Thursday 27 December 2007

Life in the Cayman Islands

Most of us have one – a sticker on the car which proudly displays CYM in place of a GB sticker. There is only one slight problem – according to the International Standards Organisation this is the three-digit code for the Cayman Islands. I am sure this is a lovely place, but I want to live in Cymru/Wales.

Among their many publications, the International Standards Organisation (with the support of the United Nations) publish a series of standards (ISO 3166) which agree on the recognized short and official names of countries (eg France and The Republic of France). It also standardises on a short two-digit code to represent the country (FR), which is commonly seen on car number plates and internet domains.

There is also an alternative three digit code (FRA) which is used for some other official purposes, including on passports).

But unfortunately CYM is the three-digit code for Cayman Islands (which actually uses KM as its 2-digit code). As far as two-digit codes go, CY has already been taken by Cyprus, CM by Cameroon (who also use the 3-digit code CMR) , CR by Costa Rica and CU by Cuba. Maybe we should be looking instead at ‘billingual’ codes of CW and maybe CMW?

Cymru/Wales is not to small to warrant such coding by ISO – When I was younger I remember that cars from Guernsey had GBG on their number plates. These have since been changed by ISO to a 2-digit GG with the 3 digit code becoming GGY.

ISO will not allocate a coding to us yet as we are not an independent state, but they can reserve such codes for future use if requested to by the UK government (who requested the change for Guernsey as well as Jersey and Isle of Man). We should campaign for the Senedd to make this request to the ISO on behalf of the UK Government.

p.s. Cymuned’s dot.cym campaign is commendable, but this is for a ‘second-tier’ designation based on language use - we should also be aiming for a ‘first-tier’ .CW domain to represent an independent Wales!

Monday 17 December 2007

26% Now Favour Independence

Well, that is stretching the truth a little bit, but in the bizarre Daily Telegraph campaign last week to remind its English readers that they were all British (except for the Scottish - and who are the Welsh anyway?), one of the questions asked:

Would you like the Union between England and Scotland to continue as it is or would you like to see it come to an end so that both England and
Scotland become independent of each other

Respondents in Wales said that 22% favoured independence, 62% the union and 16% dont know. So yes - out of those expressing a preference, 26% favoured Independence - for England & Scotland.

Not really a question on Welsh independence, but it is difficult to see how England could become independent from the 'Union' while Wales remains in (with who?).

We need to see more opinion polls on the subject of Welsh independence, because as the debate becomes more open in Scotland, and now in England, it is not really being discussed very loudly in Wales. Despite this lack of debate, up to 1/3rd of the population are now considering independence. How many more will join as the discussion opens up??

ps for those of you who were concerned that I had not been posting because I was in a Cardiff police cell, rest assured - they will never catch me!!

Thursday 22 November 2007

Beyond the Vale

In the 16th Century, as part of the colonization of Ireland under the English Crown ‘plantations’ were established where English & Scottish settlers were placed to displace the local population. While only partially successful in the ‘Pale’ of Dublin, this tactic was very effective in Ulster, and which ultimately led to ‘the Troubles’ and the partition of Ireland.

A similar tactic was also used in Wales, most notably in South Pembrokeshire, where Flemish settlers were used to displace and dilute the local Welsh speaking population, and the linguistic divide is still very apparent today.

While I sympathise with those who oppose the ‘University of Death’ at St Athan on pacifist grounds, I oppose it because it represents nothing more than a repeat of these earlier settlement tactics, brought forward to the modern day.

Peter Hain and the promoters of the scheme claim that it will bring 5,000 jobs to Wales and will be a huge boost to the local economy – not just in the Vale of Glamorgan but in neighbouring Cardiff and Bridgend. But lets look at this more objectively and ask what jobs will be created and who will fill them.

In the short term, around 1,000 construction jobs in will be created during building of the facilities, and while these will be mostly filled locally, they will only be temporary lasting no more than two years.

Of the permanent jobs, around 3,000 will be filled by trainers, technicians, military support staff and civil servants. These jobs will not be filled locally, but will be transferred from existing military bases elsewhere in the UK, and many of the positions will be viewed as ‘expatriate’ postings.

Potentially 2,000 jobs could be filled locally, but these will be mostly low paid support jobs including cleaners, cooks, secretaries, administrative staff etc. While these jobs are better than none at all, they must be balanced against the fact that the incoming transferred staff will also be bringing their families, many of whom will be looking for work locally and these new job seekers will largely offset the new jobs created.

There will undoubtedly be a boost to the local economy as money is spent in shops & pubs, houses are rented etc but this will also increase prices and put a strain on local services and we can soon expect a vociferous minority to demand ‘English-curriculum’ schooling and opt-outs from Welsh lessons.

The local economic benefits from this project are questionable (incidentally I would also raise similar concerns about the proposed Severn Barrage), but this is not why the project is proposed.

This is simply a 21st Century Plantation - designed to dilute the local population and defuse nationalist sentiments.

Thursday 8 November 2007

Get Dafydd Iwan in to the charts for Ray Gravell

A campaign has started on Facebook to try and get the song 'Yma o Hyd' into the top 40 of the UK Charts this week in memory of Ray Gravell, and Dafydd Iwan has stated that profits will be going to the Ray Gravell memorial trust. Please buy 'Yma o hyd' online from itunes - it will only cost you 79p. Going by recent trends, 'Yma o Hyd' should reach the top 40 of the UK Charts if more than 3,000 copies ar sold on Itunes. 2,000 people on Facebook have already promised to buy the single. Please buy THIS VERSION now (Dafydd Iwan ac Ar Log - Album: Yma o Hyd - Song 21: Yma o Hyd)

The song must be purchased before the end of Saturday to be included in the Sunday UK Charts. The song is currently No. 1 in the iTunes 'Folk' Chart and No. 99 in the iTunes general Charts.

Monday 5 November 2007

Supermarket Carbon Footprint - Somerfield Llantarnam, Cwmbrân

On my way home from work I passed up through Casnewydd onwards up to the Cwmbrân area when I realised I needed to go and do a bit of basic shopping.

I turned into the Somerfield Supermarket in Llantarnam near Cwmbrân.
Shock and horror total AWE ! not one Welsh pint of milk, not one product displaying any dragon and worse everything on the shelves appeared to have come from hundreds of miles away. Like the milk from JERSEY and Guernsey and YORKSHIRE !

I sought out the manager but only got the deputy manager - bemused he politely passed off - more like brushed off my comment, "that the stores' Carbon Footprint must be as big as an Elephant if not as big as a Mammoth since everything comes from anywhere except Wales." When I asked him why do you buy everything from the British and not from Wales - and further commented, "that nothing in here is from Wales" - he replied, " I do not not know why ." I asked that he convey my dismay to his manager. He luke warmly agreed and walked off. Am I the only one that has ever made this sort of complaint?

I then left the store with nothing in my trolley not having spent one single penny and went to ASDA where Welsh produce is sold.

An independent Wales could ensure that all supermarkets in Wales sell a percentage of Welsh produce, it is readily available.

John Frost

Economic ABC

If an Independent Wales is to succeed, then we have to develop a stronger economy. I believe that employment activities can be broadly classified into three types:

A: Wealth Creators
B: Wealth Distributors
C: Wealth Consumers

The Wealth Creators are those jobs that result in something physical being produced – these include the older traditional industries such as coal and steel, as well as manufacturing, agriculture and construction, etc. These jobs are the engine that drives the economy – for every job created here, one or more are typically created elsewhere in support industries. We should do everything in our power to encourage and develop these ‘Type A’ jobs, but which should generally be provided by the private sector. This should include distribution of grants but I would prefer to give tax-breaks instead – give new enterprises a 5 year holiday against corporation tax. This tax loss would be offset by taxes paid by new jobs created elsewhere in the economy.

The Wealth Distributors are those jobs that do not make anything physical, but support the Wealth Creators – these include transport, financial services, IT, retail, etc. These are real, valuable jobs, but they simply move existing money around – they do not create any new money. These jobs do not directly add anything to the economy, and are dependent on the Wealth Creators for their success – they follow the economy – they do not drive it. The creation of ‘Type B’ jobs should be only passively encouraged and facilitated, for example by the removal of red-tape. However, they should not receive any precious grants, and tax-holidays should be limited to say 2 years.

