Monday, 16 October 2017

It's time to move towards a real Senedd...

This essay by Gwynoro first appeared in the booklet: ‘Towards Federalism and Beyond’

The questions on the future of the UK Union have been gathering a strong head of steam over the last three years. Discussions had particularly ‘kicked-off’ following the outcome of the Scottish Referendum in September 2014, and the promises made by the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, as well as leaders of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties to devolve further powers to the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood. These, more or less, have been now enacted. Then there was the Wales Act 2017 which caused a significant amount of controversy, particularly in relation to the reserved powers aspect and defeats in the House of Lords over amendments that would have transferred responsibilities concerning transport, policing, broadcasting and water to the Senedd.

Intermixed with these issues have been the 2015 General Election and the EU Referendum of 2016. Both of which, for differing reasons, provided unexpected results, with the latter leading to the resignation of David Cameron and the emergence of Theresa May as Prime Minister.  The outcome of the EU Referendum particularly focussed the minds of devolutionists, federalists, and many in favour of independence alike, on potential future governance models for the UK Union, or even its prospects for survival, with several significantly thorny Brexit issues appearing centre stage. These included the High/Supreme Court hearings and the enactment of Article 50.

Many powerful voices joined the constitutional debate at this time, most notably the First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones, the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the much experienced Lord David Owen and, a long time supporter of a powerful Welsh Parliament, Lord Elystan Morgan. The momentum was such that the Labour Party came out strongly in favour of a Constitutional Convention, as witnessed by an event held at the Wales Governance Centre, Cardiff in late-March 2017. Additionally, Jeremy Corbyn spoke in support of a Convention at the Scottish Labour Party Conference in February 2017 and has reaffirmed his stance more recently.
In Wales, an emerging non-partisan and all party group called Yes Cymru produced a booklet on Welsh independence. I was pleased to have been asked to speak at three of their rallies in Carmarthen, Cardiff and Swansea over the last year or so.

Then, in spring 2017, the Prime Minister whilst breathing the beautifully rarefied mountain air of Snowdonia one weekend, emerged in London on the Monday morning to announce a snap General Election – despite having promised publicly on at least five occasions not to do such a thing. Theresa May was enticed by an opportunistic calculation, founded on a lead of 20 percentage points in the polls, a seemingly dysfunctional Jeremy Corbyn, and a considerably weakened Liberal Democrat party.  Indeed for several months prior to early-May 2017, it was forecasted that the Conservatives would have a 100-seat plus majority in Westminster following any snap election, with the Labour party annihilated. Also, in late-April 2017, a sensational poll conducted by YouGov for ITV and Cardiff University projected the Tories as winning 20 Westminster seats in Wales, Labour 16, Plaid Cymru 3 and Liberal Democrats 1. The lure of temptation was far too great for our Prime Minister to ignore.

So after a century of Labour hegemony in Wales, it looked for a few weeks during spring 2017 that we were heading towards a political earthquake of serious magnitude in nature, which would have been an enormous culture shock to the body politic of this country. But as Harold Wilson often used to say, ‘a week is a long time in politics,’ or to quote Harold Macmillan when asked about what shapes political fates, ‘events dear boy, events.’ 

Without recounting the full extent of the fateful events that transpired, the ‘strong and stable’ Theresa turned out to be ‘weak and feeble’ whilst the seemingly ineffective Jeremy became transformed with substantial crowds attending his rallies. I had not witnessed such gatherings since the 1950s when politicians like Aneurin Bevan spoke in public.  Theresa May’s performance was the poorest, if not the most disastrous, by any Tory leader in my memory, other than Sir Alec Douglas Home in 1963 and William Hague in 2001. Jeremy Corbyn on the other hand was a revelation, a man inspired, totally renewed from the inept and ineffective performer he had been at Prime Minister’s questions time over the preceding year. He was in his element as a superb campaigner, attracting unprecedented numbers of people to his meetings, wherever held across the country. Incidents such as the Conservative manifesto debacle and the appalling terrorist attacks also played a part in forming the electorate’s views.

