Letter from Wales: In the spotlight: Keith Davies AM and Nia Griffith MP

by Julian Ruck

Earlier this week I interviewed Labour AM,  Keith Davies and Labour MP, Nia Griffith.

Both interviews set out to explore firstly, the abysmal state of education in Wales and secondly, the political tensions that exist between Cardiff and London.

To begin, allow me to observe that Mr Davies was frank, open and obviously hasn’t forgotten that a sense of humour is an essential pre-requisite for any political ambition. His parliamentary counterpart however, was an accomplished pretender to the classic political art form of how not to answer a straight forward question. An ‘Off Message’ Bob Marhsall-Andrews, Ms Griffith was most definitely not. Ex-school mam and doyen of taxpayer funded haute cuisine, the lady was more a quintessential politician.

In relation to the parlous state of education in Wales, Mr Davies fully appreciated that a lot more needed to done in respect of science and engineering at Welsh schools, universities and colleges. He also readily agreed that inferior degrees were unacceptable if Wales is to compete in the modern world. When I quoted Matthew Taylor’s recent speech at the University of South Wales where he stated unequivocally that people in Wales should be ‘enraged’ at what was being done to Welsh schoolchildren, Mr Davies expressed at the very least some thoughtful understanding.

Ms Griffith on the other hand seemed to be in chronic state of Napoleonic denial, either this or she is an aficionado of Medieval trial by ordeal? It took a pair of dental pliers for her to concede and I quote, that “standards could be improved,” albeit that the evidence is clear and irrefutable: numeracy and literacy in Wales is on a par with Rumania and Bulgaria, that Welsh universities are accepting Law and Biology students who attain the minimum grade ‘E’ at two ‘A’ Levels and that spanking new Welsh education institutions are only allocating 12% of their budgets for engineering and science. As for the Welsh Baccalaureate and GCSE, apparently “plenty of consultation” makes them superior to the rest of the country and that was that. There was also a note of desperate satisfaction when she declared proudly that 40% of youngsters in the UK are now graduates “when in our day (she and I are the same age by the way) it was 2%”

Actually, in the seventies it was about 12%, nothing to be proud of admittedly, but 2% is pushing it. The MP seemed a trifle irritated when I reminded her that a large proportion of these graduates now work in Boots and WHSmith – if they are lucky!

I rather think Ms Griffith is missing the point, Welsh children are being cheated, and that’s that. Perhaps her years of monk-like reflection and libertarian chatter in the bubbled up, juvenile cloisters of academic endeavour may have something to do with it?

When questioned about the open warfare between Blair and Rhodri Morgan and more recently the pasting by Welsh Labour MPs of the First Minister over his attempts to create a Carwyn’s Peelers Police Force, Ms Griffith implied that my ‘historicisms’ were frivolous and irrelevant. Apparently, all is kisses and candy amongst Welsh politicians, at least according to Nia.

The lady would do well to remember that history has rather a nasty habit of repeating itself, does it not?

Mr Davies acknowledged the tensions between Wales and London but his passion for pulling  Welsh education out of the doldrums tended to obscure this particular interview thread, and who could blame him? The young are the future and we ignore them at our peril.

To conclude then, 2-0 to Keith Davies AM.

The gentleman will convert me yet!

Julian Ruck is an author, columnist and Freedom of Information campaigner. He also makes contributions to both Welsh and national broadcasting and media


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25 Responses to “Letter from Wales: In the spotlight: Keith Davies AM and Nia Griffith MP”

  1. Mr Akira Origami says:

    According to this article Keith Davies has a thing or two to teach young people in Wales…..

    http://welshnewsnot.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/hotel-row-am-keith-davies-a-legend/

  2. Tafia says:

    Most of the students on full-time degree courses at Welsh universities don’t come from Wales and weren’t educated here. So if the lowering of acceptance standards is a problem it’s because of non-Welsh resident students.

  3. To Taffia,

    Multi faced Welsh nationalist that you are, I nevertheless find your quaint meanderings where the blame game is concerned rather amusing.

    Yet again, you ignore the fact that 85% of Welsh GDP comes from your beastly English and further, even if most students at Welsh universities are English (which by the way is arrant nonsense), then you had better hope they keep coming, because without them Welsh universities simply woudn’t exist.

    Do please grow up, and say hello to the real world.

    JR

  4. Tafia says:

    Julian, not withstanding that you are a fool, I never said most students were English, I said they weren’t residents of Wales which does not mean English. I appreciate you are intellectually challenged and struggle with Welsh but I would point out I was using your preferred English. For instance the number of far-eastern students on full time courses at Bangor is in the hundreds including a huge amount of Chinese. Again as I am sure you know but deliberately fail to point out, most students who come from Wales go to universities outside Wales due to the limited choice courses.

