Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Labour for independence

Whilst Ed Miliband has been campaigning for the Union it would seem that some of his party in Scotland have different ideas.
A “Labour for Independence” group has established itself in Scotland. It is difficult to measure the extent of support within the Labour party for its aims, but they are pushing for a proper debate within the Scottish Labour Party.
They’ve just launched a website called Labour for Independence and are pushing the Scottish Labour Party to allow members a vote on the issue. 
They’re campaigning to shift Labour’s stance in Scotland from pro union to that of backing independence in the 2014 referendum.
The Labour machine not surprisingly say that the organisation lacks any real support amongst the membership. And they are probably right, in as much that most of the Labour members who held such views would have drifted to the SNP over the years. 
But those behind the organisation  say “In the last month, we have gained 24,000 Facebook viewers, created our own website, which after one week has more than 2,000 hits.”
Many Labour members feel a sense of unease that former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling, the man leading Better Together, the official campaign for Scotland to stay in the United Kingdom, is involved in a cross party campaign with Scotland’s Tory leader Ruth Davidson and Liberal Democrat, Willie Rennie. 
Scotland today, Wales tomorrow? Unlikely, Labour here is far more wedded to the union. 
But if there was a referendum on independence for Wales all bets would be off. There are a number of Labour members that would likely campaign for a “yes” vote.
Indeed if a group was established by Labour members it would cause real problems to Plaid Cymru. Under Leanne Wood’s leadership Plaid has positioning itself on the left of Welsh politics. 
If a large group of Labour members were pushing for independence, where would that leave Plaid Cymru. Those left wing members of Plaid Cymru who left Labour primarily because it refused to consider independence might be tempted back to their natural political home. 
OK, not an immediate prospect I grant you. But who knows, if Scotland becomes independent the pressure would build up in Wales for a similar referendum. After all Wales tend to follow the lead of those north of the border, all be it, a few years later. 

Monday, 30 July 2012

Tory members have question mark about PM

It’s a sure sign that the skids are under a leader when polls are conducted on your likely successor. So this weekend made difficult reading for David Cameron. 
Boris “ Mayor of London” Johnson according to yesterday’s Independent  is the favourite amongst grass root Tories to succeed Cameron. 
About a third of Tory activists want him in contrast to only a quarter wanting his nearest rival William Hague. 
George Osborne gets 2%. This is such a fall from grace for the man that was regarded as the Prime Minister in waiting. A reflection that even Tory members don’t think he now cuts the mustard.
But, perhaps, of greater worry to the PM is the fact that less than half of the members want him to lead them into the general election. Indeed they don’t rate the party’s chances of retaining power after the next election.
Now when party activists don’t think their party will win, it’s sure sign that the party is in serious difficulties. 
And little wonder. 
The economic strategy of the government is looking very threadbare. There is little sign of recovery. Indeed, the opposite, the economy continues in a downward spiral.
Ed Miliband is beginning to gain in confidence and is often getting under Cameron’s skin in their weekly exchanges at the Commons. The coalition is looking increasingly fragile with many Tory backbenchers working for its demise.
Unless the economy recovers, and there is no sign of that happening, the Prime Minister looks increasingly vulnerable.
Unlike Labour, the Conservatives have a ruthless streak. They’ll not hesitate to put the knife in. There is no way that they’ll not deal with a leader that’s leading them to defeat. 
Many saw what happened to Labour when the party prevaricated and failed to remove Gordon Brown. Election defeat. The Tories won’t let this happen to them.
It must be some comfort to Cameron that Boris’s not in the Commons and his term of Office runs until after the next general election. 
But in politics obstacles can be removed. So who knows Boris may yet again return to the Commons. 

Friday, 27 July 2012

A constitutional anomaly

The admission by Kim Howells that the Labour government steered away from difficult questions on devolution is stating the bleeding obvious. 
Devolution policy with regards to Wales was a case of as little as possible. And as slowly as possible. 
The West Lothian question has always been a side show. With the sheer size of the English House of Commons can anyone really think that MPs from English constituencies wouldn’t get their way if it mattered
Politicians whose collective noses were put out of joint by the new settlements, were those representing Welsh and Scottish seats. They found themselves in Westminster unable to take decisions on those issues that mattered to their constituents, health education, housing etc. 
To them a real issue. If they worked anywhere else with such a large part of the job vanishing they would be made redundant. But politicians look after their own, so they were kept on. 

