Monday, December 31, 2012

We're still standing

It's been  tough year to be a Lib Dem - but then that is nothing new.  We appear to be getting battered from all sides, but stubborn beasts that we are we keep bouncing back.

It must be absolutely infuriating for the Labour party here in Rhondda Cynon Taff.  We gave them a hell of a fright in 2010 when we slashed the parliamentary majority in Pontypridd from more than 13000 to less than 3000.  Then of course it all started to go downhill as the perils of being in Government became apparent.  They did plenty of crowing after the Assembly election when through no fault of our own locally we saw a lot of our hard work go down the drain - although we still retained our second place in Pontypridd.

The Council election this May was a low point.  We saw the Labour majority shoot up so they held 60 out of the 75 seats on the Council.  Meanwhile we slipped from three Councillors to just one - a situation not helped by two of our former Councillors standing down and new candidates taking their place.

The joy of the Labour lot was all too evident - they thought we were down and out and they could carry on doing what they wanted undisturbed. 

It must then be really galling for them to realise that they were wrong.  We haven't given up and gone away, but instead have remained the biggest thorn in Labour's side.  Despite battling on times with a local media that finds itself indebted to the Council for a significant amount of advertising revenue (Over £90k last year to GTFM radio, a similar amount to the local paper) we punch above our weight publicity wise.  Our online presence is growing, and attracting more attention - not least from the Labour party!

And the really bad news for them is that we intend it to continue. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why do so many Welsh people reject their own language?

I cannot understand why there are so many Welsh people who appear to have such animosity towards their own language.  The 2011 census for the first time provided a tick box for people to describe themselves as Welsh if they so wished. Results showed that the sense of national identity is strong, with two thirds of people describing themselves as Welsh on average across Wales and 73% in Rhondda Cynon Taff.

The demand for Welsh medium education continues to rise – in RCT the Local Authority have struggled to keep up, so the demand is obviously there.

 Yet the census figures also showed that there is a decrease in the number of Welshspeakers which has led to calls on the Welsh Government from opposition parties to get their act together and look again at strategies which are obviously not working.

The political attacks are predictable, but what I find more surprising is the level of attack from some members of the public who claim that money spent on the Welsh language is wasted.  Take for instance this thread on the Pontypridd Town Forum. Just look at some of the comments on there:

·         This pointless Welsh language is quite simply the most underhand, calculating,and divisive stunt imaginable. A classic example being the appalling spreading of rumours that unless your child can speak Welsh, they will find it much more difficult to find employment.

·         There is no need for Welsh as an everyday language, Wales won't die because everyone doesn't speak Welsh. If the money and time spent on Welsh language promotion, was put into attracting business and industry to Wales we would be a damn site better off

·         Welsh is dead - admit it.

Admittedly much of what is said on this particular forum is designed to needle and cause argument, but the basic messages show a disturbing amount of animosity. I know a significant number of people who think that bilingualism is a waste of money, many see it as inextricably linked to a nationalist agenda.  They don’t speak the language and so do not see why any else needs to. Yet these same people would class themselves as ‘Welsh’ and fly the flag with pride.

I am not a fluent Welsh speaker, although I have a reasonable degree of understanding of the language.  I don’t read information other than in English, I can’t fill in forms in Welsh.  I wish I could, and yes it is my fault for not making the effort learn more and upgrade my level of understanding and ability to speak the language.  But this is and should be a bilingual country. 

The argument that by having Welsh taught as a compulsory subject in schools we are affecting the quality of education in other subjects is nonsense.  The question is whether what we are teaching is adequate.   Are we merely paying lip service by insisting on throwing the odd Welsh phrase into conversation in our schools?  Does it actually instil any love of the language?  Forcing students to take exams in it is not going to endear them to the subject. Forcing teachers some of whom may themselves have no love of the language to teach it isn’t going to build enthusiasm.

Encouraging growth in the language needs more than Government policies and strategies and forcing businesses to put up bilingual signs. It needs a change in people’s attitudes – and no, I don’t know how we achieve that!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Taxpayers money funds Plaid research by MEP's husband

Well this article on Wales Online explains one thing – where hissing Syd as he is not so affectionately known by many - has been lately.

