Another Conservative Councillor in Powys is suspended!

It was only a week ago I highlighted the fact that two Conservative councillors had been suspended recently in Powys. Today, the Council announced that a third Conservative councillor has been suspended from his duties for a period of three weeks.

Councillor Gwynfor Thomas, Llansanffraid ward, has been found guilty of breached the Code of Conduct and “bringing his office or council/authority into disrepute”.

Let’s hope this is publicised far and wide before people go to the polls in May.

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What’s going on in Powys?

It would seem that in the final weeks of their tenure in office, Powys’ Conservative group have checked out. Recently a member of the Conservative group had been suspended from the council.

Today, the leader of the group on the Council has been suspended! I’m not a PR person, but i wouldn’t say this is a great way to kick off campaigning for the May elections!

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What just happened?

What’s going on. More excitement has arguably happened in the Welsh Assembly in the last two days than in the previous 5 years.

Yesterday, a coup happened in the UKIP group. However, today we saw the coronation a blocking of Carwyn Jones as the confirmed First Miinister of Wales. Rhun ap Iorwerth nominated his party leader, Leanne Wood for First Minster. Surprisingly, bith the Tories and Kippers voted for Leanne, giving her the backing of 29 AMs. The exact samr as Carwyn.

What’s it all about?

Of course Plaid don’t aim to govern with 12 AMs. There is no agreement for a rainbow coalition either. This is a nessage to an arrogant Labour party, who wouldnt talk and compromise for support. a minority government that acts like one that has a cleate mandate. with 30% of the vote, they will have to learn to listen. The events of today might remind Labour that its good to talk.


Constitutional crisis?

The Chancellor said he and the Prime Minister were “clear” the actions of the unelected second chamber had constitutional implications which would “need to be dealt with”.

                                          Sky News 27/10/15

I’m not the most avid fan of the House of Lords, however the actions of the second chamber is fully in line with its purpose! It did not block a manifesto promise of the elected government, rather it blocked a measure that the Prime Minister categorically ruled out during the election campaign. 

Here is a summary of events so far:

The Prime Minister said there would be no tax credit cut – he won the election – prime minister tries to cut tax credits – House of Lords blocks it.

Some might argue that the Lords are bound by the Salisbury convention and by blocking the changes they are causing a constitutional crisis. However, Salisbury convention only applies to you pledges made in the winning party’s manifesto, and as we know this was not in the Tories’ manifesto.

No pay rise – not quite

David Cameron announced that ministers in his government will have their pay frozen for the duration of the parliament as part of his “One nation” approach.  Admirably, the government is showing us plebs that they too are hurting in the attempt to cut the deficit.

However, when you consider how ministers are paid you’ll soon realise that their ministerial salary forms part of their income. All ministers (apart from Lords) are MPs and so receive a salary for being a member of the Commons. Of course with all MPs, these courageous and selfless ministers who will be facing a 5 year freeze in pay will enjoy an inflation smashing 9% increase in their pay for their Parliamentary work. With many public sector workers facing a mere 1% pay increase, the “One Nation” spin explanation for the freeze seems a little diluted.

Although the government disagrees with the 9% rise, the question is, how many of David Cameron’s cabinet will be refusing the 9% increase in the spirit of “One Nation” Conservatism?

2015 Election Review 3: Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

This is the third in a series of posts on the recent General Election in a few constituencies.  You can catch the first post here and the second one here.

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr – Context

This constituency was created in 1997 after the old Carmarthen constituency was split and the west was attached to south Pembrokeshire.

The current political landscape started in 1966 when the constituency saw two elections. After polling 3rd in the March 31st election, Gwynfor Evans of Plaid Cymru went on to win the seat three and a half months later in a by-election. Since then it has been a battlefield between Labour and Plaid with the latter taking the seat in 2001 and holding it to this day.

Plaid Cymru

One of Plaid’s then rising stars, Adam Price was elected in this constituency in 2001 with a swing of 5.4% from Labour’s Alan Williams. Plaid consolidated its situation by increasing its share of the vote from 42.4% in 2001 to 45.9% in 2005. However, in 2010, although holding the seat, Plaid’s share of the vote doped to 35.6%. A factor in this drop has to be down to the fact that Adam Price stood down in 2010 and replaced by Jonathan Edwards. The recent general election saw  gains once again for Plaid with it increasing its share of the vote to 38.4%. The success of Plaid in the county is obvious, and after many years of being the largest party in the council, it has also taken control of it in a coalition with independents after an internal coup in the former ruling party, Labour.

