Welsh Devolution – Manipulating minds and why the mainstream news is not the truth:

Welsh Devolution – Manipulating minds and why the mainstream news is not the truth:

Jacques Protic

Let us start with a strong assertion, no mincing of words:

“The Welsh media, like the Welsh Labour Government, are corrupt and dishonest institutions.”


For years they have failed to do what they claim to be doing or what they should be doing, and least of all what society expects them to do.


Journalists and most politicians in Wales have cunningly adopted a symbiotic web of lies that misleads the public and promotes their agenda.

We now have 20 years plus of devolved governance that was initially sold to the Welsh public as the means to achieve greater democracy.


We need to ask if the devolution delivered more democracy or has just become another tier of excessive and costly bureaucracy?
In the case of Wales, a tricky question, but one that is exceptionally easy to answer, primarily if one focuses on a secondary question and
asks ‘who is the principal devolution beneficiary’?


The only and abundantly clear answer with masses of evidence to support it stands out – The Welsh-speaking minority is the sole
beneficiary of Welsh devolution.


Welsh speakers have managed by hook or by crook to infiltrate and control the main political parties, public services, and the media.


The sheeple (unsuspecting electorate) never had a chance to have their say. Most are blissfully unaware to this very day that any vote they
cast for the Welsh Conservatives or the Welsh Labour will without fail, deliver Plaid Cymru’s policies and agenda.

The devolution provided the dream ticket to some 100K Welsh- speaking nationalists who now control our destiny, including our way of life.
How did we end up with this bizarre situation?

It all started back in 1988 when the Education Reform Act came into being; requiring Welsh to be taught in the English Medium schools throughout Wales (Conservative Government, giving in to nationalist pressure with no consideration for the consequences).


Further ‘tweaking’ came in via devolution when the Welsh Labour Government, together with Plaid Cymru, pushed Welsh into every
Welsh public life segment with no scrutiny or challenge.

The English-speaking majority became marginalised via the 2011 Welsh Language Act that became the Welsh Language (Wales)
Measure 2011.

Overnight, Welsh became ‘more equal’ via carefully selected weasel wording:
“The treatment of the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language.”

This alone was enough to confine the majority to the second class citizenship within the letter of the law. Together with the other legislative provisions in place, they ensured no reciprocal right for the English speakers in Wales.

No Equivalent Act or Measure defines rights for the English language users, no English Language Commissioner, No rights for the parents to choose English Medium Education for their children. No right to employment opportunities in the Welsh public sector.

In short, we have ended up with Orwellian dystopia where the future for Wales is grim with no easy way out.

The only glimmer of hope rests with the few activists seeking to reverse devolution and in the process restore democracy that has been so cruelly stolen from people of Wales.

As a PostScript, Professor Barry made a highly astute observation back in
2001 that so far has fallen on deaf ears of those who govern us:

A Blueprint for Conservative Success in Monmouthshire and Beyond

A Blueprint for Conservative Success in Monmouthshire and Beyond


Tomos Llewelyn

@Tomos_Llewelyn

The news is in and my local association in Monmouthshire have voted to deselect our candidate: Nick Ramsay, a candidate I might add whom has been AM, now MS for Monmouth constituency for over 13 years and is leader Paul Davies’ shadow finance Minister in the Senedd chamber. The reasons behind this decision are multitudinous, but this begs the question of what kind of candidate would we in Monmouth like to replace him and more broadly, in what direction do we wish the party to go in the interest of putting in a good showing for the elections in May?


People of my ideological strain who value personal responsibility, freedom and where necessary only minimal levels of government intervention are natural devosceptics. Members up and down the country are voicing concern over strategy, particular with regards to the party’s attitudes toward devolution and to a usually lesser extent, the First Minister’s covid-19 approach. As has been well espoused by writers for this publication. A key moment in Nick Ramsay’s questioning by members before his deselection was where he essentially conceded his role as part of the opposition by agreeing that his support for Labour during the pandemic thus far was right and should in fact continue. I would argue that a true opposition would at the very least not capitulate in the way that Ramsay suggests.


