If you politically aware folk across the Severn Seas, think Westminster is the political capital of greasy manipulation and ambitious malfeasance, then think again and try this on for size.
Old welsh Labour with its enforcers has now excelled itself, making sport out of the committee system of scrutiny and oversight where policy is concerned. If any member of said committee shows any sign at all of having an independent intellect (or indeed any intellect at all), or god forbid a view that may be deemed “principled”, then they are ignominiously ejected, without a safety harness.
You think I’m joking?
Well, let me appraise you of a recent Children and Young People’s committee, set up to consider the Welsh Assembly’s Social Services Bill.
By way of background, three of the Labour team were in support of a ban on physical chastisement of those objectionable urchins who fall by the parental wayside as it were, the minister overseeing all this, one Gwenda Thomas, was not.
Chance would have it, that just before the committee was due to convene, take evidence and consider an amendment to introduce the child-smacking ban into the Bill, old Labour’s chief whip-master sacked the three liberal musketeers, and without as much as a by your leave.
Christine Chapman (Chair), Julie Morgan and Jenny Rathbone were all replaced by more accommodating members with a more corporally inclined inclination than their predecessors.
When the meeting started, microphones were injudiciously turned off so that the new chair, one Ann Jones, was left to rather miserably explain that she had only just found out about her ‘calling’ to the committee – nothing like being prepared is there?
Welsh Labour has been casting it’s Tammany Hall spells for far too long, the pettiness of council chamber politics will no longer do, the outdated anti-English and “woe are we,” no longer cuts the mustard – or anything else for that matter.
Old welsh Labour must move on if it is to survive, because believe me it can longer assume a landslide welsh vote. People have had enough of the Cardiff Bay divine right, enough of ancient ramblings about the spirit of Aneurin Bevan. He died a long time ago and in a very different world.
Only a few weeks ago Carwyn Jones, patriarch of unreformed welsh Labour, refused outright to a freedom of information enquiry relating to his discussions with Sir Terry Matthews, Gwent’s richest man.
The strong suspicion was that poor old Carywn was having his ministerial reshuffle rewritten for him. Edwina Hart, business minister and favourite of Sir Terry, managed to keep her job in the subsequent reshuffle, despite strong rumours to the contrary.
Coincidentally, a certain business minister had also been party to approving £2.8m funding for Sir Terry’s graduate foundation a few months earlier.
Can you imagine the furore at Westminster if the prime minister point blank refused to respond to this type of FOI where manipulation of cabinet posts was suspected? The blizzard of comment, the political pressure, the scrutiny?
Can you imagine members of a Westminster parliamentary committee being disposed of at will and at the whim of those who seek to preserve their absolute power base?
Be in no doubt, that this is the state of Welsh democracy. And it goes on and on and on. Without censure, without any kind of serious scrutiny and without any punitive accountability.
Julian Ruck is the author of the Ragged Cliffs Trilogy and legal thriller The Bent Brief’. He is a FoI campaigner and has made contributions to programmes in both Welsh and national broadcasting.
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