Sunday, February 22, 2009

But what is Ieuan's going to do about it.

Watched John Dixon, Chairman of Plaid Cymru on today's Politics Show. He was trying manfully to explain Plaid Cymru's 'position' on the thorny issue of top-up fees in Wales to Felicity Evans. John assured us with great clarity that Plaid Cymru, at their special meeting held in Aberystwyth yesterday, reaffirmed its policy of total opposition to top-up fees in Wales. Personally, I don't agree with this position (though I accept that the Conservative Group in the National Assembly may well take a different view - and its a matter for them). However its understandable and its consistent. What is much more interesting is the position of Plaid Cymru's Assembly Members - in particular the position of the three Plaid Ministers. They have to face up to the 'reality' of politics - not some hypothetical possibility.

It's reported that the Leader of Plaid Cymru informed yesterday's meeting that he will not be able to deliver on this policy - that he may not be able to persuade his Cabinet colleagues not to go ahead with its plans to introduce top-up fees. Felicity didn't ask John Dixon whether Ieuan Wyn Jones would try to persuade them, and how hard he would try. Either yesterday's vote was an empty gesture, designed to appeal to the student vote, or a policy that the Party Leader must try to force through Cabinet. The statement that he will 'not be able to deliver' suggests that an effort to force it through will be made. This will require the submission to Cabinet of a carefully worked up 'alternative' budget. It will be interesting to learn what budget changes he will put to his Cabinet colleagues as he, Elin Jones and Alun Ffred Jones battle to persuade them to change their minds. I can see some very interesting exchanges coming up in the Assembly Debating Chamber over the next few weeks, as opposition AMs try to extract details about these discussions.

I also hope this puts an end to all this blogging by Plaid supporters who make such a song and dance about differing opinions in my party about future constitutional changes in Wales - particularly in respect of a 'hypothetical' referendum on law-making powers. Yes, that's the referendum that was promised before 2011 by the Labour/Plaid Cymru Coalition when it was formed, and which is now being quietly dropped.

12 comments:

Stonemason. said...

Adam Price bleats in his blog .....

"The Labour Party is entitled to their policy but they have no right to impose it unilaterally on us as this was not envisaged in One Wales."


I wonder if AP would postpone the proposed referendum to coincide with the next election, unilaterally that is ?

Anonymous said...

How many of the plaid ams will stick by their principles. i cant see bethan jenkins and helen mary jones voting for top up fees.

Valleys Mam said...

Hi Glyn - I felt so sorry for John Dixon trying to defend the indefensible.
I hope that there will be a few more Plaid AMs with some guts to vote against this.
Hopefully Lib Dems and Torys will do likewise.may be even some labour AMs with principles will do do too. Jane Davidson for one. Lets see where Huw Lewis socialism sits on this.

Glyn Davies said...

Stonemason - Adam had better have a word with Iuean.

The only people who are calling for a referendum any time soon are the No campaigners!

Anon - I agree about Bethan, and a few others. It depends what the Conservatives do, but if they oppose the Government, I predict that there will be 6 to 8 Plaid AMs who will rebel. There will be an arrangement which allows Plaid Ministers to stay in Government, while there will be enough of them opposing to give the impression that they are opposed to top-up fees really. The credibility test will be if Plaid Ministers put forward a credible 'alternative' budget not allowing for top-up fees income.

Draig said...

Correct me if I'm wrong vis a vis the contentious matter of the referendum Glyn - but by my reckoning it's currently 2009, not 2011. Therefore we still have a good two-and-a-bit years to see whether this outcome is delivered.

I'm sure it would be very convenient for you to imagine that a referendum isn't going to happen, as David Cameron's position on law-making powers for the Assembly seems to flatly contradict Nick Bourne's support for such a move, and therefore raises as many questions about the tenability of Bourne's leadership as it does about IWJs...

Glyn Davies said...

VM - The politics of this are going to be very interesting.

