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Friday, March 13, 2009

The strange world of politics

Politics is a funny old game. Just when you think everything is going well the unexpected comes along and bites you. What is worse is that often the offence you are accused of is spurious, taken out of context or just plain made up, leaving behind the feeling of why bother in the first place.

Sometimes a perfectly innocent event such as a fancy dress party to celebrate your birthday, months before you were even elected is blown up out of all proportion and used by your opponents to hit you over the head. It is as if the fact that you serve the public on a Council or as an AM or MP means that you can no longer have a normal life. You spend all your time looking over your shoulder in case something that nobody else would give a second thought to is taken out of context and used against you.

It is the personalisation of politics. Instead of discussing the issues and how we can improve people's lives, a certain category of politician and their various ambitious hangers-on are seeking to score points, to gain an advantage by attacking the person rather than his or her views or policy positions. They are aided in this by the media, who are always looking for a human interest story and by the open access granted by the internet, where many of these personal attacks now start.

It is no wonder that people are put off politics or that so many people do not want to go into public life. These tactics have turned the business into a circus.

Luke Ellis may well be feeling that way this morning. He works for the Assembly's Counsel General, Carwyn Jones and has a personal blog. A few days ago he wrote an interesting and thoughtful, though rather naive, piece on drugs policy. Included in that post was a suggestion that former drug dealer Howard Marks could be used as an example of what drug use could do to you:

An expert in the dope field, Howard Marks lives in the same Village as me and I sometimes see him up the video shop and generally around and about. I approached him once and told him how much I enjoyed how he had written his first book, Mr Nice. He was extremely polite and receptive, but does not seem dreadfully well and is not really a good advertisement for long term drug use.

It would be a very brave move by Government and Mr Marks as they are no fans of each other but maybe, just maybe they could be convinced to work together to put some sort of message out there informing people that they should learn to make better choices for themselves when it comes to drugs, including the legal ones which kill more people each year than all illegal drugs put together IE; Booze, Tobacco and fatty foods.

Astonishingly this idea reappeared in this morning's Western Mail as if Luke Ellis was trying to corrupt children rather than warn them off drug use. Leading the charge is Monmouthshire Conservative MP, David Davies. Now David Davies is a man who apparently does not believe in redemption - once a bogeyman, always a bogeyman - however even by his standards this intervention is bizarre:

Monmouth Conservative MP David Davies said: “Inviting Howard Marks to lead a campaign to discourage drug taking is like asking the Yorkshire Ripper to campaign against domestic violence."

What is most unsettling is that nobody knows if Howard Marks would undertake the sort of role that Luke Ellis envisages for him or even whether he was looking rough that particular morning because of a lifetime of drug abuse or just that he had a bad cold at that point in time.

So far so good. My sympathies are with Luke Ellis but only to a limited extent. After all Luke is not above this sort of character assasination himself as his blog demonstrates. He too has been guilty of taking words and actions out of context and turning them into personal attack stories.

Luke also appears to support the actions of the Labour Town Councillor in Porthcawl who managed to twist the 'all, 'allo themed party referred to above into a restaging of the holocaust for the benefit of the local and national press.

The lesson is clear, if you live by the sword then you suffer by it too.

A very thought-provoking post Peter. Ramblings has, from time to time, been guilty of being too personal. I very much regret any offense that we've caused.

I hope you appreciate that challenging you on your views of independence is perfectly fair game. You are a national politician and you should expect intense scrutiny of your opinions.

That's partly why I think your post is unfair on Luke Ellis.

A town councillor attacking a town councillor is a far more equal contest than the MP versus community councillor we had in today's Western Mail (although I accept that I haven't follow the details of the local spat which you're talking about), shouldn't David Davies lay off?
Yes, I thought that I had implied that David Davies should lay-off and that there was nothing wrong with Luke Ellis's piece. It is his opinion and he is entitled to express it.

I am sorry but there are a number of factors you have omitted to tackle here. Some directly impacted on me actually.

The guy you mentioned wore a nazi uniform, that in itself is wrong. Are you seriously comparing them?

Two wrongs do not make a right, to say that because Luke dare question someone wearing a nazi uniform – which you laughably didn’t just condemn outright.

Added to this - you know more than anyone how this works.

Tip: Martin, read this, OMG WTF thats terrible

Martin: Thanks, lets punt a faux outrage story. Whats David Davies' number?

Martin: Hi David - read this and spit feathers.

DD: Dont mind if i do.


When Dave Collins was sacked from his job due to his ‘brain dead’ comment – Lib Dem AMs were on record calling for his sacking. Their weasel words meant a guy lost out on his living. You then also had a go at the ‘control freakery’ of the Labour Party, are these interconnected?

Will you take the opportunity to chastise them for doing so?


The fact is your party is up to its nuts in guts when feigning outrage and stoking political gossip.
Peter - point well made. Ellis may have been unfairly treated, but he has only suffered a taste of what he has meted out to others.

Marcus - you make a fair point, though in Peter's defence, I don't think he ever called for David Colins sacking?
Marcus, I am not saying the Liberal Democrats are perfect. They play the game too. I just do not like the game and try to avoid playing it when I can.

