chapman does not believe the justification that smacking is an acceptable way of disciplining a child stands up to scrutiny.
"Parents who hit children tend to do it when they are angry. It is rarely done in a cool, calculated way. We don't condone hitting adults and it is nonsensical to say that children can be hit."

Is the leadership acting to prevent this because they are opposed to a smacking ban or because they are worried about negative Tabloid headlines?

You Know.


Bethan Adds:
The question is this: if the Government gives a Bill to an Assembly committee to scrutinise and amend, and they decide they want to amend it in a way that the Government doesn't like, is it really democratic simply to change the members of the committee instead.

The problem here is with no second chamber it is up to the committee members to scrutinise an amend Welsh Bills.

It is not helpful if members need to be asking thier leadership what position they should take.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Left Foot Forward A Labour Unionist Blog?

If you want proof that the blog Left Foot Forward is in a reality a Labour Blog rather than one of for the "Progressive Left" you need only turn to yesterdays posting by James Bloodworth who whilst making a valid point only managed to tell us  half the story.
David Cameron was asked during PMQs today whether or not he would continue hosting dinners at Downing Street with a man named Ian Taylor. He was also asked whether he would be giving back money the same Mr Taylor had donated to the Tory Party.
Mr Cameron gave a curt response, accusing the MP who asked the question – Angus Robertson of the SNP – of playing a “cheap political card”.
So just who is Ian Taylor?
Well first off he is the president and chief executive of the world’s largest oil trader, Vitol, and he has been involved in the oil business for more than 30 years. Since June 2006 he has donated £555,100 to the Tory party. He also dined with David Cameron at Downing Street on 2 November 2011.
In 2001, The Observer revealed that Vitol paid £1 million to Serbian war criminal Željko Ražnatović (better known as Arkan) to arrange an oil deal with the regime of Slobodan Milosevic. For its part Vitol said no illegal conduct was involved in this transaction. According to the the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Arkan was responsible for at least 24 crimes against humanity, including the murder of civilians, rape and ethnic cleansing.
According to Herald Scotland, Vitol, the company which Ian Taylor head, has also in the past used Employee Benefit Trusts to avoid tax on the incomes of its UK staff and has been in discussion with HMRC about a deal to pay this off.
Is it really acceptable for Mr Cameron to dismiss concerns about donations from someone whose company had a relationship with one of Serbia’s most notorious war criminals in so blase a manner?

By James Bloodworth Left Foot Forward April 24th 2013

Whether by design or ignorance Blood worth left out a major controversy over some of the donations made by Taylor it was left to commentators to point out that  the Unionist Better Together campaign  who are calling for a No vote in the forthcoming Scottish Independence referendum  have been called on the  £500,000 donation it received from businessman Ian Taylor.
Mr Taylor, chief executive of the oil trading firm Vitol, gave the money in a personal capacity to help secure a "no" vote .

But Better Together campaign director Jackie Baillie  Labour MAP for Dunbarton said she did not have a problem accepting Mr Taylor's money.

"This is a valuable donation which we will put to good use," she said.

Ms Baillie also made a rather pathetic argument  out that Mr Taylor had made important investments in the Harris tweed industry on the Western Isles, a constituency represented at Holyrood and Westminster by the SNP.

"Is the first minister equally suggesting that Mr Taylor should disinvest from Harris tweed?" she said. "I don't think he's said that today."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie also defended the use of Mr Taylor's money.using the same argument.

He said: "If it's good enough for Harris Tweed, it should be good enough for Better Together."

I think I can see the difference between a Investment in  an Industry and a Political Campaign.

And I suspect Ballie and Rennie can as wel.

But  I can't see the for the life of see the case that  Ian Taylor donating to the Tory Party is wrong but donating to Better Together is perfectly acceptable.

Sheer Hypocrisy from some Labour Quarters.

A website run by a campaigning group of artists and writers, know as National Collective, said lawyers for Vitol and Mr Taylor had threatened to sue them over an online article questioning the company's activities.

National Collective director Ross Colquhoun said: "Such corporate bully boy tactics are an attack on freedom of speech. We will not be silenced or bullied by legal intimidation."

Left Foot Forward once again prove  that they don't deserve the "Progressive" tag and that they are there to serve the interest of the Labour Party and Unionism.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Labour's Hubris In Caerphilly Continues.

