Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Dr John Ball was guest on Gwynoro’s People

A well known personality in West Wales and way beyond was Gwynoro’s fourth guest

John talks about his varied career from school days in Dynevor school, working in industry, a mature student studying for his economics degree, his years working for the Welsh Development Agency in Carmarthen and as a lecturer.

He is widely known for his passionate advocacy of Welsh independence and his contributions are avidly read especially on the economy of an independent Wales, the financing of a self governing country and is Wales too small or poor..

The three pieces of music he chose in many ways reflects his character and varied career and experiences.

‘Finlandia’ by Sibelius, Gershwin’s ‘Strike Up the Band’ and Dafydd Iwan’s ‘Yma o Hyd’

Friday, 25 September 2020

Plaid Cymru launches its Commission Report on the future of Wales –  up to the other parties now

Plaid Cymru’s 220 page report titled ‘Towards an Independent Wales’ is to be welcomed.

It is not a document to be ignored or simply immediately rubbished by political adversaries.

The Commission’s report lays out in detail the party’s long term vision for a self-governing Wales. It is also an important contribution to the national conversation, albeit sadly not at a governmental or official level hitherto.

The present Welsh Labour government should be at the forefront of this developing debate.  Labour leaders often refer to the need for a Constitutional Convention - well, even if one is not established for the UK, most certainly it should be formalised in Wales.

Plaid Cymru has now put its stall in the public domain and no one can again say that they have not addressed many of the issues confronting the future governance of our nation. It is now beholding the other political parties in Wales to do similar - and not just in a throwaway, generalised manner with mere sound bites.

The Commission report deals with important matters such as the establishment of a National Commission, the constitution of an independent Wales, the current fiscal gap and a Welsh self-determination bill.

The role and responsibilities of the National Commission is crucial to ‘’ensure maximum awareness, participation, and involvement ….and test the views of the people of Wales in an initial exploratory referendum, setting out constitutional options’’.

As the document implies, Plaid Cymru recognises that Wales is on a journey ‘towards independence’ and of necessity, a number of economic and political milestones will need to be met along the way.

To that end, the report identifies two confederal options for consideration – one proposed by the leader Adam Price for a Benelux type solution and the other by Glyndwr Cennydd Jones for a League of the Isles. Both will merit and require further deliberation and examination.

I believe the issue of confederalism is crucial in the current political climate. There are many proponents of a federal solution within the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. It clearly has a head of steam behind it. Hence the need to detail confederalism as a positive, sustainable solution to the challenges faced.

If one is tempted to be critical of the report, then there is a tendency for Plaid Cymru to typically hedge its bets in relation to making a commitment to a definite way forward. However, that state of affairs might be expected in the uncertain economic and political climate ahead.

Further, many of the actions identified as necessary to achieving independence are dependant upon Plaid Cymru forming a government following the Senedd elections in 2021.

Whilst it is understandable why the report has taken that approach, the reality on the ground dictates that the debate in Wales demands cross-party participation. Plaid Cymru is currently far from being in a position to form a government after May 2021, so what happens then?

To my mind, the next Welsh government, regardless of party, should put into effect the National Commission proposal, if nothing else.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Dr John Ball and Gwynoro discuss where does Wales go from here

Gwynoro and Dr. John Ball discuss independence for Wales at a time when opinion polls suggest that over 20% of the people of Wales support full self-government.

The growth of Yes Cymru, implications of leaving the European Union, future of the devolution settlement, and now concerns over the implications of the Internal Market Bill for Wales and its Parliament’s powers.

New parties are forming but there is still caution from those who want more detail on what independence really is. Indeed others argue that the existing Welsh Parliament should be abolished.

Questions about can Wales stand on its own two feet, can we afford it?  Is Wales too small a nation?

There are so many issues raised and debated - around the economy, the currency, the borders, employment, health, the quality of our representatives in the existing Senedd, relationships with other countries including the other home nations.

