Political boffin, keen fisherman looking forward to retirement.

Friday, May 25, 2007

New Welsh Index Blog

view it here

http://welshblogindex.blogspot.com/

The Deep Irresponsibility of the Lib Dems

Wales is now faced with the worst possible option, Labour minority rule.

Plaid’s bilateral approach ended on the basis that a rainbow deal could be delivered. Now unfortunately there’s absolutely nothing on the table for anyone and the programme of government for the next four years is going to be based on Labour’s manifesto, a most boring, unimaginative and visionless document.

The red – green document which was still work in progress provided a basis to seriously move Wales forward. Let’s hope that momentum can be built up behind a return to red green talks after the recess. It would be equally irresponsible for Labour to cut off its nose to spite its face at this stage by going alone.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Deal the Lib Dems Jibbed - Judge for yourself

The All-Wales
Accord
Agreement Establishing
An All-Wales
Government
2
May 2007
1











Foreword
A new choice, a new chance for Wales
The people of Wales spoke clearly on 3rd May. It is our duty to act on their
strong and confident judgement. No longer can the course of our national
life be dominated by one political party. While we respect the role the
Labour Party has played in Welsh politics for the past 80 years, devolution
has brought a new and exciting dynamic that demands a fresh choice. This
is what the people of Wales want. And it is what we in this All-Wales
Government are determined to deliver.
Over the last 4 years, Plaid Cymru - the Party of Wales, the Welsh
Conservative Party, and the Welsh Liberal Democrats have worked
constructively together in scrutinising the Labour Welsh Assembly
Government. We accepted the challenge to create a more consensus-based
politics, free from the tribalism of the old Westminster system. On this
common ground an ambitious and enterprising programme for government
has been built.
It takes courage to work together and open up politics to new ideas and
wider participation. But we know that the shared values we draw on will
provide stability. The great and radical traditions of Welsh politics, so
rooted in community life, nurture the hinterlands of our respective parties.
It gives us the confidence to present this programme for government to the
Nation.
We know it is a programme that will be ultimately judged not on its
aspirations but on its achievements for the people of Wales.
Ieuan Wyn Jones AM, Leader, Plaid Cymru
Nick Bourne, Leader, Welsh Conservative Group in the National
Assembly
Michael German, Leader, Welsh Liberal Democrat Group in the National
Assembly
2









Our Common Ground
The principles at the heart of this programme will guide the All-Wales
Government. Our commitment is to make Wales a fairer, more diverse and
stronger nation than it is today. We know that no individual can flourish where
society is weak – and that society cannot flourish where individuals are excluded.
And so we will work creatively to deliver public services that are innovative,
dependable and able to meet the demands of modern life.
We owe it to the future generations that we will not see, to never lose sight of the
environmental challenges that face us now. Their future quality of life is in our
hands today. On the land from which so much fossil fuel was dug, we want
renewable energy technologies to generate sustainable development that can set a
world-class example.
We celebrate the fact that Welsh has survived as a modern language, but we must
now raise our vision and see how Wales can become a truly bilingual nation. Our
precious language is one of Europe’s oldest and most accomplished literary
languages. It belongs to us all, whether we speak it or not. Indeed, its rhythms
flow so freely through English, that it is embedded in the imagination of the
whole nation.
And of course a healthier and more equal Wales will create greater confidence
and enterprise in all areas of life. Devolution offers us the opportunity to
produce more wealth locally, to invest it responsibly, and so achieve a level of
national economic success that fully harnesses the inborn potential of the people
of Wales.
Just as Wales helped forge the co-operative ideal during the Industrial
Revolution, we now offer Wales a new choice based on shared values and cooperation.
Under our All-Wales Government devolution can become more
democratic, open, ambitious and enterprising.
A new chance.
A new choice for Wales.
3










The Policy Programme
There are seven thematic pillars to our policy programme for the next Assembly
term:
1. A set of measures to promote that nation’s constitutional
development, the achievement of a bilingual society in a
country that is unified while culturally diverse.
2. A new focus on encouraging an enterprising, innovative
economy and a highly-skilled work-force.
3. Concerted action on climate change, energy efficiency
and sustainable development.
4. A forward-looking programme of investment in healthcare
and well-being.
5. Major commitments on social justice, including
childcare, affordable housing, council tax and student debt.
6. A range of actions to promote Wales in the international
context.
7. A deep commitment to developing a new style of
governing.
Each policy area is divided into high-level commitments which are definite
commitments to deliver a policy or a project within the term of the Assembly.
Supporting actions are policy commitments which will be prioritised according to
available funding each year. A document setting out our investment priorities for
the four year-term will be presented in the Autumn following the publication of
the Comprehensive Spending Review. We will set out the detail of our legislative
programme for the next year following the opening of the Senedd term in June.
4










Pillar One: Building the Nation
Introduction
The National Assembly for Wales is one of the world’s youngest democratic
institutions. We desire, above all else, to see our new democracy put down
strong and deepening roots at local and national levels. We are also united in our
commitment to achieving our dream of a genuinely bilingual country and will
give our national languages official status for the first time in our history. Our
vision is of a nation proud of its past, confident of its future, with prosperity
flowing to every part of Wales. Our culture, as the fullest expression of our
identity and our rich diversity as a nation, will be given the high priority it
deserves.
5
High-level commitments
We commit to supporting holding a referendum on the transfer
of full law-making powers as set out in the Government of
Wales Act 2006.
We will seek the transfer of further powers to the Assembly in a
range of areas including energy, transport, youth justice, mental
health, and local government and will lobby for the ban on dual
candidacy to be revoked.
We will establish an independent commission to investigate
issues relating to the funding and financial powers of the Welsh
Assembly Government.
We will secure the power to change the system of elections for
local government and hold a national referendum on the use of
the single-transferable-vote early in the term of the Assembly for
implementation by 2012.
We will introduce a Measure to give the Welsh and English
languages official status, to afford language speakers equal
rights in the provision of services, and to establish the office of
Language Commissioner. As with all legislative measures there
will be full pre-legislative consultation on these proposals.
We will issue a National Investment Bond as a means of
generating the capital investment to create a 21st century
national infrastructure
We will request the power to make St. David’s Day a national
public holiday.
We will establish an English language National Theatre and
ensure the National Gallery is a world class institution with a
distinct identity, a strong emphasis on contemporary art and
links to local galleries across Wales.
We will place the delivery of modern world-class public services
and the development of an enterprising economy at the heart of
nation-building.
6
We will publish a national strategy to develop and encourage
Welsh-medium education from the nursery sector through to
higher education. Appropriate mechanisms will be developed in
concert with local authorities, and the FE and HE sectors,
including the establishment of a Welsh-medium Federal
College/Coleg Ffederal Cymraeg utilising existing HEI
facilities.

