I haven’t always been entirely kind to the MP for Monmouth in this blog. Well, actually that’s something of an understatement – I don’t think I’ve ever been kind to him. There’s something about him which provokes an instinctive antipathy in me, and it hasn’t been helped by things such as his call for dental checks on refugee children and his persistent attempts to raise devolved issues in the UK Parliament and for Big Sister to intervene to sort out the Welsh.
On the latter point, he was at it again last week in relation to the Circuit of Wales project, expressing his concern that the Welsh Government might be about to be taken for a short and very expensive ride. There’s something very shifty about recording a conversation without telling the other participants, but it does make it harder to contradict what he has said about the content of that conversation, and I can’t help thinking that he might actually have a point this time. It really isn’t a matter for the House of Commons where he raised it, and his comment that someone who can’t make a success of a company with a turnover in the hundreds of thousands can’t be trusted to run a company with a turnover in the millions shows a lack of grasp of the nature of entrepreneurialism, where multiple failures are the norm.
But his core point, that this project is something of a pipe-dream looks to me to be quite possibly right. One of the things that has become clear over the years is that ‘business plans’ written to be submitted to government agencies and bodies which control the allocation of grants and guarantees often owe more to creative writing skills than to accountancy. They are written to tick the boxes for the funders or guarantors rather than as an accurate reflection of what will actually happen and the more unique and – dare I use that dreaded word – ‘innovative’ the project, the harder it is to make accurate predictions.
I can understand the desperation of communities where jobs are short and deprivation rife, but this whole project looks to me like clutching at a straw because it’s there rather than because there’s a solid case underlying it. I can understand the drivers which might lead the Welsh Government to back it with huge sums of public money; they need to be seen to be doing something to help the local communities, and this is, after all, ‘something’.
Sometimes though, tough as it might seem, governments have to have the courage to say when a project is the wrong one at which to throw large sums of government money – money which will not then be available for other and better projects which may come along later.Even someone who arouses as much antipathy in me as David Davies probably can’t be wrong all the time.