Archive for the ‘ politics ’ Category

Michael Gove and the little yacht that could.

He’s an interesting fellow is Michael Gove. While seeming to be totally competent in his role as chief deconstructionist of the working class education system [Policy No 21b: If they won’t vote for us, we won’t teach them how to vote], Gove seems to have found himself in slightly tricky waters (yes, we’ll run with those sorts of comments early on here) regarding a proposed new royal yacht. However, scorn should be held back for the time being, after all, in these times of austerity we are all being pressed, even the Royal Family, and gigantic yachts just don’t come as cheap as they once did. After all, those pesky unions and their meddling have meant that you can’t expect your ship building crew to return a death rate of a minimum of 5% anymore, the busybodies tend to expect that number to be a lot lower these days!

So, given that ol’ Queeny is going to be having a little bit of a knees up sometime in June, Gove presented the frankly brilliant idea of giving her a giant boat. Well, not so much Gove giving her a giant boat, but the nation. Of course, plenty of wealthytodos were ready to claim that private money would play its part, but Gove was confident that the general public would be more than willing to cut off their thumbs, sell them to medical science, and donate the profits to the ‘old woman gets older, let’s give her a boat’ campaign. It seemed so perfect.

However, it seems to be the case that the general public are in fact a little less keen about lopping off their limbs to be able to contribute to this perfectly reasonable birthday present. So to, was David Cameron, who seemed to distance himself from the project rather hurriedly [must be some manner of republican then, not wanting the public to buy the ol’ crone a boat an all], muffling something about times of austerity, and possibly it being inappropriate to ask a general public to pay for a multi-million pound boat, at the same time as many of them seem to be considering selling their blood in order to pay for bread [extreme perhaps, but it could be happening].

So poor old Michael Gove is left on his own, with his crowd of billionaires of course, isolated and left out in the dark, and all for want of buying a birthday present. Never mind Michael, I’m sure there are other things you might encourage the nation to do for her, such as reintroducing child labour, slavery as a solution to the pensions deficit, and re-colonising the commonwealth, all perfectly reasonable thing to ask the general public to foot the bill for, and we all hope that he will try, one of those at the very least…    

Westminster Wages War.

It’s an all action start in 2012 on the political spectrum, with the makings of a political civil war on our hands. Westminster seems intent…well, the Tory led government is perhaps the better way to put it, seems intent on grabbing the hot iron of irritation from the fireplace and ramming it deep into Alex Sammond’s agenda. For a Tory party that is clearly against the breaking up of the Union, they are doing an impressively disastrous PR job in terms of undermining support for the break with their bold posturing and ‘you can’t do that unless we say so’ stance. Sammond must be sitting in a leather arm chair with a whiskey in hand, rocking himself with uncontrollable laughter, knowing that if the Tories keep treading their current path, they could well walk themselves into the dismantling of Britain, with the SNP having to do little more than sit back and watch the separation happen before their eyes.

While all the Scottish excitement has been bouncing about, Wales managed to make the BBC headlines as well, as the planned reform of political constituencies was formally announced and presented for public consultation. The reduction of 40 to 30 Welsh MPs has been presented as a logical one in terms of redrawn constituencies being of roughly the same size, and therefore fairer to the democratic process. Of course, the redrawing of boundaries in such an arbitrary fashion of ‘one-size fits all’, is not going to be without its problems.

There is initially the slightly odd system of cutting and changing boundaries. Political constituencies exist in Wales the way they have done for a reason, geography. The landscape in Wales is one element that cannot be overlooked when considering the boundary of seats, yet this would appear to be the one thing that the electoral commission have indeed decided to overlook. One fears how disastrous this could be for voter apathy, as thousands will find themselves unsure of who they are voting for, and, in the case of North Wales, voting for an MP who will be busy on Anglesey, while the MPs mainland voters will inevitably become second class constituents given the landscapes involved.

But the main point of concern should really be the slap dash decimation of the democratic voice of the Welsh people. Remember the hoops that had to be leapt through for devolution, for increased devolution? We in Wales certainly have to work hard to gain our political voice, however, those in London have to do very little work indeed to be able to take it away. With all this talk of referendums, surely the people of Wales should be offered a referendum on whether or not they approve of a massive lump of their political say over what happens in London, and therefore Britain, being removed from them on the whim of a committee that is not directly answerable to those affected? For all the wailing of British politicians on democracy overseas, it would appear that the democratic process in this island is one that very much operates on a ‘when it is convenient’ system, and little more.