Recent polling indicates that a majority of Conservative voters would vote to abolish the Senedd. However, most voters favour the current system of governance in some shape or form; be that the result of cognizance or ignorance as many people cannot identify the devolved powers that the Welsh Government have when asked. I will let you be the judge. There has undoubtedly been a splintering effect, where natural Conservative voters in particular are planning to vote for the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party that will likely hamper the Conservative efforts to gain ground in the election, particularly through getting candidates elected on the regional lists. Does the party acknowledge this and change direction, or does it continue along the path that is unlikely to see them gain much if any ground?


Therefore, in my view, a logical proposition would be to offer a referendum on the devolution question. The referendum should occur at the end of the next Senedd term as a kind of judgement of the ‘devolution revolution’ and the Conservative party’s efforts in steering the ship, this is of course if they win or at least become the largest party and successfully install Paul Davies as first minister.


Promising a referendum on the issue of devolution might be in the best interest of the party, especially if they require a majority to implement it, which of course the Welsh Conservatives are unlikely to achieve. I don’t mean this in some underhanded way, the promise must be sincere, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t present itself as a winning strategy: Keep the majority on side, reduce the splintering effect and all the while at least justifying the position to those who are passively pro-devolution, but are not at all impressed by perpetual Labour Governance. I believe the candidate who adopts this approach would easily win Monmouth as well as the hearts and minds of members up and down the country…

Reality

Reality


The Prydain Review Team


The debate on the constitutional future of Wales is moving into the mainstream. Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price has pledged an independence referendum in the first term of a Plaid Cymru government, while the devolution question lingers over Welsh Conservative candidate selections.

On social media, Welsh Nationalists assert that devolution is a requisite for the existence of Wales. Posts on social media suggest that the abolition of devolution undermines Welsh democracy, language, culture and even the national sports teams.

When Wales first, at Tony Blair’s command,
Arose from out the azure main

As if the nascent nation came into existence with the devolution referendum and Government of Wales Act just over twenty years ago.
Are we to ignore all those sports fixtures or eisteddfod before the creation of the Welsh Assembly now Senedd.

Democracy, culture and language in Wales did not come into existence with the passage of legislation. The nation of Wales existed before devolution, rather than being a by-product of the Blairite reforms.

David Melding MS has written that national devolution is a requisite for the continuation of the United Kingdom. Such an assessment ignores that this form of devolution has created a viable framework for the separatist forces to agitate for the break-up of the United Kingdom. The time has come for figures in the Conservative party to reject national devolution as a fait accompli.

The Union has evolved to become a nation in its own right, Britain. History has demonstrated that the constituent nation-states continue to exist within such an entity. To reject national devolution is not to condemn the United Kingdom but to save it.

The time has come for Unionists to dismiss national devolution or the other suggested tonic for the future of our nation – federalism. The forces agitating for the break up of the United Kingdom seek to exploit such concessions to achieve their political ambitions. Unionists must accept this reality and focus on strengthening the British nation by pushing for a reversion to a unitary state whilst localising certain competencies. 

Omertà

Omertà


The Prydain Review Team


Omertà: The code of silence that potential members are required to swear to join the mafia. Adherence to omertà means that members of the mafia must never inform authorities about the activities of the organisation under pain of death.

In some ways, political parties operate on a version of omertà, albeit without the prospect of death for breaking ranks. How often do party members and activists ignore behaviour that, if perpetrated by a member of another party would lead to condemnation?

Silence has been maintained by consequences, to speak out is to risk personal ambitions or exclusion.

Public service should be a primary consideration for those politically active, yet the wall of silence prevalent in political parties has allowed deeply flawed individuals to remain in public life. Silence from activists has also protected those seeking to enter public life, ignoring indiscretions despite them demonstrating that the individual is unfit to be in public life.

The time has come for activists to break omertà. With the selection of candidates for the Senedd, If activists are serious about public service, then they owe it to the public to speak out and prevent unfit individuals from being foisted upon the unwitting public.

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.