Evaluating Gordon Brown’s Leadership using Greenstein

Thought this would be an interesting read for political friends

Greenstein’s six points evaluating Gordon Brown 23.04.2012

Europe and Where I Stand

IMG_7479If you havnt already guessed I’m pro Europe, just getting to that quickly so it is clear from the onset. After a recent trip to Brussels, I was reminded how important the EU is to us and we to it.  The UK is one of the biggest members of the “project”.  It is with deep regret that I note, there seems to be a stronger surge of support towards the leaving camp, I myself find such an ideal disastrous for our country and for all in my generation as a young person, and as a proud young European.

Our Country is evolving and is somewhat tearing itself apart, devolution is helping ambitious projects best suited for each part of the UK, in an attempt to quell independence. However there is a hugely important referendum due very soon, and if Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland vote to stay in the EU while England (the majority) votes out, there will be a constitutional crises. There is the strong likelihood that the UK could and would break up, leaving the UK smaller and less influential in the world. The EU in my opinion in one way helps us stay together, being part of something much bigger, something we share as Europeans – culture, history, trade and ambition. It also allows us to be part of a wide network of peoples and trade, which can roam freely without visas or fear of limits.

The EU project has witnessed the longest ever peace amongst European nations ever, seeing the economies of member nations become so attached and webbed together, war becomes distant and something saved for the history books, as Europeans become reliant on one another.  The world we live in, involving multinational companies need bigger cooperation of governments, ensuring no one company is able to be bigger than any one nation. Multinationals are kept in check as to speak and rules across the EU protect all within. (Privacy and what America knows is part of this)

One would be a fool not to notice a EU funding sign, they are plentiful in number, the EU funds a vast amount of projects across Wales but also across the UK as a whole, to support the people on the ground on a day to day basis.  Here are just some beneficial ones for young people.

Erasmus – The ability to undertake sponsored study anywhere across the EU

The ability to work without visas

Job Growth Wales – thousands of young people now in employment

Communities first – addressing the most deprived areas of Wales and looking at supporting those within the highlighted areas to gain qualifications or find lasting employment.

Qualifications – academic or other (driving and the like) as agreed to a set standard meaning it is easy to use qualifications in one member country to another.

Employment rights – most of our employment rights come from Europe and are protected at the European level with companies/ governments’ being fined for breaking any rules.

Culture – Youth in Action and other projects promoting wider inclusion.

Justice – the ability to issue Eurowide arrest warrants, usage of Interpol and European courts, a big link to Northern Ireland on this matter.

Huge, no actually vast amounts of money are invested by the EU to the UK each year, but more so in particular within Wales and Cornwall. Infrastructure like roads and other transport links, jobs and culture are all improved from the EU’s hard cash. Could you really see the same investment come from the UK government as readily?  While yes it could be said that we pay a lot  to be part of the EU, but in the long run do we not benefit? Open markets meaning more consumers thus more jobs, this can only be a good thing right?  Regulation on an international level and working together can only help tackle huge issues like, migrants, climate change, financial crisis or disasters of a large scale and others.

You would be hugely surprised if you physically looked at what the EU does for you and why it should be allowed to continue to do so. Thus as noted, I am and will always be a strong advocate of Europe and staying on the table tackling issues, being part of the project is better than being at the window and looking in, the one with no voice but affected by every decision made.

Categories: Uncategorized

London New Years

A Light hearted blog to start the new year, on the topic of …. Well the New Year.

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For many years I have either worked (volunteered with St John Cymru) the new year or spent in Cardiff, so this New Years was to be different. I vowed after many years of saying and wanting to go I would spend the New Year in my old town of London and be one of those people standing in the cold anticipating Big Ben’s Strikes signifying the beginning of the New Year.

After starting my journey from Wales at 10am, reaching London at 12pm, I had at least 7 hours to shop and chill with friends. So the only place for it could be the newish Westfield Mall in Sheppard’s Bush.  A good old cheeky Nandos later and we went to the Riverbank (Embankment). We had to confront a large queue and done so in a very patient “British way”, however someone didn’t tell the hordes of people cutting in closer to the front at Trafalgar Square.

Once in past the ticket area we were free to walk around, chat etc being that it was only twenty mins to eight, so we had time on our side. The time to be honest goes quickly and atmosphere is brilliant, many tourists and other revellers from across the UK all getting on and exchanging pictures and memories. The music in the background helped a lot, especially the Queen + Adam Lambert performance.

As time progressed we got closer to midnight and said hello to the world via the good old BBC at quarter to midnight. Then obviously Big Ben stuck the New Year in but after the first dong, eyes were firmly towards the London eye – well some through their phones facing the said direction. The firework show was thoroughly enjoying and is very much better than being glued to the TV watching it. There’s nothing like being there in person, even though trees had blocked my view of Big Ben, at this time I was more interested by the events ahead of me- which yes I did shotgun a prime space. Very much worth the £10 per ticket paid, how did 500,000 people fit in the area at all ? There was just enough safe room with 100,000 as ticketed.

(Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1SDYtXjYHw )

So the show was over and time for bed.

However that was not the end of New Years celebrations oh no, London has a fantastic New Years Day Parade, which to be fair showcased much of what is good about London and those who visit it.  Many an American marching band and cheerleading group came past, all happy and passing on New wishes- None of the grumpiness normally associated with London.

(video I took of the parade – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXcz7EpmgQ4 )

For those contemplating going – DO !

Bring munchies/ flask and wear lots of layers and of course have fun defo worth the wait

Categories: Uncategorized

The Government (The Privatisers) V The People – Ireland and The Water Meter Revolution

10690274_362706583906440_72108541568392573_n 10713007_915925058435787_4009882317525743229_n The people of Ireland are fighting back against what is deemed a step too far in terms of governmental austerity measures within the country. The Irish Government until recently paid for the treatment and servicing of water within the state, however this is changing. The government is privatising this branch in an attempt to “save” €1bn per year as part of conditions set by Brussels. The main political parties of the state could find themselves out in the cold when it comes to the general election scheduled for 2016. So the feeling is yes the Government has bitten off more than it can chew. In the UK water rates have been established for some time and the commodity of water has always and always should be free to all. The Irish feel they are being asked way too much in order to put right the banker’s problem. The world media are watching with great interest, however very rarely reported by media sources within the state, bringing displeasure that the peoples media is serving the interest of the privatisers and not the people. In many areas of Ireland and some where I go myself, where family live, the water is undrinkable which begs to question why on earth are the people being charged for a service they don’t receive? Even more criminal is the fact that since 1997 the people of Ireland already pay a subsidence for water. Many see that those in government are receiving back handers to drive this hugely despised policy through from the top with the Taoiseach to the backbencher TD’s (MPs to me and you in the UK) The Irish Government (Fine Gael- Labour Coalition) has set out that each household in Ireland is required by law to host a water meter. The water meters have been met with much resistance in the streets and estates right across the state. The people have had enough of austerity and feel that the government regardless of any of the main parties no longer represent them. This leading the path to new openings within the political party system normally seeing fine Gael or Fianna Fail elected, to the likes of others, such as the increasing number of Sinn Fein representatives for example being elected. There is the more interesting point seeing a 2% duty imposed on everything the Irish people purchase and a 5% vehicle duty which would ensure NO FURTHER CHARGES were applicable. Thus a sign of the government charging twice for the same service but also the fact it is going against itself in a short term period. water Joan Burton Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister- Labour) has been slated after comments she made “All of those protesters I have seen before seem to have extremely expensive phones, tablets , video cameras” and “Hollywood would be in the ha’penny place to what’s been done here”.  To the response of the electorate tweeting or facebooking back reminding her who pays for her expensive phones and how out of touch she is. Some have even started a countdown until she is “booted” out of office. Her ministerial car was stuck for a number of hours by peaceful protesters surrounding her car. (http://www.thejournal.ie/joan-burton-water-protest-1782187-Nov2014/ ) A Fine Gael Councillor has met trolling after making the comments, Laura McGonigle A Councillor in the city of Cork tweeted “They should collect all the rain water while out marching today and drink that for the week” ‘they’ meaning the protesters.( http://www.thejournal.ie/fine-gael-councillor-facebook-rainwater-1759765-Nov2014/ ) There have been a number of protests in all major town and cities with tens of thousands marching the streets in each one, including one in Dublin which saw a hefty 50,000 people marching a number of weeks ago. There is a national protest day which will see numbers into the hundreds of thousands surround Dail Eireann on 10th December under the banner “Right2Water”. ( https://www.facebook.com/Right2WaterIreland?fref=ts ) The workers installing the apparatus have been met with much resistance and barricades to stop them from entering areas. The police have been brought in and there is now many a video posted on Youtube and the like showing the brutality the police are using in order to support and maintain the work to install the meters. It is noted by a number of sources that the police are receiving bonuses or seeing their budgets protected while other departments are seeing savage cuts. To put this into perspective the Irish people have to pay to see their doctor (GP), for school books of all kinds, and cost of living is close to a third higher than that in the UK due to the Euro. The Welfare system is close to being annihilated. The TD’s receive much more expenses and noted corruption within the political system than that perceived within the UK. The Taoiseach questionably receives more than most heads of state in the world at €200,000(£159,836), even more than David Cameron (£142,000). Cameron who is the head of state of a country with 10 times the population of Ireland and a more powerful world player than that of the Irish Taoiseach. However, this is only one of many ways the people have been protesting, many have been destroying the apparatus costing just over £100per house to install. Some have been taken by “fairies” (http://www.thejournal.ie/water-meter-fairies-illegal-irish-1773631-Nov2014/ ). Some have been picked up (some being flung over Dail Eireann’s walls) others have been sunk in cement making them unworkable. There is mass resistance on this topic and will test the nerve of the coalition as it enters its final year before the general election. The fact remains that the government has very much bitten more than it can chew,  the closing question is how far will both sides go until the other backs down.

