Archive for August, 2012

In the eye of the beholder

It’s the first week in August, so its the national eisteddfod. This year in the Vale of Glamorgan. Its always a good place to catch up with Welsh politicians. And true to form within my first few minutes there were three presenting themselves. Politicians are like buses when you need them for a story none can be found when you’re out enjoying yourself three turn up.

But its the politics of Art that gets attention for my first blog from the Maes. It is always a source of some controversy the Art Council’s pavilion.

The Art world is entered at ones peril. The trouble is we all have a view. Yes, a bit like politics.

As a presenter of one of the BBC’s art programmes commented as I was doing my tour of the Arts pavilion ‘I don’t understand nor do I want to understand this conceptional shit.’ So there you have it. Art criticism at its most articulate.

This brings me to the winner of this years eisteddfod prize for fine arts – the gold award, no less. And the winner was….. Carwyn Evans for his work Docio. Translated as Docking.

Now as you  might gather it’s not without some controversy. But its conceptional art all right.

If that’s not to your taste how about a polystyrene Cildraeth cove by Alex Duncan. With the summer as it is your own indoor beach to give you that beach holiday moment without having to leave home.

If its a sense of direction you lack then Cecile Johnson Soliz’s work might set you right. Or maybe not. 

Andre Stitt say’s this is the perimeter. Or his other work is the Wladfa.

Some other selections just to give you a flavour. 

So much for the fine arts. Perhaps politics and economics ain’t to bad after all.


Lords dancing with joy

It looks as if Nick Cleggs cherished bill on the reform of the House of Lords is to be dropped by the government.

The Prime Minister has concluded that there is no way that he’ll get his own backbenchers to bite the bullet on Lords reform and rather than stand up to them, he’s bowed to the inevitable. The bill is likely to be dropped. 

Although as yet there hasn’t been a formal announcement, it is widely rumoured its going to be kicked into the long grass.

The decision will put real strain on the coalition. Nick Clegg will have seen plans for Lords reform and electoral reform for the Commons thrown out partly due to Conservative opposition.

But there may be some benefits to Wales in the fall out. It is almost certain that the Liberal Democrats will retalitate by kicking the legislation designed to cut the number of MPs to 600. 

This legislation was widely seen to be to the advantage of the Tories and to the disadvantage of the Liberal Democrats.  

In Wales the number of MPs were going to be reduced from 40 to 30 under the proposals. 

It is unlikely that there will be changes to either the Assembly or Westminster constituency boundaries despite the current consultation being conducted by Cheryl Gillan.

Pressure will likely raise its head in the Liberal Democrat conference to question the advantages to the party of being in coalition with the Conservatives. The party delegates just  love talking constitutional reform, the Welsh conference even wanted elections to the boards of national parks. How much disappointment they must now feel that their party has failed miserably to stop an unelected second chamber in the highest parliament in the land.

Labour will be blamed for the failure. Ed Miliband saw an advantage in not committing his party to a timetable that would have seen the passage of the bill through the Commons.

It now looks as Lords reform will not see the light of day for sometime soon despite the three parties having reform of the upper chamber in their manifestos.

Plaid Cymru were quick to discomfort the other parties. Dafydd Wigley said that it was extremely disappointing that such an important opportunity had been blown off course by an unholy alliance of Labour and Tory backbenchers.  

So it looks as if laws in the UK will continue to be made by unelected party nominees awhile yet.


Less in the pocket

Its not just the weather that is making for misery this summer. If the feel good factor is tied to how much we’ve got to spend then good reason for long faces. We’ve all got less to spend than any time since 2003.

If you take price increases into account, the amount we’ve all got to spend has fallen by 1% since the previous quarter, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).  And that’s after the tax man has taken his cut. 

These figures reinforce last week’s results on GDP growth. Those showed that UK economy shrank far more than expected.  The gloom that was announced then was of an economy  contracting by 0.7% in the second quarter of the year.  

The lesson, apparently, not learnt is that real incomes   drive the economy. ’˜Cos if we don’t have the income we can’t spend. What we spend in turn accounts for around two-thirds of GDP. 

So no cash, no sales. It’s not rocket science, but clearly beyond our Chancellor.

Squeezing families’ finances to the lowest level since 2005, is not a recipe for growth but for decline. Increasing VAT and cutting tax credits was and is just the wrong approach to the crisis. 

If such a policy is a disaster for the UK it is a catastrophe for Wales. 

With Wales’s GVA currently about a quarter less than the average for the UK as a whole. An economy of low wages, and a high dependency on benefits. It is sheer madness to cut these further and another argument why regional pay is a bad idea. This ain’t the way out of the economic hole we’re in. No, dear Mr Osborne needs to stop digging. 

The Silk Commission is beavering away looking at whether the Assembly needs powers over taxation. My advice to them is,  “pack up its bags and find something more useful to do.” 

Unless there is a change in the economy of Wales the tax raised here wouldn’t pay for an eisteddfod, let alone the expenditure of the Assembly. 

Raising taxes on a poor people is not a good basis for going forward. 

Devolving real powers over finance without devolving real macro economic powers is a disaster waiting to happen. 

Its not the Scots that need devo-max but Wales. And soon. 

All the signs are that UK economy is sinking. To be tied to a sinking boat is not the best of moves. Westminster’s economic management hasn’t after all been a success story. for Wales. Would getting Wales’s hands on the economic levers be any worse?