Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Jonah Lomu – First World Rugby Superstar

Despite his sheer size and power a humble and respectful man.

A video dedicated to his memory,

The sudden and unexpected death of Jonah Lomu I am sure saddened everyone who loves sport and indeed beyond across the globe. The loss to his wife, two sons and family will be way beyond anything we will feel.  Recently he had said that his wish was to live long enough to see his two children grow up to the age of 21. Well, sadly it wasn’t to be and as with so much in life the unexpected happened - as it does far too often and always when we least expect it.

The youngest ever All Black and the highest try scorer in World Cup history.
Jonah emerged as a 20 year old at the World Cup of 1995 with only having won two caps.  Listening to Shaun Fitzpatrick the New Zealand captain at the time if it hadn’t been for an injury to some other winger Lomu would not have been in the squad!
He had been capped twice for his country and had played sevens as well for New Zealand and had been recognised as a talent and a phenomenon from the age of 16 or so.

He left the ’95 World Cup a world-wide superstar. A youngster with searing pace able to run the 100 metres in just over 10 seconds, but at 6’ 5’ and almost 19st’ he had raw strength and power. Sevens had also developed his ball handling skills and it was a joy to see him run with the ball – which he made to look the size of a coconut!

Of all his performances it was one of the tries against England in the semi-final of that World Cup that has been played and replayed endlessly on social media and the like. A bit like the famous Gareth Edwards, Barbarians try against the All Blacks of 1973 I think it was. It wasn’t his most exciting or long distance try ever of which there were many but for sheer power it was certainly the most devastating. His tries in that game amounted to the most destructive performance by a rugby individual ever seen.

He sailed passed Andrews and Carling, brushed little Underwood aside and just trampled and walked over Mike Catt. After the game Wil Carling described Lomu as a ‘freak of nature‘, I’m sure he meant it as a compliment.

By the end of that year Jonah was diagnosed with a serious kidney disorder and he kept it a secret for as long as he could, indeed to the point, when he often found it a struggle to train, he was considered lazy by the coaches. A remarkable feat of endurance, strength of character and sheer will power enabled him to carry on.

In the 1999 World Cup he scored 8 tries and continued to remain a devastating weapon as his tries against England again and also France testified. In the game against France he scored a try with seven or eight players trying to stop him crossing the line.

Towards the end of his playing days when his power had visibly waned he played 15 times for Cardiff Blues in 2005 and just as we mourn his passing we also reflect on the loss of Jerry Collins another giant of All Blacks rugby who spent some years with the Ospreys. The manner of Collins’s passing was extraordinarily brave – in a car crash he could see what was happening so he placed his big frame over his daughter and she survived. What is the verse from the Good Book now – ‘greater love hath no man that he should lay down his life for another’.

So Lomu is a member of a club of rare sporting superstars – Pele, Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods and Usain Bolt.

Thirty seven tries in 63 appearances for the All Blacks what would he have achieved had it not been for ill health? 

One final point, it is said that in the changing room before going on to the field of play Jonah Lomu would pray to God not to let him hurt any player during the game. Not sure God listened every time!

Monday, 23 November 2015

The Aftermath of the Terrible Terrorist attack in Paris

Should Britain Bomb Isis in Syria?

This video was made some few days after the unforgivable attack on innocent people who were out enjoying themselves on a Friday night in Paris. The response from the French Government was swift and totally understandable.

There is little doubt that the Islamic terrorists – who do not in any way represent their religion, which is one of peace, or the overwhelming majority of Muslim people – have decided to embark on a war of terror across the world.  There has been a change of strategy because they are increasingly targeting civilians since they see that as being more lethal, creating fear and mayhem in society.

By now there are 530 terrorist groups around the world – a frightening prospect – and the deadliest of them is Boko Haram followed by Isis, Taliban, Fulani militants and Al-Shabaab.
In all over 32,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks in 67 countries last year with over 80% of the killings in Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria in that order.  It is for that reason that 12 million people have fled their homes in Syria for example with 4 million of them gone to Turkey, Lebanon Jordan and even Iraq! But some 400,000 in turn have fled Iraq itself.
So World leaders are confronted with a global threat of gigantic proportions and Europe is in the front line.