Syd Morgan is the husband of Jill Evans, Plaid MEP. The article states that he “was until September last year a member of the controlling “bureau” of the Centre Maurits Coppieters (CMC), a Brussels-based organisation that researches European issues from a nationalist perspective” and continues

“During his time as a CMC bureau member, the organisation funded a project undertaken by the Welsh Nationalism Foundation, a body founded by Mr Morgan and his friend Alan Sandry, the author of a book on Plaid Cymru. Mr Sandry is currently a bureau member.
The Welsh Nationalism Foundation is an unincorporated body and does not publish accounts. Potential donors are invited on the body’s website to send cheques to Mr Morgan at the home he shares with Ms Evans in Tonypandy.”
A look at the Welsh Nationalism Foundation website reveals the following statement:

“Objectives- The Welsh Nationalism Foundation is an autonomous association engaged in the research and dissemination of all aspects of civic nationalism in Wales and the rest of Europe. It is affiliated to the Centre Maurits Coppieters (CMC), a European political foundation associated with the European Free Alliance, of which Plaid Cymru is a founder member. The Foundation supports the objective of Wales becoming a member state of European Union at the earliest opportunity.”

There are links to Plaid, and to Jill Evans’ website.

It is not the first time that this subject has been raised. Martin Shipton wrote back in June 2010 about the two day conference the Foundation was holding at which a Plaid line up addressed an audience of Plaid members. The suggestion then, as now, was that public money should not be funding such openly party political ‘research’

Of course it is a bit rich of Labour of Labour to be criticising pubic money being spent for political purposes, they are certainly not whiter than white there, but in this instance they appear to have a point.

Wales Online says that Mr Morgan when asked how much European money the Fundation had received from Centre Maurits Coppieters he said he did not have the information readily at hand, and they should ask the CMC. Yet he is the Treasurer, surely he knows a ball park figure?

Something just does not gel here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tories true colours showing on subject of same sex marriage

The subject of same sex marriage is one which is causing a bit of upset within the Tory party.  David Cameron has said he wants churches in England and Wales to be allowed to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies, but this is not finding favour with some of his party’s more hard line traditionalists.

 The BBC reports today that Monmouth MP David Davies says the plans are ‘barking mad.’

Tory MPs are to be allowed a free vote on the issue, but up to 130 of them are thought to be unhappy with the plans which obviously don’t fit in with their ideas of just how society should conduct itself old chap.

Former Assembly member Mr Davies is apparently afraid that the party will lose support over the issue – which suggests that a lot of his supporters have the same somewhat bigoted attitude that he displays.  It also raises the question of whether doing what is right comes before appeasing the party’s supporters in the minds of some.

Mr Davies' homophobic tendencies show through as he tells the BBC that

"I think most people are very tolerant and have no problem at all if people are gay but, and I hate to say this in a way because I expect it's going to cause controversy, but I think most parents would prefer their children not to be gay, knowing most parents want grandchildren if nothing else.”

 Maybe the Chair of Conservative Future who recently wrote about how proud he is of his party’s position on LGBT issues ought to ask himself whether he is really in the right party.



Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Excuse me Mrs Clwyd – have you heard of devolution?

Now I have every sympathy with anyone who suffers or sees their friends or family suffer due to a lack of appropriate care in the health service in any form.  That sympathy extends to Anne Clwyd, MP for the Cynon Valley who is in the news this week complaining about the poor standards of care experienced by her husband who passed away in October.  If the quality of care he received at the University Hospital of Wales was as poor as she described then indeed there is much to be improved.

What I can’t understand, however, is quite why, as reported by Wales Online, she was challenging David Cameron over this in the House of Commons.

The Health Service is of course devolved.  The Minister responsible for it in Wales is Mrs Clwyd’s own Labour colleague Lesley Griffiths.  Maybe she should take her very real and understandably very strongly felt concerns up there.  There are far too many people not getting the care and treatment they deserve in Wales for all manner of reasons, but nobody can lay this at the door of the Westminster Government.