Sunday, January 27, 2019


The 27th January (today) is Holocaust Memorial Day, which each year commemorates the day (in 1945) when the Red Army liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. Now, perhaps more than ever, we should take time to remember the millions of people who have been murdered or whose lives have been changed beyond recognition during the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and in other subsequent horrors which have followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, BosniaDarfur and Syria.

We should also forever remember the earlier genocides that inflicted on the Armenians and the Ukrainians. It is only right and proper that we honour the survivors and continue to challenge ourselves to use the lessons of their experience to inform our lives today.

By the end of the Holocaust, six million Jewish men, women and children had perished in ghettos, mass-shootings, in concentration camps and extermination camps. As Allied troops made progress across Nazi-occupied Europe, they began to uncover concentration and extermination camps. The camp of Majdanek in Poland was the first to be liberated, in summer 1944.

Faced with defeat and advancing Allied armies Nazi forces burnt the crematoria and the mass graves in attempts to hide the crimes that they had committed. The  Operation Reinhardt camps of Sobibor, Belzec, and Treblinka were dismantled by the Nazis from 1943, and Auschwitz itself was evacuated in late 1944. The surviving prisoners, weak from starvation and ill-treatment, and poorly clothed against elements were forced to walk into the interior of Germany, away from the Allied armies, many thousands died on the enforced ‘death marches’. 

When Soviet soldiers liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau on 27th January 1945,  they found several thousand emaciated survivors, and the smouldering remains of the gas chambers and crematoria. In the following months, the Soviets liberated Stutthof, Sachsenhausen and Ravensbruck.

In the west, US troops liberated Buchenwald in April 1945, followed by Flossenburg, Dachau and Mauthausen. British Troops liberated Bergen-Belsen on 15th April 1945. It is estimated there were over 60,000 prisoners in Belsen by April 1945. Approximately 35,000 prisoners died of typhus, malnutrition and starvation in the first few months of 1945.

Jewish leaders, were once asked by Tony Blair (the then UK prime minister) do we need Holocaust Memorial Day in Britain? Jonathan Sacks (former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth for 22 years, until 2013) noted that this was the question from Tony Blair in 1999, when it was proposed that the UK have a Holocaust Memorial Day, and Blair wanted the opinion of British Jewish leaders. They explained that they did not need a specific day to remember as Jews.

When it comes to remembrance Jewish people already had Yom ha-Shoa, their own memorial day, which falls soon after Passover in the Jewish calendar. Every Jew literally (or figuratively) lost family in the Holocaust. For Jews, Yom ha-Shoa is a grief observed. 

Jewish leaders said that the Holocaust was not just a crime against Jews and other victims – Roma, Sinti, homosexuals, the handicapped, Jehovah’s Witnesses and political opponents of the Nazi’s among them; it was an assault on all of humanity.  As has been said by a survivor previously perhaps we really need additional eleventh commandment along the lines of – Don’t be bystander! 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


Research shows worst inequality in Europe is between London and Wales 

Leaving the EU will devastate regional development, Jill Evans MEP

The worst regional inequality in Europe is between London and Wales, new research has found.

The research from the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) also found that the UK would be entitled to €13 billion (in excess of £11 billion) of regional development funding for the 2021-2027 cycle. This funding is given to poorer regions in an attempt to boost their economic performance and development. The current funding cycle runs from 2014-2020, during which time Wales is expected to have received £2.06 billion in support from the EU. Based on the CPMR’s research Wales would miss out on around £2.5 billion over the next cycle which runs from 2021-2027.

Plaid Cymru’s MEP, Jill Evans, has said that the research shows that “Brexit and increased inequality are inextricably linked”.

The shocking new figures show that the richest region in the UK, Inner London, has a GDP of 614% of the EU average, compared to the UK’s poorest region, West Wales and the Valleys, with a GDP of 68% of the EU average. This means there is a 546% difference in comparative average GDP between the two regions.

The research shows levels of regional disparities in the UK are worsening, with Wales at the bottom of the table. East Wales, which was considered a 'more developed region', would now be downgraded to a 'transition region'.

Plaid Cymru MEP, Jill Evans said:

"These figures should be a source of shame for the Westminster Government.

“Brexit and increased inequality are inextricably linked. The facts are irrefutable.   

“These figures confirm that like the past decade of austerity, it will not be those that created this chaos that will shoulder its burden, but the communities least equipped to cope.  

“If we want to end this shocking inequality, leaving the EU is the last thing Wales should do. Losing crucial European funding would be devastating for Wales and I have no confidence that Westminster will give us any such support.

"Inequality in the UK is the highest of any member state in the EU. London is overheating, whilst Wales’s economy is weakening.

