Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Quote of the Day (Double Trouble edition)


Quote 1:

John Marek the former Labour MP and AM who defected to the Welsh Conservatives this week is certainly been on a very strange political journey. However, he is indubitably right when he says this:

"Wales is run by the Glamorgan Labour Party"

Quote 2:

In their TV debate this week all three 'Chancellors' agreed to moderator Krishnan Guru-Murphy's question that "that cuts we are going to be facing will be deeper than the cuts that Mrs Thatcher had to put through Britain”. Channel 4's respected Fact Check Blog responds:

"Contrary to popular belief, total public spending increased slightly under Margaret Thatcher. When the effects of inflation are stripped out, it went up by an average of 1.1 per cent a year."


Easily the most interesting factoid to have emerged from the debate. Remember that next time you hear Albert Owen tells us how much worse it was during the 1980s.
     

Shock news: Local Politician Claims Credit for Wylfa B

    
With the election so close at hand one shouldn't be too surprised with the brazenness of local politicians seeking to claim credit for yesterday's news on Wylfa B. However, even I was slightly taken back aback by this quote from Albert Owen in today's Daily Post:

“Getting to this point did not happen by accident, but by design; through strong campaigning. I have proactively led that campaign both in Parliament and on Anglesey, working alongside the Secretary of State for Wales, the current First Minister, the local community and the Isle of Anglesey County Council."

Strange therefore that Horizon Nuclear Power explicitly cited these two reasons why they chose Wylfa over other sites:

  • Because of overwhelming popular support on the Island
  • Because Wylfa's position on the Irish Sea did away with the need to construct large water cooling towers

Neither of which, as far as I know, have anything to do with Albert Owen at all.

Anyway, seeing how Albert Owen is apparently singlehandedly responsible for Wylfa B, perhaps he might like to answer these questions:

  • Considering that Labour has been in Government for three terms why will there be a gap of at least 10 years between the current Wylfa reactor being decommissioned and the new Wylfa B reactor coming online? Especially considering that even the Department of Energy and Climate Change predicts energy blackouts by 2015, why hasn't the Government begun replacing Britain's ageing power stations, including the Wylfa reactor, earlier? 
  • According to the latest list of Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) projects Wylfa was slated to get an application in for November 2011. Yet according to Horizon's announcement yesterday, an application for Wylfa is only “scheduled for “2012,” a year behind their original schedule. Why is this?
  • In 2008, then-Secretary of State at BERR John Hutton said, “We consider that a decision by an operator to proceed in principle with building a new nuclear power station and therefore to request from the Government a fixed unit price for waste disposal in a Geological Disposal Facility could come as early as mid 2009”. The Fixed Unit Price is the government’s clever idea to protect taxpayers from hikes in the cost of new build waste management, and it is absolutely central to making the sums for new nuclear even remotely workable. Hutton hoped that in 2009 operators would be given a set price that they must put aside to cover the estimated costs of dealing with waste at the end of the reactor’s life. Well, we’re in 2010 and DECC have only just launched a consultation on the Fixed Unit Price. This won’t finish until the summer, so an operator like Horizon won’t be able to get a figure until into 2011. This effectively translates as DECC creating a delay of 2 years in the space of 2 years. Why is this?
  • Is it true that EDF still holds land vital to the new Wylfa project? Apparently EDF doesn’t have to sell the land it owns at Wylfa until it is granted planning permission for two new reactors at both Hinkley Point and Sizewell. There’s no guarantee this will ever happen.
Over to you, Albert...
  
Hat Tip: this post on Left Foot Forward.
  

Peter Rogers tosses hand grenade at Anglesey County Council

      
Demonstrating that the civil war at Anglesey County Council is a long way from over, unaffiliated councillor for Rhosyr and Independent candidate in the general election, Peter Rogers, had a remarkable letter published in the Daily Post yesterday.

In it he:

  • Calls for the councillors who have been criticised by the Ombudsman to be named and shamed;
  • Blasts Anglesey AM Ieuan Wyn Jones for failing to personally respond in the Welsh Assembly to a statement about the problems at Anglesey County Council;
  • Asks why Ieuan Wyn Jones has not instigated disciplinary hearings against Plaid Cymru councillors on the council, particularly Deputy Council Leader Cllr Bob Parry, for (a) their part in this expenses scandal; and (b) for condoning the "appalling behaviour of certain councillors"

Here is the letter in full:

I applaud your recent published letters from Anglesey residents, angered that Anglesey Councillors have not been named and shamed. Your paper has recently named a clutch of councillors, whom the Ombudsman has found have charges to answer, and there are certainly more to be named.
This slow, drip-drip of disclosures of the misdemeanours of we councillors just prolongs any early recovery.
All the huffing, puffing and posturing by successive Ministers of Local Government in the Assembly count for absolutely nothing.
The Assembly's involvement in the shenanigans of Anglesey councillors is nothing short of a disgrace.
What else should the people of Anglesey expect, when our own Assembly Member and Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, does not even rise in the Chamber to respond to the last statement by the minister, on Anglesey County Council's elected members?
He simply ignores it and allowed a fellow Assembly Member - a Dr Lloyd - to respond. What a snub to Ynys Môn.
Questions must be asked why the local Plaid AM has not instigated disciplinary action against his Plaid councillors, its Leader, and, incidentally, the Deputy Leader of the Authority, Cllr Bob Parry, particularly over the expenses jolly to South Wales, and this is followed by their total support for the unacceptable 4.5% increase in the rates.
Their support for swimming pool closures and the apparent acceptance of of the appalling behaviour of certain councillors has been to the detriment of his Authority. We now also have an ongoing, highly expensive investigation by a South Wales planning consultant into two recent planning applications and also over the conduct of certain planning committee members. Honestly, you could not make it up!
No wonder the Anglesey ratepayers are calling for action.
Ieuan Wyn Jones should be addressing the crisis which is engulfing Ynys Môn - which already has the lowest GDP in Europe - and not worry about addressing the nation in the run up to the election.
He should remember that charity begins at home.
Cllr Peter S Rogers, Ynys Môn

We certainly haven't heard the last of this...
  

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Quote of the Day (Faster, Higher, Stronger edition)


Anglesey County Council Leader, Clive McGregor, responding to the news that Anglesey could potentially have the first new nuclear power plant in Britain:

"Its like a little village winning the right to hold the Olympics!"
 

Thumbs up for Wylfa B

    
Horizon Nuclear Power (the joint venture owned by RWE N.power and E.On) will formally announce today that it intends to proceed with making a planning application to build a new nuclear reactor at Wylfa ahead of the other location it owns at Olbury-on-Severn.

Wylfa was chosen to proceed first due to the overwhelming public support on Anglesey and the fact that its proximity to the Irish Sea removes the need to build the large cooling towers which will apparently be necessary at Oldbury-on-Severn.

Today's announcement however doesn't herald the arrival of a fleet of bulldozers heading towards Amlwch. Horizon will not even officially apply for planning permission until 2012 and the new plant would not open until 2020 at the earliest - but still its fantastic news and a much needed boost for Anglesey.

One thing to remember though: this announcement still doesn't meant that Wylfa B is definitely going to happen. As the Druid reported last week, Wylfa B could still be cancelled if there is a hung parliament as the Lib Dems - who will probably hold the balance of power - are implacably opposed to Nuclear energy.

See more from the BBC and The Times.
  

