Archive for November, 2014

Loads of lolly

Picture of moneyPoliticians are not universally loved. They are almost as reviled as journalists and estate agents. Although, unless you’re an anarchist of course, they are a necessary evil.

Somebody has to pass laws and hold government to account.  That somebody has to be paid.

The question is, “how much?”

The independent Remuneration Board that sets the salaries of Assembly Members say that from 2016 a backbencher should receive a salary of £64,000.  Thereafter their pay would rise or fall in line with average earnings in Wales.

No, no, no has been the almost universal reaction to the proposals. The voter sees it as yet another example of politicians getting their collective noses in the trough.

Sandy Blair, chair of the Remuneration Board, said that it was their aim “to set levels of remuneration appropriate for the growing responsibilities of the most important democratic institution in Wales. The Fifth Assembly, starting in 2016, will be a mature Parliament like those in Westminster and Scotland, with law-making and tax-setting powers and wide-ranging influence over Welsh life.

“With new responsibilities come new expectations on AMs. We are proposing a salary for AMs which reflects the weight of responsibility they carry.’’

A reasonable argument Mr Blair. Of course they’ve had new powers and new responsibilities devolved to them from Westminster.

So Mr Blair, a cunning little plan. If they’ve taking powers and responsibilities from MPs then surely that lot at the other end of the M4 need to have their pay cut to pay for the largesse coming to AMs.

After all why increase Welsh and Scottish MPs pay packets to £74,000 if they’re doing a hell of a lot less.

If MPs are paid less, AMs could be paid more  and Mr Blair’s wish could come true  “to attract the highest calibre people to be Members of the National Assembly.”



Voting fodder

photoThe Emily Thornberry tweet was a Godsend to Labour. It did Labour a great favour for it diverted attention away from how badly the party had polled in the Rochester by-election.

A party powering back to office should have won. After all it’s a seat that they held for 13 years until 2010. Ok not quiet on the same boundaries, but nevertheless a party aspiring to government come May should have done better than limp into third place.

Labour’s traditional working class voters feel let down and are turning to the new kid on the block, UKIP.  Not so much an ideological conversion but a “sod you all” protest vote.

A massive miscalculation was made in strategy. They had been working on the assumption that Ukip, by splitting the vote on the right, would gift Labour enough seats to steer them into government.

Wrong. Power has to be earned. It doesn’t fall into any party’s lap, like apples from a tree.

For it isn’t only Tory voter that are seduced by Ukip but as Labour has belated discovered, their voters too. Ok, not to the same degree but nevertheless in sufficient numbers to undermine Labour getting the keys to Number Ten by default.

Politics enters a new phase it’s goodbye the two party system and its hello multi-party politics. The combined polling share of Labour and the Tories has rarely been so low. The House of Commons, since the arrival of Ukip, has 12 parties and three independents.

The proponents of the first past the post election system argued that it worked.  It provided the basis for a strong government. Oh yes, a strong government and waiting in the wings an opposition party ready to take office. Tweedledum and tweedledee, politics.

Well, it’s no longer so. The duopoly has gone.  Now the voting system needs to change to reflect this.

Moving away from a system where a handful of seats decide who’s in or out of government would put the power back where it belongs in the hands of all the voters wherever they live.

Labour for instance might start thinking about the voters living in its heartland rather than Mondeo man and Worcester woman.

Elections should be about winning the votes of all the country and not a handful of fickle electors in marginal seats.


Weekly news

16 to 21 November


Peace and harmony has broken out and a deal has been struck as to who pays to electrify railway lines in the south Wales valleys. The answer is, Westminster and Cardiff Bay governments are splitting the bill in half. The UK government will fund the upgrade of the Swansea-London mainline by 2018 at a cost of £850m, and will put £125m towards electrifying the Valley lines. Reduced costs and increased revenues are expected to cover the rest of the project’s predicted £463m cost. So the original targets for completion remain in place. Electrification of the main line from London Paddington to Cardiff is due to be completed by 2017, and extended to Swansea by 2018. Electrification of the Valleys will follow shortly afterwards.

The Welsh Government have struck a pay deal with NHS staff. The deal covering 77,000 workers covers a two year period and includes a 1% pay rise from next April. There has been industrial action in England but it was suspended last week in Wales when the two-year offer was put to the unions and accepted. It includes a cash payment this year, the introduction of the living wage for the lowest paid from January, and a 1% rise across the board from April.

The Rest

Nicola Sturgeon was sworn in as Scotland’s First Minister. She takes over from Scotland’s longest serving first minister, Alex Salmond, who is now a mere backbench MSP. Salmond is likely to fight a Westminster seat. John Swinney becomes deputy first minister. Nicola Sturgeon is expected to set out her first programme for government, including planned legislation, on Wednesday 26th November.

Next year’s general election is “unpredictable beyond comprehension” according to Nigel Farage and on that there surely is agreement. His UKIP  notched up its second parliamentary byelection win in Rochester and Strood making them a party of two in the Commons. Ukip’s Mark Reckless defeated his former party by 2,920 votes inflicting a humiliating blow on David Cameron. The prime minister promised to throw everything at winning the contest and visitied the seat five times and ordering his MPs to each make at least three trips of course as we know Glyn Davies didn’t obey. UKIP got 16,867 votes, or 42.1% of the poll. His Conservative opponent, Kelly Tolhurst, took 13,947 votes (34.8%). The Tory vote fell by 14.4 percentage points. Labour’s Naushabah Khan came third with 6,713 (16.8%, down 11.7 points) and the Liberal Democrats just 349 (0.9%, down 15.4 points). The Lib Dems came behind the Greens, who polled 1,692 (4.2% up 2.7 points). UKIP did not receive the kind of result that makes the seat  a safe bet at the general election.

When all the grief should be going in the direction of the Tories, Labour again managed to shoot themselves in the foot in Rochester. Emily Thornberry tweeted a picture of a modest house draped with Cross of St George flags with a white van outside and the words images of Rochester. The tabloids described the tweet as snobbish and sneering. It certainly was crass. Not the best approach to winning working class voters to the Labour cause. Ed Miliband has sacked her from the shadow Cabinet.

The Polls


YouGov/Sun  Con 34% Lab 33% LD 7% UKIP 14% Green 6%


Survation/Daily Record Con 17% Lab 24%  LD 6% SNP 46% UKIP 5% (Scotland)

Opinium Con 34% Lab 33%  LD 5% UKIP 18% Green 4%



Ashcroft         Con 29%(-1) Lab 30%(+1) LD 9%(-1)  UKIP 16% (nc) Green 7% (+1)

Populus  Con 35% (+1) Lab 36%(+1)  LD 7%(-1)  UKIP 11%(-2) Green 5%(nc)

YouGov/Sun  Con 33% Lab 32% LD 7% UKIP 15% Green8 %


YouGov/Sunday Times  Con 31% Lab 33% LD 7% UKIP 18% Green 5%