"Day after day, the terrible effects of Brexit on Wales become ever clearer and the lies of the Brexiteers more exposed. A People's Vote, with the option of remaining in the EU is now necessary for the sake of our democracy, society and economy.”

Questioning the Welsh Government minister for rural affairs during a session in the chamber today Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for the Economy Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said:

Wales faces losing out on huge sums of money from regional EU funding. The research estimates that if the UK were to stay in the EU it would receive £11.3 bn of regional funding between 2021-27 – a 22% increase compared to 2014-20. Does the minister agree that this strengthens the argument in favour of holding a People’s Vote to plead the case of our rural industries?”



The full research can be found here 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


A shapeless transfer of power from nominated successor to nominated successor within the folds of Cymru / Wales's equivalent of the old unreconstructed barely awake local branch of CPSU (Labour in Wales) is unlikely to encourage any optimism on the part of observers of our fledgling democracy post BREXIT. A former Plaid candidate once to me that to perform the same action time and time again is one thing, but, to do it and to expect a different result is simply foolish.  

To expect Labour in Wales to shake of its self indulgent lethargy (especially having spent years redefining inertia) is similarly foolish. Simply waiting for a Labour government with a majority in Westminster to deliver for Wales (let alone stand up for Cymru / Wales) is just not going to happen. Labour in Westminster (the vast majority of Labour in Wales MP's included) are simply not interested in our national interests and concerns. 

As has been noted elsewhere Kier Hardie and others may (once) have believed in home rule (for Wales and Scotland) as a means of avoiding the bureaucratic centralism that characterised much of the European socialist parties of that time. That, however, that's not what we have ended up with, once Labour fell in lust with the trappings and trimmings of power at Westminster  (in 1824) the dead hand of centralism (and party interest) settled in as the party ethos running through the Labour Party at all levels in our nation and across the various component parts of the UK state.

Labour with a vast majority in 1945 offered, five modest promises: 

  • A Secretary of State 
  • A separate Welsh broadcasting corporation 
  • An end to the forced transfer of labour to England
  • A north - South Welsh trunk road
  • A central body to plan and develop the Welsh economy 

None of them were delivered between 1945 and 1951 even when Labour in Westminster had a vast majority of seats. We have been here more than once - Labour in Wales promises to deliver much for Cymru / Wales in Westminster - with a massive majorities (in 1997 and 2001) they did not deliver for Cymru / Wales. Post BREXIT (if we ever get that far) if the Labour Party in Westminster wins a majority, our national interests will be the least of their concerns. 

Labour in Wales's unnecessary hasty and craven sycophantic repeal of the Continuity Bill (carefully drafted and presented by the late and greatly missed Steffan Lewis) which would have provided a degree of protection in the face of what almost certainly appears to be a post BREXIT attempt to re-centralise power at Westminster should not have been a surprise. This action (not repeated in Scotland) should open people's eyes to the reality of the current Labour administration's (and leaders) bland ambitions or lack of them and is a clear indicator that Labour in Wales remains deeply Brit centralist in nature.

I have little doubt that the re-centralising of Britain will be attempted via combination of undermining / ignoring the existing devolved institutions and seeking to repatriate as many (read all in the case of Cymru / Wales if they can get away with it) of those functions that had drifted to an EU over the previous 50 years.

Now thanks to the newly installed Labour in Wales First Minister we now have no Continuity Bill to even begin to provide a measure of protection from a House of Jaw that appears to be increasingly focused Post BREXIT on re-centralising a Post BREXIT Britain focused on Westminster (and the South Easts needs and interests) at our (Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and relatively distant (at least from Westminster) Northern and South Western England). 

Post BREXIT here in Wales we must find a way to create an open future rather than seek to live in closed nostalgia dominated imitation of the past cynically recast as our future by Labour and Conservative. Those unionist politicians in Wales are too timid, too ambitious to get their noses into the Westminster trough, genuinely limited in outlook or simply utterly bereft of any vision to try to do anything else but repeat the mistakes of our past.  We will never fix our society and re-boot our economy by simply reverting to being Poor humble and obedient West Britons. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


When it comes to integrated public transport we would do well to make like Luxembourg which is about to become the first country in the world to make all its public transport free. The re-elected coalition government led by Xavier Bettel, who was sworn in for a second term as prime minister, will see fares on trains, trams and buses will be lifted next summer. Bettel’s Democratic party will form a government with the left wing Socialist Workers’ party and the Greens, had vowed to prioritise the environment during the recent election campaign. 

Luxembourg City, the capital of the small Grand Duchy, suffers from some of the worst traffic congestion in the world and is home to about 110,000 people, but a further 400,000 commute into the city to work. Drivers in the capital spent an average of 33 hours in traffic jams in 2016. While the country as a whole has 600,000 inhabitants, nearly 200,000 people living in France, Belgium and Germany cross the border every day to work in Luxembourg. 

