Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Arriva Trains Wales drops rail franchise bid

Only a fortnight ago there was an example pf the current chaos Rail Commuters  face every day,

There was "train chaos" on the valley lines on Tuesday - the same day overcrowding was raised as an issue in the First Minister's Questions.
Rail commuters faced delays and cancellations on services coming in and out of Cardiff during the Tuesday morning commute.
Arriva Trains Wales said a problem with line-side equipment at Cathays train station meant trains were having to run at a reduced speed between Pontypridd and Cardiff.
Trains between Barry Island, Cardiff Central, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil, Aberdare and Treherbert were all affected.
Leanne Wood raised the issue of overcrowding at the First Minister's Questions on Tuesday calling for the valley line in the Rhondda to go from a single line to a dual line.
The Rhondda AM, who is a regular user of the Treherbert to Cardiff service, told First Minister Carwyn Jones that passengers in Wales "deserved better".

Addressing the First Minister about the renewal of the railway franchise, Ms Wood said:

 “The renewal of the franchise gives us the opportunity to discuss the issue of capacity, and there’s a significant issue of capacity on the Valley lines, as you will be aware.
“Everyday commuters face issues of overcrowding and delays. Frequency is an issue as well.
“On the Treherbert line for example - one that I’m particularly familiar with - there are only two passing points on that line and we need to go from a single line to a dual line.
“The Treherbert line is mentioned in the budget today - can you say more about that train line, and in particular, can you tell us when we can expect to see a plan for the re-duelling of the Treherbert train service?”

“Overcrowding is a familiar problem for anyone who uses the Valleys Lines,”  “I know it is also nothing new for the many pupils of Treorci Comprehensive School who rely on the service on a daily basis. When you see children pressed up against each other because carriages are so full it is distressing for all concerned, especially for parents of the children.
“Parents, who pay for this service, are angry and rightly so. Some have been in touch this week on the matter. I have had meetings with Arriva Trains Wales in the past where it was pledged that valleys trains would become more of a priority for extra carriages. Unfortunately we are still seeing carriages that are full to the point of being uncomfortable.”

  “All these problems and the subsequent customer dissatisfaction underlines the need for the next franchise to be absolutely spot on. The last franchise did not have any provision for passenger growth or extra train capacity, and that is big part of why we are where we are now. That mistake cannot happen again and it is incumbent on the Labour Government in Wales to get it right

The BBC reports that

The firm that runs most of Wales' rail network has pulled out of the contest to continue running it from 2018.
Arriva has said Arriva Trains Wales was "no longer participating in the Wales and Borders competition", adding it had "not been an easy decision".
Transport for Wales said it was "not uncommon" for bidders for major projects to withdraw.
The Tories said Arriva's withdrawal "raises questions" about government engagement with the process.
An Arriva-owned company has run the franchise since 2003. There are three remaining bidders - Abellio, KeolisAmey and MTR.
Responsibility for the process of finding a company to run the services is set to be devolved from 2018

Arriva Trains Wales' parent company Arriva said it "had been proud" providing rail transport in Wales for almost 14 years.

"We will continue to work constructively with TfW to help make the next franchise a success and build upon the legacy that Arriva has built with Arriva Trains Wales," said an Arriva statement.

"We remain fully committed to delivering for our customers."
Tom Joyner, managing director of Arriva Trains Wales said:
 "We have been notified that Arriva Group have withdrawn from the bidding process for the next Wales and Borders franchise.
 "Our key priority following this announcement is to continue to focus on the delivery of our services for the people and communities that depend on us for the remainder of the current franchise."

A spokeswoman for Transport for Wales said: 

"Arriva Rail Wales have notified Transport for Wales that they intend to withdraw from the bidding process for the next Wales and Borders rail franchise.

"It is not uncommon for bidders for major projects to withdraw during the tender process and Arriva have been clear they have done this for their own commercial reasons.

"The procurement process is a tough and demanding one and we recognise Arriva's extensive work to date.
 "With final tenders due later this year, we have three companies with world-class credentials each putting their own, distinct cases for how they will deliver the ambitious objectives we set, with the goal of delivering a step change in rail services for passengers across Wales and the Borders."

