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Strange bedfellows

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Stephen Crabb: Cross-party consensus favouring amendment he voted against

Stephen Crabb: Cross-party consensus favouring amendment he voted
against

THE LAST week has seen causes close to the hearts of many people receive support from somewhat unlikely quarters.
Last Tuesday, (Conservative) MPs voted against a proposed amendment to the finance bill, which would have forced George Osborne to outline a strategy for negotiating with the EU to remove the 5% VAT from tampons.
In the end, only three Conservative MPs voted in favour of the amendment, but prior to the vote, rumours of strong cross-party support for the amendment were rife, and commentators believed that Eurosceptic Tories would vote against the party line and follow their own agenda, as UKIP’s solitary MP did.
It will be interesting to see how many times Douglas Carswell votes in favour of a motion put forward by a Labour MP who has described herself as a ‘feminist and Trade Unionist’ in the future.
The three Conservatives who defied the Whip – Philip Davies, Philip Hollobone and David Nuttall, are all confirmed opponents of Britain remaining in the EU. Their vote in this matter, like that of Carswell, would appear to be an attempt to put Mr Osborne in a position where he was unable to secure EU approval, which would serve to highlight perceived problems with Britain’s EU membership ahead of a referendum.
The reasons given by Conservative MPs for voting against the amendment made for amusing reading. Realising, perhaps, that around half of their constituents were female, they queued up to tell local papers that they were in favour of reducing VAT for tampons – even though they voted against an amendment which was specifically about doing just that.
A Herald journalist contacted Stephen Crabb to ask his reasons for voting against the amendment The Secretary of State for Wales said that there was ‘cross party consensus’ that the UK should be able to abolish VAT on sanitary products.
“Ministers are about to commence discussions with the European Commission and other EU Member States.
“Given that the Minister has already promised to report back to the House of Commons on these negotiations, the amendment was unnecessary and so I voted against.”
The prospect of a Labour amendment succeeding presumably did not cross Mr Crabb’s mind when he cast his vote. The same could not be said for Gower’s Byron Davies, who was happy to say: “People also need to realise that it’s not that I voted against the abolition of the tax. I’m all for abolishing the tax or at least making it lower.
“But, I am a member of the Conservative Party; hence I am unable to vote in favour of a motion proposed by Labour.”
Mr Davies also said: “There is a lot of miscommunication around this issue at the moment.
“The decision to lower the VAT on sanitary items is not within the power of the UK government. This power lies with the European Union, who introduced the tax because they are not considered essential items.”
Whether or not this is the result of miscommunication, the amendment quite clearly stated that:
“Within three months of the passing of this Act, the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall lay before both Houses of Parliament a statement on his strategy to negotiate with the EU institution an exemption from VAT for women’s sanitary protection products.”
As such, arguing that it is not within the power of a UK government seems to be a flawed premise. However, it is one shared by Conservative MP for Monmouth David Davies, who also voted against the amendment.
“The problem is we’ve got the ludicrous EU regulations. They’ve got to change,” he told a local newspaper.
“People blame the government for things like this, but we don’t have any control over it.
“It’s something we need to bear in mind when there’s a referendum on our EU membership.”
It is perhaps surprising that David Davies voted against this amendment, given that he is willing to support other groups with, shall we say, differing political beliefs against the common enemy that is the EU.
The People’s NHS Wales have been vocally campaigning for the NHS to be made exempt from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Readers in Pembrokeshire will be aware of their numerous attempts to meet with Stephen Crabb to discuss the issue with him, including attending two (cancelled) constituency surgeries.
The People’s NHS is fiercely critical of NHS privatisation, and the current Conservative government. The Welsh group has been attempting to raise the profile of TTIP, and the possible effects that privatisation in England could have on the Barnett differentials for Wales, as well as the risk that any privatisation would be irreversible.
This would, on the face of it, appear to be a fairly socialist agenda, in that it encourages government spending in the public sector. However, Mr Davies has lent the group his support, and has written what the People’s NHS Wales describe as a ‘strongly worded letter’ to the Minister for Trade and Investment calling for the Government to ensure that the NHS is protected.
In his letter to Francis Maude, Mr Davies said: “I therefore hope the UK government will call on the EU to change the wording of the TTIP proposal in a way that would rule out the privatisation of the NHS. If the EU ignores our wishes as is sadly possible, then I will advise all those who have lobbied me to take account of this when they vote on Britain’s membership of the EU in the forthcoming referendum.”
The wording of this missive carefully avoids making any reference to the role of the Conservative Party in this matter, or that one of the main concerns of the People’s NHS is that the Conservative Government will use TTIP as a means to a programme of privatisation which will be irreversible as a consequence of multinational companies being given the power to sue governments which make decisions that cost them money.
It appears that, to the hardened Eurosceptic, any cause that furthers the ‘Brexit’ agenda is to be championed regardless.

