20 years of Welsh Devolution.

20 years of Welsh devolution.

Wales decided 20 years ago to devolve its Government from Westminster by the tiniest of margins. In fact by only 6,300 votes on a 29% turn out.  This statistic is very interesting particularly when the Welsh Government chooses to support a Customs Union in the Brexit negotiations which ignores the majority (over a million votes on a huge % turnout) opinion as expressed in the Brexit referendum.  However as Welsh people come to terms with the Welsh Assembly it is time to take account of what has or has not been achieved.

Firstly, Wales is virtually a one-party state, the nation overwhelmingly supports the labour party which has been in power since devolution and is likely to remain as the leading political party for the foreseeable future. Plaid Cymru, is showing some ingress but still remains a substantial minority

The matters that have been devolved include education, health, and transport.  The record of achievement over the twenty years has not been covered in glory.  Health and transport are particularly poor and compare really badly with the rest of the UK.

About the only initiatives that can be discerned by the devolved administration so far have been the free prescriptions for the elderly and the charging for plastic bags as a gesture to environmental improvement.

Sadly, Wales’ health service is seen as the worst in the UK with two hospitals under special measures and the North East Wales/Chester elective surgery debacle that continues.  Rural Wales is in crisis both for the supply of GP’s, and hospital staff shortages are acute throughout the country.

On transport the Government has been dithering about the M4 relief road around Newport, seemingly for ever, which emphasises the Governments lack of enterprise and initiative.  Leadership has been and remains poor, indicative of a safe house for labour.

Instead the Assembly has been paralysed by risk aversion and inertia. Inward investment has been relatively poor and Government support for enterprise dire.  It is as if the Welsh Assembly is more concerned with the disbursement of aid, rather than the generation of income.  Some would argue that this typifies the Labour/ Tory divide.

The Assembly is bitterly opposed to Brexit because Wales is designated as one of the poorer parts of Europe and deserves support grants, understandable in the shorter term.  Clearly the Assembly believes that it is better to beg in Brussels than London, despite the UK’s enormous contribution to the EU coffers.

The belief in the idea of Welsh independence from London seems at odds with the desire to be subservient to the European Union.  Some find it odd that smaller nationalism for Wales sits comfortably with a tiny country inside the behemoth that is the EU.

The desire for independence is a minority view, but as in all these matters including the original referendum, apathy rules and the voluble independence lobby that won 20 years ago and will probably win again, it is certain that they are gaining ground.

So, what are the prospects for Wales over the next 20 years, Brexit or no Brexit?

Firstly, we want to be certain of our relationship as a nation of the United Kingdom. Being British, is this our primary persona? or is it being Welsh? Does independence mean the separation of the nation state from its UK status?

It is probable that the vast majority of those both born and living in Wales would wish to remain British.  Does this mean that being Welsh is somehow of lesser worth?  I don’t think so.  Being Welsh and British sits well with most, not only because of the common English language, customs and history, but because of the economic facts of life. That is not to say that the historical exploitation of Welsh minerals and labour do not matter, they do.

We are a small nation which currently relies on Westminster for much of our national purse, The Welsh Assembly has new powers of tax policy and we are yet to see how that is exercised.  However, the basic tenet remains true that Wales does not, as it presently stands, earn its corn.

Is the way forward then, towards financial independence, or are we to move towards an independent government dependent on another financially superior country or union?

It is really important to get the objective in proper focus and to be realistic about the prospects of success.  We need to establish realistic goals.

It seems to me that the financial health of the nation comes first whether in or out of the EU. Let us put aside for the time being the ‘Brexit’ issues and consequences.  If Wales is to move forward it must improve its wealth creation.  This does not mean an economic free for all, but it does mean that government of whatever hue, does develop strategies to improve the Welsh national income.  From that improvement will follow the quality of life for all the people of Wales.

Wales has certain advantages not shared by the rest of the UK, not least its natural beauty and its rich agricultural heritage, not to mention the richness of its national and international cultures..  The travel and leisure industries are improving but much remains to be done to put Wales nearer the top of the European tourist destinations.

In agriculture the picture is much more complex, and there are extensive areas where neither arable or livestock are suitable.  A strategy to marry these fringe areas into tourism would surely make sense.

To make Wales accessible through to the western and northern coasts is crucial to opening up the Welsh hinterland, via a good communication system.  The tardiness of the Assembly government to address these issues is lamentable.

The great festival of Eisteddfods International and National are unique and truly something to shout about.  The WNO, the orchestras and choirs and theatres of Wales all need to be encouraged to put Wales on the Culture map of the world.  The Millennium Centre in Cardiff is a beacon for cultural progress, we need more investment and international awareness as in the likes of ‘Cardiff Singer of the World’.

