Saturday, 25 June 2016

Brexit and Wales

It has been a while since I felt compelled to comment on Welsh politics but the events of the past 48 hours and the decision of the UK and Wales to vote for Brexit in my view throws up a great number of interesting questions.

Most people it seems have spent the last 24 hours in a state of shock and disbelief with most discussions seeming to focus on "how did this happen?"

However whether you campaigned for remain or leave we will soon need to look at what this means for the future of Welsh politics.

It seems to me that the result will lead to a significant shift of power from Brussels to Westminster, but because of devolution much of the power will actually head down the M4 to Cardiff Bay.  The result was such a shock I suspect the Welsh Government has done little if any Brexit planning but it will need to move fast to take advantage.

The full implications will take a few weeks to become clear but here am some initial thoughts/questions?

  • Will the Assembly need more members to cope with the new responsibilities?
  • Will the Wales Bill now need further revision to ensure that the Welsh Government can fully control areas such as agriculture which were previously part of the common agricultural policy?
  • Welsh Government will need to move quickly to make sure it is part of the trade negotiations that will be starting around the world.
  • Given much of the new responsibility will be with us in 2 - 3 years will we need another Assembly election sooner rather than later? (possibly with more members being elected)
  • Will we need new departments and ministers in Welsh Government to prepare for the changes ahead?
  • How quickly can Wales secure a new funding settlement with the UK government? (when a new one is formed)

Whilst few in Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru campaigned for Brexit the result will significantly strengthen Welsh politics and I hope when the shock has subsided the Welsh political classes will be bold enough to make the most of the opportunities ahead.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Politics: It's a funny old game

I don't know much about Maria Miller but one fact I remember is that she went to the same school as Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones.  Tonight I cant help but smile at the differing fortunes of the two former pupils of Brynteg comprehensive school.

I have not read the details of her expenses error but as I understand it she has made mistakes which cost between £5,000 and £50,000 depending on whose version you believe.  This has led to a huge campaign from the press and led to her resignation.

Carwyn on the other hand recently wasted £50,000,000 on a  failing airport whilst simultaneously sitting back whilst standards in the Welsh NHS and Education systems are in seemingly terminal decline.

Yet tonight Carwyn is still in his highly paid job whilst Maria is out of hers which makes we wonder if our press have their priorities right and why anyone would want to go into politics.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Welsh ego may be in for a battering

A couple of articles from the last few months that make pretty depressing reading for a Welsh man or woman:

I accept that both articles come from the right leaning side of the English Press but I suspect that this is just the beginning.  Once the Scottish referendum vote has happened we will be in General Election mode and a primary attack line from the right wing press will be "if you think you have it bad, be thankful your not in Labour run Wales."

All this is going to make pretty depressing reading for those of us who hope one day Wales can achieve its potential and catch up and overtake the rest of the UK.

I for one have become depressed not only at the poor performance of Wales but also the general acceptance that this is just how things are.

The Western Mail has long championed Welsh Labour leaving no real press opposition to anything they say.

Depressing as it may be I hope the current interest the English press is showing in our problems continues, as it may be what we need to finally get a different Party in charge in Cardiff.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Plaid should be championing regional pay

The election of Leanne Wood as leader of Plaid Cymru is expected by many to see to the Party moving further to the left. Her comments today confirm this as she looks to cosy up with Labour.  This shift should open the door for the Conservative Party in Wales to start appealing directly to disaffected Plaid supporters.

A policy which caught my attention recently was regional pay.  The suggestion led to immediate outcry form unions as well as all of the Welsh political parties.  I can completely understand this reaction.  The short term impact of this policy would be to see the pay packets of much of the Welsh workforce shrinking and this would probably lead to the Welsh economy weakening in the short term.  With elections almost every year, few politicians have the ability to think of anything but the short term hence the negative reaction.

In the longer term however regional pay has the potential to help re balance the Welsh economy and make the Welsh private sector more competitive.  Currently Welsh companies have to pay higher wages to stop staff leaving for the public sector.  If the wages were lower Welsh business could charge lower prices and undercut competition from abroad and other parts of the UK.  It would take many years but in the long term it could be a huge boost for the Welsh economy.  At that stage prosperity would increase leading to increases in pay for public sector workers as well.  

Most Plaid supporters admit their long term goal is independence.  Public support for this has recently been shown to be very low, mainly I suspect because Plaid cannot put forward a sensible way that they would fund an independent Wales.  Regional pay may be bad news in the short term but anyone would genuinely wants to see Wales being in a position to raise more revenue than we spends should be giving it careful consideration.

