Thursday, 29 October 2009


The welcome news that the New Labour Government has entirely abandoned its plans to impose a £17.5m cut to the training budget of the Territorial Army should come as no real surprise. This U-turn came around after all party efforts to persuade the Prime Minister to intervene and reverse the cutbacks.

On Monday, the New Labour Government began to try to backtrack and the cuts were reduced in scale from £20m to £17.5m. They also changed their mind on plans to suspend all routine TA training for six months and belatedly offered a compromise of one night's training each month for personnel not due to be deployed to Afghanistan.

And finally on Tuesday it was announced that the TA training budget will remain untouched, meaning most units will continue to train one night a week, as well as one weekend a month - and any proposed cuts would no longer take place. This is good news for the TA and band news for the dying New Labour Government - if you ever wanted a simple example of how Gordon Brown is not longer in control then the TA fiasco is a good example.

We have a Government in name only, that is no longer fit for office and has lost all sense of direction and purpose. It does little or no good and is merely bumbling along from one crisis to the next. The sooner this Government is gone the better the better for all of us. Once again Labour (New or Old) has ended in tears and in this case the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan. Roll on Polling Day!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


The news that the Forensic Science Service (FSS) Lab is to close in the spring of 2011 with the loss of 168 workers jobs is a bitter blow, despite an all political party campaign to retain the FSS Laboratory on Usk Road, in Chepstow. This is a bad decision in so many different ways aside from the loss of 168 well paid quality jobs which will be a bad blow to Chepstow and the surrounding area. Any new restructured Forensic Science Service will be based in London, Cambridgeshire, the Midlands and North Yorkshire, which might benefit the FSS in the short term, but will not bring any extra degree of efficiency or savings to the fight against crime in Wales.

Sadly I think that this appears to be merely the first step towards privatisation; as these changes to the FSS have been driven and justified on the grounds of improving efficiency and the introduction of competitive tendering for forensic service; this is madness especially at a time when it makes more sense to retain the skills in house. Ironically if control of Policing had been devolved to Cardiff then perhaps the National Assembly might have been able to prevent the loss of this important service, the facility and the jobs.

Monday, 26 October 2009


New Labour Ministers in the face of widespread opposition inside and outside of Parliament have reduced planned cuts to the Territorial Army (TA) and have been forced to make some concessions over planned cuts to the TA's training. Originally the MoD planned to cut £20m from the TA budget and halt all training for six months except for those due to be sent to Afghanistan.

Now following the latest New Labour U-Turn every unit will get one night's training a month while the TA budget will not be cut by as much. With more than 500 reservists serving in Afghanistan the future of the TA has has rapidly and quietly risen up the political agenda in recent months.

Despite this change of mind the TA's budget this year will be cut by £2.5m less than originally outlined, this belated change of mind is better but is still not good enough. Sadly it is fairly typical of the shoddy way that both successive New Labour and previous Conservative Governments have treated our soldiers over the years.

Saturday, 24 October 2009


One other thing that I have never worked is out how violent behaviour and assaulting Police Officers can be squared up with alleged peaceful democratic protest. If you really claim to belief in freedom of speech and democracy then that goes as far as to allow someone who holds views that you may find utterly offensive, repulsive and insulting to speak their piece.

You cannot get selective when it comes to freedom of speech. Sadly that fiasco in London and the near wall to wall media coverage before and after the event, has given the oxygen of publicity to the BNP on a scale they could never have imagined in their inbred sad little dream world - which is a real shame!

A few things struck me - Jack Straw was very weak, very tired and looked a tad punch drunk - very reminiscent of how Tory Ministers used to look like in 96/97 in the dying days of the John Major Government.

Jack Straw aside from avoiding the main issue, which is that his and successive governments (and most political parties) have failed to deal with the issue of immigration which has left the field to the extremists and allowed vulnerable people to be exploited by unscrupulous employers, is clearly representative of a government that is clearly on the way out.

The pretty basic failure to deal with immigration has been compounded by a failure to process (and this includes reject) asylum applications speedily which has left many people in limbo (often for years) neither able to work, pay their taxes, access services and to participate in and make a contribution to the economy and society.

Also thought that the panel, save for spending over half the programme attacking Griffin, largely failed to expose what a complete idiot Griffin is, not to mention his pretty obvious partial and selective grasp of both reality and history and the real dangerous insanity of his parties policies - which was a real missed opportunity!

