Tories fall to third in Welsh seat projections

Wales Online reports that according to the latest polls, Plaid Cymru are likely to overtake the Conservatives as the second-largest party in the Welsh Assembly. This is in a scenario where UKIP break into the chamber for the first time, with seven seats, down from earlier projections of nine.

This would be an unexpected fillip for the nationalists, who fell into third after the 2011 Assembly election and have seemed to have been struggling under Leanne Wood, their left-wing leader.

However Professor Roger Scully, the academic behind the analysis, does warn that the sampling for these polls was conducted in the aftermath of the party’s successful conference.

Labour are significantly behind their position prior to the previous election and look set to lose at least three seats: one apiece to the Tories, Plaid, and Liberal Democrats.

The Conservatives reportedly have their eye on several more where they won the parallel Westminster constituency in 2015.

This comes in the same week that a former Plaid leader put his name to a report from the APPG on Reform, Decentralisation, and Devolution in the United Kingdom which argued that Britain should no longer be seen as a nation.

The authors apparently argue that it should instead be viewed merely as a resource-pooling alliance.

SNP shy away from 50p rate as Labour strike left on tax

As Iain Martin points out on CapX, there is a substantial section of the SNP which insists on ever-more powers for the Scottish Parliament in order, they say, to introduce red-blooded socialism.

Yet whilst the Nationalists have pledged not to match George Osborne’s raising of the 40p income tax rate threshold if re-elected in May, they have failed to follow through on earlier suggestions that they would reintroduce the 50p rate.

This has led to much mirth on the part of centre-right commentators on Twitter, but does pose a serious question: how long will the party’s Westminster wing be able to credibly maintain their radical poses in the face of an Edinburgh administration which preaches the virtues of the Laffer Curve?

Now as remote from power as the SNP are proximate, Labour have felt free to make bolder pledges: Kezia Dugdale claims her party would scrap Council Tax if elected, and replace it with a new property levy. John Swinney, the Nationalist finance minister, has used a long-term freeze in council tax to increase Edinburgh’s control over local government.

Meanwhile, the Institute for Fiscal Studies claims that the British and Scottish governments are on another collision course over Holyrood’s new funding settlement, with three quarters of a billion pounds per annum in funding at stake.

Unionists and liberals refuse to commemorate 1916 Rising

Non-nationalist politicians in Northern Ireland are refusing to participate in events which commemorate the Easter Rising, the 1916 rebellion which, although opposed by the great majority of Irish people at the time, is now prt of the founding myth of the Republic of Ireland.

The Democratic Unionists have already ruled themselves out of a dinner with Michael D Higgins, the Irish President, in Belfast and the Ulster Unionists may follow. They point out that the rebellion was a “virtual non-event” in the Ulster capital.

David Ford, the NI Executive’s justice minister and leader of the liberal, cross-community Alliance Party, has also refused to take part in commemorations and has said he’s “uncomfortable” about the Republic of Ireland “marking the efforts of those who engaged in violence” – especially given that several generations of IRA terrorists have found their justification in the Rising.

Nationalist MP in property row with Edinburgh magnate

Joanna Cherry, the Nationalist MP for Edinburgh South West, has found herself in a row with a Scottish businessman who claims that she pulled out of a property deal and left him thousands of pounds out of pocket.

According to the Scotsman, Paul Basford claims that Cherry’s office entered into a verbal agreement to take over the lease of a vacant shop, on condition that work was done on it. After he had completed it, and incurred legal fees, they allegedly pulled out.

Meanwhile Michelle Thomson, the ex-SNP MP for Edinburgh West, is looking to net a £400,000 profit on the sale of her home, the Daily Record reports. She lost the Nationalist whip after coming under investigation for multiple instances of mortgage fraud.

McDonnell attacked in Commons for IRA links

Conservative MPs have attacked the Shadow Chancellor for his connexions to Republican terrorism after he questioned George Osborne’s fitness for office.

The News Letter reports that they highlighted his 2003 comments about how the “bombs and bullets” of the IRA were responsible for the peace process, with Tom Tugendhat and James Cartlidge taking the lead.

In other Budget news Sammy Wilson, the DUP MP for East Antrim and former finance minister of the NI Executive, echoed Disraeli as he warned the Chancellor against creating “two nations” out of the rich and poor.