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Sunday, August 05, 2012

An occasional round-up of Welsh blogposts Part Three

This is the third selection of blog posts that have caught my eye over the last few weeks. In fact it has been over a month since I last did this so there may well be a fair range in the choice. First off is Glyn Davies MP. Glyn is the PPS to the Secretary of State for Wales so his take on the Welsh Government's first bill on local government byelaws, why it has been referred to the supreme court by the Attorney General and the consequences for the proposed legislation on presumed consent with organ donation, is well worth reading:

The thing about constitutional law is that you cannot just make it up as you go along. And its very amateurish to try.

This issue is of minuscule interest. But the same sort of difficulty could arise over the Welsh Gov'ts desire to change the organ donation system to one based 'presumed consent'. A bill to do this will be of much greater interest - both to me and more widely. When this matter was first proposed by the Welsh Gov't I was implacably opposed to it - but am much less so now. In fact, if the Bill contains a legal assurance that next of kin will always have a veto, I would personally favour going further than the Welsh Government. I would like to see the next of kin of every potential organ donor being approached in a positive sympathetic manner, rather than just those who had signed some register. But this is nothing to do with the legal point. Let me say what my personal approach would be if I were to be the decision-taker. I would not object to a bill because I didn't like it, or didn't approve of it. But if the Attorney General informed me he had doubts about the Welsh Gov'ts competence in this policy area, because of its 'human rights' implications, I would oppose it - and ask the Supreme Court to decide. That's what its for. So you can see - when its comes to it, the issue is quite simple.

Over at the BBC, Betsan Powys comes back from a week in Tenby to find her agenda dominated by unfinished business. Top of the list is the political turmoil within Plaid Cymru and the ramifications from the no confidence vote in the health minister that started it off and which is just the start of a continuing controversy centred on health reorganisation:

1. Now that Plaid Cymru have called off the (disciplinary) dogs against former leader and Presiding Officer Dafydd Elis-Thomas, who had accused his party of behaving like Tory (lap) dogs, will peace break out for good? I doubt it.

Will the former Presiding Officer be tempted to cross the floor by Labour's sweet nothings? No. He does admit, though, that he thought about it, dismissing the idea because of the support he got from local Plaid members in Dwyfor Meirionnydd.

Now, you may at this point be tempted to slip into theorising about whether simply thinking about being unfaithful is as bad as actually being unfaithful? As in, if your mind is elsewhere darling, your body might as well be there too. (No need to ask what sort of books I spent my time reading last week.) On the other hand you may debate what 'being unfaithful' in this case actually means and whether Lord Elis-Thomas was, in his view, being perfectly true to the values of the Plaid Cymru he represents.

Either way, this feels like unfinished business.

2. Is the vote that highlighted the Plaid member's absence from the chamber history now? It is. But while the Health Minister now knows her opponents in the chamber doubt her grip on her brief, what she'll really want to know is whether the First Minister intends to leave her in the job. Oh, and the business of persuading those who use the NHS in Wales that the changes proposed are absolutely necessary, right and considered? Barely started, not just unfinished.

Maria Pretzler has an interesting post on the impact of the internet on academic research and in particular who will pay for open access publishing. The idea is that by 2014 all publications of all research which has been funded by the British taxpayer has to be accessible to universities, companies and individuals.

She says that many universities dismiss publications unless they appear in a select group of ‘top journals’, which further increases the market value of some titles. As a result, the publishing companies have universities in a stranglehold, and library budgets are feeling the pinch:

Here is the problem: as the Guardian reports,

British universities now pay around £200m a year in subscription fees to journal publishers, but under the new scheme, authors will pay “article processing charges” (APCs) to have their papers peer reviewed, edited and made freely available online. The typical APC is around £2,000 per article.

She concludes: In the age of the internet, journals are, however, no longer the most efficient mode of disseminating research, and scholars continue to use them because they need the recognition which only publication in a reputable journal can provide. Do we still need journals? Is there another, more practical way of organising rigorous peer review?

Paul Flynn MP looks to the Liberal Democrats to help him avoid an awkward reselection battle in Newport by vetoing the boundary changes:

The Lib-Dems plus Labour can bury a grossly unfair set of boundary changes. It's right, it's just and it would be sweet victory for the LibDems. Pretty good too for Newport. I'll raise a glass of champagne the night that happens.

Inside Out comment on the Independent councillor in Llanelli who has been reported to the Ombudsman for suggesting that a young woman could earn a living working as a prostitute. They pose a fairly valid question:

For ourselves, we have no idea if there is any research out there which identifies whether politicians who Tweet or maintain Facebook pages are any more effective – or productive – than their less networked colleagues. Our instincts tell us they are not but we wait to be told otherwise.

Finally, Gareth Hughes reports that whilst Ed Miliband has been campaigning for the Union some of his party in Scotland have different ideas:

A “Labour for Independence” group has established itself in Scotland. It is difficult to measure the extent of support within the Labour party for its aims, but they are pushing for a proper debate within the Scottish Labour Party.

They’ve just launched a website called Labour for Independence and are pushing the Scottish Labour Party to allow members a vote on the issue.

They’re campaigning to shift Labour’s stance in Scotland from pro union to that of backing independence in the 2014 referendum.

The Labour machine not surprisingly say that the organisation lacks any real support amongst the membership. And they are probably right, in as much that most of the Labour members who held such views would have drifted to the SNP over the years.

But those behind the organisation say “In the last month, we have gained 24,000 Facebook viewers, created our own website, which after one week has more than 2,000 hits.”

The question is, could a similar group exist within Welsh Labour? Gareth thinks not but he believes that if there were an independence referendum in Wales then a number of Labour members would be likely to campaign for a “yes” vote. I think the jury is out on that one.
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