Tag Archives: assembly

Test for democracy in Northern Ireland as Sinn Fein set to win most assembly seats

Northern Ireland will have a nationalist leader for the first time in its more-than-100-year history after last week’s local elections. But will the unionists accept it?

Ever since the power sharing agreement was set up that made the NI Assembly in Stormont possible, the leadership has been held by a Democratic Unionist Party representative.

In practise, the post is interchangeable with that of the deputy leader, but the role is also symbolic – and the unionists may decide they don’t like the symbol they’ll be asked to support.

This Writer has previously heard rumbles that suggest the unionists would abandon the power-sharing agreements if they can’t be the leaders; that would have serious consequences for the representation of democracy. How can an elected assembly be democratic if only one party can be allowed to take the leadership?

It seems those rumours are not set to become reality quite yet. But the unionists are demanding changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol that prevents a hard border between NI and the Republic of Ireland by keeping Northern Ireland inside the European Union’s (EU) single market for goods. It also creates a new trade border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The demand isn’t unreasonable; there should not be a hard trade border between one part of the United Kingdom and the others.

But it is a part of the agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland in 1998 that there should be no hard border between it and the Republic.

And the UK’s departure from the European Union means that a border where goods and people passing through are checked has to be placed somewhere, because the Republic is a member of that bloc.

It’s a problem that can’t be solved, it seems. Certainly the UK’s Tory government seems to have no intention of trying, with promoted-past-his-pay-grade Northern Ireland Secretary Damian Lewis hinting that there will be no plan to introduce new legislation on the protocol in the Queen’s Speech next week.

There may be leeway for discussion; new assembly members have until the end of 2024 to vote on whether to continue with the parts of the protocol that create an internal trade border within the UK.

One aspect of the change to a majority nationalist assembly that is unlikely to cause trouble – at least for now – is Sinn Fein’s aspiration to unite the Province with the Republic once again.

The law rules that the UK’s Northern Ireland Secretary may only agree to hold a referendum on reunification if it seems a majority of people in the Province are likely to support that change – and that hasn’t happened yet.

The most recent opinion poll, published in April, puts support at around 33 per cent.

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald has said planning for a unity referendum – also known as a border poll – would come within a five-year framework.

So it seems that, even if a way can be found to resolve problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol, arguments are likely to break out over reunification.

It seems clear that Northern Ireland’s history will continue to be difficult for some time to come.

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#ShaunBailey: Former London Mayor candidate quits police committee role after rule-busting Christmas party

Shaun Bailey: he was the Conservative candidate for Islamophobia, sexism and misogyny. Now he has resigned from a police committee after breaking rules on attending Christmas parties last year.

Remember Shaun Bailey?

I do.

He was the Tory racist and sexist who stood as their candidate in the London mayoral election that Sadiq Khan won.

Here‘s the BBC:

A former Conservative mayoral candidate who attended a Covid regulation-breaching Christmas party has quit as chair of a police and crime committee.

Shaun Bailey’s team organised the gathering at the Conservative Campaign Headquarters on 14 December 2020 when London was under Tier 2 restrictions banning household mixing.

He has now stepped down from the role but remains a member of the committee and the London Assembly.

Note that Bailey would have been quite happy to stay on the London Assembly’s Police and Crime committee if a photo of him at the rule-busting party had not been published in the Mirror.

And he’s happy to remain a member of the committee, even now!

These Tories. There’s not an ounce of integrity in any of them.

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Labour wins historic SIXTH term in succession in Welsh government – and may consider independence vote

Mark Drakeford: Wales’ First Minister has described the Tory government in Westminster as “utterly shambolic”.

Has any UK-based government won six successive terms? That’s what Labour just achieved in Wales.

It shows the advantage that sitting governments can use, when they actually deliver on their promises and do their best to help the population.

The mainstream media have been unforgivably quiet about it. Perhaps the London-based hacks think Wales doesn’t matter. They certainly pay more attention to Scotland, where the SNP has won only its fourth successive term.

