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.....