Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Spineless, gutless cowards eh? Who can that be?

Now it may be hard for some of my friends out there to believe, but some people don’t like me!  In fact there are some who wouldn’t p*** on me if I were to burst into flames.  To be fair I can understand why.  I can be a little too forthright for some people’s taste, I tell it how it is, and some people can get a little upset.  I make a great friend, but believe me you don’t want me as an enemy.

Also, whilst I can be as sneaky, conniving and conspiratorial as the next person, I usually take a more head on, fix bayonet and charge approach to the everyday hassles of political life. This is not an approach taken by everyone – some local Labour party members in particular prefer the bully boy, cowardly, hide behind the curtains sort of approach.

Let me give you one example.

I wrote recently of the (in my opinion) somewhat underhand tactics of the Labour party in relation to the hospital reorganisation proposals.  In particular I was incensed by the fact that the letter which the campaign group had agreed upon, and which we were all trying to get signatures on had been reprinted with the address of a Labour Councillor as the return address.

I pointed this out on a couple of campaign Facebook groups, just so that people involved were aware of the potential for political shenanigans.   It met with a rather vehement response from the Councillor’s wife, a nurse, who pointed out it was also her address as well.

Then tonight I was in the public gallery at an RCT Council meeting.  They were discussing their response to the South Wales Programme consultation, and for once there was cross party agreement and no political game playing, until this particular Councillor spoke.

He named no names, but went on a rant about “spineless” people trying to score political points by attacking their efforts.  In the words of his wife, who yet again leapt to his defence on Facebook,

The councillor named no names but simply addressed the fact that spineless, gutless cowards had put items on facebook and twitter for their own political ends, whilst risking undermining our NON POLITICAL campaign.”

Now I have no intention of getting involved in a tit for tat battle on a campaign page, but Councillor Adams made his comments in public, in the Council Chamber where I had no right to reply, and that doesn't seem quite fair!  Now if we are talking of spineless, gutless cowards I suggest he try looking in the mirror.

I am not perfect, not by a long chalk, but I am honest, and I am certainly not spineless. I also believe in fighting my own battles and doing it openly.  If you have anything to say to me Cllr Adams, for a public audience or not, then you know where I am.   Don’t hide behind the expensive plate glass panes of the Council Chamber, or your wife’s skirts.

As I have said before, there is of course a political element to this campaign and we will make full use of it, but there will be no doubt about it when we are. 


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

No tears to shed over Leighton

So Leighton Andrews has resigned his position as Education Minister, and not before time.  His arrogance it seems has finally got the better of him – his refusal to listen to anyone on education matters has ensured Wales has remained way down the education league tables, he has a reputation of being smug and arrogant, and his determination to have it all ways has been his downfall.
TheBBC report that he “resigned following a row over his defence of a school which faced closure under his own surplus places policy.”  A line which allows Mr Andrews to play on the “I did it all for my constituents” sob story.  In his resignation letter he said

"I regret that my commitment to my constituents may have led me to an apparent conflict which led to difficulty for the government."

Nonsense.  It was his commitment to try himself, his own career, and to trying to play the game according to a set of rules he made up himself.

He was a Government Minister.  He knew full well that meant he had to be very careful with what he said about the Royal Glamorgan.  He made a big mistake – the ‘Labour for Royal Glamorgan’ signs and website were never going to go down well elsewhere.  A schoolboy error one may say.

But even worse was thinking he could get away with openly backing a campaign to keep a school open in his constituency whist telling Authorities they had to deal with surplus places and being the man with the final say over whether closures go ahead.

That was sheer stupidity.  If he felt so strongly then he should have resigned his Ministerial post in order to fight for the school.  Or if he really had concerns over the process RCT were following then why, as Minister, did he not openly question them about it? This is the Authority, after all, that he wanted to hand control of Merthyr schools over to.  It raises serious questions about competency on both sides

Still at least the news has livened up Twitter today, even if some of the comments were a little strange.

Adrian Masters points us in the direction of the Director of the ATL Union who says

It is vital that Mr Andrews' successor is both credible, and more importantly, competent. With PISA looming, and GCSES and A level results pending, we need someone who commands the confidence of the profession and parents.”