The boundaries proposed are at the very least problematic, and will serve to disenfranchise many, rather than achieve the opposite and (in theory) stated goal of the project. However it is the arbitrary removal of the Welsh political voice that should be more of a concern. As we have seen with the Scottish question, Westminster is not shy of flexing its muscles when its Celtic siblings start throwing the toys out of the pram. What if, having cut the Welsh MPs down to 30, Westminster then decides to cut a few more, and then perhaps decides to cut the Assembly, because it can, what then? What is being proposed by Westminster, for Scotland and for Wales, is very dangerous, and should serve to all as a reminder where the true intentions of this government sit. It is one that harbours an obsession with central power, that would rather see the voice of the ‘regions’ silenced, than empowered.

Watch out Wales, Westminster’s coming!

A Vote for Romney is a Vote for Welsh Cakes!

For those living in Wales, and with access to the rather random frequency which BBC Wales is broadcast on (so for those in the South West of England there is a good chance you do receive it, while for those living in South East Wales there is a good chance you don’t), you’ll be familiar with the rather desperate attempts made by the Welsh news coverage to find any and all Welsh connections to any and all world events, however ephemeral they might be. Well, we now have a direct reason to be involved in the Republican nomination campaign in the United States. BBC Wales revealed today that Mitt Romney is married to a proper Welsh woman! Well, Welsh by descent she may be, but Ann Romney would appear to be doing sterling work in the states, promoting the humble Welsh cake.

Now debates may rage about which is the best kind of cake out there, but in Wales the argument is usually ended with the presentation and subsequent consumption of a plate of Welsh cakes. A wonderful treat, perfect in size and form, the Welsh cake is a masterful offering as either a dessert or a light snack during the day, anytime of day, anytime of year, the little Welsh cake is a versatile champion of the cake world. Frankly EyeOnWales has little interest in the Republican nomination campaign, or who ends up in the White house, yet the prospect of Welsh cakes being served in said building has suddenly made the issues real, and we now have an opportunity to put Welsh cakes in the White house, and on to a global scale. The kitchen of Ann Romney could well become the most powerful marketing tool for the Welsh gastronomic economy (if such a thing exists).

So, having given this no further thought than the fact that Welsh cakes are in some way involved, EyeOnWales is proud to give its full endorsement to Mitt Romney, his wife and her Welsh cakes, to take the Republican nomination, and carry our national cakes all the way to the White house. If we could, we would be voting Romney/Cakes!

Part 4/4. The Top Ten Worst Welsh Politicians 2011.

1. Carwyn Jones.

What a year it has been for Carwyn, groundbreaking referendums followed by an election result which, although far from being a landslide, was certainly enough to allow him to take his Labour party off on his own. With long time partners Plaid kicked to the sidings, and of course, the new powers afforded to him through the referendum which it might be said that he took the lead on (though off course everyone in Plaid Cymru would firmly disagree with), one might have thought that this was the year that Carwyn would shine. After all, having taken on the reigns from Rhodri, Carwyn was seen as the leader elect long before his party put him in that position – he was the great future of the Welsh political landscape. Yet, can we say that we have been anything other than bitterly disappointed in Carwyn’s period of rule?

As with a number of the political figure to make this list, it is not so much a case that Carwyn has done anything wrong, but the want for him to have done something right, or interesting, or relevant, is almost painful now. It really has been a year of apathy from the man in charge, and on more than one occasion, the joke has rumbled around the pages of twitter and such, that somebody needed to nudge Carwyn awake – such was the level of inactivity from the top.

What can we be excited about in Wales then under Carwyn? Organ transplant reform? Well, it might happen, in several years, maybe a decade, yes, it might happen. There was the landmark law change on plastic bags which Carwyn outlawed, to some extent, well, he put a charge on them at least, but at least it was original thinking (if you overlooked the fact that lots of other nations have already done it, but still it’s something new in Wales at least). Erm, oh yes, Labour won back some £9m in compensation for Wales being utterly screwed over thanks to the Olympics, though probably best not mention the £100m+ that Wales is still out of pocket by. Of course, the odd firmly written letter to Downing Street was sent in the post, and how the halls of Westminster must have trembled when Carwyn’s letter flopped through the post box. Yet, the lack of any response from London regarding Carwyn’s yelping is put into stark contract by the chattering stimulated by Scottish activity, and this is perhaps where Carwyn’s true failings can be seen.

