The Real Devo-Disaster

The Real Devo-Disaster


Matthew Paul

What with a pandemic, Brexit still not entirely done and Dom’s blazing feud with Princess Nut Nut, it’s understandable that a busy Prime Minister might overlook little things like Wales and Scotland. That being so, we should perhaps be grateful that Boris Johnson paid the Celtic fringes of Empire some attention this week, when (The Sun reported) he told a Zoom meeting of Conservative backbenchers that devolution had been a disaster, and Tony Blair’s worst mistake.

This was obviously wrong. Devolution wasn’t even in Tony Blair’s top three mistakes: kicking hereditary peers out of the legislature, letting Mo Mowlam wreck peace negotiations in Northern Ireland and banning fox hunting were far worse.

Still, for twenty years the devolved institutions Blair created chugged away, like little tugboats pulling the nations of the United Kingdom away from their berth. Blair’s idea was to gerrymander devolution so as to permanently exclude the forces of conservatism from power. The real disaster was his miscalculation in creating institutions which exercised power without responsibility. The devolved parliaments gave secessionists dunghills to crow from; trumpeting every bit of good news as Wales/ Scotland’s own, and every policy failure as Westminster’s fault.

Welsh devolution has had a rotten two decades. Nothing is administered better in Wales in 2020 than it was in 1999, and much has deteriorated. The Welsh NHS now has nearly half a million patients on waiting lists: one in six of Wales’ inhabitants. 120,000 of them are waiting more than 8 months for treatment. The name Betsi Cadwaladr has acquired connotations of lethality that Ratko Mladic would envy. Mark Drakeford hasn’t done any better in restricting the spread of Covid-19 than Boris Johnson; Merthyr Tydfil recently became the UK’s undisputed champion of Covid with 741 cases per 100,000 of those unambitious enough not to live elsewhere.

If health is bad, the dog’s dinner Welsh Labour has made of education is worse. PISA tests have shown Wales’ education system to be far and away the worst in the UK, and –excepting some monobrowed Eastern Bloc extremities where they still use horses to pull freight– among the worst in Europe. Many Welsh state schools failed to teach even one online lesson to their pupils between April and July. Because no-one learnt anything in lockdown, the Welsh Government took decisive action to avoid embarrassingly bad exam results in 2021. By cancelling the exams.

Devolution wasn’t even in Tony Blair’s top three mistakes: kicking hereditary peers out of the legislature, letting Mo Mowlam wreck peace negotiations in Northern Ireland and banning fox hunting were far worse.

Matthew Paul

Boris Johnson’s stupid comments are, of course, a gift to his opponents. Welsh and Scottish nats will say he is insulting Scotland and Wales; Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon will say Johnson is jealous of their success. If the Westminster Government can be made to look hostile and alien, so much the better. Likewise, the hard-right tiddler parties –UKIP; BXP/Reform UK; the Abolish the Welsh Assembly [sic] Party– will be rubbing their hands together with delight when they see the Prime Minister doing their job for them.

Campaigning for the abolition of the Senedd is an easy gig, because being anti-Devo is being anti-politics, and no-one likes politics. Wales’ 60 members of the Senedd are just 60 snouts in the trough, and Abolish is getting good at running lurid ads on social media fomenting outrage at MS’s fat salaries (they’re paid about the same as a secondary school head teacher).

A significant part of the Welsh Conservatives’ support base, which turns out reliably to vote Tory at General Elections, hates the Senedd and sympathises with the abolitionists. The difficulty for Abolish is getting these Tories to give enough of a stuff about abolishing to actually go out and vote Abolish. Usually, Tory protest at the existence of the Senedd takes the form of sitting sullenly at home on election day and then spending the next five years moaning about Wales being a Labour dictatorship. Which, being fair, it basically is.

There may be a degree of hypocrisy in seeking membership of an institution you don’t believe should exist, but the purpose of Abolish isn’t really to win seats in the Senedd. Like the Brexit Party, it is a big electoral blackmail designed to push Conservative policy away from the centre ground and towards an anti-Devo stance. Like BXP, it is causing a good deal of trouble for the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, when Abolish mocks them for going native.

Devolution hasn’t worked for Wales, but that’s not devolution’s fault and it certainly isn’t the fault of the Conservative opposition in the Welsh Parliament. It’s the Labour Party’s fault, compounded by Labour’s little helpers in Plaid Cymru. For 20 years, Plaid have supported Labour at every opportunity in forming a government, in the cynical hope that Labour will make a big enough mess of it to get Plaid in next time round. Every time, all this cunning plan succeeds in doing is lumping Wales with another useless Labour Government.

Devolution in Wales has also failed because Wales is over-governed, and not because the Senedd itself is too large or powerful. With 22 local authorities and 730 town and community councils, there are too many tiers of government, and responsibility slips through the cracks. From health to highways, voters don’t know who’s responsible for what. When the Welsh NHS fails, the Welsh Government blames the Tories on one side and their own health boards on the other. Education and other public services are run by a cabal of self-interest groups, with almost three quarters of Welsh workers employed in public-sector jobs.