Credible and competent – a big ask from amongst the current Labour contingent, and has Leighton ever fulfilled those requirements? 

Labour AM Jenny Rathbone raised a few eyebrows with her assertion that “.Resignation of our Education Minister poses lots of questions re direction education policy.”

Really?  He had only just gone, surely if there were questions as to the direction of Labour education policy someone in the party would have picked up on them before now?  Is she suggesting that there will be a change in policy – or that there should be?

Tory MP and Welsh office Minister Stephen Crabbe obviously hasn’t taken the views of his colleagues in the Assembly on board and tweets  “Sorry to see @LeightonAndrews leave Welsh Gov. One of the few with genuine ambition for ending the slide in Welsh educational standards".

Really?  He may have had ambition but he wasn’t achieving a great deal as the man responsible for PISA assessments pointed out recently.

Oddly enough @fmwales  has been silent since lunchtime.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Plaid AM confused over health service plans – aren’t they paying attention?

Bethan Jenkins AM tweeted this afternoon, presumably from the Assembly Chamber, that:

 “I am not against centralising specialised services. A and E is NOT a specialised service, is it??”

Has she any idea the range of specialities which are covered in an A&E department?  More to the point maybe has she paid any attention at all to what has been said about the South wales Programme hospital reorganisation?

Now whether or not you agree with the concept what is being recommended is that critical care services are condenses into fewer hospitals.  There is no suggestion that A&E as a whole will be removed from any hospital.  What is being talked about is the top level ‘emergency’ medicine – heart attacks, strokes, brain injuries, severe trauma.

Is Ms Jenkins seriously suggesting that none of these are ‘specialist’ services?  Because if, heaven forbid, I ever needed emergency brain surgery I certainly wouldn’t want an obstetrician carrying it out.

How can reasoned arguments be made and put forward to the Health Boards. and indeed the Health Minister, that will hold water if such misinformation is being spread?

Will Labour MPs stick up for constituents on health issues?

Anne Clwyd,  the Labour MP  for the Cynon Valley seems to have become the caped crusader with regard to the health service and in particular patient care. This after the alleged abysmal treatment of her late husband at the University of Wales.

At that time she chose to make her complaint via the media and in Westminster, even though health is of course devolved and run in Wales by her own Labour colleagues in the Welsh Government.

Inexplicably she was asked earlier this year to head up a review into the way that the English NHS deals with complaints which no doubt will be of huge benefit to her constituents. During this exercise she says she received hundeds of complaints from Wales and met the Welsh Health Minister to talk about them.

This  week she is addressing Westminster's Welsh Grand Committee of MPs on the subject of the problems she has been told of in Wales.  What I wonder will the Labour Members of that committee do with the information?

Given their recent overwhelming interest in the health service locally and their now aborted campaign to save services at the Royal Glamorgan, which has caused more than a bit of bother within the Labour party, will they now demand better patient care?  Will Owen Smith and ChrisbBryant actually stand up for their constituents and demand answers from their Welsh Labour colleagues?

I think we all know the answer to that.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Labour party should hang their heads in shame

The supposedly grass roots, all political parties and none, all fighting for the same cause campaign to retain services at the Royal Glamorgan is well under way. It seems, however, that some are taking the idea of there being no overt political involvement less seriously than others. 

The Labour party in RCT,  not content with leaping aboard a bandwagon that had been rolling long before they even knew it was in existence, are determined to take over the reins and are addressing their with an almost evangelical zeal, much to the dismay of head honcho, First Minister and Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones.

Carwyn got into a spot of bother at First Minister’s Questions last Tuesday over the matter. He appears either not to know what his colleagues are up to, or is in denial. Of course it doesn’t make things any easier that the Princess of Wales hospital in Bridgend is in his constituency and residents there will be just as keen to make sure that is one of the five chosen critical care centres.

Labour set up a campaign website called Labour4RoylGlamorgan which they soon changed – no doubt after a few words from above pointing out that in fact only RCT Labour were in favour of keeping the Royal Glam as is.

They then decided the way forward was to take over the genuine grass roots campaign that had been set up by numerous people.  Some of those people had been involved in the fight against the downgrading of the neo natal unit at the hospital in 2008, a campaign we were pleased to have helped out with.

