Tuesday, 26 September 2017

PFI was a "Faustian Pac"t and there's no get-out clause.

LeftFootFoward the Labour supporting Blog has unsurprisingly come up with the headline

Labour should be applauded for finally addressing their £300bn PFI scandal,

As  John McDonnell announced yesterday
 that a Labour government would bring PFI contracts back under public ownership. The policy championed by Blair has already cost British taxpayers £100bn, mostly in interest payments.

"PFI contracts typically involve both the construction or refurbishment of a physical asset such as a hospital, and the provision of maintenance (and sometimes other) services over an extended period – typically 30 to 40 years in the NHS. Including services in the contract was primarily a way of keeping the borrowing for construction costs off the government’s balance sheet. This famously allowed New Labour to invest heavily in infrastructure without affecting public borrowing figures, at the cost of higher financing costs over the long term and of locking providers into very long-term relationships with contractors for the provision of services. PFI service provision has been a major source of discontent in the health service (as in the stories of NHS trusts being forced to pay extortionate charges for the changing of a lightbulb)".
And introduces  a degree of skepticism

"Taking some of these maintenance services back in-house would be a different matter to taking over the ownership of the physical assets. The capital value of existing and planned PFIs is some £59.4bn (although some of this has already been paid off by the public sector) and the contracts are structured to protect investors. It is unlikely that government would save any money by taking them into public ownership and it might well wind up out of pocket due to penalty clauses. Taking back services that have to be paid for anyway might (I stress might) actually save money. And of course it would be popular with public-sector workers, a key part of Labour’s constituency".
Former Liberal Democrat AM Peter Black writes 

I happen to agree with the paper that if Labour are talking about taking back some of the revenue costs of PFI contracts back -in house then that may be worthwhile doing and could save money. Taking the assets back into public ownership however may prove too expensive, especially as there may well be penalty clauses.
But wait, what is this nasty Tory policy that Labour are determined to destroy? Well, actually it was largely brought in by the Labour Party itself. Over on Facebook, the former Lib Dem MP for Torbay , Adrian Sanders reminded me of some of the history.
He points out that the very first bill put forward by the Blair government in 1997 was tthe NHS (PFI) Bill:
I quote Tory MP John Maples: “The Lib Dem amendments seem that if they were agreed to they would kill PFI stone dead” (Hansard 14th July 1997) 
And Labour MP Alan Milburn: “The Lib Dem amendment would prevent any transfer of services under PFI” (Hansard again) 
Now here’s a biggie…. Anyone want to guess the name of a current senior MP who voted for the NHS (PFI Bill) at every opportunity? 
You guessed it right. Jeremy Corbyn didn’t say a word against Health PFI in 1997 and voted for it at every chance. 
So it wasn't just a New Labour/centrist plot. Even 'Mr Rebellion' himself voted for PFI in health care at every chance. Only the Lib Dems opposed it.
Not sure about the last sentence  as I beleive Plaid and the SNP  also opposed PFI as 

 Plaid Cymru Treasury spokesman Jonathan Edwards said in 2012:

 “In the 2009-10 period when the UK tax take dropped considerably £11bn was written off by the UK Government – much of it involving global companies avoiding their tax responsibilities.“Perhaps more shocking is the real cost of PFI at four times the actual value of the assets. PFI is a financial trick which Plaid Cymru saw through under which financial magicians in the City made public money disappear.“Fortunately, Wales has relatively few PFI liabilities, but we must make sure that we get our fair share of spending in future to make up for this smaller spend on PFI.”
Should we  blame ordinary backbench MPs like Corbyn at the time who did not see through the build now pay later scheme.

Well I suppose it was difficult for those who wanted to see a boost in infrastructure particularly in the NHS  to question the   Faustian Pact the Tories under Major made first but expanded under Blair .

The problem with Faustian Pacts is that it is after all with the Devil there is no way out not even appealing to higher deity.

Whether Faust's descendants should also pay for his deal , may be open to question.

