We Must Not Surrender to Child Poverty

This was published by Plaid Cymru Aberystwyth, 14 April 2017.

child poverty 2

Campaigning on an estate in Penparcau, I hear families talking, clearing dishes, watching television and putting children to bed.  There are shrieks and laughter from children seeking to squeeze a little more life from the day. I suddenly remember the damning fact that more than a third of children in Penparcau live in poverty.  I feel anger that so many children have been failed by our political and economic leaderships – their lives diminished, stolen, plunged onto a – more than likely – trajectory of life-long deprivation.

Incumbent politicians prefer that failure remains invisible, and for the most part, child poverty is shuffled out of view.  We are only made to face the terrible truth when the yearly headlines reappear: “A quarter of UK children in poverty,” “200,000 Welsh children in poverty.” Each time, the headlines are met with the same excuses and obfuscations.

Since 1999, the successive governments under Welsh Labour have publicized their flagship policy to end child poverty by 2020.

Yet, by the end of 2016 – and after campaigning on “eradicating” child poverty in the May elections to the National Assembly – Labour announced it will fail to meet its target.

First and foremost, the Labour government blamed its failure squarely on the austerity policies and welfare reforms of the Liberal Democrat-Tory coalition and the current Conservative governments.  Labour, taking a page from Plaid Cymru, also blamed the limited powers available for the National Assembly.  Communities Secretary Carl Sargeant said:

“The Welsh Government does not hold the primary policy and fiscal levers, especially in terms of the welfare system, needed to enable us to deliver the significant changes needed.” (“No end to child poverty by 2020, Welsh Government says,” BBC, 13 December 2016)

With its belated complaint about a lack of powers, it may at first sight seem Labour had finally begun to recognise what Plaid Cymru has known all along: the urgency for an adequate constitutional settlement.  But, that is certainly not the case.  Indeed, Labour has surrendered to child poverty and to the “business as usual” which is its cause.  Sargeant said:

“The issues we face can therefore only be tackled through new ways of working. Within a context of stretched resources and reducing budgets, we need to focus our efforts where we can have most impact with the levers we have available.” (BBC, 13 December 2016)

It is clear we must acknowledge the reality of what is and what is not “available”.  Yet, Plaid Cymru contends we can do much more with what is available (like banning Zero Hours contracts, for example), and that we can, and must, continuously fight to increase what is “available” – in terms of funding and powers.

Instead of declaring a state of emergency, for instance, over palpable threats to the human rights of Welsh children, and demanding more powers for Wales, Labour acquiesced to pre-ordained failure by accepting a toxic status quo where one in three children will continue to live in poverty.  Or, in their own words, Labour could have demanded the “primary policy and fiscal levers” for Wales in order to confront the unnecessary stain of child poverty.

Yet, it has long been clear that Labour is not inclined to demand more powers for Wales. Indeed, it was only Plaid Cymru, during its One Wales coalition with Labour in 2007, which prompted the 2011 Referendum which gave the National Assembly primary legislative competence.  From this perspective, Labour’s original promise to eradicate child poverty was either an opportunistic lie or a terrible naivety.

The consequence of Labour’s reluctance to demand more powers – reflective of the ambivalence about devolution that has haunted it for decades – is that, on their own criteria, they will always fail to meet their objectives.  They do not have the powers, but they do not want them either – and thus, Labour will always make promises it cannot keep.

In response to this blatant self-contradiction, those of us unwilling to surrender to child poverty must clearly lay out our desire to achieve the “primary policy and fiscal levers” which will allow us to realistically confront the endemic challenge we face.

Such an augmentation of a Welsh centre of gravity becomes even more important in the wake of Brexit.  Indeed, one could very easily ask: if the UK does not wish to be ruled from Brussels, then why on earth would Wales wish to be ruled from London?  Should we not take back control?  Brexit necessitates a re-balancing of not only the UK single market, but also of the centres of constitutional power and responsibility within the UK.

Assuming for the moment that the UK will remain intact – a prospect that with each day seems to recede from view – it will be necessary to fulfil the ambitions of devolution through the establishment of home rule across the “family of nations”.  London-rule, on its own, will never solve the problem of child poverty in Wales (or Northern Ireland).  Yet, a robust Welsh government could solve this problem, and many others, if it had the “primary policy and fiscal levers”.  Yet, given its past performance, it is highly unlikely that the Labour party will ever lead such a government.

Nevertheless, I will argue that home rule would be good for all the parties in Wales – if prosperity and self-governance is in fact our common goal.  With home rule, Wales would have the powers to enact its own unique solutions to the challenges of child poverty, criminal justice, and socio-economic development, to name a few.

There are those of course who fear that home rule is merely a Trojan Horse for independence.  If we look closely at this suggestion, however, they seem to be openly admitting that they would rather have Wales powerless and poor than to prosper through self-government.