Scotland has been heard of – almost on a weekly basis the ‘national’ newspapers carry something on the movements of Scottish politics, or the worried responses of Westminster politicians in response to Scottish developments. Even in Wales, the future of Welsh politics is spoken of only in relation to Scotland. If Scotland did this then…, if Scotland did that than Wales might do…, yet we are not Scotland, and with the powers at our disposal, should we not be generating headlines of our own, rather than relying on some notional ‘Celtic’ allies to do the work for us?        

Wales needs to be seen. For all the excitement over 5p plastic bags and hypothetical organ donation law changes (and some in the nation really do need to be reminded that nothing has changed, or will do anytime soon, on this law), you can’t help but feel that Carwyn really hasn’t done much this year. Perhaps a certain comfort has been found in the leaders seat, and with the referendum gone, any sense of urgency seems to have followed it. Carwyn is certainly not a bad leader, but he is an apathetic one, and that is often as damaging in the impacts of political stagnation, as the actions of one who is inept and incompetent. 2012 must see something new and something exciting come from Carwyn, otherwise this term of government will fast become remembered for very little worth remembering having happened.

Part 3/4. The Top Ten Worst Welsh Politicians 2011.

4. Andrew R T Davies.

For half of the parties in Wales, 2011 was all about new leaders. For Plaid Cymru, the plan seemed to be a turgid wait and see policy, third place in the Senedd becoming an opportunity to huddle in dark corners for months on end, waiting for nothing to happen with the same sense of urgency that a tortoise shows towards eating in the winter months. There will of course be a new Plaid leader, but it will be a long old wait for it to come. For the Tories, no such concerns, and the demise of the much liked Nick Bourne was met with a short snap battle between Andrew Davies and Nick Ramsey. Ramsey came is as the unfancied underdog, and amused during the leadership battle as he had to ward off accusations of bar room brawls over pub quizzes. Sadly, Ramsey lost out in a tight well fought contest to the pit bull like Davies.

Now, what has Davies done to warrant his position on this list? Well, for all of Bourne’s failings, he did do a remarkable job of turning the Welsh Conservatives into a distinct entity, one that seemed to have accepted devolution and was willing to work progressively within the framework towards a better Wales. Bourne made the Welsh Conservatives an entity which you didn’t want to hate immediately simply because they were Tories, which in itself is a remarkable achievement. Then came Davies.  

It took Davies only a very short period of time to degenerate the Tories in Wales into the traditionally hateable landed gentry elite of old. All the hard work of Bourne seemed to have been rendered to ash, as the angry farmer who seemed to have only learnt the letters N, H and S while in school, set about a sledgehammer approach to opposition politics. There is a certain sense of responsibility which comes with leading the main opposition party, and Davies has ignored it. He has resorted to a Westminster style barracking that offers nothing but a backward thinking approach to party politics, which the Senedd had done so well to distance itself from in recent years.

After Bourne, Davies has been a frustrating disappointment, and Welsh politics will only be damaged with this man leading the voice of opposition in Wales.

 

3. Ieuan Wyn Jones.

How did he do it eh? How did Ieuan go into an election on the back of some of the most successful years of Plaid’s existence as a political party, and blow it all by plummeting his party into a woeful, almost unimaginable position of third in the Welsh political ladder? It was so good for Plaid, their policies were working, the referendum was a success, yet despite having so much positivity behind them, Plaid thumped into an election battle with only negativity on their mind. ‘Look how bad Labour are’ they yelped, ‘stick with them and it’s down hill all the way’ was the line…yet these were slurs directed at their political partners, it made no sense. The election campaign of 2011 was one of the most disappointing misjudgements to have come out of the Plaid policy draw, and it will hurt them for some years to come.

However, Ieuan does not make the list for this reason, no, he makes the list for being one of the most shameless squatters in recent Welsh political history. Having led a catastrophic election campaign, the door for was left open for Ieuan to leave with some grace. As it was, he ignored it, and pulled up a seat to jam the door open, keeping one foot in, and one foot out of power. Plaid have since become a rudderless mess, with no clear voice of opposition, with Ieuan giving off the aura of a man who just doesn’t care. The lack of a drive from within the party to move him is equally disappointing. The lack of anyone from within the party to show the balls to call for this deceased puppet to move aside was frankly a huge disappointment, and does not bode well for the future of the party, with so few of the potential party leaders showing any inclination to push for power, or to remove the rotten head off of the parties prized flower.