Devolution –as Ron Davies said when not looking for badgers– is a process not an event. It has not been a disaster, but neither do the current structures of government in Wales serve the country well.

Rather than being pushed around by Abolish in a direction that will only stoke secessionism, the Welsh Conservatives should lead the debate on how government in Wales, at every level, can be radically restructured to serve the people of Wales better. They should propose abolishing councils, not the Senedd; our Parliament needs more politicians, responsibility and power, not less.

Ignore the idiots and take the vaccine

Ignore the idiots and take the vaccine


Matthew Paul

For anyone whose political instincts tend towards the position that liberal democracy is the best way to order society; and that individual liberty isn’t the Government’s to give, and shouldn’t be take away without good reason, these are tricky times.

Liberty is irrelevant to the sort of people (let’s call them Coronazis) who think they should only be permitted to leave their houses when it is safe, and democracy’s downside is finding that a large enough number of people –whether out of ideological difference, self-interest or pure stupidity– disagree with you and are in a position to order you to do stupid things.

Perhaps that doesn’t matter, because the UK and devolved Governments have more or less ignored democracy in its established and constitutional form throughout the pandemic. Laws placing restrictions on our liberty which weren’t even deemed necessary when cities burned and armies of invasion massed across the Channel, have been imposed without scrutiny by Parliament.

See the source image
Source: Snopes

While Coronazis successfully egg the Government on to ever-further economic self-flagellation, we’re faced on the other side with Covidiot anti-vaxxers, who (believing Covid-19 to be a ‘plandemic’ and vaccines an evil scheme to depopulate the planet) are intent on doing everything they can to bugger up attempts to achieve herd immunity.

Matthew Paul

The Government sussed out early in the game that the sentiment among a majority of voters seems to be that they couldn’t give a stuff about liberty or democracy, so long as they’re safe. Suppressing the spread of a frequently asymptomatic infection with a mortality rate less than half of one percent has supplanted every other political priority. A trillion pounds of debt, a mental health crisis, the prohibition of public Christian worship and millions of unemployed don’t matter, so long as we don’t get a cough.

It would of course be heavenly to be Like New Zealand: a nation-scale version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, where nobody ever goes in and nobody ever comes out until the whole world is safe again; or until after several generations of living on pure empathy New Zealanders evolve into something so alarmingly different from the rest of humanity that we have to nuke them. Unfortunately, the virus was out and about in the UK long before the Communist Party of China decided to let on, and eradication is a fantasy. We have to learn to live with a little more risk in our lives, until the British population acquires sufficiently widespread immunity to Covid-19; in one of the two usual ways.

Happily, this week saw the first real ray of light in the Covid crisis. Driven by the twin incentives of vast quantities of cash and fierce global competition, pharmaceutical companies in America and elsewhere seem close to bringing effective vaccines to market. Pfizer reported (a little too late, probably on purpose, for Donald Trump to take the credit) that clinical trials projected its vaccine to be 90% effective.

If anything, the good news is making the Coronazis double-down on caution. After all, if it’s only a few months until we’re safe, why take any chances? A quite amazing 46% of respondents to a poll believed that lockdowns should continue, even after the widespread roll-out of a vaccine.

And while Coronazis successfully egg the Government on to ever-further economic self-flagellation, we’re faced on the other side with Covidiot anti-vaxxers, who (believing Covid-19 to be a ‘plandemic’ and vaccines an evil scheme to depopulate the planet) are intent on doing everything they can to bugger up attempts to achieve herd immunity and enable us all to get on with our lives and businesses. While the Coronazis present themselves as the voice of cautious common sense, the anti-lockdown debate has been hijacked by Covidiot loons. Social media enables anyone with a stupid idea to amplify it among people even stupider than them; as stupid, even, as members of the Corbyn family. Conspiracy theories that the coronavirus and its proposed prophylaxis are a deep state plot are so widespread as to appear mainstream.

And however deep the deep state that’s supposed to be putting this fiendish conspiracy together, it comes nowhere near the bottomless, oceanic, French-philosophy-student-smoking-a-Gitane profundity of the wilful pig-ignorance of the anti-vaccine headbangers. There’s no helping them. They’re too far gone. How they get radicalised and ‘red pilled’ into believing this madness is the subject matter of a far longer article, but start discussing the eradication of smallpox or a hundredfold decrease in infant mortality anywhere around hard-core anti-vaxxers and they give you the sort of thousand-yard stare you’d get off Rebecca Long-Bailey if you asked her to join you out fox hunting with Lord Rothschild.

Others –vaccine-sceptics rather than doolally deniers– don’t necessarily see themselves as living in a state of enlightenment compared to the rest of us sheeple; just that they’re a little bit smarter than everyone else: “I won’t take the vaccine until Boris and the other politicians have had it”, they say with a knowing wink. “I won’t be a guinea pig”.

