Sunday 1 May 2016

A Norwegian Blue writes

Only four more sleeps until we get the results of what has to be one of the most extraordinary election campaigns any of us can remember. It sputtered into life under the shadow of the EU referendum, and seemed destined to be a low-key affair with an even lower turnout - the warm-up act for the main event.

The Tories were busy tearing themselves to pieces in what still promises to be a revival of the old Carry On franchise.

Carry On down the Khazi, starring Michael Gove as Kenneth Williams, Boris Johnson as Terry Scott, Chris Grayling as Bernard Bresslaw, Theresa May as battle-axe Joan Sims and a special guest appearance by Nigel Farage as Sid James will be returning to a TV screen near you soon.

Labour was clearly nervous at the start of the campaign, concentrating its canvassing efforts on what should be rock-solid constituencies in Cardiff and the Valleys. Places like Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, once Labour strongholds, were abandoned and activists packed off to shore up the likes of Leighton Andrews, Jane Hutt and Jenny Rathbone, supplemented by a busload of students from Birmingham.

Then came the steel crisis, which was undoubtedly a welcome distraction for Labour because the issue that is exercising voters the length and breadth of Wales more than anything else is the NHS and social care, with education coming not far behind.

The Tories dithered, and Labour seized on this golden PR opportunity to make all the right noises without actually doing anything. A concerned Carwyn went down to Port Talbot, while Stephen Kinnock flew around the world, TV cameras in tow, and was probably jetting off somewhere else when he missed a crucial meeting to discuss the proposed management buyout.

One of Jeremy Corbyn's policy advisers was accused of bragging that the steel crisis had "played well for Labour". Ukip blamed it all on the EU, forgetting to mention that it had voted against proposals in the European Parliament which would have enabled the EU to impose higher tariffs on Chinese steel. Although the measure was passed, it was then blocked by the Tory-LibDem coalition in London and their allies.

The sigh of relief from Labour was audible from Penmaenmawr to Pontypool, but then came the row about anti-semitism, with Ken Livingstone enacting a re-run of this North Minehead by-election.

Meanwhile, over in Ceredigion, voters are quaking in their boots at the prospect of answering a knock on the door only to find the bonkers Tory Dr Felix Aubel glowering at them. Dr Aubel was recently memorably described as the Donald Trump of Trelech, and he is an ardent supporter of nuclear weapons, yelling "Peace through Strength" on Pawb a'i Farn a few weeks back. Dr A's Congregationalist flock can look forward to the traditional fires of hell being replaced by a thermo-nuclear holocaust if their minister has his way.

Yes, all human life is in this campaign, and anyone looking for a little light relief could do worse than turn to Matthew Paul's weekly column in the Carmarthenshire Herald.

As a fox-hunting Oxbridge barrister, Matthew clearly knows what is on the minds of the people of Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, where he is standing in the Boy's Own Conservative and Unionist interest.

This week he does a pretty good hatchet job on Labour's Ladybird Book manifesto, 24 pages of pretty pictures, few words and even fewer explanations about just how we will arrive in the Promised Land. He compares the party's optimistic 1999 vision with the drab 2016 reality before turning his blunderbuss on Adam Price for Plaid.

Matthew's main grouse with his rival is that Adam is not your average, run-of-the-mill non-entity, and has even been described as Y Mab Darogan, a man who wants to transform the fortunes of our nation. This all seems to have been started by the BBC's Vaughan Roderick who had this to say in a prophetic eponymous piece back in 2009:

Ychydig iawn o wleidyddion Cymru sy'n gallu denu newyddiadurwyr gwleidyddol i neuadd cynhadledd er mwyn gwrando ar araith.......Un o'r eithriadau prin yw Adam Price- un sy'n gwybod nid yn unig lle mae "g-spot" ei blaid ond un y wasg hefyd. Mae gan Adam y gallu i bleisio pob carfan o'i blaid gan gyfuno cyfeiraidau at Dryweryn, Streic y Glowyr, Merched Beca a Nye Bevan mewn ffordd sy'n swnio'n gwbwl naturiol.

(Very few Welsh politicians can attract political journalists [out of their hotel rooms, Ed.] to the conference hall to listen to a speech. One of the rare exceptions is Adam Price, someone who knows not only where to find his party's 'g-spot', but that of the press as well. Adam has the ability to please every section of his party by combining references to Tryweryn, the Miners' Strike, Beca's Daughters and Nye Bevan in a way which sounds completely natural.)

Matthew, who must be contemplating whether he will be pushed into fourth or fifth place on Thursday, has this to say.

Matthew weighs in

But while some of us worry about the NHS, schools, whether our children will be able to afford higher education and their future prospects, Matthew has his mind set on the issues which really matter to the people of Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, such as the fate of the bronze cock of Jesus College, Cambridge, a subject he covered at length in his column a few weeks back.

The cockerel was looted by the British along with thousands of other ceremonial pieces from what is now Nigeria just over a hundred years ago. 

The unfortunate independent kingdom of Benin had been unwise enough to resist attempts to subjugate it by the British. An armed force equipped with machine guns took on men armed with spears and bows and arrows. Palaces, temples and much of the rest of Benin City were torched, and uncontrolled looting by British troops ensued.

Or as Matthew Paul sees this most shameful episode, “a gunboat was sent to give the natives a bloody good hiding”.

The loot was shipped back to England, and a great deal of it was flogged off, much of it to the Kaiser in Germany, but the bronze cockerel ended up in Jesus College, Cambridge.  A large number of other items taken from Benin languish in storage in the British Museum.

To their credit, the students of Jesus College recently voted to return the cockerel to its rightful owners.

Matthew was outraged.

Perhaps Jesus College, Oxford might like to follow suit and return Llyfr Coch Hergest, one of the earliest and most important Welsh manuscripts, to the National Library of Wales. 

Toodle-pip and tally ho!


Anonymous said...

and if you look at his facebook post for 31/12/15 you will also see that he made a very strange comment about sexual slavery under isis. he said that as isis had now introduced rules about sexual slavery this was something we could all applaud. I don't know whether he meant it or was being ironic - either way it is disgusting from someone hoping to be elected. he has two fb pages - its still on.

Cneifiwr said...

Got a link to that? It seems to have vanished.

Matthew Paul said...

Missing a number of the purpler feathers, Cneifiwr, but far from 4th place. Is that crystal ball still under warranty?

A good night for Adam (though not up there with Rhodri Glyn's '07 vote let alone '99, so no tsunami here). Chapeau to Leanne Wood for being the less awful kind of socialist in the Rhondda, but Labour and UKIP were the real winners across Wales.

A poor night in Wales for my Party, but Scotland shows its resilience. And I am not sure, whatever the state of political debate in our universities, that a Welsh colonial exploitation narrative will get you much attention outside Plaidy circles. My wife's alma mater is not going to cough up Llyfr Coch Hergest any time soon.



Anonymous said...

Hang on Adam put on 3% whilst you lost over 5%.

There is only so much positive spin you can put on that.

As re the Conservatives in Scotland they gained because Labour are so dire there.

haven't you got some wildlife to go and kill or something.