Friday, 28 October 2011

TV racing

Some of the regular followers of the Saturday racing blog have asked me to tip on races that they can follow on the television. How can one disappoint such pleading.

So as a one off, today, there are three courses visited, Newmarket, Ascot and Wetherby.

This will not happen to often. The fun is to tip and then see the horses in the flesh only a time traveller can get round to the meetings that form a television racing show. If anyone has seen me move, they’ll agree time traveller I am not.

Remember to back  horses with odds over 7/1each way.

2:05  Novae Bloodstock Insurance Ben Marshall Stakes (Listed Race)
Ecliptic [4th] is not going to be seen off if there is a stumble then Secrecy[1st] might take over.

2:15   Bet365 Mares´ Hurdle (Listed Race) Cl1 2m110y
Alasi [1st] will be the one that will be the most popular bets but Whoops a Daisy [2nd] catches my eye

2:30  Byrne Group Handicap Chase (Listed Race) Cl1 2m1f
Baseball Ted or Anquetta [1st]

2:45  John Smith´s Hurdle (Registered As The West Yorkshire Hurdle Race) (Grade 2) Cl1 3m1f
Fair Along[2nd]  could see off Restless Harry[1st].

3:00 Handicap Hurdle (Listed Race) Cl1 2m
Via Galilie [2nd]must be the leafing contender here Topolski also has promise

3:20  Bet365 Charlie Hall Chase (Grade 2) Cl1 3m1f
Diamond Harry [non-runner] or Time for Rupert[2nd]

3:40 United House Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3) Cl1 3m
Muirhead is the one to beat maybe Quinz could do it.

3:55  E B F "Mount Nelson" Montrose Fillies´ Stakes (Listed Race) Cl1 1m
Tactfully is likely to be favourite but Abishena [2nd] might be a more rewarding each way bet
Results in italics

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The agreement

Last night Europe replaced the sticking plaster with a surgical bandage.  The agreement reached should stop the rot for awhile but only if the fine words on economic integration become a reality.
So what was agreed? Like the sermons of old, there are three parts to the agreement.

Firstly, the banks that Greece is in hock to, will only get half their cash back. The other half is to be written off. This should make the country’s debt more manageable.
Secondly, the cash to throw at these problems, is going to be raised considerably. The bailout fund, called the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), is to be boosted to 1 trillion euros from the 440 billion euros set up earlier this year. There is only 250bn euros left  not enough to convince the markets. Now there much greater leverage.
There is a slight problem, however, getting the cash together.
The cunning little plan is to offer insurance to purchasers of eurozone members' debt. This will make these bonds more attractive to investors and in turn lower governments' borrowing costs.
In parallel, they’re going to set up a up a special investment vehicle and they’re hoping to persuade both big private and public investors to contribute. So shortly expect European leaders not on the slow boat, but on the jet plane, to China. Why? to get them to invest their big cash surplus.
The hope is to have things up and running by the end of next month.
The final part, is to insist that the banks raise new capital. 106bn euros by next June is the target the banks they’ve to meet. The hope is that this amount will shield the banks from losses should governments default.
Good though the deal is, and the markets have given it cautious welcome, it will only work if governments get to grip with their respective country’s economy. Left to their own devices there is no certainty that this will happen. So what’s to be done?
Well, the most significant part of the eurozone leaders' announcement earlier this morning, is the determination that there will be tougher controls in future on the budgets of member countries. There will be an integration of taxation, and a whole new framework for running the eurozone, including a new leadership structure.
If this happens the whole seventeen countries would have one economic policy and in effect would have become one big super state.
And where would that leave the UK, well outside and without influence.
Unable to influence an economic policy that will without a shadow of doubt have a real impact on the UK ‘s economy. The British would have the pretence of economic independence but this would be a pretence, the European super state would always be in the driving seat. It would be them in reality that would determine the economic health of most of Europe.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Economic Europe

A fortnight ago the Europeans said that they were on the verge of sorting out the debt crisis but now expectations are being down played.
Unless there is a major breakthrough today, to quote Private John Frazer from Dad’s Army, “we’re doomed, we’re doomed.”
In politics you can hype up proposals, under deliver later and usually get away with it. Why? Because the average voters memory span is just slightly longer than that of a goldfish.
Not so, when you’re dealing with economic issues. Financial Institutions make fortunes on the prediction game. Consequently, they weigh and balance every word uttered on financial and economic policy.
For European leaders to reassure that they’re on the verge of producing a master plan to sort out the crisis and then not deliver, courts disaster.  The disappointment felt by the market, almost certainly, will make a bad situation a whole lot worse.
Unless today’s Euro zone summit meetings produce a plan with two elements it will have failed. One element, actual wads of cash in large enough numbers to convince the market that there is enough firepower to deal with the crisis. This on its own will buy time. 

