Tuesday 26 May 2015

Snog, marry, avoid

Normally the Annual General Meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council is best avoided unless you are the sort of person who has an obsessive interest in fashion trends among women aged 60+, bouquets and endless rounds of applause. Is that pink number Debenhams, Marks and Sparks or, my goodness, Ededa J?

What will Meryl be wearing this year? Aubergine chiffon with orange chinchilla?

On that point at least we were disappointed this year as Meryl had to attend a board meeting of Swansea Bay City Region because the chair of the board had flown over specially from his home in Canada to be there. Yes, Swansea is such a great place that Sir Terry Matthews would prefer to live several thousand miles away from it.

The 2015 AGM was, uniquely, actually quite interesting, and for that we have the Labour Party to thank.

First up was the "election" of a new chair. Unlike Pembrokeshire County Council where there was a real election this year with a surprise outcome, Carmarthenshire chooses its Chair using the principle of Buggins' Turn. This year it was Plaid's turn; next year it will be Labour, and the year after that it will be an Independent, assuming that Pam Palmer can find one with a pulse.

The result of this system is a bit like hereditary monarchy. If you are very lucky you might get one with an IQ which runs into three figures, but you are more likely to get a non-entity, a buffoon or a simpleton.

This year saw both ends of the spectrum as Elmer Fudd (Daff Davies) handed over the reins to Peter Hughes Griffiths.

PHG was born to be chair, in the same way that Lionel Sachs was born to chair The Good Old Days, whereas Daff, a retired farmer, probably had sheep with a better grasp of procedure.

The consensus of those paying tribute to Elmer was that he was "a character". This is a euphemism used to describe people you would not want to spend more than about five minutes with.

Referring to Daff's farming days, Mark James showed that his understanding of agriculture was on a par with his in-depth knowledge of the cockle industry. When he set out on his career in local government, one of his first jobs had involved meeting a lot of farmers. They were jolly types who liked their food, the chief executive declared. All that was missing from this description were the rosy cheeks, the smock, and slap and tickle with a buxom milk maid.

If Welsh farmers were all like Daff, agriculture in this country would be doomed.

The main piece of business, however, was the annual report of the previous Leader of Council, Kevin Madge. This ran on for a staggering 32 minutes, with Kev reminding us that he was first elected as a councillor 36 years ago in 1979, at the same time as Margaret Thatcher moved into 10 Downing Street.

He had two things in common with Mrs T, Kev told us, one of which was the date of his election. The other thing they shared would have to wait until he was off-camera at the municipal buffet.

Unless Kev likes dressing up in blue frocks and wielding a handbag when he goes to the Ammanford Miners Welfare Club, Cneifiwr's money is on the shared experience of being stabbed in the back by an ungrateful party which had finally realised that allowing its leader to go "on and on" would mean electoral suicide.

Kev duly went on and on as he listed all his achievements, including roundabout improvement schemes (in Llanelli) and his grand council house building programme. Only a carping blogger would point out that no new council houses were completed in the year covered by the report, and that prior to that he notched up just 11 two bedroom old people's bungalows (in Llanelli and massively over-budget).

Yes, Llanelli had had money poured all over it, and this was the way the ungrateful bastards had repaid him.

Rather unkindly, none of Kev's fellow Labour councillors had chosen to sit next to him, but viewers of the webcast can enjoy the sight of three or four of them sat behind him, desperately trying to look interested. Derek Cundy wore earphones throughout, although almost all of Kev's parting speech was in English. Perhaps Derek was tuned into Classic FM.

If a rambling monologue could be said to reach a crescendo, we finally reached one at about 30 minutes as Kev thanked just about everybody (except most of his Labour colleagues) and sat down choking back the tears.

Somewhat later in the meeting, councillors turned their thoughts briefly to job specifications for senior officers.

What would a job specification for a political representative look like, Cneifiwr mused. And what were the minimum requirements?

As regular views of Carmarthenshire County Council webcasts can see for themselves, there clearly are no minimum requirements or essential skillsets.

If pushed, most people would probably say that strong communication skills were a must for anyone going into politics, but most of the backbench Labour and Independent councillors rarely if ever speak in council meetings. As they climb the greasy municipal pole, not saying anything becomes a bit more tricky, but as Cllr Jim Dog Muck Jones has shown us, you can land a job on the Executive Board and a nice salary and still manage to get by without opening your mouth.

On the one occasion Jim was pushed into a corner by Cllr Siân Caiach and asked searching questions about pollution of the Burry Inlet, Jim showed his mastery of his brief by telling her to ask Dŵr Cymru instead.

Kev's misfortune was to land the one job in the council where effective communication skills really are important. Kevin Madge was, in short, living proof of the infallibility of the Peter Principle, where people rise to the level of their own incompetence.

A decent man and a good ward councillor do not necessarily make for a good council leader.

This being the AGM, nobody was about to be so churlish as to point out that Kevin Madge had been a disaster as council leader.

The only sour note was introduced by Cllr Giles Morgan (Ind) who stole Cneifiwr's copyright by describing himself as "the youth wing of the Independent Party".

Wearing his trademark white linen jacket, Giles Morgan ("Martin Bell minus the ethics" it was once memorably said) recalled that Kevin Madge had said that his career at the top had begun with a kiss from Meryl Gravell. Giles noted unkindly that there was unlikely to be a queue of people forming to kiss Cllr Jeff Edmunds, Labour's lugubrious new leader, either now or in the future.