But maybe its too soon for Labour to absolve itself from the consequences of agreeing to PFI particularly those like Corbyn who was there at the time.

Monday, 25 September 2017

We need to differentiate between Vile Trolls and "Robust Criticism",

Abuse of councillors on social media over cuts to public services is "getting out of hand", the Welsh Local Government Association has said.
BBC Wales has heard of councillors being attacked over bin collections and their children bullied over school closures.
WLGA leader Debbie Wilcox (Conservative) said while councillors must be scrutinised, the situation was becoming "unsafe".
Councillor Sadie Vida (Conservative)l was told she would be "torn apart" by fox hounds.
Deputy leader of Flintshire council Bernie Attridge (Labour)said he had received many threats on Twitter, with prolonged attacks after the cabinet closed John Summers High school in 2015.
He added: 
"My children have also been bullied and threatened in school due to decisions I have taken as a councillor."
Which  unacceptable 
However whilst i unreservedly  condemn abuse the people councillors represent  surely have the right to criticise them to their face.
For some reason the BBC claim that 
"While MPs and AMs are contactable through their constituency and party offices, there are concerns anyone can go online and find the personal number of their councillor and their home address".
Many hardworking councillors will provide these details but in most case it is provided on the Councills website as Cllr Attridge  is on Flintshires counciiiiiiiiiiiil webste

Though Cllr Wilcox seems to be only using her council address

Cllr Wilcox said: 
"Everyone's an expert now on how to run this council and what I should be doing, and there's slews of it across social media where everybody knows what we should be doing.
"It's very easy to be a keyboard warrior. Put yourself up for election, get your head above the parapet if you think you can do better than me, but this attack mechanism on us all the time, it's not helpful to anyone, and it puts people off."
It seems Cllr Willcox'ds is trying block debate as well as abuse 

Yes there is abuse as experienced by  Vale of Glamorgan councillor Lis Burnett  (Labour) said she had been sent messages with the words "locked and loaded" at the end of them - which was frightening as her address was public knowledge.
"You just don't know if he has got something at home with him, my address is on the council website," the Stanwell ward councillor said, adding Vale of Glamorgan council had recently given councillors a specific council phone for the first time.
She said a man had turned up at her house just to check where she lived, she had been criticised for her hair style, called an "unemployed, fat, ginger tart", and told her "ugly house" should be demolished to make way for a new hospital.
Ms Burnett claimed the majority of attacks were politically motivated - with women subject to more abuse - and the majority of people just wanted someone to help them.
"If someone phones me, I am often their last resort. Once we have a chat they calm down. It's the keyboard warriors, they are just horrible and post Jo Cox it makes you more concerned," 
I don't know how we stop this and making a clear diffidence between "Robust Criticism" and this sort of abuse.

The WLGA is looking at ways to protect councillors from online and face-to-face abuse, including potential legislation, while making sure they are still accessible to communities.

It clearly is an issue that has to be dealt with, but it would be a victory for the vile trolls who have no real interest in democratic debate if robust criticism falls under the same remit and our elected politicians  no longer come face to face with the imp locations of their decisions on those they represent.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

I have never felt at home being part of the United Kingdom

Lets face it Prime Minister  Theresa May's claim that   “the United Kingdom has never totally felt at home being in the European Union”  certainly has an element of truth in some quarters.

I suspect that in Europe there has also been a feeling that somehow the UK has never really been a willing partner .

But as I write this I realise that never totally felt at home being in the United Kingdom more so than I have not wanted to be part of Europe.

Wales may have been under the control of the English Kings since the conquests of Edward I and had been ruled as a principality. This meant that some laws were different in Wales to those in England. 

This ended with the  Act of Union with Wales between 1536 and 1543 as a result of a series of laws passed in the English Parliament ended that  and we have been under English rule ever since.

For Scotland The two countries had shared a monarch since the Union of the Crowns in 1603, when King James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne from his double first cousin twice removed, Queen Elizabeth I. Although described as a Union of Crowns, until 1707 there were in fact two separate Crowns resting on the same head (as opposed to the implied creation of a single Crown and a single Kingdom, exemplified by the later Kingdom of Great Britain). There had been three attempts in 1606, 1667, and 1689 to unite the two countries by Acts of Parliament, but it was not until the early 18th century that both political establishments came to support the idea, albeit for different reasons.