But to solve the problem a viable long-term solution that creates a healthy economic Europe, is necessary.
If either element is missing from the final communiqué the crisis will continue unabated and Europe will face a deep and long recession. If there are only warm words expect the worse.
Greece will default on its loans, banks will take a hit, some will sink, and there will be a domino effect. Trade throughout Europe will grind to a halt.
Only a believable plan will do to settle the market once and for all.
What should that plan be? Forget the finances, the only long term solution to the crisis is a single economic authority for the whole of the euro zone.
There are seventeen democratic countries in the Euro zone and each has an economic minister, consequently you have seventeen different economic policies to run one single currency. Result -chaos. 
To sort it out there needs to be one creditable economic policy. This can only happen with political union. Yes, a Federal Europe.
Now if today’s European summit doesn’t lay the road map for such a State, the markets will react accordingly. Yes, more misery for the citizens of the continent.
If, against all expectations, the seventeen decide to take that quantum leap forward and pool their sovereignty and move towards a Federal Europe, what then for the ten refuseniks outside the euro currency, of which the UK is, of course, one. 

Can the European Union go on with a single Federal State of seventeen countries at its core? The answer is likely to be,  no.
The EU that we know and love it will have changed so much that it’ll no longer be functional. A new relationship with the ten will have to be negotiated. 
New negotiations. What an opportunity for those eighty-one  that voted against Mr. Cameron on Monday to make mischief. They might yet see their dream come true and the UK out of Europe. Alas, England can again refuse to be part of the game. Wales and Scotland would have to forge their own destiny, maybe. 

What can be predicted is that Europe will dominate the political debate, awhile yet.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

A vote for independence?

If a week is a long time in politics, it only took a few days for us to witness two party leaders appealing to their parties for support.
Over the weekend Alex Salmond addressed his party conference and outlined the case for Scotland leaving the United Kingdom. He had a rapturous welcome by his party  members and even the Scottish voters are beginning to warm to the prospect if the latest opinion polls are to be believed.
Meanwhile in Westminster David Cameron appealed to his parliamentary colleagues for their support and their response was to give him a large raspberry. 
All he wanted was for them to not go in for gesture politics and vote for a referendum on leaving the EU. The majority of his back benchers chose to ignore his pleas. This despite him pandering to the anti-Europeans by agreeing with them that powers ought to be repatriated, but now was not the right time. It begs the question, when?
The one party leader is riding high, the other is a bust flush. You can decide in which category they fall in.
Clearly you can’t expect to sit at the top table of the EU to protect UK interests and at the same time send a message to very same body that you want as little to do with their rules as possible. And add, as a by the way, that most of us want to leave your club.
With more than half of David Cameron’s backbenchers prepared to vote against his wishes it is clear which way the tide is turning within the Conservative party – to be out of the EU. As a backbencher said last night after the vote  “the issue isn’t going away.”
In Scotland the ruling party there is united in wishing to leave the Union but the union they want to leave is the United Kingdom.
Similar aspirations. They both want to rule themselves.
But there are differences, whilst the Scots want an end to English rule, they still see membership of the EU in their national interest.  Alex Salmond, who was an economist before entering politics, can see real advantages for his country in membership of the EU.
It is quite conceivable that if Scotland gets its way it will be a full member of the European Union in a few years time whilst if the Conservatives get theirs, England will be out.
What about Wales? Currently, Wales is a net beneficiary of European aid. Its economy has been greatly helped by European infrastructure support. To be cut off from European funds would seriously damage the nation’s health.
Although it might ‘just’ conceivably be in England’s interest to leave the EU it certainly wouldn’t be in Wales's.
It would be ironic indeed, that in the process of winning power back to Westminster the Conservatives would have unwittingly given the movement for Welsh independence its biggest boost.
Has the momentum started by the Tories vote last night, unwittingly given Plaid Cymru a golden opportunity to push for a referendum on independence in Wales too?
A funny old business, politics.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Been here before

It’s ground hog day. Conservatives split on Europe again.
It caused discomfort to Mrs Thatcher, despair for John Major and now it’s here to haunt David Cameron.

