Archive for January, 2012

No trip to seaside for Welsh Conservatives

The Welsh Conservatives are to scrap their annual conference with only two weeks to go. They’re replacing it with a rally. The big question is, why? 

It was only under three weeks ago that they were sending out invitations. It would seem quite bizarre to cancel it at such short notice. Their official reasons are here in quotes,

‘2012 is an important year for Welsh Conservatives and we need to continue the work we have begun in building our activist base.’   So there you have it. 

It’s an important year although there is no explanation as to why it’s so important. Surely if they are building their activist base, a conference would be a good place for all these ‘activists’ to meet and debate and discuss and meet their elected representatives.

But  ‘particularly important are the upcoming council elections across Wales, and in order to give these the fullest support, we are changing our plans for Welsh Conservative Party conference this year. The new format will be a one-day Rally launching our Local Government Campaign for party activists.’  

The local government elections are held every four year. The party has had all the time in the world to plan for the event. If the party runs the country with the same degree of forward planning we need to all start worrying.

No, none of the reasons hold water. 

There must either be a catastrophic fall in the number of those ordinary delegates wishing to spend two-days by the sea side in Llandudno that  they’ve had to cancel at the last minute. Or the recession is even deeper than previously thought and it’s even hit the Conservative party hard. So hard indeed that they worry they can’t pay the bills. It sounds like the real world, doesn’t it.

Of course, there could be a political reason. Cabinet ministers just don’t regard Wales as a priority and have just refused to commit to coming to the Welsh conference. Their trips out of London this year will be to Scotland to try to prop up the union. 

Or they will stay at home to help Boris remain as Mayor of London. In either event Wales is not in Central Office’s game plan.

The Conservative party Scottish conference is still to go ahead, as planned, even though there are council elections there. 

But there in lies the rub, Wales isn’t threatening to take its ball away and quit the Union. Those rebellious Scots get all the attention because of their tantrums. Result attention, for the Scots and Wales are put firmly in their place. No conference.  Spending money on a Welsh conference, where’s the gain?

So much for the independence of the Welsh Conservative party. 

Wales was waiting with bated breath to Andrew R T Davies’s first speech as leader of the opposition and leader of the party in Wales. Oh, sorry, got that wrong he’s not leader of the party in Wales that’s David Cameron. And as leader the PM’s,  told his Welsh membership to stand at ease until he’s ready to make an appearance.

Oh Mr Davies when will you get your first standing ovation from the members, not this year clearly?

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Plaid Cymru look at themselves

Dr Eurfyl ap Gwilym today published his conclusions on his look at Plaid   Cymru following their disastrous performance in the last Assembly elections. 

Short it is not. 

It contains 95 recommendations in eighty pages. It even manages to quote Niccolo Machiavelli 

‘One must recognise that there is nothing more difficult or more perilous to undertake, than to introduce a new system of government, for he who seeks to create a new order makes enemies of all those who profited from the old.’

Perhaps a more appropriate quote from old Machi would have been,

‘Everyone sees what you seem to be, few know what you really are, and those few, do not dare take a stand against the general opinion.’

So are these perceptions addressed, well yes, what wouldn’t be addressed in such a long report, but it’s not as if these have not been looked at before. 

Not some years back they had a relaunch in Carmarthen. There they dropped the Triban in favour of the Welsh poppy, change the name to Plaid -the party of Wales to reach out to non-Welsh speakers. 

But despite this, the view of voters about the party barely changed. It may have something to do with the party not being that enthusiastic about these changes. Certainly by the last election the party manifesto simply talked about ‘Plaid.’

Dr Eurfyl ap Gwilym frankly admitted the party has flat lined politically for  some years.

So to address the concern he suggested that the party should consider adopting the name ‘Welsh National Party’ as its English name. 

This will really be a change of culture. After all in the past Plaid Cymru apparatchiks would come down hard on any sub-editor that allowed `Plaid to be described as ‘Welsh Nationalists.’ Desperate times desperate measures, I guess.

