What a bargain!

For one vote, Labour have sold themselves cheap, one might even go as far as to describe them as a “cheap date“. 

Plaid have played the situation brilliantly. For one vote today they have secured quite a list of concessions. Here they are:

  • Thirty hours of free childcare with a commitment to increase the number of Welsh medium places
  • National Infrastructure Commission to deliver investment across the nation
  • Establish fund to end postcode lottery and improve access to new drugs and treatments
  • Welsh Development Bank
  • Recruitment and training of GPs
  • At least 100,000 new apprentices
  • Securing a successful future for the steel industry
  • Campaign vociferously for a ‘Remain’ vote
  • New Public Health Bill without the controversial e-cigarettes element
  • Additional Learning Needs Bill which will include a new Autism Act
  • Strengthen Welsh Language Measure
  • Legislate to remove the defence of reasonable chastisement (the smacking of children)
  • Parliamentary Review into Health & Social Care

Has there ever been an opposition that has succeeded to get so much in so little time.

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An agreement to move Wales forward

Today, Leanne Wood and Carwyn Jones will make a joint statement regarding the agreement reached to overcome the deadlock in nominating and appointing a First Minister. 

It is clear what this won’t be. 

It will not be an announcement of a formal (nor in formal) coalition. Plaid have made clear that they intend to be an effective opposition, unlike that of the Conservatives in the last assembly.

It won’t be an announcement of a ‘supply and confidence’ agreement where Plaid props up a Labour minority government for the next 5 years.

What will the announcement be?

This agreement is for one vote- that of appointing a First Minister. The will be a minority Labour government.

For this Plaid has won many concessions from Labour. These include:

  • Re-structure the committee process, which will strengthen the process of scrutinising the government.
  • Establish bilateral committees to examine legislation, budget and constitutional matter. This will put Plaid in an unique position to hold the government to account and have a hand in important developments.

Plaid has also successfully won concessions on 5 of their 9 election pledges. Although details of these will be announced later today, they range from commitments on childcare to working on a New Treatment Fund for the NHS.

In the first week of the Fifth Assembly, Plaid have shown that they are an effective opposition which will ensure that the people of Wales get the best possible deal. 

Just imagine what they could achieve on government in 5 years time!

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.


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

306px-Ceredigion2007Constituency.svg

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.

Public Prime Minister’s Questions?

In one of his many reinventions, Ed Miliband outlined his idea of creating a Public Prime Minister’s Questions where the public will be given the chance to question the Prime minister on any issue.  Sound’s like a good and progressive step forward for democracy doesn’t it?  The problem with this of course is that the current PMQs, where MPs question the Prime Minister every Wednesday is already a sham. The weekly question time is nothing more than a public relations exercise where the Government and the opposition try to one-up each other for the cameras, and back benchers try to make a name for themselves.

I can’t see how a Public Prime Minister’s Question time will be an extension of this, where it will be a well rehearsed show rather than a true opportunity for the public to scrutinise the Prime Minister.  The second issue I take from this plan is that we live in a representative democracy.  We give a mandate to MPs to carry out three primary functions, to represent, to legislate and to scrutinise.  Why would allowing the public to scrutinise the Prime Minister as well as our representatives revolutionise our democracy?  It won’t.

Unfortunately, like many things with Labour and Ed Miliband, this is another gimmick; pure electioneering.  Why not announce that we will have referenda on all legislation?  Why not hold a raffle to give a different member of the public a chance to be Prime Minister for the day as a way getting them more involved in politics?  Although the latter idea of mine might increase Ed Miliband’s chance of being PM!

Does Miliband know what his party is doing?

Finally, Labour will stand up against Zero Hour contracts and fight for hard working people.  It’s a bit rich for Miliband to tackle an “epidemic” of zero hour contracts today.  It is funny how Labour UK are saying one thing and Welsh Labour do another.  How can the people of Wales, and the people of the UK, for that matter vote for a party that says one thing and does another?

What in particular has Welsh Labour done that contradicts Miliband?  Well the details can be found here.  To summarise, during the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill progression through the Assembly (which is at the 4th stage of the legislative process now), Plaid AM Jocylyn Davies, attempted to introduced an amendment which would have ensured that social care provided by Local Authorities would not be done so by using zero hour contracts.

 

Here is the wording of the amendment:

To insert a new section—

Meeting needs: use of zero hours contracts

(1)A local authority that provides or makes arrangements of the type referred to in section 30(2)(b) must ensure as far as practicable that such provision or arrangements do not provide for the delivery of care and support by use of zero hours contracts.

(2)  A zero hours contract is a contract or arrangement for the provision of labour which fails to specify guaranteed working hours and has one or more of the following features—

  1. (a)  it requires the worker to be available for work when there is no guarantee the worker will be needed;
  2. (b)  it requires the worker to work exclusively for one employer.

(3)  For the purposes of this section—

  1. (a)  a worker is a person who is employed;
  2. (b)  a person is employed for the purposes of this section if he or she is engaged by another person to provide labour and is not genuinely operating a business on his or her own account;
  3. (c)  in any legal proceedings it is for the respondent to show that the applicant is not employed.

(4)  The Welsh Ministers may by regulations amend the definition of “zero hours contracts” in subsection (2).’.

 

If Miliband and his Labour party are truly against zero hour contracts, even if this is in principal only then why not support this amendment?

Here are the AMs who supported the motion:

  1. Rhun ap Iorwerth
  2. Peter Black
  3. Jocelyn Davies
  4. Yr Arglwydd / Lord Elis-Thomas
  5. Llyr Gruffydd
  6. Bethan Jenkins
  7. Alun Ffred Jones
  8. Elin Jones
  9. Eluned Parrott
  10. William Powell
  11. Aled Roberts
  12. Rhodri Glyn Thomas
  13. Simon Thomas
  14. Lindsay Whittle
  15. Kirsty Williams
  16. Leanne Wood

A list of how all AMs voted can be seen here.

 

Once again we are seeing a Labour Party which is either at war with itself or totally ignorant to what other parts of it are doing!

It’s up to them

Local Authorities Minister

With Carmarthenshire County Council continuing to show the rest of Wales how to avoid scrutiny and stifle the democratic process, I received a response from my regional AM concerning filming at council meetings.  Ok it wasn’t a response from my AM as such, rather it was a relaying of the Local Authorities Minister’s view.  Here’s Carl Sargeant reply.

It would seem that the minister thinks that filming without prior consent shouldn’t be allowed; fair enough say you, however this is just licence for controlling chief executives, mayors and chairpersons to avoid transparency which suppresses  local democracy.  The minister also explains that he disagrees with filming people without their knowledge and permission, again fair enough; however, councillors are public representatives and are acting publicly in council meetings, so should be ready for people to film them while debating and voting on matters that will affect their constituents.

However, I contacted the AM regarding her view on the principle of filming should be allowed in council meetings.  However, the principle isn’t expressly discussed in the reply, but the minister does outline that the Welsh Government does support councils’ engagement with the public.  The minister has not, as of yet, set out guidelines for councils on this issue as shown in my recent FOI request, he does encourage councils to make the maximum effort in engaging the public in their proceedings.  However without guidelines councils won’t do anything they don’t have to.  This is all ambiguous stuff, with the minister relying on good will, and as we have seen, some councils are short of that.

It was good to see that the minister commends Carmarthenshire’s plans to webcast proceedings, and that it is an example to other councils.  However a similar idea (Carmarthen TV) has been mooted for a while and as of yet is still to be seen.  I suppose time will tell.