Kevin Madge had been treated "shabbily", he opined.

It is not often that Cneifiwr finds himself coming to the defence of the Labour Party, but Giles should perhaps spend more time reading the history books. Louis XVI was guillotined; the Romanovs were shot, hacked to pieces and thrown down a mine shaft; Mussolini was shot and strung up feet first from a lamp post, and Edward II apparently had a red hot poker inserted into a place where the sun does not shine.

Compared with those political departures, being voted out in a democratic ballot looks very much like a soft option.

As usual, Giles had missed the point. It would have been kinder if Labour had not elected Kevin Madge leader in the first place, but having made their mistake and lived with the consequences for three years, they were right to retire him.

But, as Peter Hughes Griffiths said, let's end this review of the AGM on a lighter note and take up Giles Morgan's game of municipal snog, marry, avoid.

Actually, PHG did not propose a round of snog, marry, avoid, but wouldn't it have been fun if he had, readers?

Here is Cneifiwr's contribution:

Snog: Cllr Linda Evans - phoo-arr!!!
Marry: Cllr Siân Thomas - unfortunately already snapped up by a debonair Sean Connery lookalike.
Avoid: We are spoiled for choice, and it would be ungentlemanly to name names, Tegwen.

But what about you, dear reader?


Tessa said...

Snog? - Calum Higgins, no question about that one.
Marry? Avoid?
Dunno, I'm too busy thinking about snogging Higgins to be bothered to think about them ones.

Cneifiwr said...

Whatever rocks your boat.

Anonymous said...

Glad to have you back, Cneifiwr. I trust your break went well.
If the picture Calum Higgins put on his recent election leaflet is anything to go by, I'd avoid him like the plague. Whoever permitted that picture to be used should be shot at dawn.

Anonymous said...

Gwyn Hopkins - avoid -boring language fanatic
Jim Jones- avoid - smell of dog poo
Meryl Gravel & Pam Palmer - avoid WI Jam & Jersualem
Winston Lemon - avoid boring
John James - avoid - cannot understand him

Anonymous said...

Avoid the whole lot.
Zero hotties on the council. 90% are desiccated oldies, and the younger ones have... ummm...faces for radio. Take that Giles guy - he is Penfold off Dangermouse. And Calum Higgins looks like a potato.

Tessa said...

Oooo.......Calum......mmmmm.....nom nom nom

Cneifiwr said...

Unless that is a reference to Calum's expanding waistline, I think you should seek professional help Tessa.

Anonymous said...

Wee bit concerned that becoming involved re, clothes sense and waistlines and appearance, might start to detract from the more serious issue of behaviour.
It could also reduce public (and indeed official) support as to the seriousness of the real issues. Surely none of us would wish our own credibility to be undermined?
Perhaps we should all concentrate on any progress which may have been achieved up to date and continue to hammer the 'credibility' of the Council Leaders.
I personally have no wish to take over their undeniable supremacy of being 'Laughing Stock'.

Anonymous said...

I like many others who read this blog don't mind a bit of satire and fun. But below the belt comments make for poor reading. If this is what you're now going to write as an alternative to County matters because Plaid Cymru are now in power then this will be my last visit.

Cneifiwr said...

Anons@12.09 and 12.29 Having watched the webcast of the AGM, it seemed to me that there were two possible approaches to tackling this subject - anger or an attempt at satire. I chose the latter because it seemed like the best response to this bizarre meeting.

Originally I had intended not to criticise Kevin Madge, but his performance last week was dire on a number of counts. If we put aside his weaknesses as a public speaker, what we got was half an hour of self-praise and self-justification. No apologies, no lessons learned, and yet he was inept as council leader.

I know that AGMs are a time for congratulation and applause, but here we had people lining up to heap praise on the outgoing chair and the outgoing leader, neither of whom should have been in post in the first place.

Recently, Carmarthenshire County Council was in full flow pouring scorn on Leighton Andrews' proposals to reform local government and raise the standard of elected representatives. Andrews' proposals certainly leave a lot to be desired, but when you look at what we have had in Carmarthenshire, he surely has a point.

Anonymous said...

Disappointed in the turn this blog has taken. As a teacher if mine once said insults and swearing show a lack of vocabulary and intelligence.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,
re. my anonymous at 12.09. I truly was not knocking you.
I too like a laugh and feel that an amount of humour is an essential part in coping with all this garbage. I insist I am not toadying when I assure you that it was actually some of the personal jibes which followed your efforts that disappointed me and made me concerned that we could lose credibility.
I am sincerely grateful for your massive input helping us towards some justice in the future. I look forward to that and thank you here publicly. If only we had more principles like yours from more Carmarthenshire officers we could be already on the road to recovery.

I know their jobs are precious but it might only need one or two to stand up and be counted to start the whole process of sleeping better.

Please keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

More interesting gender based analysis than that based superficially on dress whether from M and S or Debenhams.

The Queen Bee syndrome amongst older female members is a problem in Wales because they usually want a court of male drones and their daily fix is power over others (rather than money). They tend to have a local power base of adoring acolytes and try to be the centre of the action. They do not on the whole like other women hence the low number of C Execs (female) in Wales and up and coming younger female councillors. Their best mates are unthreatening and obedient.

There are also various male versions around but IME less awful.