Brown reveals his hidden authoritarian
Wed Sep 30 12:01PM
Brown's plans to tackle anti-social behaviour and teen pregnancy are scary, dangerous and Stalinist.
By Ian Dunt
It's rarely words that give it away. It's the assumptions behind the words
Gordon Brown gave civil libertarians some breadcrumbs in his speech to conference today. For one thing, ID cards will not be made compulsory in the next parliament, although Alan Johnson had already announced this.
On biometric passports, Brown promised no further information would be required than that needed for current passports. The idiocy of this statement is immediately obvious. If the passport includes biometric information it will necessarily have more information than the previous passports, which didn't. Hence the name.
But it wasn't the flimsy nature of the liberal offerings which gave the game away - it was the assumptions. This is the policy, announced today, on teenage pregnancy: Parents on benefits between the age of 16 and 17-years-old will be put in shared, supervised housing where they will "learn responsibility and how to raise their children properly".
Yes, we have a problem with teenage pregnancy in this country. And we have a problem with anti-social behaviour. It's also quite clear these two issues are linked up together, although which is a cause of which is difficult to establish. Presumably they endlessly cause each other. But Brown's solution to this problem tells us everything we need to know about him; it tells us the assumptions he works under. He believes the state has all the answers. That it can monitor and re-educate people - for that is precisely what is being proposed. That it has the moral right to come and take away people who happen to be poor and pregnant and forcibly re-house them. That the state knows how to parent. That the state is always right. A stark and dangerous new line is being crossed.
There was a hint of what was to come earlier in the speech when he described the market. It's a passage intended for a totally different demographic - lefties and trade unionists and those undone by the financial crisis, basically. He believes in state action in this area, so it's perfectly coherent - necessary even - for him to believe in state action in correcting societal problems.
This thinking has always been foolish nonsense. The state's role in the economy has no moral or political equivalence to its role in society's affairs. Only Stalinists and mad right-wing libertarians (social Darwinists, to all intents and purposes) believe otherwise.
The plan was coupled with a raft of other measures to tackle anti-social behaviour. Parents of children who breach Asbos will be given orders along with their kids. Asbos themselves managed to dissolve basic legal standards, for example by instigating legal proceedings on actions which weren't actually crimes and allowing hearsay evidence into proceedings. We can now see where that reasoning has taken us. People are going to be punished despite having done nothing wrong.
There is a crime known as negligence. This is a suitable vehicle with which to tackle the parents who allow children to run wild. Simply punishing them for being related to someone is a dangerous legal precedent.
Last year, Brown addressed the Broken Britain agenda during his conference speech as well, although in a far more fleeting manner than he did today.
"Nothing has ever broken this country," he roared. It affected me, because I'm liable to be moved by patriotic sentiment. Minutes afterwards I realised the rhetorical trick he had used. He had swapped one thing - patriotism - for another - crime - and used a linguistic sleight to mask it. I remember feeling angry. He had used my patriotism against me.
Today he took a different approach to a Conservative agenda which Labour strategists clearly believe to be a vote winner. He finally addressed anti-social behaviour and Broken Britain. And he did it in the most dangerous, illiberal way imaginable.
After a decade in power, Mr Brown suddenly realised he was far further to the left than he previously thought, and we saw the results in his conference speech last year. Suddenly greedy bankers and unrestrained markets were the bad guys, not the saints they had previously been made out to be. Now he realises that anti-social behaviour has to be addressed, something he seemed disinterested in until now.
But nothing has changed. The ruthless, authoritarian heart of this government is still in place.
It's not in the words. It's in the assumptions.
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Brown reveals his hidden authoritarian
Constitutional Issues for Britain
Posted by Alan Jones at 02:11
"Obviously, you want newspapers to be for you. We would have liked everybody to be on our side, but the people decide.
"I've got an old-fashioned opinion that you look to newspapers for news not opinions."
Yes, the people will decide, in fact have decided, and what they have decided is that Mr Brown and his old-fashioned opinion is history.
Posted by Alan Jones at 00:25
Tuesday, 29 September 2009
With the renewed interest in democratic reform following the expenses scandal, and with less than a year until the general election, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust have launched POWER2010, a major new campaign aiming to change the way politics is done in Britain. POWER2010 is a unique campaign to give everyone the chance to have a say in how our democracy works.
Cymru Yfory - Tomorrow's Wales is a partner in the POWER2010 project, and so we are forwarding you the message below from Helena Kennedy, the Chair of Power2010. We would urge you not only to sign the Power2010 Declaration, but also to send in your ideas for democratic and political reform. It is important that the Welsh perspective, and the question of devolution in general, is taken into account in this UK-wide debate and if enough Cymru Yfory supporters write in we can ensure that happens.
Our politics is in trouble. And it's not hard to see where the problem lies.
Our politicians abuse expenses. They pay fines when they break their own laws – but stay in their jobs.
We need to take back control -- of our government, of our politics, and of our democracy. That's why we've started POWER2010, a new movement that will reinvigorate our politics from the bottom up.
Do you believe power should rest with the voters and not with politicians? Click here to sign our declaration for change.
First and foremost, democracy is about the involvement of the people -- people like you and me. We need to act to take power from the hands of the politicians and put it back in ours where it belongs. Do you want a National Assembly in Wales with real law-making powers? A fairer voting system? Cleaner funding? You decide.
Our movement is young – but growing. This is our chance: I hope you take it by signing our declaration for change:
Together we can fix our politics.
Thank you and best wishes,
Posted by Alan Jones at 17:16
Monday, 28 September 2009
The "Cornish conspiracy theory" is claimed to be a long-running conspiracy by the English establishment to deprive Cornish people of their rights, identity and autonomy. It is claimed that the main reason why the Cornish are being denied recognition of their identity is to prevent any public debate or official enquiry into the constitutional status of Cornwall regarding the Duchy of Cornwall, sometimes referred to as the "Cornish Question". Cornish historians point to the fact that in 1508 the 'Charter of Pardon' was granted by Henry VII to give Cornwall a legal right to its own Parliament with the power of veto over acts, statutes, laws, etc, passed by the Westminster government. These rights were granted in perpetuity and cannot be lawfully rescinded, but today are ignored by the UK government.
