Archive for October, 2014

Weekly post

19 to 23 October

Wales

The review of the week is a day earlier this week. The reason- the Almanac is   travelling to Plaid Cymru’s conference in Llangollen to listen to their leader Leanne Wood tell the delegates that there is disenchantment with Westminster politics because of austerity.  The line she is likely to take is that her party offers real hope and  a left of centre alternative to those disenchanted who have turned to UKIP.  More on this in tweets over the week-end.

There may not be a 11 Downing Street, but Wales moves to setting up a Treasury. See http://welshpolitics.co.uk/2014/10/its-so-taxing/

Some speculation on who will preside over the National Assembly after 2016. See welshpolitics.co.uk/2014/10/long-t…

Two deadlines for more powers for Wales were set during the week. Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb  set a deadline of St David’s Day next year to secure agreement on the future shape of Welsh devolution. He told MPs that he wants to publish “a set of commitments” on transferring further powers to Wales. Meanwhile, First Minister Carwyn Jones wants Wales’s future decided by January. Just like buses you wait for years for such changes and then they all come together. Jones’s deadline was made following a love-in by all the Welsh party leaders who passed a  motion urging UK ministers to devolve further tax-varying powers and to establish a new system intended to make it clearer what powers the assembly holds.

Back and forth the insults are thrown between Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford and the UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Following the latters claim that the NHS in Wales is a “second-class” service. Drakeford accused him of intending to selectively quote from a planned review of NHS services in the UK.  See welshpolitics.co.uk/2014/10/health…

Rest

It may be over a month since the Scottish referendum but their onward march for more powers continue. The Smith Commission on more powers for the Scottish Parliament has held its first meeting.  Lord Smith said that Scotland’s main political parties had “committed to work together to achieve a positive outcome”. Well, it sounds the kind of thing that is said on such occasions. The SNP, Labour, the Conservatives, the Lib Dems and the Scottish Green Party have all set out devolution proposals. The commission is expected to reach an agreement by 30 November.

Oh dear, Jean-Claude Juncker has rained on David Cameron’s parade by insisting that rules on freedom of movement in Europe cannot be changed. David Cameron has suggested the right of EU nationals to live and work in other member states could be qualified. But Downing Street insists on continuing their campaign to change this fundamental principle of the EU. Is it the same campaigning team that was to stop Jean-Claude Junker’s appointment in the first place one wonders?

It’s not all about Wales’s NHS. In England drastic changes to services and extra money are needed if the NHS there is to stay afloat. Bosses there have devised a five year plan these include GP practices offering hospital services, with the large GP practices employing hospital doctors to provide extra services, including diagnostics, chemotherapy and hospital outpatient appointments. In areas where GP services are under strain, hospitals could be encouraged to open their own surgeries. Smaller hospitals to work as part of larger chain, sharing back office and management services and larger hospitals to open franchises at smaller sites. Hospitals to provide care direct to care homes to prevent emergency admissions. Also Volunteers could be encouraged to get more involved, by offering council-tax discounts. Sounds as if the NHS is in crisis in England but you’re unlikely to read it in the Daily Mail anytime soon

The Polls

Thursday

YouGov/Sun            Con 31% Lab 33% LD 7% UKIP 15% Green 6%

Wednesday

Populus  Con 34% (-1) Lab 36%(nc)  LD 9%(nc)  UKIP 13%(-2)  Green 3% (nc)

Monday

Ashcroft         Con 28%(nc) Lab 31%(-1) LD 7%(-1)  UKIP 18% (-1) Green 8% (+3)

ICM    Con 31%(-2) Lab 35%(nc) LD 11%(+1)  UKIP 14% (+5) Green 4%

Sunday

ComRes/Sunday Indy Con 31%(+2) Lab 34%(-1) LD 7%(nc) UKIP 19%(nc) Green 5%(nc)

YouGov/Sunday Times  Con 32% Lab 35% LD 7% UKIP 16% Green 5%

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Health politics

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Woe, woe and thrice woe is the way some elements in the right wing English press have portrayed the NHS in Wales. Apparently Welsh people are fleeing across Offa’s Dyke to escape from the clutches of the Welsh health lack of care system.

Of course it’s just not in the press that the arguments have raged, the Prime Minister and the English Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt have pitched in with their penny worth on this devolved matter.

This is a second bite at the script that was started by the Prime Minister in the Welsh Conservative conference earlier this year in Llangollen. There he described the English border with Wales as the “line between life or death”.

Wow, panic all round, if it’s true. After all who would want to have their appointment with the grim reaper brought forward courtesy of Mark Drakeford’s NHS.

But hold on, is it the case? Not according to14,500 people from across Wales. They when asked about the NHS, 91% of them said they were satisfied with the care they received. Doesn’t seem that on the basis of this survey that a mass exodus to the English NHS is been contemplated any time soon.

But is the NHS in Wales  a “second class” service as Jeremy Hunt would have it? Well, not according to a reputable health think tank, the Nuffield Trust. In a study earlier this year they came to the conclusion that there was little to choose between any of the four countries of the UK in terms of performance. Now you’d expect Wales with an older and poorer population to be way behind England but according to Nuffield the country is very much holding its own with the rest of the UK.

Now this is a very different story to that depicted in the pages of the Daily Mail throughout the week. Let’s not fool ourselves there isn’t a new concern being expressed by the paper about the welfare of the Welsh. It has a tradition of knocking all things Welsh, it’s usually the language that’s under the cosh, but this week it’s the NHS.

But its not about Wales, its about England. To be precise who rules England after next May. They’re acting as cheer leaders to David Cameron’s attempts at winning next May’s general election.

Lots of English voters are unhappy with the way the Tories are running the NHS in England. Polls show Miliband out performing Cameron on the issue. So what’s to be done? Simple show Labour cocking-up the health service in Wales.  The Tories and their chums in the right-wing press hope that there will be guilt by association, elect  Miliband and Labour and … well, you get the message.

Expect more of the same between now and the general election. It’s politics. And they wonder why voters hold them all in such low esteem.

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Long to preside over us

Edwina_HartChange is in the air following the Scottish referendum and there is a consensus emerging that Wales will receive many more powers than at present.

Numbers will become important. Not how many AMs it takes to change a light bulb but how many are needed to pass laws and at the same time hold the government to account.

Debate rages as to whether the size of the Assembly should be increased or not. Even if there was broad agreement that there should be more Assembly Members its not likely to happen anytime soon.

At best it will not happen until the Assembly elections of 2021. With no increase in numbers but yet more powers its incumbent on the Assembly to up its game and work in a more effective and efficient way.

Procedure and the general workings of the Assembly is the prime responsibility of the Presiding Officer –Dame Rosemary Butler.  But she’s standing down.

Who will replace her becomes crucial to the future of devolved government. Her current deputy David Melding has the ability and is will regarded by all parties, but as a list member his return after the election is by no ways guaranteed.

So if not Melding, who? The original Presiding Officer Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas would be suitable, he certainly has proven he can do the job. But there is likely to be resistance to him returning to the job.

Who then? The answer is probably in the ranks of Labour. Step forward Edwina Hart.

In her many cabinet post, and they are many, she has gone out of her way to cultivate her opposite numbers on the Opposition benches. Not a bad tactic if you covet the job of Presiding Officer.

Who knows it could be Dame or Baroness Hart in no time at all.

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