Thursday, 21 December 2017

We could learn from these Ancient words

As we approach the most important day in the Christian calendar my thoughts turn to the phrase 'good words, good deeds, good thoughts' - words which in fact are Zoroastrian in origin and which form the moral basis of that ancient religion. Founded in Persia (modern day Iran) 3,500 years ago Zoroastrianism is one of the world's oldest religions and looking around at the world today it's abundantly clear that as a species humankind could certainly learn from those ancient words.  

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

For Wales - see England.

It used to be a real and understandable bone of contention among many people in Wales that an entry in the esteemed Encyclopedia Britannica once read 'For Wales - see England'. In effect the authors were saying Wales was just a part of England, rather like the counties of Gloucestershire or Kent are. Of course this is nonsense - Wales existed as a nation long before the modern British state was created. The fact of the matter is Wales was first annexed by military force and then there was a calculated move to assimilate Wales into England with the 1536 Act of Union.

Thankfully these brazen attempts to effectively wipe Wales off the map failed and - as the welsh folk singer Dafydd Iwan famously reminded us - we are still here.  And the fact Wales still exists as a nation in its own right is due in no small part to the Welsh language.Without its own language Wales might easily have been completely absorbed into england and at best might now endure the same sad status our friends in Cornwall do, and for this we owe a big debt of gratitude to a certain William Morgan. Morgan translated the bible into Welsh in 1588 and in doing so unquestionably helped maintain Wales distinctiveness from England - a distinctiveness which would become vital in helping to maintain Wales identity in its own right over subsequent centuries (despite appalling westminster instituted measures like the blue books ).

And in the last two decades the people of Wales - in the referendums of 1997 and 2011 - have twice voted to take a measure of political control over their own country. Wales has its own Senedd able to make its own laws in a number of areas. And while these powers don't go anywhere near as far as some of us would like (see my previous post on powers over energy in wales for example) it would now be very difficult for anyone except the most brainless 'little inger-lander' to try to deny Wales is a nation in its own right. We not only have our own parliament and two official languages (welsh and english) but Wales also enjoys membership of a range of international sporting and cultural bodies. So what then are we to make of the astonishing statement by Dafydd Ellis Thomas yesterday that as the Minister for Tourism in the Welsh government he will be promoting Wales around the world as a 'principality'

What he is saying is that he will tout Wales around the globe not as an attractive modern 21st century nation with a rich unique culture and long and proud history - but  as some kind of medieval fiefdom of a member of the British royal family!  Course what's even more striking about this is Dafydd el used to be the President of Plaid Cymru a few years ago (he walked out a couple of years back after a falling out with plaid leader Leanne Wood over his refusal to adhere to party policy). Well this sorry episode certainly seems to vindicate Leanne Wood in the resolute approach she took to Dafydd Ellis Thomas when he was a member of the plaid group in the Senedd (perhaps a current AM suspended from the plaid group in the senedd because of his refusal to adhere to party policy should take note).

But Dafydd el's bizarre statement does raise a couple of important questions. As the Welsh Labour government's minister for tourism does he speak for them on this matter? I was relieved to see a spokesperson for the welsh government issue a statement last night stating that Wales is 'a country and not a region' and that Dafydd Ellis Thomas wasn't speaking for them on this matter - but he is their minister in their cabinet and when he makes idiotic and insulting statements like this the world will think he is speaking for the Welsh government. You also do have to wonder how a one time self declared marxist and supporter of welsh independence is now seemingly intent on presenting Wales to the world as little more than Prince Charles' back garden. Clearly the edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica in Dafydd El's household must be a very old one.

Friday, 15 December 2017

A week is certainly a long time in Welsh politics

The political week in Wales started encouragingly with the publication of a report which could see the vote extended to 16 and 17 year olds in Wales and PR introduced for local elections. Both of these measures should be welcomed as they could only serve to increase turn outs and political participation in Wales. The report also made the case for an increase in the numbers of AMs, and while the prospect of more politicians wont be met with universal support in this age of austerity it must be recognised the workload and responsibilities of Assembly members has increased markedly since the Assembly was established in 1999 - and is set to increase further with more powers coming to Wales and the numbers of MPs Wales sends to Westminster set to be significantly reduced. While it hardly seems fair that while Scotland has 129 MSPs in its Parliament and Northern Ireland has over 100 members of its Assembly Wales own Senedd has just 60 members. No surprise the only voices of dissent should come from UKIP and their fellow travelers like Rachel Banner - they of course did their utmost to prevent the people of Wales having a greater say over their own country by campaigning for a NO vote in the devolution referendums of 1997 and 2011. 

But what began as a promising week for politics in Wales took a distinct turn for the worse on Wednesday with UKIP's Gareth Bennett making what must rank as probably the most hate filled speech ever uttered in our young democracy. Glyn Morris on the excellent National Left blog has covered the sorry episode in some detail here - suffice to say i think Glyn was spot on when he likened Bennett to the disgraced US right wing bigot Roy Moore. Readers of this blog would know i was opposed to brexit - i feared the damage brexit might inflict on the welsh economy and i feared for the rights of EU nationals to remain in the UK after brexit, and sad to say 18 months after the vote my fears have not been assuaged by anything the UK government has subsequently done or said. But one positive by product of brexit is that it will likely see the swift demise of UKIP and see them lose all their seats in Wales in the next elections to the Senedd. Course Gareth Bennett was at the centre of a race storm last year when he questioned the hygiene of people from eastern europe living in the Welsh capital city.

