The agony of Manchester will haunt us forever

The memories of the faces of children and others photographed in happy times have moved us all especially when we hear of the futile brutality of their deaths. The shock and hopelessness gives way to  facile solutions.

Beware the posturing of politicians and groups with vested interests. We have drifted into a world of division between the west and east which cannot be swiftly resolved. During my time on the Home Affairs Committee we sought solutions. The imperfect Prevent programme and court orders were welcomed and all found wanting. Blame was easy where the failures were paraded before the committee. Devout young Muslims complained that they had been bullied by the law for their religious beliefs.  The 7/7 murderers were not detected and frustrated by the police or secret services in spite of abundant evidence.

Solutions are demanded. They are provided-even when they are meaningless. As a result of the murder of Jo Cox all MPs have been inundated by security advice. Expensive equipment has been installed in our dwellings. It may be thought ungrateful to point out that none of these precautions would have prevented the killing of Jo. The ‘Something must be done’ political myth rules. Even when that ‘something’ is an expensive folly.

David Blunkett expressed his regret today for sending Armoured Personnel Carriers on the streets near Heathrow in 2003 when there was a claim of a possible missile attack. The public were terrified. Sending troops in to help the police protect an empty House of Commons looks like a hollow grandstanding gesture. It also invites criticism on the run-down of police numbers.

Good judgement is blurred by emotional turmoil. When parliament returns rationality should inform policy. It is excusable for any system to miss a lone wolf terrorist operating without accomplices. That appears to be the case with the Westminster terrorist armed with knives and a vehicle. But legitimate questions must be answered in the case of a terrorist who had self-advertised his murderous  intentions and terrorist connections  for years.  There is culpability.



Tories flounder and upset their core voters

Senior citizens are alarmed and upset by Tory plan.

Apart from dementia itself what could be more worrying than a Dementia Tax?  The triple whammy of blows to the income of mature citizens is bitterly resented. For decades the elderly had inflation nibbling away at the value of their real fixed incomes. Now, they greatly value benefits that are universal and protect against inflation. Means testing creates stigma of handouts. The elderly have long memories of the old despised Poor Law ignominy of the past.

The loss of universal benefits given to achieve a level of fairness will be strongly resented at a time when the Government still plan vast multi-£Billion giveaways to the super-rich. It’s no surprise that there is a backlash from senior citizens. Will the Tories do a u-turn as they did on the planned National Insurance rise? Possibly they will.

Letting the their smiling mask slip has revealed the mean face of the Nasty Party. This election is all about their ratting on their election promises of 2015 and imposing a new austerity that will degrade the NHS, pensions, environmental policies, education and welfare.

Who wants five years of that?

Will bullying and omerta work?

The Newport West campaign this time is unique and wonderful.

The previous candidates were a mixed bunch-but none were accused of cancelling an appointment with a distinguished journalist from the national press and then ‘dodging’ her phone calls. It’s eccentric PR for a candidate who is unknown in the constituency and was imposed under duress here.

Feature writer Janice Turner from the Times newspaper arranged to meet me and the Tory before embarking on the train ride from London. When Janice tried to confirm the arrangements for meeting on the train, the Tory candidate ‘cancelled the meeting then ‘dodged her phonecalls’.  Newport West has attracted UK interest as it’s the only constituency in the UK where Tory HQ has imposed a ‘shortlist’ of one. Bridgend had two and they are in open revolt. The rest of the ’empty’ constituencies had a choice of three. I have a theory about the reason which I will give at the Hustings.

There were no shortage of Newport based Tories who wanted to be on the shortlist to challenge the Cardiff based candidate who had lost her two previous elections in 2010 and 2011 and was not subsequently readopted by the constituencies where she stood or any others. The 2015 candidate in Newport West complained in a tweet that he was denied a place on the shortlist. A brilliant London-based Newport Tory is ‘hopping mad’ that he was excluded from the shortlist. The truth will come out. Former Tory candidate Iain Dale of LBC knows the inside details from an impeccable source. So do I. Iain humiliated Andrew RT Davies in a radio interview by repeating the same question 8 times.

It’s still baffling. Why should a candidate run away from national publicity in Tory sympathetic newspaper? Could it be that Tory HQ told her to pull out of the interview for fear that the reporter would ask why she was imposed. If that was the tactic it backfired. The Times reported without qualification that the Tory ‘is from Cardiff and was imposed on the constituency’.

It’s hardly started yet but it’s already almost the most interesting campaign I’ve ever had. The best was when the Tory candidate’s personal pension policy was to ‘ship Newport pensioners to Eritrea because poverty is relative.’

Three weeks to go. Time to find whether the policies of omerta and the Tory HQ bullying Newport Tories works?

Rhodri’s Welsh Labour

Rhodri Morgan Tribute.jpgThis is a blog I wrote in 2009 in preparation for the book, Dragons led by Poodles.

September 26, 2009

Anthracite and gossamer
Rhodri Morgan’s creed is the anthracite Labour of Aneurin Bevan and Jim Griffiths not the gossamer Labour-lite of Blair and Mandelson.

The ugly power grab by Tony Blair to choose Wales’ first leader for centuries eventually helped Rhodri. He was unquestionably Wales’ choice triumphing over London’s choice. Wales was blighted by generations of politicians promising home rule who failed at Westminster. Rhodri’s generation honoured the dream. Never again, will we have alien princes and governor generals imposed on us.

In awe we witness the outpourings of his encyclopaedic brain reminiscent of the poet’s schoolmaster, ‘and still they gazed and still the wonder grew that one small head could carry all he knew’.