Grand Council member’s letter to the minister

Having been a former member of Funky Dragon myself, understanding how much a change the organisation makes, I am shocked, saddened and angry that the government has practically slapped their back hand at the organisation. After 12 years of massive successes -Bullying policy, Safer Buses, Participation Standards amongst others showing that the youth led organisation is well capable of representing and listening to the Young People of Wales. More than 15 years of achieving Uk and even world firsts, the Welsh Government has practically told it- thanks but no thanks for all your hard inspirational work.

The voice of young people is important – to have it led by the young people is even more important, no agendas other than that of the young people. Alternatives would be a backstep in the wrong direction and goes against the fibre of what Wales is working towards.

Young people and adults of Wales- please help in showing your support to an amazing organisation which has changed the live of many thousands of children and young people in wales over the years. #pleaselistentoJoel Lets show them we care !!!

More info and case for funky Dragon via http://www.funkydragon.org/en/campaigns/case-funky-dragon/

(here is the Grand Council’s Letter to the minister )

Dear Jeff,

As you are aware Wales has lost it’s only youth led organisation, which is the only one of its kind that reports directly to Welsh Government on issues that fundamentally effect all aspects of young peoples lives within Wales! When we spoke I said how this decision to end funding for Funky Dragon has not only caused the organisation to not be able to support children and young people in their fight for their rights. But has affected connections within Britain and Europe. I also expressed my concerns about the consequence this decision has on the local youth forums and councils. In Caerphilly, as you are aware of, we hold such an outstanding forum and organisation for young people. In recent years we fought for alcohol and drug misuse, leisure services to be improved – where we changed council policy for a second time – And for all playgrounds in Caerphilly to become smoke free. With Caerphilly being the first in Wales, this ban has now been rolled out to primary schools where it’s not permitted to smoke within a play area or around and in a school within the borough. Caerphilly youth forum has changed council policy twice now, thanks to the efforts of young people. After our success. As a representative of the forum, took this idea to ASH Wales/Cymru, here you can see the case study created because of the work we did in Caerphilly – http://www.ashwales.org.uk/creo_files/upload/campaigns/case_studies_english.pdf – as a representative I also took this to funky dragon, a network for young people to come together and talk about the amazing work young people do. The young people of funky dragon then took this to their councils and now only 5 counties in Wales aren’t some free yet. (But have plans to create this legislation). As a result of what Caerphilly in partnership with funky dragon did, we made Wales smoke free. As assembly member for Caerphilly I’m sure you’re proud of what we have done. Although without the partnership with funky dragon Wales wouldn’t of known about this. We wouldn’t be able to save the health of children without this amazing organisation that is run by and for young people.

Over the past 12 years Funky Dragon, as the Youth Assembly for Wales, has become more than a third sector organisation. It provides the only national democratic structure providing formal and clear process through which children and young people can express their views to the Welsh Government and Assembly at the national level. With Funky Dragons continued support from organisations like the British Youth Council and the United Kingdom Youth Parliament, the United Kingdom Young Ambassadors organisation, Scottish Youth Parliament and Northern Ireland Youth Forum, Funky Dragon has become a shining light within British and European youth politics. This has allowed Wales to have a standing ovation within Europe and the House of Commons at the UKYP annual debate, showing the rest of the UK what Wales has achieved and what we can do!

Funky Dragon has many principles but one of the biggest and the only organisation in Wales to have this, is that, Funky Dragon is managed and run by children and young people, adding value to our organisation which is so effective. This independence has profound practical significance and would be destroyed if it was to engage in a joint submission with an adult led organisation. Why? This is because Funky Dragon is the only organisation of its kind and joining with an organisation which is adult run would destroy’s our main principles and destroy’s the key attributes we as an organisation has. To allow Funky Dragon to survive provides an important mechanism for accountability to children and young people. Children and young people under the age of 18 in Wales can’t vote therefore, have limited success to holing the assembly members and members of parliament to account. Funky Dragon provides an effective alternative structure through which young people can encourage the Government to fulfil its obligations towards them as citizens of our country. This decision to end financial support to Funky Dragon has sent distressing signals to the children and young people of Wales, that the Welsh Government’s commitment to hearing their voices is no longer a priority. That the young people of Wales, the next generation of voters are being forgotten about, left behind and out of the question when it comes to decisions that effect them. This in its self doesn’t shows the next generation of votes a great deal but how their voices are now left behind and in theory – to many of young people – aren’t important to Welsh Government.

I would like to turn your attention and Welsh Government’s attention to when looking at the application whether or not you considered the following.

Recognising the unique nature and independence of such an organisation.