Monday, 29 March 2010

Revealed: Albert Owen's "Pledge Card" to Anglesey voters



The Daily Post is reporting that Ynys Môn MP, Albert Owen, was joined by Welsh Assembly Government Leader, Carwyn Jones AM, yesterday in Menai Bridge to launch Labour's general election "pledge card" to Anglesey voters.

Two things confuse me about this story:

  • As far as I'm aware the General Election hasn't even been called yet
  • How did Carwyn Jones get up to North Wales now that the North-South Airlink is no longer flying? Very curious...

Anyway, see that pledge card Albert is waving around in his hand? Well, the Druid pulled a few strings and managed to obtain the very one that Albert is brandishing in this photo. And, just for you, Dear Reader, here it is:


   
UPDATE: Oscar is making some very interesting claims about Albert Owen's travel between Anglesey and Westminster here.
   

Saturday, 27 March 2010

If Wales was like Llangwyllog...

 
Llangwyllog: our miniature Wales

Inspired by the Minature Earth project, I thought I'd have a go for Wales. So, if we could turn the population of Wales into a small village of 100 people (think of half of Llangwyllog), keeping the same proportions we have today, it would be something like this…

23 would be children aged between 0-16 years;
21 would be pensioners over the retirement ages of 60 or 65 years;
Leaving 66 who are of working age;

of those of working age:

16 are economically inactive, i.e. including those that have either chosen not to or given up looking for a job. They include students, parents staying at home to look after children, long-term sick, and the "discouraged", a euphemistic term used by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to describe those that have given up the struggle to find a job.
6 would be unemployed (but looking for a job);
leaving only 44 people actually working;

Of those 44 workers:

34 work in the private sector; and
10 work in public sector

Which means that there are only 34 people working in our 100 person hamlet (i.e. Wales) to generate the wealth to pay for:

  • the pensions of the 21 people over retirement age
  • the free state education of the 23 children
  • the salaries and future pensions of the 10 who work in the public sector
  • the unemployment benefits for the 6 unemployed
  • the free NHS care for everyone
  • and the myriad other government schemes and programmes out there

Of course this isn't really the case, as we get helped out by some of the taxpayers living in the nearby town called 'England'. Still, it paints a worrying picture of just how unsustainable the Welsh economy, as currently constituted, is...
  

Friday, 26 March 2010

Quote of the Day (walking tall edition)

  
From the amateur Freudian leader writer in today's Daily Post:

[The] air link allowed the North to walk a little taller.

That's right: we Gogs have such low self-esteem we just don't feel 'whole' without a heavily subsidised air link to Cardiff...
  

Will GE really build a wind turbine factory on Anglesey?

  
The Daily Post breathlessly informs us today that "Anglesey is in the running to win a £100m wind turbine manufacturing plant that would create 1,900 new jobs" and that "urgent calls are being made by the Government to GE directors to persuade them that the the island is the 'ideal site'". This comes only a month after Peter Hain informed us that he was in talks with unnamed company (not GE) which also wants to convert the former Anglesey Aluminium smelter into a wind turbine factory.

What are we to make of all this? Its certainly true that GE yesterday announced their plans to invest £99m over the next decade on building a turbine manufacturing plant somewhere in the UK to take advantage of the Government's plans for 8,000 wind turbines by 2020 in giant offshore wind parks in the North Sea and Irish Sea. However, despite what the Daily Post informs us, even if GE chooses Holyhead, it will not create 1,900 new jobs in Anglesey. GE's figures make it clear that the plant itself will only employ around 500 people, with an additional 450 jobs created in other sites in the UK. GE also estimates that their investment will also support a further 950 positions at other UK companies which will supply the components - which is where the Daily Post finds the 1,900 figure. Still 500 jobs would be fantastic news for Anglesey after having lost around 3,000 over a very short period of time.

In terms of location GE have not yet decided where to build the plant but have made it clear that it will be dependent on the site they choose receiving some or all of the £60m funding announced in this week's budget to help develop British ports to support the offshore wind industry. Apparently this £60m fund will be allocated by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) as the core part of their Offshore Wind Site Development Competition. The DECC is inviting bids only from port authorities and developers proposing to develop new offshore wind manufacturing and assembly facilities, which:

  • have access to sufficient land that could be developed into wind turbine manufacturing facilities, 
  • are suitable for the transport of large and heavy products 
  • and already have heavy duty surfacing capable of bearing heavy loads in place. 

This all sounds good for the former Anglesey Aluminium plant in Holyhead which certainly fulfils all the above criteria. However it seems that Blyth in North East Eangland, which is already home to the National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec), is the favourite to win at least a large chunk of this funding especially as it has already secured a commitment from the company Clipper Windpower to locate its blade manufacturing facility there. Accordingly, if Anglesey is to be considered ahead of Blyth, Peter Hain needs to move very quickly indeed to secure a commitment from GE to choose the Anglesey site.

What does this new development tell us about the other unnamed company which was announced with huge fanfare in the Daily Post last month? Peter Hain even called it the "beginning of the good times" for Anglesey but is now apparently being "tight-lipped" about. Was it not quite the sure thing it was presented as last month when its announcement conveniently overshadowed the Welsh unemployment data which was also released on the same day (as the Druid blogged about here)?

So, as we have seen, for Anglesey to benefit from all of this we need a lot of planets to line-up perfectly: GE have to be persuaded to choose Holyhead, the DECC has to be persuaded to award a large chunk of the £60m to support the deal, and all this has to happen quickly before Blyth bags all the cash... Perhaps this is the time for Peter Hain to resurrect the £48m grant he originally offered Anglesey Aluminium last November to continue production?
 

Thursday, 25 March 2010

++ 'Ieuan Air' goes bust ++

        
Ieuan Wyn Jones demonstrating how he will be commuting between Anglesey & Cardiff from now on

The BBC has just announced that Highland Airways - the company which operates the highly subsidised Anglesey-Cardiff air link - has gone into administration. Not hugely surprising news, especially considering the remarkably blunt comments made by Highland Air's executive Chairman last month regarding the WAG's handling of the contract extension negotiations:

"We suspect that WAG either simply do not want to award any contract to Highland Airways for political reasons or else they hope that Highland Airways will fail and that they can allow the service also to fail – blaming Highland.”

This prompted Ieuan Wyn Jones to leap into action ...by sending a letter to the Daily Post (March 15):

"We are certainly not 'dithering' over the North-South Air link.
We are 100% committed to this service and we certainly do not 'hope it will fail' as claimed by Mr Wright. It has been a great success and our objective is to make sure there is no break in this service.
The facts are that the current contract comes to an end this May and we carried out an open tender process. Unfortunately this was not successful - we did not receive any bids that complied with the requirements of this particular tender.
I want to reassure passengers who use this service that action is being taken to secure its future and keep it in place"

Not sure what the 'requirements' of the tender were - but I would imagine that they would probably include an obligation for the winning airline to operate the link with far less WAG subsidy than was previously necessary (£800,000 per year). The fact that the tender failed probably reflects the economic reality that there just isn't a great demand for the service.

Personally the Druid didn't think that the North-South Air link was such a bad idea. Anglesey is on the periphery of the United Kingdom so an improved transport infrastructure to effectively bring the Island 'closer' to the economic centre is absolutely necessary to attract businesses here. The problem is that the North-South Air link only linked one peripheral part of the UK to another peripheral part. As far as the Druid is concerned it would have made more business sense for the WAG to subsidise an air link between Anglesey and London - even if that wouldn't make IWJ's weekly commute so convenient.

UPDATE: More here from the BBC's Betsan Powys.
 

