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Schadenfreude

Betsan Powys | 17:28 UK time, Tuesday, 29 December 2009

I'm sure it's good for the soul or at the very least character building: recording programmes predicting what will happen over the coming year while sitting back and listening to the bit of last year's programme where you predicted what would happen during this one. And finding you were wrong.

I was wrong, at least, about Nick Bourne. The Tory leader's days, I reckoned, were numbered. Boy, did the presenter enjoy playing that particular clip. Mind you the sports panelist thought both Cardiff and Swansea City would be promoted (from the presenter's 'got you' response I'm assuming they weren't) and the economist played it safe last year and went for 'unemployment will be a problem'. Well he wasn't wrong there.

So, said the presenter with more glee than necessary, let's tip-toe as far as the General Election. What will it look like in Wales?

Deep breath, smile, make sure you avoid predictions at all costs. Ok, what will it look like?

It will happen during a period of change in Welsh politics that no-one my age or anywhere near my age come to that, can remember. Labour have been doing worse here in Wales than in England. The party itself has - or many in it - have been arguing it's about where we're at in the political and economic cycle. Others suggest it's more basic than that, more involved with the new political canvas we have in Wales, one that has an Assembly as part of it, one where single party dominance is destined to become a thing of the past.

Labour, the dominant force in Wales for so long, has come out of the last three elections - the Assembly, local and European elections - with historically low votes. We said it with some surprise the first time, forcefully the second and shouted it out loud the third. At that point, June 2009, the Conservatives brushed Labour aside in the popular vote. There was barely any red on the final map that night outside the South East. Plaid didn't do as well as they'd predicted but weren't that far off pushing Labour into third.

When the General Election comes, how possible is it that Labour will be wiped out in the West, in fact anywhere other than the South East? It would be a bad, bad night for that to happen but they have had to get used to those recently.

It was only 1997, remember, when the Welsh Conservatives were completely wiped out in Wales. Forget the West, or hanging on in the South East. There was no blue on the map at all. I was sitting on a canal boat in Bath the day after that General Election, hanging over the side and twiddling the radio to find out whether Jonathan Evans had hung on to Brecon and Radnorshire or not. He hadn't. Pretty remarkable that twelve years on, the Tories in Wales will be thinking more in terms of 1983 and their record of 14 seats.

Plaid Cymru will want to pick up five seats at least - a record for Plaid in Westminster elections. Bear in mind too that their new Director of Elections, Helen Mary Jones, will regard this poll - as will the party - as laying the ground for the big push in the Assembly elections in 2011. Put in the ground work this time, get names known, young faces recognised, cut majorities big time and next time? You can argue with some conviction that you're in it to win it.

What's the Liberal Democrat plan? Three of their four seats are under pressure, with only Cardiff Central feeling rock solid. They could gain a couple - the bookies certainly seem to fancy their chances in Swansea but if they end up going backwards, does Kirsty Williams start feeling the pressure? Does the party she leads have a plan of action?

And what will the candidates and the voters want to talk about? Shall I take a leaf from the economist's book and suggest that 'unemployment will be an issue?' I think I'd be pretty safe, along with the state of the economy, how much funding there is - or is not - available for public services and - of course - trust in MPs.

The General Election will probably look and feel and sound a bit like that, I ventured, haltingly, before heading home and wondering which particular sentence will come back to sound-bite me in December 2010.

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  • 1. At 7:04pm on 29 Dec 2009, Ryan Murphy wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 2. At 12:04pm on 30 Dec 2009, nomorepowers wrote:

    The year will be remembered by true socialists for the legacy of King Rhodri.

    Whilst working tirelessly for the nationalists he managed to contribute hugely to reducing Labour Party membership in Wales to its lowest in over 100 years.

    Instead of the nationalist media and Transport House holding him to account for such catastrophic failings they decide to promote him as a hero.

    When your first minister is held in such high esteem by the separatists surely it should be a matter for concern. Lets hope our newly elected Leader addresses this important matter and ensures Wales become a strong player within the United Kingdom.





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  • 3. At 12:34pm on 30 Dec 2009, Bryn_Teilo wrote:

    2.

    I believe that self-determination would be the best course for Wales and its people.

