I came across a reposting of a letter by former Lib Dem councillor, John Bell, titled, “New Labour Coalition Deal???”
Well I knew the Labour party were losing supporters at a rate of knots, but even I was surprised to see a Labour town Councillor supporting a rival candidate at the recent Pontypridd Town Council by election. Jonathan Bishop, actually wearing a large Labour rosette, was an official counting agent for the Raving Monster Loony candidate. Is this a sign of a new coalition developing? Are Labour that desperate to hold on to power that they will befriend any and all? The losing Labour party candidate was no doubt thrilled by the actions of a member of her own Party.
I guess if history has it’s way the answer to John Bell’s first question is – yes! Mark and I found founded The Pluralist Party, which is a coalition building party!
To answer his second question, I’m afraid it is no. Following that meeting I was suspended from the Labour Group on Pontypridd Town Council. The Labour Party said it could not do anything about this, because it did not recognise town council groups as part of the Labour Party, but gave an exception if the people were not acting in the interests of the Labour Party – whatever that means!
Shortly after this, when I was marginalised by the unrecognised Labour Group on the town council I went into coalition with the two Plaid Cymru members, and called ourselves ‘The One Pontypridd Coalition.’ At this point I was still a member of The Co-operative Party, which had a long-standing non-competition agreement with Labour. The two Plaid Cymru members were directors of a co-operative as I was. Under the international rules of being a co-operative – which the Co-operative Party claimed to be – co-operators should co-operate with other co-operators. This is what I was doing, but I then got expelled from the Co-operative Party for co-operating with other co-operators!
Following this expulsion in stayed in the formal coalition with the Plaid Cymru members until founding the Pluralist Party, when the coalition became less formalised – we co-operated frequently, on issued we agreed, but did not sit as a group. This is an ideal of the Pluralist Party – of which I was its first elected leader – that elected people work together on what they agree on, and put what they disagree on to one side.
One is only a member of the Pluralist Party if one is elected or seeking election. There is no grass roots, because this creates a conflict of interest. It is our founding view that elected members should be accountable to the people, and a situation where the right of someone to be in elected office is subject to the will of grass roots members means there is a risk that party member would try to satisfy their wants and not their constituencies. So on this basis, anyone can stand for the Pluralist Party if enough members of the public sign their nomination form, even if a different member is already standing in the ward.
The Pluralist Party has no policies or manifestos – each member standing for election has their own. Of those that are elected to a particular body, they will be expected to form a ‘programme for government’ by choosing the individual policies from their manifestos that they agree on. Even if they don’t form a majority government, they will seek to place amendments to others’ policies and motions that help reflect this programme for government. On the detail and every other policy decision they would have free speech and a free vote.
The situation going on in Parliament with the Leveson Inquiry implementation is the perfect example of what pluralism should look like in action. David Cameron has walked out of cross-party talks, but his coalition partners the Lib Dems have said they will vote against him by pooling their votes with Labour. In this instance, the parties are de-facto voting together on a policy and not being opposition for oppositions sake. So it will mean that unless David Cameron resumes talks to find a cross-party consensus – like should happen under pluralism – then he won’t get anything of what he wants.
If there were a majority of Pluralist Party MPs elected to the House of Commons, the side of the House they would sit on would be different for every issue. Those Pluralist Party MPs who were in agreement with a motion would sit to the right of the Speaker (where the ‘Ayes’ are) and those who are in disagreement with an individual motion would sit to the left of the Speaker (where the ‘Noes’ are). Adversarial politics is not bad – in many cases it is essential to pluralism. What is bad is party politics.
Adversarial politics means each side can argue their polarised view – for and against a motion. It becomes pluralist when after arguing one’s point of view passionately and intellectually, a common consensus is reached. In every issue there will be a lose-lose outcome, which is one no one really wants – which I call ‘the third way.’
The ‘fourth way’ of pluralism would involve taking the best of the first side’s views, the best of the second side’s view, and ditch the third way to come to a consensus that gives everyone who believes in the first two ways what they want, without giving them the elements of the first and second ways that one or the other does not want full stop.