The good news is that they won’t have to be guinea pigs, because –as medicines regulators throughout the free world have made perfectly clear– the approval process for new vaccines has not changed one bit because of Covid-19. Actual guinea pigs have almost certainly already had it, as well as human guinea pigs in all the usual cascade of regulatory approvals which the clever-clever vaccine sceptics (who, for one reason or another, seem to overlap in remarkable numbers with Eurosceptics) generally say are holding back British business and need to be done away with.

Lockdown lovers and anti-vaxxers are two sides of the same coin. Overcaution, irrationality and an inability to understand and deal with risk are ruining the country. As soon as it’s available, take the damn vaccine and let’s get on with life.

This article was originally published in The Pembrokeshire Herald.

If he won’t concede, drag Donald Trump from the White House by his wig

If he won’t concede, drag Donald Trump from the White House by his wig


Matthew Paul

It was a bit of a surprise in October when the ageing, hamburger-stuffed President of the United States of America failed to drop dead from the Covid. Possibly Mephistopheles granted Donald Trump one term in office in return for his poisoned soul, and the President was damned if it was all going to be taken from him before he was, well, damned.

Whether Hell or handcuffs await Trump the moment he steps outside the White House as a private citizen, he is putting up one hell of a fight to stave off the evil hour. A weird, menacing premature victory speech on Wednesday morning set the tone; followed by a premature victory party in the White House (though, to be fair, this was the only way Trump ever was going to have a 2020 victory party).

The Donald claimed to have won the election, which he hadn’t. He said the election was being stolen before GOP voters’ eyes, which it wasn’t. He demanded that states stop counting, which they weren’t going to do. He set fresh and unevidenced conspiracies running, to the effect that ‘ballot dumps’ of tens or hundreds of thousands of Biden votes were being pulled out of thin air to rig the vote. Proof of this troubling phenomenon being hard to come by, Trump left it to his supporter base –who like a good conspiracy– to concoct some. Dubious memes purporting to show a huge ballot dump of 138,000 Democrat votes in Michigan (in fact showing a typo by a press agency) have been doing the rounds.

In Britain, when a Prime Minister loses an election the removal men are bumping into him on the stairs of No. 10 Downing St as he goes down to face the press outside. America affords an ousted President eight more weeks (if he’s a single-termer defeated by an opponent) to skulk in the Oval Office, turning his idle hands to the Devil’s work. Trump has already started flinging writs around like confetti; filing suits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin to demand recounts.

Donald Trump’s prospects of success at law in challenging states’ vote-counting procedures are minimal, but irrelevant. He means instead to create a false (or, at best, wildly exaggerated) narrative of widespread election fraud; to disrupt democracy and remain in power by other means. It’s working. Democrats –even sensible ones– are talking about potentially violent resistance, and on Wednesday idiot armed Trump supporters stormed a counting office in Arizona, demanding an end to the count.

It shouldn’t have been this way, and the Democrats must accept some of the blame; they couldn’t have done Trump more favours. Once again, the party overlooked the statistically significant link between the competence of a candidate and the likelihood of his or her being elected.

True, Joe Biden had been a competent, amiable Vice-President to Obama, and you don’t hang around Capitol Hill for half a century without learning a trick or two. Unfortunately, as the campaign wore on it became clear he’d forgotten every last one of those tricks, plus the identity of the sitting President (at a rally, he mistook Donald Trump for some continuing emanation of the Bush dynasty). When you are brought into an American accident and emergency unit with head injuries, the first thing they ask (after your health insurance number) is “who is the President?”

Trump’s cruel ‘Sleepy Joe’ tagline hit home and did real damage, but it wasn’t only Biden’s dozy decrepitude that made a tightrope walk out of what should have been a cakewalk. Just as the British electorate was appalled by Jeremy Corbyn’s contempt for Britain, visible contempt for America from what styles itself the progressive left of the party alienated many working class Americans, including black and Hispanic voters. The sight of #BlackLivesMatter activists burning black businesses and tearing down statues of abolitionists prompted many black people –who felt their own lives and livelihoods did in fact matter– to choose deplorability over anarchy. Black men swung towards the Republicans in surprising numbers, and Biden’s failure to sway the Latino vote in Florida cost him that sizeable state.

Ironically, it was Trump’s 2016 core supporters –white, working class voters in the disaffected mid-West rust belt– who dealt his Presidency the coup de grâce, when Michigan and Wisconsin went blue. It may be that the original deplorables thought they had been suckered once and wouldn’t be suckers again, or perhaps they felt betrayed and let down when the effects of Covid-19 hit disproportionately hard in their communities. Either way, the people who swept Trump to power four years ago were instrumental in unseating him.

