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Politics

Candidates complain about ‘unfair’ leadership race

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unfairleadershipTHE ONGOING entertainment saga that is the Labour leadership contest took a new turn last week, when three of the candidates complained to the party that the election was unfair.

Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham’s campaign managers were co-signatories on an email sent to the party, complaining that they would not receive a list of who was eligible to vote until ten days into the election.

Their claim was that Jeremy Corbyn, who has the support of major Unions, will know which union members have voted before this, and will be able to target them accordingly.

These claims have been denounced by members of ‘Team Corbyn,’ who say that everyone will receive the data at the same time.

This was the latest in a series of attacks from the two ‘centrish’ candidates, and Liz Kendall. In the early days of the campaign, there was an almost gentlemanly feel to proceedings. The candidates publicly disagreed, mostly with Mr Corbyn, while failing to say or do anything to differentiate themselves from the Labour party which lost the last General Election by a margin that even took YouGov by surprise, other than to subtly blame Ed Milliband’s bacon sandwich malfunction.

Mr Burnham said at an early stage that the unexpected show of support for Mr Corbyn was a sign that the Labour party had misread the mood of its members and would-be supporters. He was also the only candidate who, when asked whether he would serve in a Corbyn-led cabinet, said that he would, if it was the will of the party.

However, of late, he has started to question the frontrunner’s policies, claiming that the figures don’t add up. This has not stopped Yvette Cooper issuing a statement to the effect that he should leave the leadership race for not providing an ‘effective alternative’ to Mr Corbyn – a move described as ‘panicked, desperate, and straight out of the Ed Balls handbook,’ by one of Mr Burnham’s staff.

Yvette Cooper has also taken many a swipe at Mr Corbyn’s policies over the last week, describing them as ‘subversive.’ She also claimed that her policies were more radical than those of Mr Corbyn:

“So tell me what you think is more radical. Bringing back clause IV, spending billions of pounds we haven’t got switching control of some power stations from a group of white middle-aged men in an energy company to a group of white middle-aged men in Whitehall, as Jeremy wants? Or extending SureStart, giving mothers the power and confidence to transform their own lives and transform their children’s lives for years to come?” she asked at a speech in Manchester last week.

Liz Kendall, meanwhile, has been in a class of her own. For some ‘unknown’ reason, in spite of consistently finishing fourth in polls, which initially may or may not have been a ploy, the unrepentant Blairite is gaining at least as many if not more column inches than Ms Cooper and Mr Burnham. Her sentiments appear consistent, and can be summed up thus – ‘something something if Corbyn wins, warns Liz Kendall.’ Ms Kendall has also described the prospect of a Corbyn victory as ‘a resignation letter for Labour.’ She has advised her supporters to omit Mr Corbyn’s name from their other choices on the ballot, and cast a block vote for a second choice candidate in an attempt to stop Mr Corbyn should he fail to get 50 percent of the vote on the first count. Such democratic transparency is exactly what the Labour party needs to avoid alienating the new members and associates who have joined since the last General Election.

The most common issue raised by ex-Labour grandees is that Labour should be a party of government, not a party of opposition. This is, on the face of it, confusing when one considers that a party of opposition is exactly what it is going to be for the next five years. Ed Milliband was accused of taking the party too far to the left and, in the words of Chuka Umunna, not being business friendly enough.

This raises two points. Firstly, whether or not anyone actually read the manifesto for the 2015 election bid. The only reasons that Mr Milliband, and especially his Osborne-lite shadow Chancellor Ed Balls could be described as left-wing were:

  • In comparison to David Cameron and George Osborne
  • As a result of Unions backing him in the last leadership campaign
  • Because red rhymes with Ed

The ‘pro-business’ idea is also, on the face of it, rather concerning. It evidently means more than the obvious definition, ie, in favour of businesses. It appears that the return to the Mandelson era of people being encouraged to get ‘filthy rich’ as long as they pay tax is being encouraged.

However, what many commentators seem to be wilfully failing to acknowledge is that the political landscape has changed. Basing policies on the infamous picking up of votes in Nuneaton worked very well when Labour could still hold all their heartlands unchallenged. No one appears to have asked why Labour got wiped out in Scotland, and whether or not those seats were lost due to not being pro-business enough, or possibly as a result of a popular Nationalist movement with a definite Socialist flavour.

As we have pointed out before, voter apathy and UKIP could well be far more important to the future of the Labour party than aforementioned businesses and Nuneaton. Mr Corbyn has been acknowledged as injecting some life into the Labour leadership contest, largely because based on the performance of the other main candidates the party faithful would be torn between an Everton-supporting ‘man of the people’, a ‘feminist’ and a Blairite who missed the glory years. These would have campaigned on a platform of how much better they were than their two opponents. It is hard to imagine a less edifying spectacle. Thankfully, they have been able to unite in the face of a common foe – the Labour left who persist in ‘voting with their hearts.’