The final outcome was effectively a hung Parliament until the Tories were saved by the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party. Now the headlines and sub-plots of that election is testing the commitment, determination and mettle of all devolutionists, federalists and other interested stakeholders engaged in the UK constitutional debate.

In the lead-up to that General Election, during early-May 2017, an opinion poll was conducted by YouGov for Yes Cymru on the question of independence for Wales. It articulated a staggering result which was absolutely unexpected in substance, and quite probably unwelcome in many political circles. The findings received little publicity at the time, being lost and buried in the ‘hurly burly’ of the ongoing UK election campaign.

This poll painted a political picture that went against all opinion and public attitude surveys in Wales since establishment of the Welsh Assembly (Senedd) in 1999. As brief background, in the last two decades, backing for independence has registered between 3% and 6% on average. In fact, the annual BBC Wales poll conducted in March 2017 by ICM revealed the following levels of forecasted support for various scenarios of Welsh governance—independence at 6%; increased Senedd powers 44%; same powers 29%; fewer powers 3%; and abolishing the Senedd 13%.

However, this survey of 1000 respondents – which incidentally is the usual sample size for opinion polling – conducted by YouGov on behalf of Yes Cymru, and published in May 2017, showed that 26% of the Welsh population favoured independence, with the percentage increasing to 33% if the then predicted Conservative majority actually materialised! Labour voters turned out to be relatively supportive of independence. Plaid Cymru voters, as expected, were too. But more importantly, the 18 to 49 age groups were found sympathetic to the prospect, which raises real questions about the future status of Wales within the UK. On removing, from the calculations, those respondents who registered as being undecided, the poll identified 47% of Labour voters backing independence (of which 23% were strongly in favour); 64% Plaid Cymru; 33% Lib Dems; 15% Conservatives; and 18% UKIP.

Two other interesting observations were highlighted. The first was that 28% of Plaid Cymru voters were against independence. The second concerned that middle band of party supporters whose vote might be ‘up for grabs’ during any referendum campaign on the issue, with their extent ranging from 8% for both Labour and Plaid Cymru to 18% of Lib Dems. 

So, post-General Election 2017, where are we in relation to exploring the future of the UK Union?  Will the progressive forces now unite to move the agenda forward? At the heart of this debate is the question of what will Labour do? Any major constitutional reform cannot happen without its serious involvement and active participation in discussions. Brexit and the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, unless radically amended, will have significant implications for the present devolution settlement. One area of particular concern to Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh is what will happen to those powers and responsibilities now delegated from Brussels, through Westminster, to the devolved administrations on matters such as agriculture and rural affairs. Will they be taken back up the chain to London in time thus completely undermining the arrangements in place? 
Here in Wales we have an added matter to contend with, and that is the manner in which Wales is perceived and reported through the media—not only across the UK but especially in our own backyard. Many commentators have written extensively about the impact of the ‘information deficit’ existing due to the inadequate news coverage of Welsh issues in our media, and the ensuing challenges faced. For instance, the level of reported interest shown in Wales for the 2016 EU Referendum (82%) was considerably higher than that for the 2016 Senedd election (59%), both of which were held only a month apart.  Without doubt, one of the major reasons for this difference was the nature and content of news reporting in Wales, including which sectors of that medium predominate in our country. When tuning into the latest UK political news, its substance is often entirely focused on events surrounding the Westminster ‘village.’ This, of course, is quite natural, but unfortunately during times of devolved elections in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, such an intense preponderance and saturation of Westminster information, clearly impacts on people’s exposure to the key campaign issues and political choices presented closer to home.