Ieuan stands here, both on his own merit, but also as a symbolic figure head for the weakness and lack of direction shown by a party that seems intent on retreating in on itself, and ignoring the world outside. Not the way forward for a party that looks in desperate need of a road map.

 

2. Mohammad Ashgar.

Having dealt with a number of individuals who wield lots of power, coming into second place on the list this year is one man, who thankfully, wields very little power at all. Ashgar is a member of the political community who generally defies logic, lacking in any real sense of integrity, loyalty or general decency, it is difficult to see how anybody sticks by him, yet the Tories still do…even though if you believe the rumour mill that suggests the Tories only held onto Ashgar as a regional list candidate for PR reasons and little else, it is a stabd they take not by choice.

Ashgar’s year has been proliferated by his usual controversies , amongst which his ban from a local mosque proved to be particularly telling for the way in which Ashgar likes to conduct his business, behind closed doors with little to no sense of free democratic choice involved being his particular flavour. But, even for Ashgar, his electioneering on behalf of his family reached impressive new lows in 2011. Many familiar with Ashgar will remember how he controversially left Plaid Cymru on the strength that the party would not allow him to hire and indiscriminately promote his family members – family first for Ashgar ahead of party loyalty. Jumping parties to make a point is all well and good, but leaping on a man’s cold corpse before it is buried in the ground is something else altogether.

Following the death of popular councillor Les Knight, Ashgar could not contain himself, suddenly with a fresh corpse at hand, an opportunity had present itself, and he pounced on it. Within days Ashgar was promoting the virtues of his wife for the recently vacated council seat, much to the disgust of those in the locality. Despite an apology following soon after from Ashgar, his general contempt, not just for his current and previous parties, but for basic human decency, has been staggering. This is a wretched little man, who deserves nothing more than ridicule and humiliation, he is a contemptible, crooked git, who does Welsh politics a crippling disservice with his continued presence. This man would surely the top the list, were it not for his (thankfully) lack of any real political power, and may we pray that his political sway goes no further than his current family led panderings.

Part 2/4. The Top Ten Worst Welsh Politicians 2011.

Positions 7 to 5 today in our countdown to finding the worst Welsh politician of the year 2011, and for those named below it’s a bit of a case of not knowing where one’s responsibilities rest. Devolution has proved to be rather confusing for a number of our elected representatives, with some unsure whether they should be in Cardiff, or in London, or somewhere in between…frankly, for most of those listed, so long as it’s not in a position of political power, it would be an improvement. However, for those on today’s list, two at least seem to have become frustrating mainstays of the Welsh political scene, no matter how many people they irritate, or for their lack of general contributions to the benefit of Wales – and we fully expect all three to appear in the 2012 list as well!

 

7. Peter Hain

Ah, dear old Peter Hain. He probably deserves a position slightly higher up the list, however, he did, however briefly, remember how to be a local politician during the Gleision Colliery disaster where, for probably the first time in a decade, Hain stood up in support of a community and did nothing to showboat his own electoral ambitions. It was refreshing, very refreshing, and hardly representative of his usual machinations. No, for the rest of 2011, Hain was his usual self, making shameless power plays regardless of how it might benefit the people of Wales. For Hain, it was very much a case of ‘if it’s good for Hain and Labour, it’s probably not good for the people of Wales…but who cares’.

This was most clearly illustrated by Hain’s attempts to overhaul the electoral system in devolved Wales, in such a manner that would almost certainly guarantee Labour dominance of the Senedd for the remainder of its days. Of course there is much to be disgusted by in Hain’s actions, but perhaps it is the fact that a clear cut Westminster politician who has never shown any interest in fighting for a seat in the Welsh Government, was doing his upmost to subvert the development of an institution which he has nothing to do with. This was of course coupled with his shameless flip-flopping on proportional representation. One minute Hain was one of Labour’s most vocal enthusiasts for the political reform movement, yet the second it was rejected by a ‘British’ electorate, Hain leapt on an opportunity to make a case for further reform in Wales that would do nothing but enshrine Labour’s rule over politics in Wales.

For the most part of 2011, Hain has shown himself to be the usual opportunistic bridge troll that he has always been, scrabbling for the shreds of power that fall at his toes, no matter how detrimental it might be to those around him. Hain is really one figure that Welsh politics would do well to be rid of, sadly, he will almost certainly be here in 2012, and for a long time to come yet.

