Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Amateur Politics or Hypocrisy

Today's 'event' on the steps of the Senedd in Cardiff Bay in support of greater funding for further education has caught the eye of several bloggers, including Betsan. Its difficult to know what to make of it. Some say its hypocrisy. If that is all it was, it wouldn't matter too much. Hypocrisy has long been one of those ever-present and demeaning features of politics that brings down contempt upon the heads of politicians. But this takes it to a new level. Its AMs behaving as if governing Wales carries with it no responsibility to stand behind actions whatsoever - a complete freedom to mislead people in a totally blatant way. How on earth can representatives of the Labour Party and Plaid Cymru tell representatives of the FE sector that they will fight against a budget which they themselves so recently voted through. Community Councillors wouldn't do that. Lets give a bit more space to the quotes that Betsan highlights.

This first from Rhodri Glyn Thomas, Plaid Cymru AM. "As far as the Plaid group is concerned we are unanimous in our support for this. (more funding) We need that funding for Further Education in Wales. We will fight for it, and as far as I'm concerned, this is an issue where there is no possible means of doing anything other than reinstating that money for further education".

And this from Alun Davies, Labour AM "We're going to be making sure that we're campaigning to make sure the funding is available, to make sure that the promises we all make as politicians are realised. there's no point in people standing here making speeches if we go home and forget about the speeches we've given and the commitments that we've made. We're going to be making sure that when you're marching, we're going to be marching with you."

There were 15 Labour and Plaid politicians joining in today's protests about the funding for further education included in the Assembly Coalition Government's budget. They all voted for the Assembly budget less than three months ago. And as Liberal Democrat AM, Peter Black informs us, on March 11th, both Rhodri Glyn Thomas and Alun Davies and the 15 others all voted against a proposal that 'calls on the Welsh Assembly Government to re-examine its financial support for post-16 education'. How on earth can the people of Wales be expected to take National Assembly politicians seriously if they don't believe that the words they speak have any residual value at all.


Dylan Jones-Evans said...

Glyn – you have to wonder what on earth is going on within the Assembly Government.

There seems to be a general contempt for the public at large that is wrapped up in different flags of convenience by both coalition partners and as a result, devolution and the future of the Assembly as a legitimate public body is the victim. As for the press, they seem obsessed with the bile originating from the fringes of the Labour Party rather than holding this Government to task for their inadequate policies on the economy, education and public services.

Despite being someone who has been generally positive about devolution, I am becoming bitterly disappointed at the inability of this government to do anything different to the UK Government.

For example, we have a situation where the Assembly Government is spending over £1 million on a committee to examine the circumstances for a further referendum on devolution. Yet when it comes to developing a policy that can make a real difference to the Welsh economy – the reduction of business rates – it slavishly follows the UK Government’s policies.

I never thought I would say this but what is the point of an Assembly if it doesn’t (a) do something that is radically different to Westminster and (b) acts in a mature and responsible manner.

If this lot is the best that Wales can come up with out of 2.9 million people, then we are in a serious mess even after we come out of this recession.

Rant over!

DCW in DC said...

Your post Glyn raises two very important questions.

Plaid and Common Sense – is there a connection?

Welsh Labour and Broken Promises – can we go on believing Welsh Labour?

Absolutely if we were still in April Fools.

Jeff Jones said...

Some AMs seem to have a pretty odd view of government. Government requires that choices have to be made regarding how the limited amount of money available to an institution with a fixed budget is spent. The government in Cardiff Bay decided that post 16 education would take a 7.4% cut this year in its budget even though this would have a devastating effect on a number of colleges. This decsion was supported by a majority of AMs when they voted to pass the budget. At the time many of us thought that this was a strange decision given how important FE should be in any economy concerned with improving its skills base. If AMs disapproved of this cut then the appropriate way to influence policy decisions is to tell the cabinet that unless there are changes then they would not support the budget. Attacking a decision of your own government after the event doesn't achieve anything and in many ways loses you support. Unfortunately for AMs the good times are now over. Being an AM for the past 10 years as the UK government has thrown money at the Assembly has been easy. Now it starts to get difficult as the Assembly which has no revenue powers faces cuts in its actual budget.In these circumstances you have to be able to take and defend difficult budget decisions. Politicians who attend demonstrations called to attack decisions (whether its the effect of cuts in FE or the closure of a swimming pool by the local auhtority) caused by the policies of their own government should not be surprised when their actions are criticised. If Plaid politicians in particular want an easy life then they should get out of the coalition and blame everything that happens in the future on those nasty people in Westminster a la Alec Salmond.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Feel free to hit the scroll button …

Jeff> I don't want to labour this, but the solution is there. Wales is sitting atop a goldmine of Welsh intellectual property, which from an economic standpoint in terms of Welsh job/wealth creation largely goes to waste.

I am hopeful that now the Welsh Assembly will finally realize that Wales's #1 asset is finally tapped. That great innovations and discoveries are fully patent protected. Patented technology is the basis of a knowledge economy.

Ask MIT, with fewer postgraduate numbers than Cardiff University (based on data reported in Wikipedia, MIT with 6,048 postgraduates, and Cardiff University with 7,840 postgraduates). Postgraduates, in particular postgraduate research students working towards PhDs, typically do most of the hands-on research).

