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September 12, 2017

WELSH Labour AM Eluned Morgan said today that the House of Lords can’t wait to “get their teeeth” into the controversial EU Withdrawal Bill and the Welsh government will actively oppose it, despite a decisive vote among Welsh people to leave.

“Boy, can those lords talk,” she joked, intimating that the controversial bill to speed up Brexit would be blocked in the second chamber.

Baroness Morgan, who claimed expenses during her years as an MEP – she was elected for mid and west Wales in 1994 – and now also sits in both the Welsh Assembly and the House of Lords, astonishingly claimed that opinion polls in Wales say voters would not vote for Brexit if the referendum was held today.
But voters turned up in large numbers last year in Wales – 71.7 per cent, dwarfing the number which turned out for the devolution vote in 1997, at just over 50 per cent.
The majority to leave the EU was more decisive too, 854,572 votes (52.5 per cent) to leave the EU compared with just 559,419 votes (50.30 per cent) for devolution.

I asked if this meant that Wales, which is often artificially grouped together with Scotland and Northern Ireland in a devolution context, is in a different position democratically as both of the others voted to remain (Scots 62 per cent with a turnout of 67.2 per cent and Northern Irish 55.8 per cent with a turnout of 62.7 per cent) but I did not get an answer.
Instead, Baroness Morgan, who was pressed by another member of the audience to defend Welsh Labour’s stance on Brexit, said that the Welsh government “understands that people did vote for Brexit” and added that they had produced a “whole series of documents”.
She was sitting on a panel alongside veteran anti-EU Tory campaigner Sir Bill Cash, who voted to enter the EU in 1975, and Hilary Benn, Labour chair of the House of Commons committee on exiting the EU.
Labour Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer’s bid to block the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill was defeated by 318 votes to 296 in the House of Commons earlier this week and a later vote to give it a second reading passed by a majority of 36 with the help of some Labour MPs, who defied their whips.
Theresa May said after the vote: “We can move on with negotiations with solid foundations and we continue to encourage MPs from all parts of the UK to work together in support of this vital piece of legislation.”
But there are widespread fears that it gives too much power to the Tory government and removes parliamentary powers at Westminster and the devolved governments, including the Welsh Assembly, and controversial Henry V111 clauses would allow ministers to “rule by decree”.
Professor Mark Elliott, Cambridge University legal adviser to the House of Lords constitution committee, said that UK judges could intervene. “It may be that the courts come in and, to some extent, provide a correction to some of these things. They could look askance at them,” he warned.
The Hansard Society – which co-hosted a debate about the bill funded by the ESRC UK in a Changing Europe initiative in London today – has called for a new pariamentary scrutiny system which they say would “give MPs a meaningful role and voice” in Brexit and help safeguard democracy.
“It will require amendment of the Bill and could also be applied to powers in other Brexit legislation that follows,” according to their summary.
They want:
1, Scrutiny to be in the control of MPs not whips.
2, Them to be supported by a set of sub-committees.
3, Have administrative, legal and research support via a committee secretariat.
4, Sift and scrutinise both negative and affirmative statutory instruments.
5, Any concerns would have to be debated and voted on.

Baroness  Morgan mentioned that the 2011 referendum in Wales delivered a decisive vote in favour of law making powers for the Welsh Assembly – nearly 64 per cent in favour and nearly 37 per cent against – but the turnout was even lower than in the 1997 referendum at nearly 36 per cent.



September 7, 2017

I FOUND myself filling in a curious Cardiff University questionnaire yesterday on what practical barriers – including financial – prevent me from standing as a prospective candidate for the Welsh Assembly or of even thinking of doing so in the future.
Today, I found myself feeling furious about a report telling me that bespoke credit cards had been used by civil servants at Cardiff Bay on fine dining, chocolates, limousines and even sexy lingerie when there are homeless people on the streets of our cities begging for food and drink.
Welsh Conservative finance secretary Nick Ramsay said: “The bill for Welsh Government credit cards is out of control, with staff spending more and more each year.”
He claims that £7.5 million had been spent on the authority’s cards, known officially as procurement cards, in the five years since 2011 including £103.91 at lingerie store Victoria’s Secret, although that had been repaid after a presumably “undercover” investigation found that the silk scanties were bought fraudulently.
Items put on expenses included:
1, More than £200,000 on flights.
2, More than £5,000 on Uber.
3, More than £3,000 on yachting and boating.
4, More than £8,000 on wining and dining including at a swish Dubai venue.
5, More than £350 on bespoke chocolates.
6, More than £350 on whisky.
A spokesman for the Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Government said the cards were used by civil servants for “official business reasons”.
The official told the Western Mail: “The issue of procurement cards is tightly controlled and there are strict rules in place to ensure every transaction is logged and accounted for.”