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Mark Drakeford says: ‘Thank you Wales for going red’

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LABOUR is staying in power in Wales after matching its best-ever Senedd election result. It won exactly half of the 60 seats in the Welsh Parliament with all results now declared

Labour has 30 seats, with the Conservatives on 16, Plaid Cymru on 13 and the Liberal Democrats one.
Mark Drakeford thanked Wales for “going red” and has vowed to be “radical” and “ambitious” in government, as Labour looks to solidify its leadership in Wales.

Labour’s Vaughan Gething, health minister in the Welsh government, told the media that the party didn’t “have to look at a formal coalition” because they had done so well.

“We do, however, have to talk to other groups within the Senedd,” he said.

Mr Gething said Labour had a “strong mandate to govern” with 30 of the Senedd’s 60 seats.

The Wales Green Party failed to win a seat in the Senedd elections but they say they recorded their highest-ever result in Wales. Leader Anthony Slaughter said the “results demonstrate the appetite for change” across Wales.

A very happy Mark Drakeford on Saturday, May 8 (Photo Welsh Labour/Twitter)

Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party, said: “We seem to be getting votes from all of the parties and support on that regional list as people increase their knowledge of the voting system.”

Adam Price, who held Carmarthen East and Dinefwr with a reduced majority, said he would not stand down as Plaid Cymru leader.

Despite no gains, Mr Price said the party had increased its share of the vote and its stance on independence had been a “net positive”.

“I’m not walking away from anything, because this is the moment when Wales needs leadership,” he said.

“This is a historic challenge, because of the way that the politics is moving in this island, but it’s also a historic opportunity for us.

On the campaign trail, Plaid leader Adam Price (Pic Plaid Cymru)

“We can move our nation forward and I’m looking forward to playing my part, it’s not something that anyone can do on their own.

“I have a role to play, we all have a role to play and that’s what’s exciting about politics at the moment. Wales is on the move Wales is on the march. I’m going to be part of that.”

Later, on social media, Adam Price said: ” I extend my congratulations to Mark Drakeford on securing a mandate to lead the next government. Although disappointed not to be returning more Members to the Senedd, I am proud that we ran a positive campaign based on a transformational programme.

“Our Senedd group will bring renewed energy and fresh ideas and I look forward to working with all my colleagues as we continue to build the case for independence. We will be a constructive but forensic opposition as we enter a crucial period of pandemic recovery.

“However, the sixth Senedd will be poorer without one of Wales’s most remarkable politicians. No one has given more to the party or to her community than Leanne Wood – an inspiring role model for so many.

“Leanne’s commitment to the Rhondda is unparalleled and I know she will continue to make an important contribution to the future of our nation and the pursuit of social justice which always has and always will drive her politics.

“Westminster’s attack on devolution is only just beginning and Wales needs a plan – that plan must focus on taking our own future into our own hands so we can build a nation that is fair and free.

TORYS CLAIM BEST RESULT EVER

The Welsh Conservatives say that they have secured the party’s best ever result in a Senedd election, winning 16 seats in the Welsh Parliament.

In a statement to the press the party said: “Today’s final election results have seen the Welsh Conservatives secure two regional list seats in both South Wales Central and South Wales East.

“Welsh Conservatives polled 289,802 votes (share up 5.0) across 40 constituencies – 26.1% of the vote – winning eight seats including gains in both the Vale of Clwyd and Brecon and Radnorshire.

“On the five regional lists, Welsh Conservatives secured 278,560 votes (share up 6.3), winning eight seats. The result will see the Senedd return its first ever female from a BAME background, with Welsh Conservatives’ Natasha Asghar making history with election in South Wales East.

Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies with Joel Williams on election day (Pic RT Davies/Twitter)

Commenting, Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies said: “Firstly, I’d like to say a huge thank you to our outstanding set of Welsh Conservative candidates, activists and staff who’ve worked incredibly hard throughout this campaign and secured the party’s best ever Senedd result.

“The team has gone above and beyond and deserve great credit for the positive campaign we’ve run right across Wales, and I am thrilled to see Natasha Asghar make history in South Wales East by becoming the first female from a BAME background to be elected to the Senedd.

Newly elected Conservative member of Senedd, Sam Kurtz, talking to BBC reporter Aled Scourfield (Pic J Coles/Herald)

“As a party we are also delighted to have secured constituency seats in the Vale of Clwyd and Brecon and Radnorshire, and increased seats on the regional lists, resulting in our highest ever representation in the Senedd with 16 members.

“It’s been an unconventional campaign and it’s clear incumbency and continuity has played a significant part. To that end, I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to Mark Drakeford and Welsh Labour on a successful campaign.

“The election has been fought in good spirit by political parties in Wales and I would like to pay a final word of thanks to the many officials across the country who’ve allowed this election to take place in a safe and effective manner.”

IMPACT OF PANDEMIC

Ian Price, director of CBI Wales, congratulated Labour. He said: “This is a critical time for the Welsh economy and the new parliament must have a laser-like focus on rebuilding from the devastating impact of the pandemic,” he said.
“That means all parties pulling together and working with business to protect jobs, rebuild livelihoods and create a fair and sustainable recovery that addresses the longstanding structural challenges our economy faces.”

Royal Town Planning Institute, largest professional body for town planners in the UK and Europe, commented on the election result saying: “The Welsh Labour Manifesto meets many of the issues raised by the RTPI, including tackling climate action, investing in public transport and active travel, and the delivery of quality affordable homes, including a focus on strengthening Welsh language communities.

“The manifesto commits to strengthening the autonomy and effectiveness of local government to make them more successful in delivering services. We have highlighted the need to invest in planning services to enable the delivery of Welsh Labour’s priorities.”

LABOUR “RESILIENT”

Speaking to the BBC, political commentator Prof Roger Awan-Scully said: “I think it’s been an astonishingly resilient performance by the Welsh Labour Party, amidst disasters for Labour elsewhere in the UK.

“The Conservatives are also performing strongly, but not quite bringing it home in terms of the number of constituency victories that they might have expected.

“For Plaid Cymru I think this has to be said to be a deeply disappointing election.”

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Conservatives hold on to Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire seat

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THE CONSERVATIVES have held on to their Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire seat despite Labour closing the gap.

Sam Kurtz will take over the seat from the outgoing Angela Burns who held a majority of 3,400 at the last election.

This time, the gap was just 936 to Labour’s Hassan Riaz who picked up 10,304 votes.

Plaid Cymru’s Cefin Campbell picked up 6,615 votes.

The turnout in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire was slightly up to 52.12% from 51.2% in 2016.

However, with a larger electorate thanks to votes for 16/17-year-olds, the number of votes cast went up by almost 3,000.

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Polling station changes in Pembrokeshire

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POLLING STATIONS in Pembrokeshire are open today (May 6) but a small number may have changed from the last time you voted.

In Neyland, the polling station will be at the new Community Hub building on John Street.

St Katherine’s Church Hall will be the new host for the station in Milford Haven, having previously been held at the Murray Suite in the town hall.

A polling station will be placed at the leisure centre in Haverfordwest while one at Trecwn has been moved to the Gate, Scleddau.

Voters in the county will be electing for the Preseli Pembrokeshire and the Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire constituencies.

People will also be able to select five MSs to represent the Mid and West Wales Region.

The candidate with the most votes will win the constituency but the ballot for the region will be decided by a different process.

People will be elected according to their share of the vote, using a mathematical process, and gives parties who may have won fewer or no constituencies a better chance of winning regional ones.

It will also be a big day for 16 and 17 year olds as they will be able to vote in Welsh elections for the first time.

The ballots will be counted on Friday (May 7) with results expected to come in from the afternoon.

Polling stations opened at 7am and will close at 10pm.

All those who vote will be required to stick to Covid-19 safety measures including wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing.

Clean pencils will be available but voters can bring their own pen or pencil.

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