Tag Archives: Carwyn Jones

The ‘Daily Mail’ Wales – about as real as Brigadoon

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A tweet from a local (Conservative) Assembly member and county councillor has set me off to read a Daily Mail hack-job on the Welsh government and its policies. It makes for bleak reading but I have yet to find any resemblance to the Wales I know.

Has the author, Robert Hardman, ventured any further than the M4 corridor in his researches? It seems doubtful.

The first section attacks the Welsh Government’s purchase of Cardiff Airport for more than the expected value, plus extra millions for investment, saying Bristol Airport attracts six times the custom and the subsidised bus service from Cardiff is going empty.

Perhaps we should not be surprised by this attack. The Mail is a Tory-supporting rag and Tories no longer believe in investment (look at the way George Osborne cut capital projects to shreds, after he became Chancellor) – except when they do (HS2 is costing increasing millions every day, Who benefits, I wonder).

If Cardiff Airport was making losses, then it seems perfectly sensible for the administration to take it over and turn it around. But that won’t happen in a day, or even in a year (nationalisation happened at the end of March 2013) and it is unrealistic of Mr Hardman to pretend that it should.

I live in Mid Wales, where the only airport is fictional (Llandegley International) and the buses are full. We could do with a few more, in fact. Perhaps Mr Hardman could exert some influence on the Westminster government to provide a little more Aggregate External Grant (AEG – the way central government funds local government and regional assemblies) funding to help with that?

Next, Mr Hardman wheels out a few hard-done-by Welsh people, starting with an NHS nurse from Pembrokeshire who has had to pay for a hip operation because of an 18-month waiting list.

It is hard to combat that kind of criticism without knowing all the details. However, my own experience of the Welsh NHS is of being seen promptly for the pre-op and being able to choose the date and time of the operation. Perhaps Mr Hardman is cherry-picking special cases in order to make his point?

Next up: A group of West Wales parents who want their children taught in English as opposed to Welsh. They live in Cardigan, where education is run by Ceredigion County Council, whose main political groups are Plaid Cymru, the Independents, and the Liberal Democrats. Why is Mr Hardman blaming Labour, then?

He wants us to believe the problems are nothing to do with funding: “Wales gets the same subsidies as other parts of the UK which are worse off but receive a better service,” writes Mr Hardman.

He’s wrong, of course.

Take the NHS. Wales has had billions clawed back from its health service by greedy Tories in Westminster, in a transparent attempt to force standards down and direct blame at innocent parties. Mr Hardman’s article buys into that deceit.

When I discussed this with a Welsh NHS surgeon less than two weeks ago, he said there was a huge difference between the service being delivered and the way it is described by politicians, who he described as “snakes”. I cannot help but sympathise with the people who provide the service; their work is what I see.

That is not to say that there are no problems in the Welsh NHS! If I suggested that, I would be guilty of exactly the same kind of blanket behaviour as Mr Hardman. Of course there are problems.

But his use of the Mid-Staffs scandal to bolster his argument gives him away. Mid Staffs did not have a hugely inflated mortality rate; the statistics were manipulated to provide the Tory Health Secretary with the headline he wanted.

Moving on again, we come to a person with what seems to be a genuine grievance about mistreatment of his mother by Welsh hospital staff. Again, I cannot comment on the individual case because I don’t have the details.

All I can do is reiterate that it is wrong to claim that a service covering an entire country of the UK must be entirely abominable, on the basis of one case.

… and I see that Mr Hardman concedes this point, admitting that most NHS professionals are dedicated and conscientious. He blames the Labour-run Assembly Government.

But I have to come back to my main problem with this article: Mr Hardman has not described the Wales in which I live. Why, then, should I believe his criticism of the Labour administration?

The article concludes with a bizarre story about Year Six school pupils being indoctrinated with anti-English propaganda using two dolls. “What, I wonder, is the Welsh word for ‘Orwellian’?” carps Mr Hardman.

It’s the same as the English word, but Mr Hardman needs to revise his definitions. If he wants ‘Orwellian’, he need look no further than the English Tory Party’s ‘bingo and beer’ budget advert.

“The people of Wales deserve better,” Mr Hardman concludes. Yes they do.

Better than his article.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Why are you complaining? The economy is running exactly according to plan!

Celebrating Britain's ruin: The Bullingdon boys rave it up in Davos - David 'Flashman' Cameron (centre, facing us), George 'Slasher' Osborne (left, back to us), Boris 'Zipwire' Johnson (right, back to us)

Celebrating Britain’s ruin: The Bullingdon boys rave it up in Davos – David ‘Flashman’ Cameron (centre, facing us), George ‘Slasher’ Osborne (left, back to us), Boris ‘Zipwire’ Johnson (right, back to us)

Confirmation has come through from the Office for National Statistics that the UK economy shrank in the last months of 2012.

It’s no surprise – you only had to look at the shop sales figures for December to know that something was going wrong.

The poor performance has negated the effects of the growth bump in the previous quarter, when the economy improved by 0.9 per cent, boosted by the London Olympics.

The official Treasury line is: “While the economy is healing, it is a difficult road.” Healing? Total growth for the whole of 2012 has flatlined. Again. If the economy was a hospital patient it would need a sharp electric shock to get it going again (but we’ll come back to that)!

The total economic growth since the Conservative-led Coalition government came into power is 0.4 per cent; less than that recorded during the first quarter of the Parliament when the government was still working under Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling’s spending rules.