Draig - Are you trying to suggest that a referendum on law making powers is still going to happen? Looks like the triumph of hope over reason to me. When Plaid were conned into joining Labour in its coalition, I also believed that there would be a referendum, and was looking forward to working for a 'yes' vote. However, it soon became apparant to me that dilly-dallying was going to be the tactic, until it becomes too late to hold it. What on earth is the point of the Emyr Jones-Parry Commission ? Now the public mood has been overtaken by events, and I suspect that all but a few can see that the likelihood of defeat is too great to risk a referendum. Only the No campaigners are keen for it now. For me, it would be a bit like going to a Nottingham Forest game - desperate for a win, but anticipating defeat. I also think that a Daavid Cameron led Conservative Government at Westminster would accept the result of a referendum - though this can be no more than an opinion, of course.

Jeff Jones said...

As Welsh tax payers face the highest council tax rises in the UK I really find it amazing that so much energy is being expended on a minority interest namely student top up fees. Mervyn Jones's recommendations were sensible and should be implemented. You also are right Glyn to argue where would Plaid find the money to change the budget. As I tried to point out on the Politics Show yesterday some of these people are living in a different world from the rest of us. They had better get used to the fact that the Assembly will have less money in the future not more whoever is in power in Westminster. At the moment the UK government is spending £3 for every £2 it collects in tax. That is not sustainable in the local run. It is time for certain politicians to wake up and smell the coffee. The party to use Tony Crosland's famous phrase is well and truely over.

Anonymous said...

Not with you on this one Glyn - top up fees will hit many middle income families in Mid Wales and I would have thought that Plaid would have learnt their lesson - in Ceredigion at the last general election! I look forward to IWJ and Alun Ff pushing this one to the students of Bangor Uni, Coleg Menai etc!?

The Assembly does not need to follow Prof Tereesa Rees and her Cardiff Central pals in copying England. The real problem lies with the huge duplication of Higher and Further Education Courses across Wales in many "Arts" subjects and a failure to develop core, key skill based courses that have pushed many Wales based youngsters to pick Birmingham, Imperial or Warwick.

The Assembly members need to look at Scotland - yet again as ask why that country can offer quality, industry orientated courses at Aberdeen, Stirling, Edinburgh and Glasgow without the fees hike that hit many english young people at the start of their careers - when faced with other cots such as rent, buying a car to get to work and paying off the overdrafts.!

John Dixon will need to think about the students at Swansea, Lampeter and Carmarthen more if he wants to get elected.

Cofion pobol ifanc Canolbarth Cymru Glyn!

Anonymous said...

Glyn, you may want to speak to Andrew RT Davies on this. I think the Tories are with the Government on this vote. Don't know why....

Glyn Davies said...

Jeff - I saw your interview, and agreed with what you were saying. The Conservative Group on Powys County Council are already contemplating what strategic approach to adopt to meet the new situation. We are not prepared to pass the burden on to Council Tax payers - which means a serious look at what the Council does. Every Council is going to be faced with the same choice.

Anon - Its not that I don't recognise the validity of what you say. I was involved in this debate when Jane Davidson wanted to introduce top-up fees in Wales. I went along with my party's position and voted against, but I was not convinced that it was the right thing to do. What has worried me, and still does is that Welsh Universities will become severely underfunded when compared with England. I'm not sure we can make comparisons with Scotland, because the Barnett Formula delivers far more support per capita to Scotland than Wales. I'm not making a political point when I say that I'm very interested in how Plaid Cymru Ministers are going to restructure the Assembly Government budget, to allow for Plaid policy on top-up fees. I don't think it will be possible, and their supposed efforts to persuade will turn out to be no more than token.

Anon 2 - I will in due course. At present I don't know what the Assembly Group's approach will be.

Draig said...

Glyn -

A referendum on law-making powers will happen - of this I have no doubt. The catalyst for Labour's involvement will be the prospect of 10 years of Tory rule from Westminster! I have little doubt in my mind that the Tories are headed for a landslide victory, although turnout to the discredited Westminster parliament will be low. Labour will retrench to their last strongholds in the UK - Wales and Scotland, and that means a stronger stance on devolution.

My money is still on a General election sometime this year. We're heading into a Depression, and depressions tend to bring down governments...this one will be no exception.

Glyn Davies said...

Draig - We'll just have to wait and see. I read somewhere that the BBC are going to produce an opinion poll around St David's Day that support for law making powers is falling. It would be a surprise to me, but its possible. The Assembly Government's performance on this issue has been woeful.