Monday, 26 June 2017

Linen-chest politics

The Americans would call Mrs May's bribe to the DUP to keep quiet during key votes "pork-barrel politics". Because of Ulster's best-known export, perhaps we should call it "linen-chest politics". If there were any justice, there would be a consequential annual top-up payment of £1.6bn to Wales, but of course Mrs May knows that her small band of Welsh MPs will never rebel. Realpolitik rules.

Government apologists will point to the Swansea City Deal of £1.3bn, but that money is spread over five years at least. Mrs May should immediately make some amends by insisting the GWR electrification should be wrenched back to its original timetable, increasing prosperity for the whole of South Wales, not just the Bay region.

The Barnett by-pass

The Scots seem to be even worse done by than us in Wales. If they had an NI equivalent top-up outwith the Barnett formula, I calculate they are due £6bn over the two years that the agreement with the DUP is to run.   I have just heard Damian Green reeling off a list of Scottish city deals and contributions to arts projects which top up Barnett, but my mental arithmetic produces a total of less than £2bn. I shall read the Hansard report with interest, and if I have done the minister an injustice I will of course correct this record.

Breaking the Great War deadlock

One hundred years ago, the first North American Expeditionary forces arrived in France.

Women in science

This France24 series, with its weekly daytime slot, looks admirable. One would have expected a French medium to be rather chauvinist but instead this programme is refreshingly international.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

John Simon

Probably the first Jamaican-born MP died on this day in 1897. More to the point, John Simon stood up for British Jewry, though he represented Dewsbury, a seat with a minimal Jewish community. (Dewsbury today has a large immigrant population, mostly Muslim.) He was only the second professing Jew to be admitted to the Bar of England and Wales.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Anti-terror measures stepped up at the cost of day-to-day policing

Amber Rudd's statement to the Commons yesterday made clear that anti-terror operations will be strengthened by giving firearms training to more officers but that no new money would be given to the police overall. The implication is that more front-line policemen and women will be diverted to state security while prevention and investigation of crimes which affect ordinary people up and down the country will be starved of resources.

The fact that both Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos for the recent general election pledged  restoration of cuts in the police service which have occurred from the noughties onward, while the Conservatives have made no such provision, points up Tory priorities. The Tories are more concerned about the security of the state than the security of ordinary people.

What is worse is that they have given up on the only piece of legislation which offered hope of reform of criminal justice, the Prisons and Courts Bill. Instead, there is a vague promise of making the courts more efficient.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Orla Lowe, did you know about this sharp practice?

I challenge Mrs Orla Lowe, my Conservative opponent in the Neath constituency in the recent general election, whether she knew about the activities revealed in tonight's Channel 4 News. An outfit named Blue Telecoms operating from offices in Market Chambers, Neath, made cold calls apparently pushing people to vote for Conservative candidates in Wales. In itself, this is a nuisance, but not illegal (provided telephone preferences are observed). What is illegal is not accounting for these canvassing calls under individual candidates' expenses returns.

Throughout Wales, and markedly in Neath, Conservative candidates leapfrogged Plaid Cymru candidates and depressed Liberal Democrat votes. Did the Blue Telecoms operation contribute to this, to Conservatives' holding on to Brecon & Radnor, and possibly to Mark Williams' losing Ceredigion?
The Conservative party must come clean about its expenditure. We know Channel 4 will persist until it gets all the answers, and this time there will the party will not be helped by expiring deadlines.

More evidence for declining real wages

There are some worrying graphs here.