Statement on the Scottish Referendum

I welcome this result but no one would be fooled by the idea that this is an endorsement of the status quo.

We have to accept that this is a strong mandate for greater federalism in the UK, for decades now the Celtic Nations have been calling for greater devolution and the English regions like Cornwall and the North are reigniting their desire for greater autonomy. I think Ed Miliband’s plans for greater city autonomy clearly shows Labour is the party to deliver on these ideals shared by much of the of British people.

And in Westminster we need to accept that decisiveness is urgent to finally address our constitutional issues including the House or Lords, which I have been calling for my entire parliamentary career.

People throughout the UK will not stand for inertia from Whitehall and the House of Commons any longer.

This referendum has woken up political engagement in the UK and that is something to be celebrated, it’s absolutely vital that we take heed of that but it’s what all of Britain, regardless of political creed wants.

There is a strong case for the Committee Stage of English-only Bills to be scrutinised and amendments debated by English MPs only.  But it would be fatal to balkanise Westminster by creating first and second class MPs for votes on the floor of the Commons.  Otherwise only London MPs should decide on laws for London and so on, and crucially the Prime Minister would in practice be elected by English MPs alone since the PM would have to command a majority in the ‘England section’ of Westminster.  The solution is devolution in England coupled with a federal UK Parliament in which English MPs would as they do now dominate, comprising 80 per cent of all MPs.

Hain warns of Skeleton Services for Local Authorities if magnitude of callous Westminster cuts continues

David Cameron has been warned by Peter Hain that continuing to slash budgets for local authorities will have irreversible consequences and leave Councils with the bare minimum of services. His letter comes as local authorities look to make further savings to plug their budget deficits with Neath Port Talbot looking at a cut of between £50 and £60million on top of the £30million already taken out in the last five years.

In a stinging letter to the Prime Minster the Neath MP said, ‘I am deeply perturbed by the devastating effect your Government’s swingeing cuts are having on the ability of local authorities to carry out their functions.

‘Difficult decisions have already been made to cut highly valued services and to reduce the size of the workforce to enable the Council to meet the budget shortfall. Only through the hard work of the Councillors, Officers, Trade Unions and staff have compulsory redundancies been avoided, which is vital given the high unemployment rate in the constituency.

‘If cuts of this magnitude continue to be passed down from Westminster, which is what local authorities are anticipating until 2020, it will effectively reduce them to the bare minimum of providing the statutory functions required of them. Local services will be decimated and no longer meet the taxpayer’s own expectations. Questions will be asked over the role of Councils with reduced functions and services. However I fear that this is the Government’s long term aim – to reduce the functions and role of local authorities to the point that they are no longer viable or necessary.

‘Substantial cuts have already been made to Neath Port Talbot’s budget with many of the visible services affected, libraries closed or transferred to local groups, the once gold standard service of school crossing patrols has been reduced to national standards, funding to third sector groups cut and jobs lost.

‘The further cuts of between £50 and£60million are a fifth of Neath Port Talbot’s total budget. The trajectory of these cuts emanating from Westminster is unsustainable.

‘Cuts of this magnitude are forcing Councils to think of costs and changes are being driven by savings, which is not what local representatives were elected to do and not what many of the workforce came into public service for. For many it is heart breaking not to be able to provide the standard of service they would like.

‘At a time when you and the Chancellor laud that the economy is growing these continuing cuts are out of step with your own proclamations. If the economy is doing as well as you profess then I fully expect the Welsh settlement to increase.

‘If on the other hand it continues to be reduced I fear that very soon local authorities will reach a crisis point in delivering services and will not be able to meet the demands placed on them. The implications for the future will be major and it is questionable whether the effects can even be reversed.

‘Margaret Thatcher’s legacy in Neath is the decimation of the mining communities yours will be the decimation of all communities with the dismantling of local government and the services they provide. Quite simply the continuation of the callous cuts by the Government will leave local authorities, including Neath Port Talbot with skeleton services and this cannot be allowed to happen.’

