Welcome to the September edition of our Monthly Bulletin, which provides you with the news of what is going on within the Caerphilly Constituency Labour Party.
A reminder that the next meeting of the General Committee, which is open to all Party members, has been rescheduled from its normal slot of the second Friday of the month to the third Friday, 20 September. The venue, the Council Chambers at Ty Penallta, remains the same, and its normal starting time of 6:30pm is unchanged.
We have an important guest speaker, Steve Davies, Managing Director of the new SE Wales Education Achievement Service. This body has superseded the activities and services of the Local Education Authority Units in 5 Councils in SE Wales, Caerphilly, Torfaen, Monmouth, Newport and Blaenau Gwent. Steve will speak on its role and functions, and will also cover the crucial role played by school governors in helping to deliver improved standards in all aspects of our local schools.
Our September meeting will also conclude the debate we began at our August meeting on the lessons to be learnt from our disappointing result of the recent Penyrheol by-election, and a short debate on our future campaigning activities.
We will also discuss the recent letter sent to all party members by Ed Milliband on the proposed changes to the links with the trade union movement. Two local delegates from UNITE and UNISON, spoke at our August meeting, and we agreed that the Constituency Party and affiliated trade unions would work together to establish stronger links, and help to recruit more members in both Labour Party membership and our increased level of activities within our local communities. Our 2 delegates for annual conference will report back to the October meeting on the decisions taken.
Our September meeting will also debate a motion on freezing the rail fares of Arriva Trains on the Rhymney Valley line, and hear details of our campaign to promote this issue. Please see Jeff Cuthbert’s article below.
Our colleagues in the Islwyn constituency are inviting us to attend their annual dinner on Friday 8 November at the Cross Keys Rugby Club. The guest speaker is Huw Irranca Davies. Tickets are £20 per head and can be obtained from the secretary of Islwyn CLP, Gwyn James (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The CLP Women’s Forum held their lastest meeting on Monday 9 September at the Ty Penallta offices of the Caerphilly County Borough Council. Details of the next meeting will be sent to women members shortly. If you require help with a lift please contact our CLP Women’s Officer, Barbara Jones on 07973-118543.
Jeff Cuthbert AM
Why there needs to be a price freeze on the Rhymney Line
Many of you will be aware through the commute to work, taking the children shopping or just by visiting friends, the cost of rail fare presses a heavy burden on family finances. For many people on low wages with small amounts of disposable income, the ever increasing cost of accessing this vital transport link is slowly but surely, making it more difficult for people to conduct their everyday business.
Think about the man or woman on the minimum wage, travelling to Cardiff to get to work via Caerphilly train station. They are charged £6.40 for a return ticket to Cardiff. This equates to around 15% of their take home pay.
Think about the man or woman who works part – time. They might want to take their children on the train to Cardiff to do some Christmas shopping. A return ticket for an adult and two children is around £15. A sizable proportion of his or her income.
The point needs to be made, and we should have no issue with saying it, there needs to be a halt to inflation – busting fare increases by ARRIVA. This will help put money back into the pockets of our constituents who are naturally feeling the pressure of daily life. People living in this constituency have been hit pretty hard in recent years by fare increases. Let me tell you more.
The Welsh Government assumed franchise management responsibilities in 2006. The policy since then has been to regulate fares by an ‘average’ of RPI+1% (based on the RPI from the previous July), which is the default position in the Wales and Borders franchise.
Individual regulated fares can vary so long as the total pool of increase does not exceed RPI+1%. In other words, prices could well go up by more in some areas and less in others. It is entirely possible within the agreement that fares could actually be cut. But there’s no sign of ARRIVA doing this.
On the Rhymney Line we haven’t been so lucky to see our fares cut. Nor have we even seen our fares go up by just the average. Instead, we have witnessed big increases. In 9 years, the price of rail travel along the Rhymney line has gone up 60%. Most worryingly, fare prices have accelerated since 2010. This coming during austere times.
I have done some calculations to back up the argument for a 2014 price freeze by using the RPI+1% formula over the last 9 years. If rail prices would have gone up by the ‘average’ in that period, a return ticket to Cardiff would cost you between £5.50 - £5.60. Today the same ticket costs you £6.40, an 80 to 90 pence difference. Calculate the difference over the course of the year and work out how much you will save.
A price freeze in 2014 will help to re – dress the problem of high price rises for people living in this constituency. Now we have to go out there and take the message to the public.
Wayne David MP
Syria – Cameron’s failure
Now that the dust has settled a little after the vote in Parliament on Syria, it is worth reflecting on what took place and why.