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The "Get Out Of Jail Free" card has expired.


Photobucket   

Regular readers will know that following a post I wrote on whether Plaid Cymru will really have any additional influence in the event of a hung parliament, the Druid has been engaging in a bilingual discussion with BlogMenai (see here, here and BlogMenai's latest response here). Debate is healthy for a democracy - so here is the latest instalment:

Polling issues

It appears that BlogMenai has accepted that I did not cherry-pick polls to support my hypothesis as he originally claimed. Significantly he has also rowed back from his claim that certain polls show that Labour would be able to form a coalition government with just Plaid and the SNP without any need for the Lib Dems - this he now says is just "one possibility". True, anything is possible - but that does not mean that it is probable. And this was exactly the point I was making in my original post. Plaid's Ynys Môn candidate, Dylan Rees, wrote in a letter to the Daily Post that in the event of a hung parliament "Plaid Cymru will have an even more influential role to play" - in other words he presents it as a certainty, i.e. if there's a hung parliament Plaid will definitely be more influential and will definitely bring home the bacon, therefore vote for us. My post attempted to demonstrate that Rees's comments are deceptive because the probability of Plaid's support being essential to either a Conservative or Labour led coalition government are statistically remote. I don't want to repeat the whole thing here so please do read the original here, which I stand by.

The "Get Out Of Jail Free" card

BlogMenai goes on to say that I am wrong to suggest that Labour and Plaid Cymru have failed Anglesey despite them having been politically responsible for the Island for almost a quarter of a century. Don't those nasty Tories deserve a portion of the blame as they were in power from 1979-97 he asks?

This, as we know, is Labour and Plaid Cymru's all purpose "Get Out Of Jail Free" card as neither party are able to accept that Wales has any economic problems that weren't caused by the the last Tory government. Here's Labour's Albert Owen giving a demonstration par excellence on how to play the card on the Politics Show last month:

Politics Show Interviewer: I think everyone I've spoken to [in Anglesey] has said that jobs and regeneration are the two huge issues. We've had a Labour government for 13 years, is it your fault? Is it Tony Blair's fault that Anglesey is suffering?
Albert Owen: No, I came into politics in the 80s when it was a damn sight worse than it is now, we have to be honest about that. There was mass unemployment and mass depopulation in the 80s and 90s. Its certainly a lot better now.

See how it works? Playing the Get Out Of Jail Free card simultaneously allows the user to claim the moral high ground whilst at the same time abdicating himself of any responsibility whatsoever. Nuthin' to do with me, Guv - it was those nasty Tories.

Well, sorry, but after more than 13 years that particular "Get Out Of Jail Free" card has expired. In fact on Anglesey its arguable how relevant it ever was. The 80s and 90s were undoubtedly tough but almost all of Anglesey's main employers survived and have only begun closing over the past couple of years:

  • Anglesey Aluminium started smelting in 1971 and continued production all the way through the 80s and 90s, only closing with a loss of 400 jobs in September 2009
  • The Wylfa Nuclear Powerstation was also commissioned in 1971, carried on through the 80s and 90s and is now only months away from being decommissioned
  • The Octel chemical plant in Amlwch began production in 1953 and continued through the 80s and 90s (under various different names) until it closed in 2005
  • The Eaton Electric plant in Holyhead opened in 1960 under the name Midland Electric Manufacturing Company, it operated all through the 80s and 90s and only closed in December 2009 with a loss of 250 jobs
  • The Peboc Eastman chemical plant in Llangefni was established in 1970, continued production all through the 80s and 90s, and only closed its doors in 2008 with a loss of 100 jobs
  • Anglesey is an island of farmers, yet the economic contribution of agriculture in North Wales (including Anglesey) has declined by a staggering 67 per cent during the period 1997-2007, compared to an overall UK decline of just 7 per cent. You only need to compare a visit to the Morgan Evans livestock auctions in the 80s or 90s with one now to see how things have declined
  • This decimation of agriculture on Anglesey has directly affected the abattoir and meat-packaging plant in Gaerwen (now called Welsh Country Foods and part of the Vion Group) which began operating back in 1980s and continued throughout that decade and the 1990s; it has only begun downsizing this year with a loss of 200 jobs; the chicken processing plant in Llangefni, commonly known as 'Chuckies' and owned by the same company was established even earlier and also continued production throughout the 80s and 90s, until it lost a whole shift (140 jobs) last year 

Whereas in the 80s and 90s these companies or industries were able to retrench during the hard times and then take on more employees when the economy recovered - that isn't going to happen this time as they are gone and its unclear where any new jobs are going to come from when the economy eventually recovers. That must tell us something about the current business environment and the policies which have been implemented from Westminster and Cardiff for the past 13 years. Plus when you are officially the poorest place in the UK things by definition can't have been any worse - or at least have not improved. As much as Labour and Plaid want to wriggle out of accepting any responsibility for this - they cannot. 

Plaid's Ieuan Wyn Jones has been either MP or AM for Anglesey for 23 years (!) and yet amazingly BlogMenai actually portrays his lack of results as a virtue. He says I'm advocating the "pork barrel" politics characteristic of Ireland or the US whereby elected representatives compete to bring large-scale projects (the so called "pork") back to their constituencies. Therefore according to BlogMenai's warped logic we should actually be praising Ieuan's integrity for having brought nothing back to the Island he's represented for 23 years...

...The alternative reason could of course just be that Ieuan Wyn Jones is not up to the job.
     

Quote of the Day (supermarket edition)

  
Today's Quote of the Day comes courtesy of Chris Ruane, Labour MP for Vale of Clwyd, who interjected this comment into the debate held last night in Parliament on Albert Owen's Grocery Market Ombudsman Bill:

"In the fine tradition of naming these watchdogs, such as Ofcom and Ofgas, may I proffer a name for the new watchdog body for the supermarkets of Oftrolley?"

Quality! It remains to be seen however if the Government will provide any extra time for Albert's private member's bill to proceed before the election.
 

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

How to start solving the problems at Anglesey County Council

  
We all know that despite the myriad economic and social problems on the Island, Anglesey County Council is "bedevilled by personality driven, petty parochial vindictive factional infighting", as David Bowles the Managing Director said recently. Things are so bad that the Welsh Assembly has warned the Council as recently as last month that that it is in the "Last Chance Saloon" and faces being taken over from Cardiff unless things improve.

But what can actually be done to turn around the situation? Here are the Druid's top three suggestions:

(1) Opaque groupings

Below is a list of all the political groups in which councillors sit at the Council:

  • Original Independent / Annibynnol Gwreiddiol (17 councillors)
  • Plaid Cymru (8 councillors)
  • Labour (5 councillors)
  • Anglesey Forward / Môn Ymlaen (3 councillors)
  • Menai Group / Grŵp Menai (3 councillors)
  • Unaffiliated (4 councillors)

Hands up who knows what the Original Independent's stance is on economic development or education? Or how about Anglesey Forward's policies on social care? Or how about what Menai Group thinks about the building of Wylfa B?

Any idea? No, me neither - yet councillors for those three groups plus the Unafilliateds make up almost 70% of the council. Put another way: we, the residents of Anglesey, have no idea what 70% of our  councillors actually stand for. None of these groups publish a clear manifesto of aspirations for the Island and policies to achieve those goals. None of these groups even have so much as a website.