    I didn't rate Rhodri Morgan at all, and am on record as having said so on several occasions. However, I don't think he can be held responsible for the poor performance of Labour in opinion polls and elections. Most of the blame for that has to be laid at the door of Blair, Brown & Co, who have made a catastrophic mess of running the UK.

    Its true that Labour's performance in Wales is even worse, and some responsibility for that must lie with the Wales Labour, and its leader for the last ten years. No-one can claim that the Assembly Government has done well. It hasn't, but to be fair, it has no more power than the secretaries of state had, and Wales was in a mess when Labour came to power in 1997.

    The only hope for improvement is a Wales in charge of its own affairs.

    You and the other handful of anti-Welsh and anti-Wales contributors here have nothing to offer us but more of the same old misery and stagnation. We hear nothing positive from you, but the same old gripes against Plaid, the supporters of self-government, and the Welsh Language.

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  • 4. At 2:27pm on 30 Dec 2009, nomorepowers wrote:

    A prosperous new year to you Bryn or is that Hill.

    Accountability is something the jokingly self acclaimed purebreds like to avoid. It is always someone else's fault!

    Here are a couple of examples -

    Back in the Summer it was reported and shouted from the rooftops that unemployment figures were better in Wales than the rest of the UK because of the REACT and PROACT schemes introduced by WAG. 2 Months later we are told the truth, the quarterly figures given were out of sync with the rest of the UK. The real truth - unemployment in Wales is the highest across the regions of the UK. Despite Communities First, other UK and huge European handouts to Wales the WAG will not take responsibility for its failings. What happened to proact/react? LETS BLAME WESTMINSTER.

    The Wales tourist board is taken into the Assembly. This year Wales has one and a half million less visitors. Surely we will investigate this and improve on our failings, NO Chance- There are no failings it is all down to the rainy weather. We must all believe that people don't book their holidays in advance and Wales is a sunshine country.

    Bryn have a successful 2010






    Disagree with a NAT and your Anti-Welsh

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  • 5. At 3:06pm on 30 Dec 2009, legendaryavocet wrote:

    Excellent posts, nomorepowers. Not just Rhodri that has contributed to reducing Labour Party membership in Wales to its lowest in over 100 years, but his sorry bunch of followers who have joined in the unholy alliance with the separatists in the Bay of Plenty.

    Anyone who believes politicians when they say that a 'yes' vote in the promised referendum won't place them on the slippery slope to independence should bear in mind that on 22nd July 1997, Ron Davies, then Secretary of State for Wales, announcing the Government's proposals for creating an Assembly for Wales stated in the House of Commons:
    ‘We do not propose to construct a new building for the Assembly, or to create more bureaucracy in a democratic Wales or more civil servants’.

    According to the Assembly website, offices for the National Assembly for Wales and Welsh Assembly Government now number 79 across Wales and the wider world.

    In the same 22nd July 1997 debate, former Welsh MP Allan Rogers said: 'Is he (Ron Davies) not offering the people of Wales the constitutional equivalent of a mystery tour? They can decide whether to get on the bus, but they can have no say in its ultimate destination'.

    Likewise, a 'yes' vote in the promised referendum will allow us to decide whether to continue the journey on the speeded-up devolution bus, but politicians still do not to want to tell us the ultimate destination.

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  • 6. At 4:22pm on 30 Dec 2009, Bryn_Teilo wrote:

    5.

    Here we go again, conspiracy theories - the politicians are setting us up for independence, etc.

    Labour created a weak, tame, Assembly. Its still tame and weak. Even IF there is a referendum, and IF there's a YES vote, the Assembly will still be weak. It will not even be a Parliament. What it will be able to legislate on will be a matter for debate, obfuscation and confusion. It won't even be responsible for policing in Wales, cf Northern Ireland, which is just a 'province', yes it will be responsible for justice, policing and is designated a legislative assembly.

    A post-referendum Assembly will be a miilion miles from being a sovereign parliament. Self-determination or 'independence' won't even be on the horizon. Before any steps in that direction can be taken, there has to be the consent of the people of Wales. If that's what they ultimately go for, who can argue against it? Its for you that oppose it to put your case, and for those of us who are for self-determination to argue for it. Whatever happens, it will be a democratic decision, not a political conspiracy.