Put straightforwardly, the people of Wales are not regularly exposed to informed news coverage centring on Senedd matters. One of the most striking findings of survey data published by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) in 2015 was the significantly low number of Welsh people identified as frequently reading a newspaper produced in Wales – 5% or fewer. Today, the Western Mail disseminates the most comprehensive handling of Senedd matters, but the ABC survey revealed that fewer than 4% regularly read the paper. Further, when respondents were asked to name their main newspaper, only 1% selected The Western Mail. The Daily Mail, by contrast, is almost ten times more likely to be acknowledged as the main daily read, being consumed habitually by four times more people in Wales than The Western Mail.

Broadcasters in Wales, on the other hand, reach a far greater proportion of the population than newspapers. BBC Wales Today is the most widely followed – 37% of people frequently tune in – whilst 17% and 13% regularly follow ITV Wales Tonight and BBC Radio Wales respectively. However, UK-wide programmes are still the main source of reference for news consumption in Wales, with the ABC survey identifying The BBC News at Six or Ten as viewed by nearly 37% of respondents, whilst 30% follow the BBC News channel. ITV’s Evening News or News at Ten, and Sky News are watched less often – 11% and 13% respectively – but still rank as key sources of information relative to coverage produced in Wales. Other regular daily or weekly productions such as Daily Politics, Newsnight, Panorama, Question Time, and the like, compound the situation further in terms of ‘swamping’ any reports delivered through indigenously created programmes.

I have recently come across additional data from the ABC revealing an ever-continuing reduction in the readership of local weekly newspapers and regional dailies.  Local weekly newspapers in the UK lost print circulation by an average of 11.2%, year on year, during the second half of 2016. The figures suggest a quickening in the pace of print decline, possibly fuelled by cover price rises, editorial cutbacks and the readership moving to online sources. A redeeming feature is that nearly every regional newspaper website audited by the ABC recorded strong growth in the second half of 2016.

As already mentioned, in late-March 2017, the First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones AM, the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and ex-Deputy Prime Minister Lord John Prescott came together to discuss the future of the UK Union in an event held at the Wales Governance Centre in Cardiff. It was an occasion that I was keen to attend for many reasons, including political and personal. One of my first tasks when appointed Research and Public Relations Officer for the Labour Party in Wales during 1969 was to Chair a working group charged to develop the party’s policy towards devolution. Together with Emrys Jones and Gwyn Morgan I jointly prepared the party’s evidence to the Crowther/ Kilbrandon Commission on the UK Constitution. In fact, the content of our submission essentially described a forerunner of the Welsh Assembly, which was established some 30 years or so after the Carmarthen by-election of 1966, and  following 8 General Elections and 2 devolution referenda in the intervening time.

Whatever one’s view is of the Blair Governments, it was his administrations that moved forward considerably the devolution agenda for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, since the creation of the Senedd it appears that the Welsh Labour party has been contented to accept its ‘divine right’ as the ‘natural’ party of Government in Wales, albeit if they have had to rely on the support of the Lib Dems for one period and Plaid Cymru for another. Plaid, on its part, has seemingly settled for that limited degree of devolution. Meanwhile, the Conservatives, who had previously only fared occasionally well during Westminster elections in Wales, such as in 1983 and 1992, have found themselves with a sizeable voice in administering the country. Politics is unpredictable because it could be said that the party which has benefited most from the establishment of the Senedd is the Conservatives – the very party which opposed it!

So, does Wales still have a radical electorate today? To what extent does the country actually mirror England and, if so, what has caused this to be the case? Immigration, over decades, from other parts of the UK has no doubt influenced movements in the political landscape, but its extent and impact is deeper than realised. Labour and Plaid Cymru, in particular, have been found ‘sleeping on watch.’ Their inaction, or inertia, has resulted in a significant ‘hidden Tory’ component to Welsh politics by now. But the challenges do not end there. Labour is viewed as having neglected its traditional working class areas, with its once, rock solid, loyal support going ‘on the move’ during the 2016 Senedd election
not to Plaid or Lib Dems, but rather to UKIP!

