May’s Brexit War Cabinet has no permanent places for the NI, Scottish or Welsh Secretaries.

From POLITICO, the Prime Minister, Theresa May has put together her Brexit war cabinet which is essentially cabinet sub committee with the remit of “overseeing Britain’s negotiations with the EU and formulating wider trade policy.”  The report notes that this committee will be the ultimate decision making body over the UK’s exit from the European Union. The committee includes mostly Leavers but also has some members who voted Remain. Yet, the committee has no permanent posts for the Northern Ireland … Read more

An answer to Rentoul. Referendums like terrorism can shape events, but not always in the ways expected

Alerted by Mick on the thoughts on referendums by the Independent’s political commentator John Rentoul, I took in his part 2 “Should Referendums be banned?” This is a rhetorical question which is really in  support of Rentoul’s  contention  that they make very little difference to the course of political  events. His pieces prompted my following thoughts. Referendums like terrorism typically make considerable differences but not necessarily as intended. It is not true they never settle anything. It depends on the … Read more

The wee nations of these islands show the way in Europe

It was a big week in Europe in more ways than one. Wales is left as the standard bearer of the home nations in the Euros. Northern Ireland and the Republic get honourable mentions  in the reputation stakes not only on the field but on the terraces and the pubs.  The Somme commemorations recall Britain’s very literal continuing place in Europe (There is a corner of a foreign field etc.”) Modern Ireland is recovering its own memory. In the horrible … Read more

State of the State: “Northern Ireland appears to be pausing at a junction.”

Deloitte released its State of the State report today which examines the structure and levels of government across the UK. The 42 page report outlines public spending levels and the impact of cuts across the country in the last financial year. Whilst the report does look at the UK as a whole (I would encourage you to look through the report) it does devote some pages to Northern Ireland’s economic performance and the challenges we face. Being the public service … Read more

“future banknote designs, starting with the new polymer £5 note, will explicitly represent all four nations of the UK.”

As mentioned in this BBC report focused on the first Bank of England polymer banknote – a £5 note featuring Sir Winston Churchill which will be issued in 2016. Banknotes will feature images from all four nations of the UK starting with the new £5 note entering circulation in 2016. [Timing, eh? – Ed]  Eh?  From the Bank of England press release Chief Cashier, Victoria Cleland said: “The Bank is delighted with the number and breadth of the nominations we … Read more

Valleys of trouble – Labour’s difficulties in their Welsh heartland

Last night’s leaders debate marked the introduction of Leanne Wood, and her party Plaid Cymru, to the British mainstream political audience. Plaid received 165,394 votes in the 2010 General Election, fewer than the DUP (168,216) and Sinn Féin (171,942). Leanne Wood unashamedly played to the audience at home throughout the debate, and it is very likely that her party will receive a boost in the Welsh opinion polls in the aftermath. But, from Labour’s perspective, there was another party leader … Read more

Federalism – Wherefore The Union?

I have long been of the view that a federal UK would be the eventual outworking of devolution.  Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones, has been calling for a constitutional convention for the last few years. Scottish Conservative Murdo Fraser outlined his thoughts on Slugger earlier this year. Why Murdo Fraser is right to promote UK federalism as a constitutional solution – my latest column in The Scotsman — Brian Monteith (@TheBluetrot) July 1, 2014 UKIP Deputy leader Paul Nuttal … Read more

Are our versions of history sundering or reconciling us?

Martin Kettle in the Guardian pens a lament for the ignorance of the English about their own history. The outcome, he claims is a” loss of national self respect” and the threat of a disintegrating Union. For once, the term “English” is used deliberately. It’s a long time since AJP Taylor’s superb English History 1914 -1945 simply equated “ English” with “British,” and  referred mischievously  to “ the Scotch.” Could the opposite apply to us non-English , that overheated versions of … Read more

Bovine TB and badgers: “This approach has not been tried anywhere else…”

The different approaches of the various administrations in the UK and Ireland to attempting to eradicate bovine tuberculosis [TB] in wild animals, specifically badgers, are worth noting.  They are all in response to the EU Directive 64/432/EEC which, as the Welsh adminstration’s website notes, “requires Member States to provide plans showing how they will eradicate bovine TB in cattle.” In England, the UK government is pressing ahead with badger culling, despite the opposition of animal welfare groups like the RSPCA. In Wales, the Welsh … Read more

“I respect those who believe that he should shake hands with the Queen as part of his role, but it does not mean that I personally have to support this.”