Could not this be a an opportunity  to consider a asking Arriva to continue for a few years more  before  bringing Rail Transport under public control.

This could coincide with ambitious plans by the Welsh Assembly Government to reopen the Carmarthen -Aberystwyth line as well as others such as the changes to the Valley lines Leane Wood has demanded,?.

Maybe its time the apparent move to the left in Labour in the rest of the UK reached Wales, or is there a difference between policies in opposition and  being in power?



Monday, 30 October 2017

We should be rivalling Oxbridge not sending our brightest and best there.

Am I alone in thinking that its not the problem of  Welsh students lacking in confidence  confidence to apply to Oxbridge, an access fellow at Oxford's Jesus college has said but we have no ambition to have a Welsh University system that rivals not Only Oxbridge but other  leading universities.

 The BBC reports that 

The acceptance rate of Welsh students at Oxbridge has increased in the last three years, but the number of applications has fallen.
Access officers have identified self-belief as an issue they have to tackle in Wales.
The Welsh Government said more needs to be done "to push our most able students".
Welsh students made up 3.3% of Oxford's intake, and 1.6% of Cambridge's, in 2016 according to Freedom of Information figures released by Tottenham MP David Lammy last week.

Matthew Williams, access fellow for Jesus college,(Which is sometimes referred to as the "Welsh College"  said

 "Our primary method of changing this narrative is by meeting as many Welsh students as possible.
"I invite a lot of students to come to Oxford and meet our undergrads. They pretty quickly realise that Oxford students are just like them."Often Welsh students lack the confidence to apply to Oxford or Cambridge, and I do all I can to change their minds."

Murrium Khan, senior access officer at Lady Margaret Hall, one of the Oxford college's responsible for access in mid-Wales, cited several possible factors contributing to Welsh Oxford applications falling, including the press, education system and, primarily, confidence.
She runs workshops with link schools in Wales and says she often plays a word association game where students mention words they think relate to Oxbridge.

"Posh, privileged, well-connected and rich are always on the list", she said, adding the college's programme was often focused on busting these myths.

Meanwhile, Cambridge University said it was "intensifying its efforts" to increase Welsh applications.
 a spokesman said.

 "High-achieving students from Wales should strongly consider applying to Cambridge," a spokesman said.

"Welsh applicants have the same success rate as the Cambridge average and Welsh students thrive here as part of our global community. If you don't apply, we can't offer you a place."

MP Chris Bryant took more than 70 students from Rhondda to his old Oxford college in September to demystify the experience.
He told the students that the "only barrier to getting here is inside your own heads". 

Clearly I do not want to stop our brightest students  to reach their full potential but it shameful that some may have to go to another country in order to do so and it will take many years to rise our instituons where they rival Oxbridge but it should be our ambition.

Of those who do leave, how many never return and lose contact with their communities?

One of my most enjoyable experience in Aberystwyth  was living in a Hall with a large number of Overseas Students who made a huge contribution to the ethos of the College.

Welsh Students who move to colleges outside Wales will do likewise and do not discourage them seeking a different experience.

But they should not be leaving because they believe that they can get a better education  and prospects by going to Oxbridge.

The task that the likes of Chris Bryant even if he is not in the Welsh Assembly  should take up is to seek to  build a Education system  from Nursery level to University  that rivals any where in the World.

Believing that the future of our brightest and best lies in sending them to be educated at Oxbridge or anywhere else is self defeating.


Sunday, 29 October 2017

Fine Gael Government shames Ireland over Catalonia

Queen Bee Syndrome, coined by G.L. Staines, T.E. Jayaratne, and C. Tavris in 1973, is the notion that women who have achieved power in a misogynistic culture don't necessarily help other women do the same.
Stainer et al. ( via Edson) define

the true Queen Bee [as having] made it in the "man's world" of work, while running a house and family with her left hand. "If I can do it without a whole movement to help me," runs her attitude, "so can all those other women.
It seems that this syndrome could be sought of applied to Nations who have won their Independence  deny it to others,

The recognition of a new Independent Nation is not always automatic but  the reluctance to support the new Republic of Catalonia is disappointing.