Wales of course was considered part of England in the Act in reality no longer existing.
The Acts of Union were two Acts of Parliament: the Union with Scotland Act 1706 passed by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act passed in 1707 by the Parliament of Scotland. Followed by The Acts of Union 1800 (sometimes erroneously referred to as a single Act of Union 1801) united the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland (previously in personal union) to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland with effect from 1 January 1801.

In all that time  there was those who never felt truly part of the United Kingdom'

Ireland was the prime example and parties like the Liberals and Labour embraced the idea of Home Rule all round

When the major part of Ireland left in 1922 much of the engine that drove Home Rule in Wales  and Scotland died away , until the 1960 when Plaid and the SNP began winning seats in the UK Parliament.

Over 700 years since the conquests  and nearly 500 since we were Incorporated into England many Welshmen and Women have never felt at home in the United Kingdom (rather England).

Indeed some may well share my feeling that being part of a "Nations of Europe" that recognises our existence is infinitely better than part of  where we are considered to be "Poor West Britons" by those who see Britain meaning  England.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Goldilocks and the Independence debate.

Before the First World War the arguments from London  against Irish Independence was that 

"The fact the Irish wanted Independence from the British Empire the "Greatest Empire in History" meant that they were unready for Independence,
Then in the 1970 when the SNP emerged as a political force partly due to the "Its Scotland's Oil" 

the argument  was that Scotland was being selfish in wanting to keep oil resources for itself.

Then the argument made during the Scottish Referendum was that the oil was running out and Scotland was now "Too wee and too poor for independence".

Here in Wales we are always being told we are to small and poor for Independence  an argument that seems to have been accepted in some Plaid Circles.

So now we come to the Catalan Referendum and this tweet from Rhondda's MP Chris Bryant:
I disagree. The referendum is illegal. And this is all about the rich abandoning the poor. Better solidarity is a united Spain rico y pobre https://twitter.com/OwenJones84/status/910511246138658818 

As Nation Cymru  puts it
The ‘it’s illegal’ argument is clearly daft. As a politician Chris Bryant would know that what is legal isn’t necessarily right in many instances, otherwise he would never have voted to change a law.
This line of thinking is deeply worrying, however. It’s worth remembering that the first Scottish independence referendum got the go-ahead largely because neither side thought that ‘Yes’ had a hope of winning.
Catalonia’s treatment raises the spectre that if Scotland does call a referendum in the wake of Brexit – with perhaps more favourable polling – the country would face similar treatment.
After all, these arguments against a vote in Catalonia show that British politicians are happy to argue, when it suits them, that the people shouldn’t be allowed a democratic voice.
They can simply outlaw a vote and then claim ‘it’s illegal’, and so wrong.
But more revealing is the argument that Catalonia is too rich to be independent, and that it has a moral duty to stay in the union to help poorer nations that are part of Spain.
This is deeply ironic because one of the most consistent unionist arguments against Scottish and Welsh independence has been that they’re too poor to be independent.
Presumably, if Wales or Scotland were ever to pull themselves up by the boot-straps and become prosperous parts of the UK, the argument would suddenly flip the other way.
From being too poor to be independent, they would be too rich to be independent. We can’t win, I suppose.
The argument is especially galling because the London-centric, trickle down British economic model means that the UK includes both the richest and poorest areas in western Europe.
It’s not a union per se that creates equality but the fair distribution of wealth within in, something these same politicians lecturing Catalonia haven’t been able to, or don’t want to, achieve.
Is there a Goldilocks principle at work here?  Where Nations are not too poor or rich or poor for Independence but the conditions are just right.

Don't bet on it the new argument would be everything is 

"Just Right at the moment" so why change things"?
Perhaps the only argument for Independence should be 

"We want it" 

Friday, 22 September 2017

Percentage NHS spending shows limit of Welsh Powers.

