Posts Tagged ‘Carwyn Jones’

Reflections on the Rhondda

02/06/2016, 07:58:56 PM

by Leighton Andrews

In 1992, Chris Patten, chair of the Conservative Party, delivered an overall election victory for John Major’s Conservative Party against Labour, but lost his own Bath seat to the Liberal Democrats. In 2016, as a member of Welsh Labour’s campaign committee, I played my part in helping to steer Welsh Labour’s campaign this year, where we held on to 29 of our 30 seats seeing off an expected Conservative challenge – but lost my own seat to Plaid Cymru.

Last month I told the Rhondda Labour Party’s AGM that I would not seek to be their candidate in 2021. Now is the time to reflect more fully on the Rhondda result. Next week I will move on to the challenge facing Labour in the Valleys, as the swing to Plaid Cymru was not simply a Rhondda phenomenon.

It is very clear that there was suppressed – and sometimes, overt – anger in the Rhondda over a range of local issues, principally around education and health; that the anger was focused at Labour in general; that Plaid Cymru exploited these issues effectively, digging deep into the networks of groups which were campaigning against everything from nursery changes to school and health reorganization; that Plaid’s campaign successfully sought to turn these specific issues into a general clamour for ‘change’ ; and that Leanne Wood’s profile – as both Plaid’s leader and as  a product of her local community – probably tipped the balance between a close and a clear result.

I have spent most of my adult life running campaigns in some shape or form in a professional capacity. I could have written the Plaid Cymru playbook for this campaign myself:

  • Focus on the loss of services and unpopular council and Welsh Government decisions
  • Link that to Labour’s 17 years in charge at the Assembly
  • Stress the need for change
  • Develop Leanne’s personal profile as a product of her local community and its values and as an agent of change – a four year project which paid off.
  • Link my own former role as education minister to the changes now being implemented by the Council.
  • Avoid obvious public personal attacks, but find ways to provoke a sense of outrage at Labour (MPs’ expenses, Ministerial cars, etc); aggressively project this on social media and on the doorstep in order to generate a sense that Labour is out of touch with local people; and on social media always have people ready to counter Labour positives with negatives.
  • Local factors hit us hard.

Issues with the health service, notably over planned changes to local hospital services and access to GP appointments, were clearly of concern. Chris Bryant MP and I had pressed for and achieved some significant improvements in ambulance waiting times, through ring-fencing ambulances in the Cwm Taf area rather than losing them to other areas when they transported people to the Heath and other hospitals – and this was widely recognized by paramedics in particular. Cwm Taf as a Health Board was trying hard to support communities that were in danger of losing GPs by taking over practices.


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Letter from Wales: Last week’s Welsh Labour conference was an exercise in denial

06/04/2014, 12:28:41 PM

by Julian Ruck

Ever since the last Prince of Wales lost his head back in the thirteenth century the Welsh have tended to feel somewhat persecuted by their English brothers, if not a trifle inferiority complexed. And Druid Carwyn is no exception, albeit that we are now in the twenty first century.

At the Welsh Labour conference last weekend he had a good old rant against the ‘Fleet Street’ press for attacking Wales and trashing its reputation, the horrible Tories also came in for some passionate English bashing too – a bit of shooting the messengers here if you ask me and hardly what one might call constructive and razor sharp politicking?

Of course, if there had been any political back bone and honesty he should have been asking conference: why is Wales taking such a battering in the national press??

Carwyn’s words of, “We’ve achieved a huge amount….we’ve delivered, and we will not allow another generation of our youth to be sold down the river,” left me utterly speechless.

To quote Hywel Williams, historian and columnist, on the Radio Wales’ Sunday Supplement (30.3.14) “Welsh health stats are appalling and Welsh education stats are appalling.” Mr Williams went on, “There is a political and administrative elite that is narrow in perspective and in particular is not prepared to recognise the nature of this socio-economic tragedy that Wales has on its hands… elite that is not a particularly clever one. The assumptions are Public Sector Wales and this is the problem.”


