Friday, November 25, 2016

Brexit must now prevail.

Having quite a bit of correspondence at present. wanting to debate the wisdom of the UK leaving the EU. I don't think I'm going to join in. That debate took place before June 23rd, and the voters of Britain, (of Wales and of Powys) decided on Leave. So happens I'd not been involved in that debate. I refused point blank to comment at all until May 6th as my personal protest that this referendum seriously disrupted the Welsh General Election. Remember having some stick about this on a Welsh Language TV panel programme, Pawb a'i Farn, who felt I should declare earlier. I stood my ground though. And by Welsh Election Day, May 7th I was so disgusted by both the Remain and Leave campaigns that I decided not to become involved in the debate at all. I did however make public that I intended to vote Leave - mainly because I do not want the UK to be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. I voted Out in 1975 as well. I did not try to persuade anyone to follow. I would have preferred to keep my opinion to myself, but as an MP, accepted that it was difficult to do that. But I did decide I had as much right as anyone else to have an opinion. Had a few offensive emails/letters at the time, which I declined to engage with. The key point is that we had the debate, a long heated debate, and we decided to Leave.

But many do not accept the vote. They still hope to reverses it. No chance. The media coverage of likely impact of Brexit, following this week's Autumn Statement is as much utter rubbish as I've ever read in my life.  Truth is the Office of Budget Responsibility, who produced some guesswork figures, has no more idea of what's going to happen to the UK economy than the average cuddly toy. All the prediction of Armageddon following the vote itself proved to be hopelessly pessimistic and wrong. Even the IFS, which I normally think of as sound, is making ridiculous statements based on guessses. None of them know. It's those who voted Remain trying to justify the position they took. Fortunately we have a Prime Minister who is not going to be bullied or diverted from her mission to ensure the UK leaves the EU. The BBC can dig out one 'expert' or opinionated obscure EU personage every night (and it will) but it won't make any difference. What the BBC doesn't seem to grasp is that all this propaganda simply strengthens the voice of Leave.

Today we had Tony Blair, Sir John Major, Nick Clegg and a Maltese MEP being given big coverage - all ironically actually reinforcing the case for Leave. I'm a typical example of a Brit. While I was not  supportive of the idea of a referendum and would have readily accepted a Remain result, I'm becoming an ever more determined Leave champion. To back off now would cause great harm to British democracy and make the next election a total lottery. I have not the slightest doubt that Article 50 will be invoked in March and the UK will leave the EU in 2019. Again ironically, all those still refusing to accept the referendum result make it more difficult for the UK to negotiate the best possible deal.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Wales Bill reaching the End Game.

Seems as if the Wales Bill has been winding its way through the fog and dust of Westminster's legislative processes for an age. It all started when Stephen Crabb was Secretary of State for Wales. He invited representatives of all political parties (under chairmanship of much respected Paul Silk) to suggest a new stable permanent settlement for how a devolved Wales should be governed - when Welsh MPs would no longer have to debate how Wales should be governed! Stephen introduced a draft Wales Bill which was not well received. So it's been much altered to meet some objections under the guiding hand of new Secretary of State, Alun Cairns, and Ministers Guto Bebb and Lord Nick Bourne - an impressive team I enjoy working closely with.

The House of Commons has enthusiastically backed this Wales Bill through all Parliamentary stages, and it has now progressed through the House of Lords to 'Report stage', having just completed passage through 'Committee Stage'. Three more crucial steps to go. On December 14th and on another day in early January, their Lordships will consider the Wales Bill at 'Report Stage'. There could be a bit of dispute between the Houses if anyone tries to play 'silly b*****s with it, but it's a mighty risk to the entire future of the Bill. Any delay and timetable issues may sink the Bill completely, especially if we have an 'urgent' Article 50 Bill tabled in January, following a Supreme Court judgement against the Gov't. That would dominate all else. After that, it's a matter for Assembly Members. No more complaining. It's their call. In mid January, After Report Stage it will become a matter for Assembly Members , who will be asked to approve a Legislative Consent Motion, which informs the watching world that they support the Wales Bill. If they don't support the LCM, the Bill will be become a deceased Wales Bill. Up to AMs to decide. If they do approve the LCM, their Lordships will move quickly to Third Reading and then it's Royal Assent. Could be all done in February. The only big question left then is "what will Welsh MPs do with no Wales Bill to squabble about - until the next one comes along that is!!