It is a question, which has dominated Welsh politics at differing times throughout the last hundred years -  why can't the Welsh nation go it alone?

Here, they discuss all this with Alan Evans, editor of Wales News Online, and Llanelli Online . 

Click on:

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

 The time has now arrived for a Wales Constitutional Convention.

Over the last 18 months, along with my colleague Alun Gibbard, I have been engrossed in the writing of a book, soon to be published, on the story of devolution and the nationhood of Wales from 1880 to 1980. The book will be called ‘Whose Wales?’. It trails the contributions of the political parties to that turbulent century.

So my mind is full of the details of the turmoil and divisions between and within the political parties over the future of Wales.

Essentially the end of the nineteenth century and early part of the twentieth century was a period where the debate over the nationhood of Wales was very much to the fore. Then the period of the two world wars coupled with the economic depression of the 1920s and 30s inevitably took predominance and the debate was broadly, although not entirely, silenced for over 30 years.

After the Second World War under the determined campaigning of Jim Griffiths, Cledwyn Hughes and others inside the Labour Party for a Secretary of State and a Welsh Office, then followed by the Campaign for a Welsh Parliament in the mid-1950s devolution was once again back on the agenda. Then followed  the establishment of a Secretary of State and a Welsh Office in 1964, which was a seminal moment. It firmly established that Wales was accepted after over 400 years as a distinct and separate arm of the administration of government.  In fact one could say it recognised Wales as a land and nation – regions don’t have a Secretary of State and their own offices.

Within living memory, we have witnessed the turbulent decade after the Carmarthen, Caerphilly, and Rhondda West by-elections, the Kilbrandon Report in the early 70s, and the heated and emotive devolution referendum of 1979. That referendum was a resounding defeat by almost a 4:1 majority and it killed off any prospects of devolution in Wales for a generation, although, as I will show in another book out first half of next year many of us endeavored to keep the debate on the agenda. The SDP/Liberal Alliance in Wales in the 1980s, who consistently  argued for a federal structure to the governing of the UK in a period when the other parties had fallen silent.

A commitment to the creation of a Welsh Assembly with executive powers was again put into the Labour Party manifesto for the 1992 General Election. 

There then followed a new momentum into the whole debate coming from the Scottish Constitutional Convention and devolution soon came back centre stage. Eventually, it all led to the 1997 referendum and this time, without a 40% threshold as there’d been in 1997, the vote for a Welsh Assembly went through on the filmiest of majorities with 50.3% voting yes.

We tend to forget the March 3, 2011, referendum in Wales on whether the Welsh Assembly should have full law-making powers in the twenty subject areas where it had jurisdiction. Overall, 63.49% voted 'yes', and 36.51% voted 'no'.  The First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "Today an old nation came of age."

Indeed at the end of 2013 he went further and said the current constitutional arrangements were no longer functioning and the UK must continue down the road to becoming a federal nation in 2014. He has repeated that call for a federal solution several times since.

Of course the result of the Brexit referendum in 2016 transformed the nature of the debate over the governance of the UK. Indeed an enormous bibliography has been built up on the subject as witness in the Facebook page of #WalesNationalConversation (@SgwrsCenedl on Twitter). People like Dr. John Ball, Owen Donovan, David Melding MS, Glyndwr C Jones and many others have contributed to ongoing conversation over the years.

Then the online publication Nation Cymru has been at the forefront as well as of course YesCymru who, without doubt, has injected a considerable amount of momentum into the whole debate over the last four years with its campaign for Welsh independence.

It is also fair to say that under the leadership of Adam Price, Plaid Cymru has emerged from a long period of silence, essentially twenty years, over the future governance of Wales. His regular call for independence has become considerably more heightened..