In 1858 the Cornish Foreshore Case (a case of arbitration between the Crown and the Duchy of Cornwall) confirmed that the Duke of Cornwall, was considered to be a quasi-sovereign within the Duchy of Cornwall territory (Cornwall), but today the Duchy of Cornwall describes itself as a private estate which funds the public, charitable and private activities of the Prince of Wales and his family. It is claimed that at some point after 1858, the officers of the Duchy, with the support of members of the UK Government, developed a plan to portray the Duchy of Cornwall as a 'private estate'. More recently in 2007 the Cornish were the only UK ethnic/cultural group and indigenous minority to be specifically mentioned for exclusion from the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities by the British government.
The Crown Proceedings Act 1947 Section 40, 2g, gives the heir to the throne, the Duke of Cornwall, the authority to "control or otherwise intervene in proceedings that affect his rights, property and profits".
The 1971 Kilbrandon Report into the British constitution recommended that, when referring to Cornwall - "official sources should cite the Duchy not the County" - this was suggested in recognition of its constitutional position.
In 1977 Plaid Cymru MP Dafydd Wigley received confirmation in Parliament that the Stannators right to veto Westminster legislation is still valid.
In July 1997 Andrew George MP attempted to raise a question concerning the Duchy of Cornwall in the House of Commons but was prevented from doing so by an injunction that disallows MPs raising any questions in Parliament that are in any way related to the Duchy. The injunction prevents MPs asking questions regarding the "role, rights, powers and privileges" of the Dukes of Cornwall in Cornwall - reference Tamar Bridge Act 1998, s.41 and letter from the House of Commons Library to Andrew George MP, dated 16 July 1997. On 12 December 2001 a petition with 50,000 signatures was presented to 10 Downing Street in favour of more autonomy for Cornwall - a Cornish Assembly - so far this has not been implemented by the Government. In June 2005 the government allocated £80,000 per year for three years of direct central government funding to the Cornish language. Although pleased with this development, Cornish language speakers point to the fact that during the same period for example the Ulster-Scots language is being allocated £1,000,000 per year of direct government funding.
The National History Curriculum officially starts with the Roman period, rather than earlier civilisations without their own written records, such as the Celts.
In 2007 it was announced by the Office for National Statistics that a Cornish tick box would be refused on the next 2011 Census because "insufficient requirement for the data had been expressed by Census users" and "national identity and ethnicity questions will contain tick boxes only for the largest groups*. This is despite the fact that other groups such as Irish Travellers for example are recognised on the form and the Cornish had previously been allocated the ethnic code of '06' for the 2001 Census - ref. United Kingdom Census 2001 Ethnic Codes.
There has been official Government (HM Treasury) approval for the leasing of Cornish heritage sites such as Tintagel Castle by the commercial Duchy of Cornwall to the state subsidised organisation known as English Heritage. On January 18, 2002, at Truro Crown Court, three members of the Cornish Stannary Parliament attempted to raise issues regarding the history of the Duchy of Cornwall, but were prevented from doing so when a Public Interest Immunity certificate (gagging order) was presented to the court by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Posted by Alan Jones at 17:16
Sunday, 27 September 2009
Forgotten Cornwall - from The Cornish Democrat blogsite.
Yet again Cornwall, the fourth nation of Great Britain, has been forgotten! No great surprise as it's been happening for quite some time now.
This time however the two-faced nature of the 'oversight' really needs to be highlighted.
The Liberal Democrat MP's in Kernow, notably Dan Rogerson and Andrew George, go to some lengths to promote Cornish issues. Questions of Duchy constitution, Cornish tick box on the UK census and the Government of Cornwall Bill have all been recent Lib Dem developments.
What is surprising then is the almost total lack of awareness of the Cornish question in Lib Dem circles outside Kernow. If you mention Rogerson's Bill to one of his fellow party members from another part of the UK, more often than not, you'll simply receive a puzzled look.
"Cornwall wants devolution!?"
One would have thought that the recent Lib Dem party conference would have been the perfect opportunity to put Cornwall's case to the rest of the party. Sadly however, as has been pointed out on this Cornwall 24 thread, just about every aspect of devolution was mentioned, along with copious reference to Scotland, Wales, England and the Six Counties, except that is Cornish devolution.
It seems all the work our Cornish MPs have done, culminating in the Government of Cornwall Bill, didn't even merit one word. Did our MPs even propose that Cornwall's aspirations feature?
Surely our Cornish Lib Dems are not so cynical as to simply throw up a bit of nationalist window dressing in order to save their seats at the next election? Perhaps the Tories are already following their lead. At least we can say that Labour are consistent in ignoring all Cornish specificity. Honesty in their disregard for Cornish question.
Perhaps it'd be wise to write to your MP and ask why Cornwall was forgotten once again.
Posted by Alan Jones at 03:34
Saturday, 26 September 2009
(Newsletter written 25/9/09 on the day that Julia docked in Cork - but emailed out the day after....)
Oh Happy Day!
...if somewhat exhausting!
I'm delighted to report that today (25/9/09) the new ship for the Fastnet Line Cork-Swansea service arrived in Cork Harbour - and she's now safely berthed at Horgan's Quay only minutes from the centre of Cork.
We've had an overwhelmingly positive response to our publicity over the last few days - both in Swansea, where the ship stopped over en-route from Finland to Cork and in & around Cork today.
Watching Julia make her way sedately up the Lee, led by a Port of Cork tug with the high-pressure fire hoses playing up into the air, it was hard to fight back the emotion - she looked like a real symbol of hope in these sometimes dark times.
As Conor Buckley, Chairman of the West Cork Tourism Co-operative (which owns the new company - Fastnet Line), said: "The vision is to build this into a long-term, sustainable business — as far as we are concerned this is a 'forever' deal. When the old service stopped, it was a major blow — it caused real pain. Access is the key to tourism success.