    I don't know if there will be a referendum soon, and if there is, what the outcome is likely to be. How active the Labour MPs who oppose it are likely to be is unknown - a few are bitterly opposed - the latter day Kinnocks we might call them (just look where he is today after wrecking the devolution proposals in 1979). A Tory victory in the spring of 2010 might mute Labour opposition somewhat, but that remains to be seen. Calling a referendum will be decidedly risky given the likely Labour split.

    Imo 'independence' for Wales won't come in my lifetime, if ever, but one can and does live in hope.. its the only hope that Wales has of breaking out of an endless cycle of deprivation in a UK which is spiralling towards third world status - 60% of its economy is based on consumption - you don't need to be an economist to realise where the UK will end up.

    Hopefully the Scots will opt out, and soon, and then there'll be an entirely new ball game - a new name and a new flag for the remaining 'rump'.

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  • 7. At 4:47pm on 30 Dec 2009, Peter Gatward wrote:

    Following BP's example here are four predictions for 2010.

    1. Mark Williams will retain Ceredigion, but only just.
    2. WAG will fail to develop an effective economic growth policy for Wales.
    3. Plaid will fail to propose an economic budget for an independent Wales as it would scare away its support.
    4. WAG and the LAs will prioritise cutting services rather than non-essential staff and non-essential projects - efficiency will not increase.

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  • 8. At 5:49pm on 30 Dec 2009, SEDWOT wrote:

    7. Peter Gatward.

    1. Mark Williams will retain Ceredigion, but only just.

    I was interested in how Mark Williams won Ceredigion. The plaid vote held up, the Labour vote and the Tory vote went down and the Lib dem vote went up by a similar amount. I thought this was an interesting result. It seemed to show a polarised anti Plaid/Pro Plaid consensus in Ceredigion.

    Do you think this is a reasonable analysis?

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  • 9. At 5:56pm on 30 Dec 2009, legendaryavocet wrote:

    Re 6: No conspiracy theories - just 10 years experience of broken promises, poor prioritisation, abysmal outcomes, partial media and voluntary services clearly knowing which side their bread is buttered on, AMs of poor calibre, grandiose buildings that are out of keeping with the reality of our fischal situation and the aggressive promotion of 'Welshness' creating damaging divisions in our beautiful country.

    Deprivation is not caused by being part of the United Kingdom - we have to take responsibility for what we have done with the limited powers we already have, and make up our minds about how further powers would make things any better.

    Bryn, you seem confident that independence will be settled democratically, not politically. However, some of us have our eyes wide open, see clearly what is happening here in this Wales, and do not share your confidence.

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  • 10. At 6:38pm on 30 Dec 2009, Drachenfire wrote:

    I don’t think Rhodri Morgan can be blamed for Labour’s poor performance these last few election cycles. I think the electorate correctly blamed the UK Labour Government in London for the economic woes in Wales, and the Labour party has suffered on all levels for it. The majority of Welsh did like Rhodri Morgan as his job approval ratings demonstrated.

    Had Wales a fully functioning Welsh parliament and government, this government would have been able to craft an economic strategy specific for Wales. It is not hard to do; Denmark is next to economic powerhouse Germany and yet has been able to devise an economic strategy that has enabled that country to maintain a very high standard of living while continuing to deliver a wide range of social programs to the people and a low unemployment level. Wales needs further devolution of powers that will enable the Welsh government to craft solutions specific to the needs of its people.

    The only predictions I care to forecast is that the Conservatives will win more seats in the UK Parliament and yes many more seats from Wales, but I suspect so will Plaid Cymru.

    But I suspect the expected Conservative win in the next general election will spur on greater cooperation between Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru to campaign for the Yes vote, and that the referendum for more powers for Wales will be approved. Historically, it has always followed that a Conservative government in Westminster has spurred on greater campaigns for Home Rule for Wales.

    I look forward to a Conservative London Government contrasted with a Wales Assembly with greater powers in Cardiff Bay!

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  • 11. At 7:26pm on 30 Dec 2009, legendaryavocet wrote:

    Wishful thinking, Drachenfire. Your comment, 'Had Wales a fully functioning Welsh parliament and government, this government would have been able to craft an economic strategy specific for Wales' is ridiculous. With limited powers outcomes have been spectacularly bad - with full law-making powers they would, almost certainly, have achieved bad outcomes even more spectacularly.