A report has claimed protection of health funds in Wales  could make libraries and leisure centres unaffordable

A review by the Wales Governance Centre and Wales Public Services 2025 said about 56p in every pound spent by the Welsh Government on public services could go to the NHS within four years.
The two Cardiff University-based think tanks said under current UK government plans, the Welsh Government should expect another 3% cut to its budget for day-to-day spending by 2021-2022, on top of a 11.5% cut since 2010.
Welsh ministers have promised to protect the NHS, schools and adult social care, meaning local authorities take a bigger hit.
The share of the Welsh Government's revenue budget the NHS receives could rise to 56%, if ministers find the money needed to keep up with a predicted growth in demand, the report has warned.
Cuts to Welsh councils have been smaller than in England, but spending on unprotected services - such as libraries, roads and culture - could reach 50% by 2021-2022, the study estimated.
It added: "There may not be a single tipping point but continued attrition would call into question whether the full range of services we have now is affordable."

First Minister Carwyn Jones said it was the "inevitable" consequence of Westminster cuts to Wales' budget.

Mr Jones told BBC Radio Wales:
 "We know how important health is and we have got to the point where it takes most of our expenditure.
"But we have experienced austerity since 2010 and it is taking more of a decreasing budget."
Speaking to BBC's Good Morning Wales programme, he called on the UK government to support public services, saying finances were being "squeezed".
Lets face it we are not going to get any more Money from Westminster and even if Jeremy Corbyn was in Number 10 it would be be unlikely that we would see any substantial change in theBarnett formula the mechanism used by the Treasury in the United Kingdom to automatically adjust the amounts of public expenditure allocated to Northern IrelandScotland and Wales to reflect changes in spending levels allocated to public services in EnglandEngland and Wales or Great Britain, as appropriate. 
Only an increase in powers would probably see changes in Barnett and neither the Tories or Labour are likely to do so.
What the Wales Governance Centre predictions  shows is the limited  scope of the current devolved powers.
Indeed I suspect that it was decided to devolve the NHS to Wales because t would become our problem not through any desire to boost devolution.
So what can we do?
The  Conservatives say he problems facing the Welsh NHS were "the product of nearly two decades of Labour mismanagement".
Tory finance spokesman Nick Ramsay said: 
"Successive Labour administrations have singularly failed to get a handle on worsening public health, long-term workforce planning, and wasteful practices - all of which have been compounded by chronic underfunding."
So Mr Ramsay seems to be saying that the way to end wasteful practices is to increase the NHS budget.
I doubt any reforms which increased NHS efficiency will make a huge saving that would lower the NHS budget to under 50% though it would be welcome.
What the figures show  however is not only the rising cost of NHS provisions un Wales, but how very little real powers are devolved here.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

UK Unionist are tacitly backing "The Heirs of Franco".

It was reported that Jeremy Corbyn has responded to Piers Morgan's claim that he was deliberately "shut out" of a conversation with Spanish Arsenal full back Hector Bellerin when the Labour leader deliberately switched into Spanish, by tweeting at both men, in Spanish.
Mr Bellerin had told Piers Morgan to "calm down mate" over the claim in his column. Mr Corbyn replied ,saying: 
"Fue un placer conocerte.Es mejor que no le digamos de lo que estabamos hablando, no lo entenderia. Muy buen juego en el partido el domingo."
In English, this translates as: 
"It was nice meeting you. It's best if we don't tell him what we were talking about, he would not understand. Very good game on Sunday."
  1987, he married Chilean exile Claudia Bracchitt this ended in divorce and he then married In 2013, Corbyn married his Mexican-born partner Laura Álvarez.

So Spanish may well be a language he is familiar with.  Maybe he could use this to call on Spanish Prime Minister  Mariano Rajoy to end his attack on democracy in Catalonia.

Earlier on Wednesday, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont accused the central government of effectively suspending devolution after it moved to seize control of regional finances to stop them being used to fund the referendum.

