Thursday, 31 May 2007

New Labour corrupts absolutely

As if proof were needed, Tuesday’s Newsnight debate between the six candidates for the post of New Labour’s deputy leader demonstrated the maxim that power corrupts. The only candidate able to give a straight answer to a simple question was John Cruddas, the one who has never held office.

The five that have been ministers under Tony Blair, Hazel Blears, Hilary Benn, Alan Johnson, Harriet Harman and the Secretary of State for Wales, Peter Hain, were slippery and evasive, particularly in regard to their support for the invasion of Iraq – as if we still believed their excuse that weapons of mass destruction had anything to do with it!

I remember a time when Hilary Benn held strong convictions, like his father, and even Peter Hain once had ideals. Not any longer it seems.

Are politicians incapable of grasping the simple fact that voters respond best to honesty? None, apart from Cruddas, were prepared to affirm any policy that risked alienating big business, foreign tax exiles or any other interest group and none, apart from Cruddas, were prepared to express a preference for any of the other candidates.

Newsnight viewers were invited to vote online for the candidate they felt had ‘won’ the debate. More than 40% voted for Cruddas who ‘won’ by a mile. At the other end, less than 5% voted for Hain.

Despite being by far the best candidate for the job, this being to do with New Labour, Cruddas doesn’t have a hope in hell of getting elected.

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Tuesday, 15 May 2007

If there's a transport policy for Wales, it's come off the rails

Almost every day brings a fresh example of the myriad ways in which New Labour’s Islington-centric approach to policy conflicts with Welsh interests. Take, for example, yesterday’s announcement of fare increases by Arriva Trains Wales, which will make it cheaper to travel to London from North Wales than to Cardiff.

Rather than bring North and South Wales closer together, which is what needs to be achieved, this profit-motivated move by a multinational corporation with no interest in the needs of Welsh society and operating a monopoly in a barely regulated market, will widen the divide by significantly increasing the cost of mobility.

Arriva has deftly introduced a 34% increase in some fares by removing SuperSaver tickets, meaning that it’s no longer possible to turn up at a station and buy a cheap ticket. For that, you need a computer and an Internet account with the train company, common currency in Islington but rather less convenient for people in the Gogledd.

We still have a choice, of course. New Labour is nothing if it’s not about choice. We can use the A470, assuming we have a car. But as with all the other policy areas New Labour has failed to think through properly - Iraq, education, the NHS, immigration, you name it – this choice will hinder its policy of reducing carbon emissions by 20% before 2010.

The Assembly, needless to say, is powerless to intervene in Welsh transport issues. Transport policy is monopolised by Westminster where every decision is based either on taxation potential or cost saving, irrespective of the damage done to social cohesion elsewhere. SuperSaver tickets, in case you didn’t know, are unregulated.

Once Wales finally becomes just a large holiday cottage theme park owned by typical New Labour voters who need a country retreat from the stresses of living in places like Islington, nobody will need a railway service between Bangor and Cardiff anyway.

And they’ll be able to save on the costs of schools, hospitals and post offices too. Come to think of it, they won’t need a Welsh Assembly either.

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Thursday, 10 May 2007

It's just a matter of conviction then?

Whatever we think of Tony Blair, at least we now know, because he has made a point of telling us so in no uncertain terms, that he did what he did with conviction.

David Keough, a civil servant, and Leo O’Conner, a parliamentary researcher, the two men who tried unsuccessfully to leak minutes of a meeting on Iraq between Blair and George Bush on the grounds that the contents were “abhorrent” and “illegal”, did what they did with conviction too.

Keough and O’Conner today begin prison sentences for breaching the Official Secrets Act, while Tony Blair walks away scot-free having covered his tracks; the lesson being that ‘conviction’ and ‘honesty’ should never be confused.

Passing sentence, the judge told Keough, “Without consulting anyone, you decided on your own [what] was in the best interests of the UK”. Indeed!

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Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Something is rotten in the state of Cymru

For the benefit of the Welsh Diaspora who may not know it, elections to the Welsh Assembly take place tomorrow. All the indicators suggest that the vast majority of the Welsh electorate will deliver an unequivocal vote of no confidence in the Assembly by not voting.

