Sunday, 29 September 2013


Time for Post Office Cymru
There can be few people who are honestly looking forward to the privatisation of the Post Office, especially in the light of our costly experience with the privatised utilities and the railways. The Conservative dominated Coalition Government in seeking to privatize our Post Office is seeking to do what its then New Labour predecessor Westminster government failed to do. 

I think that most people would be glad to see and end to obsessive ideologically driven privatisation, purely for the sake of it, especially as the Post Office is now making a profit. Rather than put profit before people again, it makes more sense to retain public ownership, and to seek an alternative to Royal Mail privatisation by developing a uniquely ‘Welsh way forward’ that would see the UK Government surrender its Welsh postal interests to Wales. Our Post Office and the services that it provides to our communities has already been put in jeopardy by the Post Office Closure Programme. There is still time to save the service, and as Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood rightly insists that a legal precedent exists for such a move and cited the 1969 Post Office Act.
That Act removed postal services from government departmental responsibility to a public corporation and made provision to surrender postal services to the governments of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The Plaid leader has written to UK Business Secretary Vince Cable urging him to revive the precedent and make provision for the surrender of Royal Mail in Wales to the Welsh Government. This in turn should lead to the Welsh Government establishing a new ‘Post Cymru’, publicly-owned and run in the interests of people rather than profits.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said:
“The privatisation of the Royal Mail is a step even Mrs Thatcher wouldn’t take and it’s disappointing to see a Lib Dem minister rushing this through. Plaid Cymru offered a practical solution how we in Wales can be empowered to follow our own path, in accordance with our values.
“A new Post Cymru service would be run in the interests of our communities, ensuring that the universal, six days service is maintained. One of the great dangers of this privatisation is that the needs of communities will be jeopardised as profits and share-holder interests take priority.
“The Party of Wales is on the side of public opinion and I urge the UK Liberal Democrat Business Secretary to respect the context of devolution that now exists and to allow each nation to decide on the future of what is effectively a vital part of our country’s infrastructure.”
Plaid Cymru has rightly pointed to the fact that although the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man each have their own postal services, and that they are integrated into the UK post code system which means that there is no additional charge for postal items from the UK to those islands.

The Party of Wales has launched an online petition ‘Post Cymru – Post i Gymru / Deliver for Wales’ and Plaid Leader Leanne Wood aims to coordinate cross-party talks at the National Assembly to see if agreement can be reached on progressing a ‘Post Cymru’ public postal service for Wales.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


According to Ed Miliband a newly elected Labour Government would freeze gas and electricity bills for every home and business in the UK for 20 months if Labour wins the 2015 election. The big energy firms would also be broken up and would be governed by a new tougher regulator to give people "a fairer deal". Eds says that this plan would will save average households £120 pounds and businesses £1,800 pounds per year and cost the energy giants some £4.5 billion pounds. Apparently the Labour leader said that energy firms had been overcharging "for too long" and that it was time to "reset" the market.

It sounds good, save for the fact the energy market that now exists under the control of the big 6 energy cartel members  came into existence when Labour were last in power (with a significant majority). Gordon Brown, initially as Chancellor and then later as Prime Minister did nothing to curb the excessive profits of the large monopolistic energy companies, so why would we seriously expect Ed do anything different.

 Potentially this is the first real break in the consensus on the profitable privatised nominally ‘free’ energy market by the Westminster focused political parties – since the late 1980’s. The big 6 have kicked off with warnings (threats) of power blackouts and a lack of investment in the energy sector and the usual former fleet street suspects have kicked off big time with ‘Red Ed’ like headlines. The ‘policy’ may have sounded good on the conference platform yesterday (naturally it did not go down well with the big 6 cartel members) but it (and Ed) did not quite have sounded so good or so convincing on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning.

The adoption of this new Labour position on energy, may seriously stir things up a bit as Cameron whatever his private (or some of the Conservative Party) feelings are on the matter cannot afford to look like the best mate of the ‘Big 6’ energy cartel members in the run up to the next Westminster General election. The problem is that in office Labour (under Blair and Brown) adopted not so much ‘a hands off approach’ as ‘a look the other way approach’ to the increasingly excessive profits raked in (at our, the energy customers expense) by the cartel members as long as the Treasury continued to receive its share of the profits in the form of extra tax.