The argument that the declaration is controversial has not stopped such acts before.

On 14 May 1948 the State of Israel was established by the Israeli Declaration of Independence. The Arab League and Arab countries were opposed to any partition of Palestine and to the establishment of Israel, and took military action against the newly formed state in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

On the declaration of independence, a provisional government of Israel was established; and while military operations were still in progress, the provisional government was promptly recognised by the United States as the de facto authority of Israel, followed by Iran (which had voted against the UN partition plan), Guatemala, Iceland, Nicaragua, Romania, and Uruguay. The Soviet Union was the first country to recognise Israel de jure on 17 May 1948,followed by Nicaragua, Czechoslovakia, Serbia, and Poland.

 The United States extended de jure recognition after the first Israeli election,[
 on 31 January 1949.

So recognition was swift from some quarters but don't expect the same for Catalonia even from Nations that have won their Independence from thier own Imperial powers.
 Ireland which surely understand such history more than most will not recognize Catalonia's declaration of independence from Spain, the Department of Foreign Affairs have said.
The political turmoil in Spain intensified on Friday as the Madrid government dismissed Catalonia's president and parliament hours after the region declared independence.
In a statement to media, the department said they are "concerned about the crisis in Catalonia".
The statement said Ireland "does not accept or recognised the Catalan Unilateral Declaration of Independence."
It reads;
 "We are all concerned about the crisis in Catalonia. Ireland respects the constitutional and territorial integrity of Spain and we do not accept or recognise the Catalan Unilateral Declaration of Independence.

"The resolution of the current crisis needs to be within Spain's constitutional framework and through Spain's democratic institutions. Ireland supports efforts to resolve this crisis through lawful and peaceful means." 
 Surely the Fine Gael Government   realise that Spain's "Constitutional  Framework " denies the right of Catalonia to seek Independence.

Those who claim that the referendum in Catalonia did not have a mandate because  it was boycotted by Spanish Unionist should explain how Catalonia  can get a Mandate  under a Constitution which forbids them from seeking Independence
 Shame on Ireland for  for not supporting a Nation seeking to break the bonds of an Imperial power just as they did nearly a hundred years earlier

However maybe we could point to the fact that  Fine Gael was founded on 8 September 1933[following the merger of its parent party Cumann na nGaedheal, the National Centre Party and the National Guard (popularly known as the "Blueshirts", a name still used colloquially to refer to the party).  
 The Blueshirts  was a far-right organisation in the Irish Free State in the early 1930s. The organisation provided physical protection for political groups such as Cumann na nGaedheal from intimidation and attack by the anti-Treaty IRA.] Some of its members went on to fight for the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War.
 I doubt that the refusal  to recognise  Catalonia is linked to Fine Gael past but its worth raising


Saturday, 28 October 2017

Madrid will try and crush Catalonia with rigged election.

The Guardian reports that
The Spanish government has taken control of Catalonia, dissolved its parliament and announced new elections after secessionist   Catalan MPs voted to establish an independent republic, pushing the country’s worst political crisis in 40 years to new and dangerous heights.
Speaking on Friday evening, the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, said his cabinet had fired the regional president, Carles Puigdemont, and ordered regional elections to be held on 21 December.

I can't help thinking  that secessionist is being used by the UK media in a negative way after all Ukip and Leave voters are not  referred to  as secessionist.

The actions came hours after Spain’s national unity suffered a decisive blow when Catalan MPs in the 135-seat regional parliament voted for independence by a margin of 70 votes to 10.

Let's be clear that is a majority which came after a Catalan General Election fought on just that issue.

Dozens of opposition MPs may have3 boycotted the secret ballot, marching out of the chamber in Barcelona before it took place and leaving Spanish and Catalan flags on their empty seats in protest but that had no impact on on the result.