Even though Cardiff University is a world-class university with huge postgraduate ‘throw-weight’, MIT is producing orders of magnitudes more jobs and spin-outs than Cardiff University. This enormous gulf can no longer be tolerated, not if the Welsh Assembly is serious about Wales building a knowledge economy.

Professor Dylan Jones-Evans has written articles on the number of jobs and spin-outs that come out of MIT. The figures are staggering.

I have written ad nauseam on this issue in terms of comparative patent output.

The solution is there, but for some strange reason there is still little real support at the Welsh Assembly to fix this issue. There are glimmers of hope like the BioWales event and the people behind that. But the critical importance of patenting Welsh IP at university level goes largely ignored despite the presence of technology transfer’ departments inside Welsh universities.

There needs to be a radical shake up and more technology transfer.

Only got to look at Singapore and the emphasis the Singapore government puts on technology transfer and entrepreneurial activities linked to technology transfer (Singapore was a third-world state within our life-time). Look at India and the way it is developing knowledge based economy, the massive momentum building there.

I’ve done the stats, Wales’s largest world-class university in terms of patent output compares well with North Dakota’s main university (North Dakota’s population is about a quarter of Wales, and is largely a rural state with very cold winters and very hot summers and high velocity winds are not unusual). The main university in Singapore has at least five times as many unique patents than Cardiff University, the Singapore university is listed with fewer postgraduate students (but the same order of magnitude).

MIT with fewer postgraduates and at least the same or more impact in terms of publications in learned journals (which clearly don’t interfere with issued patent output) is miles ahead of Cardiff University – in fact in terms of job creation and issued patent output MIT is miles ahead of all the universities in Wales combined and yet has far fewer postgrad numbers than all the universities in Wales combined.

I don’t want to give anything away here, but I work with MIT and Harvard graduate students who have gone for patenting their research – it is such an eye opener how MIT and Harvard administrations work with its postgrads and staff to make it possible. My law firm is teaming up with a one of them, we do the patent stuff and he does the idea bit – a kind of convergence (one of my IP law professors at law school in downtown Chicago told me about one of the richest lawyers in Chicago – he did the patent admin stuff for a few guys operating out of a garage building early modems for computers, in payment he accepted shares (at a guess in a closely held company to which URS’s IP was assigned, so the company was probably registered as a holding company for intellectual property, e.g., issued patents, filed patent applications – assignments are typically done on filing day or for technical reasons soon thereafter – need the patent application’s serial/application number on the assignment forms, which must be registered at the USPTO to avoid downstream commercial paper issues, bit like where folks register the title deeds of their homes/real estate). They became known as US Robotics (obviously they read Isaac Asimov “I Robot” series of sci-fi, to avoid confusion they were also known as USR, they were also known as Winmodem, they came up with the X2 modem technology and helped build a whole new industry); if memory serves they were eventually bought out by 3Com.

Kind of funny, 3M (no relation to 3Com) was at the BioWales 2009 conference, they had bought out a Welsh invention (based on an ATP protocol using modified swabs to rapidly quantitatively determine surface microbial contamination, a great technology but I did discern that the technique could not identify microbe species on the surface, no doubt they will develop an improved ‘swab’ that will cover this issue).

Did I forget to mention that I am a Welsh PhD qualified scientist (PhD from Glasgow – there’s a Scottish bridge engineer on the maternal side of my family, passed away many years now, he married a Russian Jewess – just as well for me that Plaid never really got going in Wales), I was the only US lawyer (but from Cardiff) who attended BioWales 2009 and who is qualified to practice directly before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. I co-founded a patent law firm located close to the USPTO, near Washington DC.

Go BioWales! Go Blue Demons!

Dr. Christopher Wood, Esq., PhD
Wood and Eisenberg, PLLC
6911 Richmond Highway
Suite 403
Alexandria, VA 22306
TEL: 703-660-9700
FAX: 703-660-9218

penlan said...

I'm sure these people must be praying that the Tories win the next election to save them from the burden of being responsible for their own actions and giving themselves someone else to blame.

They are not the first politicians to be faced with choices such as these and their present actions suggest that they are not up to it.

DC typo said...

Sorry, excuse typos, e.g., "I am hopeful that now the Welsh Assembly will finally realize that Wales's #1 asset is finally tapped."

Should have read:

I am hopeful that the Welsh Assembly will finally realize that Wales's #1 asset should be finally tapped.

Please excuse typos - too little time.

Sweet and Tender Hooligan said...

Have to agree.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me somewhat of the Powys County Councillors who voted last year to make over 100K savings through streetlighting, then when they got turned off acted shocked and promised to fight to get them back on ?????????????

Anonymous said...

Sorry I know this is off subject Glyn but I think you would be interested in the reply I receievd from the BBC to my complaint. What amazes me is that they actually admit that what they choose to put in the news is subjective not impartial. They don't even try to hide their Labour bias anymore. Its incredible and totally disgraceful-

Thank you for your e-mail.
We're sorry if you felt that Daniel Hannan's recent speech in the European Parliament received insufficient coverage.

Choosing which stories to include in our bulletins is a subjective matter and one which every viewer will feel we get right every time.

That said on 26 March 'The Daily Politics' ran a clip of the speech and a discussion with bloggers about the story.

Essentially the choice of which stories to cover is a judgement call rather than an exact science but we do appreciate feedback from viewers.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact us.

BBC Complaints

Glyn Davies said...

All - sorry but too much otherwise occupied to respond to comments