In Joe Biden, America hasn’t elected its best-ever President, but neither has it yet gotten shot of its worst. The immediate and troublesome imperative for American democracy is figuring out how to shift Trump and his Addams Family entourage out of the White House on 20th January, preferably without violence, or lasting resentment among GOP supporters.

If we’re lucky, The Donald may have a Plan B other than staying put: a lease on Idi Amin’s old villa in Riyadh, perhaps; or standing down in favour of Mike Pence so Pence can issue him the kind of all-in, unconditional blanket pardon that Gerald Ford gave to Nixon. Or the Devil might do us all a favour, and emerge in a sulphurous cloud on Inauguration Day to drag Donald Trump bodily and forever to the infernal abyss.

The Death of Self-Responsibility

The Death of Self-Responsibility


Calum Davies

@calumtjd

I am an avid watcher of Gogglebox and have often found it to be a decent barometer of the views of non-politicos like myself. Indeed, an article in The Spectator recently showed Keir Starmer failing the “Gogglebox test” when his ambiguous policies on tackling coronavirus caused consternation among the viewers. And with the pandemic and summer scheduling leading to shrinking content and increased focus on the political realm there have been plenty for the Goggleboxers to react to.

Sadly, what I’ve witnessed over the last few months further confirmed a worrying trend in our country: people have become too willing to surrender responsibility for themselves in favour of complaining about the powers-that-be.

The most obvious example on the show is every time there is an announcement of new rules or guidance to tackle Covid-19, there is derision about how unclear they are. This was even the case when the rules were at their simplest at the beginning of all this. It has been well-reported that the UK Government has had a communications problem over the last few months – demonstrated by that very complained-about lack of clarity – but are they actually too difficult to understand?

Yes, there are contradictions within guidance that can make things sound a bit nonsensical, but it seemed a lot of the complaining was down to rules not being so specific as to govern each and every action one took from whether to put one’s left or right foot forward first when walking. It was odd to see people complain that they weren’t being governed by diktat enough. The rules were and are not perfect but a great deal of people were being obtuse in their complaints, failing to exercise any common-sense whatsoever. Why think for yourself when berating politicians is so much fun?

I do not know what started all this: it could be social media pushing people towards having an opinion on everything or the “austerity” narrative of the previous decade making us all think the state is not doing enough and should be spending more of our money and increasingly intervening more in our lives. Whatever it was, the result was so much political discourse over the last few years focussing on asking government to do more so we can do less.

Another example has been the discourse surrounding post-Brexit trading agreements: public figures, inside and outside the political realm, have called on the UK Government to ban the import of certain foodstuffs. Why are people not trusted to make the choice for themselves what they want to buy in the supermarket? They can make the choice to support British farmers and thus the rural economy by buying high quality lamb or they can buy hormone-treated American beef. I know I would prefer to buy the former but why should I be prevented from buying the second? Why are consumers being denied the responsibility of making that choice, let along the freedom?

More recently there has been the debate on maintaining free school meals (FSMs) over school holidays. Devolved governments have guaranteed this but the UK Government is resisting doing so in England after buckling to the pressure of the campaign led by one of my favourite footballers, Marcus Rashford MBE, back in the summer. I have no doubt that his campaign is sincere and motivated by the want to do good for those who had a similar upbringing to his. Additionally, with this only applying to England and Wales (where I live) being a net receiver of Treasury income, it will have little effect on me other than the cost being a small drop in the ocean that is the UK’s ballooning debt.

(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Although the fact foodbanks need to exist is obviously a tragedy, they show that individuals have felt a responsibility to help their fellow man in need rather than shirk their shoulders and say “not my problem, let the government deal with it”. Our sense of self-responsibility does not simply mean one must simply look out for oneself, but others too.

Calum Davies

Yes, it is wrong for children to go hungry in our country, yet some in the Conservative Party seem to be the only ones that recognise the slipping of self-responsibility here. This country, as the Prime Minister recently stated, can rightfully boast it has made free school meals in some form or another available for over 100 years. Now, those struggling families will rightfully be able to access a more generous Universal Credit system to help with their shopping bill. One could argue that free school meals are, thus, being provided but in a different form through increased welfare payments rather than possibly patronising food vouchers. However, it is the responsibility of parents to feed their children – the state should be the provider of last resort.

My concern stems from that it always harder to take something away than to give it – “Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher” still endures nearly half a century on. Opponents of the Government have already been accusing ministers of taking away FSMs when, in reality, they are not being extended. If the UK Government were to buckle, I am worried that the measure will stay in perpetuity.

If so, then governments that have introduced the measure have then told a certain group of parents in this country they are never responsible for feeding their own kids because the government is doing it for them, in and out of school. Perversely, this could entrench an attitude of decreasing responsibility amongst some of those parents (by no means a majority) for their children, something to which Ben Bradley MP alluded.