The biggest legacy of the Thatcherite years was her policy of eradicating the Wealth Creators in favour of the Wealth Distributors. This worked well in the City of London, where the distribution is on a global level – but has resulted in the devastation of many Welsh communities. I am not advocating reopening the mines, as there were underlying reasons for their closure – but we have to replace them with real jobs – that are wealth creating and will encourage the creation of others, for example in manufacturing and construction.

The Wealth Consumers are those jobs that do not directly contribute to the economy, and are generally funded as public services – these include health, education, government etc. Despite their negative name, these jobs are an essential part of our society, without which the economy can not operate. But we can only afford a limited number of these jobs, and must ensure that these deliver value for money. I consider these jobs to be broken down into a further 3 types:

C1: Service Providers
C2: Service Supporters
C3: Service Passengers

The Service Providers are the front line jobs – the teachers, doctors, even our AMs. To provide these services effectively we must establish service levels (eg the right to a doctors appointment within 24 hours) and ensure that we provide the right resources to meet these service levels (eg one dentist per 10,000 population). These service levels should become manifesto commitments for our politicians and they should be judged against them.

The Service Supporters are those essential support staff, without whom the Service Providers can not function, eg school secretaries, hospital cleaners. We must develop ways to ensure that these support services are provided in the most efficient manner, using benchmarking to compare different service providers (eg Hospital A costs £x per patient to clean – Hospital B only costs £y – how can Hospital A match the Hospital B level?). This is not a question of ideology but of efficiency. I do not advocate that all such positions should be in the private or public sector – simply that we must spend our limited money wisely to ensure that our service target levels are met.

The Service Passengers are those staff that exist but which do not directly contribute to meeting any agreed service level, for example management, administration, compliance officers etc. While some of these staff are necessary, others clearly are not, and some hard questions need to be asked - Why does Powys County Council need a Communications Manager? Why does Bridgend Council employ an IT Manager to read staff’s e-mails? Why do some councils want to employ race relations compliance officers? What would happen if these positions simply ceased to exist ?? Some of these positions are a necessary evil, but many are simply jobs for the boys, and usually highly paid ones.

I suggest that we should grade every job in our local councils and public sector bodies as either C1, C2 or C3, and publish annual statistics on the percenteage of such jobs, and their cost.

The harsh reality is that in Wales we have become too dependent on such Wealth Consuming jobs, and that there are too many Service Passengers. Of course, this issue is not related to Welsh Independence, and can be adressed at any time. But this issue will become critical following Independence as we will have limited resources, and we will have to carefully prioritise our spending.

Sunday 4 November 2007


This article was published on the Cross of St George website, in support of English Independence. It is not quite as catchy (or pronounceable) as the Balkanisation of Britain, but the Scandinaviaisation of Britain has some good examples:

Scandinavia, a region of five countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland), has seen its constituent countries form different unions with each other from the Middle Ages to 1918, until Iceland became the last independent nation. They share similar cultures and similar languages, but have remained separate sovereign nations ever since.

So for a lot of people, a possible break-up to the United Kingdom is something they fear, believing this would cause many problems and challenges. The prospect of this raises many questions. However, one only has to look towards Scandinavia to realise all these questions have already been answered:

Would the home nations be economically viable?
The Scandinavian nations top all tables on average wealth per person. Size of country has no bearing on economic success. No reason why the home nations can’t be economically successful too.

Isn’t Britain stronger together? Wouldn’t England, for example, have a lower standing in the world than Britain?
If enjoying a high standing in the world means participating in numerous foreign wars, who needs that? Does a Swede, who lives in a wealthy nation, and has not seen his country fight a war for 200 years, envy our status? I seriously doubt it.
Perhaps countries like the USA, Russia and China dominate world markets, but their citizens don’t enjoy the same wealth per person as in the Scandinavian countries.
And if a lower world standing also means not sending men into space or topping an Olympic medals table – then I can live with that.

Would there be passport/border controls between the home nations?
No. There are no border controls between the Nordic countries.

Many Scottish people have relatives in England and vice versa. Doesn’t this make independence difficult?
Not when there’s free movement of people between nations as per Scandinavia.

What would be the constitutional position with the monarchy?
In Scandinavia, some countries are kingdoms, some are republics. It’s up to each home nation to decide their constitutional position.

Wouldn’t there be problems if England was a member of the EU, but Scotland and Wales weren’t?
Denmark and Sweden are in the EU, but Norway isn’t, and there are no problems.

And wouldn’t it be difficult for Scotland and Wales economically, when they have a much larger economic neighbour in England?
Hasn’t affected Denmark, who share their border with Germany.

Would the break-up of Britain lead to problems with security? Especially if England has an independent Scotland on its northern border?
Why? Is there a problem with security in Scandinavia? Is England likely to do something that will prompt an invasion of a foreign army? If Scotland did, would that automatically mean this army would move onto England? Even in the dark days of WW2, when Germany invaded Norway and Denmark, this didn’t spread to Sweden.

But on a small island, there must be issues where there needs to be co-operation?
Indeed, and this is true in Scandinavia. However, these issues are dealt with by the Nordic Council, without impairing any of the nations’ sovereignty.

I don’t know if I’ve listed all of the questions regarding this issue, but I’m sure if you need an answer – look to Scandinavia.

Friday 2 November 2007

Ray Gravell 1951-2007

I was very saddened to hear of the death of Ray Gravell - Not only a highly successful rugby player but one of the most passionate Welshmen of our generation.

Ray Gravell was a huge man in every sense, and would have been an ideal candidate for the position of President of an Independent Welsh Republic.

Ray Gravell 1951 - 2007
Rest In Peace.

Monday 29 October 2007

Rhodri Morgan's Flying Circus

Voter: 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.
I wish to complain about this government what I voted for not 100 days ago from this very booth
Pain: Oh yes, the, uh, the National Assembly For Wales...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?

I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with it!
No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.

Look, matey, I know a dead government when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.
No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable institution, the Welsh Assembly, idn'it, ay? Beautiful building!

The building don't enter into it. It's stone dead.
Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!

All right then, if he's restin', I'll wake him up! (shouting at the cage) 'Ello, Rhodri! I've got a lovely Legislative Competence Order for you if you show...

(Pain hits the desk)
There, he moved!

No, he didn't, that was you hitting the desk!
I never!!

Yes, you did!
I never, never did anything...

(yelling and hitting the cage repeatedly)
'ELLO RHODRI!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your 1999 alarm call!
(Takes Rhodri out of the bay and thumps his head on the pavement. Throws him up in the air and watches him plummet to the floor.)
Now that's what I call a dead Government.
No, no.....No, 'e's stunned!

Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin' up! Welsh Assemblies stun easily, major. look, mate, I've definitely 'ad enough of this. That Government is definitely deceased, and when I voted for it not 100 days ago, you assured me that its total lack of movement was due to it bein' tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk.
Well, he's...he's, ah...probably pining for the Valleys.

PININ' for the VALLEYS?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that?, look, why did he fall flat on his back the moment I got 'im home?
The Welsh Assembly prefers keepin' on it's back! Remarkable institution, id'nit, squire? Lovely building!

Look, I took the liberty of examining that government when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had been sitting in the Bay in the first place was that it had been NAILED there.
Well, o'course it was nailed there! If I hadn't nailed that Senedd down, it would have nuzzled up to those bars, bent 'em apart with its beak, and just like Alex Salmond...
VOOM! Feeweeweewee!

"VOOM"?!? Mate, this Senedd wouldn't "voom" if you put four million volts through it! 'E's bleedin' demised!
No no! 'E's pining!

'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This Assembly is no more! It has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the Bay 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-GOVERNMENT!

Monday 22 October 2007

Our Man in Hafana

One question which has been asked regarding an Independent Wales, is will we have foreign embassies, and how many?