    Home rule for Wales? - time to take off the rose-tinted spectacles and see the world as it really is whoever wins the General Election.

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  • 12. At 7:28pm on 30 Dec 2009, CA Jones wrote:

    Re: *9 legendaryavocet - "the aggressive promotion of 'Welshness' creating damaging divisions in our beautiful country."

    Could you provide an example of this 'aggressive promotion'? Please?

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  • 13. At 7:53pm on 30 Dec 2009, the_d3lyn wrote:

    @8
    Sedwot,

    I'm far too aware that there is no one cause to the outcome of elections but might I suppose that a reason for Mark Williams' election was due to relentless campaigning by the student population of Aberystwyth amongst their own. I remember a 9am lecture after the results were declared and how I delighted in deflating a Lib Dem activist’s hungover joy by asking him if it was realistic that over 200-250 Lib Dem votes (majority of ~200 IIRC) came from students that would be leaving the area in the next two months and therefore denying the community their chosen representative.

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  • 14. At 8:22pm on 30 Dec 2009, legendaryavocet wrote:

    Re 12: The very existence of the £13million per annum-funded Welsh Language Board to police WAG's Welsh language policy is, I believe, evidence of aggressive promotion.

    Why is it considered necessary to carpet-bomb the whole of Wales in this way? Why not promote the language in the heartlands where it is in danger of dying out? Enforcement of anything is likely to be counter productive in the end.

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  • 15. At 9:17pm on 30 Dec 2009, CA Jones wrote:

    Re: * 14

    You need to do some proper research legendaryavocet - if you can't find the facts to back up your accusations then your whole case falls to pieces.

    FACT: The Welsh Language Board was set up by the Conservative government in 1993 following the passing that year of the Welsh Language Act.

    Therefore this 'evidence of aggessive promotion' of 'Welshness' can be laid fairly & squarely at the door of John Major's government of 1993. It existed for 6 whole years before the Welsh Assembly came into being.

    So if you want to have a pop at the Assembly, try again..

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  • 16. At 11:07pm on 30 Dec 2009, legendaryavocet wrote:

    The Welsh Language Board may well have been established in 1993 to implement the Welsh Language Act. However, it is very generously funded, from the public purse, by the National Assembly.
    It is responsible for overseeing the process of preparing statutory Welsh language schemes, for their approval and, most significantly, for monitoring their implementations.
    One only needs to read one's own local authority Welsh Language Policy to realise just how much influence this unelected body has over our lives. If you haven't already done so, CA Jones, I would advise you to read your own Local Authority's WL Policy.


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  • 17. At 11:24pm on 30 Dec 2009, CA Jones wrote:

    Re: *16

    Moving the goalposts merely signifies your inability to play the game legendaryavocet.

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  • 18. At 11:39pm on 30 Dec 2009, legendaryavocet wrote:

    Check out this web page, CA Jones - Totalitarianism or what?

    http://www.byig-wlb.org.uk/english/services/pages/rhan7–cynnalymchwiliad.aspx

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  • 19. At 00:42am on 31 Dec 2009, MH at Syniadau wrote:

    As anyone reading the link our legendary poster just provided will see, the Welsh Language Board has absolutely no powers to enforce anything ... it cannot even instigate legal action against an organization when it is in clear breach of its own, agreed, language scheme.

    As that, for him, constitutes "totalitarianism" the rest of us can only wonder when he finally lost contact with the real world.

    But that will soon change when we get a Language Commissioner who—if the new Welsh Language Measure contains what I expect it to—will be able to act on behalf of individuals in the same way as the Equality and Human Rights Commission can take legal action against organizations that discriminate against people in other areas such as race, disability and gender ... or fail to provide an equal standard of service for them.

    That's one little something that will make 2010 a Happy New Year.

    MH @ Syniadau

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  • 20. At 02:59am on 31 Dec 2009, rhywun-arall wrote:

    Grief, where do these culture-hating, ethnocidal churls keep coming from? Like never-ending hordes of shameless Philistines, Vandals or the most vulgar of Benidorm tourists, they clearly care not one jot for where they are, nor for the language and culture they trample so thuggishly.