Supporting actions
Governance
i. We will review local government finance, building on the
recommendations of the Lyons Report.
The Welsh Language
ii. We will establish a Welsh for Adults Unit with sufficient funding, giving
priority to tutor education.
iii. We will strengthen the planning guidance TAN 20 to include clear
guidelines on how to draw up a language impact study.
iv. We will create additional Language Action Areas, in conjunction with the
mentrau iaith and Menter a Busnes, to support language recovery and economic
development in target communities.
v. We will support the campaign to establish a daily Welsh language
newspaper and will examine all possible means of ensuring its success.
vi. We will set up a powerful Language Unit in the First Minister’s office to
co-ordinate policy across Government.
Culture
vii. We will implement the key recommendations of the Stephens Report on
the arts in Wales.
viii. We will reaffirm the operational independence of the Arts Council of
Wales.
ix. We will establish a national Arts Development fund to support young
talent and seek additional funds from Westminster to establish a National
Archive.
x. We will strengthen the Creative Industries Fund and ensure cultural
industries benefit fully from the next round of Convergence Fund support.
xi. We will increase support for the National Eisteddfod based on an agreed
modernisation programme and enhance financial support for Wales’ other
leading cultural festivals.
7
xii. We will expand the role of arts, culture and learning in promoting health
and well-being.
xiii. We will develop a ‘duty of care’ towards cultural provision as a legal
responsibility of local authorities.

Pillar Two: An enterprising, innovative and
high-skill economy
Introduction
We are a small nation with a huge and as yet not fully realised potential. To make
progress over the next four years we will invest in our most precious resource:
the skills, enterprise and creativity of our people. We will create the best
environment possible for learning, innovation, business start-up and growth,
giving our young people the biggest stake possible in our future success as a
nation. We will raise our rate of business start-up, our productivity and research
and development spending and begin to close the wealth gap between Wales and
the rest of the United Kingdom, and help place our nation at the leading-edge of
the world-wide knowledge economy.
High-level commitments
We will enhance and extend the business rate relief scheme
throughout Wales, seek to create Enterprise Zones in
disadvantaged areas and to offer corporation tax rebates in the
Convergence Fund region.
We will make it easier for small local firms in all parts of Wales
to win Government contracts and aim for 60% or more of public
procurement to be local or Welsh-based by 2010.
Year-on-year we will make progress on closing the funding gap
between the HE sector in England and Wales, and ensure that
extra funding is tied to new approaches, including the
establishment of a National Science Academy and a Welsh
Institute of Design which will be international centres of
excellence working alongside existing HE institutions.
We remain opposed to the introduction of top-up fees during
this Assembly term and will do everything possible to mitigate
8
the effect on Welsh students if the Westminster Government
lifts the cap on fees in 2009.
We will progressively drive down class sizes across Wales so
that first each local authority and then each school has average
class sizes below 25, though with some flexibility for small rural
schools.
We will take steps to widen participation in further and higher
education and recognise and enhance the value of vocational
education and skills development.
We will provide additional resources to upgrade school
buildings above the level provided by the previous Government.
We will work with local authorities to ensure that those schools
in greatest need of additional investment, wherever they are in
Wales, will be given the highest priority. New and refurbished
school buildings will be built to the highest environmental
standards
We will initiate a pilot scheme for laptops for children in
secondary schools at age 11 as part of a national IT strategy.
Supporting actions
The Economy
i. We will designate a Minister to lead on developing an enterprise culture.
ii. We will establish a grant scheme to promote the growth of social
enterprises, co-operatives, intermediate labour markets and credit unions.
iii. We will develop a 'green jobs' strategy to develop Wales as a world leader
in environmental technology and services.
iv. We will introduce a voucher scheme to allow businesses to commission
the business advice services they need.
v. We will develop an economic strategy for rural Wales based on the
promotion of regional growth centres.
vi. We will review planning regulations and practice with a view to removing
any unnecessary roadblocks to economic development
vii. We will extend business rate-relief to include self-catering establishments.
viii. We will launch a sea-side towns initiative, where possible linked to the
Convergence Fund, to help improve the infrastructure of our coastal resorts.
9
Higher education
ix. We will appoint a Chief Scientific Adviser to drive forward the
development of a comprehensive Welsh science policy and work with HE
institutions and the National Science Academy to increase the levels of R&D
activity in Wales to the European average.
x. We will support the development of new University in North-East
Wales.
Further education
xi. We will publish proposals on meeting our Future Skills Needs.
xii. We will develop a system of further education which is responsive to the
needs and priorities of employers and the local and regional economy, building
on the good practice and quality provision that already exists in the sector. We
recognise that this is best delivered through a partnership approach between
employers, FE colleges and other training providers, and government.
xiii. We will introduce three year budgets for FE Colleges to ensure they are
more able to plan effectively for the future
xiv. We will promote adult and community learning opportunities which are
related both to employability and the wider benefits of learning.
xv. We will develop a targeted entitlement for first steps into further
education.
xvi. We will ensure a strong voice for Sector Skills Councils in the
development of local and regional commissioning of learning provision.
xvii. We will protect and enhance the role of the Workers’ Education
Association in further education, recognising its unique role in providing adult
learning in some of the most difficult to reach communities.
Schools
xviii. We will maintain and enhance the Small and Rural Schools fund, and
promote federation as a viable alternative to closure. We will fund all schools
through a formula which will provide long-term sustainability, including the
introduction of three-year budgets.
xix. We will develop an enhanced safe route to school programme, investing
in a modern school transport system based on the use of single deck buses,
appropriate supervision or CCTV and an end to the three seat rule.
xx. We will develop an anti-bullying strategy and create a national advocacy
service focused in the first instance on the needs of looked after children.
xxi. We will support the introduction of 20 or 10 mph zones in school
neighbourhoods.
10
xxii. We will implement the key recommendations of the previous Assembly’s
Education Committee’s review of special educational needs with a particular
emphasis on the need for regional commissioning.
xxiii. We will introduce Saturday and summer schools for sport, music and the
arts on a pilot basis.
xxiv. We will develop proposals to extend compulsory education and
accredited training provision to all 17 and 18 year olds.
xxv. We will strengthen the Welsh Baccalaureate, creating a vocational as well
as academic variant and promote both throughout Wales, providing further
choice alongside existing A-levels.
xxvi. We will provide support for more specialists and peripatetic teachers to
teach subjects as science, maths and languages in primary schools.
xxvii. We will develop opportunities for schools and colleges to twin with local
sports clubs and invest further in sports coaching. This will create new coaching
opportunities, lifelong learning chances and better use of facilities.

