Tuesday 30 April 2019

Lib Dems Welsh Euro pitch runs hollow.

The Liberal Democrats  are possibly the most Europhile of all the political parties,but does that mean that people in Wales and indeed, the rest of the UK should see them as the Remain party to vote for in the forthcoming (?) Euro elections?

Certainly they are in the need of an electoral boost but may be perplexed  that the electorate are still not warming to them after they stint as Tory bag carriers in the Cameron-Clegg coalition.

Small wonder then that Alistair Cameron, Welsh Liberal Democrat Candidate for the European Parliament writes for Nation-Cymru.

Why Remainers should vote for the Liberal Democrats in Wales

He writes.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats are the party to Exit from Brexit. We were the first party to call for a People’s Vote in Summer 2016. This vote must allow us to choose to remain in the EU.
Wales benefits greatly from EU membership. Manufacturing, farming and tourism all rely on frictionless trade with the rest of the EU. Our ferries at Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke Dock need easy access to Ireland.
60% of Britain’s food, feed and drink exports go to the EU. If there is no deal, exports to the EU will face the same tariff rates as goods from other countries outside the EU.
We would need to apply for Export Health Certification and be subject to sanitary controls. This could amount to an effective trade embargo for many months.
We could, of course, set our own tariffs. However, if the government is tempted to lower tariffs to deliver lower customer prices, this will harm domestic production and throw many farmers out of business.
If we strike our own trade deals with other countries, we could be pressurised to adopt lower health, safety and animal welfare standards. The US Government has criticised some EU standards and NFU Cymru and FUW are concerned about a level playing field and production standards.
WalesLeaving the EU could be particularly severe for Welsh agriculture. About 40% of Welsh lamb is exported and 95% of that goes to the EU. Effective World Trade Organisation tariff rates on lamb are 46%.
A large percentage of dairy exports go to the Republic of Ireland. If there is a no deal the cheese industry would lose access to the Irish processing capacity.
Liquid milk from Northern Ireland could therefore enter Wales, England and Scotland leading to over supply. Leaving the EU could lead to tariffs on cheese exports.
Although we are a net importer of beef, we do export some beef with over 90% going to the EU. Tariffs on beef are between 48% and 84%. If tariffs are dropped, this will seriously damage domestic production.
There will also be an impact on vets and veterinary medicines. 60% of Government service vets and 90% of vets in meat hygiene are non-UK nationals. No deal could lead to a shortage of vets.
In addition, border controls will need to be sufficiently staffed with vets. We import over 90% of animal medicines and vaccines. It is difficult to stockpile such items as they have strict expiry dates and often require refrigeration.
Restrictions on freedom of movement will affect our food production including potatoes and soft fruit. Wales is not well placed, economically or geographically, to compete with English regions for scarce EU labour.
EU workers are critical in food processing and the abattoir section in Wales, as well as hospitality. Even an attempt to create a special dedicated EU worker scheme will be fraught with difficulty, due to obfuscation and lack of empathy from the Home Office.
Leaving the EU could destroy the livelihoods of many who work in farming in Wales. This will have a major knock-on effect on our rural communities including our Welsh language and culture.
Welsh Liberal Democrats will continue to campaign for a People’s Vote on EU Membership which gives us the chance to vote to remain. We want an Exit from Brexit.

Of course  he and the Lib Dems have a problem , that there are other parties , Remainers can vote for who don't still have the stain of collaboration with the Tories on them.

Clearly the SNP will be the first choice in Scotland and Plaid look far more likely to pick up one of the four seats (some are hoping for tw0) and even in England the Greens could be the party Remainers turn as Labour continues to be split over the issue.

The Comments on the Nation Cymru article by a Lib-Dem supporter  even a reason to vote Plaid.

Gareth Turner
Plaid Cymru is pro EU and pro people's vote yes, but only recently and reluctantly.

In 1975 Plaid's policy was to leave the EEC
In 2016 Plaid's policy was to remain in the EU, although the party did very little in terms of campaigning, Leanne attended one rally with Alex Salmond (remember him) in Cardiff and very little else, contrast that to Nicola Sturgeon or Ruth Davidson in Scotland.

