Saturday, 30 April 2016

Rent-to-own

It is good to see that the leadership in their media releases has not neglected the important matter of housing. Providing the first home is something which concerns young working people, and the initiative outlined in our manifesto goes a long way to help with this.

It is important to note that this is a proven practical concept, as progressive local authorities in England such as Herefordshire have been operating similar schemes for years.


Friday, 29 April 2016

Rejuvenating government

There seems to be a cycle for organisations - dynamic growth, consolidation, ossification and decline - which has implications for good governance. I believe that what has kept the UK in the top tier of nations has been the continuous injection of fresh thinking from immigrants, historically fleeing persecution in the rest of Europe, latterly from the free movement of labour mandated by the EU.

There is a difficulty in building this revivifying effect into institutions of government. This article outlines an American approach.


Thursday, 28 April 2016

Transparency in the EU

A further step towards making public the influences on EU decision-making has been taken.

The printed EU Public Affairs Directory of 2009 runs to 576 pages. The number of lobby groups listed is amazing. It can only have grown in the last seven years. Putting the Transparency Register online and searchable is obviously a good thing, and there are promises of more to come. The EU compares well with the UK when it comes to shining a light on lobbyists.


Leaders debate

Possibly a quarter of those who are going to vote in the Welsh general election have already done so, by post. However, the remainder have had the chance to make a final assessment of the party leaders' performance against each other in BBC's televised debate last night. (For those who have the broadband speed, there is a rerun of the 90-minute session at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-wales-36150141)

I have seen reports from not totally impartial sources putting Leanne Wood or Alice Hooker-Stroud as the top performer on the night. However, those both placed Kirsty Williams in second place well ahead of the Conservative leader and UKIP. My Facebook friends give Kirsty top spot of course, so a spot AV count would make the Liberal Democrat leader the overall winner!

 The Western Mail, which for a long time has leaned towards Plaid Cymru, has this assessment of Kirsty's performance:

The Welsh Liberal Democrat leader has both an encyclopaedic grasp of policy – an advantage of having been an Assembly Member since day one of Wales's devolution story – and plenty of passion. She cast herself as someone who is good on detail but who also brims with anger at failings in the system. Things did get tricky when she attempted to skewer Mr Gill over a vote in the European Parliament and he said he was not a member there at the time but this did not sink her performance.
Ms Williams is confident that her pledge to bring down infant class sizes will strike a chord with the public and she even made a stab at turning her UK party’s tuition fees debacle to her advantage. Her party may be fighting for survival but if she can return to the Senedd with a clutch of AMs there are plenty of scenarios in which she could end up playing a major role in Welsh politics in the years ahead.
- and there is growing confidence in the party that the clutch will be a significant one, certainly larger than the published opinion polls predict, though these do show the upward trend.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Lee Waters

I was puzzled by the relevance of an anonymous message about Lee Waters, who I knew had moved from Sustrans in Wales to be director of the Institute of Welsh Affairs. (He is of course not the Lee Waters of UKIP, though this web page appears to be confused.) Then I saw from today's South Wales Evening Post that he had also been selected as Labour candidate for Llanelli.

The anonymous tip? It was:
In 1997 the Welsh Tories went down all hands on deck. William Hague, that prototypical Tory Boy, shut down the Young Conservatives.
But it is claimed that there was one small corner of Cymru fach where the blue flame flickered defiantly against the gathering gloom before finally being extinguished. And of all places [...] that was in Ammanford where, according to former school friends, Lee Waters enthusiastically embraced the Conservative and Unionist cause in a town reeling from the effects of Thatcherism.
Some will say this is a rare case of moving from right to left in political views, whereas most people become more conservative as they age. I believe rather that it is yet further proof that there is little to choose between the Labour and Conservative establishments.


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Community energy

Ever since micro-generation became available, I have said that the party's aim of 100% of Welsh electricity demand generated by renewables by 2025 should not be achieved by imposing wind turbines on a reluctant population. On the other hand, where there was genuine consensus, community projects should be encouraged. The Welsh Liberal Democrat manifesto confirms that approach. We will ensure a widespread expansion in community energy projects. Together with tidal projects, that will go a long way to meeting the target.

Our plans will make it easier for communities to start up local energy co-operatives, allowing them to use public land and developing resources to help them get going.


Monday, 25 April 2016

Austrian presidency: another triumph for opinion pollsters

Around a fortnight ago, the opinion pollsters in Austria were calling the presidential election for the Green-supported candidate, Alexander van der Bellen. He was said to have 26% of the vote, with Norbert Hofer of the neo-Nazi ultra-conservative Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) tied in second place at 19% with an independent candidate, Irmgard Griss. The implications for the EU were discussed in this pdf report. The rôle of the Austrian president is largely ceremonial, but he or she does have some key powers.

In the event, Hofer achieved a big win on the first ballot. He did not gain an overall majority, though, and there will thus be a run-off election between himself and the second-placed candidate, van der Bellen. The received wisdom of the French, who have the same ballotage system for not only their president but also members of the national assembly, is that electors vote with their hearts on the first round and with their heads on the second.

One worries about the heart of the Austrian people, but trusts that they will use their heads on May 22nd.