Pillar Three: Living Sustainably
Introduction
Climate change is the single most important challenge we will face for the
duration of this century. We are determined that Wales will play its part in
addressing this vital global issue. Creating a sustainable living environment for
future generations is the biggest responsibility that any Government carries and
we are committed to Wales becoming a beacon of global best practice in
sustainable development. Ensuring a truly modern public transport
infrastructure and a flourishing local food production system will be vital
components in our strategy.
High-level commitments
We will aim to achieve annual carbon-equivalent emissions
reductions of 3% per year by 2011. To achieve this end we will
set out specific targets and action programmes for the
11
residential, business, public and transport sectors. We will
develop an appropriate strategy to achieve these targets by
consulting with appropriate stakeholders.
We will introduce a Climate Change Measure giving an
independent body, such as Cynnal Cymru, the role of
monitoring progress and advising ministers on the setting of
targets.
We will publish and implement a Renewable Energy Strategy
with the aim of achieving a renewable electricity generation
target of 20% by 2015, with a greater emphasis on the diversity
of technologies available beyond onshore wind. We will set out
plans to end our dependence on oil and gas within a generation.
Our long-term aim is that all of Wales’ electricity needs are met
from renewable sources.
We will ensure by 2015 that all new publicly funded buildings
will be built to carbon-neutral standards and generate a
proportion of their own energy on-site from renewable sources.
Each local authority will be required to draw up a local energy
plan setting out its plans to promote micro-generation and
energy conservation.
We will maintain and strengthen our duty towards sustainable
development through the introduction of a national
sustainability index.
We will review the TAN 8 planning guidance policy to ensure it
promotes the full range of renewable energy sources.
We will promote a National Energy Savings Initiative as a onestop-
shop, providing energy efficiency and micro-generation
grants and free low-energy bulbs to households.
We will draw up a firm programme for upgrading North/South
and West-East road links. North-South rail links will also be
improved as a matter of priority, alongside an extended
community rail strategy to help extend business and tourism
links into smaller communities and more remote areas across
Wales. We will also institute a fast, convenient and integrated
north-south coach service
12
Supporting actions
Renewable energy
i. We will appoint independent advisers and support research to help
evaluate the economic and environmental implications of tidal and estuarial
energy sources.
ii. We will ensure environmental technology and alternative energy are key
research areas for our National Science Academy.
iii. We will publish strategies to develop biomass, energy crops and wood
energy.
iv. We will lobby the UK Government for a minimum price guarantee for all
householders and businesses selling excess renewable electricity back to the
National Grid.
Energy efficiency
v. In addition to our plans for carbon-neutral buildings we will place a
particular emphasis on greening the public sector through measures such as
improved procurement policy to reduce packaging and the use of low energy
lighting and smart meters.
vi. We will seek the necessary powers to develop a sustainable buildings code
requiring all new-builds to have energy-efficiency measures as standard. We
expect these measures to include proper insulation, smart meters and combined
heat and power units.
Sustainability
vii. We will aim for at least 50% of household waste to be recycled by 2011,
and set targets for the phasing out of landfill disposal. We will engage fully with
local authorities on waste minimisation, innovative work on producing energy
from waste and increasing levels of kerbside recycling collection.
viii. We will reform planning guidance to create a presumption of a minimum
500 metre residential buffer zone on opencast developments.
ix. We will revise the planning policy on out-of-town supermarkets so that
their retail impact on town centres is fully considered.
x. We will create a Welsh National Forest of native trees to act as a carbon
sink and to promote bio-diversity.
xi. We will introduce a Welsh Marine Measure as a means of protecting our
coastal resources and promoting sustainability.
Food and Agriculture
xii. We will ensure that 60% of publicly procured food is sourced from Wales
by 2015
xiii. We will create a young entrants scheme in farming. We will also establish
a consultative forum with the Young Farmers’ Clubs network.
13
xiv. We will seek the powers to implement a statutory code, if necessary, for
regulating relationships between supermarkets and their suppliers. We will
review the whole sector from farm to fork, looking at supermarkets prices, the
supply chain and the processing sector.
xv. We will restore to the agriculture budget the level of funding available
under the previous Tir Mynydd Budget, establish a new agri-environmental
scheme and ensure the Assembly government plays a leading role in discussions
on CAP reform.
xvi. We will develop a strategy for the Welsh dairy sector in close consultation
with the industry.
xvii. We will seek a derogation from the EU regulations which prohibit the
burying of fallen stock on farmers land.
xviii. We will develop a national strategy, coordinating the agricultural industry,
the veterinary and emergency services to respond to and tackle animal diseases.
We will implement a strategy to eradicate bovine TB.
xix. We will oppose the planting of GM crops.
xx. We will support farmers markets and food fairs in the promotion of
Welsh food and drink, and will examine the potential of reduced-cost use of
public sector facilities for these purposes.
Transport
xxi. We will deliver continuing improvement in public transport, including
rail, bus/coach and community transport, ensuring better integration of services
and promoting measures such as co-ordinated timetables and through-ticketing,
and reduce the barriers and complexities in providing and accessing community
transport.
xxii. We will introduce a Transport Measure setting up a National Transport
Authority together with a Transport Passenger's Committee for Wales and giving
local authorities and the Assembly Government greater powers to introduce bus
services that are more responsive to local need.
xxiii. We will explore new ways of investing in high quality rolling stock in
Welsh rail services, including a bond issue and the Government becoming a full
or part-owner in a stock-leasing company.
xxiv. We will give new impetus to the flagging programmes to extend cycle
paths and urban bus lanes. We will pilot a sustainable travel demonstration town
with an emphasis on increasing levels of cycling.
xxv. We will explore ways of extending the free bus pass scheme to include
local rail services and community transport.
xxvi. We will examine the funding of un-adopted roads
14


Pillar Four: Health and Wellbeing
Introduction
Poor health has been the hallmark of our nation for our generations. We are no
longer prepared to tolerate that fact. As a matter of urgency we will have to
address the crises in the ambulance and NHS dentistry services and the collapse
in public confidence following Labour’s badly handled reconfiguration process.
But to create the long-term basis for Welsh health and well-being we will invest
in modern primary care services in the community, investing in prevention, in
breakthrough medical research and in the critical areas of mental health, sexual
health and drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
High-level commitments
We will announce an immediate moratorium on hospital
closures and proposals to downgrade services, excluding
those reconfigurations which have received widespread
support or in the case of contracts agreed by the previous
administration which it would be financially prohibitive
to cancel. We will remain committed to a network of
District General Hospitals providing A&E and maternity
services as close as possible to the patient’s home and to
the importance of community hospitals in providing
diagnostic, recuperative and rehabilitation care. Only
after fully costed plans on community NHS provision
have been presented will consultation on any future
reconfiguration of services occur.
We will produce a Charter of Patient Rights, clearly
setting the standards and levels of service that patients
and families can expect from the NHS, and the
information to which they will be entitled.
We will publish a comprehensive well-being strategy for
children, including more resources for physical
education, guaranteed access for every secondary school
and its associated primary schools to an improved school
nursing service, an increase in resources for the school
dental service, an improvement in the nutrition of school
meals, and stricter control on the marketing of junk food.
15
We will reform the Out-of-Hours Contract to improve
access to services.
The current dental contract will be reviewed in order to
ensure better access to an NHS dentist and we will
expand the use of mobile and salaried dentists as well as
the use of dental hygienists and therapists, placing
greater emphasis on preventative care.
Nurse-led Walk in centres and multi-purpose well-being
centres will be piloted and then rolled out, with different
models being applied in different parts of Wales.
We will seek the devolution of powers over mental health
so that an Assembly measure will be introduced
enshrining the rights to treatment, admission to hospital
and independent advocacy. Additional resources will be
made available for mental health, particularly child and
adolescent mental health services.