That could all change very soon, with both devolved governments likely to support independence referenda if proposals are put before them.

I know Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to make it happen. The surprise here is that Mark Drakeford has said he will support an independence referendum in Wales, if there is a majority in the Senedd for holding one.

The contrast with Labour’s performance in England could not be more extreme – as social media commenters have merrily pointed out:

The lesson was very clearly put by Simon de Jever: “Drakeford is a left wing Corbyn supporting leader. Starmer is a Corbyn bashing centrist. Drakeford has had a spectacular win even in Brexit areas and Starmer has reduced the Labour vote to 29%.”

And Andrew Feinstein added: “Makes you think Starmer’s purge of the left and massive shift to the right might have been a mistake!”

 

 

Ya think?

The victory creates huge problems for Keir Starmer because his failure will be measured against Drakeford’s success. Some are already laying bets that Drakeford’s suspension from the Labour Party is already in the mail.

But if Drakeford is serious about permitting an independence referendum, it could create a monumental problem for Boris Johnson.

He can’t refuse permission for such a poll on the basis that we’ve had one recently (as in Scotland) because we haven’t.

He can’t rely on Wales rejecting independence because he knows his government has been so appallingly useless that many Welsh people may consider going it alone to be preferable – even if it means a few lean years in the immediate future. We’ll have hardship under the Tories indefinitely.

And it means he could be in line for a double dose of shame as the prime minister who presided over the end of the United Kingdom.

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Bid to halt NI abortion law change fails. How will Boris Johnson get the DUP on-side for his Brexit now?

How interesting – last week we were told Boris Johnson’s government was working hard to get the devolved government in Northern Ireland working again, to bribe the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) into supporting his Brexit deal.

The idea was that, as the DUP is firmly opposed to the legalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland – which will happen by law after the Westminster government supported it and could only be stopped if the Stormont assembly voted to do so, then the Stormont assembly must be restored.

It seems clear that attempts were made to facilitate this, but it was impossible for MLAs to agree on the election of a speaker so the attempt failed.

Now it seems Mr Johnson has no way of getting the DUP to support his deal, other than by making concessions.

Or will Arlene Foster’s party have a miraculous conversion to his way of thinking?

A last ditch attempt at the Stormont assembly to stop abortion law changes in Northern Ireland has failed, with the law set to change at midnight.

Unionist parties, who oppose the upcoming liberalisation, triggered the assembly’s recall with a petition.

But politicians were told the assembly could not do any business until a speaker was elected with cross-community backing.

That became impossible when the nationalist SDLP left the chamber.

As a result no nationalist representatives remained, meaning no new speaker could be elected and the sitting was suspended after less than an hour.

In July, MPs at Westminster passed legislation which requires the government to change abortion laws and extend same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland if devolution is not restored by 21 October.

Source: Abortion: NI politicians’ bid to halt law changes fails – BBC News

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Theresa May told huge lies in her Brexit speech today and everybody knows it

Lying yet again: I’m getting tired of using this image, but it remains the most accurate depiction of Theresa May’s attitude.

Wow. What a screw-up.

When you’re prime minister of a nation like the UK, giving a major speech on a subject that has split your citizens, it is highly advisable not to tell a huge lie about it if you want to have your way.

But that is what Theresa May did today (January 14).

She tried to co-opt the story of the creation of the National Assembly for Wales in support of her claim that Brexit must be enacted, despite the narrowness of the referendum result.

There are just three problems:

First, she said, “On the rare occasions when Parliament puts a question to the British people directly, we have always understood that their response carries a profound significance.” This is a lie.

After the Welsh Assembly referendum in 1997 produced a 0.3 per cent majority – smaller than that for Brexit, the Government of Wales Bill went before the Commons in December 1999 and the Conservative Party – including Mrs May – voted against it en masse.

