Archive for August, 2013

A short week in politics


Helen Mary Jones will see out her term of office as chair of Plaid Cymru at the party’s conference in October. She doesn’t intend standing for the post again to “to concentrate on my career and my family for a while.” She has ruled out being a Plaid candidate at the general election but said nothing about being an assembly candidate. Plaid will chose a new chair at its conference in Aberystwyth. Ladbrokes haven’t opened a book on who that will be, but if they were to, Dafydd Trystan would have very short odds indeed.

The Rest

Parliament were re-called to debate Syria and gave Cameron approval to conduct reprisals over the Syrian regime’s alleged gas attack on its own population. Cameron lost. 272 backed his stance but 285 voted against. See


Both Friday polls conducted before government’s defeat

Fri. YouGov/Sun         CON 33%, LAB 37%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 12%.

Fri. Populus          CON 33%, LAB 39%, LDEM 12%, UKIP 9%.

Sun.YouGov/S.Times CON 32%, LAB 38%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 13%.

Because of my two weeks off, the weekly review of the polls hasn’t appeared. Rather than outline all that have appeared whilst away here’s a summary.

The six point Labour lead has been typical in YouGov polls of late and begs the question why so much angst about Miliband. The other polls have not shown any significant movements either.


A touch of realism

photo+21This Almanac started the week discussing Miliband. And it quoted Harold MacMillan saying how “events” can disturb the best of plans. What happened in Parliament yesterday dramatically underlines the point.

David Cameron summoned back Parliament to debate the crisis in Syria. It was his judgment that the country should take military action to punish the Syrian government for what appeared to be a chemical attack on its own civilians.

Yesterday the Commons rejected the Prime Minister’s judgment. Parliament did the job its suppose to do, the legislature held the executive to account.

The government were poised to take part in an adventure the outcome of which was uncertain and might have made a bad situation a whole lot worse.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation there is little doubt that the big loser is David Cameron. One of the major planks of his foreign policy has been shot to ribbons.

He came back from Cornwall fully expecting a recalled House of Commons to give him his way for a US-UK military attack on Syria. He miscalculated the response of the country, Labour and above all members of his own party.

The recent history of our involvement in the politics of the middle east have made the nation extremely cautious of any further involvement in the region, and rightly so. It’s not a defeat on the scale of Suez which led to Eden’s resignation, but it certainly will weaken Cameron as prime minister both at home and abroad.

It’s a reminder to the country and members of his own party, that his writ is limited. Cameron hasn’t got a majority and  yesterday reminded everyone of the fact. But he hasn’t even got control of his own party.

Suddenly after a summer of questions being asked about the Labour leader the roles have been reversed it’s Cameron that is now seen as wanting. Never has it been so true that a week is a long time in politics.

The search for an international diplomatic approach based on international law is what Miliband wants for Britain. On this he has shown a better understanding of the nation’s will than the prime minister. The case for a measured approach to Syria goes with the grain of what the voter wants.

Voters are tired of politicians leading the country into foreign adventures. The country is no longer an imperial power. People want a foreign policy that recognizes this. If yesterday’s historic vote says goodbye to a foreign policy based on the illusions of a former grandeur, the country will be in a better place.



Syria – the debate

photo+2-22In Iraq ‘chemical’ and other weapons of mass destruction were used to justify war. In Afghanistan it was promised British soldiers would be in there a short time and not a shot would be fired, in Libya it was to save a massacre. The intervention by the UK and the west in general in the internal affairs of independent countries has been nothing short of disastrous.

Has it helped the countries concerned? The answer would be a universal no. Has it made the UK a safer place? Unlikely. Yet Parliament is again being asked to sanction another military venture.

Parliament is being reconvened to debate action against Syria. MPs have been here before; they were convinced by the ‘dodgy’ dossiers produced by Tony Blair to justify the Iraq war. One would hope that MPs will be less credulous this time and not being hoodwinked into a potential disastrous intervention in the civil war being waged in Syria.

What is certain that should there be an intervention the consequences could be far reaching and unpredictable. Britain would be well advised to proceed with great caution before engaging in a campaign with no exit strategy and with little idea as to what the outcome will be.

The correct policy should be to continue to use diplomacy to get the warring factions together and try to seek solutions; military intervention will not help such an outcome.

Indeed earlier this week the United States postponed a planned meeting with Russia to prepare the ground for a Geneva recall conference to attempt a political solution to the crisis that has befallen Syria. To move from talk to war is not the way to solve things.

The 40 Welsh MPs should take a stand and ensure that the UK does not throw more petrol on the fire that is already raging in the Middle East.

Labour, having dragged the country into disastrous campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, should wise up and not throw its support behind the government. Douglas Alexander is right when he say’s Labour is “not prepared to write the government a blank cheque” on military action. But he and his party would be wise not to offer any cheques at all.

Indeed the Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood in opposing military action has a better feel for what the people think. For according to a poll conducted by YouGov for the Sun the public remain overwhelmingly opposed to British troops being sent into Syria, but more importantly the poll also asked specifically about whether people would support a missile attack on Syria. 50% of people would oppose this course of action, 25% would support it. Even Tories are against missile strikes by 45-33% (Labour voters are against by 54% to 26%, Lib Dems by 47% to 27%).

Let good sense prevail and rule out military action.