The new service will be a massive boost for tourism businesses in Ireland and Wales."
"Isn't she lovely"
We're in the process of building up a whole array of Julia photographs on the website - not just shots of her arriving in Cork, but also interior shots.
I was privileged to have a very quick tour of the ship this morning - and my general impression was that she's very clean and tidy inside - and isn't going to require an awful lot of 'updating' before she's ready for service in March 2010. An amount of time will be taken up with routine maintenance, and ensuring that she meets Irish safety standards.
She's certainly a massive improvement on the old Superferry ...... and she makes a most impressive sight, tied up in the centre of Cork City. If you get a chance - drop by and take a look - you'll be impressed by the sheer size of her.
"Pennies in the Fountain"
(Well - they all add up, you know!)
Amazingly, the Co-op has now raised something in the region of 10 million euro - thanks to our marvellous shareholders and with assistance from the Finnish bank, Aktia Bank, and its finance company, Aktia Yritysrahoitus Oy. (Pay attention at the back - there'll be a test on this later! )
We are now in need of a paltry 2.5million euro - as working capital so that the service can launch on March 1st (St David's Day) 2010. Those clever people at the Co-op have come up with two attractive investment schemes - one invites people to become shareholders in the Co-op, and the other scheme, with a slightly higher price-tag, is a 4-year investment scheme.
As somebody said today "The fact that this wonderful ship is actually here, tied up in Cork, proves that the revived ferry service isn't just some crazy idea dreamed up by a Garden Centre owner and a guy who makes stained glass". I think what they were trying to say was that this scheme is a real, solid investment that is going to serve as an object lesson on how to dig our way out of an adverse situation...
Whichever spin you put on it - we're 80% of the way there - and surely we can only succeed? With your continued support (both moral and financial) 'We can do this'.
Please take a moment to visit the websites, drop by the e-petition and say 'hi', and consider investing in the 'People's Ferry' - or if you can't, please pass the link on to your friends for their consideration.
Campaign website - www.bringbacktheswanseacorkferry.com
Photos - http://www.bringbacktheswanseacorkferry.com/html/tour.html
Investment - www.fastnetline.com
Fastnetline (investment / news / pre-book) - www.fastnetline.com
"You're more than a number in my little red book"
OK - it's been a long day - but the Fastnet Line 'prebooking' form is still in operation - and we're collecting email addresses from folks who'd like to be told immediately the proper booking website is up & running. In fact, as I type this, the number of email addresses just passed the 5,000 mark!
If you'd like to register your interest - the form's on the Fastnetline website.
"I heard it through the Grapevine"
When we started the Campaign, waaay back in April 2008, our marketing & PR budget was round about zero. Now, 18 months later, it's about the same.
In a way, the success of the Campaign is a testament to the power of no-cost online marketing - and to the really great people who have given us their support. Fastnet Line will of course have 'real money' to spend on marketing - but, as it has worked so well so far, we at the campaign will still be relying on 'the grapevine' to pass the word around. With this in mind - if you could email your friends, colleagues, customers, suppliers etc with the news that the return of the Cork-Swansea service is imminent - and invite them to register their interest at the Fastnet Line pre-booking site then that would be tremendous!
.......And, as another great diarist once said, 'so to bed'
Goodnight all - and sincere thanks from John & myself, and the amazing team at the Co-op.
Posted by Alan Jones at 22:56
Heritage Minister sets direction to better tell the story of Wales
A new survey to identify 20th century assets of historic importance in Wales and a register of Welsh Battlefields will be among the priorities of the Heritage Minister, Alun Ffred Jones as he publishes his Strategic Direction Statement for the Historic Environment of Wales today [22 September].
The action outlined in the statement, the first in Wales since 2003, will contribute to the work of ensuring that Wales’ story is told so that the people of Wales and visitors alike gain a better understanding of our Historic Environment. It also provides an opportunity to further celebrate our identity as a nation, our pride in our heritage and the contribution countless men and women have made over the centuries to Wales and the world.
Speaking before his statement in Plenary, the Minister, said:
“Nurturing a living sense of what it is to be a citizen of Wales is a key priority for the Assembly Government. Citizenship is about emotional ties and imagined community, as much with previous generations as with ones to come. Our objective is therefore to help all people in Wales to gain at least some sense of the historic environment in which they live.
“We are all part of the story and the buildings and the archaeology around us help to give a sense of place. People in Wales have experienced a tradition of working in or alongside the industries that were so important in the development of the country. Whole families have worked in local quarries or mines. The chapel and school buildings seen in every community remind us of their focal role in the social history of Wales. The Welsh language and Welsh culture are irrefutably bound to the historic environment of Wales. Everyone has his or her story to tell. And we need to take advantage of all means of telling those stories. We need to be clear that our history and historic environment is part of our story – not something which happened to some one else a long time ago.”
The Minister will announce a package which includes a Statement of his ambition for the historic environment; A Celebration Statement - underlining the importance of the historic environment and its wider impacts and benefits, together with key issues or challenges and thirdly, the headline actions which will be taken by the Assembly Government and its heritage partners.
In announcing his priorities the Minister will commit to actions to conserve and protect the historic environment; to promote heritage led regeneration; to develop imaginative and stimulating ways for people to access Welsh heritage; and to foster new research and learning into Welsh heritage.
The Heritage Minister, said:
“Heritage has many benefits. As my Statement shows, heritage can make an enormous difference to Wales today. Economic benefits through tourism are the obvious example – 90% of international visitors staying in Wales visit cultural sites. This level of activity cannot be underestimated in our economy.”
Among the key actions included in the Minister’s statement are:
* Cadw will carry out a new survey to identify 20th century assets of historic importance and will consult on a Battlefields Register. It will also take measures to develop a modern, clear, accountable system of heritage protection with up to date guidance. To ensure an ongoing dialogue with all sector interests, a further Treftadaeth conference will be convened in July 2010.
* Continued collaboration on the sustainable regeneration of heritage sites and townscapes. Cadw’s ongoing programme of urban characterisation studies to capture the essence of local distinctiveness will help inform regeneration schemes
* Work with the Minister for Children, Education Lifelong Learning and Skills and others on the promotion of the study of Welsh history at community level and in higher education and about the contribution that our historic environment can make to the school curriculum.