    Both of my twin daughters – educated in Cymraeg school on Anglesey, gaining 10 grade A GCSE and 4 grade A A-levels went to a University in Scotland and one in England. They are 30 this year and one is a renal surgeon and the other an international finance specialist for a German bank in Luxembourg.

    The problem with schooling in Wales is not the schools, nor is it the teachers and nor is it the Welsh language. It is the parents – they are shite. We worked hard on our daughters – they could read basic words and write basic words before they started school. They could recite the alphabet forwards and backwards fluently. They could do their tables up to the 10 times table and could do basic addition and subtraction. That took us hours and hours of work with them using flash cards and all kinds. They could dress themselves, use a knife and fork.

    Every day when they went to school they were inspected to make sure they had cleaned their shoes, brushed their teeth, had all their books etc. When they came home they were given a sandwich and a drink, got changed then before they did their home work before they did anything else – and we then checked it with them.

    That is the sort of discipline and structure that children need to reach their potetntial – unfortunately fewer and fewer parents can be arsed. Their chilkdren are turning up at school at 5 years of age still not toilet trained, unable to use cutlery other than a spoon, barely able to string two words together, dirty, in dirty clothes. And their parents aren’t that much further advanced.

    The problem is the parents.

  5. Tafia says:

    In fact they are 31 this year not 30.

  6. To Taffia,

    Well, no wonder your two prodigies buggered off sharpish!

    JR

  7. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Keith Davies a legend continues……

    Intriguing comment from Wales online

    Welsh in hospital

    SIR – How distressing for Mr Keith Davies AM to recover from neurological treatment to find that he had forgotten how to speak English, and that he could not communicate with any medical staff as no-one spoke Welsh

    This is a very strange situation because there is always someone with a modicum of Welsh to be able to translate especially when his employers the Assembly have spent £20m on promoting the language.

    When a patient is ill the aim is to treat and, if possible, cure the ailment and if Mr Davies complains that he could not obtain treatment in Welsh then how serious was his condition?

    Would he have complained so publicly if he had woken only understanding Swahili, Norwegian, Turkish or Russian. He should be grateful that recovery was successful whatever the language.

    The chairman of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Cymraeg, Robin Farrar, should be taken to task for supporting such a bizarre claim merely for cheap publicity.

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/incoming/comment–debatewestern-mail-letters-5672583

    The story of Keith “a legend” Davies goes on…….Keith relays his dramatic experience to the Druids and the Welsh Language Society at the Eisteddfod.

    “Llanelli AM Keith Davies ‘forgot English’ during health scare”

    “A LLANELLI politician has revealed that he forgot how to speak English during a health scare last year — but no staff could speak Welsh to him.
    Keith Davies AM reverted to his first language of Welsh as he underwent neurological treatment in a Cardiff hospital in September last year.”

    “But he revealed that staff treating him were unable to speak to him in the language.
    Such incidents are common among a number of patients having neurological treatment, including those who suffer from dementia or people who wake up following a stroke.”

    Mr Davies will discuss the revelation in more detail at the Eisteddfod on Monday, August 5, when Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg holds a public meeting calling for rights to healthcare in the language.
    The group says the new Welsh Government language standards — regulations which will place duties on bodies and companies to provide Welsh language services — offer a golden opportunity for the Government to prevent people from suffering similar experiences in the future.
    Speaking ahead of the Eisteddfod meeting, Mr Davies said: “I’m very aware from my personal experience and the family’s of the problem when trying to get treatment in Welsh.
    “When I was in hospital I lost the ability to speak English.
    “Heddyr, my wife, told me the story because I wasn’t in a condition to remember it.
    “No-one understood what I was saying because I was speaking in Welsh.”
    He added that it wasn’t the first time he’d come across the issue.
    “When my son, Iolo, was young, in Gorslas, he could only speak Welsh,” said the father-of-two.
    “The nurse who visited him didn’t have a word of Welsh. When she was asking him to touch his nose, I had to translate for her. It’s important that NHS staff speak to patients in Welsh.
    “Gwenda Thomas has said in the Assembly that we need to improve this — and hopefully the language standards will be a way to ensure Gwenda’s view gets its way in terms of improving the provision.”
    Robin Farrar, Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg chairman added: “Keith Davies’s story is far too familiar for people the length and breadth of the country.
    “This kind of thing should not be happening in Wales.
    “Not only is it an abuse of people’s linguistic rights, it also means the treatment isn’t right either. It’s a disgrace.”
    “We are very glad that he is happy to talk about these personal matters, so that people realise how bad the problems are.
    “The new language standards will be a golden opportunity for the Welsh Government to ensure that people don’t have to suffer such experiences in the future.”

