Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Boundary Commission proposes to cut Welsh seats even further.

One thing is clear from the latest proposal  of the Boundary Commission is that they may have listened in some places but not in Wales.

Across the United Kingdom

Nation 2010/15/17 seats 2011 review[29] 2018 review[30]
Electorate Allocation Change Average size Electorate Allocation Change Average size
England * 532 38,332,557 500 –32 76,665 37,294,494 499 –33 74,738
(Isle of Wight) 1 110,924 2 +1 55,462 105,448 2 +1 52,724
Northern Ireland 18 1,190,635 16 –2 74,415 1,243,369 17 –1 73,139
Scotland * 57 3,873,387 50 –7 77,468 3,842,736 51 –6 75,348
(Orkney and Shetland) 1 33,755 1 33,755 33,229 1 33,229
(Na h-Eileanan an Iar) 1 21,837 1 21,837 20,887 1 20,887
Wales 40 2,281,596 30 –10 76,053 2,181,841 29 –11 75,236
Total 650 45,844,691 600 −50 76,408 44,562,440 600 −50 74,270
* Excluding the protected island areas
Wales will join England in being the only Nation to see a drop from the previous proposal though that is because the Isle of Wight wil not be divided in two.

Of course as an Independista  I would prefer not to to send any MPs to Westminster and recognise that that the majority there now do not put Wale's interest first.

But with only 29 MPs Wales will be ignored (if its possible even more).

The new Boundaries will see  some rather large constituencies

 Map of Wales which shows the initial proposals for changes to the boundaries of Welsh Parliamentary constituencies. These changes would take the number of MP's in Wales from 40 to 29

The Wasting Mule tells us that

Under the new proposals, the number of constituencies in Cardiff would reduce from four to three, while the three seats in the Swansea local authority area would go down to two.
Newport would have one seat instead of the present two. An expanded Torfaen constituency would take in parts of the current Monmouth and Newport West seats. A new Monmouthshire seat would take in most of the current Monmouth seat and part of Newport East.
In the Valleys, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney would take in a significant part of the Rhymney Valley currently in the Caerphilly seat, while Caerphilly would absorb parts of Islwyn and Newport West. Blaenau Gwent would increase in size to include part of the current Islwyn constituency. There would be new seats of Cynon Valley and Pontypridd, Rhondda and Llantrisant, and Ogmore and Aberavon. Neath would expand and include some wards from the current Aberavon seat.
The western part of Vale of Glamorgan would join with Bridgend, while the eastern part would have a seat of its own together with Penarth.
Llanelli would grow by absorbing part of the existing Gower seat, while Carmarthen would become a constituency on its own.
Mid and South Pembrokeshire would form another new seat, while Ceredigion would expand to include North Pembrokeshire.
North Wales would see a new constituency called Ynys Mon a Fangor, comprising Anglesey and Bangor. A new seat of Gwynedd would be created, as would one called Conwy and Colwyn.
There would be new seats of Flint and Rhuddlan, an expanded Alyn and Deeside and a larger Wrexham. Another new seat would cover South Clwyd and North Montgomeryshire , while there would also be a seat of Brecon, Radnor and Montgomery.

The Commission’s final proposals will be submitted by October 2018, when there will be votes in Parliament.
There has been speculation that they may fail to get through, especially with the Conservatives having lost their majority.