Will the Independence  Parties  take part in a Election controlled from Madrid, how fair is it going to be

Stance on independence and current seats in the European Parliament.

Source: historiaelectoral.com
Together for Yes (JxSí) Process towards independence 62 seats
Socialists' Party of Catalonia (PSC–PSOE) Spanish unionism, federalism 16 seats
People's Party (PP) Spanish unionism, status quo  11 seats
Catalonia Yes We Can (CatSíqueesPot) Constitutional reformism, self-determination 11 seats
Democratic Union of Catalonia (unio.cat) Catalan nationalism 0 Seats
Citizens–Party of the Citizenry (C's) Spanish unionism, status quo 25 Seats
Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) Process towards independence 10 Seats

 Will as it has done in the past in  Euskadi the Basque country ban any political partes from taking part?

The excuse in Euskadi was that  parties like Sortu  the first political party belonging to the Basque nationalist "abertzale left" that openly rejects any kind of political violence was stil linked to the militant group ETA.

The jailing of Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, the heads of grassroots organizations Catalan National Assembly and Omnium Cultural, speaks volumes how many of the current Parliament  will be banned from  standing ( if they choose) to because they are under"sedition" investigation"?

How long will Europe   stand by and see the democratic will of Catalonia's people crushed by a Central government that conduct elections under a dubious mandate and even more dubious conditions.

 The consequences  of Europe turning its back on Catalan Democracy could well be those in the UK dire for Scotland and Wales and  there will be UK Unionists  pn the Left and Right who would seek to emulate Madrid.

So far the only support for Catalonia in the UK parliament has come from Plaid Cymru (Which has recongnised  the Catalan Republic and the SNP. Wwill the Unionist  MPs from the  Conservatives , Labour and Liberal Democrats follow  the line of their Madrid counterparts even when it becomes clear that they are conducting a rigged election ?


Friday, 27 October 2017

Was Tory Letter to Universities a coordinated move to censorship?

I am beginning  to wonder if the  controversy  over  Conservative Whip Chris Heaton-Harris wrote to Vice Chancellors asking for the names of professors who taught about Brexit and asking to see syllabuses. is not  just the action of an individual MP but the opening salvo of an attempt to able our universities as being full Left Wing intellectuals who are out of touch with the "Man in the Street"

Unless   Chris Heaton-Harrs is a complete Idiot hen he would be aware many would  this as a"sinister" attempt to censor Lectures and professors and censor themand accusing him of conducting a "McCarthyite" witch hunt.

 A copy of the letter sent by Mr Heaton-Harris released by the University of Worcester

 The Huffington Post reports that

After Tory MP Chris Heaton-r - was condemned earlier this week over a “chilling” letter he wrote to universities asking for the names of academics teaching about Brexit, the right-wing paper today suggested it is in fact pro-EU lecturers leaving students afraid to speak their minds on campus. 
According to the tabloid, professors have been caught “doling out pro-EU pamphlets” and inviting students to Open Britain meetings, and one academic allegedly compared supporting Brexit to backing the Nazis after seeing an undergraduate at a pro-Leave stall ahead of the Referendum. 
Referencing the backlash faced by Heaton-Harris over his enquiries, the newspaper said that “revelations of anti-Brexit bias” at universities showed that the Conservative politician was “well within his rights to ask what is happening in higher education”. 
The Daily Mail asked students who had heard “anti-Brexit bias” on campus to get in touch, while in a separate article the paper also profiled 14 Oxford and Cambridge University leaders, asking: “Just why is every new Oxbridge head a leftie?”

Then Welsh MP David Davies has launched a blistering attack on universities after walking out of a Westminster seminar organised by Cardiff University because he “wasn’t going to be lectured on freedom of speech”.

The issue was raised with Cardiff University's Vice-Chancellor, Colin Riordan, at the breakfast seminar meeting on Thursday morning.
Monmouth MP Mr Davies, sat at the front, intervened in what one described as a "pretty polite exchange of views" but others said was a "rant".
The Conservative MP defended his colleague's actions and argued that universities "shouldn't be promoting anti-Brexit views because they're publicly funded".
After a comment from former Labour Leader Lord Kinnock, David Davies left, saying he had "had enough of this".

