Monday, 30 January 2012

Taxes or cuts?


So Stephan Hester is not to take his £1m share bonus and Mr Milliband claims it as a victory of sorts. He even goes further and says that Labour will put further pressure on RBS executives to rein in excessive bonuses. 
Labour described RBS employees as public sector workers and that the party would be taking a close look at the bonuses offered to the bank's senior staff.
Now this is all fine and dandy, and lets face it, plays well with most of the voters. God knows the Leader of the Opposition could do with getting a few things right with the electorate. 
Certainly on this issue he wrong footed Mr Cameron who was seen as slow to react to the anger felt by many at the obscene size of this and many an other bonus.
But by pinpointing on the bonus culture they’re missing the main point. Labour have for far too long been afraid to tackle the whole issue of taxation.
If the rich had to pay taxes on their income and wealth the bonus payments would not matter as much. But of course they don’t. 
It took an American Billionaire to point out the inequity of the system. Warren Buffett, a billionaire investor, famously complained that his secretary pays a higher rate of tax than he does.
Hence, Mr Obama in his state of the Union address last week making a renewed call for his Buffett Rule - a principle that millionaires should not pay a lower tax rate than typical workers.
Far from following a similar line Labour in their period of office went  in the  opposite direction. 


Their policy on taxes, helped the rich at the expense of the poor. Taxes on income were reduced and the emphasis was on indirect taxes such as VAT which bore heaviest on those least able to pay.
Both parties are still wedded to a deficit reduction programme that’s about cuts to the public services and public expenditure generally and not about the government increasing its income through the taxation system.
In re-election year President Obama has recognised the importance of fairness when he said last Tuesday, "We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by.
"Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”
Surely a message that Labour ought to take on board. But disappointingly, Milliband has been very quiet on the issues. 
According to the test of public opinion by polling organisations voters would welcome a wealth tax on the rich, mansion taxes and what Europe are about to introduce, a tax on financial transactions. 
So a fair taxation system is what many in the country are crying out for. Why are Labour so reluctant to embrace redistribution of income and wealth. Are they finding it difficult to break the habit of of kowtowing to the rich. 
Perhaps, Mr Miliband ought to reflect on what his happening over the channel There the Socialist candidate for President, Fran├žois Hollande is pushing ahead in the polls with a policy promise of taxing the rich and then putting  the money into public services. 
A lesson there, young Eddie, my lad.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Who'll lift the gloom


There was no snow to blame this time so it must be the eurozone's fault for the 0.2% contraction in the UK economy. 
“It’s not me guv.” was David Cameron’s response to our shrinking economy. With our economy going backwards, yesterday, both our Prime Minister and Chancellor chose to blame the euro crisis for the rotten state of our economy.
But, the fact of the matter is, that the economy has been flatlining since 2010 a point that Ed Miliband was quick to jump on in yesterday’s exchanges in the House of Commons.
Even Sir Mervyn King is predicting that the road out of recession is going to be “arduous, long and uneven.” 
The austerity road that the government was determined to travel on is in large measure the cause of the country’s economic malaise. 
Despite the International Monetary Fund urging the government to ease up on the cuts agenda, the government has persisted with it, even when all the evidence points to it making matters worse.
In such circumstances you’d think that Labour would be shooting at an open goal. Indeed Ed Ball’s predictions have come true. He’s been warning for a while that the government’s policy would result in bringing about that double dip recession. 
Yesterday’s figures surely point to that state of affairs being just round the corner and there's plenty of anecdotal evidence that we’re already there.
But the opinion polls show that Labour are not making an impact. Voters still believe the rhetoric of the Chancellor that we’d be just like Greece if we hadn’t gone down the road of severe cuts. 
It is certainly true that the credit agencies have been sympathetic to the Osborne view of the world. The policy the Chancellor sold was that cutting the public sector was the way forward. 
But, and it’s a very important but, these agencies swallowed the Chancellor’s line that parallel to the severe cuts in the public sector, the private sector would see real growth. 
This has not happened. An austerity policy without robust growth results in higher deficits. So yesterday Britain’s national debt hit a massive £1trillion. This alongside unemployment of over two and a half million. 
My prediction is that credit agencies will reflect this. You don’t need to be Mystic Meg to see Britain following France and loosing its triple A rating. 
Whether the Opposition are able to capitalise on these developments is highly unlikely. 
Miliband’s leadership has been inept in many areas not least in their approach to the economy. 
Last week was a prime example of them  shooting themselves in the foot. They confused the voter by talking about what they would or wouldn’t do after the election. 
Their new line is that they will stick with the present governments cuts. For months they have been attacking the very same government for cutting too fast and urging them to grow the economy. It seems that they're been advised by Confused.com
A party that doesn’t offer hope, and persists with the same solutions as the existing government, will not win support. The voters will stick with the devil they know.
Miliband will have to shape up and soon or it won’t be just Plaid Cymru that will be holding a leadership election this year. 

