Got you that time!
Yes, it’s April 1st. The idea that Carwyn might give a straight answer does, I grant you, stretch all credibility. Nevertheless, I thought it was worth a try.
Some people have accused our present Government of drifting. This, I believe, is both inaccurate and, in individual cases, far too lenient. The First Minister puts one in mind of some hapless don finding himself elected Warden simply because the Vice-Warden’s faction and the Manciple’s faction preferred a dull plodder to letting the rival faction’s favourite enter the Warden’s lodgings. The rationale often proffered in such circumstances is that the College needs a safe pair of hands until either the Vice-Warden takes up a Personal Chair at New Dworkin State University and Agricultural Academy, or the Manciple goes back into the family bank, or both. This conceit, however, will simply not wash when we examine the case of poor Carwyn.
The reasons for the failure of the two other candidates for leadership of the Taffia, our local succursal of the Red Rose of England Unionist Party, are plain enough. Huw Lewis is too embarrassingly challenged by the placing of two or more thoughts in a coherent relationship, and Edwina Hart, as well as being able to read a balance sheet, is a woman. Within living memory, she would have been denied use of many a snooker table on the ground that she might tear the cloth, although any spotty boy of 14 would have been welcome to come and ply a cue or two. Edwina might yet make a move when the Carwyn burden finally becomes too heavy for our undernourished body politic. Nobody I know whose opinion I respect has written Edwina off. She has demonstrated diligence, grasp of detail, and courage. I will be surprised if she does not give the Taffia leadership another whirl should the opportunity arise. But that is not my main concern hear.
One of the arguments in favour of a divided legal profession is that lawyers practising advocacy will need training in specific intellectual and oral skills. Solicitors are not always at their most plausible when presenting oral argument. Watching the oratorical performance of the current Thompsons intake, Vaughan Gething and Mick Antoniw, one is immediately struck by the unmistakable tone of the Not Frightfully Good. As against that, Mick’s skill and determination in steering the Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Wales) Bill through the Chamber surely merits the warmest of congratulation. Two points arising from this matter illustrate the heart of my gravamen. To begin with, an individual AM had to win a ballot in order to get this legislation introduced. Secondly, the Government has not established recompense of the public service by private and/or commercial tortfeasors as a general principle. In effect, while public goods are being privatised, private wrongs have been nationalized.
From this I trust none of you will suppose that I am accept training for the Bar as an infallible means of conferring oratorical prowess. Carwyn has been illustrating this ever since he came into office. It is plain, to be fair, that he has grasped the basic rules for an advocate in desperate straits. If you are weak on issues of fact, stick to the legal issues. If you are weak on law, stick to the facts. If you are weak on both law and facts, attack the other party’s witnesses personally.
The public are long reconciled to the fact that Carwyn does not answer questions. At first, I supposed this to manifest a certain canniness. The Taffia famously operates a code of omertà that makes the Cosa Nostra sound garrulous. However, when Carwyn retorts that he will take no correction from ‘the party opposite’, he demonstrates clearly that he has given up trying to pretend that he is making an effort. (Another possible interpretation, I freely own, is that Carwyn genuinely believes himself to be in the House of Commons, but he presents no other behaviours that entitle us to suspect that he might be delusional.) Time and again, he demonstrates that he has simply not read the brief.
This would be worrying in enough in the most favourable of circumstances. However, we face a Westminster Government determined to complete the Thatcher project. They have moved with speed and ruthlessness to demolish what remains of the 1945 settlement. We desperately need courage, skill, and vision. The lamentable reality is that, rather than defending the NHS, Carwyn and his cotérie have engaged in bureaucratic tinkering that merely squanders resources. No, the demolition of our public services has not gone as far as in England. No, the PFI bandits have not yet got their claws into our public life as on the other side of Offa’s Dyke. No, immovable property in this country has not yet become the international reserve currency that it now is in parts of England. But none of this results from a principled stand against the onslaught from the ConDem coalition at Westminster. It is down to the sheer inertia in Cardiff Bay and Cathays Park. As always, the Taffia are sitting tight in the expectation that the Red Rose of England Party will swoop to the rescue the next time they are in office at Westminster. Except when in coalition, the Taffia have let things slide with a complacency that makes the early Cumman na nGaedhal governments look alert and progressive.
The problems of the NHS are all too evident. I have to say first of all that the horrors visited upon the late Owen Roberts at no point touch my experience, or that of my family and friends. Nevertheless, I like many other people am very aware of the increase in bureaucracy, and that way that managerialist ideology, like a computer virus, is overwriting clinical criteria and humanitarian values. This deleterious trend is spreading everywhere. It has even reached Norway, where the last Labour government removed hospital services from the county councils and created giant regional hospital boards containing no elected public representatives. The head honcho was a suit from Statoil. Inevitably, he brought in a swarm of fellow-suits, all at the kinds of salary they regarded as their right, and started a round of closures. This sounds dismally familiar to us, but some of the distressing episodes recounted here demonstrate a growing threat to health and life.