Posts Tagged ‘ Plaid Cymru ’

Wales: Local Elections.

It was all fairly inevitable in the end. You imagine that even if we had enjoyed a record turnout for voters in the local elections, the results would not have differed much from the final tallies revealed yesterday. Labour clawed back a percentage of their previous losses to the Conservatives, and took a good number of seats from other parties who appeared to be caught up in the wake of an anti-Cameron backlash. So how might everyone be feeling after this mini test of the current electorates mood?

For Labour it was all cheers and dancing in the shadow of Nye Bevan as the liberal democrat strongholds in Cardiff buckled and snapped. Carwyn and that visitor from London Peter Hain were there to eat up the accolades, though neither seemed to play any prominent role whatsoever in the campaigning. Ed Miliband was also congratulated for the impact of his leadership, though perhaps the applause came from those harbouring sentiments along the lines of ‘well done for not completely cocking this up for us’. As senior Tory politicians were quick to note, Labour candidates in many locations could easily have rolled up to the hustings wearing nothing but a red leather gag, spanking themselves with kippers in something remiss of XXX Morris Dancers Gone Wild Special Edition DVD (part of me hopes such a thing exists), and still comfortably win.

For Wales, in time of economic crises, voters have this consistency above all other parts of the world. If things look uncertain, vote Labour, if the economy is a bit shaky, vote Labour, if there is a chance of rain tomorrow, best vote Labour just to be safe. Often there is no rationale to be found in these patterns, it’s simply a case of that’s how it’s always been – and little will change that. So, for all the celebrations in Cardiff city centre, there will be little doubt about many newly elected Labour members, that the real work is about to begin, the challenge of getting elected for many will have been no more taxing than getting out of bed.

So what of Plaid Cymru? This was supposed to be the grand recovery no? The return from the abyss. Despite Leanne Wood leading the most positive campaign of them all, Plaid went on to lose some 40 councillors – where then was the great revival? As has previously been explore in EyeOnWales, asking a new leader to turn a party around in a month is a ludicrous challenge. An indictment on the leadership of Wood? Gibbering nonsense. Plaid was always going to suffer in light of a Labour revival, coupled with the legacy of Ieuan Wyn Jones. Had he of stood aside several months earlier, who knows how Leanne Wood might have shaped the party by now, it’s impossible to say. As much as anything can be concluded, the rotting corpse of Wyn Jones’ leadership can now be finally shovelled out the door, and the work of rebuilding Plaid can officially being.

As for the Tories and the Liberal Democrats in Wales, plenty of losses to choose from, though Rodney Berman’s exit from the Welsh political stage was both the most amusing and welcome development of the night (though how the disastrously inept and self aggrandising figure of Neil McEvoy survived will be a mystery for the ages). Again, no surprises, but really, with the party leaders in general absence, the losses should really have been much greater. Where on earth where Andrew R T Davies and Kirsty Williams? The respective Tory and Lib Dem leaders seemed to almost entirely vanish from the main stage when campaigning got underway. One can only presume that the pair had long since concluded that a series of humiliating losses across the country was inevitable, and that the only appropriate course of action would be to hide out together in one of the Senedd’s basement bathrooms, playing canasta, hoping that by the time they finished, it will all be over and that nobody will have noticed that they weren’t there. What should really worry both is that no, nobody did notice their absence, something which surely cannot bode well for a few years time.

So there we are, the big four in Wales covered, and only one of them is smiling. Yes even their smiles will only have been flown in for the day, before the forced grins would be put back in their packaging, to be saved for a day when those who won their seats might be able to say, ‘we earnt this’, as opposed to saying ‘the Tories are crap…that helped’.

 

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.

S4C: Plaid Find Their Inner Gwynfor.

Finally, after years of being nice and keeping their heads under the parapet, Plaid have decided at their annual conference that they actually have a voice, and some guts behind it as well – at least from a policy point of view. Of course it is yet to be seen how many of the Plaid delegates will actually go through with the proposed boycott of the licence fee in order to protect the current status of S4C, but the mere fact that the proposal has been supported is an indication that Plaid are finding a little of their former strength and conviction.

 

Most with an interest in the future of S4C will be well aware of the threatened hunger strike pitched by prominent Plaid politician Gwynfor Evans in 1980, and the key role it played in the creation of the essential Welsh language channel. While the consensus from Plaid today is not one that goes quite as far as Gwynfor’s plan, it is one that shows a degree of intent not seen from the core party for some time. The key distinction here is that the party membership are actually committing to breaking the law.