Firstly, we will need to have a network of foreign embassies, consulates and missions, for the same reason that other countries do – to conduct foreign policy, to maintain international relations, to assist our citizens abroad, and to facilitate countries, organizations and individuals who wish to visit or do business with us.

The UK currently has over 200 such establishments, costing millions to maintain, but in keeping with our more modest aspirations, we should be looking at a similar number as Ireland or Denmark, which have only around 40-50 diplomatic missions, many of which are little more than a suite of offices – like them we simply won’t need grandiose embassy compounds, as we do not need to project (or protect) any imperialistic ambitions.

We could anticipate fully serviced embassies in our immediate neighbours – England, Ireland, Scotland & France - and with our major trading partners – Germany, USA & Japan. Elsewhere we can use strategically placed embassies and consuls to support more than one country – for example an embassy in Brussels could support Netherlands, Belgium & Luxembourg, as well as dealing with the EU & Nato. This isn’t a radical idea – others already do this, and with the help of the internet and express couriers, many countries have rationalised their consular network.

Outside of Europe, I would envisage regional consular offices in maybe South Africa (serving all of Southern Africa); Dubai (for the Middle East & North Africa); India (for South Asia); Hong Kong (for SE Asia); Australia (Oceania). In the USA we might have an Embassy in Washington plus a Mission in New York, which would serve the UN, and maybe a consulate in Los Angeles which would also cover Central America. We would only need a nominal presence in South America, and maybe here we could share facilities with say Ireland or Scotland – Belgium and Netherlands already successfully operate shared consulates for example.

There is obviously a cost to operating an independent foreign diplomatic network, but the costs of this do not need to be excessive. Also we need to remember that we are already paying for a share of the UK’s existing foreign missions, and that 5% of this current expenditure (our proportionate share) should largely cover our more modest requirements.

Thursday 18 October 2007

Plaid Repwblic?

Plaid are still struggling to come to terms with their commitment to Independence – part of the problem is that when Wales achieves independence then there would be little point to Plaid as a separate political force – a bit like turkeys voting for Christmas. Plaid also have a problem with their commitment to ‘Community Based Socialism’ – a term which means different things to different people within the party and almost nothing to the voters.

Maybe it is time to dust off the party’s Republican commitment - I have previously suggested that an Independent Wales should be a republic based on the values

Rhyddid – Tegwch – Cymuned.
I suggest that if Plaid adopted these republican values, it could square its circular commitments to independence and socialism much more easily, and give itself a much stronger ‘raison d’etre’.

Rhyddid – while standing for Freedom in the form of Welsh Independence, this also stands for Liberty or personal freedom. Plaid should campaign for a Bill of Rights which would give individuals a set of inalienable rights – rights which can not be taken away by others. An example to put this in context could be that individuals would have the right to communicate in Welsh – a right that could not be voted away by a majority English speaking electorate. It would also give the Welsh electorate the sovereign right to determine the best form of government for itself.

Tegwch – In the American Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson (a proud Welshman) stated that ‘all men are created equal’, and equality is one of the guiding values of the French Republic, and most modern democracies. But being born equal and being treated equally in life is not the same thing, and I suggest that a better principle to follow would be Fairness. Everyone in Wales, regardless of gender, nationality, language or religion, should have the right to be treated fairly.

Cymuned – The Welsh people are all citizens of the Community of Wales. We will not agree to be subjects of the monarchy or aristocracy or any other form of inherited political power, including from the military, churches, trade unions, etc. All political power should be democratically vested in the people, who are expected to actively use this power and to participate in civic duties. Maybe this is what Plaid had in mind with its ‘community socialism’, but I think that it is time to drop the S word and concentrate on the C.

And yes – Republican means anti-monarchy and Plaid should not be afraid of standing up and announcing this loudly and clearly. There is nothing to fear from alienating the dwindling band of royalists in Wales, and much to gain by giving Plaid another clear USP which will find a lot of willing support particularly among the young.

Ymlaen Y Repwblic

Monday 8 October 2007

Misinterpreting Reality

This excellent analysis was posted by MH on the icWales Politics forum. It is worth reposting in full:

In the WM yesterday we had this story entitled "Wales Economy Worst in UK". It's well worth reading, it tells you a lot about how journalism works. The story was obtained from AP but, as is usual, newspapers that take it usually change the story around a bit... just to try and make it "their own". In this particular case, though, the journalist decided to mix two stories (i.e. Halifax and an ONS regular report) and deliberately mix them up. Hardly surprisingly, this is done for political reasons. People like Bob and his bogie's pick up on it without having the first clue what the statistics mean... they only read the headline and the political conclusion. So at the risk of teaching the more sensible among us how to suck eggs, let's look at the figures and see what they mean. The Halifax story is primarily about house prices compared with earnings, concentrating on the north-south divide.

That's how it was reported elsewhere, for example in the Telegraph. Wales was not singled out at all, it was included in Halifax's "northern area". But this wasn't quite "spicy enough" for our junior hack. So he decided to embellish it, by using ONS (Office of National Statistics) data. But the figures he quoted have not been published recently, so it took a bit of research to find where they he got them from.

The only place I could find the figures online was here (pdf). This is the UK Economic Indicators report of June 2007 (this particular version highlights the Southwest, but no matter). The essence of the criticism the WM story makes is this:

Wales contributes least to the UK economy, with a GDP of only £13,813 per head. By contrast, London has boomed during this time, with a 13% increase to £24,075.

We can all see the raw figures in table 5, on page 11. They are the estimated 2005 figures for GVA (gross value added) and not GDP. But most people don't know the difference. When you see a mention of GDP in the press, 9 times out of 10 they mean GVA. But let's look at the five year difference. London went up from £18,394 to £24,075 - an increase of 30%. Wales went up from £10,920 to £13,813 - an increase of 26.5%. True, not as good as London. But certainly not too shabby. However the figures show that Wales GDP has been rising steadily every single year (the figures go back to 1997).

There is no real reason to be over-concerned about GVA, because it's only one side of the equation. If the cost of living is greater somewhere else, then you need more money to pay for it. On its own, it says nothing about standard of living or quality of life. But we need to be quite clear about what this "contribution to the UK economy" is. The main way this figure is arrived at is on the basis of taxation. And whereas things like personal income tax and NI can be accurately assessed for each country and region, other things simply aren't. These include Corporation Tax and VAT.

As myself and others have said before, the VAT you pay in Tesco is accounted as having come from Tesco's head office in Cheshunt. The Corporation Tax companies pay is accounted as having come from their head offices, not the place where their workers actually produce the wealth. Therefore these figures are no indication whatsoever of how much Wales "contributes to the economy".

People think London is the powerhouse of the UK economy. But that's just because more headquarters are based there. In fact if you look at other indicators in detail, the opposite is more likely to be true. Let's look at unemployment. Ask any half dozen people and they'll tell you that it's bad in Wales. Well, I won't argue, it could be much better. But let's look at Table 18, page 28. The unemployment rate in Wales is 5.5%. For England as a whole it is higher, at 5.7%. For London it is 7.3%. Wales has less unemployment than England, and much less than London. Let's look at another indicator, exports. Back in January, to counter the idea that Wales exports "zilch" I said this:

Look at the ACTUAL FIGURES. Download this document (pdf). Look at table 1 on page 2 and you'll see that Welsh exports (EU and World) for 2004 and 2005 were £8.3bn and £8.6bn respectively, 5% and 4.7% of the UK as a whole. For the latest quarter they're at 5.1%. With a population of 2.96m out of 60.21m, the pro-rata should be 4.9% ... so Wales is performing EQUALLY with every other part of the UK. We can stand on our own perfectly well. In terms of our exports to the EU alone, we in fact do a few percentage points better (5.9%, 5.4% and 5.2%).

