I’m voting for Leanne Wood. Here’s why you should too…

I’d intended on simply voting quietly and privately in this leadership election. I’d told my friends how I intended to vote, and why. But I didn’t envisage sharing my thoughts more widely.

But as the ballot papers drop tomorrow, what’s become clear is that we’ve not really been addressing the real issues. The vacuum has been filled, for sure. Filled with the soundbites politics we’ve all become used to; pushing personality over beliefs; concepts (some of which are good) touted as policies; triangulating messages; managerialism etc. The type of PRollocks-ridden politics that has led more and more people away from trusting politicians.

The thing is, this is the easy way. This is how politics is done. Done by professional politicians to a population who are fast giving up on politics as an answer to their problems. The result of politics like this is a fast-track to the far right. Why? Because unless we do something to change outcomes for those living precarious lives, or those whose lives have dropped into real poverty, they will end up choosing the strongmen who use politics to blame others. Others are so easy to find aren’t they? Remember which politician has consistently stood up for those ‘others’. Yup, Leanne.

Meanwhile, in the real world of everyday Wales, we have multiple crises at play. We are fast approaching 40% child poverty; we pay millions to sports car manufacturers owned by the richest people in the world to make cars nobody in Wales will ever afford; and we pay public funds into the coffers on the super-rich on the promise of economic growth. And we also have the very real impact of Brexit on our doorstep. Brexit was, in my opinion, a massive two-fingers to a system that’s failed too many.

We can spend (& waste) energy blaming Westminster, Welsh Labour, Nigel Farage, the EU…., all of the above. We can even spend our energy trying to reverse the decision. In, and of, themselves important. But until we address the reasons why, we’re simply storing up these concerns for the next opportunity, to stick it to ‘the man’. Brexit doesn’t just need fighting; it needs addressing.

Economy – Over the past decade (unlike all the candidates, and most of their advisors) I’ve worked across communities in Wales, supporting lots of different people with their own small and micro businesses. In that time, I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve learnt that this group really matter in Wales. They matter in communities up and down the Country. They don’t just provide financial wealth; they provide social wealth too. I’ve learnt that many of these business owners have been waiting on the promise of politicians since devolution, and all they’ve seen is a failure to deliver, apart from for a select few. They’re fed up seeing promises of the next economic nirvana resulting in nothing.

I’m clear on a number of issues. Firstly, the concept of trickle-down economics is a fallacy, which blows the idea of a big transformative project out of the water. When the state uses scarce resources to fund say, a call centre whose owners are based in India, the profits that operation make don’t stay in Cardiff; they jump over the Severn Bridge, get on a plane at Heathrow and head to Mumbai. Trickle-down is actually a cover for more extractivism that Wales has been subjected to for centuries. Only now it’s not coal and steel, it’s financial returns (oh, and water!).

Secondly, we need to start to address a world with much less work. Until politicians begin thinking properly about the impact of automation and artificial intelligence on the world of work, we will forever be stuck in a rut of economic dependency. Hardly addressed by any of the candidates.

Finally, and most importantly, the economy must mean something. Even if all the grandest of ideas come off, if we don’t solve the pressing social issues of our time, inequality, poverty and climate change, what is the point? It’s important for the societal construct to come before the financial. It does with Leanne.

Leadership – There have been some very personal criticisms of Leanne’s leadership style over the course of this campaign. Whether they’ve been orchestrated or not, isn’t important. What is important is creating some balance within all this negativity. Plaid’s leadership, especially at the Assembly seemed to me to have been a joint endeavour, especially amongst the three standing for Leader. The manifestos were joint endeavours, and if they failed to set the world alight, I’d suggest that failure should be collectively owned.

Outside of the politically active bubble, Leanne consistently polls well, and above the competition (internal and external). In my personal experience she has a unrivalled ability to get a message across to the general public. She is liked. In the shrill world of cut’n’thrust, bloke-centric, politics, being liked is too often overlooked as a strong political characteristic. Just think about it; do you give more time to those you like, or those you don’t? The electorate are the same. If the message didn’t quite work, perhaps it isn’t the messenger who should get all the blame?

