Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gwleidydd 'lliwgar'.

Finished off my day in Cardiff today by 'guesting' on CF99, the Welsh Language politics programme on S4/C. Fellow guest was Nick Bennett, who used to be a prominent Lib Dem but has found a much more useful role in society. Nick is a living demonstration that its possible to succeed, no matter how misguided a path one might have started out on. Presenters of CF99 are Wales' answer to Bill Oddie and Kate Humble - the Welsh political 'mastermind', Vaughan Roderick and the fragrant Bethan Rhys Roberts. And please don't tell me that's sexist. Its so late that my judgement could be going.

Only one issue tonight. His Lordship. And for once, try as I might, I cannot fathom what he's playing at. But I do know that I think he was wrong. This is what's happened. A Plaid Cymru Assembly Member, Mohammed Asghar, has invited all his fellow AMs to a reception, to which he has also invited the Israeli Ambassador. Now this is quite interesting in itself - the only Muslim elected to the Assembly inviting the Israeli Ambassador to an Assembly do. Interesting, but not obviously a problem - until his Lordship, the Assembly Presiding Officer, Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas stuck his oar in. He responded to the invitation by declining, because he so disapproves of the way that the Israelis are treating the Palestinians. If that's his opinion, fair enough, I suppose. But then he went on to hope that no other Assembly Member would accept Mohammed's invitation either. And to cap it all, he then sent a copy of his refusal by email to every other AM. In my understated opinion, this was somewhat 'incendiary'.

Dafydd El might say that it was a private email to AMs. All 60 of them. Pull the other one M'lud. Anyway it inevitably leaked out. Mohammed is standing his ground. He's been in hotter places than this. Mohammed it was who was almost blown up during an unsuccessful attempt on the life of Benazir Bhutto last year - before the successful attempt. Alun Ffred Jones, another Plaid Cymru AM went on the record today to completely disagree with Dafydd El. There wasn't any attempt to try to finesse things. Labour AM and wannabe FM, Leighton Andrews is pouring fuel on the flames. If this happened in any other party, we'd be talking about internal turmoil - but not Plaid Cymru. This is par for the course. At least no-one's resigned. Now what did I think of this. Well, if I'd received such an invitation, I might have accepted if I didn't have a previous engagement. Had I received Dafydd El's email as well, I would have cancelled any other engagement to make sure I could attend, hopefully the cancelled meeting being one with the Presiding Officer himself.

Bethan asked me and Nick if we thought this made Dafydd El 'not fit for purpose' - not suitable to be the Assembly's Presiding Officer. We both declared our support and admiration for the Machiavellian Meirionyddion. You see, what people outside of Wales don't realise is that Lord Dafydd El is unique, in that he can say almost anything and get away with it. The only danger is if the story goes world wide. I'm told its gone international - in France anyway. And tomorrow's Sun or Mail is running the story under the heading 'Lord Porkbarrel' in reference to the 8.3% pay increase. Could be a problem if it goes out on Al Jezzira though. Anyway, I'm told that the only reason he was crousty about it was because he had invited another prestigious visitor to visit the Assembly on the same day. Well that's understandable then. The Welsh word for 'colourful' is 'lliwgar'.


Steffan said...

Glyn - I agree with you completely. Having strong feelings on this issue is understandable and not compromising your principles is admirable. However, the way that D.E.T. has handled this seems rather shabby to me.

He is also seen to represent our country in an important way so whereas a backbencher may have got away with this, I think that he has behaved inappropriately with respect to his position.

I am also not impressed by the predictably tedious way some other members are more concerned to score political points over this important issue.

I can't deny it adds some colour to political life and, at least, it's over a question which has more than usual concern.

Anonymous said...

as you say Glyn the damage has been done.

Dafydd Elis Thomas will stay for many reasons mainly because our political elite are to spineless to get rid of him, he's very good at getting out of trouble, he's been part of the establishment forever and as you say he's a colourful character, Give me strength.

Frank H Little said...

His Lordship was the subject of a profile on "Called to Order" last Friday, if I recall correctly. Prescience by Patrick Hannan?

It really was an extraordinary outburst, and brought to my mind the extreme views of Saunders Lewis.

His Lordship could not have been following the news in Israel, or he would have noticed that Tzipi Livni, foreign secretary and PM in waiting, has publicly endorsed the two-state solution to the Palestine problem. Further, Jews inside and outside the country are among the leading critics of the behaviour of the Israel armed forces toward Palestinians.

Anonymous said...

Only one issue, Glyn? Did Gordon's little difficulties not feature at all....?

Glyn Davies said...

steffan - but I don't want anyone to think that I don't consider him to have been a good Presiding Officer. He has been exeptional.

anon - Before anyone tries to'get rid of him' we should consider who would replace him, and ask if such a change would be wise. Better just to tell him when we think he's wrong.

frank - I too listened to the edition of Called to Order which profiled Dafydd El. The other Dafydd was very candid.

anon - It did to a small extent, but the whole 42 days issue had been running all day. It would have been the top issue, if the Dafydd El story hadnt developed sprinter's legs.

Hen Ferchetan said...

Further, Jews inside and outside the country are among the leading critics of the behaviour of the Israel armed forces toward Palestinians.

Why is this relevant here? His Lordship is objecting to Israel's policies not to Jews. The fact that plenty of Jews also object to israel's policies surely backs up the Lord not indicte him.

Anonymous said...

Glyn - I was old at Sunday School that the Lord is always with us.
I fear that after the next election, the Lord will be in his own heavan next to the Thames - diolch i Duw.

Glyn Davies said...

hen ferchetan - personally, I have no problem with the Presiding Officer holding personal opinions, or declining the invitation to meet the Israeli Ambassador. What I did not agree with was his decision to press all other members to decline as well by copying his email to them. This seemed to me to be acting in his official capacity as a PO.

anon - I too learned that in Sunday School. But I do want to repeat that I consider Dafydd El to have been an excellent PO, and am not in the least concerned that I don't always agree with him.

Abba Eban said...

Glyn - what do you suppose would be the consequence if Speaker Martin were to do this? You are probaly right that DET will get away with it, but what does that say about our little toytown parliament that DET and yourself are so keen to extend the powers of?

Glyn Davies said...

abba - If Speaker Martin had done it, there would have been a major international incident. But he wouldn't have done it. You are right in that the relatively limited international response indicates that the National Assembly is not taken as seriously on the international plane as I would like it to be.

I do think there is a lot of misunderstanding (sometimes deliberate) of the position I and others take on the issue of granting law making powers to the Assembly. I'm deeply concerned about the constitutional dangers that are inherent in the way that law making power is currently being transferred. I'm also concerned about the lack of 'accountability' which exists as a result of the confusion about 'who is responsible for what'. On this issue, I agree with Dafydd El, even if the reasons behind our opinion are somewhat different.

Mike Wood said...

When you only know people "by reputation", you start to think that they must come out with this kind of rubbish all of the time instead of only by exception.

It came as quite a shock when I found myself saying in debates last year that I agreed with D-El - but not as much as when he said he disagreed with me.

Glyn Davies said...

Mike - No-one agrees with Dafydd El all the time - not even himself. And he would be most disappointed if we did.