Its been a source of considerable embarrassment to ardent devolutionists like myself to see half a dozen kippers in the Senedd since May 2016 and to witness the likes of Bennett this week using language of the kind to attack ethnic minorities and transgender people you'd expect to hear from neo fascists like Britain First was sickening. But it's hardly surprising UKIP AMs should behave in such a disgraceful fashion when you consider that their own leader in the senedd (Neil Hamilton) has previously likened Welsh female politicians to prostitutes and urged political opponents to commit suicide

And sorry to say the week in Wales deteriorated further with the announcement on Thursday by the UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation that they had approved Horizon's design for a nuclear reactor at the proposed Wylfa B on Anglesey. And while Wylfa B will need the final approval of the British government to go ahead - sad to report Wales has no say on whether or not large scale energy projects like nuclear power stations are foisted upon us - the prospect of a new nuclear power station in Wales has moved a big step nearer following thursday's announcement. Meanwhile the UK government has sat on proposals for a tidal lagoon in Swansea bay for what seems like an eternity

Ive written previously of the significant problems associated with nuclear power and why we should oppose the proposed Wylfa B but to briefly recap : it's a prohibitively expensive process, the waste it produces is hazardous and remains poisonous for thousands of years and has to be stored underground or arguably even worse at the bottom of the oceans. The safety aspects of nuclear power stations is patchy to say the least - we all know about the horror stories of radiation leaks at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima but last year Panorama raised real concern about safety at Sellafield while the respected academic Chris busby has produced a lot of research linking cancer and leukemia rates in children to proximity to nuclear power stations. Furthermore if a Welsh government is saddled with the clean up costs when Wylfa B closes it would certainly bankrupt a future Welsh government (the clean up costs for Sellafield for example will cost the uk government tens of billions of pounds). And the links between nuclear power and the nuclear weapons industry cannot be overlooked either -  plutonium being extracted during the production process for use in nuclear warheads.

With the development of renewables as an increasingly viable source of energy the UK should join the growing trend across the world of moving away from nuclear power and invest more and more in renewables. Germany has phased out nuclear power completely and even the US has not built a new nuclear power stations in decades. While an increasing number of countries - including Denmark, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Nicaragua -  now produce almost all their energy from renewable sources. While closer to home more of Scotland's energy now comes from  renewables than all other sources put together

The UK government should reject proposals for Wylfa B (and ditch the proposed new nuclear reactor at Hinckley point to). And it simply cannot be stressed often enough that it should really be Wales own Assembly that makes decisions on important energy matters - like whether or not a new nuclear power station should be built in Wales.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Why are ITV trying to cut out the Dragon's tongue?

In January 1985 what was then HTV Wales screened a tv programme called 'The Dragon Has Two Tongues'. An epic 13 part series the show looked at the history of Wales and the Welsh people from the earliest times right up to the early 1980s. Its two presenters were Professor Gwyn Alf Williams and the broadcaster Wynford Vaughan Thomas - quite different characters with quite different views on Wales and its history. Gwyn Alf was a marxist and advocate of welsh independence who argued the history of Wales was one of bitter national and class struggles invariably conducted against great odds, indeed at the show's conclusion he was very fearful for the prospects of Wales survival as a nation and the Welsh language and feared for the Welsh working class with Thatcherism in the ascendant in British politics.While Vaughan Thomas was a staunch British monarchsit and fiercely opposed to any notions of self government for Wales and he offered what could best be described as a British establishment view of Wales - certainly any view of welsh history which highlighted class struggle or promoted welsh nationalism was anathema to him.

Gwyn and Wynford clearly couldn't stand each other on screen - and by all accounts couldn't stand each other off screen either, but the tensions and contrasting opinions on Wales and Welsh history between the two made for compelling viewing. But so far as i'm aware the programme hasnt been broadcast for around 30 years and can only be seen in small excerpts online like this one here :

So recently there was genuine excitement among quite a few people when the Wales in the Movies Youtube channel announced they would be showing the series in its entirety for us to enjoy once again. It would also mean of course a whole new generation of people would get the opportunity to see the programme for the first time. I was horrified to learn then yesterday that ITV Wales contacted Youtube and had the show taken down and that they have requested Wales in the Movies pay them £142,000 in order to allow them to show it on Youtube. Needless to say this huge fee is way beyond the means of the enthusiastic volunteers behind Wales in the Movies.

So far as i'm aware ITV Wales have no interest in broadcasting the show again - indeed i gather a representative of the company has informed the owner of Wales in the Movies that there are rights issues which have prevented ITV from broadcasting the programme on television again. So their decision to stop Wales in the Movies making it freely available to watch on Youtube makes no sense and seems very mean spirited at the least - a mean spiritedness that means people in Wales continue to be denied the chance to see a programme which was a major landmark in Welsh broadcasting history.

Of course when i refer to ITV Wales that is something of a misnomer, ITV Wales are a franchise of the broadcaster ITV whose headquarters is in fact outside Wales in London. So it may be the case that the decision to effectively nobble the Wales in the Movies Youtube channel in this way was taken at ITV's HQ in London. And this illustrates a problem which springs up all too frequently when the subject of broadcasting in Wales crops up ie much of the tv, radio, print and online media people watch, listen to or read in Wales is in fact owned or controlled outside Wales.This is an alarming state of affairs and certainly a good way of beginning to address this unacceptable situation would be for the UK government to devolve broadcasting to the Senedd in Cardiff at the earliest opportunity.

I would urge anyone reading this who shares my concerns with ITV's heavy handed behaviour on this matter to contact the company to complain and to ask them to reconsider their decision to block its broadcast on Youtube (see link below). I've also posted links to Wales in the Movies Facebook page and Youtube channel so that people may contact them to offer their support.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

When Fascism becomes 'mainstream' start to panic

Imagine the scene. You put the news on one day and the lead story is that the UK prime minister has been retweeting materials online promoted by the notorious American racist group the KKK. In such a scenario it's likely Theresa May's tenure as British PM would come to a swift conclusion - i'd be surprised if she'd survive 24 hours. Alas there's no likelihood of her American counterpart Donald Trump suffering a swift end to his presidency because he retweeted materials promoted by the British neo fascist group Britain First.

Trump was elected after a campaign which demonised muslims and which pandered to the racist tropes of America's Alt Right and his presidency has continued accordingly - he singled out muslims in trying to implement an air travel ban and he pandered to american neo nazis during the events at Charlottesville. Trump tries to justify his bigotry on the grounds these are 'national security' issues yet he overlooks the fact the biggest acts of domestic terrorism to have occurred during his presidency - at a church in virginia and on music goers in las vegas - were nothing to do with Muslims or immigrants. In fact those massacres highlight the issue of the easy availability of gun ownership in the United States - but Trump of course is in the pocket of the National Rifle Association and will do nothing to make it more difficult for anyone to buy a weapon. .

The British Far right group Britain First must think Christmas has come early. The most powerful individual in the world has paid them the compliment of promoting their lies and propaganda - it's the kind of publicity obscure neo fascists could only dream of. And in a sign of their new found fame their deputy leader Jayda Fransen was interviewed on channel 4 news last night, and doubtless we can expect to see this loathsome bigot making further appearances in the media as a result of Trump's despicable and brainless actions. The odious Fransen has become infamous for among other things terrorising worshipers trying to attend mosques and participating in marches with neo nazis in Poland and France. Britain First have also been cultivating links with former loyalist terrorist groups and she was arrested following an inflammatory speech she made in Belfast last week.