Already Tory  Montgomery  has indicated he could vote against the proposals 

He writes
......Now I do accept that there is a case for some equalisation of constituency sizes. In fact, a review is long overdue. I just don’t think it’s sensible or rational to review on the basis of 600 constituencies rather that the current 650.  Especially at a time when numbers in the House of Lords continue to rise into the 800s! Also, I concede that I cannot reasonably argue that the number of Welsh MPs should remain at 40 when the same constituency size as currently exists in England would result in 33 Welsh MPs. There should be two changes to the legislation. Firstly, the reduction should be from 40 to 33 (not 29) to reflect average size of constituencies across the UK. And the ‘tolerance’ between number of electors per constituency should be more than 5%. (8% perhaps). If we’re asking Boundary Commissioners to agree new boundaries, let’s give them the power to make recommendations as sensible and sensitive as possible.
Dare say some might suggest I’m being difficult or unreasonable. Well, let’s look at things from where I’m standing - which is in the ancient constituency of Montgomeryshire. Montgomeryshire has existed as a constitutional entity for around 500 yrs. I’ve been involved in public life for over 40 yrs, and have always represented Montgomeryshire (Council, Welsh Assembly and Parliament). Have fought elections as “The Montgomeryshire Man”. I still use Montgomeryshire as my address, despite it officially being Powys. The current proposals consign historic Montgomeryshire to the dustbin of history, carving it up into three to make up the numbers in surrounding constituencies. What am I supposed to think.
Of course Bethan asked me if I intended to vote against the proposals when they come forward at the end of 2018. I declined to answer. I want to argue my corner over this with Government. If I say now that I’m voting against, I lose all influence on the debate. It’s what happens. Ok, it would win some favourable publicity, ensuring I make headlines rather than maybe make a difference. But what I have said is that if these proposals are adopted, I will not stand for Parliament again.

It may well depend on the DUP who could be pleased that thier allocation only drops by one, 

Though it may depend on the Boundaries and if they actually benefit from redrawn  constituencies.

But frankly if we want to cut numbers in Westminster it would be better to cull the 800 members of the House of Lords 

All we can see is a What the House of Lords Committee is suggesting is that instead of the Prime Minister of the day having the power to appoint peers for life, they should appoint them to time-limited peerages of no longer than 15 years. something that AAV goes into detail in his usual precise detail.

In many ways it is up to Labour to come up with changes , They could fight the next General Election on expanding devolution, proportional representation  and replacing the House of Lords with an elected chamber.

But whilst Jeremy Corbyn is on the left he is still part of the Westminster establishment  and is interest is winning power there and if that is done by the current status he will not be too worried.

It is time progressive parties agreed on a common strategy for electoral reform which will make changes that enhance our democratic structures,


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Alun Cairns has his Theresa moment.

You could be forgiven in thinking that the Gods have turned against the Tories.
moment After Prime Minister Theresa May's disastrous conference speech which saw her being handed a P45 by a prankster , a persistent cough and parts of the scenery falling off comes a a photo shoot  of Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns at London Paddington yesterday morning for the first of the new £5.7 billion Intercity Express fleet of trains.

As the Wasting Mule point out  

 Unfortunately, for him, photographers captured the Cabinet member standing on his tip toes for a photo in front of the new express.

During a photo shoot, Vale of Glamorgan MP Mr Cairns faced the daunting task of standing next to the 6ft 4ins tall Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. 

 So he appears to have tried to raise his height by standing on tip toes.

Mr Cairns may well be hoping that this actually may bury the real story that  the Hitachi bi-mode Intercity Express Train – which passengers have been promised will be a faster, more modern train, with increased capacity, greater comfort and better connectivity – later ground to a halt, delaying services on the network as a result.

Hitachi said the service had experienced some "technical challenges".

The new hybrid trains, which have a top speed of 125mph, are designed to replace the existing InterCity 125 trains as part of the UK Government’s Intercity Express Programme.

According to the rail website Realtime Trains, the service was 25 minutes late setting off. It arrived at London Paddington 41 minutes late.

The boss of Hitachi trains Europe later revealed that faulty air conditioning was to blame.

Managing director Karen Boswell explained that "an air conditioning issue" resulted in water entering the carriage rather than being discharged outside.

She said: 

"We can and will do better. Our depot teams are as a matter of priority investigating the root causes of today's technical issues, and we will ensure that these are corrected as quickly as possible."

We wanted the electrification   of the line and  instead got a second class service which on yesterdays performance could be worse than the current one.

How long before we a told that the government have spent so much on a project that does not meet expectations that they can't replace it with what we want. 