Supporting actions
Acute sector
i. We will take steps to improve integration between the Out-of-Hours
service, A&E and the Ambulance Service.
ii. The current nurses' pay award will be paid in full.
iii. We will review the number of targets within the NHS in order to focus
effort more clearly on clinical need
iv. We will work with hospitals to improve the nutrition of hospital food and
levels of hygiene.
v. We will improve access to modern medicines and examine the potential
for speeding up the approval process.
vi. A National Institute for Health Research will be established in order to
promote medical research and increase the number of clinical trials in Wales.
vii. Additional resources will be made available for the modernisation of the
ambulance service.
viii. We will adopt a zero-tolerance approach to aggression or violence against
NHS staff, requiring all LHBs and Trusts to have robust procedures in place to
deal with those who intimidate staff and to support staff after such incidents.
16
ix. We will address the poor provision of stroke and diabetes units in parts
of the country.
x. We will invest in upgrading and extending sexual health services
throughout Wales, and support those preventative initiatives that have a proven
track record of success.
xi. We are committed to implementing the recommendations of the previous
Assembly’s Health Committee’s review of cancer services and publishing a
Cancer Plan for Wales.
xii. We will keep adult neuro-surgery services in Swansea.
xiii. We will ensure full funding for the Children’s Hospital as part of a
strengthened Children’s Health Service throughout Wales.
xiv. We will review hospital charges for services such as parking, telephones
and television.
xv. Extra resources will be made available for palliative care.
Primary and community care
xvi. We will ensure the NHS employs more physiotherapists, occupational
therapists and speech and language therapists and extend prescribing by
appropriately trained nurses and pharmacists.
Prevention
xvii. Every four-to-five year old will be given a free toothbrush and toothpaste
as part of an oral healthcare early-years education initiative.
xviii. We will introduce incentives to employers to improve and extend
occupational health services, including health MOTs at work.
xix. We will increase sporting opportunities for children and young people,
women and people with disabilities.
Social care
xx. There will be a clear statement of statutory responsibilities to looked after
children, including an extension of the full duty of care to the age of 21 for all
looked after young people and to the age of 25 for those who remain in full-time
education.
xxi. We will establish a commission of inquiry into the funding of adult social
care.
xxii. We will introduce legislation on the rights of carers.
xxiii. We will require the greater pooling of budgets between Health and Social
Services in order to reduce delayed transfers of care.
17
Substance misuse
xxiv. We will increase the numbers of alcohol and drug rehabilitation places.
xxv. Substance misuse education will be delivered in every secondary school in
Wales by trained substance misuse professionals.
xxvi. We will address the causes and consequences of substance dependency by
implementing a substance misuse harm reduction strategy.


Pillar Five: Social Justice and Community
Empowerment
Introduction
Every citizen has a right to expect an equal chance to realise their potential
irrespective of their background or circumstances. The right to a home, to an
education, to basic services, to live in safety, to childcare and to dignity in
retirement define us a decent society. As a Government we cannot guarantee
success in life for our people – but we will protect the vulnerable, give everyone
the opportunities they deserve, and empower communities to sustain and
enhance their quality of life. And we are committed to the elimination of
poverty, from the cradle to the grave.
High-level commitments
We will review the National Homelessness Strategy and ensure
viable local homelessness strategies and a sufficient supply of
suitable temporary accommodation are in place in all parts of
Wales.
We will implement a package of measures to address the
problem of affordable housing including First Time Buyer
Grants and a Wales-wide key-workers housing scheme.
18
We will invest heavily in social and affordable housing,
developing new and innovative sources of capital investment,
including a bond issue and greater investment freedoms by
Registered Social Landlords to deliver community
improvements.
We will reform the planning system to achieve greater flexibility
in the provision of affordable land to meet local housing
demand.
By 2015 we will aim to achieve universal affordable childcare,
using a range of interventions, targeting early investment in the
areas of greatest need.
We will create a new national citizens’ service as a core part of
the schools curriculum to promote volunteering and civic
responsibility in a new generation of adults.
We will provide a discount to pensioner households in respect
of council tax.
We will involve the voluntary and community sectors more
extensively in the planning and delivery of services and we will
place the funding of the voluntary sector on a more secure
footing by encouraging the use of three-year funding cycles.
Supporting actions
Community
i. We will re-establish and enhance the Post Office Development Fund and
examine ways to increase the numbers of services available.
ii. In the field of community safety, we will provide the necessary funding to
secure up to 500 extra uniformed officers.
iii. We will work with local authorities to ensure free access to ATMs,
especially in deprived communities.
iv. We will strengthen community councils, focusing on their role in the
provision of local service and, where appropriate, the delegated power to deliver
local government services.
v. We will give local authorities and community councils a specific power of
promoting community integration and inclusion.
19
vi. We will work with local authorities to identify ways to improve youth
services and facilities in all parts of Wales, including an examination of statutory
responsibilities.
Equal opportunity
vii. We will introduce a targeted scheme to reduce the levels of debt
experienced by Welsh-domiciled graduates.
viii. We will invest in social services, through dedicated teams in each local
authority area, to increase the level of benefits take-up among those who are
entitled.
ix. We will create a Minister for Children to oversee our Government's
contribution towards the elimination of child poverty by 2020.
x. We will appoint a Minister for the Valleys to be responsible for social and
economic regeneration strategy across the former Coalfield.
xi. We will promote Wales-wide efforts to support and integrate migrant
workers and prevent their exploitation by unscrupulous employers.
xii. We will review the experience of Northern Ireland in examining the case
for establishing an autonomous Single Equality Body for Wales.
Housing
xiii. We will promote the development of community land trusts in urban and
rural Wales.
xiv. We will encourage a greater role for community-based housing
associations and tenants cooperatives in the provision and management of
housing services.
xv. We will examine the available powers for maximising access to social
housing and strengthen the use of an enhanced Supporting People Grant in order
to protect the vulnerable.
xvi. We will publish proposals designed to mitigate the effect of second
homes on housing markets in rural areas.
xvii. We will introduce legislation to create a unitary social housing tenancy, to
enshrine a tenants’ charter and to ensure that all sizeable new housing
developments include a proportion of affordable and social housing.
xviii. We will set up an affordable housing task group to advice Ministers on
policy in this area during the next four years.
xix. We will work with planning authorities, developers and housing
associations to ensure that more new housing is built to the lifetime home
standard.
20
xx. We will take appropriate steps to give local councils the additional powers
to deal with long-term empty preoperties.
21


Pillar Six: Wales in the World
Introduction
Wales has an important role to play in addressing many key global issues.
We will be active in promoting Welsh interests and Wales’ profile,
culturally and economically, within the United Kingdom, the European
Union and the wider world.
High level commitments
We will seek to widen Wales’ membership and strengthen
our position in appropriate international bodies.
We will work towards strengthening the Welsh presence
in Brussels in order to maximise the representational
impact of the Government, local authorities and other
relevant organisations working in concert.
We will seek to agree a protocol with the UK Government
to ensure we can take full advantage of the opportunity to
be consulted on European Commission proposals and to
participate as fully as possible in UK delegations.
We will pursue an investment agreement with the
European Investment Bank.
We will work with the United Nations and other
key interest groups to improve our compliance with
the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and
seek to produce an official Welsh language version
of the Convention.