We could however imagine the exact opposite of their fear.  Indeed, it is possible that if Wales enjoyed home rule within an authentic “family of nations,” it may have little incentive to leave such an arrangement.

In reality, independence is always a possibility – regardless of home rule – and the proponents of Welsh independence are currently enjoying a significant surge in support in the wake of Brexit.  In this way, the conflation of home rule and independence is a red herring.

At the end of the day, the question of Welsh independence will be decided by the Welsh people.  Home rule however is a different question – it concerns more immediate issues of practical self-governance and social well-being, of the fulfilment of the rights and aspirations of the Welsh people within the UK.  Home rule speaks to the urgency to build a better life for a people who have learned from centuries of experience that Wales does best when it controls its own affairs.

We must approach our situation simultaneously from two perspectives – firstly, we must work to get the maximum from the current system to best advantage at all levels of government, and secondly, we must work for the fulfilment of the devolutionary potential in the promotion of Welsh social, political, economic and cultural democracy.

We cannot surrender to child poverty – nor can we surrender to a political and economic order which makes us hop on one leg to gain our supper.

In this dangerous moment of history, it is more important than ever to have trustworthy hands at every level of government, hands that will support not only local communities but also the national interests of Wales – of her vulnerable pensioners, hard-pressed families, disabled, youth and children.

Under the guiding idea of home rule, we can build a Wales in which the fundamental rights of Welsh citizens are respected.  We must work to build the alternative, one that will allow us to truly eradicate child poverty and many other social challenges.

 

 

 

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The Tory Regime: A Truth Event

The Three Graces of Politics – The UK General Elections 2015

The Three Graces of Politics

Faith, Hope and Charity

By James Luchte

the hug

Jonathan Jones reminded us recently through “probably a wildly inappropriate pre-feminist art historical reference”, in his article, “Something new is happening in British politics. This image captures it.” (Guardian, 17 April 2015), of the resemblance of the embrace between the party leaders of Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales and Green Party, Leanne Wood, Natalie Bennett and Nicola Sturgeon, respectively and the Three Graces.

The Three Graces are commonly known as faith, hope and charity, but have the tangible meanings of trust, confidence, and love or solidarity,.a symbolism common to many religions and tendencies of thinking.

Indeed, Jonathan’s suggestion is quite apt, and can demonstrate the importance of humanities (crassly cut out of the Coalition’s Tory budget) in the context of political reality. We already know what Burns, Mary and Percy Shelley, Dickens has taught us, and Camus, Joyce, Ginsberg and Dylan Thomas, as contributors to the ethos of a culture which engages in political economic and social questioning from differing perspectives.

This embrace of three progressive leaders, amidst an era of constant crisis, allows us, by coincidence, it would seem, to remember the Three Graces and their significance to the meaning of the New Politics – one of trust, well-being, and social solidarity.

These Graces, or Virtues, in this light, are politically speaking, the characteristics of a healthy society, with some resemblance to Plato’s own tripartite schema in his Republic, and I will consider each of them in turn.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit The Three Graces of Politics: The UK General Electiions

The Liberal Democrats: A Post-Mortem

Go to: Wales in the European Union

Go to: The Ends of the British State in Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist

Go to: “They Destroy, We Create: The Anti-Austerity UK Alliance” in Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist

___________________________

The Liberal Democrats: A Post-Mortem

James Luchte

Libdems looney tunes

The Liberal Democrats began to achieve momentum as a political party in an era in which the Labour government, dominated by the Blairite cliqué, had just embarked with George W. Bush upon a legally questionable invasion of Iraq, killing 1 million people.

In the light of such criminality, the Liberal Democrats were considered in 2005 to be a force for change.

In 2010, with the refusal of the Labour Party to set up an alternative coalition government with the SNP, the monstrosity of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government was born.

The publically stated raison d’etre of the Liberal Democrats was to gain concessions on policy, primarily a referendum on AV. However, as Eluned Parrot, Liberal Democrat, admitted on 2 March 2015 (Sharp End TV), the minority party in a coalition will often be “squeezed” and in the end the Liberal Democrats simply endorsed Tory policy.

Indeed, what is an even greater mystery than Ed Miliband’s decision in 2013 to abandon building a European-wide Anti-Austerity movement is the fact that, even as their Coalition partners actively campaigned against AV, which was defeated (not to mention the entire corrupt ethos of the Coalition government), the Liberal Democrats remained in the Coalition, simply propping up the wholesale demolition of the welfare state.

The Liberal Democrats sold their souls for nothing.

Millions have suffered and died from Tory Austerity policies and the Liberal Democrats are complicit in these policies, and they must take responsibility for their failure of judgement.