The economic and industrial structure of Wales has altered significantly in the last quarter of a century, as has the country’s demography – with 30% of the people living in today’s Wales born elsewhere. Indeed, in parts of north-east Wales, the proportion is nearer 50%, and almost 40% in the ‘Welsh heartland.’ Further, 48% of people living in today’s Wales reside within 25 miles of Offa’s Dyke, with 140,000 crossing that border each day for work purposes. The equivalent statistics for Scotland is 4% dwelling within 25 miles of the English border with some 30,000 traversing it daily.

Coinciding with this changing demographic and economic picture, there has been a notable shift in the political composition of the country’s electorate too – nearly 35% of whom favoured centre-right parties in 2016. The growth of UKIP in Wales is hard to accept – a party with its roots firmly grounded in England. However, this development should not really be a surprise when considering the make-up of our news consumption.

The final warning signal for me was the actuality that Wales voted to leave the EU – the very country that has benefited the most from being part of it.  Our agriculture, rural economies, tourism, education and business sectors have received considerable investment from Europe, especially less prosperous geographic areas. With England and Wales (albeit by a majority of no bigger than a crowd that fills the Principality Stadium on international day) voting to leave the EU, and Scotland along with Northern Ireland favouring remain, significant constitutional questions for the UK are emerging. Wales has to be careful that it does not simply become an annexe of England in time, possibly in a scenario where Scotland has renegotiated its relationship with the Union, and a new framework is settled and implemented for the island of Ireland.

So we live in tumultuous times with substantial uncertainties, but also opportunities. Wales and its politicians must be vigilant. It cannot be a case of ‘steady as she goes’ any longer. As a people we need to think long and hard about the future direction of the Union, planning for all eventualities.  I have not always been a fan of how successive Welsh governments have conducted themselves. Nor have I ever been an admirer of the Senedd’s quality of debates both in standard and substance.  The truth is that the Senedd has been hamstrung from the beginning, being devoid of the freedom to act with the effective powers granted the Scottish Parliament. However, those of us who believe in a stronger and more confident, self-governing Wales must advocate that vision more vociferously now than ever.

With the Brexit result, I am convinced that the future lies, at the very least, in a self-governing Wales within a Federal UK, but I also increasingly accept that a strong argument can be made for going even further. The reality of today is that 20 years of devolution has made little difference to Wales’s economic standing within the UK. Our country is near to bottom of the league on several socio-economic indicators.

Out of 235 countries in the world, some 130 of them have populations of around 7 million and under. Of these countries, 100 have fewer than 4 million people and the vast majority are smaller than Wales. Further, 11 of the countries of the 27 in the EU have populations of approximately 5 million or less. 7 of the 11 have fewer people than Wales.  In the modern financial, service and technological age, as opposed to the era of heavy industries and large scale manufacturing, the question of a country’s size is no longer a deciding factor in terms of deliberating governance models.

For decades, too many politicians have argued that Wales is either too small or cannot afford to go it alone, markedly because the country would run a significant budget deficit. But so does the UK, with a deficit of some £100 billion a year, carrying a debt of £1.83 trillion. Indeed, a proportion of the £14 billion claimed to be Wales’s presently projected deficit is our share of the money spent on large UK projects such as HS2 and defence (e.g. Trident). What more, revealingly, only about 50 of the world’s 235 nation-states actually run a budget surplus!

Therefore, is there now the political will to advance the national debate on the future of the UK Union?

Will the Labour party re-gather its forces for change and pursue the matter of a Constitutional Convention and a Federal UK? Or has the satisfaction of recently winning an additional 36 seats at Westminster, securing continued control over Wales and achieving a limited but important comeback in Scotland dampened their enthusiasm for reform? The SNP stance for Scotland is broadly clear, but what of Plaid Cymru’s vision for Wales in the next few years? The Brexit situation has already brought into sharp focus the vexed question of the long-term framework for the island of Ireland. Will the Conservatives ultimately accept that they may need to make a strategic comprise on the constitutional question to prevent more serious disunity? Then what of the Liberal Democrats, the party of ‘Home Rule’ with its antecedents stretching back a hundred years? Will they actually manage for once to discuss constitutional change at their conference? In the days of the SDP/Liberal Alliance of the 1980s it was forever on the agenda. I made certain of that.