Its  almost a metaphor  for this government  policies  especially Universal Credit   with staged Photoshoots that hide the truth and promises of a modern Britain more efficient delivering better services  that ends up delayed and leaving people wishing they were better of before.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Dig for Brexit !!!!

I remember in the  1980 a Welsh Economist telling me that if Britain to  face condition similar to World War 2 then we could not grow enough food to feed ourselves.

Its a long time since we have done so

"In the 1930s 75 per cent of pre-war Britain’s food was imported by ship and the German U-boat blockade threatened the home front with starvation.
According to the War Cabinet’s records, annual food imports had halved to 14.65million tonnes by 1941. The campaign’s tagline “Spades not ships!” encouraged citizens to start planting on all available land.
Allotments, auctions and vegetable shows | Eccentric ... By 1942 half the civilian population was part of the nation’s “Garden Front”, and ten thousand square miles of land had been "brought under the plough". School playing fields, public gardens and factory courtyards were all transformed into allotments. The moat at the Tower of London was given over to vegetable patches, and even the Royal Family sacrificed their rose beds for growing onions.
Cartoon characters Captain Carrot and Potato Pete led the campaign with their own songs and recipe books. Every Sunday an audience of 3.5 million tuned in to the Home Service to listen to Britain’s first celebrity gardener, Cecil Henry Middleton, give his gardening tips.

According to the Royal Horticultural Society there were nearly 1.4 million allotments in Britain by the end of the war, which produced 1.3m tonnes of produce. The government estimated that around 6,000 pigs were kept in gardens and back yards by 1945. Along with state investment in failing farms, the campaign led to the UK halving its reliance on food imports".
Of course the UK population has risen substantially since the War so we can wonder how much food we can produce ourselves.

Of course there will be no U Boat menace after Brexit but there does seem a hint of desperation  in the claim that British farmers will be able to pick up the slack if food imports from the EU drop following Brexit, as minister Chris Grayling has said, saying the UK will cope with a no-deal departure by simply ”grow[ing] more here”. 

The Secretary of State for Transport said that if Britain crashed out of the EU without securing a trade deal, British farmers would have to “produce more”. 
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Grayling was asked to comment to claims by the head of Sainsbury’s that there would a 22 per cent increase in food prices if there was no deal with the EU.

Mr Grayling responded that Britain would succeed “come what may”, and that it was “important to plan for all eventualities”.

“What we will do is grow more here, and will buy more from around the world. That will be bad news for continental farmers, which is why it won’t happen. It is actually in their interest to reach a deal,”
Can we expect A Dig for Brexit Campaign coming from the Government anytime soon.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Plaid Cymru offers to pay for claimants' calls

The BBC reports that

People claiming universal credit have been offered free use of Plaid Cymru phones to avoid helpline charges.
Party leader Leanne Wood said amid delays in payments, charging callers up to 55p a minute to check the status of their claim "adds insult to injury".
The party said all Plaid MPs and assembly members would let claimants make the calls from their offices.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said people concerned about the cost could request a free call back. 

One Department for Work and Pensions employee, who spent eight months managing a team of staff answering calls from universal credit claimants in one of the trial areas, said workers struggled to stay on top of the volume of calls, and often failed to answer queries within the required time period, causing claimants to call back to chase problems.

“The work was backing up, and the calls piled up. Sometimes I felt terrified and exasperated for them, sometimes we were shrugging our shoulders. We were doing everything we could, running overtime, trying to break down the outstanding work,”

A DWP spokeswoman said:

 "Applications for universal credit are made online and claimants then arrange their first appointment with their work coach over the phone.
"This call is charged at local rates which are set by providers and are free for many people as part of their call package.
"If someone is concerned about the cost, they can request a free call back."

Another  DWP spokeswoman said:

 "Applications for universal credit are made online and claimants then arrange their first appointment with their work coach over the phone.
"This call is charged at local rates which are set by providers and are free for many people as part of their call package.
"If someone is concerned about the cost, they can request a free call back."
The problem is that some people who  are applying for  Universal Credit will no have a landlines  phone choosing to save money by only using a mobile phone .

