Archive for January, 2011

No official campaign

So it’s now official. There will be no officially-designated lead campaigns for more powers for the Welsh assembly, according to the Electoral Commission.

With True Wales not applying for an official status and there being no other creditable application on the ’˜no’ side, there cannot be an officially recognised referendum campaign.

Why you ask? Well, because the law says you’ve got to have two sides designated or none at all.

With only the ’˜yes’ side seeking offical approval, there is no contest. Well no contest that has official blessing at least.

But worry not, for there are comforting words from Kay Jenkins, the Electoral Commission’s Welsh boss. She says that people will recieve an information booklet on the referendum shortly.

And more, much more than this, she says.

“A number of campaigners – including political parties, individuals and trade unions – have also already started their campaigns.”

She goes on to say, “So there should be plenty of opportunities for voters to hear the arguments of both sides in the media, in campaign materials and online.”

Of course, if she’s right, it begs the question why shell out public money on official campaigns when in her opinion the voters are going to be informed by the competing sides.

But is this true? It would take a brave person to wager that all those entitled to vote will know the why and wherefore of the referendum.

A significant number of people in Wales get most of their information from a news media that has an English only agenda. This referendum has a snowball’s chance in hell of being featuring by these news outlets.

But would a handout by the state make any difference. Would the Commission’s money make any difference? It is doubtful.

Not the way the rules are framed. To pay for back office functions but not for campaigning material is a nonsense.

A free mail shot reaching every household is only an advantage if you can afford to produce the material.Likewise to get people to sit up and notice in a free broadcast does not come cheap.

Clearly, parliament has laid down some crazy rules for the Electoral Commission to follow. Indeed they never envisaged a referendum that was backed by most if not all the main political parties.

Surely Parliament needs to look again at the issues raised by this referendum. A major overhaul is needed.

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Latest Poll results

Labour maintain their lead in the polls according to the latest ITV Wales/YouGov poll.

They increase their lead slightly on the December election to 46% and have a 13 point lead on their 2007 Assembly election results. Making a majority government a realistic aspiration.

Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives are running neck and neck with each other, both on 21%. A slight fall in the Conservative polling from their 23% in December.

The party that have cause for concern are the Liberal Democrats. They still remain in single figures in both the constituency and regional polls.

In Wales they poll much lower than their poll ratings in the rest of the UK. Here the daily YouGov’s poll for the Sun has them at 10% [ CON 37%, LAB 43%, LDEM 10%].

The figures would indicate that more of the voters in Wales are punishing Liberal Democrats for entering the coalition in Westminster with the Tories.

Again the polls show that voters are coming back to Labour in droves in Wales whilst it still remains slow progress in the rest of the UK. They have a stunning 25 point lead on the Conservatives in Wales which contrast with only a 6 point lead on them in the rest of the UK.

My analysis of how the poll translates into seats, of course, the usual health warning applies, and I presume a uniform swing and with Blaenau Gwent reverting back to Labour.

Given all these caveats, on the poll Labour would gain their much hoped for majority with 31 seats. But as the Chinese would say, be careful what you hope for, a small majority would pose a real headache for Carwyn Jones.

Management of government on a small majority causes logistic problems, he becomes a real prisoner to his group each one of which would have to be kept sweet. He might find it easier all round if the current coalition with Plaid Cymru were to continue.

Plaid Cymru on these figures, breathe a sigh of relief, for they remain the second largest party in the Assembly with 14 seats.

The Conservatives are on 10 and the Lib Dems 5. Despite the low poll rating for the Lib Dems, the list system works in their favour

Again the poll points to the ‘yes’ side looking forward to an easy victory in March referendum. Although there still remains a large number that indicate that they don’t intend to vote. Making a low poll a likely outcome.

ITV WALES YOUGOV TRACKING POLL.

Results of poll carried out 24th to 26nd January 2011. Sample size: 1113.

ASSEMBLY VOTING INTENTION

(compared with 2007 election and December’s poll. NB This month’s figures are weighted by likelihood to vote, unweighted figures are given in brackets)

If there were an election to the National Assembly for Wales tomorrow, and thinking about the constituency vote, how would you vote?

2007 Dec Jan

Labour 32% 44% 45% (47%)

Pl. Cymru 22% 21% 21% (20%)

Cons. 22% 23% 21% (21%)

Lib. Dem. 15% 6% 7% (7%)

Others 8% 6% 6% (7%)

And thinking about the regional or party vote for the National Assembly for Wales, which party list would you vote for?

2007 Dec Jan

Labour 30% 42% 41% (43%)

Pl. Cymru 21% 21% 21% (20%)

Cons. 22% 22% 20% (20%)

Lib. Dem. 12% 5% 8% (8%)

Others 16% 10% 10% (11%)

REFERENDUM VOTING INTENTION

(compared with December’s poll. Again, this month’s figures are weighted for likelihood to vote, the unweighted figures are in brackets)

If there were to be a referendum tomorrow on giving the National Assembly for Wales increased law-making powers, how would you vote?

Dec Jan

Yes 46% 49% (44%)

No 25% 26% (23%)

Don’t Know/ 29% 26% (32%)

Wouldn’t Vote

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The economy slows down

GDP Growth

UK output decreases by 0.5%

Real GDP quarterly growth

Real GDP quarterly growth

Output is down. The government blame the big freeze of December which put a stop to many an activity. Undoubtedly there is some truth in this.

But for the Chancellor to blame all of these truly dreadful figures on the bad weather is exaggerating his case somewhat. Its like the the railway bosses blaming the non-running of trains on the wrong type of snow.

The bad weather affected one month, December. This is the month that the nation spends regardless of the weather.

The ONS estimates that weather effects knocked about 0.5% off GDP so, even without the impact, the underlying growth picture is significantly weaker than expected.

These shockingly bad figures raise serious concerns over whether the economy is in a strong enough position to withstand the coming fiscal tightening. The prospect of a double dipped recession is real indeed.

Why? Well,there are other adverse forces in play, not least the impact of the latest VAT hike.

In addition the pressures on consumers from high inflation and weak wages growth, as well as weakness in some of the UK’s major export markets, all suggest that growth will remain pretty sluggish throughout the year.

On top of all, as the year progresses the government’s austerity measures will bite. Government will be taking money out of the economy again acting as a brake on growth. These latest figures show little sign that the private sector is in a position to take up the slack.

But perhaps the most worrying sign of the perilous road we’re travelling are contained in an other set of figures produced recently, that on mortgage lending.

Mortgage lending dropped to its lowest levels for ten years. It was a drop of 5 per cent from the previous year. It now stands at £16.8 billion. This lack of activity in the housing market has a knock on effect on the economy as a whole. Reducing further activity that could contribute to growth.

Indeed, these latest GDP figures show construction fell by 3.3% on the quarter after a near 4% increase the prior quarter. The figures are a stark reminder of the critical role that construction plays in the UK economy.

The Westminster government should reflect on these figures and question it’s rush to cut back the public deficit. These deficit-busting austerity measures cause a real concern about the future health and strength of our economy.

There many things in life that are better taken gradually. And this is one of them.

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