On the vexed question of independence they are going to be more upfront. They are going to develop a constitutional route map to make the idea of independence more attractive. This they hope will win support for the next constitutional steps.

My guess is that as Harold Macmillan once said ‘events , dear, boy, events’ will dictate the route map. The map is likely to be drawn more over Hadrian’s wall than it ever will this side of Offa’s dyke.

For those who do not want to read the eighty odd pages, here are the key recommendations.

·         The establishment of a National Academy to revolutionise campaigning and organisation, as well as nurturing the community champions and national leaders of the future.

·         A radical modernisation of the party’s campaigning methods to create a permanently campaigning party equipped with the tools that are necessary for a modern 21st century party.

·         The establishment of a more effective mechanism for policy formulation. Ensuring that the skills of members, supporters and external experts are utilised in order to ensure better policy development.

·         An acceptance that the Party needs greater clarity over its aims in order to be able to present a coherent and united message to the people of Wales.

·         Fundamental changes to the Party’s structures in order to ensure clearer leadership and greater accountability from all Plaid representatives.

So there you have it. Plaid Cymru will now debate these recommendations, implement them and become the sleek winning electoral machine the aspire to be. That is of course if the party accepts the reforms.

But, perhaps, a bit of a give away was Dr Eurfyl’s comments in the launch, this is not the first time he’s written such a report for the party, he’s done it before and? Well, draw your own conclusions.

Oh, and just in case you wondered, they remain a left of centre party.

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What about Wales

What happens in Scotland will have real consequences for Wales. This blog has flagged this up frequently since Alex Salmond won his majority last May. 

David Cameron’s attempt to wrong foot Salmond by pushing for an early referendum and Salmond’s response has set off the referendum campaign. Salmond now declares it will be Autumn 2014.

So there will be two years of arguments about independence. It is already dominating the headlines and the airwaves of the UK media. 

If this last week is an indication, Scotland’s referendum will dominate the news agenda for the next two years. Will any Welsh issue make it on the agenda in this time? Unlikely. 

But Carwyn Jones was right to point out that if Scotland left the union the relationship of those that remained would have to change fundamentally. 

The rump of the UK Parliament after the Scottish MPs were taken out of the equation would consist of 550 MPs. 510 of these would come from England, 30 from Wales and 10 from Northern Ireland.

Then Westminster would cease to be a Parliament of three remaining countries but simply a Parliament for England. And Carwyn Jones’s response to such a situation, a demand for more MPs and peers from Wales and Northern Ireland. More politicians? 

Nice try Carwyn, but why would the Tory government want to give in to your demands. To negotiate you have to have something to give and you’ve ruled out independence, so the negotiating cupboard is bare.

Prime Ministers always think of their place in history so if Cameron was to see Scotland break away on his watch that would be a serious blow to his esteem. But once that had happened would he really be worried about Wales. Doubtful.

As Carwyn Jones has already publicly declared ‘it would not be a good thing for Wales to become independent. Financially it is not in our interest.’  

If this is true, and there are some that would dispute the case, surely it’s an admission  that Wales is a basket case that is wholly dependent on England. 

If that’s the case why, oh why, would Cameron grant Carwyn Jones more MPs and Lords. What would they do? Whinge for more resources? The Prime Minister may be many things but a masochist he is not. 

No, Carwyn Jones had better hope that Salmond looses his touch and that those Scots that want independence remain a minority. 

Opinion polls show that if the referndum was held today only 33% would be in favour with 53% against with another 14% not yet made up their minds. 

But if  a week is a long time in politics, two years is, well, long enough for the polls to change dramatically. 

So rather than whinge to Cameron for more seats Carwyn Jones would be better employed leaning on Darling and Brown to start campaigning hard, in their homeland for the Union.  

If they fail, the English might start questioning whether they would want Wales in their smaller Kingdom. 

Surely, now is the time for the Welsh Government to address the question of what it should do, if it had to go it alone.

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