Lifting The Veil On Politics: Wales

Lifting The Veil On Politics- Wales.png

This is the first of a series of posts trying to de-mystify politics for everyday people.

Wales is one of the countries that makes up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, it is bordered to the east by England, the south by the Bristol Chanel and north and west by the Irish Sea. It has a population of just over three million people, English is the main language, although Welsh is commonly used (if not spoken), the currency is pound sterling and the capital city is Cardiff.

When it comes to the governance of Wales there are 5 levels of government (four after brexit finally transpires and Britain leaves the European Union) and they are:

  1. Community: The over 800 Town, Parish and Community Councils throughout Wales.
  2. Local:  Unitary authorities comprising of County, City and Borough Councils (Of which there are 22) [another blog about this will be forthcoming].
  3. Regional: The National Assembly for Wales is the directly elected parliament for Wales with 60 directly elected assembly members with responsibility for, healthcare, education, transport, business, tourism and agriculture and various devolved monetary policies.
  4. National: The UK government in Westminster which influences Wales by controlling aspects of foreign policy, defence policy and some aspects of tax policy. [another blog about this will be forthcoming]
  5. European: Governs 28 nations including the UK, with directly elected members of the European Parliament, European Commissioners and Councillors appointed by each of the member states.  Handles regulatory matters and Human Rights. [find more here]

Wales finally got its own government as a result of a referendum held in 1997. 60 Assembly members were elected to the first term of the National Assembly For Wales in 1999, 40 members elected from first past the post style constituency elections and 20 members elected from five proportionally represented regions.

As of 2011 the Welsh Government is responsible for making policy and laws for the following areas:

  • Agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development
  • Ancient monuments and historical buildings
  • Culture
  • Economic development
  • Education and training
  • Environment
  • Fire and rescue services and promotion of fire safety
  • Food
  • Health and health services
  • Highways and transport
  • Housing
  • Local government
  • National Assembly for Wales
  • Public administration
  • Social welfare
  • Sport and recreation
  • Tourism
  • Town and country planning
  • Water and flood defences
  • Welsh language

The way laws are made in the Welsh Assembly is as follows:

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Source: National Assemble For Wales

Hopefully that helps to shed a little light on how the governance of Wales works (or works in theory).

 

Dr Brexit (Or How I Learnt To Stop Worrying & Love The Abomination)

So that happened. The people of the United Kingdom (but not Northern Ireland) voted to leave the EU. After months of muck slinging and misinformation Britain narrowly voted to leave the European Union. This left Prime Minister David Cameron to be the first politician to keep a promise as he resigned his premiership , thus triggering a short leadership contest best described as mother doesn’t know best.

As well as this the Labour Party seems to be determined to simultaneously implode and rip itself apart, with the majority of  party MP’s wanting to remove “leader” Jeremy Corbyn from power and Mr Corbyn refusing to leave office triggering a party wide leadership election based on the Vladimir Putin electoral system.

Add into this 6000 extra reported hate crimes that have been logged since the Brexit vote was cast, the fluctuation of the markets that look like a cutaway diagram of Wales, and several declarations of  war on the baby boom generation,  this whole thing is beginning to sound like some sort of satirical farce, one can almost hear Malcolm Tucker exclaiming CHRIST ON A BENDY BUS whilst R.E.M plays in the background.

This is why after a month of anger, bitterness and depression I’ve decided to see the funny side of Brexit. So here are some of the funniest/ stupidest things I’ve seen regarding Brexit after polling day:

  • Google reports the most popular (non porn) search the day of the Brexit results was “What is the EU?
  • After being urged to vote leave by J.D Wetherspoon’s founder Tim Martin the firm lost £18,Million in value thanks to the post brexit slump.
  • An odious man of my acquaintance (whom I will not name for legal reasons) who campaigned strongly for brexit has now found himself fired from a leading academic establishment (which I will not name for said same legal reasons) because his position was paid for by a European Grant.
  • Proposals are now being drawn up by various special interest groups to cease the subsidising of public transport for the over 60’s in Wales in order to make up the shortfall of European Money coming into Wales (almost 80% of over 60’s in Wales voted to leave the EU)

Do you have any examples of poetic justice stemming from the post brexit fallout currently engulfing the UK?