    http://www.thisissouthwales.co.uk/Llanelli-Keith-Davies-forgot-English-health-scare/story-19604435-detail/story.html#axzz2k8zEfifg

    There are rumours that the incredible story of Keith Davies will be made into a Hollywood film with Catherine Zeta-Jones playing Christine James the first female Archdruid of Wales. Reports yet to be confirmed are that Robert De Niro is taking the lead role and is drinking three bottles of wine a day to get into the mind of the leading character in the film.

    “The Legend” a story of provincial politics in Wales…….

  8. Mr Akira Origami says:

    “most students who come from Wales go to universities outside Wales due to the limited choice courses.”

    Isn’t it great that we are part of something bigger called Britain and can still proudly claim our Britishness.

    Welsh nationalism = limited choice.

  9. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Will children in Wales be excessively happy in 2014?

    WISERD spokesperson Professor Chirs Taylor, has delivered his findings to the British Educational Research Association’s annual conference.
    He found that while children aged seven in England and Wales scored equally on their numeracy skills, the gap in literacy levels increased as the children grew up from aged three to seven.

    http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/10658376.Welsh_pupils_falling_behind_on_literacy/?ref=rc

    Since the report the Welsh Assembly Government have been unable to pinpoint the cause for the failure in literacy levels but are looking into the possibility of introducing a GCSE in happiness.

  10. dave rodway says:

    Dear me, another rotten, badly-written and ignorant article, another 10 posts by Ruck’s only admirer, Origami-san.
    Pathetic.

  11. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Yes…we must free the teenagers.

    “Having finished my first ’round’ of GCSE’s, I am angered by the fact that next year, I will not only have to sit through another school year of Coumpulsory Welsh, but to finish it off I have to do an exam. The poor standards and lack of enthusiasm by the teachers (rightly so) is bad enough, but this ridiculous attempt by the Welsh Government to revive a dying language is doing more harm than good for the language. Backed up by mickey-mouse statistics, the government claims that the language is grwoing. This is not true. They simply take the number of all people with a pass at GCSE level and assume they can speak welsh, when this is only possible through the use of extremely easy exams furthur adding to the rising issue of grade inflation.”

    http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6056032

    The most important thing we can give the young is decent education to get a handle on this increasingly competitive world.

    Together with free school meals and free prescriptions let’s give the young an education system that is competitive, free from Welsh Assembly Government and Welsh language Society agenda.

    Bullying school children can never be a good idea……

  12. Mr Akira Origami says:

    To dave rodway

    I will tell you what I admire dave. I admire Labour Uncut for giving the people of Wales the opportunity to air their views on the sad state of Wales brought on by the incompetent, self serving, Welsh Labour Party and to highlight the fact that Wales is worse off since devolution.

  13. Mr Akira Origami says:

    The opulent lives of others…….

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-24852476

    Why can’t they buy their own televisions to watch Rownd a Rownd?…

    http://wales.gov.uk/newsroom/businessandeconomy/2013/7868998/?lang=en

    Why not have a tv series about the not so opulent strata of Welsh society…

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/proportion-people-wales-living-poverty-4308922

    No, no, that would give a detrimental image to Wales and tourism figures could be dis-advantaged!

  14. Mr Akira Origami says:

    PS dave.

    I could use the adjective “pathetic” to describe your comment but I am much too polite……

  15. john abell says:

    This has to be one of the worst written and bizarre interviews I’ve ever read.
    Where are the direct quotes?
    It is hard to tell where Julian begins and ends and who actually says what.
    I agree with Dave where Mr Origami is concerned, strange chap that one and great for any pro devolutionist, bit crazy, just like Julian.

  16. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Mr Abell

    You have previously admitted to being a cyber stalker. Isn’t that more than a bit crazy?

    You should have commented on the previous “letter from Wales”, your experience would have enlightened us about the seedy world of these people and given an insight into their sordid minds.

  17. joao morais says:

    So says Origami, who doesn’t even use his real name!

    John actually raises some good points. As there are no direct quotations and there is no real analysis, all we are left with essentially is Ruck saying, ‘my points that Davies and Griffith disagreed with mean they’re wrong’, which is hardly watertight journalism. This type of arrogant interviewing (which doesn’t give the interviewee a fair hearing) is quite boring. Its main purpose is for the writer to get something off their chest instead of to inform the reader.