So in 2020, having left the European Union, the future of the UK Union is increasingly coming centre stage. It is clear that it is beginning to occupy the minds of the political parties and not just the nationalist movements in Scotland and Wales. Indeed there is developing a growing debate in England as to the nature of that country’s future governance

The introduction of the Internal Market Bill has further heightened the debate and nowhere more so than within the Parliaments of the devolved nations. In essence the future of the devolved settlement after  twenty years is in question.

Here in Wales a succession of Labour figures have raised their concerns and serious worries.

The First Minister has called the bill an‘’ an enormous power grab – undermining powers that have belonged to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for over 20 years … and that it will do more to hasten the break-up of the Union than anything else since devolution began’’.

Very recently Jeremy Miles, the Welsh Government Brexit minister said that the Internal Market bill is “an attack on democracy” which will “sacrifice the future of the union by stealing powers from devolved administrations”. He then goes on to state that imposing a new UK internal market after the end of the Brexit transition period will “accelerate the break-up of the Union”.

So, what needs to happen?

Well, in the first instance, the endless speeches, articles and various campaigns have to be augmented by concrete action, coupled with a meeting of minds on the way ahead. We all know that the political parties are divided, and yes there are internal divisions as well. It is well understood that there are differing opinions over whether the future lies in devo-max, federalism, confederalism, independence within the EU, or any other option. No more needs to be said on that subject at present and in any case, it’s a distraction given the situation Wales faces.

This meeting of minds needs to understand that choices between nationalism, socialism, liberalism or anything else is not the central issue – it’s all about the future governance and the nationhood of Wales.

To my mind in this crucial period the Welsh Parliament needs to clearly state that yes it is right and proper that the people of Wales should have a say over its future and just as what’s going on in Scotland it should prepare draft legislation to that effect.

Adam Price makes the point very well:

"We are not asking the Senedd to support independence today, but asking the Senedd to support the principle that the people of Wales should decide,"

The Welsh Government needs to establish a Wales Constitution Convention of people from all parties and none, linked to regional Peoples Assemblies. Personally, I and several others have been advocating all this since 2016.

All this is necessary so that Boris Johnson’s government and Westminster gets a clear message that Wales means business and will not be brushed aside. Words and platitudes do not measure up to the dangers that face us now.

It would be apposite if the message is heard on this day of all days – Owain Glyndwr Day.

Saturday, 15 August 2020

'Gwynoro's People' podcast on Wales News Online meets Aneira Thomas, first NHS baby

It was a pleasure to meet up with Aneira once again. We went to the same primary school in Cefneithin, although I am a few years older and also to Gwendraeth Grammar school.

Both of us grew up with a wide range of people in Cefneithin and Foelgastell and we have shared treasured memories.

Image result for aneira thomas bookAneira by now is well known as the 'First NHS Baby' and also has published a book based on real life experiences.

The book is called 'Hold on Edna' and it is a heart warming account that goes back before the NHS came into being in 1948 

In the podcast she tells about the events surrounding her birth, family background, school life, her career as a nurse and much more.

Also refers to the people she has met over the years film stars, tv personalities and politicans along with visiting Downing Street.

In the series I ask guests to choose three pieces of music. Aneira chose:

'How Great Thou Art' - Cary Underwood
'Love Changes Everything' - Michael Ball and Alfie Boe
'In Dreams' - Roy Orbeson

Take a listen.

and maybe read this as well.

2020 exams student gradings result in anger, disappointments, dismay, confusion and government u-turns across UK

Article as appeared in  WalesNewsOnline

THE latest chaos and confusion over grading for A-Level and AS levels have made the news as Ministers shapeshift and move the goalposts to try and make some sort of process appear to be fair for the many thousands of students who through no fault of their own have been thrown into a grading system, which has struggled to cope with the curveball which was and still is COVID-19.

In this article, former Schools Inspector GwynoroJones takes a look at what has happened across the UK as governments announce their latest approach to assessing students.

Former Schools Inspector: Gwynoro Jones

As in Scotland and England, the publication of the AS and A level results in Wales has ended up in controversy. There has been a call for a review of the awarding process used which was a combination of teacher assessments and a subsequent standardisation mechanism.