In many ways the Prime Minister has only himself to blame. He promised a referendum on the Lisbon treaty and reneged. His excuse was that it had already been passed when he took office. Of course, forming a coalition with the pro-European Liberal Democrats had nothing to do with the change of action.

So having disappointed the rabid little Englanders in his party, they were determined to seek their revenge. The device used was Cameron’s populist gimmick of promising a debate on any petition presented to the Westminster parliament signed by over 100,000 names.

The euro-sceptics set about collecting the names, reached the target, duly presented it to parliament and voila, today’s debate.

Now these debates are only advisory. The government could have shrugged its collective shoulders and done precisely nothing about it, even if the vote was won. But no, in a display of machismo that Prime Ministers are prone too, dear David ups the anti.

He decides to place a three-line whip on his parliamentary party. Anyone disobeying can say goodbye to promotion whilst he’s PM. He’s deployed his heaviest armour. What now if a sizeable numbers of backbenchers disregard the whip?

On the issue itself nothing changes. The vote will be defeated, Labour and Liberal Democrats will see to that. But two things will change. In the first instance Mr Cameron will have a large group of semi-detached Conservatives on his backbenches and his authority over the party will be seriously weakened.

But more fatally, his future prospects will take a turn for the worst if the public see the Conservative party as split. Parties that are seen at war with themselves, seldom prosper.

Quite why the Tories get so hung up about Europe is difficult to grasp. After all it was a Conservative government that took us in.

It has never been an election winner. It is true that when asked in opinion polls a sizeable number of respondents say that they would rather be out of Europe than in.

But, and it is a mighty big but, when asked what they regard as the issue that most concern them, Europe is very low in the pecking order.

Voters are concerned about jobs, health, crime and education. These weigh more heavily with voters than Europe. So whilst voters express negative views about membership of the European union, it ain’t going to be the issue that decides where they put their cross.

Conservatives ought to get real on the issue. With forty per cent of our trade with Europe the priority should be to sort out the Euro debt crisis. It won’t just be Euro zone countries that drown, we’ll sink with them.

Less posturing by our politicians and more application to tackling the real issues would be welcomed. It’s the economy, stupid, not Europe.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Doncaster gets another visit

In order to fend off the threat of strike action by jockeys the British Horseracing Authority have changed the controversial whip rules.
Although the limit on strikes remains seven times in flat races and eight over the jumps they have dropped the five hits edict for the final furlong or after the last obstacles.

These rules will be applied retrospectively, so Christophe Soumillon, the jockey who rode our winning tip last weekend, Cirrus Des Aidles, now gets his £52,000 share of the prize money.  A happy little man who rightly gets the reward for presenting us with a winner.

This weekend another visit to Doncaster, let’s hope we have the same success as last weekend.

Remember horses with odds of over 7/1 are always worth an each way bet.

1.30         A boy named Suzi [2nd] or Hot Spice both have plenty to give  and should be worth looking at.
2.00         Marine Commando is good value but for me its Racy
2.30         Dreamwriter will be well backed but a good each way bet is Ballesteros
3.00         Camelot [1st]  will attract a lot of the money but Enke [non-runner] is a horse with a bright future
3.35         Deepsand or the unbeaten Ortac Rock [2nd]
4.10         It’s a big field which Ellemujie will surely be up there but Rio’s Rosanna [2nd]  should have a claim
4.45         Skilful [2nd] will undoubtedly be favourite and not many will go for  Hot Red Mamma  but this will be an each way bet of mine.
5.20         Another crowded field with Amelia Surprise a horse that is likely to improve but I’m going for Ted’s Brother. [1st]

May the luck be with you!

Results in italics

Thursday, 20 October 2011

More jobs to go

10,000 public sector jobs have gone from the public sector this last year in Wales according to a report from Accountants PwC and this is only the start, things can get a whole lot worse.
The further fall in Welsh jobs predicted by PwC just adds to the certainty that the Welsh economy will go into further decline and that a weak private sector will do little to mitigate the situation.
According to them they fear that the faltering economic growth, runs a risk of a double-dip recession. And in their report they make a plea to George Osborne to soften his economic policy of cuts pointing out that the private sector just was not producing enough jobs to compensate for those lost in the public sector.
They want the Chancellor to defer cuts on infrastructure and provide tax breaks to small and medium-sized enterprises to take on workers.
George Osborne is not alone in going in for a debt reduction programme the market is demanding debt repayment and that demand has seen savage cuts throughout Europe.

Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and of course Greece have seen massive cuts resulting in much lower living standards.