Now look at this story from a rather better journalist at the WM (quoted below):

Leading way on transatlantic trade Sep 12 2007 by Aled Blake, Western Mail LATEST figures show that exports from Wales to North America have increased at a rate nearly double the UK average since 1999. Official statistics from HM Revenue and Customs show that, since devolution, exports from Wales to North America have grown by 43%, compared with a UK average of 26%. Welsh exports for the year to June were up 1% on the previous four quarters to reach a total of £9.2bn – the UK equivalent figure was down 11.6%... Sales of Welsh products to North America have grown from £1.4bn in 2004 to £2bn in 2006. Over the past three months, sales totalled £569m compared with £484m for the same period last year. North America is by far the most important export market for Wales outside the EU – which bought £5.7bn worth of Welsh goods in 2006. During the year to June, the Wales percentage increase in export sales was the third highest among the UK countries and English regions, with Northern Ireland and the North East having the highest percentage increases over the same period. Overall, total Welsh exports have grown strongly over the recent years from £8.3bn in 2004, to £8.64bn in 2005 to the latest figure of £9.15bn for the year to June 2007. In terms of sectors, the most valuable for overseas sales was machinery and transport which accounted for £3.4bn worth of exports last year.

We have good reason to be proud of what we produce in Wales (but not complacent, because we want it to improve). The picture is very clear. We produce wealth in Wales, but the profits we earn get siphoned off, and get accounted as having come from elsewhere. - That somewhere else is, I'm afraid to say, usually London.

If it were not for the distorting effect of the UK Treasury's continuing refusal to properly account where taxes come from, we would see much more clearly that London has more claim to be the "basket case" of the UK economy. Poverty is greater. The amount government spends in London is greater (£1,100 a head more than Wales gets). But there are also some very rich people in London. It is a city of huge inequalities ... the direct result of over-centralization. In another topic, I've mentioned the amount of money that's being put into Crossrail. Where's our fair share of the pie?

Another example of how London is treated as a special case is the Olympics. This is apparently now going to be classed as a "UK" project. That will mean that an equivalent (Barnett) proportion of the money spent on East London's transport and infrastructure improvements will not be given to Wales or Scotland. Yet one more example of how "identifiable spending" depends on what the government chooses to identify.

Wise up! Wales' economy is not that bad. Our relative poverty has nothing to do with all we produce, but where the profits go. When people keep perpetuating myths, you need only ask what their agenda is.

It's obvious, isn't it? To make us believe that we're not capable of running our own country.

Sunday 7 October 2007

Thanks Gordon

Just a few quick thoughts on Gordon Brown's dithering and eventual running away from an early Westminster General Election.

Firstly it reduces the risk of the following Westminster GE coinciding with the next Senedd election - It is important that WA elections are fought on Welsh issues and that differential voting practices develop.

More importantly, Welsh Labour will have to face the possibility of losing their Westminster friends in 2009, so they would be better off aiming for a Referendum on a Parliament before then. Otherwise they will face the prospect of having to plead with a Conservative SoS for any further powers.

(I have not been posting too much recently as my spare hours are fully occupied with the RWC - despite our early exit, it remains a fascinating tournament - normal service wil be resumed soon)

Wednesday 26 September 2007

For Wales, See ........

I was in a Travel Agents yesterday and I picked up the Qatar Airways Holiday brochure for Europe.

The holiday locations were arranged by country, and each page included 'Facts' about each country, including the country's official name. So,

France - Official Name - French Republic
Germany - Official Name - Federal Republic of Germany
Switzerland - Official Name - Swiss Confederation
United Kingdom - Official Name - England !!

Somebody doing some crystal ball gazing??

Monday 17 September 2007

The Waiting Game

There is an interesting poll out today showing how the level of support for devolution has changed over the last 10 years. It shows the support for Independence at 12% (14% in 1997); a Full Parliament 43% (20% in 1997); an Assembly 27% (28% in 1997); No Devolution 17% (40% in 1997).

I suggest looking at these figures differently – in 1997 40% of people were satisfied with the status quo while 60% wanted more devolution (up to and including independence). Today, with the Assembly already established 55% still want more devolution. The opinion split is almost the same – but with the battleground moved to a higher level.

By the time that this poll is repeated in another 10 years time, Wales should already have a full Parliament. I forecast that the new poll will be similar to the 1997 and 2007 results, with around half the electorate satisfied with the new status quo, and half wanting still more devolution. But next time around, more devolution will effectively mean independence.

Our time will come - we have to be patient.

Thursday 13 September 2007

The truth is out there......

MOF points out in his blog, that it is impossible to prepare an accurate picture of the cost of Welsh independence because there is no published data on Welsh tax revenue.

A shop in Rhyl collects its VAT from Welsh spending, but this appears in the accounts of the Companies head office in Chester.

A factory in Treorchy collects its NI contributions from its Welsh workforce, but declares it in its company accounts in Birmingham.

The profits from a multinational car components firm, with its manufacturing base in Wales, are declared as that of its UK subsidiary from its London headquarters.

It would be a simple matter to declare the source of this income on a geographical basis - it would only take a few lines in company spreadsheets and a few lines of code in government databases.

I can not believe that at some stage the UK government has not carried out this excercise - just in case we got our way - and I am certain that if the figures demonstrated that an independent Wales would be quickly bankrupt then these figures would have already been published. If as I suspect the figures showed that an independent Wales would be more than capable of being self-sufficient then the figures would be locked away to gather dust in some dusty filing cabinet.

The truth is out there ..... probably kept in the LL files!

Sunday 2 September 2007

Our Right of Self-Determination

In the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights it says that everyone has the right to a nationality and that no one should be arbitrarily deprived of a nationality. It establishes the principle of self determination in which every nation is entitled to a sovereign territorial state, and that every identifiable population should choose which state it belongs to.

A State is a legitimized administrative and decision-making institution. A state may be internationally recognised, and only states may be admitted as members of the United Nations. The United Kingdom is such a State.

A Nation is an identifiable population that shares either a common descent, language, culture or religion. Maybe more importantly, it is a population with a shared sense of identity. Wales is such a Nation.

States do not always coincide with nations, but when they do, the resulting Nation-State is usually a stable, cohesive unit with shared purpose and legitimacy. Denmark is a good example of a modern Nation-State.

There have been a number of examples throughout history of attempts to create Multi-National States – eg the Roman Empire, Austria-Hungary, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. These all relied on powerful central authorities to group different peoples together in a larger unified state. But as soon as the central authority lost its power, then so the state fragmented into its natural constituents – its nations.

The United Kingdom is also a Multi-National State with far more in common with these failed states than the government would care to admit, and if history is anything to go by its days are numbered.

Gordon Brown is attempting to make us all feel more British is an attempt to turn the UK (or is it only Britain?) into more of a stable Nation-State by emphasising a shared British identity, instead of the fragmented Welsh, Scottish & English identities. But unfortunately for him this is too little, too late. There are very few ‘British’ institutions for him to build on, and those few – for example the British Army, the Royal Family – are declining in importance with every year that passes, while the sense of Welsh, Scottish and even English consciousness grows daily. This can not be overturned by mandatory flag waving or creating artificial public holidays.

For the time being I carry my British passport in my pocket out of necessity - but I carry my Welsh identity in my heart with pride.

I demand my right of Welsh nationality, and the right to live in a sovereign Welsh state.

Thursday 30 August 2007

The Evolution of Devolution

In the first devolution referendum we were offered nothing more than a glorified county council - yet Neil Kinnock and friends scared the electorate off with visions of a Welsh speaking Albania, and we lost our chance for a generation.

In 1999 we were offered a slightly better model, but this time the Kinnockites were not so successful in their scare tactics, and despite general public apathy, the case was narrowly won.

After two terms and no sign of any uniformed linguistic enforcement squads the Senedd has been generally accepted as an integral part of our society, and even the unionist Conservative party have dropped their opposition to devolution.

As the Senedd has progressively increased its powers it has also gained in credibility, and the battleground has moved significantly. In 1987 we were offered a choice between nominal devolution or the unionist status quo. Today the choice is between a more powerful legislative Parliament or maintaining our limited Assembly. Nobody is seriously advocating abolishing devolution.

However, by the time the third referendum is called I expect that the battleground will have shifted again. Independence will have been raised as a viable option, as will the establishment of a federal UK – many people who today oppose a parliament will then find themselves actively supporting one in order to counter the growing movement for independence. Nobody will be supporting a toothless Assembly.