Rhodri’s language is direct, honest and unadorned. When New Labour explained the credit crunch in soothing verbal ectoplasm, Rhodri was asked what will happen. ‘God knows’ he said. We all understood that. In spite of few opposition corgis snapping at his heels, Rhodri’s popularity continues to soar. He is a beacon of straight forward honesty in the cascading mire of sleaze that is engulfing politics.

Comfortable in his skin and with his nation, Rhodri has led Wales with vision and courage. The deeply egalitarian personality of Wales can cwtch up to a leader that everyone knows by his first name. Sports loving, humour inspired, untidiness-phobic, history maker, beer-tasting, casual dresser, two language wordsmith, Mwnt holiday-maker,universal friend, jargon-free talker, Real Labour rooted, international Welsh diplomat and icon, Rhodri has done Wales proud.

What a shame ten years is such a short time in politics.

Press treat Tory stunt with contempt

The shameless piece of Tory cynical opportunism had the treatment it deserved from the press.

BBC Wales hardly mentioned the deathbed conversion of the Tories to abolish the tolls on the Severn Bridges. Previously the Conservatives had tried to pull a fast one by trying to prove that a cut was good. It was actually an increase – from nothing to £3.00. They have behaved like fairground hucksters. Perhaps now they know they can fool some of the people only some of the time.

Some Tory candidates are leaping up and down with feigned joy. Oh Dear! They’ll learn.


Labour Pressure forces Tory U-Turn

Labour has forced yet another Tory policy U-turn, this time on the rip off of the Severn Bridge tolls.

Theresa May’s Tories have surrendered to Welsh Labour pressure to end the Highway Robbery of Severn Bridges tolls.

Former Minister Alun Cairns planned to deceive the public by promising to cut tolls to £3.70 and then to £3.00 as though he was offering a bargain.  Then a new wheeze. It was to be cut to £1.50! Great. But bothways. Not great!  It was a con. This year the 50 year debt on the bridges will end. Any charge will then be a rip-off as local people are already paying full road taxes. The Tory con has been exposed. Toll-free bridges are our right.

This has been one of my calls in the General Election campaign following the Tories persistent refusal to end the cash cow of the bridges. In 1992, the clear promise was to end all tolls when the debts had been paid. Without this election the Tories would have persisted with the double-taxation for local bridge users.

Campaign diary, 26th April-2nd May

This election diary was published in House magazine on 4th May 2017.

26th April

Failed to be called for terminal PMQs so I raised a point of order about the health of members. Had Mr Speaker noticed the outbreak of Parliamentary Tourette’s caused by the Crosby chip implanted in the brains of Tory MPs. It compels them to make involuntary noises of repetitive mantra syndrome by saying ‘Strong and Stable’ every 18 seconds. Triple offender Michael Fabricant denied that the thing on top of his head is a chip. I’ve always thought it was a dead cat. But he denied the House further details.

27th April

My oral question on Brexit’s threat to Welsh farmers had a characteristically vacuous and meaningless answer. Minister said he would secure ‘the best possible free trade agreement.’ Time for farmers to dig out the worry beads.

Seeking the truth, I asked the David Davis to explain “Why we are going into this premature election? Remainers have fully accepted the decision and voted for article 50, as did the Lords. Isn’t the real reason for this election the Government’s wish to rat on the promise made two years ago—a five-year promise—not to raise taxes, and to respect the triple lock? What lies ahead on the economic front is a great sinkhole into which our economy will fall in a tailspin.

In the final Point of Order of the Parliament I said that our electoral system is the most vulnerable it has been since 1880. There is powerful evidence of foreign Governments interfering in the elections in America and overwhelming evidence of money being paid in huge amounts, entirely invisible to the system, using algorithms, botnets and artificial intelligence. The Electoral Commission does not have the tools to deal with interference of this kind. We are trying to run a modern election with the tools of the 19th century. Mr Speaker replied with kindness and courtesy.

28th April

Furiously writing election literature, trying to be persuasive without giving out too much information to opponents. The polls are dire but I am consoled. Newportonians have kindly been voting for me in elections since 1972. No sign of any Tory opponent but some prominent councillors are angling for support. Our election-winning machine purrs into confident activity. Evening exchange of unpleasantries with John Redwood on LBC.

29th April

Shock! My Tory opponent in 2015 tweets that he applied to be shortlisted this time but was rejected. Ingrates! What genius do they have lined up against me? Double shock! Tory Party Wales have imposed a shortlist of one on Newport West rejecting the Newport contenders even though they are all ‘strong and stable’. Their party will now feign unity but the resentment is palpable. The voters will not like this. Perhaps a vote bonus for me.

30th April

Furiously cleansing internet sites of the ‘MP’ appendage. Writing blogs and articles on interrupted campaigns plus a therapeutic ventilating shout on Paul Ross’s Radio show. News of the Tory candidate who is employed by an MEP and lost two previous elections in winnable seats. Third time unlucky, I hope.

1st May

Nation’s brain is deadened by merciless soundbites plus May’s insistence on speaking only to lobotomized Tories locked in hermetically sealed rooms.

2nd May

Visit from depressingly well-briefed reporter from the Today programme urging me to slag off my party. Told him that the Labour Party Wales has its own Leader who gained three seats last May in the Assembly election that we had lost in 2015. Reporter promised to be equally nasty to the Tory candidate. Optimism would not be reasonable. But every election surprises. Waiting now for the meek to inherit the majority.