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Referendum talk

Elin Jones one of the Plaid leadership candidates says that there will have to be a referendum on independence in Wales should they as a party win power in two successive elections.


That is a mighty high hurdle to set. It is tantamount to saying not  for a long while yet. After all Plaid Cymru's track record in winning elections ain't that great.


But is that what it will take for  Wales to have such a vote. Unlikely. It could happen a great deal sooner than that. Why? Well, if Carwyn Jones gets his way and a convention is set up to look at all aspects of the Union and there are proposals to set up a Federal system. Surely, such changes would have to be voted on in a referendum of the Welsh people.


As even the smallest steps taken in the journey of devolution in Wales  has been subject to a referendum. It's  inconceivable that such a major change to the governance of the Kingdom would happen without the people having their say.


If you're asking people to vote for a new union then they must have the opportunity to say "we want no part of it". In other words the independence question must be an option on the ballot paper.


Isn't politics wonderful,  the party whose raison d'etre is independence making it clear that there won't be a vote taken on the issue for sometime yet. Whilst  the unionist Labour Party by it's action likely to bring forward such a vote.


It's a funny old world.


The following is a short extract of Carwyn Jones's press conference where he makes the call for a convention.


You will hear in answer to a question of mine the mention of the dreaded "Federal" word.
Carwyn Jones presser (mp3)


Monday, 23 January 2012

New arrangements?


Alex Salmond will soon be pushing the line as to how Scottish independence will benefit the English when he delivers the Hugo Young lecture this week. 
His line will give many an English MP food for thought, ‘cos he’ll sort out the West Lothian question for them straight away. Independence, so no more Scottish MPs, full stop.
It’s also this week that Mr Cameron's commission on relations between between the English and MPs from the devolved countries gets underway. 
Coincidently, Cardiff University announce a comprehensive study of the English and their attitudes to devolution. 
Not suprising they don’t like it. Why? Because they feel they’re missing out, getting a raw deal.  
The facts don’t back up this up, by any objective measure England is still the most prosperous of the nations. But, and its a mighty big but, in politics perception is more important than objective reality. 
If they think they’re getting a raw deal, a raw deal they're getting. It’s enough of a reality to get English politicians champing at the bit for the government to do something. 
Now a commission that reports sometime in the future ain’t going to satisfy back bench Tories.  No, they’ll want action this side of the next election.
What action? That’s the question. 
Ah, enter stage left Salmond. He offers the solution. No, not necessarily the independence that he and his party crave.  But that second question that Mr Cameron doesn’t want on the ballot paper, “devo max.”
The study by Cardiff and Edinburgh Universities show that eight out of ten of those English voters questioned, support full fiscal autonomy. In other words, “devo max.” 
At the same time those questioned say that MPs from these devolved countries should not by voting on English laws. So what’s the solution?
There are only two possibilities, either setting up an English Parliament, which Cameron has already ruled out or some other more sustainable arrangement. A Federal system.
Now Carwyn Jones flagged up that new arrangements would have to be made if Scotland left the UK. That may not happen, but the pressure from England may make “devo max” the answer for all the devolved adminstrations. And yes, a new compact between the nations of these islands would then have to be negotiated. 
“Devo max” is the last thing that Labour would want for Wales. No longer would the English be bailing Wales out. The country would have to be self sufficient. 
Now there’s a challenge for Carwyn Jones, making Wales stand on its own two feet.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

