Posts Tagged ‘Wales’

The other referendum that nobody but politicians cares about

01/03/2011, 03:23:28 PM

by Dave Collins

2am, Friday 14th January 2011. Dog-tired, dishevelled and slightly drunk, I am sitting in the back of a pub near with a handful of comrades in similar states of exhaustion. It has been a long day. Half-full glasses and damp winter clothing abound. We await Debbie Abrahams and her retinue. The young woman across from me, trying to sustain flagging conversation, asks “So what exactly are you folk in Wales voting on”?  I stare into my beer and consider how to reply… Some oaf knocks a drink over. Once the debris has been sorted, reparations offered and accepted, the conversation moves on…

This is what I should have said:

The v2.0 government of Wales act (2006), was a political compromise, but it was also an innovative attempt to build a partnership approach into Welsh lawmaking. Parliament would assent in principle to the assembly having the right to legislate in defined matters within the devolved fields, but then the precise formulation and effect of the law was left to the assembly to determine. It might have been a neat halfway house system, which addressed the West Lothian question in a novel way, had the political will existed to make it work. But the ink was barely dry before the formation in June 2007 of a Labour/Plaid Cymru assembly government, centrally committed to triggering the fallback provision, also in the act, of dispensing with the Parliamentary approval requirement for laws within the devolved fields via a further referendum. Essentially this was a move to v2.1. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Clear red waters in the land of our fathers

23/02/2011, 02:30:25 PM

by Dave Collins

As Welsh Labour’s faithful departed Llandudno’s conference centre on Sunday, there seemed to be a new spring in their steps. An air of optimism, expectation that the worst is over and that Labour is back on the path to restoring its status as the true party of Wales.

Ed Miliband delivered a competent enough address imploring delegates to “send a message” to the rest of Britain. With a referendum on extending primary law-making powers barely a fortnight away and assembly elections due in 10 weeks time, this was more pre-election rally than sober post mortem.

And, to be fair, last May Welsh Labour limited its losses to just four seats (Aberconwy, Cardiff North, Carmarthen West and Vale of Glamorgan, all won by the Tories), and won back Blaenau Gwent. 26 seats out of forty was a long way from the rout predicted by pundits, despite Labour’s share of the vote in Wales being its lowest since 1918 – 1.3% worse than in 1983. As in the rest of the UK, Welsh Labour escaped meltdown on May 6th, but it was a tad more touch and go than the simple seat tally might suggest.

Last weekend was no time for navel gazing, but Welsh Labour stands at an important crossroads. Since the acceptance of devolution, by the slimmest of margins in 1997, through the difficult gestation and messy start, and then throughout the decade long rein of Rhodri Morgan, Welsh Labour’s political mission was to deliver devolution and make it work. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Tuesday News Review

28/09/2010, 08:24:32 AM

David’s future

David Miliband was given a hero’s welcome yesterday – as he kept the party sweating about his future. The defeated Labour leadership contender received a prolonged standing ovation as he addressed conference for perhaps the last time. David has still not told his younger brother Ed, who narrowly beat him to the top job, if he will serve in his team to fight the ConDems. One close ally said he was agonising about his future – less than 48 hours ahead of tomorrow evening’s deadline for standing in the shadow cabinet elections. The deciding factor could be the effect on his wife, who was in “floods of tears” yesterday at the way her husband had been treated by the party. – The Mirror

David Miliband pulled out of a series of fringe events at Labour’s conference on Monday night after a bruising 48 hours that fed speculation that he was poised to quit frontline politics rather than serve in his younger brother’s shadow cabinet. The guessing game over David Miliband’s future dominated a day in which he gave his party a glimpse of what could have been – with a concession speech that turned into a bravura display of political theatre. – The FT

Alistair Darling urged David Miliband to remain in frontline politics last night, saying he still had a “huge” contribution to make to the Labour Party. The outgoing shadow chancellor disclosed that he had met Mr Miliband over a drink since he was beaten to the Labour leadership by younger brother Ed at the weekend. Mr Darling declined to say who he was backing to take over as shadow chancellor, but lavished praise on David Miliband. “I hope David remains heavily engaged in the Labour Party in whatever way he thinks appropriate and whatever way Ed thinks appropriate,” he told a conference fringe event. “He’s still young and he has a huge amount to give.” – The Press & Journal


