A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Welsh recipe for failure

The right-wing Thatcherite mantra of private wealth and public squalor is writ large in the propaganda coming from all of the mainstream parties. We are told that we now have to pay for the "good times" enjoyed in the 14 years of "prosperity" under Labour. The only difference, but a big one economically, is that the Tories want to grind the people sooner rather than later. Wales has been one of the main victims of the boom-and-bust cycle of capitalism. It has paid a high price for both - horrendous exploitation of its peoples and countryside in boom times and bad housing, health and unemployment in the slumps, which it is still suffering from because of distant and recent history. We need an election manifesto to strike the right note here, urging working people to rise up and fight against attempts to make them pay for the capitalist crisis and demanding that the fat cats must pick up the tab for their own bail-out. Despite the "limited choice" on offer from the main parties, the CPB expresses its "clear and unambiguous preference for the election of a Labour government rather than a Tory one," while pointing out that people cannot rely on elections or parliaments alone to defend their interests. "If they want to protect jobs, wages, services, pensions and their rights at work, they must also take action wherever and whenever necessary," it declares. There is however another dimension that is now in jeopardy, particularly in Wales - devolved democracy.

Its extension would assist working people in the fightback against cuts, but the Tories would undoubtedly curtail the process. Wales, alongside Scotland and Northern Ireland, has secured through devolution greater control over powers that affect the day-to-day lives of people in the nation. Devolved power in areas such as health and education have brought more progressive policies and prevented reactionary ones. All the signs are that the Tories, if elected, would seek to rein in the relatively limited powers that have so far been granted to Wales and would resist the will of the Welsh people - now increasingly evident - to support more powers for the assembly. The latest evidence for this view came as parliamentary business was wound up in advance of the general election. An order that would have granted the Wales Assembly the power to halt the sell-off of council houses in order to maintain and increase the stock of homes available to less well-off members of the populace was voted out by the Tory leadership.

Another indication of the Tories' stance towards democracy in Wales was their attitude to the government's Independently Funded News Consortium project in Wales, a scheme aimed at providing entertainment and information to a Welsh public currently very poorly served by their media. A bid was accepted from a consortium involving Ulster TV and a north Wales newspaper group entitled Wales Live to take over a failing ITV service. Wales Live managing director Michael Wilson said the consortium would provide a "fresh and authoritative news service to the whole of Wales across TV, online and radio with the current ITV Wales news team. "Wales Live will reflect fully the needs of a devolved nation in conjunction with local and community media across both north and south Wales." The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so go the saying goes, but the new TV station in Mold, as well as providing jobs and apprenticeships, should lead to a better-informed public, boost democracy and encourage greater participation in the political process. However even before the bid had been accepted Tory shadow, culture, media and sport secretary Jonathon Hunt warned that if the pilot project went ahead it would not be honoured by an incoming Conservative government.

It seems they would prefer the current failed, hands-off approach to business that allows so-called entrepreneurs dipping in with little scrutiny and no-holds-barred treatment of staff training, wages and conditions. If that's the case then we can expect a downward spiral in content aimed at maximising profits in a dash for diminishing advertising revenues. An informed public will be the last thing on the agenda.

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