And that is what all of us who abhor racism and fascism have most to fear from this sorry affair - that far right and neo nazi groups and individuals like Fransen will be now be treated in the same fashion as mainstream political movements and given a ready platform in the mass media to peddle their lies and hate. If that starts to happen we should start to worry - because we know what happened the last time fascists and nazis were treated as part of the mainstream in the 1930s.

Monday, 27 November 2017

No sports man or woman should be afraid to Come Out

The picture above this post is the badge of the Welsh premier league football team Swansea City as it appeared over the weekend - changed by the club to demonstrate its support for the Rainbow Laces campaign, a campaign created by LGBT equality campaigners Stonewall to address the issue of homophobia in sport. And there were similar demonstrations of support for this excellent campaign at sporting events throughout the weekend right across the UK

Until recent years the issue of homophobia in sports - particularly in 'macho' type sports like football and rugby - has remained something of a taboo. So while incidences of racism are thankfully a rare event in modern sport, and largely confined to right wing football hooligan movements like the Football lads Alliance sadly the same cannot be said of homophobia.The game of professional football has existed for 150 years but you'd still struggle to name even a handful of gay players or managers. I'm a keen sports fan and about the only one i can think of is the late Justin Fashanu, who it has to be said was treated despicably

And there's been an equal dearth of Rugby players who have felt able to come out. The welsh referee Nigel Owens came out a decade ago but on the playing side i can again only think of one individual - the former Wales captain Gareth Thomas who came out it in 2009. Gareth is to be commended for his very brave decision almost a decade ago to announce he was gay and since then he's been a vocal campaigner against homophobia in sports, earlier this year making the excellent documentary for the BBC 'Hate in the Beautiful Game'. Worth noting however that Gareth was no longer a leading rugby union player when he came out in 2009, he'd retired from International rugby union two years earlier and would soon leave the game to play rugby league. You wonder how Gareth's announcement would have been received if he'd made the announcement a few years earlier when he was captaining Wales to a grand slam?

You'd like to think it would have been received as positively as it was when he did come out in 2009 but i'm not so sure. And it's the fact that here we are in the year 2017 yet so many sports men and woman feel unable to publicly discuss their sexual orientation which should concern us. To repeat it's quite extraordinary that it's difficult to think of any current players in major world team sports like football, rugby and cricket who are openly gay or bisexual. Of course people are under no obligation to make any public comments about their sexuality but given the absence of any high profile gay rugby players or footballers for example it's really hard not to conclude they do not do so because they fear the reaction they might get if they did - either from fellow players, managers and coaches or sports fans. This is a frankly unacceptable state of affairs and we need to create a climate in such sports and among both players and fans where people shouldn't feel they have to hide their sexuality for fear of abuse or discrimination. 

Clearly there's a long way to go before that happens, Gareth Thomas's documentary showed the continuing extent of homophobia on British football terraces for example. Of course homophobic chanting is a hate crime and you wonder why football clubs and the authorities allow it to go on in their stadiums? That said laws on their own are sadly not enough to change some peoples attitudes and behaviour. We've had anti racist legislation for decades but the alarming rise in hate crimes since brexit and the growth in activity online of the far right  shows that you have to also educate people if you want to change their hearts and minds. Hopefully campaign's like Rainbow Laces and the demonstrations of support we saw for LGBT sportspeople on the weekend are an important step in that direction and towards silencing the bigots.

Some useful links to campaigns promoting equality and inclusion in sport :

Friday, 24 November 2017

'Pop Culture' can tell us a lot about society

With the sad news this week that the actor Rodney Bewes had passed away my thoughts turned to the tv programme with which he is most strongly associated - the Likely Lads. Set in Newcastle and written by the brilliant writing team of Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais the show shone a humorous light on the lives of two working class men as they made their way in life in the changing world of the 1960s and early 70s. Have to say i was too young to have seen the shows early incarnation but caught it's 1970s reprise as 'Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads' and i enjoyed the show then and have when ive watched it numerous times since. But looking more deeply into the shows 1970s run out it's interesting to see that the changes that were taking place in the two principle characters lives reflected the changes that were taking place in wider society in general.

Bob's character had become a 'white collar' worker, bought his own home on the suburban 'Elm Lodge' estate and began to enjoy a lifestyle that a few years before would have been seen as middle class ie joining the squash club, holidaying abroad and dining out at 'upmarket' restaurants. Meanwhile 'Terry' (played by James Bolam) was an unskilled labourer finding it increasingly difficult to find employment as the post war industrial boom subsided and who lived at the top of a tower block on a sprawling Gateshead council estate. And what i liked about the show - and this was rare for a sitcom - it didn't pretend these issues of  emerging social class differences between the two old friends didnt exist. Furthermore and again rare for a sitcom it didn't ignore politics either. So while Rodney Bewes character Bob was still a labour voter as the show drew to a close in the mid 70s (Bewes was a committed socialist in real life incidentally)  you can see in the character he plays that in a few short years time he would be one of the many home owning, white collar workers (the C2s) who would turn to Thatcher and the tories in their droves in the late 70s and 80s.

Another popular 70s sitcom which could be said to have anticipated major political change (and this may surprise a lot of people) was the Good Life. Indeed in many way Penelope Keith's character 'Margot' was the essence of what would emerge as 'Thatcherism' in the 1980s. It was the real life equivalents of Margot (in the shape of right wing grassroots tories like Teresa Gorman) who would play a key role in helping to break the famous strike at Grunwick in 1977. A defeat for the unions which signaled  that a power shift was taking place in british society and which encouraged the likes of Nicholas Ridley to draw up the anti trades union legislation thatcher would implement in the 1980s (much of which sadly still survives today). While the Leadbetter's next door neighbours 'The Goods' were even further ahead of their time. Husband Tom (Richard Briers) eschewed 'a good job', the consumer society and material wealth in order that he and his wife 'Barbara' could 'grow their own' and become 'self sufficient'  (an environmentally conscious anti consumerist approach to life which quite a few others might ascribe too now but which was virtually unheard of in mid 70s Britain). Certainly the modern Green parties which exist in Scotland, England and Wales were born in people like the Goods.