When initial findings began to emerge the examination watchdog indicated that the gradings had "been too generous" and would have to be revised downwards to ensure standardisation and consistency.

When the results were announced Thursday (August 13) the data for Wales showed a record proportion of A and A* grades at 29.9%, up 2.9 percentage points from 2019. But significantly this was less than the 40.4% estimated after the initial teacher assessments.

The announced results for Wales also revealed that performance at both A* to C and A*-A grades in Wales is higher than in all regions of England, apart from the south-east, which is only slightly higher.

The results for Wales further indicated that proportionately more pupils received more top grades and grades A* to C than in England, but fewer than in Northern Ireland. Also, the performance at both A* to C and A*-A grades in Wales is higher than in all regions of England, apart from the south-east, which is only slightly higher.

But despite all this encouraging and praiseworthy performance, the concerning statistic was that the announced results saw 42% of students had their result downgrade from the original assessment made by schools and teachers. Yet 53.7% of students received the same as forecasted earlier with 4.1% achieving a higher grading.

In the meantime, in order to forestall some of the looming criticism, the Welsh government has already announced a free appeals process for students and that no student should have got a grade lower than their AS results of 2019.

Qualifications Wales chief executive Philip Blaker said this year's process had not disadvantaged particular groups of pupils.

"We have analysed attainment gaps this year relative to previous years - looking at aspects such as gender, age and eligibility for free school meals", he said.

"Our analysis shows no statistically significant differences this year relative to other years."

Although Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford is claiming that it was a "record year" for results and that "the big picture is we have more students achieving, more students achieving at the very top end of the scale, and a record number of people from Wales accepted into university." the criticisms and allegations of unfairness has burst into the open.

Several Labour Senedd members are asking for an urgent review and Plaid Cymru urging that pupils who have received a lower grading should receive their earlier teacher assessment predicted results.

A Welsh Government spokesman has stressed however that about 94% of the grades were the same or within one grade of those that students were predicted to achieve earlier on in the process.

"This is before any adjustments are made as a result of the AS [level] floor announced yesterday by the minister for education," he added.

In England, the education minister Gavin Williamson and the government too are facing increasing and mounting backlash over the contentious A-level grading system used. Among the many critics is the Labour leader Keir Starmer who is calling on the UK government to scrap its "fatally flawed" results system.

Mr Starmer has even called on the Prime Minister to resolve the situation with "a Scottish Government-style U-turn",

When the results were announced by the exam regulator Ofqual it transpired that 39% of teachers' assessment was downgraded by one or more grades. Figures from Ofqual also showed that some 24,000student results were lowered by more than one grade - something the schools' minister Nick Gibbs had said would not happen.

What has further added to the dismay and anger in England has been the revelation that independent schools faired much better than state schools and experienced greater rises in the grades awarded.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation as was the case in Scotland was that the greatest reduction in grades awarded was recorded within those students and schools from disadvantaged backgrounds.
In an attempt to retrieve the situation Mr Williamson abruptly announced that students could use results from their mock examination to appeal. That actually just added to the whole controversy because schools across the country approach such mock examinations in so many different ways and added to which a lot of schools don't even hold them at all.

Turning to Scotland, initially, the Scottish government announced results also following a moderation process by the Scottish Qualifications Authority which saw over 125,000 students having their grades reduced. But within a day the government did a complete turnaround.

Over the last four years, pass rates in Scotland in nearly all the school education institutions fell. Even after the 2020 moderation process the results bucked the trend and revealed increases in grades. However, after the uproar and cries of unfairness and mounting concerns, the Scottish government reverted to the originally recommended grades as per teacher assessment.

The 2020 grade results in Scotland reveal the increased performance of 10.4% for National 5s, 14% for Highers and 13.4% for Advanced Highers. Results in Scotland have not just bucked the trends of the last four years but smashed them.