At the first rally in Pontypridd two Labour MPs, an AM and a variety of Labour Councillors were present.  The MPs and AM disappeared as soon as the photo opportunity was over. A standard letter had been prepared – totally non-political – for residents to sign opposing the taking of services from the Royal Glam.  Labour members were going around getting people to sign their own Labour campaign forms.  I took a bundle of letters at the end of the day to put around in various places.  When I took them out of my car boot a few days later I found only the top one was actually the letter we had all agreed on.  The rest of the bundle was made up of Labour leaflets.

Yesterday was the Treorchy protest – this time two Labour AMs and one MP turned up, and again several Labour Councilors. Instead of the black T Shirts with yellow writing that members of the campaign group had designed and had made to sell to supporters, the Labour contingent turned up with their own version.  Red T-shirts bearing the logo and message from their Royal Glam website. So much for pulling together and being part of a genuine grass roots campaign.

The Parliamentarians were all keen to make their voices heard to the crowd.  Our only RCT Councillor could not make it, so we had no elected representative there even if we had wanted to vie for the crowd’s attention.

Chris Bryant made a sickening speech which as usual made no mention of the fact that his own colleagues in the Bay are responsible for this reorganisation.  During his political broadcast he announced a donation of £150 to the campaign from the Labour party.  Playing to the crowd?  Of course not!!   It must have been disappointing to find that the subsequent TV report left out anything from Mr Bryant and pals.

The most disgusting part of this display, however, at least to my mind, came when a heckler from the crowd started to have a bit of a dig at the Rhondda MP.  His exact words were not audible form where I stood, but he began with something along the lines of how he was an ex miner and how he didn’t regard Chris as his MP.

Instead of dealing with the interruption in a manner becoming someone in his position, the Labour MP told the man to “shut up” and then encouraged the crowd to chant “shut up, shut up…”   Disgraceful behavior – free speech not a concept the Labour party understand obviously.

The whole nauseating scenario is of course made so much worse by the sheer hypocrisy of it all.  Health is devolved, it is the responsibility of the Welsh Labour Government, the appalling state of the NHS in Wales is down to them. The Labour party in RCT should be hanging their heads in shame.

Paddling pool removal little short of vandalism

Had an hour or so to spare in Ponty this afternoon so did what many people do when the weather is this good and headed for B&M to pick up some bargains! Well it is a Sunday and everyone is free to park on the newly installed £10m pavements in the semi sort of sometimes pedestrianised town centre.

Having availed myself of some bits and bobs in the aforementioned store I then took a wander across to the park. As to be expected it was fairly busy lots of families having come along, as they have for generations, for an inexpensive afternoon in the sun

At a rough estimate there were around 80 kids happily splashing about in the paddling pool - the very one the Labour council wants to take away. It was a very rough estimate as more kept running in and out, whilst several enjoyed the slide. Many more on the grass wore bathers, obviously taking a brief respite before jumping back in.

I would have taken a photo but a large sign says it is strictly forbidden, along with diving and jumping and running and excessive splashing and anything else that could make playing a little too much like fun

One of the things that struck me was something we have mentioned previously during our campaign to save the paddling pool. That is the number of groups with one or two children and four or five adults.  What happens when the new Lido is open, with its 'free to use' pool for children, and one adult accompanying each child. Every only of those 'extra' adults would have to pay to enter.

Even if by some miracle they chose to do that there is no way they would fit in the number of people here enjoying this facility today.

 The Labour plan is beyond bonkers, it is outright vandalism.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Maybe First Minister should check facts on hospital claims

A bit of  row broke out last Tuesday at first Minister's questions over the hospital reorganisation plans, and more specifically the campaign to keep services at the Royal Glamorgan.

As reported by the BBC there was an exchange between Carwyn and the leader of Plaid Cymru in which he accused her of misleading the Assembly by stating that A&E would close.

Conservative Health spokesperson Darren Millar referred to this a few minutes later and asked

"Do you agree that your Labour colleagues, including a member of your own cabinet are also misleading the assembly, if you use the same yardstick?"