A few more years down the road and I expect that Wales will have become a fully autonomous state within a federal UK – and that the final choice will be between Federalists and Separatists.

Evolution and not Revolution will deliver Independence.

We just have to give it enough time.

Tuesday 28 August 2007

Independence back on the agenda

For a long time, Plaid Cymru have been quiet on the issue of independence, but there is nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come.

It is excellent news that Plaid are going to set up a commission to review the implications of independence, and what is more pleasing is the fact that the Western Mail are reporting the news objectively.

I am sure we can now expect hysterical rants and wailings from the unionists which will only strengthen our cause.

Sunday 26 August 2007

The State of the Union

Imagine a land with a population of just under 3 million people – with an elected assembly with full law-making powers, able to raise its own taxes, in control of its police forces and even with a limited military capability. This land would cooperate fully with its neighbours, allowing unrestricted movement between them, and be part of a free market of over 300 million people. The land would agree to cede limited powers to a central government, but would fiercely defend its sovereignty from central interference.

Is this the post-devolution vision of Wales that frightens Neil Kinnock & friends so much?

Well no – it is actually the US State of Mississippi (or Iowa or Arkansas etc). The Americans are mature enough (!) to allow its people to run their own affairs without getting hysterical about economic meltdown and balkanization.

Why can our Westminster politicians not see that as long as they deny us the right to run our own affairs, that they are actually speeding up the break-up of the UK?

Sunday 19 August 2007

Trip to England?

I received this anonymous email today. It may be of interest to some of you:

What are you doing on 15 - 16 September. How about celebrating Glyndwr Day (16th) and the tenth anniversary of the Referendum Yes vote with a visit to support the English Democrats at their In My Heart 2007 Conference in Leicester?

Isn't it time Welsh nationalists made links with English nationalists? Sure we'll get some flack, but there's no harm in talking. Don't believe the Brit Nat propaganda that English nationalism is inherently racists - the English Nats are open to all ethnic groups and religions. Saying that English nationalism is automatically racists is like saying all British nationalists are racists because the BNP believe in Britian as a nation state as does Gordon Brown.

It would be interesting to learn more about the Campaign for an English Parliament. Maybe a delegation of Welsh nationalists could ask for observer status and see what's going on there too.

Both ourselves and the English have a common enemy - British nationalism. It's time to talk. Who's interested?

English Democrats:
The CEP:

Wales on Sunday

Following last weeks article in the Western Mail, the WoS has now joined the debate on independence.

It seems that Ray Gravell is in favour, Stuart Cable is undecided & Max Boyce is against.

Gripping stuff....... FFS

As Scotland is openly debating independence, our media turns out this drivel.

Tuesday 7 August 2007

An Independent Wales Be Too Poor.....

Wales is clearly one of the poorer parts of the UK, but this is relative. According to the International Monetary Fund, the UK has a GDP per Capita of around $35,000 making it the 12th richest country in the world.

I do not have exact figures for Wales available, but I have seen it quoted that Wales’s GDP per Capita is only 80% of the UK’s figure. This would put the Welsh figure at around $28,000, which would place us at around 26th place – out of more than 200 countries.

This would also place us around 12th place in the EU.

Would an independent Wales be poor? – only relatively.

We would actually be the envy of much of the world!!

An Independent Wales Would Be Too Small.....

With a population of just under 3 million, Wales is a relatively small country.

According to Wikipedia there are 221 countries and territories in the world, and an independent Wales would slot in between the 135th largest country (Armenia @ 3 million) and the 136th country (Kuwait @ 2.8 million). In fact there would be 86 independent countries in the world smaller than Wales.

Within the European Union’s 27 states, Wales would fit between 21st placed Lithuania (3.4 million) and 22nd placed Latvia (2.3 million), and there would still be 6 smaller independent countries.

So would an independent Wales be small ? Yes.

Would it be too small ? Not at all!

Sunday 5 August 2007

Y Repwblic

For those of you interested in Welsh Republicanism, there is a new forum that has been established to replace various older forums. It is still being tidied up but it is worth visiting as there is a lot of interesting information in the archives.

Go to: and sign up to join the debate.

Wednesday 25 July 2007

Vote now for Welsh Independence!

Please vote for this Blog as the Best Welsh Political Blog 2007. Vote here...

Monday 16 July 2007

Welsh Claim of Right

We do hereby acknowedge the sovereign right of the Welsh people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs, and do hereby declare and pledge that in all our actions and deliberations their interests shall be paramount.

We further declare and pledge that our actions and deliberations shall be directed to the following ends:

To agree a scheme for the effective government of Wales

To mobilise Welsh opinion and ensure the approval of the Welsh people of that scheme, and

To assert the right of the Welsh people to implement that scheme

Wednesday 11 July 2007

The Redwood school of though...

It would seem that David Cameron's all new and improved compassionate Tory party hasn't changed that much since the John Redwood Years.

The Conservative spokesperson on Wales in the House of Lords stated...

"As far as the politics of Wales is concerned, as of 48 hours ago I knew absolutely nothing. I now know nothing, plus a bit. I know nothing about the politics but I know quite a lot about the geography, having climbed most of the mountains."

So Wales is once again at the top of the Tories agenda then!?!

Tuesday 10 July 2007

A Welsh Republic

A lot has been said and written over the last few months about the WA election and its eventual outcome, and it wont be long before we start all over again discussing the possible strategies and outcome of a referendum on a Welsh Parliament. So I thought it was about time that we got back to discussing Welsh Independence - in particular, what form a future Welsh state might take.

I personally believe that we should be aiming to create a Republic but the use of the term Republican often solicits a negative response. To most people the term is simply anti-monarchist, and provokes unionists to start weeping nostalgically about the Royal Family, the loss of the British Empire, and Britishness (whatever that is Mr Brown)
. To others the term is associated with Irish Republicanism and they immediately start to make comparisons with Sinn Fein and the IRA and other assorted terrorists.

But republican ideals are the basis for many modern democracies, most notably the American & French Republics, and their guiding values are simple:

Republicanism stresses personal liberty, and gives all individuals inalienable rights – rights which can not be voted away. In our context, individuals would have the right to communicate in Welsh – a right that could not be voted away by the majority English speaking electorate

Republicanism establishes that we are not subjects, but citizens. It rejects the monarchy and aristocracy but also all forms of inherited political power, including from the military, churches, trade unions, and lobby groups such as CBI. Instead all political power is democratically vested in the people, who are expected to actively use this power and to participate in civic duties.

Abraham Lincoln defined republicanism in terms of Freedom, Equality & Democracy and described ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’.

Surely these would be excellent ideals for a new Welsh democracy, and we should not be afraid to promote the cause of a Welsh Republic.

Many people are not aware, but much of the inspiration for the American & French republics actually came from Wales. On his blog, Adam Price has been recently quoting the Italian political thinker Antonio Gramsci – but he should look nearer to home for inspiration, and look up the work of his namesake Richard Price. Born in Llangeinor, Bridgend in the 18th century he was in regular correspondence with Benjamin Franklin and his writings proved to be inspirational in the American and French revolutions, and could be considered to be the father of a Welsh republican ideal.

The French Republic has as its motto

Liberté - Egalité - Fraternitié.

I suggest that we should develop this into a Welsh context and suggest our own motto of:

Rhyddid – Tegwch - Cymuned
I guess we can have our own TRILLIW as well.

Friday 22 June 2007

Politics or Sport

I am a big rugby fan, but have been turned off the game by its politics. On the other hand, the last few weeks have shown that Welsh politics is becoming a sport.

Firstly, the Newport Gwent Dragons are the Liberal Democrats. The smallest of the Welsh teams, and still suffering from an identity crisis.

The Cardiff Blues are obviously the Welsh Conservative party. They both play in Blue and most of their supporters wear ties. Plenty of big business backers, but constantly under achieving.

The Llanelli Scarlets are Welsh Labour - playing in Red, they claim the strongest traditions in Wales, but suffering from a general fall in support, and almost bankrupt.