Supporting actions
i. We will ensure that arts and culture play a more prominent role in
projecting Wales’ international role and image, securing greater overseas
awareness and greater opportunities for Welsh artists, companies and
producers.
ii. We will exploit the high-profile of the Ryder Cup in 2010 to
promote Wales’ international profile and support the bid by the Football
Association of Wales to host the 2016 European Championships.
22
iii. We will prepare a bid for Wales to host the 2018 or 2022
Commonwealth Games.
iv. We will support the campaign for Wales to become a Fair Trade
nation.
v. We will strengthen the role of the Assembly’s European
Committee, making it an effective tool for scrutinising European
legislation.
vi. We will establish a National Teams Development Fund to
develop new and existing Welsh national sporting teams.
vii. We will support the dot.cym campaign to designate an internet
Top-Level Domain to Wales.


Pillar Seven: Governing Better
Introduction
We want our Government to be the most open, democratic and
accountable in the world. We will involve all our people in the new
pluralist and participatory culture of decision-making we are
determined to create. Wherever possible this also means involving
children and young people, who are citizens now, not just in the
future.
23
High-level commitments
We will hold open discussions in Cabinet meetings
on a regular basis.
We will establish an Independent National
Commission on National Governance to produce
proposals on governance structures in the delivery
of public services.
We are resolved that no Assembly-funded services
will be made conditional on the possession of the
UK Government’s proposed ID card.
Supporting actions
i. We will develop a citizens’ index of satisfaction to gauge
public support for policies and service levels.
ii. Ministers will answers the public’s questions live on-line
every month, and the First Minister will give a weekly podcast.
iii. We will develop the use of citizens’ juries in evaluating
Assembly policy.
iv. We will enshrine a right of citizens’ initiative through an
enhanced petitions procedure.
v. We will ensure Assembly Departments, including senior
policy-makers, are located in all parts of Wales.
vi. We will ensure more engagement from business, local
authorites and the voluntary sector in the allocation of
Convergence Funding.
24


Governance Arrangements
Guiding principles
The parties’ objective is to form and maintain in partnership the
devolved Government of Wales, to be described as the ‘All-Wales
Government’, (AWG) until the dissolution of the Assembly
before the election in 2011 (with its Ministers holding office until
the election of the First Minister after the election).
To work effectively, to deliver their Programme, and to achieve
their shared common goals, the parties will need good will,
mutual trust, and agreed procedures which foster collective
decision-making and responsibility while respecting each party’s
identity.
The principles of good faith and fairness will underpin the three
parties’ approaches to all aspects of the conduct of the
Government’s business, including allocation of responsibilities;
the Government’s policy and legislative programme; the conduct
of business and the resolution of disputes.
Close consultation between the First Minister; the two Deputy
First Ministers; other Ministers; and the AMs of the three parties
will be the foundation of the Government’s success.
Collective responsibility
Collective responsibility is accepted by the parties to mean that all
the business of the Government, including decisions,
announcements, expenditure plans, proposed legislation and
appointments, engages the collective responsibility of the
Government as a whole and must be handled with an appropriate
degree of consultation and discussion so as to ensure the support
of all Ministers on a collegiate basis. Ministers have the
opportunity to express their views frankly as decisions are
reached; opinions expressed and advice offered within the
Government remain private (subject to the provisions of the
Freedom of Information Act); decisions of the Government are
binding on and supported by all Ministers; mechanisms for
sharing information and resolving disputes are followed.
To achieve this, the Government will update and publish the
Welsh Ministerial Code and (the Guide to Collective Decision
Making AND/OR the protocol for the All-Wales Government)
to incorporate the principles of collective decision-making and
the procedures to be followed to promote the good conduct of
business, drawing on good practice elsewhere.
25
Portfolios
The initial structure of portfolios and their allocation between the
parties will be agreed between the First Minister and the two
Deputy First Ministers. The First Minister will formally appoint
Ministers with the Queen’s approval on this basis, in the case of
the Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministerial appointees, on
the nomination of the appropriate Deputy First Minister.
The portfolios and the names of the Ministers, as well as any later
changes, will be announced to the Assembly in plenary session at
the earliest opportunity.
Any changes to the structure of portfolios or their allocation
between the parties during the lifetime of the Agreement will be
agreed between the First Minister and the two Deputy First
Ministers.
The First Minister will nominate the Counsel General with the
agreement of the two Deputy First Ministers.
The roles of the First Minister and Deputy First
Minister
The parties agree that, subject to the approval of the Assembly,
the Leader of Plaid Cymru in the National Assembly will be
nominated for appointment as First Minister and the Leaders of
the Welsh Conservatives and the Welsh Liberal Democrats will be
appointed as Deputy First Ministers.
The First Minister will be responsible to the Assembly for all
aspects of policies and retains ultimate responsibility for all
policies. However in order to provide consistency across
portfolios and the need to engage all parties of the all-Wales
Government normally the First Minister and the two Deputy
First Ministers will be engaged in policy presentation. These
arrangements will be agreed between them and the Permanent
Secretary. Such arrangements will include deputising for the First
Minister in the Assembly and making public announcements; the
Deputy from the largest party shall take precedence.
It is essential that both the First Minister and the two Deputy
First Ministers are kept fully and promptly informed across the
range of Government business, so that they can engage in any
issue where they consider that appropriate. The procedures to be
established for handling business within the Government will
require officials to copy all relevant material to the offices of the
First Minister and the two Deputy First Ministers.
26
The First Minister and the two Deputy First Minister will have
appropriate official, political and specialist support to enable them
to discharge their roles effectively.
A Cabinet committee will be formed comprising the First
Minister and the two Deputy First Ministers.
The Committee’s responsibility is to ensure the effectiveness of
the AWG. The committee will:
• Monitor implementation of the Programme
• Agree the participation of the partnership parties in public
appointment made by Government when appropriate
• Co-ordination the presentation of Government within the
National Assembly and externally
• Ensure that procedures are in place for the involvement
of all the partnership parties in major Government
announcements
• Subject to external restraints, agree the representation of
the Government in all dealings with the Secretary of State for
Wales; other UK Government Ministers; other institutions at
UK/EU/International level