Friday, 23 October 2009


Time to play spot the difference - here we go:

- Scotland has devolved authority over Policing

- Northern Ireland will soon have devolved power over Policing

- Wales has....oh yes, not a lot when it comes to influencing the way our streets are Policed

Now, while Tory leader, David Cameron has assured Martin McGuiness and Peter Robinson, that he will provide the Stormont Government with funds to pay for the transfer of power over policing and criminal justice from Westminster to Stormont, as per Gordo's pledge, we will hear very little about anything being promised to Wales...from the Tories save for more cuts.

Interesting stuff, especially as the matter of devolving Policing and Criminal Justice powers to Northern Ireland considering the complications of the recent past, has been a difficult one. When it comes to Policing and Justice matters Scotland pretty much looks after its own affairs, we in Wales merely get lumped in with England within the Ministry of Justice.

Hmm, what about Wales, by way of comparison with Northern Ireland, it should be a reasonably easy task to devolve the same powers to the Welsh Assembly Government (in Cardiff)....

Well New Labour (what's left of it) in the dying days of the Brown Government (and the self-serving Welsh Labour MP's in Westminster) has no real appetite to transfer further powers to Cardiff.

The problem with the Tories is that in their heart of hearts don't actually believe in the concept of Wales as a nation, a political entity or anything else and they certainly don't believe that Sovereignty or devolved decision making power in any shape or form should really reside with the people of Wales.

Here we go again, both New Labour and the Tories are relegating Wales to a shabby second class status amongst the devolved governments in the UK.

Is this how the years of Tory neglect of Wales begins? Don't say you have not been warned...

Thursday, 22 October 2009


The concept of Green Jobs and the economic contribution that they can make to our communities and to the Welsh economy is now well recognised, what we need now is action not words. Across Europe, where some countries have made clearly made more progress than others - in Germany for example some 250,000 people now work in the alternative energy industry as opposed to barely 25,000 here in the UK.

It is clear that more work needs to be done if our communities are going to reap the benefits of green energy jobs and secure energy - a Green Energy Jobs Strategy is an important component to sustainable prosperity, a stable economy and secure energy supplies. As Scotland pushes ahead with developing green energy and green energy jobs it becomes pretty clear that we in Wales are being held back by the lack of devolved powers over energy policy and by Westminster and Whitehall not by a lack of imagination or innovative ideas.

The Plaid driven One Wales Government needs to work towards improving the efficiency of business operations and production processes to reduce CO2 equivalent emissions and to cut down on waste. We need to encourage the development of new cleaner technologies and processes for businesses and promote the use of sustainable infrastructures with regard to energy and waste.

New local authority planning guidelines and feed-in tariffs to rapidly promote the incorporation of small-scale renewable energy installations in individual buildings and groups of buildings are essential. To make this happen, we needs an energy strategy that will create realistic job opportunities for our people and take full advantage of the extraordinary natural resources we have available.

We need to think different, if we can do this, if we make it happen, then there is no reason why Wales should not be amongst the most progressive countries in the field of alternative energy and green jobs. If we don't do this then we run the risk of being sat int the dark...

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


The publication of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee report on service families accommodation, which reveals the scale of the ongoing mismanagement of the MoD housing stock and the lack of investment into the welfare of troops and ex-servicemen which should rate far higher then it clearly does when it comes to Government thinking, will no doubt cause a bit of stink and much muttering in the media - but none of it should come as a surprise.

Oh, it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Tommy, go away':
But it's 'Thank you, Mister Atkins,' when the band begins to play -
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
Oh, it's 'Thank you, Mister Atkins,' when the band begins to play.

Every now and again you honestly sit there and blink and think that nothing has changed; once again our heroes and heroines are doing battle in a distant land and their families are living quietly in sub-standard accommodation at home. They (My grandfather amongst them) were promised many years ago 'Homes fit for heroes' – I think not and clearly neither does the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee - perhaps Kipling had it right – we don’t, well successive Governments at least; don’t appreciate our soldiers one bit; with their hack the budget there and save money here.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.

Sadly it should come as now real surprise, as there is a long tradition of successive Governments (with ironically the exception being the 1945 Labour Government) of betraying it's service personnel admittedly usually after a wars conclusion rather than while it is still going on. It is deeply ironic that with the ninetieth anniversary of a UK Government betraying its promise to our soldiers to ensure that they had homes fit for heroes after the 1914 – 1918 war; that we find ourselves in a situation where soldiers families are living in sub-standard accommodation.

Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?'
But it's 'Thin red line of 'eroes' when the drums begin to roll -
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
Oh, it's 'Thin red line of 'eroes when the drums begin to roll.

This timely report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee clearly shows that resources at the MoD are being scandalously mismanaged. It is absolutely unacceptable that a third of forces families are living in poor accommodation and is equally amazing that such a large number of MoD properties remain empty at huge expense to the tax payer. It is clear that there has clearly been a long term underinvestment in service housing stock which is unacceptable.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.