Of course, the more that budgets are cut it becomes almost impossible for those individuals and companies to earn the money to pay their bills. Debt repayment is less likely to happen.

All politicians are crying out for growth without any sense that it is the policies that they’ve embarked on, that are the biggest obstacles to growth.

Without jobs there is no spend. Without spend there is no growth. Without growth, debts don’t get paid. It’s simple.

President Sarkozy of France decribed what is happening as an ”unprecedented financial crisis.” Who can disagree?

But the first thing to do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.  We’re in that hole right now, so the government needs to change tack and quickly, before further harm is done to the economy.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Whose in the lobby?

“Property developers have mounted a “huge” lobbying campaign backed by the rich and powerful to alter radically planning laws in favour of development, the head of the National Trust has said.” So said the Daily Telegraph on its front page yesterday.

There were also other references to lobbying in the Palace of Westminster today.

The first was in Prime Ministers question time when the Leader of the Opposition raised the issue in relation to Dr Fox’s resignation. "We still don't know the full facts about this case: about the money trail, about who exactly in the Government met Mr Werritty. It is becoming clear that there is a network of individuals who funded Mr Werritty”

In the House of Lords their communications committee were told that investigative current affairs programmes such as Panorama and Dispatches were subjected to an
increasingly sophisticated and orchestrated campaigns against their investigations by PR companies and lobbying groups.

Now the three examples above show how influential the lobbying industry can be.

The government belatedly now recognise how lobbyists can influence the law making process and are preparing to introduce a register of lobbying firms in Westminster. Coupled with the government publishing details of ministerial meetings with lobbyists on a quarterly basis, as well as details of meetings with media executives and information about salaries and gifts received should do a great deal to clean up the system in Westminster.

But what about Wales?

Before the National Assembly built the new Senedd Building and the new debating chambers outside the old chamber there used to be a milling area. This used to be a good place for hacks to accost Assembly Members and question them on whatever the current story was.

Not only was it a good place for hacks to meet Members it was also used by professional lobbyists to catch up with Members and bend their ears.

The new chamber doesn’t allow the same ease of access so the creative lobbyist have found new ways of meeting with Members and Ministers to press the case of their clients. What no one has a clue about is how many lobbyists are there active in Wales, how often do they meet with Members and perhaps more importantly with Ministers.

In the fledging democracy that is Wales this lack of knowledge is unacceptable. There is a need to know. Open government demands it.

Undoubtedly, there are benefits for businesses and voluntary bodies in having a sophisticated, knowledgable lobby industry. They can save money and time in getting views to legislators. Lobbyists are typically very knowledgeable about the legislative process and know who the decision makers are. They can assist in the preparation and presentation of information, arrange testimony for Assembly committee hearings, and arrange and attend face-to-face meetings between their clients and Members.  These goals can have a positive impact on decisionmaking.

Good laws happen when practitioners feed into the process but bad laws can emerge when there is undue influence on the process. The danger is that large vested interests have an undue influence and the public loose out.

This is the first full session of the National Assembly for Wales with its new powers to make laws. It now needs to ensure that the laws it passes are for the benefit of all. Not laws that suit those with deep enough pockets to pay professional lobbyists to look after their interests.

The Assembly needs to look at establishing a code of conduct and a register of Lobbying firms working in Wales. 
The anonymous contact that phoned who said that the industry in Wales didn't need regulating underlines the fact that much of what goes on in the industry is done in the shadows, an open regulated system would be good for the industry as well as for our democracy. Perhaps, I should hire a lobbying firm to push for such changes.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The National Question

Political parties crave publicity. They crave such oxygen for they know that to be ignored inevitably leads to decline. Criticism is preferable to invisibility. Minority parties have to work hard to be heard.

Now that Plaid Cymru are no longer the official Opposition in the Assembly there is a danger that they might finds themselves increasingly marginalised and getting less and less attention.

OK Plaid Cymru might get a headline or two in the next few months as they conduct the leadership contest, but what then?
How will they grab the news agenda by the throat and demand to be heard?

More of the same will not do. To discuss the nuances of service delivery by the Welsh Government important though that role is, it is not enough. Even developing policies does not guarantee attention. After all the other parties are doing the same.

No, Plaid gets the attention when they’re dealing with matters of nationhood.  Whether they like it or not “independence” is the issue most voters associate with Plaid Cymru. After all that is why they were established.

Now as a party they’ve tended to play down this aspiration sensing that it commands little support amongst the Welsh electorate. They with some justification adopted a gradualist approach, taking the line that strengthening the National Assembly was their first priority.

