.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Friday, December 05, 2008

The 'coping classes'.

We are all looking forward to Plaid Cymru's Party Political broadcast tonight, after all it is not often that a party's spin machine invents a new class of people to focus its appeal on. In this case the nationalists have coined a new campaign slogan – On Your Side – aimed at winning support from the “coping classes”.

The Western Mail tells us that: The term “coping classes” is the latest effort to come up with a term to describe the section of society once known as the “working class” – a term now regarded as outdated.

Focus group discussions with a cross-section of the Welsh public have now convinced Plaid to concentrate on bread-and- butter issues as part of the party’s latest image change.

And while the new leaflets will be bilingual, they make no mention of the language issue.
A Plaid strategist said: “Our success in the Assembly elections and this May’s local elections has given the party a massive fillip.

“It puts us in a great position to challenge Labour. The new ‘On Your Side’ slogan is just one way we will be reaching out to those millions of people struggling to cope with the high cost of living and the impact of the credit crunch.

My first impression was that this new campaign is not mentioning the Welsh language because of Plaid Cymru's own appalling record in government in promoting it. They have failed to deliver their promise of a Welsh Language daily paper and we are still waiting, after 16 months, for the much-anticipated bid for primary law making powers. In fact the so-called Party of Wales were even upstaged by the Tories on Wednesday in this regard and not for the first time.

However, there is a more substantive criticism of this approach, that Plaid's record in government does not live up to their rhetoric. That is intentional of course. Plaid's strategy from the outset has been to distance themselves from any negatives from their time in government whilst taking credit for the goodies.

At the same time, whilst they are in bed with Labour in Cardiff Bay they want to remain free to attack Labour in Westminster. There is nothing wrong with that, it is what any other party would do in the same situation.

The test that has to be applied to this campaign is how have Plaid Cymru fared as champions of the 'coping classes' whilst in government? My answer is not very well but of course I have to temper that by the fact that many of the economic levers rest with Westminster and also quite a lot of the powers. Nevertheless there is a case to answer.

Firstly, we need to look at education and training, the means by which many people lift themselves out of poverty and improve their standard of living and job satisfaction. Plaid and Labour have failed to meet their own target, as restated by the present Education Minister, of making all schools fit for purpose by 2010. In fact only £24m of the recently announced £350m of capital investment was for schools. The condition of many of our school buildings are a disgrace and this One Wales Government is not putting in enough resource to deal with the issue.

Plaid and their Labour allies have failed to bridge the £41 millon funding gap between Universities in Wales and those in England. Worse they are planning to bring in top-up fees for Welsh students despite a strong commitment by Plaid not to do so. This will hit many middle income families and put off poorer students from going into higher education.

The One Wales Government underfunded the Foundation Phase, effectively delaying its full implementation by a year and now they are set to make the same mistake with their 14 to 19 education and training plan. Both the Assembly's Finance Committee and the Measure Committee tasked to examine this legislation say it is drastically underfunded and undeliverable. Another blow for aspiring low and middle income families.

Worse, Labour and Plaid have underfunded local Councils, offering them below inflation grant settlements for two successive years. In fact they have failed to even pass on the grant increase they have had from Westminster to local government. The impact of this is that funding for essential services such as schools, social services, transport and economic development will end up being cut. In addition Council Tax bills will rise more than they need to, hitting the 'coping classes' with a double whammy.

And then there are Plaid Cymru's policy failures. It is still possible of course that they will meet their target of 6,500 new affordable homes by 2011 but it is becoming increasingly clear this is a gross figure that does not take account of sales and demolitions. Figures I have seen suggest that new affordable homes will be cancelled out by those taken out of the social housing sector. We are also waiting for a robust method of measuring this Plaid Cymru Labour promise. Meanwhile there is no action being taken to bring the 18,000 empty homes in Wales back into use.

With hundreds of jobs disappearing almost on a monthly basis one would have thought that the Government will be doing everything it can to create new ones and to help existing businesses. One mechanism is Finance Wales. a government-owned Merchant Bank but their interest rates are higher than most of their competitors.

There is much more, including the imminent destruction of the environment by road schemes such as the M4 extension through the Gwent Levels, that brings into question the substance behind Plaid Cymru's latest spin initiative. What is clear is that although they may be justified in attacking the UK Government for abandoning the 'coping classes' they are doing exactly the same down in Cardiff Bay.
For heaven's sake. I'm sorry to be critical, Mr. Black, but the carping tone of posts such as this are really starting to grate. As I recall you argued persuasively last year that the Liberal Democrats were in no shape to play a part in government and played an important role in ensuring that your party didn't enter a coalition. While it's unreasonable to expect you never to criticise the government, might we at least expect you to cut some slack occasionally to those who did have the gumption to ensure that the government of Wales continued, in difficult financial times? Or was you interest all along in using opposition cynically to make maximum political capital?

As a member of the opposition my job is to scrutinise the governing parties to see if they are delivering on their promises. It is also my role to expose hypocrisy in my opponents. That is what I am doing here. What happened in the past is irrelevant. What matters is where we are now.
Hi Peter

Can I make a comment on the need for the protection of minority languages generally?

The Esperanto movement has begun a campaign to protect minority languages and at the United Nations, in Geneva, this can be seen at http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?