by Julian Ruck
Whatever one’s point of view in respect of political malfeasance where Westminster is concerned ,we still have the cleanest political system in Europe. It has its faults but that’s democracy for you, and call me naïve but I still believe that 99% of politicians do not set out to harm the country or voters.
They make mistakes, they are human but it’s so easy to sit an armchair and criticise. I know one thing, I wouldn’t want their job for all the political tea in China!
This being said, there is a profound difference between the political landscape of Westminster and that which obtains in Wales. Whatever else, Westminster enjoys a certain maturity, a certain sophistication of political endeavour and to a large degree, openness – one only has to consider the public accounts committee for evidence of this, not to mention the fact that scandals are at least exposed on a regular basis.
None of this is the case where Wales is concerned.
Allow me to give you just one out of many examples of Welsh political backwardness, immaturity and crude deliberation when faced with a public interest challenge.
A couple of weeks ago you may remember, I requested some interviews and comment from minister’s Edwina Hart (business and economy) and John Griffiths (culture). The former in respect of a £130m private investment in north Wales going AWOL and the latter in respect of millions being wasted on Welsh arts, more particularly book publishing.
After some blatant evasion, Welsh Labour’s head of news finally entered the fray, indeed he is now the only person who is allowed to deal with me, it seems. I suppose I should be rather flattered.
His response to my initial enquiries were, “We do not reply to blogs”, to which I replied as follows:-
I must remind you that so far this year, in respect of public funding for the Welsh publishing industry and the Arts, I personally have been interviewed on the BBC’s Sunday Politics Show, Jeremy Vine Show, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru etc. Articles have appeared in the Guardian (parts of which had to be corrected and retracted following libellous accusations by Gwyneth Lewis), the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, not to mention my own articles in the Star and Western Mail.
None of these media outlets are I believe, ‘blogging’ platforms.
Further, only last week the Western Mail carried an article re the public funding for employees of the Arts Council of Wales to enjoy a trip to Venice and I have a further article coming up in the Star.
In spite of all this media attention, please confirm that the Minister for Culture John Griffiths, is still refusing outright to be interviewed on these matters or to even comment, on them?
The response to the above? Once again, “We do not reply to blogs”. One can only assume then, that the BBC and national and local press are blogs, according to the Head of News for the Welsh Labour administration??
Now, you may be thinking Mr Jenkins has a point re political blogs? But then Alex Navalny started out with a blog and look what has happened to him – although to be fair I can’t see the proposed Carwyn’s Cymru police force ever trying to bang me up for five years, on the other hand I do live in Wales so….. Perhaps I should try writing for the Taffia Chronicle, no doubt if I did it would be all Welsh whisky and welshcakes on a pleasure cruiser in Cardiff bay.
So what happened to all my constant and determined attempts to get some answers out of Welsh Labour ministers?
Well, I finally thought I was getting somewhere when Mr Jenkins responded with a ‘What would you like the Minister to comment on’. I duly sent same but to date, nothing.
Edwina Hart is quite obviously out of the country receiving advice from the IMF, but here’s the best one, in spite of all my exposures in the press and media following FoI requests, John Griffiths was seen on Welsh telly on Thursday 18.7.13 dishing out cheques (all from the taxpayer) and gongs to Welsh writers at the Wales book of the year!
To hell with the same Welsh poets and writers getting multiple taxpayer bursaries, to hell with Welsh publishers getting millions of taxpayers’ money to publish books that no-one wants to read or buy, to hell with 7 arty farty types from the Arts Council of Wales enjoying the sights of Venice at taxpayers’ expense plus £400,000 for a man snoring in a telescope and to hell with scrutiny and accountability!
And you in the rest of the UK think you have problems? Sport loving culture minister John Griffiths, was smirking like a Welshman who has just won the five nations cup, as he dished out the dosh – your dosh that is.
He’s had all the fully verifiable data (as has Edwina Hart), and yet he stands there and tortures the taxpayer yet again.
When it comes to tear-jerking evasion, Griffiths, Hart and their press officers make Mandleson and Campell look like schoolboys on a Sunday School outing to the seaside. Bibles ‘an all!
And as for arrogance, stupendous stupidity and the most extraordinary lack of political acumen, look no further than Cardiff bay.
Welsh Assembly? Welsh amateurs more like!
PS Following phone calls to BBC Wales and BBC London, both are refusing outright to confirm or deny Fo I data in respect of BBC journalists, presenters and celebrities, receiving thousands of pounds of tax-payers’ money for their autobiographies.
Julian Ruck is an author, columnist and freedom of information campaigner. He also makes contributions to both Welsh and national broadcasting and media