Caerphilly Council Labour leader Harry Andrews has comfortably survived a motion of no-confidence moved against him over his handling of the authority’s senior pay scandal.

Councillors divided on party lines to defeat the Plaid Cymru opposition motion by 43 votes to 15 at Yesterday's evening meeting

Though There are 20 Plaid Councillors  3 Independents  to 49 Labour with one seat currently vacant.

So perhaps the opposition were somewhat lax in getting their vote in.

The council has been in turmoil since last December, it was e revealed how 21 senior managers had secretly been awarded huge pay rises.

Chief executive Anthony O’Sullivan wrote a report recommending substantial pay increases for himself and his senior colleagues at a time when the bulk of the authority’s staff was enduring a third year of a pay freeze.

Mr O’Sullivan’s own salary was increased from £132,000 to £158,000.

As reported on Wales on Line :

Last month Anthony Barrett, the Assistant Auditor General for Wales, published a Public Interest Report which stated that the way the rises were awarded had been unlawful. Mr O’Sullivan should not have written a report recommending a pay rise for himself and he should not have attended the committee meeting where the recommendations were approved.
Mr Barrett also concluded that the meeting itself had been called unlawfully because it had not been properly advertised.
In the aftermath of Mr Barrett’s report, Mr O’Sullivan was suspended pending disciplinary action. Avon and Somerset Police had also been asked by Gwent Police to carry out an inquiry to see whether any criminal offences were committed.

If Mr Andrews had been a Government or Assembly Minister then he would have probably taken responsibility for this fiasco and resigned.

Instead the BBC report that after the vote Mr Andrews was given a standing ovation ofter the vote/

Labour, may have had an argument that the Plaid motion was desperate distraction” prior to the meeting.

But given their leader who seems to have taken no responsibility fir his part in a action which seems to be unlawful and resulted in a police inquiry seems to portray arrogance.and contempt for the lower paid staff and the public at large.

As Labour, returns to its traditional position of power in much of Wales, it seems that they have leaned no lessons and still believe that they have almost a divine right to rule.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Ukip: Why Do The Media Not Expose Them?

Ukip it seems beleive that raising the supposed threat of Immigration from Bulgaria and Romania  rather than campaigning on local services  is the card to play in  next weeks local government elections

Konstantin Dimitrov, the Bulgarian Ambassador to the UK, said leaflets sent out by UKIP ahead of council elections in May – which describe Bulgarian people as a "threat" – are "unacceptable".

In their leaflets, UKIP states 29 million Bulgarian and Romanians will have the right to "live, work and draw benefits" in the UK and while many will be "fine, hard-working people", suggests the country may struggle to cope with "another influx" of "people needing jobs, housing schools, hospitals and benefits".

But a t BBC surveys in each country, both of more than 1,000 people, suggest most would move only with a firm work offer. ad there is a significant gap between aspiration and making real concrete plans.

They found that in Romania very small numbers of people, 1% of the total survey sample, said they were looking for work in the UK in 2013 or 2014, whether with a recruitment agency or on their own.

In Bulgaria the figures were higher: 4.2% of those surveyed. However most people interested in coming to the UK, from both countries, said they would only move with a firm offer of work, either from an agency or directly from a company.

For now, more people are planning to move this year, rather than next, but as 2014 approaches, intentions may change.

So it looks like Ukip playing of the fear factor is plain wrong.

But this will not stop them constantly raising it.

If the BNP had issued leaflets like the ones Ukip are distributing  for what after all are local councill elections, then the (sadly declining) liberal part of British media would be attacking them.

Even  some of the the right wing media would at least pretend to be disgusted by this  

But Nigel Farage Ukip leader is fawned over by nearly all of them them including the BBC where he has bean given free rein to spout his nonsense.


Can it be that the BNP were sen as Working Clas oiks , whilst Ukip are seen as coming from a more "repectable" middle class. and therfore more akin to the media journalist.

Is more acceptable to express extreme right wing views when it comes from "Middle England" rather from mt working clas areas?

Well apparently Yes.

It has been claimed that Ukip are "the BNP in better suits", which I don't agree with: Bbut if they carry on producing literature which Nick Griffin  would be proud to put his name to. Then I will have to review my opinion.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Classic Clegg

I was looking online at what I thought was Nick Clegg's, speech to this weekends Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference.