It is time to move towards a real ‘Senedd’ for Wales…

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

We need a Constitutional debate...

As some may be aware, the booklet: ‘Towards Federalism and Beyond’ was recently launched, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the vote to establish the Welsh Assembly. 

It shares views on the future of the UK Union generally and Wales’s status within it specifically. 

Subsequently, I was quoted in two Western Mail articles during the last week.  

The first titled: Click here to read article.

All in all, both pieces illustrate the widest possible breadth of constitutional parameters existing beyond devolution itself, requiring discussion of alternative models of governance for the UK—from federalism and beyond—through a much needed Constitutional debate...

Monday, 25 September 2017

Booklet launch: ‘Towards Federalism and Beyond…’

Lord David Owen, Gwynoro Jones, Lord Elystan Morgan & Glyndwr Cennydd Jones share thoughts on the UK Union and need for a Constitutional Convention.

Prepared during summer 2017 in the wake of the EU Referendum and General Election of the past year, this booklet shares the views of Lord David Owen, Gwynoro Jones, Lord Elystan Morgan and Glyndwr Cennydd Jones on the future of the UK Union generally and Wales’s status within it specifically, including a preface written by Martin Shipton.

Considering that the four nations are intrinsically linked culturally and historically in modern times through shared industrial, political and international experiences, the UK constitutional question prompts a range of responses depending on where one places an emphasis on the economic to social measuring scale.

An alternative way of posing the problem might be to ask how we could better set about empowering the people of these isles from Lands End to Cardiff to John o’ Groats, and Londonderry to Caernarfon to Newcastle, in improving standards of living and personal fulfilment through a political system and ensuing policies which promote economic success regionally, nationally and globally whilst maintaining internal and external security. 

Drawing on the significant experiences of the authors, these individual essays highlight the need for a Constitutional Convention to explore the various alternative models to devolution, encompassing shifts towards federalism and beyond…

‘The suggestions to be found in this series of essays by a new, self-styled ‘Gang of Four’ are motivated by the desire to see greater fairness in the way we are governed.’

‘In this respect, they form part of a long and honourable tradition, and deserve to be taken seriously.’

Martin Shipton: Political author and Chief reporter for Media Wales

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Gwynoro's preface to the book 'George Thomas - Political Chameleon'

George would have done anything to advance himself.

There was a serious element of malice with George.

George was a terrible gossip. He would wilfully damage any of us without compunction.

You can be safe in the knowledge that he was a hypocrite and a rather hateful man, using religion to cover up his flaws. If you crossed George you had an enemy for life.

I first met George in the autumn of 1967, a couple of months after I was selected Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Carmarthen for the Labour party. In the first years or so I found him to be a friendly, humorous plain talking individual – especially when it came to talking about ‘the Nationalists’ and Gwynfor Evans. But even in those days he was full of gossip about fellow Labour MPs.

After that we would meet at Labour rallies throughout Wales where he and I would be ‘warm up’ speakers for the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson. He was a good orator, full of humour and knew how to play the audience. In 1968, both of us had one thing in common which was taking the fight to Plaid Cymru and its leader, so I suppose he saw me as an important ally in his early period as Secretary of State for Wales. For instance, I recall writing a memorandum to him after the bombing at the Welsh Office in Cathays Park May 25 1968, on how to associate Gwynfor’s emotive anti-London government utterances with what had taken place in Cardiff.