Independence – As some will know, I’m a newcomer to the cause of Welsh independence. I’ve said before, I’m one of the increasing number who struggle to see an answer to Wales’ problems via the status quo. In fact, I do think the status quo is damaging to Wales (for the record, I think the same is true of much of England, Scotland and the north of Ireland). I think those who share my concerns over ways we’re likely to address the issues of inequality and poverty, are also persuadable to the cause of Welsh independence. They’re less enamoured by the (valid though they are) cultural arguments. The civic and cultural arguments for independence need to be brought together.

But one thing concerns me, and it relates to our own personal dependence. If Wales is to truly be independent, it needs to be able to remove its dependence on single transformational events, messianic individuals, and especially the tired old ideas from outside. Our answers lie within. Within our towns and villages, our communities and our individuals. It’s always easiest to fall back on traditional economic thinking; mimicking the global, unequal world of market efficiency and financialisation. The problem with this – it just doesn’t work, and it won’t work for Wales.

If anything, repeating more of the same old mistakes will likely push people away from the independence movement, in the same way Brexit prevailed. If we want to build a better Wales, it needs to be less about owning the next iPhone, however beguiling, and more about reducing inequality and ending poverty. That won’t be solved by markets, growth & trickle-down redistribution. It will be solved by being radical. Upholding and supporting social capital, and especially when there is a direct choice between that and financial capital. Only one of the contenders gets that; Leanne.

Alliances & Electoral Success – My concerns about the situation Wales is in helps me to be a pragmatist. Why? Because, I think we’re in deep trouble. I don’t agree with any of the candidates that we need a Plaid Government to deliver independence. We firstly need to understand how damaging the current political system is to Wales’ communities. We then need to lead a consensus of those who want to change that system – the only way to do this is with ALL the levers of power in our hands. That can’t be anything other than independence. If members of other parties buy into this vision of a different economic system in Wales, then that is sufficient for me to want to work with them.

This also brings me to the issue of electoral success. Some are expecting a change of leader to radically change the Party’s electoral fortunes. I think that is pie-in-the-sky thinking. If Plaid is serious about electoral success in the medium term, it must become a radical force; it must deliver on ‘The Change Wales Needs’; Leanne’s pamphlet.

Voting for Leanne – So I’m voting for Leanne as my first and only choice. I won’t be using my second vote. Does this mean I’m failing to participate fully in this democratic process? I’d argue not.

Rhun has yet to set out anything of substance, policy-wise. He’s talked about being a great communicator, but I wanted to know more about his politics, and that really hasn’t got out. The race is almost run, and I think he’s left it too late.

I’ve spoken with Adam during the campaign about some of his ideas. He has said he’s not prepared to give up on the big transformative projects, and his focus is clearly on ‘the economy’. This is standard fare for mainstream politicians – after all, wasn’t it Bill Clinton who famously said ‘It’s the economy, stupid!’, and you can’t get more mainstream than Bill, can you? But the economy is a social construct. The economy as it currently operates is there to make rich people richer – it creates inequality. It also destroys our ecology.

I want our economy to do more. I want it to be set to give prominence to ensuring no child starts their days in poverty in one of the richest economies in the world. That’s the language I wanted to hear, and I’ve not heard it from him.

That doesn’t mean I don’t respect both Rhun and Adam for standing. Nor does it mean, that the policy debates that they’ve raised (or plan to) aren’t worthy of serious debate. Nor does it mean, I disagree with all they’re saying. Far from it, and given we’re all members of the same party, I’d be shocked if I did disagree entirely.

However, on the substantive questions of diagnosing Wales’ current position and setting a clear political vision, there are differences, and they are significant.

An economy that is full of publicly supported companies like Aston Martin, Airbus, Ford and all the others, but fails to address inequality and poverty, isn’t an economy; it’s a con. An economy that funds billionaires over those on the edge of precarity, isn’t an economy; it’s a con. An economy that provides tax cuts to rival the lowest around to attract the entrepreneurial class and global corporations who have no foundation, isn’t an economy; it’s a con. And finally, an economy that ends up looking anything like the unequal U.K., with an overheating core and a dependent hinterland, isn’t an economy; it’s a massive con.

I didn’t want to write this blog, but I felt I needed to. If, like me, you have a vote in this leadership election, and if like me you are committed to Wales being a fairer, more inclusive country; a country where no child starts their life (and undoubtedly ends it too) in poverty, then the only way to vote is with Leanne Wood.