The Style of Philip Hammond

I approve big-time - approve of Philip Hammond that is. We have a Chancellor who looks and acts like a Chancellor, an accountant. From my viewpoint on the world, from high up a rural Wales mountain, that is the highest of compliments. No politic manouvering. No histrionics. Just a sound cautious calculation  of risk and balanced response. In fact it was pretty much what we expected. I'm very grateful not to be a financial journalist. They will be running around in circles like frustrated greyhounds, not having any rabbits to chase. This is what budgets and autumn statements should be like.

While we know that the post EU referendum predictions of gloom simply did not happen (I thought they wouldn't). Quite the opposite in fact. But most of us accept we are in a period of uncertainty. Let's make the heroic assumption that the Office of Budget Responsibility have got it somewhere near right. There is likely to be a higher deficit and growth uncertainty over next couple of years than we had been told to expect pre June 23rd if we had voted Remain. So the Chancellor is right to borrow a bit more to invest over this period - what he calls headroom. Chancellor has changed his predeccessor's deficit elimination plan in this Parliament, replacing it with a balanced budget "as soon as possible". I think we knew this already. Seems to me the spending relaxation is limited and well directed.

Of course no chance to look through detail yet. And I like to read the weekend assessment before settling on a firm opinion. But extra money for housing must be a big plus. We need more places for people to live. Lots more. And I'm really pleased to see the agent fees on renting property being reined in - even if it is only in England. Hope Wales follows suit.

Chancellor is right to see productivity as the UK's biggest challenge. Since 2010, we have gone big on reducing unemployment (with astonishing success) but one price we've paid is lower productivity. We must hope investment is aimed at tackling low productivity. Bigger challenge than unemployment now.

Steady as she goes in Wales as well. Welsh word for rabbit is cyningod (please correct spelling!). Fair bit of extra money flowing down the Barnett interconnector from infrastructure spending in England. Good to see reference to Swansea and North Wales. Some are moaning no reference to tidal lagoons. Of course there aren't. We still don't know if they are financially viable. Desperately hope they are, but everything must have a price.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Should we increase number of AMs to 80.

Watched Welsh Sunday Politics today. Sensible comments from the two sensible Assembly Members in the studio, one Labour and one UKIP. Neither convinced that an increase in AMs is needed, but both open to a discussion about it, which is approximate to what I think. I thought UKIP's Mark Reckless was particularly sensible. While realising there may be little support for an increase, they were both clearly impressed by the force of argument put forward by Elin Jones, the Presiding Officer, who supports more AMs. Plaid Cymru would have been a real force if she had been chosen leader. I too  consider her to always worth listening to. 

I've phrased the the 'question for discussion' on an increase in number of AMs from 60 to 80, because the new debating chamber was built to allow for easy expansion to accommodate 80?  Others will advocate a greater increase. I just can't see that idea flying. Some will advocate no increase. Expect the usual trick of presenting options, with the favoured one being 80, in the middle! What the public think is another matter altogether.

Key to this issue will be The Wales Bill which gives the power to decide number of AMs to a new Welsh Parliament. I can comment as a mere observer from the sidelines. It will have nothing to do with MPs at all. Anyway, we will be debating the position soon after the Wales Bill has secured Royal Assent next spring.

I do not see any logic in considering numbers in one tier of Govt to justify numbers in another. They stand on their own. I accept others will not see it in the same way. Firstly, at the next general election we expect to see a reduction in Welsh MPs from 40 to 29 (though I don't yet rule out 33 if number of MPs is not reduced). And of course we expect to see the disappearance of Members of the European Parliament altogether by 2019. The biggest anomaly of course is the massive increase we have seen in the unelected House of Lords. The blame for this unjustifiable position deserves its own post.

 In the context of all this, consideration of number of AMs is entirely logical. My guess, and it's no more than that, I think AMs will move quickly on acquiring the power to increase their number to 80. Which will lead to a debate about how to do that!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Is it wise to cut MPs to 600?

Not in Westminster today. Pleased about that. I would have been seriously torn when the division bell rang. Don't want to excite the whips, so I cannot write that I'd have voted with Labour. PPSs can't do that sort of thing. Labour were supporting a Private Members Bill at Second Reading which would scrap the impending cut in numbers of MPs from 650 to 600. However I do think it's ok to ask readers of my 'thinking aloud' blog to make their own judgement.