On March 1 1969, at the behest of Jim Callaghan, I was appointed Research and Public Relations Officer for the Labour Party in Wales and this resulted in fortnightly meetings with George on a Sunday at his home in the Heath, Cardiff. The purpose of the meetings was for him to provide me with material I could use in letters and campaign material for the party in Wales. It was then I began to notice the ‘real’ George, and that there really was a nasty side to his character which did not correlate with his public persona.

George would have done anything to advance himself. He was a man of little or no principle whatsoever. The only consideration was what would work best for George himself. That was his only guiding light in everything he did. His posturing as a good Christian was a cover for his rampant underlying ambitions.

After I became an MP my thoughts about him were crystallised further, not only because of how I saw him operate, but of what he used to tell me and others at that Welsh table in Westminster about various MPs.

George was a terrible gossip. He would wilfully damage any of us without compunction, particularly if it was about a Welsh-speaking pro-devolutionist MP - the ‘crypto nationalists’ as he described. If he found out something personal about you, he would enjoy spreading the ‘tittle tattle’, but what was George up to?

Pointing the finger. Diverting the attention. Those are the impressions I always had about him. He disliked us all, but especially Cledwyn. He did not care much for Goronwy too and never trusted my good friend Elystan.

Elystan – in his autobiography – recounts an occasion during his time at the Home Office when George asked him to write a considered piece on the potential transport policy for Wales when he was Secretary of State for Wales. Elystan spent months producing a detailed thirty-page policy document on the transport issues and dutifully presented it to George. One day in the House of Commons, Elystan was having a meal with a few people near to a freestanding barrier, on the other side of which was George in conversation with some other MPs. Elystan overheard George saying, “Let me tell you a story, boys. I gave to that nationalist Elystan Morgan a task, and he wrote thirty-odd pages for me on a Welsh transport policy. So do you know what I did? I put it straight in the bin. Ha ha ha”.

Mind the truth was that us pro-devolutionists had little time or respect for George either and that was widely known. In the book on Cledwyn Hughes there is a reference to an article in the Manchester Evening News by the political columnist Andrew Roth of Cledwyn’s opinions when he was replaced by George at the Welsh Office in 1968. ‘’Cledwyn Hughes could not help hating the idea of turning over Wales to George Thomas, a chirpy South Wales sparrow in Mr Wilson’s palm’’

There was a serious element of malice. And if you got on the wrong side of him, as I did following my time in 1969 as Chair of the working party preparing Labour’s evidence in Wales to the Crowther/Kilbrandon Commission on the Constitution, you were in trouble. During the period of the Heath government, as shadow spokesman, he was a deeply divisive force, irretrievably damaging the party in the Welsh speaking areas, particularly with his column in the North Wales Daily Post.  He poisoned Harold Wilson against people all the time. He was known as ‘Harold’s E.N.T.’ That is Ears, Nose and Throat!

I had a very good rapport with Harold throughout the years. I had organised seven or eight of his meetings in Wales during his time as Prime Minister, speaking at each one. However, I knew there was something preventing him from giving me some sort of recognition – a shadow junior role, or something similar. I had no doubt it was George weaving his web of distrust behind the scenes. In fact Fred Peart, the Minister of Agriculture after February 1974, confirmed to me that George had poisoned him against me: ‘He’s a nationalist. He’s pro-Welsh language. He’s pro-devolution. He would divide the party’. One can hear George saying these things. And yet, he was apparently a great Christian.

Although I never witnessed it, there were references from time to time that George liked his drink, and yet he used to assert openly that he was teetotal, priding himself on it publicly. Indeed, I heard him say so from the pulpit when he was preaching in Tenby one summer.
You can be safe in the knowledge that he was a hypocrite and a rather hateful man, using religion to cover up his flaws. If you crossed George you had an enemy for life. Nobody could claim that the following characteristics were not true: that George was anti-Welsh, anti-devolution and loathed the patriotic Welsh element within the Labour Party. 