Youth forums/ councils and other youth organisation in Wales contribute to Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child. Funky Dragon on the other hand has a unique nature of how it’s done at national level. This enables Welsh Government to meet obligations of the United Nations Convention the Right of the Child. It is the only organisation of its kind to have the structure which allows children and young people to take their issues from a local matter to a national concern. The only organisation that’s role it is to get members of parliament and assembly members to meet with these young and discuss how these politicians will support their demands and concerns for the voices of children and young people. As a result of this unsuccessful application the principles of the organisation will be gone if Funky Dragon has to submit an application that will see Funky Dragon having to join an adult led organisation. Losing the value of a young persons led organisation, with the principle that children and young people having the right to their own independent organisation will be gone. It will then be considered to be another organisation that works for children and young people rather than the organisation being led by the children and young people. If this is the case the organisation and young people will lose out on their national voice, policy makers and service providers will lose the opportunity to directly work and have direct input from children and young people, the next generation will be denied the benefits of this twelve year organisation which has grown from strength to strength. The Welsh Government will lose its reputation of being an international lead in promoting the rights of children and young people and the international children’s rights community will lose an effective and powerful example of how to make participation and youth involvement to a national scale work and work effectively. We need to recognise the existence of Funky Dragon being an independent children and young person led organisation. Promoting a message to the youth of Wales that they matter, showing the UK, Europe and the world that Wales is a strong nation that is leading the way in children’s rights. The organisation allows children and young people to be assured that their voices, views and concerns will be heard; and that young people will make a different.

Wales and the British Government on dealing with the implications caused by this decision.

The committee on the Rights of the Child has made it clear that “Children should be supported and encouraged to form their own child-led organisations and initiatives which will create space for meaningful participation and representation.” It would be highly embarrassing and disappointing for the Government to have to report back to the committee on the Right of the Child that the organisation (Funky Dragon) which was last praised in the last Observations was no more and repot that it has lost its independence. And report that Welsh Government were not committed in supporting the organisation. I will not stop until survival of this independent Funky Dragon is secured and placed as a priority nationally and upon the international stage. However, the solution must be to explore possible approaches to reduce costs and identify alternative sources of funding. Funky Dragon has never had to bid for funding, we had always been given the funding, having to bid for the funding came a shock to us as we knew without this funding there will no longer be an independent, young person led organisation. We want to know why Welsh Government took this funding from us in the first place and why we had to bid for this funding.

Funky Dragon has become widely recognised in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Europe. Recognised for its efforts in promoting the voices of Children and Young people. Funky Dragon has allowed young people the opportunity to stand up in the House of Commons, voice the issues young people in Wales have and debate on issues that effect us. Through Funky Dragon it has allowed young people to make connections with other young people around Britain and built connections where young people can share ideas, concerns and think of ways to act upon this. Through funky dragon young people have been to Europe to talk about issues that are effecting Wales and come up with action plans on how young people, through out Europe, can work on this together. In Wales we have UK young ambassador supported by Funky Dragon, without Funky Dragon Wales will lose this. The consequences this decision has on the organisation holds massive implications for the young people, losing friendships, losing their voice, losing the chance to represent their constituency, losing the faith they had in Welsh Government, losing the opportunity to shine, the opportunity to be somebody, losing the chance to make change, to encourage change and their right to an independent young person led organisation.

You asked me what I thought this decision held over our constituency. Can I first start off by staying it doesn’t just have impact on our constituency but every constituency in Wales. Caerphilly along with Wales would have lost three – which was four before cuts were introduced – representatives to take issues from Caerphilly to a national organisation where we had faith that these issues would be worked on effectively and have results. Caerphilly will lose the connections between forums, councils and other organisations. Caerphilly would have lost their voice nationally. And, it’s not only Caerphilly that would have lost this but the whole of Wales would have too. I don’t believe this will just have an impact here in Caerphilly but a significant impact on youth voice on within Wales, the United Kingdom and Europe. This decision also has a major effect upon the children and young people whom I represent within Wales and the UK. I also have a concern for not only the young people I represent but the youth forums and councils they represent.

10 years ago, the welsh Government were committed to supporting and having engagement with Funky Dragon. Though out Funky Dragon and the young people of the organisation cast critical opinions on your work and offered to work along side you and other AMs to resolve issues to better situations for young people and holds you to account. Funky Dragon proves that it is an enthusiastic and highly effective independent organisation, allowing children and young people the opportunity to inform and influence Wales political agenda. This has shown today in First Ministers Questions where two members of the opposing parties spoke about Funky Dragon and it’s survival. This organisation has made a name for itself, values of good practice shine though out the organisation and Wales and the Welsh Assembly should be equally proud of its achievements. It is also important to justify whether children and young people are entitled to their own independent youth assembly to which Welsh Government are still committed to. If so, Welsh government should explore all ways/routs/possibilities to ensure the survival of such an organisation. If not, Welsh Government need to say honestly and be open with the next generation of voters to why it’s no longer prepared to give children and young people a national and international voice. And explain why Welsh Government are not prepared to lead the way in youth voice and continue holding this prestigious organisation.