The First Minister got on his usual high horse and replied

"That has never been suggested by anyone in this chamber, by any Labour Minister, only by members of Plaid Cymru."

He cannot have seen the leaflets being put out from the office of Leighton Andrews. Education Minister and AM for the Rhondda then.   It asks people to sign a letter stating that they

"believe that there must continue to be Accident & Emergency Services at the Royal Glamorgan."

It also explains that the reorganisation is necessary to maintain standards but that

"It is inevitable that certain services includign accident and emergency will be based in fewer hospitals."

So Mr Jones, no Labour Minister has been misleading the public?

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Can someone explain to Labour’s elected members what is going on?

I know the whole political scene, devolution and everything is sometimes a bit difficult for the average man / woman in the street to grasp, often made none the easier by the media.  However, you’d think that elected members would have some sort of grasp of what is happening.  In the case of the Labour party locally at least it certainly doesn’t seem that way.

In recent days with the furore surrounding the health service reorganisation several have left me wondering whether they have any idea at all what is really going on or what the reasons around it are.  It seems that not only do they not communicate within the Labour party, but some are too disinterested to even read up on subjects which are of vital importance to many of those they represent.

As a result not only are they unable to make any credible case for not cutting services, but they  end up spreading misinformation amongst the public which does nothing to help the cause.

Take the report in the Wales on Sunday today about the rally in Pontypridd yesterday.  There is a quote from a Labour Councillor, Tina Leyshon, who is certainly no newcomer to the world of local politics. She says

“Everyone knows someone who’s been to this hospital. Really, it’s nothing to do with politics. It’s so important that we get out and show our support for our local hospital.  I think national health needs to make cuts but they need to look at it wisely and make cuts that are safe. Taking money away from services like A&E is not the way to do it.”

Now first off it is of course everything to do with politics – who does she think governs the Health Service – the tooth fairy? The decision to reorganise services is a political one, and it is the Labour Health Minister who will have the final say.  Political decisions affect how money is spent and on what. 

More importantly this is not about cuts – although cuts could certainly be made on the management side.  It has been very clearly stated that the reorganisation is about staff shortages and clinical safety, not money.  The reorganisation in fact with cost money.  Her colleagues in the Welsh Government are not taking money away from these services.  That is not their failure; their failure has been in not addressing staff shortages which have been apparent for years, and in not addressing the very real concerns about the Health Service in Wales.

Of course in some ways she could be forgiven for being confused – after all the Labour MP for Pontypridd has been peddling the sameline, although of course he has been adding in the well-worn phrase about it being all the fault of the UK Government  (y…a…w…n)

Leighton Andrews added to the misinformation, being quoted on Wales Online as saying that

“It could take hours and several bus changes” for people in Rhondda to reach Bridgend’s Princess of Wales Hospital or Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr. In practice, people would go to Cardiff and that would lead to congestion at the University Hospital of Wales,”

This is of course complete nonsense, because the people who would be accessing the severe trauma services they are talking Labour centralising would be travelling there by ambulance and not have a choice about where they were taken.  Yes transferring services would make it more difficult for patients’ visitors, but there would still be no choice involved.

Then we have Chris Bryant.MP for the Rhondda adding his thoughts.  Well, they are in his name anyway, although they don’t quite gel with what he has said elsewhere.

According to a piece on Slick’s blog,

Rhondda Labour MP Chris Bryant said: “The A&E at the Royal Glamorgan is an essential service to the people of the Rhondda. When you are severely ill and requiring urgent medical attention, you want to receive the best care as quickly as possible – I hope that the health board will see sense and realise that closing an accident and emergency unit at a hospital that is only 13 years old and accessible to both the communities in the Rhondda and Pontypridd is not the best use of NHS resources.”

Now when Chris came along to a campaign meeting last Thursday he said that care should be taken to ensure that the correct facts were put out to the public.  That the consultation only spoke of certain critical care services – something that RCT Welsh Lib Dems have been keen to point out all along.  Why then is he quoted talking about “closing an accident and emergency department?”

They really should take more care about what is being put out in their names.  Maybe the same staff are writing their press releases as put together their campaign website referring to them as “your Labour representitives”  - a Freudian slip some may say.