Accordingly, without knowing what each Independent councillor actually believes or the policies he/she would like to see implemented, how can we Anglesey residents (a) make informed decisions about which candidate to vote for during county council elections? and (b) judge whether elected councillors have achieved the aims that they set for themselves? The answer is: we can't.

Remedy:  Councillors and their Political Groups must make it absolutely clear to Anglesey voters what their aims and policies are so that we can make informed voting choices and then hold them to account afterwards.


(2) Too many Independents and no party discipline

As we noted above the majority of councillors, with the exception of those representing Plaid Cymru and Labour, are Independents sitting in various opaque groups. As they are elected as Independents they are effectively beholden to nobody but themselves and are certainly not constrained by any kind of 'party discipline'. As a result they are free to behave pretty much as they please - leading to the myriad problems of ill discipline we are currently witnessing at the council (and blogged about here, here, here and here for example).

By all accounts the Council Leader Clive McGregor is an honest man doing his very best to move things in the right direction - but his biggest problem is that because there are 27 Independents councillors his task is like trying to herd cats, i.e. almost impossible. What we need are stronger political parties imposing tighter discipline on their members.

Remedy: Either (a) the groups we mentioned above start to behave like proper political parties by issuing manifestos and instilling party discipline onto their members; or (b) the other big parties need to up their game. There are actually already 2 Conservative councillors and 2 Lib Dem councillors on the Council (although they both sit with the Original Independent grouping) - they need to find and field more candidates at the council elections and then sit according to their party lines as Plaid and Labour already do.


(3) Is it time for a 'good governance' movement in Anglesey?

Of course there is no chance of either of the above remedies happening unless there is some kind of 'stick' to prod existing councillors and groupings into taking action. The best 'stick' will always be the threat of losing their positions (and their generous allowances) if they don't start making the changes that Anglesey's voters demand.

Remedy: Perhaps it is time for those residents who are fed up with the antics of our current crop of councillors to start a 'good governance' movement and stand for election under a good governance banner in the next Council elections in May 2012. If enough people were found to stand in most wards (or even if there was a threat of that) you can be sure that it would certainly 'focus the minds' of our existing councillors.

So those are the Druid's top three remedies for the current situation. I'm sure there are many more so if you have other suggestions or proposals by all means post them in comments.
 

Monday, 22 March 2010

++ Peter Rogers WILL stand in General Election ++

  
  
A little bird has informed the Druid that despite his recent surgery ex-Tory Independent Peter Rogers has now confirmed to family and friends that he WILL be standing in the General Election.
    

Sunday, 21 March 2010

BlogMenai, Hung Parliaments and Statistical Gobbledegook

  
Mandy Rice-Davies: "Well he would, wouldn't he?"

BlogMenai has taken issue with the Druid's recent post analysing Plaid Cymru's claims that in the event of a hung parliament they could hold real influence. In my post I relied on the polling data available on the non-partisan poll aggregating site electoralcalculus.com and concluded that, in the event of a hung parliament with the Conservatives the largest party but short of an absolute majority, there is very, very little likelihood that the Conservatives would ever need to rely on Plaid Cymru votes - thus contradicting Plaid's central argument to voters in the run up to the General Election. You can read it all here.

BlogMenai - an openly Plaid Cymru supporting blog - completely dismisses the Druid's conclusions ("well he would, wouldn't he?" as Mandy Rice-Davies might have said) and goes on to claim that I rely on statistical gobbledegook and that the case I made is false for the following reasons:
  1. I have used polls selectively to support my point and ignored those which don't fit in with my preferred conclusion; and
  2. that I have used outdated polls.
To prove his point, BlogMenai then lists the results of a number of polls (without any attribution) which show a much smaller gap between the Conservatives and Labour than an aggregate of the polls of the month ending March 4th on which my post relied (my post was made on March 9th). BlogMenai then goes on to state - again without any supporting evidence - that some of the polls he lists point to Labour being able to form a coalition government with the support of just SNP and Plaid Cymru alone without needing the Lib Dems at all.

My reply

BlogMenai is certainly right to say that the polls have tightened but I'm afraid the claim that I somehow 'cherry picked' only those polls which supported my argument is patently false. The Druid wrote the post on March 9th, in response to a letter by Dylan Rees in the Daily Post the previous day, and based it on the non-partisan polls aggregator electoralcalculus.com which on the day of writing was aggregating polls for the month ending March 4th (electoralcalculus.com is only updated once or twice a month). Now electoralcalculus.com aggregates ALL the polls over the stated period so BlogMenai's claim that I somehow maliciously chose only those polls which supported my argument is so obviously false to be laughable.

But its worse than that. Whilst accusing your humble Druid of only selecting polls which support his argument, BlogMenai then goes on to (a) disregard the results of Angus Reid polls because (he claims) they are "untested in the UK" and "give Labour a much, much lower share than other conventional pollsters" and (b) makes his unfounded conclusions on the basis on a selection of polls of his choosing - the very definition of selecting polls to suit one's argument. This is particularly ironic considering BlogMenai piously concludes his post by saying that although he may be biased towards Plaid Cymru he would never stoop so low as to use statistics selectively to make a point. Really? It doesn't look that way.

That said BlogMenai is right to say that the polls are tightening so lets crunch the numbers again using the latest aggregated numbers from electoralcalculus.com - those for the period February 5th to March 18th (although I'm sure our cherry-picking friend BlogMenai will complain once again that they aren't recent enough or that a selection of polls chosen by himself show an even smaller Conservative lead):


So with these more recent polls, electoralcaculus.com predicts exactly the same number of seats for Plaid and the SNP as previously:

Plaid Cymru - 5 seats
SNP - 7 seats

Therefore between them Plaid and SNP are still likely to control a block of just 12 seats. Labour, based on electoralcalculus.com's same calculations would win 262 seats - i.e. 64 seats short of an absolute majority. In this case Labour would need the support of the Lib Dems (53 seats) and both Plaid and SNP (12 seats) together just to get a majority of just one seat. Doesn't sound anything like BlogMenai's glib statement that Labour can form a coalition government with the support of just SNP and Plaid Cymru alone, does it? (Incidentally, BlogMenai also fails to explain how exactly Plaid Cymru and the SNP will be able to work together on reforming the Barnett Fomula when even Plaid's Dafydd Wigley has noted that they would be working at cross purposes and would need to hold separate negotiations with the Tories. You didn't mention that point in your critique of my post, did you, BlogMenai. Didn't it fit in with your argument perhaps?)

Anyway, returning to the figures for a moment: the Conservatives (302 seats) are still able to form a coalition with just the Lib Dems (53 seats) - giving them a comfortable majority of 29 seats (whether they call it a formal coalition or not). So still no need for Plaid's votes and still no extra influence for Plaid in Westminster.

The Druid's political allegiance

BlogMenai's criticisms don't stop there however. He goes on to say that the Druid must be a Tory because I only attack Labour and Plaid Cymru. I don't know how many times I have to write this but the Conservatives have not had any influence over Anglesey since 1997 -- 13 years ago. What's the point of attacking them? What I'm concerned with is the CURRENT state of Anglesey and those who bear political responsibility for it NOW. And, like it or not, the facts are:

  • Ynys Môn has now been represented by Plaid Cymru's Ieuan Wyn Jones as either MP or AM for the past 23 years
  • The UK has had a Labour government in Westminster since 1997 and Ynys Môn has had a Labour MP in the shape of Albert Owen since 2001
  • The Welsh Assembly has been governed by Labour since 1999 until the emergence of a Labour/Plaid Cymru coalition in 2007

Therefore, BlogMenai, the truth is that Ynys Môn has been administered at some level by Labour and Plaid Cymru for almost quarter a century, yet you think that as an Anglesey resident I should somehow be directing my fire on the Conservatives for the Island's woes? Anglesey is now officially the poorest county in the UK - the very definition of political failure - and BlogMenai's partiality to Plaid Cymru is obviously blinding him to the conclusion that Ieuan Wyn Jones HAS FAILED the residents of Anglesey.