 

6. Cheryl Gillan.

All sorts of excitement surround Gillan this year, and perhaps it is because of the undue excitement surrounding her actions that provide her position on the list now. Granted, this has not been Gillan’s worst year, in some respects, it might be argued that this has been her best year in the Welsh Secretary role, though it must be firmly pointed out that ‘best’ is a term that should be used in a context of apathetic irrelevance which has coloured the majority of her offerings so far. However, for Gillan to be named Welsh MP of the year, was an award so outrageous, that it automatically qualified her for a position on this list.

Much of the hoo-hah surrounding Gillan this year was the chairing of the Silk Commission. Designed to debate the future of devolution in Wales, the Commission essentially amounted to a round table chit chat about some issues relating to devolution in Wales, while overlooking, ignoring indeed, a raft of major issues, the oversight of which, largely making the conclusions of the Silk Commission of limited relevance at best. Celebrated by some as a recognition of the growing worth of the devolved political voice of Wales, we rather like to think that the Silk Commission was an exercise in head patting, an attempt to reassure those operating out of Cardiff ‘that everything will be all right’, and ‘aren’t you all doing so well down there’, followed by a celebratory ‘we’re going to put the findings of the Silk Commission right up on the refrigerator where everyone can see’. There was nothing to celebrate in the Silk Commission, and nothing to celebrate in Gillan’s efforts for Wales.

Indeed, Gillan’s most excitable contribution to politics has been her one woman fight against a railway line being developed in her constituency, no doubt the good people of rural England will be celebrating her success in winning Welsh MP of the year…one wonders how everyone in Wales will celebrate her train derailing schemes? Top that with some fairly shameless politicking of the Gleision Colliery disaster, and Gillan’s contributions to Wales have been one of exploitation, head patting and general disregard.

Thanks for nothing Cheryl, we expect a similar level of apathy from you next year (unless Cameron makes a really good decision for a change and finally boots you out).

 

5. Peter Black.

Peter Black’s high position in the list is probably more a reflection of the many skirmishes EyeOnWales has had with Black on the twitter social media tool over the last year. In practice, Black has probably done much less to harm Wales than either Hain or Gillan has over the last year, yet, there have been some inconsistencies in Black’s offerings that have been unsettling at the very least. Early in the year we were probably more amused than anything else about Black’s flapping over the Lib Dem two, when the Welsh Lib Dem’s meagre election victories were in danger of being slashed even further due to the duos incompetence over illegal memberships of this and that…it was all very silly, as was Black’s response to the situation. But it would be Black’s views on wider matters later in the year that would come to be a course of frustration.

As with Hain and Gillan, a bugbear of many Welsh politicos is the way in which they both seem intent on shaping the political landscape in a devolved Wales, without being part of it. Black spent 2011 largely doing this but in the opposite direction, and one wonders if he is need of a road map to Cardiff, because for much of the calendar year, Black seems to be confused as to where he works. When it has been convenient, the Liberal Democrat coalition with the Tories has been a great thing, ‘look at what we are doing in Government’ Black would cry. Who in Government? Where in Government? For Black, devolution is a temporary beast, as is the concept of a Welsh Liberal Democrat Party it would seem. Anything positive to come out of the Westminster coalition has been pounced on by Black as a cause for celebration, regardless of whether or not any Welsh politician had anything to do with it. Yet when it has not been convenient to do so, the Westminster coalition has been something separate and distance, ‘not to do with us’ we hear.

Of course, the end of the year was marked by more celebrations, as the Welsh Liberal Democrats ‘saved the budget’. Single handed, the Welsh Lib Dems fought Labour into a corner, and forced them to bend the knee in submission to the force of Welsh Lib Dem willpower, blah blah blah. Black’s drooling over the budgetary agreement was sickly in its enthusiasm, and shocking given the man’s eagerness to bash the Labour government with near daily glee, all of a sudden he was working with them, no? Not according to Black, as far as he was concerned this was the Lib Dems doing what was right for Wales, Welsh Labour had very little to do with the whole thing…according to Black.

Peter Black is the noisiest of the Senedd members, eager to be heard, desperate to be at the centre of debate. He might cause little damage, but that is more due to the weakness of his party than his personal ambitions. But his attitude towards devolved government, and his flimsy grasp of what party he belongs to, is consistently galling. It’s time for Black to be a little more quiet, and a little clearer on where his party loyalties lie – two good goals for him to fight for in 2012.

