September 4 2007

False prophets


I read in the Mercury that Milford Haven Port Authority (MHPA) made a profit of £179,000 in 2006.
The tone of the Mercury's report seemed to suggest that this is good news, but it represents a measly 1.09% of the authority's £16.32 million turnover.
If this was a private company, with shareholders, rather than a government quango, it would be P45s all round.
That said, however, it is a massive improvement on last year, when what should be a licence to print money turned in a £2.2 million loss. (see Jack of all trades).
Of course the reason you don't read about this in the local press is that their reports are based on MHPA press releases (propaganda) (See Tale of two stories).
At least outgoing chairman Bob Clarke makes some effort at candour when he says in his foreword to the report : ". . . it is essential that existing activities show significant and continuing improvements if we are to obtain the kind of financial realisation expected of a trust port of the size and importance of Milford Haven."
Well he should know.
After all, he has been at the helm for the past seven years.

Avoiding trips


Grumpette, being a bit of a culture buff - archaeology, painting and that sort of thing - is always looking for ways to civilise what is today known as her partner.
Too much time on her hands, I suppose.
The latest effort involves leaving copies of the Sunday colour mags around the house open at pages with headlines such as "Terracotta army comes to London" together with over-excited blurb along the lines: "this is one of the most spectacular exhibitions . . . "(Sunday Telegraph) and ". . . don't miss them in the exhibition of the year" (Sunday Times).
Slowly, I felt my resistance being broken - anything for a quiet life, and all that - when my eldest daughter rode to the rescue by pointing out that the Chinese had only sent 12 of their vast store of flowerpot men.
"Not so much an army, more a platoon." she observed.
Seizing on this opportunity, I suggested that it was a long way to go just to see a dozen pieces of unglazed earthenware, and, in any case, I had a lot of work to do in my other daughter's new garden.
Children do have their uses.
However, I fear this is only a temporary reprieve.
G come from a military family and I already detect signs that a rearguard action is at the planning stage.
The other night I caught her reading an article headed "Tutankhamen and the golden age of the Pharaohs" ,which my researches on the Internet reveal is the name of an exhibition scheduled for November.
Forewarned is forearmed.
"What? all the way to London to see half-a-mile of bandages?" should kill that idea stone dead.

Tory spotted

August is behind us and we can safely assume that the Western Telegraph has filed away its "Big cat" story for another year (No bull).
However, last week's edition did report on a sighting of a rare Torianus Veritas in the St Michael area of Pembroke.
The last time this strange, endangered species was spotted in Pembrokeshire was back in April 2006 when it put in an appearance at the Maenclochog by-election (But not right out).
Political bird watchers (pornithologists?) have suggested that two sightings in less than 18-months may mean that T Veritas is more common than the single candidate at the 2004 council elections might have indicated, and that it may not have been, as experts once thought, driven from its home range by the common, some would say verminous, Torianus Clandestina, known locally as Independentes Falsissimus.
Old Grumpy understands that there is an Independentes running in the by-election but it not entirely clear at the moment whether it belongs to the Falsissimus sub species or the ultra rare Dictionariatus.
I should however say that there are rumours that this particular individual has been seen in county hall in the company of two Falsissimi, one of them belonging to the splendidly plumaged sub-sub species Cabinatum.
And, as it almost unheard of for Falsissimus to mix with Dictionariatus, you can draw your own conclusions.
I have alerted the Western Telegraph to these matters and, no doubt, one of its fearless investigative reporters will bring clarity before polling day.


Power games


At a recent meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, the chief executive criticised my tendency "to lecture the council on constitutional law."
I am not keen on "lecture", which has a rather authoritarian ring about it.
My preferred way of putting it is that I am giving my fellow members the benefit of the knowledge gained through reading several serious books on the subject.
These books are compulsory reading for all law students, so Mr Parry-Jones and all the other "trained lawyers" on the council's payroll will also have read them.
What is rather strange is that we seem to have reached such widely differing conclusions as to their meaning.
My explanation is that, in a democracy, constitutional law is the mechanism by which limits are put on the activities of those in power.
Naturally, the mighty will view the subject from a different standpoint to the unmighty.
A good place to start is by reading reports the Philadelphia Convention where the founding fathers drew up the American constitution.
One consistent theme running through the discussions was the need to prevent the concentration of power in too few hands.
In this the delegates were influenced by European philosophers like Montesquieu and Locke, who emphasised that, in order to avoid tyranny, you needed a balance of forces.
It was Montesquieu who first formally enunciated the principle that the "separation of powers" between legislature, executive and judiciary was necessary for the protection of individual liberty from the ravages of state power. .
All this is taken a read by modern political philosophers.
Unfortunately, the Local Government Act 2000, which gives the Chief Executive and Leader almost unlimited power, is about as far removed from these principles as it is possible to get.
When I "lecture" the members of the Independent Political Group on constitutional law all I am seeking to do is encourage them to show a bit of restraint in the use of their majority block vote.
I must admit it is a bit of an uphill struggle.
A bit like trying to teach plankton to play the piano, as my son likes to say.
By the way, you may recall that at the May meeting of council there was a spat between O G and the chief executive when he accused me of breaching the Code of Conduct by failing to declare and interest in a planning application (see Under fire).
At one point, Mr Parry-Jones appeared to be encouraging the Chairman to report me to the Ombudsman.
Strange, I've heard nothing!
Perish the thought, but is it possible that the chief executive was wrong?

Missed opportunity

While looking for something in my back numbers, I came across (Easy as ABC).
I really should visit the bookies more often.
PS I haven't forgotten about inheritance tax - just lack of time.

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