This probably means they  do not have have home access to a computer adding to their problems of claiming benefit.

From experience calling  the DWP  can see you in a Queue for up to an hour As soon as the call is connected by the person you have called you start to get charged weather you are answered by a person, answer M/C or automatated system, press 1 for ?, press 2 for ??

At 55p a minute  that can be astronomical and you have to get through to get a "Callback"
In a joint statement on Thursday, Plaid MPs Hywel Williams and Liz Saville Roberts said their constituency offices in the Gwynedd towns of Caernarfon and Dolgellau respectively would be available for claimants to make such calls on the party's phones.

"It is shocking that those trying to claim universal credit face being charged for the privilege of simply speaking to someone about their claim," the MPs for Arfon and Dwyfor Meirionnydd said.
"Notwithstanding the barriers already faced by many claimants, such as spiralling debts, homelessness and evictions, charging people who are broke to find out the status of their claim is absurd.
"I hope they will drop this outrageous charge as soon as possible."
On Friday, Plaid leader Leanne Wood said all the party's MPs and assembly members would allow claimants to call the helpline from their constituency offices.

"The roll-out of the universal credit has caused untold misery for the thousands of people who have already faced receiving their payments late or not at all," she said.
"The revelation that the Tory UK Government is charging people 55p a minute just to call the universal credit helpline adds insult to injury.
"People who are already suffering as a result of the Tories' botched reforms shouldn't have to face a further hit in the form of extortionate phone bills which they may not be able to afford."
Of course this would probably only help  those who live near a Plaid Constituency Office as the cost of travelling there may be too expensive for those on a tight budget. 

Plaid should be congratulated on this and if other elected members of the UK legislatures from other Parties  follow suit it could make a difference.

Meanwhile Conservative AM Mark Isherwood has written to Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke urging him to reconsider the helpline charges.
He claimed the situation was made worse by the fact that while some people were charged for calling the English-language helpline, calls to the Welsh-language helpline on an 0800 number were free.

I don't think Mr Isherwood is making an attack on Welsh Languages services here  but  we should remember that because a wrong is being done does not mean all should suffer.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Men should support beating 'period poverty' in Wales

 It is about time Men  in particualr stopped treating the use of Sanitary products as a Taboo Subject .

For two long how women's periods affect their lives have been ignored and one issue the cost of sanitary protection has been a social injustice thast few have spoken out on.

Something that if it affected both sexes  would have benn dealt decades ago

The BBC reports that, a councillor has said 

"Free sanitary protection should be given to all secondary school pupils in Rhondda Cynon Taff."

Elyn Stephens, who has first hand experience of "period poverty" made the call after charity Plan International UK found one-in-10 girls in the UK cannot afford products.
The idea is being considered by a working group set up in the summer.
A Welsh Government spokesman said it was aware some councils were exploring how the issue may affect learning.
Ms Stephens, 25, who is one of the local authority's youngest councillors, said she was spurred into action by her own experience.
She said: 

 "I don't come from a wealthy family at all. I come from a single parent family, I had a mother and two sisters so you can imagine the strains that put on our household income.
"By speaking to people who are still in school I realised nothing had changed since I was there seven years ago.
"Because the subject has been taboo for so many years, no-one has broached it in the institutions that can actually make a difference."
The Plaid Cymru councillor put forward a motion in July to provide free sanitary products in local schools.
 Why in all these years has it taken a young Councillor to raise the issue to a level that it is openly being discussed.

This follows the the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon   announcing that to help tackle the problem of "period poverty" - where women on low income can not afford sanitary protection  a new scheme would start in August with products provided free in all schools, colleges and universities.
The move was announced in the Scottish Government's programme for government in September, and Ms Sturgeon said: 

"This groundbreaking commitment to tackle the gender injustice of period poverty will be delivered from the start of the new academic year next August."
She added: "Scotland and the SNP - once again - leading the way in building a better, fairer country for all."