This video considers the question of should Britain join in the bombing of Isis in Syria and I admit it is a difficult calculation and decision to make. Since President George W Bush’s ‘Shock and Awe ‘ policy it is always bombing and going to war that has been the first option. The first instinct has been to bomb and if that doesn’t work then bomb even more. Currently 7 countries have participated in the bombing in Libya, 6 countries in each of Iraq and Syria a total of 18 separate countries.  As we all know Russia have decided to intervene as well in Syria.

There have been thousands of bombing sorties and the terror is spreading across the world.
Whilst there has been successes in halting Isis’s advance and territory has been regained from them many military expert argue that without troops on the ground victory will never be assured and lasting.

For my part Britain need not add to the bombing campaign in Syria – we should use every diplomatic effort to seek an international agreement whereby Iran, Turkey, the moderate Arab states, Russia and Syria need to be brought together and find a diplomatic solution to this terrible mess.

Britain joining the bombing campaign with 4 to 6 aircraft can only be seen as an act of solidarity and to some extent gesture politics – it will not make add anything to the military effort.

There is of course a much wider issue that needs to be understood and that is what has driven the Islamic militants and terrorists to prosecute such a war of terror. As with everything there are several theories and viewpoints so I have included one of many articles on this matter.   

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Gwynoro's Video Channel Trailer

Twice weekly video talks about a range of current topical issues.

Many of you will know that I have had a YouTube Channel for about a year. Its contents are mostly about my life and times from 1970 – to 1992.  On this Blog you can a find a link to the channel along with my other social media links.

Last week I launched a new programme on the channel which are going to be twice weekly video talks about current issues. It will mostly be about a range of current affairs and political topics covering Wales and the World! It will also feature topics such as sport and more general issues of interest.

Take a look at the trailer.  There is another video uploaded end of last week and many more will appear on a regular basis from next week.

On the side of the Blog you will also find links to a series called ‘From the Vault’ which is gives a brief account of the history of the SDP/Liberal Alliance and the early days of the Liberal Democrats until 1992.

Trust you will like the video talks

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Gwynoro seeking to stand for Welsh Assembly

"One of the most prominent Welsh politicians of the seventies and eighties is putting his name in the hat to stand for a seat in the Assembly.

The name? Gwynoro Jones, the former Labour Member of Parliament who captured the old seat of Carmarthenshire from Gwynfor Evans. He is now a member of the Liberal Democrats.

He is seeking for a place on the List for Mid and West Wales region, and told Golwg that

"I have been in favour of a real Parliament for Wales since the 70’s and we need to ensure that at last the Assembly does become a real Parliament with much more open debates about the issues facing our nation. I believe that I can contribute to achieve that.

I have been out of politics since 1992 – inspecting schools – so this will be the first and possibly the last opportunity to realise a dream of a lifetime to become a member and to ensure that the voice of Mid and West Wales is heard strongly’’

Quite a task, there will be fierce competition in his party for a place on the list for the region but one must not under-estimate the chances of a politician who has been in the game for a long time.

 Gareth Hughes Golwg’s Correspondent in the Assembly:

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Looks as if UKIP is in trouble and not just in Wales – its England and Brussels as well

Cancelled  its Welsh Conference in Swansea because of lack of support, membership has declined by 25%, donors running away and is having to wade in the murky waters of East European politics to retain its Brussels £1m a year funding. 

Recently I posted on my blog that a party that has had to cancel its Welsh Conference was not a serious enough party to play a part in the forthcoming May 2016 Welsh Assembly election. The event was shelved due to ‘POOR advanced ticket sales’. At the time I was sent a good line from someone that I think bears repeating - ‘they are no longer UKIP but ENGIP (littlenglanders)’.  
I also suggested in the post that Welsh voters should give serious consideration as to what possible benefits is it for them to vote for a party whose roots are entirely based in England. It has no Welsh tradition, heritage or background whatsoever it is in fact English to the core. 
One month on The Sunday Mail has revealed that the party is in a much worse state than what happened in Wales. The paper reported that UKIP seems to have lost around 25% of its 50,000 members with a consequential loss of £300,000 income. The situation was described by a senior party source as a "total car crash".

The Mail also quotes another party source claiming Mr Farage's infamous and highly publicised U-turn after the election, when he resigned as leader only to quickly return, had alienated many supporters.

The party's financial problems have apparently been exacerbated because its main donor Arron Banks is now channelling his money into the Leave EU campaign, rather than UKIP.

Prior to the May General Election it is believed that UKIP received a sum of around £3m in donations and public money, but that fell to less than £200,000 in the three months after the election.

