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Saturday, October 01, 2016

Donald Trump appeared in a porn video

I have been trying to keep away from the US Presidential election, partially so as not to jinx my favoured candidate, one Hillary Clinton, but also because the more I read about it the more preposterous the contest seems.

However, I am not immune to an opportunity to feature a bit of click bait so this piece in the Independent was irrresistible.

The story revolves around Donald Trump's treatment of women (which is appalling) and the revelation from Clinton during the first debate that her opponent had verbally abused Alicia Machado during a Miss Universe contest.

Trump has been obsessing about this allegation ever since, culminating in him joining in a right wing smear campaign against Miss Machado in which it was alleged that she had appeared in the remarkably named porn film, Apprentass 4.

The article, which featured this allegation, has since been amended to say that “The star of Apprentass 4 was Angel Dark, not Alicia Machado."  The whole sordid episode was summed up in one tweet:  "First ever presidential nominee to release a public statement containing the phrase "check out sex tape" at 5:30AM: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/781788223055994880 …"

Undeterred Trump continued to peddle the allegation only for the smear to rebound on him with devastating effect for it transpires that Donald Trump once appeared in a Playboy VHS title:

The BuzzFeed story makes it clear that Trump did not appear in a sexual scene, but it featured him along with some Playboy 'playmates', spraying the foam from a champagne bottle onto a Playboy branded limousine on a New York City street.

As the Independent says if so inclined, you can buy the DVD on Amazon:

As a savvy consumer, you ought to know it has been reviewed twice and garnered a 4.5 star overall rating. Because the Donald is good at winning. One of the reviews, by the grace of God, lists the DVD features, which include 'It's Party Time', ' The Old Switch-a-Roo' and 'The Hunt for Playmate 2000'.

Again, we turn to Twitter for the final verdict this time from George Takei: Many wonder why no one ever noticed that Trump had a brief cameo in a soft core porn video. It turns out, everyone fast-forwarded thru it.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Hypocritical UKIP AMs apply double standards on double-jobbing

Today's Western Mail exposes the hypocrisy at the heart of the Welsh Assembly's UKIP group's hounding of Nathan Gill for double-jobbing as an AM and MEP, with the revelation that one of their own is working both as an Assembly Member and a researcher for the party's sole MP.

The paper says that Mark Reckless, who represents South Wales East in the Senedd has recorded in his entry in the Assembly’s register of members’ interests that he also works as a “Part-time director (not a company director) and company secretary, Ukip Parliamentary Resource Unit Limited”. The entry goes on to state that Mr Reckless works for between five and 20 hours per week. It says the company is in receipt of House of Commons “Short” money.

As an AM Mr Reckless’ basic salary is £64,000, on top of which he is paid £13,000 as chair of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee.

His entry in the register of members’ interests also shows that he employs his wife Catriona as a senior adviser for 29.6 hours a week. Until earlier this month she sat as a member of Medway council in Kent, where she was deputy leader of the Ukip group.

As the paper says, Neil Hamilton, the Ukip Assembly group leader, has been highly critical of Nathan Gill who doubles as a member of the European Parliament and as an AM. He has at various times called for Gill to resign as an MEP and as an AM over his “double-jobbing”, saying he cannot possibly do both jobs effectively.

Of course the two cases are not exactly the same, and it is a fact that quite a lot of AMs also have other things on the side taking up a similar amount of time. But it would help UKIP's case against Nathan Gill if they at least got their story straight and that if they really are against 'double-jobbing' they should lead by example.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Another cost of Brexit?

The reality of Brexit continues to hit home and we havent even left the EU yet, or started the process of leaving for that matter.

The Independent reports on the views of a senior executive at Jaguar Land Rover, who has warned that post-Brexit trade barriers imposed on the UK car industry if the right deal is not reached would "frankly be disastrous".

Hanno Kirner, executive director at JLR, which is owned by Tata Group, based in India, issued the stark warning at a joint Government-industry “Great Britain” event, ahead of the Paris Motor Show:

Mr Kirner was speaking openly for many in the industry, including component makers, who talk privately about the danger of jobs going abroad if membership or strong access to the single market is curtailed after Brexit.

He added that tariffs would add to the cost and the complication of integrated cross-border supply chains and would "damage business and British jobs".

JLR is Britain's biggest exporter of any kind to China. It employs 42,000 directly, and invests £3.5bn a year in the UK.

If Britain failed to conclude a free trade deal with the rest of the EU and was forced to fall back on basic World Trade Organisation rules, British car exporters could face tariffs of up to 10 per cent. Both the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, and the International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, have in recent weeks conceded that WTO rules for the UK could be the ultimate outcome.

Some 57 per cent of the 1.6 million cars made in Britain find buyers in the rest of the EU. The next largest market is the US (12 per cent), followed by China (7 per cent).

The British car industry is worth £20bn to our economy and is responsible for thousands of jobs. Any threat to its viability is deeply worrying. Let's hope that the Brexiteers can live up to their promises and get us a deal that will protect this investment.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Did Plaid Cymru take money off Libya's Muammar Gaddafi?