I as a representative of children and young people in Caerphilly and Wales ensure that the survival of an independent Funky Dragon, with the original principals of this organisation stay a unique and vital cause in fighting for the voice or children and young people. And that the organisation is continued to be ran by children and young people for children and young people. Placing Wales in the lead to protecting children’s human rights and protecting the voices of millions of children and young people.

I am very much looking forward to meeting with you on Friday the 11th.


Joel Nathan price.
(8th July 2014)

Categories: Uncategorized

Local Authorities in Wales – Is Cutting The Answer

Since the reorganisation seen in 1996 Wales has had 22 local authorities for a population of 3 million. This is a substantial amount of local authorities for a small population but is cutting the number a good enough answer?

Local authorities are having to slash their services left, right and centre and are struggling to provide the most basic of services due to cuts imposed from the top of the power chain from Westminster and in turn Cardiff Bay. Local authorities in 2017 will be very much smaller than they once were providing minimal services.

The Williams Commission has led to some interesting results, seeing the commission calling for a total of 10 councils in Wales. Yes, there needs to be reorganisation of Welsh local authorities, but the current recommendations are a tad bit extreme. Local government is just that-local , local to the people it represents to allow community champions to be elected in order to represent and support their neighbours throughout their term in office.

In my own neck of the woods in Newport, it is seen that Monmouth and Newport City Council should merge. I personally strongly disagree with this recommendation, not because I have Nimby attitude, but on principle and practicality, the two areas are very different with very different issues as one is mostly urban while the other is mostly rural. If reorganisation of local government is to be realistic then it needs to be a Monmouth and Torfaen council merge, they have already shared a lot of services and buildings for their work already. The only reason seen that it will not see such merger is due to European funding and different objective funding between the two authorities. This is just one example of many across the country and not fair on the communities in question.

Services such as education have already witnessed regional management as enforced by Welsh government. Education has been a sore policy area, causing many a headache for a number of local authorities, having a number see their education departments go into special measures and ran by a team installed by Welsh Government. Having less councils does allow for more scrutiny as there is more people within departments, but as the council area increases so does the number of schools in its control. This can take away the feeling of local accountability in how the services are ran as decision makers are yet again removed again from the local populace.

However, as in a previous blog post it was highlighted that issues such as recycling were very confusing seeing 22 local schemes, so in some services it could be highly beneficial to see less authorities, or even a midway compromise being better co-operation amongst local authorities. It generally depends on the appetite amongst local politicians versus that in Cardiff Bay, and it seems there is no appetite on a local level and that it is being enforced from a national level, which by opinion is not the best way to approach such policy. The reason being is that many are more expert on how local government is best utilised and can serve the public than those removed from it in Cardiff Bay.

The decision must not be taken lightly as Wales is a differing place, valley to valley – city to city as well as north to south and east to west. Thus any changes would need to account to local identities and look to protect communities and their proud identities, not swallowed up by the major civic towns as what the case would look to occur.

It seems that Cardiff Bay is trying to grab more power from below as it struggles in gaining more power from above (Westminster). This will most likely see a battleground from within the very fibre of the main parties as the grassroots will put up a struggle for each party to go ahead and agree these recommendations. Welsh Labour will most likely be hit the hardest as they look to lose many wards to upsizing wards and downsizing the number of councillors. Welsh Government has and should support local authorities rather than listening to Conservative David Cameron’s rhetoric about the NHS. He can’t speak ill of Scotland due to the referendum and failing in government so of course naturally wales is the scapegoat. The First Minister should rise above it and get back to what wales is better at, delivering public services for all in the community.

The government in the short term is to consider legislation to bring to the National Assembly to discuss this topic and to allow for voluntary mergers. At present there is no short term incentive noted to merge and merging on such a scale is an expensive affair. In the long term it can lead to more cost effective services but even that statement is yet to be put to the test in practice. A lot more consultation needs to be undertaken in the public domain as well and not just by politicians and policy specialists/ officials. It needs to be the solution to work not for 10, 20 or 30 years but a sustainable outcome to last more than a generation.

In conclusion, there is a strong need to reorganise Welsh local authorities, however the number of proposed authorities to cull is a bit too much, in effect removing the ability to be labelled as local. Ideally and realistically the number should be around 15 or 16 allowing for the South Wales cities of Newport, Cardiff and Swansea to keep their own areas. This would also allow for representatives to be local to the populace of a ward and be able to be seen and not just another name on a piece of paper. Much more consultation and work needs to be undertaken on the issue, as the matter stands it does not have a lot of appetite outside of Cardiff Bay to merge.

Is Recycling in Wales a load of Rubbish ?


Wales sees higher recycling targets than the rest of the UK and Northern Ireland at 58%. However in years to come we the public are expected to reduce waste even more due to Welsh Government placing more and more pressure on local governments. There are many issues that are faced by the public as across Wales there are 22 local recycling schemes all of which differ from each other. Question being, is it a load of rubbish? Does it work? Does it penalise people where they cant do any more or see it as a chore to get it right?