* Work with local communities to run events at Cadw sites and encourage local projects which celebrate the Welsh language, place names, local heritage and folklore. Discussions will be held with the third sector on how to develop rewarding opportunities for volunteering and skills development and will help support the creation of a heritage network.
* Ensure collaborative action to tackle access barriers to heritage and through Cadw develop a groundbreaking all Wales Heritage Interpretation Plan.
* Finally, the Minister will convene a Heritage Summit in 2010 to discuss heritage interpretation and the links between heritage and the Arts.
Posted by Alan Jones at 00:25
Friday, 25 September 2009
Welsh Battlefields Society:
Sunday 18th October 2009
The subsequent meeting will be on Sunday 18th October at 11.00 in the old quarry near the lime kiln SJ 263374 near Castle Mill bridge in the Ceiriog valley under Chirk [Y Waun] Castle, [right on the Border of Wales and England]. At the bridge SJ 263376, we will discuss the Battle of Crogan 1165, led by Deryn Poppitt and Mark Williams. We will and then explore the battle site. Lunch at the ancient Swan Inn at Pont Fadog - please could you let us know asap if you require lunch so that places can be booked at the Inn.
There are exciting developments regarding the commemoration of Welsh battles, see recent Western Mail article. CADW, RCAHMW and the ASSEMBLY are coordinating a project to identify and mark such sites.
John H Davies
Posted by Alan Jones at 02:09
Thursday, 24 September 2009
Obama snubbed Brown story 'absurd'
Downing Street and the White House are engaged in a damage limitation exercise amid suggestions of a rift between Gordon Brown and US president Barack Obama.
Obama snubbed Brown story 'absurd'
Both governments have been forced to issue strong denials following reports that five requests from the Prime Minister for a one-on-one meeting during his trip to the United States had been snubbed.
Mr Brown was apparently able to snatch some private "face time" with Mr Obama only in a kitchen during a dinner with other leaders in New York.
The row came as the Prime Minister was braced for more bad news, with rumours sweeping Westminster that business minister Baroness Vadera - one of his closest economic advisers - is set to leave the Government.
The White House released a statement dismissing suggestions that Mr Brown had been snubbed by Mr Obama as "absurd", and describing relations between the two men as "terrific".
"Any stories that suggest trouble in the bilateral relationship between the United States and UK are totally absurd," a spokesman said.
"We would add that President Obama and Prime Minister Brown enjoy a terrific relationship, they speak regularly on a range of the most difficult challenges facing our two nations, and meet frequently."
The spokesman added that the two leaders had already "conferred" during the climate change meeting in New York.
Downing Street accepted that there had been "numerous calls" between officials and the White House, where "potential meetings" had been discussed.
But a spokeswoman added: "We have said all along that the situation with formal bilateral meetings, that they were not pinned down but they would be spending time together in New York and at the G20, where they would be discussing pressing issues."
The Labour Party's traditional lead over the Conservatives in northern England, its electoral stronghold, has collapsed under Prime Minister Gordon Brown, according to research by the Financial Times newspaper.
The FT said on Thursday David Cameron was on course for a clear majority of English seats in the next general election, expected in May 2010.
The business daily's analysis of recent polling data indicates the Tories have a four-point lead in the north of England, wiping out the 19-point Labour lead in the region that helped keep Tony Blair in power in the last election.
Cameron has built a big lead among the wealthy, his party's traditional supporters, and has seen a big swing at the other end of the social spectrum, converting a 12-point deficit to Labour in the 2005 election into a 14-point advantage, the FT said.
On Tuesday, the latest Guardian/ICM poll showed only 26 percent of voters in Britain would vote Labour in the next election, compared to 43 percent for the Conservatives.
(Reporting by Daniel Fineren; editing by Andrew Roche)
Posted by Alan Jones at 05:49
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has brushed off rumours that he might quit ahead of the general election, declaring: "Of course I'm going on."
PM Brown is 'determined' to stay on
Unconfirmed reports have suggested Mr Brown might use ill-health as an excuse for standing down before the poll, and former Cabinet minister Charles Clarke has said he should go "for his own dignity".
Posted by Alan Jones at 09:19
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Think Different. Think Plaid.
At a time when people in Wales have never felt so angry and let down by the same old politics in Westminster , more and more people are turning to Plaid because they know Plaid offers something different.
Which party loves our communities and cares about creating a better future for our children and families?
Who will best stand up for our communities? Yet another Labour, Tory or Lib-Dem MP to toe their London party line, or an independent-thinking Plaid MP who always puts their area first? Think about it…
This isn’t a time for politics as usual. Think Different. Think Plaid.
Ieuan Wyn Jones AM – Plaid Leader
What’s on this week:
Super Ceredigion - This Saturday [26/9/09]
Leaflet to take back Ceredigion!
Meet: Plaid Cymru office Chancery Lane , Cardigan, Ceredigion .SA43 1HD
When: 10.30 - 16.30 (Food available!)
Can you help: email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Owen Roberts 07976 980104
Posted by Alan Jones at 08:36
Sunday, 20 September 2009
Saturday, 19 September 2009
Bid to lower referendum voting age
Sixteen year-olds should be able to vote in an independence for Scotland referendum, an SNP minister has said.
The Scottish government hopes to have a referendum next year on Scotland's constitutional future. But there is little prospect at present of opposition parties helping the SNP get a referendum Bill through Holyrood.
Mr Russell told Ms Campbell: "I can confirm that it is the Scottish government's intention that 16 and 17-year-olds are given the opportunity to vote in the referendum that decides Scotland's constitutional future to the extent that this is practicable."
He said that as matters of voting franchise were reserved to Westminster, the issue would have to be specifically addressed in the referendum legislation.
"It is my intention to make provisions to this effect in the Referendum Bill that essentially reflect the approach taken for the elections to NHS boards in Scotland," he said.
