Letter from Wales: Understanding the threat from Welsh Liberal Democrats

by Julian Ruck

In previous columns I have alluded to the essential job specs a politician needs in order to be successful ie humour and charm. Tony Blair had it in spades – I am immediately reminded here of his sacking of  Ron “Clapham Common” Davies as recorded in his autobiography – and Boris has enough of both to see him breaching the security gates of No 10, if only he will admit it.

On a personal level I have always felt that if more women were calling the shots of sovereignty, the world would undoubtedly be a more peaceful place. Margaret Thatcher, Cleopatra and Catherine the Great notwithstanding.

Readers will know that I recently interviewed Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru in the Welsh Assembly. Well, a week ago I also interviewed Kirsty Williams, her opposite for the Liberal Democrats. Before going further, I am compelled to point out that both politicos were full of steam and passion and were also able to laugh out loud at my occasional political heresies eg my claiming that of course the Valleys will vote Plaid, the voters up there are still pouring Strongbow super-strength onto their cornflakes for want of anything better to do.

So, what is Kirsty and her party all about?

She’s a Swansea girl through and through and like most Welsh girls (Leanne included) full of the verbals but with a lump of Welshy charm thrown in for good measure. She is possessed of a genuine love for Wales but it must be said, a love that now seethes with anger and disappointment at what is being done to it and its people.

It was of course irresistible to explore with Kirsty the implications of the PISA report and Welsh political life generally. Her views were refreshingly bold and unequivocal, firebrand time again and nothing wrong with this, it’s long overdue in Welsh politics  – she has never been a Cardiff university madrassa alumna either!

“For anyone watching the 10 0’ Clock News last night,” she began, “the Pisa report will have dire consequences for the Welsh economy. We have the highest levels of low skilled youth in the UK. Companies will not invest here. The Welsh government is bereft of new and fresh ideas, the funding gap per pupil between Wales and England is not being addressed properly and my frustration with all this is that Labour is obsessed with consultations, commissions and reports but nothing ever happens. It’s the rugby club mentality; it doesn’t matter if we lose boys, as long as we lose with a bit of hwyl (spirit) that’s alright.”

The old ways are just not delivering anymore There are issues with the Welsh civil service too. It doesn’t like being challenged by politicians or new ideas. Crachach time again. The Welsh government has no ambition, Wales should be at the forefront, the Welsh are being let down!”

At this point I began to wonder if Kirsty was not only a fan of my columns on Uncut but also Michael Gove, who commented only last week that “….if you want to see a country going backwards, look across the Severn Bridge!” Seriously, the Lib Dem leader then made a point that in some ways epitomises everything that is wrong with the principality be it political, cultural or economic.

“Welsh Labour just isn’t challenged enough. I know civic society must bear this responsibility but in Wales no-one will bite the hand that feeds it and that’s the problem  People in Wales will criticise the Welsh government privately but not publicly.

In the future we want to be a party that seeks common ground across the political spectrum, to drive Wales forward we are willing to work with other political parties to achieve these aims. Being part of a coalition or being able to use your vote as part of a confidence and supply arrangement to achieve things makes being a politician worthwhile.”

And here’s the clear and present danger. The threat to Welsh Labour decrepit liberty-taking and panglossian insult lies in all three opposition parties pulling together to wipe out old Welsh Labour once and for all.


PS On a lighter note and as we are coming up to Christmas, I must tell you about a Welsh Japanese Knotweed problem. Recently, this invasive and predatory plant arrived unannounced in my garden. It had jumped from the unoccupied property next to the house. I duly telephoned Carmarthenshire county council to advise them of the situation whereupon they told me proudly that Dyfed Powys police now had a dedicated Japanese Knotweed fighter on hand to deal with this far eastern menace.

As instructed I telephoned the Welsh boys in blue, who for once were not sitting at roundabouts scoffing custard slices, and was told:

“Growin’ drugs, are they? Duw mun, we’ll have some of our boyos round in a jiffy!”

No hope for Wales, is there?

Julian Ruck is an author, journalist and columnist. He also makes contributions to both Welsh and national broadcasting and media. 

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6 Responses to “Letter from Wales: Understanding the threat from Welsh Liberal Democrats”

  1. bob says:

    The BBC were all over A/E ambulance drop off times this week, filmed in Wales but did not tell viewers that the NHS in Wales is controlled by the LABOUR run Welsh Assembly or the health is a devolved matter.

  2. james says:

    Complain to the bbc using their website

  3. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Whatever happened to the ‘The Exchange”? It was supposed to be the Welsh equivalent of “Question Time”.

    I remember seeing a debate show on Welsh television – it seems to be lost in the mists of time – a myth perhaps?

    Does anybody remember it? It was still running in 2001 if my memory serves me correctly. Perhaps it was a delusion?

    No!….. It hasn’t been completely eradicated from the history books. I have managed to find a snippet of info about it on the net.

    “WELSH politicians will once more be put under the spotlight when The Exchange returns to our screens next month.

    Presented again by Huw Edwards the show is filmed at the Coal Exchange in Cardiff Bay.

    Offering a studio audience the chance to put a panel of politicians and opinion-formers on the spot, the previous two series have attracted the best viewing figures in Wales for a debate programme.

    Huw said: “What would seemingly be a minority programme is not that at all – people tune in to The Exchange.

    “It’s an extremely reactive and flexible programme involving people from all over Wales. As a live show we can cover breaking stories – even stories that break on the 10 o’clock news immediately beforehand.

    “The new series is certain to be pacy, with plenty of lively debate and a bit of banter, all helped along by a touch of humour.

    The new series of The Exchange returns in the week starting October 29.”

    Unfortunately the show was axed, A real shame that Wales could not afford a debating show.

    Huw went on to make a spectacular history of Wales programme. In it though, he seemed to leave out the fact that Wales once had a debating show representing the voice of the people of Wales.

  4. Tafia says:

    It is a shame that there is no Wales equivalent of Question Time. Voting patterns over the last 10 years show that the voters of Wales (and Scotland & NI) are probably far more sophisticated than those of England and are far more likely to change who they vote for dependant on the executive level – council, Assembly, Westminster, and thus must be paying more attention to what goes on at each level and how they would prefer things to develop as opposed to in England where voters tend to stay far more within tribal boundaries.

    YouGov’s latest regional polling underlines that and bizarrely supports UKIPs own internal belief that their big breakthrough will come in the regional Parliaments where there is a degree of proportional representation involved and probably explains for instance why they have done a complete U turn to devolution shifting from ‘we’ll scrap it’ to ‘it’s great’ and why in Wales they have now started using bilingual literature all the time.:-

    Westminster – CON 21%, LAB 46%, LDEM 8%, Plaid 12%, UKIP 10%
    Welsh Assembly constituency – CON 19%, LAB 43%, LDEM 9%, Plaid 20%, UKIP 7%
    Welsh Assembly regional – CON 19%, LAB 40%, LDEM 9%, Plaid 15%, UKIP 10%

  5. Gez Kirby says:

    “of course the Valleys will vote Plaid, the voters up there are still pouring Strongbow super-strength onto their cornflakes for want of anything better to do”. Penetrating political analysis right there. And not at all lazy stereotyping of a whole region of Wales by Uncut’s Welsh ‘commentator’.

    If Uncut permitted someone of similar oafish prejudices to write regularly on London politics, the outcry would deafen its editors. But as it’s “only” Wales (a country with its own polity – and the only British country to be governed by Labour), such offensive dross as that run above is indulged.

    Oh, good grief..

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