Now here’s the rub they can’t vote on Welsh and Scottish issues so they make mischief by voting on English-only matters. As most of these are not conservative MPs their voting record has got the Shire Tories up in arms. Hence Cameron agreeing to the McKay Commission.
The truth of the matter is that adjustments were made in Scottish representation in Westminster when the Scottish parliament was established. The same will be true of Wales if the new constituency structure comes into place and the number of MPs are reduced from 40 to 30. So in voting terms the West Lothian issue is really not worthy of the attention it's given.
Constitutional scholars used to praise the British constitution for its flexibility. It was unwritten. Full of anomalies. Of which the West Lothian issue was an example. 
The McKay commission would by better occupied in taking a look at the UK constitution in the light of devolution. It should stop wasting its time on looking at who in parliament has a say on what. 
Attention should be given to how the countries of these isles relate to one another and how they consent to be ruled in future. Real subjects for a Commission

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

No growth area

The economy is still in deep trouble. Just published are the official figures by the Office for National Statistics that show that the economy has shrunk for the third quarter in a row. The economy shrank by 0.7% in the last three months.
This shrinkage is much larger than most economist’s were expecting. Most thought the figure would be nearer 0.2%. 
This follows a drop of 0.3% in the first three months of the year.
It is traditional to find a scapegoat for such disastrous figures and true to form thy’ve done it again. This time it’s the Queen. The fact is we’ve all taken time off to celebrate her jubilee. Naughty us. And of course that perennial stand-by the weather. It rained.
The biggest fall was in the construction industry. The building sector saw output fall by 5.2%. But manufacturing was also down by 1.3%, while services was down 0.1%.
Looking at the figures it is very unlikely that we'll be on the right side of zero growth this year. It is more likely the economy will be contracting.

These figure again underline that the coalition governments handling of the economy is proving disastrous. All reputable economists will say you don’t go for a policy of public expenditure cuts in a recession. The time to cut back is when the economy is growing. 
The government is repeating the mistakes that occurred in the Inter war years of last century. Are lessons never learnt from history?

The UK is now in the worse double dip recession for fifty years and still our Chancellor has no plan B. 

Monday, 23 July 2012

Who's whose poodle

So party stalwart and ex MP & AM Cynog Dafis wants Plaid to forget about independence and concentrate on trying to be nice to Labour. Presumably so that Labour relents and allow Plaid Cymru back into government.
In a Radio interview Mr Dafis said his party should do a deal with Labour and agree a way forward for the Welsh NHS.
Mr Dafis seems to be singing from the same hymn sheet as Dafydd Elis-Thomas. Both want a governmental role for their party rather than a constant oppositional role.
What both are saying don’t bother trying to hold the Welsh government to account, don’t co-operate with the other opposition parties.  Put simply, just cosy up to Labour.
Such a strategy must be music to the ears of Carwyn Jones and Labour. If Plaid Cymru was to adopt such a policy, Labour would be given a free hand in the governance of Wales.
Now whilst some in Plaid Cymru might agree with Lord Elis-Thomas that there was no evidence that a no confidence vote was warranted on the Health Minister. Maybe, on this occasion the party got it wrong. 

But surely there will be occasions when the government will need to be held to account by the opposition parties. And yes even a vote of no-confidence will be warranted. 
A party whose main strategy is getting into bed with the government rules out any constructive role of opposition.
The nub of it, is that with such an approach Plaid Cymru is accepting Labour hegemony. It is accepting one-party rule in Wales. And is not inclined to challenge Labour’s dominance. 
Such a policy is inherently anti-democratic, it it is exactly the approach that was taken in the old Soviet Block where other parties were allowed to exist, but in name only. There was, of course, a condition for their existence. They always had to vote with the comrades in the Communist party. 
Forget the realignment of Welsh politics. One party rule forever.
Is there room in the Welsh politic scene for such a party. 
A party that kicks its reason for existence into the very long grass  and turns its back on independence. It’s only role in life, to prop up Labour.

“Vote for us and we’ll help Labour.” Doesn’t do it for me as a winning formula to gather votes on election day. Why vote for the monkey when the organ grinder is on the ballot paper.

Friday, 20 July 2012

The Dafydd El question

Will he go or will he stay? That’s the question being asked about Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas the Plaid Cymru Member for Dwyfor Meirionydd.
Although the former Plaid Cymru leader ruled out joining the Labour Party on Radio Cymru, on the very same programme he admitted to having considered joining Labour. The reason? The stance taken by his party both during the Assembly election campaign in criticising Labour when they'd just been in government with them. Proposing a vote of no-confidence in the Health Secretary he saw as crass politics. His view is that Plaid Cymru are being a “supportive opposition for the Conservatives.” 
What really was the final straw for Elis-Thomas was what he perceived as a Plaid Cymru group u-turn. 

The party first decided to turn a blind eye to his likely absence from the vote of no-confidence in the Health Minister. He was to be allowed to go to Bangor to hand out degrees in his capacity as Chancellor of the University. 

On the eve of the vote, the party had second thoughts and insisted that the Lord turn his back on the pomp of the graduation ceremony and come back to vote. It is thought that this was after Tory pressure on Plaid Cymru. 

It would have been odds on that had he turned up his vote would have been not with the opposition but with the government. It is difficult to see what Plaid Cymru were hoping to gain by their insistence. 
His non-appearance has led to the whip being withdrawn from him and he faces a disciplinary panel  of three Plaid AMs on Monday. The panel will be Elin Jones, Simon Thomas and Bethan Jenkins. They will decide what further punishment the good Lord will face, if any. 
Elis-Thomas claims he will not turn up.  He has the prior engagement of attending the Royal Welsh show. His way of raising two fingers to the witch-hunters general.
Last night he was given the unanimous support  of his constituency party in Dwyfor Meirionydd. One of Plaid Cymru’s biggest constituency branches.
Meanwhile as  yesterday’s blog made clear, the Labour Party are expressing warm words about Dafydd Elis-Thomas in the hope of enticing him into their ranks. Such a high ranking defection from Plaid Cymru would leave the party in some disarray.
It is indeed ironic that the most left wing leader that Plaid Cymru has ever had has now been manipulated into working and voting in cahoots with the Conservatives in the Assembly. She is now in grave danger of engineering the departure of a former leader of the party. Her naivety and inexperience has caused an embarrassment to become a crisis.
Unless  wiser heads take a grip on things, the  situation could spiral out of control and do lasting damage to Plaid Cymru.
So what of Dafydd El. It's unlikely that he’ll voluntarily jump into a party that is even more authoritarian and disciplined than Plaid Cymru. 

But he is certainly playing the political equivalent of the game of chicken. He’s almost daring the party to push him out. How often have we heard someone claim that “they didn’t leave the party, but the party left them.” Is this what Dafydd’s up to? 

His role over the years as Presiding Officer made him semi-detached from his party. Submitting to party discipline now can't be easy for the man. Perhaps, he's thinking that he'd find it politically more comfortable to be pushed out of the party and become an independent. 

After all that’s the role he’s played in the House of Lords over the years. Even in those days he manage to get up the nose of his party. He accepted a peerage at a time when it was party policy not to. 

Maybe, he'll sit as a cross-bencher in the Assembly as well as the Lords.
Leanne Wood intervened and has restored the whip to Dafydd Elis-Thomas. It's now up to him what happens next. Will he jump? Plaid Cymru making it very clear that he's not being pushed out of party.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

End of term message

There’s always a step in the stride of a politician when there's got good news to declare. Today was such a day as the First Minister  kicked off his end of term press conference in some style. He has a new presidential style media briefing room. 

The room rose from the ashes of the flat that was ones the abode of such illustrious Secretary of States, such as David Hunt. He who, I hear younger readers ask.

Back to the good news.  Well we’re all going to be on a super fast highway by 2015. 