    What a shockingly sad state of affairs that the most ghastly, English colonial attitudes are still being blasted at Wales and its culture. And who are they directing their rants at anyway? ALL political parties in Wales are supportive of the Welsh language. They can only be so grotesquely embittered because their bigotry has no representation in politics whatsoever. Like racists spitting feathers that they must vainly resort to voting for the BNP to keep foreigners away. It's no wonder 'Welsh' is Anglo-Saxon for 'foreign' and still meets with such vicious hostility...

    legendaryavocet, would you just try and get over it - Wales has a culture as worthy of understanding and celebration from those who live in Wales as England does for those who live in England. Welsh has survived vile, pike-wielding Plantagenet armies, crashing blows from Tudor legislative bludgeons and all the prejudice all of England has been able to throw at it since the English first washed up as colonists on the shores of Britannia in the 5th Century AD. England's attempts to culturally annexe Wales failed and so will you.

    Frankly, you do the English language no service here whatsoever for all the vicious prejudice you vomit out in it.

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  • 21. At 04:48am on 31 Dec 2009, Drachenfire wrote:

    Re: 11

    I recognize our fundamental disagreement.

    However I believe that AMs who meet in Wales have -by definition- more interaction with their constituents then do MPs meeting in a different country. Weather or not the Principality retains membership within the UK, or renegotiates the terms of that membership, the people of Wales need an Assembly with the authority to craft economic policies that would compete against their English neighbors in the same way that the Danish authorities have been able to craft an economic policy which maintains their employment levels and standard of living despite the close proximity of Germany.

    For instance, I envision that prehaps the Assembly may offer lower corporate tax in Wales then in England or elsewhere, thereby attracting companies to retain businesses and manufacturing centers in Wales. Even, say, 5 per cent could make a difference between locating a plant in Wrexham or in South Wales verses the Midlands.

    Right now there is no incentive for those companies to center their operations in Wales as the Assembly does not have the complete lines of authority to make that difference in negotiations.

    re: 19

    Thanks for the link to MH @ Syniadau !!!

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  • 22. At 08:00am on 31 Dec 2009, Igotitallwrongsorry wrote:

    21. Your ideas would be laughable if contained in "O" level economic paper,but perhaps thats what is being taught in the welsh "madrassas" these days. This poor part of UK is only surviving because of revenue funding from english taxpayers,and large capital funding from Europe,mainly paid for by english/german taxpayers so where do we get cash on our own to reduce corporation tax??. The english with greater financial resources could "outbid" any such policies if they wished so in reality we have no POWER what so ever as independant entity. The only real way to attract investment is to provide "higher profits" than would exist elsewhere as that is basis for capitalism and thats what pays for social services/pensions et al. When WAG can prove with its existing powers that it can improve infrastructure/totally reform public services away from LA model but devolving powers to people and local communitites/improve education dramatically for lower socio/economic groups/provide incentives for private medical treatment(not emergency)etc etc within reasonable time frame then it deserves "more powers",but until then not one more.

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  • 23. At 08:32am on 31 Dec 2009, CA Jones wrote:

    Re: *18 legendaryavocet

    I'm sorry, but the link you provided took me directly to the Home page of the Welsh Language Board. Nothing about it struck me as particularly representative of 'totalitarianism'. If anything it looked like an explosion in a paint shop.

    Can you please be more specific? If you make a charge of 'totalitarianism' against the Welsh Language Board then please back it up with quotes & references. Providing a link that merely directs someone to the Home page & then expecting them to 'work it out for themselves' simply isn't good enough.

    You need to up your game and be more rigorous with your arguments, otherwise it just becomes a tiresome tirade of smears.

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  • 24. At 11:57am on 31 Dec 2009, Lyn David Thomas wrote:

    People need to hype there comments otherwise they don't have arguments, despite all the protestations to the opposite I think some people here have an ingrained hatred of all things to do with the Welsh language. So to justify their monomania they have to suggest that Wales is a dictatorship and they suffer under it.