However, the bizarre thing is that he would probably have been more patriotic himself if he had been a Welsh speaker. It’s his background, isn’t it? George could say many, many phrases in Welsh. He could speak a bit of the language, and if he had stuck with it … well, you never know …
He always resented Jim Callaghan. I can almost see his thought process. In the 1950s Jim, through the unions, gained power and got onto Labour’s National Executive Council. George was envious. Jim subsequently rose to a position of Shadow Minister and then Harold became Prime Minister, making Jim Chancellor, Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary in succession. It must have driven George mad. He was full of enmity. In fact, he was bit of a Trump-like character. It was all about him, and only him, all the time. There was nothing George would not do to aggrandise himself.

When anyone tells me stories about George, nothing surprises me whatsoever. He was a bad egg who managed to fool us all.  He fooled elderly ladies like my grandmother. We had a house, where I was brought up in Foelgastell, with quite small rooms. In front of the fire, on few occasions, he would sit with my mother and grandmother on one side of the fire and him on the other, pulling all the strings – tugging the heartstrings.

I do not know how many friends he had in the Welsh Labour Party. Not too many I would guess. Even people within the party who might have agreed with George on many issues, particularly with his general anti-Welsh stance, I never saw them consorting much with him. People such as Kinnock, Abse and Alan Williams from Swansea West: they had little time for him either. The one stand out person was Barry Jones, the North Wales MP. It was apparent they were very close indeed – we used to refer to Barry as George’s ‘Parliamentary son!’

So I reckon he was a pretty lonely figure inside the Welsh Labour Party. Once he was not made Secretary of State in February 1974 his influence within the party in Wales was over. Even Harold Wilson eventually realised, following losses in the Welsh speaking heartland, that it was George who had been the divisive, negative force for six years.

But the grand survivor turned his attention elsewhere – because he had hoodwinked and fooled the Tories for many years too.  Many of them, including Mrs Thatcher, were I suspect all starry eyed. He had a prodigious ‘gift of the gab.’  But then he was such a big ‘establishment’ man and a Royalist to the core. In his lounge of the bungalow in the Heath would be a large picture of the Queen on one side of the fireplace and the Prince of Wales on the other…

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Continuing Gwynoro’s life story

As indicated from video 1 Gwynoro just sat in front of a camera end Dec 2014 without any preparation and spoke from memory. There are 14 hours of recordings that took place over 2 days. None of it has been cut but inevitably matters not always in chronological order

Video 22 - the aftermath of June 70 election and how the campaigning never ended

Outlines how the campaigning never ended after the June 1970 election; The bitterness between the two parties and the members; Refers to the letter writing in three of the local papers that went on continuously through till about 1972; Refers how little has been written about the 8 years and explains why 'Gwynfor never lost'! Although from an earlier period describes a public meeting in LLandovery in 1968 concerning the Central Wales Line. First time he met Gwynfor Evans; Considers should he have responded differently after winning the election rather than participate in the bitterness that was there week in week out; Concludes that the two set of party members etc would not have allowed such a prospect.

Video 23 - Parliamentary days, personalities and divisions

Starts with when he was made Roy Jenkins's PPS and how that influenced opinions about him within the Welsh Labour Party; Then returns to the divisions within the Welsh Labour Parliamentary group on the matter of an Elected Council for Wales; Talks of Michael Foot and realising how important Foot's opinion would be on the matter how he spent some time persuading him of the case for devolution; Mentions some parliamentary figures and their powers of oratory including Foot himself, Powell and others.

