October 31, 2008

The Democratic Republic of Islwyn

Have you ever noticed that countries that use the word Democratic in their title are usually anything but - German Democratic Republic, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, etc ?

Well the same could be said of True Wales who continue to spread lies and misinformation about the referendum. One of their claims is that the referendum is to increase the number of AMs by 20 and that their first task will be to vote themselves a pay increase, and that all of this money could be saved by voting No.

There is no specific intent in the referendum to increase the number of AMs, and pay increases are anyway linked to MPs salaries. So two more lies.

But lets just consider what an MP costs – Don Touhig, one of the quiet men behind the scenes of True Wales - last year supplemented his £61k salary with £142k in expenses, and made a £200K windfall profit on selling his London flat which was paid for by the taxpayers.

Meanwhile his opposite number – Irene James AM for Islwyn – earned only £53k salary and a maximum of £12.5k in expenses, meaning that MP Don cost three times as much as AM Irene. In fact when the total costs are compared, including the much higher building administration and security costs at Westminster, the cost of an MP is more than 4 times that of an AM.

So if the new assembly is to need 20 more AMs then lets fund them by getting rid of 5 MPs, which would then be cost neutral – but it is more likely that the number of Welsh MPs would be reduced to nearer 32 (following the Scottish experience) so overall there would be a considerable cost saving!!!

The reality is that the MPs know that the trough is much deeper at Westminster than Cardiff Bay and their snouts more exercised, and it is purely self-interest and greed which is behind the True Wales campaign.

October 25, 2008

Let Battle Commence!

A few days ago, an important news item quietly popped up onto the All Wales Convention's rather underused website. After a considerable period of silence, the Convention have finally set a detailed timetable of events for the coming year.

Set up in July, and chaired by former diplomat Sir Emyr Jones Parry, part of the aim of the Convention is to gauge the public mood for full law-making powers. It's due to report back at the end of next year.

And this is where Cymru Gyntaf comes in.

Starting in January, the convention will be holding a whole series of public events and evidence gathering sessions in every Local Authority area in Wales. The timetable is shown in full down below. If you are one of the 1400 members of Cymru Gyntaf, here is a golden opportunity to influence the course of events over the next year. Our members live in every corner of Wales (and beyond!), and the odds are on that Emyr is coming your way.

A "No" campaign is out on the streets making the case against further powers. They will strive to sway the minds of the public by every means at their disposal. The Convention will measure the extent of their success. While our politicians dither, the only thing that stands in their way is us.

If the Convention assesses the public mood to be negative, in all probability the referendum will be delayed, perhaps indefinitely.

The aim of a "Yes" campaign is to persuade the public that full lawmaking powers are the next logical step. As of January 1st 2009, we need to ALREADY have a structure in place that can hit the ground running and start making that case. We need to galvanise the general public and make our case to the convention, by showing that there is an overwhelming public mood for change, and that we want a referendum sooner rather than later.

For those who have argued that it's "too early" to start a Yes campaign, here is our opportunity to prove them wrong. A timetable has now been set, a "Yes" and "No" campaign are in existence, and 2009 is shaping up to be one hell of a year.

Are we ready for it?

Timetable of public events held by the All Wales Convention;

14 January - Neath Port Talbot
15 January - Bridgend
5 February - Caerphilly
25 February - Conwy
26 February - Isle of Anglesey
4 March - Ceredigion
5 March - Carmarthenshire
24 March - Powys
1 April - Torfaen
2 April - Rhondda Cynon Taff
22 April - Denbighshire
23 April - Flintshire
13 May - Merthyr Tydfil
14 May - Monmouthshire
4 June - Newport
10 June - Vale of Glamorgan
11 June - Blaenau Gwent
25 June - Cardiff

Evidence gathering sessions - draft list.

15 January - Swansea
5 February - Cardiff
26 February - Gwynedd
5 March - Pembrokeshire
25 March - Powys
2 April - Newport
23 April - Wrexham
14 May - Cardiff
4 June - Newport
11 June - Cardiff
25 June - Cardiff

October 20, 2008

Yes or No

The All Wales Convention and True Wales (the Tory led ‘No’ campaign) both have the same stated aim of raising awareness of the issues surrounding a referendum – but while the All Wales Convention has been very quiet to date, True Wales are blatantly lying and misdirecting the truth so as to scare off moderate voters. To address this lack of any objective or truthful information, I have tried to break it down to basics:

In 2006, the Government of Wales Act made some changes to the way the Assembly worked, and included a provision that the Assembly’s powers could be increased in the future to a full law-making parliament similar to the current Scottish Parliament, but subject to a positive vote in a referendum.