September 7, 2017

THE FUTURE Lord Lineker of Leicester, our respected and virtuous patron saint of crisps, does not confine himself to sporting matters in his Twitterings – he has lashed Jacob Rees-Mogg for opposing abortion so obviously now feels capable of speaking on spiritual and religious matters. Perhaps he will soon also be considered to set a moral (or should that be amoral?) lead as next Archbishop of Canterbury.
I remember Gary – who once said “I don’t mind making a fool of myself as I think it’s important not to take yourself too seriously” – best for his appearance on Chris Morris’s excellent Brass Eye comedy spoof on paedophilia when a delightfully duped Lineker believed a hilariously nonsensical script he was asked to read warning people about a secret code used only by paedophiles
“Baltimora. This means I’m running at them now with my trousers down,” he said straight to camera in a deeply sincere tone of voice and expression as if petrified that a plague of paedos might be at his front door about to attack his own children.
So any offerings of his on matters even remotely to do with morality I tend to view with some derision.
Besides, would David Coleman, Jimmy Hill or Des Lynam have opined in any way about such matters? Definitely not.
Lineker, I think you will find, has some business interest in Twitter and they like him to keep his name in the public eye.
Why newspapers like today’s Metro see fit to repeat his inane Twitterings in stories repeatedly I find less easy to fathom.


September 6, 2017

“I DON’T know why you bother with the NUJ – it’s full off blacks and lesbians,” were the words a long-standing regional newspaper editor who will remain nameless once said to me when I presented at his office as father of chapel for the National Union of Journalists to negotiate the annual pay round.
I thought of his words after reading a report of the conversation between new Evening Standard editor George Osborne and Andrew Marr at the London Press Club recently
Comments like that – I doubt that George would ever be reckless enough to speak his mind anything like so candidly, even in private (is anything ever private when you are Osborne?) – are now actionable but they were not entirely uncommon back in the dark and dangerous eighties in typewriter and cigarette smoke-filled offices peopled by macho larger-than-life rogues, rebels and renegades (but none quite as bad as politicians).
I think I prefer offensive outbursts from openly racist, homophobic bigots (at least you know where you stand with them. He asked me if I had served in the territorial army at the job interview and I always sensed deep disappointment when I told him I had not) than the carefully chosen, circumspect, slippery nonsense that emanates out of Osborne’s mouth.
I noted that Osborne was pressed on whether or not he has had to fire journalists not whether or not he has or still does fear being fired himself, a question many editors today are preoccupied with on a daily basis.
But then, of course, Osborne is no ordinary editor.
His tenure is secure for as long as he likes and he is, apparently, enjoying learning the ropes with no pressure from above and, significantly, he isn’t even a properly trained journalist and has many other jobs he can go to if this one collapses. Lucky old chap.
It is unlikely that he will have to negotiate an annual pay round with NUJ officials either (salaries are more likely to be negotiated individually and probably by other people in the chain of command so he doesn’t have to get his hands dirty) but you can be certain that he would not begin by saying anything about skin colour or sexual orientation in trades unions even if he did have views on such matters.


September 6, 2017

A WOMAN called BBC Radio Five Live’s Afternoon Edition today to tell presenter Nihal Arthanayake (previously rapper Dj Nihal) that she was proud to be English but complained that saying that meant she was too often perceived as racist in modern Britain.
“Most people I know don’t want to be multicultural,” she said, sounding like an axe-wielding barbarian gatecrasher lugging a freshly killed sheep’s carcass dripping with blood over her shoulder into a meeting of committed Quakers.
“Look out,” I thought. “Here’s trouble.”
Nihal, Essex-born to Budhist Sri Lankan parents who previously broadcast on the Asian network, asked her if when she used the word “English” she meant white.
It was a totally irrelevant question (the woman never mentioned colour) which showed his personal oversensitivity to perceived slights, automatically trying to portray the woman as a swivel-headed right-wing extremist who discriminates against non-white people (a knee-jerk defensive manouevre he and many other English born people of colour are fond of using to silence opposition and control debate from an artificial moral high ground).
“I am English, I was born here,” he told the woman defensively, as if anticipating some attack on his family heritage in a dangerously off-colour Peter Hitchens-style polemic contradicting mantras from the BBC’s pseudo-religious DIM diversity, inclusivity and multiculturalism zealots deep in unholy communion high up on the fifth floor.
The woman, however, was more than a match for Spurs supporter Nihal – whose journalistic credentials seem broadly as impressive as his rapping credentials but who is currently in vogue at Broadcasting House – and she held her nerve and maintained her course despite his failed attempts to butt in and aggressively control the discourse, as he usually does with callers who lean even gently against the prevailing wind in the politically biased corridors of power.
Earlier, Nihal, a cultural ambassador for the London Olympics bid so very right-on metropolitan, had been speaking to an official from Cardiff Metropolitan University – where gender stereotyping in written work is being actively policed by the zealots – about the Government’s Prevent strategy in the wake of recent news about far right extremists in the military
Is it any wonder that extremism is rearing its ugly head when our national broadcaster assails callers in this biased way and forces them onto the back foot?