Responding to the issue, the Welsh Government said it was aware that some councils such as Rhondda Cynon Taf are exploring how the issue might impact on learning.

"We will continue to work with education services and consider any new evidence which emerges," said an official.
"Schools in Wales should have arrangements to support learners to ensure their well-being.
"All girls should be reminded regularly that sanitary products are available from named female staff if needed."

I can imagine when  a young Councillor like Elyn Stephens first raise the issue a number of male councillors wanting to hide under their desk.

Such is the "Taboo"  subject of this that what when you look at it is a gross injustice  on half our population is not openly discussed.

Are we still living in age where we have a cultural and religious attitude to  menstruation where  women are excluded and Men in particular some how pretend its not happening?

This is not a "Womens Issue" it is an issue of inequality that should have been dealt with years ago

Friday, 13 October 2017

Could we see a Centre-Right Welsh Nationlist party?

So it seems that there will be a meeting to establish a Right of Centre  Welsh Nationlist Party it is the Brainchild of veteran Blogger Jac O the North  who writes

The meeting to discuss the formation of this new party will be held at the Marine Hotel, Aberystwyth on Saturday, November 4th, at 1pm. Anyone interested in discussing the formation of a new party, or simply learning more, is invited to attend.
The lower ground floor room I’ve booked will hold 50 – 60 people plus a table for 6 or 7 speakers facing the audience. (Possibly more at a squeeze.) This room is to the right of the reception desk.
It might be a good idea if people arrive around mid-day and gather in the bar before the meeting begins. Meeting informally beforehand will give us a chance to introduce ourselves and perhaps decide on the best way to run the meeting.
So what form does Jac think the New Party should take  he lays down some Bullet points.

Such a party should focus on Wales, defending and promoting what benefits Wales and Welsh people, and opposing that which does not. For example . . .
  • Insist on our children being taught the history and traditions of their country in both languages; our young people being given the skills needed to work in the twenty-first century; restore our universities to being centres of the nation’s academic and cultural life rather than alien and grubby places concerned solely with making money.
  • Support native business and enterprise rather than squander money on individuals and companies that turn up in Wales having heard there’s easy money available.
  • Complement an innovative native business sector with an efficient public sector. This combination will largely remove the need for a third sector currently filled with political cronies doing the same work as other political cronies in competing organisations.
  • Seek to end the pernicious influence on Welsh national life of cross-border organisations that treat Wales as a region of England. These must be replaced by Wales-only bodies serving the Welsh national interest.
  • Support the Welsh language, defend individuals and communities using the language, and promote its widest possible use. All the while recognising that in the twenty-first century considerations of Welshness cannot be restricted to the Welsh language alone.
  • Prioritise the needs and interests of Welsh people in employment, housing, education, funding and other areas.
Actually they are not all aspirations someone on the Left like myself could dismiss out of hand.

But reading some of the comments to Jac's Blog  it seems some of those attending will be looking to forming a Party with the ideology of UKIP in a Welsh context.

Remember the German party  Alternative for Germany Founded in April 2013, was   originally just a Eurosceptic  party but rapidly moved from Cettre Right to Far Right and an Anti- Immigration party.

One of the main arguments  that seems to be used against Plaid that it concentrates on left wing issues rather than Independence.

But if we to look at Catalonia and the Basque Country  it is the Left Wing Parties ERC — Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left of Catalonia)  and EH Bildu, short for Euskal Herria Bildu are those pushing for Independence as the mainstream Nationlist Parties seemed to have accepted the status quo.

It is the Left who created the circumstances of the Catalan Referendum although the Junts pel Sí the  Catalan political alliance and parliamentary group that called it  is composed of the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) centre right party that has been the largest party for years  , the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), Democrats of Catalonia (DC) and the Left Movement (MES).