Legislation passed earlier this year provided for 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in two pilot elections to be held next year for the Dumfries and Galloway and Fife health boards.
And Mr Russell said: "We will continue to work with electoral registration officers to ensure that as many 16 and 17-year-olds are able to vote in the referendum on Scotland's constitutional future as possible."
He said that in the longer term the Scottish government wanted to lower the voting age to 16 for all elections.
Posted by Alan Jones at 19:45
Thursday, 17 September 2009
Conference, as we face a new decade in politics my mind turns to how, for me, this decade began. On a clear June morning in 2001 when a trusty band of foot-soldiers had gathered to accompany the new MP for Carmarthen East and Dynevor to London for the very first time. Like Gwynfor all those years ago, though we were going by bus not by train, and they didn't name it after me. Some of them are in the hall today, others are watching at home, and I would like to say a personal thank you to Cynlais Evans, unable to be with us today because of illness, but who with his wife Sian has given decades of tireless work for the party. Diolch yn fawr.
We met at dawn in the village of Ferryside. A fitting choice, looking back, the home of Hugh Williams. That good country solicitor and chartist, some even say the instigator of what came to be known as the Rebecca Riots, but we know as the Rebecca Rising. In 1839, the year of that other rising in Newport , he published a volume of National songs which included these sterling words by the Tycroes poet Thomas Jenkins: “Sons of Cambria, come arise, and no longer be serfs and slaves. Burst your shackles and be free, sons of Cambria follow me”. The ‘me’ in the text is Liberty, the one thing this nation has lacked longest and needed most , the noblest of all human aspirations: the desire to be free. Free with yourselves, free to speak your language, to celebrate our culture. Free from poverty and disease. Free to live in peace. Free to shape our own future, to make our own mistakes and claim our own successes. Free from the shadow of Westminster, that was awaiting us that fine June day.
In the first few days I was in the House Of Commons, before I even gave my maiden speech, I remember Tom McAvoy , a gruff but affable Glaswegian, beckoning me over in the members lobby and taking me up to the booth in the Palace Of Westminster. And as he pointed, full of reverence to St Pauls and Lambeth Palace and the Treasury Building with Big Ben towering over us he said “This, Adam, is why I am a Unionist, proud to be British". Now I’m sure all this was intended as an act of kindness to a new member, but for a moment I had flashbacks : half digested Sunday-school tales of the devil tempting Christ mixed in with the murder scene at the end of House Of Cards. I made my excuses and left. That the Labour Party should try and recruit me is a complement of sorts I suppose. They thought I was a prodigal son. Now I think they would be a little less charitable and probably question my legitimacy . Baroness Gale of Blaenrhondda, a name to conjure with if there ever was, has often over the years asked me in a voice a seductive as the sexy temptress Gossamer Beynon in Under Milk Wood, “when are you coming home to Labour?”. In my case I think she was mis-cast, mis-informed, and miss-downright-impertinent.
I do want to come home. I’m tired of beating my head and my hands against the dumb cold walls of Westminster. I will never feel that I belong in that Parliament, thought I have to breathe its dust-laden air. I want a Parliament that belongs to me and to us, a Parliament that we have built, in whose stones our horizons sing. The Palace Of Westminster is undeniably an imposing and impressive building. It’s an architectural metaphor for the British political system. Its symbol, after all, is a portcullis, the gate of a fortress designed to keep the people out and power in. And just the cathedral buildings of the middle-ages sought to make us feel small in the presence of Almighty God, Westminster’s subliminal message is that we as citizens are of no consequence when compared against the power and majesty of the state. As Aneurin Bevan once wrote, the House of Commons is like a church, the vaulted roofs and stained-glass windows, the rows of statues of great statesmen of the past, the echoing walls, the soft-footed attendants and the whispered conversations. He, the newly elected MP (and it usually is a he) is expected to worship, and in the most conservative of all religions, ancestor worship. Except they’re not even our ancestors. Who came blame the Welsh MP, from a working-class constituency, who feels a bit like a floundering fish out of water in Westminster. Cloisters for us in Wales are a rare Sunday afternoon treat on a coach trip to St Davids. To members of the British establishment they are a familiar architecture that has punctuated their very life-history: from prep-school, to Eton, to Oxbridge, the Inns Of Court, the Commons and finally the Lords. Before you know it you’ve changed your accent, your dress, and your values to fit in. JH Thomas, the former Union leader from Newport turned Labour MP tried so hard he took to wearing evening dress even at 11 in the morning. They made him Colonial Secretary not once, but twice. Nobody does imperialism quite as well as a self-denying member of a conquered people. And even though there are Welsh Labour MPs walking around in the corridors of power with a peculiar smile on their face of the permanently self-satisfied, unable to believe their luck in well, just being there. Kitted out in matching silk ties, silk hankies, and for all I know silk underwear as well. They are so effortlessly smooth, you wouldn’t know the conflict the lies just under the surface from constantly flipping their loyalty back and fore from Wales to London, like flipping a coin or flipping a home on expenses. Home is, after all, where the heart is.
Like many of the people in it, the building itself is a grand deception, designed to look centuries older than it is in order to confer upon it the gravitas of accumulated power. Everything about that building, everything it represents (and for sure the one thing is doesn’t represent is the ordinary Welsh voter) is a fraud from crenulated top to bottom. It is corrupt and corrupting. No building where an army of flunkies opens doors for the privileged few can be healthy. The sooner we get out of it the better it will be for all of us.
And while we are there, we must have people we can count on to fight our corner. In Elfyn Llwyd, we have a magnificent general, as strong as an oak and as wise as an owl. In Howell and myself he has two loyal lieutenants, but what he really needs is an army to defend Wales from injustice: to field our best questions, to marshal our best arguments. Not drive home our advantage, but to secure victory on the political battlefield for Wales. Of course battlefield is what the Welsh political landscape will become over the next few years and we will need every ounce of self belief to sustain us. After a decade of lost opportunity, we are now at the cusp of a new decade, of conflict, of cuts, and conservatism. In once sense a change of the guard at Westminster makes little difference to us. Wales has suffered under Labour and we’ve suffered under the Tories. The only way to stop suffering is to get out from under them, and believe me we will come 2011.
