Archive for March, 2017

News of the week

Labour Conference make Carwyn Jones leader.

Carwyn Jones was elected in 2009 but it has taken until this year’s conference for Mr Jones to became Welsh Labour leader.

 Although everyone described him as Labour leader his official title was leader of the party’s assembly group.YOPYOR7sG2ArOVywksLczJjJZkrT6J6TP9pH4-fyY3w

 The conference formalised Mr Jones’s role as Welsh Labour leader. So its official Carwyn Jones is Labour leader in Wales. It’s only taken 17 years who thought a week was a long time in politics.

According to him he will be leader for a while yet. He has no intention of resigning until after the Brexit negotiations are done.

Meanwhile both he and the new shadow Secretary of State for Wales Christina Rees are down playing the party’s hopes in May’s council elections.

Carwyn Jones admitting it will be difficult to avoid losses and Christina Rees saying 4 May will be “tough”

Currently, Labour rule in 10 of Wales’ 22 councils and run minority administrations in another two.

 

Devolution Task force

More devolution is needed to save the UK is the conclusion of leading Labour politicians who met in Cardiff at the invitation of Carwyn Jones.

Labour’s devolution task force held its first meeting and it included exPM Brown and Labour’s Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale.

Meeting on the day that PM May triggered Brexit Carwyn Jones warned her if she refused to listen to the concerns of Wales, Scotland and Northen Ireland the UK could break up.

This view was echoed by Brown who said there was a need to “rethink the British constitution” giving more power to the nations and regions of the UK.

Labour’s aim is two fold, the Celtic wings of the party want more powers to be devolved from central government and are concerned about the rise of English nationalism and those from the north of England want to see a fairer distribution of resources  from London and the South East.

The group feel that the current constitutional arrangements are “no longer fit for purpose. ” Hinting that a new federal relationship between the UK’s nations and regions is the way ahead.

Considering that the Labour party is languishing in the polls, these ideas may be along way from being implemented and it is entirely possible that the UK would have broken up well before the advent of a Labour government. 

Some staff suspended

Government could take over health boards

 Welsh government are threatening to take over the running of three health boards if they don’t get their financial affairs in order.

The warning came as three health boards are facing big financial deficits.

Abertawe Bro Morgannwg, Cardiff and Vale, and Hywel Dda were placed under an increased level of scrutiny from ministers in September 2016, due to doubts about their ability to tackle the increasing defecit.

It is predicted that the three plus Betsi Cadwaladr in north Wales  which is already controlled by ministers under special measures, will overspend by £146m this year, that’s three times more than the figure for last year.

In answering  Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies description of the Boards  finances as “chronic” during First Ministers Questions Carwyn Jones said “We will look very carefully at what they are doing.12.10.10+mh+positif+politics+Pneumo+Report671

“If they do not come in ‘in-budget’ without harming services then we will have to look carefully at the governance of those boards.”

“We will not shy away from that in the same way as we did not shy away in dealing with Betsi Cadwaladr when that situation arose.”

In another statement to the Assembly the Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said the bills would get paid and there would be no interruption to treatment for patients.

He also warned that pumping more money into the NHS was not a “consequence-free game”, in relation to the impact on the funds available for other public services.

It looks like the direction of travel for health in Wales is a service directly controlled by Ministers in Cathay’s Park.

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The divorce letter

Well, the letter has been sent and we’re on our way out of the European Union for better or worse.

Only  29% think it will be for better according to a survey by  IHS Markit of  British households surveyed in March. In July  2016,  39% of the public believed that leaving the European Union would make Britain’s economy better off.

The share of households that expect economic prospects to worsen has increased from 42% to 53% over the same time period. Eighteen per cent anticipate no change.

The most marked turnaround is evident among the poorest paid, who have switched from being the most optimistic to now being the most downbeat.

This in part can be explained by the increase in inflation that Brexit has caused.

Another report by the  cross-party think-tank Demos say that Wales and Northern Ireland are most vulnerable to the economic risks posed by Brexit. Not surprisingly as both countries rely heavily on EU funding, exports to the EU and, in the case of Northern Ireland, a large number of European workers.

Little wonder then why First Minister Carwyn Jones and Leanne Wood are so concerned to ensure that Wales’s access to the single market continue.

But there is a paradox as the YouGov tracker poll which asks “In hindsight, do you think Britain was right or wrong to vote to leave the European Union?” has hardly moved since the vote which still shows as many people saying Yes as No.

What’s the explanation? Voters probably feel that once a democratic decision has been made, it should be respected, however uncomfortable they feel about the decision. It is important to respect “the will of the people” just as it is important to keep a contract even though you regret signing it. In common parlance you cut your nose to spite your face.

But today’s decision fulfills the contract with the people it’s now up to the negotiations. If the deal is not good enough then in a representative democracy we would expect our representatives to reject it and seek a new mandate from the people.

 

 

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“Cry Freedom” a second independence referendum

Backing Miliband?

Challenging May

The importance of the United Kingdom dominated the Spring Conference Of the Conservatives with Prime Minister Terresa May leading the charge against the SNP.

“The SNP argue that we should break up the UK because we are leaving the EU” she said. She continued  “…but three years ago they campaigned for a result that would have taken Scotland out of the EU altogether.

They are happy to see power rest in Brussels. But if those powers come back to London… they want them given to Edinburgh… so that they can try to give them back to Brussels.

And now they apparently say that an independent Scotland would no longer seek to become a member of the EU after a vote for separation.

It is muddle on muddle.”

Let battle commence

Despite May’s words to her members the battle between these islands two most powerful women will be intense.

Undoubtedly Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, wrong footing Terresa May by announcing the plans for second independence referendum on the morning of the day when the legigislation to trigger Article 50 was approved by Westminster.

Sturgeon dominated next day’s headlines. Giving the appearance that Theresa May’s announcement on triggering  Brexit was delayed until the end of March.

May had to turn her attention to Scotland and by the end of the week her view that “now is not the time”, and wouldn’t discuss a potential referendum before the Brexit negotiations are complete.

Sturgeon’s response insisting that the vote would happen on her timetable, while the first minister hinted at “other options” if she is formally turned down by the UK government.

May appeals to Brexit supporters in Scotland

May looks to be in the stronger position as her government can prevent a referendum by withholding permission, whilst  opinion polls do indicate that a majority of Scottish voters do not want a referendum without knowing the results of the Brexit negotiations first.

In appealing over the heads of the Scottish government, May’s position will play well both with voters most committed to Brexit and those fearful of greater uncertainty.

Two Parliaments at loggerheads

But the political wind will change when the Scottish parliament votes in favour of Sturgeon’s proposal on Wednesday. Sturgeon will claim to have a democratic mandate. This will rally supporters and create a Scotland versus Westminster fight. The debate will shift from the pros and cons of independence to who has the right to decide on the vote.

The question though is how long the UK government can delay even discussing a potential referendum. To do so for the two years of Brexit negotiations will be difficult. This will depend on avoiding a sustained Yes lead in opinion polls and is unlikely to succeed without a concerted and risky campaign warning about the dangers of independence to the Scottish economy, currency and borders.

So despite Prime Minister May trying to kick the ball to the long grass its unlikely to stay there for long.

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