The applecart may well be truly been upset if  the power companies cozy relationship with the political parties ends. Over the years some of the Political parties have got used to some of the perks of having a close relationship with the Power Companies – who sponsor free food at funded functions, glossy paid adverts in conference brochures, etc. One very old rule that Ed may have forgotten is that once you sell your virtue it stays sold, and once you sell your principles they stay bought and the end result is that the fabric of our democracy is damaged or tainted.

Saturday, 21 September 2013


TheWelsh Memorial in Flanders Campaign aims to build a cromlech in Flanders to commemorate all Welsh soldiers who served during the First World War. The plan is to have the monument completed by the centenary of the war's outbreak in August 2014. 

Local residents in Flanders have already donated land for the memorial, money from around Wales  has already been raised and the Welsh Government has pledged £25,000 pounds so that the memorial can be completed by next year. The Passchendaele Society suggested there should be a memorial to the Welsh soldiers who fought in the area. The Society and the Langemark Commune jointly purchased some land near Iron Cross on the Pilckem Ridge and obtained planning permission for the memorial.

Back in 1917 where there was significant Welsh involvement with the 38th (Welsh) Division, the 29th Division with the 2nd South Wales Borderers and the 2nd Battalion, Monmouthshire Regiment and the Welsh Guards in the Guards Division all serving time at the Salient. The memorial aims to  honour all Welshmen who served in many other Welsh units throughout the Salient from 1914 onwards and also in the multitude of non-Welsh units, not to forget the artillery, medical, supply and Tunnelling Companies, amongst other units.

Wales lost more men per capita than any other nation involved in the conflict. The campaign for the memorial has now raised in excess of £30,000 which will be enough to complete phase one of the campaign, i.e.  the transportation of the stones to Flanders and the construction of the "Cromlech” by the Belgian engineers. Phase two, the creation of a Welsh garden of remembrance around the Cromlech will be carried out and financed by the Belgian local authority at Langemark.

Phase three, will be the obtaining of a large bronze dragon to surmount the cromlech. This will need a further £60,000. Many events are planned to raise this amount, but further public donations will be vital. The campaign hopes to achieve all its aims by August 2014. Anyone wishing to contribute towards the project can pay direct into a Lloyds/TSB Account: 37974560 under Sort Code 30-93-53 and make cheques out to ‘Welsh memorial in Flanders campaign’.

Friday, 13 September 2013


There is an old saying; if wishes were horses then beggars would ride. And if the Labour in Wales Government was capable of any original thought then it might consider purchasing the Welsh share of the Post Office and running it on a not for dividend model as per Dwr Cymru. The problem is that that their masters, Labour in Westminster remain ideologically comfortable with the idea of privatising the post office. When Labour in Westminster were last in Government, Lord Mandelson tried to privatise the post office and failed due to a combination of union discontent and public unhappiness with the idea.  When Labour in Westminster were in power they presided over the largest Post Office closure programme in history, following a policy begun and continued by successive conservative governments. Labour in Westminster, if they care to remember publically stated that they would have privatised the railways once elected, if they had not already been privatised. The Con Dems have pretty much continued in the same vein pursuing a programme of privatisation that even Mrs Thatcher would have thought twice about including the forensic science laboratories (something that may yet out the cold case archive at risk) and the air sea rescue service. 

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


News that the Labour in Wales Government in Cardiff Bay has woken up for Wales by belatedly calling for Wales’s share of the UK capital funding being committed to the HS2 Rail project (in England) should be warmly welcomed. Plaid Cymru is absolutely spot on to criticise the hitherto lethargic approach pursued by the  Welsh Government's when it comes to standing up for Wales.

This somewhat belated u-turn on HS2 consequential for Wales should be welcomed Labour in Wales, previously their standing up for Welsh interests has resembled sleeping in the armchair for Wales. Plaid Cymru has rightly accused the Welsh First Minister and his party of being "all over the shop" and correctly drawn attention to the fact that Labour MPs from Wales failed to vote against the paving bill for HS2 when it was being discussed in Parliament.

Labour in Wales sudden interest in the Welsh percentage (potentially we are talking of a figure of some £4 billion pounds) of the HS2 UK capital funding is in itself interesting. It coincides with the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee’s public criticism of the planned HS2 high-speed rail link as estimated benefits dwindle and estimated costs soar.