There is also a contradiction here that those pushing the most for free school meals are the ones that complain the most about foodbanks. The difference is food supplied by the state, the other local communities. Although the fact foodbanks need to exist is obviously a tragedy, they show that individuals have felt a responsibility to help their fellow man in need rather than shirk their shoulders and say “not my problem, let the government deal with it”. Our sense of self-responsibility does not simply mean one must simply look out for oneself, but others too.

Indeed, the stories of businesses stepping up to the plate and offering to distribute food to the less well-off is not only heart-warming, but very much demonstrates that it is unnecessary for the UK Government to do what campaigners are demanding. This is the “Big Society” in action and it should be applauded. Rashford himself has praised these generous offers. Although I accept the point that his campaign and the Government’s decision to take the political hit is what inspired these actions, they undermine the argument that further state intervention is needed.

It is a shame that this sensitive issue is where the debate about self-responsibility has emerged. Nevertheless, re-instating that outlook is essential to ensuring our society functions and political discourse can cool down after being so fiery of late. The less responsible we become for improving the country as individuals, the stronger the state’s control over us becomes.

If we do nothing to stem the relinquishment of common sense and self-responsibility, we will see the nationalisation of ethics by default. And I am unsure what worries me most if that happens: that we don’t notice or that we don’t care.

Mark Drakeford and his crazy laws are Wales’ most non-essential items

Mark Drakeford and his crazy laws are Wales’ most non-essential items


Matthew Paul

Andrew RT Davies, the plain-spoken, breakfast-means-breakfast former Welsh Conservative leader, wasn’t always at perfect ease in the director’s chair. RT’s barnstorming, “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll BLOW your house down, I will” style hit the spot at party conferences and in big, well lubricated after-dinner speeches. It was rotten on the telly and Davies never cut through with the public in the way he enthused his fans in the party.

It might just be that RT now, as Shadow Health Minister, isn’t facing an urbane, slippery and sly opponent like Carwyn Jones, but the hopelessly lightweight Vaughan Gething: a man so useless they need two people to do his job. It might be that Davies is better as a team player than a leader. Either way, over the last few weeks he has built up some momentum in opposing Welsh Labour’s repressive, arbitrary and unnecessary public health laws.

When Mark Drakeford brought in –without the slightest scrutiny from the Senedd– measures restricting the sale of ‘non-essential’ items so amazingly bone-headed that even a jaded Welsh public was confounded with astonishment, RT got stuck in:

“To the folks @asda, @Tesco, @sainsburys, @AldiUK, @LidlGB & co ahead of your meeting this afternoon with the Welsh Labour Government. In the absence of any common sense emerging at the top of government, please do take a stand for your customers. Wales is behind you.”

Mark Drakeford’s rattled response to RT’s tweet was a letter –written in his official capacity as First Minister– to the Shadow Health Minister, accusing Davies of encouraging supermarkets to break the law, and purporting to order the Welsh Conservatives to do what they are told in the future.

On any fair reading of his tweet, RT wasn’t suggesting anyone break the law. He wanted supermarket bosses to talk sense to Ministers, in the absence of any sense emerging from the Welsh Government.

But in any event, the tweet wasn’t capable of encouraging Asda etc to break the law, for the very simple reason that the ban on ‘non-essential’ items isn’t the law. Non-essential items aren’t mentioned anywhere in The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 3) (Wales) Regulations 2020, which bring the firebreak into force. Or in any of the dozens of other ill-thought out and unscrutinised statutory instruments that have spewed forth from the WG during the pandemic.

The ‘rules’ about non-essential items are found instead in guidance. Guidance, as its name suggests, isn’t law. It is correct to observe that Regulation 20 of the (No. 3) Regulations says shops “required to take reasonable measures under regulation 17(2) must have regard to guidance issued by the Welsh Ministers about those measures.”

Regulation 17 (2) imposes a responsibility on shops “of minimising the risk of exposure to coronavirus at regulated premises, or the spread of coronavirus by those who have been at regulated premises”. Among the measures listed in the Regulation (which deals mostly with social distancing) are “otherwise controlling the use of, or access to, any other part of the premises”.

The areas of a shop used to display a product have nothing at all to do with the type of product being sold, but the WG are trying to stretch the meaning of this provision beyond any logical tolerances, to impose restrictions on the things shops that are specifically permitted to remain open by the Regulations are allowed to sell.

Using guidance under Reg. 17 (2) for this purpose is probably unlawful, and almost certainly unnecessary. If the Welsh Government has any evidence to the effect that during the spring lockdown, measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 were undermined by people going on unnecessary outings to Tesco and gratuitously dawdling in the homewares section, they haven’t chosen to show it to the public. 

Regulation 20 in any event only says shops must ‘have regard’ to the guidance. They can perfectly properly consider the guidance, and tell customers (as did the Parc Tawe branch of B&M Bargains) to use their own judgement as to what is essential. What’s more, even if a shop were shown not to have had due regard to the guidance –perhaps because they thought the guidance was stupid and mad– it and its managers commit no offence under the firebreak regulations: Regulations 29 and 30 (which deal with enforcement) do not create any offence of failing to comply with Regulation 20. It isn’t clear what power –if any– the Welsh Ministers think they have to enforce these arbitrary restrictions.