The Parties’ support for the Government in the
Assembly
The parties should aim to agree on all matters of Government
policy. All three parties are committed to constructive dialogue
between Ministers and backbenchers to build a strong
partnership.
The three Assembly parties will operate in support of the AWG
on all issues covered by this Agreement. Whilst each will make its
own business management arrangements to ensure effective party
support for the Government, the business managers will consult
and co-operate with each other to ensure the delivery of the
Government’s programme.
Whilst preserving the independence of the committee system,
members of the parties serving on the same committee will cooperate
on the formal business and legislation of the
Government.
Matters of new Government policy outside this Agreement must
be agreed by all three parties. In all portfolios, Ministers will meet
regularly with the nominated spokesperson or lead backbencher
from all three parties to discuss policy. Any disagreement should
be referred through internal party mechanisms until all three
parties agree.
27
None of the parties will support spending proposals brought
before Assembly other than by the Government or covered by
this Agreement unless considered and agreed by all three party
groups.
The parties will agree and put in place appropriate political
arrangements to facilitate an effective working relationship at all
levels, including AMs of all three parties who are not Ministers.
Matters reserved to the UK Parliament, other than those
mentioned in the Programme, are outside the scope of this
Agreement. Whenever necessary, the parties will decide, through
the cabinet Committee, how to deal with such matters on a caseby-
case basis.
Distinctive identities
All three parties recognise the need for parties to be able to
maintain distinctive political identities in Government and in the
National Assembly. They will therefore develop processes for;
• Ensuring appropriate credit for and recognition of the
policy contribution of each party; and
• The expression of the different views publicly and in the
National Assembly which do not undermine the principles of
collective responsibility and good faith or the bases of partnership
working set out in this Agreement.
Disputes
The parties’ objective is that this Agreement will remain in place
until the dissolution of the Assembly before the election in 2011.
To achieve this, they will make every effort to resolve any
disagreements which may arise, particularly those which threaten
its continued operation.
Where a dispute arises between any of the parties or Ministers of
different partnership parties, the matter will be referred to the
Cabinet Committee for resolution by consensus.
Ratification of this Agreement
The parties will ratify this Agreement according to their own
internal procedures.
The Agreement will come into effect after ratification
immediately on signature by the partnership party leaders.

What's the Point of the Lib Dems?


What a bunch of amateurs. Regardless of my own self questioning over rainbow or red-green, what the hell are the Lib Dems up to?
Their only raison d'etre is PR. That would have been delivered for local government had the rainbow gone ahead. They have turned their back on their main aim just to get rid of their Leader - who was desperate for a deal with anyone to save his political skin.
The Lib Dems can drop any claim to being a serious party. You can't fight an election on the basis of getting more influence on the governance of Wales and then talk your way out of two deals that would put you in government.
It looks like a minority Labour Government now, my instincts hope that Red-Green can be put back on the table. Labour will probably stick two fingers up to everyone now in typical sectarian manner. However, Rhodri Morgan should reflect and understand that the draft Red - Green draft document provides a chance for him to deliver real change in Wales before he retires. Again the question is does he have the conviction and the authority within his own group to deliver?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Time for Rhodri to Deliver 2

With Labour on the brink of the political abyss last night, where was Rhodri Morgan? Making a speech to the Athenaeum club in London.

You have to ask how serious Labour are exploring the Red-Green option.

update - Labour have produced a 28 page document according to reports. Have they done enough is the key question.

update 2 - obviously not.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Time for Rhodri to Deliver

I already get the feeling that the Labour leadership in Wales are throwing their toys out of the pram. Instead of accepting their own culpability for the current state of affairs, they are trying to create this impression that the other parties are ganging up on them.

It’s no good for Rhodri Morgan to go running to the BBC to ask that a poll be commissioned to decide who runs Wales. The reality of the situation is that unless he comes up with the goods and produces a deal Plaid can’t turn down, Labour will be in opposition. Playing the victim just won’t wash.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Aelod Seneddol Llafur o Gymru yn cefnogi Ffioedd Dysgu Llawn

Gweler darn o Hansard lle mae Ian Lucan , Aelod Seneddol Llafur dros Wrecsam yn dadlau dros ffioedd dysgu llawn i'w etholwyr.

"One of the most unfortunate aspects of the Act, as far as I am concerned, is that it has created a situation in which it is cheaper for Welsh students to attend university in Wales than in England. As a Unionist—I do not hesitate to use the term—I think that that is extremely unfortunate. I would like a situation where that is not an issue for someone from my constituency who chooses to go to university."

Diolch Ian am egluro dy fod am godi filoedd ar fyfyrwyr Wrecsam i fynychu coleg

Has Rhodri Got the Authority to Deliver a Deal?

A major development with the Lib Dems braking off all negotiations with Labour. Rhodri Morgan is now on the brink, if he doesn’t form a government he is dead in the water. The question is does he have the power to deliver a deal that would satisfy Plaid demands? If not, it looks like Labour will be in opposition before the end of the month.

For Plaid, politics has always been about the greater good of the country. If the politics of the party was about power then we would already have a rainbow government. The fact that there are still two possible outcomes is testament to the fact that Plaid are still trying to see if they can deliver the best deal for the people of Wales.

The question is does Rhodri have the authority to deliver? It seems that the vultures are circling within his own party, and there is little doubt that certain elements in the Labour party want to force a rainbow coalition to shore up their own position whilst also ‘vindicating’ their disastrous electoral strategy.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Huw Lewis Throws Second Leadership Punch?

Looks like Huw Lewis has got stuck into Rhodri Morgan’s plans today in the Western Mail. Call me a conspiracy theorist but the leak which forms the basis of the story on the procedural part of any agreement with any party and Huw Lewis’ tribalist response, could only have come from someone close to the Penarth nat basher.

What I find most interesting is that Huw seems most upset at any procedural arrangements of any agreement that would give the Libs or Plaid access to information on the policy programme of the Government. Now forgive me for being idealistic, but surely what all concerned should be worried about now is the policy programme for any agreement – procedures can wait for after. It just goes to show how sectarian the Unionist wing of the Labour party has become.

Before the election Plaid announced its starting negotiating position which briefly is:
Green policies to reduce Wales’ carbon footprint
Doubled investment in universal affordable childcare
Lap tops for eleven year olds to create the most IT literate workforce in the world
First Home grants
Help with student debt payments
Business tax cuts including Corporation tax relief in Wales’ Convergence funding areas
Scrap the hospital reconfiguration programme
Cap council tax for pensioners
A new Welsh language Act
A referendum on a proper Parliament
A commission on Wales’ funding arrangements, particularly Barnett reform

Instead of harping on about the politics of power, perhaps Huw can enlighten us on which one of these he is so opposed to. We obviously know he’s against anything progressive such as more powers for Wales, a new language Act and fair funding, but where does he stand on the rest?

My take is that Huw is trying to dethrone Rhodri faster than expected by driving the Labour party into opposition. By creating a riot on procedures he is trying to complicate the situation so much that it is impossible to come to an agreement on a policy programme for the next four years.

This ill judged politicking shows yet again that the Unionist wing of the Labour party don’t care at all about the future of Wales, their only priority is protecting and strengthening their own political positioning.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

How Right Wing Are the PLP?

I just don't get the Labour party of today. In John McDonnell there is a totally respectable challenger to Gordon Brown. In response to the market led Thatcherite approach of Brown and Blair he wants a change of direction, one based on empowerment and democratisation of society. This seems totally reasonable to me. Yet it is unlikely he will get the necessary nominations from his Parliamentary Labour Party colleagues to force an election. You have to ask what's happened to the PLP. Stick a Labour MP on a soap box and you will undoubtedly be subjected to a tirade of anti - Thatcherism. Yet their own party are pursuing exactly the same agenda.

In conclusion 1, they are either so stupid they don't know what their own leaders are doing or 2, they are trying to pull the wool over everyones eyes.

Thatcher always said her proudest achievement was New Labour. Guardian columnists bizarrely like to claim that Blair's greatest achievement is Cameron's Tories. The Tories have just gone back to their traditional centre right ground, Blair and Brown have just nicked their spots.