 

TV licence payment is a legal requirement, not paying it, or any fines that follow an initial reluctance to pay the licence, can result in imprisonment. Make no mistake about it, Wales’ nationalist party is inciting its membership to break the law, and potentially risk going to jail, and good for them. Again, it waits to be seen how many of those who raised their hands in favour of the motion would actually see through such measures, but one hopes that a statistically significant proportion of members would actually go through with their commitment, to make the sort of difference that Gwynfor did by risking, not his freedom, but his health and his very life in order to achieve his goals for the protection of Wales.

 

For far too long Plaid have been content with gains, small, measureable political gains, a syndrome seen most clearly in the last Assembly election campaign where point scoring became the core of the parties strategy. This move marks a new sense of intent. This is not a move that will appeal to the broadest range of voters in Wales, but a move that will appeal to its core voters, and its historical core intentions, fighting for Wales. We might hope that this is a move that will signal a fresh start to Plaid policies. Remembering where the party comes from, and remembering its core Welsh nationalist goals are essential for the party to grow and reclaim its position as the second party in Wales. Under Ieuan Wyn Jones, the party tasted government, and concentrated on working with what is had, rather than fighting for what it wants. Now as one of the true victories of Plaid’s history, S4C, is under threat, the party now rises to fight for what it might lose. Perhaps this will be the start of the party reclaiming its desire to fight for what it wants once more, though actions still speak louder than words.

 

‘Welsh’ Personalities Back Lewis the Hatemonger.

 Well, as a few days passed since I wrote about the dangers of being complacent in the wake of Roger Lewis’ hate article, we have new offerings from the Independent now, and some truly insightful stuff from Matthew Bell. Have a look at it here if you like: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/welsh-tell-mp-to-lighten-up-over-race-slur-2345252.html. It would seem from Bell’s commentary that the only person to have taken any degree of offence from Lewis’ tirade against Welsh culture, was a single Welsh nationalist MP, that the rest of the country, represented in his article by those he describes as being ‘Welsh personalities’, are suggesting that Jonathan Edwards should just lighten up, get over it, and stop showing up the Welsh people as being a whiney bunch of children.

No doubt Matthew Bell will pay little to no attention to the many Welsh voices who have posted comments on his contribution that would largely fly in the face of his ‘one man campaign’ theory, and go back to relying on his own handpicked voice of the people. So perhaps we should consider his evidence platform in a little more detail, taking each Welsh ‘personality’ one at a time.

Rhondda MP Chris Bryant is first up, a man best known for taking on Rupert Murdoch, and of course making up a load of gibberish about the Royal Families involvement in the whole affair. Bryant is the classic Welsh Labour politician, earning his pay from a Welsh community, while enjoying his life in London. Were he to spend a little more time with his constituents rather than chasing down personal vendettas against wealthy Australians, he might find that the voice of opinion is actually one of annoyance at the very least, with anger being more common.

Next up, Lembit Opik, the man who is so committed to working within the Welsh political spectrum, that having been thrown out by his constituents, rather than pursue another position in his ‘home’ country’, he instead ran off to London to become mayor. No doubt looking to support the London Welsh Society when he gets elected…

Carol Vorderman is next up in the ‘Welsh’ category, her upbringing being cited as reason enough for her views to be considered. However, one must hope that the occasional appearance on ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ is not all that one must do to maintain an active sense of Welsh identity, or be able to speak on behalf of the nation…one hopes at least.

Finally, despite citing that Lewis ‘had been inundated with messages of support from Welsh and English people’, Bell can only name Stephen Fry and Giles Brandreth in his list of examples. I may be mistaken but Fry and Brandreth both, if memory serves, act as clear illustrations of the English elitist system, that has about as much interesting in protecting Welsh interests, as they are in giving away all of their collective assets to set up a finishing school for leprous goat herders (which, given track record, is probably how they perceive the simple minded over reactionaries of the Welsh nation to be).

When I wrote a few days ago about avoiding complacency in Wales regarding such issues, it was with the dangers of such written responses that I had in mind. Our single representative voice on this issue is being shot down, according to some distant London based writers, by the ‘voice of the Welsh nation’, made up of stay away MPs, failing London mayoral candidates, math teachers who might have visited the country two or three times in their adult life, an English comic who loves the states more than he has any affection for the little land to the side of his favored England, and a blue through and through Tory who would struggle to point at Wales on a map where Wales was the only country on display.

We cannot let the London media rely on such people to speak on our behalf. Let’s get this clear, Roger Lewis did not write a comedy article, he wrote several paragraphs of hatred. The people cited who support him do not represent the Welsh people, some are barely capable of representing themselves. If you want to see how people feel about this issue, look at the message boards, there you will find the true ire, not in the ‘keep the Welsh quiet’ columns of the English national media.

As for anyone in Wales who felt that Lewis’ article was indeed out of order, and an affront to the nation and its cultural heritage – do not let it lie, let people know how you feel, and don’t let the English media whitewash this abuse into oblivion!