Theatre in Wales

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Election 2019: Week One

A Political Diary

Election Diary , Westminster General Election , November 9, 2019
A Political Diary by Election Diary MY 2019 ELECTION: PART 1- OCTOBER 31st TO 9th NOVEMBER

Critics- if they have a function at all- separate signal from noise, distinguish depth from surface, discern form within incident, suggest a whole from detail. I began an occasional diary the day before Parliament's dissolution. I am not General Haig who rewrote his diaries so that they accorded with events as they turned out.

This is how it was, or at least how it felt- events recorded as they fell ans as they caught my attention.

November 2nd: The second Friday of November is always the day of the Annual Lecture of the Wales Political Archive. Jane Hutt is in the Drwm in the National Library.

She impresses for cogency and manifest commitment. Her most persistent theme is that of co-operation. The battles of election mask the fact that we are nature's most co-operative species.

I get to lob my question. The surgeries of Ceredigion cannot recruit GP's. The intention in London is to put the Home Office in charge of the labour market. The SNP in Scotland, and Ian Blackford in Westminster, are adamant about the need for immigration.

“Why”, I ask, “can the government of Wales not speak out likewise?” The answer is that conversations do take place, but that they are behind the scenes.

November 4th: Watch Labour live from Battersea Arts Centre. The two aspirants for Number 10 have a difference. Johnson is constant whatever the audience. He is a poor interviewee and has never impressed the Commons.

Corbyn has no precedent as a Labour leader. Previous leaders have had their attack dogs but none before have cast themselves in the part of avenging angel.

“So we’re going after the tax dodgers. We’re going after the dodgy landlords. We’re going after the bad bosses. We’re going after the big polluters.”

I wonder how this plays outside Battersea.

The blogging and commentary on the Guardian's site are as usual combustible, splattered with effing and asterisks. But a sober voice is there to write:

“In 1997, there was little talk of inequality, poverty, oppressed workers. The conversations were about success, supporting business, supporting families.”

“The strategists understood that it is the massive swathe of perfectly ordinary people - the doctors, teachers, nurses, paramedics, police officers, supermarket staff, council employees etc.- whose allegiance at a general election is not nailed to one particular party, who will decide who forms the government.”

November 4th: Ben Lake, Member of Parliament, is in Aberaeron's Memorial Hall to present the first Aberaeron Book of the Year to Megan Hayes for her work on the Cardi milk trade.

Public figures deserve their day of rest and recuperation. So it is no more than a few words.

Me: “So Liz is deep in meetings, on not competing in selected seats?”

MP: “Not Ceredigion.”

ME: “Brecon is presumably a cert for non-compete.”

MP: “That releases their activists there to hit Ceredigion.”

[Plaid Cymru, Greens and the Liberal Democrats are in the midst of talks about not competing in certain constituencies.]

Ben Lake is always temperamentally upbeat. He has this month spotted a lacuna in US trade policy. In response to his question in the House the Minister has indeed confirmed that Welsh whiskey is not included in the White House's punitive tariffs.

6tth November: a torrid day by any standard. On TV the Shadow Transport Secretary is all at sea when Andrew Neill quizzes his claim that the Conservatives will raise the cost of pharmaceuticals by $500m dollars- a week. The interviewer is incredulous, the interviewee lost.

On the other side the Prime Minister is in Birmingham to launch his campaign. His day has started with a cabinet resignation, broadcast words of folly and superiority from Rees-Mogg, backed by Andrew Bridgen.

[Alan Cairns resigned as Welsh Secretary on the day of the Conservative campaign launch]

Videos have been doctored to misrepresent Keir Starmer. James Brokenshire on Newsnight is reminded about his former boss [Theresa May] famously said. He has to take from his interviewer: “It's the Nasty Party again well and truly back.”

A stinger of a day all round for the Tories. And yet.

Simplicity eases out complicatedness. It is Ockham's Razor. The parties need less data; they ought to read more philosophy and more psychology. The Conservatives are getting ahead in simplicity.

7th November: In London, researching a new book, staying in a 82% Yes-vote-in-2016 area. A doorstep chat by chance with a Labour canvasser- have never seen a party worker looking so disconsolate.

When I did canvassing the first rule was never to hang around discussing politics. She does the opposite, staying around to discuss what's what. I would guess she is having a hard time of it, and welcomes a reasoned chat. I mention the quality of the shadow front bench and that the Leader cannot manage his own office of around 30 people. “Government”, I say, “is serious.”

8th November: Rebecca Gould is on social media, not pleased with Glyn Davies. On radio he thinks it “disproportionate” that a candidate, who covered for a man who sabotaged a rape trial, should not be able to stand in the next election.

The Prime Minister is across the water and the other side of his future border with Europe. In a potato factory in Northern Ireland he declares no checks will be made on goods that cross to Britain.

[The revised version of the Withdrawal Agreement puts the border between United Kingdom and the EU in the Irish Sea]

A TV commentator has her explanation. “He wants to be liked.” She says that he says whatever is guaranteed to please that particular audience. Her verdict: “It will catch up with him horribly.”

November 9th: Ken Clarke is profiled in the Times. On the PM and the 45th President: “Obviously there are some startling differences but they are both larger-than-life personalities. They both act on impulse. The main pleasure they get from the job is the stage.”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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