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Letter from Wales: This is not the way to show Labour will only spend carefully

07/02/2014, 09:54:12 AM

by Julian Ruck

Cameron’s Tories are for a small government and to hell with the consequences, Ed’s Labour is for a more benevolent government with a steady eye on cost.

Welsh Labour is for an out and out free for all and to hell with cost.

I would ask readers to note that last month BBC Wales reported that the Welsh government has employed 400 extra civil servants in the last two years while the number employed across the UK fell.

The number of civil servants employed by the Scottish government also fell.

So much for Carwyn’s restraint on public spending then. It’s business as usual at the Senate and “Come on boyos, it’s only taxpayers’ dosh and while we’re at it, let’s go and watch some rugby at one of our subsidised boozers in Cardiff Bay!”

So, how does Carwyn and his Team Druid justify yet another manic departure from Westminster Labour policy?

You tell me, but apparently and according to a Welsh government spokesperson it’s all down to “a successful apprenticeship programme which has seen over 150 young people trained for future employment, many of whom have successfully gained permanent employment within the Welsh government.”

In other words there’s no private, engineering or manufacturing sector in Wales because no-one will invest here without being bribed with taxpayers’ money, so we in Cardiff Bay will take up the slack and really make the Welsh public sector the biggest in Europe. Apart from anything else, at least we keep any criticism under wraps because who is going to bite the hand that feeds it? What’s an extra 400 civil servants for some apprenticeships anyway?!


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Letter from Wales: “Wales will cease to exist!”

03/01/2014, 09:00:40 AM

by Julian Ruck

This is the view of one of the Welsh government’s own education adviser’s, Professor David Reynolds, following last month’s PISA report (Programme for International Student Assessment, published by the OECD on 3.12.13). In the past he has also commented that “Wales is in the last chance saloon” and will be “economically dead”, if it doesn’t start taking seriously the abysmal state of education standards in Wales.

The PISA report referred to confirms unequivocally every word I have been saying both here and elsewhere, about the crisis of opportunity that is facing Welsh children in a modern, global world. Wales really is the supreme dunce of dunces in the UK when it comes to the Three R’s, let alone anything remotely resembling academic excellence. One might not agree with Michael Gove and his free for all policies but his comment in respect of Wales and its primitive state of academic learning, “You only have to look across the Severn bridge to see a country going backwards,” undoubtedly has enough decibels to drown out a punk rock band blasting away at Glastonbury!

Every year Welsh education gets worse and what does Carwyn and his Team Druid have to say about this disgraceful state of affairs ? The usual plaintive and nauseating wails of “It’s all everyone else’s fault and give us time!” The only thing our Carwyn ever gets passionate about sources tell me, are the dreams of an infatuated love affair with an obliging rugby ball.

Give them time?!! They’ve had 14 years to put things right and to stop giving Welsh school children a fourth class education.

Complacency! Complacency! Complacency!


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Letter from Wales: Worried about public service cuts? Never mind, Carwyn’s splashing taxpayer cash on pubs instead

23/12/2013, 09:00:02 PM

by Julian Ruck

You think I’m joking?

According to the Wales Eye investigative website (fronted by former BBC Wales reporter and presenter Phil Parry) Carwyn’s government dished out £700,000 of taxpayers’ hard earned to an up-market boozer, The Cross Foxes, in Dolgellau Gwynedd – which naturally went to the wall. The Welsh government tends to prioritise businesses that are likely to fail.

As if this isn’t bad enough, Carwyn’s Welsh Labour also gave £250,000 of taxpayers’ money to the Fire Island pub in Westgate Street Cardiff while another £189,000 was given to Jolyons, a ‘boutique’ boozer on the city’s Cathedral Road – funnily enough I had a glass or two of wine in Jolyons a couple of months ago. No wonder the prices were top drawer, Carwyn and his Crony Cabinet of Tafia incompetence trying to screw the Welsh again!

I bet it’s freebies all round every time they go in there.

The insanity of it all however doesn’t end here. If you remember my column of a few weeks ago, Carwyn and his team druid has blown £10m on nonsensical health initiatives trying to get the Welsh to stop boozing and scoffing!