Welsh local authorities have mostly introduced a fortnightly collection on refuse waste (landfill) and some are even contemplating a three week collection in attempt to avoid fines for land filling rubbish. Swansea sees a three-bag limit, but no actual physical bin. One must question the sanitation issues that arise i.e. rats and other animals who would strive off such waste. The aim of this reduction is to avoid hefty fines as what will be instigated in the next few years, as a way to make sure councils are doing their part in reducing waste. Though are reduced collections necessary the right answer? I personally believe fortnightly is the max limit as long as other factors are in place i.e bins to place bags in to avoid rats.

The fact that there is 22 local schemes causes an issue to locals, more needs to be done to further a more universal system whether regionally or even nationally. Another huge issue is what can be recycled, many items are not recyclable more needs to be done to ensure that manufactures look to recycle unwanted products from their consumers but also have legislation looking at things that could be made by items that can be recycled. I’m speaking specifically about food products, the mass amount of packaging that goes with food products. To say food is the only one seeing issues, one only has to look at toiletries, toothpaste tube comes in boxes, which in effect is causing excessive waste, even when the cardboard is recyclable why was it used in the first place?

The main issue is locals up and down Wales are being penalised, when in a lot of cases they cannot really be blamed for the confusing systems in action across the country. They cannot be fully blamed for the items they purchase, so it is of my belief that legislation needs to be brought forward, allowing Wales to set the trend in the UK and even potentially have influence the rest of the UK’s ability to recycle. Legislation needs to address both materials products are packaged in, but also address excess packaging on items in the Welsh area. Lets face it Wales has already led the way on plastic carrier bags seeing a huge reduction, benefiting the environment and communities and their through the money raised from the “tax”. Lets see a tax in addressing excessive packaging and none recyclable materials, hopefully this will see consumers applying pressure on business  to change.

The public are already on mass doing what they can, given the circumstances, now its time for local and national (Welsh) government to be bolder in their approach in tackling the issue from another angle. In doing so they need to work better with local authorities in order to make it as easy and effortless for the populace of Wales. A universal recycle list should be initiated to stop confusion amongst local authorities. Thus all in all everyone’s happy and waste is reduced and all are playing their part in reducing land waste, compared to the failed 22 local authority systems as seen in the current day, with none recycling the same. We could effectively beat Germany and Austria’s record targets of 60% by a landslide.



Electronic voting and electronic counting

With low numbers voting in the recent European elections seeing just under a third of the eligible voters, 31.5% turning out to vote. This is pretty dismal in terms of the democratic stability we hold so dear, above all else. Is our democratic system outdated and expensive?


Its long been said a rainy day can deter voters but in modern times apathy has been seen to occur in discussions , tv interviews and social networking across the country. The older population tend to vote in numbers but the other ages and social groups tend not to be able to or tend not to, for the effort some see to vote is more than what they see. The potential to engage and see these potential voters actually vote by using other methods, may go hand in hand with modern times.


More young people tend to vote on a Saturday night for their Xfactor or BGT choice on a weekly basis, from the comfort of their own home. So it is time to really consider if the political class need to open up ways that can engage but also uphold public confidence in elections and their results. Fears are shown in many ways like extra voting, wrong voting (great video of the Mccain and Obama election 2008- (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArC7XarwnWI) Estonia has seen at least 9% of voters vote by internet or text in recent years and increasing. Many votes that occur within political parties and organisations, happen via paper as well as a secure internet option using randomly generated codes for each voter.


Could Britain follow suit? I personally believe, though it would be a good idea to initiate secure electronic voting, the political classes sadly do not want to initiate change in this regard as it stands. In the UK there are examples where it is already in use, for example student unions across the UK, have seen significant increases in their turnouts, as well as those voters noted, the millions who vote on Saturday nights to reality TV but not to leaders of the country. The new generation of politicians may enable better focus and even trial this, but we remain years behind with the times.


Britain is about to change the way individuals are registered to vote, where rather than list those of eligibility, it is up to individuals to register. Arguably another outdated method, which by all predictions will see at least 10% of the electoral register disappear with those failing to register. There is a set time before elections in which non-registered voters may register and vote. We are in the 21st century and surely those presiding over elections could register electors on voting day itself having a shared database and ensure safe registration but also enable secure ballots without the risk of multiple votes.


The way the votes are counted is something that has not changed in many a year, it is counted manually and is highly time consuming. The question if this could be sped up using electronic counting machines is one that has been contemplated over time. It is expensive and results not known until the early hours of the morning- past the time many, except the political faithful go to bed. We live in a fast moving society and as already noted elections take some time and practically people wake up to find out who will be the next leaders.


So all in all, the system in use is outdated and slow and expensive, the way we register voters and conduct the vote is also slow and feel that we in the UK should look into this more and look to trail this somewhere. Internet voting happens within organisations and political parties already and sees Estonia both internet voting as well as text vote. Enabling these may enable voting to come to the voter , rather than the voter go to the ballot. Time for change ?   Image



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Is Our Education System Failing our Children ?


