Archive for September, 2013

The political week

Wales

Carwyn Jones started his week by saying he wanted the Scots to stay in the Union but he was hampered in campaigning for such by the lack of action by UK government in pushing forward Welsh devolution. He wanted a constitutional convention and a written constitution that recognized devolution. See http://welshpolitics.co.uk/2013/09/i-belong-to-a-union/

More than one in three council housing tenants affected by the bedroom tax in areas across Wales have fallen behind on their rent since its introduction earlier this year, according to the Welsh TUC. If that’s a problem its nothing to what will happen when Universal benefits kick in.

There is more poverty in working households in Wales than in non-working ones, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The social policy research charity blamed “a low pay, no pay jobs market”. On average between 2009/10 and 20011/12, 23% of people in Wales (690,000) were living in poverty – compared with 22% in England and 18% in Scotland. So we’re still the coolly economy of these islands. See http://welshpolitics.co.uk/2013/09/poor-them/

The Rest

The Liberal Democrats leader blamed his coalition partners for delaying the devolution of financial powers. According to Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister the Conservative coalition partners are dragging their feet over the Silk Commission recommendations.  He said he supported the Silk commission’s “sensible” proposals and admitted he was frustrated by the delay in responding to them.

Nick Clegg closed Lib Dem conference with a speech much like a Baptist Minister’s sermon with 3 points. First, don’t trust the other two parties so put me in power again to curb their excesses. Why? That’s the second point. ‘Cos I’m really nice and from lowly stock. And anyway thirdly we’re in the centre of politics.  Gripping eh.

Squeezed in between the Liberal Democrat and Labour conferences this weekend will be UKIPs. According to the leader Nigel Farage, they as a party are growing up and have to be more careful in their public pronouncements as they are under more scrutiny. They intend fighting every seat in the next UK General election. There must be a few Tory MPs feeling a bit low at the news. But it’s good for the rag trade just think of the increase in blazer sales.

 Polls

Scottish referendum

Kicking off the year of Scottish referendum the polls show that the SNP have their work cut out to persuade their fellow Scots to voted for independence. A year is, of course, a long time in politics

 

Poll Date Yes No Undecided Yes lead
YouGov/ Times 18/9/13 32%, 52% 16% -20
Progressive Scottish Opinion/Daily Mail 18/9/13 27%, 59% 14% -32
Ipsos Mori/STV 18/9/13 31% 59% 10% -28
Panelbase/Sunday Times. 15/9/13 37% 47% 16% -10
ICM/Scotsman on Sunday 15/9/13 32% 49% 19% -17

 National Polls

Many got excited on seeing Labour and Conservative neck and neck on Wednesday and they are very close in Friday’s poll. But a word of warning, polls behave in strange ways during conference season. Don’t get over excited with any of the results, wait a few weeks so things settle and then we’ll know whose up and whose down.

 Friday

YouGov/Sun. CON 34%, LAB 35%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 11%.

 Wednesday

YouGov/Sun. CON 36%, LAB 36%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 12%.

 Sunday

YouGov/S Times poll CON 33%, LAB 38%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 12%.

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Poor them

P9130007What was flagged up in this blog about the bedroom tax has come to pass. In a survey by the Welsh TUC  they reckon that more than one in three council housing tenants affected by the bedroom tax in areas across Wales have fallen behind on their rent since its introduction earlier this year.

Figures provided by nine local authorities across show that since the bedroom tax was introduced this April, over 2,845 council housing tenants – 35 per cent of all tenants affected by the tax in these areas – have been pushed into arrears.

Yesterday, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation drew attention to there been more working families in Wales living in poverty compared to the number of out of work families.

Almost 700,000 people in Wales live in poverty – nearly a quarter of all people in the country, but its starkest finding shows that those who are working and live in poverty now exceeds the number of those who are not in work. 51% of working-age adults and children in poverty are from working families.

The research blames the rise of in-work poverty on underemployment – where people lack the paid work they want – and low pay. 30% of families working part-time live in poverty, compared to 7% for full-time working families.

Meanwhile, a quarter of employees earning less than the Living Wage of £7.45 per hour are in poverty, compared to only 3% of those earning more.

All the studies show that poverty is on the increase. The question is how is government going to respond. It seems that the government’s solution is to stigmatise the poor.

It stared with the Chancellor famously saying “Where is the fairness, we ask, for the shift-worker, leaving home in the dark hours of the early morning, who looks up at the closed blinds of their next-door neighbour sleeping off a life on benefits.”

This was the starting gun to the campaign to harden public attitudes towards welfare provision. The government were helped in this with lurid headlines in the right –wing tabloid press. A campaign that Ed Miliband and his weak need party does not resist but goes along with.

So the answer to poverty is to return to Victorian attitudes. Religious and voluntary bodies have responded with food banks of which in the last few years there’s has been a rapid growth.

But of course its not the lack of properly paid jobs and an inadequate benefits system that is driving people to the food banks, but according to Conservative MP Alun Cairns there are a “variety of reason: inability to manage money and to budget, addiction to alcohol or substance misuse, bullying at home, neglect by the benefit recipient and a range of other reasons.”

So there we have it- it’s their fault not the cuts and the austerity measures of the government. They are all the undeserving poor now.

 

 

 

 

 

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I belong to a union

P2260013Why is it that the politics of Scotland holds such fascination for Welsh politicians and even for that matter the Welsh media?

Now you can understand academics talking about what if questions, ‘cos that’s what they’re for. Outside the ivory towers why should the rest of the world worry about whether or not the Scots decide to ditch the Union?

Well Carwyn Jones worries because he hopes to take advantage so that he gets himself more powers.  In a conference organised by Welsh governance centre he set out his stall.

He has form in addressing the issue, having already written to David Cameron asking for a constitutional convention.  A letter, incidentally, that Cameron chose to ignore.

Not to be deterred the First Minister has made it known what he wants, devolution that is a “durable, lasting settlement according to key principles which apply equally to all devolved legislatures.”

He wants a new written Constitution for the UK. That constitution would be based on a presumption of devolution.  No cap in hand approach for more powers but it spelt out in a constitutional document that Wales has all the powers over its own affairs unless otherwise stated.

He dearly wants to tell the Scots what a good thing the Union is but he can’t do it wholeheartedly because he sees the UK government as dragging it’s feet on devolution.

More in sorrow than in anger he cites the lack of action on the Silk Commission as preventing him showing how committed the UK is to devolution.

With the Conservative Secretary of State very much in his sight he said “a mindset of drawing endless lines in the sand, resisting every proposal for further devolution no matter how reasonable, is doomed to fail”.

Such action weakened the Union rather than strengthened it. It provided succour for those that wanted independence.

Or in his own words “Hostility to reform ultimately strengthens those who argue the UK is incapable of change; it pushes people towards a polarising choice between an unreformed status quo and the slippery slope of separatism. We have to avoid such false choices. ”

But as the historian Marin Johnes told the very same conference people are not interested in constitutional matters all they care about is economics. Or put it at its most simple jobs and the cost of living. A message that politicians might reflect on, rather than talk about turgid constitutional matters.

 

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