The Liberal Democrats should apologise for their betrayal of trust.

So, we return to the General Election of 2015.

The question to the voter was: Should we trust the Liberal Democrat party. seeing them as it wished to seem before the Coalition? Perhaps, such an attitude would be acceptable if the Liberal Democrats were truly at odds with Coalition policy.

Yet, the Liberal Democrats not only propped up the Tories for five years, but also actively voted in favour of Conservative, Neo-Liberal Austerity economics.  They are thus rightly seen as complicit in the damage to the people from the fraud of austerity. Nick Clegg’s pretense to populism only added insult to injury.

We can conclude that the Liberal Democrats, unwilling to apologise for the damage they has done to the people of the United Kingdom, were rewarded for their duplicity by losing all but eight seats in Parliament.

Earthquake: The UK Leaders Debates

Earthquake

The UK Leaders Debates

The UK Leaders Debates Have Served to Rebalance Political Discourse in the UK and Could Determine the Composition of the Next Government.

ed out

As we arrive at the second UK Leaders Debate (Thursday, April 16), there is a recognisable shift in political discourse of the UK. It seems that all the establishment parties are now pandering to the “needs of the people” agenda and are steering away from the “blame the poor” agenda of the far right UKIP.

This seismic shift in UK political discourse was brought about not only by the disintegration of the binary two-party system in the UK, but also by the emergence of viable and credible minority options, such as the Scottish National Party, the Green Party and Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales. Their inclusion in the first debate and their obvious success on that night have altered the landscape of the UK irreversibly. I will not burden you with a detailed history, but will try to describe this new landscape.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit Earthquake: The UK Leaders Debate

The Ends of the British State – Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist

The Ends of the British State in Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist

James Luchte asks what the purpose of a ‘family of nations’ should be. If it is not fit for purpose to nurture and care for its members, then the British state is a failed and dysfunctional family and should be dismantled.

end

The British Wasteland: A History of the Present – Daily Wales: News of a Sovereign Nation

The British Wasteland: A History of the Present

Chapter 1: The British Wasteland: The Toxic Coalition and the Vultures of the Right

Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron

 

On the Toxicity of the Coalition Government and the Cynicism of UKIP and the Tory Right

 

The British Wasteland: The Meaning of Cameron

As we can barely remember the debates between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg, it appears that the odd man out has now obtained legitimacy, stature, plausibility. With our senses still awash with the anti-climactic failure of the Scots to take a bloodless independence that was so nicely gift-wrapped for them, all we can now remember is that Nick Clegg was dreadful and failed to convey the very absurdity of UKIP policy on obvious grounds. The very fact that Nick Clegg stood on the same stage as Nigel Farage was a mistake and revealed his lack of political judgment.  Why were not the other two parties represented, as an all UK debate?  Or, was it, perhaps, merely a job interview for the junior partner of the next Coalition?

Clegg’s follow up criticism of Farage over Ukraine was a pathetic sideshow to the illegal Western involvement in a coup d’etat, in which fascists have now formally entered into the cabinet of a soon-to-be European government for the first time since WWII.  But, we all pretend that that did not happen and condemn Russia instead.  Farage was ironically correct on this issue that the Coalition government has ‘blood on its hands’ over Ukraine, and UKIP has never been as strong as it is today. It is now conceivable to imagine a Coalition Government in which they would be a part, such as a Conservative-UKIP alliance.

 

To read the rest of the article, please visit The British Wasteland

 

UKIP and the Politics of Disruption

European Elections 2014
UKIP and the Politics of Disruption
On the Cynicism of UKIP Candidacies for the European Elections and why the People must reject them

Nigel-Farage

As we dust ourselves off from the recent debates between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg, it appears that the odd man out has now obtained legitimacy, stature, plausibility. Nick Clegg was dreadful and failed to convey the very absurdity of UKIP policy on obvious grounds. The very fact that Nick Clegg stood on the same stage as Nigel Farage was a mistake and revealed his lack of political judgment.  Why were not the other two parties represented, as an all UK debate?  Or, perhaps, it was in fact a job interview for the junior partner in the next Coalition?

Clegg’s follow up criticism of Farage over Ukraine was a pathetic sideshow to the illegal Western involvement in a coup d’etat, in which fascists have now formally entered into the cabinet of a soon-to-be European government for the first time since WWII. Farage was ironically correct on this issue that the Coalition government has ‘blood on its hands’ over Ukraine, and UKIP has never been as strong as it is today. It is now conceivable to imagine a Coalition Government in which they would be a part, such as a Conservative-UKIP alliance.

This article has been updated to The British Wasteland: The History of the Present, Chapter 1: The Toxic Coalition and the Vultures of the Right.  Click here to read UKIP and the Politics of Disruption