It is a grave insult to our forces that while the UK Government is considering sending more troops to fight in Afghanistan, and questions are already raised as to the provision of their equipment, that their families at home are being badly let down. The families of our service men and women deserve much better than they are getting from the current Government. The Ministry of Defence must act on this report and improve the condition of service families’ accommodation.

Perhaps the last word should go to Kipling's Tommy...

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Chuck him out, the brute!'
But it's 'Saviour of 'is country' when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool - you bet that Tommy sees!

Monday, 19 October 2009


With news that the long arm of the law is continuing to investigate a handful (so far) of politician’s questionable expense claims, and other than further MP’s questionable claims yet being subject to further investigation the impression given is that this sorry story is going to run and run.

So far five politicians have been under investigation including Labour MPs David Chaytor and Elliot Morley, who claimed for "phantom'' mortgages. Sleazy MP's aside, so far we are only talking about three peers (including Baroness Uddin and Lord Hanningfield) who are also under investigation by Scotland Yard.

With another potential 27 MPs facing the possibility of investigations by the tax authorities, as some of them may have broken tax laws – there appears to be little inclination that the fat lady plans to sing anytime soon.

While justice may yet sent to be done, the damage done by greedy Labour and Conservative MP’s will only truly be measured on polling day…when a measure of electoral punishment may be dispensed by the electorate.

By now most people are probably thinking - Bring it on!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Things Can Only Get Better

A Populus Poll in The Times (6th October) notes that a large majority of voters don’t believe that the Conservative Party under David (“Dave”) Cameron has really changed merely that they are doing well because of the fact that New Labour is so chronically unpopular.

The Poll shows that only 28% of voters think that the party really seems to have changed under Mr Cameron (a man who openly admires Tony Blair in the same way that Blair openly admired Mrs. Thatcher) and “that is why they are doing so much better”. No change from one year ago.

According to the Poll some 68% believe that the party does not seem to have changed much under Mr Cameron and is only doing better “mainly just because the Labour Government has become so unpopular”. This is down two points on last year.

Despite all the spin, the ‘green tinge’ and sharp suits, the Tories are still at their core the same party that messed up the economy in the early 1990’s, the same party that privatised the energy companies and the same party that led the dash for gas.

And forget any idea that the Tories are historically good on defence, our troops were buying their own boots and rucksacks before the Falklands War took place – so nothing has changed there, even under New Labour. The Tories are still the same Party that began the rundown of the armed forces with ‘Options for Change’ in 1989 a policy followed by New Labour under Blair and Brown.

The Tories broke up and privatised British Rail, and damaged the NHS; they are still same party that destroyed the mining industry, weakened our manufacturing sector and at the same time they are the party that used the various questionable privatisations to help to line the pockets of their chums in the City, and enough of them managed to line up nice well paid jobs in the private sector for at their service in Government – all at our expense.

It’s also worth remembering that the Tories had 18 years to reform the education system (and failed), they had 18 years to rebuild the UK armed forces (and failed) and 18 years to make the NHS more efficient (and failed) – now we have had 12 years of New Labour failure on the same issues – so why on earth should we vote for more of the same…

Oh Yes - it’s also worth remembering that Tories managed to make themselves in the eyes of ordinary electors unelectable and corrupt (what with members of the governing party actually being charged, convicted and imprisoned, not to mention the brown envelopes, the insider dealing, etc) in 18 years, New Labour (under Blair and Brown) has managed it in 12 years which is in a depressing kind of way quite impressive…

Monday, 5 October 2009


A significant degree of concern should be prompted when General Stanley McChrystal, the American commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan (the man in charge of the military mission to bring peace to that much troubled land) stands up and says that the campaign is in serious trouble.

The suggestion that the high price being paid by thousands of Allied personnel (it is after all a NATO supported operation) might end up being in vain, not to mention that the consequences of any resultant failure would have far reaching consequences, not just to NATO but across one of the world's most deeply troubled regions and beyond should provoke deep a degree of concern if not alarm.

Back in 2001, things started so well, with such optimism when the Taliban were overthrown, if you consider that this is a vital mission (possibly the most significant mission ever undertaken by NATO in its 60 year history) how did we get into this mess?

General McChrystal has pulled no punches, he went though a regular litany of mistakes, misjudgements and bad decisions that have taken place over the last eight years, when he spoke to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (in London) recently.

At the heart of the problem stands the basic failure to address the ordinary needs of ordinary Afghans (something which many Aid and Reconstruction Agencies have been concerned about for some years), there were also basic failures within a complex and almost byzantine military (and political) command structure.