Also set in late 70s suburbia but also important in terms of anticipating social change was Carla Lane's 'Butterflies'.The principal character 'Ria' (Wendy Craig) was a married middle aged woman - what quaintly used to be called a 'housewife' - and her only function in life appeared to be maintaining a home and cooking (hilariously badly) for her boring dentist husband and two teenage sons. And while she certainly loved her husband and her two sons - rejecting the opportunity of love and another life with another man in heartbreaking fashion  - Ria longed for something more meaningful in her life than just being a 'housewife' and a mother (doubtless a feeling many women of that generation could identify with). Thankfully in the decades which have elapsed since Butterflies was first screened in 1979 the opportunities for women to have more in life than just being domestic chattels are far greater than they were then.

I've highlighted three tv shows from a single decade to illustrate how popular culture can sometimes anticipate change - i could probably have picked different shows from different decades to make the same point. So the next time you catch something on the telly it might be worth paying it some attention - it could be a glimpse of what's around the corner.  Let's just hope the mindless 'reality' driven trivia which seems to dominate contemporary tv schedules isn't a glimpse of our future.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

We should stop hitting children

If you or i or anyone living anywhere in the UK were to strike an adult it would be classed as an assault and we could be arrested and prosecuted for it. Yet millions of children throughout the UK have no such protection under the law. At present the UK is one of the few parts of Europe where it is still legal for parents and carers to hit their children. I say hitting and not 'smacking' because let's be clear that is what we are talking about here and it is revealing that dozens of states around the world have also outlawed hitting children

So i am delighted and proud that this week on International Children's day the Welsh Assembly began steps to outlaw hitting children in Wales The claims of dinosaurs opposed to this law change that it is unenforceable and would lead to thousands of parents in Wales being hauled before the courts are groundless, nothing of the kind has occurred in those many countries in Europe and around the world where hitting children is banned.


Friday, 17 November 2017

Even Scrooge might have balked at Universal Credit

If further evidence was needed what a disaster the British tory government's 'Universal Credit' is it came with a shocking report released yesterday which showed that tens of thousands of households -  40,000 children among them - will receive zero income over Christmas.The Peabody Trust estimated that 60,000 households will make new claims for Universal Credit in the run up to Christmas but because of the bizarre and cruel payments system which has been devised they wont receive a single payment for 6 weeks.

In his famous novel 'A Christmas Carol' the brilliant 19th century author and social reformer Charles Dickens gave the world Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly miserable and cruel figure who thought the poor were to blame for their own poverty and that the workhouse was too soft an option for them. But it's doubtful even someone with as little compassion as Scrooge would have thought up a system which means tens of thousands of people - many of them children - face the very real prospect of near starvation over Christmas (scores of food banks have warned they cant cope as it is). And the Peabody trust's warning is of particular concern to us here in Wales with Universal Credit seeing a roll out from this month in places like Cardiff, Newport, Neath and Swansea.

Course in the novel Scrooge undergoes a 'pauline conversion' and rushes round to Bob Cratchit's house with the biggest turkey he can find. But however entertaining and warm hearted an ending that was that it was fiction - no one will be rushing round to the tens of thousands of households who face surviving without any income in the next 6 weeks. Also worth mentioning this post is being written on the same day BBC television screens its 'Children in Need' programme - what are the odds the tens of thousands of children living in households presently applying for Universal Credit wont get a mention on the beeb's annual celeb laden charity fest?

Friday, 30 June 2017

A hard Brexit it is then

As news emerged last night that Jeremy Corbyn had sacked MPs from his Labour front bench who supported an amendment to the Queen's speech which would have kept the UK in the Single Market and the Customs Union it finally confirmed that there isnt a cigarette paper between the positions of the British PM Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn on brexit are both committed to ending 'free movement' and to leaving the single market and the customs union. Yes the likes of Keir Starmer and John McDonnell - and even Jezza himself - have spoken of 'access to the single market on the best possible terms' but that is exactly what Theresa May and the Tory Brexit Secretary David Davis have been saying for months.

The fact of the matter is if you want to have access to the single market on the 'best possible terms' and a trouble free customs arrangement with the EU you wont get any better terms than the terms which come with staying in the single market and the customs union. Yes people in the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU last year but you can stay in both the single market or the customs union and not be a member of the EU - Norway is a good example of this. But what's extraordinary and so very disappointing about the UK Labour leadership's support for a hard brexit is that it means both the main parties at Westminster now have a position on brexit which is harder even than the position of the official Leave campaign during the EU referendum last year and others who campaigned for brexit.

For parts of the UK like Wales the hard brexit which both the tories and labour are now officially supporting will be a disaster. Two thirds of welsh exports are with the single market area and tens of thousands of jobs in Wales are reliant on this trade. And for some industries in Wales - like agriculture - 90 percent of its exports are to the single market. Clearly you dont have to be a havard economist to work out the loss of this trade or the imposition of tariffs and customs charges will be catastrophic and hit an already fragile welsh economy very hard.

I applaud the 49 Labour MPS, the 12 Lib Dem MPs, the 4 Plaid Cymru MPs the 34 SNP MPs the one Independent MP and the one Green MP for supporting the amendment.

Oh and those xenophobes who for some unfathomable reason want to leave the European Convention on Human Rights as well ought to remember that the long running campaign for justice for the families of the Hillsborough disaster wouldn't have succeeded without the aid of article 2 of the ECHR

Thursday, 29 June 2017

They can't cover things up like they used to

Anyone who knows me would be aware of my misgivings about social media, in particular the way it has enabled far right and neo nazi groups groups to disseminate their hate and bigotry to a new and alas sometimes gullible audience. But i think it's fair to say if we'd had things like facebook and twitter when hillsborough occured then senior polcemen and the tory media would never have been able to get away with the disgusting lies they told about liverpool supporters in the days after the disaster. And it certainly wouldnt have taken almost 30 years for those at the center of the disaster to face justice in a court

The Grenfell Tower fire was horrific and i sincerely hope charges for corporate manslaughter will follow but thanks to social media it is now much harder for officialdom and politicians to cover things up than it used to be.So if kensington borough's tory council and Theresa May's Tory government thought they could micro manage the disaster and drip feed the public with information they have been thankfully proved wrong. It was said that the one positive thing that came about after hillsborough was that football supporters were no longer treated like scum - the one positive thing that will hopefully come about after grenfell tower is that social housing tenants will no longer be treated like scum.