Having seen it on the BBC on Saturday . I wanted to Quote his rather deeble and prisictible  attempt at a joke . Where he compares his LBC Cal Nick Clegg  with Ed Balls apearing on Talk Radio and claiming it should be called Talk Balls.

Laugh I thought I'd never start
But I could,'t find it then I realised I was reading his 2011 Speech

But then the LibDem leader will probably do the same next here .

  • "This is a list of what the LibDems are claiming responsibility for...."
  • "Anything you don't like is the responsibility of the Tories."
  • "And it would be worse if we were't there."
  • "We will see a change in our fortunes soon."
  • "Easteligh"
  • "Easteligh"
  • "Easteligh"
  • "The Welsh/Scottish  LiBDem leader doing a magnificent Job."
  • "Pupil Premium"

Maybe next year the LibDem spring Conference Chair will announce.

"Nick Clegg can't be here this year. So we are showing a previous speech in our seines "Classic Clegg".

Not that there appeared to many people attending the Conference this year. You would expect to see the hall packed to the rafters; But it looked that despite "doughnutting" attendance was small.

Indeed if you took away the Students from Welsh Universities  then there would be far less delegates and activists.

On the BBC Vaughan Roderick alluded to this pointing out that the Welsh LibDems have benefited perhaps more than any  party from students outside Wales getting involved in Welsh politics.

Nick Clegg of course had not much to go on in Wales and even the opportunity to try and boost  the handful of candidates standing in the Anglesey Council Elections was somewhat muted 

As the Blogger the Anglesey Telegraph pointed put

"Take two of their current candidates Aled Morris Jones and Selwyn Williams. Now seeing that they both support the same political party it was a bit strange that previously neither wanted to declare themselves as Liberal Democrats and that both backed different factions in the discredited Council....Selwyn Williams being a member of Llais I Fôn and Aled Morris Jones a member of Original Independents. Yes go figure!! "

For the LibDems there will be probably no recovery until after they have received a drubbing at the next General Election but in Wales they may find it hard to come back in an already crowded political scene . 

Mind you they will still be talking about a renewed bounce every bloody  year.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Remembering the Warsaw Ghetto and a " Conviction" Politician.

Last Friday saw the 70th Anniversary if the Warsaw Ghetto uprising 19 April 1943 – 16 May 1943  against  German Nazi forces in the Warsaw ghetto uprising.

The mournful sound of sirens  marked the start of state ceremonies that were led by Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski at the iconic Monument to the Ghetto Heroes. The president was joined by officials from Poland, Israel and elsewhere as well as a survivor of the fighting, Simha Rotem, to honor the first large-scale rebellion against the Germans during World War II.

About 750 Jews with few arms and no military training made their opening attack on April 19, 1943, on a much larger and well-equipped German force. The attack came after most of the nearly half a million inhabitants of the ghetto had already been sent to die at Treblinka.

The insurgency came when it was clear the Nazis were about to send the remaining residents of the ghetto to die too. The revolt was crushed the following month, and the ghetto was razed to the ground, most of its residents killed.

13,000 Jews were killed in the ghetto during the uprising (some 6,000 among them were burnt alive or died from smoke inhalation). Of the remaining 50,000 residents, most were captured and shipped to concentration and extermination camps, in particular to Treblinka.

We must never forget the Courage of those who fought in this uprising and the brutality and inhumanity of the Nazi s.Which can be summed up by the Commanders Jürgen Stroop's internal SS daily report .

"180 Jews, bandits and sub-humans, were destroyed. The former Jewish quarter of Warsaw is no longer in existence. The large-scale action was terminated at 20:15 hours by blowing up the Warsaw Synagogue. ... Total number of Jews dealt with 56,065, including both Jews caught and Jews whose extermination can be proved. ... Apart from 8 buildings (police barracks, hospital, and accommodations for housing working-parties) the former Ghetto is completely destroyed. Only the dividing walls are left standing where no explosions were carried out

However we must remember a single act that showed us that humanity stil  remains.

