Saturday, October 10, 2009

Is the IWA inherently anti- Conservative?

I've been a member of the Institute of Welsh Affairs since the beginning -in the 1980s. Established in response to a challenge to the Welsh private and public sectors to create a forum for debate and policy development specific to Wales by the then Conservative Secretary of State for Wales, Nick Edwards I accepted that it would inevitably be challenging Government, of whatever colour. I did not expect it to become a politically partisan body. In general, the IWA has fulfilled its remit. But after reading today's Western Mail essay by the IWA's Director, John Osmond, I find myself wondering where this organisation is going. Lets consider some of the detail - in the order they are written.

'the Tories...give the impression of cruising into Government on a wave of promising polls'. The reality is that almost every independent commentator has acknowledged that the Conservative Party has declined the idea of cruising into power, but has taken the risk of committing to less public spending at the heart of our Conference. In the same paragraph we have an attempt to blame the excesses of the financial sector on Mrs Thatcher's Big Bang - ignoring the fact that Labour have formed the Government for the last 12 years, and that Gordon Brown completely restructured the financial regulatory regime ten years ago. He then goes on to comment about the MP's expenses scandal - again referring only to the Labour and Conservative Parties. Completely missing the point that David Cameron's response to the scandal has been widely applauded as decisive.

Then John really gets going. "He (David Cameron) hasn't fundamentally changed the Conservative Party. It remains in favour of low taxes, against any real distributive fiscal policy, anti Europe Union, pro fox-hunting, basically anti-green but in favour of neo-colonialism grandstanding in Afghanistan and other places around the world.". Then we have a whole lot more stuff, leading to a call for a 'hung Parliament'. I have no problem with anyone holding all of these opinions - particularly when a paid up activist member of another political party. But in this essay, John is speaking as Director of the IWA. Well, I'd like to make it clear that he's not speaking in my name.


Anonymous said...

"He (David Cameron) hasn't fundamentally changed the Conservative Party. It remains in favour of low taxes, against any real distributive fiscal policy, anti Europe Union, pro fox-hunting, basically anti-green but in favour of neo-colonialism grandstanding in Afghanistan and other places around the world.".

Just to be clear, are you suggesting that the Conservative party is in fact in favour of higher taxes, in favour of re-distributive fiscal policies, pro European Union, anti fox hunting and opposed to British military involvement in Afghanistan and elsewhere?

Dylan Jones-Evans said...

Glyn. as a member of the IWA, I totally agree with your comments.

I have an enormous amount of respect for John but I am mystified by this article and the rationale behind it.

Whilst the IWA should be a conduit for a discussion of all political views, surely its director should be careful to be above politics, especially in the months leading up to a general election.

Many have also commented to me that the last edition of Agenda could have been an in-house magazine for the One-Wales Government. Carwyn Jones, Peter Hain, Eurfyl ap Gwilym, Leighton Andrews - even David Taylor had a piece in it!

As for the comment that "there is no real enthusiasm for the Tories, who remain stuck around the late 30s in the opinion polls", well I just don't know where John gets his data from.

The average polling for the Conservative Party, according to the UK polling report webiste, is 41%. More importantly, tomorrow's ICM poll sees the party hitting 45%

Does that show a lack of enthusiasm after David Cameron's speech?

An ill-judged article that has, in all probability, damaged the reputation of the IWA as an impartial think tank. I wonder what all those corporate donors think of such a stance?

Anonymous said...

osmond was a plaid candidate in the last assembly election. this article will undermine the iwa. its become a front for plaid cymru. time to wind it up.

Anonymous said...

I don't take a conspiratorial view towards this. But with a Plaid-supporting director I don't see how the organisation can be anything other than pro-nationalist.

I don't think this is the same as pro-Plaid but there is a hell of a lot of overlap. Whether this would be different in the future under a different director I don't know.

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - The Conservative Party leader has just made his last Conference speech before the General Election - in which his commitment to tackling poverty was more credible than anything that has been delivered by Labour over recent years. It is the poorest who suffer most when the economy is brought to its knees - as always happens under Labour. The Conservative Party is not anti the EU - but it is anti the federalist agenda which has done so much to undermine the EU throughout much of Europe - and to describe our involvement in Afghanistan as neo-colonialism grandstanding is just b***** offensive. Like Obama, Cameron is having to develop a policy to deal with this problem, enabling us to withdraw, having acheived an agreed objective.

