Monday, 20 December 2010

Old Hughes’s Political Almanac for 2011

Its the month of Janus who is god of the portal -the god that faces both ways supposedly past and future.  A god with the two faces particularly apt for politicians me thinks. The month that the latest batch of the great and good of Welsh society will pledge themselves to the Empire, by accepting the various honours in its name.
I foresee ermine to be the material of choice of three ‘once’ democratically elected politicians.  These very three new recruits to the Upper House have all called for the abolition of the very same House they are now eager to grace with their presence - how appropriate that Janus should be elevated to be the god of politicians.
Unlike Ivor Novello, who was born this month, the hills of Wales will be alive to disharmony as the yes and no campaigns kick off. Who will make the sweetest sounds and get the encore of the Welsh people will come clear only in March.
Named after the Roman festival of Purification, Februa.  The Welsh political establishment based in Cardiff Bay will be pure in word and deed as they campaign together for a ‘yes’ vote. Normal hostilities will be put aside for the campaign, well, that’s the theory. Leighton Andrews and Peter Black excepted. But during the month most of the Welsh parties will hold their political conferences, the last before May’s elections, and the chances of them not taking a swipe at their opponents are absolutely nil. Predictions are that it will be a lack lustre campaign. Apathy is likely to rule!
The god of battle Mars ,brings to an end the referendum campaign on  the 3 March. It shares the same day as the World book day and I predict that the majority of Welsh people will have stayed at home with good book rather than bother to vote.  The National Assembly will go into purdah, meaning that civil servants, support staff and uncle Tom Cobbley and all, will do nothing at all - so no change there then! 
Meanwhile Assembly members will hit the campaign trail for their own election. t Of course, Liberal Democrats will be in a particular state of heightened excitement because their much anticipated referendum on the change to the voting system will be kicking off. Not that it’s the voting system that they want, but the alternative vote system was the best they could wring out of Cameron in the talks that led to the UK coalition. It’s sad to see how the once great party of Lloyd George are prepared to sell out for such meagre returns.
Aperire when the earth opens to receive seed and when the Welsh electorate will receive through their letter boxes the thoughts, promises and aspirations of political parties in the manifestos. This was the month that in the old Soviet Union  ‘Pravda’ was produced for the very first time. A publication that proclaimed the ‘truth’ about the Soviet state and was constantly reminding its readers of how their politicians succeeded in meeting  targets. Much of the literature coming through the doors of Wales at this time will again chronicle the heroic efforts of our own politicians in meeting their targets and will be as realistic as that of Pravda’s. It will be the month to say goodbye to familiar faces in the Bay most will have decided to hand in their passes voluntarily while others will be booted out by the electorate.  All will join the rest of us the great unwashed, but their transisiton will be made all the easier with a generous pension
And now to the god of growth and increase Maia. An aspiration that all political parties attempt to attain. How quite will Labour after winning the Assembly election deliver on such aspirations remains to be seen. Even after the ‘yes’ vote they still have only limited powers over the economy and in Westminster the coalition are unlikely to achieve economic growth in the short term with their current economic policies. 
My crystal ball also predicts that the Liberal Democrats will be disappointed with the results of the AV referendum a low turnout and a victory for the status quo is what I see.
Labour also have to make the decision whether they will go it alone after their victory in the Assembly elections or again seek a coalition partner. Its grass roots would prefer the former but for comfortable government those in control of the party in the Bay would look sympathetically at the continuation of a Lab/Plaid pact. In all events there is likely to be a new presiding officer and a new government formed in the Bay by the time all the politicos head for Hay Festival at the end of the month.
This month is named after Juno the goddess of marriage. The time also when Her Majesty turns up at the Assembly and kicks off a new session and likely will pass her blessings on any new marriage of parties  in the Bay. Certainly the date of her impending arrival acts as a spur to the Bay’s politicians to get their act together and sort out the governing arrangements before she walks up the steps to the Senedd.
Named after that wily general and politician who did not quiet recognize who were his real  friends - Julius Caesar. It is that time of year that both governments in Cardiff and Westminster breathe a sigh of relief. They have a respite for a few weeks from those pesky backbenchers who tend to question their every action. Both bodies go into recess. Yes, our legislators will be packing up  and going back to their constituencies. They never take holidays they go back to ‘work’ in their constituencies. Unfortunately, for the Welsh public this is the time of year that you are most likely to bump into them as you innocently attend the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show and other shows up and down this land of ours. And of course the last day of the month sees the start of the National Eisteddfod, never a politician free zone
All roads will lead to Wrexham for politicians in the first Week of the month to the National Eisteddfod. Here pompous announcements will be made about all things Welsh! English politicians wrap themselves in the union flag, Welsh politicians in the dragon. Of course by the time the political term starts all the announcements will quietly be forgotten.
At the beginning of this month the Blackpool illumination’s are switched on. The display was always ready by the time one of the party conferences turned up. But, alas, all our parties have gone up market and would never be seen dead in a gritty working class holiday resort like Blackpool. So all will go to other venues. 
The large UK party conference season kicks off with that of the Liberal Democrats. In past years this would have been of least interest to the hacks, but not so now. All will be looking for signs of the troops revolting. Will those in their party that have taken the oath of office and sit around the cabinet table feel their wroth? The response of the Welsh bit of the Federal party will be most interesting, should they have suffered a major reduction to their numbers in the May election.
Labour will be in Liverpool under the leadership of brother Ed. Again the pressure will be on him. If he does not improve on his shaky start as Leader of the Opposition it is at conference that murmurs begin and leaders begin to feel vulnerable to a future coup.
Meanwhile back at the Assembly a legislative programme will be submitted that for the first time will be in their hands alone. These Welsh laws cannot be challenged by Westminster but of course can be challenged in the courts. A rich living for Carwyn Jones’s old friends in the Welsh legal profession.
At the start of the month Manchester plays host to the Conservative conference. It will feel like a conference under siege, a range of demonstrators will be making their feelings known outside the conference security zone. Of course the mantra in the hall will still be that the cuts are absolutely necessary but the promised land of milk and honey will arrive in time.  A year before the next general election it’s predicted! Those sniping right wingers will use Ken Clark as a proxy for Cameron and give him a hard time because of his liberal policies towards prison reform.
MPs will come back to work and the focus will move from constitutional issues to getting all the reform agenda on to the statute book in plenty of time for them to bed in before the next general election. There will a large head of steam building up in the Assembly to take the Richards report off the shelf, dust it down and implement some of its conclusions. Particularly its conclusion that to function properly the Assembly should increase its numbers to eighty.  When AMs realise that having sole legislative power is hard work, they will start pushing for more members to be introduced when the number of MPs are reduced. 
The CBI will meet in conference with a refrain from them and the government for more wage restraint although there will be little restraint on their remuneration packages.
The year comes to a close with the usual ritual of politicians wishing us good cheer having spent most of the year ensuring quite the opposite. Their human side is shown by the various visits to worthy causes within their constituencies, one of the prizes of old age is that your stuck in an home and can’t get away from a politician coming around to wish you christmas cheer. They’ll be sending Cards designed by children in schools that are old and pass their sell by date. But never mind it will all be forgotten in the joy of the festive season.
And a Merry Christmas to you all!!

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