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Friday, November 17, 2006

In search of a hero

Politicians generate many mixed feelings. On the one hand we are probably one of the top five most hated professions, considered to be at various times dishonest, self-seeking, dissembling, verbose or just plain unreliable. At other times we are community or national leaders, social workers, problem solvers, campaigners and even heroes. More often than not people will start off looking for the latter and end up having their expectations dashed. That is because like everybody else, we are just human and no matter how high up the ladder we have climbed, we will eventually reach the limit of our influence.

Politicians themselves are not exempt from this yearning for a hero. Listening to parliamentary debates you can hear it in their voices, pleading some minister or another to intervene and sort out a national problem, demanding that the Prime Minister fly over to Washington and sort out the US President or even asking for a telling intervention in an important local issue. Like the electorate though we are often disappointed.

In the chamber yesterday Labour Assembly Member Lorraine Barrett at least found something that the Environment Minister could do, the problem was that her question was about something else and that might take a little longer:

Lorraine Barrett: Increased levels of recycling depend largely on an easy system for householders. Will you review the way in which some local authorities manage their recycling? In the Vale of Glamorgan, we now have to wash and squash tins and cans, which I find quite difficult to do. We also cannot put out Tetra cartons for recycling. The easier we make it for people to recycle, the sooner we will reach those targets, so will you keep an eye on the way that local authorities are developing their systems?

What the record does not show is that even though Carwyn Jones did not offer to come and squash Lorraine's tins and cans for her, other members did. There were heroes in the chamber after all. Christine Gwyther even pointed out how therapeutic such activity was:

Christine Gwyther: Squashing cans is a good method of stress relief and I would recommend it to any Member after a Plenary meeting. We have heard from other Members that peer pressure is important in terms of recycling and that children can influence their parents. They can also influence councils, Assembly Members and Ministers. Will you join me in congratulating the young students at Templeton Primary School in Pembrokeshire, who welcomed you to their school recently and showed you and me exactly how we should be recycling?

As if to defy the trend the Environment Minister used question time to cast himself as an anti-hero by confirming that he was unable to intervene to help residents living around Hafod Quarry in Wrexham, where rubbish from England is being tipped daily. There were some however who doubted whether he had even visited the place, an impression that he quickly dispelled, stunning the Assembly into admiring silence and then spontaneous applause as a result:

Janet Ryder: Fly-tipping is otherwise known as the illegal dumping of waste. Many people in Wrexham view the ongoing dumping of waste in the Hafod tip as illegal. Unfortunately, due to your decision this morning, that illegal process seems to have been given legitimacy and it can be carried on. As part of that decision-making process, you informed me that, on 12 October, you entered the site and inspected it. Could you confirm that you did enter the site?

Carwyn Jones: Where can I start, Janet? First, the tipping is not illegal. I came from Wrexham general railway station. I had a driver and an assistant private secretary with me. I entered Johnstown and as you approach the railway bridge in Johnstown in the direction of the dual carriageway, on the right-hand side there is a street called Heol yr Orsaf. If you go up Heol yr Orsaf, which is uphill, the landfill site is on your left-hand side where the road curves away from it. Laughter.]

However, if you go underneath the railway bridge, on the right-hand side is the entrance to the landfill site, which is quite hidden and you can miss it easily. On the left-hand side is a country lane and a builders’ yard, which we went to when we missed the turning. However, if you come back, you can enter the landfill site without challenge; the road snakes to the right and then to the left and you enter a flat area, where, at ten o’clock, the landfill site is located.

When you leave the landfill site, turn right and then right again, you enter a lane. On the left-hand side there is a field; on the right-hand side there is barbed wire and trees and the boundary of the landfill site. That road, incidentally, goes uphill. Therefore, yes; I did visit the landfill site.

With one bound Carwyn had placed himself back at the head of the queue to succeed Rhodri Morgan, for the one thing that Labour members would know in voting for him was that he might not be a hero, but you would always be able to rely on him to give you directions if you were lost.
I see Carwyn has been using the Microsoft Route Finder again-handy little thing that is> or was it Sat Nav.? or maybe it was that driver he mentions> whichever it was, I wonder if he could find himself lost if he had to depend on his own devices a little more!
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