You can add also to this the lack of clearly defined objectives and a whole series of gradual (and not so gradual) changes or "mission creep" in the 'mission' over the years and the rising NATO (and Afghan) body count - all of which has helped to understandably undermine and weaken public support for the war effort in every NATO member country.

Especially on the back of a 'flawed' election result... one question that many be increasingly asked is where do we go from here?

Sunday, 4 October 2009


The Tory Energy Spokesman, Greg Clark has said that the "cartel" of the big 6 energy firms will be referred to the Competition Commission by an incoming Conservative Government.

Said Tory Energy Spokesperson also condemned the unacceptable lag between the cost of wholesale gas prices and household energy bills - noting that customers were on average being charged some £74 pound too much for their energy per year.

An 'independent' investigation in the Energy companies refusal to pass on reductions in wholesale energy prices to customers will (if it happens) will be welcome along with an 'Energy Revolution' to overhaul the energy sector billing structure and charges

Now don't get me wrong, this all sounds great, but, if my memory serves me correctly wasn't it a Conservative Government that was responsible for starting the whole sorry mess in the first place by privatising the energy market in the first place, throwing any rational energy pricing structure upon the whims of the 'market' by allowing the newly privatised energy companies to price gouge customers in the first place?

Well that was one reason for it, that and helping to feed the fat wallets of Tory chums in the City?

Friday, 2 October 2009


One potentially scary side effect from the referendum vote in Ireland (today) that's being touted by the UK Media, is the distinct possibility that ex PM, ex MP - Tony Blair could be proclaimed Europe's first President within weeks if the Irish people decide to vote "yes" in today's referendum.

With stories in the UK Media suggesting that French President Sarkozy believes that Tony Blair is the best candidate and suggestions that Angela Merkel has changed her mind to favour Blair - the Times has suggested that, following a 'YES' vote that the former PM could be bounced into the EU's top position at a summit meeting on October 29th.

There are other consequences closer to home for the Tories, if the Irish people ratify the Lisbon treaty - the result which will be declared on Saturday (3rd October) then only the signatures of the Polish and Czech presidents will be absent preventing a full ratification of the Treaty. The Poles may be expected to jump on board quite quickly, but the Czechs may want a few more tasty sweeteners to induce them to sign up.

There's more... the Irish result also puts the Tories in a difficult position, as David Cameron remains publicly committed to holding a referendum on the treaty - but what will Cameron do if Brown signs up to the Treaty prior to the next Westminster General Election?

So once again the question is Will he hold a referendum, if the Treaty is ratified before any Westminster election, because he will then have to renegotiate the UK's relationship within the EU, and he may have to do it by negotiating with Tony Blair (who might be EU President)...

Thursday, 1 October 2009


The introduction of new laws (which came into force on Wednesday 30th September 2009) which take a tougher stance on the perpetrators of domestic abuse are to be welcomed; anything that gives greater protection to victims of abuse and may make it easier for the judges to impose restraining orders on abusers that are still considered a threat even when they have been cleared must be a good thing and is surely a step in the right direction.

The new powers will enable victims to stay in their own homes with their children rather than being forced to flee to seek refuge in a shelter. Before this change in the law came in; victims of domestic abuse had to take up a separate case through civil courts to secure a restraining order. Now Judges will be able to assess the need for a restraining order on the same evidence that would have been presented to a civil court; this will streamline and speed up the process.

This is an important step forward for the rights of victims of domestic abuse. By giving victims greater protection this means that they should no longer be forced to go through civil courts to secure an injunction. I welcome any developments that offer further protection to victims and helps work to end the cycle of violence, as domestic abuse is a cycle of violence that has a devastating impact on families and communities as a whole.

In a previous occupation I saw the tragic consequences, that could (and can) result from the situation where the victims of domestic abuse have been too terrified to take the step of co-operating with the Police and prosecuting authorities. Further progress must be made to take the onus of prosecution away from the victims of domestic abuse, while at the same time ensuring that victims and their children get the fullest levels of protection, safety and security from their abusers.

The new powers are a step forward, but, it is vitally important that once these orders are in place, they are adequately funded, properly implemented and properly enforced. To make this happen it is important that both the police and courts are adequately equipped to implement and support applied orders and injunctions.

All of us would do well to remember that this development will only help those victims who speak out (something which is a tremendously courageous step in itself) and get to court in the first place, too many victims still suffer in relative (or actual) silence and never get to court and never get protection – more needs to be done to help victims of domestic abuse speak out about what is happening to them and to help them get justice.