Today's Western Mail contains the startling claim that Plaid Cymru received a donation of £25,000 from former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 1976.

This allegation has emerged from the autobiography of Dr Carl Clowes, a distinguished party activist and a public health consultant who co-founded the UK’s first community co-operative at Llanaelhaearn in Gwynedd, as well as the Nant Gwrtheyrn Welsh language centre near Pwllheli.

The donation allegedly came after a four-man delegation from Plaid Cymru visited Libya.

In his book Super Furries, Prins Seeiso, Miss Siberia – a fi, to be published on October 1, Dr Clowes tells how he went on the trip to Libya in 1976.

He was with Dr Phil Williams, an academic who served as a Plaid AM for South Wales East in the National Assembly’s first term and two other party activists: Brian Morgan Edwards, co-founder of the Welsh language music recording company Sain, and John Lewis. He writes:

"What was unusual was the nature of the conversation towards the end of the trip, when our guide offered to find out how much of a contribution there might be for four pacifists to put towards their dream of independence, something Colonel Gaddafi embraced as a way of disrupting the status quo in the West.

"I understood from Brian that nearly £25,000 had arrived in Plaid Cymru’s coffers.”

A Plaid Cymru spokeswoman told the paper: “The trip to Libya was well documented at the time and since. There is absolutely no record or knowledge of any such donation being made to Plaid Cymru.” 

Of course as the 2000 Act requiring the public disclosure of such donations was not in force at the time, we will never know if the donation was indeed made.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

New UKIP leader puts Neil Hamilton in charge of her Welsh branch

The new leader of UKIP came to Wales yesterday determined to unite the seven UKIP AMs and resolve all feuding. By the time she left she had acknowledged that Neil Hamilton was actually the leader of UKIP's Welsh branch rather than their sole MEP and elected leader, Nathan Gill. Oh, and the UKIP group in the Welsh Assembly still stands at six, with Nathan Gill sitting as an independent AM.

The Western Mail reports that Diane James described Mr Hamilton as the leader of Ukip in Wales, apparently accepting Mr Hamilton’s interpretation that Mr Gill had lost the role when he was temporarily stripped of party membership by the national executive committee over the “double jobbing” row.

So that is that. Despite the warm and fuzzy words by Ms. James as she left Wales, Gill has been cast out into the cold and Hamilton is UKIP's main man. So much for unity. I suspect we will not be seeing that much more of Diane James in Wales after this.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Welsh Labour Ministers lose the plot on Brexit

As if it were bad enough having to put up with Theresa May's Government's prevarication over their position after we leave the EU, the Welsh Labour Economy Minister chipped in over the weekend with his own version of Brexit that does not seem too far away from the vision of Nigel Farage and UKIP.

According to the BBC, Ken Skates said that the Welsh Government wanted to maintain access to the single market but regain control over immigration, thus preventing the free movement of labour. He said:

"In the absence of any other indication from the UK Government... we are saying we are filling that void at the moment with a compelling argument for ensuring that Britain retains unfettered access to the single market while also recognising that in the referendum immigration was a major issue so we cannot maintain free movement of people."

How exactly he is going to achieve this feat is unclear given that all the European leaders insist that you cannot have access to the single market without retaining the free movement of people. They are doing so, not because they are being awkward but because the two go together naturally. You simply cannot have free trade if you restrict your labour market.

If Welsh Labour now want to prevent EU nationals coming to Wales, then how are they going to staff the health service, meet their new obligations to achieve better nursing levels, ensure that we have the right mix of labour for the needs of the Welsh economy and what are they going to do with the European nationals already here, many of whom are working in our public services?

This is not a thought-through position, it is a sound-bite designed to win back Labour voters from UKIP. It does Welsh Labour no credit whatsoever to follow the Brexiteers into this sort of identity politics.

Theresa May might want a bespoke solution but even she is going to be faced with the stark reality that if the UK is to remain in the single market then they will need to retain freedom of movement. What makes Welsh Labour think they can achieve a different outcome?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Boris skewered

For those who still question the portrayal of Boris Johnson as a national embarrassment in his role as Foreign Secretary, this article on the Reuters' website should put doubts to rest.

They report that Germany and France have brushed aside comments from Johnson suggesting there is no link between the EU's principle of free movement and access to its single market, saying they could send Johnson a copy of the Lisbon Treaty and even travel to London to explain it to him in English.

Apparently, Boris told Sky News television on Thursday that the EU's position that there was an automatic trade-off between access to the single market and free movement was "complete baloney." This has not gone down well amongst the powers-to-be on he continent:

Asked about the remarks at a news conference in Berlin, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and his French counterpart Michel Sapin shot glances at each other before the German host responded.

"We just looked at each other because we're used to respecting foreign ministers a lot," Schaeuble said.

"If we need to do more, we will gladly send her majesty's foreign minister a copy of the Lisbon Treaty. Then he can read that there is a certain link between the single market and the four core principles in Europe," he added.