I suppose there is some subtle difference: while Labour governments never fail to disappoint you, Conservative governments confirm your worst nightmares. If Cameron wins, this will be the 67th Conservative government in history. Which considering they’ve never, in living memory, had a majority of Welsh MPs is a little bit troubling from the perspective of Welsh democracy. Tory governments in Wales have never come highly commended. If you go back long enough, they were a coalition of low-brow publicans and high-church Anglicans, the original unholy alliance. The Conservative and Unionist party in Wales has never really recovered from those rather inauspicious beginnings. They’ve been on the wrong side of every important argument in the last 300 years: the reform act, the welfare state, the NHS, apartheid, and now the NHS again. Name virtually any issue, any cause, that has taxed the minds and frequently the bodies too of the people of this country for the last three centuries and the Tories have always managed somehow to place themselves squarely on the side of privilege and prejudice and on the opposite side to the majority of the downtrodden Welsh. When Rebecca rode out in Carmarthenshire... and Peter Mandelson please note political cross-dressers are progressives in our tradition – I once called Dafydd Ellis Thomas the Pantomime Dame of Welsh politics and he thanked me for the complement. When Rebecca burned the hated toll-booths, where were the Tories? Not on the side of the farmers struggling to survive, but on the side of the men of property, the turnpike owners, the PFI merchants of their day, turning a quick profit at other people’s expense. The Tories are democracy’s late developers, opposed to the extension of the franchise at every juncture, if it had been up to them women and the working-classes would never have had the vote, which goes a long way to explain the attitude of Leanne Wood towards the Tories. Thank God for women with attitude! The Tories opposed the secret ballot and saw to it that those who didn’t vote the right way were evicted. They opposed the repeal of the Corn Laws at a time when the people were starving, not just in Ireland but also in Wales. They supported religious discrimination against non-conformists, but still demanded that they paid church taxes and attend Anglican schools but not Anglican universities from which they were banned. They opposed the disestablishment of the Church in Wales despite it being the clear settled will of the majority in our country at the time.
For them, opposing Welsh Democracy is written into the DNA of the Conservative Tradition. They’ve opposed every Welsh Devolution bill in history, a record with which not even the Labour party can compete. They opposed the redoubtable E.T Johns Government Of Wales bill on the brink of the First World War. They opposed mighty S.O. Davies’ bill in the 1950s. They opposed the Wales Act in 1978 and took great delight in removing it from the statue book as soon as they were elected. The made opposition to devolution the cornerstone of their 1997 election campaign in Wales and were wiped out as a consequence. And yet they still sought to frustrate the wishes of the Welsh people by voting against a bill in the new Parliament. And who can forget, Nicholas Vaughn beaming before Carmarthenshire’s votes were counted, thinking that Wales had collectively voted itself out of existence for the second time in our history and chosen the life of a vassal not a victor. I never want to see a smile like that again. No man who betrayed his country so enthusiastically could ever earn the right to lead it.
I suppose, to be fair, he was only reflecting the prevailing wisdom of a party that has always defined itself as being against the development of our Welsh democracy every step of our own Welsh way. The Conservative party’s campaign guide, for every general election between 1892 and 1914 contained the following words: “the laws, institutions of Wales are the laws, institutions and customs of England. The flag of Wales is the flag of England”. But worse was to come - for the next three decades their campaign guide didn’t even mention Wales at all. Switch to 2009, and the Tories now claim to be Wales’ new best friend. But isn’t this a little difficult to take when for so long they have been our own worst enemy. They fought the Welsh miners seeking to grind them, like the coal of the slagheaps, into dust: in ‘26, in ‘73 and ‘84. They privatised our steelworks, not once but twice, and threw thousands on the dole.
And then there was Tryweryn, a scar on the conscience of the Tories as deep and as powerful in its own way as Aberfan is for Labour: both of them symbols of human suffering at the hands of a distant an uncaring government. And above all remember that when the Liverpool Corporation Bill had its second reading, the Conservative so-called Minister For Welsh Affairs stubbornly sided with Liverpool over Wales, despite the fact that every Welsh MP bar one opposed it. So when the political epitaph of the Conservative Party in Wales comes to be written, oh speed the day, let it never be forgotten that they were responsible for the greatest act of colonial vandalism in our history, the only party ever to impose a three-line whip on the destruction of a living Welsh community. And if they want our forgiveness, let David Cameron apologise to the Welsh people for their mistake. He apologised, didn’t he, about apartheid? He apologised to the Gay community over Section 28, or at least to a £50 a-ticket invitation only Conservative –Supporting section of the gay community in London’s highest members club. I’d like to see you try say sorry to a room full of Valleys Drag queens – you know who you are. If Cameron is in the habit of apologising he can try apologising to the people of Capel Celyn, Meirionnydd and Wales for a village drowned and a democracy disregarded. And then promise to give us, like the Scottish, the English, the Irish and any other nation control over our own water in our own land. Or are we still to be treated as England’s first and final precious piece of Empire? That colonial attitude is alive and sickeningly well in a party the majority of whose Secretaries Of State, in theory at least, for Wales haven’t even represented Welsh constituencies. In John Redwood’s case the Conservatives made the most bizarre political appointment since Caligula made his horse a senator.
Of course, it is possible and a small-c conservative. What is cultural nationalism but an attempt to conserve and preserve for future generations the best in our own traditions? The problems with conservatism as a political philosophy is that it is defined by what it is against: change. And when you live in a country like ours calling out for change, who would want to slow change down, to be a break on progress? In three hundred years the Tories in Wales have only ever been anti-establishment once, when Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn harboured a certain affection for Bonny Prince Charlie but not so much as to much as to risk a martyr’s death at Culloden. Personally I am more jackobin (?) than Jacobite. But there is room in our party for the creative intelligence of a David Melding , one of nature’s conservatives, a man who once told Jocelyn Davies that he hadn’t got over the shock of the Reformation. Join us, the water’s warm. You’re living proof that it is possible to be Welsh and a small-c conservative, though it must be at times mentally exhausting.