In 2007 the One-Wales Government (the Labour-Plaid coalition that leads the current Assembly) committed itself to holding such a referendum before 2011 and appointed an independent body – the All-Wales Convention headed by Emyr Jones Parry – to consult with interested bodies, to review the level of popular support, and to advise on the detailed timing of such a referendum. This process is ongoing and no specific recommendations have been made, although it has been suggested that such a referendum could be held to coincide with the next Assembly election in May 2011.

The proposed referendum will have two options - We don’t know the wording of any referendum question yet, but it will be something similar to below:

Do you agree that the National Assembly for Wales should be granted law making powers as outlined in the Government of Wales Act 2006?

.......Yes......... or

A Yes vote will not be a vote for independence – it will only be for a Parliament similar to the Scottish model.

A No vote will not be a vote for abolition of the Assembly – it will only be to maintain the status quo of limited law-making powers.
Anybody who tells you otherwise is lying to further their cause. So lets talk about the real issues and the implications of these two options if we believe in democracy.

October 19, 2008

Back To The Future

Of the many myths bandied about by the True Wales group, one of the most pernicious is the accusation that the "All Wales Convention" is nothing more than a "Yes" campaign, funded by "£2.5 million" of public money.

It seems that True Wales' Councillor David Rees, as a good Socialist, objects to the use of taxpayers money for "Propaganda" purposes, when it would be far better spent on essential things like hospitals, schools, foreign invasions and bankers...

So let's say we take Councillor Rees' point on board and scrap the convention. That's £2.5 million saved. (In fact the budgeted figure is £1.5 million, but let's not let the facts get in the way for a minute). Amazingly, we can still have a public consultation which engages widely with all sections of Welsh society and delivers a recommendation for more powers. And all without spending a penny extra of public money.


Simple. It's called the Richard Commission.

The basic fact of the matter is that we have already had a public consultation. We had it four years ago. It was wide-ranging in scope, and made a number of radical recommendations, including the creation of a Parliament with Tax-raising as well as lawmaking powers. It was a democratic exercise, commissioned by the previous Labour administration under Rhodri Morgan.

And by True Wales logic, it was a de-facto "Yes" campaign, undertaken by Councillor Rees' own Party!

So why don't we compromise? The naysayers save their public money, and we have a referendum on a law-making and tax-raising parliament, with a fairer voting system, based on the Single Transferable Vote. All recommendations made by Richard.

Question is - are "True Wales" really interested in Compromise? Do they genuinely want to save public money and give the people of Wales what they've already asked for - or do they have another agenda?

October 18, 2008

Quote of the week

From the Amlwch to Magor Blog:

Average AM Expenses Claim inc Travel: £6,682.73
Maximum Expenses Claim inc Travel Made by any AM: £12,500
True Wales Founder David Davies MP Expenses Claim inc Travel: £33,375

% of AM's claiming more than 99% of the maximum allowance: 16%
% of maximum allowance claimed by True Wales Founder David Davies MP: 99.96%

Can I hear someone saying "hypocrite"?

Democracy and Welsh Affairs

Two blog posts separated by time but worth considering together:

Devolution Lite from Adam price MP comments on how the Westminster Welsh Affairs Committee has dealt with a Legislative Competence Order to:
revoke tenants’ automatic right to buy council properties in order to protect and enhance the stock of social housing, particularly in areas of high housing need.

Basically they have said that the Assembly can not have this competence unless they agree to use it in the way that the Welsh Affairs Committee dictates

Gray's Monotony explains the constitution of the Welsh Affairs Committee:
the Conservatives' strength in parts of England means that they are awarded a greater number of positions on the Welsh Affairs Select Committee than parties performing as well, if not better, in Wales alone.

So a committee that doesn't reflect how Wales votes has a veto over an Assembly that the people of Wales vote for!

Is this democracy?

October 17, 2008

Has Anyone Seen Emyr?

More than one year ago, Emyr Jones Parry was appointed to lead the All Wales Convention, which was tasked with:

  • Raising awareness and improving understanding of the current arrangements for devolved government in Wales and for the future implications of the Government of Wales Act 2006
  • Facilitating and stimulating a widespread, thorough and participative consultation at all levels of Welsh society on the issue of primary law making powers.
  • Preparing an analysis of the views expressed and the evidence presented through this process.
  • Assessing the level of public support for giving the Assembly primary law making powers.
    Reporting to the Assembly government on its findings, with recommendations relevant to the holding of a referendum.

Well apart from EJP’s initial appointment I don’t think I have heard anything from him. The convention has a website but it is sorely lacking in information which suggests that it is failing to meet the first of its objectives. Maybe the convention is busy working away behind the scenes……….does anyone know?

Maybe we can get EJP to join facebook as part of the consultative process???

October 16, 2008

True Blue Wales

I have gone through the True-Wales Mission & Vision Statements in detail and I find myself agreeing with a lot of what they say – with a few obvious exceptions. Take a look:

True Wales is a cross-party, cross-sector body opposed to devolution of full law-making powers to the National Assembly for Wales.