So in effect, John Bell has hit the same on the head – coalition building is something that would happen between Mark Beech, who is still in the Loony Party, and myself, even though on most issues we disagree! His idea of ‘Labour desperate to hold on to power they will befriend anyone’ is a nonsense. A Pluralist Party politician would befriend anyone who agreed with them on a particular issue, yet on a different issue they would ‘defriend’ them if they disagreed on that issue, and then ‘refriend’ them on another issue if they agreed! So under pluralism there would be an on-going and ad-hoc coalition between elected members, which would be based on debating public policy rather that trying to force party policy.
Nick Clegg has said that he wants to remove non-means-tested-benefits from the rich, such as bus passes and the winter fuel allowance, if they are pensioners.
I disagree with means-testing as a principle, including income tax where it is based on income. Whether one is on benefits with a income cap of around £1,500 or on the 20% tax rate with a ceiling of around £35,000, one will not allow oneself to go above that.
This is a fundamental flaw in the way the tax and benefits system works in this country. People are not rewarded for taking risk to improve their income status, but penalised for doing so.
The people who can get around this are the most rich, whether self-made millionaires, or the graving jumping rich who inherit centuries of wealth from their ancestors which they could never fully use in a life time. If you are in the former camp you can pay yourself in dividends from your firm and only pay 10% tax, or in the case of the latter you can pay yourself out of income from trusts and often avoid tax that way.
The first is not entirely a problem for me. I think anyone who works for a firm they own shares in should only pay 10% tax on that ‘entrepreneurial income.’ Whether this is a checkout operator at Tesco with shares in Tesco, a member of staff at John Lewis, or indeed someone who built up a firm and is paid a lot in dividends. I would say anyone who has ‘entrepreneurial income’ such as people who are self-employed or freelance should also only pay 10% on that income.
I do have a problem with means testing essential benefits, such as bus passes for the elderly and disabled (which encourage both to go into the community), and the ones people like me get on tax credits, like free prescriptions anywhere in the UK, free eye tests, and even free court filing.
In essence I believe in “paracetamol for millionaires.” People should never be penalised for wanting to earn more and means testing does that. Free prescriptions are needed whether one has around £3k on benefits or on a £30k salary.
If someone on benefits goes into work for a the minimum wage full time, it could cost them most of the essentials they need, such as free healthcare. However much you earn, would you want to earn more if doing so would mean you would lose all your free healthcare on the NHS? Most would say no, so most can appreciate the trap caused by means testing, including of income tax.
My solution is to introduce three flat tax rates – 10%, 20% and 40%. Entrepreneurs should pay 10%, as should people returning to work for the first time. 20% would be paid by people claiming out of work benefits, so one pays less tax when one is in work compared to when one is out of work. 10% income tax for entrepreneurs, which is also less than the 20% for benefits, would also encourage someone on out-of-work benefits to become self-employed if one can’t otherwise find a job.
Who else pays the 20% or 40% tax rate depends on the government of the day. One government might want 40% to be levied on high paid vocations, like medical doctors and lawyers, other might want to use it to influence the market, such as 20% in area where there aren’t enough workers, and 40% where there are too many.
However income tax and benefits are calculated, it should not be based on income, as this discourages people earning more, whether in work or out of work, if they are nearing their income threshold and would be penalised for going above it.
In summary; the current benefits/tax system in the UK promotes conservatism as opposed to capitalism. We are forced to give up opportunity for stability and security, and this needs to change.
In 2004 I was a finalist in an Atos Origin sponsored competition in the elected representative category. It is quite disappointing that years later Atos Origin are leading the unnesessary inhuman and degrading treatment of disabled people.
The Coalition Government of Conservatives and Lib Dems has commissioned Atos to assess people on Incapacity Benefit or Employment and Support Allowance to see if they are fit for work so they can be taken off these benefits. The have devised a ‘Work Capability Assessment’ (WCA).
THESE WCA’S ARE POINTLESS! – If one looks at Stephen Hawking it is easy to see that there is no one incapable of work if they are given the right support. Why put disabled people through all this torment by Atos? Why don’t the government just abolish ESA and IB first as last and put all disabled people currently on these on JobSeekers Allowance, but with a ‘disability premium’?
