Thursday, 17 May 2012

Council Meeting (Part 1): Pomp and circumstance

Off to Carmarthen Gaol for the grand ceremonial beginning of the new term at what was previously St Meryl's Academy.

The chamber had a decidedly lopsided feel to it, with acres of empty space on the Independent benches, and a new, enlarged Labour group.

The defeat of Stephen James down in Burry Port certainly reduced overcrowding on the Independent benches, but there were also a few interesting absentees, including Giles Morgan who probably could not face having to vote Kevin Madge in as new leader.

The public gallery was sparsely attended this time, with the same sinister entry procedures (declarations to read and sign with name and address plus standard visitor form) and the same peculiar smell pervading the corridor leading to the gallery. It's a combination of mildew, boiled cabbage and B.O.

Joining us today in the gods was one former councillor who was defeated at the recent elections. He seemed oddly agitated, and banged and crashed around for much of the next hour and a half with a rather wild look in his eyes.

A brief, mumbled announcement was made, and suddenly the chamber was full of bling. Chains of office, medals, insignia, a sword, some spurs, military uniforms and a woman who appeared to have strayed out of a pantomime in a blue velvet ensemble, with a large lacy bib and a very strange hat.

Mingling with the lounge suits and military uniforms were lots of very floral summery frocks. "Do our bums look big in these?" they were no doubt wondering. Clearly their husbands had all been lying through their teeth.

Yes, it was the Lord Lieutenant and spouse, the High Sheriff and spouse, the outgoing chair of council and deputy plus assorted spouses, a very heavily and no doubt expensively tanned chief executive (no spouse) and a very pink and shiny Councillor Terry Davies.

If anyone wonders what the Lord Lieutenant and High Sheriff actually do, the meeting provided no clues, as they sat silent throughout. Perhaps that's what the council's civic ceremonial budget is for (there really is such a thing).

Ranged along the side of the chamber were all of the council's senior officers (not much change out of £1 million a year in salaries, pension contributions, etc.). They too sat silent throughout the whole meeting.

Staying with fashion for a moment, the Independent front bench was occupied as ever by Meryl wearing one of the late Queen Mother's cast-offs and Pam wearing a crumpled turquoise trouser suit.

Cneifiwr had hoped the people of Abergwili would give Pam the heave-ho in the election, but now has to admit that he is secretly glad she got back in. As we shall see, she was on spectacularly awful form, and five years without such an obvious pantomime villain would be very dull indeed.

The speeches got underway with the chair, Cllr Ivor Jackson, stumbling in a monotone through a long speech about meeting Charles and Camilla, the Queen opening the Senedd, the Jubilee and a service to bless Her Majesty at Llandaff Cathedral.

Next, his deputy Siân Thomas was elected as the new chair for 2012-13, and Peter Hughes Griffiths rose to give the eulogy.

Call me biased, but the council now has a chair who can actually put together a meaningful sentence, who speaks a beautiful, pure Welsh and who actually has an attractive personality and bags of charm. She beamed at her audience and made expansive, inclusive gestures with her hands. Even the naughty boys at the back of class will soon be eating out of her hand.

Pam Palmer (Independent) gave a brief speech of thanks to Ivor Jackson for handling what she said had been a very difficult year with lots of undeserved (Palmerese for deserved) flak.

Kevin Madge (Labour) followed with what must have been one of his briefest speeches ever. He also felt that the chair had had a very difficult year. He then broke into Welsh for a few seconds, the first time he has used the language in the chamber for a very long time. His Welsh was clearly a little rusty and halting, but then so too is his English.

After a few more words from PHG, it was at length the turn of the chief executive to give us the benefit of his wisdom.

It had been a very difficult year; there had been some lively meetings; keeping control had sometimes been hard, but "given what you had to put up with" Mr James felt that old Ivor had done very well. Turning to the new chair, the chief executive had a stab at reading a bit of Welsh from a piece of paper.

"Dw i'n edrych ymlaen i gweithio gyda chi", he intoned. Perhaps the chair should take him aside and give him a few basic grammar lessons because, as we know, Mr James is an expert in all things and gets very, very cross with anyone who makes a mistake.

By now you may be wondering what this was all about. Why was last year so difficult for the chair, aside from his complete lack of understanding of council procedures or ability to chair a teddy bears' picnic? Well, it was all about a few councillors who dared to criticise the council and the dastardly behaviour of a member of the public who had tried to film a bit of a meeting on her mobile phone.

Next up was the "election" of Labour's Terry Davies as deputy chair. Cllr Anthony Jones read out a very long extract from Terry's autobiography, and Terry replied very briefly that it was a great honour.

The chief executive politely informed the upper class visitors that the ceremonial bit was now over. This was clearly a relief to one of the military suits who appeared to be struggling to stay awake.

They all trooped out before the dirty political stuff could get underway.


Emlyn Uwch Cych said...

I'm sorry I couldn't make it to the nosebleed seats in the gaol this morning: preexisting engagement.

You've painted a wondeful sketch of the ceremonial part of the meeting, though. Military bling, Pam the pantomime dame and Madge speaking Welsh, bless. You should edit the Journal.

I trust - once the brass had left -that PHG launched a rearguard action on the throne, before young Kevin fought him back?

Cneifiwr said...

You'll have to wait for Part 2, where things actually got mildly exciting.

Anonymous said...

Ha - ha - ha - ha! Brilliant! Well, there's plenty of fodder for another 5 years of humorous posts/damage to our county. Still, you have to laugh, don't you, really?

Anonymous said...

WAS PART 2 waiting with bated breath !!!!

Mrs Angry said...

well done for your fashion notes: very interesting. Will you be covering Paris this year? But now I am worried: do florals always make a woman's behind look bigger? Please advise.