No politician is perfect. They’re just like the rest of us. To expect otherwise is plain daft. And to suggest otherwise, of others, is equally daft. But what I’m sure of, the desperate straits we find ourselves in doesn’t call for a mainstream leader. We need someone who’ll fight to realign our economy to better suit everyone; not try to make a bad system grow.

At the end of the day, I believe the system isn’t working for Wales, and we must change things, now. Don’t expect radical, socialist policies from anyone other than Leanne, because it just isn’t going to happen. They’ve told you they’re going the way of markets and capital. It’s crystal clear.

If you want radical, vote for the only radical on the ticket. Leanne Wood.

NB – I’ve written this in a personal capacity. I’ve not sought Leanne’s permission, or approval. She hasn’t sought to approve or censure my blog, and had she asked, I wouldn’t have obliged. The first time Leanne reads this, will be the first time you could’ve read it.
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Calling for a Universal Basic Income trial in Wales

Basic Income in Wales – the case for urgent investigation.

The world is at something of a crossroads. Whenever you turn on the news, hit up your twitter feed, or listen to the fabled man or woman in the pub, you get the impression of a world in flux. Uncertainty reigns supreme, and the risks to our economy, ecology and society are high, and rising.

It’s against this backdrop that I’m calling for an urgent investigation into basic income here in Wales. I’m not suggesting that basic income is some panacea to all these potential risks, but I do believe it could form part of the answer, and as such, cannot be summarily dismissed out of hand

Let’s start with a few things we know.

Work today isn’t ‘working’. Workers are increasingly unhappy, impoverished, at the beck and call of their masters, and some, even enslaved. Precarity rules the working lives of an ever expanding cohort. Capital is king, and it’s power is growing apace.

Work today isn’t fair. The rewards for certain work are over-egged (financialised marketeers betting on the tiniest swing in commodified tosh); for other work (elderly care, child-rearing for example) the rewards are non existent, but the societal benefits are high.

Welfare today isn’t ‘working’. The dehumanising focus on austerity has led, in part, to a rejigging of the welfare system (Universal Credit, sanctions regime etc). More to the point, it is wrong minded, as the focus always reverts back to work. And as we know, work today isn’t working.

We’re not alone here in Wales. These are international problems, affecting post industrial communities, first and hardest. They have been pressing issues for some time. Issues we have failed to address.

Let’s touch on a few things we don’t know.

There’s a growing debate about the impact of driverless technology, robotics, automation and Artificial Intelligence on the future of work. Future scanning experts who fundamentally disagree on what they think will happen, all agree on one thing – work will fundamentally change over the next decade and beyond.

We can see a future with far fewer jobs. That will have massive political consequences. It’s a risk that needs us to model solutions. Leaving these problems (and solutions) to those running the Country a decade from now is a dereliction of duty for those of us here today, and scarily could be too late, for too many. Many who will be consumed by debilitating poverty, and a society looking for ‘others’ to blame.

Contemplating the concept of basic income forces us all to challenge key assumptions about work, welfare and purpose. About stress and anxiety. About freedom & happiness. Society needs us to have these debates. Our Well Being & Future Generations Act is the catalyst for this challenge.

There are basic income trials of one sort or another across the world, including our near neighbours in Scotland. There is so much we don’t know about the concept, especially regarding key challenges such as cost, behaviour change(s), the work that is left to do, redistributional impacts, how we deal with those with particular needs etc., that we need these trials, and more.

So, Wales, let’s do our bit. Lets contribute to the world’s learning on basic income.

YesCaerdydd call on Ministers to consider #indyWales

This press release has just left @yescaerdydd towers. We’d like to share it with you. It’s fully reproduced below.

Welsh Government will not represent Welsh interests during Brexit talks, minister says
Finance Secretary, Mark Drakeford, says the Welsh Government will not be seeking to represent Welsh interests during crucial Brexit negotiations.

The minister, who chairs a Brexit advisory team, says the priority for the Welsh Government will be to find ‘solutions’ for the whole of the UK and not for the country his party governs.

He made the statement as a response to campaign group, Yes Cymru, who are calling on the Welsh Government to stand up to Westminster amidst the constitutional flux caused by the Brexit vote.