No, he’s not lifting the speed limits on Welsh roads. That would be grossly irresponsible as many of the roads have not improved much since horses drew carts along them. No, what he means is that we’re all going to be on fibre broadband by 2015. 
Even faster speeds than our Olympic athletes I’m assured. Incidentally, he will be visiting the Olympics to fly the flag for Wales. Well, not literally the flag ‘cos the dragon is not allowed but to represent us there as a nation. 
But back to broadband. The Welsh Government has signed a deal with BT which aims to deliver Next Generation Broadband to 96 per cent of homes and businesses in Wales by the end of 2015.
The agreement, depends on those pesky Europeans agreeing to it. But if they do, according to the government’s hype, it will make Wales a global leader in fibre broadband.
New fibre broadband will provide speeds that are approximately 15 times faster than those available in Wales today. There is some uncertainty as to what that means ‘cos from my school maths 15 times no speed is still no speed. But perhaps this high tech jargon does mean something else. When asked the First Minister assured that most wifi “not spots” in Wales would vanish. 
He wasn’t quite as reassuring about mobile phone signals in Wales, but that’s another story. And why would you want to speak to another human when you can play with your computer, anyway.
The cost of it all - £425 million. Creating 50 new jobs and 100 new apprenticeships and protecting 320 existing jobs. 
Talking of jobs. Controversy has risen on the activities of one AM who was moonlighting last Wednesday when his party wanted him to vote in the Assembly. Not only did he not turn up choosing instead to hand degrees out instead. He said if he had turned up he would not have voted with his party. The equivalent of raising two fingers to his new leader. For such he's had the whip withdrawn.

But Carwyn Jones, never one to allow grief to remain private, relished the opportunity to comment on Plaid's little problem.

Warm words were expressed about the qualities of Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas. His values were those of Welsh Labour, apparently. In contrast to the rest of the Plaid Cymru group that voted with those pesky Tories. 
It seemed like the first move in a courtship, but we were assured that the First Minister had not “personally” been in touch with the errant Lord.
Hacks have a habit of raining on a politician's parade. So they questioned the First Minister about health service configuration, cuts to you and me. His answer, they’re necessary, and of course, a better service would result as a consequence.
Finally, he and Cameron disagree about constitutional change in the UK. You may remember that the First Minister wrote to Cameron suggesting that a convention be set up to look at the constitution of the UK.  He never got a reply. 
But when he met Cameron last week he was told, nothing would happen until after the referendum in Scotland. Clearly, the Prime Minister and his government don’t believe in forward planning. It would qualify them for a job with G4S should they leave office.
Finally, just so that you know the slate backdrop in the media briefing room which replaced 1970’s kitsch that was previous Secretary of States’ flat, cost £4500. The lectern £1800. 

But being made of Welsh slate it will last for ever and there will be some mighty announcements made at that lectern in future.... Maybe.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

We're all off on a summer holiday

Assembly Members break up for their summer holiday’s today.  But of course politics doesn’t come to a halt it is merely transferred. Next week it will be at the Royal Welsh and then onto the eisteddfod. No, it won’t just the Welsh Blacks that will be parading themselves in Builth. 
As the corridors of power empty for the summer, the talk among hacks inevitably and predictably is about reshuffles, coalitions and leadership challenges.
Will Carwyn Jones feel that he needs to ensure his government of a majority by doing a deal with either Plaid Cymru or the Liberal Democrats. The answer to that question is almost certainly, no. 
After all the government have not lost a vote this past session. The nearest they got to it was on the budget and then they cut a deal with the Liberal Democrats. They’ve not been bothered since.
Governments need a majority to pass their budget and get laws passed. Each year there is some huffing and puffing on the budget but usually a deal is struck. Pork barrel politics does work and politicians can never resist claiming credit for doing a deal.
Laws are a different matter. It is important that a government gets its legislative programme through. But looking at the programme the government have announced, it’s difficult to see any of the Opposition parties disagreeing to the point of voting them down. Consensus rules at the Assembly. Politics would be better served if there was less coziness and more vitriol but alas we are where we are and there is a consensus on most of the bills being proposed. So no knife-edge votes on these are foreseen. Little incentive then for Carwyn Jones to upset his backbench and cwtch up to another party.  
Forget coalition government, it ain’t going to happen any time soon in Wales. 
So what about a reshuffle. Well, that’s a different matter. Party leaders can never resist the temptation of changing “the team.” In politics its never about rewarding competence, if that was the case there would be many an empty chair around the cabinet table. No, it’s about rewarding loyalty. 
But there comes a time when you do have to promote able backbenchers. That means creating spaces that inevitable means sacking the old to make room for the new. 
It will be interesting to see if Carwyn Jones is ruthless enough to wield the knife. One cabinet minister that is undoubtedly safe for the time is Lesley Griffiths. The vote of no confidence in her will have safeguarded her immediate future.The First Minister would not want to be seen to have bowed to Opposition pressure.
Which brings us to the other summer game - spot the plot. Who’s plotting whose downfall. Now the name most mentioned in the context is that of Andrew RT Davies. Not a week goes by that some disaffected Tory backbencher doesn’t whisper words of disloyalty about their leader. Whether they turn loose talk into firm action remains to be seen. If it happens it won’t be now, nor the Ides of March. 
No, the knives will be out in the Autumn, after a summer of telephone plotting.
So lots to ponder over this sporting summer. And if Welsh athletes should win Olympic gold, be assured politicians will certainly also sprint to be in on the picture opportunity.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