Whoever claims victory tomorrow night will be a liar. This will not be a victory; it will be a disaster for democracy. The politicians will choose to represent it as mere voter apathy; under Labour, their argument goes, the economy is booming, obviously. People who have never had it so good feel little compulsion to vote because they’re content.

I maintain that the reality is rather different. Some people may indeed have more money in their Gucci handbags but even they know that something is very wrong with our society and its value systems.

Buying something new and shiny may bring momentary happiness. It may also make the stress of modern life seem worthwhile - for a while - but just like smoking a cigarette brings relief from the nicotine addiction for a only matter of minutes, the pleasure soon wears off. Reality is a credit card bill, an unmanageable mortgage, poor education and inadequate healthcare, overflowing prisons, antisocial behaviour, global warming and a state of perpetual war with Islam.

The majority of the electorate know, to varying degrees of certainty that things have to change. Yet they are powerless to effect any real change themselves and the electoral system imposed upon them by politicians intent only on perpetuating their own interests, offers no opportunity for change. That’s why most people in Wales won’t vote tomorrow. It’s been made a pointless exercise.

There is no substance to the elections, just negative propaganda and gerrymandering. The political parties need not concern themselves with democratic legitimacy since the system within which they operate has been constructed to maintain the status quo.

They have discovered that all they need to do is buy off one section of the electorate while ensuring that we all live in fear, and the English-centric media is a willing collaborator in this deception since nothing sells media better than fear.

So, we have no means to change what we know needs changing. Does that mean we’re stuffed? I don’t think so. I’m going to start by voting for an independent tomorrow.

For the future, I have started, with others who want change, to formulate an alternative political proposal. I maintain that the sole purpose of the Assembly should be to secure and improve the lives of the people it represents.

Westminster is a level of government we don’t need. All available evidence suggests it would be impossible to effect real change in Wales with the conflicting interests of England weighing down upon us. For one thing, the Labour party can’t cling to power in Westminster without Wales because England is a deeply Conservative country, despite Labour’s ‘economic miracle’.

Wales is a small place. There are less than 3 million of us. Small countries with small populations are more manageable and so tend to have a higher standard of living and a better quality of life. Look at the Scandinavian countries, for example. There is no reason why we can’t strive for those fundamental values in Wales. Let’s have a plan ready for the next election.

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Sunday, 29 April 2007

Politics has eaten itself

Rhodri Morgan reminds me of the character Zaphod Beeblebrox in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Beeblebrox becomes President of the Galaxy, a role that involves no power whatsoever, but merely requires the incumbent to attract attention so no one wonders who's really in charge. That would seem to sum up Rhodri’s position rather well.

Irregardless of the outcome of this week’s elections, the resolutely middle class Labour leadership in London will still be in charge in Wales, exercising its control over and above local party level, imagining a world formed in its own likeness.

If, as seems likely, the vast majority of the electorate demonstrates its disenchantment with the party political system by simply not voting on Thursday, the politicians will choose to ignore the serious political message it actually represents and will just carry on squabbling amongst themselves in the way they did before before the election.

This is not democracy. True democracy is dead in Wales because politics has eaten itself. The Assembly will have no legitimacy because it will not be representative of the wishes of the people and, sadly, this would still be the case if most of the electorate were to vote.

In elections to the Welsh Assembly, we each have two votes. We cast the first for the candidate we want to be the Assembly Member for our community and the second for a political party or independent.

If our candidate wins, our first vote is effectively deemed to be for that candidate’s political party. If our candidate loses, we might as well not have bothered voting since we will not be represented unless we cast our second vote for one of the parties from whose ‘top-up’ lists ‘additional members’ are appointed. Additional members are deemed to represent constituencies used prior to 1999 in European elections. Well, that all makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? No?

Applying the d’Hont system to the second vote results in those parties that fail to contest more than half the seats having no right to additional members. Additional members are there to correct proportional imbalances caused by the vagaries of the first past the post system. The whole setup assumes, you see, that we vote for party political dogma rather than for individual people.

Now, even though the majority of us are still likely to have voted against it, the party with the most assembly members is presumed to have a legitimate mandate to form a government. It has the right to select a First Minister even though he might not have won the majority of the vote in his own constituency, let alone in the country.