One thing is for certain, trying to be both in capital letters of equal measure is as impossible as serving two masters. For the Tories real masters in London, time and time we’ve heard Wales will never be the priority. They’ve already said they will cancel the electrification, recently announced, of the Great Western mainline to West Wales, happy to acquiesce in the shameful fact that Wales is almost alone in the Western world in lacking a single mile of electrified railtrack. Though the City of London, I notice, will still get its coveted Crossrail. The Tories announced with a fanfare that they will deliver a high-speed rail line connecting London and the Continent with Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds, but Cardiff and Swansea must wait. Wales, under the Tories, will always have to wait.
And there will be no high-speed return for the embattled Welsh forces in Helmand, when those Welsh sons and daughters are placed again in harm’s way. The party that has supported every war in history, from the concentration camps of Pretoria, to the lies of Suez and Iraq will continue with the war in Afghanistan. And instead of a war on poverty, the Tories will declare war on the poor. They will cut the money Wales gets from the Lottery, scrapping the only Lottery fund that gives Wales money according to a needs-based formula, and give the money to those who don’t. They will cut public spending, hitting Wales hard, and continue to justify the unjust Barnett Formula. And they proudly promise they will slash the benefits of hundreds of thousands of Welsh claimants in the middle of the greatest economic crash since the 30s. Let’s repeat that. The party that gave us the means-test, plan to cull one and a half million people from Incapacity Benefit in 12 months, more than 10 times even New Labour has achieved. The long-term unemployed, single parents and the clinically depressed will be dragooned into community service like criminals or lose benefits and starve. Conference, this is the modern equivalent of the Workhouse, and the abolition of Outdoor Relief. It will hit us hard, and it will hit the hurt, the young and the very old hardest of all. The man the Tories have charged with implementing this policy of economic ‘Shock and Awe’ Lord Freud, up until February was an advisor on Welfare reform to New Labour - so obviously a man of principle – has the qualification of being one of the very same investment bankers that trashed our economy and slung so many people on the scrapheap. By his own admission, thousands of investors lost money in Eurotunnel because naively they believed what this silver-tongued ex-journalist (dubbed ‘Fraud-squad’ by his colleagues) had told them. And who was it that promised an end to the politics of spin and the economics of the casino?
So maybe it’s time to dust down one of Bevan’s other great works, written under the suitably patriotic pseudonym Celticus, “Why not to trust the Tories”. And if anyone doubts the contemporary relevance of a pamphlet written in 1944, then read the section where Bevan talks about the Tories tendency to smooth away the edge of a policy in the hope of making it more attractive to doubtful supporters. It’s almost as if he had read every Conservative policy commission over the last two years. David Cameron, by his own admission, is the heir to Blair. He represents, not change, but more of the same and worse. Except where Blair appointed a former Mirror Editor as his foul-mouthed mouthpiece, Cameron has appointed a disgraced former editor of the News Of The World.
This Labour government is a failed and dying government. Its sins are too many for it to die an honourable death, so let it die. The same is true of a so-called Mother of Parliament that failed to stop them. The only thing that can wash away its sins is new blood. Not the real blood of those brave souls in Afghanistan and Iraq that have paid dearly for politician’s errors, but the new blood of a new politics. There will be new MPs aplenty at this Parliament, so many that the maiden speeches will probably last for months. Will the politics change along with the personnel? For England’s sake I hope it is a new start, a maiden Parliament. Though somehow I doubt it, as powers’ old habits die hard. But for us in Wales, it must neither me maiden nor mother, but midwife to a Parliament of our own. There have been a thousand Welsh MPs from the Act Of Union onwards, and from a strictly Welsh perspective most of them have been practically useless. In that sense, the present crop are no better or worse than previous generations, although I cannot imagine Emlyn Hooson moonlighting for the Daily Sport.
The difference lies within Wales itself. A nation within the old order is dying, and the new struggling to be born. For that new birth we need a new breed of Welsh men and women in that temporary Parliament along the banks of the Thames, who will never go native in exile, and never play by other people’s rules. Members like the one true original member for Wales, who broke the conventions of the house. Who in his first act of defiance sat down in protest at the Treasury bench until the original language of these Islands was given due recognition in the only legislature that we then had. Who committed the cardinal sin of injecting a bit of passion and politics into his first address to the house. And maybe one or two like this one, who got slung out of Parliament for calling a liar a liar.
As Plaid MPs, we don’t go to London to scale the escalator of ambition. For every Welsh MP, a Parliament in a far away capital should seem like a prison, though they try and paint our chains in gold. Penri, Dylan, Myfanwy, Phil, here is the only reason you want to be there, which is the reason we hold dear: to bring democracy home where it belongs, in the hands of our people, in our Parliament, in our capital, in our country. In our dreams for now, but also in our destiny.
Comment: A curse on quislings, no matter where they lurk.
Posted by Alan Jones at 19:36
Urge your friends to support the Declaration for Welsh Democracy
Thank you for showing your support for a proper Parliament for Wales by signing the Declaration for Welsh Democracy.
Over two thousand people have supported the Declaration but we want many thousands more to do so, so that we can demonstrate clearly the support that exists for Wales to have a proper Parliament and a system of government which is effective, efficient, transparent and participatory.
We would therefore like to ask you to help us by trying to get at least ten people you know to sign the Declaration. The simplest way to do so is to forward this email to all your friends, colleagues and aquantainces and urging them to sign the Declaration by completing the form on the Tomorrow's Wales website.
Thank you for your support - together we can secure a proper Parliament for Wales.
Posted by Alan Jones at 02:35
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Helen Mary Jones : Tory Government could spell end to NHS as we know it
16 September 2009
As the Plaid Cymru conference begins in Llandudno, Plaid Health spokesperson Helen Mary Jones AM has launch a stinging attack on the Conservative party's plans for the NHS, saying that a Tory win at the next general election would threaten the existence of the NHS as we know it.