The Ospreys are Plaid - both have shortened their name and changed their logo as part of a succesful marketing excercise. Their results are still patchy but look the best placed of the Welsh teams to succeed in the longer term.

That brings me to the National teams. The Welsh rugby team is something we can all be proud of. Playing at the highest level, it does not always deliver the best results but it represents Wales on the international stage. On the other hand, most of the players in the Senedd are not up to international standard. They are also only allowed to play 7s and half of the team are forced to play with one hand tied behind their back.

In a few months time it will be time for the rugby world cup - and the favorites are a small country of around 3 million people who are largely outnumbered by sheep. Sound familiar? But that country also has its own government and is able to run its own affairs without interference from its colonial past.

Maybe the next time the Rugby World Cup returns to Wales (2019?) Wales will have its own government and will be the favorites to lift the cup.....

Wednesday 20 June 2007

66% or 50% ?

The more I think about the referendum, the more I realize that this was only ever placed on the GoW Act to ensure the continued survival of Welsh Labour.

In the same way as the issue of dual candidacy in the regional list seats was nothing more than a cheap trick to gain short term political advantage, the requirement for a referendum to be triggered only after a 66% vote in the assembly is nothing more than blatant political chicanery.
Labour has corrupted one of the most important pieces of Westminster legislation in decades for their personal survival and demonstrates that they simply can not be trusted to operate in the best interests of Wales (as if anyone doubted differently!!).

Plaid should stop sucking up to Labour and tell them straight – if you want to stay in power in Wales (albeit in coalition) then you must amend the GoW Act to:

1) Allow dual candidacy (good enough for Scotland – why not Wales)

2) Remove the requirement for a 66% vote (50% works for Westminster – why not the Senedd)

3) Remove the right of veto by the Secretary of State for Wales, Westminster & House of Lords (this is a matter for the people of Wales to decide)

And if Labour say no?? Then get the Welsh Conservatives to give the same commitment as a pre-condition for the Rainbow Alliance. The 66% vote is the main sticking point but this requirement could be removed by a David Cameron government in Westminster, and Welsh Labour would lose its stranglehold!!!!!!

There are those who suggest that we scrap the requirement for a referendum altogether – I am sympathetic to this view, but I think that it would secure more credibility for the parliament. I also have no doubt that a referendum would be won, providing that we are careful with the timing.

Firstly we must make sure that the referendum does not get mixed up with any possible Scottish independence referendum. There are many in Wales who would accept a full Parliament, but who are not yet ready for independence (Note that I said not yet – they will come around), and they would certainly get confused by the massive media blitz coming out of London.

Secondly we must ensure that the referendum does not become a popularity contest on the government of the day (whether in London or Cardiff). This probably means that it should not be held for the next 6 months, but that it also avoids the next Westminster elections by 6 months either side.

Personally I would time the referendum to coincide with the Euro elections in 2009. Apart from improving the turnout, it should also make voters realize that we live in a multilayered democracy – It is not just Westminster or bust – and that the new Senedd is a more appropriate level for our decision making.

This also gives sufficient time to get the new Parliament established for 2011.

On a purely personal level, I would then consider standing in those elections with the intention of driving the next step forward – an Independent Wales by 2020 - but that is a story for another day...

Sunday 17 June 2007

The Severn Mirage

There seems to be a bit of interest in the Severn Barrage at the moment, with our own Governor General claiming it will generate 40,000 new jobs, and Tony Blair making supportive noises. Sounds like excellent news for our struggling economy, and we should throw ourselves at the feet of Peter Hain, but lets not get carried away.

Looking at the positives first, construction activity is one of the best ways to stimulate the economy – it is labour intensive with a high proportion of locally sourced materials, and also has a high ‘multiplier’ effect – for every one direct job created it creates 2 or 3 additional jobs in service industries.

But there is a big difference between small construction projects and mega-projects such as the barrage. On smaller projects, for example local housing developments, the work is typically carried out by local builders, using a network of local available services and subcontractors, and most of the money spent stays within the local economy.

Even on the larger projects, such as the St Davids 2 development in Cardiff which will employ over 1,000, the majority of the workforce will be locally recruited, although many of the support services will be sourced at a UK level.

But this is not the case on mega-projects like the Barrage. The main contract will have to be put to international tender, and is just as likely to be won by an Italian contractor than a British one. The work will then be divided up into a series of subcontracts, which could see the main rock supply contract won by a quarry in Portugal; marine dredging works being done by a Dutch fleet; lockgates fabricated in France, and so on. There will still be a local requirement for labourers, carpenters, steelfixers etc, but mega-projects tend to attract an itinerant workforce, and you are just as likely to hear a Scouse or Geordie accent on site as one from the Valleys.

More realistically, I estimate that the barrage would only generate around 1,000 direct jobs in Wales, with maybe a similar number of indirect jobs – and lasting for only 2 or 3 years. In itself, that is a desirable result, but it is a long way off the 40,000 jobs promised by Peter Hain, but then again, when was the last time you believed anything that this idiot said?

Ps I am a Construction Manager and have worked for the last 20 years on international mega-projects similar to this one.

Wednesday 13 June 2007

New Welsh Independence Blog

There is a new kid on the Block.

Alan Jones is a Graduate of Coleg y Drindod, Caerfyrddin 1958-1960. He was a teacher of English as a Foreign Language, and taught overseas for 20 years in five different countries. In 2007 he rejoined Plaid Cymru and campaigned for Helen Mary Jones in Llanelli, working for Cymru and full independence. He is a Poet, philosopher, a Democratic radical pluralist and advocate of national unity and solidarity.

Pob Lwc gyda'r Blog Alan.

Friday's Thomas Cook Protest

Thomas Cook has banned its staff from discussing work related matters in Welsh. Their policy has been attacked by all the main political parties, as well as the Commission for Racial Equality, but the policy persists. The only slight change they have made, is that they will not punish any staff who speak Welsh, but they still ask them to speak in English only!

Cymdeithas yr Iaith (The Welsh Language Society) have declared themselves not impressed with the latest climb-down by Thomas Cook, and have vowed to continue with plans for a demo outside the Travel Company's Bangor shop at 1pm on Friday 15/06/07.


More info at the following links:


Sunday 10 June 2007

From JFK to IWJ.....

To those in Plaid worrying about the implications about joining the Rainbow, or a Red-Green coalition, a small quotation:

"There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction."

John F.Kennedy

Tuesday 5 June 2007

5/10 - Must Do Better

Today is a historic day – another milestone along our slow but steady path towards independence. But like our journey of devolution, we must also remember that Wales did not lose her independence overnight.

This was also a long drawn-out process - a progressive loss, which started with the Anglo-Norman invasions, was first formalized by the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1282, was driven home in the Acts of Union of 1536 and 1542, and was finally settled by the Wales & Berwick Act of 1747 which said that from now on any legal reference to England would automatically include Wales.

But no matter what the Kings and politicians said, Wales never went away, and we have slowly but surely been clawing our way back ever since. The first significant step towards independence was in 1920 with the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. In today’s society this seems largely irrelevant, but in the early 20th century this was a huge step – an official recognition that Wales was never fully incorporated into England.

Small steps in the 1950s saw the English Monarchy recognize the Welsh flag, and Cardiff was proclaimed to be our Capital City, and in the 1960’s the UK government created the Welsh Office headed by the Secretary of State for Wales as our very own (undemocratic) government and (appointed) leader.

The next major step forward was quietly buried in the Welsh Language Act of 1967, which repealed the Wales & Berwick Act. It was now official - England did not include Wales.

Some more small steps forward (and backwards) followed, until the establishment of the first Welsh Assembly in 1999. Although its powers were limited, it was a huge symbolic statement, and has since grown in stature and importance.

Today’s revamped Assembly powers - although still severely restricted and subject to English veto – is another step forward in the right direction.

But if you try and measure independence on a linear scale from 0 (full annexation) to 10 (full independence) we have just moved forward from maybe 4 to 5. This is simply not good enough, and we have to keep pushing to achieve further powers and a full parliament. Measured on the same basis, Scotland have already achieved a score of 7 and we must catch them before they move even further ahead.