 

Positions 4 to 2 next, and plenty of party leaders in the mix, and an old, slightly insane, favourite.  

Part 1/4. The Top Ten Worst Welsh Politicians 2011.

Well, quite a year for Welsh politics eh? The political landscape is not quite what it was when we entered 2011, and it has not been one for remaining static throughout the year either. From slim line Labour leads in the Senedd, to Tory electoral successes being marred only by leaving their party leader behind, to the Plaid Cymru leadership employing an election strategy that required the shooting of both feet, to the Lib Dems struggling to understand how many members they had, whether those who were there could be there and, for Peter Black in particular, establishing whether they were a Wales or a London based party, before settling on the idea that whilst nobody is going to vote them into government, they can still make themselves out to be the kingmakers: it’s been eventful, even of the electorate didn’t pay any attention. There will be a time to review all these happenings in good time, but for the moment we would like to pitch the first part of the top ten least effective politicians in Wales in 2011. This largely comes in response to the almost farcical offerings of the ITV Wales hosted Welsh Politician of the Year awards, which largely served to insult the majority of politically inclined viewers by presenting Cheryl Gillan as the Welsh MP of the year – ridiculous and verging on disgusting. But that is by the by – here is our list, from 10 to 8 for now, of the worst Welsh politicians of the year!

 

10. Neil McEvoy.

The Plaid Cardiff councillor was a bit of an unknown going into this year, but after some entertaining bust ups, has certainly made a name for himself. McEvoy will probably be best remembered for his scuffles with the Occupy Cardiff movement, where he seemed to develop a self image of turncoat extraordinaire, offering assistance and heartfelt support for the protestors for roughly 7 minutes, before decrying the actions of the crowd and sending in the truncheons. Not content with such crowd breaking antics, he then managed to follow protesters to a well known pub, and cause a second fracas to spill over, eventually being turfed out of the pub, and that of course was all a precursor to his (temporary) banishment from his own party for turning his wrath on a charity group. His is a name we have heard plenty about this year, and all for comically poor reasons. For being so consistently in the limelight for the wrong reasons, McEvoy is probably on paper for worst of a bad bunch, but his ranking reflects the fact that he really has little sway over anything, and thank goodness for that!

9. Andy Klom.

Whereas we’ve all probably seen enough of McEvoy, Andy Klom is a case of the opposite. Who is Andy Klom, and where is he? Head of the European Commission Office in Wales is who he is, where he is is something entirely different. Given the recent battles in (or over might be more appropriate) Brussels that have been taking place, we might have expected some vocal interjections from the man who speaks on behalf of this institutions in Wales. What did we get? Nothing of substance, and nothing of substance has largely been the story of Klom’s contributions to the Welsh political scene in the 7 odd years of so that he has been rumbling around here. We would welcome McEvoy levels of incompetence over this silent man. Who knows, he may be doing something useful, but it would be the first anyone has heard about it if he has.

8. Paul Flynn.

 Poor old Paul Flynn, the old Labour dog keeps a vice like grip on his Newport constituency seat, but increasingly it seems that this mainstay of the Welsh political landscape is in increasing need of a cosy seat, a warm beverage and an early night. Flynn has become a little obsessional with certain things in recent years, Iraq and nuclear power in particular (I wonder how important these things have been to his Newport voters?), and, if you follow his twitter offerings, you will find an almost daily reference to something in the nuclear spectrum, all of it terribly negative and scary you’ll appreciate. But for Flynn, perhaps the only thing scarier than nuclear power, is a Jew in power? Perhaps too harsh, but Flynn’s perceived anti-Semitic remarks (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15991739) will certainly be the thing that he is remembered for this year, and sadly, for however long he sticks it out in politics now, this is a gaff that will follow him around to the day he gives up his Westminster seat, and replaces it for the much recommended recliner.

 

7 to 5 coming soon, one Plaid, one Labour and one whatever Andy Klom is so far, two Tories and a Lib Dem coming up, I wonder who they might be…?

Wales, the 5p Bag and the Selfish Few.