Talking to BBC Wales after the event, Mr Davies said he

 "wasn't going to spend my morning with Lord Kinnock or being lectured by him on freedom of speech."
"Free speech is an issue that universities need to address and it's absolutely time that they realised that they are publicly-funded organisations that shouldn't waste their time belly-aching about Brexit.
"They haven't got the time to sit there drinking coffee and eating croissants and lecturing people in Parliament about anti-Brexit bias,"
A Labour MP present at the event said Mr Davies' departure "felt very staged", whilst another accused the Monmouth MP of having "turned up deliberately to make a fuss".
Speaking in the Senedd on Tuesday, First Minister Carwyn Jones said Chris Heaton-Harris' letter was "as authoritarian a request as could possibly be made."
"I suspect this gentleman would have a lot to teach Stalin,"
I am not into conspiracy theories, but it seems to me that Heaton-Harris letters were designed to provoke exactly the backlash he received  giving the likes of the Daily Mail and David Davies their opportunity to  make their own attack on Academic freedom.

Whether Heaton-Harris'  coordinated with others is open to question maybe he predicted that he would strike a cord with the likes of the Daily Mail which since its support for fascism in the 1930 still harbours for tyrannical  attacks on anyone who stands up to Right Wing Tory governments and Brexit has given them and  others the perfect platform

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Will Tories really celebrate centenary of the first woman member of parliament?

I Apart from the sheer hypocrisy and faux outrage coming from the Tory benches there was  something else Tory MP Nicky Morgan mocking Jeremy  Corbyn about the treatment of female MPs in Parliament. during PMQ time

AS Another Angry Voice points out


But let's leave this to one side for a moment
The Express claim that Ms Morgan asked Mr Corbyn:(Except it was questions to the Prime Minister).

 "Next year sees the centenary of the first woman member of parliament.
"Would my right honourable friend tell us what leadership and encouragement to the women and girls in his constituency to take part in public life the member for Sheffield Hallam has shown in his remarks?" 

One wonders how many Tories will  really be celebrating first woman member of parliament because it was of course

Constance Georgine Markievicz,  4 February 1868 – 15 July 1927) was an Irish Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil politician, revolutionary nationalist, suffragette and socialist. A founder member of Fianna Éireann, Cumann na mBan and the Irish Citizen Army, she took part in the Easter Rising in 1916, when Irish republicans attempted to end British rule and establish an Irish Republic. She was sentenced to death but this was reduced on the grounds of her gender. In December 1918, she was the first woman elected to the British House of Commons, though she did not take her seat and, along with the other Sinn Féin TDs, formed the first Dáil Éireann. She was also the second woman in the world to hold a cabinet position (Minister for Labour of the Irish Republic, 1919–1922).

As we all know the first Women to take her seat was 

Nancy Witcher Langhorne Astor, .She was an American citizen who moved to England at age 26. She made a second marriage to Waldorf Astor as a young woman in England. After he succeeded to the peerage she entered politics, in 1919 winning his former seat in Plymouth and becoming the first woman to sit as a Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons.

Who may ot have been the choice of current left wingers  but it was still groundbreaking.

Indeed perhaps   it should be noted that it took two somewhat eccentric women to stand for and win palimentry seats.

One hundred years later we are still no where near to equal representation in any of our legislators.

Whilst rightly condemning  bigoted remarks  from all quarters maybe MPs should seriously consider as they celebrate  (probably without mention her in person) the election of the first women MP that we have not gone far enough and  are unlikely to get any closer in the near future to something like  50% f our representation from both sexes.



Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Not "Putting" Wales First but Making Wales First.

 This Blog  started with a Tweet from Meal Lawson of Compass
22h22 hours ago
New Zealand have formed a govt. it needs to happen here

I questioned whether  New Zealand First could be described as "Progressive".