First the case for the reduction. It was a manifesto commitment in 2010 (both Conservative and Lib Dems, who wanted to cut much further - to 500). It was approved in an Act of Parliament in 2011, taken through the House by the then Lib Dem Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. And it may be that the public would quite like to reduce the number of MPs, who are not the most popular creatures on our planet.

Now for the other side. The disruption it will cause will be huge, especially when implemented alongside equalisation of constituency populations. It will save some money, but nothing like as much as the extra than is being spent on appointed new peers to the unelected house. There will also be a big reduction (and saving) by the abolition of UK MEPs. The cost of democracy is already coming down. It will lead to even greater domination of the House of Commons by the 'Government' in that since the number of ministers is not being cut, the significance of backbenchers will be greatly reduced. After today's debate and big support for the Labour supported Private Members Bill, they may be some questioning about whether the hassle is worth it.

Now equalising the size of constituency populations is much more justified. As it currently stands, the boundaries are very unfair to the Conservative Party. Over the last 20 yrs. huge numbers of people have moved out of inner city seats (which tend to vote Labour) into leafy suburbs (which tend to vote Conservative. There is no credible case to resist 'equalisation'. But I do want to throw in two further points of relevance here.

Firstly, the tolerance allowed to Boundary Commissioners to allow for factors like history, geography, culture etc.. At present the 'tolerance' is just 5%, which gives Commissioners almost no leeway at all. If it were to be 10%, the degree of disruption would be much reduced. The Commissioners would have a proper job to do. And secondly Wales. For many years Wales has been over-represented - by quite a lot. Historically, this imbalance was considered necessary as a measure of 'fairness' to a small nation. But with a Welsh Parliament, this simply can no longer be justified. Anyway, enough from me. Hopefully left you a few bones to chew on.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The way things are in a Perfect World

News reaches me at the Westminster end of the M4 that all political parties in the National Assembly for Wales want to scrap the Severn Bridge tolls. Not reduce them, but scrap them completely. Now wouldn't that be nice. I can imagine it would be a very popular policy. So would scrapping Income Tax, Stamp Duty, Council Tax and planning fees etc. etc.. Seems to me that this is one of those 'fantasy world' policies that grow on the magic money tree. 

I'd thought we were already moving to a good place on Severn Bridge tolls. The Secretary of State for Wales has talked about halving the tolls, which I'd thought would a great boost to the Wales economy. Instead we now have what looks to me to be a hopelessly unrealistic proposal, which has little chance of becoming reality. And in any case, the Severn Bridge tolls are not devolved, so this motion debated in the National Assembly, to which all Assembly Members have signed up, is not within the Assembly's powers to deliver on. 

I see that one of Labour's AMs, Lee Waters has taken a different approach. He wants to retain tolls, at perhaps half what they are now, to fund other transport solutions for South East Wales. Must admit that I agree with him. Might not agree on precisely where the money would go, but tight in principle. Sensible AM is Lee Waters. And there we have the Wales Bill in a nutshell. It's the reason I have been so determined to see a proportion of income tax devolved to the Welsh Government. Any policy based only on the 'benefit' with no consideration for where the money is coming from is not real politics. It's more gesture politics, concerned with how reports will appear in the headlines. Hopefully, the Wales Bill will deliver harder edged debate, based on benefit balanced with cost.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Ebbw Vale and the European Union.

What are we to make of the way Ebbw Vale voted in the EU Referendum debate. 62% voted Leave. The highest Leave vote in Wales. Ebbw Vale in a town with a population of 18,000, and is reckoned to have received the highest level per capita EU funding in the UK. Ebbw Vale is an old ironworks/steelworks/coal mining, valleys town. While one might have expected the good folk of Ebbw Vale to be grateful for the massive sums of money the European Commission has invested in their area over recent years, the reality is the opposite.

Along with 3 other members of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, I joined around 40 Ebbw Vale citizens at their local Institute to consider the way ahead. While it was an articulate engaging audience, I'm not sure it reflected local opinion. Almost all those who attended were 'Remain' voters. I think the Chair of the Committee, David Davies MP walked down the street to discuss the issue with people just going about their business, and found not a single Remain voter. There's a hugely important message there for those of us involved in 'government' at all levels. 