The problem as I see it, as someone who was on Incapacity Benefit for a number of years, disabled people on this do actually feel like they can’t work. One wants to work, but one is afraid to knowing it might not work out – torturing people with these Atos WCA assessments won’t solve that. When I was forced off incapacity benefit I was working only 8 hours, and was told that as I could work 8 hours that I must be able to work 16. Fortunately I was working for my father’s firm and was able to work for 16, even though my productivity was not worth the 16 hours I was being paid. My full story is in the video below.
In 2010 I had over 10 years of work experience – including volunteer work – and became a Fellow of BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT. Yet even with this, and three degrees, even when I applied for and got a job I was capable of, my employer refused to make reasonable adjustments. Using my employment insurance with BCS I took legal action and we reached a settlement out of court, which I can’t talk much more about.
Taking this into account, you can see how unrealistic the governments idea of using the Atos WCA assessments as a means to get people currently on IB and ESA into work is. Being on JSA would be much more of a help, as claimants could slowly get back into the swing of things and skills and knowledge they need. It is my view that it would be better to prepare disabled people for self-employment. This is what I’m doing now, and it is on my terms. I don’t have to worry about not getting reasonable adjustments from any employer, as I can get help from Access2Work, which is often referred to as the government’s best kept secret.
It is clear from my experience that disabled people can go from welfare to work, but it is not going to be easy, and this harassment through these Atos WCA assessments won’t help. The short sharp shock of moving me off IB and forcing me to take tax credits was not as torturous as what the government is putting disabled people claiming ESA or IB through with these Atos assessments. The government should do the right thing and assume that all disabled people can work, and they shouldn’t make them have to prove they can’t in order to get help through torture by Atos through these Work Capacity Assessments.
The WCA assessments being done by Atos sicken me, and for me putting IB/ESA claimants on JSA with a ‘disability premium’ would be fairer and more proportionate to get disabled people out of the trap they are in – as I was in – without de facto expecting them to find work as an employee they will never find with their low skills and experience, if one considers I could not get employment with reasonable adjustments – I now have 4 degrees and over 13 years work experience and if I were not self-employed I may not have the opportunities I have today.
I read the recent spat between Karen Roberts and her former colleagues in the Observer with concern. It seems that the Liberal Democrats and independents are in turmoil, not knowing whom to stab in the back next.
The Liberals, under the stewardship of Ms Roberts and her worrying existence of a colleague Councillor Mike Powell, have treated the people of Cilfynydd with such contempt. First they select a candidate who saw himself earning over
I have High Functioning Autism, this means I am very clever, but can’t feel the way others can feel. I can still show that I care, but it’s a rational concern for others based on values about what is right and wrong that I learned from discrimination as a child, rather than one based on emotion.
I am also a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer, something I spent 10 years of my life working towards. I was even willing to give up a grant from the European union worth over £20,000 to be a Fellow of the BCS, so if my party asked to go against my beliefs and lie, like they tried to do Aneurin Bevan, who gave up his cabinet position because they tried to force him to vote against his belief in nationalisation, then I would resign like he did.
I think all politicians should have to say where stand on all the significant policies, fundamental to the country’s functioning that are in the UK Citizenship Test so they have less opportunity to say different things to different people, base on his knowledge of whether they are socialist, capitalist, liberal or conservative.
As the people of Treforest know I stood against John Bell at the last election. They knew I was autistic, but didn’t know That John was dyslexic.Had they known than the same understandable worries the ruling body of the Labour Party (the NEC) had about me would have been cancelled out. During this elected I was told shopkeeper in Treforest at the election that John Bell was telling people I had autism. I trust them to have told me the truth – why would they lie? Also, the Chair of RCT Lib Dems Karen Roberts, stirred things up by posting to the Pontytown forum saying ‘Is this Man (me) fit to be a town councillor’. I am honest, if I were to lie, I could be ‘impeached’ by the British Computer Society and possibly lose everything I’ve woeked for. So I would like the public to have access to ‘the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ about politicians. So if I got my way, John Bell would have had to have declared his dyslexia like I did my autism – Then we would have been on a level playing field.