The Druid's Challenge to BlogMenai

Anyway, the polls will no doubt continue to change between now and the general election so I will continue to crunch the poll numbers once a month and if it ever gets to a point were statistically the polls point to Plaid Cymru having any real influence I will plainly write so here. Furthermore if following the election there emerges a Labour coalition with just Plaid Cymru and the SNP - as BlogMenai predicts - then I'll eat my 'wisg las'. If on the other hand such a coalition fails to materialise then I look forward to a full apology from BlogMenai. Okay?

Finally my message to BlogMenai readers is this: if you want to read about the world as Plaid Cymru would dearly like it to be - go ahead and read BlogMenai; if, however, you want to read about the world as it really is, read the Druid.

UPDATE (23 March): BlogMenai has now responded to this post and you can read his reply (in Welsh) here. My response is coming soon...
  

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Hung parliament will kill Wylfa B (Updated)


Speaking at the Future of Utilities conference in London this week, the chief executive of RWE n.power,  Volker Beckers, has made it clear that in the event of a hung parliament Wylfa B will not be built. He is reported to have said:

"It could possibly make some investment inconceivable, for instance nuclear" … He said although the opposition Conservative Party supported the ruling Labour government's push to replace Britain's ageing nuclear fleet with new reactors, it was unclear what stance a new government, that might include the Liberal Democrat Party, would take on nuclear power.
The Lib Dems oppose plans to build more nuclear power stations, which they say "will soak up subsidy, centralise energy production and hinder development of Britain's vast renewable resources."

RWE n.power is one half of the Horizon Nuclear Power joint venture which is currently planning to develop the new reactor in Wylfa so Beckers' comments can be seen as a clear indication that Horizon's plans will not proceed in the event of a hung parliament.

It looks like Anglesey's economic future may be held to ransom by the Lib Dems - a party which polled less than 2,500 votes in Anglesey at the last general election; who's Anglesey Association strangely has an address in Cardiff; and selected a 26 year old ex-barman from St Asaph as their parliamentary candidate for the Island.
 
UPDATE: In this context it is also informative to note that Plaid Cymru are actively campaigning for a hung parliament - here is the Plaid candidate for Anglesey, Dylan Rees, in a recent letter to the Daily Post:

[T]his general election is very likely to produce a hung parliament. In that event Plaid Cymru will have an even more influential role to play as it seeks to win a fairer deal for the people of Wales.

He fails to mention that the most significant consequence of a hung parliament for Anglesey would be to kill off any hopes of Wylfa B.  Remember that when you are in the voting booth.
    

Friday, 19 March 2010

Albert Owen thinks we should all stay at home for Easter

 
Sorry for the long hiatus - the Druid has been travelling again and was unable to get to his keyboard.

Ironically the subject of this post is also about travel - or rather the lack of it. Anglesey's MP Albert Owen thinks that island residents shouldn't be permitted to travel, to visit family for example, on the coming Easter weekend - or certainly not by rail at any rate. He is one of 123 Labour MPs to have today signed an Early Day Motion supporting RMT's planned strike action.

And he's not alone other North Wales MPs including Labour's Betty Williams and Plaid Cymru's Elfyn Llwyd and Hywel Williams have also signed.

Needless to say remote areas like Anglesey and North Wales depend economically on an efficient and dependable transport infrastructure much more than other regions. There is no point in companies investing in building new factories in places like Anglesey if they cannot then efficiently transport the manufactured goods to wherever they will be sold. Strikes like those being pursued by the RMT are exactly the kind of thing we don't need and Albert Owen should explain to Anglesey residents why he thinks they are a good idea.
  

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Quote of the Day (Updated)

  
“We suspect that WAG either simply do not want to award any contract to Highland Airways for political reasons or else they hope that Highland Airways will fail and that they can allow the service also to fail – blaming Highland.”
Said Highland Air Executive Chairman, Kevin Wright. Highland Air operates the subsidised North-South airlink between Anglesey and Cardiff. It is also known as "Air Wyn" after its most regular user: Ieuan Wyn Jones - who may have to take the bus from now on...
     
UPDATE:  I want to make it clear that, for the same reasons that I support the newly announced high-speed rail link, the Druid also supports the Anglesey airlink and does not want to see it close. Improved and speedy transport links makes the country smaller and also make the decision to site businesses in remote locations like Anglesey easier to make. However, I don't understand why Highland Air only operates a Anglesey-Cardiff route - surely it would both be better for Anglesey residents and also for Highland Air's profitability if they could also fly to other destinations such as London and Manchester?

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Should Anglesey be 'paid' to host the Wylfa power station?


There has been much fuss regarding the establishment by the government of the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), a body set up to fast-track planning applications for so-called "nationally significant infrastructure projects" so as to save them being held up or halted by unwilling local authorities and public inquiries. This is important to Anglesey residents as potentially the decision to grant planning permission to a second nuclear reactor at Wylfa could be adjudicated by this body.

However, the Conservatives - who have every chance of forming a government in May - are pledged to abolish the IPC on the grounds that it is anti-democratic insomuch that it transfers certain planning decisions away from elected local authorities and ministers and instead puts them in the hands of unelected appointees. Under Conservative proposals the decision therefore whether to grant planning permission to Wylfa B will be devolved back to the Secretary of State.

Frankly neither of these processes are entirely satisfactory as the ultimate decision on whether Wylfa B goes ahead or not will be taken a long way from the people of Anglesey - who will ultimately have to live with the presence of the new reactor. Now, the Druid is personally 100% behind Wylfa B and believes that the jobs created by its construction and operation will be crucial to the future prosperity of the Island - however its also fair to say that Anglesey, the poorest county in the UK, is 'taking the strain' in hosting a critical piece of the UK's national energy infrastructure which is unwanted elsewhere and should therefore be rewarded above and beyond the jobs which the plant will generate.

The maverick Tory MEP, Daniel Hannan may not be to everyones taste but he is always a thoughtful and original political thinker. In his Telegraph column this week he describes how some US States have come up with a very interesting way of incentivising local communities to 'host' unpopular but necessary state-wide installations such as power stations or incinerators. He writes:

"The answer here, surely, is to allow local communities to put a price on accepting them. Let us say that a county wants an incinerator, and identifies a dozen potential sites. It should then invite the local authorities from each affected area to submit a sealed bid, stating how much it would want in return for accepting the facility. The one to submit the cheapest bid would win.
The council could then spend the fee as it wished: it could give residents a tax rebate, write them cheques, or use the money for something else. A similar system works successfully in a number of US states. Apart from anything else, it would encourage local people to weigh the costs and benefits, instead of automatically opposing every proposal on grounds that it is being forced on them from outside. Tell a group of people that they must take a mobile phone mast, and they will understandably protest. Invite them to sell permission for a site … and they might take a different attitude."

Obviously one can foresee a lot of problems with this approach which would need to be ironed out - but to the Druid it makes a lot more sense than the current systems outlined above.

