Monday, 31 May 2010

GOLWG article translated: Country Cousins

Its very uncomfortable to attend an event or other and everyone ignores you. Everyone else gaining attention and get none. Even worse if your in a family party and the rest of the family are full of it and no one seems to care about you.
That's exactly how I felt when David Cameron attended the Assembly. There's little doubt that our new Prime Minister is a natural communicator. On this occasion he tried to persuade us that the countries of the United Kingdom were all part of one big happy family and he did not want to see us, like some families, falling out over money.
Indeed many hoped that this was a new start between the Welsh Government and that of the London Government under a Conservative Prime Minister.
An offer was made by him to attend the Assembly each year to answer questions. Although there was not much of a welcome to that suggestion from the Welsh Assembly Government.
Without doubt it would be a bit odd for one legislature to question a member of another legislature. Such a system would lead to every county council in Wales demanding Carwyn Jones to attend their local chamber to answer for his government. A system of government that would be totally ineffective and slightly stupid. But it was consistent with being a member of a large family. But one has to accept that the suggestion was made with the best of intentions.
But as the good book says 'its by their fruits you recognise them.' And it took little time to recognise that there weren't any fruit at all.
Yes, I'm referring to the Governments first publication 'The coalition: our programme for government'. A statement that underlined the governments commitment to devolution and therefore it was a set of proposals for the Westminster government to implement.
But, and its an important, but. The document made it clear how the government would finance Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales in the future.
In the North of Ireland alongside the existing system, the Westminster government would explore methods by which the Northern Ireland Assembly could vary Corporation Tax in that part of the Kingdom.
A concession of some importance. The complaint in Northern Ireland is that they are under a competitive disadvantage to intense new industry in in comparison to the Republic of Ireland. So power over the tax is all important to them.
In Scotland Mr Cameron's government is intent on implementing the recommendations of the Calman Commission immediately. New powers and a new way of financing Scotland will follow.
But what of Wales? Nothing but a promise. A promise that depends on the referendum result. What, you ask, is the promise? To establish a commission to look at our funding. Despite everyone recognising that Wales is not receiving a fair share, for some time, of the resources that is its due from the Treasury. And despite the Welsh Assembly Government having already commissioned a comprehensive report on the matter from Holtham.
Nothing will happen until after the referendum, even to start the inquiry. God only knows when a Commission of the kind will finish its inquiry. What is certain is that Wales will not receive the help that  is tits due for some time. This at a time when every penny will be important to sustain our public services.
No, if we are part of Mr Cameron's large family, we're the poor country cousins. Sitting quietly in the corner while the others celebrate. And perhaps, we'll get the crumbs of the feast - 'sometime!'

Monday, 24 May 2010

Cawl without meat

I was cheated. I went to a cafe on the basis that they were advertising in their window 'cawl'. But I had a bowl full of vegetables without meat. 'Cawl' without meat! Have you heard of such a thing!
Is it to be like that in the world of politics?
Certainly the photograph of the week was that of the two public school boys, Nick Clegg and David Cameron in the rose garden of number ten looking lovingly at one another and promising 'a new politics.'
What exactly is this new politics? Coalition! Well there's not much new in a 'coalition.'
In truth, a coalition was in being at the end of David Lloyd George's career as Prime Minister. The Tory leader at the time, Bonar Law, urged by his back benchers pulled the mat under Lloyd George's feet in 1922, and out where the Liberals into the political wilderness from then until now.
This despite Lloyd George's undoubted political skills and craftiness. Indeed in no time such was the decline in their status amongst the electorate the became the third party of Britain. Their representation during the rest of the twentieth century in Westminster was small indeed. And Nick Clegg is no Lloyd George.
The results of the election was a stroke of luck for the Liberal Democrats. Labour losing ground, the Conservatives unable to take advantage and despite the hype after the first television debate when Nick Clegg lead in the polls for a brief moment their campaign ultimately failed. Losing seats was their fate in the end.
Indeed you could put up a case that all the parties failed in this election. Labour losing seats, the Conservatives failing in their aim of a majority and Plaid Cymru after a lack luster campaign failing to gain any of their target seats. Consequently no one on their own could form a government.
Thus the opportunity knocks on the door of Nick Clegg to decide who gets to keys to number ten and gets to kiss the Queens hand. And to be fair to him he played his hand well.
Who would have thought we would see five Liberal Democrats in the Cabinet?
But its now that the problems for the party begin, especially here in Wales. I would hazard a guess that most of the votes collected by them here because they were perceived to be a radical party.  It will be a real disappointment to these voters to see the party that they voted for sharing a bed with the Tories.
Shortly the government will have to administer massive cuts to public expenditure and consequently unemployment will rise and services curtailed and cut. It doesn't take much imagination to work out who will be blamed. Not the Conservatives, as their supporters except the need for cuts. That's what was on the label. No, the Liberals will get the blame because that's not what they promised. Gradual cuts is what they said in their manifesto.
Many can justifiably shout 'deceived'. They were promised radical 'meat', but that's not happened. It is unlikely that they will be forgiven by the Welsh electorate in the next election - the Assembly elections.
They will be punished. It is quite possible that history will repeat itself and they will be in the political wilderness for another century.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Golwg Column translation: The need for a new constitution