The purpose of our meeting was to allow the attendees to tell us what the Gov't should be focusing on during Brexit negotiations. The general areas we were hoping to cover were 'Arts', 'Jobs and Industry', 'EU Funding for Wales', and the 'Welsh Language. In reality, I did not find it a structured discussion at all - and none the worse for that. Inevitably it was not easy to move on from the debate about Remain/Leave, but it was lots better than a similar debate would have been at Westminster. My conclusion was that it's too early to have a meaningful debate on Brexit negotiations yet. But I enjoyed my meeting with the opinions of Ebbw Vale. Maybe repeat the exercise in two years time. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon.

Have not done much on this blog on energy generation for a while. Over next few weeks hope to keep my eye in on this developing policy area. It's been an interest for a year or two. Just read through some correspondence eulogising about the benefits arising from a Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon as clearing my desk. It's only because I have absolutely no idea of Govt thinking on this project that enables me to comment at all. It's a project I've had an interest in for a couple of years and it would be accurate to describe me as an enthusiast for the project.

It's main attraction is that it could be the forerunner to several other tidal lagoons. What we have been told by the developers is that if the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon were to go ahead, it would be followed by others, bigger and less expensive. Tidal power has the potential to deliver flexible, predictable and clean electricity. And quite a lot of it. Former energy minister, Charles Hendry is soon to deliver a report on the potential of tidal power. And some in the sector are pointing to next week's Autumn Statement as being significant. Not so sure myself. But I do think we are moving towards an assessment of tidal power's potential.

You might think from the above that I believe the Govt should give the go-ahead to the Swansea Bay Tidal Barrage. You would be mistaken. cannot do that until I study, and take a positive view of the costings, business case and opportunity costs of the project. I feel certain there must be a cost effective way of harnessing tidal power. But we just don't yet know whether the financial case for a Tidal Lagoon in Swansea Bay is it. We can but hope it might be.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Paying for NATO - Trump has a point.

Me thinking aloud again. Dangerous practice. But open to correction through comment. The first duty of any political entity's is to protect its citizens from external threat. This has been the case since cave dwellers began organising themselves into groups. Also the case that as the scale of threat has grown, it's been necessary to arrange defence on a scale capable of resisting attack from ever stronger forces. Terms such as 'Balance of Power' and 'Mutually Assured Destruction' have emerged within international politics to describe the consequences of this process. In today's world in practice, it means firstly that many countries in the West have merged military capability into one (more effective) unit, and secondly that the United States, vastly more rich and powerful than any other state has to be a part of it. Which brings us to NATO - our 'All for one;'One for all' defence policy.

But who pays. This is the question that has landed on Western leaders desks today. Donald Trump thinks the US is being required to do much of the heavy financial lifting. The accepted NATO target is that all countries should chip in 2% of GDP. The UK does. I think Poland does - two states which remember the horrors of 1939-45 better than most. Of all the statements/promises the incoming Commander-in-Chief has made over the last few months/years, the most worrying have been about his commitment to NATO.

With Rusia's President Putin on manoeuvres along Europe's Eastern borders, there will be much nervousness developing in EU capitals. I do hope the EU integrationists don't see Trump's words as a reason to divert resources to EU armed forces to fill a gap. Without the US, the EU will not have significant capability. Seems to me the best course of action is to start talking seriously to President Trump. It may even be that the UK will be well placed to broker sensible resolution. Now there's a though in our Brexit world. But at the heart of this, every EU state is going to have to get serious about defence. We will all have to our bit - a bit more I suspect.

The Soldier. Rupert Brooke. 1914

If I should die, think only this of me;
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by the sons of home.

And think, this heart all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Trump Victory - One day on

The world did not come to an end. The financial markets didn't react badly. The defeated candidate, President Obama and most leading US politicians set aside personal disappointments to wish the incoming President well. And Donald Trump himself spent the day presenting himself in reasoned tones. In fact, nothing much at all happened. Three Englishmen scoring centuries in India is slightly bigger news in some corners of the world stage. After day one, we have very little idea what to expect from a Trump presidency. But I do think it's clear that the only sensible course is to "Give Trump a Chance." 

Spent quite a bit of today in conversation with former Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind - as measured as you would expect of a man with his experience of the international stage. We agreed it's far too early to make any meaningful assessment. We know so little about what his agenda is going to be. I feel sure it's not going to be what he's said its going to be. The biggest concern for the free world has to be the Trump approach to NATO. Trump's 'noise' on this issue has been the extent to which NATO members have been prepared to pay their fair share. Only the UK and Poland have paid up the 2% of GDP. We must hope there's room for agreement and compromise here. It's the top issue.