Apart from me saying give awash instead of give away (Why can't you edit your Twitter comments) the point is that New Zealand First which is in coalition with Labour and The Greens has a dubious claim to be progressive you can judge for yourself here.

I have never liked the term Wales First even before the entry of the far right Britain First because it does seem to have a narrow nationalist agenda.
But I do want to see Wales first for all irrespective of origin.
  • First in Health care.
  • First in Social care and Welfare.
  • First in Education.
  • First not only in the percentage of people in work  but the quality of that work.
  • First in equality of Languages provision with not just a Bilingual Wales but  one where we are even Trilingual or more.
  • First in promoting peace throughout the World.
  • First in giving Aid to the Wales when disaster strikes and beyond.
The list could go on but  the point is that I do not want to see an Independent Wales aping the UK and a narrow xenophobic agenda  but a progressive nation that is a leading light  to the nations of the world.
We should set the Bar as high as possible and aim to achive it.
Lets make our Nation First  among the Progressive Nations of the world where others aim to emulate.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Minimum price for alcohol is not the answer

Like many people I have first hand experience of loosing a beloved family member to alcoholism.

To my my mind she had suffered an illness in the same way others suffer from cancer.

Was it preventable?I don't know but I do believe the  price of alcohol  once    you become an alcoholic is not a deterrent.

There is an argument that some people should not drink alcohol in the first place.

Certainly if we were to  use the criteria we apply to drugs there would be a case  that alcohol  would face a higher category than say cannabis.

So I am not sure that the Welsh government plans to introduce a law to set a minimum price for selling alcohol in Wales is  a solution.

The argument admittedly is strong.

As the BBC reports

Ministers believe tackling excessive drinking could save a life a week and mean 1,400 fewer hospital admissions a year.
Pricing is seen as a "missing link" in public health efforts, alongside better awareness and treatment.
Under a 50p-a-unit formula, a typical can of cider would be at least £1 and a bottle of wine at least £4.69.
A typical litre of vodka, for example, would have to cost more than £20.
The Welsh Government has not yet decided what the price will be, however.

Alcohol experts from Sheffield University have studied the health picture, drinks market and consumption patterns in Wales.
The research has helped produce a formula based on the percentage strength of the alcohol and its volume to develop the minimum unit price (MUP).
While alcohol consumption levels have been falling in recent years, health officials are concerned that:
  • Binge drinking is still a problem with young people; there is also an issue with the over-50s
  • There were 463 alcohol-related deaths in Wales in 2015-16
  • There were 54,000 alcohol-related hospital admissions
Cheap drink in supermarkets and other licensed stores is the main target and the law will also address the issue of special offers in its fine detail.
Alcohol sold below 50p per unit makes up 72% of the beer sales in Welsh shops and supermarkets, 78% of the cider sales, 42% of the wine and 66% of the spirits.
The research suggests that although high-risk drinkers make up only a quarter of people who drink alcohol, they drink 72% of all alcohol consumed and account for 65% of all spending.
"There is a very clear and direct link between levels of excessive drinking and the availability of cheap alcohol," said Public Health Minister Rebecca Evans.
"So we need to take decisive action now to address the affordability of alcohol, as part of wider efforts to tackle alcohol-related harm."
It has been claimed it could:
  • Save the NHS £6.5m a year by reducing the impact on hospitals
  • Boost the Welsh economy by £44m a year by reducing workplace absence and crime.
  • Researchers said 42% of the alcohol bought by high-risk drinkers in poverty is of the cheaper variety - against 21% for moderate drinkers in poverty.
  • But officials believe more affluent high-risk drinkers will also respond to price changes and they insisted it was not a tax but a tool to change behaviour.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Frank Atherton said they were not the "fun police" or the "nanny state" but they could not wash their hands of a significant public health issue.

"It will have a small impact on moderate drinkers," 
"The most substantial effects will be experienced by harmful and hazardous drinkers, who are more likely to consume cheaper and higher-strength alcohol products."

But Alex Loveland, a recovering alcoholic who supports people with dependency, is worried that it will not help them.