Good Friday Agreement put at risk

Two months ago an episode of the bbc current affairs programme Panorama looked at a certain Frederick Scappaticci or ‘stakeknife’ as he was known to some. Scappaticci was a key figure in the IRA’s so called ‘nutting squad’ and responsible for its internal security. A large part of his role involved interrogating suspected informers and sometimes – on Scappatticci’s say so – these suspected informers would be executed and dumped on roadsides or buried in unmarked graves. Just over a decade ago it was revealed Scappaticci had been a british agent for decades and been allowed to carry on his his grim role within the IRA so long as he passed information on to his british handlers about IRA operations and personnel. Worse still it’s now believed Scappaticci used his role as interrogator in chief in the IRA to target committed republicans for execution at the behest of british army intelligence.

But Scappaticci was far from being the only operative acting on the instruction of british intelligence during ‘the troubles’. Brian nelson was a british agent in the loyalist UDA, more than that he helped supply loyalist death squads with weapons and was involved in numerous killings of republicans and nationalists – among them the murder of the republican solicitor and civil rights activist pat finucane

Only a madman or the most viscious sectarian would want to see a return to the days when reports of bullet ridden bodies found on roadsides was routine in the north and the british state was running deaths squads there. But in her desperation to keep her discredited and rejected government on life support Theresa May risks seriously undermining the good friday agreement as a result of the grubby deal she has struck with the deeply sectarian DUP (a DUP which did their best to block the implimentation of the good friday agreement we should remember).

For those who missed it the Panorama programme on Scappaticci can be seen here

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Grenfell Tower and the politics of Social Class

It's a fair bet that had Grenfell Tower been a luxury block of a flats - like one of those that are plentiful in the borough of Kensington - the catastrophic events of the last 36 hours wouldn't have happened. Fire and smoke alarms would have worked, sprinklers would have been installed, lifts would have been operational, there'd be more fire escapes and a type of plastic cladding known to be a fire risk wouldn't have been used on the building's exterior - a cladding scheme carried out incidentally because some of Kensington's more affluent residents had apparently been complaining the tower block was an 'eyesore'.

Certainly it's an indisputable fact that the politics of social class and social inequality runs through this entire horrific episode. Grenfell tower housed mainly poor people and people from ethnic minority backgrounds - people who are largely ignored and marginalised in contemporary British society - and you can't help but get the feeling the Tory local authority and the 'arms length' body the council had created to run the tower block just couldn't be bothered to listen to the concerns of all those poor people about the building's safety

Over the last few hours there has been speculation on social media that the fire may have been deliberately started, as part of a warped scheme to drive poor people out of one of the wealthiest boroughs in the british isles. And while such claims are probably the result of understandable anger and grief fueled by what local people feel has been years of neglect by local and national government it will nevertheless be interesting to see if Grenfell Tower's tenants are allowed to return to the block when it is refurbished - or will they be 'dispersed' to londons outer boroughs or even further afield like tens of other poor londoners have been in recent years? 

While the following links are a good illustration i think of the utter disregard many members of Theresa May's tory UK government takes to matters like ensuring properties are safe for the tenants who live in them.

And when considering what happened in Kensington it's also important to understand the overall context within which it has occurred ie successive British governments have been trashing and undermining council and social housing for decades. So when Thatcher initiated the so called 'right to buy' hundreds of thousands of council homes were bought at knock down prices but weren't replaced because local authorities were forbidden to spend the capital receipts generated to build new properties. And the Blair and Brown Labour governments continued this assault on public housing - bribing and bullying local authorities to hive off their housing stocks to so called 'arms length' companies.So with council housing and tenants viewed with such obvious disdain by successive British governments is it really any wonder the views and safety concerns of the tenants of Grenfell Tower were dismissed so readily by the block's management company and Kensington borough council?

Worth noting the devolved government's in Scotland and Wales have to their credit abolished 'right to buy' in their respective countries, and also very pleasing to note the Welsh Government has insisted that new properties built in Wales must have built in sprinkler systems

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The British state has worked with radical Islamists for decades

A couple of years ago a book came out which certain people in the upper echelons of the British establishment hoped would never see the light of day. It was called 'Secret Affairs: Britain's collusion with Radical Islam' and its author was the historian and journalist Mark Curtis.

In the book Mark Curtis reveals the covert history of British collusion with radical Islamic terrorist groups, and shows that this relationship goes back decades. He shows how UK governments connived with radical islamist groups to control oil resources and overthrow governments in the middle east. He shows that beginning even as far back as the 1920s British governments and the Civil Service exploited Islam and Islamic fundamentalism for its own political and strategic purposes - from the establishment of the Saudi kingdom; to the support of the hardline Muslim Brotherhood during Nasser's rule in Egypt; to the active support of terrorists in the Mujahedin (including Bin Laden) during the Afghan-Russian war; to the support of KLA and other terrorists during the Bosnian and Kosovan wars. Even after the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks, Britain continued to harbour known terrorists on its shores, giving them a safe-haven from international prosecutors.

And chillingly, in view of the terrible recent events in Manchester and London, Curtis writes in one chapter "For years, violent Islamist groups were allowed to settle in Britain, using the country as a base to carry out attacks abroad. This was tolerated in the belief that they would not bomb the country where they lived and that, as long as they are here, the security service would be able to infiltrate them. At the same time mosque after mosque was taken over through intimidation by the fundamentalists. Police and others in authority refused pleas from moderate Muslims with the excuse that they did not want to interfere". It's appalling that successive British governments and their ntelligence services should have entered into such an 'arrangement' with extreme islamists, and it's very hard not to see the awful consequences of this irresponsible and frankly criminal policy in the recent atrocities in Manchester and London.