Trump is making some very aggressive noises about Daesh. We don't know what his plans might be to crush this evil, but he can hardly do much worse! Maybe, the warm words he's used about Putin will give him leverage. Have to wait and see on this. We've heard his anti trade rhetoric, based around the principle of protecting US jobs. But we don't know whether this will be tinkering for PR impact, or a serious undermining of free trade, particularly with China, which would be damaging to all. From a British post Brexit perspective it could be goodish news on trade. 'Front of the queue' maybe! So much to ponder.

But one day on from the astonishing US Election result, the reality is we do not know much we didn't know yesterday. Except Trump has surprised us by his reasoned tone. Gone is the hate-filled rhetoric of the last few months. It may just be that having won, he will want to be a good President. I for one am content to say I that while I could never have voted for the campaigning Trump, I should trust the American voters, and 'Give Trump a Chance'. We owe that to the future of our world.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

First Reflections on US Election.

No point denying it. I was utterly astonished by the result of the US Presidential Election. And yes, disappointed too. I'd been bit surprised by the Conserative victory at the last General Election, greatly surprised by EU Referendum result, but utterly astonished by the Trump victory. Of course it's too early to draw any final conclusions about what it all means. There are some very big questions hanging out there for we Brits to be thinking about.

Firstly, why were we in the UK so misled about how US voters felt. It's clear there must be a massive disconnect between 'Washington' and a big chunk of the American people. The British media presented us with the buffoon Trump, out of touch with today, despised by Hispanics, by women, by minorities. Led most British observers to dismiss a Trump victory as unlikely and unwelcome. It was simply not how Americans viewed him. I should have known better. American businessmen I'd talked to had told me they were backing Trump. When I expressed surprise, they told me the British media were making no attempt to explain the scale of contempt for 'Washington'. They thought Trump would win. Yet again I was conned by the cosy consensus that delivers overseas news to us. Have I really become part of the metropolitan cosy club!! Was equally astonished when Colombians voted down the recent peace deal between their Govt and Farc. That came as a shock to me, but not to modern articulate Colombians I've talked to who cannot stomach wholesale amnesty for years of murder and violence. UK view of the world out of touch again. 

We are where we are. The American people believe in democracy. The defeated Democrats (Clinton and Obama included) have backed the victor, wishing President Trump the best as he takes over the political leadership of America. I think they mean it. They still seem to believe in the American dream, something else our cynical media will struggle with. My guess in that the British media will report every negative story about Trump they can find, while the American media will give President Trump a chance. I must try not to be so easily taken in.

My main concern about President Trump is his attitude towards world trade. Looks as if TTIP is dead in the water. It was looking on its last legs anyway. Seems he's keener on a trade deal with the UK than Obama has been. Good on the face of it. But let's wait and see. Trade relations with China look interesting. And could be very new US policy in the Middle East. Attitude to NATO will be interesting as well. Like most Brits, I've not liked the idea of a President Trump. We've no real idea about what President Trump will be about. Not sure what he's said so far counts for much. But he won. We had best get used to it. It's democracy, US style. No doubt I'll be editing this post tomorrow. 

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Freedom of the press is freedom to inflict misery.

Over the 40 years I've been involved in public life, I've taken some big hits in the media. Never responded. Known it to be a lost cause. Just taken what's been thrown at me. I'll not pretend it's not hurt - on one occasion hurt quite badly. So when there was a great kerfuffle around the 'hacking' scandal, and the Leveson Inquiry, it was assumed by many I would be for restrictions on press freedom. But I wasn't. The Mirror was so shocked to learn of this (they had just put me through public humiliation about a deer-shooting tweet I'd published) that they asked me to write 500 words for them. Which I did. Good article it was too. But the Mirror heaped ever greater humiliation upon me by dumping my article in favour of one from Paddy Ashdown. Which I thought was total bilge. Mirror didn't pay me either.

Truth is I've always believed freedom of the press is fundamental to a free society. That's why I never had any enthusiasm for the Leveson inquiry. Over recent months, the investigative press has won some better headlines. Which brings us to today's statement by Prince Harry. I certainly understand why he made it. He must have been furious. Even so, my personal advice would have been to say nought in public. In particular, I'd have just let the Internet comment run. Because it won't stop. If anything it will have heightened interest and make the position worse. There's a lot of evil-minded vindictive individuals out there with no moral compass at all. 

