Archive for March, 2014

Political events

Week 23 to 28 March

Wales

Nice to see Wales’s developing its own political class with Stephen Kinnock, son of the former Neil Kinnock, been selected as the Labour candidate for Aberavon. He hopes to take over from Hywel Francis who is standing down as MP in 2015. Mr Kinnock is married to Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt but he is based in London.

The National Assembly for Wales’s Presiding Officer, Dame Rosemary Butler AM, has submitted evidence to a parliamentary committee on the future constitutional arrangements for the UK. She says that Wales’s voice must play a central role in any future negotiations with Scotland in the event of a “yes” vote. But she goes further calling for a Constitutional Convention to be established to look at the constitutional set up of the UK – regardless of how Scotland votes. Carwyn Jones has asked for one and been ignored by Cameron. But there is nothing like a Dame, so who knows, something might come of it.

 A Westminster government minister says that the Welsh Assembly should have more powers and, wait for it, more assembly members. Why? To hold the Welsh government  properly to account that’s, according to a Wales Office minister, Baroness Jenny Randerson.  She also said the model of Welsh devolution needs to be rewritten as it is “overly complex”. One wonders whether she cleared her speech with her boss, David Jones.

Should a back bench MP give evidence to an Assembly committee that is the question. According to Leighton Andrews, no. … “it would be constitutionally inappropriate.” Opposition AMs say “yes”. Assembly rules say “Committees may invite any person to attend meetings for the purpose of giving evidence, or providing advice, and may invite any such person or body to submit evidence and produce documents.”  So who do Labour not want to give evidence, one of their own, namely Ann Clwyd MP.  Ah! Enough said.

The good comrades of Labour are in Llandudno for their annual conference this weekend. It would be a shock if the event goes by without mention of how the Tories are unfairly attacking Wales’s NHS aided and abetted by their friends in the media. The bookies are not offering odds on this being said.

 Rest

Nicola Sturgeon the Deputy leader of the SNP came to Cardiff  to deliver the Wales Governance Centre Annual Lecture. She said the draft Scottish Independence Bill will be released for consultation before the Scottish Parliament’s summer recess. It will “enshrine Scottish values” and put in place the legal necessities, until a constitutional convention prepares a permanent constitution for Scotland in the event of independence. So a written constitution for part of these islands but not yet for Wales. (See: http://welshpolitics.co.uk/2014/03/write-it-down/)

 The funeral took place in Westminster of veteran Labour politician Tony Benn. A large crowd holding trade union and anti-war banners lined the route of his funeral cortege. Mr Benn’s long-time Labour colleagues were present as well as an interesting collection of others including Conservative grandee Lord Heseltine and Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams joined Mr Benn’s friends and supporters on the left, including George Galloway, Dennis Skinner and Ken Livingstone, and a rare public appearance from former miners’ leader Arthur Scargill, one of Mr Benn’s closest friends and political allies. A congregation that provides a living history of late twentieth century political events.

According to a survey by the BBC only 6% of social housing tenants in Britain who have had their housing benefit cut have moved home. Despite the government making great play of the fact that cutting benefits for tenants would free up larger homes. It just hasn’t happened. What has happened as campaigners predicted was an increase in rent arrears in 28% of those affected. Commenting the government said the change was saving taxpayers more than £1m a day. Yes, which was the purpose of the exercise. Now the government can claim the target of cutting the overall housing benefit bill. Yes, but the increase in rent arrears will eventually lead to evictions and problems for social landlords. Not only will their debts increase but their ability to invest in new homes will also be reduced. Meaning less new houses built which was another much proclaimed “key” target of government.

Polls

Wednesday

YouGov/Sun          CON 35%, LAB 37%, LD 9%, UKIP 11%

Monday

YouGov/Sun         CON 36%, LAB 38%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 10%.

ComRes/Indy           CON 31%(+1), LAB 36%(-2), LDEM 9%(-1), UKIP 11%(nc).

Populus                   CON 34%, LAB 35%, LD 10%, UKIP 13%.

 Sunday

YouGov/Sunday Times          CON 36%, LAB 37%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 11%.

European elections Survation/Mail CON 28%(+5), LAB 32%(nc), LDEM 7%(-2), UKIP 23%(-3), GRN 3%.

 Scottish referendum

Wednesday

YouGov/Times          YES 37%(+2), NO 52%(-1)

TNS BMRB                   YES 28%(-1), NO 42%(nc).

Sunday

ICM/Scotland on Sunday. YES 39%, NO 46%. Without don’t knows it would be YES 45%, NO 55% – a 2 point increase in YES compared to ICM’s February poll, but less than the 46% in their January poll.

 

 

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Write it down

240314-mh-Wales-Governance-MSP-65JPG-6871449The Scottish referendum campaign came to Wales in the form of Deputy First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.

She came to deliver the annual lecture to the Wales Governance Centre and announced the Scottish Government would publish a draft written constitution for an independent Scotland.

Without doubt the Scottish Scotland as another weapon in the campaign to win support for the ‘yes’ side, but that doesn’t invalidate the importance of such a publication.