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Wednesday News Review

25/08/2010, 07:10:28 AM

The Milibands get personal

“David Miliband will today make his strongest criticism of his younger brother Ed with the Labour leadership contest getting personal as it reaches a critical stage. The former foreign secretary will suggest his brother is pandering to Labour’s core vote rather than reaching out to the middle classes and that his strategy will keep the party in opposition rather than return it to power. David Miliband will set out clear dividing lines between him and his brother, seen as the two front-runners in the race to succeed Gordon Brown. Ballot papers will be sent out next week and the result announced on 25 September.” – The Independent

“We must look forward for new ideas and outward for a new coalition of voters. There is no future for Labour in the comfortable but deadening policies of the past. And there is no future in a politics based on a tactical, patchwork approach to building electoral support.” His speech at the King Solomon academy in north London comes as the Labour leadership contest appears to have narrowed to a straight fight between the Miliband brothers, whose strong relationship has become strained over the summer.” – The Guardian

Diane Abbott: The myth of the forgotten middle class

“There was a ubiquitous television advert for sweets in the 1980s where the catch line featured an endearing moppet saying “Don’t forget the fruit gums mum!” You no longer see this ad. But the right of the Labour Party has it’s own ubiquitous recurring theme where someone pops up and says “Don’t forget the middle classes!” The latest tribune of the right to utter this sentiment is my leadership rival David Miliband. We do not have to choose between appealing to middle-class and working-class voters. It is bogus to pretend that anybody is suggesting this. But only when we leave the “New Labour” era behind will voters of all classes be willing to trust us again.” – Diane Abbott, The Independent

The first of many?

“A Liberal Democrat councillor in Liverpool has defected to Labour because of his opposition to the coalition government’s latest cuts. Ian Jobling is believed to be one of the first councillors in the country to switch sides since the May elections. Mr Jobling, who was first elected in 2003 and is a member of Merseyside Police Authority, said the proposed cuts to the police force had really bothered him. He told the BBC: “On 28 May, when the coalition was only two weeks old, communication came through that we would have to have a £4m budget cut to policing.” –

Changing of the guard in Wales

“The Welsh Labour Party’s general secretary is to quit, he has announced. Chris Roberts, 52, said he intended to step down from the top job after five years in the post, saying five years was “about right” for the job and he was leaving in order to pursue new challenges.” – Wales Online

6 lbs 1 oz

“There were cross-party messages of support for the couple on Twitter, with Labour leadership candidate Ed Balls writing: “Wonderful news about the Cameron’s new baby – she will share a birthday with our 9 year old son – just finishing birthday cake.” – Ed Balls,

“Shadow foreign secretary and Labour leadership favourite David Miliband said: “I’d like to offer many congratulations to Samantha and David Cameron on the birth of their baby girl.” – David Miliband, Daily Telegraph

Paternity leave, but when?

“Despite presumably being the last thing on Mr Cameron’s mind, the early birth has several political implications.  The prime minister used the scheduled paternity leave as a decent reason to excuse himself from the invitation to speak at the TUC annual conference, where he was likely to receive an angry reception from delegates.  The birth raises the possibility of him attending the conference.” –

Another Tory non-dom?

“The controversial hedge fund manager who gave £500,000 to the Tories faced questions about his tax status last night after official records suggested that he is resident in Switzerland.  Millionaire Jon Wood did not pay tax in the UK until 18 months ago and his business moved from the tax haven of Monaco to Britain only earlier this year. Yet he became the Tories’ largest donor in the run-up to the General Election when he handed over the cheque two days before polling day.” – Daily Mail

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Welsh Labour’s quiet victory

22/08/2010, 11:00:36 AM

Welsh Labour entered the 2010 General Election with common expectation it would get a kicking. With 29 out of 40 seats in Wales held by Labour there was clearly only one place to go, and that was down. However, as the campaign wore on more and more Labour sources made it clear to me it wouldn’t be as bad as was being suggested. And they were right. Despite multiple vulnerabilities, Labour in Wales held on to 26 seats. Even more amazingly, Labour did it in Wales on 36% of the vote – a full 1.5% down on the calamity of the 1983 election result. 