No trip to seaside for Welsh Conservatives



The Welsh Conservatives are to scrap their annual conference with only two weeks to go. They’re replacing it with a rally. The big question is, why? 
It was only under three weeks ago that they were sending out invitations. It would seem quite bizarre to cancel it at such short notice. Their official reasons are here in quotes,
“2012 is an important year for Welsh Conservatives and we need to continue the work we have begun in building our activist base.”  So there you have it. 
It’s an important year although there is no explanation as to why it’s so important. Surely if they are building their activist base, a conference would be a good place for all these “activists” to meet and debate and discuss and meet their elected representatives.
But  “particularly important are the upcoming council elections across Wales, and in order to give these the fullest support, we are changing our plans for Welsh Conservative Party conference this year. The new format will be a one-day Rally launching our Local Government Campaign for party activists.” 
The local government elections are held every four year. The party has had all the time in the world to plan for the event. If the party runs the country with the same degree of forward planning we need to all start worrying.
No, none of the reasons hold water. 
There must either be a catastrophic fall in the number of those ordinary delegates wishing to spend two-days by the sea side in Llandudno that  they’ve had to cancel at the last minute. Or the recession is even deeper than previously thought and it’s even hit the Conservative party hard. So hard indeed that they worry they can’t pay the bills. It sounds like the real world, doesn't it.
Of course, there could be a political reason. Cabinet ministers just don’t regard Wales as a priority and have just refused to commit to coming to the Welsh conference. Their trips out of London this year will be to Scotland to try to prop up the union. 

Or they will stay at home to help Boris remain as Mayor of London. In either event Wales is not in Central Office's game plan.
The Conservative party Scottish conference is still to go ahead, as planned, even though there are council elections there. 

But there in lies the rub, Wales isn't threatening to take its ball away and quit the Union. Those rebellious Scots get all the attention because of their tantrums. Result attention, for the Scots and Wales are put firmly in their place. No conference.  Spending money on a Welsh conference, where's the gain?
So much for the independence of the Welsh Conservative party. 

Wales was waiting with bated breath to Andrew R T Davies’s first speech as leader of the opposition and leader of the party in Wales. Oh, sorry, got that wrong he’s not leader of the party in Wales that’s David Cameron. And as leader the PM's,  told his Welsh membership to stand at ease until he’s ready to make an appearance.
Oh Mr Davies when will you get your first standing ovation from the members, not this year clearly?

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Plaid Cymru look at themselves


Dr Eurfyl ap Gwilym today published his conclusions on his look at Plaid   Cymru following their disastrous performance in the last Assembly elections. 
Short it is not. 


It contains 95 recommendations in eighty pages. It even manages to quote Niccolo Machiavelli 
“One must recognise that there is nothing more difficult or more perilous to undertake, than to introduce a new system of government, for he who seeks to create a new order makes enemies of all those who profited from the old.”
Perhaps a more appropriate quote from old Machi would have been,
“Everyone sees what you seem to be, few know what you really are, and those few, do not dare take a stand against the general opinion.”
So are these perceptions addressed, well yes, what wouldn’t be addressed in such a long report, but it’s not as if these have not been looked at before. 
Not some years back they had a relaunch in Carmarthen. There they dropped the Triban in favour of the Welsh poppy, change the name to Plaid -the party of Wales to reach out to non-Welsh speakers. 
But despite this, the view of voters about the party barely changed. It may have something to do with the party not being that enthusiastic about these changes. Certainly by the last election the party manifesto simply talked about “Plaid.”
Dr Eurfyl ap Gwilym frankly admitted the party has flat lined politically for  some years.
So to address the concern he suggested that the party should consider adopting the name “Welsh National Party” as its English name. 
This will really be a change of culture. After all in the past Plaid Cymru apparatchiks would come down hard on any sub-editor that allowed `Plaid to be described as “Welsh Nationalists.” Desperate times desperate measures, I guess.
On the vexed question of independence they are going to be more upfront. They are going to develop a constitutional route map to make the idea of independence more attractive. This they hope will win support for the next constitutional steps.
My guess is that as Harold Macmillan once said “events , dear, boy, events” will dictate the route map. The map is likely to be drawn more over Hadrian's wall than it ever will this side of Offa’s dyke.
For those who do not want to read the eighty odd pages, here are the key recommendations.

·         The establishment of a National Academy to revolutionise campaigning and organisation, as well as nurturing the community champions and national leaders of the future.
·         A radical modernisation of the party’s campaigning methods to create a permanently campaigning party equipped with the tools that are necessary for a modern 21st century party.
·         The establishment of a more effective mechanism for policy formulation. Ensuring that the skills of members, supporters and external experts are utilised in order to ensure better policy development.
·         An acceptance that the Party needs greater clarity over its aims in order to be able to present a coherent and united message to the people of Wales.
·         Fundamental changes to the Party’s structures in order to ensure clearer leadership and greater accountability from all Plaid representatives.

So there you have it. Plaid Cymru will now debate these recommendations, implement them and become the sleek winning electoral machine the aspire to be. That is of course if the party accepts the reforms.
But, perhaps, a bit of a give away was Dr Eurfyl’s comments in the launch, this is not the first time he’s written such a report for the party, he’s done it before and? Well, draw your own conclusions.
Oh, and just in case you wondered, they remain a left of centre party.

Monday, 16 January 2012

What about Wales


What happens in Scotland will have real consequences for Wales. This blog has flagged this up frequently since Alex Salmond won his majority last May. 
David Cameron’s attempt to wrong foot Salmond by pushing for an early referendum and Salmond’s response has set off the referendum campaign. Salmond now declares it will be Autumn 2014.
So there will be two years of arguments about independence. It is already dominating the headlines and the airwaves of the UK media. 
If this last week is an indication, Scotland's referendum will dominate the news agenda for the next two years. Will any Welsh issue make it on the agenda in this time? Unlikely. 
But Carwyn Jones was right to point out that if Scotland left the union the relationship of those that remained would have to change fundamentally. 
The rump of the UK Parliament after the Scottish MPs were taken out of the equation would consist of 550 MPs. 510 of these would come from England, 30 from Wales and 10 from Northern Ireland.
Then Westminster would cease to be a Parliament of three remaining countries but simply a Parliament for England. And Carwyn Jones's response to such a situation, a demand for more MPs and peers from Wales and Northern Ireland. More politicians? 
Nice try Carwyn, but why would the Tory government want to give in to your demands. To negotiate you have to have something to give and you’ve ruled out independence, so the negotiating cupboard is bare.
Prime Ministers always think of their place in history so if Cameron was to see Scotland break away on his watch that would be a serious blow to his esteem. But once that had happened would he really be worried about Wales. Doubtful.
As Carwyn Jones has already publicly declared “it would not be a good thing for Wales to become independent. Financially it is not in our interest.” 
If this is true, and there are some that would dispute the case, surely it’s an admission  that Wales is a basket case that is wholly dependent on England. 
If that’s the case why, oh why, would Cameron grant Carwyn Jones more MPs and Lords. What would they do? Whinge for more resources? The Prime Minister may be many things but a masochist he is not. 
No, Carwyn Jones had better hope that Salmond looses his touch and that those Scots that want independence remain a minority. 
Opinion polls show that if the referndum was held today only 33% would be in favour with 53% against with another 14% not yet made up their minds. 
But if  a week is a long time in politics, two years is, well, long enough for the polls to change dramatically. 
So rather than whinge to Cameron for more seats Carwyn Jones would be better employed leaning on Darling and Brown to start campaigning hard, in their homeland for the Union.  


If they fail, the English might start questioning whether they would want Wales in their smaller Kingdom. 
Surely, now is the time for the Welsh Government to address the question of what it should do, if it had to go it alone.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Another target missed


The need for decent shelter is a requirement for all. That’s why, when the private sector wasn’t providing, local councils started building houses to rent.  As too did philanthropic organisations like housing associations.  All built decent housing for ordinary working people.
At one time, successive housing ministers were judged on the number of council houses they succeeded in getting built during their term in the job. 
Indeed many pundits thought that Harold Macmillan beat Rab Butler to become prime minister after the resignation of Anthony Eden, because of his success as a Housing Minister. 
Churchill gave him the job in 1951 and set him a target of building 300,000 homes a year. 'It is a gamble—it will make or mar your political career,' Churchill said, 'but every humble home will bless your name if you succeed.' Macmillan achieved the target a year ahead of schedule in 1953. The rest is, as they say, history. 
Recent governments have given up on ambitious house building targets. Although to her credit, Jocelyn Davies the ex-Plaid Housing Minister, set a target of building 6500 homes which she succeeded in more than fulfilling. A rare achievement indeed for the Welsh Government.
But the council houses built  by ministers such as Nye Bevan and Harold Macmillan     are now so very dated.  Modern they are not.  
That’s why in 2002 the Welsh Government decided that all social housing needed updating to a basic standard. They spelt out what needed to be achieved in the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS).  The target was to be met by the end of  this year.
But today the Auditor General for Wales, Huw Vaughan Thomas has produced a highly critical report. In it he makes it absolutely clear that the 2012 target will not be met for some considerable time. 
In his report Thomas points to weaknesses of leadership. He accuses the Welsh Government of not acting swiftly enough to support and monitor progress. The report goes on to point the finger at government at not putting "an effective framework in place to demonstrate value for money from the significant investment in work to achieve the WHQS."
Even by March 2017 only 79 per cent of social houses will have reached the target, with the greatest shortfall being in standards of bathrooms and kitchens.
The biggest problem in making things happen is, not surprisingly, a lack of cash by local councils. 

To generate cash to get the job done, councils have to stop being landlords and transfer their housing stock  to newly set up housing associations. 

But the rub is, that this can only happen after and if council tenants agree.  A ballot of tenants has to take place and a positive vote is required agreeing to such a transfer.  
The Auditor General pinpoints the main reason for missing the target  is  tenants voting against transfer or where tenants have yet to be balloted. 
It’s simple. No transfer then no private cash. No cash so no work done. Result, sub standard houses.
Tenants in many areas have not had this spelt out to them. Unless they vote for transfer they ain’t going to get modern decent well equipped homes.
Why hasn’t government made it clear to the tenants? Well, they’ve been mealy mouthed because they don’t want to upset the council house lobby. There is a sentiment towards the council house, that just doesn't reflect the modern world. 
Clearly, if government set targets, they should either will the means to attain these targets. If they don't will the cash then owe it  everyone to be up front with the tenants. 

The simple truth is, nothing is going to happen to council properties and slow decay will continue unless tenants vote to transfer their homes.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Musical chairs