Foreign Secretary, A Eunuch Experience

Unless you’ve been living under a rock ( and under the circumstance this seems a rather sensible option) you’ll know that after voting to leave the European Union (I’m not bitter) the Labour Party has been in turmoil with members of Her Majesties Loyal Opposition finally uniting behind Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn (albeit in the same way Brutus et al united behind Julius Caesar) and that in the same time the Conservative Party has managed to stage a leadership contest and swear in a new Prime Minister following David Cameron’s resignation.

After a very brief leadership race the Conservative Party has selected The Right Honourable Theresa May MP as the new Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. After being asked to form a government by Her Majesty the Queen, Mrs May got straight to work picking her new cabinet most of the choices were fairly sound but the one that drew most controversy was the appointment of former London Mayor Boris Johnson MP as Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Boris Johnson
Secretary of State For The Foreign and Commonwealth Office: The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP

Boris Johnson was one of the leading figures of the Brexit movement (the campaign to leave the European Union) and as such was tipped to replace David Cameron as the next Prime Minister. He enjoyed much media notoriety as Mayor of London, his blonde haired buffonish charm and unapologetic upper class demeanour make him somewhat of a marmite figure across the country, but lying behind the Etonian oaf exterior is a political acumen sharp enough to cut glass.

When David Cameron stood down as Prime Minister, thus making the fallout from Brexit his successors problem, Boris, knowing this, decided to bide his time as most from the Brexit camp saw the premiership as a poisoned chalice. So when Theresa May became Prime Minister Boris had to be given a top job purely because his campaigning and media profile demanded it. Mrs May knows that she had to give Boris a cabinet position because as dangerous as having Boris in the cabinet is, he would be more dangerous as a back bencher.

Now that brings us to the position Mr Johnson was actually given, Foreign Secretary. You may ask what does Foreign Secretary do? The answer is not much. He may have a whole department to run but Mr Johnson has become the most powerful eunuch in Whitehall. Most major foreign policy decisions are made by the Prime Minister, most diplomatic actions are taken by ambassadors and other civil servants and now international trade has a new secretary of state and whole new department, and even Brexit, the most important foreign policy of a generation is being handled by its own department.

So what does that leave for Mr Johnson? Not much. He is now essentially The Secretary of State for Taking Blame, whenever British troops are killed in the middle east, he’ll be trotted out to sweat on question time, or when British Tourists are killed abroad he’ll be the one saying how sorry the government is. From the Prime Ministers point of view she can also send him abroad when and if he starts making a nuisance of himself in the press, or if it looks like he’s getting a little to popular among the back benches any number of foreign crises can be arranged.

I think that its clear to see that Mrs May subscribes to the theory that anyone who says keep your friends close but your enemies closer clearly doesn’t have many enemies.

What Has Europe Ever Done For Me

eu flag

One thing that was a key campaign point during the general election was the question of The United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Union. Now must people down my local haven’t got a clue what the EU is for and don’t have a clue what the EU does beyond straightening bananas. So here is a little bit of info that you can mull over before making a decision on referendum day.

  • The European Union is a socio-economic/ political union of 28 member states
  • The EU operates through a number of institutions and through intergovernmental decision making in order to form EU policy.
  • The institutions of the EU include the European commission, the European Parliament and the European Council, along with the Court of Justice of the European Union, The Council of the European Union and the European Central Bank
  • The EU operates a system of four freedoms, which mean the free movement of goods, services, money and European citizens between member states
  • EU policies seek to enact legislation in criminal justice and home affairs and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development
  • The EU has a combined GDP of £12.5 trillion and is the biggest economy in the world.