As if all that wasn’t enough over at the European Parliament UKIP’s pan-EU grouping called the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy collapsed because a Latvian member of the group resigned and so the group fell just below the number required to qualify for official group status. The result was going to be that UKIP was in danger of losing about a £1m per year of funding from the Parliament.

I find it quite ironic that the party which loudly vilifies even the existence of Brussels and the European Parliament is to a great extent reliant on EU funding for its very survival.
Fearful of this pending disaster Farage went on the hunt for a new recruit to save his ’booty’ and he found one in a far right racist holocaust denier. An MEP member of the Congress of the New Right seems to have done a convenience transfer to Farage’s group merely so that UKIP’s £1m per year could be saved.  The Polish MEP’s name is Robert Iwaszkiewicz and he made the transfer with the blessing of his leader Janusz Korwin-Mikke who is quite a controversial figure himself.

So there we have it, principle counts for absolutely nothing to Farage and his party. UKIP goes round the country fooling voters that it is not like other parties in the UK and that its aim is to bring fresh air into our politics. Yet all the while it plays in some of the murky waters of Brussels and east European politics.  

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Cameron is in danger of gambling with Britain’s future whilst trying to keep the Tories united and UKIP at bay!

We are entering a period where our Prime Minister is in danger of  ‘playing at politics’ over what is a crucial decision for the future of Britain and its people. 

The prime minister after repeated requests from the other 27 EU heads of state will at last formally table his list of demands in relation to renegotiating Britain’s relationship with the European Union (EU) and so it will mark the start of months of detailed negotiations. If all goes well a referendum will follow in probably the second half of 2016. If not then David Cameron could indeed have placed in jeopardy not only our membership of the EU but the the UK Union itself.

Image by Ashley Morgan Photography
The British demands include: getting out of the commitment to an “ever closer union” in the EU treaties; greater protection for non-Eurozone countries like Britain, to ensure other member states don’t gang up against them; allowing Britain to cut welfare payments to EU migrants; and giving national parliaments the power to block EU laws using a “red card” system.

In addition to presenting his demands David Cameron will also issue a warning to fellow EU leaders that he may have to recommend a UK exit if they reject his demands for reform. The status quo, he will stress, is not an acceptable option and that Britain’s withdrawal may follow if the EU does not give substantial ground. Such a statement is a major hostage to fortune and a worry for those of us who strongly believe that our future firmly lies in Europe.

Also echoing the Prime Minister’s comments is Philip Hammond the Foreign Secretary who has warned that ‘‘the British people will not be fobbed off with a set of cosmetic alterations to the way the EU works. This is about fundamental change in the direction of travel of the European Union to make sure that it works for Britain and that it is an effective organisation for all EU citizens’’.

The tone of both men’s comments is clearly aimed at reassuring the Eurosceptics inside their party who fear that should David Cameron not win in the key areas of the negotiations the Prime Minister would continue to recommend to voters that the UK should remain in the EU nonetheless.

So we are going to be in a period where our Prime Minister will be in danger of ‘playing at politics’ over what is a crucial decision for the future of Britain and its people. Already he is doing this by making what seem to me quite diametrically opposing statements obviously aimed at pleasing both sides of the In-Out debate. The truth is the Prime Minister will never be able to win UKIP nor some 50 Tory MPs over on to his side - its not re-negotiation they want but Out of the EU. 

At this early stage in the proceedings rather than attend to the Prime Minister’s set of demands I prefer to deal with the more substantive point of what would be the options for Britain should the Referendum result be a No and therefore exit from the EU will be set in motion.

After all this is the crucial matter that will have to occupy all our minds. How certain we are that Britain will be able to thrive outside the EU? What will be the future outside the EU when it comes to finance, investment and economic growth, the future for businesses large and small including agriculture, the rural economy and so. Platitudes and vague generalities will not do and Cameron, the Tory Eurosceptics and Farage need to face up to a lot of scrutiny and start providing far more concrete answers than hitherto.

Given that the EU will not disappear as an institution or as a big trading market it will be inevitable that a post-Brexit Britain will have to form a set of trading and institutional relationships with it. Broadly there is one of five options for the country to pursue.

Join the European EconomicArea (EEA) of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein which have full access to the EU single market for goods and services without participating in the Common Agricultural Policy or the common fisheries policy. But in return they have to abide by all the EU’s rules without any say in drawing them up.