On December 7, 1970, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt travelled to Warsaw, Poland on a state visit meant to improve relations with Poland and the USSR. On that day, Brandt attended a commemoration of the Jewish victims of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943. Although it had been decades since the historic uprising and the end of the Holocaust, Brandt was aware of the importance of this official state visit. He would later describe his thoughts leading up to the event:
An unusual burden accompanied me on my way to Warsaw. Nowhere else had a people suffered as in Poland. The machine-like annihilation of Polish Jewry represented a heightening of bloodthirstiness that no one had held possible. On my way to Warsaw [I carried with me] the memory of the fight to the death of the Warsaw ghetto.
Filled with emotion on the day of the ceremony, and taken by the enormity of the moment, Brandt spontaneously dropped to his knees before the commemoration monument, a profound act of apology and repentance.  Although he spoke no words, the image of this silent apology, seen in the news by so many Poles and Germans, had a powerful effect on both nations. Later, when Brandt described the moment, he wrote that he felt as though he "had to do something to express the particularity of the commemoration at the ghetto monument. On the abyss of German history and carrying the burden of the millions who were murdered, I did what people do when words fail them."

Bradt had fought the Nazi's and fled Germany when they come to power the Guilt was not his but he took on his shoulders. Iin w a week when we buried a so called conviction politician perhaps we should look at a man of true conviction and humanity.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

What's the point in a Referendum if it doesn't resolve the issue?

Two years ago some of us voted in a  referendum on extending the law-making powers of the National Assembly for Wales

On 3 March 2011. The referendum asked the question:

 "Do you want the Assembly now to be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it has powers for?"
What's the point in a Referendum if it doesn't resolve the issue?
The vote  on a  admittedly low 35.63%b Turnout , 63.49% voted 'yes', and 36.51% voted 'no'. In 21 of 22 local authorities the vote was 'yes', with the exception being Monmouthshire by a slim majority.

Few flt that was the end pf the Devolution Process nut it was hoped thta it at least cleared up a number of constitutional anomalies .

Far from it the latest problem/row is whether the Assembly has powers to change the voting system for local government elections.

Plaid’s Mid and West AM Simon Thomas has  proposed a Member’s Bill to change the voting system in local government to Single Transferable Vote (STV), but Labour AM  Mike  Hedges, ( I've never heard of him either) claimed that Assembly electoral arrangements are reserved to the UK Parliament.

But Mr Thomas, a member of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, said:

 “National Assembly lawyers were happy for the proposal for Fair Votes In Local Government (Wales) Bill to go ahead and confirmed that in writing to us. We can use Scotland as a precedent where the Single Transferable Vote system has worked.”

So whose right ?
Er We don't really know.

Stephen Brooks, the director of the Electoral Reform Society in Wales, said that there was a lack of clarity among Assembly Members and government officials over what fell under the competence of the Assembly – and raised the prospect of repeated trips to the Supreme Court to “test” parts of the settlement. said:
 “It appears that the power [over local government voting systems] is not devolved and I think, reading the advice I received from the Chief Legal Officer to the Presiding Officer, and hearing what the Welsh Government has said, it appears it is not devolved.
“But the problem remains that it is unclear, and it has to be the UK Government that declares a view or tests this, in the courts, and effectively until that time, the Assembly is in limbo.”
MrBrooks ,said that the current system was “confusing” and discouraged AMs from making laws.

He said:

“What I find interesting is, if we are trying to encourage backbench AMs and opposition AMs to come forward with new laws for Wales, if they are confused by the powers they have and receive conflicting advice, you have to question the way we have set up the ‘conferred powers’ model in the Assembly.
The issue over reform over the Electoral system is important because of the news that local councils in Wales could face a big shake-up under a major review into the way public services are run.

The Welsh government has ruled out any large reorganisation before the next assembly election; But a review is seen as an attempt to reach an agreement on cutting some of the 22 Welsh councils after 2016.

So it would make it sense that at the same time we examine the electoral system ?

But it seems that even if this was carried out and it was recommended that we aped Scotland adopted STV . the Assembly could not carry this out even if it wanted to.

It would be like the WRU imposing a new League Structure but being told that it couldn't change the points or bonus point system .

It is clear unless we to have parity with Scotland and have a proper parliament then we are still going to have these arguments over competence  and filing the coffers of the lawyers as we troop again and again to the high court and possibly beyond.

Isn't it about time we got it right.?

