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

Friday, August 28, 2009

So what has been occurrin'?

The headline of this post is my last attempt to impersonate David Cameron visiting Barry but it sums up how I feel as I acclimatise myself after a week abroad in the sort of heat I hope not to revisit for some time. Still I feel more relaxed than I have been for some time, though that feeling will quickly dissipate.

The first shock for me was the statistics for this blog. The last post I made before going away was about the shrine to Torchwood's Ianto that has appeared in Cardiff Bay. Over the next eight days this blog received 5,422 hits, most of them looking for that post.

The BBC reported that the Plaid Cymru Economy and Transport Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones managed to spend £15 million on research for a proposed M4 relief road around Newport before it was scrapped as "unaffordable". The jury is of course still out as to whether that is a reasonable amount of money to shell out on an abortive project. I suggest that it may well form the basis of a scrutiny session or two and a report from an Assembly Committee when we return after the recess. You never know, the Deputy First Minister may even show up to be questioned on the subject.

The whole country was cheered by the outstanding performance by the England and Wales Cricket Team in the fifth test against Australia to regain the Ashes. Personally, I missed the last few wickets as the occupants of the bar I was in for some reason insisted on watching Chelsea beat Fulham 2-0 first, and as a result we just caught the celebrations following the fall of the last Australian wicket.

What is worse is that all the commentators and newspapers insisted on shortening the name of the winning team to just England and there was even a huge St. George's flag superimposed on the outfield. It is enough to make any sane Welshman demand that Wales have their own cricket team, except that they already have. The team is just not good enough to compete at that level. Still, when England lose the Ashes down under in two years time we can pretend we have nothing to do with them.

The news that seems to have been dominating all the blogs was the release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds. Quite apart from the outrage this decison has caused it also proved to be a fairly substantial stick with which Labour politicians in particular could use to beat the SNP, but also a quite convenient weapon to attack the UK Government both for the silence of the Prime Minister on the matter and alleged deals between UK Ministers and the Libyan Government.

For what it is worth I believe that the decision was the wrong one. Quite apart from the fact that I have been suspicious of prisoners who are released due to serious illness since Ernest Saunders staged the first ever recovery from Alzheimer's disease I very much regret that it has led to the withdrawal of the appeal against al-Megrahi's conviction because I believe that this was the only opportunity for victims and their families to get the whole truth about what actually happened that night. I also believe that there is a good chance that al-Megrahi may be innocent but if that is the case then this sort of decision is not the way to proceed. His innocence needs to be proved through proper process. Now he will die as the Lockerbie bomber and many questions will remain unanswered.

If al-Megrahi is guilty then he deserves to die in prison for his crimes. Compassion is an important feature in any judicial system but there are times when it can be exercised in such a way as to frustrate justice and in my view this was such a time. That has been underlined by the speculation of secret deals that just makes the decision look shabby. If there were deals and pressure from the UK Government then we need some transparency and accountability. If there were not then there needs to be a review of the protocols that govern the relationship between the Scottish and Westminster Governments. This may have been a devolved decision but it clearly has foreign policy implications and we need to be assured that these were taken into account as well.

Having performed a spectacular u-turn on student top-up fees the Labour-Plaid Cymru Government face further problems in the field of higher education with a warning from HEFCW that some universities in Wales may have to cut courses in future years due to assembly government cutbacks. One university pro vice-chancellor warned that less popular courses may have to be cut and, further in the future, universities themselves could even close.

Meanwhile over on Adam Price's blog the man who wants to be Plaid Cymru leader was busy throwing yet more ideas into the air in the hope of getting a few column inches. This time it was the subject of data centres and how Wales is the ideal location for them. He is right. In fact I raised this issue with the real Plaid Cymru leader some time ago and even arranged for one of my constituents, who has expertise in this matter, to meet with the Economy Minister's officials. If nothing has yet been done on this yet then it will be Adam's party who we will be asking questions of.

When Swansea first introduced CCTV it was the Conservatives who were leading the way in pushing for it. The City Council agreed to fund the measure but in doing so put in place a code of conduct that sought to protect the privacy of innocent citizens who were being filmed. Even then it was clear that the measure displaced crime and that the cameras themselves are only as good as the back-up provided by the police.

Now an internal Metropolitan Police report has questioned the effectiveness of these cameras. Britain is one of the most monitored countries in the world, with an estimated four million cameras nationwide. There are more than one million of these in London alone. Yet according to the Met for every 1,000 cameras in London, less than one crime is solved per year. Each case helped by the use of CCTV effectively costs £20,000 to detect.

For one Tory at least this indicates that it is time to reassess their use. Clwyd West MP, David Jones writes on his blog: 'Whilst there is some evidence of its usefulness as a crime deterrent in such areas as car parks, the value and ethicality of its routine deployment in many other public areas must be in considerable doubt.

We need an urgent national debate as to whether, for a return on investment of less than .1 per cent, we British are content to be subjected to more intrusive surveillance than the citizens of North Korea.' Who am I to disagree?

Liberal Vision though have a different take on this issue. They highlight a passage in the Met report that says “Potential change of Government - the Conservatives are not CCTV friendly - we need to start showing that we are targeting serious crime.” They conclude that the Metropolitan Police are intending to spend the next 9 months focusing on ways to “meet targets” and win over politicians, rather than get on with the job of policing the streets and solving crime.

Finally, the Independent reports that secret plans to reintroduce hunting foxes, stags and other animals have been drawn up with the backing of senior Conservatives. It seems that their plans include the creation of a Hunt Regulatory Authority (HRA) to police the behaviour of hunts. So not only are the Tories going to pander to their core vote by sanctioning the return of a cruel and unnecessary sport in defiance of public opinion but they are going to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of our money on a new Quango to regulate it. It introduces a whole new dimension to the concept of subsidised sport.
But.....do you feel better for getting that off your chest?
Peter, what is this reference to WE in matters Welsh? Do you consider yourself naturalised or do you have problem with being English?
I had a Welsh speaking grandmother from Llandudno junction, and the rest of my ancestry is largely Irish and Scottish, including a direct line to the ancient rulers of the Isle of Skye, the Mcleods. I was brought up just a few miles from the site of a major Eisteddfod in Birkenhead Park and I have lived in Wales as an integral part of my community for 31 years, having only lived 18 previously in England. Of course I consider myself Welsh.
Post a Comment

<< Home

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