Posts Tagged ‘ Wales ’

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…?

For Want of Cricket at Glamorgan County Cricket Club.

 There was a time not so very long ago, when Robert Croft danced and sang his way into the night as Glamorgan Country Cricket club celebrated a remarkable county championship victory. It was a time of great excitement for cricket inWales. Not that many year after, the same cricket club played host to an experimental Wales v England series of one day ‘internationals’, that saw an even more remarkable result in the first engagement, as Wales defied the odds to secure a comprehensive victory. For a time the success gave way to mediocrity which in turn gave way to abject on field catastrophes. Then, the guiding hand of Maynard, the name that was so synonymous with the success that had been tasted by the club in recent memory, returned to turn the club around from county cricket embarrassments, to form defying competitors who recorded back to back victories and then some for the first time in almost half a decade. In honour of his efforts to turn the club around, Maynard was fired, and went with him out of the door followed the last shred of any competitive sense the club might once have had, the last semblance of respect the organisation deserved as a competitive sports team.

 Now we hear, having stood resolutely in the way of Welsh country cricket fans ability to enjoy their sport, that Glamorgan Country Cricket Club are going to do their upmost to block the formation of a Welsh International Cricket team. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t the goal of a Welsh sports team be to develop the best Welsh sportspeople? Should they not strive for those talented Welsh athletes to represent their nation? Not if it costs Glamorgan Country Cricket Club anything!

 So much of what has been rotten with this cricket club has been its manifest in its desperate clamour for cash. Destroying Glamorgan’s original ground and abandoning its relationship with so many historic grounds aroundWalesin order to construct the meccano style stadium that occasionally hosts international cricket, has been the bain of the clubs recent history. Yet it was not done with any notion of developing the next generation of cricketers inWales, no, it was done to make money, the irony of course being that any game of cricket involving a team other than England and Australia proved to be a crippling financial inconvenience that served to embarrass both the club and the nation.

 Now we hear that the only reason that Glamorgan’s elite school of managerial idiots would want to block the formation of a Welsh international cricket team, would be for the fear that their crappy little stadium might no longer be able to host the loss leading Englandtest matches that they so jealously guard. Once again, Glamorgan Country Cricket Club show themselves to be as narrow minded and selfish as they have been with every single executive decision taken in the 21st century. Me, me, me they cry, why, why, why we should be shouting back. Why on earth should we care what Glamorgan want for the future of Welsh cricket, given that they seem to care so little for it themselves.

 Frankly, cricket in Wales does not begin and end at Glamorgan, as has been shown with the newly elevated status of the Cardiff University side to first class level. Glamorgan have come to symbolise something very rotten, and their existence is not a prerequisite for the growth of the game in Wales, the creation or otherwise of an individual Welsh team, and certainly not for the sustainability of the game. That they think and probably believe that they hold the power of veto over the creation of a Welsh international team goes only to illustrate the extent of their inflated ego. It’s time somebody told those who hold the reins of power at Glamorgan where they can go with it, because their current stance, and that taken on most cricketing matters over the last 5 years, have only served to damage the game in Wales – we might well be better off without them!

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.

Last of the Summer Shane.

Well, it’s all over I guess, no more can Wales rely on Shane to strike the impossible score, to break out from inside his own half, waltz between four defenders and ghost underneath the posts to secure a legendary grand slam sealing try. No, now we have to figure out how to score as a team, and on present form that may well prove harder than it should be. Yesterday’s game in Cardiff at least had the fitting tribute to end the occasion, as he did it again, but on the whole there was plenty of reason to, perhaps not be worried, but at least be disappointed.

