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Spring elections, spring chickens

Betsan Powys | 15:24 UK time, Thursday, 11 November 2010

The former chairman of Plaid Cymru was not amused.

He looked down at his feet. No sandals. In fact, he insisted, he never wore sandals.

I could have sworn that John Dixon did wear sandals but no, absolutely not he argued. What he did have on was - um - well, a pair of comfortable shoes. I'm treading carefully here having got into trouble the last time I used those words on this blog. All I mean is that he was wearing the sort of sensible shoes my Dad wears - and that, it seems, was part of the trouble with him standing again for Plaid Cymru at next May's Assembly elections.

The problem is with the Dad reference, not the shoes.

He was, or so he says his party leader insisted, too old. Here's how John Dixon puts it himself on his blog (my Dad would never have one of those, by the way ...) in his response to former Plaid MP Adam Price's comments about the quality of Assembly Members.

"I cannot, of course, speak in detail about the selection processes of other parties, but there does seem to be something of a 'cult of youth' affecting all parties. There's an increasing tendency for people to go straight from university to politics, with no wider experience of the world outside, and I've never been convinced that's an entirely good thing. Some adapt well, but others can sometimes appear to be stuck in a rather more simplistic approach to politics, and, as Adam suggested, lack that broader background which comes from outside experience.

"That cult certainly affects Plaid Cymru. When Ieuan told me in June that he did not want me to be a candidate for next May's Assembly elections, my age was one of the issues he raised. It was his view that, with Ron Davies likely to be selected in Caerffili, the party simply couldn't afford to have any other old men standing as candidates where we might win, because that would send the wrong message about what sort of a party Plaid Cymru is".

You wonder where Mr Dixon was tempted to stick his sensible shoe on hearing the message. We already have one old guy standing. Can't really have another. I bet he was tempted to ask after the spring chicken who's standing for Plaid in Anglesey ...

So voters are getting older and it's older voters who tend to turn out on polling day but these days, parties don't feel they can have too many candidates who look like them and are like them?

I'll stop there. I have, after all, just stopped ticking the 25-44 age bracket in questionnaires.

Sore subjects probably make very, very bad blog entries.

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  • 1. At 8:34pm on 11 Nov 2010, Crossroads wrote:


    Betsan,
    These old codgers (I'm 61) do manage to find their way to the polling booths with ease...and if its raining there's always one of those nice young 'candidate's helpers' to drive us there...sometimes they'll even wait while we do some shopping.

    Although just a child Betsan, you just keep your eye on those questionnaire age-brackets, they do have a tendency to creep up on the unwary and hedonists among us. When you reach a certain age you do sometimes get the urge to tick one (or two) younger brackets..after all you FEEL 35 so that's surely a more accurate assessment of your age. (!)

    Why do our children (even those in their 30/40's) love passing comment on their father's shoes? Just because I happen to like visiting McArthur Glen and browsing in a certain long established shoe shop (next to the entrance)I am looked upon as some kind of old crusty...No sense of style these youngsters!

    My children view me politically as some kind of reactionary old git. I mean, I ask you, just because one day I happened to mention that I thought the Poll Tax seemed a good idea, and Mrs.Thatcher did wonders for the coal industry, my offspring made really quite uncalled for comments. Reading George Bush's autobiography at the moment. Already thought up some nice things to tell my sons about him...He seems a well balanced, sensible sort of a chap, just like that nice Mr. Blair.

    Though us old codgers still have a few tricks up our sleeve. For instance Mrs.Sembly and I (like many other old'uns) are sitting on a fortune in property...mortgages a thing of the past for us oldies!
    Just the odd hint about us leaving it all to Battersea Dog's Home, soon stifles all those socialist and Welsh nationalist tendencies.!!!!

    These youngsters also seem prone to having a distinct lack of humour!

    I blame a shortage of laverbread in their diet, we tried but they wouldn't touch it !

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  • 2. At 01:08am on 12 Nov 2010, dontblameme wrote:

    If you follow the link to the Betsan's blog "he never wore sandals" and read some of the comments there, although a few are off topic they paint a different picture from that painted now. That blog is only 18 months old. Will we never learn from history, even though it may be so recent.

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  • 3. At 07:42am on 12 Nov 2010, John Henry wrote:

    When Adam "I will take you to my promised land" Price speaks of the quality, or lack of, of politicians, he speaks as an embittered politician angry that the electorate didn't stroke his bruised ego when he threw his toys out of the pram and resigned as an MP.

    The Adam Price quality of our elected politicians has remained static for many hundreds of years, we have a preference for what we have rather than what we might have if we follow the likes of Price. We neither need nor want revolution, people prefer evolution where the steps are small and political mistakes are easily undone, we prefer not to go to war.

    So Mr Price, the message is less is more, politically speaking.

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  • 4. At 09:20am on 12 Nov 2010, mr beige wrote:

    dear Noah (1) I vote you for president elect of this aging isle, with all ceremonial duties not to commence until after your afternoon nap and "cash in the attic" is over.

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  • 5. At 09:24am on 12 Nov 2010, Ian Williams wrote:

    There is a point...about MPs and AMs who have no experience of life outside of university or in working life. They tend to move into politics from being re-searchers or are lawyers.