The Sean Aspey story was a storm in a teacup in which an innocent incident was taken out of context and blown up for political reasons. It was not the SS or Stormtrooper uniform alleged in the press and although it was the uniform of a German General serving during WWII it is worth noting that this did not make those Nazi's. They were career soldiers with some exceptions who were later prosecuted. There is nothing to condemn.

You are right as to how it works but I have refused to comment on a number of such occasions. David Davies has the same choice. Besides which I am not just criticising the politicians here but the media too for stoking this particular fire.

Whatever other Lib Dems did I do not believe that I was on record in calling for David Collins sacking and was appalled that such a thing happened. I thing I am consistent in that regard. As such I was in a position to have a go at the 'control freakery' of the Labour Party. If Lib Dems did call for David Collins to be sacked then they were wrong to do so in my view. Happy now?
For the record this is what I posted on David Collins at the time, focussing entirely on the comments as policy rather than the personal:

"David Collins is of course entitled to his views, no matter how wrong he is. His employer, Ann Jones is also entitled to refuse to condemn him. David will shortly be seeking election to Cardiff Council. As an AM, Ann is subject to the judgement of her constituents. I do not believe that adopting the kneejerk reaction of calling for either of their resignation achieves anything. People now know what they stand for and can make their own minds up on their suitability as elected representatives.

Voters can also judge for themselves whether their views are representative of the Labour Party or not. In doing so they should be taking note of the many Labour politicians lining up to contradict and condemn them. Well, they would if there were any. Rhodri Morgan or his spokesperson has merely regurgitated existing policy. It is hardly a convincing response."

That was on 14 September 2007
Peter - i never said you did, i merely said that when other politicians start calling for sackings of staff, the party in question panics and duly obliges.
I suggest that you read work by Omar Bartov and others before swallowing the whole Cold War line that somehow regular German army officers were somehow different from the SS. On the Eastern Front thereoften wasn't very much difference between German army units and the SS in their treatment of both the civilian population and captured Red Army soldiers. As for the incident I really begin to wonder about the intelligence of adults who dress up as characters from a TV show. I found the issue of Fred West and Harold Shipman more disturbing. For a short period I taught one of West's victims when she was a pupil at Cefn Hengoed. I dread to think what that little girl went through before she died. It isn't a laughing matter and any person who thinks that it is should be throughly ashamed of themselves.
Today was the first chance for me to read this weeks Gazette. Interestingly, there were a number of pictures of Labour Councillors and Labour party members.

Namely: Cllr Clive James & Reg Jenkins (pg1), Cllr Nott (pg3), Cllrs Edwards & Reeves (pg4).

The only picture of a Lib Dem was that of Sean Aspey, again for the third week running in his German Officers Uniform.

Quite interestingly, the Editor of the Glamorgan Gazette refused to print my latest offering to the Rag's Points of View letters page.

Labour party censorship or what?
Labour party censorship? Are you Mad? Cllr's Clive James and Reg Jenkings were on the front page for dying their hair Pink for Comic Relief (Timely as it was this week).

Cllr Mel Nott was opening the new walkway, which would have been opened by Lib Dem Leader Chryl Green if she had not been ousted in the last election when Bridgend swung back to Labour, and Mal and Keith are in there protesting with community members about health fears over a phone mast. Apparently no Lib Dem Cllrs bothered to turn up, so were not photographed.

As for Sean Aspey, I am sorry that no Labour Councillors have been pictured in the Gazette for the last three weeks anon, but evidently they have been busy serving the community in more constructive ways.

In my personal view, if the Lib Dems want to be in the Gazette more, then maybe they should consider doing something in the community which warrants covarage. (besides finding Nazi-ism, Harold Shipman and Fred West amusing).
Anon should always remember Enoch Powell's comment that a politician complaining about the newspapers was just as stupid as a sea captain complaining about the sea They are both something that you have to live with. Aspey isn't a Liberal Democrat. He is someone who just happened to stand for the Liberal Democrats in an election. The two things are not necessarily the same thing I'm afraid. The lesson for the Liberal democrats is clearly that they should take more care in the selection of their candidates and not just adopt anyone in order to make up the numbers. As for the Gazette ,like all local newspapers it needs to fill the paper and it also needs people to buy the paper. It is easy to get into the paper if you have something interesting to say. The fact that the opposition to the Labour controlled Council isn't in the paper is a consequence of Labour bias. it sadly reflects the quality of the opposition. I'm not going to give any tips but every week I see open goals and the ball being booted into the stand. There were at least 3 stories this week which if I had been in opposition would have been used by me. The three were the walkway to nowhere, the Brewery Field deal and the decision by the APW to find a a Bridgnd councillor for the first time guilty of breaching the code of conduct for local government. Good government requires good opposition and at the moment the Liberal Democrats rely too much on Bob Burns and the Tories don't seem to have anyone with the ability to go for the jugular.
Good points raised by JJJ, although I'm not so much complaining about the Glamorgan Gazette's political bias, but stating the bleeding obvious!

I would agree with JJJ that there are some open goals, just waiting for the ball to be kicked into the back of the net; so the press officer for the Bridgend Lib Dems needs to pull his finger out!
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