"I can also say it in English. So if clarification is necessary we can pay a visit and explain this to him in good English," Schaeuble said.

Was Theresa May perpetrating a massive joke on the United Kingdom when she made Boris Foreign Minister? If so, it has ceased to be funny.

Boris needs to learn that he can not get away with the sort of loose talk and dodgy promises he used to such good effect during the EU referendum when representing the UK as a Minister.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

How to leave Labour

The Independent reveals that “How to leave the Labour party” is currently the most searched for question about the party on Google on the eve of the leadership election result.

They say that the party faces a potential exodus of its more moderate supporters who have become disillusioned with the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, who is expected to beat Owen Smith to stay as Labour leader:

The revolt by the PLP has exposed tensions between the majority of Labour MPs, who occupy the centre ground and have dominated the party for the past 20 years, and a small group of hard-left activists surrounding Mr Corbyn which has the overwhelming support of the membership.

MPs, many of whom fear losing their seats if Theresa May calls an early election, said this overwhelming support from the party membership has blinded Mr Corbyn and his team to the reality of their unpopularity with the general public.

A recent poll suggested the Labour party faced its largest poll rating in opposition in its history after it slipped to an average of 11 points behind the Conservatives.

Former leader Lord Neil Kinnock said the party is facing its “greatest crisis” since at least the 1930s.

He told BBC Panorama: “Not just in my lifetime but stretching back to the 1930s, by any examination this is the greatest crisis that the Labour Party has faced.”

Meanwhile, ITV political correspondent, Carl Dinnen has revealed on Twitter that the Liberal Democrats are setting up a stall outside Labour's Conference to recruit new members.

We have become the cheeky party.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Corbyn in more trouble over fresh anti-semitism claims

The Labour leader has plunged his party into more controversy when his campaign released a video showing his supporters dismissing a number of attacks on him. In particular they have once more riled the British Board of Deputies, which represents many UK Jews with the claim that accusations of antisemitism are simply a result of his detractors 'losing the political argument’.

The President of the Board Jonathan Arkush said the Labour Leader must now make clear publically if he agrees with these comments:

He told The Independent: “I want to put over my bewilderment and deep concern at how Jeremy Corbyn’s own leadership campaign could possibly have thought this video appropriate given what has happened.

“It speaks volumes about the dismissive attitudes towards antisemitism in parts of the party.”

He added: “If people are so dismissive of racism in their own midst, how can they deserve the trust of their own members, let alone the electorate?”

It seems that this is an issue that will not go away for Corbyn despite a report by Shami Chakrabarti which was commissioned to explore if there was anti-Semitism in the party after numerous incidents, including those which led to the suspension of MP Naz Shah and ex-London mayor Ken Livingstone.

The Chakrabarti report said Labour was not overrun by antisemitism or other forms of racism, but that there was an "occasionally toxic atmosphere" and "too much clear evidence... of ignorant attitudes".

However, this week Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth told how she has received more than 25,000 incidents of abuse, much of it racial.

Ms Smeeth walked out of the launch of the Chakrabarti report after being challenged by an activist at the event.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The need for an effective Welsh anti-poverty programme

There has been some controversy recently over the future of the Welsh Government's flagship Communities First programme after it was omitted from the latest iteration of the Programme for Government and the First Minister refused to deny it was destined to be cut.

More than £300 million has been spent on this programme since 2001 and yet it is difficult to identify what it has achieved. Of course there are individual success stories but Wales has fallen back relative to the rest of the UK in economic terms and the absence of effective measurements means that we have not been able to ascertain if taxpayers are getting value for money or even what the impact of this expenditure is in terms of real outcomes.

When I was on the Assembly we carried out an inquiry into poverty. Unfortunately we ran out of time before we could scrutinise programmes like Community First in any detail. I hope that the new Assembly is picking that up.

However, the two things that were most obvious from the scrutiny we did carry out was that firstly, the Welsh Government's programmes are designed to alleviate poverty not to eliminate it.

That is fine providing they are upfront about it, after all the Welsh Government don't have all the tools needed for an effective anti-poverty drive. However, Ministers are operating under the pretence that they are spending money to eliminate poverty without any evidence to back that up or even that the programmes they are funding work.

Secondly, there appears to be a major failure within Welsh Government to align all its programmes into a coherent anti-poverty drive. Individual Ministers are doing important work with policies such as the pupil premium, healthy community initiatives, funding temporary jobs through Jobs Growth Wales and of course programmes like Flying Start and Communities First, but there is no overall strategy with clear objectives and a co-ordinated approach to tackling poverty.

So when the Western Mail reports that politicians and charity workers have warned about the impact of losing Communities First the story is a bit more complex than that.

In fact the majority of those quoted are not saying the Welsh Government should keep Communities First at all. They are arguing for clarity and a coherent anti-poverty programme that does what it says on the the tin.

The Welsh Government has had long enough to come up with such an entity so why are we still waiting for them to show that they have a way forward on this issue?

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