Thursday, 21 April 2011

Manifesto time

Elections may come and go but what stays on, if not forever, but until the next time, are the manifestos.

Each party produces them. Some are glossier than others. But all have one thing in common; most if not all head for the council tip or in these times the recycling service, without been read by the voter. So why do they bother?
Ever since Robert Peel introduced his Tamworth manifesto all political parties have followed the practice.
The purpose of the manifesto is to make things clear and conspicuous. In other words, they should spell out what the various parties have in mind for the voter. That is, of course, if they get their grubby hands on the levers of power.
Manifestos’ also provide us with the best clue as to what will stay and what will go in the event of no party having an overall majority and they have to cut a deal to form a coalition government.
So what do the manifestos say about the economy?
Now the more observant of you will say, why deal with the economy at all?
The economy is not in the hands of the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG). It is not a devolved matter.
Yes, you’re right. 
Control of the whole economy is firmly with George Osborne and his Liberal Democrat chum Douglas Alexander. It is them there in the Treasury, as we Valley boys would say, that are in charge. 
But you might be forgiven for thinking otherwise when you listen to the politicians. There is endless talk about the economy  on the stump.
And why? Well, as the ‘blame culture’ is intravenously introduced into politicians along with their mothers’ milk it is well neigh impossible for the poor dears to conduct an election without pinning all the woes of the country on another party. As Laurel told Hardy “it’s another fine mess you’ve got me into.”
So the state of the Welsh economy is the fault of, and here you have to perm any one or perhaps two out of four. 
The last Labour government for getting us into such a state of penury, the current coalition government for cutting the public finances too soon and to deeply. The Liberal Democrats for backing the Tories.
Or even Plaid Cymru for going into bed with Labour. But why Plaid Cymru for they surely have nothing to do with the economy.
Well, yes and no. Of course they’ve nothing to do with the big picture – macro economics, but the micro – well what happens or doesn’t happen to help industry here in Wales is very much a matter for the WAG and the Minister in charge of that aspect of the economy was none other than the leader of Plaid Cymru, Ieuan Wyn Jones.
It is on this aspect of the Welsh economy that the party manifesto’s deal. So let’s take a closer look at what the parties have to offer.
Now in the last economic crisis, how did WAG respond? They set a number of economic summits with attendees from the CBI, TUC, the voluntary sector and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all.
Out of one such summit, the much-praised ProAct scheme emerged. 
You may think that one idea from a series of meeting to be meagre pickings indeed, but not our politicians. In their world such summits were a great success. So into the manifesto it must go.
So Labour proudly announce that it “believes that a social partnership, ‘Team Wales’ approach to the economic and social well being of Wales is vital over the next term of the Assembly. Central to the recovery the First Minister will build on the new relationship the Assembly Government has with the business community and our social partners to create the flexible framework and conditions needed for companies and businesses to thrive and grow.
So there you have it, Wales being Wales the big idea - more meetings.
Yes but, says Plaid Cymru, we’ll go one better. “Plaid will make Government more responsive to the needs of our economy by appointing a Minister for Economic Renewal with overall responsibility for business, infrastructure, skills, higher education and innovation.  This department will also be responsible for business rates.  We will publish an annual report on the performance of the Welsh Government in delivering a better infrastructure, more effective business support, a broader and deeper skills-base and the encouragement of innovation.”
Can’t wait to read the annual report. Will we be able to write it in comments such as ‘will have to do better’ and other polite phrases? But whom do we send it to and who will take notice of it?
Hold on say the Conservatives  “We will be the new voice of enterprise.” So now we know.
And forget that idea of summits for “Only effective policies [meaning theirs] can help bring about the level of enterprise we desire. It is the natural enterprise of the Welsh people that will achieve this transformation. It must be our role in government to enhance this enterprise and not stand in the way with out-dated policies.“ 
Meaning what then? No more of these large summit type meetings.
Well, maybe or perhaps maybe not. They want to “Create a stronger Council for Economic Renewal (called Enterprise Wales) to give the private sector a larger projects and initiatives.role in public policy.”
 So now using the natural enterprise the Conservatives say we Welsh have, I search for in vain for a big meeting in the Liberal Democrats plans and refreshingly there is no mention of large economic type fora.  They want to “focus relentlessly on the need to create a vibrant economy.” And they isolate two problems with economy ”our skills levels are not high enough and our economy is not fit for the 21st century, so we will have two priorities – improving skills for everyone and making sure that we have innovative companies to compete with the best in the world.”
 Now some measure of agreement, they all want to grow the economy and they all want us to be better trained.
So Labour will offer 4000 apprenticeships every year for young people. Liberal Democrats will offer £2000 for businesses to spend on staff training if they give jobs to young unemployed people.
Not to be outdone Plaid will support 30,000 apprenticeships and we will extend the Young Recruits programme, which provides a wage subsidy to employers taking on additional young apprentices.
The Conservatives offer to facilitate work placements with small businesses to mentor and train young people who lack skills and experience, and who cannot embark on an apprenticeship. And for all us over 40’s they will offer a skills audit and advice on skills improvement to us all.
An area of training that we ‘enterprising Welsh’ might consider is in IT. Why? 
Because all the manifestos are hot on Wi-Fi.
Labour wants all our homes to have access to next generation broadband by 2015.
Plaid Cymru will pioneer major improvements in mobile phone, 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi coverage across to make us the first Next Generation Broadband nation in the UK with high- speed links to all businesses in Wales by 2015 and every home by 2020.
Not surprising the Conservatives will “work with the private sector, EU and UK government to deliver universal broadband coverage and 85% high speed coverage. We will work with providers to improve mobile coverage, particularly in rural Wales.
The Liberal Democrat are also going to use private sources to invest in broadband. But will use  the money for broadband to establish ‘Wi-Fi towns’.  
Now this is simply a flavour of their manifesto’s on the economy.  If you’re an anorak you can access the full manifesto on each party’s web site. Provided you’re not living in a wifi hot spot  and have got your IT skills up to date.

Hughes's glossary of manifesto terms.

Seek to ensure – means it happens if it does
Review – it means we’ll look at something but not necessarily take any action.
Refresh our actions - do the same as we’ve always done
Hold an inquiry – kick into the long grass
Set up a commission – in the event of a coalition kick into the long grass our coalitions partners ‘must have’ policy.
Work with – let others do the hard work and if it’s a success, take the credit

No comments:

Post a Comment