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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Rats

On the day that AMs and the Press were invited to view the new chamber building prior to it being fitted out, much of the early discussion in the Assembly Plenary seemed to centre on rats and other small furry animals.

We had all convened after the summer recess, fresh and raring to go. I say all, but already there is a tendency for some opposition members to go missing when needed. David Davies AM MP was not in the chamber until later on. The rumour was that he was on a Parliamentary trip to Uganda, of which the least said the better, however it transpired that he had returned from that excursion on Sunday. Shortly after he arrived a Plaid Cymru member disappeared to travel to meet the SNP in Scotland, thus missing a series of votes on the Social Justice Report.

The First Minister was in a combative mood. However, we had to wait until question four before the legendary rat and its drainpipe made an appearance in response to a question from Leanne Wood on the Welsh Baccalaureate:

You must not follow the media in going like a rat up a drainpipe on the basis that, if there is any way possible, you should knock a Welsh initiative. That would mean that a Welsh initiative could not possibly be successful. You are the last person I would have thought would follow, lemming-like, that leap over the precipice, in saying, ‘Oh, this can’t be a good thing’. Just read in detail what those two headteachers say in their recent letters of protest against the media’s mishandling of this issue.

I have to confess that I do not know enough about the subject to say whether lemmings are related to rats but you get the picture. By question six an entirely different small creature had entered the First Minister's lexicon, this time in response to a question from Welsh Liberal Democrats Leader, Mike German, on the Government Devolution White Paper and the reorganisation of Police forces:

The First Minister: If you want to resist Kirsty Williams’s leadership challenge, the fewer references to guinea pigs that you make the better, Mike.

Question seven was about employment levels in South East Wales but the rat reappeared nevertheless:

The First Minister: I am afraid, Jenny, that you have just displayed the-rat-up-a-drainpipe-attracted-to-a-negative-news-headline phenomenon even though, once again, there is no factual basis.

The afternoon then drifted into points of order in which Alun Cairns made a faux pas in the use of politically incorrect language and was pulled up on it by the Presiding Officer:

Alun Cairns: I raise a point of order under Standing Order No. 7 in relation to the response from the First Minister to my question about the economic development strategy, ‘A Winning Wales’. I fear that he may have inadvertently misled the Chamber when he denied the target of 90 per cent of UK gross domestic product. I remind him of his statement on Thursday, 13 December 2001, when he said

‘I realise that it is ambitious. Many things must go right for us to be able to achieve that target of 90 per cent of UK average GDP per capita’.

Therefore, he either inadvertently misled the Chamber, or it could well have been a senior moment.

The Presiding Officer: Order. On the first point, the First Minister would neither advertently nor inadvertently mislead the Chamber, neither would any other Minister or Member. I ask you to reconsider, at your tender age, the reference to ‘a senior moment’, which I could construe as disorderly and verging on the ageist.

Finally, we all enjoyed the Presiding Officer having a little bit of fun at the expense of his own party and speculation that he might emerge as its leader early next year:

The Presiding Officer: I read certain comments fully in the very well redesigned The Guardian, but it is not a matter for me to comment on any alleged remarks. I will await the publication of the volume, and even then it would not be a matter for me, at least not while I am sitting here. [Laughter.]

Clearly, he is looking forward to the freedom of expression that Party leadership might bring.
Comments:
Do you think your party's plan to give young offenders social workers rather than court appearances is right for South West Wales? And do agree with your party's crime spokesman who says that prisons should be shut down to pay for go-karting trips for joyriders?
 
As ever David, your comment is both off-topic and a distortion of the truth. If you care to point me to the actual newspaper articles then I will happily answer.
 
The Liberal Democrats passed the the 'Rehabilitation of Offenders' policy paper at their annual conference in Bournemouth (23 September 2004).

The policy calls for the age of criminal consent to be raised from 10 to 12, and 13-14 year olds to be dealt with by social workers rather than through the courts.

In an interview with the Guardian published by the Guardian online, Monday 20 September 2004, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten called for prisons to be shut down in city centres and the money used towards 'positive' measures like treating joyriders to 'drives round race circuits': 'Inner city prisons should be closed and sold off for cash to fund a more constructive approach to tackling anti social behaviour, the Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesman, Mark Oaten, told Guardian Unlimited... 'Admitting that encouraging joy riders to rehabilitate - by measures such as being sent on part-time mechanic courses or treating youngsters to drives round race circuits - would prove a resource-intensive option, Mr Oaten said part of the answer lay in closing down prisons for cash. 'We want to sell off prisons that are in city centre sites," he said. "We have a large Victorian prison system at the moment and many of these prisons are in high residential areas with high property value ... We would use that short-term money for short-term investment and also a programme of education. 'The Guardian, Monday 20 September 2004

The interview can be found at http://society.guardian.co.uk/crimeandpunishment/story/0,8150,1308784,00.html.
 
Sounds very sensible to me. It is certainly different to your caricature of the policy. Whether it survives the party's review of policy has to be seen of course.
 
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