With the polls predicting an almost certain Tory victory at the next election, Ms Jones raised serious concerns about the impact that their policies will have on our core health services here in Wales. The Tories' ideological opposition to a free health service would mean private sector involvement and a charging culture within our NHS.
Tory MEP Daniel Hannan's astonishing recent attack on the NHS showed the true colours of the Tory Party when he described the NHS as "a 60-year-old mistake". The attack was closely followed by the publication of a document in which key members of David Cameron's shadow cabinet describe the NHS as, “no longer relevant in the 21st century".
Conservative health spokesperson in the Assembly, Andrew R T Davies, also recently challenged the benefits of the current Free Prescriptions policy in Wales, and supported the re-introduction of charging for medicines.
Plaid Cymru in government has ensured that local hospitals such as the one in Llandudno which had previously been threatened, are now receiving new investment and extra services.
Plaid Health spokesperson Helen Mary Jones AM said:
"Recent comments by high profile Tories have made it plainly clear that they do not like a free health service and they wish to see it become far more dependant on private companies who will want to make a profit from it. The existence of our NHS as we know it, which is so important to so many of us, is now under serious threat.
"We have shown that by thinking differently, Plaid has overturned plans to close and downgrade many hospitals throughout Wales. We have to maintain that 'can-do' mentality in order to continue to improve Wales' NHS. While the Tories have simply written off our NHS, and plan to tear it apart, we will make it work because it is what is needed and wanted by the people of Wales.
"When David Cameron and his private sector pals take over, we will get more big businesses trying to bleed the NHS of much needed funds, and a culture of charging for NHS services.
"David Cameron is now peddling furiously to try and cover-up the dreadful impression his Tory colleagues have left – but nobody should be left in any doubt that our NHS is in very real danger if the Tories get their hands on it.
"Plaid wants to maintain a Welsh health service that is within Aneurin Bevan’s vision – but in the Tories hands, this will be destroyed with their big plans to privatise our health services. There is no doubt that their plans for privatisation in England will have a direct knock-on effect on our NHS finances in Wales – and as a result, will starve our doctors and nurses of the resources they need.
"The people of Wales are not stupid. We can easily see through this Tory doublespeak. Our NHS will never be safe with them.”
Posted by Alan Jones at 20:08
Iceland's’s otherworldly dimension doesn’t only surface in isolated locales. Around Reykjavik, roads have been diverted so not to disturb lava rocks where Huldufolk live. This chimes with beliefs in rural Ireland that interfering with "fairy" thorn bushes brings bad luck. As the Vikings had Irish slaves, it’s possible Celtic lore traveled with them.
Some Icelanders build "elf houses" in their gardens. Mentioned in the Sagas, elves were a race of minor gods associated with nature and fertility. They usually only appear to those gifted with second sight, but you can never be sure who you’re talking to. As elves (alfar in Icelandic) come in all sizes, larger ones are tricky to recognize.
As a powerful Icelandic spirit swore me to secrecy, I can’t reveal the exact whereabouts. But north of Borgarnes, there’s a roadside mound covered with dwarfish dwellings. The colony’s church strikes an odd note. Have these Huldufolk decided to abandon their pagan past?
Posted by Alan Jones at 17:49
After a lovely summer's break, Myfanwy's Campaign is back!
We will be canvassing every weekend until December, starting this week (Saturday only) so if you're available on a Friday afternoon or a Saturday morning, please get in touch!
If you don't fancy canvassing but would like to help send Plaid's first female MP to Westminster, we will have regular leafleting sessions, 5Streets (Voter ID) sessions and other things that you can help with... drop me a line!
It's the final leg now... it's time to give Llanelli a MP that works FOR Llanelli!
Think different... Think Plaid... Think MYFANWY!!
Posted by Alan Jones at 17:23
MPs' expenses, rock bottom turnouts, attacks on our freedoms – our democracy is in crisis.
But in the next few months we can change politics. For good.
POWER2010 gives you the chance to have a say in how our democracy works for us all. Do you want cleaner funding? Fairer voting? More accountability? You decide. Tell us your ideas for changing the way we run our country. Those with most support will become the POWER2010 Pledge - and help change Britain for the better.
This is your campaign - and we need your ideas.
Submit your ideas here or sign up below to keep in touch. Vote for a new politics. POWER2010.
Web Address: http://www.power2010.org.uk
Posted by Alan Jones at 03:58
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
Monday, 7 September 2009
REPORT f.a.o. all WELSH NEWS media:-
This week The Chubut Daily Jornada carried a story about a letter sent by Welsh Argentine Institutions to the British Ambassador in Buenos Aires (the ambassador, Shan Morgan, is a Welsh-speaker whose family come from Ceredigion!).
It concerns the Border Agency's refusal to allow two girls from Patagonia entry into the UK to improve their Welsh-language skills..
Perhaps if our people and politicians know that it's hot news out there they may do something over here to resolve the issue!
A (bad) translation is available.
If you want to see this in English, click:
Rhobert ap Steffan,
Posted by Alan Jones at 20:42
Sunday, 6 September 2009
A group member has created an ipetition that you may be interested in, petitioning the break up the U.K. giving independence to Wales, Scotland and the reunification of Ireland. Have a look and let your friends know.
From Daren Swanwick, a member of Facebook
The current union of the United Kingdom which is constituted from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and England is a union whose day has come. I am English, not British. Many people from what is today called the UK feel the same way about their respective nations. It is time for this union to end. England, Wales, and Scotland need, and deserve, to go their own way. Northern Ireland is Irish, not British, and it's time for them to be allowed to reintegrate with their mother country.
This petition is NOT about racism. My mother was Irish and my paternal grandfather a Scot. This is about the right to a nation to self-determination. I thus call on the government of the United Kingdom to hold a referendum in each of the so-called home nations and allow them a say in their own future.
You are not required to be from any of the aforementioned nations to show your support, but we would like to know where you are writing from. Please also ensure that you sign with both a forename and surname for your signature to be valid.
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR DEMOCRACY AND SIGN THIS PETITION TODAY!!!
Sign the petition
Posted by Alan Jones at 18:56