For quite some time the Welsh education system has been slated for failing our young people. This comes after a number of embarrassing PISA results, where Wales scores lowest of the UK and in turn the UK being worse than many developing nations. Thus the question whether our system  is failing our young people or do we actually know and support what education we want to deliver or expect?

It has been long said that ones’ education attainment sorts a child out for life. The education system however is at breaking point, arguably under resourced and under supported. Society places a huge burden on the teaching profession, placing pressure on the system to do their child well, to get those high results. The question is this fair?  Does responsibility lie elsewhere?

Society as said, expects a lot from educational institutions, some warranted some not. Lets not forget teachers teach the…

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Is Our Education System Failing our Children ?

For quite some time the Welsh education system has been slated for failing our young people. This comes after a number of embarrassing PISA results, where Wales scores lowest of the UK and in turn the UK being worse than many developing nations. Thus the question whether our system  is failing our young people or do we actually know and support what education we want to deliver or expect?

It has been long said that ones’ education attainment sorts a child out for life. The education system however is at breaking point, arguably under resourced and under supported. Society places a huge burden on the teaching profession, placing pressure on the system to do their child well, to get those high results. The question is this fair?  Does responsibility lie elsewhere?

Society as said, expects a lot from educational institutions, some warranted some not. Lets not forget teachers teach the curriculum, standards set by government. Over the last century education in the UK overall has changed more than any other period in history. Teachers are teaching within set guidelines, have some things in while others are taking out, so called selective education.

Some parents believe it not a role for them to pre-school their children, instead believing this to be a role for the school, for the teachers. Children can arrive at school without the basics of : socialising, sharing, talking, basic words and requests, and counting. Thus from an early age children and in turn classes can be disadvantaged while those children are taught to a basic standard while trying to not to place a hindrance on the other children’s learning. This can also be the case where there is new children who are learning English as a second language as they attempt to catch up as best as they can.   

Teachers  of course play a vital role in supporting children learn, challenging them. The school environment sees most applying more than their paid time and effort teaching, planning or marking work, than what society knows or thanks them for. Management structures also do not support the classroom teachers as best as they could, in many instances. It is also a real shame and embarrassment to society that half of all trained teachers, leave the profession within 5 years of entering the role.

Government and society have advised through the media, that the kids of today have it easy, this is a downright myth. The curriculum is the fullest it has ever been and children in the UK are some of the most examined children globally. This causing unfair stress and anxiety to occur to many from such a young age. This many now criticise, that it is the teaching of what, not how to think is the most common practise in schools. In effect coaching them through exams without the actual exploration of why things are and why they happened, making their own judgements and being able to support their ideas.    

So is the blame of the failings down to the school, the parents, local community or the government? Well the answer is all, there needs to be a better working partnership between all groups.  The community has a huge role to play in the role and responsibility of how successful a school is. Some parents may not be able to educate their child as they themselves struggle with the basics, this is a strong area where the community could and should support those who cannot read or write and have problems with essential numeracy skills. Thus together being able to support an positive learning environment outside of the classroom.

Technology also has a key role to play in education, especially in regard to evaluating and monitoring levels of various skills. It can also enable schools to pick up those pupils who may have disabilities early and put individual plans in place to support that child.

But the issue with the current technology lessons as they stand are wholly out of date, many do not use clip art today, or need to learn how to use powerpoint, excel or even Microsoft word. The fact that they learn windows is a farce in itself. We live in a world which uses many platforms and different types of software using varying types of coding. Children should learn these various coding and website building. They should also be taught how to put a computer  together, skills which would set us out from many others globally. Classes like how to open a webpage and how to save a document are laughable, as many students don’t gain anything from such sessions, rather mess around online on games or homework for other classes. The curriculum in this area needs a review urgently to avoid not equipping our youth with skills to attract businesses to Wales.

The ability to build software would also be of huge benefit to the youth of today, let’s face it applications on smart devices are where both jobs, and could potential even lead to self-employment. We in Wales need to harness this, be world leaders not followers.

Another gripe is the teaching of politics or citizenship is the most boring of subjects to many. The reason being the way it is taught, out of text books and videos, if any at all. However with the right motivation and ways of teaching it, such methods can have a huge effect on a child’s future engagement in the democratic processes. The days of text book learning of the political parties is old style and does not work. Children need to learn politics by doing, running for elections, discussing issues of all levels and learning the benefits of debate and compromising. Get guest speakers in, understand what levels of government do what and be able to ask why. Vital skills to further our democratic system, the ability to breathe new ideas from asking questions, holding those in power to account. We the electorate are the most powerful, not those elected.

Education needs to be more engaging and open to different methods of teaching, especially those which can see those with various different learning styles learn more effectively. The fact we still have written exams is farce, for those who for example are dyslexic or otherwise could benefit from having a videoed presentation, or other practical methods of assessment. We need to understand why some do not want to take part in classes, is it because they feel left out ? if so how can we remedy this?