Drakeford’s other stated justification for his crazy rule: creating a ‘level playing field’ with local shops which are obliged to close, is both probably unlawful –you don’t use health protection regulations to protect businesses from competition– and plain irrational. No First Minister with his head even half screwed on (and, looking at the gap between Drakeford’s jacket collar and his neck, you do sometimes wonder) would think that sending shoppers off to Amazon for their ‘non-essential’ stuff does anything to protect the businesses that have shut their doors.

The results, predictably enough, were just as irrational. In efforts to make Wales look like the most Philistine nation in the western hemisphere, books were banned from sale (this must be wrong: newsagents –which commonly sell books– are permitted to remain open, as are various libraries). Tesco banned women from buying sanitary products. Aisles were cordoned off and murder tape stretched across displays of greeting cards. A Labour MP on Any Questions strained every cog and gear of her intellect, before tentatively concluding that a kettle probably wasn’t essential because you can boil water in a saucepan.

Imposing arbitrary and irrational rules on people makes them angry, so it was no surprise to see a complete chump in Bangor called Gwilym Owen rampaging around his local Tesco, tearing off the Covid-covers and howling at the unfairness of it all: “Rip the f***ers off!” Mr Owen bellowed. “Kids’ f***ing clothes, it is a disgrace.” He has ended up in front of the Magistrates, and something of a local hero. Not all heroes wear capes, so another wag paraded around a Newport supermarket in just his underpants, on the basis that the shop deemed clothes unnecessary.

RT was absolutely right to call the Welsh Government out on this thoroughly bad law, and Drakeford should be ashamed of himself for trying to browbeat the Tories into supporting it (and for –presumably deliberately and if so in breach of the Ministerial Code– misrepresenting Davies’ position as encouraging supermarkets to break the law). Gwilym Owen’s ire was only directed at inanimate manifestations of the lousy rules, but it was just a matter of time before some fool like him ended up cleaning a supermarket worker’s clock, in a furious barney over a kettle or frying pan.

The Labour Civil War

The Labour Civil War

Tomos Llewelyn

The news is out: Jeremy Corbyn MP has been suspended by the Labour Party. Big in the Labour world with implications for politics at large, especially the civil war that has been brewing ever since Sir Keir Starmer took to the helm of the near sunken ship.

The reasoning behind this explosive decision has everything to do with the inquiry into the matter of allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour party by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) coming to its conclusion and the publication of a report detailing the parties’ failings and unlawful acts with regard to the Equality Act of 2010.

The findings themselves were quite astonishing: Worse than mishandling the complaints of anti-Semitism from the party’s activists, worse than gross negligence or sweeping the problem under carpet; the report found that the party broke the law with regard to ‘acts of harassment and discrimination’ during Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure as leader. To add salt to the wounds of those caught up in all of this, the commission went on to state that Corbyn’s office itself ‘politically interfered’ with the complaints process. This was of course done in order to quell the issue for it to not develop into an electoral headache, don’t forget he had to fight two general elections.

Corbyn’s response, a statement on Facebook, included the line: ‘the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party’. Corbyn, in typical fashion I might add, dodged the issue and shifted the blame to his opponents including in particular this time, factions within his own ‘former’ party as well as the usual suspects of the media and the Conservative Party. This was deemed unacceptable by the new Labour leadership with Starmer stating in a speech today that: ‘those that deny this is a problem are part of the problem’ and ‘those that pretend it’s exaggerated or factional, are part of the problem’. This is of course a direct reference to Corbyn’s statement. Corbyn (still the MP for Islington North) was then suspended from the party ‘pending an investigation’.

At the very heart of the British left, the Trotskyite-Twitter sphere itself, a great disturbance has been felt echoing throughout. A great wave of resentment, already present but now intensified tenfold as their martyr fell. Just as Starmer demoted the natural successor to Corbynism: Rebecca Long-Bailey into non-existence, he has ejected the Grandad of Socialism himself.

Is Sir Keir out of his depth? Will the Labour party now eat itself? Only time will tell.

Our Parliament Is Out Of Order

Our Parliament Is Out Of Order

Crispin John

As often happens during Recess, the media try to keep people’s interest alive in politics by publishing a piece or two that’s more “general interest” rather than “current affairs”. In spite of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the associated political hubris, BBC Wales have republished an updated piece on unparliamentary language. We’ve seen the same sort of thing in several versions before, and to those of us who are interested in Parliamentary proceedings, it’s actually quite interesting.