"The people have spoken, but we're not sure what the message is."
The words of Paddy Ashdown on the night of the general election. Underlines perfectly the election results - uncertainty.
The world of nature abhors a vacuum. To some extent so also in the world of politics.
To avoid a vacuum in the world of politics every possibility is discussed and plans are drawn up to meet every eventuality. That is what precisely happened as a consequence of the election results when it became clear that no party had a working majority.
Gus McDonald, the head of the civil service, prepared a paper to let those involved know what would happen. Mr Brown was to stay in office until there was an understanding between the various parties as to how to move ahead.
And the reason for all this, to avoid embarrassment to the Queen.
But as electors we deserve better. It shouldn't be information that is kept within the establishment, but information that is available to us all.
The difficulty arises because live under a regime that sees us as subjects and not citizens. No right to information but merely crumbs to keep us subjects happy.
The discussions and the decisions are made behind close doors according to a pattern determined by the establishment. Its exactly like the decision's occurred in the old Soviet Union. The first that the population knew about any changes was when the leaders came out into the Red square or they read about it in Pravda. Not a clue as to what was going on behind close doors. How different is it in these islands?
In every other country that calls itself democratic, the population knows exactly where it stands after an election. Why? Their constitutions are written on paper so that everyone know the rules and conditions by which they are governed.
But no, not here in the United Kingdom. We pride ourselves on the unwritten nature of our constitution. All is dependent on convention. Of course when all came from the same background, went to the same public school and were members of the same London club, the constitution worked well on a nod and a wink.
But a modern country deserves better. A country can't be run on rules that were devised for the 18th century but are now well past their sell by date.
A new constitution is required for the country. One that recognizes devolution, is codified and is clear. It's not up to some civil servant to decide what happens, but us citizens.
If that requires us to get read of the Queen as head of State, so be it. Its about time we came of age as a country. Free citizens and not subjects, that's the way ahead.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Translation of last Thursday's Golwg Column: The old doctor spin at work

Sometimes it is difficult to believe what one sees and hears. Often one needs someone else as a second opinion.
It's the same in the political world. Someone in all the parties is ever ready with an explanation of what you've heard or witnessed. But the difference in the world of politics is that you get the 'help' even if you ask for it or not. There is a name for these characters - the spin doctors.
In an election these 'doctors' are essential to the campaign. Before the start of any speech someone will persuade you that it will break new ground and it is going to be very important and it will be to your advantage to be there.
After the speech there will be an interpretation of what you have just heard, to help you read between the lines. Indeed after they have done their work  you might well believe that black is white.
The new situation in the race to number 10 is a good example of the world of the spin doctors. In the opinion polls the contest is shaping up to be a genuine three party race. Three parties that are very close to each other in public support. So who wins each debate and who slips up becomes all important. Your party must gain the advantage.
Labour spin maintaining that Brown is the only man of substance, the only one you can imagine as prime minister. The only one that can  steer us safely through the economic crisis.
The Liberal Democrat spin says that we must move away from the old parties that have ruled us to a newer, different and honest party. Despite us all knowing that their party is an old party that has been around since the 18th century.
And the Conservatives saying that without a clear majority for a party[ sub text - 'theirs'], the country will face an economic crisis and the IMF will have to intervene and rescue the country's economy.
There is no doubt that the surge of support for Nick Clegg after the first television debate shook the two larger parties. Especially the Conservatives. They thought that the election was in the bag and that Cameron was on his way to number 10. Nobody had bothered asking the question how a party that was at one time 18 points in the lead and slipped down to single figures.
Be that as it may, what had rocked the Conservatives was seeing the Lib Dems getting so much support and  some polls even indicating that they had overtaken the Conservatives.
The question they faced was how to deal with 'Cleggmania'. Naturally team Cameron turn to the spin doctors. How would they deal with Clegg? Their answer, to call in the correspondents of Tory supporting papers. The purpose? To give them all the gossip they had on Nick Clegg and his party.
It was no accident that the Daily Telegraph had a front page story on Nick Clegg's expenses, and that on the very same day the Daily Mail accused Clegg of a Nazi slurr on Britain. No, not an accident at all but the work of the spin doctors.
Indeed another spin doctor from Labour, our old friend Lord Mandleson, maintained that it was straight from the dirty handbook of the Tory party. But this too was spin. It was to show Mr Cameron in a bad light and give Labour the moral high ground.
So be careful about what you read and  believe, just in case that old Doctor Spin has been at his work.