It comes to something when Peter Hain is described as a 'libertarian socialist'. This is the man that presides as a Governor General over Wales and gerrymandered the electoral system in favour of his own party. He has voted for a disastrous war in Iraq and regressive policies such as the marketisation of public services.

What are Labour MPs scared of? Surely the membership of the Labour party should decide the next leader of the party

Miners Knee Compensation

I'm delighted to see Plaid MPs leading the fight for compensation for miners suffering from knee injuries after working for the NCB. It's a disgrace that once again instead of conceding liability Labour will force miner to go through the High Court. This was the case with chest disease compensation, and will yet again be the case with knee injuries despite originally stating they were 'committed to mediation' i.e finding a solution outside the courts.
In February this year the DTI Minister Michael Wicks refused to meet with NACODS - so much for being 'committed to mediation' citing lack of evidence, yet now Judges have give the go ahead for a High Court case cause of the evidence provided by claimants.

After losing the chest disease case Labour removed Legal Aid for industrial class actions on behalf of injured workers. This means that NACODS South Wales and their leader Bleddyn Hancock will now fight this case knowing that defeat would mean that the test case miners could face Government costs if they lose. We are talking about millions of pounds, that Labour will threaten against former miners who merely seek justice.

The Labour party yet again loses all credibility as the party of ordinary working people. The South Wales Labour MPs in Westminster should hang their heads in shame.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

PFI – The fleecing of public money


There’s a very interesting article in the business section of the Independent today referring to the fleecing of public money by PFI schemes. Jeremy Warner notes that history is repeating itself.

Thatcher’s privatisation essentially meant that public assets were sold off to the private sector at bargain prices, effectively ripping off the public purse. According to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, the same sort of thing is happening with PFI. The scale of PFI debt, running at well over £160bn according to the last budget if memory serves me correct, means that this is a scandal of unprecedented scale. These are not some sort of side government initiatives, PFI or PPP (Public Private Partnerships as they are called now) have been the central plank of Labour public service financing. It’s political significance is magnified by the fact that the architect of PFI is about to become Prime Minister.

Warner writes:

In particular, the public sector is failing to share in the lucrative benefits that accrue when the debt is refinanced on better terms, or the equity is sold in the secondary market at bumper profit. This is despite the fact that the foundations on which these refinancing profits are built are the revenues supplied by the taxpayer.”

In other words as taxpayers we are being ripped off. Opponents of PFI from the start warned about the over generous returns for private firms from the public purse for their original investment. Now it turns out that whole schemes have been guilty of mismanagement and profiteering.

Now I readily accept that apart from the £16bn monster PFI deal in St Athan, we have seen very little PFI in Wales. However, this matter continues to be relevant to the Welsh taxpayer due to the centralised nature of the taxation system in the UK.

Over the years Brown has been accused of mortgaging the future of the UK by accumulating so much PFI debt. As a more learned colleague once informed me, with PFI, mortgaging the future is to kind a word as assets even after being repaid at vastly inflated costs continue to be privately owned. What Brown has done effectively is accumulate an astronomical amount of unsecured debt. He is the credit card kid of politics.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Gordon Brown a Friend of First Time Buyers?


Credit where credit is due, Gordon Brown is onto something with his plan to build 5 new towns consisting of a total of 100,000 eco homes. These towns will be carbon neutral using locally sourced energy. Without seeing the detail I’ll take the announcement at face value. During the Assembly election Plaid made the case for greater local energy production, whereby whole communities produce their own energy working outside or in addition to the national grid. This isn’t pie in the sky stuff, Woking already has such a system, and you have to ask why aren’t we already seeing the same sort of developments in Wales?

The second part of Brown’s plan is to increase opportunities for home ownership. He is trying to make himself out as the friend of those unable to purchase a home. The problem he faces of course is that the hyperinflation we have witnessed in the housing market over the last ten years has been a direct consequence of his own policies. There has never been a Chancellor so ready to fiddle the system to deliberately drive up house prices. The most blatant of course was his decision to change official inflation from the Retail Price Index to the Consumer Price Index, which meant that interest rates have remained artificially low.

Politicians and political parties always have to reinvent themselves to stay in the game. This however is a clear case of too little too late.

How the Assembly Electoral System Favours Labour

Labour political dominance over Wales has largely been maintained by the First Past the Post electoral system. As a result of the 2005 General Election, Labour won 72.5% of Wales’ Parliamentary seats based on just 42.7% of the vote.

Now that the figures are in for the 2007 National Assembly elections (and I’m bored out of my head) I have taken the liberty of analysing the Assembly voting system to see how far it goes to secure fair votes.

The vast majority of seats for the Assembly continue to be elected via First Past the Post, based on Wales’ 40 Parliamentary constituencies. The results are as follows


Party
Votes (to the nearest thousand)
% of Vote
Seats
% of vote required per seat
No of votes required per seat
Con
219,000
22.4
7
3.2
31,285
Plaid
219,000
22.4
8
2.8
27,375
Lib
144,000
14.8
3
4.9
48,000
Lab
315,000
32.2
24
1.3
13,125


The figures are quite clear, Labour do particularly well out of the First Past the Post System. They only need 13,125 votes per seat as compared to the massive 48,000 votes needed by the Libs. Plaid and the Tories have to gain twice as many votes as Labour per constituency seat.

Matters are somewhat addressed by the use of a regional top up system (d’Hondt). The following table provides an analysis based on combining both constituency and regional ballots.

Party
Votes (to the nearest thousand)
% of Votes
Seats
% of vote required per seat
No ov votes required per seat
Con
428,000
21.9
12
1.8
35,700
Plaid
424,000
21.7
15
1.4
28,300
Lib
259,000
13.3
6
2.21
43,200
Lab
604,000
30.9
26
1.2
23,200

Yet again we see how even with an element of PR introduced the result continues to be skewed substantially in Labour’s favour.

Before anyone accuses me of being a hypocrite I do acknowledge that Plaid did well out of the system this time. But we still have to get over 5,000 more votes per seat when compared to Labour. The poor Lib Dems have to get 20,000 extra votes per seat!

If we had a totally proportional system, Labour would be reduced to 19. Plaid and the Tories would be on 13 and the Libs on 8. UKIP, the BNP, Independents and the Greens would all probably get at least one seat.

Labour hegemony over life in Wales has always been supported by an unfair voting system that gives them a disproportionate political representation. This political clout has been used by Labour to dominate every aspect of Welsh life, as careerists pay homage in the name of their own personal progress. A one party state has been built around a voting system that does not reflect the political wishes of the people of Wales. In anyone’s book this isn’t a healthy democracy, and partly explains why our country has stagnated over the years.

In the unlikely event of electoral reform at Westminster level, I hope that whatever agreement is reached in order to form the next Government of Wales, contains provision for fair votes for local government and any election to a proper Welsh Parliament. The current d’Hondt system is only a step in the right direction.

Undoubtedly Labour hacks will point to the current instability in Wales as why PR is an idealistic pipe dream. I used to agree but have now changed my mind. I’m also quite easy minded about coalitions. Furthermore, it is precisely because of the likely result of the election many of us were exacerbated by Labour’s sectarian and tribalist strategy.