After all, did we not laugh, or shake our heads in bemusement as Dafydd Elis-Thomas kicked Leanne Wood out of the Chamber for referring to Her Majesty the Queen as “Mrs Windsor”? Did we not also have a bit of a chuckle when Elin Jones, the current Presiding Officer, sent Lord Elis-Thomas a strongly worded letter for calling the Conservative benches “right wing shits”?

But therein lies a difference – and it’s causing a problem. You see, Lord Elis-Thomas used the Standing Orders of what was then the National Assembly to kick Wood out of Siambr Hywel for unparliamentary language. Jones however simply sent him a letter when he was guilty of the same offence.

YouTube is full of clips from the UK Parliament showing various speakers, from Baroness Boothroyd, to John Bercow, and Lindsay Hoyle, making denouncements from the Chair and admonishing members or kicking them out. No such material presents itself for the Welsh Parliament, for this prepubescent institution is yet to find its constitutional cajonas.

Let us take, for example, the recent case of Neil McEvoy, who turned up in the Senedd Siambr with a strip of gaffer tape over his mouth and a placard complaining that he had been “gagged by a racist”, because one of his amendments had not been selected for debate. This was, according to Standing Orders, conduct that questioned the Chair’s authority. McEvoy is now only being called for questions he’s tabled or amendments that have been selected, until he apologises.

The same did not apply to Gareth Bennett, MS for the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party and previously for UKIP. After his speech on transgender rights, he was told simply that he wouldn’t be allowed to speak until he apologised. There wasn’t any suggestion, apparently, of him being allowed to table questions in the interim. It’s a double standard, and demonstrates to me that the rules are being made up as we go along. If Members are going to take real liberties with Standing Orders, then by all means kick them out. Have the guts to do it – and certainly don’t shilly-shally with this “until you apologise” malarkey. But at the same time, we need to ask why we’ve got to where we are.

Writing on this website a week or so ago about Mark Reckless’ move to Abolish, my learned friend Daran Hill made a good point. He questioned whether or not people within the Cardiff Bay Establishment realised that people are driven to “fringe” or “anti-Establishment” outfits by the very nature of the Senedd’s attitude to what they would term as “newcomers”. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Members apparently “guilty” of “unparliamentary” language recently are exactly those people for whom the Cardiff Bay elite hope not to be renewing security passes next May.

The fact of the matter is that it isn’t just the language of our Parliament that’s problematic. In fact, the discourse is the last of its issues. As soon as the UKIP Group, and then the Brexit Party Group, started to lose Members, privileges were taken away. Leaders questions were reduced, and they always came last, rather than rotating with the main opposition spokesmen. Committee places were dropped. Members, and staff, were out of the loop on consultation about Senedd business. But this was all evident before people jumping ship. I know – for I was there. Even when UKIP had its full complement the Group was left on the sidelines.

So it’s not just the language that’s become intemperate. The Parliament itself needs to grow up and stop acting like a spoilt toddler.

The Government has rightly come under fire in recent months for its unwelcome habit of dodging Senedd scrutiny. As much as politicos and opposition politicians complain about this, and rightly so in my view; there is only one actual body that can do something about it – and that is the Senedd and its Presiding Officer.

If the Senedd is to aspire to its marketing strapline of “representing all voices in Wales”, then it can make a start by listening to those Members whose message they may find difficult. Only then can we truly take the heat out of the debate and find common ground to deal with the immediate problems that face us. Running up to an election, this is a tall order – but if the Senedd wishes to challenge those who would seek to curtail its powers or, indeed, have a Referendum on its very future, then the time to start talking is now.

Trump’s YUGE Debate Win

Trump’s YUGE Debate Win

Tomos Llewelyn

My analysis of the final debate can be compressed into one conclusive statement: Donald Trump won. Many pundits and Biden backing outlets are calling it a draw, meaning only one thing; the President must have truly performed.

Let’s rewind briefly and remember the first debate. The stand out moments were the interruptions and insults, their multiplicity as well as the sartorial gaucherie of the format. Much of the criticism was levelled at the moderator: Chris Wallace and the Commission on Presidential debates’ rules. For the final debate with Kirstin Welker presiding as moderator, the indecorum had practically vanished. She has been praised for her handling of the discussion and the Commission praised for employing mute buttons for use during the opening statements for each question. In all honesty however, the candidates themselves were likely embarrassed by the feedback from the first debate and were attempting, at least for the most part, to avoid a repeat. The second debate was of course cancelled due to Trump’s refusal to participate virtually due to his covid-19 diagnosis.

This brings us to the final debate where as I previously indicated, Trump dominated. Take some of the topics that should have been weak points for the President, such as the coronavirus pandemic. While Biden once again tried to paint Trump as a liar who downplayed the virus, Trump hit back much harder this time by drawing attention to Biden’s apparent indictment of the President’s travel restrictions from China: his cries of xenophobia and fear-mongering the day after the ban. It’s worth noting that Biden denied this, however the damage was seemingly done as the former Vice-President’s confidence was clearly diminished after this exchange.