Who would come up with such an unrepresentative, undemocratic system, and why does it work in such an illogical manner? Surely the Westminster government wouldn’t impose such a system to further its own interests by perpetuating the status quo? After all, the Welsh Assembly was only intended as a sop to devolution, heading off the nationalists by promoting a fireless dragon with no powers to make laws or to raise taxation. (I know the Assembly is due to get greater powers but they fall well short of full executive government.)

In their desperation to get elected, politicians now ensure that there is no discernable difference between them. Rather than candidates standing on principles, the parties use sophisticated techniques to establish the issues that are least likely to be contentious. Thus they approach elections with limited social ambition and that, in a very large nutshell, is the reason for the situation we have now.

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Thursday, 26 April 2007

The devil rides out to confront the Welsh Christian Party

I feel compelled to take up arms against the Welsh Christian Party, even though there’s only one of me and they’re sufficiently numerous to contest Assembly seats in all five Welsh electoral regions.

I’d really prefer to turn the other cheek on the basis they’re not worth it, but since one of their main policies is to ban the Red Dragon flag of Wales because it’s “the symbol of the devil in the scriptures”, I’m left with no other option than to call them out. I’m the Red Dragonhood’s standard-bearer, for Christ’s sake!

If I’ve understood their manifesto correctly, their political doctrine is based on an anthology of conflicting essays written in the Dark Ages but edited and reinterpreted several times over the centuries by despots keen to invoke an unimpeachable authority to legitimise their subjugation of the people.

Leader Jeff Green says his party “offers something to voters that the main political parties do not”. Too bloody right it does! The policies of the Welsh Christian Party make the BNP sound like a bunch of woolly-minded liberals. It wants to promote the “traditional [Christian] values” of bigotry, fanaticism, intolerance, racism and institutional homicide on the basis that these principles represent “age-old truths”. I’m not making this up. It’s in their manifesto.

I have respect for genuinely spiritual people of any ethical, humanistic doctrine. But I have nothing but contempt for these dangerous, self-righteous pseudo-religious fascists, even if they do promise to uphold “the highest standards and integrity”, “restore faith in society” and “introduce laws to make Sunday a [compulsory] day of rest”. (Presumably they don’t realise that the Assembly has no authority to make such laws.)

Look, I’d be the first to agree that life can be a bit scary at times. Depressing even. Some days, society’s most intractable problems may seem utterly irresolvable and debilitating. Simple, everyday issues like having to open an Internet account with First Great Western just to buy a train ticket can be frustrating to the point of apoplexy. But we’d be better off swallowing handfuls of Prozac to dull the need for meaning in our lives than bring back the Inquisition to exorcise our uncertainties.

Just like real politicians, the religious extremists of the Welsh Christian Party are trying to use your fears to control you. If you believe in God, you’d better start praying they don’t get many votes.

Here be the devil's works!

Monday, 23 April 2007

Lack of Ferraris is an indicator of Welsh socio-economic plight under Labour

I once caught my friend Craig, who was at the time a card-carrying member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and a PR for London’s poorest borough, ogling a bright red Ferrari. When I mentioned that his adoration of this object seemed paradoxical given his political leanings, he answered that, on the contrary, he wanted a Ferrari for everyone. I proffered that a Ferrari everyone could afford would not be a Ferrari, but he was oblivious, lovingly running a hand over the curve of its wing.

After a decade of Labour government, Ferrari sales are at an all-time high but we are further away than ever from a time where everyone could afford one, especially in Wales. In the City of London, Ferraris are now almost de rigueur - indeed, those with serious bonus prospects hanker after the superior status inferred by a Lamborghini or Pagani - but you won’t see many exotic sports cars in the valleys.

Despite the economic boom that’s apparent in London and most other English cities - in Cardiff too, to a lesser degree - Wales is poorer than England, Scotland or Northern Ireland and the gulf is getting wider.

Much of this disparity has to do with the fact that we’re largely a working class nation and Labour is the party of the middle class. The Conservatives are the party of the middle class too (only more so), and so are the Liberal Democrats. Politically, we’re stuffed.

A central tenet of Labour’s socio-economic remodelling of British society has been to bring as many people as possible into the middle class. Under Blair, the middle class has become rich beyond its wildest dreams while the poor have fallen further behind. Rhodri Morgan’s assertion that the ‘representative Welsh family’ is £5,000 better off will probably come as a big surprise to most representative Welsh families.