And staying with the theme of links to radical Islam which elements of the British establishment would rather people didn't know about it was no surprise this week to see that Theresa May's government is refusing to publish a report - commissioned by her predecessor David Cameron - which is said to reveal clear evidence that extreme jihadists in the UK are being funded directly from Saudi Arabia

Of course that the British state should have been found to have collaborated with terrorist groups in order to serve its own twisted objectives would not come as a surprise to anyone who knows anything about the British state's murky history on the island of Ireland. As thanks to the likes of former British intelligence operatives like Colin Wallace and Fred Holroyd, and the excellent research of Anne Cadwallader of the Pat Finucane center, we know that loyalist terror groups in the north of Ireland were in large part armed and directed by British army intelligence and that infamous loyalist killers like the UDA's Brian Nelson was in fact a British agent

Saturday, 3 June 2017

"How i learned to stop worrying and love the Bomb"

Movie buffs might know the title for this post is taken from the famous 1964 Stanley Kubrick film - Dr Strangelove, a brilliant satire on the 'cold war' and its hideous nuclear arms race. I was reminded of this film while watching the Question Time debate last night with Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, as to judge from the way Corbyn was harangued over his understandable reluctance to ever launch a nuclear missile there seemed to be a few members of the audience who positively adored nuclear weaopns - and who clearly couldnt wait to use them!

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Theresa May has serious questions to answer on Manchester and Libya

I'm sure most of us are still coming to terms with the horrific bomb attack on Monday night on a concert in Manchester attended by thousands of young people. Quite a few people i've spoken to since have been scratching their heads wondering why somebody would target an event where many of those in attendance werent even adults. Well now we have learned of the bomber's links to ISIS it seems the actions of Salman Abedi makes sense (if murdering dozens of people can ever make sense). The medieval homicides of ISIS specialise in so called 'soft targets' and in recent years weddings, funerals and youth rallies have all been ripped apart by blasts from suicide bombers operating on behalf of this most beastly organisation. Course - and as i pointed out here after the Westminster bridge attack  - we have messrs George Bush and Tony Blair to thank in large part for the emergence of ISIS.

But amid the understandable and widespread horror generated by Monday's appalling events what mustn't be overlooked is that the attack also represented a massive failure of intelligence on the part of the british security services and Theresa May's government. Theresa May might be revelling in her seeming new role as an army general, putting thousands of troops on the UK's streets at the stroke of a pen.But her government and the UK's intelligence services have serious questions to answer with regards to the awful events of monday night.

In the last 24 hours we've learned that the suicide bomber Salman Abedi was known to the intelligence services to be an ISIS supporter - he even flew an ISIS flag outside his home. And we've also learned that numerous sources within the local muslim community had passed on concerns to the authorities about Abedi's interest in hardline jihadist ideology - in one example revealed on Newsnight last night a community worker passed on information that Abedi had expressed interest in being a suicide bomber.

Now if such a person undertook a 3 week trip to a country like libya (ISIS controlled one of its major cities as recently as december) you would think this would have warranted some scruitiny by the security services and the UK home office. A known ISIS sympathiser goes to a country whch has been a hotbed of ISIS activity to visit a family which includes a brother who is a member of ISIS. All of this would have sent some alarm bells ringing in MI6 MI5 and at the home office surely? Not a bit of it. Abedi returns to the UK and is neither interviewed at the airport upon his return nor was he monitored on his return to his home in Manchester.

The fact of the matter is if Abedi had been given the scrutiny he certainly merited those people he murdered on monday night would almost certainly still be alive. Such criminal negligence on the part of the May Government and the UK's security services cannot be allowed to go unchallenged, and while it's understandable such questions wouldnt have been asked in the immediate aftermath of monday's atrocity it's vital that May is pressed on this matter in what remains of the UK's general election campaign. Remember on such matters the buck stops with her. As British PM she sees all the intelligence, she knows who's on the 'watched list' and as PM she is ultimately accountable for the actions of the security services.

Speaking of Libya something occured in a british court a couple of weeks ago that in its own way is probably as baffling as the security service's failure to monitor Abedi.Two weeks ago the prosecution of the principal suspect in the 1984 killing of WPC Yvonne Fletcher - Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk - was dropped 'on grounds of national security'. In layman's terms what happened was the British government refused to release the evidence it held on Mabrouk so forcing the collapse of the case against him.This was an absolutely astonishing development and it reminded me of the case of the irish republican informer Denis Donaldson a decade ago. Charges against Donaldson you may remember were dropped when it was revealed he had been spying on irish republicans for the british security services for decades. You dont have to be einstein then to work out why the UK government might want to protect Mabrouk ie was it protecting an asset? It's certainly all very odd.

But what we do know for sure is that in the space of two weeks Theresa May's government has intervened to protect the chief suspect in an infamous and unsolved killing and overseen one of the most massive failures of intelligence of recent times - a failure which cost 22 lives. Let's hope she is made to answer for such deleterious actions - and her pandering to the kipper vote over brexit - on June 8th.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Welsh economy will be on the dinner table this Xmas

I'm not sure who exactly it was who said 'the bigger the lie the more people will believe it' - it might have been Hitler or it might have been his chief propagandist Goebbels. But whichever prominent Nazi first spoke that infamous line what it amounted to was a boast by figures associated with the far right that it was very easy to deceive the masses with very big lies. And we only have to look to two seminal political events which took place last year - Trump's victory in the US and the brexit vote in the UK - to see that this ugly boast seems to be as effective now as it was all those decades ago. Now i could probably fill up this entire post listing the lies leave campaigners told during the referendum campaign - the most prominent and obvious among them being the lie that a vote to leave the EU would mean an extra 350 million pound a week would go to the NHS.

But another significant lie occured when the likes of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage visited Wales during the campaign and stated that if there was a vote to leave the EU then the substantial EU funds Wales receives would be replaced by funds from Westminster. However courtesy of the Tory manifesto we now know this was another blatant lie. It is now clear that if the tories win the UK general election (as alas still looks likely) then Wales will have to bid for funds alongside the rest of the UK - funds that it used to get directly from the EU. And as with any bidding process of course there can be no certainty any welsh 'bid' for these funds would even be successful.

I've written previously on this blog of Wales heavy reliance on the EU for both funds and trade, and i make no apologies for likening the vote in Wales to leave the EU to 'turkey's voting for Christmas' Certainly what isn't in any doubt is that the Welsh economy is more dependent on the single market for its well being than any other part of the UK

Now with almost a year having elapsed since the vote took place the debate around the EU - driven by a hysterical anti european right wing British media - seems to have moved on from not just leaving the EU but walking away from its single market and customs union too. So in the general election currently taking place in the UK neither of the two largest parties - conservative and labour - will keep the UK in the single market or the customs union. Yes Labour has spoken of wanting access to the single market 'on the best possible terms' but unless you retain membership of the single market and the customs union it's difficult to see what such a promise would mean in practice? EU negotiators have made clear that if the UK wants to retain its current tariff free access to the single market it will have to accept the free movement of people but Labour has already ruled this out. So the current tariff free access companies and industries enjoy with EU member states will be off the agenda.