Thus, there are many issues that needs to be focused on at this time, but also increased engagement from all parties involved in education. We as a society, need to contemplate what we see of our system and how, we as individuals can improve it. If we can look to further such points, I strongly believe that we can assist many getting out of the poverty loop, inspiring many to look and proceed further. Those who do go further should be attached to their community i.e community scholarships on the understanding that the individual will provide local service to the community, upon completion of their studies, or help educate others for a period of time. Thus, linking an individual and their community together, helping themselves out of the cycle as a collective team.  

Crimea – a sign of Russia’s downfall?

March 22, 2014 1 comment

Russia over the last 20 years has attempted to exercise influence over the former USSR break away states. This has been met with many of the former USSR satellite states favouring the west in terms of trade and military strength and security. More have turned towards the EU and NATO than its former occupier. Tensions have been witnessed with Russian troops seen occupying Georgian territory in 2008 and now in Crimea, Ukraine.  The economy at home has seen the downward spiral increase and likely to experience a possible recession before their actions. This is certain after the annexation. Is Russia’s influence as a former world super power dwindling once more?

Lets be quite clear, Crimea as Russian President Putin notes has not been “Russian since forever”. Simple history would see Crimea as part of the Ottoman Empire, the whole saga is an attempt of a land grab. Putin had misjudged the mood of the world, after the somewhat no action in regards to the Georgian conflict in 2008, and by seeing as holding America off intervention in Syria, Putin has been seen as leading the way on the reaction to the Syrian crisis. The ball had been in his court, the story is that Russia is facing economic difficulties and needing a way to rally the Russians, Crimea is able to all those at home to forget the economic downturn.      

The crisis started after the former Ukrainian President Yanukovych had cut ties to the EU and wanted to look to furthering relations with Russia. This was met by mass protests and killing of protesters, eventually the police and army sided with the protesters and the revolution occurred. President Yanukovych had fled to Russia and Ukraine has seen unrest to levels nearing a civil war. One side pro West the other Pro Russia, actions of unrest had been witnessed in a number of eastern Ukrainian cities and areas, more specifically Crimea.    

The referendum is quite frankly a joke, it was held through a barrel of a gun by troops bearing no identity, Russia arguing that they are Crimean people, but with the weapons and abilities they have, and it is clear as day that the troops are nothing other than Russians.  The fact that the ballot held such a high weighting supporting to join Russia was due to a number of reasons, the main two being that the choices on the ballot were limited and biased along with the fact that many pro Ukrainian’s boycotted the vote. The ballot was deemed unconstitutional by the Ukrainian government and void by the West.  

 It is strongly believed that Russia had instigated chaos to give them a reason “To protect Russian speaking peoples” but does this not sound familiar? Of course it does, Germany and the Sudetenland and then the rest of Czechoslovakia.  It is my opinion that they had instigated the original unrest to provide an opportunity for a power vacuum to occur. Thus giving them the chance to jump in and claim Crimea. Many fear that the Russians will follow this by firstly taking control of Crimea and then go for the rest of the Ukraine. Only time will tell and its happening in a fast paced manner.

The west has reacted by imposing travel bans and freezing the assets to those key people behind the conflict or referendum. In my opinion not strong willed enough, heavier sanctions are needed.  The fact that Russia defied the requests of the west not to hold a referendum, they did knowing that as a consequence the west would act. The problem is that Russia still has some military might behind it still, thus is able to command a sufficiently modern power to further its will. It is hard to combat Russia militarily in the area, thus economic sanctions may be the best way to get Russia to fall in to line. That and many European countries who depend on Russian oil and gas have now already initiated plans to seek future energy imports from the likes of America and to become more energy efficient. There is discussion of permanently voiding Russia’s membership of the G8 and return to the G7. China is pulling away from Russia, after recent UN Security Council votes and discussions; China is now abstaining and working that bit closer to the west, thus isolating Russia.

Though President Putin brands the sanctions and actions as laughable, this in my opinion is to be political rhetoric to rally up the Russians against the west. At the end of the day, the sanctions and a decrease of imports will hurt Russia more than the countries implanting them.

I believe that the actions to date have not been strong enough, the west need to play their hand more now rather than later. Russia’s influence is dwindling and excluding it from the various international forums such as G8 among others, could see a possible change of Russian attitude. Russia will suffer in the long term both economically with the additional negative of seeing vital trading partners of oil and gas look elsewhere. Their influence politically will be minimal, even China had abstained in a recent UN Security Council vote, highly important as China normally votes the same as Russia. Thus an isolated Russia may not only show that the west is serious, but also a provide for potential change in the country from within. Get a new generation of leaders who do not have a USSR mind frame. A Russia who is weaker than it has been and plays a lesser role on the global political stage. This may see a further break up of areas like Chechnya for one.  

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