With the imminent triggering of Article 50 and plans for a second vote on Scottish independence, Yes Cymru fear that national interests look set to be completely overlooked as Wales is treated as an appendage of England.

Mark Drakeford is chair of the European Advisory Group, a group created to advise the Welsh Government on the ‘challenges and opportunities’ arising from UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

Yes Cymru say these challenges can only be met if Wales starts to a move towards independence, seeking those powers that are required for a country to safeguard a better future for its citizens.

Responding to Yes Cymru, Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government does not view independence as being a ‘desirable’ goal and they intend to prioritise UK interests during any Brexit negotiations.

He states: “The Welsh Government is very clear that independence is not a desirable or viable option for Wales, given the economic, social, environmental and cultural inter-dependencies of Wales and England.

“The task of the Welsh Government – with the assistance of the European Advisory Group – is to find a solution to the problems posed by Brexit which will underpin the prosperity of the whole of the UK.

“The process of withdrawing from the EU is likely to be both lengthy and challenging, with many hard negotiations along the way. However, my priority is to deliver a Brexit that will work best for the people of Wales wherever they may live.”

Yes Cymru argue that ambitious plans launched by the Welsh Government to safeguard the future well-being of the people of Wales can only be achieved with increased control over the country.

They warn that, despite admirable intentions, the ambitious Well Being of Future Generations Act currently stands no hope of achieving its aims – to improve the nation’s social, economic and cultural outlook.

The letter to Mark Drakeford states: “Securing independent national status for Wales would safeguard our economy, protect our families, help secure our futures, enable us to enter a new phase of integration with our European neighbours and protect us from the alarming growth of extreme right wing politics in Westminster.”

The Future Generations Act, made law in 2015, places a duty on public bodies to ensure all developments are sustainable by adhering to seven well-being goals.

Yes Cymru is a campaign group launched in 2014 to promote Welsh independence. The organisation now has branches throughout Wales with a growing membership and cross-party support.

You can join Yes Cymru here

An EU Referendum Plea to my parents

I’ve just come back from a couple of days away talking to people about Indycube in North & Mid Wales. Apart from a welcome punctuation of a night watching football on Monday in the ‘most Welsh’ of towns, Caernarfon, all of the conversations have come back to tomorrow’s EU Referendum vote. People may not have wanted this vote, but with only one exception, everyone I spoke to was engaged, and will vote tomorrow. I met one undecided – I have my fingers crossed. Everyone else, was voting remain.

Last weekend, I popped in to see my Mum & Dad (with a bottle of Penderyn Welsh Whisky – it was Fathers’ Day after all). We spoke about the usual; Grandad’s hospital visits, their break in Torquay, and the EU Referendum. My parents are in the early 70s, read the Daily Mail, holiday fairly frequently, and are keen to spend a good chunk of their retirement time in Spain. I wouldn’t describe them as prejudiced – in fact they’re the exact opposite. But, their paper and their friends have got them considering voting to leave the EU tomorrow. To be honest, I was shocked. I tried to speak to them, and they said they’d think about it……

So, on the eve of the most important of elections, I’ve written to my Mum & Dad, and wanted to share it, just in case you are in the same position.

Dear Mum & Dad,

I rarely write to you, as you know – it’s not my thing! But this vote tomorrow is important. I think it’s important to Wales; I think it’s important to the UK; heck I’d go as far as to say it’s important for the whole world. That’s all well and good – and you’ve heard all those arguments rehearsed night after night on the television screens, and day after day in the newspapers. What you haven’t heard is why it’s important to me. I’ve tried to come up with the top 3 reasons why voting remain is so important to me….

1– the generation who’ll spend the most time living with this decision overwhelmingly want to stay. This isn’t because they’re significantly different to you, or I. It’s because they have grown up in a world where relationships can be formed as easily with someone from the other side of the world, as with someone from the next town. Their world is a smaller, more connected place. Rather than build walls and barriers (which leaving the EU will effectively do), our children, your grandchildren, given the chance would want to rip them down. I wrote about this a few weeks back, you may find it interesting?

