Offering us precisely nothing

It was interesting to read this story on the BBC website that the Tory government in Westminster is now prepared to offer the devolution of teachers' pay and conditions to our National Assembly, but surprising that the Welsh Government considered this to be an "encouraging development".


As I see it, teachers' pay and conditions are already devolved to Wales. Of course this was never intended by Westminster; it came about as a result of the Supreme Court ruling that the Assembly had power to determine pay and conditions for agricultural workers in Wales. As I mentioned in this post, by choosing to test out the Assembly's competence to retain an Agricultural Wages Board for Wales, Westminster was in fact asking the Supreme Court to rule on the general principle of whether something had to be specifically mentioned as being within the Assembly's competence, or whether it could reasonably be implied to be within the Assembly's competence because the overall subject area—in that case agriculture—is devolved.

That first post was written before the verdict had been delivered, but after it had been delivered I wrote this post, which showed beyond any doubt that politicians in Westminster fully realized that the principle could be applied to other devolved areas ... and that in this regard the Welsh Assembly has greater powers than even the Scottish Parliament. Because education is devolved, applying the same principle means that, for example, teachers' pay and conditions are devolved, as well as those of anyone else who works in education. The same would also apply to all the other devolved areas.


As others beside myself have noted, one of the Conservative Government's purposes behind the new Wales Bill is an attempt to roll back these, and other, devolved powers under the guise of a reserved powers model. Yes, the new Bill promises a few additional powers—and for me any additional powers will always be welcome—but these come at the cost of the repatriation of powers we already have back to Westminster. It's too high a price to pay. I think we must reject the repatriation of any powers back to Westminster on principle.

In other words, although this new "concession" proposed by the Tories is meant to look like a step forward for devolution, it is very far from being the "encouraging development" that the Welsh Government believes it to be. They are in fact offering us nothing that we don't already have.

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The future for roofs

I have to say that I am quite impressed with the lastest product offering from Tesla/Solar City. So I thought I'd show the full video of yesterday evening's launch:


These pictures from the article at Electrek:


The question Elon Musk has asked is exactly right. If a solar roof of this sort is cheaper and better than adding separate solar panels to a roof made just to keep out the rain, why wouldn't you do it? This is a game changer.

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Fifty Years


     Terence Spencer/Marvin Lichtner – 21 Oct 1966

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The Wall

It is 2019 and babies in Northern Ireland are raised up so that they can look over the Brexit Wall into the opulent, Marmite-rich land of Ireland.


With thanks to Alan.

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Freedom of Movement

On the subject of freedom of movement, one of the mantras of those campaigning to leave the EU was to "take back control". The question they were not asked was: "Take back control from whom?" And because that question was not asked, people were left with the impression that bureaucrats in Brussels were in control.

In fact neither bureaucrats in Brussels nor politicians in any member state of the EU are in control. We as EU citizens, at least for now, are the ones in control of our own choices about where we live and work. We can work in Berlin, retire to Spain, or bum around in Greece as we want, and no government anywhere in the EU can deny us that freedom.

If the UK leaves the EU without signing up to the four freedoms of movement (with a similar status to countries like Norway) control will be taken away from us as individuals and handed to governments instead.

We can decide for ourselves whether this is a good or bad thing. However I find it odd that those on the right of the political spectrum, who in all other circumstances think that government control over citizens is a bad thing, are the ones who think that taking this freedom from us as individuals and putting politicians in control is a now good thing.

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An antidote to toxic policies

This is a very welcome antidote to the new rhetoric and policies which have been propounded by the Conservative Party at their conference this week.

"The countries of the United Kingdom face a spiralling political and economic crisis. At the top of the Conservative Party, the narrow vote in favour of leaving the EU has now been interpreted as the pretext for a drastic cutting of ties with Europe, which would have dire economic results - and as an excuse for the most toxic rhetoric on immigration we have seen from any government in living memory.

"This is a profoundly moral question which gets to the heart of what sort of country we think we live in. We will not tolerate the contribution of people from overseas to our NHS being called into question, or a new version of the divisive rhetoric of 'British jobs for British workers'. Neither will we allow the people of these islands, no matter how they voted on June 23rd, to be presented as a reactionary, xenophobic mass whose only concern is somehow taking the UK back to a lost imperial age. At a time of increasing violence and tension, we will call out the actions of politicians who threaten to enflame those same things.

"This is not a time for parties to play games, or meekly respect the tired convention whereby they do not break cover during each other's conferences. It is an occasion for us to restate the importance of working together to resist the Tories' toxic politics, and make the case for a better future for our people and communities. We will do this by continuing to work and campaign with the fierce sense of urgency this political moment demands."

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland
Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales
Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales
Leanne Wood, Leader of Plaid Cymru
Steven Agnew, Leader of the Green Party of Northern Ireland
Patrick Harvie, Co-convener of the Scottish Green Party
Alice Hooker-Stroud, Leader of the Wales Green Party

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Referendum maths

Referendums are strange things. Today, there was a referendum in Hungary in which the vote was 95% in favour of the proposition presented, but the turnout was only 45%. I don't want to comment on the issue, but simply on the numbers, because it's a good illustration of how the outcome can be manipulated.

Clearly what happened was that those in favour of the proposition turned out to vote, but those against it stayed at home. Because of that, the referendum technically failed because the turnout was less than 50%. But the Hungarian Government won't let that stand in their way.

And why should they? Let's imagine a situation in which those against the proposition had been urged to go out and vote instead of stay at home. The turnout would then have been higher that 50%, and the proposition would have technically passed. That's because it is very unusal for everyone to go out and vote in any referendum or election.

I think we'd regard 85% as an exceptionally high turnout in a western democracy. A 95% majority on a 45% turnout represents 42.75% of the electorate. If the turnout had been 85% (indicating tht 15% were undecided about how to vote, or didn't care about the issue one way or the other) that would leave those opposed to the motion at 42.25% of the electorate, leaving them in a minority.


Why do these numbers matter? Because I reckon we are likely to see almost exactly the same result in the upcoming referendum on Catalan independence.

After several monhs of uncertainty, it now appears that the referendum on Catalan independence is back on track. Only this week, President Carles Puigdemont said, "There will either be a referendum, or there will be a referendum."

When that referendum is held, those who are against independence will not turn out and vote No. They will say that the referendum is illegal and use that as a pretext to encourage people not to vote. At a guess, just as with this Hungarian referendum, some 95% of those who do vote in the Catalan independence referendum will vote Yes, but the turnout will probably be below 50%. The Spanish nationalists will say that this means only 42.75% want independence, hoping that people will believe that 57.25% don't. But that won't be true. It will be to conflate two different groups: those that don't want independence and those who can't decide or don't care about the issue one way or the other.

It's one of the fundamental flaws with referendums. Sometimes it's possible to manipulate them by encouraging non-participation rather than by getting people out to vote.

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