Monday 18 June 2012

Services to the Community

Whatever your views about David Lloyd George, no other Welshman in history had more impact on the world stage, and his impact on our daily lives (the old age pension and National Insurance, for example) and the British political scene can still be felt today.

In 1909 he introduced his "People's Budget" and took on the entrenched power and privilege of the hereditary House of Lords, by some margin the biggest constitutional crisis in Britain in the last 100 years.

Of course, the boy from Llanystumdwy went slightly off the rails in the later stages of his career, and there are some uncanny parallels with the British political scene today, including his relationship with the press barons and a shabby coalition with the Tories.

Having faced down the hereditary peers, Lloyd George went on to subvert the honours system by selling peerages, knighthoods and just about every other bauble in the cupboard on an industrial scale. Tony Blair, whose own career is a pale imitation of Lloyd George's in many other respects, was of course cleared of selling peerages rather more recently.

A century on from Lloyd George we still have hereditary peers, and he would have no difficulty recognising the rest of the honours system. One small concession to modern sensibilities is that ordinary members of the public may now nominate people for honours, but the bulk of those receiving awards are the same old mix of superannuated politicians, civil servants and other establishment hangers-on.

Cneifiwr was scrutinising the Queen's Birthday Honours list the other day to see if either he or Caebrwyn had been recognised for services to blogging when up popped a familiar name under the OBEs: David Gilbert, Director of Regeneration, Carmarthenshire County Council, for services in the fields of Regeneration and Skills.

This brings the council's tally of officers, members and commanders of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire to at least four. Meryl herself is a rather humble MBE, the lowest of the rungs in the pecking order, as is Labour's Terry Davies. Mr Gilbert, who can regularly be seen glaring fiercely at councillors and the public from his seat on the officers' podium in County Hall, can now look down on Meryl and Terry with his OBE, while looking down on us all as a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is Chief Executive Mark James.

Lloyd George's battle in 1909 and his subsequent flogging of honours may have tarnished and discredited the system in many people's eyes, but clearly the self-perpetuating cliques which run our local government are still in love with this Ruritanian nonsense.

So congratulations to Mr Gilbert, who takes home £147,637 a year. Sadly, after all his years of regeneration, Carmarthenshire remains one of the poorest parts of Europe, and many of his regeneration projects will be a drain on hard-pressed council taxpayers for decades to come.

While it is unlikely that there was a flood of nominations from the public, various developers, consultants and rugby bosses were no doubt on hand to endorse the award with rather more enthusiasm and gratitude.

As the council gears up for more school closures, preposterous and unsustainable developments and privatisation of services, it is good to know that services to the community are recognised by the Establishment. Just a pity that it's the Range Rover driving community.


Cibwr said...

It has to be said that everyone sold honours, Lloyd George's sin was to be open about it and to employ a dodgy middleman. And while the Lloyd George fund benefited from the sale of honours, when he was in coalition with the tories they got a half share of every honour sold..... He had utter contempt for the system so was happy to subvert it.

I have to say we have our own more egalitarian honours system in the Gorsedd...

Cneifiwr said...

Diolch Cibwr. I was thinking about the Gorsedd too as a Welsh alternative to the British system. It certainly has its merits, especially now that it is becoming more egalitarian.

The problem there is that the Gorsedd is not as broadly based.

A purely Welsh Urdd Dewi Sant/Order of St David for the people of Wales would certainly be better than what we have now.

Anonymous said...

I can but wonder at what poverty that Lloyd George has brought Carmarthenshire.
Possibly not meant but as we know many of the so called reforms brought in by Mr George are now used aganist the peoples.
Those who cant move away to get better jobs or to gain good employment are made to settle for benefit zones or should i call them zones in need of regeneration.
Younger people who need dont go to these zones there are no jobs and those that are left in the Zones either have to use the benefits system or die.

There is much more to this so called regeneration than meets the eye.
To speak of the likes of Lloyd George in the context of Carmarthenshire and Regeneration im sure he would find the biggest insult he had ever had.

Anonymous said...

It's not actually the benefits or social reforms that are the "problem". Social benefits are pretty normal in civilised countries and the levels in the UK are not that generous. The problem is the lack of jobs and the move away from industry and agriculture towards a services economy based on travel-to-work hubs. This accelerated particularly under Thatcher and since then under New Labour as well. It makes more sense to call these depressed areas "low pay zones" not "benefit zones" because the problem is majority of the jobs there are too low paid. The only option is to commute (which is becoming more expensive) or move away. A select few will be able to stay if they accept low pay or land a decently (but never extravagantly) paid public sector job. This problem applies to most of Wales.