2– I’m genuinely concerned by the people who’ll likely be running the Country post Brexit. Not only am I worried about the politicians, but I’m even more worried by the darker forces the leave narrative on immigration has unleashed. It’s now OK to talk about ‘them’ & ‘us’ in ways that I thought we’d stopped. Newspapers like the Daily Express and Daily Mail have fuelled this toxic atmosphere, and the murder of MP Jo Cox, is linked. When people are constantly told they’re under attack, is it any wonder a vulnerable person chooses to act on those fears? Prejudices commonplace in your day, prevalent when I grew up aren’t welcome today. It’s not easy combining cultures, I accept, but we’re all descendants of immigrants at one point or another, and we’ve surely got to try better than laying the blame for all our ills, at the feet of those ‘other’ people.

The overwhelming evidence is that immigration is good for our country. Economically, for sure – immigrants (both from the EU and outside) pay in more than they take out. Culturally, they add to our lives, and the more we all integrate together, the more likely we’ll understand that they care about their community, their town and their adopted country as much as we do. And they also contribute with their skills. They work in our hospitals, our public services, our businesses. Without them, the Country just wouldn’t run.

3– and finally, as someone who runs a small business, I’m dreadfully worried that a vote for leave tomorrow will be the catalyst for another economic downturn. Business is built on confidence. This confidence is already shaky at the prospect of leaving the EU. Just imagine the impact on the economy if we withdraw.

I don’t think it’s scaremongering to suggest that the economy would be thrown into turmoil if we vote out on Thursday. More, I think it’s highly likely the economy will derail if we do, and the business I run will be one of those that will suffer the consequences.

I know you think about your votes, and I also know that you realise it’s an important decision. Unfortunately, the Referendum doesn’t have a ‘wait and see’ option, or ‘please go back and negotiate some more, David’ option. It is binary. You’re either in or out. For all the reasons above, I’m afraid your friends are wrong, your newspaper is wrong and Boris and Nigel are wrong (& dangerous). Please listen to the views of your children and grandchildren.

Please think, before you put your cross in the box tomorrow.

Please Vote Remain,

With Love,

Mark

#War #NotInMyName

This post that a friend sent me sums things up perfectly. Whoever the teacher is, thanks. Whoever the 13yo is, now that’s an analogy 

 As a teacher I would like to pass on the following wisdom from an 13year old who I teach-“Is the Prime Minister an idiot? Because even I know that when someone hits your friend with a stick, you don’t hit everyone in the playground with a stick. You take the stick away. And you find out who gave them the stick in the first place. And you find out where he got the stick. And clear up the sticks so nobody else can be tempted. Everyone gets angry. But if they don’t have a stick then their anger isn’t as dangerous.”

I congratulated her on her wisdom.

“Sir. It isn’t wisdom. It’s obvious. If I gave someone a stick to hit someone with id be expelled. And imagine how much trouble id get in if I SOLD them the stick!!”

Barry Town United v Aberdare Town – a real football match for the community.

I’m an ex Cardiff City fan, who spent most of my formative years watching the Bluebirds home and away – a devotee of the Church of Ninian Park. My first match was in the 75/76 season, and I went with my uncle and my grandad, and stood on the Bob Bank. They stood alongside their mates, who debated the bad decisions, castigated the lazy player, and jumped high in the air when we occasionally scored. I can’t for the life of me remember who we were playing in that first game, and I’m sure I was more fascinated by the various chants and songs that reverberated around the rusty ground. The smells we’re all OXO, cigarette smoke, stale beery blokes, and the odd whiff of piss. Despite all that, the 6 year old boy from Barry was hooked. For the next 38 years, variously as a season ticket holder or not, I was never far away from the footy. More accurately I was never far away from Cardiff City – I had no second team, unlike most of my friends – just Cardiff. In all those 38 years we lurched from poor, to reasonable, but mostly we were a second tier team, but I really didn’t care. I was a committed ‘City ’til I die’ kinda guy.

Then the ‘football finance revolution’ started to kick in, and my passion for the game ebbed. I kept my season tickets going, but felt less and less like going. I tried to do something about it – I helped establish Cardiff City Supporters’ Trust, but increasingly my heart wasn’t in it. City’s first season in the top flight in my lifetime proved to be the beginning of the end of my relationship with the Bluebirds, and last season I found myself giving my tickets away to friends rather than going myself. The final straw came when I was a guest of a friend watching Gloucester City play Worcester City (a local derby). Gloucester play at Cheltenham Town’s ground at the moment, but I found everything about the match more enjoyable than my visits to the Cardiff City Stadium – the atmosphere, the banter, the amount of families in attendance, and the affinity between the players and the fans – the fans’ favourite was also a local secondary school teacher.