When Welsh interests conflict with those of England, Wales loses. The destruction of the Capel Celyn community in North Wales to make way for Liverpool’s reservoir at Tryweryn in the 1950s is still perhaps the most dramatic example, but the recent closure of the Burberry factory in Treorchy turned out to be a particularly enlightening example since the ‘Britishness’ Burberry claimed its brand represents was clearly shown to be the essence of England – of Big Ben and Beckham and Buckingham Palace – not the post-industrial wasteland of the Rhondda valley.

So, under Labour, the English middle classes have got richer and the Welsh have got poorer. The sad thing is, whichever party wins the forthcoming elections, this inequality will continue unabated because, as it ever was, the power to make meaningful economic change rests in England, not in Wales.

Nothing in this article is meant to imply criticism of my oldest and dearest friend. I don’t amount to much more than a rabble-rousing troublemaker and I wouldn’t presume to pass judgement on a good person. However, it’s apposite to my premise for you to know that Craig, the son of a window cleaner from Llanelli, is now the executive editor of a well-known motoring website, based in London.

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Friday, 23 March 2007

Where in the world does Wales stand now?

I am at Sam Ash’s music emporium on 48th Street in Manhattan, hanging with Isaac Hayes, when the news comes in. (I’m not shitting you, good people - Zarina can confirm it since she was with me.)

A dark uptown voice beside me says, “You English, guy?”
“Well, no, not exactly, man. I’m from Wales, a small country with mountains and sheep and slate and steel works and coal mines, next door to England. You know…?”
My poor explanation produces a perplexed expression in my interrogator, which is understandable considering it’s unusual to meet an American who knows where the British Isles are to be found.
“Oh. I thought that sounded like a British accent.”
“Well, yeah, it is…” (I was brought up in England, which means I don’t have a Welsh accent, just to add to the confusion of trying to identity myself to those from foreign climes.)
“You wanna know what’s happenin’ in the British elections?”

It is 1997 and Isaac’s friend is keen to tell me that Labour has ended what has seemed an eternity of Conservative misrule with a crushing landslide victory. And he’s right as it happens, I do want to know.

So we stop talking about things musical and repair to a bar down the street where, to my astonishment, the election results are being shown on television. The scale of Tony Blair’s popular victory is such that it has made the main evening news and this is remarkable in that Americans normally pay scant attention to events outside their home state, let alone the federal borders.

My companions join me in a tequila-charged toast to celebrate a new era of social justice and the hope that co-operation between our two great countries - I don’t have the strength to explain again - will establish a more fraternal world order.

These events seem a very long time ago. Ten years have passed and the New Labour promise is mired in the lies that enabled Tony Blair to cause the deaths of tens of thousands of people in Iraq, that concealed the corruption behind British arms dealing and the selling of titles to the rich, immoral bastards who exploit ordinary, decent people.

Now, having stuffed us with a massive bill from his American friends for renewing nuclear weapons we don’t need, it’s time for the old lion to slope off with his reward from Rupert Murdock. The other New Labour big cats, such as our own king of the veld, Peter Hain, are going to change their spots again to save their skins.

Just hang on to the fact that these are the same people who have spoken vociferously in support of the war in Iraq, the same party that may have benefited from the cash for honours scandal. They are going to impose Gordon Brown on us, a prime minister for whom we haven’t voted, a chancellor who just took money out of the purses of poor Welsh people to pay yet another bribe to English middle class voters.

Personally I’d rather struggle with explaining to foreigners where in the world a tiny independent Wales is than live under the leadership of such people.

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Tuesday, 13 March 2007

'Captain Crap' and the lost boys

Stephen Jones being nicknamed ‘Captain Crap’ by his team-mates is reason enough to support Gareth Jenkins’ decision to bring in a sports psychologist. It may be a wittily ironic, inversely supportive reaction to media criticism of Jones’ leadership, but it’s hardly redolent of a winning group dynamic.

In Freudian psychoanalytical terms, it’s the ‘ego’ rather than the ‘id’ or the ‘superego’ that’s at the root of the current problems, and Jenkins is therefore right when he says the players are their own worst enemies.

It’s pointless to speculate on whether Stephen Jones might have chosen more shrewdly, but James Hook’s decision to kick for touch in the dying seconds was hopelessly naive. He may be a technically exceptional player but as yet he lacks the maturity to make a game defining call.

