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.

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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.

 

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.

 

The end of the Condem coalition.

Shortly after the formation of the ConDem coalition last year I predicted that the government wouldn’t last more than a year. Well, it’s almost a year and the coalition still stands… for now. I might have been a bit hasty in my prediction, however the situation seems more fragile than ever.

The last year has been relatively plain sailing because it’s only now an issue that is close to the Lib Dems’ hearts. I’m not sure why commentators are acting surprised by this though, it was inevitable that the government would be split on the issue of AV.

May will not be a good month for the Lib Dems, they could very well AV slip through their fingers at the same time hundreds of their councillors in England face being turfed out of their wards – and as for the Lib Dems in Wales, well they could possibly find themselves with as little as 2 seats in the Assembly.

With all of these factors considered I feel confident in saying that the Westminster government won’t last until 2015. I would go so far as to say that the coalition won’t be in place this time next year.

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(c)The Prime Minister's office

Who will win Montgomeryshire?

Montgomeryshire

With electioneering in full swing right across Wales I thought it timely to discuss the way things look in the constituency I live in.  As I have already mentioned in an earlier post, I have already cast my vote via postal ballot where I voted for David Senior (Plaid Cymru).  I believe that Plaid are the only group in the Assembly that could offer an alternative to a Labour government.  The Tories have no experience in WAG, and as for the Lib Dems, well their share of seats will either remain the same or, as expected decrease.

However, in Montgomeryshire there are two plausible outcomes to this election, either Wyn Williams, the Lib Dem candidate, or Russell George, the Tory candidate will win.  As many of you will know the Tories took the seat from the Lib Dems in the 2010 Westminster election, and so are riding high off that victory.   Lib Dems have had bad press in the area over the last few years with Lembit Opik (as seen on TV – and any other two bit reality show / tabloid newspaper) and his exploits, and of course the incident between the former AM, Mick Bates and paramedics.

The situation for the Lib Dems isn’t helped by the fact that the Tory that already represents Montgomeryshire in Westmister is a popular individual.  Glyn Davies MP (and former AM) has earned great respect amongst many in the county accross the political spectrum.  Glyn has managed to raise his profile, and that of the Tories in the county with his campaign against proposed plans for windmills and electric pylons in the county which has certainly reflected well on Russell George.

It should also be noted that it is only Russell George placards that can be seen along the roads around Llanidloes and Newtown.  I know such a sentence can easily be hyperbole, but I have literally seen no poster nor placard in support of Wyn Williams up anywhere, up to this point anyway.

So I gingerly raise my head above the parapet here to say that in my opinion it will be Russell George and Montgomeryshire Tories who will be celebrating come May 6th.