Friday, 19 April 2013

New Zealand shows Wales the sort of Parliament we should have.

Thanks to Rusell Elliot for pointing me towards the news that New Zealand becomes the first country in the Asia Pacific to legalise same sex marriage. The public gallery in parliament breaks into song following the vote, singing the traditional Maori love song Pokarekare Ana. New Zealand is now the 13th country to legalise gay marriage, after Uruguay passed its law earlier in 

There was also a hilarious speech from MP Maurice Willamson

Even for someone  who is not Gay  finds this incredibly moving and I suddenly realised that what I was watching was the equivalent in many ways of the end of segregation in the USA and Apartheid in South Africa,

It also made me wonder why Wales doesn't have a parliament of its own like New Zealand  instead of a toothlless Assembly.

Its not only the New Zealand All Blacks Wales should seek to emulate but its politicians

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Bluebirds promotion may do more for the City than either Government.

Congratulations to the Bluebirds, on gaining Promotion and hopefully we will see either Wrecsam  or Newport joining them .

With Cardiff Joining Swansea in the English Premership and a maybe a third side in the English League it would be nice to think that we can start to bury the antagonism between rival clubs and celebrate all Welsh success.

As a Rugby supporter with two Football Clubs in the Premership attracting the likes of Chelsea , Man Unt, Arsenal etc. to the City . Its a warning to the Rugby Regions who will need to get their act together and stop the exodus of players or youngsters will drift to football .

According to the Western Mule, Cardiff City’s promotion  to football’s super-rich Premier League would generate up to an extra 5,000 jobs and £120m, . Which is probably more than our Assembly can under its current lethargic Administration. or the Con/LibDem gang in Westminster.

Speaking before the match Professor Tom Cannon said 

recently promoted teams like Swansea City, Blackpool and Hull City have seen £30m to £50m boosts to their economies from Premier League football.Cardiff City’s promotion  to football’s super-rich Premier League would generate up to an extra 5,000 jobs and £120m, a sports finance expert predicted last night.

But Prof Cannon said Cardiff would be unique in the League as the sole representative of a capital city boasting an international airport and this could see them double the return achieved by Swansea.
City go into their game with Charlton Athletic tonight needing just a point to join the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea in football’s elite club.
Professor Cannon said if City get promoted they will go up at the best possible moment as a bumper TV deal begins next season.
The new deal with Sky and BT is worth £3.018bn for three years - 70% more than the old contract.

So it might be prudent for Cardiff Wales Airport recently bought by the Welsh Government to tie itself with the Bluebirds under a sponsorship or promotion deal.

Of course if Cardiff Malaysian owners, were to pull out the Bluebirds would face severe problems not something the Swans under their structure  face.  But for the moment despite the controversial strip change it seems to be working.

Here hoping that both Cardiff and Swansea have a long and successful  stay in the premiership. 

But perhaps my greatest hope is that they develop a friendly rivalry and Derbys between the clubs will be days which all will enjoy and the fans in particular realise that they are not only representatives of their respective clubs bur also of Wales as a whole.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Neil Kinnock role in Thatcher coming to power.

On the day of  Margaret Thatcher funeral Neil Kinnock will not be attending . The former Labour leader has instead chosen to attend a memorial service for a former councillor in Wales next Wednesday.

So at least he will be visiting his old constituency . When was he last there?

Perhaps he should  attend her funeral because he played a major part in her rise to power.

A career politician who eschewed academic success and followed the  route of student politics. He   obtained a  degree in industrial relations and history in 1965. A year later, obtaining  a a postgraduate diploma in education. Between August 1966 and May 1970, he worked as a tutor for a Workers' Educational Association (WEA)

But barley  four years after graduating  at  the age of 28 he was elected for the  constituency of Bedwellty in Wales (later Islwyn) for the following general election. He was elected on 18 June 1970 and became a member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party in October 1978

 He almost immediately began making a name for himself  by opposing devolution to Wales and Scotland . Labour government policy at the time was in favour of devolution for Wales, but the wider party was split. Calling himself a 'unionist', Kinnock was one of six south Wales Labour MPs to campaign against devolution on centralist, essentially British-nationalist grounds He dismissed the idea of a Welsh identity, saying that

"between the mid-sixteenth century and the mid-eighteenth century Wales had practically no history at all, and even before that it was the history of rural brigands who have been ennobled by being called princes"

.In the Wales referendum, 1979, the proposal for devolution was rejected.