Coincidentally Labour in Westminster may be positioning itself to ditch the much criticised HS2 project. Hence the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) suggestion that theDepartment for Transport was failing to present a "convincing strategiccase" and added that it was instead based on "fragile numbers, out-of-date data and assumptions which do not reflect real life".

The PAC said there was no evidence the line would help the growth of regional cities and would instead draw even more business to London. A target of getting the required legislation in place by 2015 was criticised as unrealistic and the committee wanted to know how quickly the department would fill gaps in commercial and major project expertise among its personnel.

Additionally the PAC said that out-of-date assumptions for the high-speed line had been made including failures to take into account technological developments that enabled people to work on trains using laptops and other mobile devices. The case for HS2 still needs to be made and there is a valid line of argument that suggests that the potential £80 billion pounds (HS2 costs) could go a long way towards making significant improvements to significant portions of our aging railway infrastructure.

What concerns me is that the Labour in Wales government in Cardiff may be cynically asking for something that it knows it won’t get. While the skids are not necessarily under HS2, as the PAC’s criticism may owe more to Labour in Westminster mischief making, serious questions do need to be asked about the actual economic benefits of large scale infrastructure projects be they M4 Relief Roads, the LG Development or High Speed Rail projects.

The one mantra often forgotten by failing midterm governments and opposition parties is that when you are spending public money it is important to work it exceptionally hard. As we begin to stagger out of the worst self inflicted economic downturn in recent history we need to squeeze every single possible benefit out of it and putting all the eggs in one basket with one off massive infrastructure projects may not be the best way to maximise the economic benefits.

Saturday, 7 September 2013


Just to make Mr Cameron’s day, a leading United Nation’s officialis visiting the UK to examine the impact of the Government’s toxic ‘bedroomtax’ policy on the human rights of thousands of vulnerable people in the UK. However, the UN special rapporteur for housing, Raquel Rolnik, will be visiting every UK nation apart from Wales during her two-week tour of major cities.

One of the not unforeseen consequences of the Con Dem Government’s (Labour approved) Bedroom tax will be an increase in the number of people and families ending up homelessness. The early effects of the bedroom tax arealready beginning to show in official figures with a rise in the number of Landlord Possession claims and orders issued in the 3 months from April to June 2013.

This follows the introduction of the bedroom tax, statistics show that - compared to the same period last year – the number of claims had risen by 11% and the number of possession orders issued increased by 16%. The majority of these claims and orders was in the social housing sector which is the sector most affected by the bedroom tax. The statistics also show an increase of 6.5% in the number of warrants for eviction issued in the private rented sector, as families in Wales continue to struggle with the cost of living and other changes to the benefits system introduced in April.

As we all brace ourselves for the financial consequences of a potentially hard winter (increased heating and fuel bills) it will be less well off vulnerable poorer families who will be least able to face the prospect of larger and more expensive heating and energy bills. If their finances have already been squeezed by the costs of the bedroom tax then extra heating and energy costs could be the final straw resulting in many families potentially facing eviction by Christmas.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013


The news that the GMB union is to cut the affiliation funds it gives Labour from £1.2 million pounds to around £150,000 pounds in the wake of a row over reform would once have made eyes water at Transport House.  While the Labour Party may silently weep at the loss of the cash, the row has actually kicked off because of moves within the Labour Party to reform union funding so individual union members have to opt in to support the party, rather than being automatically affiliated.

Basically the GMB has thrown a wobbly because the Labour Party has introduced a measure of democracy and self determination with individual union members being able to choose to or not to donate to the labour party. Currently the GMB affiliates 420,000 of its members to Labour, at £3 per member per year the union has openly admitted that approximately 50,000 of the 650,000 GMB members might actually choose to affiliate with the Labour Party. This storm in tea mug, if it does nothing else, can be said to reveal the true nature of internal democracy in some of our trade union.

Now don’t get me wrong I have nothing against fully democratic and transparent Trade Unions working to protect their member’s interests within a democratic society. Our public sector workers are right to agitate in defence of their Pension rights, and are fully entitled to withdraw their labour in the event of dispute.  I am however entirely disillusioned with the Trade Unions because of their petty minded ‘political’ sectarianism and their pretty much pointless (funding related) relationship with the Labour Party.