A focused side would have accepted the virtually-guaranteed three points and the ensuing draw, rather than risk their humiliation and the honour of the nation on the slim chance of going over from a lineout. But this is a team in complete mental disarray.

The malaise afflicting the boys might be seen as an extension of our national psyche. After all, this is largely the same group of players who spectacularly won the 2005 Six Nations only to bring about the demise of the architect of their success in an attempt to play their Australian drinking buddy into his job. How bloody Welsh is that?

Beating England on Saturday now looks a tall order. Yet we’ve only been narrowly beaten in the games to date so there’s still reason for hope. Whatever the outcome, we need to remember that Gareth Jenkins is one of us, not some hired gun from the Southern Hemisphere, and he’s trying to engineer exactly what we want for all the right reasons. Let’s leave the guy to get on with it.

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Wednesday, 7 March 2007

A right royal coup

There has been a typically muted reaction in Wales to the news that the Duke of Cornwall has asserted his rights over the Three Feather’s symbol and that the Lord Chamberlain, on his behalf, has instructed a handful of companies producing tacky crap for tourists to stop using it.

There have been no demonstrations in the streets and virtually no comment from politicians. Maybe nobody cares? Or maybe we’re so used to losing what we once thought of as rights that we simply don’t react any more. The Three Feathers emblem belongs not to the people of Wales but to the Duchy of Cornwall, so what? A few tat merchants bleat a little in the media and the Duchy pretends to back down having tested the temperature of the obviously tepid water. It’s possible Charles' marketing people were valuing unexploited assets, exploring ways of monetarising a well-known piece of his intellectual property. If this is so, you can be sure they’ll find a way to do it, eventually.

Like just about everything in life nowadays, the monarchy is more than anything a business, and The Duchy of Cornwall branch is Charles’ private firm. He is its sole beneficiary, meaning that he pockets all of its profits. What he can no longer milk from our taxes through the civil list, he extracts from us in exchange for biscuits.

Unlike my business or your business or even BP Amoco’s, The Duchy has some very powerful players on its side to lean on little people, like the Lord Chamberlain, for instance.

This begs the question: Can anyone tell me why we need these people? Please don’t suggest they benefit Welsh tourism because they obviously don’t. I can see how it might be argued that they’re of benefit to London but I suspect people would still visit Buckingham Palace whether the Royals were there or not. Don’t tell me they do a lot for charity either, unless you can quantify it. I suppose they might be good for opening things or visiting cheese factories but you’d probably get more people along if you asked Charlotte Church to do it instead.

The Duchy of Cornwell obviously cares nothing for the people of Wales. It’s just a money making machine. But it has inadvertently given us a golden opportunity to be rid of an ancient symbol of oppression. Let’s get together and hand it back, eh?

Then, why don’t we begin creating new emblems for the 21st Century, emblems that represent Wales while belonging to all the Welsh people?

Click here to see the Red Dragonhood Three Feathers T-shirt
Click here to see the full Three Feathers, Two Fingers article

Friday, 2 March 2007

Three feathers, two fingers

For once I agree with Charles Windsor. He maintains that the three feathers emblem is his personal property. Fine. It has nothing to do with Wales anyway. It may be symbolic after 600 years, but it’s still the mark of the occupier. Let’s get it off the shirts of our rugby team and erase it from the tat we sell to tourists. Let’s remove it from the uniforms of our soldiers. While we’re at it, let’s stop kowtowing to this pompous, arrogant anachronism and take our country back.

Click here to see The Red Dragonhood Three Feathers T-Shirt

Click here to read the original 'Three feathers, two fingers' article

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Newsnight Tonight

It being St David’s Day tomorrow, I’ve agreed to be interviewed by the BBC about the ‘Hendrix’ recording of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. The interview will be broadcast during Newsnight on BBC2, tonight at 10.30pm.

Tomorrow being a day of daffodils and leeks and women (but not men) in ‘traditional national dress’ and Charles Windsor’s Three Feathers and the rest of the supposed paraphernalia of Welshness, I thought it might be an appropriate moment to do something they’ve been badgering me about since the story first broke.

I suppose the BBC might accuse me of cultural vandalism, if not cultural terrorism, but I’m going to try to make a point about the myths of Welshness we’ve been saddled with, and how these myths were created.