The position which Labour took in those votes was both coherent and principled. Central to our view was the Government had re-called Parliament and was asking MPs to support military action according to a timetable which was unreasonable and unnecessary. The clear impression was given that Parliament had to meet when it did because military action, led by the United States, was imminent. Even when the Government came forward with a weaker motion it was still Cameron’s intention to have a vote which would “in principle” commit us to military action.
The announcement on Saturday by President Obama to ask Congress for its view demonstrated that military action was not in fact time sensitive. The reason why Parliament was recalled by the Prime Minister was for him to be able to demonstrate that he was somehow ‘leading’ the march towards military action. And yet he wished to do this on the basis of evidence which was insubstantial and when he had no clear plan about what military action would entail, what its objectives would be, and what its consequences might be.
On the issue of the evidence of chemical weapons use, last Thursday, the only ‘evidence’ Cameron was able to present to the House was a 1½ page memo from the Joint Intelligence Committee. This memo was devoid of specifics and which even spelt the name of Assad incorrectly. This was not the compelling body of evidence which Labour was asking for. At the very least, Members believed that they were being bounced into a commitment to military action and that there was no reason why a decision had to be taken before UN inspectors had reported their findings.
The legality of military action was also far from clear and this was compounded by an absence of any commitment, initially at least, to attempt to engage the UN in any decision on military action. But I think it is true to say that it was the lack of any real thought or indeed the refusal to express any opinions, about what military action would mean and could lead to, was of understandable concern to Labour MPs.
In the debate, Jack Straw, who was Foreign Secretary during the time of the Iraq War don’t forget, made the telling point that cruise missiles could not target chemical weapons as this would lead to the release of agents into the atmosphere and therefore any strikes would have to focus on Assad’s operational and military command structure. This would inevitably mean that any military strike would be of material assistance to the Syrian rebels. Jack believed that there may be a justification for this, but argued that we ought to be clear that the consequences of assisting the opposition had to be thought through extremely carefully. The opposition of course contains extreme elements, such as al-Qaeda. There was no indication that the Government had given military action the necessary detailed thought.
MPs were also acutely aware that the Syrian civil war could escalate into a broader regional conflict, involving in one way or another Israel, Russia, Iran, Turkey and indeed potentially other states. It is extremely unlikely that military action would simply mean “a shot across Assad’s bows”. If it were, there would be little point to the action.
These were and still are difficult and complex issues. Everyone in the House shares a revulsion at the use of chemical weapons. But we are also acutely aware that a knee-jerk reaction could have made a bad situation even worse. David Cameron failed to win the argument in favour of armed intervention. Leadership is about winning the arguments, but it also about listening and taking people with you. This of course requires sound judgement. The debate on Syria demonstrated that David Cameron lacks these qualities. Equally, it showed that Ed Miliband doesn’t.
Do you wish to have a say in the Party’s General Election manifesto?
One of the key issues at Conference will be the debates surrounding our General Election Manifesto pledges under the Policy Forum online system, which the Caerphilly CLP has already participated in and has achieved some recognition on certain suggested policies. If you are interested in the next stage of putting forward more flesh on the bones of our General Election Manifesto via this Policy Forum system you are invited to contact me. I set out below the 10 chapters being considered, you are invited to specify which chapter or Chapters you wish to choose, and I will then email my draft response to the subject together with a request to comment and add your own ideas.
Later in the year you will be invited to attend a special meeting to debate and finalise our response to the chapter or chapters of your choice, which will then be sent to the Labour Party National Policy Forum for consideration:
Chapter 1 21ST Century NHS and Social Care: Delivering Integration
Chapter 2 The Housing Crisis: House building and a private sector that works for Britain’s families
Chapter 3 Protecting Workers: including the role of agency workers, the living wage, and Gangmasters Licensing Authority
Chapter 4 Childcare: What matters to parents and children?
Chapter 5 Our Buses and Railways: giving communities more of a say
Chapter 6 Vocational education, apprenticeships and the role of job guarantees in tackling youth unemployment
Chapter 7 Young People and Politics: Making a fresh start
Chapter 8 Britain’s role in a post-2015 development vision
Chapter 9 Tax avoidance: tax havens
Chapter 10 A British Investment Bank: Making it a reality
European Parliamentary Elections
The next important elections will be the elections in May 2014 for the European Parliament. We heard all of the Labour candidates at our May GC, and following a postal vote of all Party Members, Jane Bryant (Newport West) gained the second slot on the ballot paper behind the sitting Labour MEP Derek Vaughan. Third on the ballot paper is Alex Thomas and fourth is Christina Rees. The elections in May will be held using proprtional representation and there are 4 seats for the whole of Wales.
We will be advertising our canvassing activities for this election in early September, and will visit each ward on a specified Saturday morning from mid-September through to mid December. Please look out for these notices and support our campaign for these vitally important European Elections.