Archive for April, 2010

Its good for the English but not the Welsh

‘Strengthen shared ownership schemes which allow those on low-to-middle incomes to own or part-own their home. We will offer tenants with a record of five years’ good behaviour a 10 per cent equity share in their social rented property, which can be cashed in when they want to move up the housing ladder’

A straight lift from the Conservative manifesto. What the manifesto fails to mention is that it can only apply to England.

Why? Because the Welsh Assembly government don’t have the powers to implement this type of scheme. And why not I hear you ask. Well, because the Conservatives both in the Palace of Westminster and in the National Assembly decided to reject the Housing Legislative Competence Order that would have allowed the Welsh Assembly to introduce such schemes.

Despite all the leading Housing organisations in Wales pointing out the harm that would be done if the Tories continued with their opposition of the Housing LCO. They took no notice. So the LCO failed to make it because Parliament dissolved. If the Tories had agreed to it going through in the Wash up arrangements that fast tracks legislation all could have been saved. But they refused.

Now we have the invidious postition of the English being able to gain help through shared ownership schemes to access owner occupation, courtersy of Mr Cameron’s party. But the Welsh unable to gain access, courtersy of Mr Cameron’s party.

It will be interesting to see what the Welsh Conservative manifesto says on this point.


Golwg Column translation: Keeping to principle

‘I’m a man of principle, and if your not happy with them, I’ll change them,’ So said Marx – Groucho not Karl. In the next few weeks we’ll hear a great deal about principles in the context of politicians trying to win our support.

At one time it was relatively easy to separate the two major parties by their principles. The Conservative party was certain that the market was the way to growth. The less government had to do with the market the better. You could describe them as the party of big business. The party for the capitalists. And it was big business, to a large extent, that were the main donors to the party.

The Labour Party had an opposite view of the world. `as their name suggests, they were the workers party. A party that reasoned that the best way for society to progress was for the state to control the economy and in many an industry for the state to take the reins completely and nationalize them.

That’s how it used to be between the two parties until the 1950s. Then a new word appeared in the political dictionary ‘Butskellism’ – a word that described the political consensus between Rab Butler from the Conservative Party and Hugh Gaitskell from the Labour Party.

Butler was the Conservative Chancellor at the time and Hugh Gaitskell was the former Chancellor in the Attlee government. under the influence of both a political consensus emerged. The two parties came to the conclusion that the economy should be a mixture of private and publicly controlled industries. And government’s role was to gently intervene in the economy. And this is how it was between the two parties until the advent of Mrs Thatcher as Prime Minister.

She broke the pattern and her party went back to its roots. many an industry was privatized. The old consensus was out and the party was back as a party of business.

She was so successful that she caused Labour to shift its principles. Old Labour went out and in came New Labour.

Under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown New Labour became the friend of the City and the business community in general. The constitution was changed dropping Clause 4 to break the links with socialism.

And thats how it remained. A socialist party changing to be a party and a friend of business. Breaking the harsh regulation over industries was the day’s mantra. The light regulation became apparent when our banks got into difficulties. And the economic difficulties we face as a country follow this ‘light touch’ regulation.

And now in the midst of another election, how in the world are we going to differentiate between the principles of the parties? Perhaps the old world of parties with principles and a core philosophy are over. Pragmatism rules. It will be one of the two pragmatic parties that will form the next government.

Perhaps the message for us the electors lies in Groucho’s saying. Will it be possible to influence the parties to change their principles to suit us?


Golwg column translation: The marvel of the rubber man

In the Llan fair, Llanllechud fair, I saw many a wonder of this old world. One that left a great impression on men was the indian rubber man.

As his promotional material described, the person could change his body to any shape, almost as if there was not a bone in his body. An exceptional talent.

Strangely the old indian rubber man came into mind in the Assembly recently. Why? As the ability to bend every way was prominent on the day of the civil service strike.

As in every strike the pickets were out encouraging their fellow workers not to go work. As a matter of principle and sympathy with the civil service strikers, Labour and Plaid Cymru Assembly members refused to cross the picket line.

The mantro of these Assembly Members was ‘I’ll be working somewhere else.’ And fair play to them members of the cabinet were to be seen working iin some of the best restaurants in the Bay and I have no doubt that the rest of the AMs were working hard in their constituencies. And that’s the end of the story.

Well, not quite. The Members of Parliament of the two parties under discussion were working in Westminster. Yes, they crossed the picket line. Of course, one would expect members of the government to be at their desks as it is they that are behind the dispute.

In the bone, it is the governments attempt to change the redundancy terms of civil servants is at the heart of the dispute. One would expect members of the government to work through the strike but their collegues on the back benches were also in their usual places. The picket line it seems was not a problem for them.

How were members of the same party able to make a different principled stand in the two places?

Welsh Labour Members of Parliament able to cross the picket line but their collegues an fellow members in the Welsh Assembly refusing to cross the line.

But it was even more difficult to understand Plaid Cymru’s viewpoint. In Westminster Plaid Members of Parliament expressed their sympathy to the stand taken by the Union but, in their opinion, it was important that they took part in the debate on the Budget.

But on the very same day in the Assembly there was an important debate in the Assembly. A debate on the order on the remuneration of members. After the whole debacle of MPs expenses one would have thought that the debate on how the Assembly was going to deal with the issue would have been regarded as important by all Assembly Members. No, clearly not. Only the Tories and the Liberal Democrats were present to vote n such an important Order.

How could a debate in Westminster by important enough to Plaid Cymru to cause them to cross the picket line but the same compulsion was not there for the Assembly? The ability for a party to change its shape to suit the occasion. An indian rubber party?

One member of Plaid Cymru did attend the Assembly on the day in question, Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas. And his explanation? Fulfilling his democratic duty.

Its a pit that more didn’t feel under the same obligation.