That should mean that regional pay is a flagship policy for Plaid as a key way to make the Welsh economy more competitive.  In reality Plaid's only policy seems to be complaining that the English hand out is not big enough.  This gives the Welsh Conservative Party the ability to offer a far more positive message to the people of Wales.  Rather than complain about the size of the English hand out we can offer a prosperous future for the Welsh economy but only if we are brave enough to look at the long term.  Regional pay should be the first part of that message and if Wales gets tax varying powers a reduction in Welsh Corporation Tax should be step 2.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Swansea as a city must grab the current opportunity

Last night Swansea City started their first season in the Premier League.  Whilst the result was not great we all know that the sides survival this season will depend far more on games like the one this coming Saturday than one last night.

Never the less we have to accept that it will be a tough season and could ultimately end in relegation.  Hopefully Swansea will establish themselves as a Premiership club and we will have years of economic benefit, but we as a city will be kicking ourselves if we miss the opportunity and only survive one season.

It is crucial that we make a big impression on all of the fans who visit the area over the coming 10 months and sell ourselves both as a place to holiday and a place to do business.

There has been a debate in recent weeks on how much, if at all, the city will benefit economically.  Whilst pubs, restaurants and hotels will see some benefit whatever, the real lasting benefit is something we will have to make happen.

I agree with those who point out most fans only visit for the day of the game and come straight in and out but we still have an opportunity to sell the area to them.  With the fantastic beaches, golf courses, walking, scenery and seafront we have lots to sell but this needs to be done by somebody.   This is not the clubs responsibility and Swansea City Council or Visit Wales should be stepping in to help the club sell the area and ensure that visiting fans are left with a good impression of Wales.

They might not spend much when the come down on a cold January night but if we sell the area they will come back for a family holiday or a golf weekend.  This is the lasting benefit we can get for Swansea and the surrounding area.

Swansea will also have a global audience for the next 10 months.  Many of the people watching are people who do business in the UK or who want to do business in the UK & Europe.  This is a great opportunity to tell them that Swansea is a beautiful place to live and work and there is no better part of the UK to invest in.

Swansea will see an economic benefit whatever happens over the next year, the size of that benefit is down to us.  It is time for the Council, Visit Wales and the Assembly Government to work together and ensure we don't miss out on this fantastic opportunity.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Get on with the real job

The latest "big story" in the Assembly is the disqualification of two newly elected Lib Dem AM's.

I suspect that the vast majority of the Welsh Public share my view that I could not care less if the two AM's in question have broken a fairly minor rule.

The most important thing has to be that once the problem was found it was quickly rectified. (By making appropriate resignations)

As far as I am aware this happened so the new Assembly should be focusing on improving the lives of the people of Wales rather than wasting time discussing something which does nothing for the people that they are supposed to be representing.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Reflections on the Assembly Campaign

With a week now past since the Assembly Election it has to be said that the final result was more interesting than may predicted.

A number of prominent AM's lost their seats, the Conservatives overtook Plaid and there were some differing voting trends between North and South.

The pollsters pretty much got it spot on.  The commentators and the bookies were close but failed to appreciate the strength of Conservative support.  This I am happy to say this made it a profitable night for me although I am kicking myself for missing out on Angela Burns at 4/1.  The Plaid twitter campaign clearly had a far bigger effect on me in Swansea than it did on the good voters of Carmarthen West.  A lesson to be learnt there for somebody.

On reflection there are several things coming out of the election some of which I intend to explore further in future weeks.

1. Nick Bourne becoming a victim of his own success was sad, but his legacy is a Welsh Conservative Party that is in a strong position to kick on to become the alternative government to Labour in the future.

2.  The 3 opposition parties missed a huge opportunity to govern Wales 4 years ago.  Lessons must be learnt to ensure this opportunity is not missed next time.  By the time of the next election Labour will have been running Wales for 17 years.

3.  Whilst the result was bad for the Lib Dems they only lost 1 seat meaning that they are in a decent position to rebuild.  As the economy improves and they get the credit for the role they have played in that at Westminster they could come back stronger than ever.

4.  Plaid were probably the biggest losers.  A bad night for them was made worse by the fantastic result achieved by the SNP.  They lost a number of big hitters last week and are now at risk of becoming an very minor part of Welsh politics.

5.  The Conservatives are looking for a new leader and Plaid find themselves at a crossroads.  

Plaid will undoubtedly be looking to Scotland to try and learn lessons from the SNP success.  The first problem they have is that their leader is not is the same class as Alex Salmond.  The fact he has decided not to stand down straight away is a clear sign there is no one in the background of sufficient caliber to take over.The second is that the SNP have become increasingly center-right in their policies and this helped them take votes off the both the Lib Dems and the Conservatives.  This political shift something it is hard to see Plaid doing.  

It may be that the Welsh Conservatives are the Party who can learn most from the SNP success and I look forward to hearing the different leadership candidates setting out their visions over the coming months.