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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Tackling poverty

There was an interesting example in today's Western Mail of a homegrown politician getting caught up in her own momentum in the process of writing a letter and making nonsense claims that do not stand up to scrutiny.

The antipathy between Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood and most Labour AMs is, of course, well known. It is no surprise therefore to find them slagging each other off in the letters pages of Wales' newspapers. In this morning's offering Leanne hits out at a claim, made by a Labour AM, 'that no one ever claimed that Communities First was the answer to poverty'. She quite rightly points to an Assembly Government Press Release from December 2000 that states that "Communities First is central to the Assembly's overall plan to combat poverty in Wales."

However, she then gets carried away in her own efforts to re-write history, and indeed the policies of her political opponents:

On Objective One, New Labour is again trying to rewrite history. Wales would not have got the European cash in the first place if Plaid Cymru had not forced the resignation of the First Minister. It is amazing how important moments of Assembly history are glossed over by New Labour when it suits them.

And if he agrees that Objective One is so important to fight poverty, as I do, then why are Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Tories in agreement at Westminster that it should be abolished?

If she had been paying attention at the time Leanne would know of course that the motion that led to Alun Michael's resignation was supported by all three opposition parties. If it had not been then it would have been ineffective. To claim it as a sole Plaid Cymru effort is just ludicrous. Subsequent revelations indicate that despite the fact that he was about to be no-confidenced Alun Michael wanted to stay on as First Minister and would have had himself re-nominated for the post. It was only because his own Labour Group failed to support him in this endeavour that he accepted the inevitable and resigned before the motion could take effect.

Secondly, Wales was always going to get the European Objective One money. The point of controversy was whether it would count as additional to the block grant or not and whether we would also get an additional allocation of cash to match-fund projects. The Chancellor eventually agreed to the first point, but not the second.

Finally, where Leanne gets the idea from that Labour, Tories and the Liberal Democrats have reached an agreement at Westminster that Objective One should be abolished, I do not know. No such agreement exists and I can inform her that as far as the Liberal Democrats are concerned our commitment to Objective One funding remains as strong as ever. This was evidenced by the overwhelming vote at our Conference that rejected the idea of limiting the European budget, a move that, if it was ever implemented, might deny cash to European structural funds.

Furthermore, the Liberal Democrats Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable, is on record as opposing the re-patriation of European Structural Funds by Gordon Brown. In a Liberal Democrats press release he is quoted as saying:

"I am backing the campaign to keep these funds for the areas which most need them – Gordon Brown can’t give the same guarantees of local investment. My suspicion is that he wants to get his hands on the money. It’s vital that the European budget is used more efficiently but this can be achieved without cutting the EU’s programme of assistance to hard-pressed areas like Devon and Cornwall."

Leanne really should restrain herself from putting her political fantasies to paper until she has checked her facts.
So as to avoid confusion and misunderstanding I have reposted this morning's contribution as three separate entries. Apololgies to those who posted comments to the original post. Feel free to re-post them.
Cheers Peter...I think its more appropriate to seperate these issues clearly.

The point remains that Lib dem Mps support the government's plans to cap the EU budget. If such a policy were implemented the most likely outcome would be that Wales misses out on further EU spending. This is not fantasy or misrepresentation but a reasonable analysis of the outcome of a particular course of action supported by Labour Tories and Lib dem parliamentary party.

With regard to the original Objective one issue which led to the fall of Alun Michael ...but for the surprise victories of Plaid Cymru in many seats in 1999 Alun Michael and Labour could have done what they wanted with objective one and everything else for that matter......ironic that less succesful elections for Plaid in 2003 ended the brief Lib dem experience of government in wales...
No the point is that Liberal Democrats MPs support party policy which is NOT to restrict expenditure. Even in terms of the motion (which came from Vince Cable's Treasury team by the way, not the group of Lib Dem MPs), the majority of MPs were opposed to it. The consequences of implementing such a policy were precisely the reasons why the party rejected it.

Yes, the strong showing of Plaid in 1999 meant that Labour failed to get a majority but it was a combined effort from all three opposition parties that forced out Alun Michael. No one party is entitled to claim sole credit for that as Leanne has.
Of course we will have to see how Lib dem MPs vote if and when the opportunity arises...

I think Lib Dems are fair game on this issue....by your own admission your treasury team wants to cap EU spending.....compared to Lib dem claims in ceredigion that Plaid supported stock transfer....the justification for the attack being one member of Plaid suggested we should support stock transfer in a private email responding to a consultation exercise. If your party is going to use such tactics it cannot complain when other parties remind the public of what your senior Mps have said on the public record!
I think that Plaid Cymru are grasping at straws on this issue. Whatever the Treasury team may have wanted to do in the past they have now been overruled by the party and the Liberal Democrats' position on this issue is clear - we are opposed to a 1% cap.

The issue of stock transfer is a separate one of course and I am astonished that it would be an issue at all. I am on record as accepting that, unless the Treasury change the rules on borrowing, it is one of the few options open to Councils.

The Liberal Democrats led Council in Swansea is currently consulting on stock transfer. It is worth noting too however, that Plaid Cymru run RCT also went some way down the route towards stock transfer. Obviously, if your party policy is opposed to stock transfer then you have an easy rebuttal (as do we on the EU cap). The fact that your Councillors have done something different (as opposed to just said something at odds with the policy before it was passed) is by-the-by.
Plaid in RCT are expert at saying one thing and doing another. The Stock Transfer, as you rightly point out, is just one example.

Plaid started the process there - as one of the opposition leaders at the time I was invited along with the others to a meeting with Pauline Jarman where Officers and Cabinet Members applauded the benefits of the system in order to try and gain cross Party support and avoid any embarassing moments in the Chamber!
They then had the nerve during the recent by-election in Mountain Ash to put out leaflets criticising the Labour Party for moving ahead with it!!
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