Whether or not Mr Corbyn becomes the next leader, this contest has exposed a deep divide between what a number of Labour voters want, and what they are being told by the party leaders that they need. This is something that will have to be addressed. It is commonly accepted that Mr Corbyn will be doomed by a Murdoch-led right-wing media; this ignores the fate of arch-Blairite Gordon Brown. It is safe to assume that whoever gets the nod will fail to get mainstream media backing, unless Mr Murdoch needs a new godfather and David Cameron’s mobile phone is turned off.

If whoever leads Labour can somehow connect with the 45 percent of the population who either voted for no one or UKIP, the gap between everyone digging out their D-Ream CDs in 2020 or Boris Johnson PM could be much closer than is currently suggested.

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Politics

Dowson dissents on new CEO

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A PEMBROKESHIRE county councillor has come forward to oppose the appointment of the authority’s new Chief Executive despite not voting against it when an Extraordinary Meeting of the Council considered.

Controversial Pembroke Dock Central county councillor Paul Dowson issued a press release in which he said that the new CEO had ‘no track record’ in the role.
Last Wednesday (March 31) Pembrokeshire County Council overwhelmingly voted in favour of Major-General Will Bramble’s appointment.

Councillors voted 48 votes for with two abstentions and one against.

Milford Central councillor Stephen Joseph’s was the sole vote against the appointment.

Cllr Joseph is a noted booster of former CEO Ian Westley, whose departure with a £95,000 pay-off caused controversy.

An Audit Wales investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr Westley’s pay-off is due to report within a few weeks.

Major-General Bramble is currently the Senior British Officer in Italy and Deputy Commander of the NATO Corps in Italy.

His track record was not enough to impress Cllr Dowson, however.

Cllr Dowson said:  “He has no experience in a local authority having spent his career entirely in the military.

“I felt that the massive responsibility that comes with this role and the salary level requires more than just one candidate at final stages.

“Cllrs Josh Beynon and Di Clements both stated, ‘give him a chance”.

“I’m afraid at this level you don’t give someone a chance,especially one with no track record in the job.

“He was a very good candidate but I’m not prepared to make a decision on an option already chosen by the senior staff committee and presented to the full council for approval.

“The candidate was strong but the post should have been readvertised and he should have been put forward for the final round when others were competing for the job too.”

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Politics

Criticism of Labour’s water pollution policy grow

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JANET FINCH-SAUNDERS MS – the Shadow Environment and Rural Affairs Minister – has backed a call from rural economy agency Country Land and Business Association (CLA) Cymru for a targeted response to water pollution in Wales.
Last week, a motion to annul the regulations narrowly failed to pass after Labour used its bloc vote.
Labour has twice voted against rescinding the Welsh Government’s NVZ policy and used a procedural ruse to ram the legislation through without scrutiny.
Among those aiding and abetting Labour was the outgoing MS for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Dafydd Elis Thomas. He was joined by Caroline Jones, formerly of UKIP, who is odds-on to lose her regional seat at May’s election. Education Minister Kirsty Williams, the Senedd’s sole Liberal Democrat MS, did not vote at all, not even to abstain.
Despite notionally representing a rural area of Wales, Eluned Morgan and Joyce Watson backed the controversial rules, which could drive Pembrokeshire’s small local dairy farmers out of business.

RIGHT OBJECTIVE WRONG METHOD

Fraser McAuley, CLA Policy Advisor, said: “The Government’s laudable objectives can be better met by an approach which focuses attention where it’s most needed. Where a problem doesn’t exist, we should not be imposing unnecessary costs on a hard-pressed sector in a future of uncertainty.

“The crude closed-periods for nutrient-spreading will do everything to encourage more intense spreading in the open-periods. This limits farmers’ capacity to choose the right ground-conditions to add nutrient. In some instances, this could make matters worse!”
Mr McAuley continued: “We really don’t believe the Welsh Government has allocated sufficient resource to do the job. We will be pressing-hard for more capital support through the Farm Business and Sustainable Production Grants. Penalising hard-stretched farmers will lead to more departures from the business by small operators. The livelihood of many small family farms is at-stake.
“We’ve got a great opportunity to get this right in the White Paper on Agriculture. Here, we can create a solution that fits into the big picture: creating a prosperous farming sector based on sustainable land management principles. This is the real goal.”

WG HASN’T LISTENED TO THE SCIENCE

Janet Finch-Saunder said: “CLA Cymru is bang on the money here over Labour’s unfair stance on nitrate vulnerable zones (NVZ).