I am a firm believer in Trade Union's but I equally firmly believe that the old historic relationship between the Trade Union movement and the Labour Party was always one sided and that it has now become pointless. The relationship has in recent decades always in reality revolved around finance – the Trade Unions had it and the Labour Party lacked it and wanted it.

The relationship between the Trade Unions and the Labour Party was once important and only occasionally frosty at least until Blair (and successors) opened up a whole new relationship between Labour and the City. Despite what the trade Union leaders may think, the Labour Party last seriously (and erroneously) listened to the Trade Unions in the late 1960’s when it bottled it when they watered down the ‘In Place of Strife’ White Paper in the late 1960’s.

In Place of Strife (1968)
The White Paper would have brought in secret ballots before every strike; a cooling off period of 28 days before big strikes; collective bargaining with legally binding results; a new Industrial Relations Court and penal sanctions to force unions to comply. If Barbara Castle and her colleagues pushed their proposed legislation through then a degree of rationality would have been brought to the world of industrial relations. This would have been years before Mr’s Thatcher ever appeared on the scene and the worst undemocratic excesses of the old Trade Union movement would have been curbed.

Ever since then and despite the spin put on it by the Trade Unions, the Labour Leadership has basically walked the walk, talked the talk, taken the money and delivered little if anything to the Trade Union movement and its leaders. The Blair years should have in all seriousness killed off any Trade Union interest or involvement in prolonging a dead relationship with the Labour Party.

The fact that this has not happened, is largely down to the permanent presence of Labour Party members (especially at higher levels) and activists within the Trade Union movement, than any realistic chance of extracting any benefits for their members. Where once the Labour Party was the political wing of the Trade Unions, the relationship has now been reversed and the Trade Unions have pretty much been taken over and are largely run for the benefit of the Labour Party rather than their own members.

Obviously this convenient arrangement works well for the Labour Party who when in government quietly started most of the plans (i.e. The Passport Office and the Forensic Science Service to name but two) to make cost savings (at the expense of jobs) with minimal resistance from their card carrying stooges within the Trade Unions. Yet when the cost saving measures came to fruition under the Con Dems the reaction from the Labour dominated Trade Union leadership was entirely different.

In some parts of our country the Trade Unions are blatantly politically sectarian with leadership positions at certain levels being almost entirely dominated by Labour members. These Union officers are quite happy prevent hard working Plaid AM's from addressing rallies against job and pension cuts in Swansea and elsewhere.

It's time for Trade Unions to wise up and de-Labourise their senior officers, cease any financial contributions to the Labour Party and to concentrate on fighting for the interests of their members. I think that elected and salaried Trade Union officials should not be card carrying members of any political parties. I am still a Trade Unionist and still think that Trade Unions are important in the workplace, but, firmly believe that the links with the Labour Party need to be severed.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013


The current Con Dem Westminster government’s plan to privatise the Post Office will affect every community in Wales, but, our rural and urban communities may end up suffering a reduction in services and postal deliveries. This unnecessary ideologically driven privatisation, may take place at a time when the Post Office has actuallymade a profit, could out postal services in rural areas such as Monmouth constituency at risk.

Privatisation of the Post Office - simply a bad idea...
A six day a week postal collection service is an important part of local life in rural and urban areas and the threat to that valuable service should be deeply worrying to most people. In my opinion it is simply not worth placing ourl postal delivery service in jeopardy merely to divert any profits into the hands of shareholders.

Many of our rural areas and valley communities already suffer from poor communications and slow, unreliable broadband access, something that hinders the development of rural businesses. The last thing that our small businesses need is to face another blow with threats to the postal service which are an important means of communication. This unnecessary privatisation could undermine, or worse abandon, the universal service obligation which is so valuable to so many people.

It is worth remembering that this desire to privatise the Post Office goes back to the last Labour Government which thought that part-privatisation was a good idea. The Lib Dems (now junior coalition partners) have locally (in Newport and no doubt elsewhere) previously been fast to leap to the defence of local post offices that were threatened with closure (even when they were not threatened with closure) are now helping to privatise the Post Office itself .

Plaid has rightly fought hard to defend Royal Mail in the House of Commons and continues to do so having recognised the huge importance of the universal service and has repeated its call for the Government to make concrete, long-term plans to protect it. Putting profit before the principle of good service will pretty much always undermine quality; hence the necessity of opposing the Con Dem Coalition Governments privatisation plans.