Theatre in Wales

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A Political Diary

Election Diary , Westminster General Election , November 19, 2019
A Political Diary by Election Diary MY 2019 ELECTION: NOVEMBER 12TH TO 19TH

12th November: At a lecture by historian Michael Burleigh. His title is “We, the People? Some Thoughts from the Past on Contemporary European Populism”.

His scope is impressive. On populism he makes the basic point “what is presented as unifying is in fact highly divisive.” I was a student once on a course where Bernard Crick's “In Defence of Politics” was obligatory reading. The book's theme: the factor that unifies is the practice of politics itself.

13th November: BBC Wales is homing in on the local constituencies. “As goes Ceredigion, so goes nowhere much else”, is its verdict, “One of the UK's most idiosyncratic seats, Ceredigion is a law unto itself when it comes to elections.”

16th November: Discussing another election for a couple of minutes. Adam Price towers over me, the subject is Wales 2021.

Price: “It's looking good. What's the alternative? Five more years of stasis.”

Me: “Keep off the subject of independence. You have to go for health, education. That's what elections are won on.”

He is used to the crowd. Every elector has his opinion. But a Corleone needs his Tom Hagen, a Citizen Kane his Jedediah Leland. I wonder if Plaid has found itself a top-level consiglieri.

17th November: Journalist on Sunday Politics, BBC Scotland: “He's so badly briefed as to what's going on in Scotland.”

Toss a coin as to whether it is to which of the two Londoners she is referring to. On this occasion it happens to be Corbyn. There is not a single seat in Scotland where labour and tories are in contention.

Come across Guto Harri and his compatriots. The occasion was a Wales v England rugby in Cardiff in 2009. He was with the Mayor of London:

“The Welsh have a healthy tendency not to take ourselves too seriously. We play with words and value humour over protocol. We generally get along with everyone and admire people who push the boundaries and defy the odds. Boris seemed strangely at home.”

18th November: First frost of the year. Life via a screen is different from life via experience; it amplifies irritation to exasperation and beyond in a way life does not. The world via a screen is not good for health.

A new Monday, a big day and all are at the CBI. A watcher is tapping a keyboard in response.

“Wondering how many times he will say 'Get Brexit Done'..Cummings told him to keep repeating it until the election. He's like a dalek who's gone into overdrive. Just to keep repeating the mantra shows a lack of creativity, a lack of imagination and lack of any leadership qualities to rely so heavily on a slogan over and over again ad nauseum.” [sic]

There is an error here. Creativity and imagination are not values of relevance to a campaign. The values are method, process, tough-mindedness.

Warren Bennis, the best theorist on leadership, boils the subject down to four competencies: management of attention, of meaning, of trust, of self. Leaders create followers. The last party to get a Westminster majority got 11.33 million votes. That is the leadership task, to get beyond the faithful and the tribalists to create that 11 million. And spread in the right way.

19th November: Catch up with Nation Cymru; the sharp writing from founder-editor Ifan Morgan Jones is the equal of BBC Wales.

On Cardiff north: “Historically this has been a key bell-weather seat and with only a 4.01% swing required it’s one that Boris Johnson should be winning quite easily if he wants a stable majority government. And yet Cardiff is a strongly Remain city, and the Conservatives did very poorly there in the EU elections.

“The Conservatives are favourites here but only by odds of 8/11, so a Labour win for incumbent Anna McMorrin who has impressed since being elected wouldn’t be a surprise at all.”

In his home county: “Ceredigion is something of a political micro-climate. The Liberal Democrats here aren’t the cosmopolitan, Remain party of the ‘Jo Swinson’s Liberal Democrats’ brand. Their vote is more rural and conservative, particularly in the south of the county. This constituency will ultimately come down to a battle of popularity between new MP Ben Lake and the previous MP Mark Williams.

“It really is too close to call, but it’s hard to overstate to what extent Ben Lake is liked in Ceredigion. Since his election in 2017, he has been everywhere. So, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he does upset the polls and keep hold of his seat.”

Further north: “Ynys Môn has its own political micro-climate. What happens beyond the shores of the island seem not to trouble it too much. It has been held by the Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and Labour over the past decades and the only pattern seems to be that once the island chooses an MP they stick with him or her.

“Albert Owen who has represented Ynys Môn for the Labour party since 2001 is standing down this time after five elections and so the seat is up for grabs once more...The result is likely to be razor-thin between all three parties and could go either way.”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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