Mrs May is using the Assembly referendum to support her Brexit policy, even though her own actions in that case were the exact opposite.

Not only that, she said, “When the people of Wales voted by a margin of 0.3%, on a turnout of just over 50%, to endorse the creation of the Welsh Assembly, that result was accepted by Parliament.”

While this is accurate, it is because the majority of MPs in Parliament at the time were members of the Labour Party. The Conservatives campaigned for a second referendum and included a promise to offer the people of Wales a second vote in their manifesto for the general election of 2005. They said that was the democratic thing to do, in sharp contrast with her current attitude to the EU referendum.

Finally, there’s the issue of what happened in the aftermath of the two votes. After the Welsh Assembly referendum, devolutionists worked hard to build “losers’ consent” – reaching out and addressing the concerns of their opponents.

Mrs May has done the exact opposite with Brexit. People who supported remaining in the EU were demonised as “Remoaners”, “saboteurs” and “traitors”.

These are fundamental flaws in Mrs May’s argument. She is revealed as a hypocrite and a liar. And everybody saw it.

(The quoted extract is from a version of the speech that wasn’t used – it seems Mrs May’s advisors realised that “both sides” did not accept the result of the Welsh Assembly referendum and modified it to say that “Parliament” accepted it. As already mentioned, this was because Labour had a majority.)

Evolve Politics goes into further details in an article here.

The only conclusion to be formed is that Theresa May doesn’t care about democracy and nor does her Conservative government. She wants Brexit for petty, selfish reasons that have nothing to do with the national interest or even with the wishes of Leave supporters – and her dire Brexit deal represents those narrow demands. If anything, her speech should reinforce opposition to her claims.

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Legal challenge to stop nuclear waste dumping near Cardiff

Don’t drink the tap water if you live anywhere near Somerset, Bath, Bristol or southern Wales – especially Newport and Cardiff.

That was the advice of net-based activist Tracy Kelly, in response to the announcement that 300,000 tonnes of nuclear waste is to be dredged from the seabed near Hinkley Point and dumped a mile off the Cardiff shoreline.

But a legal battle has been launched to stop this environmental disaster from being inflicted on the people of south Wales and the West Country.

Here’s the situation, courtesy of Ms Kelly: “Millions of cubic metres of radioactive sludge is being dumped in the Bristol Channel, contaminating inland waters, fisheries, oysters, seals, and will stay radioactive for the next – wait for it – 12,000 years!

“The sludge will create a whole new toxic sandbank which will be so big it’ll be picked-up on marine Radar and will be viewable by space satellites… George Osborne, the former chancellor who couldn’t answer a kid what six times seven was, made the cheap decision to just dump the toxic mud one mile offshore from Cardiff.

“The toxic sludge comes from the Hinkley A nuclear reactor. This is one of several dangerous old reactors in the west of England and western Scotland which have created no less than 19 million tonnes of toxic waste.

“About four million tonnes of that waste is dumped into the Irish Sea from outflow pipes near Windscale where there are high numbers of children with blood diseases and cancer.

“The French company building Hinkley C in North Somerset are the same people building a mega-reactor in Normandy which had to be stopped because the concrete dome cracked.

“Theresa May gave the French EDF company a ‘marine licence’ to dump radioactive waste in Cardiff Bay. Nice. Protestors in their thousands have written letters, staged demonstrations and also submitted petitions – however, BBC current affairs has refused to broadcast a single second of a single protestor’s views on national prime-time news – even though there have been concerned resident meetings happening since the year 2000.”

A barge made its first trip to dump radioactive mud off the coast near Cardiff yesterday evening (September 10).

That is the situation.

Here‘s what’s being done about it:

Opponents to a controversial scheme to dump mud from a nuclear plant off the coast of Cardiff have launched a last-minute legal challenge.

The Campaign Against Hinkley Mud Dumping submitted an application to the High Court in Cardiff on Monday seeking an interim injunction.

