Thursday, 28 April 2011

Will students skew results in Cardiff central?

2007 Assembly election results

Votes Cast
Randerson, Jenny
Liberal Democrat
Lent, Sue
Murphy, Andrew
Plaid Cymru
Mahoney, Kevin
Electorate 62,114 Turnout: 36.1%

This central Cardiff constituency includes the prosperous city centre,  and some of the rich suburbs such Cyncoed and Roath Lake. But it also contains some of the poorer wards of the City.
Various Universities and colleges are based here and consequently the seat houses the largest number of students based in any Welsh constituency, many of who are on the electoral register. The Liberal Democrats control the Cardiff County Council with many of their Councillors representing wards within the seat.

Political Profile
This is one of the safest Liberal Democrat seat in the Assembly. The seat was won by the now Lady Randerson in 1999 she held onto the seat until these elections. She is standing down and the candidate that the Liberal Democrats have chosen to replace her is a Councillor representing the Adamsdown ward in the constituency.

Labour, have chosen their unsuccessful general election candidate  to fight the seat.

The Conservatives held the seat in Westminster up until 1992 but due to boundary changes are now disadvantaged. They can no longer be regarded as serious contenders. The party seems to have acknowledged this by choosing an inexperienced young candidate who is gaff prone [see biog. below]. Plaid Cymru and the Independent have no chance and are not in the running.

It is very much a two-horse race between Labour and Liberal Democrats.

Labour has been campaigning hard amongst the students to exploit the sense of betrayal felt be students with the Liberal Democrat’s ‘u’ turn on fees. Many feel that this could be decisive in pushing the seat towards Labour. But with many students away for Easter and those remaining busy with finals the student vote is unlikely to be high.
The Liberal Democrats have a large majority and a very organized campaign so should in this seat buck their disastrous poll ratings. They will also be helped by many Tories voting tactically to keep Labour out.

Prediction: Liberal Democrat to keep hold of the seat

Jenny Rathbone
Jenny Rathbone - Lives in the constituency and is a journalist. She fought the seat in the general election and came second to the Liberal Democrat’s Jenny Willott. She’s a school governor. Worked as the programme manager of a Sure Start programme. She is also a member of a health trust. Is a member of the Unite union. 
Matt Smith
Matt Smith, a personal injury lawyer, was educated locally and has been appointed a Special Advisor on Education Policy by Welsh Conservative Party leader Nick Bourne.
His party has reprimanded him after comparing the left-wing Respect party to paedophiles when he was a candidate for the party in Tower Hamlets for a seat on this London Council.
Liberal Democrat
Nigel Howells
Nigel Howells has represented Adamsdown on Cardiff Council since 1999 and has been the Council's Executive Member for Sport, Leisure and Culture since 2004.
He is a School Governor at Adamsdown Primary and Stacey Primary Schools.
Plaid Cymru
Chris Williams lives in Dinas Powys with his family, where he serves as a Plaid Cymru Councillor having been elected to the Vale council in 2000.
He has served as a Cabinet Member on the Vale of Glamorgan County Council, and also as a Dinas Powys Community Councillor since 1992.
Chris was born in Grangetown, Cardiff and grew up in the city, being educated at Fitzalan Comprehensive and UWIC.
Mathab Khan
Taxi driver, who resigned his membership of the Labour Party over foreign policy and joined the Liberal Democrats but has since resigned from them because of their coalition with the Conservatives in Westminster.  He is chair of the Cardiff Hackney Cabs association.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A faltering economy

GDP Growth
UK output increases by 0.5 per cent

Real GDP quarterly growth
Real GDP quarterly growth

Forget interest rate rises in the near future, that is the underlining message of the figures on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) just published. 

The Bank of England cannot yet raise the interest rate despite inflation running at twice the government's target at 4 per cent because the economy is still in a fragile state. So an interest rate rise is unlikely until November at the earliest.

Although the GDP increased by 0.5 per cent, growth was held back by construction suffering a sharp drop. Construction output decreased by 4.7 per cent in the first quarter, compared with a decrease of 2.3 per cent in the previous quarter. The state of the construction industry is an useful indicator of whether there is confidence in the economy. 

Looking at the figures output in the UK economy has not improved for three straight quarters. This plateau shows that the economy has barely grown since September and is certainly lagging behind other leading economies.

On a more optimistic note manufacturing increased by 1.1 per cent compared with a similar increase of 1.1 per cent in the previous quarter. This tends to confirm the CBI's industrial trends survey of 451 manufacturers published yesterday. Of the 451 manufacturers that responded to the survey, 36% said they had seen an increase in output in the last three months, while 15% said it had fallen, giving a rounded balance of +20%.

However, despite these positive results the Monthly data from the survey showed 21% of manufacturers said that total order books were above normal, while 31% said that they were below. The resulting rounded balance of -11% is down on March (+5%). Which is again a worry that the bounce that we would expect in a recovering economy is just not there.
Overall the figures are mixed but significantly they are well below the Office of Budget Responsibility(OBR) prediction that the economy would grow by 0.8 per cent in the quarter.