    But parties are getting like the entertainment industry; you need to be of the younger generation - although most of them do not vote/

    The real issue in politics is the allegience of MPs/AMs to their parties rather than the people. The historic link of the people of Wales with labour or the other parties are to its detriment.

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  • 6. At 8:33pm on 13 Nov 2010, John Henry wrote:

    I keep a copy of things I write Betsan, my comment at #3 has been referred for further consideration, and I can find nothing beyond a differing view of Price, his rhetoric, and his vision for Wales ...

    ... "has your blog become the creature of a narrow political vision where contrary views are suppressed by complaint rather than disproved through debate, dialogue and discussion".

    To the complainant ...

    ... in a democracy the electorate decide upon the merits, or otherwise, of those we elect as our representatives in government, it is a continuous process; many prefer slow cooking to the fast food approach to politics envisioned by Price and his associates, as I wrote earlier we prefer evolution to revolution, a slow evolution where steps are easily undone.

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  • 7. At 10:27am on 14 Nov 2010, Ian Williams wrote:

    Why do our children (even those in their 30/40's) love passing comment on their father's shoes? (Comment by Noah_Assembly)

    "Look not upon your fathers shoes - you probaly will never fill them."

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  • 8. At 3:00pm on 14 Nov 2010, West-Wales wrote:

    Oh dear Betsan, - The problem with attaining the age of reason is that its very close to the point one starts to loose it - Chesterton I think

    However Adam Prices view;
    "The gap between the problems we face in Wales and the skill-set of the people we're drawing in to politics is huge"
    has been expressed before - Jack_Wilkinson on another thread gave a link to a quote by someone suggesting that the party selection process was to blame - those with the necessary skill sets and abilities were not chosen for a variety of reasons.

    That post fell victim to the group, or individual, currently complaining about posts, seemingly because they don't like their politics, or vision for Wales.

    There is a real risk that if the moderators continue to support these apparently spurious claims, the BBC will be open to formal complaints of censorship and political bias.


    HMJ is of the opinion that the Assembly is "better representation of Welsh society than Westminster".

    I'm sure that is not correct, - nor do is it the right (or only) measure for selection of those who make decisions for us.

    We need people who will get it right - people with experience and ability.
    That means being older is certainly an advantage, youth probably should be viewed with caution.
    If John Dixon has the needed experience and abilities, then age should not rule him out.

    Being clever with words, and the ability to bending reality and perceptions are obviously a political assets - but we need a great deal more than that.
    Wild eyed extremists and activists seldom make good judgements, nor do the empty vessels who rejoice in making a lot of noise, shouting others down!

    Importantly our AM's should be democratically chosen. All should face the ballot box - we have 20 AM's who are creatures of the Party and not the choice of the people.

    IMHO, few if any of our AM's has the skill set, experience, or ability to be the CEO or even a senior executive manager of a large Corporation.
    Running Wales - the job of our AM's - is running an organisation with an annual turnover of some £15 billion - and on whom the well being of 3 million people depend.
    They have to get most of it right but on the evidence of the track record of Wales PLC and the Assembly suggests there are problems with our Board of Directors

    The point Stonemason made in the comment above (now removed) is valid, in Government we need to move forward slowly with care, and to ensure we have a way back.
    Perhaps we could ponder that!


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  • 9. At 6:16pm on 14 Nov 2010, dontblameme wrote:

    No 8
    Your points are well made and accurate.
    No doubt they will soon be removed.

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  • 10. At 9:16pm on 14 Nov 2010, Jack_Wilkinson wrote:

    Re 8.
    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2009/04/21/10-years-of-devolution-folly-91466-23430039/

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  • 11. At 10:14pm on 14 Nov 2010, West-Wales wrote:

    Thanks Jack

    The report is of an Institute of Welsh Affairs Conference in Cardiff to mark the 10th Anniversary of Devolution. Briefly it says;

    Various speakers highlighted the continuing gap in educational and economic performance between Wales and England.

    But Professor Morgan, who Chaired the yes campaign in 1997, seems to generally agree with Adam Prices view there is a paucity of talent among our AM's.
    However Professor Morgan considers this has specifically contributed to the failure of devolution to deliver an economic boost for Wales in the Assembly’s first decade..

    Briefly the report suggests he thinks that talented people had not been able to gain nominations for winnable seats because they were not “party insiders”.

    He said he had interviewed skilled men and women from across “health, education, the arts, the professions” on behalf of the Labour party but they were rejected.
    And added “That for me is the reason for the biggest disappointment of all, namely the low calibre of AMs".

    By any measure the problems go deeper than Education and economic performance - WAG is failing the people of Wales.

    Lets remember we have elections and a referendum next May, and while Professor Morgan and others where commenting on the last 10 years, Adam Prices concern is regarding the quality and abilities of those whose names are likely to be on the Ballot papers.

    All of these commentators are strong supporters of Wales and Devolution - we should take careful note of what they have to say.


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  • 12. At 10:52pm on 14 Nov 2010, Jack_Wilkinson wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 13. At 11:32pm on 14 Nov 2010, Jack_Wilkinson wrote:

    Mmmmm? This is quite delicious, BBC Wales, are quite deliberately rejecting links to Wales most esteemed newspaper.....The Western mail.....Wow!!

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