Wales must not allow Cardiff to be the centre of all things.  Sure, we want and have got a capital city to be proud of, but we also need thriving centres for west to centre to north, which will attract industry, skills and investment.

First among equals is most obviously roads and communication systems.  Wales has to grasp the nettle and open up its lovely face to welcome industry, technology, tourism and advanced agriculture.

To achieve these goals are the ones that count.  Yes, let us be proud to be Welsh, but better even to be proud and successful as a nation.

We, like sheep, have gone astray

 Lead me, idiot, to the ‘promised land’,

Where we can be free, free of Brussels.

Free of immigrants, and others I don’t understand.

We’ll have lots of money and fish galore

The supermarket and the surgery will

For ever be mine with a crowded no more.

Hospitals will welcome me within the hour

British medics will attend us efficient as ever

No more jostling with immigrants dour.

Wait, just a moment, this can’t be true

I remember the bus and all those lies,

Surely it’s Boris that hasn’t a clue.

We agree the Brussels department is bust

We dopes voted despite our ignorant guess

We have to leave now, for democracy we must.

Dear David what a poisoned gift you have left

Barmy Boris and co in charge of this awful mess

Let’s hope, dear boy, UK doesn’t go left.

What’s ancient Greek for ‘I don’t understand’?

Let’s giggle away the problems we can’t see

In Boris’s incoherent, his last great grand-stand.

Where to now? I hear you plaintively enquire

To poverty or wealth or Mojo-land

Now here’s a fact, – one thing for sure, we have no bloody idea!

Secrets and good old fashioned treason!

Whoever leaked the memos from the British Ambassador to Washington has undoubtedly committed treason. It is not as if what the memo said was anything of a surprise, it is just that whoever did this, did it for mischievous purpose to the detriment of the United Kingdom.

The mischief though did flush out for all to see, Boris Johnson’s self serving slipperiness. Do we honestly want this guy to become the Prime Minister?

Not only does Johnson make promises he knows he cannot keep, he has proved himself untrustworthy and contemptuous of ordinary people, e.g. Mrs. Nazanin Zhagari-Ratcliffe, he has changed his mind or avoids key issues such as Heathrow expansion, and support for the diplomatic service. The man is a clown who speaks ancient Greek and makes poeple laugh. Since when have these qualities been considered necessary to lead the UK.

The leaked documents drew attention to the chaotic and maverick leadership in the White House, it seems the Tory faithful want the same sort of leadership in London.

Time and again Johnson blusters and cracks jokes, he exudes positivity, but can’t these Tories see that he has no plan! The man is a joker, but not a professional joker like the President of the Ukraine.

It seems likely that Parliament will bring Johnson to his knees, not because of mischief but because he has promised the impossible. Simply shouting; ‘Gung Ho!’, will not do. We have long argued that the British People have voted to leave the EU, many of them for no reason other than half informed prejudice, despite that, we are where we are and we must leave the EU. Paradoxically Johnson may be the man who makes this impossible.

The magic money tree and other delusions of the great British revival.

Brexit, here we go again, why?  Boris and Jeremy are both promising to take UK out of the EU, no matter what. (respecting democracy they say). Additionally they are both promising all sorts of goodies in the form of  giveaways such as tax reductions,  National Insurance thresholds, not to mention corporation tax.

What complete nonsense! We need to take note of these wild promises, not only because they are undo-able, but because both candidates have a warped idea of what leaving the EU means and where on earth the promised money is to come from. 

We know for sure that the consequence of the UK leaving the EU will result in further confusion, even worse if we have a ‘no deal’ exit.  So how are these guys going to shake the magic money tree?

Well of course they could save money from areas such as defence, overseas aid, abandoning our nuclear submarines and withdrawing from our overseas missions.  Where else are we to find money to improve education, law and order, the NHS, Social care etc etc.

There is confusion here.  Are we leaving the EU so that UK can trade freely, generate growth in the longer term and remain a first class power, retain our seat on the UN security council, remain a nuclear power in defence terms, remain a leading partner in NATO?

At the same time we are to suffer, certainly in the short term a decline in national wealth.  If Boris and Jeremy want to put the Great back into Great Britain then they have to square the circle.  Both candidates for the leadership of the Conservative party are either fibbers or magicians.

Neither has been brave enough to say, “Look, we’re going to take a substantial hit, but it is going to be worth it in the longer run. What we want to achieve is a new UK which will surely lose its hard power because we can’t afford it, but we can recover and attain soft power through trade and a limited international presence. There is no magic money tree, we all have to work and aspire to become the future independent and prosperous UK”

What is the vision?  I wish they would tell us.  No wonder we say Bah! to politicians!