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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