Shane walks on

Putting the yellow card of Halfpenny to one side, one wonders how, with the backline at Wales’ disposal, how on earth we seemed to be so impotent in attack. Priestland, Williams, Roberts, the other Williams, North, Halfpenny…the combination of such names should strike terror into any defence, yet, and we saw it in the World Cup, something just is not clicking in the go forward of this team. This column certainly had raised eyebrows when attack coach Rob Howley was given his new contract, and they went from raised to frowned as the game went on. How does a team with that much potency in it fail to go forward? Perhaps Nigel Davies is due a return to the set up – he seems at least to be able to get his team over the gain-line…

Shane speaks

Anyway, there is no cause for panic at this point. A one off largely irrelevant fixture, decided by a yellow card, gives no great indication to the rise/fall of Wales. We learned nothing new, Wales needs Adam Jones, the team currently suffers from inexperience, Ian Evans is a great player until he gets tired, and despite having the most exciting backline outside of New Zealand, Wales still struggles to create a try in the first 60 minutes of international rugby matches. It’s a concern that we have known these questions have existed for a very long time, and we are still looking for answers, but perhaps a second training camp in Poland will provide the answers to all our ills.

The game though will not be remembered for any of those issues, it will be remembered for that one try, the last try in a Welsh jersey that we will see from Shane Williams. As the final whistle went, and Shane marched across the field with children in hand (is it too much to ask that that son of his will carry on the torch), people wept all around our vantage point. Grown men to little children, blubbing. Did they cry because they will miss Shane, or because they fear for who we will turn to in his absence? Probably a little bit of both. Either way, his contribution will be missed.

Shane’s Lap

It was a beautiful try, rather than a beautiful game, but it was a try, five seconds of play, that reflected everything that was so magnificent about Shane Williams. The speed, the step, the leap over a fallen tackler, and, while the somersault was impressive, it was the clenched fists of joy at crossing the line that we will recognise most, and remember most fondly. It’s been a blast of a 13 year international career, and it is a great shame that it had to end.

Diolch Shane.

Gary Speed.

We don’t cover much on football here, and won’t pretend to have suddenly been converted overnight to a love for the sport, but there was one sense of consistency in Wales during the last decade or so when it came to sport, that we were blessed with a very small handful of truly class footballers, who could command the respect of many in Wales, regardless of their sporting allegiance or interest. The likes of Ian Rush, Neville Southall and Ryan Giggs of course come to mind, but Gary Speed was certainly one of those few who we could all acknowledge as a great of the nation. And it is with great sadness that he is no longer here.  

For a non football fan, Speed was a name that crossed the sports page divide, his was a name that would always appear in the papers, and it was a name that commanded respect and authority for his ability and commitment on the field. As a player he certainly took part in some of Wales’ more recent relative glories, but his persistence with the Welsh footballing cause, when at times it appeared to be on its knees, is something that sticks out most. In taking on the Welsh managerial role, he took over a team that was in what seemed to be as a bad a shape as it had been in several decades, yet in a very short space of team, he seemed to be well on his way to moulding the next generation of Welsh footballing stars into a team of true potential.

There will no doubt be questions raised about why this happened, questions about mental health, and already the internet at large is rife with depression based debates (whether that was a cause or not), and there will probably be a time for such discussions in the future – ‘why’ after all is the question that most people are asking in this time of shock. But in the immediacy of the event, all that needs to be said is that this is a tragic loss of a great servant to sport and to Wales. Regardless of your interest in football, his was a name that was recognised, and it was recognised because of the virtues he brought to the field of play; his is a great loss, and it is one that will be felt by many around the world. A very sad day.

Welsh Regions Warm Up

What a difference a few weeks makes, or does it? Going into this year’s Heineken Cup, all the talk surrounding the Welsh regions was one of pre-emptive disappointment, a funeral parade held in advance of the inevitable crashing and burning of the so called professional elite of the Welsh rugby community. Well, two rounds in and the Welsh regions, over two competitions stand undefeated. Unlike in previous seasons, this is not a case of remaining undefeated by virtue of only having defeated fellow Celtic League cohorts or Italian regions, no, this time the Welsh regions stand undefeated over the elite of Europe, English and French clubs no less!