Straight after the referendum Leanne said leavers need to be respected and that a second referendum shouldn't happen.

What's cahnged? Plaid have realised there's votes in it for them that's what's happend.

 This actually reflects that  Plaid as well as the Greens have a strong skepticism over the EU and,  wish to reform many of the aspects that Levers dislike.

Leanne argument that  as Mr Turner points out  the result needed " to be respected and that a second referendum shouldn't happen" was one the vast majority of Remainers felt after the vote, but over the three years since then we have proof that Leave lied and and broke electoral law.

As for the not campaigning who did?  Most politicians were still exhausted after an assembly election and the negotiations that followed

Above the "Brexit-means Brexit"  rubbish of Mrs May her complete inept handling, together with  a Tory cabal who are prepared to lead us down a path of isolation.

The Lib-Dems may have the longest record of support for European integration, but if we are to remain then the cry of Revoke, Remain, and Reform lies with others particularly the last part.

Monday 29 April 2019

Independentistas may hold balance of power after Spanish General election.

Catalonia Independence  will still be the major political story in Spain after  the Spanish General Election which the Socialist PSOE won, but leaves independentistas in a strong position.

As the Guardian reports

Spain’s ruling socialists won the most votes but fell short of a majority in Sunday’s snap general election, a contest marked by the breakthrough of the far-right Vox party and a disastrous performance by the country’s traditional conservative party.
Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist Workers’ party (PSOE) won 123 seats, the conservative People’s party (PP) 66, the centre-right Citizens party 57, the anti-austerity Unidas Podemos and its allies 42, and Vox 24.
Despite it being the country’s third general election in under four years, turnout was 75.8% – well up on the 66.5% two years ago.
Sánchez hailed the result and the high turnout as proof of Spain’s desire to move forward and reject the reactionary policies of some of his rightwing opponents.
“We made it happen,” he told supporters in Madrid, echoing the PSOE’s campaign slogan. “We’ve sent out the message that we don’t want to regress or reverse. We want a country that looks forwards and advances.”
However, the PSOE will still need to seek the support of other parties to reach the 176 seats necessary to form a government in Spain’s 350-seat congress of deputies.
Even with the support of Unidas Podemos and related groups, it would still be 11 seats short of a majority and would need the help of smaller regional and nationalist parties.

This is the best fit I can make.
 Summary of 28 April 2019 Congress of Deputies election results
Parties and coalitionsPopular voteSeats
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE)7,480,75528.68+6.05123+38
People's Party (PP)14,356,02316.70–15.8766–69
Citizens–Party of the Citizenry (Cs)1 34,136,60015.86+2.6857+25
United We Can (Unidas Podemos)3,732,92914.31–5.4042–24
United We Can (PodemosIUeQuo)23,118,19111.95–4.2135–19
In Common We Can–Let's Win the Change (ECP)614,7382.36–1.197–5
Vox (Vox)42,677,17310.26+10.0624+24
Republican Left of Catalonia–Sovereigntists (ERC–Sobiranistes)1,019,5583.91+1.2815+6
Together for Catalonia–Together (JxCat–Junts)5497,6381.91–0.107–1
Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ/PNV)394,6271.51+0.326+1
Animalist Party Against Mistreatment of Animals (PACMA)326,0451.25+0.060±0
Basque Country Unite (EH Bildu)258,8400.99+0.224+2
CommitmentBlocInitiativeGreens Equo (Compromís 2019)172,7510.66New1+1
Canarian Coalition–Canarian Nationalist Party (CCaPNC)137,1960.53+0.202+1
From the Table we can see (ERC–Sobiranistes)making gains in  Catalonia and other independistas and"regionalist"  parties making gains

Vox performed slightly below expectations, but is still a worrying trend but has still managed to become the first far-right grouping to win more than a single seat in congress since Spain returned to democracy after the death of General Franco in 1975.

With leading Independistas on trial for organising the Catalonia Independence  referendum ,(some of who were elected last night) together with clearly trumped up charges of promoting violence. The issue of Catalonia is not going away and PSOE leader and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s, will have to decide whether he bows to the far right as represented by VOX, or seek to resolve the independence  issue in Catalonia  and the Basque country.