It does make me warm to Prince Harry though. He is outraged by the treatment of his girlfriend, Meghan Markle, who seems to be a most attractive and talented actress. He sees her as being mistreated by media and internet trolls and others. He wants to protect her from abuse and harassment. And he's right to be furious. At Harry's age I would have wanted to see blood drawn. 

But I fear it won't do any good. You can't beat these people who hide behind their computer screens, publishing the most outrageous stuff. They become brave behind their computer walls. Prince Harry, turn your computer off. And persuade your girlfriend to turn her computer off as well. Ignore them all. Abandon Twitter, the Internet cesspit of our age. Don't let the b*****rds get you down. Carry on doing the brilliant work you do, alongside your brother. Most British people hold in contempt the little minds typing out bile on their computers. Through my life, I've realised the one response these people hate is to be ignored. For most of us, your desire to protect those closest to you is the best of British.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Triggering Article 50

Whenever I'm confronted by some great email extravaganza, first rule is to stand back and try to understand what the fuss is all about. Is it a genuine conflagration? - or a lobbyist generated fuss over not much at all. That's how I feel about this Article 50 thing. It's an important issue. We all realise that. But I cannot see some great constitutional issue behind the rumpus. To me it looks more an argument about a legal technicality. Let us stand back and consider what's actually happened.

On 23rd June, a majority of the voters of the UK, (and the voters of Wales and the voters of Powys) decided to leave the EU in a referendum. None, or at least very few thought their decision was merely advisory. They thought their votes counted. After all, the then Prime Minister, David Cameron had told them he would be invoking Article 50 straightaway. That's all clear enough. But we have a significant number of 'Remainers' who did not accept the result, and who have been looking for ways to frustrate it, who see delay as their friend. We know 'delay' means 'death of Brexit'. So we are finding our inboxes full of 'ever so reasonable' emails imploring delay, creating unnecessary uncertainty. Suddenly Article 50 is not just triggering the 'leave' process. There's an effort to make it part of the negotiation, including the type of deal which can be negotiated. Which it is not. Nor will be. This is how I see it anyway.

Like many I'd assumed that Article 50 would have been invoked fairly quickly. Not how Theresa May operates. She decided to do it when best for the UK and the EU (no rush but before end of March). She also decided to just do it, because like me she thought the people had known perfectly well what they were voting for. Some judges have disagreed. The Prime Minister hasdecided to appeal against the judges call.  She thinks her position is correct. We will see. Personally I think there's a case for forgetting the appeal altogether, accepting the judges position, and putting forward a one clause Parliamentary Bill as soon as poss. It would say no more than that Parliament instructs the Prime Minister to invoke Article 50. I think that is about all the judges actually asked for. Though we know there will attempts to attach all sorts of amendments to the simple bill, because the real reason behind this has nothing to with the principle of consulting Parliament. It's an attempt to frustrate the will of the people - to reverse the referendum result. This would be a very dangerous game to play. Too dangerous for most Parliamentatians I suspect. I think that both the Commons and Lords would vote to invoke Article 50, and we could move on to the next big hurdle, debating the Great Repeal Bill. If the Article 50 debate were to be defeated there would be a mighty kerfuffle, and may well have to be a General Election. Would cause a lot of uncertainty, would damage both the UK and EU's interests. The blind fury it would cause amongst voters may well also deliver a much stronger Mrs May and a greater drive for reduction in the wholly unreasonable numbers of peers. Whatever I see us invoking Article 50 in 2017. Those are my initial thoughts on the Atricle 50 noise. Always willing to edit in the face of well argued challenge.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

When is an 'insult' not an 'insult'