Ok – that bit is clear, although I am not sure cross-party is very accurate.

Its aims are:

to allow the Welsh public the opportunity to hear the case against autonomy for the National Assembly for Wales
Ok – first lie – the referendum is not about autonomy – it is simply about achieving primary law making powers.

and to facilitate democratic participation in a full debate about our constitutional future.
Excellent idea – lets have a full debate about our constructional future – but lets not confuse it with the campaigns for and against the proposed referendum – which is only whether to stick with the current Assembly, or to give it more law-making powers.

to lobby both the Welsh Assembly and United Kingdom governments to hold a referendum, duly supervised by the Electoral Commission,
No problem with this bit……….

regardless of the findings and recommendations of the ‘All-Wales Convention’
A bit arrogant here – the Conservatives want to ignore the findings of the independent body established to gauge public opinion, to ignore its careful deliberations and objective evidence, and to ride roughshod over the wishes of the people of Wales. Just like before with the Kilbrandon Report and the Richards Commission……….

Our Wales is a beautiful, diverse country which belongs to all who live here. There are many versions of 'Welshness', all to be respected and celebrated. We believe in equality and fairness for all citizens, regardless of linguistic preference, ethnicity, faith, political persuasion or gender.

There is no place in our Wales for discrimination or prejudice against any group or country. We value all the settlers who have contributed to our cultural diversity and our shared heritage within the United Kingdom
OK - Agree with all of that, although unusual choice of word with Settlers.

True Wales advocates :

spending priorities that reflect the needs of all the people

What has this to do with the proposed referendum? Such decisions are currently made by the democratically elected Assembly and would continue in the same manner with or without law-making powers.

restoration of a cohesive, tolerant society
When did we lose the one we have, and what has this to do with law-making powers

no increase in the current number of AMs and MPs
OK – I don’t agree with this point, but at least it is clear. Personally I would keep the combined total the same – We will need 20 more AMs and I am happy to scrap 20 MPs to cover the cost.

keeping the Secretary of State for Wales
Am I missing something? This position may very well be abolished in any case under the current Assembly, irrespective of law-making powers.

the maintenance of a strong position within the United Kingdom
I would suggest that a stronger assembly would give us a stronger position in the Union!!

that any application to draw down Legislative Competence Orders from the United Kingdom Government should reflect the wishes of the majority of the Welsh people
Uh?? The wishes of the majority of the Welsh people are already reflected in the makeup of the democratically elected Assembly. Or are True Wales suggesting a referendum on every proposed LCO??

CLUNK (sound of large penny dropping).
The Real Agenda:
True Wales real agenda is the abolition of the Assembly and replacing it with an all-powerful Secretary of State who would have full executive power over Wales, including spending our budget.

And David Davies wants to be that Secretary of State in the next Conservative government, and he just wants to make sure that there is a big enough trough there for him to put his snout in.

(Update - check out Hen's comments: http://amlwchmagor.blogspot.com/2008/10/give-me-h.html )

And to hell with democracy!

October 15, 2008

Facebook Campaign

Jim Dunckley and Alwyn ap Huw have started a campaign on Facebook in support of calling a referendum on law making powers for the National Assembly and supporting a Yes vote:

Wales First / Cymru Gyntaf is a non-party political group calling for a "Yes" vote in the upcoming referendum on full lawmaking powers for the Welsh Assembly. Our aim is to use the internet to mobilise popular support for a full Parliament for Wales. Let's give our first democratically elected forum here in Wales the power it needs to put Wales FIRST.

Mae Cymru Gyntaf / Wales First yn grŵp allbleidiol sydd yn galw am bleidlais "IE" yn y refferendwm arfaethedig ar hawliau deddfu llawn i Gynulliad Cymru.Ein bwriad yw defnyddio'r we i godi cefnogaeth boblogaidd dros Senedd i Gymru.Mynnwn fod ein corff etholedig democrataidd cenedlaethol yn cael y grym i roi Cymru GYNTAF

With a No campaign already getting publicity, despite only having half a dozen members, it is important that a Yes campaign exists to oppose them. With some supporters of Devolution dithering and wondering if a referendum could be won it is important that there is a grass roots support campaign to show that there is support for putting Wales first and an enthusiasm for the Yes cause. As John Dixon said a few weeks ago the wait and see approach being proposed by some has risks "a risk that we wait until the polls show that the argument has been clearly won before we start to present the case; and I don't understand how anyone would ever expect to decisively win any argument without putting the case."

If you support a yes vote in a referendum, I would be grateful if you joined the Wales First campaign, asked your friends to join and gave the campaign a mention on your blogs, web-pages, forums etc
Update - Facebook now has 1,000 members and growing....... Congratulations!!!