Labour

This seat was high on Labour’s target list of seats they thought they could win. The Labour party in Wales even launched their election campaign in the constituency, with all of the big names there. Their local candidate Callum Higgins had done the rounds in the media, the party was certainly pinning their hopes on him, they wanted to win back this seat after 14 years.  Not only did they fail to gain the seat but they failed to make gains in the vote share either; Labour’s share of the vote was had decreased since 2010 (-2.3%).

Conservatives

Contrary to many constituencies the Conservatives lost their share of the vote here, a far weaker performance than in the western part of the county, which forms its own constituency with south Pembrokeshire. The party wasn’t going to win in the constituency, and it would be obvious that the people of this constituency had clearly rejected parties of austerity.

Lib Dems

The Lib Dems haven’t been successful in the constituency (well, the previous constituency) since 1955. Like in many other areas the Lib Dems had a bad night in the Constituency polling at 2.4%.

Greens

Apart from Plaid Cymru,  the Greens were the only other party who increased their vote (2.8%), gaining just over 1,000 votes.

UKIP

The biggest gain was seen by who increased their share of the vote by 7.7%, adding some 3000 votes to their 2010 result. There was some confusion surrounding whether their candidate had been removed as their candidate or not for financial irregularities in the local branch account. UKIP Wales said in a statement

 “The allegations relate to the management of a branch’s bank account of which the member is a signatory”

As it turns out London HQ told them that they were wrong and so Norma Woodward remained in position.

 

2015 Election Review 2: Ceredigion

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Here’s the second of my reviews of the General election in selected Welsh seats. You can read my first review here. I turn my attention to Ceredigion. This was one of the marginal seats the Lib Dems worked to defend and Plaid Cymru were eager to regain.

Context

Ceredigion has been in the possession of the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and Labour in the past, however, as the Lib Dem leaflets often like to state “It’s a two horse race” there. Ceredigion has a large population of Students in two of its main towns, Aberystwyth and Lampeter, a factor that we will discuss in a while. Note that there was a by-election in 2000 when the Plaid Cymru candidate, Cynog Dafis stood down.

Lib Dems

The Lib Dems won this seat with a majority of 3,067. On the face of it this is a healthy majority, and by no means as close as it was after the 2005 election.  However considering that in 2010 the Lib Dems won 50% of the vote, their 35.85% share in 2015 doesn’t seem such a strong position as you might initially think. So what’s going on? After winning the 2005 election, Mark Williams certainly increased his profile in the county. Another example of a personally popular MP who wins on this factor more than the party they represent.

What has happened to the Lib Dems share of the vote? It wouldn’t be fair to say that the Lib Dems  share has taken a nose-dive. We should regard the 2010 result as a blip rather than a new norm. It might be worth noting that the 50% share of the vote for the Lib Dems in 2010 was a coincidence of a very popular national leadership (Cleggmania) and a popular local MP. Take a look at the trend though and it would be fair to say that the Lib Dems’ 35.85% share of the vote is a return to normal; after all in 2005 and 2001 they took 36.1% and 26.9% share of the vote respectively.  Yes there was an upward trend from 1997 to 2010, however in 2015 the perception of the Party leadership might be a factor in such a drop in the share of the vote. We must note, of course,the factor of the Tuition Fee promise in 2010.  This will certainly have had a negative effect on the student vote.

Plaid Cymru

For the last 10 years this has been on the top of Plaid’s target list, ever since Simon Thomas lost the 2005 election. It was a bit of a shock in 2005, however the trend in terms of percentage share of the vote shows a decrease ever since the 2000 by-election. Plaid first gained the seat in 1992, and so could 2005 be a return to the norm for Ceredigion? This certainly isn’t the case when it comes to the National Assembly election, where Elin Jones, a popular local AM and former government Minister in the One Wales Government has kept her seat since its creation in 1999.