Norway is also a member of the Schengen area and is obliged to accept free movement of people from the EU and because of this it has a higher level of per head immigration than Britain has. Also despite not being a member of the EU, Norway contributes almost as much per person as Britain does – roughly about 90%. Not much of a deal is it. 

The second option would be to reach an agreement similar to that which Switzerland has with the EU. It is not in the EEA but has over 20 major and 100 minor bilateral agreements with the EU which gives the Swiss partial access to the single market.  But any changes to the rules have to be separately negotiated each time and there is no procedure for adjudicating disputes and no provision for sanctions. Crucially the Swiss do not have free access to the EU in relation to financial services. Yet part of the price for even this limited access they have to accept the free movement of People from the EU. Also like Norway they have to contribute to the EU budget for this limited access.

The third option could be the one that Turkey has with the EU and that is a Customs Union. Turkey’s service sector is excluded from the agreement but like Norway and the others it has to comply with all EU trade arrangements and most of the single-market directives and regulations. In addition the tariffs and other trade rules that are applied to third countries are set in Brussels without any Turkish input.

So the Tory Eurosceptics and UKIP need to catch up with reality and realise that Britain will not get something for nothing. To negotiate entry into this vast market there will of necessity be a big price to pay. There is little doubt that the deeper and the more comprehensive Britain’s deal will be with the EU the more that the latter would probably insist on full compliance with single market rules and regulations.

The fourth option for Britain will be to apply the normal trading rules of the World Trade Organisation as most other countries do with the EU. The advantages should keep UKIP and the Tory euro-sceptics happy – we would not be obliged to implement EU rules and
regulations or to accept the free movement of people, nor would it have to pay into the EU budget or be part of the Common Agricultural and Fisheries policies. So far so good.  But financial services would not be included and the EU would impose tariffs on the importing of cars, car components, food, clothing and others of between 5% and 15%. 

At the debate I had with an UKIP MEP last week none of the above options appealed to him. Where once UKIP was pointing to the success of Norway, Switzerland and even Iceland being outside the EU the party it seems no longer wishes to have such arrangements with the EU having understood the realities which would face Britain as I have outlined above.  

UKIP’s new position seems to be that because of Britain’s size and importance to the EU we will be able to negotiate a special deal. I am afraid there is far too much ‘misty eyes’ talk about Britain’s size, importance and influence in the modern world. Currently on the world stage our influence has clearly diminished when for example world leaders are grappling with the problems of Syria and the Ukraine – Britain is just not at the conference table.   

The Tory Eurosceptics too argue that Britain can go it alone and would be able to negotiate a variant of the EEA agreement; one that will allow full access to the single market but without observing all of the EU’s rules or contributing too much to its budget. I just wonder whether anyone has sought the views of the other countries of the EU on this possible arrangement. It will be too late to find out after we have voted to leave! Indeed even if such a deal might be possible, going by the Swiss experience since the 1990’s, it could take many years to negotiate.

UKIP keeps on mentioning the opportunities that there will be to trade with the Commonwealth countries again, but those countries have moved on during the last quarter of a century or so and have some seven regional trading groupings. A lot of their trade is in the Americas, Africa and Asia and Britain's current trade with the Commonwealth countries is under 5% of our imports/exports. 

As the Prime Minister says leaving the EU is not just a matter of jobs and trade but safety and security as well. That is correct because Britain cannot combat international terrorism for example without active involvement with the EU. Then there are a range of global issues such as the environment, climate change, digital services, science and research, international crime migration and so on.  Little wonder that the Presidents of the USA and China and the Prime Minister of India want Britain to remain within the EU.    


The EU does need reforming and the citizens of most countries, certainly since the financial crash of 2008 and years of austerity, are to differing degrees unhappy with the current situation. But no other country is contemplating the Exit door. It seems to me that so much of the case for leaving the EU is surrounded by a lot of wishful thinking and yearning for yesteryear. 

Sunday, 8 November 2015

It is the biggest gamble voters will be involved in during my lifetime

Those who want us to leave the European Union have no answers as to what it will be like on the outside.

So changes to the EU – YES. Walking away - NO
Image by Ashley Morgan Photography
Last Wednesday, at the British Wool Marketing Board Annual Conference in Cardiff, I debated Europe – In or Out with an UKIP MEP, Stuart Agnew. On a show of hands I won the vote by something like 60/40.