Letter to David Cameron – Budget Cuts

Hain welcomes State of the Coalfields Report

Former Secretary of State for Wales Peter Hain has criticised the Westminster Government for failing to help the valleys communities in South Wales.

Mr Hain was speaking after the release of a publication by Sheffield Hallam University and Coalfield’s Regeneration Trust called “The State of the Coalfields” which claims that South Wales is suffering a disproportionate level of deprivation due to a lack of funding from central government.

The report concluded that the South Wales coal belt was lagging behind the regeneration of other former industrial centres such as Durham, with 17% of people unemployed on average throughout the South Wales Valleys.

The MP for Neath said, “the Valley communities I represent are crying out for Westminster Government investment to create jobs and growth, yet all they get is more and more austerity.”

“This program of cuts and carelessness will be repeated for another five years if the Conservatives get re-elected because that is what they have promised.”

“Since Mrs Thatcher closed all those mines in the 1980s, our Valleys have been fighting to get respect from the Tories.”

“I therefore welcome the publication of “The State of the Coalfields” report, it paints a stark picture of the employment shortfall in coalfield areas, as well as the struggles communities face with a legacy ill of health and disabilities.”

 “When the Government crows about recovery they are ignoring large parts of the UK which have not recovered from the hit of the latest recession, this message must be driven home.”

“Last week we saw the Oxfam Breadline report which highlighted the food poverty that is having a devastating effect on local communities throughout Britain.”

David Williamson: Peter Hain was a big beast from Wales – will Westminster see his like again?

By David Williamson 

The Neath MP has never known a quiet life – and he is not about to retreat from the public stage now.

There was an echo of Tony Benn when Peter Hain last week announced he was to leave the House of Commons where he has served as MP for Neath since 1991.

Just as the late Labour left-winger announced his own departure from parliament on the grounds he planned to “spend more time on politics”, Mr Hain made it very clear that he has no intention of stepping off the public stage. This is not a bowing-out act but the transition to a new act.

Using Twitter, he said he was “moving on to remain active in politics, campaigning for justice, freedom, equality, democracy”.

This will not be the second act in 64-year-old Mr Hain’s career but at least the third. As the 19-year-old chairman of the Stop the Seventy Tour he sprang to national attention as a vociferous anti-apartheid campaigner who disrupted the all-white Springbok rugby tour of Britain. The cancellation of that year’s cricket tour was a major victory which cemented his reputation as a young South African ready to rock the establishment.

Mr Hain has never displayed any inclination towards a quiet life, although that was never an option for him.

His parents received “banning orders” from the South African regime as a result of their anti-apartheid activities and took the family to Britain only when it became impossible to earn a living in their homeland. Due to his own campaigning, Mr Hain was sent a letter bomb and the UK Government put him under surveillance.

He was a founder member of the Anti-Nazi League in 1977, a move which cemented his status as an enemy of the British far right. The UK had no shortage of radical left-wing parties at this time but Mr Hain switched his allegiance from the Young Liberals, where he had been president, to Labour.

A job as head of research at the Union of Communication Workers immersed him in the world of Britain’s trade unions and his victory in the 1991 Neath by-election ensured he would put down roots in Labour’s Welsh heartlands. Many of Labour’s rising stars gravitated to seats in the former industrial heartlands at this time but the move proved particularly meaningful for Mr Hain, who has embraced a political identity as a “libertarian socialist”.

In his statement last week he made it clear we should not expect to see a “for sale” sign anytime soon at his Aberdulais home.

He wrote of his constituents: “They warmly welcomed me as an outsider, and members of my family subsequently moved to the Neath Valley where I will remain living after I have stepped down and continue to support Labour in our mission to build a better Neath.”

In Government, he would serve as Welsh Secretary, play a central role in securing a Yes vote in the 1997 Assembly referendum and lay the legislative foundation for the 2011 public vote on primary law-making powers.

His wife, Elizabeth Haywood, is one of the highest-profile figures in Wales’ business community as a former chair of CBI Wales and a Welsh Woman of the Year winner.