And what all this means in practice is that we are in the middle of a UK general election in which the two parties who have any chance of winning the election have a position on the EU which is even more exteme than many in the leave campaign held during last year's referendum (remember people like the aforementioned Johnson and Farage told us during the campaign that even if the UK left the EU it could still enjoy Norway's status and be a member of the EEA).

If youre someone who cares about Wales and the health of the Welsh economy then it cannot be emphasied often enough that the UK leaving the single market will be disastrous for Wales. 200,000 jobs in Wales are reliant on the single market and two thirds of all welsh exports are to the single market area. Particularly hard hit will be agriculture, still a very important industry in wales. For example a massive 92 percent of welsh beef and lamb exports are to the EU single market. So it really is no exaggeration to describe the EU single market as a lifeline for the Welsh economy. And as much as i want to see her majesty Theresa May and the party of the British ruling class defeated on June 8th it still has to be said that we face a state of affairs that whether its Theresa May or Jezza in number 10 next month Wales is set to lose that economic lifeline that is single market.

In the long term then it seems clear that the only hope for Wales future economic prospects is to follow Scotland in leaving the very unequal 'union' that is the UK and join the European Union.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The next cyber attack could mean Armageddon

The cyber attack which paralysed the NHS in large parts of England and Scotland (Wales was thankfully untouched) and which infected scores of organisations and governmental agencies around the world was appalling. It forced the cancellation of scores of operations and the closure of doctors surgeries, saw ambulances diverted and resulted in the theft of confidential patient information. Let's just hope no one has lost their life as a result of this cowardly and criminal action

Course it's impact on the UK NHS could have been less serious but for cuts by the tory government to the NHS's security budget, and the tories and Phillip hammond are rightly being challenged to account for this ( lets hope public awareness of such cuts impacts on the tory poll figures).

But as awful as this attack has undeniably been it's very frightening and very sobering to realise that there is real potential for cyber attackers to wreak far more terrible havoc than anything we've seen over the last couple of days, as these recent headlines randomly plucked off google illustrate.

These headlines, and the shocking events of the last few days, are a grim reminder of the serious dangers posed by both nuclear weapons and nuclear power to life on earth and why anti nuclear campaigners shouldnt let up in our efforts to rid the world of both. Put simply the growing level of sophistication and cunning shown by cyber attackers shows they have the capacity to hack into countries nuclear weapons arsenals and into the computers of nuclear power stations.

It's over 3 decades since the movie Wargames popularised the notion of nuclear missiles being launched as a result of computer hacking - the subsequent advent of the internet together with our growing reliance on it makes such a terrifying possibility more real than ever.

Monday, 8 May 2017

A defeat for racists, xenophobes (and brexiteers)

The most progressive US politician of modern times - Bernie Sanders - called it right last night when he reacted to the result of the French Presidential election by tweeting "Congratulations to the people of France who today, by an overwhelming vote, rejected racism and xenophobia".

Make no mistake if the National Front candidate Marine Le Pen had won last night her victory would have been celebrated by the hard right and racists everywhere. As despite her carefully crafted efforts in recent years to distance herself and her party from its unambiguous neo fascist past Le Pen let her mask slip during the presidential campaign on numerous occassions. Most notably wth her efforts to downplay Vichy France's role in the extermination of France's Jews, her promise to withdraw free healthcare and free education from child immigrants and to outlaw same sex marriages and her proposal to halt all immigration to france and to deport hundreds of thousands of people. Certainly the prospect of the power of the French state in the hands of someone like Le Pen is a truly appalling prospect.

And this is why the Greek socialist economist and Syriza luminary Yanis Varoufakis lost no time in taking to task those muddle headed fools on the french left who were going to abstain in the presidential run off between LePen and Macron. Like myself Varoufakis is no admirer of neoliberalism and globalisation - he saw its effects on Greece - but by the same token he rightly observes that when it comes down to a choice between a leader of an avowedly neo fascist party and a centrist like Emmanuel Macron the choice should not be too difficult for anyone holding remotely progressive views

Le Pen's defeat also represents a huge blow to the long term project of neo fascists and the hard right of destroying the EU. A few months ago british brexiteers were all over social media telling us the EU was now 'doomed' and salivating at the prospect of Geert Wilders winning in the Netherlands and Le Pen in France - two politicians whose hatred for immigrants and muslims is matched only by their hatred for the EU. Well now the long held dream of many british brexiteers - and their Alt Right fellow travellers - of the EU falling apart is in tatters.Their chief standard bearer Marine Le Pen was crushed yesterday by an opponent who is an enthusiastic supporter of the EU. And when Le Pen and Wilders German counterparts are routed in this Autumn's elections in Germany the much hyped 'death of the EU' will be seen to have been 'greatly exaggerated' (to paraphrase Mark Twain). 
When Donald Trump won the US presidential election last november (courtesy of a last minute intevention by the FBI) Marine Le Pen was exultant, gleefully tweeting 'their world is crumbling'. Well after the events in France, the Netherlands and the likely events in Germany this Autumn perhaps it is the world of the anti EU hard right which is starting to 'crumble'? (brexiteers take note).

And that such people understand the significance of the defeat they suffered in France yesterday can be seen in the vitriol the likes of Nigel Farage and Katie 'gunboat' Hopkins directed at Emmanuel Macron (and his wife) last night Given Nigel Farage's characteristically crass invocation of the second world war perhaps someone should inform the bigoted dolt that it's Marine Le Pen who is the apologist for Vichy France.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The 51st State

I did chuckle when i saw that earlier this week Theresa May took time out from hiding from the public in a scottish forest to put out this statement It appears there are fears in tory circles that 'russian hackers' might try to interfere in the UK general election on the direction of the dastardly Vladimir Putin. In reality we should take such claims with a pinch of salt and see them for what they - part of a carefully crafted strategy to build up public hostility to Russia as part of a deliberately engineered new 'cold war'. And there may also be an element here of Theresa May getting her excuses in early so to speak ie if the result of the general election doesnt turn out as she hoped she can blame those pesky russians. And yesterday she emerged from her bunker to add EU politicians to her list of evil 'foreign powers' intent upon hijacking the general election for their own insidious ends

But the irony of statements like this from Theresa May is that there is of course one foreign power whose intelligence services have been interfering in domestic UK politics for decades (and with the full approval of successive british government ). Namely the US and its intelligence service the CIA. The journal of parapolitics - Lobster magazine - has written extensively of CIA involvement in UK domestic politics over the decades

The US even has its own intelligence gathering listening post in Yorkshire at Menwith Hill Here intelligence from across europe is picked up and passed directly to the CIA and the White House, where it is then decided if this intelligence should be passed on to their UK counterparts. Despite what the likes of  Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and other stooges of US intel tell us there is nothing remotely 'special' about this relationship, indeed it's a wholly unequal one (as take note any post brexit US/UK trade deal will certainly be). It is not for nothing that over time the UK has earned the somewhat unflattering sobriquet around the world of being the '51st State'.