The ongoing controversy raises questions over the credibility of the whole process, which many claims have been completely unfair to the student population. It remains to be seen whether or not the powers that be are able to sort out the mess once and for all and most certainly in readiness for the students of 2021.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Gwynoro's People - in discussion with Wyn Thomas the former broadcaster

Next on #GwynorosPeople on #LlanelliTalkRadio
Meeting with a very good friend of decades back, #WynThomas a very well known personality on #SwanseaSound and later #HTV.
His life and times from his childhood in #Bethesda. A great personality #Cymro to his core and in many ways a broadcasting pioneer.
Wyn chose two songs and an extract from Rev Martin Luther King's memorable and historic 'I have a Dream' speech The two songs Cor y Penrhyn singing 'Sunset Poem' and Pavarotti 'Ce Gelida Manina'


Sunday, 2 August 2020

Gwynoro's People - Pobl Gwynoro

Over the last half-year or so I have been working in partnership with Alan Evans, the owner/editor of  LlanelliOnline/and WalesNewsOnline. Over the months he has been developing and expanding another arm of the business, that being LlanelliTalkRadio. We also have podcasts. 

Recently we have stumbled on the idea that I meet up in his studio with people I have come across, work with, friends, and interesting people who have a story to tell to talk about their life, career, and more.

First up is Alun Gibbard, a well known prolific author of over 30 books, broadcaster, educator, and other experiences.

There are two interviews with Alun, in Welsh and English

The books we talk about in English include:

Into the wind - on Carwyn James,
Who Beat the All Blacks 1972,
The Official Scarlets History, 
Derek Bevan and Nigel Owens.

Non sporting ones include:
April Jones  'Pink Ribbons for April'
Howard Marks,
Life in the Coal House.

Alun also makes reference to a book about to be published on the former First Minister, Carwyn Jones. 

In the Welsh language interview, books covered include:

Yn erbyn y Gwynt - hanes Carwyn James, 
Fyny gyda'r Swans,
Llyfre ar George North a 'Foxy'r Llew' (Jonathan Davies),
Non yn erbyn y ffactore - Non Evans.

Then the non-sporting ones:
Talcen Caled- about the miners strike,
O Llinell Biced i San Steffan - about  former MP Sian James.
Straeon Tafarn - on Dewi Pws,
Bywyd yn y Coal House,
Tony ac Aloma' Mab y Mans - on Arfon Haines Davies, and Carwyn Jones again.

Take a listen.

Next up is Wyn Thomas, another broadcaster and of course of Swansea Sound fame.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Gwynoro on 'Hold The Front Page'

This on a publication Hold The Front Page - 

A hyperlocal news publisher has taken on a former MP to help with its coverage after launching a radio station.
Alan Evans, who runs sister titles Llanelli Online and Wales News Online, has launched Llanelli Talk Radio with Gwynoro Jones.
Gwynoro, who was the Labour MP for Carmarthen from 1970 to 1974 and also a former school inspector for 20 years, was initially taken on to help with the development of the business.
But the 77-year-old is now also working on Welsh language coverage for the publications, as well as the radio project.

Furlough wage support schemes may hide true economic picture in Wales

The unemployment headline figures in Wales and the UK are only a small part of what is going on in the economy this summer. The data in relation to the number out of work benefit claimants, economic activity, the numbers on the UK payroll, fall in the number of job vacancies and the total number of hours worked makes interesting reading.

Data released by the Office for National Statistics show that the UK unemployment rate held steady at 3.9% in the three months to April whilst in Wales the figure was lower at 3%. However, the data also revealed that there was a fall of 15,000 in the total number employed in Wales, compared with the same period last year.

These headline figures may hide the reality that it is the massive furlough wage support schemes brought in by the UK government that has kept the unemployment rate at a lower level than was expected.

Whilst the total number of people unemployed in Wales during those three months stood at 47,000 the number of people claiming out-of-work benefits in Wales has doubled compared with the same time last year. Across the UK the total has increased significantly by 23% in May to reach 2.8 million people.

