OF WALES & THE WELSH
Greg Lance – Watkins
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Marcus Stead gave a sound unbiased, which is rare in Wales with so many of it’s journalists bought and paid for by one cult of Nationalists or another, he gives a good critique of the problems Wales has, with the wildly differing polls recently, on RT TV channel to watch it:
Is Wales heading for a constitutional crisis?
By MARCUS STEAD
WALES may be heading for a constitutional crisis. With elections to the Welsh Parliament due in just two months’ time, there is a very real possibility that Labour, who have governed with or without a coalition partner since devolution began in 1999, will fall well short of the 30 seats they need to form a majority.
But this is not comparable to times where Labour has fallen short before, such as in 1999 when they entered into a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, or 2007 when they agreed the ‘One Wales’ deal with Plaid Cymru.
If the YouGov poll published on St David’s Day is to be believed, Labour are heading for their worst ever return, with just 24 seats. The Lib Dems will retain just one seat, the Conservatives will return 16 members, up from 12 at present, while Plaid Cymru will finish with 14, up from 11 last time around, but well short of their record high of 17 in 1999. The Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party would win the remaining five seats.
The basic arithmetic dictates that the most likely outcome would be another Labour and Plaid Cymru coalition. But it won’t be as simple as that. The 2007 ‘One Wales’ agreement paved the way for a referendum in 2011 on giving the Assembly law-making powers similar to those granted to the Scottish Parliament, which was subsequently won by the ‘Yes’ side with 63% of the vote on a miserable turnout of below 36%.
The ‘One Wales’ agreement was criticised by some senior figures within Welsh Labour at the time, who claimed it would lead ‘nationalists to the gates of independence’.
A decade on, and the institution has been renamed the ‘Welsh Parliament’, without the consent of the people, and the institution has tax-varying powers, which the ballot paper in the referendum explicitly said it could not make laws on.
Adam Price became Plaid Cymru leader in September 2018 following a leadership contest in which he pledged not to enter into coalition with Labour or the Conservatives. In his words, the very idea should be ‘taken off the table’.
By October 2020, Price had softened his stance, to only be willing to enter into a coalition with Labour if Plaid were the largest party, or if it was an ‘equal partnership’. The former is very clearly not going to happen, while with 14 seats, his democratic mandate for an ‘equal partnership’ with Labour would be weak, yet with no other possible coalition partners, Labour may well be tempted to give Price what he wants.
Welsh Labour has effectively morphed into the party Plaid Cymru was in the late 1990s, keen on ‘Home Rule’, as outlined by Mark Drakeford last week, but less enthusiastic about independence. Plaid Cymru has become a much more hardline party, combining a drive for Welsh independence with an obsession with woke issues. Some opinion polls have hinted at a modest increase in support for Welsh independence over the course of the last year, but this has in no way resulted in an increase in opinion poll ratings for Plaid Cymru.
A BBC Wales/ICM poll last week put support for Welsh independence at 14%, behind support for abolishing the Welsh Parliament at 15%. Despite this, Price may well push for devolution of broadcasting, criminal justice and even a roadmap towards a referendum on independence as part of a coalition deal with Labour.
Welsh nationalism sits uncomfortably as a concept outside Plaid Cymru’s heartlands in west and north west Wales, and beyond the small network of middle-class, interconnected Crachach families based in and around Cardiff who dominate the Welsh media, arts, civil service and higher education sectors.
Most Welsh people only have to look back four or five generations to find they are at least part-descended from English ancestry, and while winding up our neighbours is good fun when we beat them at rugby, we overwhelmingly consider ourselves both Welsh and part of a wider British family.
Figures released in July 2019 by the Office for National Statistics showed public spending in Wales was £13.7 billion more than the total amount collected in taxes, which works out as a deficit of £4,376 per person. Making up that shortfall alone in a post-independence Wales would, in itself, be a huge task.
Welsh nationalists often like to claim that England is somehow responsible for short-changing Wales and is condemning the Welsh people to poverty, but the facts simply don’t back that up.
In 2018/19, public spending per person in the UK as a whole was £9,584, but in Wales, the figure was £10,656, which is 11% above the average. In other words, the people of Wales are having their public services and infrastructure invested in to a far higher extent than the UK average, subsidised by the English taxpayer. This might be an inconvenient truth to some, but it is a truth nevertheless. Meanwhile, social security spending (currently a non-devolved area) is £670 per person per year higher in Wales than the UK average.