“Today’s GDP figures are extremely disappointing, but not surprising. We warned the UK Govt their cuts were too deep, too fast,” said Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Government’s First Minister.

“UK Government cuts to capital investment in major infrastructure projects is causing damage to our economy. A new plan for growth and jobs should now be a major priority for the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.”

Economist Danny Blanchflower tweeted: “-0.3% lack of growth comes as no surprise but is appalling this was made in #11 Downing Street. The question is what is Slasher going to do?

“Given that the coalition in June 10 predicted growth would be +6 per cent and we now have +0.3 per cent we are entitled to know what went wrong. One-twentieth won’t do.”

Sky News ran with this: “Osborne says Britain faces a difficult economic situation and that he will confront problems to create jobs.”

Comedy Prime Minister David Cameron received early warning of the figures, and responded by having a slap-up meal with his Bullingdon chums Gideon George Osborne (the man responsible for the mess) and London’s comedy mayor Boris ‘zipwire’ Johnson.

Osborne later responded: “We can either run away from these problems or confront them, and I am determined to confront them so that we go on creating jobs for the people of this country.” What jobs?

In fact, this is the very predictable result of the Conservatives’ ideology-led dogma, that put a project to shrink the state ahead of prosperity.

The Tories have always wanted to pin the blame for our debt woes on the state. They suggest that we are in crisis because public spending got out of control, and that this is what happens when the state gets too big.

But this is a fantasy, unsupported by any sound economic analysis and designed to pursue a reckless plan that puts the economy and long-term recovery at risk.

The image of a bloated state getting fatter on taxpayers’ money while crowding out a budding private sector is nothing but propaganda, and here’s why: Before the credit crunch, public sector debt was less than 40 per cent of national income – it was the private corporate sector that was out of control, with debt at almost 300 per cent of national income.

The Tories wanted to say the private sector was being crowded out by the public sector, but in fact, it was being propped up by it.

Those of us who listened to the experts knew that cutting would make things worse, rather than better, but we heard yesterday that Osborne is now ignoring the advice of his former bosom-buddies at the IMF and intends to keep chopping away at the carcass, presumably until there’s nothing left at all.

The same experts, last year, were warning of a double-dip recession – or what legendary economist John Maynard Keynes called the “death spiral”. Now we’re facing a TRIPLE-dip. We haven’t just entered the death spiral; we’re well into it!

Osborne’s solution is to cut benefits and wages so that people have less money to spend on the UK economy. With less money in circulation, shops will close and businesses will go to the wall. Foreign investors will turn away from a nation where they will see there is no profit to be gained. Creditors will start to worry and our credit rating will suffer. By the next election in 2015, there may not be any life in UK business worth mentioning.

Does anyone remember when David Cameron said, “The good news will keep on coming”?

He’s a public relations man, you see. His skill is in saying the opposite of what he means, in order to make a message palatable to the public. You could say he’s not very good at it, because his greatest feat was to persuade the British public to reject his Conservatism a little less harshly than that if all the other Tory leaders since John Major – which is what made it possible for him and Osborne to put us all in this mess by forming a dirty backroom deal with the Liberal Democrats.

I’d like to talk to some of the people he persuaded to vote for his squalid little gang of cutthroats. What would they have done, if they had know what would happen?

Domestic violence helpline could save lives

Anti-violence campaigner Joyce Watson AM has voiced her support for the launch of the All Wales Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Helpline.

The Helpline provides a 24 hour, bilingual information signposting service, to help and guide people with experience of domestic abuse or sexual violence, who are in need of access to services such as advice, emergency support, safety, and knowledge of their rights and options.

Joyce has campaigned for many years against violence, and set up candlelit services, first in Llandaff Cathedral some years ago, then last November in Brecon Cathedral, to raise awareness of violence against women and children.

The Mid and West Wales Assembly Member said: “This Helpline could be a lifeline to someone facing violence in their own home.

“The promise of 24 hour support, safety, signposting, and sanctuary will make a huge difference in far too many cases.

“In the last ten years there have been 12 homicides in the Dyfed Powys Police area, and seven of these involved domestic abuse.

“Domestic abuse is an issue for all of Wales, rural as well as urban. It accounts for a quarter of recorded crime in England and Wales, and in many instances children are witnesses to this abuse.”

The Helpline was first launched in 2004 as the Wales Domestic Abuse Helpline and has since taken over 215,000 calls from people in need of help and support.

Mrs Watson, who is a member of the Assembly All Party Group on violence against women and children, added: “Both physical and mental violence can have a devastating effect. If you feel isolated or endangered in your own home and you live in a rural community, help can feel a long way away.”

45 per cent of women have experienced some form of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Last year police recorded 48,738 incidents across Wales, including 11,759 arrests and five homicides

Dyfed Powys Police recorded 1,943 domestic incidents

1,975 people entered Welsh refuges last year.

Minister for Local Government and Communities, Carl Sargeant, said: “Domestic abuse and sexual violence are simply not acceptable.

“I am passionate about this subject, and so I’m pleased that the Welsh Government has consistently maintained the budget dedicated to maintaining services such as the All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline. The Helpline is a key part of our Right to be Safe strategy.

“As the new Helpline launches we will experience an increase in callers. This is not a failure in our efforts to stamp out such issues, it’s a success in that we will actually be reaching more of the victims who desperately need the support of the Helpline. With the launch of the new Helpline I firmly believe we are heading in the right direction.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse contact the All Wales Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Helpline on 0808 80 10 800, or for more information go to www.allwaleshelpline.org.uk

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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