The Grand Duchy, has shown a progressive attitude to public transport. This summer, the government brought in free transport for every child and young person under the age of 20. Additionally secondary school students can use free shuttles between their institution and their home. Commuters need only pay €2 for up to two hours of travel, which in a country of just 2,590 square km (999 square miles) covers almost all journeys. From the start of 2020 all tickets will be abolished, saving on the collection of fares and the policing of ticket purchases. As yet no decision has been taken on what to do about first- and second-class compartments on trains. 

Monday, January 14, 2019


Plaid Cymru’s Leader in Westminster, Liz Saville Roberts MP, confronted the Prime Minister in the House of Commons today over her claims of respecting the result of the 1997 referendum on Welsh devolution.

Ms Saville Roberts questioned the Prime Minister during a Statement in the House of Commons on the latest Brexit developments.

Following the Prime Minister’s speech in Stoke-on-Trent this morning where she compared the Leave campaign’s narrow win in the 2016 Brexit referendum devolution, Wales, Westminster,  to the result of the 1997 referendum when the people of Wales voted for the National Assembly for Wales.

During the statement, Liz Saville Roberts said:

“The Prime Minister commands us to honour the result of the referendum.

“Yet, in 1997 she voted against legislation to establish the National Assembly for Wales and in 2005 stood on a manifesto calling for another referendum with the option to overturn the result.

“How does the Prime Minister square her track record on referendums with such command?”

The Prime Minister responded by saying:

“We respect and made clear at the time we respected it, and anybody who sees the Welsh Assembly today and what it has been doing in recent years will recognise that was the right decision.”

Following the exchange, Ms Saville Roberts  raised a Point of Order – a question to the Speaker regarding procedure in Parliament – in the House of Commons, asking for clarification. In the Point of Order, Ms Saville Roberts said:

“The PM responded to my question by saying: ‘we accept the result of the referendum in Wales. We respected and made clear at the time that we respected the result of the referendum in Wales.’

“Her actions and the actions of her party at the time, and later, contradict this assertion.

“I fear the PM has mislead the house and would ask how she might correct the record.”

The Prime Minister left the chamber before listening to the Point of Order and so did not respond.


Thursday, January 3, 2019


One of the reasons why we have little choice but to use our cars and the M4 to get around Newport (and to go to work) is because of the lack of any reasonable alternative easily accessible means of public transport. By now even the Welsh Labour government has finally run out of tired excuses and soft weasel words to hide their inaction and failure to deliver much beyond sound bites and logo laden graphic images. 

Occasionally seen but rarely advertised...
The simple but abject failure to connect the Ebbw Vale line to Newport means that commuters living in communities in the Ebbw Valley still remain unable to travel directly to Newport (and beyond) by train and have a real choice but to use their cars. They are denied the opportunity of catching connecting trains to Newport, Bristol, London, Cheltenham and beyond as well as possibly travelling slightly more rapidly to Cardiff in the morning and evening as result of the failure to run a fast service direct from Abertillery to Cardiff as originally promised. 

This leaves commuters no choice but to drive to work and help to feed the congestion of an already at times overcrowded M4. The Ebbw Vale line, at least to Cardiff, which reopened in 2008 and carried  a years worth of anticipated passengers in the first few months, made a real difference. It's a fact that the new rail service failed to connect to Newport from day one - despite the implied promises and suggestions made before and since the railway line was reopened. 

Ironically to all intents and purposes is already open – trains already run by stealth on occasions from Ebbw Vale into Newport and vice versa. The rail line and the signalling works fine – what we need is a regularly timetabled rail service - preferably now rather than later. Long overdue decisions about our infrastructure could make a real and significant difference and begin the process of providing realistic alternatives to everyday car use. 

Construction of railway stations at Caerleon / Ponthir, Llanwern and Magor - with well planned walk routes, safe, secure park and ride. Any railway stations should also include decent facilities which would make a real difference - along with the reinstatement of a more functional bus service (that's connected to the new railway stations). Elsewhere in Europe where significant housing developments are planned the infrastructure - often railway stations, tram stops and transport hubs are constructed first before any houses are built - but just not here.

By now the Welsh Labour government (even with new leadership) has run out of old excuses and soft weasel words to hide their failure to deliver. Our transport and infrastructure problems require political solutions and political decisions - something that will not come from the current incumbent inert Labour government in Cardiff Bay. With a post BREXIT world rapidly approaching- some hard sensible sustainable longer term choices need to be made with a degree of urgency - one of those should be to start work on (those parts of) the Metro that will make a real difference.