Showing posts from March, 2016

The mask has slipped

This column was published in the Llanelli Herald on March 25th 2016 Graeme Ellis was a disability activist, with a difference. He was a Conservative supporter. A lifelong Tory voter, Mr Ellis was an active member of the Conservative Disability Group and ran its website.  On Budget day he sabotaged the website and resigned from the Conservative party. The tipping point was the Chancellor’s announcement of cuts in disability benefits at the same time as cutting tax for high earners. Actually, that’s the same reason Iain Duncan Smith gave for resigning as Work and Pensions Secretary. But Graeme Ellis isn’t convinced IDS meant it. “I read his resignation letter. I can’t believe he is sincere,” Ellis said. “He has had ample opportunity to speak out, but he has voted for cut after cut after cut after cut. Has he just now developed a conscience?”. It is hard to square the fact that he upset at the latest cut on the disabled but was just fine with the rise in food banks , th

A ticking time-bomb

This column was published in the Llanelli Herald on March 18th 2016 I haven’t been asked about climate change much in this campaign, despite knocking on thousands of doors right across the Llanelli constituency. About nine years ago it was a big political issue, but as soon as the economic slump hit people’s interest in global warming melted away as short-term considerations about the state of the economy understandably dominated debate. But the effects of rising temperatures haven’t gone away. This week America's space agency Nasa revealed that February had seen a 'shocking' rise in global temperature, breaking the record set just one month before. Regions of the Arctic were more than 16C warmer than normal. In Alaska the warm temperatures has been sending snowmobilers plunging through thin ice into freezing rivers, and forcing deliveries of snow to the starting line of Alaska’s legendary Iditarod dogsledding race. Does it matter? Carbon dioxide leve

Time to show some Steel

This column was published in the Llanelli Star on March 16th 2016 "We won't have the luxury of talking about steel because there won't be steel" Welsh Economy Minister Edwina Hart told AMs last week. “We've got to have an industry in Europe that produces for Europe," she said, as concern grows that the Conservatives in Westminster are failing to lead action against China for ‘dumping’ its cheap steel on the European markets.  The Chinese have too much steel on their hands now that their economy is slowing down.  They’re trying to sell it at cut price rates we can’t compete with. Last September for example, China exported 11.5 million tonnes of cut-price steel in one month  - that is almost as much steel as the UK produces in a whole year. If left unchecked this discounting could wipe out the steel industry in the UK.    The USA have just imposed a new 266% tax on on Chinese coiled steel coming into America, while the same steel faces

It’s hard to be different

This column was published in the Llanelli Herald on March 11th 2016 I’ve just finished a funny and charming book called The Rosie Project. It tells the story about a man who has spent his days organizing his life to make himself more efficient - cooking the same meal every week so that he can buy exactly the right ingredients every week, for example. He decides to take the same approach to finding a wife and devises a questionnaire to root out people who do not fit into his very exacting criteria. It soon becomes apparent that the man has Asperger’s Syndrome, and the book amounts to a humorous, and tender, exploration of what life is like for people with this poorly understood condition. The book is a bestseller and comes a decade after the brilliant book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which is also now a hit play. These are all important efforts to try and change attitudes, and raise awareness, of conditions that just a few generations ag

I know I’m meant to hate Plaid, but I don’t

This column was published in the Llanelli Herald on March 4th 2016 Plaid Cymru are holding their annual conference in Llanelli this weekend. The constituency is their number one target seat in May’s Assembly elections so they are here to make some noise. Ever since 1999 the seat has swung back and fore between Labour and Plaid, and as they only lost it by 80 votes at the last elections, they figure it’s their turn. Now as their opponent I know I’m meant to hate Plaid. The trouble is I don’t. I don’t take a tribal view of politics. There are some good ideas and people in many parties. When Labour and Plaid formed the ‘One Wales’ coalition in the Assembly between 2007 - 2011 there was much common ground.  But Plaid have taken a new direction. They are now dead set on getting Labour out of office, and given the way seats are distributed in the Assembly that can only mean letting the Tories control Wales in some form. Some in Plaid bitterly regret that the attempt to form