Campaigners have argued Natural Resources Wales (NRW) failed to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment and said core samples were insufficient under international rules and did not cover all significant radioactive substances from the Hinkley plant.

Here‘s some evidence in support of that statement:

Independent Assembly Member Neil McEvoy said… only 5 samples of mud had been taken from a level lower than 5 centimeters for analysis. The Welsh Assembly petitions committee had asked Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to require the French energy company  EDF (who are building the new nuclear power station) to carry out additional analysis, but this had been refused.

I imagine the petitions committee had made its request after receiving the petition publicised by This Site, here.

The Labour-run Welsh Government said NRW made its decision based on “expert advice”. It also concluded the material was within “safe limits” and posed no “radiological risk” to human health or the environment.

But it seems the tests on which this “expert advice” was given did not assess whether uranium, plutonium and other alpha-emitting elements were present in minute “particulate” form. As such, they can be more easily inhaled into the deep lung and the lymphatic system, and will emit more radiation.

The injunction is an interim measure – if the mud dump is to be stopped for good, protestors will have to fund a costly judicial review.

If you care about your environment, your health and that of your children enough to do something about it, you can add to the crowdfunding scheme that is financing the legal battle.

Please visit the website here to make your contribution.

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Public feeling about Grenfell is as angry as ever – but the authorities are still trying to screw the survivors

There was a huge turnout for a silent march in memory of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Sadly, the enthusiasm of the authorities in finding out the causes and identifying the culprits has been less visible.

Thousands took part in a silent march to commemorate the fire at Grenfell Tower – but a tiny minority of bureaucrats seem intent on preventing the survivors from getting justice for the dead.

The latest wheeze is a bid to wind up the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation – the body responsible for the management of the tower at the time of the fire.

If this happens before the inquiry into the circumstances of the fire is able to report, there are fears that those who may have responsibility for the tragedy will escape justice.

According to the Grenfell Action Group:

“1)   We understand that a motion calling for an adjournment of the vote on the resolutions was filed in time and in accordance with the relevant rules. It appears that it was nevertheless rejected by the KCTMO and was not sent out to members. We understand it will be proposed again on the day of the AGM

“2)  We understand that the venue for the AGM may have changed but formal notice of this change hasn’t been sent out.

“3)  If RBKC becomes sole member of the TMO there are concerns that:

  • The TMO might cease to exist as an organisation and therefore might not be subject to prosecution for corporate manslaughter;
  • If the TMO no longer exists liaison with the Inquiry, including on important matters of disclosure and witness participation and attendance, could be undermined.
  • Additionally, the TMO might not exist as an entity capable of being sued in civil proceedings for its acts and omissions prior to the Grenfell Tower fire;

“Crucially, all of these matters could prevent or undermine (a) the TMO being held accountable in relation to the fire and (b) prevent or undermine the search for the truth through all available legal avenues.

“4)  In any event, even if the TMO were not wound up, RBKC would have sole control over the manner in which the TMO interacts with the Public Inquiry and other criminal and civil justice processes including requests for disclosure.

“It is unclear why there is any need for haste in making a decision on this and a vote could be adjourned to allow for more information to be provided and further legal advice obtained.”

Clearly, the vote on Tuesday must be for the TMO to remain in operation. A future vote can demand that it is shut down – after the inquiry reports its findings and any further action, necessitated by that finding, is taken.

Any other course of action, it seems, would be an insult to this:

Plans to formally disband the Kensington and Chelsea tenant management organisation (KCTMO), the body responsible for Grenfell Tower, are being fought by survivors of the fire who fear that the move will allow officials to escape blame and scrutiny for their part in the disaster.

The proposal was first discussed in August by acting chief executive of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC), Barry Quirk.

But Grenfell survivors and other residents were alarmed when they received a letter from the tenant management organisation urging them to vote for it to be disbanded at its AGM on Tuesday 17 October.

Residents say that while they ultimately want the TMO to be dismantled, this must not happen before it has been scrutinised at the public inquiry.