Lib Dem success against Plaid seems to be confined to Westminster elections only, with Plaid closing the gap in 2015, and winning 19 seats and control of the Council in the 2012 local elections. Whether 2010 was a high tide mark for the Lib Dems or not remains to be seen, but one thing for sure is this seat will remain on Plaid’s target list.

Labour

Although Labour have had an MP in Ceredigion in the past, the constituency is certainly not high on the party’s target seat list. The labour party took almost a quarter of the vote in 1997, most likely as a result of the Blair landslide of that year, however declining has been the party’s fortunes since. A low point was reached in 2010 where the party polled at 5.8%, a result of the unpopularity of the Brown government of the time. Contrary to the national trend for Labour in the 2015 election Labour increased its share of the vote in Ceredigion, with the local candidate Huw Thomas gaining 9.7% of the vote. This is down to the energy and enthusiasm Huw put into his campaign and the fact that is originally from Aberystwyth. There were more signs placards for Labour in Ceredigion than had been seen for years.

Conservatives

Although Ceredigion is mainly a rural county which borders with two other constituencies where the Conservatives have won, it hasn’t been a place where they have prospered.  Although polling higher than Labour, its share of the vote has steadily declined since 1997 with it gaining its lowest result for 18 years (11%). It is obvious the Conservatives weren’t trying too hard in this constituency, with the candidate being a bit of an enigma when it came to some hustings.

UKIP

As seen in many other constituencies, UKIP enjoyed a surge in the polls as the national party gained much press coverage since their success in the Euro elections in 2014.  The party will be one to watch out for in the Welsh Assembly elections in 2016 in particular the regional seats.

Greens

In much the same way as UKIP, the Greens enjoyed a boost to their polls in Ceredigion much to the fact that the party had unprecedented media exposure on a national level. Some have argued that by fielding a candidate in Ceredigion, the Greens split the Plaid vote, however there is no guarantee that the Green voters would have supported Plaid, and the numbers wouldn’t be sufficient for the seat to change hands.

If you would like me to discuss a constituency in particular, please leave a comment below.

2015 Election Review 1: Montgomeryshire

It has been four days since the 2015 General Election, and there’s a new Government in place – a government composed of…ONE PARTY! Yes, it was a shock to all, not least the pundits, who provided the narrative of a hung parliament and back-room wheeling and dealing. To be fair, we all expected this scenario thanks to pretty much every voting intention poll, but they were wrong.

Nationally, it was a good night for the Conservatives (+11); although disappointing, however neither positive nor negative for Plaid (n/c); slightly negative for Labour (-1); unlucky for UKIP (large share of the vote but no seat); and dismal for the Liberal Democrats (-2), leaving them with only 1 seat in Wales.

Montgomeryshire

So, I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the constituencies in Wales, and see what is going on in them. Today I’ll begin with the constituency I live in, Montgomeryshire.

Background

Perhaps a little context for this constituency. It has traditionally been a Liberal / Lib Dem seat with smatterings of Conservatives here and there throughout its history. Prior to the previous election the seat was held by the infamous Lembit Opik. I won’t go into the details why there was a change in 2010, however I will say that the Lib Dems made it easy for the Conservatives.

By no means was this constituency going to be a shock in terms of its outcome, Glyn Davies, the Conservative candidate was always going to win this one. And of course this is the first time a Conservative holds this seat for a second term in succession.

Liberal Democrats

This was a Lib Dem target seat and boy did the leaflets reflect this! At one point I was receiving one or two leaflets a day from

One of many placards
One of many placards

the Lib Dems. If you have driven through Montgomeryshire between 30th of April and 7 of May you would be forgiven for thinking that the Lib Dems were winning here, in fact I’m sure I received some leaflets saying so. The party put everything into winning back this seat, so why did they lose? The main issue at play in the constituency is the fact that it has a very popular local MP in Glyn Davies, so it was always going to be difficult to combat this. Another problem of the Lib Dems here is that they are seen as the pro windfarm party, a stance that does prove unpopular with many. A factor that we cannot ignore, and probably one that will crop up in many other constituencies – the national unpopularity of the Lib Dems.

Conservatives

The success of the Conservatives in Montgomeryshire is probably explained in the fact that Glyn Davies has built upon his popularity by strongly backing the protests against wind farm development in Mid Wales. The Conservatives in the constituency have managed to capture the image of the party of rural Mid Wales, the party of the farmers. Of course, Glyn Davies also enjoyed the national trend which saw the Conservatives gaining many of their target seats and increasing their vote.

