My neighbour opposite has put up his inevitable Labour posters(two so far). He's an activist who used to spend all his time haranguing the then Labour Council for their intransigence over opencast coal-mining. Now, he fully supports our absentee AM 'Ewge' Lewis, though is highly critical of that other reluctant convert to devolved politics Peter Hain.
Soon the fence down the road - which has been waiting for years to surround Trago Mills giant cheapo retail outlet - will declare itself for UKIP as ever, in keeping with Trago owner's support for the rightwing party who would abolish Wales altogether!
Speaking of Brit nationalists, the first leaflet through the letterbox came from the BNP and shows a young woman's face covered in blood. No, second look, it's not blood but a dragon without two tongues. Which is why, presumably, the only Welsh on the leaflet is ' Mae Cymru yn fy nghalon', which is ironic as their symbol is actually a Union Jack heart!
It informs me that there are already ' more Muslims in Britain than Welsh people!', but fails to tell me how many Welsh Muslims there are. It also fails to tell me how many British Christian fundamentalists there are, who support separate schools to teach creationism and preach homophobia. As expected, fear and prejudice are the motivations.
Although I don't regard myself as British at all, I would conceivably vote for a genuine socialist alternative which didn't fully recognise Cymru's right to self-determination. However, in Merthyr the choice is limited.
Locally, Plaid Cymru are virtually non-existent and it seems incredible to think that leftwinger Emrys Roberts once came close to winning the seat at a General Election and that the Council was run by Plaid in the 70's, when they were busy selling off council housing stock. I have generally voted for them despite this, but most of their views and policies seem desperately out of touch. Like all the other main parties, they have failed to question the inevitability of the cuts, leaving that to astute trade union leaders like Mark Serwotka, originally from Aberdare.
Yes , there should be cuts of course, but only in defence, the monarchy and the Lords. The culling of the public services and arts (like that of badgers.......also supported by Plaid) is totally unnecessary and , in fact , counter-productive. Even from a free market perspective they are absurd, because so much of the private sector depends on contracts from public sector and paying people to be on the dole is a complete waste of money, as well as skills.
What has happened to Plaid's ambitious proposals (for a reformist party) during the General Election for a 50% tax on anyone earning over £100.000 per annum and a maximum wage? I realise this may not be within the remit of the Assembly, but these laudable policies (which few Plaid politicians even bothered to mention before the election), have no radical equivalent in the lead up to May.
I'd like to see a party advocating workers' co-operatives and banks throughout Cymru and advocating the full nationalisation of water, energy and rail at the very least. In the NHS, a party which ensures that doctors were always available for patients, not helplines or privatised out-of-hours agencies and stops consultants from having private clinics. Why should doctors, nurses and teachers be trained and financed by the state, only to leave and work in private hospitals and schools? As a means of abolishing these, BUPA and their like should have to train their own.
I'd like to see a party willing to admit that the Foundation Phase hasn't worked and has drained resources. Instead, they should invest in SENCO's (literacy & numeracy specialists) for every Infant/Primary school. All early years learning must focus on these fundamentals, so that every pupil then has access to the curriculum. Far too much is taught in Primaries in numerous subject areas.
There must be an immediate cap on class sizes in Primary and Secondary schools, where they are rapidly increasing and where classes of over 35 are not uncommon. No class should exceed 25 and , within 5 years, this must decrease to 20. Standards of achievement and behaviour would improve markedly as a result.
This would need investment, just as all other public services need to be expanded as George Monbiot recently argued in his pragmatic and well-argued column in the 'Guardian'. The logic is irrefutable. Not only would it mean a healthier and better-educated population, but they will also spend more and boost the economy. Most of the finance could would from
a tax on bank transactions and reclaiming money from tax-dodging individuals and corporations.
Withe the exceptions of a few journalists and trade unionists, there are hardly any advocates for such alternaives, certainly not within the ranks of the Labour Party. I wonder if it's worth bothering to vote at all in this town where the Chartists fought so courageouly for suffrage. What a bland and drab collection of parties we have!
(for Gus Payne)
Boy in a cage, no way out
for the child collier in yellow shirt.
From the back, pit-dark threatens
though he's pleading
to a shaft of light.
His lips form a whistle,
till he begins to sing.
The lamp is welded
to green-scaled breeches ;
a metallic part of him.
Lurking there, ready to leap in,
is the coin-cat, fed fat
on pennies, crowns and shillings ;
he will pounce as soon
as the canary-child stops singing.