Y Barcud Oren #7

It may be late (I blame the author’s man flu, but then I would…) but it’s a bumper Barcud this week as the end-of-term mood added an extra air of lunacy to proceedings.

I’m In Plaid, Get Me Out Of Here

Every writer submitting items for delayed publication risks being overtaken by events. Nevertheless, when I e-mailed off the last Barcud I had little fear that the sordid question of top-up fees would have developed further by the time it appeared on Lib Dem Voice barely 48 hours later. After all, there was no mention of it in the Assembly business for that week, and it would have taken a pretty pathetic and utterly disgraceful flouting of parliamentary decency for the government to schedule an announcement on such an important topic at the last minute…

Never ones to cock things up by halves, Plaid soon got to work on the really heavy-duty stupidity. Among the documents to appear in the public domain in the aftermath of the announcement was a letter from 17 year-old Plaid member Arianwen Caiach-Taylor, attacking the party for caring more about Ieuan Wyn’ Jones vehicular buttock comfort than the needs of students. John Dixon (yes, the self-same party chairman who’d gotten so much airtime representing the opposition to top-up fees among the grassroots), decided that the only measured response was to expel her from the party altogether, with the classic semantic caveat that he considered her letter to be tantamount to resignation (proving, as much as anything, that he hadn’t read it…). Still, at least she was spared the ignominy of then having to go to Plaid’s spring conference, held at a university (and not just any university, but the one in my ward…)

Meanwhile, Plaid’s fictitious wing were busily reinforcing their position as hypocrites-in-chief, railing against cuts in further education funding at a rally outside the Senedd. As this Welsh Lib Dem video so ably demonstrates, however, that railing would have been a little more meaningful if the members in question hadn’t voted for the budget that made them…

Let no man say, however, that Labour or Plaid are to be found wanting in their brazenness; no sooner had that video appeared than one of the members involved was asking for the unedited footage so they could put their speech on their website. I don’t suppose the actual response was of the nature of that given to the plaintiff in Arkell vs. Pressdram, but still…

I’m A Stupidly Named Website And So’s My Wife

One of the less publicised features of the One Wales Agreement is the incomptence suicide pact, whereby if one coalition partner is making an arse of itself, the other has to do something equally moronic to spread out the damage. In this case, Labour’s contribution was the launch of Aneurin Glyndwr, a website describing itself as the new digital voice of Labour supporters in Wales.

Appallingly, almost criminally badly written attack blogs are ten a penny, but Aneurin Glyndwr is a different kettle of fish. For starters, it opens with explicit endorsements from Peter Hain MP, Eluned Morgan MEP and Alun Davies AM; indeed, Hain described it as an “Obama moment”. Other commentators were less charitable, and rather more accurate;

• Labour’s John Redwood moment
A Howard Dean moment
The internet equivalent of watching your dad dance at a disco
Like a monkey saw a blog and tried to draw it with a crayon

But rather more unfortunately, Aneurin Glyndwr thinks it’s funny. The site’s opening gambit was a video of that self same Eluned Morgan (who is, we should note, standing down as an MEP, most likely in order to run as Rhodri Morgan’s successor as Assembly Member for Cardiff West in 2011) “singing” a “parody” of Delilah while Plaid’s leadership are depicted in clown hats and the Tories are dressed up as a toff (Cameron) and a vampire (Bourne).

And it is that vampire image in which the real trouble was to be found, even without considering that Labour have become so unimaginative they’re reverting to the same attack they used on Michael Howard 12 years ago (an attack that in that case at least had some semblance of relevance, between the Ann Widdecombe quote and a bit of casual borderline racism.)

Barely six months ago, Labour were fuming after the Tories released a dossier on Rhodri Morgan, marking his 69th birthday by declaring him the Clown Prince of Wales, amongst other personal attacks. Nick Bourne then compounded matters by claiming he hadn’t signed off on the dossier when he had. So there was some surprise when Rhodri claimed that neither he nor Llafur had had prior knowledge of or approved the site. Because he had. Oops?

My Name’s Cheryl And I’m A Conservative

Not to be outdone on the idiocy front, the Tories decided to join the party with a little adventure in human resources. For those who’ve missed her (and frankly, if you’re not Welsh you’re likely to be one of them since almost no-one here has heard of her either), Cheryl Gillan is the Conservative Shadow Secretary of State for Wales and Member of Parliament for those quintessentially Welsh towns, Chesham and Amersham. Since the harsh economic climate doesn’t apply to MPs’ staffing allowances, she’s advertising for a research assistant, shared with David Mundell, MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale and Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.

When I broke the story on my blog, I was primarily concerned with the idea that one member of staff could be shared by two countries with different legal and political systems 150 miles apart. By the time it reached the pages of The Western Mail (and no, I’m not at all bitter that they got it from a different blogger…) the issue had metamorphosed into a row about the use of the phrase “knowledge of devolution is desirable, but not essential…” Either way, it’s hardly emblematic of the cuddly, devolution-friendly image the Tories are going for.

Even in the field of reinforcing stereotypes Plaid weren’t going down without a fight though. The aim of their Cardiff conference was to present the party as a modern alternative for everyone in Wales, north and south, east and west, Welsh-speaking and English-speaking. All the self-congratulatory guff about the use of technology was bad enough (yes, Ie Gallen Ni is very shiny, but anyone can make bullshit look pretty) but, lo and behold, one of the keynote speakers managed to get up and launch into an anti-outsider diatribe that even Plaid insiders were describing as “cottage burning”. And while a number of senior party members were leaving the room in disgust, at least one leadership contender gave the performance a warm welcome…

And to finish, the obligatory plug for Welsh Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, which is next weekend at the Barcelo Angel Hotel Cardiff. With three party leaders and something of a bloggers’ get together, there’ll be plenty to report in the next edition of the Barcud.

* Gareth Aubrey is a councillor in Cardiff and blogs at Long Despairing Young Something.

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