Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Why I'm Voting Yes on 3rd March

The further powers referendum on 3rd March has split the Conservative Party in Wales. Whilst most Assembly politicians are firmly in the Yes camp there is certainly more scepticism in the grass roots Party.

I have already decided how to Vote and have been actively supporting the Yes campaign. Until now I have kept my reasons largely to myself but in view of  the True Wales decision not to have an official No Campaign I think it is time to give my reasons.

We currently have a two types of politician in Wales.  One type have some powers over certain areas but lack the real tools to do the job. (Law making and tax lowering powers) The others have the tools albeit along with 600 other MP's but not the ability to make changes for the people they represent.

Frankly it must be very frustrating to be in the Assembly or Westminster and would certainly put me off standing for either one.

In the long term I hope to see one group of politicians get both the tools and the powers, and realistically this is more likely to be the Welsh Assembly.

The referendum on 3rd March is a step towards that day, and that is why I will be voting yes.

Ultimately it is only when one group of politicians have tools to do the job in their areas of responsibly that they will be properly accountable to the people of Wales.

Many Conservatives fear that giving more power to the current Socialist coalition will mean that the Health Service, the Economy and Educational Standards will fall further behind in Wales.

I am sure that the current government would argue that part of the reason for the failure in the above areas is not having the further law making powers.

Once this excuse is taken away the Socialist coalition will be more accountable and if they fail to improve things for the people of Wales the electorate will look for an alternative.

At that time it will be up to the Welsh Conservative Party to offer an alternative program of government for Wales and in particular to address the over dependence on the Public Sector.

In my opinion rather than condemning Wales to decades of failure, further powers will speed the demise of Socialism in Wales and allow Conservative polices to make a positive difference to the people of Wales.

It is no coincidence that "True Wales" is predominantly made up of Labour Party members who have seen that further powers could eventually lead to the Party's grip on Wales slipping away.

Monday, 24 January 2011

S4C and BBC Wales Need to Talk

Sorry just a quick moan.

Welsh TV does not have a huge amount of new and original drama, so it was great this week to see the start of 2 new shows, Baker Boys and Alys.

But why schedule them at the same time on the same night!

I know that in the days of Sky plus, recordable digiboxes and Clic/BBC iplayer it is easy to catch up, but surely it would make more sense to avoid a clash.

Hopefully if S4C and the BBC are working more closely together going forward they will communicate a bit more.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Is Welsh Influence in Westminster about to Soar?

Last week I bemoaned the lack of a senior Welshman/woman in the Westminster Government.  It seems possible that my wishes are about to become true.

Were Guto Harri to replace Andy Coulson as David Cameron's communications chief we would have a through and through Welshman at the heart of the Westminster Government.

In recent years, particularly when Alistair Campbell was in the job, it was argued that the position of chief spin doctor was more like the "Real Deputy Prime Minister".  The position is certainly more influential the the Secretary of State  for Wales.

If Guto was to be appointed the move could help Wales have a far stronger voice in London and potentially improve the communications between Westminster and the Assembly.

Fingers crossed that Wales may about to get a big hitter right where it matters.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Worrying education data in Wales must not be ignored.

At a time when the Welsh blogosphere is busy discussing and debating the decision of True Wales not to launch an official "No Campaign" another very important bit of news is in danger of slipping through the net.

Today the university admission figures for last year were released.  The figures showed that there was a huge drop in the numbers of Welsh students making it to university whilst in all other parts of the UK the figures stood still or increased.

This data comes soon after the very disappointing PISA results in Wales.

It is clear that there are potentially serious failings in the current Welsh education system as evidenced by the two stories above.  I do not want to advocate knee jerk reactions based on one poor year but if the trend continues we must take action.

Having a workforce with both basic skills as well a strong base of highly skilled graduates is vital to develop and grow our economy.  If we wish to attract new business a strong workforce is key and at present there is a danger that the Welsh workforce will become less good than other parts of the UK.

The underfunding of schools and higher education in Wales cannot continue if we are serious about wanting a better future for our country.  Eventually we may well have to take the difficult decision to reduce health spending  in order to ensure that future generations of Welsh children are given better opportunities.