Turns to George Thomas - who also was an effective debater; Refers to George's personality traits - his relationship with some people ( Callaghan, Cledwyn Hughes and other); Then the half dozen Welsh speaking, pro devolution and language - the 'crypto-nationalists'!; George's column in The Liverpool Daily Post that did so much damage to the party in North Wales - where he vented his spleen on devolution, the language, the Eisteddfod and so much else; How 2 or three went to see Harold Wilson to alert him of the potential damage of his articles. George had the ear of Wilson known as his ENT (ears nose and throat); Finishes with the eventual loss of the Welsh speaking seats in Feb 1974.
Go to

Sunday, 6 August 2017

More data on the Media in Wales

Local weekly papers and regional dailies show continuing decline in print sales 
However there is increase in the viewing of regional press websites 
In a post prior to the Senedd (National Assembly for Wales) election and also the June 23rd 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, I discussed what helped to account for the fact that the level of interest shown by the people of Wales was considerably higher for the referendum ( 82%) than the Senedd election (59%). 

Without doubt a major reason was the nature and content of news coverage in Wales, including which sectors of that medium predominates in our country.

When one tunes in to the latest UK political news, it is often dominated by the news and events surrounding the Westminster ‘village‘. This is natural, but unfortunately at a time of elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland such preponderance of Westminster news clearly impacts on people’s exposure to the campaign issues in those countries.
Put simply, the people of Wales are not regularly exposed and certainly not over-exposed to news coverage about Senedd matters.
One of the most striking findings of the 2016 survey was the significantly low number of people reading a newspaper produced in Wales – 5% or fewer.

The Western Mail carries the most comprehensive coverage of the Senedd, but the survey revealed that fewer than 4% regularly read it. When people were asked to name their main newspaper, just 1% of respondents selected The Western Mail.
The Daily Mail, by contrast, is almost ten times more likely to be named as a main daily newspaper and is read regularly by four times more people in Wales than The Western Mail.
Broadcasters in Wales, on the other hand, reach a far greater proportion of people than newspapers..
BBC Wales Today is the most widely consumed – 37% of people frequently tune in – while 17% and 13% of people in Wales regularly watch ITV’s Wales Tonight or listen to BBC Radio Wales respectively.
But UK wide news is the predominant source for Welsh people’s news.
The BBC News at Six or Ten is watched by nearly 37% of respondents regularly, while 30% of people tune into the BBC News channel. ITV’s Evening News or News at Ten and Sky News are viewed less often – 11% and 13% respectively – but still rank as key sources relative to other news produced in Wales.
Added to the specific news programmes, such as above, is the impact of a range of other regular daily or weekly news-bearing productions such as Daily Politics, Newsnight, Panorama, Question Time and the like, which taken all together really do ‘swamp’ the coverage provided by indigenous programmes produced in Wales.
Recently I have come across further updated data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) which shows a continuing decline in the readership of the local weekly newspapers and regional dailies.  
Local weekly newspapers in the UK lost print circulation by an average of 11.2 per cent year on year in the second half of 2016. The figures suggest a quickening in the pace of print decline in recent years, possibly fuelled by cover price rises, editorial cutbacks and readership moving to online.

Weekly Newspaper
Average. Circulation
% Decline Year on Year
Wales on Sunday
Western Telegraph

Carmarthen Journal
Llanelli Star
North Wales Weekly News
Glamorgan Gazette
Newport Advertiser
Tivyside Advertiser
Caernarfon and Denbigh Herald
Holyhead and Bangor Mail
South Wales Guardian
Merthyr Express
Penarth Times
Barry and District News
Free Press Monmouthshire & Pontypool
Rhondda Leader
Pontypridd & Llantrisant Observer
Cynon Valley Leader
Gwent Gazette

The grim performance was marginally better than regional dailies, which fell by an average of 12.5 per cent in the same period according to ABC.
Daily Newspaper
Average Circulation
% Decline Y on Year

South Wales Evening Post
Daily Post
Western Mail
South Wales Echo
Wales on Sunday
South Wales Argus

A redeeming feature is that nearly every regional newspaper website audited by ABC recorded strong growth in the second half of 2016.
Newspaper on Line
Average Daily View
% Increase Y/Year
Wales Online
Daily Post Wales
South Wales Evening Post
South Wales Argus