August 21, 2017

THE Crown Prosecution Service is broadening the definition of “hate” in terms of crimes which the police have to investigate and encouraging them to clamp down.
Yet, as my last post about homeless people in Cardiff on Saturday, showed there are fewer police officers actually maintaining law and order.
So few that I am beginning to wonder what would happen if a serious crime were committed near me.
I have tried to call the police but it is like trying to converse with the Pope these days. Calling at a police station is no better. Most are unstaffed or incredibly busy desk sergeants are unable to deal with your enquiry unless you walk in with a large knife in your back covered in blood screaming “MURDER, MURDER” at the top of your voice and even then you are likely to be asked if you think the problem is serious enough for immediate attention. At the hospital, you are likely to be asked why you did not go to your GP first by a surly uniformed official at accident and emergency.
It seems that if I reported threats, abuse or insults online – and, believe me, I could – a squad car with CID officers notebooks poised and ready would race to my premises at breakneck speed with sirens blaring.
If I was given ten pounds for each time someone has abused or insulted me, I would now be a rich man.
It goes with the territory. One of the first things I was told as a trainee journalist was that I would need to develop a thick skin. I didn’t know what that meant then, but I do now. I definitely do now. People who ask awkward questions and write inconvenient truths do not go to the top of Christmas card lists and get showered with bouquets and lavish praise.
The deeply patronising Alison Saunders, director of the CPS, is tasked by the government with informing us all about what is threatening, abusive and insulting and, it seems, prioritising these new crimes above others.
This is a dangerous form of totalitarianism and social engineering which will eventually lead to a world where everyone is too frightened to speak or write at all for fear of breaking the law. They will be mouthing and writing inane and platitudinous praise at each other on social platforms which factor out negative or forthright expression.
Twitter and Facebook have built into their systems a barring or banning facility which means that the author can bar or ban you from their site if you write something they don’t like.
This is like going into a pub and the publican barring you because you made unkind comments about the lineage of his daughter.
The publican has the power because it is his pub, not yours, of course. You have said something insulting and abusive and he has the right to tell you to sup somewhere else.
But if his daughter genuinely is of dubious lineage, you have told the truth.
It would be negative, insulting and possibly abusive to him but not a crime and no business of the police.
An example of this occurred when I was told by an employee of the Institute for Welsh Affairs that a response to the Welsh Assembly’s report on Creating a digital dialogue – How can the National Assembly for Wales use digital to build useful and meaningful citizen engagement? I posted on this blog “GRAVE NEW WORLD” was unsuitable for publication on their website because I breached their comments policy
Free speech, in the final analysis, is your right to insult and abuse me and my duty to protect your right to do that and vice versa so that we live in a world free from totalitarianism and state control of any kind.
It means we don’t have leaders like Kim Jung-un who we all worship and adore when alive and wail and scream hysterically over when they die.


August 19, 2017

A SHOPKEEPER this morning confronted a man who had been sleeping outside his shop in a Cardiff city centre street. He angrily lashed out at this man and warned him to stay away from the front of his shop.
He had to take the law into his own hands because the police no longer intervene in such things.
Earlier, at around 7am, yes, 7am, I had seen four menacing, shabby, unshaven men gathered around a multi-pack of cans of cider under the flyover near where I live in Newport clutching bottles of alcohol with broken glass all over the floor. It was a pitiful scene.
I have grown weary and sick of people squatting outside Tesco shops begging for money, which is usually spent on alcohol or some other drug, and I am starting to resent the presence of these people who now litter streets and habitually take from others but never give anything back.
The incident in Cardiff, where the problem of what we used to call alcoholic “down-and-outs” sleeping on our streets is particularly gruesome, made me think of what constitutes vigilantism.
We now have ordinary citizens capturing paedophiles by posing as teenagers online to lure them into a trap and then hand them over to police.
How long will it be, I wonder, before people like that shopkeeper, who is clearly sick and tired of finding homeless people asleep on his doorstep, say “enough is enough” and attack these people.
I am deeply worried about a future where law abiding citizens will start to lash out at the alcoholic homeless on our streets because the police just turn a blind eye.