Finally I fear that the Assembly Government's highly populist decision not to put up tuition fees in Wales will soon lead to Welsh university funding dropping even further behind the rest of the UK.

They may be feeling pleased with themselves right now but  the Assembly government could well have consigned future generations of Welsh students to a second rate education.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Does the Welsh Economy have an image problem?

Another week and yet another bad news story for the Welsh economy on the front page of the Western Mail.

This time it is the news that Welsh businesses have failed to win a major slice of the many contracts coming out of the 2012 Olympics.

The reaction to this was a predictable mix of some saying it amounted to general anti Welsh bias in England whilst others laid the blame with Welsh business for not being good enough or not interested enough.

Without further information it is difficult to tell whether Welsh businesses simply did not go for the contracts, went for them but were not good enough or were intentionally or unintentionally discriminated against.

If it is that we did not go for the work we only have ourselves to blame.  If we were not good enough that is disappointing but something that can be resolved, particularly if we are able to get a more pro business Government in the Welsh Assembly. (And the powers to reduce the regulatory burden of Welsh businesses)

The other option is that Wales and Welsh businesses have reputational issues over the border.  The anecdotal evidence that I have from friends in England is that Wales is still regarded as a Socialist Union controlled no go area for business.

The Not the Nine O'Clock News "Failed in Wales" sketch still seems to sum up the Welsh Economy to many English people and we need to get past this if our economy is to make real progress.

The problem of branding is a major one and not easy to remedy.  It is also one which is the responsibility of the Assembly Government as it is very difficult for businesses to group together to run an international advertising campaign.

The effect of a good advertising campaign should not be underestimated.  The series of excellent Welsh Tourism campaigns have helped change the perception of a holiday in Wales from "an unfriendly place where they all start speaking Welsh once you walk in" to "a beautiful vibrant Country with fantastic food, castles, beaches and places to stay."

The success of the Welsh tourism campaign is evidenced by the number of other parts of the UK which seemed to have copied the same formula.

We need a similar message to be coming out from Wales on business to show that we are hungry for investment and pro business.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Is David Cameron Leaving an Open Goal in Wales?

Today Cheryl Gillan made an unfortunate gaff which I heard live on Good Morning Wales.  The mistake has been headline news in Wales tonight.

I have a lot of sympathy for Cheryl as I certainly can not remember all the things that I was doing 8-9 years ago.

Nonetheless the opposition have once again leapt onto the mistake. Once again we hear the same old complaint that she is out of touch with Wales as she does not live here.  (What this has to do with with this current mistake is beyond me.)

She seems to spend more time in Wales than Peter Hain ever did, despite him supposedly living in Resolven.

I do however feel that the Party seems to be missing a trick by not having a Welsh based Secretary of State.   A Welsh based Secretary of State would  be an easy way to shoot down the main argument of the opposition and give Wales a stronger voice in the Cabinet.

Hopefully the next reshuffle in London will see Cheryl kept on but in a different role, whilst a Welsh based (possibly even Welsh speaking) MP will be given the top job in Wales.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

How can further powers benefit the Welsh economy?

At the launch of the Yes campaign in Carmarthen over the weekend a discussion started as to what further powers will mean for business in Wales.

I have previously made clear on this blog that I have serious doubts as to whether further powers will benefit Welsh business.  My concern, which is shared with several business owners which I have discussed the issue with, is that more powers will lead to additional regulation for Welsh business.

The danger if this were to happen is that the Welsh economy could suffer as follows:

- Welsh business would be less competitive than their English and European counterparts
- New start ups would be discouraged from locating in Wales
- Relocating and expanding businesses would be put off locating in Wales

However, as Rhodri Glyn Thomas pointed out on Saturday, additional powers could actually mean the reverse for the Welsh economy; but only if used wisely.

One of the most common complaints made by business is over regulation. Further powers for Wales could mean that regulations are removed in Wales.

The effect of this would be the exact opposite of the above and lead to Welsh business becoming more competitive and additional investment in our economy.

I still have doubts as to whether our politicians will be able to resist the temptation to create knee jerk laws and regulations and damage Welsh business.  It will take considerable political bravery to start to strip away regulations in Wales but if the new government in May 2011 take the opportunity it could lead to a new dawn for the Welsh economy.