David Jones

Feb 272014
 
(What I argue in this post in no way invalidates my assertion that Wales is, in reality, run by civil servants answering to London; a sitution that reduces ‘Welsh’ Government spokespersons to mere mouthpieces. In this post I am dealing with perceptions, and for the vast majority of people in Wales the country is ‘run’ by the Labour Party government in Cardiff.)

 

In a piece I posted on February 18th, Polls and Donkeys, and in other posts, I may have given the impression that I view the Labour Party in Wales as a bunch of unprincipled, self-serving, dim-witted and traitorous self-abusers. This is still my view. However, in the post referred to I should perhaps have expanded my interpretations of the opinion poll that formed the basis of that post, as I subsequently did in answer to certain comments.Labour Performance

What the poll told us, among other things, was that despite the abysmal performance of the Labour Party its vote in Wales is holding firm. Looking at the approval ratings we see from the table that the highest rating was 41%, this from Labour supporters who believe the ‘Welsh’ Government is doing a good job with the economy. (I kid you not!)

Yet when we consider voting intentions, in the rather colourful table below, we find that support for Labour is little changed from earlier contests. In any normal society this would be regarded as very odd, even perverse; perhaps an indication of endemic or congenital masochism within the population. A condition possibly resulting from centuries of being kicked around and exploited. Yet while history may play a part in shaping attitudes in twenty-first century Wales there’s a much simpler explanation. For too many Labour supporters there is no credible or attractive alternative to Labour.

Now, clearly, the Tories are never going to be that alternative. Perhaps because there has never been a coherent and recognisably Welsh Tory voice; by which I mean a patriotically Welsh, but Unionist, position prepared to argue Wales’ corner. I had hoped we might be moving towards such a party, but the recent split over income tax, and the Uriah Heap-like behaviour of David Jones tells me that the Conservative and Unionist Party in Wales still contains a majority of politicians wanting a party that represents the interests of England, and the English within Wales; often done by promoting the view that our best interests are served by ‘smoothing out’ all differences with England, done for our own good of course, because whatever makes us different is just ‘ugly, intolerant nationalism’ – ach y fi!

Then there are the Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Greens, BNP, Monster Raving Loony Party and other, even more outlandish groups, unlikely to ever over-work ballot-counters and Returning Officers. Which leaves only Plaid Cymru. For despite the fact that Labour’s ‘Donkey’ voters belong to the most deracinated and, um . . . ‘uninformed’ (that the word?) elements of the nation, there still resides within most of them a spark of Welshness. This spark flickers into life for sporting events, and on those occasions when someone reminds them they’re just a ‘Welsh bastard’, but not when Plaid Cymru comes knocking. Telling us that Plaid Cymru, Voting Intentionsa ‘national’ party, is failing on the most basic level.

Partly because being a Labour Party Mk 2 will make no headway with Labour supporters. They will ask themselves why they should vote for the imitation when they can vote for the real thing. Equally pointless is pathetically struggling to win the approval of Guardianistas and the scroungers and shysters of the poverty celebration industry. Also worth remembering is that for every Mike Parker there are a dozen or more English in Wales who resent being reminded they are even in Wales. (To verify that, just pop in to your local golf club.) What I’m trying to say is that the only hope for Wales, and the only possible threat to the Labour Party, lies in Plaid Cymru appealling to the ‘Donkey’ voters on a different level. Which will have to mean Plaid reasserting itself as a Welsh party, rather than continuing to posture as some kind of lefty Brit regionalist party.

To achieve this will mean standing up for the Welsh, rather than for the cop-out of ‘Wales’. Because if you restrict yourself to ‘Wales’, and divorce it from Welsh nationhood, then you are left with nothing but a geographical expression, or an empty shell. It then becomes possible to argue – as with tourism – that something is ‘good for Wales’ while working against the interests of Welsh people and Welsh nationhood. Plaid has to face the reality that distancing the party from perceptions of ‘nationalism’ has paid no electoral dividend. Plaid Cymru must re-unite with the Welsh nation, all of the nation. Demand that Welsh people, those with roots in this country, have priority claim in employment, social housing, training, grants – everything ‘Wales’ has to offer.

Plaid must no longer avoid the inescapable truth that its existing and potential electorate is almost entirely restricted to those who regard themselves as Welsh. So unashamedly target this electorate, speak up in its defence, demand measures that specifically benefit Welsh people. Done effectively this will allow the party to take votes directly from Labour, which will obviously damage Labour far more than by taking votes from other parties. There is no other way for Plaid Cymru to become the major political force in Wales other than by attacking Labour head-on. (As the SNP has so successfully done in Scotland.) Given that the two parties are so close ideologically, the only hope of victory lies in appealing to people’s innate Welshness.

If Plaid Cymru is unwilling to change direction, to speak in defence of Welsh people, then it has no purpose, and no future. By refusing to fulfil its obvious role it guarantees its continued impotence and takes up space that could or should be filled by a genuinely Welsh party . . . while also gifting the Labour Party – and England – unchallenged hegemony over our homeland.