"They're going to try to get alcohol by any means necessary and I think it will put more strain on very underprivileged people," .
 The Welsh Retail Consortium has also expressed concern that minimum price may hit less affluent, moderate consumers of alcohol "whilst not necessarily having the desired impact on problem drinkers".
To some extent i find myself in agreement  UKIP Wales leader Neil Hamilton AM said it was another example of the Welsh Government "sticking its nose into people's private lives".
"The problem is not alcohol but anti-social behaviour," he said. "The laws on public drunkenness need to be strictly enforced, as they used to be."
But Prof Mark Bellis, director of policy at Public Health Wales, said it would reduce opportunities for young people to buy alcohol "at pocket money prices".

But that  will not make a difference to to rich Yobs like members of the notorious Bullingdon Club -based in Oxford. which as always been noted for its wealthy members, grand banquets and boisterous rituals, such as vandalising ('trashing') of restaurants and college rooms, complemented by a tradition of on-the-spot payment for damage.

The next generation of David Cameron, former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, former Mayor of London, current Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Nick Hurd, current Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Services clones will be free to carry out drunken behaviour knowing full well that they will not face the consequences of the law and damage to their future in the same way working class youths be.

I admit I don't know what  the solution is maybe minimum may well make some difference  but will the poorest members of our society who drink reasonably  be the only ones who are affected.

Monday, 23 October 2017

It's not a question of Independence but the right to choose.

The silence from UK politicians over the events in Catalonia has been deafening but it seems to  seems to have broken in some quarters .

The Wasting Mule reports that speaking in a personal capacity, Welsh Assembly Minister for Lifelong Learning and the Welsh Language Alun Davies gave a scathing assessment of how Spain’s central government had responded to referendum.
Contrasting Madrid’s stance with how the UK Government facilitated the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, he said: “I think most people right across the political spectrum are looking at events in Madrid with increasing incredulity...

“Look what happened in Scotland where a central government – and a [unionist] government – in the UK, London, facilitated, enabled and participated in a referendum on independence in Scotland and won, defeated nationalism in Scotland, defeated separatism and established a new basis for a union moving forward.
“You would have thought that would be the textbook example for how to manage these sorts of issues and the Spanish Government seems to have learned no lessons from that at all and embarked upon a journey which seems to me to guarantee future Catalonian independence. How or when it happens I don’t know but it’s difficult to see an easy resolution to this.
“The worst thing for me is the violence of the Spanish state which can only be reminiscent of fascism, particularly with the Spanish history.”

His fellow Labour AM has also made similar comments.

Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of the past will repeat them. Spain’s Gov has just guaranteed eventual Independence

Ther point was also made by the  Blogger Another Angry Voice who appears on of the few Liberal-Left outside  Wales Scotland and Cornwall to give support to Catalonia

His fellow Labour AM has also made similar coments.

Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of the past will repeat them. Spain’s Gov has just guaranteed eventual Independence
 In the same article Welsh Tory MP said

 “I just think it’s extraordinary... This is the sort of thing you’d expect to see in some caricature of a banana republic...
“I think it’s fair to say that you would expect and anticipate Spain’s friends in the international community saying to the Spanish Government, ‘You need to think hard about what you’re doing and you need to think hard about the consequences of what you are doing.’

 Of course this is not support for Catalan Independence even from Alun Davies a former Plaid Cymru candidate, but surely the question to ask for UK politicians  is not that Catalonia should be independent but they should have the right to ask their citizens through a democratic process if that's what they want and respond if they say Yes.  

As Plaid Cymru Adam Price   describing the response of Madrid in which Labour's European allies PSOE are complacent  as the “very stuff of a coup d’etat” and “unthinkable in a western democracy”.
Warning that the situation is entering “very, very dangerous territory indeed”, he wants to see international mediation and a negotiated settlement.
He wants Wales to convey clear solidarity for Catalonia in response to Madrid’s push for direct rule, arguing:
 “Because this is an act which goes against the very essence of democratic self-determination, as a small country that has won a degree of autonomy – of which we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary – then we should be sending a message of support and solidarity to the Catalan people and voice our unequivocal opposition to this power-grab by the centre...
“I think we need to make our position clear.”
 Segregation was legal in both South Africa and the US South that does not mean that we accepted it .