Needless to say the CIA and its assets in the british state will do all they can to ensure the continuation of this 'relationship', and as we have seen down the years with the treatment metered out to the likes of Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone and George Galloway any politician who challenges the so called special relationship can expect to be the subject of a sustained campaign of character assassination at the very least, and in the cases of Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone literal assassination it would seem.

A few years back the investigative journalist Duncan Campbell wrote in the newstatesman magazine of  a plan by british intelligence operatives to assassinate Tony Benn. While it was recently revealed that Ken Livingstone was targeted for assassination on at least two occassions

Both plots to assassinate Livingstone involved using the murderous services of Ulster loyalists, and thanks to the integrity of the likes of Colin Wallace and Fred Holroyd and the excellent research of Anne Cadwallader of the Pat Finucane center we now know that loyalist groups were in large part armed and directed by british army intelligence. So we may take it as read that the british intelligence services would have at the very least been cognisant of the plots to assassinate Ken Livingstone (and may even have had a hands on role in such plots - the loyalist killer Michael Stone has certainly hinted at as much). 

And by the same token those of us who support Scottish and Welsh independence should be under no illusions that these same intelligence services will do all they can to maintain the unity of the British state and to sabotage and undermine efforts to bring about independence for Scotland and Wales. And that in this they would receive the full support of their counterparts in US intelligence, as the CIA would certainly not relish seeing the break up of its puppet British state. Particularly as there is no certainty an independent Wales or Scotland would wish to be members of Nato. Indeed i would very much hope an independent Wales and an independent Scotland would follow Ireland's lead and opt for non aligned status, and that the only time we would ever see a welsh army deployed overseas would be in a peace keeping role for the UN.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Wales is turning Blue

No people in Wales arent re-enacting the old celtic warrior practice of covering their bodies with a blue dye before battle and there hasn't been a sudden surge in sales of porn movies in Wales either (well not so far as i'm aware of anyway).The title of this post in fact refers to a yougov opinion poll published yesterday which showed the Conservatives gaining ten seats in Wales in the forthcoming UK general election and winning over half Wales constituencies on June 8th To put this into perspective the conservatives havent won the most seats in Wales since the rotten borough days of the mid 19th century. Indeed as recently as 1997 they didnt have a single MP in Wales. Now if this poll proves accurate the Conservatives will have more MPs in Wales than all the other parties put together. 

Some commentators - notably the welsh political pundit Daran Hill - have previously pointed out how in recent times Wales has politicaly speaking become more like England than Scotland. So in the 2015 UK general election while the tories were wiped out in Scotland in Wales they won 11 seats and in last year's EU referendum while Scotland voted emphatically to remain people in Wales voted to leave by a similar proportion to those in England. And this recent political trajectory seems to have gathered even greater speed with yesterday's shock poll. Amazingly the part of the UK which has most to lose from a hard brexit - two thirds of welsh exports are to the EU single market - is seeing the greatest swing anywhere in the UK to a Tory party and Tory leader now seemingly committed to the hardest of brexits.

For people like myself immersed in Wales radical and left leaning political traditions this poll makes particularly disappointing reading. Clearly too many people in Wales seem to have forgotten what a British tory government at Westminster did to the welsh economy in the 1980s. Furthermore this poll raises serious doubts that Wales will follow Scotland and begin to plot its own independent course any time soon. Indeed polls like this give rise to very real fears that Wales is more likely to morph into 'WalesShire' than become the independent socialist republic people like myself hope to see it become.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Blame the Welsh air

Well i've lived in Wales all my life and there are a number of things about this little country i've always felt a sense of pride about - among them our beautiful scenery, our tradition of radical progressive politics and our air! As there's no question that as air goes the welsh air is probably up there with the best you'll find anywhere in the world. And up until yesterday i would have had no hesitation in urging anyone to visit Wales and inhale as much of it as their lungs can hold. However after yesterday's shock news i'm no longer so sure of this, as it was apparently while 'walking in wales' in the splendid environs of Cader Idris in Snowdonia and enjoying the welsh mountain air that Theresa May made up her mind to call a snap general election for June 8th

Now as things stand and if all the current polling evidence is to be believed the tories are on course to win a majority on June 8th that will make the 1997 british general election result look like a cliffhanger. Thanks to a combination of blairite sabotage and Jezza's incompetence Labour are in complete disarray and at the same time the tories have managed to hoover up most of ukip's support by adopting a hardest possible stance on brexit. And the early indicators are the fact that Theresa May has repeatedly misled people about not going for an early general election hasnt dented May's 'popularity' by one iota

But what will a tory majority of 150 - 200 on June 8th mean? It will mean a hard right tory government with a massive majority at Westminster being able to pursue a neo thatcherite agenda unencumberd by any progressive laws approved by the EU parliament, eu laws which have given workers rights and which have protected the environment. As the likes of Nigel Lawson gleefully stated soon after the vote to leave on June 23rd 'brexit means being able to finish what Thatcher started'

On the upside a tory majority at Westminster of 150 + will hopefully concentrate a few waivering minds in Scotland ahead of a second independence referendum and result in Scotland departing the 'union' and escaping the awful clutches of the right wing 'John Bull' madhouse that post brexit blighty looks set to become. Alas the prospects for Wales are not so positive. As unless there's a sudden sea change in welsh public opinion Wales faces that grim future 'naked under an acid rain' the socialist historian Gwyn Alf Williams warned us about back in 1983.

My immediate reaction folowing the vote in Wales to leave the EU on June 23rd was that Turkeys do indeed vote for Christmas, and nothing that has happened since then has changed that view.