Even on the issue of race relations, a perceived weak point in the President’s record, Trump was able to list his accomplishments with regard to ‘historically black Colleges and Universities’, ‘opportunity zones’, prison and criminal reforms while slamming Biden for the 1994 crime bill which lead to the incarceration of ‘tens of thousands of young African Americans’. Biden responded by calling the move a mistake and jokingly calling the President Abraham Lincoln, a wisecrack that Trump abruptly shut down thereafter. This lead the President to strike while the iron was hot and paint Biden as the Washington insider, being a politician for 47 years with little accomplishment in the areas he is currently purporting to champion, ‘he’s all talk, no action’.

Climate change came up again and Biden once more would have likely won the hearts and minds of a majority of Americans on this issue. However, the American public rate the issue as being less important than many others this cycle and in actual fact, the President was able to focus the discussion on Biden and Harris’ previous opposition to fracking. Fracking is a contentious issue in the state of Pennsylvania, a constituency Trump is pinning his hopes on winning in order to obtain a majority in the Electoral College. Pennsylvanians have disproportionate numbers of workers in the fossil fuel sector. Biden, on an issue that should have been a strong point, was on the defensive again.

Accusations of corruption cropped up throughout the debate where Biden appeared to leave the discussion heavily scathed as Trump was able to reel off specific instances of potentially corrupt acts involving his son and brothers whereas Biden’s specifics consisted only of listing countries where Trump had bank accounts in the past.

On the issue of restoring the character of the nation, a central theme of the Democrat’s campaign, Biden was on message. Unfortunately for him, many even on his own side see this issue as empty and not enough to win over the country that voted Trump into office in the first place. All in all the race is well and truly NOT over. Watch this space…

Wales’ Dystopian Nightmare

Wales’ Dystopian Nightmare

Charlie Evans

It is 10:00am on Saturday morning as I write this. I have just sauntered through Aberystwyth’s town centre, really to take in the air as I despair at what has become of Wales. However, this walk did not bring much relief. Boarded up shops. No-one to be seen. The Council’s “Stay Home Save Lives” banners recycled and plastered everywhere. This being a county where there has been next to no coronavirus in this “second wave” outside its student and hospital communities. In fact, Ceredigion  never had a first wave.

I peruse the various supermarkets to try and find some semblance of normality yet find book aisles blocked off with hazard tape, and everyday hardware aisles closed off. Every store is doing something different- for it has not had any guidelines from Welsh Government. Some have no deodorant. Some without flowers and birthday cards. All without any phone chargers. Halloween has all but ended.

Of course the control of what you read and what festivals you celebrate were often the activities of fascist, communist and theocratic regimes. But now it’s the policy of Wales’ Labour Government.

Tonight in bordering counties such as Herefordshire and Shropshire, households and extended households and people blissfully ignoring the “rules” will wine and dine in their pubs, bars and restaurants. 10pm close-time now seems like a luxury. Even in Tier 3 Merseyside you can go out for a family meal. That of course is the danger of all of this- you come to accept that 10pm curfews are normal because we ourselves are going through something much more cruel.

See the source image
Source: Soft Net

The control of what you read and what festivals you celebrate were often the activities of fascist, communist and theocratic regimes. But now it’s the policy of Wales’ Labour Government.

Charlie Evans

Those of us stuck indoors will watch programs like Strictly Come Dancing, filmed with small audiences over the border, and of course the Wales game to bring some relief from our collective house imprisonment. Next I am sure the Welsh Government will only show us the highlights of rugby matches and fix them to ensure Wales wins, and Welsh Labour will celebrate it as a vindication of their regime.

None of this normal.

Of course, I could lament the sheer banality of this Government- of an out-of-touch elite imposing its restrictions on an unsupportive public. The sadness of it all is that Mark Drakeford and his socialist autocrats have largely been supported. It has been this public consent that has validated this draconianism.

But Welsh Labour may now have gone beyond the realms of acceptability with its policing of what supermarkets can and can’t sell. Supermarkets are not entitled to most of the government support because it isn’t mandated to close so the thought of people being unable to buy a book, a bin or a pair of pants has truly wound everyone up. A petition calling for the ban on non-essential goods has already climbed above the 10,000 mark meaning it must now be considered for a debate in the Senedd.

To those outside of Wales thinking we’ve all lost the plot- some of us indeed have. But not all of us. Increasingly, more of us are waking up from our deep and collective slumber.

In Pictures: Wales’ Lockdown Supermarkets

In Pictures: Wales’ Lockdown Supermarkets

As Wales’s ban on “non-essential” products kicks in, we have compiled some of the odd photos taken of supermarkets complying with Welsh Government law. These images have been shared multiple times on social media and thus have no attributable source.

Source: Grant Tucker

Many complain that Wales is never given adequate coverage. Well the comedic Welsh Government has ensured Wales has now had that media interest, but for all the wrong reasons.