based on OS mapping and copyright
There is only one thing on you're MPs mind today, his job. Why because the number of Welsh seats in Parliament is being reduced from forty to thirty. And what's worse many of them will have to fight colleagues for the right to represent the party in the new seat.
The map above shows the biggest change in election boundaries since the end of the second world war. New constituency names will emerge such as the Dee Estuary, North Wales Coast,and Glyndwr and North Powys to name but a few. And even those that retain their original names are very different entities to the existing ones. No seat remains the same. 
If you object you have 12 weeks to make your views known to the Boundary Commission.
And why the change? Well, Mr Cameron in response to the universal disapproval over MPs expenditure decided that to curry favour with voters he would reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and that every constituency would be broadly of the same size.  Resulting in every constituency being between 72,810 to 80,473 voters. All this was passed in "The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011". 
Now not many existing Welsh seats were within the new required range, hence the reduction of seats in Wales from 40 to 30 and the massive shake up now being proposed. 
So where does that leave the parties. Who will win and who will loose? Below is my quick look at the seats.
1 Menai and Ynys Mon. This is likely to be a Labour/Plaid Cymru marginal, with Labour having the edge.
2 Gwynedd. Plaid Cymru
3 Ceredigion and North Pembrokeshire Another marginal but this time between Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats with Plaid with the edge.
4 South and West Pembrokeshire. Conservative
5 Caerfyddin. Plaid Cymru
6 Llanelli. Labour
7 Gower and Swansea West. Labour
8 Swansea East. Labour
9 Neath. Labour
10 Aberavon and Ogmore. Labour
11 Bridgend. Labour
12 The Vale of Glamorgan. Conservative
13 Cardiff West. Labour
14 Cardiff Central and Penarth. Labour
15 Cardiff East. Labour
16 Caerphilly and Cardiff North. Conservative/Labour marginal with the Conservatives with a big edge
17 Newport West and Sirhowy Valley. Labour
18 Newport Central. Labour
19 Monmouthshire. Conservative
20 Torfaen. Labour
21 Blaenau Gwent. Labour
22 Heads of the Valleys. Labour
23 Rhondda. Labour
24 Pontypridd. Labour
25 South Powys. Liberal Democrat
26 Glyndwr and North Powys. Becomes the most interesting seat in Wales a four way marginal
27 Wrexham Maelor. Labour
28 Alyn and Deeside. Labour
29 Dee Estuary. Labour
30 North Wales Coast. Conservatives
Labour will almost certainly  have nineteen seats and in a good year could be up to twenty three.They currently have twenty six.
Conservatives are more than likely to have four seats and  another three would be a realistic number for them to target. They have eight seats in the current Parliament
Plaid Cymru will certainly hold two seats but have the edge in another one and who knows in a good year another 2 could be in their grasp. They have 3 at the moment.
Liberal Democrats are almost certainly to hold one seat. They may have a chance in another two. But they have three at the moment. The review has not been kind to them.
But the interesting tussles will be between MPs of the same party. They will have to play the political equivalent of musical chairs to make sure they don't loose out in the cull of seats.  But more of these in future blogs.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Backing from across the pond



The leader Plaid Cymru members really want is currently devoting himself to academia on the other side of the pond. It is, of course, Adam Price. But he took a trip over the Atlantic to personally back one of the four candidates. And the candidate that got the Plaid Cymru’s favourite son’s backing? Leanne Wood. 
Price says about her as “a new departure for Plaid an English speaker from the Rhondda. But she would be the best person with the clearest vision to transform the party into a pan Wales party.” 
“She has reached out both geographically and politically from her Rhondda base. This English speaker has reached out and has had more support from the Welsh Language Society than any other candidate.”
He went to say that it was a two woman race between Elin Jones and Leanne Wood.  This, he said. was “a good thing.” He hoped that Plaid would become the only political party with a woman holding all the senior posts in the party. 
So there you have it. men have had there go now is the turn of the women. But uniquely it is possible that any candidate that can encourage enough to join the party will gain an advantage. It’s said that many young people are backing Leanne Wood. But to stand a chance of pulling it off she’s got to get them to join. If she succeeds in recruiting them, who know she may cause an upset.
But Price was pressed on the issue perhaps of more interesting to the wider readership of this blog than his endorsement of Wood his views on the spat between Westminster and Holyrood. 
On a poker game between the Cameron and the Salmond on the issue, Price would put his money on Salmond being the winner. 
Price is right in one respect Cameron is taking an enormous gamble with the Union. In insisting that it’s Westminster decision as to when and how the referendum will be held he pitches a battle between the Scottish Government and Westminster. If Cameron gets his way he will insist that Scotland hold a referendum on the issue in the next 18 months. 
To add salt to the wound, he is also likely to insist that it will be a simple yes no vote. He is to rule out a third question on the ballot paper, over a form of devolution stopping short of independence. This latter option is one that much of Scottish Civic Society would like to see and also a large number of Labour members over the border.
Cameron certainly will be laying down the gauntlet to Salmond when he publishes a consultation paper, probably this week, revealing clear legal advice that the independence referendum will be binding under the Scotland Act only if both parliaments agree to its going ahead. 
His argument is that the uncertainty created by the prospect of independence is harming the Scottish and UK economies, and a delay until 2014 is not possible.
It doesn’t take much imagination to work out the Scottish Governments response. It will be played as a blatant attempt by an English Tory government’s to interfere with a decision that’s one for the Scottish people.
Cameron’s decision will play very much into the hands of the SNP. They will not miss many opportunities in portraying the campaign as the Scots against the Tory government in England. 
Whilst two recent polls have suggested that independence still has only minority support, though it is increasing. The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey showed that backing for a split with the rest of the UK was at a six-year high of 32%, nine points up on last year. Cameron’s intervention will undoubtedly push this number up. It would take a very brave man to bet against it happening.
So why has Mr Cameron taken this enormous gamble? Has he made the calculation that separation from Scotland might serve his purpose better. It would mean that England would likely turn out a Tory government more often than it wouldn’t. Is Cameron preparing to sacrifice the Union for his party’s own political gain. 
And if that came to pass, where would that leave Wales? Would the Welsh Labour party be prepared to put up with almost permanent Conservative rule from Westminster? Would a rump of thirty Welsh MPs be anything but a token with little or no influence in Westminster?
Ironically, it might be  Welsh Labour and not Plaid Cymru that delivers Welsh independence. Where then would the new leader of Plaid Cymru take her/his party. After all its founding aims would have been met? Would the new political party that was Plaid Cymru be a party that was going to out 'left' Labour, or become a party of the centre right? 
Perhaps, it’s a question that members of the party should ask  candidates before they cast their votes.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The ripple effect


