Archive for August, 2011

It’s a bit of a cawl, me thinks.

Well, what is the national dish of Wales? Is it cawl, laver-bread and cockles, Welsh rarebit, Welsh cakes or none of these? Well, the answer is none of these if a petition that was handed in at the Senedd, today, has its way. For the petition extols the virtues of the Corn beef pasty.

Now quite why anyone should think that the Welsh Assembly should be able to pronounce on what our national dish should be is another question, it wasn’t part of the referendum debate as I recall and surely something as important would have been brought to our attention.

But two Conservative Assembly Members broke off from their holidays to accept the petition. So it must be important then, don’t you think?

Over two thousand people have already signed the petition and it has not even been seen in some parts of Wales yet. The aim of the organisers is to get over ten thousand names.

Quite what that will prove your guess is as good as mine, but there you have it.

Now this is a good silly season story and is likely to make the running in our media. Indeed it has already taken a bit of time on the morning radio programmes already. After all we’d much rather talk about this than the fall of Tripoli. And it will undoubtedly generate some column inches and airtime again.

These kinds of questions always stimulate interest and sometimes some heat. Who can forget the very heavy debate on who was the most famous Welsh person. It finally came down to a contest between Owain Glyndwr and Nye Bevan. If memory serves me right Nye Bevan won but at the time accusations of foul play, dirty tricks and general skulduggery were flying around. As if it mattered.

Now this current debate has been generated by Peter Foods, who yes, you’ve guessed it, produce, Corn Beef pasties. Well what a surprise there then. But who can blame their marketing department for trying, for that’s what marketing departments do.

If any blame is attached it is a to the media for running with such a stupid debate or to the politicians that accept such silly and frivolous petitions.

It is sad that this kind of debate generates more public interest than political issues that affect the lives of those living in Wales.

Of course, if anyone wants to comment on what should be our national dish their remarks will not be censored. I can’t believe I just wrote that!


We’re all off on a summer holiday, maybe!

What is it about politicians that they always feel that the world will stop if they dare take a holiday? Us mere mortals can take rest and recreation but they don’t seem to have the same requirement.

The question came to mind as a result of coming across the new Welsh Conservative leader in the Pembrokeshire Show.

He proudly declared that he wasn’t going to take a holiday. He was to spend his summer working.

Work presumably means politicking. Whilst the rest of the visitors to the show were enjoying such exciting events such as the parade of tractors and animal based pleasures, the politicians would do the ritual flesh pressing. Human flesh, of course. And in the case of Andrew RT urging his party in Westminster to repeal the laws on fox hunting.

In contrast the spiritual head of the Anglican Church Archbishop Rowan Williams was able to shed his Ecclesiastic duties, depart the corridors of Lambeth Palace turn his back on the Synod and take to the Pembrokeshire Coastal path.

The Archbishop will likely turn up to work refreshed. His energy levels up, batteries recharged, all the better to knock sense into the warring factions that constitutes the modern Anglican Church.

It never used to be so. At one time our politicians would take the summer off and leave the Palace of Westminster.

When Harold Macmillan wasn’t shooting grouse, he had a stock of books that he would plough through during the summer recess. Clem Attlee would spend his summers watching cricket and out of the public gaze.

Edward Heath when he wasn’t playing the organ would be sailing the oceans and Harold Wilson would take himself off to the Scilly Isles. There would be one photo opportunity, usually of him wearing unfashionable shorts and sensibly sandals, and that was the last we’d see of him until the party conference in October.

No one seemed to be one pennyworth the worse for these months of inactivity.

What has changed? Well, the nature of politicians.

Politics today is more of a career choice. At one time most politicians would enter parliament having done other jobs. Now the root to politics is through politics itself.

After leaving University you become a researcher or special advisor to a politician, this gets you known in the tribal world of the ‘party.’ In time you are rewarded with a seat and then you’re ’˜In’.

In the last Labour leadership election every candidate had been a special advisor before entering Parliament. Oh, all so similar – a small pool of life experience and back-ground. Was there a real choice, it was either Tweedledum or Tweedledee.

Politicians that know nothing but politics, have no other interests other than politics and have known nothing else.

Ideas and fresh thinking are commodities you buy into. Books and ideas are for other people ‘we’re doers.’ They’re consummate politicians Completely obsessed with being seen to be doing and if not doing, simply being seen. Either they do the rounds of summer events or they go on holidays not to enjoy, but as locations for a photo-ops that play up to the self-image.

What a life it must be, always to be on duty. It’s little wonder that these limited men and women get it wrong so often. They’re blinkered and usually tired.

Better government, demands that we tell our politicians to chill out. Get a book, get a life, and leave the rest of us to enjoy our summers.


Woe, woe and thrice woe

Riots, panic in the eurozone and the stock exchange seemingly in free fall, all happened in this last fortnight. This blog takes its annual holidays and all this happens.

In my old LSE days I would be quick to describe it as the death spasm of capitalism but as old Marx, Karl not Groucho was want to say, capitalism is constanly reinventing itself. Whilst it can’t be written off yet, it certainly looks a bit frail at the moment.

It is certain the world’s economy is slowing down and it looks as if hard times are ahead. The number of ships going through the Suez canal is down by 10 per cent.

Britain’s high street shops have seen a 2.6% drop in customer numbers over the past 12 months, according to the British Retail Consortium. The high street shops in Wales have seen a 9% drop in customer numbers and in Britain has a whole the drop is 2.6%

More than one in 10 shops (11%) on high streets and in town centre malls stood vacant in May, with the highest vacancies in Northern Ireland (17.1%), Wales (13.4%) and the north of England including Yorkshire (13.1%).

Household finances in Britain are deteriorating at a faster rate than at the height of the recession in 2009. Little wonder with a freeze on wages and inflation running at over 4%.

Mr Osborne had hoped that the export market would be the salvation but not so according to the think tank IPPR exports stalled in the first quarter of 2011.

The slow down in the economy impacts directly on employment. The latest figures released last week show unemployment in Wales having risen to 122,000. The Welsh jobless rate is now 8.4% the highest of all four UK nations. In England it is 7.9%, Scotland 7.7% and Northern Ireland 7.3%.

It is little wonder then that last week the FTSE 100 index fell more than 5%. There is little confidence in the economy out there.

Mr Osborne needs to think again on the way he is managing the economy and if he is to stubborn to change course then the junior partners in the coalition have got to stand up to him and insist or pull out before lasting damage is done.

Britain needs a package of radical measures, both fiscal and monetary, to stimulate the economy. Both national and devolved governments need to pass an emergency package of spending on public infrastructure.

Wales needs to electrify all its railways. New schools need to be built and investment needs to take place in new green technology.

Without a plan B, lets not kid ourselves the riots of the last fortnight will not be the last.