My long marriage to Cardiff City AFC had ended – there wasn’t anyone else involved; I’d stopped loving them…. They weren’t the team I knew at the start – they’d lost their soul.

Modern football had lost its soul – when family members took their youngsters to the game; when players came from local schools to represent their boyhood team; when dodgy burnt burgers were the best fare on offer; and when Cardiff City were more interested in their supporters from Canton, Llanerdyn, Merthyr & Barry, rather than those from Malaysia or elsewhere.

Yesterday, I watched Barry Town United take on Aberdare Town in the second round of the Welsh Cup. I met Barry’s real ‘Gavin’, Hammers supporting Andy Green for a couple of pints up the Tynny (Tynewydd Inn) beforehand. Both of us chatted through our first experiences of watching Barry. Mine was just prior to my inaugural visit to Ninian Park, and I remember getting Jimmy Andrews’ autograph – the Cardiff City manager of the time was scouting for talent in Barry. My last visit to watch Barry Town was probably the first round proper of the FA Cup when they played Reading at Jenner Park. That was an age ago – I was still in school.

This match against Aberdare Town in the Welsh Cup was Barry’s first back at their home, Jenner Park, since the installation of the 3G pitch, and a bumper crowd of 446 turned up to watch. Given we’d met for a drink beforehand, we hustled in at one min to two, and paid the turnstile man (who’d sold out of programmes) a fiver each. Here’s the first thing I noticed….

People knew each other – Andy chatted to about twenty people before we got to our seats. One of them, Terry is Barry Town’s bugler. Not only that, he sold the raffle tickets, and I even spotted him offering Damon Searle a reviving sweet when he came off towards the end of the match (to be fair, Damon had put in a shift, and looked like he needed a mars bar!)

 Next thing – Kids were everywhere – some even in their Halloween costumes. They weren’t all watching the game; some of them seemed to be playing their own games of tag, rather than watch the match unfolding in the sunshine. Families were there supporting the local team. People were friendly, and there was more singing than I heard at the Cardiff City Stadium last time I went.

It wasn’t all about the game on the pitch was my next observation – there was a parade of affiliated football teams, girls (kitted out in Argentina-esque strips), boys and the disabled team at half time, and they seemed to lap up the applause as they walked around the running track. When I popped to the clubhouse for my OXO, a coffee for Andy & a couple of Kit-Kat Chunky bars (oh yes!), the team behind the counter were excellent, and I could pay for the cuppas & snacks from coins in my pocket rather than needing to take out a second mortgage as often seemed the case at Cardiff City.

 Then to the game itself. Barry Town United may have a relatively short history, but Barry has a rich footballing heritage stretching back over 100 years. Jenner Park has seen the likes of Porto, Aberdeen & Reading visit amongst others. But yesterday a record was broken. It was the first time a Barry Town player scored five goals at Jenner Park in its history. Barry’s No. 9 James Dixon, a worthy man of the match winner was given the honour of being substituted just before the end so he could enjoy the standing ovation from the fans. Well done to the manager, Gavin Chesterfield for this well deserved accolade.

Nine goals in any game represents great value for my fiver, but the whole match was of a pretty decent quality too. I’m not sure Aberdare were five goals worse than Barry – sure the better team won, but they were worthy opponents, unlucky to be playing against a team, whose centre forward seemed to be able to score at will. The pitch performed well, with 3G pellets rising from every bouncing ball or scraping of studs.

As we were buying our raffles tickets from Terry at the final whistle, Andy asked what makes fans stick to clubs. For me, I was taken in by the sense of community spirit from all involved – from the hard working club secretary, David Cole who was the best dressed steward at the game, the team on the pitch, the ladies selling the Kit-Kats, the programme editor, to Terry the bugler/raffle ticket salesman/sweet giver outer. Being part of a community is what I once felt at Cardiff City, but no longer.

You’ve got me Barry Town United at the first attempt – if I can help in any way, just ask (I can’t bugle, mind!)

FFS – The FSB deserved better than they got tonight

Tonight I joined 150 small business owners to hear FSB Wales launch their manifesto for the next Welsh Assembly term 2016-21. One could argue that the five year period ahead for Wales is the most critical there’s been since devolution – the world economy in turmoil, the environment remains under severe threat, global populations are in transit, and inequality is rising – I could go on. It’s fair to say, the world of the next five and a half years will be unpredictable, at best.

Five politicians were there to debate the manifesto. Rhun Ap Iorwerth, Plaid economy spokesperson; Mark Isherwood, a late replacement for the Conservative’s spokesperson  

 William Graham; Eluned Parrot holding the brief for the Lib Dems; Mark Reckless, onetime UKIP MP; and Ken Skates, a deputy minister and the architect of the Labour Manifesto for the election in May.

To set the scene for tonight’s debate the FSB Wales team commissioned a report ‘What Wales Could Be‘ by Manchester based academics, CRESC. Although criticised by some vested interests, many (including me) think that the report represented a significant, evidence based body of work that should be considered by the political parties. Although often critical of current and historic Welsh economic policy, this was far from a negative report. More so, it offered fresh thinking on a number of key areas, including, importantly, how we should do more to support grounded, locally created mid-cap businesses rather than this preoccupation with encouraging foreign direct investment into Wales – the profits of which get spent in some far flung part of the globe – anywhere but here in Wales.

The report isn’t that long, yet only one of the five politicians on the stage tonight had even bothered to read it (Mark Reckless had read it). Organisations, like the FSB are trying to influence Welsh policy makers not because they enjoy the sound of their own voice – they do it because they represent a body of people whose voice is valid, and have something to say. In this case it’s those of us running small and medium sized businesses. Current economic policy generally isn’t working for this bunch – and we had some suggestions to improve things, but the politicians wouldn’t know, because they hadn’t read the suggestions.

The audience tonight was hoping for more. We hoped that when the panel opted for generalisations rather than forensic specifics, there would be some true inspiration and ideas. Instead we listened to bland and banal soundbites – thank goodness for the wine.

The Welsh economy deserves better than the scant regard these politicians showed towards the FSB this evening. The FSB deserve support in this endeavour, which is one reason I, and Indycube will be joining them tomorrow morning.

Wales and its economic coral reef 

I spent today as a guest of the New Economics Foundation & NewStart magazine who are roving a bunch of UK cities, trying to get behind the potential for alternative economic models. The debate in Cardiff was fascinating, and you get the real sense that ‘revolution is in the air’. This is my contribution to the magazine’s output for Cardiff. It really does resonate after today’s meeting.  
I’m an optimist for Wales. I’m not sure you could find someone more optimistic about the future of the Country, whether that be in the capital city, Cardiff, or one of the numerous towns and villages in which Indycube is based. The reason is, I’m convinced Wales will be one of the countries at the forefront of the new economic model that is shaping up, but it won’t be an easy transition.

The superfast transmission of information, data, ideas and ideals has transformed the world in which we live – in fact we’re in the middle of the fastest revolution to ever hit the human race, and the impact will be world changing. Whether that manifests itself in political upheaval across Europe, stock market crashes in China, or tech bubbles in Silicon Valley – these changes will, I think, change the face of our economies for ever, and eventually for the better.

The journey from old economy to new will be most difficult for those who benefit most from the status quo; Big Business and Big Politics. Fortunately, in Wales, we’ve not been home to either. Our businesses are more often small & community centric, and our politics have historically been centred around values and beliefs, rather than slick marketing machines. Wales is, like other small countries, perfectly positioned to try out new ideas, and take risks.

Three key aspects of this new economic model are:

  1. Small is the new big – the mantra of globalisation is being turned on its head. In Indycube, one of our Cardiff based businesses recently beat SnapFish (part of multinational HP) to a contract, and they sit at three desks in one of our shared offices. There’ll be many more like this over the coming months and years.
  2. The way we work has changed, and wilł continue to do so – we’ll never get jobs for life again – we may never get jobs again. The gig economy is here, and increasing rapidly – you’re more likely to be freelancing one week, traveling the next and volunteering the week after in the future than you are working for one employer.
  3. Future Economic Value isn’t all about GDP or GVA – increasingly people are feeling disillusioned with the economic model that has held sway for the last 200 years. Wealth and happiness aren’t all about the bank balance. Just ask someone nearing the end of their lives – they’ll tell you life is about human connections – that’s where real value lies.

Wales’ new economic development will be more akin to a successful coral reef. A coral reef thrives when its individual coral polyps are left to develop in their own way. We need to allow each of our communities to be the best it can be, and not some limp copycat of somewhere else. We encourage our children not to compare themselves with others, and yet with our communities, for too long, we’ve tried to be things we’re not. So often I’ve heard others tell me we’re on the verge of creating Silicon Valleys – I’m sure they believe their own hype that by simply adding an ‘s’ it will be so. Silicon Valley exists – let’s not bother trying to make our own copy, not least because by the time we do it, the world will have moved on to its next unicorn producing centre of activity.

What are we good at in Wales? Close knit communities, family, non-conformist spirit, natural environment, water (it rains a lot, plus we’re surrounded on three sides by the sea)?? Let’s make these the strengths we build our economy on. They’re not all about money, and that’s how it should be.

The problem with this strategy is that it is uncontrolled, and uncontrollable. But the future that I envisage is just that – the only thing that is predictable, is that the world will be unpredictable. Those communities that thrive on chaos and change will be the economic winners this century. To be a thriver, you’ll need your community around you – you’ll need other people to rely on. In terms of work, you’ll need your community of coworkers, and that’s what we’re helping to develop across Wales.

Coworking. Not just for trendy freelancers and startups.

Great blog by Neil

We’re far from digital nomady (is that a word??) at Indycube. Maybe we can help with your thoughts….

Neil Tamplin's Blog

Earlier this week I was reading an article about the rise of coworking spaces in recent years. In case you’ve never heard of it, coworking is the practice of individuals or small teams working from shared office space. Aside from enabling these groups to have a flexible base of operations without committing to fixed leases, these spaces have created flourishing communities and helped connect and inspire people from differing professions around common goals.

This had me pondering – couldn’t the benefits of coworking office space be applied to absolutely anyone, not just freelancers and startups?

For a while now the technology has been in place where people can work from literally anywhere (see the definition of digital nomad if you want to be green with envy). I’m at a point where I could do a large chunk of my job armed with just an iPad and an Internet connection. So why aren’t we encouraging more staff…

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#BarryIs – the aftermath

#BarryIs – the really good news, is that we’re gonna do it again!!

I’ve just got back from a lovely afternoon, talking all things #Barry with friends. Some of whom, I’ve only just met today, but friends nonetheless. We covered a lot of ground, and over the coming week or so, we’ll get to writing it up (I’ve a co-conspirator Emma Evans, who managed magnificently to keep us on track, and on purpose….

There were four things that immediately came to mind, and I wanted to share them with you;

1 – first and foremost, the regeneration that really takes hold and matters means something to people. Barrians who joined us today (whether they’ve been here a lifetime or a couple of years), described their affinity to the town with sincerity and passion. They love Barry!

2 – secondly, there was recognition that Barry’s history is still quite young. It essentially didn’t exist 150 years ago, but is now Wales’ largest town. I loved it being compared to a forest that has grown up very quickly. Regenerating such a forest needs some strong trees to help new saplings grow…

3 – we (collectively) need to become ambassadors for the town and spread the good news about just how good the place is. There seemed to be a real opportunity to do more shouting about the best things in the town. I’m going to start this by shouting out about the fantastic group of people who got involved today – you (Graham, Louise, Dai, Nick, Shirley, Emma, Gareth, Richard, Andy, Phil, Ian & Martin) are top Barry Bods – bendigedig!

4 – finally, it is clear we aren’t starting from a blank sheet of paper. They’re are loads of good things going on, and the final parting shot comes from Louise who said “I’m convinced it’s not about money.” I agree with that entirely. The future of Barry’s regeneration will be about the spirit of the people – the pioneers.

As I said at the start, we’re going to meet again. Next time we’re putting on our walking boots (well trainers or daps if I’m honest), and will be walking around the town, together. Keep your ear to the ground to find out where and when, and please do join us.

You can follow us on our brand new Twitter feed @barry_is_ and please do use the hashtag #BarryIs when you spread the news (which I hope you will). I’ve also just set up a blog page at http://www.barryis.wordpress.com