I don’t want you to think I’m a killjoy; I think it’s really important to celebrate pride in our origins. But what makes us Welsh is our true heritage not the iconography, both political and religious, that’s been used to control us down the centuries. What’s important to me is belonging to a community of human beings who share my ancestry, my sense of ‘home’ and my struggles with life.

Also appearing on Newsnight will be my great friend and creative collaborator, the brilliant guitarist John Ellis. John founded Bazooka Joe and The Vibrators and was a member of The Stranglers. More recently he played with Peter Gabriel. John is English through and through. We’ve known each other since we were at Hornsey College of Art together in the early 1970’s when we used to perform at the Stapleton Hall Tavern in Stroud Green.

Armed with this knowledge, the gist of the Newsnight interview should come as no surprise to you.

Saturday, 3 February 2007

Are you watching Tony Blair?

Now that the government in Westminster has manoeuvred us into a state of perpetual war with Islam both at home and abroad, it can easily justify taking away what’s left of our personal freedoms, a circumstance George Orwell imagined in 1984, a novel he wrote in 1949.

With the introduction of identity cards, which will carry our biometric data, the intelligence agencies will, we’re told, be able to tell the white hats from the black hats. I personally think there is still plenty of room for confusion, especially when you consider that nowadays we’re being taught to think of the guys in the white hats as the baddies.

Incredibly, we live in a state where a Labour Prime Minister has, for our own good apparently, outsourced the management of our security to the Central Intelligence Agency. Perhaps the Cousins offered to do the job for free on the condition that they get use of the information they collect.

The CIA already has access to British bank accounts. It receives copies of international Swift bank transfers. It monitors our phone calls. It can track us anywhere in the world from our cell phone signals, from airline passenger manifests, or from where we use our credit cards.

This is an organisation that operates outside of international law, snatching people it considers a threat to American interests off the streets and transporting them, on occasion via British airports, to be interrogated in places like Afghanistan where torture is still condoned. Ultimately, innocent people can be detained indefinitely in places like Guantanamo Bay without ever coming to trial, simply on the suspicions of the CIA.

You think I’m raving? Wake up and smell the coffee! Consider the case currently being brought against the CIA by the German government because one of its citizens was treated in just such a manner in a case of mistaken identity.

In writing this, and in advocating Welsh independence, do you think I represent a threat to American interests? Should I be concerned, then, that a disproportionately high percentage of visitors to my firm’s website originate from the Commonwealth of Virginia, a state in which Langley, the home of the CIA, is located? This is in addition to the disproportionately high number of visitors I get that are actually identified as being from the US government. At least the visitors I get from the British security services, including a lot from the Special Branch, appear to be easily identifiable from their IP addresses.

I’m not losing any sleep over it, mind you, although perhaps I should. After all, knowing that the average American knows little of the geography of anywhere past the state line, it would be foolish to have confidence in the CIA being able to tell the difference between an extreme Islamic fundamentalist and a Welsh separatist fundamental atheist.

Who knows, perhaps at this very moment Tony Blair is on the phone to George Bush, sanctioning a cruise missile strike on my web server.

Click here to check out The Red Dragonhood

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

On the integrity of Peter Hain's New Unionism

Over a coffee in my kitchen last week, before that panicky propaganda onslaught about Wales staying in the UK was unleashed in the Western Mail, a friend told me about a meeting he had a few years ago with the Right Honourable Peter Hain MP.

When he became Secretary of State for Wales in 2002, Peter held a reception for the great and the good of the Welsh music scene, following on from the example set by his boss, Tony Blair. My friend, being both Welsh and a rock star, was invited along with his fellow band members.

When my friend got to the ‘meet and greet’, the Secretary of State gripped his hand firmly, as you would a close associate, and maintaining a vice-like grip, deftly manoeuvred my friend into the best position for the photographers to get the ‘glad-shot’. Before parting, he handed my friend a business card, impressing upon him the idea that he shouldn’t hesitate to call if ever he had a problem. Then, with a few images of my friend’s tacit support duly harvested, Peter turned his attention to inducting the next celebrity-best-friend-of-the-moment.

My friend instinctively counted his fingers and, finding everything still in place, joined a party at which all had a good time, apparently at the expense of the Welsh Office.