It may be easier for me as supporter of  a Europe of "a hundred flags" and that our Ddraig Goch should be one of them , to support  Catalan Independence.

But you don't have to follow this line to support the right to choose to leave , the UK France, Belgium Spain or any European state.

By all means back whatever Union you support , just do not deny the right to ask the question of Independence to their citizens,




Sunday, 22 October 2017

Electoral Reform Society's contribution on local government election.

It is hardly surprising that the Wales Online begin their coverage of the  Electoral Reform Society Cymru (ERS) latest contribution reports that Assembly Members should not be allowed to be councillors at the same time, an influential group has argued in a submission to the Welsh Government because it provides controversial headlines.

Responding to a public consultation in advance of a Bill, the Electoral Reform Society Cymru (ERS) said:
“Given the constraints of the current size of the Assembly, we believe that AMs are currently significantly overstretched.
“As a result of this we would agree that the ability to serve as both an AM and a councillor should be ended.”
Wales Onlne helpfully point out

Currently South Wales Central AM Neil McEvoy also sits as a member of Cardiff council.

He is currently suspended from the Plaid Assembly group after criticising Plaid’s support for a move to end the right of council tenants to buy their homes.
"However, he remains leader of the three-strong Cardiff council Plaid group. Other AMs who have previously done the job while remaining councillors include Plaid’s Lindsay Whittle and Lib Dem Peter Black.

Though it would be handy to note that Mr McEvoy  does not have any travel issues with his dual-mandate as both the Cardif council HQ and Assembly Buildings are in Cardiff bay.

In all his tenure as an AM for South Wales West Peter Black  (1999- 2016) was A Councillor for the Cwmbwrla ward on City and County of Swansea Council, being first elected in 1984 and remains so even i a period when the Lib DEms were decimated on the council.

I imagine opposition parties questioned his dual mandate  at every election but the electorate were sill happy to vote for him.

On the whole however I agree with the ERS and elected members should no have a dual membership though I wonder if is should left t the voters.

This was not the most important part of the ER contribution and I am in complete agreement however  with the   ERS backing the introduction of the Single Transferable Vote system of proportional representation for electing councillors, saying it is fairer than the current First Past The Post (FPTP) system.
The society said it did not support a proposal under which it would be up to councils to choose their own voting system,

The submission said: 

“Currently FPTP makes for unfair results and strongly monocultural councils. Under the current system, those who finish third in terms of share of the vote can go on to win the most seats.
“The starkest example from 2008 was Cardiff, where the Liberal Democrats came first in terms of seats but third in terms of votes.
“June’s general election showed further problems with the current voting system used at both general and local elections in Wales, with a quarter of voters being forced to vote tactically as FPTP failed to make their vote matter.”
Explaining its opposition to letting councils choose their voting system, the society said:

 “A patchwork of voting systems at local elections level would likely cause confusion, and make educating the public on the system in their area more complex. This is exacerbated by the fact we currently have different voting systems at different elections in Wales already.
“It is undesirable to have different voting systems in a patchwork across 22 councils in Wales. They would provide inconsistency in governance, make for confusion for voters and parties, and would often place the powers over scrutiny with those who have an interest in maintaining the status quo.”

Backing the proposal to reduce the voting age to 16, ERS said:

 “Evidence from the Scottish independence referendum, substantiated by research from Austria and Norway, shows that, aided by the encouragement of families and schools, 16 and 17 year-olds have higher rates of turnout than 18 to 24 year-olds.

 I hope our AMs take the ERS proposals seriously and adopt them. 
But Turkeys don't vote for Christmas and Welsh Labour in particular are unlikely to surrender a large part of their hegemony.

Indeed they may lo at Scotland where STV has been used  in local authority elections since  2007 which arguably broke much of their hegemony and blame that for them being replaced by the SNP as Scotlands largest party.