Of course the real outrage is the fact that Carwyn is bunging the bucks into wealthy areas of Wales instead of seeing to the areas that actually need it, like the Welsh valleys. For example Wales Eye reminds us that ‘ The Welsh Government spent a further £356,000 persuading food manufacturer Halo to relocate to Newport, one of the wealthiest parts of Wales, when it was formerly in Tywyn, Gwynedd, one of the poorest.’


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Letter from Wales: Welsh Labour is damaging Ed

22/11/2013, 10:12:21 AM

by Julian Ruck

The search lights of accountability and scrutiny will always make Welsh Labour dive for the blacked out sanctuary of its pleasure cruisers bobbing up and down in Cardiff Bay. For 98 years Welsh Labour has been able to wallow in a take for granted mandate that enjoys the unchallenged absolutism of a House of Saud princeling.

Almost every day in Wales, some political scandal or other hits the Welsh headlines, be it financial, be it authoritarian or be it just plain blazing incompetence. Wales has one of the lowest performing economies in Europe, it’s education system is cheating its young folk on a grand scale and awarding them qualifications that would shame a Zimbabwean Sunday school class and not to mention that only this week the Wales Audit Office has announced that the Welsh government has blundered (yet again!) over its financial projections on reduced student fees resulting in its populist flagship now being nothing better than a clapped out rowing boat.

And of course, its health service is worse than England’s on a good day – which really is saying something!

And what does First Minister Carwyn Jones say at the September Labour conference? That he leads a government that is ‘a living, breathing example” of what the party can achieve in in power!! How on earth Ed kept a straight face on hearing this startlingly complacent, Chamberlain letter waving delusion and swansong of profound idiocy is utterly beyond the keyboard of this humble Uncut scribbler.

The question then is this: Can Ed rely on the historical Welsh Labour mandates of the past? Hegel remarked that ‘governments never learn from history, or act on principles derived from it.’ The lessons of Welsh political history would instruct Ed to take the Labour vote for granted in Wales thus proving Hegel wrong but since when, like economic forecasts, do philosophical meanderings always get things right?

There is a view that our young are politically indifferent. This may well be true up to a point, but they are still a force to be reckoned with – technological whizz and bangs notwithstanding –  and cannot be ignored. Welsh Labour can no longer rely on the generational ‘My dad voted Labour so I’m going to do the same,’ or indeed the oft quoted ‘Stick a Labour donkey up in Swansea and it will still get the vote.’


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Letter from Wales: 57% of entire Welsh budget to be swiped by NHS in Wales by 2024-5!

04/10/2013, 08:54:06 AM

by Julian Ruck

At least according to a report written by Mark Jeffs of the Wales Audit Office.

He goes on, “Until we have a more efficient Welsh Government, which takes more seriously its role as a guardian of the public purse, speculation about future levels of public spending may continue.”

In other words, while the Welsh government continues to drag its knuckles across the floor of the Welsh Senate a right royal crisis is about to hit public services here in Wales. Black bag time again perhaps, except this time it won’t be the unions to blame.

And what was Carwyn saying last week at the Labour conference? Just to remind you, “Wales is a living, breathing example of what can be achieved in power.” It’s back up to Asda’s for another crate of Johnie Walker fast, I’m thinking.

The fact that the Welsh NHS is the subject of such public derision here in Wales, may well have something to do with the fact that we have academics of Welsh history running Health Boards, £655,000 a year on a ‘Cooking Bus’ ie a lorry filled to the brim with high tech cooking utensils intent on teaching Welsh pupils, parents and teachers how to cook, £9m on giving up the fags, exercise classes and mental health first aid (?) but here’s the rub, none of it has had any effect. It’s still corned beef pasties, Welsh faggots peas and chips all the way back from the pub – not to mention a 10 pack of Woodbines to help the journey along!

Even Dr Patricia Riorden, head honcho for Public Health Wales has had to admit and I quote (27.9.13 News Wales) “that we need to look forward to a whole transformational change.” ‘Transformational?’ You have blown millions of taxpayers’ money on causes that would shock a five year old. For God’s sake go! And take team druid with you!


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Letter from Wales: Wales is a living, breathing example of what can be achieved in power!