Even if this happened and politicians were made to tell the truth, the media would still have the powers to tell lies about them and damage their character. David Cameron can’t make a speech without the Daily Mirror spreading mistruths about him. Ed Miliband can’t make a speech without the Daily Mail misrepresenting him. A similar thing happened to me recently – the press said I was a “nominated” councillor who hadn’t been elected by the public. This was a mistruth: I had been nominated by two prominent members of the community and then no one stood against me so I was elected unopposed. I see this as no less democratic than when Bill Clinton stood for the very senior position of Attorney General, which while making my position of a town councillor seem insignificant, the principle stills applies â€“ My election to public office was no less legitimate that his.
So, in addition to making politicians provide more information to the public and think while there should be freedom of the press to say what they want, they should be made to give the public the chance to test whether what they are saying is correct. My mother reads her paper as a way to relax and escape from the real world. My father on the other hand watches the news on the TV to relax and unwind. But I, like many other people read and watch the news to see what is going on in the world, in search of the “truth”, which even if we don’t find it, it won’t stop us looking. So what I’d like is this:
Whenever the media reports on a speech by a politician (whether in Parliament or in public) they should have to provide an Internet address of where their readers can go to see the original, such as ‘Hansard’ or the Prime Minister’s website, or Leader of the Opposition’s for example
I would like the rules of the game of politics to change as I say about – so that people like me who are upfront and honest are not disadvantaged when contesting elections. Do you think if the public had known that within days of George Bush getting into office he was preparing for a war against Saddam Hussein they would have voted for him? I don’t’ and that’s why I want the public to have full access to information, so they can make an informed decision, like I am giving them the chance to do by putting everything I have said and done since 2002, including my weblog, letters to the press, press releases and news coverage on my website for all to see.
If I am being upfront and honest with the public, why shouldn’t other politicians have to. The media, through fairly holding these politicians to account by providing the public with full access to the information they need, then maybe politics will mean more genuine people like Gordon Brown and me will be in politics.
A ROYAL British Legion branch has slammed a proposed boundary change as an “insult and a humiliation to the people of Ynysybwl”.
There have been mixed reactions to the planned boundary changes within Rhondda Cynon Taff, which include the Rhondda ward of Pontypridd merging with the Graig.
Other changes planned by the Boundary Commission for Wales are the merging of Ynysybwl and Coed-y-Cwm with Abercynon, which will become the Abercynon ward.
Beddau and Llantrisant Town will combine to become Llantrisant and there will be one more councillor in the new ward.
Church Village and Tonteg will be given the new title of Church Village while the Rhondda ward of Pontypridd will combine with the Graig community of Pontypridd to form a division called Pontypridd West and Rhondda and Glyncoch will become Rhondda.
Hawthorn will merge with Taffs Well to become Hawthorn ward, with an increase from three to four councillors.
Llanharan and Brynna will become Llanharan while Talbot Green and Pontyclun will be known as Pontyclun. Treforest and Rhydyfelin will become Treforest.
The Trallwng and the Graig communities will merge as Trallwng.
Pontypridd MP Owen Smith said: “I’m delighted that common sense has prevailed and the commission has recognised the madness of what they first proposed, sticking together communities that have no traditional ties, and has instead recognised that political boundaries should reflect traditional communities and local identities.“
But the Welsh Liberal Democrats have criticised the latest ward boundary review claiming it is a complete waste of time and money.
Pontypridd Assembly candidate Coun Mike Powell said: “There are some very welcome changes in the final report with regard to certain wards.
“However, it seems to me that this has been nothing other than an extremely costly exercise which will have little positive impact on the lives of residents.”
Pontypridd Assembly candidate, Plaid Cymru’s Ioan Bellin, said: “It is important that Taffs Well and Nantgarw retains its own identity.
Creating a new ward of Llantrisant and Talbot Green rather than merging Talbot Green with Pontyclun seems to make sense.
Having another councillor for Pontyclun should ensure an enhanced service and level of representation for the electorate there.