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  • 25. At 1:03pm on 31 Dec 2009, jacothenorth wrote:

    Getting back to Ceredigion, the seat was decided last time by English students in Aberystwyth and, to a lesser extent, Lampeter.
    This cannot be allowed to happen again, either in elections or in the referendum on greater powers for the Assembly. Those voting must be permanent residents of Wales, or else we shall have elections and plebiscites decided by students, holiday home owners and others.
    Perhaps we should also insist on a ten-year residency qualification to avoid important decisions being decided by those who do not know Wales well enough and therefore cannot fully understand the issues being debated.

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  • 26. At 1:09pm on 31 Dec 2009, geoff drake wrote:

    When the late King Rhodri was first anointed he proclaimed that he wanted to introduce policies that demonstrated "clear red water" between Wales and England.
    So what did we achieve:
    (1) Economic Development, a devolved resposibilty, saw the scraping of the WDA and all development taken under the Assembly wing. Result Wales competitive position droped against all English regions.
    (2) Education, another devolved resposibility. Lower expenditure per pupil head than England, lower achievement and more centralized control.(funny the way statistics like SATS that make comparison with England embarasingly easy are discontiued )
    (3) Health Care. Devolved resposibility with more powers than previous Welsh ministers had. Result more centralized control, longer waiting lists than England, poorer service provision,unsafe maternity service in one of our principal hospitals and an Ambulance service that admits it cant meet its own targets.
    All these examples are of areas where Wales has devolved rsponsibility and has failed to deliver improvement achieved in England and are the result of the Welsh "Clear Red Water " policies that can not be blamed on Westminster.
    Now tell me how devolving more power will make things better and what i have got to look forward to in the new year

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  • 27. At 1:15pm on 31 Dec 2009, Notonationalism wrote:

    Yes, Jaco - or abolish the vote altogether except for your chums in the Welsh Nationalist Party....

    If students live for three years or more in Aberystwyth or, indeed, any other university town, they should have a say in its affairs, just as Welsh students who live in England do.

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  • 28. At 1:48pm on 31 Dec 2009, John wrote:


    Morgan, prince of hypocrisy, in an interview with Martin Shipton Western MailDec 29 2009, said ....

    "I don’t think it (a realignment of Welsh politics) is going to happen, no. I mean, the whole point of devolution is to try to get the best of both worlds. Namely, you are autonomous when you need to be autonomous and you’re in with the United Kingdom when it’s much better to be part of the United Kingdom."

    No mention of the people of this principality, lots of "autonomous" though, neither fish nor fowl our Faerie King, his principles have a smell about them ....

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  • 29. At 4:07pm on 31 Dec 2009, jacothenorth wrote:

    #27: Why should English students at Welsh universities and colleges have a vote in Wales: Do they pay council tax? Will they live with the consequences of their vote? Should the vote of such a student be equal to that of a person born and bred in Wales? The answer is No to all three.

    As for Welsh students in England, how do you think their numbers, percentages, and influence, stack up against the tens of thousands of English students in Wales?

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  • 30. At 5:32pm on 31 Dec 2009, Notonationalism wrote:

    29: Dearie me, Jacothenorth! What have you got against English students?

    When I was at university, I never really noticed much difference between English and Welsh students, or any other sort, to be honest. By and large, we all enjoyed studying, socialising and generally having a convivial time together.

    And I would have thought that any vote cast in the UK should be equal to any other.

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  • 31. At 9:17pm on 31 Dec 2009, jacothenorth wrote:

    "And I would have thought that any vote cast in the UK should be equal to any other."

    Of course it should, but from their home addresses in general elections with no vote in Welsh Assembly elections and Wales-specific referenda.

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  • 32. At 9:23pm on 31 Dec 2009, Notonationalism wrote:

    Happy New Year, Jaco - peace and goodwill to all men (and women) regardless of geography, ethnic background or any other difference!

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  • 33. At 11:06am on 01 Jan 2010, SEDWOT wrote:

    13,25,29.

    Are the majority of students in Aber Lib Dem? I was a student there a long time ago (at the same time as Carlos) and I don't remember that anyone was very politicised or,indeed, capable of organising anything very coherent. I dont think I voted until I was about 25 anyway.

    What was the story? I remember thinking the outcome was not what I expected at the time and that is why I compared the voting in the previous GE.

    Whatever, in Ceredigion and to a lesser extent Ynys Mon, demographics have a big impact on the Plaid vote. Incomers may be Labour, Tory or Lib but very few Plaid.

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