Thursday 17 March 2016

A sad ending

The proposed ban of e-cigarettes has been strongly debated over many months.  The argument over whether they are a gateway to smoking or an aid to quitting is one where the evidence is far from categorical one way or the other.  But given the lack of regulation of the manufacture and content of the devices, the uncertainty of the impact on non-vapers, and the concern that it may be a way of re-normalising smoking, I’ve leaned, on the whole, to support of the Welsh Government’s position on the issue.
It’s puzzled me, though, that it became such a party political issue.  In the absence of absolute clear-cut evidence one way or the other, it seemed to me – until yesterday – that Plaid was the one party in the Assembly which called the issue the right way, leaving it to the decision of individual AMs to decide how to vote.  There are some issues on which taking a stance as a party doesn’t really seem to me to be essential, and suggests a lack of capacity by AMs to reach an informed judgement.
To say that yesterday was a disappointment would be an understatement.  The cheap shot by Leighton Andrews was poor and unnecessary.  For a government which was depending on the support of members of Plaid to pass a key piece of legislation shortly afterwards, folly is an inadequate description.  And it was indeed, as Plaid have said, an example of the arrogance which Labour can display on a regular basis towards opposition parties.
But Plaid’s reaction was no better.  Not only have they thrown out a ban which some of their own AMs supported, they’ve also thrown away a lot of other stuff which was non-controversial and generally welcomed, in a fit of tantrum.
I find it hard to decide which was the most unedifying – the Minister’s cheap shot, or Plaid’s reaction to it.  It’s kindergarten politics rather than a grown-up approach to legislation.  I know that some AMs think that emulating the style of Westminster is somehow a step towards maturity, but it really isn’t.  This is the sort of thing that happens all too easily when people find themselves in a bubble, isolated from the real world outside, where who said what to whom has a level of intense importance to them which is unlikely to be shared by other than the most tribal and partisan of supporters outside the bubble.
It’s a very sad note on which to end the fourth Assembly.


Pragmatic Nationalist said...

I'm pretty clear in my view. It was Andrews' jibe that was more unedifying. There are a wealth of examples elsewhere on how to run a minority government and how to conduct intra-party relations in order to secure votes on legislation. Sniping (from either side) doesn't play a role except negatively.

Gwyn Jones said...

Although a non-smoker I am glad that this measure failed. I am fed up with these people who think that they know what is good for us. Chris Mullin, in his book, said that what surprised him when he became an M.P. was that they treated the people as children. "This is necessary for your own good," attitude. As William Pitt said over 200 years ago, "Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."

Gwyn Jones

Bored of Labour said...

Plaid Cymru couldn’t win yesterday whatever they did, if they’d voted for the Bill, they would have been accused of capitulating to Labour after the cheap shots from a Government Minister, they decided to vote against and are getting pilloried for that instead. Today Labour and the welsh media are doing a fine job portraying Plaid Cymru as the bad guys.

I read this on another blog and it’s a fair point ‘How come no ones talking today about a stubborn Health Minster Mark Drakeford who refused to remove the Vaping Ban which would have ensured the (Public Health) Bill got Liberal Democrat as well as Plaid Cymru on board ensuring a two thirds majority vote or doesn’t that matter?’

Anonymous said...

There is surely no need for a fifth Assembly. It's time the farce was brought to an end.

Westminster has served us well for hundreds of years, no matter the cheap shots from some, and it's time we admitted such to the population of Wales.

Yet again something 'Made in Wales' has turned out to be the failure we all secretly expected.

John Dixon said...

Anon 18:49,

Do I detect the teeniest hint of a pre-existing prejudice here? As ever, you fail to distinguish between the institution and those who we elect to run it. And I suspect that the idea that "Westminster has served us well" would struggle to attract majority support even amongst those who are unconvinced about the Assembly.

Anonymous said...

Few taxpayers are happy with the performance of the Welsh Assembly or indeed the institution itself when it comes to the question of value for money.

As with most things, once people focus on the question of cost versus benefit issue, and they know that it is they who have to shoulder the cost, most would agree we can do without.

Plaid have done this nation a favour. But perhaps not quite in the way the party intended.

John Dixon said...

"Few taxpayers are happy with the performance of the Welsh Assembly or indeed the institution itself when it comes to the question of value for money." I doubt that you can substantiate that assertion with any hard evidence. To the extent that you can, I suspect that you'd get a similar answer in relation to Westminster.

"once people focus on the question of cost versus benefit issue, and they know that it is they who have to shoulder the cost, most would agree we can do without." On a purely cost and benefit basis, dictatorship would be a lot cheaper than democracy. And that's why we do not, by and large, make such decisions on a cost benefit basis.

Pragmatic Nationalist said...

Anyone who says "taxpayers" instead of "people" or "residents" usually has an agenda around the cost of politics.

Anonymous said...

'Taxpayers' is used to distinguish between social groups .... although I do agree, we all pay tax in one form or another so next time I will refer to 'income tax' payers and 'non-income tax' payers to narrow down the grouping.

John Dixon said...

Or we could call them the "well-paid" and the "poorly-paid", since that is the reason why some pay more income tax than others. The reasons for that difference in income are many and complex, but generally have more to do with the economic relationships in society than with the attributes of the individuals. And there's a great deal of luck involved as well.

The question is why you want to make the distinction; it is implicit in the way that you word it that you feel that the one group has more legitimacy than the other and that their opinions count for more. But in elections we all get one and only one vote; in that sense, all opinions are of equal value. Having said that, it's generally true that the richest in society exert more influence than the poorest in all sorts of other ways. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is a matter of opinion.