Now, while it is far too soon to start hailing this as anything more than a couple of very good weekends for Welsh professional rugby, it can at the very least be seen as something very promising. This is not just Welsh teams putting in backs to wall defences at home to secure their victories either, this is Welsh teams going into the backyards of England and France’s best, and winning with conviction. There is even a growing sense of frustration that some Welsh teams are not offering enough in their victories. The Cardiff Blues for instance were pointed by the BBC punditry as disappointing in their victory over London Irish. Regardless of the man advantage, this was the Blues beating London Irish, a Welsh team beating an English team, in Europe, and we are disappointed in them. Not so very long ago we would, as collective followers of Welsh rugby, have sat back in stoic acceptance, that a defeat in Europe to the English or French was just an accepted norm, to be frustrated by yes, but not so much to take disappointment from. Now we win, and we are disappointed, maybe the Gatland/New Zealand mentality is asking something of the fans as well as of the players these days.

Of course, no Welsh team is going to win either European Cups on the back of these performances alone, but for the first time in many years, we conclude the first round of European fixtures with all Welsh teams still competing in their groups, and in most cases, running the show so far. Is this a knock on effect from the Welsh teams’ relative success at RWC2011? Is this perhaps an indication that in terms of development, the regional system is actually producing some positive results? After all, look over the Scarlets line-up that looked so strong against a Northampton team lacking in cohesion, it was young, it was Welsh, and much of it was home grown. Again, it’s not a team that has won anything yet, but the signs are certainly promising. Whatever the reason, it is a heady position to be in, to have four competitive Welsh teams in Europe’s elite rugby competitions.

We will all wait with baited breath to see how these performances develop, as ones of consistent success or flash in the pan victories that will ultimately be forgotten. Yet, the displays produced by talented Welsh teams so far should bring smiles to the collective fan base. More so because these are performances being delivered by teams containing very few of the men who starred in red in New Zealand. Wales has an excellent first international XV, but game by game, the regions seem to be showing that there is an increasingly talented pool of players knocking on the door, and that, more than initial success in rounds 1 and 2 of the Heineken, should be a reason to smile at this point in the season.

 

After this was first drafted the Ospreys managed to embarrass themselves into a draw in Italy, however, even that result should bring some cheer, as promising young outside half Matthew Morgan saved the blushes of the outift…though that might be clutching at straws on that particular game…

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.

Occupy Cardiff – A Cause without a Cause?

It’s nice to see an occupy movement settle in under the shadow of Cardiff Castle. We in Wales never like to be left out of a good global movement, and the Occupy movement has certainly managed to unite people in major cities across the planet. As the foul winter weather appears for one night only (come the weekend all will be sunny and fine for the protestors), those hardy enough to have arrived will warm each other with their collective sense of self satisfaction, that they, and no one else, is standing up against the…, well, what is it exactly they are standing up against?

The Occupy movement is a bit of an oddity in many respects. While we are all being encouraged to show sympathies to the cause of the protestors in the valiant attempts to keep their tent cities intact in the face of political, police and, in some cases, religious opposition, one wonders what it is exactly that so many people are uniting, globally, against? Is it bankers, austerity measures, oppression, exploitation? In some cases there have been complaints levied against bus companies for raising prices, in others arguments have been levied against high taxation – while some voices within the same movement argue for increased taxation, just so long as it’s coming from the pockets of the ‘right’ people.

Watching the Occupy London news coverage the most distinctive thing about the scene in the background of the endless live reports, were the confusing mismatch of banners and placards. ‘Screw bankers’ some shout, ‘the end is nigh’ cry others, while some shout with conviction to ‘free Palestine’. Am I missing something, would the freedom of Palestine help the global financial problems (funny if it would eh)? Indeed, would taxes on the banks solve everything? Would cheaper bus rates perk everyone up? Maybe, but probably not.

The greatest irony of so many of these occupy movements, is that they are in most cases located in the heart of major spending zones, and it’s not spending by bankers. Come down to Newport, South Wales for instance, and you will see no shortage of people on weekdays ambling up and down the high street with bags of loot aplenty – while we complain so much about the condition of the country, it doesn’t actually seem to be stopping us from spending, our pockets remain lined with coin, yet we complain so much about our inability to pay for things (before quenching out thirst with a £3 Starbuck excuse for a hot beverage).