In Scotland antii devolution MPs  had fixed the referendum special conditions on the referendum stipulating at  least 40% of the electorate would have to vote Yes in the referendum.

So although Scotland had voted yes 51.62% to 48.38% the referendum was considered lost.

Under the terms of the Act, the Act could then be repealed by a Statutory Instrument to be approved by Parliament. However, the government's decision to abandon devolution for Scotland led the Scottish National Party to withdraw its support for the government. A subsequent vote of no confidence led to the resignation of the Callaghan government, and an election was called

This led to Labour perpetuating the myth that the SNP  brought down the Callaghan government and let in Thatcher.

But the election had to ve called by October and the real people who brought in Thatcher were those Labour MPs  like Kinnock who fixed and campaigned against devolution.

If the devolution campaign had been won in Scotland alone then Labour may have gone on to win the 1979  election. But the loss give the impression of a failed government.

Kinnocks reward was to become leader of the Labour Party and face Thatcher over the Chamber but never defeating her. or her successor John Major.

So remember that one of the reasons that Thatcher came to power was that a Welsh MP put his own ambition over his own Nation and condemned it  it to years of poverty and deprivation.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

What to do During Thatcher's Funeral?

With it looking to wet in the Beddau area tomorrow . I will probably not be able to avoid the  Thatcher Funeral coverage by going on a long walk.

So instead  I will be digging out my 6 box set of Ken Burn's epic documentary of the American Civil War.

I'm not sure what response other people should take tomorrow .

Demonstrating on the route would I think be in appropriate, it is a funeral after all even though it has been exploited by the right elite and should not taken place payed for by £10 Million of public money. So my advice is stay away.

Others are planning vigils to demonstrate their opposition to Margaret Thatcher  being given a State Funeral for that is what it will be and her legacy.

For those who say that we should show respect for the dead . I say that  by treating the funeral of a former Prime Minister in the same way  as that of a head of  state you have lost all rights to ask for our respect.

Tomorrow the rest of the World will be given the impression that the whole of the UK are in grief over the death of Mrs Thatcher . Which is what those who have organised this have intended.

It is reminiscent of the death of a leader in a totalitarianism state not a democracy.

Sod them. 

Don't try and protest at the actual funeral but elsewhere do what you feel is appropriate to show that you oppose the expense of this funeral and that you have no remorse in the passing of a Prime Minster who destroyed Communities and the lives of many of the UK's inhabitants.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Blaerites are also the true heirs of Thatcher.

Its beginning to look like the Blareite criticism of the apparent direction Ed Milinand is taking Labour  is coordinated.

Firstly the Lad himself  Ex r Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote in an article in the New Statesman  was in danger of becoming a protest movement without electable policies - his boldest foray into British politics since resigning.

In an article that prompted Labour leader Ed Miliband to defend his own leadership, Blair suggested the left-leaning party looked like it was offering austerity-hit voters sympathy but few specific remedies before a 2015 general election.

"The scenario is more menacing than it seems," Blair wrote in the New Statesman magazine. "The guiding principle should be that we are the seekers after answers, not the repository for people's anger."

The Labour party had to remain on the centre ground of politics if it was to succeed again, said Blair, arguing it was wrong to tack right on some issues and left on others. He did not mention Miliband by name.

He wrote:

The Labour Party is back as the party opposing “Tory cuts”, highlighting the cruel consequences of the Conservative policies on welfare and representing the disadvantaged and vulnerable (the Lib Dems are in a bit of a fix, frankly).
For the Conservatives, this scenario is less menacing than it seems. They are now going to inspire loathing on the left. But they’re used to that. They’re back on the old territory of harsh reality, tough decisions, piercing the supposed veil of idealistic fantasy that prevents the left from governing sensibly. Compassionate Conservatism mat­tered when compassion was in vogue. But it isn’t now. Getting the house in order is.
For Labour, the opposite is true. This scenario is more menacing than it seems. The ease with which it can settle back into its old territory of defending the status quo, allying itself, even anchoring itself, to the interests that will passionately and often justly oppose what the government is doing, is so apparently rewarding, that the exercise of political will lies not in going there, but in resisting the temptation to go there.
Newsstatesman 11 April 2013