Politicians often don’t think things through if they can grab a quick headline and get themselves some cheap and populist publicity. The latest example is the Chair of the Welsh select committee, David Davies.
Apparently he is much aggitated by the number of immigrants coming into Wales. Indeed he has laid a challenge to green organisations to back him in calling for a curb on immigration. 
His argument is based on what he calls “the ripple effect.” That is new arrivals come to London and other major cities. Because of this there is a strain on housing which he argues pushes existing residents further out. They in turn displace others and so on. Eventually, there is an increase inward migration into Wales. 
So there we have it, in a nutshell more migrants into the UK means indirectly more settlers in our communities. A compelling argument some would think. 
But hold on, what has caused  the greater movement from cities outwards is the government, yes, the government that Mr Davies supports with his vote in the House of Commons. 
Changes to housing benefit. In my blog on George Osborne’s first budget it was flagged up as in the small print [see http://ogarethhughes.blogspot.com/2010/10/benefits-who.html]
What was predicted then has now come to pass. 
Only this week the Guardian’s front page said that housing experts were predicting that “a further 800,000 homes will be put out of reach of people on housing benefit because of government welfare cuts – leaving low income families the choice of cutting spending on food to pay the rent or moving out.” 
Mr Osborne’s budget, caused the government to cap housing benefit payments.  For example, in a two bedroomed house, housing benefit would be capped at a maximum £250 a week. 
The cut is compounded by the allowances being scaled back by pegging them to the bottom third of rents in any borough. The result is that in many towns and cities there will not be enough affordable homes to rent for those claiming local housing allowance, the benefit paid to tenants of private landlords. 
So the budget that was supported by Mr Davies is going to lead to many leaving their current homes and moving.
Oh, but the good people of Monmouth are not going to be affected by the fact that there are going to be thousands more claimants than properties that are affordable on benefits alone. No, it will people in coastal towns such as Rhyl and Colwyn Bay, where the poor will migrate to “benefit ghettoes” in seaside towns.
Unless, of course, Mr Davies’s famous ripple effects comes into effect and the existing residents of these areas decide to up sticks and move to Monmouth. Perish the thought, Mr Davies.
No, Mr Davies, would be better occupied asking the Green organisations to join him in a campaign to reverse the rules on housing benefit than play to the popular prejudice that demonises the immigrant.