I suppose the thing that fails to inspire about the Occupy movement is that so much of it relies on finger pointing. Everyone has a finger to point at someone, someone else is responsible and someone else should take the punishments of austerity. My sympathies are limited. Yes, bankers are bad, most of the country (and world) would conclude that bankers have played their part in fucking things up for the rest of us (many bankers included), but whacking banks with taxes and fines is not going to change the world – the change must come from the mindset of the people, to give more and take less, bankers and protesters alike. Yes, a subsection of society is more responsible for this than others, but making that same subsection carry the can will not actually fix anything, like it or not, we are in this together.

Perhaps that should be the message of the Occupy movement, ‘we are all in this together, so let’s all tighten the belts’. That, or any coherent message would be good, something to clearly unify people. As things stand, ask one Occupy protester what they are protesting about and it will be a message very different from that provided by the next protester you speak to. So, while it is nice to see the politically active community who are pissed off about the state of things in Wales, speak up and join the ‘sit in a tent’ party, one can’t help but conclude that without a greater sense of cohesion, a clear single message, that this, as with so many of the other branches of the protest, although it will continue to whatever is seen as its ultimate end, will largely be ignored. As the storms close in over south Wales, and sympathies grow for those sticking it out outside Cardiff castle tonight, minds can’t help but be drawn to the Chartist movement, where a portion of those who put their name to the Newport rising, failed to show up due to soggy conditions and a warmer place to be had in the pub. The Chartists, in their unity, stand as a historical precedent for the potential success of a nationwide politically driven movement that stands in the face of political opposition and local authority oppression. The Chartist cause though stood successful in the long run, and much of this stood on a clear message, manifest in the People’s Charter, the points demanded by the Chartists for the reform of the nation. The Occupy movement would do well to follow their example, if this is ever be anything more than a small collection of plucky souls sticking it out against the weather and diminishing media coverage.

Fight for the cause, but make that cause clear to all who might follow.

Poppies Saved for the/a Nation.

Well, the powers that be have brought FIFA to its knees, and a momentous concession has been made in allowing (if you follow the BBC news coverage) the English football team to wear their poppies in an upcoming game of minor significance of football (if anyone is interested, Wales were also debating wearing poppies, but no one at the BBC seemed to notice or care about that). Plenty of hoopla and wrist wringing went on over this, with members of the Royal family showing their dismay at FIFA’s initial reluctance to allow the poppies to be worn, and then came in the PM, swinging into the poppy fight with a strongly worded letter that really showed FIFA who is boss (good that he could take the time from helping to prevent the world from imploding on itself to write letters on such pressing global economy saving scale issues).

The conclusion of all this – English football players can wear poppies on their arms, and a great triumph has been secured for the British institutions of the poppy, and general decency and what not, and so on… Now, this piece is not intended to belittle the poppy for one moment, or for what it represents, come the 11th, this author will certainly be wearing one. However, one wonders if a moment’s thought on what the poppy signifies will pass through the minds of the English football players as they line up to play hacky sack with the Spanish, one wonders further still how many of those in the crowd will take the time to ponder, to care about what this whole ‘fight for the right’ to wear the poppy is all about. How many of either footballer or fan will be up in silence at 11am on the 11th? How many will take the time to walk down to their local cenotaph and show their respects? I’m happy to be proven wrong, but I’m going to wager a little sum that there will be very few, if any, who make the effort.

It would be nice to think that this campaign to preserve the ‘nations’ right to wear the poppy will do something to raise awareness of those affected by war (one wonders for instance if any England players will demand a white poppy to be stapled on to their little arm bands?), that the battle over the past few days will encourage all involved to take the time to dwell on the significance of that which they choose to, as no doubt we will all be told, ‘proudly’ wear the poppy. Yet, the reality that we probably can’t escape is that this will have no more impact on the nation other than giving a selection of sporting commentators the opportunity to point out the fact that some footballers are wearing poppies, maybe mention what great ambassadors they are for doing so (before pulling the camera away as one of said role models begins a four letter tirade against a man in black for the most insignificant of reasons).

It’s sad to think that this will be the extent of the impact of this story, but there is a very good chance that that will indeed be its extent, and no more.