He said, 
"Spain has de facto suspended the self-government of Catalonia and has applied a de facto state of emergency,"
"We believe that the Spanish government has crossed the red line that separated it from repressive authoritarian regimes and has become a democratic shame." 

At the very least he should comment on  The Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) leader Pedro Sánchez responded to Rajoy’s comments in Barcelona by supporting : 

He said :
 you [Rajoy] will do what you have to do.
The Liberal Democrats also seem to be silent  . One would expect an emergency Motion at their annual conference but this seems not to be the case.

The silence from the UK Liberal-Left  who would have condemned  a similar attack on democracy elsewhere in the World. Politicians like Corbyn who are quick to defend the rights of Nations to seek independence as they did when the Baltic States sought and won their Independence from Russia (did Corbyn?)seem to have nothing to say as the "Heirs of Franco" seek to prevent Catalonia doing the same.

Maybe its to close to their Unionist hearts here as they see Catalonia  causing a domino effect where they are followed by Scotland.

But this is not a case of supporting a YES vote in Catalonia but the right to ask their people if they want Independence.

By remaining silent they are showing that they oppose not only the right of Nations to seek Independence  but even to consider it.

Many of us suspect if there had been any Indication in the Polls three years ago that Scotland could have voted for Independence then the Unionists  would have Blocked it.

One can ask if there is any difference between the Unionist Parties in the UK and the "Heirs of Franco in Spain?

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Neil McEvoy suspended by Plaid again!

As the Party Conference season begins it seems Plaid have once again managed to have a problem with one of its AMs ,

It used to be Dafydd Elis Thomas but he has now left the party so the mantle of troublemaker in Chief now falls on Neil McEvoy.

Plaid Cymru AMs have unanimously voted to suspend Mr McEvoy from the party's group in the Welsh Assembly - the second time this year.
"As leader, I cannot allow elected members to act in a way which is detrimental to the party.
"We are a party and most importantly, a team. It is my duty not to allow behaviour which undermines its unity and integrity.
"I now look forward to the assembly group being able to move on strong and united, fully focused on the task of holding the Labour government to account and offering people effective representation at every level in all parts of Wales."
Asked later by BBC Wales whether there was a way for Mr McEvoy to be admitted back into the group, Ms Wood said:
"I don't know is the honest answer to that question.
"There have been a number of incidences over the summer talking about policy for example, attacking other members of the group and generally not treating other members with respect.
"Two members complained about that behaviour over the summer and the group collectively took action today."
Earlier this year, Mr McEvoy was suspended for a month by Cardiff council after an independent panel concluded that he made a bullying remark to a staff member.
He has recently angered colleagues by opposing party policy to end the right of council tenants to buy their homes.
Last week Mr McEvoy had a social media row with the party’s housing spokeswoman Bethan Jenkins, with whom he was once in a relationship, after defending the “right to buy” on the grounds that it had been the only way many working people had been able to buy their homes.
Mr McEvoy said it would be inappropriate for him to comment at this stage, but a friend said: “This changes nothing.
"Neil will keep fighting the corrupt Labour government.
"He came from an estate in Cardiff and he’s never forgotten where he’s come from. If Plaid is to keep calling itself the Party of Wales then it needs people like Neil in it.
Without a doubt Neil McEvoy has raised Plaid profile in Cardiff West though the process could well have ben started by Dr Delme Bowen who pursued a much more gentle approach than Mr McEvoy  who favours confrontation with Labour.

His confrontation style against Labour both on Cardiff Council and the Assembly has seen him gain support from some Plaid quarters as well as a committed Nationalism.

The problem seems that the seems to favour confrontation with his colleagues.

I am not in favour of carolling Party Members into support of a particular policy and people must always take their conscious into account.but dissenter  should ask themselves whether the inevitable publicity is worth the damage it could do to their  Party

We will see whether Mr McEvoy will rejoin the group one wonder if Plaid are beginning to think that running Labour close in Cardiff West or even winning it is worth the discord and bad publicity  that this could l involve the Party as a whole.