“As Welsh Conservatives have repeatedly said, a blanket NVZ policy discriminates against farmers who are abiding by the regulations. A targeted approach focused on where it’s most needed means resources can be better and more efficiently applied.
“Unlike Labour, which is peddling a myth that the voluntary approach has failed, I would look to back the Blue Flag Farming approach. We should pursue the Water Standard and work to deliver on the 45 recommendations by the Wales Land Management Forum Sub-Group on agricultural pollution., They have been entirely ignored by the Welsh Government.
“The pandemic hasn’t helped, but farmers in Wales have had a tough time under Labour. Imposing unnecessary costs on this vital sector of the Welsh economy helps no-one and won’t solve the problem.”
Preseli Pembrokeshire MS Paul Davies said: “These excessive and disproportionate proposals will have a massive impact on the viability of many farms across Wales. Even then, Natural Resources Wales has warned that the proposed new rules will have the perverse outcome of making water quality worse.
“The regulations will threaten the sustainability of many farms in Pembrokeshire and have a serious impact on farmers’ mental health. And they will do this while there is still no clear evidence that this action will actually deliver the improvements in water quality that they have set out to achieve.”

‘CULTURE WAR’

Carmarthen East & Dinefwr’s MP, Jonathan Edwards, went further and accused the Welsh Government of stoking a ‘culture war’ between farmers and the environmental lobby for electoral advantage.

Mr Edwards said: “There is nothing new surrounding issues of slurry management. I am, therefore, baffled as to why the Labour Government are so intent on bringing forward this poorly thought out measure a month before an election.
“Creating an all-Wales NVZ seems completely ham-fisted.  A more subtle policy would have concentrated on problematic geographical areas instead of a blanket all-Wales policy.
“The Labour Government have also failed to consider the emergence of innovative slurry management technology.
“Coleg Sir Gar Gelli Aur campus has been working on a dewatering and purification system for slurry resulting in zero waste.   The Labour Government should be using its environmental budget to help the industry make the transition to the use of new technology.”
Jonathan Edwards concluded: “Unfortunately, the Labour Government have decided to engage in the politics of culture war. Its creating division between farmers and the environmental lobby instead of working collaboratively on areas of mutual interest.
“Instead of using farmers as a political football, the Labour Government should be working with our agricultural sector. Its members are already having to contend with the huge challenges created by the Tory British Government’s Brexit policy.”

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

Plaid Cymru’s candidate for Preseli Pembrokeshire, Cris Tomos, said: “It is concerning that the Labour Welsh Government continues to ignore farmers and the farming unions.
“These regulations could be detrimental to the farming community, especially to the Welsh family farm.

“The Labour Welsh Government should be making every effort to work with farmers.”
Cris Tomos added: “It is also concerning that, on the one hand, Labour has pledged to fulfil its ‘One Million Welsh Speakers’ promise, and on the other, it continues to betray the industry with one of the highest rates of Welsh speakers.”

A TIGHT TIMETABLE

If Labour intends to plough on with its legislation, it really has to get its skates on.

The Senedd term ends soon. After that point, Labour will not be able to lay its new regulations.
It has not even published them yet. And that leaves farmers in limbo.
Farmers will not know the detail of the divisive and costly new rules until days before they are due to come into force.
How the Welsh Government can ask a regulator to enforce those rules without a lengthy lead-in is something the Welsh Government has not set out. It has also provided no extra funding to its environment watchdog, NRW, to deal with the rules’ impact and enforcement.

‘GREEN’ CREDENTIALS

Having promised a Clean Air Act for Wales in its 2016 manifesto, it is nowhere near bringing any such legislation forward. It appears it’s more in the presentation and consultation than in the statute book.

Labour Senedd members and ministers who have been remarkably silent on agriculture for the last five years now express a deep and abiding interest in the topic.
As Jonathan Edwards notes above: you’d think there was an election coming.
In contrast to its green branding, Labour withdrew business rates support from small hydropower businesses. It claimed the cost of rates relief to them could not be afforded due to the Covid pandemic. It saved under £1m.
Regardless of when the Welsh Government publishes its regulations, it faces a potential legal challenge from NFU-Cymru. NFU-Cymru says the Welsh Government failed to follow its own rules on the rules’ impact before forcing them through the Senedd.
Labour ministers pressed on without knowing what would happen in practice or, worse, simply turned a blind eye to the consequences. They also ignored the Impact Assessment of the Welsh Government’s own regulator.
Meanwhile, Labour’s Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths, broke repeated promises made to the Senedd and farming unions about the regulations’ introduction during the pandemic.
Unfunded, unenforceable rules of unknown impact are unlikely to achieve their aim: that’s not a compelling legislative legacy.
Suppose Labour cannot form a majority government propped up by votes from individuals like Dafydd Elis Thomas. In that case, it will need to haggle over its future plans or face legislative deadlock.
Anyone would think there was an election coming.
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Education

