Archives for March 2014

More government is not better government

Here’s a lesson in the art of Twitter: don’t send controversial tweets late at night. What on earth are all those people doing tweeting angry responses at 11.30 on a Sunday night? Much the same as me, I suppose! I picked up more followers between 11pm last night at 6am this morning, than in the last month.

It can’t be heathy, raising your blood pressure so much just as you should be tucking yourself into the duvet. Not very Wellness at all.

How controversial is controversial? Not very, it turns out. I expressed the minority – dare I say, clandestine – view that not everything about devolution is sweetness and light.

I suggested findings from a BBC poll show that support for more Welsh Assembly powers was not as rock solid as is sometimes presented by our esteemed overlords in Cardiff. 54% of a the BBC St Davids day poll were if favour of no change or less power. I got Twitter fury in return. Abolish PCCs! (Not really the point). 70% want more power! Why can’t Wales govern itself!

Easy, tiger! For the record, I support devolution. I’d like to see more power devolved to people, with much clearer accountability. That’s why I think the Assembly should raise its own taxes. A sure way of ensuring accountability is to pay for what you want to do. But this Labour Government has turned the idea down, and offered the absurd suggestion that they should be allowed to borrow money but not raise it. This is a recipe for fiscal incontinence, admittedly not unheard of in Labour’s history.

Instead we have discussions about increasing powers – most controversially policing, but others too – and the number of AMs. More powers do not mean better government. Nor do more politicians, for that matter.

We have to ask ourselves what exactly this would achieve? Look at those areas that are already devolved. It’s hardly a huge advert for more powers. The state of the NHS in Wales is a national scandal. Doctors, MPs (Labour ones, by the way), NHS managers and patients all express concern while the Welsh government buries it’s head firmly in the sand. Schools slip ever further behind in UK and international rankings. Wales rightly has proud traditions in both these areas that are being sorely betrayed.

Wales has proud legal traditions too. English (and Welsh) law is used around the world, by Russian oligarchs, Greek ship owners, and Chinese bankers. Creating a separate legal jurisdiction in Wales would be expensive, complicated and unnecessary. And separating the police from the legal system would help no one but those seeking to avoid justice.

A debate, so far as I’m aware, involves at least two sides. Questioning the powers of the Assembly does not mean questioning the principle of devolution. If Wales has suffered from anything over the last 10 years, it has suffered from a suffocating consensus that the answer is ‘more power’, whatever the question. We have had no meaningful change of government and very little real public debate. That does not good government make.

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