just having a think

so.

the national assembly for Wales will formally dissolve at midnight tonight (31 march 2011). great images that that conjures up of the entire senedd building melting away and fizzing whilst doing so and then reforming at some point in june terminator styley. this is the introduction to what could be one of Wales’ most important elections since devolution – lots of “big beasts” standing down, some really tight contests in a few parts of Wales and undoubtedly some heated shouting matches in local hustings before, inevitably a few of the AMs from the Third Assembly lose their seat – sad times (although depending on who it is, maybe not).

but as interesting as the election and the campaign will be over the coming weeks, given the electoral systems which we have in Wales the potentially really interesting bit would be any future coalition negotiations. i know that some may have read the latest polling results which could indicate that the Welsh labour party are set to sweep to a majority on May 5, largely at the expense of their previous coalition partners, plaid cymru. however seat predictions are notoriously difficult in any election due to the inaccuracy of the UNS. now there is no thing as a UNS its “just a bit of fun” as someone once said. one cannot accurately transpose polling results onto seats and hope for a true outcome at the end of it – so essentially we’ll have to wait and see. however if Welsh Labour find themselves in a position whereby they may need propping up (ie if they don’t get a comfortable or semi-workable majority of maybe 33 or 34) then they may find themselves round the table with plaid cymru again – given the rhetoric of recent weeks i think it somewhat unlikely that labour would cozy up the Welsh conservatives or the Welsh Liberal Democrats, however stranger things have happened.

so, for the sake of argument, let’s say that its Plaid and Welsh Labour hammering out a deal after polling day. sat round the table, old coffee cups, screwed up versions of agreements, someone on the phone to Adam Price to see if he can spare 10 minutes to write One Wales mk.II, various people tweeting and texting in the darker corners and some very tired people squaring up to each other and working out what the other wants. and its that last point that i’m particularly interested in. one of the striking things that was hammered home by Plaid Cymru at their conference was that that their leader gave up the chance to lead the Welsh Assembly Government in 2007 in order to have a referendum on further law-making powers / primary law-making powers / moving from part 3 to 4 of the GOWA 2006 (delete as appropriate). ok i can see that. he gets the economy brief, Plaid gets their referendum and Wales gets a DFM.

BUT – what happens if it happens again. what can a Welsh Labour party that (in our hypothetical) is within striking distance of government offer Plaid Cymru. what do Plaid want? let’s just recap:

  • welsh language legislation – done
  • welsh medium HE – done
  • welsh medium education strategy – done
  • electrification of rail throughout wales – UK government decision
  • tax raising / varying powers – UK government decision
  • referendum on independence in 5 years – never going to happen
  • no privatisation of Welsh NHS – labour will probably be running on this anyway
  • control over the funding for S4C – ?

my big question here is what do Plaid Cymru want, what can Labour give them and how will it all shake out? if as some commentators have remarked that following the “yes” vote in the referendum a real Welsh parliament has been created for the first time in over 500 years, what else is there left to fight over?

will it, as it has been remarked to me by friends, come down to the size of one’s brief *ahem*. brief here meaning government portfolio or department, not anything else. and then the other question is, will Plaid risk 5 years out of power (now they have had a taste for it) if there is nothing significant that can be offered to tempt them in?

i should note here that i have no answer to this question and is merely posed as just that – a question

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a change is gonna come

So. I’m waiting for inspiration at the moment. Part of me would really like to join or at least formally support in some way a political party. Ever since coming to Wales in 2004 I have become increasingly political and that has escalated rapidly since becoming a professional working in the political field in Wales.

I’m waiting to have something, some idea inspire me. I’m naturally a left-leaning individual, I do think the welfare state is a good thing, I think the NHS should be a public service, I’m not a fan of private education (whilst recognising the excellent teaching that goes on in those institutions) and I think massive investment in education so that private schools have some competition from state comps. I don’t think that Trident is worth it and I am conflicted on nuclear power.

That’s the big stuff – what about Wales? Well I voted yes in the recent referendum and I have voted in elections in Welsh constituencies. I agree with different parts of different parties – the Welsh Conservatives talk a lot of sense on the economy and businesses in Wales, the Liberal Democrats in Wales talk good things on local autonomy and local democracy – I think the fact that party policy is debated at Conference is a powerful instrument for party unity and respect amongst members. Welsh Labour have done some good work on early years education, tackling training and the recent tuition fees announcement was strong, powerful and an excellent political move. Oddly enough Plaid Cymru are one of the parties with whom I identify the most. In addition to the policies that I agree with – nuclear (although I know the party leadership are conflicted on this), education, healthcare and many others one of the biggest things that I get from Plaid is the grassroots activism, party structure and just the level of excitement and interest that I seem to pick up from the party at Conference. I like the party’s ethos and social media work and I get on with people there and whenever I listen to and read speeches it genuinely feels exciting and uplifting – as cheesy as it sounds – as if politics can make a difference. That’s the impression that I get from Plaid – that if you get involved with them things can happen that make a change.