Sep 082013
 

A story in the Daily Telegraph has been getting attention on Twitter and elsewhere. It appears that the Treasury in London is considering giving power over stamp duty (on property purchase) to the ‘Welsh’ Government. (Though if I’ve read the article correctly, it seems that others in the Treasury are arguing against the move!) The (pro-transfer) Treasury would appear to be considering implementing a change proposed by the Silk Commission, set up to look into the devolution settlement and recommend changes it feels might be necessary or welcome.

There would be nothing surprising in the Treasury handing over such power, for it has long been suspected that the Conservative Party would be happy to transfer to Wales authority over the raising of existing taxes. Which if you think about, makes perfect sense. If we raise £100m then this same sum will be deducted from the block grant . . . with the expense of raising and administering the tax transferred to Wales. So we’ll end up out of pockTelegraph clip 2et.

Irrespective of whether there is discord at the Treasury among the unnamed, one name we do encounter in the Telegraph article is that of David Jones, Secretary of State for Wales. Doing what Tory Secretaries of State have ever done – put England’s interests first. For while he may urge caution because of the consequences ” . . . . for the whole of the UK . . . ” this – as he well knows – is disingenuous. The legislation will have no effect on Scotland, so he is thinking solely of England. More importantly, those Conservative voters with second homes in Wales.

Just remind yourself that this post of Secretary of State for Wales exists, so we have always been told, to defend Welsh interests. Increasing stamp duty on second homes would result in more properties coming within the financial reach of local buyers, so shouldn’t David Jones be supporting such a measure? Yes, but only if you fall for the old deception that a Secretary of State for Wales is ‘the voice of Wales in the Cabinet’. In reality, he, and every other Secretary of State, Conservative and Labour, has been the voice of the Cabinet in Wales. Little more than a governor-general with instructions to keep the natives in check.

Telegrap clipElsewhere in the article we were treated to another quote, this time from “a Tory source” which first reminded us that England and Wales (or Englandandwales), ” . . . in many respects form a single economic region”. Yes, we’re aware of the problem. Before going off the rails a bit with, “The border areas are highly populated . . . “. What! Travelling north from Chepstow the border is sparsely populated until one reaches Wrecsam. Which suggests that this ‘Tory source’ is probably from the north or the north east . . . perhaps David Jones again, this time incognito.

One thing I find really sad about this little tale is that the Conservative Party within Wales has made great strides to detoxify itself, to become more Welsh, and then along comes Dai Jones talking like a Tory politician of the 1980s. Such progress has been made in Wales that the party has managed to make itself unattractive to Beata ‘Britannia’ Brookes and Rod Richards, both offloaded onto Ukip. David Melding often sounds a better Welshman than many in Plaid Cymru. Then comes the reality check in the form of David Jones.David-Jones-MP-007

Though in fairness, things would be little different if the Labour Party was in power in London. For this episode only exposes, yet again, the fundamental problem with devolution. England agrees we can have devolution just as long as it doesn’t disadvantage England. Which is almost impossible. If Wales was to act in her own best interests – as does every other country – then we would be charging a fair rate for water and other exports. Were we growing a healthy economy then Welsh companies could only expand at the expense of English rivals currently taking advantage of the lack of indigenous competition.

In a nutshell . . . The problem with devolution is that the ‘Welsh’ Government only has power to decide spending priorities of the block grant given by London. Due to the prevailing socialist ethos, this results in much of this money being squandered in order that our politicians can claim the moral high ground. Though this is defended as making Wales a fairer and “more equal” country. Which I suppose has some truth, for we’re all becoming poorer.

Compounded by the fact that we have a Labour Party in control of Wales that sees a virtue in poverty! We are said to enjoy the only administration in Europe that has a Minister for Tackling Poverty. But making a virtue, or a political weapon, out of poverty is so entrenched in Labour thinking that we also have to suffer a Third Sector that exists to glorify and capitalise on poverty, and of course, by so doing provide a few thousand jobs for Labour cronies! As if that wasn’t bad enough, many in ‘Welsh’ Labour seem fearful of making Wales successful lest this excites nationalist passions!

Further exacerbated by the problem that too many policy decisions attributed to the ‘Welsh’ Government are in fact made by civil servants and ‘advisors’ of whom we know next to nothing, beyond the fact that few of them are Welsh, and many of them answer directly to London. The Planning Inspectorate, the Housing Directorate (social housing), the Wales Rural Observatory, are just a few of the bodies involved.

While on the other hand, London will never grant powers that could improve the economic standing of Wales because to do so would, in too many instances, result in England or English consumers of Welsh resources being disadvantaged, or else – as stamp duty explicitly shows – work against the interests of English people taking advantage of Wales’ relative poverty and colonial status in relation to England.

Put it all together and it exposes devolution as a chimera; a worthless sop to Welsh sentiment designed to fail on almost every practical level. Which is what we have seen since the Welsh Assembly came into being. By almost every important criterion Wales is poorer today than she was in 1999, not just in absolute terms but relative to England, Scotland, and almost every other part of Europe.

Consequently, the current model of devolution is indefensible. To persist with it can only be viewed as a collective delusion, or the worst form of national masochism.