On track?

The hype that surrounded the relaunch of the electrification of railways in Wales had more to do with coalition politics than with transport policy.
Of course it’s good for Wales to have electric trains. At the present we’re in a group of three with Moldova and Albania, as the only countries in Europe without electric trains. Indeed it is well over due. 
Having just looked at the Welsh transport infrastructure for a programme on the Welsh economy that will be shown in the Autumn. The common theme that comes from many contributors is that the Welsh transport infrastructure is a drag on our economy. 
Roads, rails and airplanes in Wales are not fit for purpose. And even some of our ports need upgrading if they are to cope with the lucrative cruise trade.
But back to yesterdays announcement on the railways. Just in case you missed it, this electrifying of the line to Cardiff is been announced for the third time. 
It was Gordon Brown’s transport minister Lord Adonis who first made the announcement in 2009. Then the new transport secretary Philip Hammond announced the electrification as far as Cardiff. Yesterday saw the latest and perhaps the final announcement  on the South Wales lines with Swansea and the Valleys ear marked for electrification. But recycling announcements is nothing new. They all do it.
North Wales continues to be the cinderella of Wales when it comes to railways. The main line from Euston to Holyhead will continue to be served by diesel. And even lines in North East Wales that are used to access Liverpool, Chester  and Manchester will remain without a mile of electric track. 
But before  to much excitement is generated on the announcement it should be noted that there will be nothing done for two years. The coalition’s announcement made it clear that the £9.4 billion expenditure will not be occurred until 2014 to 2019. This will be financed by ticket prices increasing above the rate of inflation. There will be no new public money. 
But the political reason for the launch is to boost the foundering Westminster coalition. 
Cameron and Clegg need to be seen to be taking an initiative on the economy. When the coalition was launched in the Rose garden behind Downing Street. There was an expectation that the policy of cuts would deal the country’s large deficit. The economy would grow again when the private sector took up the cudgels. Oh how they wish. 
Instead of growth the Chancellor has engineered  that public investment is plummeting from 3.4% of GDP in 2009-10 towards a forecast 1.1% in 2016-17. 
George Osborne’s policies has seen the country in a double dip and perhaps facing a treble dip recession. The IMF have been slashing its forecast for the UK. Every day more and more are realising the ineptitude of the Chancellor. And this is the man in charge of the Conservative Party’s political strategy. 
Much needed though the expenditure on the railways is, standing up in Solihull in front of trains ain’t going to mend the economy or even mend what looks increasingly as a fractious coalition government.

The chances are that the coalition will crawl to the destination of the general election. But it will do so because both leaders have looked at the polls and know that going to the country sooner will likely mean a massive rejection by the voters. They hang together for fear of hanging separately.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Who has confidence in who?

The three opposition parties in the Assembly are raising the ante on the Health Minister. They’ve tabled a motion of no-confidence in her. They clearly want her head. The cry next week will be resign, resign.
The mathematics of the vote is that the government don’t have an overall majority they have 30 seats out of the Assembly’s sixty. A Labour Assembly Member would have to rebel for the Opposition to win. There are no hints of that happening.
But the vote in many ways is academic if I dare use the word in this context. Why? Because the result is not binding.
In the unlikely event that the collective might of the Opposition succeed in winning the vote and gaining  a majority, what will happen? Nothing. It will not force Lesley Griffiths to give up her seat round the cabinet table. Only the First Minister can show her the door. 
So what’s it all about, you may ask? Well, it won’t come as a surprise to many, it’s party political. 
When cuts bite. When hospital services are “configured.” When protests intensify. Who'll be on the Senedd steps meeting and greeting? None other than the opposition members. 