    You, Origami, have decided to go for the player instead of the ball in your answer to John. I would like to think that you know this because he is right, but your 10 (largely off-topic) answers to this blogpost prove that you are a deeply unhappy individual. Can’t you stay on topic instead of spamming Ruck’s articles? As his biggest supporter you’re not doing him any favours. You make it look like he is on the batshit side of the debate. Then again, it’s easy to vent and attack when no-one knows who you really are.

  18. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Mr Morais

    Are you trying to convince us that Rhys Fact Police Jones, Rhys Who’s Afraid of the Fact Police Jones , Rhys Six Two and Even Jones, dave rodway and Tafia are using their real names?

    I have commented on Keith Davies and responded to Tafia’s comments.

    You seem to be here wanting to know my identity? I don’t know your agenda Mr Morais but I assure you, my identity and credit card details will remain private.

    Yours sincerely

    Mr Origami

  19. john abell says:

    Mr origami, when have I admitted to being a cyber stalker, you clown? Evidence please. Julian’s last piece was a joke, self serving rubbish. I did write a blog post about Julian after meeting him and deciding he was a clown. That is not cyber stalking, that is having an opinion.

  20. Joao Morais says:

    Origami

    The fact they don’t use their real names does not excuse you from not using yours. In that sense, you’re all equal. However, none of them have hypocritically accused John of being a cyber stalker whilst not using their real name, as you have.

    Still not answering the points, i see.

  21. Mr Akira Origami says:

    I quote Mr Abell:

    “In fairness, I have contacted you once under the false alias of Darren Montague Bentley. Purporting to be from Bath,”…

    June 6, 2013 at 4:18 pm

  22. john abell says:

    Origami, you old trout. You have quoted me out of context! The whole comment actually links to my blog. What I did as a joke showed Julian’s arrogance,and acceptance of all things anti welsh. The whole exchange lasted less than two hours and I couldn’t believe the answers Julian was giving. As it was published shortly thereafter, you are fooling no one when you say that it was cyberstalking. Here is the whole quote:

    “In fairness, I have contacted you once under the false alias of Darren Montague Bentley. Purporting to be from Bath, I asked you some questions. Some of your answers were truly amazing:

    You opened with this pretty desperate first line:

    ‘Thank you for your kind words – you wouldn’t mind putting a few of them on Amazon by way of ‘review’ would you? Cheeky sod that I am!’

    Quickly followed by this corker:

    ‘As it happens, the whole situation in Wales has really become quite sickening, both politically and culturally. I spent thirty odd years in England and have decided to return. I am more comfortable across the border and that’s that. My house is up for sale but this is not common knowledge at the monent so do please keep this under your hat – no doubt the Welsh press will make a story out of my taking off when the time comes.’

    Which is slightly revealing as to how you feel about the Welsh, isn’t it? But then you come out with this, patronising a whole nation and its great literary heritage!

    ‘You are right about the Festival, location had a lot to do with it and frankly I’m not even certain that my fellow countrymen had ever heard of an ebook, most of them are still reading Jack and Jill books’

    Jack and Jill books! Julian old boy, no one reads your novels!! To be fair, you did think you were talking to an Englishman. Read the whole exchange here if you fancy it, it is pretty funny reading and reveals the character of the man.

    http://johnabell.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/dear-mr-ruck-i-thoroughly-enjoy-your.html

  23. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Mr Abell (aka: Darren Montague Bentley)

    If what you say is true, Mr Ruck was actually speaking to an Englishman. You are English are you not?

    What response did you expect from Mr Ruck? Mr Ruck is outspoken and open with his views in Wales.

    On the subject of corkers, here’s one of yours: “Welsh nationalists are a bit of a joke round here I confess. And the bloody language, Jesus Christ!”……

    I believe you wrote that Mr Abell.

    How many other Welsh writers have you covertly contacted with your views?

    You are a most devious man Mr Abell and I must give you credit for your proficiency in cyber stalking.

    Perhaps, though, it is best that you do not name any other victims of your stalking pursuits….

    Yours sincerely

    Mr Origami

  24. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Keith “legend” Davies has accused Plaid Cymru of operating in an underhand fashion…..

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/labour-am-keith-davies-baffled-1825409

    Under every stone lurks a politician.

    ARISTOPHANES, Thesmophoriazusae

  25. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Mr Abell

    Perhaps the work the Druids commissioned you for included a certain amount of intelligence gathering?

    Mr Origami

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