Indeed they passed the opportunity to form a Rainbow Government with themselves in the driving seat in order to win over Labour’s support and more importantly their votes, to trigger a referendum on law making powers.

The National Assembly is now a law making body. So where next for Plaid? Their historic aspiration of “independence” now becomes centre stage. It’s centre stage because the SNP are going to have a referendum on the issue.

The Scottish referendum will dominate the political news agenda for the next few years.

Indeed Mr Cameron is taking the threat to the Union so seriously that he’s instructed cabinet ministers to visit Scotland to underline the advantages of the current settlement. A dubious strategy methinks, but nevertheless it shows Cameron’s serious intent to do all he can to keep the status quo.

So the debate on “independence” will be out there. So what will Plaid’s stance be? Should it ignore the debate or should it too enter the fray.

Plaid Cymru should now start pushing hard for a referendum in Wales. Why should the Scots have all the fun and all the attention?

If nothing else Plaid would be seen setting the political agenda again and the party centre stage spouting on about an issue that is close to its historic heart. The people of Wales might see the relevance of the party again and the haemorrhaging of its vote might stop.

And who knows, they may even succeed in building a head of steam for a more satisfying political system for the countries of the island that is Britain. If not independence, Federalism. 

Monday, 17 October 2011

Bankers out , OK

Is it 1968 again? For that was the year of worldwide protests. The spirit of change was in the air. Political orthodoxy was being challenged.

Last Saturday, saw a global day of action inspired by the US’s Occupy Wall Street movement and they in turn took their lead from the protests of the young in Madrid.

As Wales was closed down for sport this last weekend, the nearest protests against mammon took place in the grounds of St Paul’s Cathedral. An appropriate venue ‘cos it’s in spitting distance of the City, the financial centre of the country and as some would have it, the world.

And the purpose of the protest, to vent anger at reckless bankers who are to blame for the financial crisis that world finds itself in.

So the TV screens showed Sunday worshippers picking a path through a makeshift camp of around 100 tents erected at the foot of the cathedral's steps. A very gentile and a very British type of protest, methinks.

But the gentile and peaceful nature of the demonstration should not fool us. There is real anger out there with the bankers and the financial institutions who continue to get substantial bonuses. Yes, big pay-offs to them whilst many of the rest of the population are on their uppers due to the government’s austerity measures. A programme of measures aimed at sorting “the fine mess the bankers got us in.”

The response of governments? Weak and ineffectual. They’ve wagged their finger at the bankers with little effect. The bonus culture is alive and well. But for the rest, a series of measures that have cut back on economic growth causing an increase in unemployment coupled with reduced benefits. As the old song goes “it’s the rich that get the pleasure and the poor that get the blame.”

Governments have become blinkered in their response to the crisis. The approach has been to do as little as possible in the hope that the world will right itself. And against such complacency, people are rightly getting angry.

St Paul’s is just the start, all the signs are that there will be more demonstrations of this kind to follow.   Couple these with the Unions who are taking to the streets with widespread strike actions and the result will undoubtedly be worrying.

Chaos there will be for sure, but will there be more? Is change in the air?  Will political orthodoxy be challenged? In such turbulent economic times, who knows? As the Chinese  say "We’re living in interesting times."

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Frankel in Ascot

A short blog today because of the demands of another sport in the southern hemisphere but I can’t ignore Ascot. Why? It gives us another opportunity to see Frankel[1st] on the track. As the world’s highest rated horse will he confirm this status in today’s Queen Elizabeth II?
It is hard to see any other horse getting anywhere against him.  Possibly, Excelebration,[2nd] who has shown some form of late might get near and would be a good without Frankel bet. I doubt that any of the others will get near what is regarded as the best horse in the world.
1.50         Oipco British Champions Long Distance Cup 2 miles
Fame and Glory[1st] is the one to beat Opinion Poll[2nd] or Times Up could do it
2.25         Oipco British Champions Sprint Stakes (group 2) 6 furlongs
Deacon Blues [1st] is much improved and could take it from Moonlight Cloud
3.00         Oipco British Champions Fillies and Mares’ (group 2) 1 mile 4 furlongs
Vita Nova  from Ferdoos
3.35         Queen Elizabeth II stakes 1 mile (see above)
4.10         Oipco Champions stake(British Champions Middle Distance) (group 1) 1mile 2 furlongs
Dubai Prince or Cirrus Des Aigles [1st] has this race in sight for a while.
4.45         Oipca Future Stars Apprentice Handicap 7 furlong
Directorship or White Frost can take on Noble Citizen who does well here

Frankel did it by over 4 to 5 lengths and also as predicted our other choice  Excelebration came 2nd. Those that listened would have done very well. Frankel undoubtedly is the best horse in the world at this length. 