Surely it’s a sign of strength in our democracy that our political leaders following an election have to sit down and work a way forward based on the common good.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Brown for Britain!


If I was a London Labour strategist I'd use the coronation of Gordon Brown as the beginning of a 100 day war leading into the annual Labour Conference before using the new leaders speech to call a snap election.


Politically it has a lot of advantages. It enables the new PM to launch a short term policy blitz with plenty of electoral sweeteners; it will catch the Tories unprepared - there is no way that they will have produced a coherent programme of government by the Autumn; and Brown will invariably be on a honeymoon.


The one major problem for Labour is that the bank is empty - £20m in the red. They haven't the war chest to match the Tories at present.


If they went early I think Labour could win an overall majority. If Brown decides to serve another two/three years, the Tories will overtake Labour. The question is will there be enough Lib Dems left in Parliament to make up the numbers for a Lib - Lab arrangement.


We live in interesting times as they say.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Does Rhodri Have the Guts to Secure a Legacy?

From the soundings of Rhodri Morgan you would think that Labour had just secured a landslide victory. You wouldn’t think that Labour has just secured their worst result in Wales since the First World War.

Rhodri said during the campaign that he would go if Labour did badly. Well if such a poor share of the vote in the traditional Labour stronghold which is Wales isn’t a bad result what is?

Labour has got some desperate problems ahead. A dozen or so seats can be classified as marginals, they have no hope of making progress in 2011, and the inevitable civil war within the Labour group between the Welsh and Unionist wings is about to erupt.

Much like Blair of the last year, Rhodri if he continues as First Minister will be in office but not in power. Increasingly everyday rivals in the Labour group will be positioning themselves in pursuit of their personal and political objectives.

Rhodri might be putting on a brave face now, but his position is considerably weekend.

However, he has an opportunity to ensure a lasting legacy (the Rhodri the Great of future history books) by securing a proper Parliament for Wales (or at least the groundwork for such a body). Does he have the guts to deliver it is another question.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Shock Horror No Tory Led Coalition

With the elections results more or less as everyone expected isn’t it funny that all the hype of a Tory led coalition has disappeared immediately after the last vote was cast. There isn’t even any talk of a Plaid led rainbow coalition in the aftermath, despite there being enough numbers for that sort of pact to come into being.

It amazes me how easily Labour bully their way to set the agenda. The reality is that the parameters of the Assembly elections in 2007 were based on a lie by Labour that they have immediately ditched so that they can start cosying up to the Libs. It shows the arrogance of the Labour party that they immediately start spinning based on Labour led coalitions after the election whilst spending the previous year spinning tribalist and sectarian propaganda.

It was obvious Labour was going to have to talk to someone – they have never managed to win a majority in Wales, and 2007 was always likely to be a far harder election than 1999 and 2003.

I thought it was a stupid strategy by Labour which basically ensured that they were going to get the hammering at the polls they got. However, Labour’s strategy should have been blown out of the water from the start because it was nonsense. The failure of the media, apart from some notable examples such as Martin Shipton who didn’t believe a word from the start & the one hit the BBC delivered (by revealing senior sources were advocating a red-green agreement a week before the election), has let the whole election to be fought in the make belief world of Labour spin doctors and strategists.

Let’s hope in 2011 we get to fight a Welsh election based on policies. The media have to start challenging Labour, their duty is to uncover deceit for what it is not report it at face value. Failure to do so would be another great disservice to the electorate in Wales and to our democracy.

Labour is a party that commands the support of only just over 30% of the people of Wales, there is no need to be afraid of them anymore.

Can’t wait for 2010 for the re emergence of VPGT. Lets face it Labour have nothing else to offer.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Great Night for Plaid

I've finally got the will to blog again after the election count. What a fantastic result for Plaid, up three seats and we achieved the top of our ambitions. For the London parties it was a disaster. Labour with their worst result since the First World War, if that doesn't constitute a bad result then what does, were spared humiliation by reckless briefing up during the early stages of the count by the Tories and Lib Dems. When their expected gains didn't materialise, all the sudden it wasn't that bad for Labour.

The Tories are facing crisis, they have lost by far their biggest electoral asset in Glyn Davies - the only politician who could credibly carry off their triangulation attempts v Plaid. Instead they have some right wing nutcases like the new member for Clwyd West. I'm sure political opponents can''t wait to start debating against and getting him to open his mouth - The return of the nasty party is inevitable. Despite all the hype the Tory breakthrough failed to materialise.

The Lib Dems are in open warfare. What did they expect from an election strategy based on the ego of their leader and his wish for a ministerial car?

Plaid stopped the rot with some outstanding wins in Llanelli (Helen Mary's near 4,000 majority is testament to what Plaid can achieve in every part of Wales) and Aberconwy. Some near misses in Carms West, Clwyd West and Caerphilly.

Carms East as always produced an amazing result for Plaid - nearly 9,000 majority in a seat consisting of 2 industrial valleys. Looks like Adam Price will now have to get over the 10,000 majority mark in the next General Election - that's what I call healthy competition!

For me Neath was a great result, a 7% swing to reduce Labour's majority to less than 2,000. My prediction we won the election day voting is probably right.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Plaid to win Swansea West and Neath?

Having spent the day canvassing Neath town I have little doubt that Plaid will tomorrow win the election day vote in the constituency. I haven’t seen anything like it in all my years. Alun Llywelyn is a very strong candidate against one of the weakest members of the Assembly in Gwenda Thomas.

The problem for Plaid in this seat is 11,000 postal voters. We all know Labour’s form on postal votes (only last Sunday the Times were exposing another scandal) – my personal view is that we should go back to the old system of voting only in polling booths. The secret ballot was a major aim of for the Chartists, and clearly allowing votes outside of a polling booth undermines that principle. The new checks do little to protect against postal fraud, the only way is to ensure that voting takes place in the sanctity of a polling booth.

I remember the 2005 General Election when Plaid won Carmarthen East by nearly 7,000 votes but got decimated in the postal vote count. When there is such a discrepancy between the postal vote count and the polling booth count you have to come to the conclusion that something isn’t quite right.

I think that both postal and booth counts should be counted separate and published as such following the election.

Swansea West is also game on for Plaid. Local boy Ian Titherington is another strong candidate against the lacklustre Andrew Davies. Vaughan Roderick in the BBC is also tipping Ian as a possible shock result. Whereas Neath is a two horsed race, Swansea West is interesting cause all four parties have presence. Plaid could win by Labour losing votes to the other two London parties.

Plaid nationally and locally has run a fantastic campaign. They have managed to rebuild a lot of the lost ground since 1999 in terms of engagement with the people of Wales. Whatever the result there is a platform there to build for the future.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Rhodri's not having a good election


Apart from being heckled and booed on the two leaders election debates, Rhodri Morgan provided the iconic moment of this years election when he dropped a baby in Carmarthen. Instead of showing some concern for his victim, Rhodri then had a pull of cramp. Now far be it from me to suggest that poor Rhodri decided to feign injury, but I've seen less convincing displays by Cristiano Ronaldo when he gets a last minute penalty for Man Untd.


Sometimes you just have to come to the conclusion that the tide of history is against you.