Sunday 3 June 2007

Mrs Windsor......

I think that Leanne & Bethan are wrong to boycott the opening of the Welsh Assembly because they have a problem with it being opened by the Queen.

As republicans, they clearly resent the involvement of an old woman of German & Greek descent who has inherited her position by an accident of birth, but at the end of the day this is our Assembly – our Parliament in waiting – and they should be proud of the fact that we at least have an Assembly to open.

What the two ladies should be protesting about is the fact that this assembly still has painfully few real powers, and that any democratically agreed new laws can simply be vetoed by ‘our’ governor general in Westminster. They should protest the fact that OUR assembly is being opened by a visiting head of state and not by one of our own, and that the Union Jack will fly above the Red Dragon for the day to remind us of our inferior status.

The only way to avoid this forelock-tugging is to achieve Welsh Independence, and I urge the pair to openly campaign for this cause.

In the meantime, if they don’t like her title, then why don’t they just address her as

Mrs Windsor, or can I call you Liz….’

Or maybe Guten Tag Kyria.....

Sunday 27 May 2007


It has been an interesting few weeks, but are we any closer to achieving an Independent Wales?

While I am disappointed at not having a Nationalist First Minister, I am more disappointed at the failure to achieve a Labour-Plaid deal which would have delivered a referendum on a full Parliament. This is a vital stepping stone towards independence and must be secured in time for the 2011 elections.

But with the LDs finally making their minds up and coming out in favour of supporting the Rainbow, things could still work out quite nicely. I am not suggesting that Plaid need to join the Rainbow, but should instead go back to Rhodri and demand the referendum (and new language act) as the price for their support. Plaid can ensure that Rhodri keeps Labour’s unionist dinosaurs in their cages by the hanging threat of a No-Confidence vote at any time

Plaid are in a very strong position, but as in poker, every hand’s a potential winner, every hand’s a potential loser. We still have the same cards as we had 3 weeks ago but they can still be played a few different ways.

But the rules of the game will change quickly, and there is only a relatively narrow window to do this – the LDs can and will change their minds again, and jump back in with Labour – and the Tories will step back out when it suits them as well.

Labour need to be squeezed now for maximum gain.

Monday 21 May 2007

We want a Wales Olympic team by 2012

Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, has expanded his vision for an independent Scotland by backing the creation of a Scottish Olympic team.

Salmond knows that you have to take the initiative to split Labour. This is what Plaid needs to be doing. The politics of the next years are the politics of identity. Plaid needs to be develop a radical nationalist agenda to inspire people and give Plaid a unique selling point.

We want a Wales Olympic team by 2012.

Wednesday 16 May 2007

Bring it on........

The more I think about it, the more I realize that this assembly election will prove to be pivotal in our fight for independence. If Labour had managed to achieve a majority then we could forget independence for maybe 20 years, by which time, due to English immigration, we might never achieve it.

On the other hand, a Plaid majority today might also have put the cause back years, as our poor calibre candidates (with a few obvious exceptions) would probably have made a mess of power, and would be punished accordingly in the next polls – look at Merthyr & RCT councils if you want any historical examples – and we are back 20 years again.

But the current result should prove an excellent springboard for the 2011 elections, - the Plaid contingent are large enough to wield real power and demonstrate their capability – while at the same time knowing that they will have to work hard to achive any success, and confine themselves to realistic policies.

As I write this I do not know how the power negotiations with Labour will work out. As I see it, the LDS could be bought off with the promise of STV voting in local councils, but I do not see Labour agreeing to that (even if LDs could agree with themselves). Labour could not deal with the Conservatives, as it would destroy any credibility they have left, which brings us back to Plaid.

Plaid could be offered a formal coalition with Labour (over the dead bodies of Huw Lewis, Leighton Andrew & others) but I think it unlikely. Plaid will more likely be offered a non-coalition deal, which would actually be better for them in the long term as it would be non-tainted. I am certain that Plaid will insist on a new Welsh Language Act & a referendum on a Scottish style parliament as the price for their support, and if Labour agree it will be a good result, and Plaid can concentrate on achieving real power in 2011, with independence by 2020.

But I don’t think that certain ostrich-like Labour egos will permit this, and will refuse to compromise with anyone. At this point there are two options. First is to let Plaid form a Rainbow coalition, but the clever option would be to let Rhodri get elected as First Minister, and then to use the combined opposition votes to ridicule and frustrate Labour ambitions, and to then bring him (or one of his potential successors) down a few months later, with the same result – a Rainbow coalition led by Plaid.

Labour strategists have considered this and realize that they can play on the fear of the Tory bogeyman running our schools and hospitals. They also realize that with the multicoloured team in Cabinet, they can dominate the committees and frustrate the WAG at every turn. But this can be easily countered – firstly the Cabinet must be limited to only say 6 ministers covering the major portfolios. The other portfolios must be dealt with as non-cabinet positions, which would allow more non-Labour people in the committees. And with only 6 cabinet ministers, Plaid would then only need to agree to 1 Conservative Minister – and give him/her a non-sensitive position, such as agriculture. Most farmers vote Tory anyway.

The result should be that in 4 years Plaid will become the largest party in a new expanded Parliament. That is by no means guaranteed, but I feel far more positively about our chances of achieving independence by 2020 or earlier.

Thursday 10 May 2007

Workers’ parties and the national question in Wales

I came across this very interesting post by Charlie Marks on the Rebellion Sucks! blog. It is well worth a read.

An assessment of workers’ parties and the national question in Wales

What got me started on the subject of Welsh politics was an enchanting little post to the Welsh Independence blog, What sort of independence?. It was written by “hafod”, who aspires towards an independent Wales based on “cooperation not the free market, care not warfare and putting people before profit.” As for ownership and control in the economy, hafod is straightforward: “the wealth of the country is in the hands of […] the workers [and] democracy means more than putting a cross in a box every four years […] In the same way as I have faith in the people of Wales to have the ability to run their own country, I’m also confident that the workers of Wales can run our industries and services.”

How it Plaid out in Wales
Despite expectations, the Labour Party was not disastrously defeated in the Welsh Assembly elections. This may be attributable to the ‘freebies’, such as free prescriptions, that Welsh Labour are introducing, thus going against the New Labour grain. It may well have been that the low approval of Labour registered in opinion polls did not result in an embarrassing defeat because many traditional Labour voters no longer participate in elections.

Rhodri Morgan, the leader of Welsh Labour, had said there would be ‘clear red water’ between the party and its rivals, hence the criticism that the party’s losses were due to ‘the slow pace of [neo-liberal] reform’. The difference between Welsh Labour and New Labour may have been big enough to lessen the impact of the latter’s imperialist wars, corruption, and habitual dishonesty.

One cannot imagine Blair or Brown holding a meeting of Labour MPs to decide what to do next after the loss of a majority position, as Morgan did with his party’s Assembly Members. Neither Blair nor Brown would talk of having a mandate from their peers to proceed with negotiations, such is their leadership style – centralist rather than democratic – there would be no pretence at accountability.

Morgan has acknowledged that the party requires a coalition, or at least a deal, and that it would not be right to carry on as before. This may be merely an affectation on his part, but it is more graceful than the words and deeds of Jack McConnell, the deposed First Minister for Labour in the Scottish Parliament, who is waiting for the SNP to fail to secure coalition partners so that he can do a deal with the Liberals to prop up Labour. But then, I’m sure Morgan would have acted just like McConnell if Plaid had one more AM than Labour.

Coalition not dole
Though Tories fared better than before, it was not through stealing votes from Labour. It was a party to the left of Labour, Plaid Cymru, which came second. Plaid now has a quarter of the seats in the Assembly: 15 out of 30. Labour needed 31 seats to retain a majority, but they now have 26 seats, meaning they will have to deal with either Plaid or the Liberals, who have 6 seats, but certainly not with the Tories, who have 12 seats. There is a single independent Labour member, Trish Law, who may remain independent from the coalition-building process.

