Thursday, 5 April 2012

Taking a break

The blog on council tax will be my last for a little while.

That “rant” on the Green Investment Bank was uncharacteristic of me. If I'm completely honest, I shocked myself.

As I said in the introduction and follow up, AMs and the civil service have a tough job and should be “afforded a bit of slack every now and again”. I respect, even admire and look up to, anyone that puts their head on the block and enters public service like that – whether party activist, councillor, AM, MP or civil servant. They're a braver person than me. It wasn't personal.

Despite a few good things happening elsewhere, for a “national government” it's indefensible and I stand by what I've written. I'm surprised that someone with as meticulous an eye for detail as Edwina Hart would allow it to go out with her name on it. To see the Welsh Government emblem on that rubbish was embarrassing. By allowing myself to be wound up by it though, I might've let myself down, even if I felt it was a symptom of a wider problem. I doubt it's going to be my last word on the matter though.

On those wider problems, I neglected to mention that Gareth Hughes and Syniadau have covered this before, citing civil service reforms enacted in Scotland. There's also an interesting discussion in the comments section at Syniadau.

Interestingly, the First Minister has launched a “New Deal”, which you can read here, as a vision for public services. It tantalisingly addresses a few of the concerns we've all raised, and even hints at something similar to a “National Civil Service Academy”, which I suggested in the follow up to the original post. Under the “Sir Humphrey” talk, there are actually a few reasonable ideas in there. Funny how timings work out, isn't it?

There's a real crisis out there and it's not because of any lack of underlying will - but administrative paralysis, head-in-the-sand attitudes and shoulder-shrugging.

Any solution seems to be short-term – whether it's grants or handouts, fairly modest tinkering or spreading public investment thinly. Although that works sometimes, the bigger things, that haven't been addressed since the Great Depression, are still there and it's crippling the Welsh economy.

I wish we'd stop arguing over the semantics - whether it's right that Wales has this power or that power, coming up with excuses or blocking reasons as to why such and such wouldn't work, focusing on the wrong targets, or getting the bureaucracy and frameworks right - and actually got round to a unified sense of purpose, and took the bigger steps to turning this tanker around. At the same time we should be taking a bit more responsibility for ourselves, and having bolder visions that aren't limited in ambition or scope.

It's also important we have an effective opposition - a point raised on A Change of Personnel. I've mentioned before how effective “tag-teaming” can be. As I've also mentioned in the follow up to the “rant”, people need to be put over the coals for this. Questions have to be answered.

If they can get away with the little things, one day they'll get away with something big. They could already have done for all we know.

It's just a shame that in spite of all the posts where I've pointed to good things the Welsh Government has done, all the posts on ideas for independence (or indeed with further devolved powers) and other constitutional issues - it was an incredibly negative and cynical piece that garnered wider attention.

I don't want to run that type of blog. The time's right to take a step back.

In the meantime, I direct you to the Independence Index if you want to go over my lengthier posts (and maybe a few you've missed).

I'll still respond to any comments, but I'll take a break from new blogs until May.

Until then – hwyl fawr!


  1. I couldn't possibly comment on the way you feel now about the post in question, but if I were in your position and there were no other factors involved, I certainly wouldn't let it prevent me from continuing this blog. In the first instance it was, by comparison with much else that passes for political comment in Wales, cogent, reasoned and analytical. Was it trenchant? Yes. Blunt? Undoubtedly. Ranty? Perhaps a little. But it was also a piece that started with a premise, introduced the evidence and reached a conclusion. Perfectly fine, as far as I'm concerned - regardless of one's views on the merits of the argument itself.

    Second, you've atoned for it - twice. Don't beat yourself up. Who among us doesn't let things rip every now and again. It doesn't render the rest of what you've done any less interesting or worthwhile.

    Third, so what if it rather than some of your other posts gained the attention? When I edited WalesHome, it became clear to me that the quality of the articles we commissioned were inversely proportionate to the number of comments we attracted (and I say that as the author of a number of pieces with 50+ comments). Sometimes a really good, closely argued piece gets no comments precisely because its so good and well-argued. What's more, we all know controversy gets the attention - that's why newspaper editors say things like "if it bleeds it leads".

    This site has provided some of the best analyses of politics in Wales than any I can think of. It has an agenda (one that I don't even share, for the record) but it is free of the usual, tedious, party-political bun-fighting and boring point-scoring. I'm sorry to see you taking a break, and I hope you'll return as planned.

  2. That's very kind of you to say Adam, thank you.

    I realise that what goes out on the internet usually stays there and maybe I'll look back on it at some point and be a little embarrased. I made the mistake of thinking of politicians and civil servants as faceless pin cushions. It would horrify me if someone fairly low down the pecking order who was involved the bid saw it and took it the wrong way. The GIB bid was fairly minor in the grand scheme of things, it was the blasé attitude to it's failure that wound me up.

    Don't worry, I will be back, I haven't "flounced off". I'm already thinking of, and working on, new blogs. I want to be back in time for the local elections so it might be a bit sooner than I said. I just needed a rest that's all.

  3. I'm glad you're not quitting, the fact you got annoyed and wrote the post over Minister's indifference to the bid fallout shows you care and expect better from them, you don't need to apologize for that.

    Welsh politics suffers from apathy and a lack of voter engagement, which breeds the contempt and a lack of accountability sadly Minister's continue to show over things like AWEMA and the Green Investment Bank and that is one of the reasons I blog to try in my own small way to highlight what needs to change if Wales is to have a healthy democracy with an engaged electorate whatever party is in power.

    I'd agree with Adam you argued the case in more depth and eloquently than I did on the GIB, im not surprised by this stuff anymore i just sigh, shake my head and say not again hence my blog title, so don't be to hard on yourself.

    Lastly the reason we blog is to express opinions and people will always respond to that, some positively, some negatively at least you are engaged in the political process and are looking to engage others, just remember that.