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Sunday, October 02, 2005

David the gypsy

One Tory who cannot recognise when it is that he is drowning is the MP and AM for Monmouthshire, David Davies.

David is renowned for his hatred of political correctness, effectively walking out of the Assembly's Equal Opportunity Committee after a row over the way that he questioned the gay rights organisation, Stonewall Cymru. Indeed, I believe that his party leader removed him so as to avoid further controversy, something that David courts assiduously.

It is arguable that whilst he was on the Equal Opportunity Committee there was a sort of symbiotic relationship between David and the other members. His attempts to debunk their political correctness led to an increasingly adverse reaction from them, which in turn spurred David on to more extreme statements. It was a downward spiral of mutual intolerance that at one stage looked as if it could not be broken.

Coming off the Committee has not tamed David in any way as was demonstrated by this post on his blog attacking the awarding of a £48,000 lottery grant to make a film about the traditions of gypsy travellers. This in turn led to a reaction from Plaid Cymru's Helen Mary Jones and this sort of press coverage. Rather predictably Helen Mary's reaction and that of others just encouraged David to go further.

As a result we now have the front page of today's Wales on Sunday taken up by David's latest stunt - he has decided to register himself as a gypsy so that he can continue to speak out against them without being accused of discrimination. The reaction of the chair of the gypsy council seemed positively mild in comparison:

But his latest plan last night caused the chairman of the Gypsy Council, to describe the Tory as a "cretin".

Charles Smith said Mr Davies was talking "utter shit", adding: "He's a complete idiot and he doesn't know what he's talking about."

He said: "If he wants to try being a traveller, I'd love him to do it.

"He can sell his house and have nowhere where he can legally live. I dare him to do it, because the man is a complete idiot. This just shows how out of touch the Tories really are.

"Attacking gypsies is seen as acceptable racism, but I dare him to be a gypsy or a traveller for a year, to give up his affluent lifestyle and his privileged position."

Whatever else David is, he is not thick. However, it seems to me that he would do well to pause a bit and consider what it is that he is trying to achieve by these stunts and how he is perceived by the rest of the population. I, for one, would have hoped that his election as an MP might have matured him and cured him of the need to pursue headlines regardless of the consequences. Instead it has turned him even more into the sort of rent-a-quote bore that is more at home in the sixth form common room than in the outside world.

If he ever wants to be taken seriously as a national politician David would do well to put the over-clever quips and stunts to one side and concentrate instead on dealing with his constituents and with the issues that they raise in a more serious and considered way. His current behaviour is undermining any good work he may be doing in his own constituency by losing him respect. He is starting to carve out a role as the class clown.
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