What was apparent throughout the hour and a half of debating was that the MEP was rather effective at pointing out the problems within the European Union (EU) and also using facts to merely exploit peoples’ unhappiness with the current state of British politics. But when he was challenged as to what it would be like outside the EU the paucity of information and any notion of certainty about the future was noticeably lacking.

All the time I kept on asking him to tell the audience what was the future outside the EU going to be when it came to investment, economic growth, future for businesses such as agriculture, the rural economy and so on all the audience got were platitudes and vague generalities. When cornered he kept on resorting to some peculiar answer that the ‘people should be asking such questions of the Prime Minister’ almost as if raising such issues was nothing to do with UKIP’s Brexit campaign.

Of course no one can have any certainty whatsoever as to our future outside the EU so people who are listening to UKIP and other groupings like Britain First are taking a massive gamble with not just the country’s future but with their own future prospects as well. 

So if no-one can be certain why take such a leap in the dark? Why risk and place under    jeapordy what we know and have now? Come the day after the Referendum if the vote will be a Yes to stay in the EU then we know where we are.  Life goes on and some changes to our relationship might have been secured through negotiations. But should the vote be No and thereby leave the EU what then? There will be no going back.  Not like leaving a golf club, a political party or a relationship.

During the debate it became clear that despite all their bold assertions UKIP and the Euro-sceptics are not able to provide much certainty as to future options and prospects.
For sure it would be a messy and protracted exit. The Lisbon Treaty allows some 2 years or so for such an eventuality but the EU is not noted for arriving at quick decisions. Certainly in this situation and with 28 members states involved and a very wide range of agreements, protocols, trade agreements and other international relationships to sort out the exit negotiations between Britain and the EU are likely to go on for longer than that.

Consider the uncertainty and impact on investment, the financial markets, the value of sterling, business and commerce, the outflows of capital and labour and much more.

So what do we know?

Image by Ashley Morgan Photography

The UK is part of a market of 500 million people and we have Free Trade Agreements with 50 other countries. Half of what we sell some £226bn goes to the EU and 3 million jobs are linked to the trade with the 28 countries. In return over £26bn per year is invested in the UK by the EU countries. It is also calculated that because of the trading agreements on goods and services the savings per person amount to some £450 per year.

In Wales between 2007 and 2013 the EU Structural Fund is having a tangible effect on our quality of life. There has been an investment of over £1.9bn covering some 290 projects, representing £3.7bn of total project investment. This investment has helped to deliver important benefits for people, businesses, the environment, and communities. This investment has assisted over 190,000 people to gain qualifications and over 62,800 into work. In addition around 30,000 jobs have been created and over 10,400 enterprises supported. Already a further £2bn package of support has been agreed for the period up to 2020.

In agriculture, Wales has maintained its share of CAP funding as a result of strong engagement with CAP reform, with vital income support payments provided to 16,000 farm businesses across Wales. A recent study by Agra Europe outlined a worrying future for agriculture and the rural economy should Britain leave the EU. Currently the farming industry receives between £3.5bn and £4bn in financial support. In this report it is envisaged that according to the UK Government’s own figures outside the EU the level of support would fall to just over £1bn.

When I challenged Stuart Agnew about how will the UK Government continue to fund projects like the ones I have highlighted, the level of support for farming and the future of the current Rural Development Plans which support the rural economies and communities he just came up with the usual answer that everyone should seek information from the Prime Minister.
For weeks David Cameron has been under pressure from the other government of the EU to outline his specific renegotiation demands and in varied statements four or five areas seem to be emerging where he is seeking changes. They include, not being part of the move towards ‘ever closer union’; cutting regulations and increasing competitiveness; no additional discrimination or costs from the integration of the Eurozone; completing the single market and matters relating to social security, free movement and immigration.

Image by Ashley Morgan Photography

As he will set out the terms David Cameron will also this week indicate that he would not be afraid to advocate Britain leaving the EU if he does not get the changes he is after.  Such a threat is foolish in the extreme and is really not the best way to expect co-operation from the other EU countries. I am sure his message is more directed at the Eurosceptics in his own party and towards UKIP supporters. However Cameron needs to understand that neither of those groupings will be satisfied unless and until Britain does leave Europe. So if ever the Prime Minister will place party before country then Britain and the Union of the 4 nations will indeed come under severe threat and a very uncertain future.