This lacklustre performance of the economy raises serious concern whether the Government's deficit busting austerity measures is the right cause for the economy.

Of all the parties fighting the Welsh general election Plaid Cymru's economic policy would be the most relevant to dealing with these fragile economic figures. 

Their much criticised proposal to raise money for their Build4Wales company to invest in hospitals, schools,  housing and transport would seem to be the correct medicine to stimulate the economy.

For surely a classical Keynesian response to such low/no growth is exactly what the economic doctor should be prescribing. None of the other Welsh parties have come up with such radical medicine.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A look at Cardiff North

The blog now moves to look at the interesting seats in the South Wales Central region. It moves to this area having ignored the seats in the South Wales West region predicting that there is unlikely to be any shock results in that region. This analysis is based on the polling information that the tide is running Labour's way and are unlikely, therefore, to be worried by the challenge from the other main parties contesting the seats in the South West.

2007 Assembly election results

Votes Cast
Morgan, Jonathan
Howe, Sophie
Bridges, Ed
Liberal Democrat
Jones, Wyn
Plaid Cymru
Llewelyn, Dai
Electorate 65,554 Turnout: 51.4%

Cardiff North is a mixture of rich areas and poor. In the leafy suburbs you have the old garden village of Rhiwbina, which was set up to house the ‘artisan class,’ but has long since ceased to fulfill it’s original charitable objectives and now houses the professional and prosperous classes. Likewise Llanishen, and Whitchurch both of which would be seen as up market area of Cardiff. In contrast, there are less affluent areas such as Gabalfa and Llandaff North. These contain some very large Council estates.
Many of the voters are employed in the public sector; it has the greatest proportion of white-collar workers than any other constituency in the UK. The constituency has three hospitals .The University Hospital of Wales, which is Wales’s largest hospital, Whitchurch, which caters for those with mental illness and Felindre, which specializes in the treatment of cancer. It also has a large tax office and other government buildings
Political profile
Cardiff North was always regarded as a safe Tory seat. It and its predecessor seat Cardiff North West always returned Conservatives to Westminster. It fell to Labour in 1997 in the Blair landslide when Julie Morgan captured the Parliamentary seat. In 1999 Sue Essex for Labour won the seat in the Assembly election defeating Jonathan Morgan by a margin of 2,304 votes. She again repeated the act in 2003 but Morgan reduced her majority to 540.
Jonathan Morgan won the seat with what would seem to be a comfortable majority in 2007. But now faces Julie Morgan, as the Labour challenger. A re-run of the 2005 Westminster election when Julie Morgan was the successful Labour candidate and Jonathan Morgan was the loser on that occasion.
Both candidates have a track record of being diligent constituency members, and both in their different ways have a valuable contribution to make to the work of the Assembly.  Both sides are campaigning hard as one would expect in such a marginal seat.
The prospect of cutbacks in public sector jobs will give Labour a marginal advantage in the seat but are dependent on getting their vote out. The Tories would seem to be the better organized. But her charismatic husband Rhodri, the ex-First Minister, is helping Julie Morgan; his presence always goes down well on the doorstep. However, whether this translates into votes in the box remains to be seen.  The result is likely to be close. This is the type of seat that Carwyn Jones must win if he is to gain a majority.
Prediction: Labour gain 
Julie Morgan
Julie Morgan was a former Labour Member of Parliament for Cardiff North. She held the seat from May 1997 until May 2010.
Born in Cardiff and educated at Dinas Powys Primary School and Howell's School in Llandaff. She studied at King's College, London, and Manchester University. She holds a postgraduate diploma in Social Administration (CQSW) from Cardiff University.
Employed as a social worker with Barry Social Services, and an Assistant Director of Barnardo's. Councillor for South Glamorgan Council between 1985 and 1997 and was a Cardiff Councillor from 1995.

Jonathan Morgan
Jonathan Morgan has been an Assembly Member since 1999 First serving for eight years as AM for South Wales Central and then was elected as Assembly Member for Cardiff North in May 2007.
He is a graduate of the University of Wales, Cardiff, where he gained a degree in Law and a Masters degree in European Policy. Before election to the assembly, Jonathan was European officer for Coleg Glan Hafren in Cardiff.
After serving as education spokesman during the first assembly term – he was handed the health brief in 2003 he served as Shadow Minister for Health and Social Services for six years.
In 1997 he stood for Parliament in Merthyr Tydfil and was the Conservative Party’s candidate for Cardiff North at the 2005 General Election.
Liberal Democrat
Matt Smith
Matt Smith was born in Cardiff in 1988, and I was educated at Whitchurch High School and the University of Glamorgan. He currently works for a call centre in Central Cardiff.
He has lived within the constituency for about 15 years of his life.
 Plaid Cymru
Ben Foday
Ben Foday is married with three daughters, and lives in Cardiff. He was born and educated in Sierra Leone but has lived in the Welsh capital for more than 30 years. Ben served as a Labour Councillor between 1993 and 1999 but has been a member of Plaid for several years. His professional career has been in working for an employment agency. A well-known local campaigner, Ben’s political interests include social justice and economic development.

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