A rainbow coalition of Plaid, the Tories and the Liberals is possible, but it would be unstable and rather embarrassing for all concerned. The Liberals would not want to be seen sharing power with the Tories, and the feeling is probably mutual, as the two are rivals for power in many council and parliamentary seats in England. And it would be unwise, from an electoral perspective, for Plaid Cymru to get cosy under the covers with the Tories (like the Scottish nationalists, Plaid is not a racist or right-wing party).

What will happen, then? In all likelihood there will be a deal struck between Labour with the Liberals and/or Plaid if not an actual coalition. A non-aggression pact would allow the stable government that Labour desire, but would create problems for both Plaid and the Liberals.

Don’t shoot, we’re only bourgeois nationalists
It is obligatory for me to lurch into a rant about these petty-bourgeois nationalists at this point. But I will not oblige. However iffy their socialist credentials, Plaid wish to dissolve the Union; they are opposed to imperialist wars in the Middle East and have plotted with the SNP in the Westminster parliament to impeachment Tony Blair. All of this might suggest that they represent a nascent national bourgeoisie in Wales which wishes to break away from Britain because it sees no profit from protracted wars in a junior partnership with an unreliable and unhinged superpower. Indeed, Plaid, like the SNP, is oriented towards the EU and away from NATO.

Plaid Cymru are Welsh nationalists, but their election campaign was not focused on the question of independence to the same degree as the SNP in Scotland. Nor was “decentralist socialism” mentioned in Plaid’s campaign literature, though supposedly their vision is of an independent and socialist Wales.

I have had trouble unearthing anything detailed on Plaid’s professed socialism; there is no satisfactory definition of the term on their website. The absence of a class perspective has, in the past, led me to believe they are social democrats in reality and therefore have no revolutionary potential (nor potential in a revolution).

Could Plaid be disguising their proletarian partisanship at this time, hiding their wholeheartedness to the workers until the national democratic revolution is in full swing? Would Ieuan Wyn Jones take to wearing a red berret and quoting Trotsky if Plaid were dominant in an independent Wales?

Post-colonial Welsh nationalism
Plaid Cymru have taken advantage of Welsh devolution to argue for self-determination, but as talk of independence has been delayed, so too “community socialism”. Generally, the “S” word has been unofficially banned from polite conversation – it is of the past, not the future. Where the “S” word was tolerated, it denoted a form of welfare capitalism that did not trouble the bourgeoisie nor threaten to expropriate it, and was actually supportive of imperialism. Plaid’s stressing decentralisation could be a nod to the ruling class that since the commanding heights of the economy are not in their sights they can be trusted to govern without upsetting any apple carts or felling trees in the orchard. Is community socialism now just the wink that says an independent Wales will be open for business?

I have no trouble believing that Plaid is a nationalist party, but socialist? Prominent members come across as radical nationalists more than anything else; socialism implies an alternative to capitalism. By advocating national independence for Wales, Plaid signals that it is seeking an alternative political arrangement, namely Welsh self-government. In cultural terms, Plaid aims to revive the Welsh language and affirm a positive national identity.

Could it be that Plaid Cymru is also seeking an alternative economic arrangement, a Socialist Republic, a workers’ state in which there is common ownership of means of production under democratic control? What does socialism with Welsh characteristics look like?

Don’t ask, don’t tell
The questions that revolutionary socialists should use to interrogate Plaid’s vision of socialism are: who will own the means of production and on what basis will goods and services be allocated?

Naturally, these inquires will be dismissed as premature until Wales has independence, by which time another excuse will have been found. They are relevant questions, though. Plaid’s leadership would prefer that its politics remain moderate, which is to say within the realm of bourgeois respectability; a vanguard of the nation rather than the proletariat.

But let us imagine that Wales has gained independence and there is a militant labour movement and strengthened class consciousness. Would Plaid be with this movement, on the fence, or actively against it? One can be a democrat and disagree with the results of democracy. Would Plaid be Welsh nationalists opposing the majority Welsh opinion?

Throw another party?
Ah, too many questions, too little time. Here is an important one: what should be done by revolutionary socialists in terms of organisation? In Wales, the options are: enter Welsh Labour and agitate for change, build up either Respect or the Socialist Party of Wales, or join Plaid Cymru and agitate for change.

If Welsh Labour and Labour in Westminster continue on the same path, there will be further erosion of their working class base. And the fact that there will be no massive change in Labour policy leaves an opening for another party to fill their boots, “left-leaning” in the case of Plaid, or fully leftist. Recall that the disaffiliated unions have contributed financially to the Scottish Socialist Party in the past, would a Welsh version get union cash and have the same success? Wait, don’t answer that one.

The recent creation of the Campaign for a New Workers’ Party by the Socialist Party of England and Wales and the electoral intervention by the Socialist Party of Wales, which is part of the SPEW, confirms that the organisation formerly known as Militant has given up entrism for good. A habit worth kicking is one that is damaging. And the other sizable (larger, that is) Trotskyist outfit, the Socialist Worker Party is keen to build up respect in Wales… by building up Respect in Wales. Ahem.

But seriously, it is inefficient to have two or three left reformist parties populated by revolutionary socialists. Why not make do with one? Again, a bad example nowadays, but the SSP saw the various far left parties work in a single organisation and the failure of the project was not caused by these groups being unable to work together. (I accept that the Sheridan trial was viewed as political by both sides in the SSP, but contend the split resulted because of personal differences.)

I do not think it wise for socialists to join Plaid Cymru for it is primarily committed to national self-determination and would serve the interests of the capitalist class more than the working class.

A Welsh Socialist Party should be formed by the SWP, the SP, and others, following the template of the Socialist Alliance and the Scottish Socialist Party. This would be a workers’ party with a workers’ programme – supportive of Welsh self-determination and dealing with Plaid, but committed to the class struggle at home and in solidarity with struggles internationally.

Don’t let it dragon
I suspect that in future Plaid may experience a win like that of the SNP – gaining support for a change, but not independence. The neo-liberal nature of the Welsh nationalists would become more apparent in these circumstances. A minority may well be full-blooded socialists, but the direction of Plaid will follow the route of the SNP: talk of social reforms to gain workers’ votes, but at the same time promise stability, continuity and cuts in tax and red-tape for bosses at home and abroad.

Plaid wants lower business rates, and it might be argued that low taxation is the only way for a country without natural resources to guarantee investment. But as there is no alternate form of ownership articulated by Plaid in which investment and disinvestment can be decided democratically, one is given to believe that the colonial relationship will remain, but on better terms and with a leftish and nationalist gloss.

It remains to be seen what will come of the SNP’s promises and whatever happens it will not totally determine the future of Welsh nationalism. But if the SNP fail to implement the progressive elements of their programme for reasons other than being a minority government, it will impact negatively on Plaid. Conversely, if the SNP succeed and win an independence referendum, it will buoy the case for self-determination in Wales. Either way, the national capitalist support for the Union will continue to fade as the imperialist wars rage.

There needs to be an independent working class party in Wales. And that’s one party in total, by the way. There will and should be differences of opinion, but there is no need for disorganisation. My fear is that the electoral division of the left in the UK, wrought by the two largest far left groups, will continue to impede the progress of the working class movement.

Unity is not a luxury and should not be treated as such, it is a necessity. Two parties don’t produce twice as much growth or double strength. There should be coalition talks between the revolutionary socialist parties! If not physically, then at least here, in the Blogosphere. What do you say?

Read a bit more about various Socialist Parties in Wales by clicking on the links below:

Tuesday 8 May 2007

Plagues of Locusts & Rivers of blood

This is a quote from an article written by Kenny Farquharson that appeared in the Scotsman following the excellent victory by the SNP in Scotland last week.

It shows that negative campaigning and scaremongering are tactics used by New Labour in Scotland as well as in Wales! I'm glad to see that the people of Scotland were not fooled by Labour's lies on nationalism and independence.

"LABOUR was wrong. Walking into work the morning after the SNP victory I didn't see one single horseman of the apocalypse. Neither were there any plagues of locusts or rivers of blood or convoys of cars with suitcases strapped to the roof accelerating towards the English Border. It was a perfectly normal Saturday morning. A discarded kebab. A few hangovers. A very Scottish revolution".