And imagine what a huge difference a significant annual payment for hosting Wylfa B could make to the whole island - especially if it was invested wisely by the council in an economically sustainable way such as, for example, reducing rates for local businesses thereby both boosting employment and incentivising new businesses to setup on the island. Sounds good to me.
   

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

We didn't have to wait long...

  
We didn't have to wait long to find out if Anglesey County Council's new 'strategic aim', discussed in the last post, would change anything. News arrives today that Council Leader, Cllr Clive McGregor (left) has expelled Cllr Elwyn Schofield from the ruling Original Independents grouping for undermining his authority.

Apparently according to an agreement reached following the Council's Corporate Governance Inspection, the chairmanship of the scrutiny committees should be given to opposition councillors, yet Cllr Schofield ignored this and nominated a fellow Original Independent to the chairmanship of the principal scrutiny committee. Accordingly McGregor felt he had no alternative but to expel Schofield for "undermining my credibility and this authority".

According to all accounts Clive McGregor is a decent chap who is doing his best to sort out the problems which have beset the Council. However this news shows that he is struggling to maintain his authority even amongst the councillors in his own grouping - though I suppose when most councillors are elected as Independents they feel beholden to nobody making McGregor's task akin to herding cats.

How much longer is this going to go on for?
  

Anglesey Council's 'new' Strategic Aim


Councillors have apparently agreed to back a 'new strategic aim' for Anglesey County Council. Once you've picked yourself up off the floor from the shock that our bickering burghers have managed to agree on anything, you better sit down before you hear what they've actually agreed on:

To promote and protect the interests of the Island - locally, regionally and nationally

Yes, thats right: our Councillors have finally figured out that they are supposed to promote and protect the interests of Anglesey. As this is being dubbed a 'new' strategic aim we must assume that this wasn't what they have been doing until now - actually, my mistake, we don't need to assume anything: we already knew they haven't been doing that. Anyway, they didn't stop there, they have also unveiled five strategic priorities too, namely:

  • Enhance the reputation of the Council and Island
  • Protect and develop the Island's economy
  • Build and support sustainable communities
  • Promote healthy, safe and fair communities
  • Businesslike and affordable services

The first one is the most shocking: surely protecting and developing the Island's economy is the most important priority? Also, why is Council written before Island? They are here to serve the community NOT themselves.

Its easy to mock (too easy sometimes) but this is a serious issue and an effective and functioning County Council is absolutely essential for the revival of Ynys Môn's fortunes.

Will this new 'strategic aim' really change anything? 
     

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Will Plaid Cymru have any influence in a Hung Parliament? (Updated)

     
In a letter in yesterday's Daily Post, Plaid Cymru's PPC for Ynys Môn, Dylan Rees, rehearses Plaid's most critical message to the Welsh voters for the forthcoming election: that even though there is no chance of Plaid Cymru actually winning the general election, a vote for Plaid Cymru in the Westminster election - as opposed to the Assembly elections - will not be a wasted vote. This is how Dylan Rees makes the argument:

[T]his general election is very likely to produce a hung parliament. In that event Plaid Cymru will have an even more influential role to play as it seeks to win a fairer deal for the people of Wales.

Taken at face value this does indeed sound plausible. If either of the two large parties fail to win a majority in the election they will seek to form a coalition government with some of the smaller parties such as Plaid Cymru. These smaller parties will then give their support subject to the eventual coalition government agreeing to the smaller parties terms - in Plaid Cymru's case this is likely to include:

  • an overhaul of the Barnett Formula to give Wales a more equitable settlement
  • the raising of pensions by 30% for Welsh OAPs over the age of 80

As I said: it sounds plausible - but is it likely? Lets take a look at the numbers...

Electoral Calculus

Following the boundary changes the House of Commons will, after this general election, increase from 646 to 650 seats. Accordingly for any party to obtain an absolute majority they would need to win 326 seats. Using the electoralcalculus.co.uk's mathematical analysis of recent polls, this is the result which they predict:

click to enlarge

So, based on the polls for the month ending March 4th, they predict that the Conservatives will win 315 seats - just 11 short of a majority. How many seats are Plaid Cymru likely to win? Well, for the sake of consistency lets use the same electoralcalculus.co.uk's calculations which predict that Plaid Cymru will hold Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Dwyfor Meirionydd and gain Arfon (part of the existing Caernarfon constituency currently held by Plaid's Hywel Williams), Ceredigion and Ynys Môn. This will give Plaid Cymru 5 seats in Westminster. So its clear that under these current predictions Plaid Cymru's support alone will not provide enough seats for the Conservatives to reach a majority. Therefore both the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru would also need the support of another party - for example the SNP.

There has been much talk of a 'power pact' between the SNP and Plaid Cymru in the event of a hung parliament. Politicalcalculus predicts that SNP will will have 7 MPs after the election, giving SNP and Plaid Cymru together a total of 12 seats which would give a potential Conservative-Plaid Cymru-SNP coalition government a one seat majority. But the reality is that such a coalition would not work because:

  • The SNP's obvious demand for the complete independence of Scotland would be a price too high to pay for the Conservatives, who would simply prefer to go for a second general election
  • According to Gerry Holtham, whereas the Barnett Formula under-funds Wales by about £300 million a year it over-funds Scotland by a whopping £4.2 billion a year. Any adjustment to give Wales a more equitable settlement would necessarily mean Scotland receiving less - and the SNP will never agree to that. Even Dafydd Wigley has acknowledged this stating in effect that they’d be working at cross purposes and should hold separate negotiations with the Tories
  • Even with the probable support of the UUP and other Unionist Parties, the slim majority of a Conservatives-SNP-Plaid Cymru-Ulster Unionist coalition would quickly become unworkable in practice as each of the minority parties would effectively be able to hold the new government to ransom.

The only conclusion we can draw from the above is that even if it is mathematically possible for Plaid Cymru and the SNP to form a coalition government, the practicalities would make it unworkable. It is simply far more likely that the Conservatives would form a coalition with the Lib Dems, who with a predicted 50 seats, would give a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition a much more comfortable 39 seat majority. In such a case there would be no need for Plaid Cymru's support.

Conclusion

The above is just one scenario based on electoralcalculus.co.uk's current predictions. The only real chance for Plaid Cymru to wield any significant influence would be in the event that the Conservatives fall short of a majority by a very, very small margin - one seat for example - whereby Plaid Cymru's support alone would be sufficient to get a majority. What are the probabilities of that? Helpfully electoralcalculus.co.uk also provides the mathematical probabilities of a number of outcomes:


So the chances of there being either a Conservative or Labour majority or a Lib-Dem coalition with either of those two parties is effectively 99%. Accordingly, the mathematical chances of Plaid Cymru forming a coalition government with the Conservatives - and thus seeking a so-called 'fairer deal' for Wales - is less than one percent.

Accordingly, if you are an Ynys Môn voter, the only reason to vote for Dylan Rees is if you think that he will be a good constituency MP with the experience and ability to lead Anglesey's economic and social recovery (the Druid personally does not believe he is capable and has set out his reasons in detail here). If however you only vote Plaid Cymru in the hope that they will be able to wield influence in a hung parliament then you have a 99% probability of wasting your vote.
    