Senedd approves Wales’ National Curriculum

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MEMBERS of the Senedd voted to pass the National Curriculum Bill’s final text, meaning the Curriculum for Wales will now be introduced in 2022. Throughout the debate on its final stage, which took place on Tuesday (March 9), opposition members praised Wales’ Education Minister, Kirsty Williams. Members from all sides saluted her patience and diligence in guiding a significant piece of legislation onto the statute book. Even members who disagreed with the Bill’s content and opposed its passage highlighted the Minister’s personal contribution and commitment to creating Wales’ first national Curriculum. A NATIONAL MISSION The Bill was the subject of intensive scrutiny and broad consultation. Speaking in the Senedd, Mrs Williams said the Bill’s passage was ’a national mission’. “It would have been simpler to cook up plans in Cathays Park in a back office and issue a ‘take it or leave it’ offer,” the Education Minister said. She continued: “But our combined efforts with teachers, academics, parents, and many organisations here and abroad is worth so much more because of that ‘national mission’ spirit.” Kirsty Williams paid a personal tribute to Labour MS Lynn Neagle, Chair of the Children’s and Young Persons’ Committee. Under Lynn Neagle’s leadership, the Committee rigorously scrutinised the Bill and made a series of recommendations in its text. Of the Labour backbencher, Kirsty Williams said: “I conclude by thanking Lynne Neagle for her tough, astute, tenacious, sometimes bloody-mindedness in her approach to this legislation. I mean that as a compliment, Lynne. “As I said earlier, the results of the committee’s work have made this a better Bill.” She had similarly warm words for her Conservative opposite number, Suzy Davies. Mrs Williams acknowledged: “She has worked incredibly hard on this Bill, and I know that she’s been fully committed to the scrutiny process. As I said in opening my comments today, I think we have a better Bill due to the CYPE committee’s efforts. I have gone to great lengths to try and respond positively to the cross-party report that the Committee published to try and meet those aspirations.” Like Mrs Williams, Suzy Davies steps down as an MS in May. She was unable to attend the debate. CURRICULUM CONTROVERSY Despite the Minister’s warm words, the new Curriculum’s journey to the statute book has not been without controversy. Activists railed against the Curriculum’s Religion Values and Ethics element and its focus on Welsh language teaching’s importance to all of Wales’ pupils. The inclusion of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in the Curriculum provoked vituperative responses from a small group of parents. They opposed children receiving what they’ve claimed will be inappropriately explicit sexual education. Senior Policy Researcher for NSPCC Cymru/Wales, Dr Sarah Witcombe-Hayes says: “The strength of support for mandatory relationships and sexuality education to be included in the new Curriculum for Wales by leading child protection experts and charities highlights what a game-changer this is. “The changes are long overdue, but in passing this Bill Senedd members are helping to protect children and young people from abuse – making sure every child and young person in Wales can access high quality RSE that is relevant, sensitive and appropriate to their own capacities and needs. “It will help all learners understand their rights to safe, healthy and fulfilling relationships throughout their lives, and schools must now be supported and fully resourced to deliver inclusive and high quality RSE from September 2022.” Regarding Welsh Language teaching and RSE, those with genuine concerns had those worries preyed upon to grandstanding political effect by fringe political movements, such as Ukip and Abolish the Assembly (sic.) Speaking for the latter group, Gareth Bennett said: “The downgrading of English teaching in the interest of immersion in Welsh is a sinister development. It will surely disadvantage Welsh schoolchildren who are not from a background of speaking Welsh at home.” Dr Felix Aubel, a noted controversialist, said: “UKIP would divert millions of pounds by abolishing the legal requirement to forcibly impose the Welsh language on people.” Like Abolish, UKIP will campaign on a platform of abolishing Welsh parliamentary democracy. Those organisations’ concerns on Welsh language education ignore the fact Welsh is the national language of Wales. Every credible educational study underlines how children benefit from bilingual education. HISTORY TEACHING CONCERNS PLAID On Tuesday, further and concerted criticism of the new Curriculum came from Plaid Cymru. Perturbed by the absence of Welsh history’s teaching, Plaid’s Sian Gwenllian announced the party would vote against the Bill in its final stage. Plaid’s Shadow Education Minister said that, although her party supported the Bill’s direction of travel: “Plaid Cymru argued for the inclusion of two other mandatory elements that could also contribute towards creating that social, far-reaching transformation that we want to see, namely the history of Wales in all of its diversity, including black and people of colour history, and environmental education, including climate change.
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