But.

There it is – there had to be one! I can’t get next to independence for Wales. I don’t think it could work fiscally, economically, socially or politically and I haven’t been convinced yet – I’m still waiting! If only there was a Plaid Cymru that didn’t believe in independence – I’d be signing up right now. Then again perhaps one of the reasons that Plaid are so interesting, exciting and politically interesting is because they are so radical and believe in something that is so … unattainable.

still struggling

its been a while since i have written on here, mainly because I am still struggling to work out what I want this to be for (and due to the inconvenient pressures of you know, a job). I still am not linking or promoting it elsewhere … Do I for instance start linking this to be my Twitter? This would obviously mean that it would no longer be anonymous. Is this a problem?

so politically (and personally but i’ll try and leave that out for now) its been incredibly busy,both in a UK level and in Wales. I for one was at the Welsh Liberal Democrats conference in Brecon – catching up with people, meeting new people and drinking too much wine. It was a long weekend and the mood was a strange one (see below for more considered ramblings as penned whilst away in Brecon):

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Being in Government in Westminster meant that this year’s autumn conference was always going to be tricky for the Welsh Liberal Democrats, especially given the recent publication of the Browne Review (which later in the conference prompted a topical motion from the youth wing of the party) and the then imminent publication of the Comprehensive Spending Review. Indeed, the cuts and the UK financial crisis were never far from delegates’ minds all weekend, with practically every speaker and contributor prefacing their remarks with references to Labour’s ‘mismanagement’ of the economy or the actions of the ‘reckless bankers’. Despite the dour financial backdrop for the conference, most activists seemed in good spirits, given their Federal party is in coalition in Westminster, but keen to make sure that the Welsh party displayed its difference – a theme that the party leader, Kirsty Williams AM, spoke on at length at the end of the first day.

Being only one of two Welsh parties which continues to debate and discuss policy at its annual meetings, much of the floor time was taken up by the discussions of motions which may eventually find their way into the party’s manifesto for 2011. The Chair of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Policy Committee led a ‘consultative session’ on the manifesto development and noted that he was keen to take information from experts, party insiders and external organisations as they work to finalise their Assembly manifesto for next year’s elections.

Whilst the conference was lacking some of the party’s more colourful characters (Lembit Öpik was deposed by Glyn Davies MP in the 2010 General Election and Mick Bates AM was formally suspended from the party as a result of his impending court case for alleged assault), it did benefit from some lively fringe debates on sustainable housing and skills development in Wales, and contributions from party activists and candidates for some of the party’s target seats next year. One of the most striking remarks from the leader’s speech this autumn was that, aside from disparaging the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives’ role in the 1997 ‘No’ campaign, the focus of her attacks was on “Labour’s cuts” and the failings of Labour, both Old and New; that being said, Ms. Williams was clear that there was going to be no electoral pact with Nick Bourne’s party in 2011.

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So apparently there was a spending review at Westminster and the short version for Wales – we are getting screwed with our pants on as some of our Colonial cousins across the pond would say. Wales is losing out and whilst i am not one to swallow whole the line fed by Labour and Plaid in Cardiff Bay, they do have a point. Wales is missing out on investment left right and centre (no that wasnt a clever political joke) and places are closing all over Wales as a result. Wales is going to adversely effected by the reduction in the public sector given that 1 in 3 people work in the public sector in Wales.

its tough times for wales and politically that does make it interesting. despite a better start than many (including myself) thought she would have, Cheryl Gillan is really going to struggle now tro defend the calls that she is impotent at Cabinet – clearly (again unfortunately another line from Labour/Plaid) she is not fighting for Wales (S4C, Newport passport office, Severn Barrage, no electrificiation of the mainline), or even worse in politics, if she is fighting for Wales she is not making enough of a splash about it – perception is everything. either she really does need to be talking for Wales at Cabinet, or she needs to be on every news outlet saying what she is doing and spinning out the line about how she is doing her best despite the mess that Labour left

typically i’m not in the habit of defending Conservative MPs but that needed to be said. i thought she was going to be crap at first, she at least developed the perception that she wasnt but now she is.

no doubt more ramblings due to follow but one really must start one’s day of work!