It is even possible that the "New Party" could emulate the 
The Coalition Avenir Québec s a centre-right provincial political party in Quebec, who whilst  opposing Independence  but  advocates Quebec nationalism. This includes limiting immigration and promoting the use of French arguably more so the the PQ's

After all I beleive Plaid founder  Saunders Lewis  said that he would accept a "Glorified County Council" if it could preserve the Welsh Language and culture.

There have been various moves to establish Welsh Republican amd Left Wing  Parties  all have failed .

Howeve in the present political culture it may be in this a Centre - Right Welsh Nationalist party may grow, but i suspect if it does it will try to place more emphasis on Immigration  seeking to appeal to the "Welsh" Ukip  vote and there will be less emphasis on creating an Independent Wales but using existing institutions to try and to stop "incomers"  .

Often ignoring that the real problem is people leaving.

I can't say I wish Jac well in his efforts because I believe he could be  taken Wales down a dangerous road ,which I don't think is his intention.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Welsh Ombudsman accused of Cymraeg power grab.

The BBC reports that 
A Plaid Cymru AM has said there is a "question mark" over the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales' future after he engaged in a Facebook spat.
Adam Price accused Nick Bennett of "tacitly supporting" the proposed abolition of the Welsh Language Commissioner's post.
Mr Bennett has proposed he take over investigation of complaints about Welsh language services.
He defended responding to objectors' comments to "correct the record".
In a response to a consultation on the abolishing the Welsh Language Commissioner, Mr Bennett said he could resolve complaints sooner than the current system, which he said was "over-bureaucratic and complicated" and "can be wasteful".
"I believe that complaint handling could and should follow arrangements in other devolved fields, ensuring that complaints are not investigated by government, or by government appointees," he said.
Should the Welsh Language  be treated in the same way as other devolved fields.I would argue that this is a case of "Positive Discrimination " being implemented. Recognising the current power of the English language and that  you can't treat Cymraeg as equal to it in its Omnipresence in all parts of Wales including Y Fro Cymraeg  where the Welsh language is in a majority but  clearly under threat.
The Ombudsman said his role would only be in relation to investigation - with sanction a matter for the commissioner, or the Welsh Language Commission proposed in the Welsh Government's consultation.
The Welsh language campaign group Cymdeiathas yr Iaith Gymraeg has complained to the assembly equalities committee chairman John Griffiths about Mr Bennett's proposals and the subsequent "quarrel" on Facebook.
Cymdeithas said the Ombudsman should be impartial.

Mr Price posted on Facebook his complaint about Mr Bennett's proposal in light of his previous finding against Cynwyd Community Council for not providing all its documents in English.

A comment from Colin Nosworthy of Cymdeithas claimed the community council decision showed the Ombudsman did not understand Welsh language law.
Mr Bennett responded that the claim was "nonsense", pointing out that there had not been any legal challenge to his decision.

Mr Price said many people
 "would not have trust or confidence in the Public Services Ombudsman taking over this role" of handling complaints about Welsh language services.
"We cannot have a situation where an ombudsman, who is meant to be outside of the political, democratic process, taking a public position in an area where there is huge disagreement and actually then engaging in debate and argument with elected members and members of the public who disagree with them,"
The Plaid Cymru AM said Mr Bennett had "clearly breached" an agreement between himself and the Welsh Language commissioner not to review or comment on each other's work.
 Mr Price said.

"I have to say with great regret that I think a line has been crossed here," Mr Price said.
Asked if he thought the Ombudsman should lose his job, Mr Price said:

"There's a serious question mark," adding he had asked Mr Griffiths, as chair of the assembly equalities committee, to hold an "urgent inquiry". 

Should we  also asking if the Welsh Labour Government have approached the  
Ombudsman before its decision to abolish the role of Welsh Language Commissionaire?

I don't like conspiracy theory but it does look that Nick Bennett wouldn't have made his "power gab" unless he was confident that he would be getting support from some corners.

However he seems to have played his hand to early and one wonders if the Welsh Labour Government would now hand him the powers he desires,