Oh come on Wales! No, we are not ranting about rugby here, but plastic bags. A report carried in the Wales on Sunday today focused on a new crime wave hitting Wales, that being the theft of metal supermarket baskets, in order to avoid the dreaded inconvenience of paying 5p for a plastic bag. What the hell? Seriously Wales, what the hell is wrong with us? More specifically, what the hell is wrong with that small subsection of society who are so driven by selfishness and greed, that not only can they not cope psychologically with the concept of paying 5p for an environment enhancing scheme of plastic bag purchasing, and instead resort to outright theft and criminality.

This comes in the same week that another EyeOnWales contributor witnessed a shopper in Newport city centre, hurling a Welsh Government plaque explaining the 5p charge, at a shop assistant in a rage at having to fork out the exorbitant sum of five one penny pieces.  Again, what the hell is wrong with us?

Of course these are individuals in the minority. For the most part the plastic bag charge has gone over as a great success, with more and more ‘bags for life’ being made use of and dramatic reductions of plastic bag use being recorded in shops. Whether this helps to save the environment or not is yet to be seen, but certainly there are far fewer bags flying around Wales at the moment, which is in itself a good thing. Think of it, if plastic bags had never been distributed in the first place, we would never have had to endure that douchbag scene in American Beauty with the interminable filming of a floating bag! But why must that minority bring the rest of us down? What are these people thinking? What goes through the mind of a person who comes to the conclusion that the better alternative to buying a plastic bag for 5p, is to loot shops of their metal carriers. Do these people collect the supermarket baskets? Are their living rooms in the valleys chock full of metal baskets piled high after a months’ worth of shopping?

Frankly, this story, as ridiculous as it might be on one level, is frankly appalling on another, and a damaging indictment on the sort of selfish idiots we have scowling around Wales today. For many, this Government led initiative has been greeted very positively, but for those same old few, who think they deserve something for nothing, it’s an all too familiar story. So, here is a suggestion. Going into a shop and expecting a product for free is farcical, and it is amazing that shops have held out from turning their back on this form of altruism for so long. However some in Wales seem to think that they deserve their freebies. In which case, if you know anyone who is taking home metal supermarket baskets, pop over to their house one day, and help yourself to some of their items, after all, they are advocating a system where it is perfectly acceptable to enter an establishment and make off with something that does not belong to them. In the eyes of many this might be seen as theft, in the eyes of these little bastards, it’s a social norm. So, let’s make the most of their social norms, and give them a reason to rethink the value of a 5p bag.

Strikes, Welsh Labour and the BBC.

Watching an attempted national strike on television and twitter has made for an interesting day, and I think by the end of it, I’m more inclined towards supporting the industrial action than I was at daybreak. This though has as much to with the amusement of watching Welsh Labour move further and further away from their partners in London (no bad thing) and the idiots paraded on the BBC as part of their largely tedious coverage, than it has to do with any real issues.

From very early in the day the first proudly posted images of the 8am strikers began to appear in the twitter feeds, as Welsh politicians fell over themselves to illustrate the fact to anyone who might be listening that, yes indeed, they were there braving the elements and standing shoulder to shoulder with the put upon masses. Most parties were represented, apart from the Tories of course, who followed the London party line. Embarrassing tweets praising those working the train lines filtered through from the true blues, which of course were all trumped by David Cameron’s later triumphant ignorance towards the dismay of his millions of employees, discounting their mass walk out as a ‘damp squib’…DC certainly staying in touch with his workforce today eh (one wonders if his advisors have a laminate picture of green hills covered with rainbows glued to his bedroom window so that every morning he wakes to a world in which everything is just fine…). While some Plaid members bemoaned the fact that they were not being allowed to speak at a selection of rallies, it was the enthusiasm showed by Labour ministers on the picket lines that amused most. There stood Rosey Butler, sticking it to the man, while her big boss Miliband in London argued in the opposite direction – plenty of clear red water on display in Wales today.  

While Welsh Labour moving further and further away from the policy position of the London Labour party was amusing, and certainly helped in warming to the picketers, the BBC then stepped in to seal the deal. Of all the private sector workers to question on the rights and wrongs and relative sympathies that might be shared with public sector workers, the BBC turned first to a coffee house lackey and then to an estate agent. While not wanting to directly insult anyone in particular, someone who pours coffee for a living, and estate agents, must be the two most replaceable types of employees in the entire world. That they could be essentially compared to teachers and health care professionals verged on the ludicrous. Really, a coffee shop button pressing grunt passing judgement over a teachers right to strike would have probably been reason enough to side with the strikers, but in this case, it was the deal sealing cherry on top. Well, that or a smug bastard of an estate agent smugly finger pointing from within the comfort of his shiny knock-off excuse for a suit – both are equally irksome.