Critics may wish more powers had come the Assembly’s way while he was at the helm, and the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition came the closest to splitting in 2009 when a joint-statement by Mr Hain and First Minister Rhodri Morgan signalled their party would not start consulting on the All Wales Convention’s referendum recommendations until after the 2010 election. Ahead of the 2007 election he insisted there was “no prospect” of Labour doing a deal with Plaid and in February 2011 he urged his party to “kick the nationalists out of government”.

Nevertheless, Mr Hain was on the stage at the Welsh College of Music and Drama that night in 1997 when the victory for the Yes campaign was announced. He speaks with pride of delivering devolution and – from his perspective as a Labour MP with Scots about to vote on independence in less than 100 days – he may well feel he was justified in his concerns about the entry of nationalists to government.

But one of the most striking aspects of his parliamentary career is how he was both intimately involved in Wales’s constitutional evolution and yet played a role on the frontline of Westminster politics.

Today, ambitious young Welsh politicians face the choice between fighting for a seat in an Assembly in which they will not have a say on international affairs, defence and, for the time being, welfare, or seeking to enter Westminster where they will not be able to vote on Wales’ health or education policies. It is interesting to ask where Aneurin Bevan would go if he was starting out today.

As a foreign minister and later a Work & Pensions Secretary, Leader of the House of Commons and Northern Ireland Secretary, Mr Hain was a big beast from Wales. When he brought Sinn Fein and the DUP together in government jaws dropped around the world – his intimate knowledge of a nation other than England can only have helped him in this role.

UK politics will be diminished if we do not see his like again but the man himself is not preparing to escape the spotlight. Rather, a new adventure may be about to begin.

Full article here:

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/westminster-see-like-peter-hain-7241924

Don’t write off Ed Miliband – he’s on course to lead the biggest party after the election

Observer

I may be wrong, but I think the Westminster bubble (media and politicians) is misreading the council and Euro elections.

Yes, Labour hasn’t done spectacularly well. Yet, despite the odd indifferent photocall and broadcast, Ed Miliband won Tory flagships from Hammersmith to Harrow and other key Tory-Labour marginals which will determine whether he or David Cameron is in No 10 after May 2015.

But the real point is that the goalposts have been moved. We are no longer in the two-party battle by which conventional wisdom has long – and, it has to be said, accurately – judged the political terrain. We are in new and psephologically uncharted politics.

The party political system is bust – and Ed Miliband is the only leader to understand that and to attempt to transform Labour from an obsolete party, like the Tories and Lib Dems, into a “community-based movement”. The result of Thursday’s poll is a “plague on all your houses”, and Ukip has capitalised on that anti-politics mood very effectively. So, for three decades, did the Lib Dems – before they sold their souls.

There has been a dramatic decline in voter turnout: from more than 80% in the 1951 general election, to 65% in 2010. In the 1950s and 1960s, Labour and the Tories regularly took 90% of the vote (it was 97% in 1951). That plummeted to 67% in 2010. For Labour and the Tories, a third of their voters have vanished. The Tories won with 40% of the electorate’s votes in 1951, but by 2010 could claim only half that – a miserly 23%. Even Labour’s “landslide” win in 1997 was achieved with only 31% of eligible voters.

Leave aside Ukip’s reactionary politics and plain bigotry. The writing should have been on the wall for the main parties. Tory defectors to Ukip have a visceral, ideological distrust of Cameron and the Tories – a deep sense of betrayal. They voted Ukip because they meant it – and most will stay.

White working-class Labour defectors were protesting against the political establishment which, for the past couple of decades, they feel has let them down. And with his radical policies for stable, affordable rents, 200,000 new homes a year, a living wage and attacks on the bloated elites who run our economy, Ed Miliband is the only party leader for decades to speak for their grievances.

When these Labour-orientated voters are faced with letting in the Tories who have so damaged them and are changing Britain from a compassionate to an ugly society, my belief is they will return to the fold, while the bulk of Tory defectors will not.

Don’t write off Ed Miliband – the fashion of the moment in the political class. He remains on course to lead the biggest party after the general election in today’s new and volatile politics.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/may/25/ed-miliband-understands-party-system-is-bust