Having a written constitution spelling out the rights of the Scottish people might stir Unionist politicians to offer the same to the rest of the population of these islands.

A constitution that spelt out the rights and even the obligations of the state to each individual in the country is overdue.  Such a document might start by describing us as citizens and not as subjects of the State.

It’s important that the contract between the State and the individual is spelt out.

Those living in Wales were described as living in a Principality. What did that mean?  Did it mean that the population of Wales were vassals to the English Prince of Wales.  Maybe ‘vassals’  no longer but what does the term ‘subject’ imply.

Then things changed, the population became hip and were living in “Cool, Cymru.”

Then along comes David Cameron to spells out, in the Olympic Park draped in the Union flag, his understanding of where we are and where Britain is.  Apparently, “It’s Team GB.”

‘The UK is a powerful brand in the wider world with a global reputation for being unique, brilliant, creative, eccentric, ingenious.” This is branding at its worse, but what the heck, given Cameron’s marketing background why expect better. Only Cameron could  make ‘Cool Cymru’ appealing.

There are plenty in Wales that don’t see themselves as “part of a winning team.” Nor do many have a stake in “the greatest ever union created by humanity.”

The recent budget underlines that it’s not ‘great’ in the way it treats many of it’s people. Look how it demonises, targets and punishes the poor.

It’s not a PR blurb that’s needed but a written constitution that spells out rights, responsibilities and underlines the States commitment to social justice that dictate the moral and ethical behaviour of those servants of the state that happen  to be the government of the day. If we’re better together let it really be ‘better.’

In raising the issue of a written constitution, the Scots have done us all a favour.

 

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Trains, travel and tax – the week in politics

Week 16 to 21 March

Wales

Air Carwyn as Cardiff Airport has been named so  a 9% increase in the number of its passengers since it was bought for £52m  by the Welsh government last year. Since May 2013, the business has seen 10 months of continuous growth. By the end of March, managers hope to break the one million passenger mark for the financial year. Not only did the Welsh government put the capital in to purchase they also gave the airport a £10m loan repayable over a 12 year period for renovations. Remarkable what a lick of paint can do, eh.

Attempts to move the Valley lines from its Thomas the Tank infrastructure to a modern electric railway have hit the buffers. It’s a massive buffer indeed – cash.  It’s about who’s going to foot the bill.  Carwyn Jones said that Cameron’s lot had agreed to foot the bill. The other Jones who’s Welsh Secretary maintains that there are documents that prove that the Welsh government had agreed to pay for upgrade. The Fat Controller needs to take a grip (see http://welshpolitics.co.uk/2014/03/running-late/)

The Welsh Affairs committee are off an a ‘fact finding’ visit to Patagonia for  six days at a cost of £50,000. Hope it improves relations between Argentina and Wales. It might if the don’t mention the Malvinas. How comforting to know that the Welsh MPs are working diligently on behalf of the people.

Another Wales bill starts its passage in the Commons. It’s a bill to right the wrongs of the original devolution settlement. It’s the third. But rest assured there will be more to follow. (See http://welshpolitics.co.uk/2014/03/financing-wales/)

Rest

The budget was announced on Wednesday. In all the excitement for the affluent grey voter, what was overlooked is that the cuts to public services continue unabated. So many those very same grey voters are dependent on will vanish in the next few years. Vanish never to return. (See http://welshpolitics.co.uk/2014/03/the-budget/)

Ed Miliband attends the Scottish Labour Conference to try to save the Union. His pitch will be Scottish independence and a Tory win at the next UK election would force the country into a “race to the bottom”. He will argue that Scotland and the rest of the UK will compete on cutting taxes and wages to compete globally. Meanwhile, Labour are promising to give Scotland power to vary tax rates by up to 15p in the pound, giving Scotland control of three quarters of the 20p basic rate of income tax. Devolving housing benefit to abolish the under-occupancy penalty, which opponents have dubbed the “bedroom tax” and giving the Scottish Parliament control over the administration of its own elections. Hardly a package that will quicken the blood like “Cry freedom.”

Polls

Friday

Scottish referendum

Panelbase/NewsNetScotland YES 40%, NO 45%, don’t know 15%.

This is the narrowest lead yet for the No side. It is entirely consistent with the 14 polls conducted since Christmas which show the Yes vote on about 42% after you exclude the “Don’t Knows”. There is no doubt that that the No’s lead is narrowing. The intervention of the Chancellor and the Governor of the Bank of England on the currency  debate did not reverse the trend.  Clearly, things will liven up more between now and September, the Unionists  will have to be a lot more specific on what they’re going to offer on Devo-Max if they are to gain back momentum.

 Thursday

European elections YouGov/Times. CON 24%, LAB 32%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 23%, GRN 5%.

 Sunday

ComRes/Indep/S Mirror CON 32%(nc), LAB 35%(-2), LDEM 9%(nc), UKIP 16%(+1).

YouGov/Sunday Times          CON 33%, LAB 40%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 12%.

Opinium/Observer                   CON 30%(+1), LAB 35%(+1), LDEM 10%(nc), UKIP 16%(-3).

 

 

 

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