However, something frustrates about today’s strike, and Cameron’s ‘damp squib’ line has some resonance. A one day strike sends a message, for a day, tomorrow everyone will be back where the government wants them to be, and the world will carry on as if the movements yesterday never occurred. If the Unions and all those who feel put upon are serious about their concerns, the action considered must go much further than a single day. Take a look at the bloated salaries of tube drivers in London. Rightly or wrongly, for a employment sector that asks its employees to press three buttons and little else, they do rather well when the pay check drops through the door. That has come from block strikes. Disrupted for one day is a pain, disrupted for two days, three days, that is when people start to pay attention. And while it may be spurious to cite the expenditure of the British government on aircraft carriers that will never even be used, to the tune of a cost that would cover almost exactly the shortfall that is being argued over in relation to pensions, the comparative expenditure is food for thought. So come on the public sector, the country does need you, but they won’t realise it until you buck up your ideas and kick on for a week’s worth of strikes. These one day efforts will achieve nothing – listen to your leaders in Westminster, they are essentially mocking you from their warm halls. Stick it to the man, but do it with some conviction already! They have the money, make them realise that they have no choice but to spend it on you rather than to spend it on boats that will never even see water!   

Senedd Politics: Not the Place for Peter Hain

Lembit Opik was the first, a crass useless individual with no tangible connection to Wales, who, though having been told where to go by both Welsh local electorates, as well as his own party when it came to shortlists, continued to parade himself as the political voice of Wales, long after the notion was no longer applicable (if it ever had been). Now, after careful, rational and considered thinking, it is long overdue that the ineffectual and habitual ‘dropper in on Welsh politics’, Peter Hain, can join him on ‘the list’.

Hain would probably have made it on to ‘the list’ some time ago, but was due a stay of execution given his generally excellent handling of and subsequent fund raising following the Gleision Colliery disaster. There Hain acted as a local politician should, for the good of his community, and for that he should be praised.

However, so much of what Hain does is not for the good of his constituents, his community, and his (so called) nation. Many following the post AV referendum fall out will not have failed to notice Peter Hain complete one of the most shameless u-turns of recent political history, overnight switching his allegiance to FPTP because, as he stated, that is what the voters wanted. Not only was his u-turn embarrassing, his subsequent interpretations bordered on horrifying – as Hain went on to then proclaim that the AV referendum was a clear indication from the voters of Wales that they wanted to switch voting to FPTP for the Senedd as well. Now anyone with the most basic grasp of political history in Wales will be able to tell you that there has been a historic split amongst Welsh voters, that for local/national(Welsh) elections, PR is always favoured, whereas Westminster elections have consistently seen FPTP favoured by Welsh voters. It may not be consistent, but there it is. For Hain to suddenly suggest that this was a mandate for electoral reform in Wales was rash, short-sighted and verging on idiotic.

Now he is at it again, meddling in the affairs of the Welsh political scene, meddling in the policies of the Welsh Labour Party. Meddling is very much the word for it. Hain is not an elected representative of the Senedd, therefore he has no voice in this elected institution, and should be distancing himself from policy developed by the Labour Party inside it, not trying to lead it.

Now, while current Labour positioning regarding electoral reform stinks of their long strived for goal, to be unmoveable from Government in Wales, should that be their policy then fine, let them have it – it will be fought against and hopefully defeated, but if it is policy the Labour Party in the Senedd wish to develop, then let them try, it is their party after all. However, Hain does not stand in or speak for the Senedd. Should he wish to shape policy in this institution he would do well to pluck out his finger nails out of his shredded ambitions within the London Labour Party, give up his Parliamentary seat, and stand for the Senedd. Then, if elected, his views, liked or not, would at the very least be respected as those provided in the elected house of Welsh representatives. His current views however should be regarded with contempt, as they do nothing but subvert the voice of those who should be speaking on behalf of Wales, but are being led by the nose by their old slave masters in London.

So Hain, welcome to the list, you can keep Lembit company in his self contrived pit of decay. And there you can remain until such time that you can man up, leave your comfort zone of London, and stand for the elected body that you spend so much time trying to manipulate. Until then, shut your trap, and stay out of things that don’t concern you.