Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Unhealthy opposition

There is a detectable nervousness in some quarters as the Daily Mail continues its onslaught against the Welsh NHS. Strangely, the discomfort is not among Labour ministers but Welsh tories and their fellow travellers who are feeling the beginnings of a backlash against the relentless tirades.

A number of AMs are reported to have been somewhat perplexed by the robust reaction is some media circles and particularly the Western Mail, who not only printed the entire rebuttal issued by the Welsh government but have since called for an end to the attacks.

One Plaid activist is quoted on social media as stating, "the tories are slagging off the Welsh NHS in order to save marginal seats in England. We should have nothing to do with it".

Events have also led one well known Lib Dem to have himself pictured outside a local hospital while welcoming the installation of new operating theatres. Only a few days ago he was part of the opposition chorus demanding a public inquiry into the NHS.

Update: ….. and the hits just keep on coming.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Bye Bye Bryn

Confirmation comes this evening from Pembrokeshire that arch-survivor Bryn Parry Jones has finally decided that it was just too much effort to dodge the bullet.

Besides being the longest serving council chief executive in Wales, B
PJ is also the highest paid with an annual salary of almost £195,000 plus benefits in kind. His tenure owes much to a capacity of being able to manage a succession of council leaders like compliant glove-puppets. All the signs were that he could have continued in that vein for many years to come but to what purpose?

It is not as though he has ever faced a serious challenge. The pressures on him to resign have been the clumsy and overly arcane version that sadly distinguishes Pembrokeshire lodge local politics. 

Inconsequential clamouring aside, councillors, national agencies and the ragbag media continue to hugely overestimate their influence in this matter. Sufficient evidence to this effect can be seen in the shape of a £330,000 payoff.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Left foot in both camps

The chilly collateral damage of Ukip’s breakthrough at Clacton was being felt in Heywood and Middleton this morning. Among the cheery photocalls for Liz McInnes were grumblings by campaign cannon fodder who were a lot less muted in their criticism than a few weeks ago.

Labour’s precarious standings on the polls compounded by a stilted conference performance has left Ed Miliband vulnerable to the forces of darkness i.e. his current and previous shadow cabinet colleagues.

One former ally quoted is quoted in a popular left-wing blog as stating: “Ed seems torn between establishing a separate pre-election identity while firmly occupying the centre ground. His problem is that he is not very good at doing either”. Ouch.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Thieves falling out

Further coalition estrangement becomes evident as Lib Dem Danny Alexander accuses his tory chums of larceny. Conservative attention however is focussed elsewhere as Ukip look increasingly likely to steal Clacton from them.

Regardless of self-conscious headlines, this Lib Dem conference is an irrelevance. To the majority of outside observers, the only consideration is whether the party has the inclination (and sufficient numbers) to prop up a minority Labour government in the face of a prospective Tory-Ukip alliance.

The Independent on Sunday repeats the familiar refrain that "many voters remain furious they voted Lib Dem only to get a Tory-led coalition."

They continue: A poll last week showed the Lib Dems languishing far behind the other major parties on just 6 per cent, while the post-conference Tories have taken the lead over Labour for the first time since March 2012.

With only seven months to the general election, the Lib Dems are ostentatiously distancing themselves from the Conservatives, hoping to cling on to as many of their 56 seats as possible.

Meanwhile, the BBC correspondent Norman Smith reports from the conference that Nick Clegg mugs are already being offered at half price.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Griffin gets order of the jackboot

The prevailing view is that the expulsion of Nick Griffin from the BNP represents a suitably ignominious end to the career of a thoroughly disagreeable individual.

According to reports, the bankrupt former leader has been dumped for attempting to destabilise the neo-fascist party. The specific charges against Griffin were that he prepared and leaked "damaging and defamatory" allegations about senior members of the party and its finances.

An endearing quote attributed to a party official reads: "Nick did not adjust well to being given the honorary title of president and it soon became obvious that he was unable to work as an equal member of the team and alarmingly his behaviour became more erratic and disruptive."

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The road to obscurity

It is not entirely unknown for ditched former ministers to lash out at government policy. And yet it was an undeniably novel experience to have two of them rubbishing a flagship project in the same Senedd debate.

Both Alun Davies and John Griffiths attempted to give Edwina Hart a difficult time over her choice of route for the M4 relief road. Both respectfully asked her to rethink her controversial decision but with little hope and only slightly more conviction.

Observers testify that the criticisms failed to ruffle the feathers of the transport minister. However we hear that some people went out of their way to mention this evening that neither of the ex-ministers made much outward fuss about the route while in post.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Bloody Sunday

Conference season would feel horribly deficient without the obligatory ration of screw-ups and sabotage to unsettle the choreography. David Cameron arrives in Birmingham to news of defections and ministerial indiscretions which will not so much overshadow proceedings as dilute them.

Such things are manageable however. The PM has had enough time in senior office to be acutely aware that shit happens. He will also know that these things tend to come in threes. Let's hope he remembers his entire speech.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Independence appetite lessens in Wales

Welsh separatists hoping for a resurgence following the Scottish referendum have suffered a considerable setback, if a BBC commissioned poll is to be believed. There are claims this evening however that the survey methodology influenced some responses.

According to an ICM Research survey, a random sample of 1,006 people contacted by phone found just 3% of respondents wanted Wales to be become independent.

Other headline results suggest 49% are in favour of more powers being devolved to the Welsh Assembly while 12% want to see the Senedd closed down altogether.
Included in the survey is a breakdown of Westminster voting intentions, which has prompted talk about 'data contamination' although ICM dismiss such accusations.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood was upfront about the expected impact of the Scots result on support for Welsh independence. What is unclear is whether there will also be a knock-on negative effect on nationalist support in next year's general election. 

Friday, 19 September 2014

Promises made in haste

A mild sense of scepticism has greeted assurances by David Cameron that more devolution will follow the referendum.

"Just as the people of Scotland will have more powers over their affairs, so it follows that the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland must have a bigger say over theirs.
He added: "It is time for our United Kingdom to come together and to move forward.
"A vital part of that will be a balanced settlement - fair to people in Scotland, and importantly to everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well."
Mr Cameron added: "In Wales, there are plans to give the Welsh government and the assembly more powers and I want Wales to be at the heart of the debate on how to make our United Kingdom work for all our nations."
The problem is not just one of threadbare sincerity or that the coalition's track record on achieving beneficial constitutional reform is non-existent. While there are no supporting echoes from Chancellor Osborne and the treasury then settlements will be on the government's terms.