The Ynysybwl branch of the Royal British Legion has attacked the proposals, claiming the proposed name of Abercynon is “an insult and a humiliation of the people of Ynysybwl“.
There was support for the proposals from Treforest Town Councillor Jonathan Bishop and Llanharan Community Councillor Jeff Williams.
The Beddau and Tynant Ward’s Labour party also back the proposals.
The commission’s chairman Paul Wood said in his report that a review had been taken of the total number of councillors representing each electoral division.
He said: “As far as possible I want to restore fairness so that councillors generally represent the same number of people.”
A spokeswoman for the Boundary Commission said that the proposals are planned to be implemented in 2012.
It was interesting to read Glyn Morris’ letter about the Lib Dems’ claims to be the rightful party to represent Pontypridd (Viewpoints, April 22).
They based their claims on the results of a local election in which they came first only two years earlier, but also in which some of their vote went to the Loony Party! While the Loonies seem likely to take more votes from the Lib Dems in Cardiff Central after coming above them in a poll of Cardiff students, here in Pontypridd things are looking much worse for them.
Of the numerous elections over the past two years in Pontypridd in which the Green Party stood, the Lib Dems always lost and Labour always won, including in a seat the Lib Dems held for a decade. In the election last year in which both the Greens and UKIP stood the Lib Dems came fifth. And guess what? Both the Greens and UKIP are standing in Pontypridd in this General Election.
With Nick Clegg making his party’s policy on Europe look like a cross between a German Shepherd and a French poodle (ever closer union, even less influence), these minor parties look even more likely to take votes away from the Lib Dems.
While the TV debates have given Nick Clegg the legitimacy of the established leaders, the people of Pontypridd and the UK as a whole are not stupid. They know that voting Lib Dem instead of Labour means either a David Cameron victory or a hung Parliament and that neither will be good for the economic recovery, in which a majority government willing to work with European and other world partners is needed.
Leaflets criticising postmen for dropping litter have been found discarded at the side of a path.
Copies of the May edition of the Vale Liberal Democrats newsletter Focus, were found spilling out of a plastic bag in Barry Island.
Jonathan Bishop, 26, who is disabled, was walking with his friends when he came across the discarded leaflets on a footpath leading to the beach.
Mr Bishop, of Cliff Terrace, Treforest, who runs the Clean Treforest campaign, said: “There were about 20 leaflets. I was disgusted to find them. These leaflets printed by the Liberal Democrats claim that we would all benefit from keeping our streets litter-free, yet they have discarded their leaflets in an area enjoyed by many.”
He reported the matter to the local council after finding the leaflets on Sunday. Vale Liberal Democrat Rainer Behrens, who works on the Focus newsletter, said he was not aware the leaflets had been dumped.
He said: “I had instructed someone to deliver them on Saturday, but had a call from a colleague saying they had not been received in the Illtyd ward.
“I am pleased to have been told about this, but annoyed that they weren’t delivered. We are very strict about litter, and are strongly against littering and fly-tipping.”
In the newsletter, Mark Hooper, parliamentary spokesman for the Vale, says he has written to Royal Mail asking them to make sure postmen pick up the rubber bands.
He said: “The Royal Mail could save lots of money by reusing these bands. Theyâ€™d also help to keep our streets litter free. All of us would benefit.”
A Royal Mail spokesman: “Royal Mail uses millions of rubber bands each year. As with any labour intensive organisation, errors will occasionally happen. I can assure you that issues concerning the environment are very important to us.
“As there appears to be a number of rubber bands being dropped in the Barry area, this information has been passed to local delivery office manager.”
The behaviour of opposition parties that forced the Assembly Government to refer the seating arrangements issue to a committee demonstrates the complete immaturity of the political process in Wales.
With the voting technology in the Assembly, this issue could have been dealt with in two minutes.
Instead the Welsh tax-payer is going to have to foot the bill for discussion on a matter that in other democracies would not be an issue.
As one of the youngest politicians in Wales, I hoped the Assembly would be an example to my generation of how democracy could be both modern and relevant.
I believed the significant achievements of the Assembly before the election meant politicians had grown-up and were fit to represent one of the newest and most inclusive democratic institutions. I guess I was wrong.