Theatre in Wales

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Surface Noise Over Stability

A Political Diary

Election Notes , Senedd and Holyrood Elections , May 3, 2016
A Political Diary by Election Notes April 30th:

Aberystwyth 10:30 Great Darkgate Street has four parties out on the stump and I have conversations with three of them. Politics is unpredictable but to see pictures a-plenty of the former MP for Tatton 1983-1987 is unpredictability taken a long way.

Neil Hamilton is not here himself, although I have once been in his proximity. In his lowest days, after May 1997, he was the only other waiting passenger, myself apart, in an empty late-night tube station. The most revealing aspect was that his appearance had not a line or hint of stress or trouble to it.

It is a quality that is now a regular in popular psychology- it features at Hay 2016- known as the grit factor. The politics may be questionable but there is something admirable in the indominability.

The conversation with a Labour veteran reaches back a long way.

Labour has a long-standing admirable local figure in the form of Lampeter’s Hag Harris. Our memories are long. I was, I tell her, in a packed hall this February for a passionate address by the Shadow Foreign Secretary. He was for Europe.

But then I was also in a packed space, a long while back, to see his father arguing quite the opposite. History indeed repeats itself as tragedy or farce. A mention of London elicits a shudderingly physical grimace of reaction.

May 1st:

Switch to BBC Scotland to watch the leaders debate live. Scotland is different from Wales. For a start Hopetoun House is the grand host to five rather than six party leaders.

Even more it is about women. Willie Rennie & Patrick Harvie, Libdems & Greens, are both lucid but they are placed either side of three women leaders, as well as an authoritative woman moderator.

The issues too are different. Just as the summer before last, my most recent visit, the concentration of high-talent jobs, the science and technical concentration that is Faslane, and their loss in the repudiation of Trident is to the fore.

The debate ignites too over whether Scotland's own Parliament has the right to call a referendum should it be hauled out of the EU against the country's popular will. As for Ruth Davidson if she becomes the opposition on Friday it is because she is performing her constitutional duty. An Opposition opposes.

The most revealing aspect is the palpable audience anger over the PFI schools that are falling apart. People will put up with a lot on their own account. But when Government messes with their children there are going to be consequences.

May 2nd:

8:15 Adrian Masters on ITV is sharing a mushroom risotto prepared by the First Minister. Have I heard rightly?

Questioned about distractions from London it sounds as if Carwyn Jones is saying, in paraphrase “there’s no malign influence from London. This is a manifesto written in Wales and made for Wales.”

10:20: Adrian Masters is back with representatives from six parties.

With forty-eight hours to go he asks after their state of being. They confess one and all to exhaustion but exhilaration. If the hustings have been rambunctious the temper in the studio is placid and peaceable.

The relations between the parties and the four nations may be noisesome and fissile. The workings of the state are filled with mis-step, waste, error and caprice. But from Wales and Scotland the United Kingdom feels like surface noise over continuity. The quasi-federalism project is half-formed. Scotland most likely will follow the nations of Asia and Africa in departing mother England. But it feels good, and proud, to be present.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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