Happy Saint David’s Day

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Saint David’s Day is the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, and falls on 1 March, the date of Saint David’s death in 589. The feast has been regularly celebrated since the canonisation of David in the 12th century, though it is not a national holiday in the UK.

Traditional festivities include wearing daffodils and leeks, recognised symbols of Wales and Saint David respectively, eating traditional Welsh food including cawl ,Welsh rarebit, and Welsh Cakes and women wearing traditional Welsh dress. An increasing number of cities and towns across Wales including Cardiff, Swansea and Aberystwyth also put on parades throughout the day.

The day also marked some interminable display of the Welsh Language going on in schools, suffering through that was always a hellish experience. I actually make quite a quick study in languages, speaking about four conversationally and being able to spout the basics in 7 more, but Welsh is something I’ve never been able to get my tongue around, you need both a lisp and severe throat infection to really get it and I lack both. Being a Welshman who doesn’t speak Welsh is actually a pretty common thing, about 85% of Welsh residents report having no ability to speak Welsh, and yet over 99% report speaking English. Yet every official sign and form (from the public sector only thankfully) has to be in both English and Welsh, which is ridiculous, how many trees have died just to preserve a dying language. It’s also worth mentioning that the number of Polish speakers in the UK is almost double that of Welsh speakers, but we don’t see council tax bills in Polskie do we?

Lifting The Veil On Politics: Wales

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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?

Local Government For Local People

One of the things that the Welsh Government has within its remit is a degree of control over local government organisation. So naturally not content with just getting their own house in order, the Welsh Government has decided to take the axe to local government. They have plans to more than half the number of local authorities in Wales from 22 to anywhere between 8-10.

This reorganisation will supposedly save the Welsh taxpayer £650 million over 10 years. This sounds like a considerable saving and would be welcome… If it were true. Council reorganisations don’t actually mean significant savings (beyond maybe £2 million a year in chief executive salaries) it’ll still mean a similar number of councillors, officers and other employees all doing the same job for the same pay. In many cases councils will be out money having to spend hard won funds on rebranding. I can’t see where these savings are coming from as I sincerely doubt central government is going to cough up more money so it seems local government is spending less.
It is my opinion that the Welsh Labour Government is putting this policy in place just so it appears to be doing something about the excesses of Local Government, but if the WAG really wanted to do something about local government why not take a wrecking ball to the 800+ community councils in Wales?

A Bit Of Everything

La Lingua Franca of Wales

I live in Wales and to be honest the Lingua Franca of Wales is defiantly English, now I’ve run media and political campaigns in both English and Welsh (and once en Espanol but that is defiantly a tale for another time) and if anything I’ve learned its that Welsh just costs money and takes time.

The Welsh Language costs the taxpayer millions of pounds to accommodate but its spoken fluently by around 8% of the population. Now my local council (Torfaen) has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on the provision of Welsh language services and has had one request for dealings in Welsh, and this came from the Welsh Language Commissions mystery shopper.

The reason of the Welsh Language Commission was set up was to provide guidance and support for businesses, charities and government bodies in relation to their legal position for the use of the Welsh Language. Except from what I see it doesn’t, in recent months I emailed the commission asking for guidance on what the legal position is for the use of Welsh Language in the production of political campaign literature…3 months later I’m still waiting for an answer. But my specific case aside this is not the only time that the Welsh Language Commission has dropped the ball when it comes to doing their duty. In recent times the WLC has issued new standards for public bodies with a whole system of fines in place for breaches, which is great public sector bodies should be held accountable over their use of language but surely some guidelines would be nice, a few little clues as to how to implement the new standards? Nope, these are being left entirely open to interpretation, but watch yourself, you get it wrong and you pay the price.

From my point of view though Cymraeg yn boen yn y gwaelod

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.