A short speech on how they tried to rid Wales of the nasty Health Minister. Job done. The pay-off? Votes, of course. Well, at least the hope of them at least, when the Assembly election eventually comes.
So that’s the Opposition. 
But what will Carwyn Jones make of it all. A cynic would say, he’ll keep his Health Minister in post until all the cuts have occurred and then reshuffle her out of the job. 
That’s the way it happens. Surely not, you may say.
Well, there’s precedent. And in the Assembly too. 
Those with long memories will remember Christine Gwyther. She was a vegetarian agricultural minister chosen by Alan Michael and inherited by Rhodri Morgan when he gained the First Minister’s crown. It was called first secretary in thoses distant days.
The farming community, as is their want, were most unhappy with the performance of this vegetarian minister.  Quickly seeing a political advantage, opposition parties kept placing and winning censure votes against this hapless minister.  The call for her resignation appeared with  boring regularity on the Assembly Order Paper. 
Despite the oppositions best efforts, nothing happened. 

Nothing happened that is until Rhodri Morgan decided to make things happen.  When the time was right she was brutally removed her on the eve of the Royal Welsh show. Given her cards, never again to ride in the ministerial car. 

The beneficiary. None other than dear Carwyn Jones. Ms Gwyther's mishap was Carwyn's good fortune. His first leg up the ministerial greasy pole.  The experience will have made an impression on him, surely. A fast learner like him will have made a mental note as to how the boss behaves to his underlings in the murky world of politics.
As was said by Jeremy Thorpe about Harold McMillan’s cull of his cabinet “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his life.”
So when its convenient the Health Minister will be out. But only at the time of Carwyn Jones’s choosing. The no-confidence debate will have little relevance.  No, it won’t be the Opposition parties that decide Mrs Griffith’s fate. 
Whether an academic was nobbled or not is irrelevant. She’ll go when Carwyn Jones sees it as politically convenient to rid himself of her. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Opposition move on health minister

There always seems to be a raising of the temperature as politicians are about to embark on their summer holidays. So today the opposition politicians have worked themselves into a rage as to whether a report prepared by an academic is truly independent or not. 
Such questions are not normally the subject of debates in the Assembly.  Normally an academic’s report is neither here nor there. Why is this one so special then. It’s about the services provided by local hospitals. 
And yes, there is no bigger political football to be kicked than the threat to a service delivered by a local hospital. 
Politicians of all parties want to get in on the act. Why? Because such services matter to the voter. Politicians always like to be seen to be on the side of Mr and Mrs Angry. 
Ministers when they take an unpopular decision like to have some fig leaf to justify their action. Lesley Griffith the Health Minister is no exception. 
Faced with the rising costs of providing for the health of the nation and with no cash in her ministerial purse the Health Minister is on a hiding to nothing. She can’t let things go on without changes. Cuts are inevitable. 
So enter stage left, Professor Marcus Longley. He takes to the stage waving a report entitled “Best configuration of hospital services for Wales: A Review of the Evidence.” Not the most sexy of titles. But for you and me it’s about how best the hospitals can deliver health care.
After lots of ifs and buts the report comes to a conclusion. And a key element of that conclusion “The case is really quite strong, in Wales as elsewhere in the UK, that some acute hospital services should now be reconfigured.”
Manna from heaven to a Minister that knows she has to take unpalatable decisions. Here she has an acknowledged expert in his field saying that Welsh people would have a better health service if some services were moved from some hospitals to centres of excellence. 
Better Health and cheaper too. Little wonder that government and government backbenchers have being brandishing the “independent” report as proof that when government is closing a ward in your local hospital, it is better for all your collective health. Even when you don't know it yourself. Poor dear, it's for your own good.
Opposition politicians  don’t like the current governments policy. They support rationalising services in the abstract but not cuts to hospitals on their patch. Not an unknown stance for a politician to take. 
Now the Opposition smell red meat in e-mail exchanges that arise out of a Freedom of Information request. The e-mails superficially suggest that the research was not “independent.”
They come to this conclusion based on exchanges between the good Professor and Senior Civil servants in the Health Ministry.  The three opposition parties see these as collusion to somehow doctor the research.
If they can make the story stick they hope to get a ministerial scalp. Stop the changes to local hospitals in their track. There is little evidence that either outcome is likely to happen.
They’ve mounted a campaign on slender evidence. Yes, there have been naive exchanges between the Professor and a senior civil servant. But does it amount to collusion on the scale that the opposition are suggesting. The answer is no. 
Professor Langley is well known for his advocacy of fundamental changes to the way that health is delivered. It would have been a shock if he’d reached any other conclusion. 
There is a real discussion to be had about the kind of health service Wales can afford in the future. The Professor’s report contributes to the debate.
In the Commons Opposition politicians have learnt over the years that there is little joy in attacking civil servants by name. A lesson not yet, learnt in the Assembly. To get a real scalp is more a war of attrition than the kind of emotional spasm witnessed in today’s Assembly.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Polls predict Labour majority