One of the major things that saved Labour was the inability of the Conservatives to take medium range targets in Wales. Thus Labour held urban targets like Newport West and Bridgend with more comfort than had been speculated. There was certainly a swing against Labour, but the party machine was in much better fettle than it had been for several years. In the local elections of 2008 and the Euro election of 2009 Labour’s collapse was sharper in Wales than in other parts of the UK. That was not true in 2010 – Welsh Labour did leagues better than its English counterpart. 

Look no further than Blaenau Gwent to prove this point. In 2005 Labour lost its once safest seat in a bloody and brutal scrap with People’s Voice, formed when the late Peter Law broke with the Labour Party over all women shortlists. In the 2006 by-election cause by Peter’s death and in the Assembly election of 2007 Labour was soundly beaten; while in 2008 it lost control of the local authority for the first time ever. This year the rot wasn’t just stopped, it was reversed in stunning fashion. Incumbent People’s Voice MP Dai Davies got under 20% of the vote and Blaenau Gwent – the seat once held by Michael Foot and Nye Bevan – returned to Labour with a 10,000+ majority for Nick Smith MP and a bloody nose for his opponent. Last week People’s Voice announced it was being disbanded. Game, set and match to the red quarter. 

Blaenau Gwent may have been the most stunning illustration of Labour effectiveness, but it was also mirrored in holding the Liberal Democrats in bay in Swansea West and Newport East, keeping the Conservatives out of the Vale of Clwyd and Delyn, and stopping Plaid Cymru in their tracks in Llanelli and Aberconwy.  

Why did this happen? I’d suggest three factors played a role. One was Peter Hain. His persistent message of saving Wales from the Tories may have grated with the other parties, but it obviously worked with the electors from Gower to Cardiff West to Clwyd South. He repeated the mantra as a constant and his message was simple and, quite simply, plausible to the electorate.  

Secondly, Labour had used the previous six months to overhaul its operation and deploy its resources – and by damn they are more scarce than in the past – to best effect. A new communications team made a real impact. Assembly Members and MPs worked together more effectively than in the past, too, and there almost a sense of popular resistance to the trends the polls were showing. At its best the Welsh Labour machine is a tank regiment and, though the machinery has shown significant rust and decay, in the heat of battle it is still the mightiest political army in Wales. In May Welsh Labour found the form that in 2001 allowed it to lose 200,000 votes across Wales but shed no seats. 

The third reason? Labour is the luckiest party in Wales. End of. 

Daran Hill is an independent political consultant who runs Positif Politics. He is a Trustee of the Bevan Foundation and a co-editor of, the leading Welsh political website.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Monday News Review

28/06/2010, 08:06:43 AM

On your bike mark II

“Labour leadership candidate Ed Balls said yesterday Mr Duncan Smith was going further than Norman Tebbit. Mr Balls said: “The remarks suggest that he’s thinking of taking away the housing tenure, the right to a social house and saying you’ve got to move. “So actually he’s going further than saying on your bike. It’s on your bike and lose your home.” – The Mirror

“Labour leadership candidate Ed Miliband – who is backed by former Welsh Secretary Peter Hain – said the proposals were a retreat “back to the 1980s”. He said: “[What] he is saying to whole parts of the country is: ‘we have no hope as a government of getting work into your area so you are going to have to move out of your communities’. And that is frankly disgraceful.” – Western Mail

Cable cracks

“I hear from one of the other panel members that Vince Cable was deeply uncomfortable defending the VAT rise and the Budget and coalition in general on BBC1’s Question Time last week. I’m told that Cable, who has just been distancing himself from his party’s “VAT Bombshell” poster during the election, “simply got through it by a form of meditation.” – James Macintyre, New Statesman

“Up to half a dozen Lib Dem MPs are understood to have unofficially met Labour counterparts late last week to discuss co-ordinating their opposition.  Two early day motions protesting about the rise have attracted the support of almost 70 Labour MPs and Lib Dem MP Bob Russell has already threatened to vote against the Budget.” – The Daily Mail


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon