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Rene Kinzett

Rowan Williams Conferred the Freedom of the City & County of Swansea

July 31st, 2010 by René Kinzett

Speech by Councillor René Kinzett, Leader of the Conservative Group, City & County of Swansea, in the Guildhall Council Chamber, Swansea, on the occasion of the conferring of the Freedom of the City & County of Swansea on the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, Saturday 31 July 2010…

Your Grace, Lord Mayor, Lord Lieutenant, High Sheriff,  My Lords, Distinguished Guests.

It gives me great pleasure to support the motion that the City & County of Swansea confers the Honorary Freedom of the City & County of Swansea on The Most Reverend and Right Honourable The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England and Metropolitan, Dr Rowan Williams.

Your Grace:

We are truly honoured and humbled at the conferring of the Freedom of the City upon you this day.

This is an honour for Swansea, and one that the whole city will want to rejoice in: that a Dynevor schoolboy can return to this Hall as the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England. The first Welshman to succeed St Augustine of Canterbury and the first Archbishop to be appointed from outside the Church of England since the mid-thirteenth century.

The importance of the written record and history is not lost on Your Grace. We visited your London residence, the historic and beautiful Lambeth Palace to see the Treasures of Lambeth Exhibition. Reading King James I’s own hand written commentary, in the margin of a book rejecting the case being made for greater religious tolerance, we know that history will record that Your Grace was thankfully at the fore of promoting tolerance, understanding and cooperation amongst the religions and peoples of this world.

What also struck me about the Exhibition was the diversity of the collections held at Lambeth. Not just the history of the church, or of Christianity or other religions, but of wider social, political and international affairs. History will also record that Your Grace is, thankfully, not unknown in terms of his own contributions to debate on domestic and international issues.

Today’s commentators may take issue with what they see as “controversial” positions taken by Your Grace, but such analysis is often based on misunderstandings or deliberate mischief making. The future archives of Lambeth Palace will, no doubt, provide historians with a fascinating glimpse of your time as Archbishop.

The pride that the people of Swansea take in seeing a son of the City holding such high office is reflected in today’s conferring of the Freedom, an honour Your Grace richly deserves.

Lord Mayor, I support the Motion.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

July 27th, 2010 by René Kinzett

The case of Pc Harwood and Ian Tomlinson makes this Liberal Conservative very unhappy indeed. Since the days of regular “police brutality” cases in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, the standards of policing, the professionalisation of the constabularies and the improved level of official and media accountability, we have come to expect certain levels of behaviour from those we pay to hold the office of a fully attested constable.

Since the Damian Green arrest at the end of 2007 and the G20 protests of 2009, many questions have been raised about the nature of policing in Britain. The scenes at both the incident which preceded the death of Mr Tomlinson and the subsequent handling of a memorial gathering, were reminiscent of police behaviour in a Cold War Eastern European dictatorship. It may seem like a small matter, but even the dress of the modern police constable in the UK seems to be getting more paramilitary, even when not in full “riot gear”. The traditional form of British policing seems, as in previous depatures from the founding principles of a civial police force, to have been broken on the baton of a new breed of rather exuberant officers keen to demonstrate rather too literally the strong arm of the law.

The unravelling details of the case now point to the Pc who struck Mr Tomlinson to the ground, Pc Simon Harwood, had a rather less than exemplary record. The pathologist the CPS cited as having given them cause to believe that a successful prosecution against Pc Harwood would be unlikely is, himself, under investigation relating to serious complaints about his findings in other cases. Dr Julian Lewis, the Conservative MP, challenged the Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve, on this latter point in the Commons yesterday. Whichever way one cuts this chain of events, the rubber stamp given by Grieve to the CPS for having acted with “complete propriety in investigating this matter” appears a little generous.

At least now there is the prospect of a disciplinary investigation by the Met against Pc Harwood. The Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, seemed rather more than sympathetic with the public concern about the lack of action against Pc Harwood when he told the Home Affairs Select Committee this morning, that:

“I do fully understand the Tomlinson family and public sense of anger having seen the video of the incident prior to the death of Ian Tomlinson.”

These may be trying and difficult times for those charged with maintaining the Queen’s Peace, but if this is being done in such a way as to alienate the Bobbies from the public, then these efforts will be counter-productive. The concept of British policing is based on one of “policing by consent” and systems of accountability and regulation have been well developed since the Metropolitan Police were created by Peel in 1829. However, increased powers given to police under anti-terrorism laws, the potential for misuse and abuse becomes heightened and attitudes and cultures from senior officers through to the rank and file will be seriously affected.
As a committed conservative, I am sceptical of the state and suspicious of the exercise of power. It has sometimes been seen that the duty of the “conservative”-minded citizen to support the police, right or wrong. All good conservatives must now stand back and re-examine our attitudes towards policing in the UK, to ensure that we create a constabulary that is more professional, more accountable and more in-touch with its founding principles.

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The power of words

July 26th, 2010 by René Kinzett

Have had a very busy few weeks of work, preventing me from blogging as much as I would like, or indeed should given the generous hosting of my words by the lovely people at Think Politics.

In writing my grovelling apology of an opening sentence, I was struck by the importance of words and the power of the written record and had something of a Eureka moment. So this blog entry will be as much about the stuff I’ve been involved in over the past couple of weeks, as it is a political commentary on the power of archives.

My day job outside of politics is as Head of Public Affairs for the new Archives & Records Association, the body which seeks to give voice to the professional archivist, the users of archives and the providers of many of the archival services across the UK and Republic of Ireland. One of the best aspects of this job is the places and people I get to see and meet. Last week I visited the Treasures Exhibition at Lambeth Palace. Set out in the Great Hall of the Palace were several glass display cases, temporarily hosting some of the most remarkable books, letters, diaries, photographs and other artifacts and archival items kept by Lambeth Palace Library. A book by a Catholic priest pleading the case against the King’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII writes in his own hand that the arguments are false. You can almost see his rage in the neatly penned lettering in the right-hand margin. Another book imploring King James I to show religious tolerance has a note in the margin from the monarch stating that such leniency had been shown in Elizabeth’s time and that people who advocated the policy were now “prickles in our side”.

The celebration of our nation’s history through its archives had a second boost this month with a Parliamentary Reception in the Cholmondeley Room and River Terrace of the House of Lords. The Reception, hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Archives, was presided over by historian and political scientist Lord (Paul) Bew and was addressed by (among others) academic and broadcaster Lisa Jardine and Arts Minister Ed Vaizey. The Reception launched the first ever UNESCO Memory of the World UK National Register, listing the top 10 items and collections of archival materials of major significance to UK culture and society. Top of the list was the first Charter of King William I to the City of London, granted in 1027. The Register also includes the film “The Life Story of Lloyd George” and the Peterloo Relief Fund Account Book, which includes desciptions of the “massacre” at the anti-Corn Law Rally of 1819.

The week just gone ended for me with a visit to Belfast, my first ever visit to Northern Ireland and, I hope, far from my last. I really enjoyed my two nights in the city, including a trip to the recently refurbished Ulster Museum, which beat the Bodleian to the coveted Art Fund Prize. Belfast is itself a city rich in history – and it is written in its buildings (the City Hall is magnificent, a real testimony to the pride of being declared a city by Queen Victoria), in its archival collections and in on its walls. As part of my visit I was thrilled to be offered a personal tour of the murals of Belfast by Lord Bew, someone more used to taking journalists and camera crews around the area. The murals are amazing to see first-hand, the colours, the imagery, the slogans and the sheer skill of the artwork itself are all very powerful and strangely affecting. They seem at once both anachronistic and threatening. The declaration on one mural facing people arriving in one neighbourhood that one is “Entering a Loyalist Area” is literally arresting – it stops you in your tracks and you almost feel yourself reaching for some form of ID to declare your support, or at least diplomatic neutrality. The murals in Nationalist West Belfast (where, Paul Bew told me, 4 out of 5 of the people we saw walking by probably voted for Gerry Adams) were more complexly political, with a mix of trade unionist messages, international politics (Gaza featured heavily) and nakedly party political (flattering portraiture of Adams). As we made the very short drive back to “metropolitan Belfast”, it made me wonder how such a small collection of neighbourhoods in a tiny part of a small nation could have held such sway over national UK politics, ruined lives and affected Anglo-US relations for such a long period of time. Which is why the words and images on the sides of those small houses in Belfast need to be recorded and preserved for future generations to explore, study and, one hopes, learn from. The Ulster Museum had an excellent part of its exhibition on Belfast dedicated to The Troubles and the murals form an important archival heritage for the people of Northern Ireland.

This week will take me to Edinburgh and my second visit to the National Archives of Scotland, with the rest of the week working at home in Swansea, including a visit to the City by the Archbishop of Canterbury, a native of Swansea who is coming to recieve the Freedom of the City. I hope to squeeze in something about my visit to his Palace in South London when I speak in support of conferring this honour upon him!

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Four health managers good, two managers better

July 13th, 2010 by René Kinzett

I am wondering if the current dynamic between Government and Opposition is a welcome return to an ideological, or at least an aggressively partisan, struggle in British politics. From schools shake up to plans to scrap a whole tier of bureaucracy in the NHS, the Coalition is set on a course of much needed reform, whilst the Labour Party seek to defend provider interest and the protection of managerial posts (huge numbers of which were created by the previous government), dressed up as concern for patients, pupils and parents.

Whilst Tony Blair sought to reform the public sector and try to embed the “what works, works” mantra across government between 1997 and 2007, it is now received wisdom that Brown was conducting a stalwart defence of the old bureaucratic top-down, provider-knows-best model of delivery. After two and half years of Brown at the helm of Downing Street, the effects of his ideological position on both the state of public services and the health of the Labour Party have now become clearly apparent.

The “shadow cabinet” (the sad and sorry looking bunch of failed secretaries of state who were given the Order of the Boot by the electorate in May, serving out this interregnum until Labour can chose its new leader in the autumn) have had nothing positive to offer in terms of policies and seek to oppose the coalition from a position of moral indignation, a healthy dollop of collective amnesia and good old fashioned socialist concern for Labour Party Members working in the public sector. The shadows forget, or try to forget, the two and a bit years of Brown in residence at Number 10 and seek to blame the rest of the world for Britain’s fiscal crisis. When Burnham says that plans to cut NHS bureaucracy make him want to “weep”, frankly it makes me want to vomit when I think about the profligate and selfish nature of a government headed by a PM who once revelled in the “Iron Chancellor” myth.

The NHS reforms outlined by Andew Lansley yesterday are an excellent case in point. The health budget is a “ring-fenced” area as agreed by the Coalition, but that is not to say that savings can be found in the hugely bureacratic delivery model, savings which can then be poured back into frontline services. For me, that is the essence of the White Paper – doing more for less. Indeed, this is the same motto used by the Minister for Health in the Welsh Assembly Government in a newspaper article for the Western Mail yesterday.

However, as in the rest of the country, the NHS in Wales is bloated, cumbersome and unresponsive to the needs of its patients. That is not to say that the care offered by nursing staff, doctors and consultants is not in most cases exemplary, rather it is the model of delivery and the explosion in managers at every grade which is at fault. The Royal College of Nursing has identified that NHS Wales currently spends more than £65 million on management across bands 8 and 9, but just £31 million is spent on nursing staff in the same band. To spend £34 million more on managers than on nurses by a health service provider is obviously unsustainable.

The plans to allow by 2013 500 GP consortia to spend £80 billion on the NHS across England and scrapping the Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts all seem an excellent idea to create a modern and responsive health care service, free from the worst aspects of the monolithic NHS. When Labour ideologues proclaim that they “Love the NHS”, they are really saying that they are wedded to the organisation, not to what it delivers. I am comfortable in allowing doctors, nurses, consultants and surgeons to get together and plan the healthcare services for their communities. I am happy to see hospitals set up as independent corporations, in the same way that universities are run, free and independent from political interference and stultifying bureaucracy.

The proposals from the coalition on the future of health care in England show an inspired plan for excellence and localism. The huge disappointment for me is that it will not be introduced in Wales for so long as we have a Labour Government in power at Cardiff Bay more interested in jobs for the boyos than the health care of the nation.

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AV or bust?

July 5th, 2010 by René Kinzett

At the time of Brown’s (political) deathbed conversion to electoral reform, I urged Conservative MPs, even those (admittedly very few) who believed in electoral reform, to vote AGAINST the Bill to bring about a referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV).

Let me be clear. I oppose the current First-Past-The-Post system and I suppose some people would say that I should welcome any reform and embrace the proposals to move away from FPTP as being at least a ”step in the right direction”.

But, I am afraid to say, my view remains that the proposals for a referendum on AV is a sham and a missed opportunity for real reform. The Alternative Vote is a sham of a compromise. It does not tackle the fundamental problems associated with the current FPTP system and indeed embeds them further. The result of an AV election is not proportional to the votes cast across the country and the system offers no more choice to the elector and instead still invests most power with the political party machine.

For those keen on the “first step” to real reform and who are minded to press their MP to vote for an AV referendum, they should remember that the 1911 Parliament Act, designed as a temporary measure to allow the passing of the ”People’s Budget”, before more radical reform of the Lords could be brought forward, has been with us now for nearly a century.

Let us not go forward with a reform we will regret. I want to see real pressure applied to the leadership of my Party to support fair votes and to be persauded of the case for electoral reform as part of a wider agenda to return power to the people. I am hoping that the Liberal Democrats will at least bring forward an amendment to the AV Referendum Bill and propose that the question posed to the people is at least a choice between FPTP and AV+, which will at least bring about a more proportional result and create a more pluralist House of Commons.

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