Archive for July, 2013

The week in Wales and beyond


Housing and Regeneration Minister, Carl Sargeant announced that from October, householders would be able to carry out additional changes to their property without the need for planning permission. Owners could build a larger range of extensions and garden buildings, without submitting a planning application. Some real neighbour disputes in the offering, me thinks.

The Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board fully accepted the criticisms made by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and the Wales Audit Office and set out an Action Plan to deal with the problems highlighted.

Yet, another critical report on the state of one of our hospitals. This time it’s the University Hospital of Wales, the country’s largest hospital, that’s in the firing line. A report by the Royal College of Surgeons described some of the hospital departments as “dangerous” and patients “dying regularly” while waiting for operations. The most common problem was the inability to admit patients for scheduled, or elective surgery.

Hoping to make political capital in the Royal Welsh show the Conservatives launched a “Taste Towns Wales” initiative to promote local produce. But their initiative wasn’t to the taste of Welsh Government who claimed the Tories were asking the government to back something they were already funding. Blame it all on the hot weather, politicians being tetchy with each other.

Inward investment into Wales reaches a highpoint according to the latest UK Trade and Investment annual report. Wales saw a 191% rise in the number of projects, compared with a 41% increase in Northern Ireland, a 16% rise in Scotland and a 10% increase in England, excluding London.

The Rest

The Prime Minister wants greater regulation of online pornography and is going to pressure the companies that run search lines to do something about it or else he’ll legislate. But says he would not support a ban on topless images such as page 3 of the Sun. That’s up to consumer choice, he reckons.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, decides to wage war on payday loan firms such as Wonga. But unbeknown to the Most Reverend no one told him that his very own church had invested cash in funds that provided cash for Wonga. Red faces all round.

GDP figures were up to 0.6% in the second quarter. Is a recovery underway? The answer is very much a, maybe. (See

 This week’s poll


Polls ending 26 July

This week saw a Welsh poll produced on Tuesday, which has been included as the last entry on the graph. It shows Wales having a very different profile to the rest of the UK. See:

Thur. YouGov/Sun         CON 35%, LAB 39%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 11%

Tues. TNS BMRB         CON 28%(+1), LAB 38%(+2), LDEM 9%(+1), UKIP 16%(-3)

Mon. YouGov/Sun         CON 35%, LAB 38%, LDEM11%, UKIP 10%

Mon. Populus         CON 32%(+1), LAB 39%(nc), LDEM 12%(nc), UKIP 9%(-1)

Sun. YouGov/Sun. Times         CON 32%, LAB 39%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 11%,


The green shoots?

The economy grew in the last quarter.  A cause for rejoicing? There does seem to be a difference of view amongst politicians. Nothing-new there then.

First off the block was the Conservative Shadow Minister for Business Nick Ramsay AM, who said, surprise, surprise  “These figures are an extremely encouraging sign and I wholeheartedly welcome this further proof that the UK economy is on the mend.”

Not to be out done the other partner in the Westminster used it to justify their co-habitation agreement. Their Assembly Member Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Economy, said, “This is welcome news.  Our economy is showing strong signs of recovery, but we still have a long way to go and there can be no room for complacency.   The Welsh Liberal Democrats are committed to finishing the task of recovery, creating jobs and making Wales and Britain’s economy strong again.

“The UK Coalition Government was formed at a time when the country’s finances were in complete ruins.  After wrecking the economy, Labour spent the last years rubbishing the Coalition’s growth plan. They were wrong. Slowly but surely the plan is working and the economy is recovering.” So there you have it, if it wasn’t for us you’d be in the mire.

Plaid Cymru shadow economy spokesperson Alun Ffred Jones who said “Plaid Cymru is hopeful that the Welsh economy is finally turning the corner, but there is still a great deal of work to be done in creating better paid work in Wales. With the three London-based parties all signed up to further weakening the economy through more cuts to vital services, it is more important than ever that Plaid Cymru are the party who will stand up for the people of Wales.”

And through gritted teeth Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith, commented by saying “We’ve had three wasted years under this Tory-led government so today’s growth figures are welcome and a small step in the right direction. But they’re also long overdue. We’ve had the slowest economic recovery in over a century and growth has been a fraction of what Cameron and Osborne told us it would be.”

Well those are the fairly predictable views of the politician but is it good news and are we now back on the road to recovery?

The quarter saw the Gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 0.6% compared with the first quarter and it was in all four of the main industrial groupings (agriculture, production, construction and services). So that’s a cause of good news indeed.

But hold on the Chief statistician of the ONS Joe Grice made the point that UK GDP is still 3.3% below its all time peak in 2008.  So things are not quiet as rosy as the headlines would make out. At the current rate of growth it will take us another eighteen months to get back to that level. The US and German economies, by contrast, have recovered to their pre-crisis levels. France is also near that point.  So we’ve got a long way to go.

Further more, in a rare note issued after this month’s meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee, the Bank of England said: “There have been further signs that a recovery is in train, although it remains weak by historical standards and a degree of slack is expected to persist for some time.”Q2

So there we have it, forget politician speak, what we have is very welcomed but it is unspectacular.

But will today’s news make us feel better. Unlikely. Wages still drag behind the rate of inflation. So people are worse off.  However the politicians spin it the economy has a long way to go before prosperity returns.


Unto us a son is born



Oh, how the British like a bit of a do. But does hanging around for a baby to come constitute a do, I’ m not sure. But if my colleagues in the media had their way we’d all be popping champagne now.

Whilst many found the last few days source of joy, I found the whole circus depressing. It’s depressing to see normally intelligent professional skeptics suspend their judgment and become sycophants.

If the Welsh Assembly decreed to suspend the process of holding elections and the sons and daughters of the existing lot would serve for the next century, the population would rightly resist or at least one would hope so.

Yet, having the head of state chosen on the same principle for the next 100 years is a source of joyous celebration and anyone disagreeing is seen at best as eccentric and at worse as some dangerous radical.

Now if, god forbid, I had to undertake surgery in the Welsh health service and the surgeon’s only qualification was that the parents were surgeon’s I would have some concerns. That’s an understatement I’d be kicking and screaming to get away from his or her knife. Is it so different when it comes to the merits of who is head of state?

But clearly it is. The carpet unquestioning coverage of the birth of the heir to the throne thrice removed, would not be out of place in an authoritarian country. Where was the dissent in the so called pluralistic media.  Ok, you wouldn’t expect better from our tabloid press, but were was the “other” view expressed on TV or radio. What ever happened to balance?

There is another point of view that should have an airing in the media in a “democratic” country. Should the  inhabitants of Wales be ‘subjects’ or ‘citizens.’? If there is to be a Prince of Wales, should it be birth that decides it? Can the UK be regarded as a democracy if the head of state is the latest in a line that started with robber barons? Should the laws of the land be decided in part by an unelected second chamber?

All questions that legitimately could have filled the airwaves instead of the boring, endless drivel that’s been spoken these last few days and on the other countless royal events that the nation’s ‘subjects’ are far to often spoon fed.

There is something fundamentally sick about a society that entrenches the hereditary privilege at the centre of  its existence as a state.  But if  this week is anything to go by, that ain’t going to be changing anytime soon.