Archive for September, 2012

To train or not to train? That is the question

The Assembly members are back from their holidays today. So it’s business as usual. 

The First Minister’s question time was a bit like Ground Hog day. All that listened felt that they’d heard it all before.

Bluster by the Leader of the Opposition, the First Minister blaming everything on the Conservative Liberal Democrat government, Leanne Wood completely under whelming and Kirsty Williams being her shrill self. Oh dear, next Tuesday will see it all happening again.

The media agenda today has very little to do with the goings on in the chamber. That’s a bit of a mercy.

No, the media agenda was concern over a raft of training  courses given to Assembly Members. Courses on how to be effective committee members. To be precise, how to best scrutinise ministers in committees. 

At a grand a session, a bargain if it raises their game. With an increased legislative programme they need to be on top of things. 

Mistakes will cost us dearly if matters go to the courts and lawyers get in on the act. Lawyers always have their collective   eyes on the main chance. Why should the tax payer add to their bank balance because Assembly Members haven’t done their job properly. 

Whilst training is under discussion it might be of value to throw in the four party leaders into the pool. On the job training is needed to prevent the embarrassment that is now First Ministers question time.

Some have questioned this expenditure as a waste of public money. But all organisations and employers ought to be constantly  reviewing the training needs of the work force. Politicians should not be treated as an exception.  

Wales needs to raise its game if it’s to compete in the modern world. 

God knows our politicians need to raise theirs. If training helps, bring it on I say.

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Governor King got it wrong

King at last states the bleeding obvious. If the economy is not growing the government should stop making things worse by continuing to cut. 

It is a conversion of a kind, from the man that up until recently was four square behind the government’s debt reduction plan. King acted as Hardy, to Osborne’s Laurel. And it was a fine mess that the two of them got the country into. 

But in his first live interview for years, Sir Mervyn King acknowledged the weak pulse in the country’s economic body consequently more cutting would kill off any hope of recovery.

He now sees it as ‘acceptable’ to miss the self imposed target that Osborne had set for clearing the deficit. Well, hooray.  

It doesn’t require a PhD to work out that if the economy is on the skids you don’t improve things by taking more money from people’s pockets to prevent them from spending on goods and services. 

King’s utterances will be good news to the Liberal Democrats on the eve of their conference in Brighton. The prospect of tax rises and more welfare cuts in chasing an economic policy based on debt-cutting would have caused more unhappiness in the rank and file attending the south coast resort this weekend..

Now at least they can talk about how to stimulate the economy and reject the tired old mantra of cuts and more cuts. Even they realise that time is getting preciously short to turn things round. 

It’s the economy, stupid. And it’s health determines whether they’ve any chance at all of saving their political skins next election time.

Now they can at least hope that the conference darling, Vince Cable, will announce some economic goodies that might bring some hope to a party that has sunk behind UKIP in some recent polls.

It will be interesting to see whether the Liberal Democrats in government will have any influence on Osborne’s Autumn statement which strangely is delivered in winter – December.  

Osborne and the Treasury will have a lot to explain. They have been wide off the mark in predicting spending and tax receipts.  But no surprise there, then. They’ve been consistently wrong throughout this economic crisis.

From the start they’ve been widely optimistic. Like the dutiful hack that I am I recall sitting in the Commons hearing Osborne predicting that the economy would grow by around 5% by the end of 2012. Oh, how he wishes. 

Instead the Osborne cuts, with King as his cheer leader, produced the opposite. Growth evaporated and a double dip recession is what, as we say in the valleys, occurred.

Sir Mervyn has at least acknowledged the Bank of England got it wrong. 

Is it to much to ask with one politician saying ‘sorry’ this week that Osborne will also say ‘mea culpa’ . Humility and Osborne don’t readily come to mind. The odds of him holding  is hands up and say ‘I got it wrong.’   are roughly the same as you’d get on a snowball’s chance in hell. But we live in hope.

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Swearing oaths

A story that is over an year old has just reemerged as from  nowhere. What and why?

First, the what. 

It’s about Leanne Wood the Plaid Cymru leader. No, not her conference speech last Friday, but about an oath she took on the day the Queen opened the current session of the Assembly last June. It was an oath expressing allegiance to Welsh republicanism. Taken in, the appropriately named, Mischiefs wine bar.

It was in a meeting held under the auspices of Balchder Cymru a radical nationalist group.

Now a film of the event was placed on youtube at the time. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ffBpnIWHRA&feature=relmfu). 

But at the time the story was drowned by the preoccupation in the media with Ieuan Wyn Jones, the then leader of Plaid Cymru, deciding to take his holidays and missing HM’s visit.  

At the time  Leanne Wood’s oath swearing seemed to be a passing footnote in history. It was dismissed as the usual suspects showing their leftist credentials

But, of course, the world turned upside down. Against the odds this radical, oath taking republican became Plaid Cymru’s leader. And as consequence her past became of interest to her political opponents. So a bit of oath swearing between consenting adults becomes in the hands of a practitioner of the black arts political dynamite.

But the puzzling thing is why did her political opponents decide to use it now. Which opponents we don’t know, but the finger of suspicion points to Labour. They’ve  form in using their opponents past to cause havoc. And indeed it’s Labour that have been using the social media to spread the story.

It’s not a surprise that they’ve trawled the web to find this damaging story, but the surprise is that they’ve chosen to use it now. 

Now we’re all used to political parties trying to spoil each others conferences. Indeed some more cynical of the press corp thought that last Friday’s event organised by the  Welsh Government to celebrate our Olympians was an attempt to steal the limelight from Ms Wood’s conference speech. 

But to push this story after Plaid’s conference is inept. Surely it would have been more effective to keep it in the cellar and brought out at a time when it would have done some real damage to Plaid. Election time, comes to mind.

At a time when Labour’s riding high in the polls and there is little sign that Plaid Cymru under Ms Wood’s leadership is making any headway, why now? Unless, of course, that  there’s some private polling that shows that Leanne Wood is more of a danger than seems apparent to the rest of the world.

Of course, there could be another more sinister explanation. It may not be Labour at all. The culprit could be  someone from Plaid Cymru itself. There have been mutterings of  disenchantment with her leadership. As Harold Macmillan once said your opponents are opposite, your enemies sit on the benches behind you. It might yet again be proved to be a very apt in this context.

There is a lesson here to all ambitious politician, be very careful who you share a platform with. Today’s comrades in arms, could be tomorrow’s liability. 

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