UPDATE: Plaid Leader Ieuan Wyn Jones has made clear that in the event of a Hung Parliament, Plaid has no intention of joining a formal coalition - rather, as the always well informed Dylan points out in comments, they would seek concessions from the Conservatives for their support in key votes. He cites the example of Plaid Cymru exacting compensation for Welsh quarrymen from the Callaghan government in 1979 as a historical precedent. Unfortunately this doesn't invalidate my argument as the probabilities of the Conservatives needing to rely on Plaid Cymru for any particular vote are still remote. The fact is that the only circumstance when the Conservatives would need to bargain with Plaid Cymru for their support would effectively be when their coalition with the Lib Dems had collapsed, anyway leading to new election. To prove this point, the below graphic shows that coalition governments (red line) in the UK tend not to last very long:


Furthermore, despite the tightening poll figures, the betting markets are still overwhelmingly predicting a Conservative majority. Therefore as I wrote above: if you are an Ynys Môn voter, unless you think that Dylan Rees would be a good constituency MP, any vote for Plaid Cymru will in all probability still be a wasted vote.
      

Glass Houses

  
EXHIBIT A

Plaid Cymru's PPC for Ynys Môn, Dylan Rees, in a letter to the Daily Post:

"They [Welsh voters] don’t want to be patronised with flashy advertising campaigns full of style but no substance."

EXHIBIT B


      

Monday, 8 March 2010

Quote of the Day


Today's Quote of the Day comes from Alwyn Ap Huw, a.k.a. Miserable Old Fart:

"I am also critical of Plaid Cymru's support for socialism. Socialism is based on reliance on the state, the only state that Wales can rely on at the moment is the British state, so reliance on the British state through Socialism is incompatible with Welsh Nationalism."
  

Albert Owen: 'Conservative hypocrisy' behind closure of Anglesey Aluminium

  
Regular readers will know that the Druid has often discussed at length the reasons behind the closure of the Island's largest private employer, Anglesey Aluminium (here and here, for example). Ynys Môn's Labour MP, Albert Owen, however has his own theory which he disclosed in a recent interview:

"We [the Labour government] came up with a package to save them, worth £48 million, but they turned it down," he shrugs. "It's Conservative hypocrisy - they don't believe in subsiding business."

I don't want to write a repeat of yesterday's post, but what exactly did 'Conservative hypocrisy' have to do with the closure of Anglesey Aluminium? Perhaps Albert Owen hasn't noticed that his Labour party has been in power for the past 13 years and, as far as I am aware, was certainly still in power in September last year when the plant closed its doors.

For the benefit of Albert Owen: the organisation which doesn't believe in subsidising business is actually the European Union, which bars European governments from creating unfair competition by injecting public funds into private industry. Accordingly, when the Nuclear Power station at Wylfa was acquired by the Government's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the NDA's lawyers had to inform Anglesey Aluminium that they would no longer be able to supply it with the cut-price electricity on which it depended as that would constitute 'state aid' under EU law. Indeed, this was made clear by the NDA in January 2009 when its spokesman said this:

"There’s been no breakdown in the relationship between ourselves and Anglesey Aluminium but we have explained to them the situation. We cannot extend the current contract with them due to new European legislation on providing subsidies to private companies.”

So, Albert, please do explain how 'Conservative hypocrisy' or their stance on subsidising businesses in anyway contributed to the closure of Anglesey Aluminium - with, let me add, a loss of at least 450 well paid direct jobs and an estimated 240 others through indirect and induced effects. 

In order to further underline his complete abdication of responsibility, Albert Owen concludes his interview with these words on the closure:

"I don't think I'm going to take as big a hit on that as my opponents think."

Is this serial fantasist, clearly more concerned with his own political survival than the welfare of his constituents, really the MP that Ynys Môn deserves?
    

Sunday, 7 March 2010

The Druid gets a bad review & my reply

     
The Druid returned home to Môn from his travels last night to find this comment:


Ouch! Dishonest and insincere, am I? Permit me to reply:

My dearest La Pasionara, its strange that you would think that "fighting for Ynys Môn" should mean bashing the Conservatives or Peter Rogers. As you may have noticed Anglesey hasn't been represented by a Conservative MP since 1987 -- 23 years ago -- nor has there been a Conservative administration in the UK since 1997 -- 13 years ago. What I'm concerned with is the CURRENT state of Anglesey and those who bear political responsibility for it NOW. And, La Pasionara, like it or not, the facts are:

  • Ynys Môn has now been represented by Plaid Cymru's Ieuan Wyn Jones as either MP or AM for the past 23 years
  • The UK has had a Labour government in Westminster since 1997 and Ynys Môn has had a Labour MP in the shape of Albert Owen since 2001
  • The Welsh Assembly has been governed by Labour since 1999 until the emergence of a Labour/Plaid Cymru coalition in 2007

Therefore, La Pasionara, the truth is that Ynys Môn has been administered at some level by Labour and Plaid Cymru for almost quarter a century, yet you think that as an Anglesey resident I should somehow be directing my ire on the Conservatives or Peter Rogers for the Island's woes?

Speaking of which, lets remind ourselves of what exactly the Island's woes are:

  • Anglesey is the poorest county in the UK with a GDP per head of only half of the UK average according to the Office of National Statistics;
  • Anglesey has the lowest GVA per head in the UK at just 53% of the UK’s average; 
  • Anglesey is poorer than some of the poorest parts of Poland according to a recent OECD report;
  • Data for full-time employees show that average earnings in Anglesey were approximately £396 per week in 2007, compared with £415 per week in Wales and £456 per week in the UK. It should also be pointed out that gross average earnings were distorted by wages paid to employees at Wylfa and Anglesey Aluminium, which are substantially higher than other wages in the area. 
  • But we don't have to worry about Anglesey Aluminium distorting average earnings on the Island anymore because it has been forced to close wiping out at least 450 jobs directly and an estimated further 240 jobs through indirect and induced effects;
  • In addition Anglesey has also lost Octel in Amlwch, Eaton Electric in Holyhead, Peboc in Llangefni and Welsh Country Foods has restructured in Llangefni and Gaerwen losing thousands of more jobs;
  • A rising unemployment rate currently standing at 5.8% and economic inactivity rate of 25.1% - even before most of the above companies closed; 
  • Remarkably farming in North Wales has fared even worse than the economy. During the period 1997 to 2007, the economic contribution of agriculture to the North Wales and Anglesey economy fell by a staggering 67% compared to an overall UK decline of just 7%;
  • On top of all this, Anglesey County Council is poorly managed, riven with infighting, and planning on raising Council Tax by 15% over three years - though with almost everyone apart from Council workers out of a job, the Druid wonders who is going to pay it.

So lets be clear: its not just that the situation on Anglesey is just a little rubbish - the situation on Anglesey is arguably the WORST in Wales and in the UK as a whole. Thats what drives the Druid.

Yet despite the situation being as bad as it is, both Labour and Plaid Cymru - responsible for Anglesey for most of the last quarter of a Century - refuse to accept any portion of the blame. Indeed as recently as just two weeks ago on the Politics Show special edition on Anglesey, when asked whether Labour was responsible for any of the problems on Anglesey, Albert Owen replied:

"No, I came into politics in the 80s when it was a damn sight worse than it is now, we have to be honest about that. There was mass unemployment and mass depopulation in the 80s and 90s. Its certainly a lot better now."

Got that? Nothing to do with Labour at all - and anyway things were much worse under those nasty Tories 30 years ago... Unbelievable. As I've pointed out before, the 80s were rough but all of the companies which have closed in the last couple of years managed to survive the 80s, and are only closing now. That must tell us something about the current business environment and the policies which have been implemented from Westminster and Cardiff for the past 13 years. Plus when you are now officially the poorest place in the UK things by definition can't have been any worse - or at least have not improved.

