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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Vulcans on the starboard bow

John Redwood is known chiefly for three things in Wales: his patronising and incompetent attempt at singing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau at a Welsh Conservative Party Conference; sending a substantial chunk of the Welsh Office's budget back to the Treasury, unspent; and his attack on single mothers on a visit to a Cardiff estate 14 years ago.

He is also known of course by his nickname, the vulcan; for announcing his challenge to John Major as Leader of the Conservative Party whilst surrounded by various exotic members of the Tory Parliamentary Party; and for never spending a night in Wales when he was the country's Secretary of State. All in all, it is difficult to see how we have survived without him being in the frontline of British politics for so long. It has certainly been a lot duller.

Mr. Redwood has re-emerged onto the pages of the Western Mail this morning with a blistering attack on Labour MEP. Glenys Kinnock, and others who he has accused of besmirching his reputation:

The MP told The Independent, "I made just one speech on welfare reform on 2 July 1993 which contained only two paragraphs on single parents ... It was far gentler than most of the things that have been said on this subject by the current government. I said, 'It must be right, before granting state aid [to a single mother] to pursue the father and see whether it is possible for the father to make a financial contribution or even a fuller contribution by offering the normal love and support that fathers have offered down the ages to their families.'

"It encapsulated the thinking that lay behind the subsequent bipartisan support for the proposal that fathers should be asked to contribute financially to the upbringing of their children."


He said, "I had countless letters in the past [about the speech] and I send everybody the speech. They always write back and say 'We want the real speech' but that is the real speech."

He said Labour politicians had "attributed to me all sorts of things I didn't say" in the wake of his 1993 speech.

"I was a pioneer for the argument for a Child Support Agency, saying fathers should at least make a financial contribution. I said nothing negative at all. Go back and read the speech. There is a copy in the House of Commons library. I am telling the truth, they are just fibbing."

I have to say that this is not how I remember the speech either, but then I only read the newspaper accounts of it. Whatever Redwood said, it sure wasn't reported as he now recounts it.

One last thought, in addition to all the other things does John Redwood really want to be remembered for initiating the disastrous Child Support Agency? The principle may well have been right but the execution of that idea has failed completely.
What fond memories Lady Glenys Kinnock must have following her trip to a luxurious Barbados resort for a conference debating development and "deprivation". Is Lady Kinnock going to lead a delegation of EU politicians to yet another luxurious resort … this time to discuss the plight of single mothers?
Your last point is well made, but I do think he has a point as well. If New Labour has been characteristic of anything it is desensitising us to issues such as welfare.

I will always remember this Labour government for its top two priorities when it first took office: introducing tuition fees after pledging not to and introducing restrictions on single mothers after making capital out of attacking Labour.

It should also be remembered that all three parties supported the CSA.
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