    European-Union-Member-States-Map
    Members of the European Union

Now that’s all lovely talking about GDP and movement of capital but what has the EU ever done for the bloke (or the bird) in the street.  Well:

  • Easy travel, no longer do I have to fanny about in customs or worry if I’ve got the right currency because 19 European countries all take euro’s. On top of that if I were to get sick with some foreign illness, I wouldn’t have to worry about a hefty hospital bill like I would if I were in the states.
  • Food labelling, thanks to being in the EU I now know exactly what is in my food, and then its up to me to make the decision about eating it.
  • Paid leave from work. Because of the EU working time directive every British worker is entitled to 4 weeks paid holiday and 11 hours rest in every 24 hours.
  • Equal pay between men and women all came from European legislation
  • A minimum wage, whilst Tony Blaire and his descendents will claim that they introduced the minimum wage, which is nominally true, it in fact stemmed from a European directive .

and on top of all that the EU also pumps millions of pounds into depressed areas in the UK , without which trying to get public funding for anything in the South Wales Valleys of the North of England would be next to impossible.

Political Heavyweights Fight For Mayoral Title

My Lords Ladies and Gentlemen, Children of all ages, LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE. It was yesterday announced that the Conservative Parties number one contender for the coveted title of Mayor of London has been selected. IN THE BLUE CORNER,  the current MP for Richmond Park,  the one the only Zac Goldsmith. And his opponent IN THE RED CORNER, the Member of Parliament for Tooting, Sadiq Kahn.

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Sadiq Kahn MP and Zac Goldsmith MP the two front runners for the next Mayor of London

Other candidates include Green Party Candidate Sian Berry, Caroline Pidgeon for the Liberal Democrat Party and Peter Whittle for UKIP. Other declared party candidates include the always controversial George Galloway the leader of the Respect Party, Lindsey Garret of Something New, Upkar Singh Rai of the National Liberal Party and Paul Golding of the fascist paramilitary group Britain First, have all declared as candidates as well as a slew of independents.

So when the polls open it looks like Londoners will have a real smorgasbord of candidates to choose from, but the sensible money will be on either Mr Goldsmith or Mr Kahn.  But with policies from airports to zoo’s being debated who wins, you decide.

Right To Assembly

So today I was going to do a massive post about the political conferences of the week but illness precludes me from doing so, also it would probably be better to do a post mortem of conference season after all the conferences are over.

However in order to keep my content fresh and new here is a piece about the upcoming Welsh Assembly elections. For those that didn’t know there are approximately seven months until the Welsh Assembly elections (as well as the elections to the Scottish Parliament, Various English local authorities and the London Mayoral elections all taking place) so here’s a quick guide to the election in Wales and a brief history of the Welsh Assembly:

The Welsh Assembly as seen from Cardiff Bay
  • Candidates will be fighting for 60 seats on the 5th May 2016
  • There are 40 constituency seats that will be fought on a first past the post system
  • There are also twenty seats that will be decided on a proportional representation system.
  • Each registered voter will receive two ballot papers one for their constituency and one for their region.
  • The average turnout for assembly elections is between 45%-50%
  • There has never been an outright majority government in the Welsh Assembly the closest is the Labour Party with 30 of the 60 seats forming a government.
  • The Welsh Labour Party has been the majority party at every Welsh Assembly Election and has formed all four Welsh Assembly Governments.
  • There have been two coalition partnerships in order to form Welsh Governments, the first being between The Welsh Labour Party and the Welsh Liberal Democrats from 1999-2003 and between the Welsh Labour Party and Plaid Cymru (The Party of Wales) from 2007 until the most recent election in 2011 which saw the formation of a Minority Government of the Welsh Labour Party.
  • The Welsh Conservatives are currently the only party represented in the Welsh Assembly that has never formed a government and is currently the official opposition the Welsh Labour Government by dint of being the second largest party in the Assembly.
  • Polls for the election will open at 7 AM on Thursday the 5th of May 2016 and Close at 10PM with results being counted and announced thereafter.

Hope that clears everything up for you all and now I know that like the rest of us politicos, you’ll be counting the days until the election…is over. Have a lovely weekend people.