UKIP

This is really interesting, as far as I am aware there hasn’t really been a strong local campaign here, I received one leaflet through the post, and that was it. Placards on the side of roads were non existent, and without looking it up I couldn’t tell you who the candidate was. However in this election UKIP probably had the best result they’ve ever had in Montgomeryshire. The party has been hovering around the 3% share of the vote until this year where they have almost quadrupled their share of the vote. This reflects the situation at the national level, they have certainly increased their share of the vote, yet as a result of the first past the post system they will find it hard to translate their share of the vote into seats. I have blogged previously about my views on the voting system, however it would seem that even UKIP now support proportional representation.

In Montgomeryshire UKIP’s success is solely down to the national image of the party rather than the success of the local party.

Labour

Since 1997 Labour has been in decline in Montgomeryshire. This of course has been a result of the relatively popular situation Labour were in in 1997 with their national landslide and the increasing unpopularity of the party in rural Mid Wales. The party is seen as an urban party that doesn’t understand rural society. And of course in Wales the party has been regarded as one that ignores Mid Wales in favour of their South Wales heartlands.

Plaid Cymru

Until 2010 Plaid have seen a small increase in their share of the vote in Montgomeryshire, but never rising above 9%. The 2010 election saw Plaid gaining 8.3% of the vote, a result of an energetic and bright candidate, Heledd Fychan. Even Glyn Davies paid his compliments,

“Again I was impressed by the leg-biting viciousness (accompanied by a lovely smile) of Heledd Fychan. I disagree with a lot she says, but I’m a real fan.”

This year there was some trouble for the Plaid Campaign with Gwynfor Owen, the original candidate having to pull out due to health issues. Ann Griffith, the candidate who took on the challenge did an sterling job in getting the message out, with a few leaflets arriving at my door and a few Plaid placards around the place.  It might be a disappointment for Plaid that their share of the vote decreased this time, however, for a campaign that had to change candidate at the eleventh hour the result wasn’t that bad.

Greens

You would have to go back to 1997 to find the last time the Greens stood in Montgomeryshire. then they gained 1.1% of the vote. Surely, the TV debates had a hand to play here, with the Greens polling at 3.7%.

Election results since 1997

The National Health Service in Wales

Before I begin I must state that I have 100% confidence in my doctor and the service i get from the GP’s surgery, as does 95% of people in Wales.

I’m sure you’ve all heard about the problems with the NHS in Wales, and I’m sure some of you have read about it in the British press (warning this is a link to the Daily Mail!).  It would seem that the Daily Mail has “discovered”, “uncovered”, “exposed”, (and other adjectives) the failings of the Welsh NHS.  Since the spring David Cameron has consistently talked of how Welsh patients are getting a ‘second rate’ health service.  He even went as far as to say that “Offa’s Dyke was the line between life and death”.  I would love to say that finally the British press has woken to Welsh politics, and that some attention is being turned to devolved politics; however I cannot. On the face of it this is about the failings of the Labour Government in Cardiff in relation of their handling of the Welsh NHS, however lets not forget there is a general election coming up in just over a year.

Political Point Scoring

To avoid repeating points raised many times online and in the media, I’ll cut straight to the point. This is nothing more than political point scoring with the Tory party and the right wing media attempting to highlight how the British Labour party will govern – “Want to see how Labour will run the NHS, then look at what’s happening in Wales”.

Before you think I’m trying to defend the Labour party and how it is running the NHS in Wales, I am not.  There are problems with the NHS in Wales, however I am not supporting the selective evidence provided by the Tories and the Daily Mail either. For example, one criticism aften raised is the waiting times patients have to face.