Blair, was followed  by former Home Secretary, David Blunkett who urged Ed Miliband to look beyond 'selfish' public sector

"'One Nation' cannot and should never be simply the avoidance of the most obvious injustice or collective suicide.
"It has to be about a great deal more than politics built on grievance and the unhappiness of a resentful and selfish public sphere.
"More than putting right the playing-off of public sector workers against those in private enterprise. The retired versus the young, the migrant versus the resentful and excluded. Or, the badly housed versus the homeless.
"In other words, replacing the politics of Conservative division with a morally more superior and a politically more cohesive engagement."
Observer 13th April 2013 

Blunkett added 'that Miliband ne

"to speak to all parts of society from the "inner city with the rural hinterland, the more affluent south-east with the once powerful and prosperous economic engine room of the north".
He writes: "Changing the way in which we deliver our public services (as opposed to simply slashing and burning) offers common cause as much in Berkshire or Bedfordshire as it does in Bury or Bolton.".

And Blunkett's  former cabinet colleague  Ex Mp John Reid now Lord Reid, who held six Cabinet posts,  said Labour had to move beyond criticising the coalition and must propose its own solutions on issues such as welfare, the economy and housing. adding that  that while Mr Miliband had succeeded in establishing an effective opposition, he had yet to offer an alternative agenda for government.

The Blarites may be right because there are no votes in backing the poor  and dispossessed . Under the UK electoral system it not Bury or Bolton where the election will be pme by the two main parties but in that elusive Middle England that they both court enthusiastically.

For t he rest of us we can go hang. Our votes are either taken for granted by Labour otr are of no Importance in those Tories seats with huge majorities.

At least in Wales and Scotland there's an a chance that a vote for Plaid or the SNP can make a difference and for others there was always the choice of the Liberal Democrats who might be wearing their radical left of centre hat. 

But with three  right of centre parties ( and the centre  has itself moved right) the future for those on the bottom rung looks bleak

It seems that in the week we bury Margaret Thatcher  her victory may well be complete.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Measles Outbreak: Not Parents Fault If They Were Misled.

A campaign by the South Wales Evening Post  or the Beans on Toast in the late 1990s has been cited as one possible cause for a measles outbreak in Wales.

The BBC’s Today programme's Hywel Griffith reported on the outbreak 
 "Health service officials claim that one of the main reasons Swansea is at the centre of the epidemic is because the local Evening Post ran a campaign raising concerns about the MMR vaccine in the late 90s." 

A report in the Journal of Epedemiology and Health from 2000  linked the paper's "MMR Parent's fight for facts" campaign, started in the late 1990s, with a drop in MMR vaccinations in the paper's circulation area.

Widespread concerns about MMR were aired across the media after Dr Andrew Wakefield published a now-discredited study in the Lancet 1998 linking MMR to autism.

Well over 2,000 people have been vaccinated at clinics set up to tackle the Swansea measles epidemic as fears were raised it could spread.

Queues of people turned up early at many of the special drop-in sessions for free MMR jabs.

The number of cases in the outbreak has risen to 693 but Dr Meirion Evans of Public Health Wales (PHW) said that numbers could "easily double".

He said 40,000 children in Wales remain unvaccinated.

It is all to easy to turn on the "Beans and Toast" but  although Wakefield was discredited 

His orginal accusations  , were published a controversial paper in the respected British medical journal The Lancet, supported by a press conference  February 1998 at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

This paper reported on twelve children with developmental disorders referred to the Royal Free Hospital. The parents or physicians of eight of these children were said to have linked the start of behavioral symptoms to MMR vaccination. The paper described a collection of bowel symptoms, endoscopy findings and biopsy findings that were said to be evidence of a possible novel syndrome that Wakefield would later call autistic enterocolitis, and recommended further study into the possible link between the condition and the MMR vaccine. The paper suggested that the connection between autism and the gastrointestinal pathologies was real, but said it did not prove an association between the MMR vaccine and autism..

Although we now know this to be untrue it is understandable that  the Public and indeed the  Media would be concerned and that this should continue with the the public to the present day.

Perhaps parents who were concerned and could not be reassured should have been offered single vaccination those this may have increased concern . Though I suspect cost may have been the major factor here.