 Not been at all well over last few days. My aim of writing a blog a day evaporated as I sunk into what can only be described as a deep sleep. So been unable to comment on what I thought a most bizarre Twitter rumpus, following a rather clumsy 'throwaway' tweet of mine around a week ago. The 'Academic Community' didn't take kindly to me writing that I personally don't consider academics to be  'experts'. That is of course not what I actually think. No doubt I'd have altered it if the sheer number of people who considered themselves 'insulted' hadn't taken off into the thousands, by the time I'd finished my supper. Now if I'd said that, "personally, I don't think academics to necessarily be the greatest experts.... " they would prob be still 'insulted'. Blimey, when I think of some of things they say about me on social networks.  For good measure I suggested a bit of experience in the real world would help. Whatever, this post is not about justifying the clumsy wording of my tweet, ( which I don't want to justify) but the response to it which I found truly astonishing. I'm not altogether sure why.
The numbers who took offence was massive, thousands of them who do work in schools, hospitals, and reseach companies. All these people have great experience of the real world. Anyway that's not the issue. 
The issue was the response to a tweet which they disagreed with and thought 'insulting'. Lots responded by simply called me a C**t. The liberal use of the F word and worse was enough to make this hill farming rugby player blush. And the leader of one of our national political parties compared me with Hitler (who murdered 6million innocent Jews.) Interesting that I had a few media calls, (which I didn't think justified a response from my sickbed) who wanting to run a story on my tweet. I had no interest whatsoever in what I thought deeply offensive tweets of others. If fact I was asked if I wanted to make an issue of the Hitler tweet. But No. We have heard far too much about the Nazi dictator over recent months. As far as I know the only coverage I actually saw was by BBC Wales's David Cornock. Could have been more but then I wasn't looking for it. It was all so bizarre, I simply refused to comment. 

In fact David is a sharp cookie, and rightly guessed what had caused me to feel a touch agitated. I'd been been listening to this Welsh political academic, from Cardiff, who is wheeled out almost as often as Derek Brockway on Welsh TV, totally rubbishing the Wales Bill. No problem with that. Clearly he's opposed to this Bill. But is he? No-one asking him if he'd actually vote for this Bill he was describing as so awful. If he were to say he couldn't support it, I would respect that, while disagreeing with it. I think it's a welcome bill. But it sounded to me as though he wanted to lambast the Bill, while hoping others would vote to approve it. The Assembly Members won't have that luxury. They are going to have to decide. 

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

My International Politics Day.

I think I'm rather unusual amongst MPs in that I have a great interest in international affairs but am not keen on travelling abroad. Partly that's because I don't think those who vote for me approve (they think it's a junket). And partly because I just don't like airports. They are little hells on earth. Since I was elected, I've been to Brussels once and to Gibraltar as a guest of the Rock's Government. All other overseas trips I've been paid for myself. 

Anyway, there are endless opportunities to meet with representatives of overseas territories at Westminster itself. Three of them cropped up today - international day. First visit was by a cross party group of Welsh MPs to Canada House at Trafalgar Square. We are interested in how other countries manage devolution. Canada has a federal system, where the states and territories have more power than devolved nations in the UK, and greater involvement in federal decisions. Really interesting at present, because Canada (that's all of Canada) has just signed a trade deal with the EU. I was much interested in the role  states and territories had played in this process.

Then it was back to the House of Commons for an offshore wind reception and a stint at the bar of the House of Lords, listening to the Wales Bill debate (in committee) about a distinct jurisdiction for Wales. There seemed to be little enthusiasm for it, contrary to what some Welsh academic 'experts' seem to be campaigning for. I much enjoyed comments accepting that this issue would be returned to in a future Wales Bill!!!  

Returning to the International theme, we then had a Japanese Embassey reception. A most impressive event. The Japanese Ambassador made a good encouraging and realistic speech. Impressive man. I liked him. Coincidentally, there was a statement on the floor of the House at the same time by the outstanding Sec of State, Greg Clark, about the Nissan announcement in relation to two new models to be built in Sunderland. It's given the UK economy a great boost. Enough to make make my next car a Nissan perhaps! Whatever, the U.K.- Japan relationship looks I good heart.

Final leg of our 'International' day was at the Gherkin. Never been there before. It's brilliantly impressive. The Gibraltar Govt were putting on a show on the top floor. I do get some good breaks. Gibraltar is, quite naturally concerned about the impact of Brexit. First Minister, Fabian Picardo was his usual bouncing self. And I was pleased to meet up with his predeccessor, Peter Caruana, who once came to speak to the National Assembly for Wales as my guest. I think we are going to be seeing quite a lot of them over the next year or three.

 And to cap it all, tomorrow, the Colombian Ambassador is speaking to Peers and MPs in the Queens Robing Room. I'm hoping to catch a chat with him, because I'm in the process of trying to establish a Colombia All Party Group. Rest of the day, I'll be nose to the grindstone, catching up with my office work.