Waiting times and refugees

The Daily Mail refers to patients who go to England for treatment as Refugees of the Welsh NHS. This, according to the paper is especially true in the counties on along the Welsh/English border.  This is something I’ve found particularly puzzling. I live in Powys, an area where there are many ‘Health Refugees’, apparently. An area where there is no general hospital.  For many in my county the nearest hospital is one in England, this is a matter of logistics, not preference.  To suggest people from Powys are choosing to go to a hospital in England because of the waiting times is also an unfair assertion.  By August this year Powys Teaching Health Board had met both the high targets set by the Welsh Government – 95% of patients waiting for treatment waited less than 26 weeks, and 100% of those not getting treatment within 26 weeks get it before 36 weeks. Of course this isn’t the case everywhere in Wales as the paper outlines, there are areas that are in dire need of improvement when it comes to waiting times. To suggest, however, that there are health refugees going to England is truly an insult to the hard-working staff of our NHS.

Funding

In a recent Report the Nuffield Trust stated that by 2025/26 the NHS in Wales will be facing a shortfall of £2.5bn – This will be the case if current efficiency savings are maintained and funding is held flat in cash terms. It is clearly going to be something that will be discussed over many elections to come, a stark choice will have to be made between funding the NHS in Wales and other public services. The Nuffield trust also state that although Wales faces tough decisions it isn’t vastly different in other parts of the UK.  So why all the attention to Wales?

  1. Political point scoring – As I’ve already mentioned, this is an ideal way for the Tories to score points against Labour in the run up to the general election on a topic Labour consistently out perform them on in the polls.
  2. Right wing free marketeerism – There is a wider neo-liberal agenda at play here a view the tories and right wing paper such as the Daily Mail subscribe to. Let’s face it, by painting the NHS under Labour control as a basket case then it makes the argument for privatization much easier to sell to the public in England.

There needs to be proper scrutiny of Labour’s mismanagement of the NHS in wales, however the Punch and Judy show given by Cameron and Hunt in the Commons and the ridiculous ‘Exclusives’ published by the Daily mail are nothing more than cheap electioneering.

UKIP – are we all euro-skeptics now?

I will be adding a poll to this post below to see how people feel about the EU, please take part in it

UKIP have won!  They are the undisputed champions of the elections and are on course for a landslide next year…  It’s difficult to convey irony in writing sometimes, and amongst the hyperbole of the media today, I’m afraid that it might be lost unless i explain my opening sentence.  You see, according to the media something massive has happened in British politics, and in European politics; UKIP are no longer a protest fringe group, but part of the mainstream.

First of all, I don’t deny that UKIP are a force in British politics now.  Yes, they have increased their vote, and also topped the poll (in England), won 23 seats, and increased their vote by 10.99%. However, is this as significant as many would have you believe?  The European elections are seen by many as a protest vote against the governing party (or parties in the case of this year).  UKIP have done well in the Euro elections since 2004, and the fact remains, they have no MPs and are unlikely to win any Westminster seats; or at least not enough to warrant the tag line ‘Political earthquake’.

If (it seems an increasingly big ‘if’ at this moment) Cameron wins an outright majority next year, and a referendum is held on Europe, then the wind will be taken out of the sails of HMS Farage.  Let’s consider another scenario.  It would seem that this result has forced the mainstream parties to consider Europe and it certainly will be an election issue in 2016, at the least the next UK government will push for EU reform.  If it can be demonstrated that the UK has had a good deal out of any reform, then the rise of UKIP with be stopped in its tracks.

However, can we really say that there is something new here in Wales?  The distribution of seats remains one each for Plaid, Labour, Conservative and UKIP.  Labour remains at the top of the poll, and, in fact was close to gaining another seat.  I would contend this morning’s headline on the BBC News Wales website “Wales’ as Eurosceptic as rest of UK”.  It begins with the same line as all other media outlets, how we’re all Euro-skeptics now, yet it goes on to show that 308,401 (508,143 if you include the Tories) people voted for pro EU parties as opposed to 224,917.  I would say that the majority of the people who voted are pro Europe, wouldn’t you?

And how will all of this affect business in Brussels and Strasbourg?  The truth is, UKIP will not have much sway in the European Parliament, it belongs to the EFD grouping, which (at the time of writing) has 38 seats, making it the smallest grouping in the Parliament.

This is how i see it:

  • UKIP have performed better than last time.
  • It certainly is a protest vote against the governing parties.
  • People want reform of the EU – but not out.
  • UKIP will not win many (if any) seats in Westminster.
  • There will be a danger that an ‘in/out’ referendum will be held where turnout is very low and a decision to leave the EU will be taken by around 15% of the electorate.