So, La Pasionara, if you would like to explain to me why I should attack the Conservatives and Peter Rogers more than Labour and Plaid Cymru for the current problems in Anglesey I'm happy to listen to your arguments. Otherwise, change your ID as frankly you're giving Dolores Ibárruri a bad name.
    

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Quote of the Day



The Annointed One, Plaid Cymru's PPC for Ynys Môn Dylan Rees, speaks:

"Personally I never like boasting, saying we're going to win, but I think we have an excellent chance."
I wouldn't be so complacent, Dylan, especially after the latest poll results...
  

Peter Rogers: waiting for Doctors advice on whether to stand

 

There is a very interesting analysis of Ynys Môn in politics.co.uk which features interviews with all three major candidates. I will be returning to it in more depth later, but in the meantime the part which really jumps out is this:
At present Rogers' participation in the election is not 100% guaranteed. Recent heart surgery means he is awaiting doctors' advice on whether or not he should put himself through the strain of a full-on general election campaign.

The article is datelined today (6 March) so I assume this is the latest information. Obvious that after such a major operation he would await doctors orders I suppose, but slightly at odds with the bullish interview Peter recently gave to the BBC on the The Politics Show.
 

Friday, 5 March 2010

New Poll: Labour's Albert Owen to hold Ynys Môn in General Election?


I don't know - you go away for five minutes and YouGov publishes a new Wales-only voting intention poll...! Accordingly, for your benefit, the Druid has temporarily interrupted his short trip and crunched the regional numbers to find out what is happening in North Wales. So here is a graph showing the transition of support for the main parties in the North since the General Election in 2005 up to and including today's latest poll:


The big news is that Plaid's Support in the North has unexpectedly and dramatically nosedived 7 points since the last poll in mid-January, putting them on just 10% - even lower even than the Lib Dems. Of course the sample size in North Wales of around 250 people is quite small so there is room for error but, still, 7 points is a large drop. The Druid would guess that it may be due to Plaid Cymru's ridiculous pensions pledge being quite correctly seen as misleading fantasy politics - which as the Druid said at the time makes Plaid look like not a serious party.

The other news is that at the expense of Plaid Cymru both the Labour and Conservative vote is up. What does this mean for the General Election result in Ynys Môn? Using exactly the same formula which the Druid used for the last poll, the change on the 2005 General Election results are shown below (bottom row):


Of course the situation across the whole of North Wales is not homogenous, but these results are the best guide we have. Therefore, again assuming that Peter Rogers does not stand (although there is no evidence that this is the case) and his support swings behind the Conservatives, this is what the new polling data predicts for Ynys Môn:


The result: A Labour hold for Albert Owen with Plaid and the Conservatives fighting it out for second place with just a couple hundred votes between them. 

I'm going to be looking into all these latest YouGov figures in more detail as soon as I get back to Anglesey, but in the meantime it looks like 'squeaky bottom time' for Plaid's Dylan Rees who until recently was widely thought (by himself included) to be a shoo-in for the seat.
   

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Travelling...



The Druid will be travelling away from Mona Insulis for the next few days so blogging will be light. Rest assured, however, I'll be back on Monday...
   

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Is North Wales's support for the Welsh Assembly warranted?

  
In yesterday's post on the BBC 'devolution' poll, the Druid noted how North Wales residents are the most unequivocal in their support for the Welsh Assembly, with more North Wales residents in favour of the assembly and less believing it should be abolished than any other region of Wales. However, does the Assembly's treatment of North Wales warrant its high level of support in the region?

To answer this question lets take a look at the North Wales economy. During the period 2000-2007, whilst the UK economy grew by 44% and Welsh economy grew by 38%, the North Wales economy only grew by 34% - a staggering 10 percentage points less than the total UK growth. As a consequence of this - even before the damage brought by the recent recession - North Wales was home to three of the poorest counties in the UK: Anglesey, Conwy and Denbighshire. Can this low growth in North Wales be blamed on the Assembly? The answer is 'partially, yes'.

  • One of the arguments for devolution was that an Assembly in Cardiff would bring governance closer to the people of Wales and allow it to formulate and implement economic development policies which are 'custom-made' to tackle the issues facing the different regions of the Welsh economy. We now know that despite the Welsh Assembly spending more per head on economic development than any other region in the UK, Wales as a whole has the the lowest GVA and highest unemployment in Britain. We also know that this picture is even worse in North Wales. The Assembly's economic development policies have evidently failed both nationally and in North Wales.
  • Furthermore, in 2000 the Assembly was in receipt of £1.2 billion in additional EU Objective 1 funds for regenerating the 'deprived areas' of Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy and Denbighshire. These funds, if cleverly used, could have been used to leave a lasting legacy of flourishing private businesses in the area - yet, as we have seen, growth in North Wales between 2000-2007 has lagged far behind that of South Wales and the recent recession has seen thousands of job losses throughout North Wales. There appears to be NO lasting economic legacy in North Wales of the Assembly Government's use of these Objective 1 funds - Ron Davies may indeed be right when he asserts that the Public Sector 'stole' it.
  • Despite the recession some of the largest Council Tax rises in the UK this year will be in North Wales, with Conwy Council rising 5%, Anglesey at 4.5%, Gwynedd at 3.9% and Flintshire at 3.3%. In most cases these large rises are due to 'derisory' settlements to North Wales councils from the Welsh Assembly which distributes money based not on need but on on the size of the populations in each council area. As a consequence of this, two of the poorest counties in the UK, Anglesey and Conwy, received a settlement rise of just 1% from the Welsh Assembly Government compared to rises of 3.1% for Newport and 2.9% for Cardiff City in South Wales. Once again the Assembly's policies are not helping the poorest region of Wales: the North.
  • If we concentrate just on the Druid's home of Anglesey - officially the poorest county in the UK with a GVA per head of just 53% of the UK's average - we see that the Assembly Government has NOT prioritised the area as it should have. For example at the very same time that Anglesey Aluminium was closing with a loss of 450 jobs, the Welsh Assembly announced plans to inject over £100 million of European funding into the much more prosperous area of Swansea - with a much higher GVA per head figure than Anglesey (7% above the all-Wales level but 19% below the UK average). This entirely defies logic and shows that the Assembly's priorities are in the more highly-populated, Labour voting regions of South Wales.
  • The Assembly also has competence for Agriculture in Wales, so lets look at agriculture in North Wales. Remarkably farming in North Wales has fared even worse than the economy. During the period 1997 (admittedly prior to the formation of the Assembly) to 2007, the economic contribution of agriculture to the North Wales economy fell by a staggering 67% compared to an overall UK decline of just 7%. Furthermore, the Assembly has been unable to prevent damaging EU legislation - such as the EU EID sheep tagging rules - which will disproportionately effect North Wales.

Despite the fact that the Druid personally believes that governance should be devolved as close to the electorate as possible - and therefore supports the Welsh Assembly on principle - it is, however, difficult to conclude other than to say North Wales has so far been taken for a ride by the Welsh Assembly. 

Also, where is Ieuan Wyn Jones in all this? Despite being the Deputy First Minister for Wales why is he not fighting more for North Wales and his constituency of Anglesey - as Andrew Davies and Edwina Hart are obviously doing for Swansea? Is he just not up to it? Or is it possible that he is devoting too much of his time to the politics of leading Plaid Cymru rather than looking out for the people who elected him? He better watch out or IWJ may find himself more vulnerable at the next Assembly elections in 2011 than he thinks...