Now, my friend never came across anything he thought worth bothering his new friend Peter with, but his dad had a problem in the village, which needed political support. So his dad called the number on the card and left a message. No reply. He wrote a letter. No reply. He sent an email. Nothing came back.

I suppose this could be the result of a series of administrative mishaps but it is just as likely to indicate that Peter Hain is without integrity.

So when he writes about the potential ‘Balkanisation’ of Britain if Wales and Scotland were to break free of England, you’d be safe to assume that he’s actually trying to scare you into believing the party line. And when he mentions that public spending is £1,000 per head greater in Wales than elsewhere in Britain, you might be right to assume it’s a bald-faced lie designed to further propagate the myth that Wales is financially dependent upon England.

Ask yourself this question. Is Peter Hain providing this information for your benefit, or is he doing it for reasons of self-interest or the interests of his party? Because if it’s the latter, then this amounts to corruption, ‘sleaze’ in other words, and he has no place being in public office.

In reality, there’s nothing to fear except, perhaps, the consequences of placing power in the hands of disingenuous people like Peter Hain and Tony Blair. Let’s have a debate about whether we want to be ‘Montenegro’ to England’s ‘Greater Serbia’ with all of the relevant information available for public scrutiny. Then, when it comes to elections, we need to look for people with integrity… and beg them to become politicians.

Click here to check out The Red Dragonhood

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Let’s vote for us instead of them.

The Bishop of St David’s and I fundamentally disagree on a metaphysical level. Since he’s unable to prove the existence of God, our diametrically opposed views are destined never to be reconciled, what with me being a fundamental atheist and he being a bishop of the Church in Wales.

Yet I found myself whole-heartedly agreeing with the crux of his Christmas message as reported by the Western Mail. (You wouldn’t catch me in a place of worship other than to marvel at man’s age-old struggle to make sense of his existence).

The Bishop’s premise was that the blame for our selfish, survival-of-the-fittest society lies firmly with our political leaders and I’ll pick that up and run with it.

“There’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families”. So said Margaret Thatcher, erroneously as it happens, to justify her advocacy of unrestrained, market-driven capitalism. That, it seems to me, is where our value systems began to rot.

An eighteenth century French jurist expressed the notion that “people get the government they deserve” and it’s amazing that a sophisticated society such as ours could have elected someone lacking even a basic grasp of sociology to high office.

What Thatcher began, Blair has largely continued. In a triumph of political manipulation over moral and ethical substance, New Labour has managed to hide its insidious advancement of personal and corporate greed behind a smoke screen of social responsibility.

What of the alternatives? The Tories are philosophically not trendsetters and it seems likely that David Cameron, far from being a new broom, is actually a shameless opportunist who’ll be looking for an opportunity to increase the gap between rich and poor still further as soon as he finds an angle to dupe people into electing him.

The Liberal Democrats seem to have disappeared on a political level and, in Wales at least, the Plaid is, well, the Plaid!

Politicians have built for us a society where only wealth can insulate us against an increasingly hostile environment; where profit is everything; where home is an investment; where the poor have no security and no mobility; where revenue-raising fines are used to ‘punish’ us for everything from putting the wrong rubbish in the wrong wheelie bin to paying our taxes late; where there is no service unless we pay for it through the nose; where there no one left to hear us scream apart from some other poor, exploited worker in a call centre in Bangalore.

Apathy towards politics is indicative of the failure of democracy and it comes as no surprise, surely, that according to the Electoral Commission, around 130,000 people across Wales are not currently registered to vote. People no longer have faith in politicians, so whom would they elect if they registered? None of the parties are campaigning on the basis of promising to make life happier and more fulfilling although, presumably, that’s all the disaffected and the disenfranchised really want?

I mentioned that Margaret Thatcher was wrong about society; by definition, two or more people in a co-operative relationship constitute a society, and a society defines the customs of a community and the way it is organised.

In my opinion, the only way to re-engage the majority in the politic
al process is to de-centralise political power and begin to organise on a community level. For me, that means an independent Wales, federated within Europe.

Our politicians need to understand that they are elected to public office simply to improve the lives of the people they represent. If politicians take the lead in ensuring our society values compassion more than profit, then they’ll soon find it easier to get people out to vote.

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