Drakeford’s calls for ‘Home Rule’ last week, echoed by his predecessor Carwyn Jones, effectively means asking the English taxpayer to subsidise Wales’s standard of living, while not allowing them any say in how Wales is governed. That means taxation without representation. Under those conditions, how long would it be before voters in less affluent parts of England start questioning why so much money is given to Wales instead of to their regions?
Welsh nationalists occupy a very dark corner of the Twittersphere, where abusive pile-ons of their opponents is commonplace. Yet they are incapable of answering even the most basic of questions as to how an independent Wales would function: What currency would we use? What would we do about our share of the national debt? How would a hard border with England operate? Most Welsh nationalists support EU membership, yet would Wales meet EU membership criteria for a functioning market economy? And how would Wales cope in the period of around a decade between applying for EU membership, and actually becoming members?
When asked these questions, we are normally faced with some vague waffle about selling water to England, after which point, they either become abusive or give up with meaningless ‘it is better to be poor and free’ type arguments, which don’t cut much ice with most Welsh people.
With the Welsh media largely controlled by individuals sympathetic to Welsh nationalism, there is a danger in the months ahead that the issue of independence, while not at the forefront of the minds of most Welsh voters, will nevertheless occupy far too much airtime and column inches at the expense of issues that actually matter to people: The lack of job opportunities, poor standards in education, an NHS in crisis, Wales’s inability to hold on to its bright graduates, poor transport links, poor infrastructure, slow broadband, crime, anti-social behaviour, and the lack of a skilled private sector.
Wednesday’s Budget saw Chancellor Rishi Sunak announce a £30 million investment for the Global Centre of Rail Excellence in Ystradgynlais/Powys, £4.8 million for the Holyhead Hydrogen Hub and £58 million to accelerate the creation of 13,000 jobs in north, mid and south west Wales. The Chancellor also committed an extra £740 million extra for the Welsh Government directly to help fund its responsibilities. This, in effect, is English taxpayers’ money. It is morally right that they are therefore given a substantial say in how Wales is governed.
Chancellor Sunak also signalled his intensions to reduce the UK deficit to below 3% of GDP in the medium term. Even if that is achieved, Wales’s fiscal deficit would still be between 15-20% of GDP. A Wales outside the United Kingdom would be massively poorer, and it is reckless and dishonest of nationalists to pretend otherwise. Furthermore, how would Wales borrow money, and who would lend to an independent Wales, with little confidence in the debt being kept at a manageable figure or in their ability to pay it back?
The situation in which Wales finds itself ought to be put into a wider context. It is part of a half-finished, ill-conceived devolution project started by the Blair government. Fewer than one in for of the Welsh electorate voted for the creation of the Assembly in 1997. Fewer than one in five voted to increase its powers in the referendum of 2011.
The people of Scotland were told that the independence referendum of 2014 would be a ‘once in a generation’ event, yet here we are apparently close to another referendum in less than a lifespan of a domestic rabbit. The Scottish independence debate has utterly toxified politics in Scotland, and as Andrew Neil pointed out in his article for the Daily Mail last week, the very levers of democracy in Scotland: an independent judiciary, independent police forces, a robust and free press, and a legislature holding the executive to account, have all been severely damaged by years of SNP rule. Serious talk about the Scottish economy, healthcare, education, housing and public services are overshadowed by ongoing rows over independence. The ongoing situation with regards to the treatment of Alex Salmond provides a strong case for the UK Government to suspend devolution in Scotland, which increasingly resembles a banana republic.
London has also seceded to a far greater degree than many people realise. The capital city thinks, votes and behaves very differently to the rest of the country. Under Sadiq Khan, violent crime has spiralled out of control, areas of London that were pleasant places to live 30 years ago have become overtaken by gang warfare. Getting from A to B has become a nightmare, with ill-thought-out cycle lanes and other absurd measures.
The half-baked system of regional mayors has also brought with it instances of scandal, waste and corruption, along with tensions between regional and national government. Is this layer of government and bureaucracy necessary on an island so small?
The United Kingdom is facing a constitutional crisis, and the need to confront these issues head-on has become all the more urgent during the course of the ongoing pandemic.
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in the interest of accuracy material in the main text in blue was written by someone other than myself.
When in black text the wording ‘Welsh Language’ means the ‘Language of the peoples of Wales’ and is therefore the majority language ie ‘English’
The ancient language of parts of Wales, varied as it is, as spoken by a tiny minority in Wales is called ‘Welsh’ or ‘the ancient Welsh language’
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