There’s been a bit of a political kerfuffle in Wales over the forthcoming ‘historic’ meeting between the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, and the Queen as she tours the UK to mark her Diamond Jubilee.  [Mark Devenport is on tour?! – Ed]  No, he’s not the Queen. As the BBC reports A Plaid Cymru Assembly Member is taking a break from Twitter after describing Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness as “naive” for agreeing to meet the Queen. Apparently, … Read more

“I believe that schools are best placed to make decisions in light of what they believe is in the best interests of their pupils.”

So sayeth the Northern Ireland Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd.  He’s not, however, speaking about academic selection…  Following a 12-week public consultation on GCSE reform, which ended on 30 December 2011, the NI Education Minister has decided to give no direction on whether schools should use unitised or linear GCSEs. [Let the market decide! – Ed]  Indeed.  From the ministerial press release Following a 12-week consultation the Minister has decided not to follow England where, following a decision by Secretary of State for … Read more

GCSE reform: “It is unlikely that the Minister’s decision on this issue would stop the current position…”

In June this year the UK Government’s Education Secretary, Michael Gove, welcomed Ofqual’s proposals for making changes for GCSE courses and, on 27 September, a consultation was launched on changes to the current GCSE specifications in England.  Today the Northern Ireland Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd, launched a consultation on on making the same changes to current GCSE specifications here.  In England the consultation ends on 4 November, here it continues until 30 December. According to the Northern Ireland consultation document [pdf file] It is … Read more

Scottish Labour: “Minimum unit pricing was rightly rejected by MSPs because it is effectively a tax on the poor”

The UK’s coalition government has announced proposals to introduce minimum unit pricing on alcohol sold in England and Wales.  But with it being a devolved matter, Northern Ireland doesn’t have to follow. Nevertheless, the NI Social Development Minister and the Health Minister have joined forces to announce their intention to launch a public consultation on the issue.  Although there is already a wrinkle evident “I am meeting the Irish Minister for Justice and Law Reform Dermot Ahern in Dublin in the … Read more

Student finance goes nationalist in a four-way UK split. Can it last?

So devolution looks like producing four different solutions to the problems of student funding, at least in the short term. The latest from Scotland is to charge strangers from the rest of UK so that young Scots can continue to enjoy a no fees regime in their native land. The money follows Welsh students anywhere in the UK, as Dewi celebrates and recommends NI follow. Iain McWhirter may be right, that the SNP may take a political trick with this … Read more

History of Wales – redux…

If you have the great fortune (or life planning abilities) to live in this wonderful country then you can buy the Western Mail. Do so today because it’s the start of what looks like being a super series. If by ill-fortune, bad planning, or inconvenient romance you have ended up elsewhere don’t worry it’s on the internet!

Read moreHistory of Wales – redux…

Welsh Nationalist. Rugby Fan. Know a bit about History and Railways…

AV referendum stokes row with devolution

 Trouble is brewing over the decision to hold a referendum on the Alternative Vote for the Commons on May 5 2011 , the same day as elections for the Scottish parliament and the NI and Welsh Assemblies, and council elections in England and NI. Despite the agreed coalition split over AV, the referendum may well become a public opinion poll on the coalition as a whole as the spending cuts bite. The  devolved administrations fear getting dragged down with it.  Alternatively if … Read more

The power of incumbency

OK – post election depression done with – here’s some analysis.
Prior to the expenses scandal it was conventional to think that the combination of new technology and the £10k p.a. MP’s communication allowance would increase the power of incumbency. So let’s see if the incumbency effect exists. Here’s the percentage drop in Labour votes for every (pre election) Labour held seat in Wales in 2010 along with incumbency status:

Read moreThe power of incumbency

Welsh Nationalist. Rugby Fan. Know a bit about History and Railways…

What’s occuring down under?

So a Barry girl is the new Australian Prime Minister: Julia Gillard Which begs two interesting quiz questions: 1) What’s the Ian Paisley Snr connection? 2) Name 2 20th century Welsh speaking Prime Ministers DewiWelsh Nationalist. Rugby Fan. Know a bit about History and Railways…