Source: Grenfell survivors fear disbanding TMO will let officials escape blame | UK news | The Guardian


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What does McGuinness’s resignation mean for Northern Ireland’s future in the UK?

Martin McGuinness said in his resignation statement that the position of the first minister, Arlene Foster, was untenable [Image: Jeff Spicer/PA].

Could Northern Ireland split from the United Kingdom as a result of Martin McGuinness’s resignation?

The province voted very heavily in favour of Remaining in the European Union in the referendum last June, and the Northern Irish peace process depends on adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights – from which the UK would depart when it leaves the EU.

Put those things together with an opportunity to elect a leadership that supports reintegration with the Republic and suddenly it seems the Union may be in more imminent danger than anybody thought – even with the threat of another Scottish independence referendum over ‘hard’ Brexit.

Then again, a huge majority of the population opposes anything that may bring about a resumption of ‘The Troubles’, as they were known, so that possibility must also be taken into consideration.

Mr McGuinness’s resignation appears to be mostly about the “Cash for Ash” scandal, a failed green energy scheme likely to cost the Northern Irish taxpayer around £400 million.

NI First Minister Arlene Foster has refused to step down, even temporarily, to allow an independent inquiry to take place.

So Mr McGuinness resigned, forcing a new NI Assembly election. This means Ms Foster cannot remain as First Minister.

If the balance of power shifts to give Sinn Fein the upper hand, it seems likely that a long period of negotiation will be necessary before a new government may be announced.

Who knows what the result of those negotiations will be?

Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, has resigned from office in protest over his power-sharing partner’s handling of a bungled green energy scheme.

McGuinness’s resignation means a new Northern Ireland assembly election is inevitable.

Under the complex rules of power-sharing in the region, if either the first minister or the deputy resigns the coalition government between unionists and nationalists falls.

Source: Martin McGuinness resigns as deputy first minister of Northern Ireland | Politics | The Guardian

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Welsh Government uses Star Trek language ‘Klingon’ to reply to formal question from Tory politician on UFO sightings – Mirror Online

Should've gone to Specsavers: The crew of the Klingon Cruiser Amar are shocked to discover themselves in orbit around Cardiff, and not their homeworld of Q'onos.

Should’ve gone to Specsavers: The crew of the Imperial Klingon Ship Amar are shocked to discover themselves in orbit over Cardiff Airport, and not (as they had previously believed) their homeworld of Q’onos.

Clwyd West AM Darren Millar had asked for a report on UFO sightings over Cardiff Airport since it’s acquisition by the government.

In three questions Mr Millar asked the economy minister Edwina Hart if she’d make a statement “on how many reports of unidentified flying objects there have been at Cardiff Airport since its acquisition by the Welsh Government”.

He also asked what “discussions has the Welsh Government had with the Ministry of Defence regarding sightings of unidentified flying objects in Wales in each of the past five years”.

He added: “What consideration has the Welsh Government given to the funding of research into sightings of unidentified flying objects in Wales?”

The Welsh Government replied: “jang vIDa je due luq. ‘ach ghotvam’e’ QI’yaH-devolved qaS.”

It is understood to mean: “The minister will reply in due course.

“However this is a non-devolved matter.”

A fuller answer will be provided to Mr Millar by July 15.

But an Assembly source said: “The only extra-terrestrial life seen near Cardiff recently seems to be Darren Millar.

“Perhaps instead of spending time and wasting Government resources asking questions about UFOs he should be fighting for the very real concerns of his constituents.”

Source: Welsh Government uses Star Trek language ‘Klingon’ to reply to formal question from Tory politician on UFO sightings – Mirror Online

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Tories unleash flagship scheme ahead of conference – to abolish your rights!

Slavery in the UK: This image was part of a campaign against it - but the Conservative Party wants to extend it to include you.

Slavery in the UK: This image was part of a campaign against it – but the Conservative Party wants to extend it to include you.

