Thursday 17 December 2020

Is the silliness deliberate?


Yesterday, both the main opposition parties in the Senedd, Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives, criticised Mark Drakeford for being too timid and too slow in tightening restrictions to control the pandemic. It’s fair criticism. Drakeford is in serious danger of being infected with the procrastination virus which is now rampant in Downing Street, although he is, rather, between a rock and a hard place in trying to both protect the population of Wales and maintain a ‘four countries’ approach. There’s no real surprise in Plaid wanting to see him being more independent of Johnson and England’s lackadaisical decision-making, but there’s something more than a little odd about the Tories apparently seeking the same thing.

It was Harold Wilson who said that a week is a long time in politics, so a fortnight is a very, very long time for a politician. It’s not so long for most of us though, and it really is only a fortnight since both Plaid and the Tories were criticising Drakeford for applying what they saw as excessive restrictions on the hospitality sector. It’s a criticism which hasn’t exactly aged well. Adding a charge of giving out mixed messages to yesterday’s criticism of Drakeford is not a good look in the circumstances.

The Conservatives possibly have an excuse, of sorts, if the guidance issued to party activists in Northamptonshire has been more widely shared than has been reported to date. According to the advice, activists should simply “…say the first thing that comes into your head … It’ll probably be nonsense, but it knocks your opponent out of his stride and takes away his headline. You may get a bad headline saying that you spoke something silly, but you can live that down. Meanwhile your opponent is knocked off the news-feed”. I don’t know whether similar guidance has been issued to the party’s members in Wales. I can only judge by what they do and say, and on that basis it looks at least plausible. But we are not in a good place in the middle of a pandemic if one of the main political parties believes that saying things which are both silly and untrue is a sensible and valid strategy.

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