It could well be that Jeremy Corbyn will face a similar dilemma after the next UK General Election , with the SNP holding the balance of power.

Sunday 28 April 2019

Oath of allegiance, or Pledge of Office in the Senedd.

This Blog has long called for  a change  in of pledging allegiance to the people of Wales, in the Welsh Assemvly  rather than to the Queen of England ,
So i fully support Plaid Cymru AM  Bethan Sayed in her attempt to make a change
Under the Parliamentary Oaths Act 1866 members of the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliment  followthe precedute in  both Houses of Parliament are required to take an Oath of Allegiance upon taking their seat in Parliament,[11]after a general election, or by-election, and after the death of the monarch. Until the oath or affirmation is taken, an MP may not receive a salary, take their seat, speak in debates or vote. The usual wording of the oath is:
I... swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.
Members who object to swearing the oath are permitted to make a solemn affirmation under the terms of the Oaths Act 1978:
I... do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law.
There's one UK legislature missing from the above and I will refer to that later. 
Bethan Sayed said her priority was her constituents, and an alternative oath would make them "feel respected".
South Wales West AM Ms Sayed, who is a republican,says  she believes that option should be given to politicians in the Senedd.
"I think in a democracy that we're living in, the people of Wales are the most important in all of our deliberations around politics," she said.
"We are elected by them, we serve them, we are answerable to them and we meet with them and have discussions with them, and make them the most important thing about our work as an assembly member.
"So, I think it is vital that we are given that option, so the people of Wales can feel respected and honoured by us as assembly members.
"It's no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am a firm republican, and I have spoken out on these issues in the past.
"But I think this more to more do with freedom of speech and a freedom of opinion
Other politicians make a bizarre  case  against changes that could dilute the power given to AMs by the Queen as head of state.
 Conservative member Nick Ramsay said he would not want to see any changes that "rock the boat" and see a dilution of the power within Wales that assembly members want to exercise.
"At the end of the day, it's the Queen, it's the head of state, who gives power to the assembly," the AM for Monmouth said.
"She signs off all our laws so I think taking that oath is very important.
"That said, I do understand that this is a very strong issue for some members, including Bethan Sayed, and that can be looked at."
However there is a precedent in the Northern Ireland  Assembly where politicians have been allowed to take a pledge of office that does not involve swearing allegiance to the Queen.
 There is no requirement for members of the Northern Ireland Assembly to take an oath of allegiance, or any other oath, nor is there any form of voluntary oath prescribed for those who may wish to swear one. However, members are required to sign the Assembly's roll of membership, designate their identity as "Nationalist", "Unionist" or "Other", and take a Pledge of Office. Ministers can be removed from office if the responsibilities of the pledge are not met. Members pledge:

  1. to discharge in good faith all the duties of office;
  2. commitment to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means;
  3. to serve all the people of Northern Ireland equally, and to act in accordance with the general obligations on government to promote equality and prevent discrimination;
    1. to promote the interests of the whole community represented in the Northern Ireland Assembly towards the goal of a shared future;
    2. to participate fully in the Executive Committee, the North-South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Council;
    3. to observe the joint nature of the offices of First Minister and deputy First Minister;
    4. to uphold the rule of law based as it is on the fundamental principles of fairness, impartiality and democratic accountability, including support for policing and the courts;
  4. to participate with colleagues in the preparation of a programme for government;
  5. to operate within the framework of that programme when agreed within the Executive Committee and endorsed by the Assembly;
  6. to support, and to act in accordance with, all decisions of the Executive Committee and Assembly;
  7. to comply with the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
Of course the reason for this is clear as at least one party (Sinn Féin) refuses to take the seats in the House of Commons partly because of the forced Oath of Allegiance and would do so in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
It is a case (although for other reasons} that body is not sitting , I doubt  that  not swearing an oath of allegiance  see a dilution of the power in that legislature.
Indeed i probably would differ with Bethan Sayed and that we should no  have our AMs  pledge allegiance to the people of Wales, and follow the Northern Ireland  example.
As a secularist Oaths still seem to have religious  context even if you affirmed and after all such oaths are meaningless as you probably would not be able to accuse an AM of breaking it and removing them.