One has to marvel at the twisted logic of modern Conservatives; right before their last party conference in the run-up to the general election, they can normally be expected to be trying to bribe us all with tax cuts and benefits (maybe they will come later).

Instead they are promising to remove the safety net that keeps us free of exploitation by – what a surprise! – the Conservatives and their friends.

It’s not a new plan – Vox Political reported on the policy back in March last year, when Theresa May announced that they would scrap the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights if they win the 2015 general election. They aren’t saying anything different now.

Back then, she claimed it would be “in the national interest”, and now Injustice Secretary Chris Grayling is saying more or less the same thing, dressing it up as an attempt to return power to the UK.

He told the Daily Telegraph: “Decisions like ‘do prisoners get the vote?’ or ‘can you send brutal murderers to prison for their whole lives?’ seem to be outside our control. I want our supreme court to be supreme. Decisions that affect this country should be taken in this country.”

He did not mention all the other rights you are likely to lose if the Conservatives are allowed to get away with this.

The European Convention on Human Rights was co-drafted by the UK – in fact by the Conservatives’ greatest Prime Minister, Winston Churchill – just after World War II. It states that nation states’ primary duty is to “refrain from unlawful killing”, to “investigate suspicious deaths” and to “prevent foreseeable loss of life”.

VP commented in March 2013 that “the Coalition government has been reneging on this obligation – wholesale – since it came into power”. Look at the Department for Work and Pensions’ work capability assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, and the thousands – possibly tens of thousands – of deaths related to it.

Article 4 of the Convention prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour, so removing it would give the Tories free hand to impose their Mandatory Work Activity or Workfare schemes on us – despite the fact that these schemes are worse than useless at getting people into employment. The real reason for them is that they are a money-making scam to ensure the businesses involved support the Conservative Party.

Article 6 provides a detailed right to a fair trial, which is something Mr Grayling has been working hard to take away from you for a considerable period of time. It’s where you get the right to a public hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal within a reasonable time (the Coalition’s secret courts have removed this right already), and where the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is enshrined.

Article 8 provides a right to respect for another person’s “private and family life… home and… correspondence”. This has been violated, of course, by the Tory-led Coalition’s recent Surveillance Act.

Article 10 provides a right to freedom of expression, so removing it would allow the Tories to censor the Internet and remove blogs such as Vox Political, leaving only their own propaganda.

Article 11 protects the right to freedom of assembly and association, including the right to form trade unions. Obviously the Tories would love to ban the unions, but removing this would allow them the ability to ban anti-government demonstrations and it is probably why Boris Johnson bought his water cannons.

The Human Rights Act 1998 (brought in by the Labour Party) is the UK legislation that makes the European Convention binding on this country, meaning that breaches of it may be remedied in British courts, rather than the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It is only appeals against the decisions of the British courts that go to Europe.

Grayling doesn’t like the idea of impartial foreigners ruling on whether his government’s politically-motivated human rights violations are legal.

That’s why he said; “I want our supreme court to be supreme. Decisions that affect this country should be taken in this country.” He wants absolute power over you.

Dominic Grieve, the former Attorney-General who got the sack during the summer, described the Tory attack on human rights as “incoherent”. It is widely believed to be one of the reasons he got the push.

The Tories are also determined to tie this policy in with anti-European Union rhetoric, even though the ECHR is nothing to do with the EU.

The Guardian‘s story on Grayling’s announcement includes a coda in which Savid Javid, our Sontaran* culture secretary, tried to reassure people that Britain could still prosper if it leaves the EU, despite the possible loss of hundreds of billions of pounds worth of trade deals (as reported in this blog previously).

But that’s another fact they’d rather you did not know. Misdirection is the only way forward for modern Conservatives.

Remember “There will be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS”?

*It’s a Doctor Who reference. Look up pictures of Javid and a Sontaran and you’ll spot the resemblance.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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