Dylan - I too have always had a high regard for John Osmond - still do, but I'm beginning to question whether he should carry on being Director of what should be a non-partisan body.

Tcoah said...

... did the IWA acknowledge back in 2006 that one of the reasons for low prosperity/productivity in Wales is linked, inter alia, to "Low levels of innovation, R&D and registered patents"? ("Time To Deliver"; 27 Nov. 2006.)

If so, IWA rocked in 2006 - but we are in 2009.

Maybe they don't rock like they used to.

Moving on ... where's my sock without the hole ...

Former member said...

IWA has lost its way on several fronts:
1. No new thinking;
2. Board of Yes people;
3. No private sector involvement;
4. Cosy Chair and Director relationship (and Board);
5 The article yesterday showed how bad it has gone.

We could go on...

Frank H Little said...

I would like to get involved in IWA activities but most take place in deepest Carmarthenshire. Is this a ploy to restrict them to car-owners and nationalists? ;-)

Welsh 'ringoly' said...

WAG has lost its way on several fronts:
Taking my lead from "Former Member"; WAG is:

1. Not interested in new thinking (lack of joined up thinking lets Welsh IP slip through the cracks);
2. Board of Yes people;
3. De minimus private sector involvement (public sector dominates);
4. Cosy FM and DM relationship (and docile parties);
5 The fact that Wales still 'enjoys' low productivity and prosperity shows how bad it still is in Wales.

We could go on..."

How do I 'know this'? Because I grew up on Llanishen and Trowbridge council estates in Wales followed (after my Welsh father was made redundant from the Welsh steel works) with council house living in east London then south west London where he moved the family to find work followed by a reverse council house exchange moving back to council house living in Wales living on, inter alia, Lansbury Park council estate in Caerphilly (and more bouts of unemployment/under-employment which drove my Welsh father mad); I guess we four siblings were deprived, our educations were severely disrupted and we lived week to week – my mother’s existence revolved around getting the family allowance money to make ends meet as best she could, we could not afford a washing machine and when we did have one it was so awful that I got my arm trapped in it “investigating how it worked” resulting in a trip to a hospital emergency room to fix my bent hand (fracture and serious burn, I managed to get my hand into the revolving hot rollers where my mother was using the washing machine set to boil for cleaning nappies), apart from our last council house “our”council house was ‘miles from shopping’ (meaning local shops were very expensive small stores) and she walked miles with heavy shopping bags to ‘stretch the family dollar’. As a small kid, I did not realize that doing so would do her spine great harm – a condition that requires very strong pain killers and serious surgery (not offered to her in Wales) to fix.

That's the kind of thing that happens when the Welsh economy is allowed to underperform to the extent that grinding poverty is allowed to percolate into Welsh homes causing “fantastic results”. I know what Welsh child poverty means. I experienced its awfulness first hand.

WAG needs to get its act together - Huw Lewis (Welsh Labour, running for the FM spot) has issued a pledge card containing five promises. Specifically, Huw Lewis has, so it was reported by Martin Shipton in the Western Mail (10/10/2009); HL issued a pledge card containing five promises to be implemented if he defeats Carwyn Jones and Edwina Hart to become First Minister, explaining that: “Top of the list is the eradication of child poverty. I think it’s still do-able, despite the hard times we’re heading towards. It’s something we should hold on to because it inspires Labour Party members. It also transmits certain values to the people of Wales that define us as a political movement.”

I personally challenged HL via email to rethink his child poverty ‘thinking’: essentially that the biggest way to defeat child poverty in Wales is by providing decent paying jobs in the private sector. More specifically, that his idea of tackling child poverty belongs to the Labour Dark Ages and inherently conflicts with common sense.

I hope to receive a response from HL, who apparently “[D]emands (a) battle of ideas for (the) future (of Wales)” (‘Lewis demands battle of ideas for future’, WM, Martin Shipton article, 10/10/2009 – one of those occasions when British and American ‘date versions’ essentially ‘look alike’).

Anonymous said...

Strange that bloggers that criticised the Bevan Foundation a little while ago have been silent about this.

Glyn Davies said...

Seems that I touched an already sensitive nerve here, but I have to say that I have never criticised the Bevan Foundation, which is an ok organisation which we all accept might lean a touch left of centre.