27/09/2013, 12:19:56 PM

by Julian Ruck

On hearing this I didn’t know whether to burst out loud laughing or nip up to Asda’s for a crate of Johnie Walker to kick me back into reality!

The full quote from Carwyn Jones, first minister of the Welsh government, at the Labour conference is “We are building a Wales that’s a living, breathing example of what Labour can achieve when in government.”

Carwyn then went on to defend Welsh Labour’s record on jobs, the NHS and schools.

Well now, let’s take the jobs angle first. There aren’t any in Wales. And the principality has the highest youth unemployment in the UK.

The Welsh NHS. According to the Welsh government’s own statistics for the quarter ending June 2013 not one of the six Welsh LHB’s reached their cancer waiting times targets and this has been an on-going trend. Keep an eye out for my next column wherein I will be exploring the outrageous failures of the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, the resignation of its Chairman, Professor Mervyn Jones and Welsh health refugees.

Schools. According to the Estyn Report last year, 40% of Welsh school children entering secondary education receive an education that is “barely adequate,” the worst in Europe along with the Czech Republic. Recruitment at Welsh universities is also in terminal decline.

The Welsh economy isn’t referred to in the quote, but Wales has the lowest GDP in Europe and is also one of the most public sector dependent.

Druid Carwyn (member of the Gorsedd of the Bards, blue robes an’ all) must have picked up his particular strain of political mood music from some ancient druidical song being given voice at this year’s Welsh Eisteddfod.


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Letter from Wales: Welsh Labour is burying its head in the sand on reform of the union link

31/08/2013, 03:53:54 PM

by Julian Ruck

As the politicians return to Westminster, conference season beckons and thoughts turn to the impending bust-up with the unions on Ed’s plans to reform the union link.

As usual Welsh Labour turns its proverbial blind eye to what is happening in Westminster. It flees from London politics with a devotion that would shame an Elizabethan Jesuit trying to squeeze into a stately home priest-hole.

It continues to seek martyrdom in the face of modern politics and reality. It continues to plot, conspire and wallow in a paranoid heroism when any mention of real politiks is announced from Labour headquarters in London.

Lest we forget, back in June, a leaked report from the political director of Unite described the relationship with Carwyn’s Welsh Labour in these glowing terms,

“…we have relationships with the Welsh Assembly and its members, and with the first minister which would serve as [a] very satisfactory model for Westminster”

It seems 20 Assembly Members are affiliated to the union, with four in Carwyn Jones’ cabinet. Coincidentally, Unite and Welsh Labour share a headquarters on Cathedral Road in Cardiff. Now, what have I been saying about the Welsh “Crachach?”

So where does Welsh Labour stand on this most important of party reforms?


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Letter from Wales: Here come “Carwyn’s Carriers,” the new Welsh budget airline!

16/08/2013, 11:00:05 AM

by Julian Ruck

It seems that Carwyn Jones now fancies himself as a latter day Biggles, without the goggles.

Allow me to give you yet another classic example of Welsh Labour’s fantasy economics.

On the 27th March 2013, the Welsh Government announced it had purchased Cardiff International Airport Ltd from TBI Ltd as a going concern for £52,000,000, claiming that technically, this was not a “nationalisation” as TBI was a “willing seller” and not being compelled to flog the asset – a bit of Carwyn’s legal training here if you ask me, semantic gymnastics at its best.

First minister Carwyn further announced,” The airport will not be operated by the Welsh government. It will be managed at arm’s length from government on a commercial basis and over time, I expect to see a return to the public purse on the investment.”

The  £34,311,000 valuation in 2010 (calculated as shareholders funds minus intangible assets) – the accounts of Cardiff international airport  filed with Companies House in 2011, showed  a £319,000 loss – seemed to have passed Carwyn by, he was probably too busy with his tailor trying to work out what colour robes to wear at his next druidical extravaganza.

For the record, the chief executive of Cardiff’s main rival, Bristol airport, one Robert Sinclair, observed that the £52,000,000 paid was “well above market value when compared to recent transactions involving UK airports – it gives us concern that ongoing  government involvement and support is highly likely.”


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