Saturday 27 April 2019

"Welsh" Labour or The Labour Party in Wales, there's a difference.

There seems to be a very real possibility  of "Welsh" Labour candidates in the forthcoming Euro Elections will be saying different things on the doorstep, whilst people are reading the official campaign leaflet,.
BBC Wales reports that 
Two Welsh Labour AMs have warned their party is in danger of handing victory to Nigel Farage unless it pledges to campaign for a further referendum in the European elections.
Lynne Neagle and Alun Davies spoke after a draft campaign leaflet emerged that did not mention the proposal.
Ms Neagle, AM for Torfaen, warned the party would lose remain voters.
Labour said the leaflet sets out the party's commitment to "bring our country together".
The draft Labour leaflet, initially published on the Huffington Post website and featuring UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said the election was a chance for voters to "tell the Tories you are fed up with their divisive and incompetent government".
A bilingual version of the leaflet - a product of Labour in London rather than Cardiff - will be distributed in Wales with the same images and Welsh Labour branding, but without a reference to Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford.
A senior Welsh Labour figure said the leaflet was "staggering" and that Mr Drakeford should be in it.
"We should actually set out our policy on the big issue of the day in what are, after all, European elections," the source said.
Torfaen AM Lynne Neagle said: "We are in danger of handing Farage victory on a plate by not having the courage to speak out for a People's Vote."Former UKIP leader Mr Farage has formed the Brexit Party to fight the European elections.
Ms Neagle told BBC Wales it would be "unthinkable for us to go into these European elections without a clear commitment" on a further poll, warning the party will lose the votes of those who want "a clear position".
Ms Neagle said she knew of one party member who had resigned over the draft leaflet.
She added she was pleased that the four candidates on the Welsh Labour list for the election were backing a further referendum, but said the "mixed messages" from the party centrally were "dangerous".
Alun Davies, Blaenau Gwent AM, said on Twitter if the party expects "any of us to distribute this material it will need to change".
"I'm not going to support a campaign that doesn't reflect the position of Welsh Labour or UK Labour," he added. The party committed to keep a further referendum on the table at a party conference last year.
A Labour spokesperson said: "It is a short pre-manifesto leaflet to introduce our candidates and set out our commitment to Leave and Remain voters to bring our country together.
"It highlights how the Tories' chaotic handling of Brexit has left our country in crisis and how our MEPs will fight for proper investment in communities, housing, jobs and industries.

"Our full manifesto, which will address the issues of a Brexit deal and the circumstances of a referendum, will be published after the local elections [in England]."
ITV Adrian Masters writes

"I also understand that those candidates have been reprimanded by officials for stating their support for a fresh referendum in an online article.
There had already been criticism of the draft leaflet elsewhere.
According to a report by Huffpost, senior figures such as the shadow Brexit Secretary, Deputy Leader and shadow Foreign Secretary weren't consulted about its wording.
It makes no reference to the push for a new referendum sometimes known as a "People's Vote" or a "confirmatory referendum," despite it being party policy.
"As far as a people's vote is concerned, this out-and-out war now," one senior Welsh Labour figure told me, referring also to a public apology made by the staunch remain campaigner Lord Adonis in a statement some claim he was forced to make by the leadership.
I understand that neither the Welsh Executive Committee (WEC) nor the four candidates in Wales were consulted. Though senior Labour figures point out that that would be normal practice. Since European elections aren't devolved, the WEC wouldn't be involved and while candidates have an input, they don't have a final say over party policy".

There are a number of other questions to be asked

  • Will there be a separate "Welsh" Manifesto?
  • Who is paying for the leaflet , "Welsh" Labour or Central Office.
  • Will any Labour member in Wales especially elected AMs or MPs face discipline if they refuse to obey their London bosses?
  • Is Scotland also going to be dictated from London and "Scottish" Labour as a branch office?

It appears that Corbyn and those around  him have once again failed  to understand  or perhaps even accepted the reality of devolution and look on Wales as a region of England.

Something shared by the Change-TIG group who referred to Wales, as a Region when announcing their candidates something they did not attribute to Scotland.

I suspect however that it is not  the "danger of handing victory to Nigel Farage" that "Welsh" Labour are worried about a surge in support for Plaid.

