Posts Tagged ‘ Senedd ’

Introducing Carwyn…

This is the latest prototype for First Minister Carwyn Jones, king of the irrelevant, master of indecision, the first minister of limited ambition.

Elin Jones on the Charge.

The Plaid leadership battle has already started to heat up, and with nominations set to close tonight, the campaigning for many has already begun. Elin Jones has led the way this week, coming out with a raft of interesting and almost good ideas regarding Welsh referendums. While it is nice to finally see some assertive action coming from the favourite to take the party leadership, they come with a degree of surprise given Jones’ previous reticence to say anything of substance on anything. We have a theory on where all these clear policies are coming from…

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 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…?

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.

5p Plastic Bag Threat Grips Nation.

One woman not afraid of the threat of plastic bags.

It might be an indictment on the Welsh Governments’ agenda, that the most news worthy story coming out of the Senedd these days is one that follows the reactions of a nation to the looming dread of individuals having to pay 5 pence for a plastic bag in shops. Or perhaps it is an indictment on many in the nation, that so many should prove to be sounding so indignant towards the reality of having to pay what could be found dropped on a pavement for a single plastic bag. Whoever we feel in the mood to indict, the reality is that shoppers in Wales will, as of tomorrow, be facing up to the fact that, occasionally, and in some circumstances, they will have to pay a little extra should they wish to take home their shopping in a carrier bag, made of plastic, and provided by the shop. Exciting isn’t it?

Well, exciting is not the phrase that would be chosen here. It is a story of passing interest perhaps but little more. Indeed, one of the most impressive parts of the public reaction to this Welsh Government policy, is that so many companies have been charging for the use of their plastic bags for much longer, and mores the point, have been charging more for the privilege (10 pence in many cases). Yet coverage of this story dominates the Welsh media, and has received plenty of attention on the BBC 24 hour news channel. It is a fine enough policy in many respects, though one wonders why the Labour group did not take things further. 5 pence per plastic bag, in relation to the well discussed environmental arguments, seems a fair price to pay (indeed, the bag is a product provided by a company, a price of pennies for a product, environment debates to one side, seems a fair price to pay), yet Labour could have taken the move to ban them outright – that would have been newsworthy.

So the steady stream of voxpops roll out, gibbering of ‘it’s good for the environment’, ‘I already have a bag for life’, face off against ‘how can they expect us to afford it when the country is in the state it’s in’ and ‘it’s not fair, it’s not fair’…

It’s a tough one to argue against, not coherently anyway. There are too many bags floating around Wales, as well as plenty of other places in the world. Will a 5p bag tax fix this? No, not entirely, but it is a start, and frankly, given the UK governments plans to inject more money into collecting more waste, this seems an immanently more environmentally conscious scheme. As for those who seem to be hailing the impending 5penny bag as the coming of the end of days, what exactly do you think will happen as a negative consequence of this proposal? Will the elderly be financially crippled by the cost of a bag so much so that they will fear shopping in the first place? Will those on benefits be left to drop dead in the streets as they weigh up the choice of a bag over rice, a bag over vodka, a bag over cigarettes? Will families with more than one child to raise, be forced to leave their other offspring behind the bike sheds, because they just can’t afford to maintain another mouth as well as their five a week shopping bag habit? Of course not. It’s a damnable 5 penny price on a plastic bag. You can afford it, it won’t ruin your life, and it might just help to make the world slightly better for the rest of us.

It’s not exciting stuff from the Senedd, but it’s also not the end of the world. So stop your bleating, look behind the sofa before heading to the shops for those five small pieces of bronze coin, or better yet, keep the bloody bag you bought last time.

But come on Wales – please get over yourself, it’s 5p for a bag, not a taxation policy on our ability to produce blood, just relax, take the medicine (prescribed for free by the way) and let’s get on with our lives without letting the rest of the UK think this is the most pressing matter to trouble our lives here.

Hating the Poor – Tories and Free Prescriptions.

It seems that the issue of free prescriptions is one that the political junkies can’t help but wheel out of the garage every few months for a good airing. BBC Wales today covered the latest price of covering prescription costs in Wales today, and the figures were indeed on the heavy side of being expensive. So once again here come the Tories, and they certainly love this issue. It’s almost like heroin for them, no matter how bad it often proves for the Tories to use it, they can’t help but going back to it. So it was that Darren Millar appeared to deliver sweeping broadside stabs at Labour policy, deriding free prescriptions as untenable in the given economic circumstances.

Of course, cancer had to come out as well, as Millar rumbled on citing spending on cancer as a problem in Wales, and why on why were we not spending more in this area? Of course Mr Millar, cancer is the one and only health issue in Wales at the moment isn’t it? No doubt, cancer treatment is not something to be left in want of funding, but its use as a political welly to wang in Labours face here is crass and out of touch, especially when Millar seems intent on suggesting that all other illnesses currently provided for by the free scheme simply don’t matter. This is certainly the implication of Millar’s words, and in his readiness to turn to the current economic situation, he belays the real problem with the current Tory opposition in the Senedd, that being a general disregard for the working class in Wales.

Following the Tory leader Andrew R T Davies, who has already led the way with his obscure emphasis on fox hunting, a national vote winner if ever there was, now Millar leads the well trodden path towards the abolishment of free prescriptions. The problem with all this is that in Millar’s own cited economic difficulties, one wonders how many families would afford the rising costs of medicines, were the policy to be abandoned? The simple answer is that many would not, and as a result, many would fail to follow up the medical advice afforded to them and fail to collect prescription medication. Were this to happen, then certainly the budget for cancer treatments would have to be increased, as many patients who turn away from the opportunity to manage and mitigate heath problems through free treatments, would find their health steadily decrease and develop into much worse conditions, cancers being the amongst the most likely to emerge in many cases.

While there may be an argument for reviewing what remains under the protection of the free prescription umbrella, to consider abolishing the programme entirely is to show little to no awareness for the financial difficulties facing families across Wales. Poor health is one of the major issues in Wales today, and losing free prescriptions would only serve to exacerbate that. While Millar might be the latest in a long line of Tories to enjoy the brief limelight afforded by the use of a political soundbite in the form of bashing free prescriptions, one hopes that he might be the last to indulge in such throw away statements. Just because something costs money, does not make it a bad thing. Free prescriptions play an essential role in providing medicines to hundreds across Wales who simply could not afford it any other way. Its abolishment would cost lives, rather than save them through redirected funds.

Mores the point, such a policy would cost working class lives first and foremost, but then, the likes of R T Davies and Mr Millar might well not be losing any sleep over that.