In Wales, the total number of out of work benefits claimants was 118,600 in the middle of May, which is 6.2% of people between the ages of 16 to 64.

Wales also continues to have a high rate of economic inactivity. That is people not in work and not available for work because they are ill, caring for someone or in full-time education - 23.2% of 16 to 64-year-olds in Wales are in this category, higher than the same period last year.

Only Northern Ireland has a higher rate of 26.7%.

Another indicator of how at present the furlough schemes masks what is taking place in the real economy is that the number of UK workers that are on the HMRC payroll data dropped by more than 600,000 between March and May.

The impact of the lockdown can also be exemplified in the number of hours worked. Between February and April, there was an 8.9% fall in the number of hours people worked.

That is the largest decrease in hours worked since 1971.

It is important to remember that all this data only reflects the impact resulting from the first six weeks of the lockdown period across the UK, in which almost nine million workers have been furloughed. Some 420,000 in Wales.

The full impact on jobs and the economy, therefore, will not be fully realised until after August when the wage support schemes are reduced and then later in October when the schemes, on present government intentions, will end.

As Clwyd West Conservative MP David Jones said: "The biggest concern is the autumn when it runs down completely. It's clearly not an optimistic outlook."

Looking forward there are worrying times ahead, not just for the traditional manufacturing, construction, retail, and other sectors but particularly for tourism, hospitality, and the economies of west and northwest Wales.

First posted on Wales News Online

Thursday, 28 May 2020

From politics, school inspections to broadcasting and journalism

Never too old to learn new skills and make a contribution. 

The story so far.

My learning experience with #LlanelliOnLine   #WalesNewsOnline  #LlanelliTalkRadio and more. Learnt a lot about the important contribution of #hyperlocals

Is it Cummings’ government now?

This is a short article I wrote on #WalesNewsOnline

Fact is no PM from Harold Wilson to Theresa May (9 of them) would have tolerated what Cummings did and most certainly not a press conference in the Downing Street Rose Garden to boot

I have a hunch that Boris Johnson will come to regret securing the prize of becoming PM for which, he has struggled so long. I say this because it is my belief that the experience of the premiership ....

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Gwenno Dafydd composes her words to the European Anthem 'Ode To Joy'

Gwenno wrote her words in both Welsh and English as an outpouring of her grief in leaving the European Union. 

She lived in Brussels and Gent, in Belgium for a total of five years and her husband comes from Belgium. She led the singing on behalf of the Welsh contingency in Green Park during the last Anti Brexit march in London  when she sang the first verse of the English version extensively all the way to Parliament Square. You can read more about her work here.

Gwenno Dafydd is a freelance professional ‘Leadership and Public Speaking Coach’ and has  been a professional performer and writer since 1980. She has published a book about women in comedy, (Stand Up & Sock it to them Sisters. Funny, Feisty Females)  performs a one woman show about Edith Piaf entitled ‘Passionate about Piaf and has written over a hundred lyrics including the (bilingual)  Saint David’s Day Anthem,

'Ode to Joy'

We are stronger all together
Let our voices be as one
Sisters, brothers stand together
Join our voices in one song
Europe is our home and harbour
Brining peace and harmony 
We will fall once we’re divided
We must stay one family

We will grieve forever leaving
Our united family
Lies were spun by those deceiving
Lies to stop us being free
We were stronger as one union
Nor apart but part of you
Though we now are separating
We will always love EU 

We are all so broken hearted
And the future feels so dark
Though the embers are still growing
We have lost our vital spark
Though our hearts are sad and heavy 
And our future feels less bright
We will never give up hoping 
And today begins our fight. 

© Gwenno Dafydd 22nd January 2010

** Gwenno will be singing this in German, Welsh and English at the Wales For Europe event by the Aneurin Bevan statue Saturday morning Feb 1st.