Part 2/4. The Top Ten Worst Welsh Politicians 2011.
Positions 7 to 5 today in our countdown to finding the worst Welsh politician of the year 2011, and for those named below it’s a bit of a case of not knowing where one’s responsibilities rest. Devolution has proved to be rather confusing for a number of our elected representatives, with some unsure whether they should be in Cardiff, or in London, or somewhere in between…frankly, for most of those listed, so long as it’s not in a position of political power, it would be an improvement. However, for those on today’s list, two at least seem to have become frustrating mainstays of the Welsh political scene, no matter how many people they irritate, or for their lack of general contributions to the benefit of Wales – and we fully expect all three to appear in the 2012 list as well!
7. Peter Hain
Ah, dear old Peter Hain. He probably deserves a position slightly higher up the list, however, he did, however briefly, remember how to be a local politician during the Gleision Colliery disaster where, for probably the first time in a decade, Hain stood up in support of a community and did nothing to showboat his own electoral ambitions. It was refreshing, very refreshing, and hardly representative of his usual machinations. No, for the rest of 2011, Hain was his usual self, making shameless power plays regardless of how it might benefit the people of Wales. For Hain, it was very much a case of ‘if it’s good for Hain and Labour, it’s probably not good for the people of Wales…but who cares’.
This was most clearly illustrated by Hain’s attempts to overhaul the electoral system in devolved Wales, in such a manner that would almost certainly guarantee Labour dominance of the Senedd for the remainder of its days. Of course there is much to be disgusted by in Hain’s actions, but perhaps it is the fact that a clear cut Westminster politician who has never shown any interest in fighting for a seat in the Welsh Government, was doing his upmost to subvert the development of an institution which he has nothing to do with. This was of course coupled with his shameless flip-flopping on proportional representation. One minute Hain was one of Labour’s most vocal enthusiasts for the political reform movement, yet the second it was rejected by a ‘British’ electorate, Hain leapt on an opportunity to make a case for further reform in Wales that would do nothing but enshrine Labour’s rule over politics in Wales.
For the most part of 2011, Hain has shown himself to be the usual opportunistic bridge troll that he has always been, scrabbling for the shreds of power that fall at his toes, no matter how detrimental it might be to those around him. Hain is really one figure that Welsh politics would do well to be rid of, sadly, he will almost certainly be here in 2012, and for a long time to come yet.
6. Cheryl Gillan.
All sorts of excitement surround Gillan this year, and perhaps it is because of the undue excitement surrounding her actions that provide her position on the list now. Granted, this has not been Gillan’s worst year, in some respects, it might be argued that this has been her best year in the Welsh Secretary role, though it must be firmly pointed out that ‘best’ is a term that should be used in a context of apathetic irrelevance which has coloured the majority of her offerings so far. However, for Gillan to be named Welsh MP of the year, was an award so outrageous, that it automatically qualified her for a position on this list.
Much of the hoo-hah surrounding Gillan this year was the chairing of the Silk Commission. Designed to debate the future of devolution in Wales, the Commission essentially amounted to a round table chit chat about some issues relating to devolution in Wales, while overlooking, ignoring indeed, a raft of major issues, the oversight of which, largely making the conclusions of the Silk Commission of limited relevance at best. Celebrated by some as a recognition of the growing worth of the devolved political voice of Wales, we rather like to think that the Silk Commission was an exercise in head patting, an attempt to reassure those operating out of Cardiff ‘that everything will be all right’, and ‘aren’t you all doing so well down there’, followed by a celebratory ‘we’re going to put the findings of the Silk Commission right up on the refrigerator where everyone can see’. There was nothing to celebrate in the Silk Commission, and nothing to celebrate in Gillan’s efforts for Wales.
Indeed, Gillan’s most excitable contribution to politics has been her one woman fight against a railway line being developed in her constituency, no doubt the good people of rural England will be celebrating her success in winning Welsh MP of the year…one wonders how everyone in Wales will celebrate her train derailing schemes? Top that with some fairly shameless politicking of the Gleision Colliery disaster, and Gillan’s contributions to Wales have been one of exploitation, head patting and general disregard.
Thanks for nothing Cheryl, we expect a similar level of apathy from you next year (unless Cameron makes a really good decision for a change and finally boots you out).
5. Peter Black.
Peter Black’s high position in the list is probably more a reflection of the many skirmishes EyeOnWales has had with Black on the twitter social media tool over the last year. In practice, Black has probably done much less to harm Wales than either Hain or Gillan has over the last year, yet, there have been some inconsistencies in Black’s offerings that have been unsettling at the very least. Early in the year we were probably more amused than anything else about Black’s flapping over the Lib Dem two, when the Welsh Lib Dem’s meagre election victories were in danger of being slashed even further due to the duos incompetence over illegal memberships of this and that…it was all very silly, as was Black’s response to the situation. But it would be Black’s views on wider matters later in the year that would come to be a course of frustration.
As with Hain and Gillan, a bugbear of many Welsh politicos is the way in which they both seem intent on shaping the political landscape in a devolved Wales, without being part of it. Black spent 2011 largely doing this but in the opposite direction, and one wonders if he is need of a road map to Cardiff, because for much of the calendar year, Black seems to be confused as to where he works. When it has been convenient, the Liberal Democrat coalition with the Tories has been a great thing, ‘look at what we are doing in Government’ Black would cry. Who in Government? Where in Government? For Black, devolution is a temporary beast, as is the concept of a Welsh Liberal Democrat Party it would seem. Anything positive to come out of the Westminster coalition has been pounced on by Black as a cause for celebration, regardless of whether or not any Welsh politician had anything to do with it. Yet when it has not been convenient to do so, the Westminster coalition has been something separate and distance, ‘not to do with us’ we hear.
Of course, the end of the year was marked by more celebrations, as the Welsh Liberal Democrats ‘saved the budget’. Single handed, the Welsh Lib Dems fought Labour into a corner, and forced them to bend the knee in submission to the force of Welsh Lib Dem willpower, blah blah blah. Black’s drooling over the budgetary agreement was sickly in its enthusiasm, and shocking given the man’s eagerness to bash the Labour government with near daily glee, all of a sudden he was working with them, no? Not according to Black, as far as he was concerned this was the Lib Dems doing what was right for Wales, Welsh Labour had very little to do with the whole thing…according to Black.
Peter Black is the noisiest of the Senedd members, eager to be heard, desperate to be at the centre of debate. He might cause little damage, but that is more due to the weakness of his party than his personal ambitions. But his attitude towards devolved government, and his flimsy grasp of what party he belongs to, is consistently galling. It’s time for Black to be a little more quiet, and a little clearer on where his party loyalties lie – two good goals for him to fight for in 2012.
Positions 4 to 2 next, and plenty of party leaders in the mix, and an old, slightly insane, favourite.