Labour are riding high in Wales according to the latest YouGov poll for ITV Wales. In the constituencies, of those polled, half have indicated that they would vote Labour. This is up 8% from the Assembly elections.
The polls make grim reading for the Conservatives. They go down 6% from the nearly 25% at the election that helped them overtake Plaid Cymru to become the official opposition in the Assembly. 
On this performance they would go back to being the third party again. On the same number of seats as UKIP at 5 each.
Andrew RT Davies’s position as Conservative leader is already precarious. There are Tory Assembly members that would dearly like to see the back of him as leader. 
The would be assassins within his group will almost certainly use this poll as a justification when they eventually plunge the knife. 
By default Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru, would become Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly. 
Whilst this might give some comfort to the party, the polls themselves offer little indication that their new leader is making much of an impact. 
Indeed they have lost ground from the Assembly election with their vote slipping back another 2% they are down to 17%. But the vagaries of the PR system and Tory vote hemorrhaging to UKIP gives them a substantial lead in seats over the Tories.
The Liberal Democrats slip even further back they are now only on 7%, a drop of 4%.
However it is on the regional lists and voters intentions that the poll is most revealing of the current state of public opinion and their voting intentions.
Here the big news story is UKIP. The leap into third place. The bounce up to 12%, beating the Tories who are on 11% and the Liberal Democrats at 8%. 
Indeed the Greens are beginning to breath down the neck of the Liberal Democrats with their 7% which shows a 4% increase from their vote in the Assembly elections.
When asked how people would vote in a general election Labour do even better. In that election they would command 54% of the Welsh vote. 
In UK polling, Labour are averaging about 42% which again shows Wales is very fertile territory for Labour. 
The recent results of both Welsh and UK polls have buoyed up Ed Miliband’s position within his party.
Despite a very hesitant start he has being landing his punches of late and as a consequence has silenced his critics on the Labour benches. These successes seem also to be reflected in the polls. Or perhaps, which is more likely to be the case, the coalition government in Westminster has lost the plot. 
What does the vote mean in seats? According to Dr Dennis Balsom ITV’s expert analysis: 
Labour 33 (up 3) 
Plaid Cymru 13 (up 2)
UKIP 5 (up 5) 
Conservatives 5 (down 9)
Liberal Democrats (down 1)
If UKIP do gain seats in the Assembly, the dynamics will be interesting, as they are a political party that want the place scrapped. 
The results in full are:
  • Labour 50% (up 8%)
  • Conservatives 19% (down 6%)
  • Plaid Cymru 17% (down 2%)
  • Liberal Democrats 7% (down 4%)
  • Others 8% (up 5%)
Regional list
  • Labour 35% (down 2%)
  • Plaid Cymru 20% (up 2%)
  • UKIP 12% (up 7%)
  • Conservatives 11% (down 12%)
  • Liberal Democrats 8% (no change)
  • Greens 7% (up 4%)
  • Others 6% (no change)
Westminster election intentions
  • Labour 54% (up 18%)
  • Conservatives 23% (down 3%)
  • Plaid Cymru 10% (down 1%)
  • Liberal Democrats 4% (down 16%)
  • Others 9% (up 3%)