Hopefully there may be a good thing to come out of this in that parents will now be more confident in seeing their children receive the MMR jab. 

But maybe rather than attributing blame  even to the Beans on Toast we should look to the future and concentrate in making sure that parents realise the MMR is safe and effective.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Burton (Pembrokeshire) Byelection

Hardly Earth Shattering  news but  the only recent Byelection in Wales  has been at troubled  Pembrokeshire county council: where  Rob Summons was elected Councillor for Burton Division on 11   after the resignation of Council stalwart is Cllr David Wildman, who was also the cabinet member for adult services and care, had been heavily involved in local politics for many years, but is set to move closer to family in Wiltshire, with his wife Margaret.
  • Rob Summons (Independent Plus) 291 votes   (43.8%; -56.2)
  • Robin Wilson (Conservative) 166 -  (25%; +25.0)
  • Robin Howells (Labour) 162-  (24.4%; +24.4)
  • Jon Harvey (Independent) 46 -  (6.9%; +6.9)
So although a comfortable win there for Independent Plus  who are the ruling group on the council  maybe a  pointer to people turning to main stream parties

Interestingly Rob Symonds  stood as an Independent Plus candidate ( at the behest of former Councillor Wildman) who are the ruling group . So how Independent are Independents if they stand for the ruling group?

How can you claim to be an Independent when even before you are elected you commit yourself to a group dynamics and the discipline in that group?

As well as the previous record of the ruling Group. Are you standing on the of the ruling group or not.

You are not really Independent if you do so.

Basically Independents are people who don't want to be associated with the baggage of the public negativity towards political parties whilst having all  the  advantages and power that members of a group leads to.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Holes appear in the Severn Barrage.

A BBC Wales investigation has revealed that serious questions about two of the founders of a project to build a barrage across the Severn estuary have been raised 

According to the report by  David Cornock and Illtud ab Alwyn:
The largest shareholder in Hafren Power has previously been declared bankrupt three times during a lengthy business career.Another businessman has been declared bankrupt twice but said it should not detract from the project's legitimacy.Backers claim the £25bn barrage could generate 5% of Britain's electricity.Hafren Power wants to build an 11 mile (17.7km) barrage between Lavernock Point near Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, and Brean near Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.Richard Bazley - the largest shareholder in Hafren Power - was declared bankrupt in 1977, 1994 and 2005.

Mr Bazley, described by Hafren Power as its founder and "the visionary" behind the barrage, describes himself as a "serial entrepreneur".
He declined to be interviewed but Hafren Power chief executive Tony Pryor denied Mr Bazley's background undermined the credibility of the project.
Another founder Idwal Stedman, who sits on Hafren Power's regional committee, has been declared bankrupt twice: in 1994 while working as an architect and in 2006 while working as an antiques dealer.
Although Hafren Power describes Mr Stedman as having run "a highly regarded architecture firm," he is currently barred from calling himself an architect.
He was struck off by the Architects Registration Board last year after complaints about unpaid bills.
The board removed him from the register for "conduct that is fundamentally incompatible with continuing to be an architect".

BBC Wales 11th April  2013

We are left wondering what the response will be from the main Champion for the project Neath PM  Peter Hain wil be?

Only last  a fortnight ago he was issuing  strong rallying call to Wales to “stand up and fight” for the  Severn Barrage.

Responding to The Port of Bristol is currently opposition to the scheme claiming it would have a detrimental effect on its commercial activities – upstream of any barrage – as well as harming the environment.

Mr Hain went on to say: 
“They would be better advised to engage with Hafren Power and find out a workable commercial solution to their concern.”
Of the Severn Barrage itself, Mr Hain said, this was the biggest construction project facing Wales, more transformative than anything seen during modern times.
He reminded his listeners that this was not just about Wales but about south-west England,
He said: “We aren’t blessed with massive infrastructure projects but this one is entirely private financed and could supply 5% of the UK’s electricity for more than 120 years, cleanly, securely and sustainably.”
Western Mail 22nd April 2013

We meed to know whether Mr Hain was aware of the past of some of his colleagues an if so why he feels that they are suitable to lead such a project.

He is usually  never shy of speaking out and now is not the time for him to find any modesty and remain quiet.