All other results in italic.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The dole beckons

The largest manufacturing plant in Britain is opening today in Wales. It will manufacture aircraft wings from carbon fibre. Good news for the economy of North East Wales and welcomed indeed.
Set against the latest unemployment statistics, it is but a drop in the ocean. The latest unemployment rate is 8.1 per cent with 2.57 million of our adult population out of work. It was seventeen years ago, when John Major was Prime Minister, that levels were as high
But, perhaps, most worrying, yesterday’s figures show youth unemployment nearly at a million.That’s roughly one in five youngsters without work. What the statistics show is that unemployment amongst  young people between the ages of 18 and 24 is increasing twice as fast as for the workforce as a whole and there has been a dramatic increase in long-term youth unemployment. Not a healthy state of affairs for such a large number of the nations young to be without a purpose in life.
These figures are an indication that the economy is slowing down and most economists are predicting that the labour market sadly, will get much worse before it gets better.
The government is being very successful in its aim of
cuts to the public sector thus  causing jobs to be shed. But what it has singularly failed to do is get the private sector to take up the slack. Whilst public jobs are being lost there is no compensating growth in the private sector. 
Without some stimulus of demand it is fantasy economics to think that the private sector will grow jobs that are hemorrhaging from the public sector. Government needs to do more that cross its fingers and hope that things will happen, it needs to make it happen.
Undoubtedly the move to more quantitative easing by the Bank of England and George Osborne’s ‘credit easing’ will help but money needs to move from the balance sheets of banks  into the real economy and soon, or the country will be looking at even more dramatic rises in unemployment.
The irony is that unless government takes some fiscal measures to inject demand into the economy, public finances will shift off track and Chancellor Osborne is less likely to meet his borrowing forecast of £122bn for this year.
Until there is devo max and Wales has control of all the economic levers there is a limit to what the Welsh government can do.
But it could do more. It can be a little more creative in boosting Wales’s labour market. It could support jobs through ‘short time working.’ More could be done to keep skill levels up amongst the unemployed so that their abilities don’t deteriorate whilst out of work thus making it even more difficult for them to get jobs.
But Carwyn Jones needs to push hard for borrowing powers for his government. It is at times like this that governments need to invest in large capital infrastructure schemes. Investment that could boost the Welsh economy and make it better placed to take advantage of an upturn when the economy eventually takes a turn for the better.
With the economy growing at half the pace it needs to in order to keep unemployment stable. That isn't going to change any time soon – in fact it is probably going to get worse.
It Westminster is not inclined to do anything then the Welsh government should. 
That something should be to demand full control of the Welsh economy. Yes, devo max. This is not a time for timidity but a time for assertive leadership. That would be properly ‘’standing up for Wales.”

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Another Commission

Cheryl Gillan, the Secretary of State for Wales, today announced the establishment of a Commission to review the present financial and constitutional arrangements in Wales.  Its Term of Reference is

“Part I: financial accountability
To review the case for the devolution of fiscal powers to the National Assembly for Wales and to recommend a package of powers that would improve the financial accountability of the Assembly, which are consistent with the United Kingdom’s fiscal objectives and are likely to have a wide degree of support.

Part II: powers of the National Assembly for Wales
To review the powers of the National Assembly for Wales in the light of experience and to recommend modifications to the present constitutional arrangements that would enable the United Kingdom Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales to better serve the people of Wales.”

Excluded from the Commission’s consideration will be the reform of the Barnett formula and borrowing powers. These are to be dealt with in separate negotiations, between the Westminster and the Welsh Governments.

It is anticipated that the Commission working under the chairmanship of Paul Silk will take about a year to produce its report.

But the Silk Commission is the latest of a long series of Commissions established to avoid decision making.

We’ve had the Richard Commission, Sir Emyr Jones Parry’s All Wales Convention, and two reports by Gerry Holtham. Surely evidence enough to provide even the most clueless politician with enough to take the devolution project forward.

If politicians with all the recommendations in the various reports can’t make their minds up on the way ahead, it’s difficult to know what they’re there for. After all we pay civil servants to not take decisions.

The danger is that if Wales doesn’t start setting it’s own agenda it will be overtaken by things that happen elsewhere in the kingdom. (See my last blog.)