Maybe its time they were honest and drop the whole "Welsh" Labour charade and officially become the Labour Party in Wales 

Friday 26 April 2019

Just who is financing Farage and his Brexit Party?

News that Nigel Farage’s Brexit party was the top-spending political campaign on Facebook in Britain last week as it ramped up a push for the support of over-40 voters in the European elections. leaves us to wonder where the money comes from
Widely perceived as a serious threat to Theresa May’s Conservatives, Farage’s new party spent £11,523 pushing its pro-Brexit messages on the UK’s most widely used social network, according to Facebook data — nearly twice as much as that of the main parties, Labour and the Tories.

The Guardian reports that

Nigel Farage has said he hopes his new Brexit party will be largely funded by small donations, and would not take any money from Arron Banks, the millionaire who bankrolled Ukip.
Speaking before the party’s launch on Friday, the former Ukip leader said: “In the first 10 days of the Brexit party, we’ve raised £750,000 in donations online, all in small sums of less than £500. I’ve never in my 25 years in British politics seen anything like it. And we’ve done that before we’ve even launched.”Leader of Nigel Farage's party resigns over anti-Islam messages
He added: “We haven’t asked
He added: “We haven’t asked Arron Banks for any money; he’s not going to give any money. He’s been very badly burned by what happened since the referendum, outrageous though it was,” he said, referring to questions over the source of the £8m that Banks donated to the pro-Brexit campaign.
Speaking on the Today programme, Farage took a swipe at his former party colleagues, saying that while there was “no difference between the Brexitparty and Ukip in terms of policy, in terms of personnel, there’s a vast difference,” and that Ukip has “allowed the far right to join it and effectively take it over and I’m afraid the brand is now tarnished”.

Thursday 25 April 2019

Brexiteers, defend our "Liberal Values" whilst seeking to destroy them

One of the the things about Brexiteers on the right  that bemuses me  is that they often make claims that  our Liberal Traditions" are  under threat from Muslim extremists, whilst supporting laws that echo much of  the draconian elements  they condemn elsewhere.

The announcement that that Ann Widdercombe  has defected to the Brexit party is a case in point. 

As an MP, Widdecombe was known for opposing the legality of abortion, her opposition to various issues of LGBT rights such as an equal age of consent and the repeal of Section 28, her support for the re-introduction of the death penalty, the retention of blasphemy laws .

The same sort of mentality is expressed by those who call for tougher and longer prison sentences , whilst shouting about the treatment of British Prisoners abroad.

But it is not just the far right that has been hypocritical, before the  Afghan Invasion to remove t he Taliban largely under the guise  to dismantle al-Qaeda much was made of the their treatment of Women , whilst ignoring similar policies in "friendly"  government like Saudi Arabia.

Only this week came news that Saudi Arabia on Tuesday beheaded 37 Saudi citizens, most of them minority Shiites, in a mass execution across the country for alleged terrorism-related crimes. It also publicly pinned the executed body and severed head of a convicted Sunni extremist to a pole as a warning to others.

The executions were likely to stoke further regional and sectarian tensions between rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Saudi dissident Ali Al-Ahmed, who runs the Gulf Institute in Washington, identified 34 of those executed as Shiites based on the names announced by the Interior Ministry.
“This is the largest mass execution of Shiites in the kingdom’s history,” he said.
Amnesty International also confirmed the majority of those executed were Shiite men. The rights group said they were convicted “after sham trials” that relied on confessions extracted through torture.

The silence from Western Governments was of course  deafening in comparison  with our attitude to  Iran.

But of course the Saudi's are our allies and as long as they sell us their oil we ignore their human rights abuses.

They also buy our arms and our government sees no problem in this even if these weapons are used to commit genocide in The Yemen.

But how does this relate to Brexit?

Whilst the EU have been lax over human rights abuses . even as close at home as Catalonia, you can only wonder what a Post Brexit UK desperate for trade deals will do .

There  may not be much left of Robin Cook's "Ethical Foreign Policy " which he pushed in the early days of the Blair government, but there certainly will not be one from when we leave the EU and the hypocrisy quotient, will rise even further.