Thursday 10 July 2014

Who's the silliest boy?

Requesting that civil servants provide financial details about payments made to named individuals who just happened to be opposition AMs was a pretty silly thing for Alun Davies to have done.  His resultant sacking as a Minister was inevitable, particularly given the way in which he’d been ‘let off’ another misdemeanour just hours beforehand.  As the First Minister more or less said, it’s hard to see his request as other than a clumsy and stupid attempt to misuse his position to instigate personal attacks on other politicians, however much he may try to make out that it was just for 'background' purposes.
Having said all that, I’m less than impressed with some of the opposition response to events, with politicians of the other parties ‘baying for more blood’ as the Western Mail put it in its headline yesterday.  It’s an intensely personalised approach to political debate, which probably results from two factors.  The first is that the politicians are cooped up in the hothouse in the Bay, and the second is that there is so little real difference between them on policy that all they can do is argue about each other’s personal merits and qualities.
A minister tried to do something improper and quite rightly got sacked for it.  Most of us – probably all of us – do silly things from time to time, although the consequences are not always so severe.  And silliness in politicians has never been demonstrated to be party political in nature; foot-in-mouth syndrome can and often does affect politicians from any party.  So can a tribalistic desire to do down one’s political opponents whenever the opportunity presents itself.  But there is – or should be – more to politics than that.
This isn’t what some of us hoped devolution would be about.  It was supposed to bring about a more mature and adult approach to political debate in which different futures for Wales could be laid out and examined, not just an amateurish copy of the pantomime nonsense that we see daily from Westminster.  For sure, demanding blood generates news stories and headlines, but it adds little to the sum total of knowledge and understanding.  And it has even less to do with building a new Wales.


Anonymous said...

I think the many of us that didn't vote for the Assembly in the first place are not at all surprised by recent and past happenings. In truth, the institution is little more than an expensive English and Scottish joke played out upon a group of poorly educated people living in a region of the British Isles currently called Wales.

A region in which these same people must, at some stage, sooner rather than later, be given the opportunity to decide their own future. A future either as part of a greater England, with all the discipline and mingling of culture and language that such a decision would necessitate, or a future as a discreet and, assumedly, economically viable self-entity.

Without such a referendum the chaos and farce will continue.

Anonymous said...

Its a distant pipe dream that politics will be mature, being involved with the Scottish referendum debate you already know it's as shrill and tribal as Scottish politics ever was.

Back to Wales, im probably in a minority in seeing these events as the first major scandal since Alun Michael's resignation due to the damage it's done to Labour and the Welsh Government and the reaction from the media and opposition politicians has been appropriate.

We have after all a Minister abusing his position and looking to smear opponents and the First Minister's judgement called into question in dealing with it, yes the oppositions response is predictable and the differences small, but if the boot was on the other foot do you think Labour would just let it go?

John Dixon said...

Anon 12:51,

"... if the boot was on the other foot do you think Labour would just let it go?"

No I don't for one moment. But that's a kindergarten level of argument - a bit like "He started it miss". I really don't believe that continued pursuit of a man who behaved improperly and quite rightly got sacked for it is actually the most important issue in Welsh politics; and the fact that it's being treated as though it is and milked for all it's worth merely underlines the consequences of over-personalisation of political debate.

And the problem with what I think that the other Anon is saying is that UK politics as displayed in the House of Commons is, if anything, even worse - although I suppose they've had more practice.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply, i read your blog regularly and apologies in advance if this offends in anyway.

You like many current and former Plaid Cymru members have always struck me as incredibly politically naive, whether in your case it's deliberate because you blog under your own name or you actually believe in policy only politics and rational grown up debate writing blog posts like this one expose the reason why we have the shrill, partisan politics that you hate, politics is about compromise and you like many others can be easily dismissed and an idealist with nothing to offer people but dreams when they can't feed their families, find jobs or afford somewhere to live.

For info and i'm not trying to be clever, im just interested what do you think is the most important issue in welsh politics?

ps the other anon is a well known anti welsh troll, the thick welsh who speak a funny language tripe should have given it away.

John Dixon said...


"politics is about compromise"

I suppose that depends rather on your definition of the word "politics". One definition of what politics is that "it's what full-time politicians do" or "which bunch of politicians should be running the show"; and in that very limited sense, I'd have to agree with you. But I believe that "politics" is - or should be - much wider than that. For me it's about alternative visions about what should be, not simply about who runs what is.

What the over-personalisation of politics reveals - and the little spat about Alun Davies highlights this - is that those involved all accept the basic constructs and structures of the political-economic system under which we live, and are merely arguing over who should be in charge of it (to the extent that politicians are ever really in charge of anything). That takes a single ideology as a given, whereas I think that challenging that ideology should be the basis of real political debate.

Idealistic? Probably fair comment. Naïve? I don't think so, but then that too is a matter of perspective.

Biggest single issue? That deserves much more than a one line reply, but in as few words as I can put it, the biggest issue facing mankind as a whole (and Wales is part of that) is to find a way of living sustainably and sharing limited resources fairly.

Anonymous said...

Ha, I must be that 'well known anti Welsh troll'. And just because I dare to question those that wish others to bask in mediocracy. The sort of mediocracy that is endemic in modern Wales throughout public life.

It's time we asked a few simple questions and time we accepted a few brave answers.

Life is not fair. And never will be. Fairness is subjective. Is it fair that richer people provide all the money for the NHS and education systems that they themselves will rarely, if ever, use? Of course it isn't. And yet daily we hear the clamour for the rich to pay more to ensure a 'fairer' society. Such rubbish. The only thing the rich should be happy to pay more for is the preventing of more babies being born into non-rich households! And yet does anyone ever dare mention this?

So come on, let's be less timid and more honest. It's time everyone started paying their way in wales, rich or poor.

John Dixon said...

As long as comments are not libellous, personally insulting, or hopelessly off topic, I don't mind whether people are anti Welsh trolls or not. Debating only with those who agree with me would be pretty boring.

"Life is not fair. And never will be."

Is that 'life in general', or only 'life under the current political-economic system'? There's a huge difference between the two things. If one takes the current system as a given (which I take it you do), then I can only agree with you. It's possible to make changes at the fringes, but they'll always be minor, and there'll always be unfairness.

But (and this takes me back to the other anon, and the question as to whether politics can or should be about conflicting ideologies or merely about personalities), if we envisage a different system for distributing resources, then unfairness isn't necessarily a given. Unequal distribution of resources is neither god-given nor inevitable; it's the result of human economic constructs. And human constructs can be changed.