March 14 2013

 

Chain reaction

With the Cheltenham Festival in full swing, this week's column has an equine theme.
My interest is in races well away from the turf, though there are plenty of jumps and hurdles involved and, inevitably, not a few fallers.
Word reaches Old Grumpy that the runners for the prestigious handicap steeplechase for the vice-chairman's chain are already out on the gallops in preparation for May's council AGM.
The ante-post favourite is thought to be the IPPG's Cllr Tom Richards who is said to be the choice of chief trainer Jamie Adams.
Well you might ask what the Leader of the ruling political party is doing promoting someone for vice-chair, but normal democratic rules don't apply in county hall?.
Cllr Richards' stable companion Wynne Evans is also thought to be eager to get saddled-up, but there are doubts whether the IPPG yard will want two horses in the same race.
It is said that Cllr Evan's less than consistent record when jumping through the leadership's hoops has persuaded the IPPG hierarchy that he may not be suited to the heavy going, but it is difficult to understand why Cllr Richards' eagerness to respond to the whip should be considered an advantage for a position where impartiality is of paramount importance.
And, in any case, Cllr Evans' record - three falls in 21 outings - is hardly the stuff of disaster (Voting machines)
A third possible is Cllr Pearl Llewellyn who was known to be keen to contest last year's race, but was left at the gate as Cllr Arwyn Williams surged away to take the prize.
Her connections are being understandably coy about her intentions this time around.
And last, but not least, the privately-trained Cllr Phil Baker (unaffiliated) is thought to be considering his options.
Sources tell me he has been moving well when spotted going through his paces on the beach between Saundersfoot and Amroth.
Well, it worked for Red Rum!
Two fillies (Rosemary Hayes and Anne Hughes) have previously won the race, but never an unaffiliated. [You have punned new depths with this one. Ed]
In the past, the IPPG's control over the handicap system has invariably given it the edge, but, with the party's majority much reduced, May's event is considered to be one of the most open races ever..
And, in the interests of the racing public, it is surely time that the ruling group's sixteen-year monopoly of the non-partisan chairmanship was broken.
After all, the chairman represents all the people of Pembrokeshire, not just the ruling group.

Party games

The runners and riders for the Burton by-election are already in the parade ring.
Two Robins (Wilson and Howells) Tory and Labour respectively, and Rob Summons independent have now been joined by a second independent Jon Harvey.
I notice on that other website Mr Harvey has promised that, if successful, he will remain a true independent, though it should be mentioned that as recently as last May he was running in Lamphey under Tory colours.
Never mind, there's more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, and all that.
Not that he has much chance because he lives in Pembroke and voters have an understandable preference for the local boy or girl.
The bookies' favourite is Rob Summons, though some doubts have been expressed over his ownership of a dictionary which defines independent as: "Not affiliated with, or loyal to, any political party or organisation".
Alert Kremlin-watchers, having noticed that Mr Summons has received an endorsement in the formerly political-neutral Burton Newsletter (Editor: recently retired IPPG stalwart David Wildman) and the appearance of ex-Cllr Wildman's name at the top of the list on his entry papers, have concluded that he is carrying the party's colours.
Of course, this might all be pure conjecture and no doubt Mr Summons will make clear his intentions before race day.
If he does come out as the IPPG's candidate, and wins, it will be the first time so far as I am aware that the electorate have knowingly elected a member of the ruling clique.
It's not that I have anything against political parties; merely that I choose not to belong to one.
If people vote for a candidate with Labour, Tory, Plaid, Lib Dem, BNP or UKIP behind their name there is a reasonable assumption that they have some idea what they are letting themselves in for.
Love them or loath them, these are democratic parties that operate openly by putting out manifestos on which voters can base their judgement.
Not so the IPPG, whose very existence is concealed from the electorate.
This is a coalition cobbled together after the election with a view to keeping a select group of people in power.
As the "Partygate files" on that other website amply demonstrate, this non-political, political party is active prior to the poll but prefers to keeps its election fighting machine out of sight.
Not that its post-election activities are a shining beacon of truth and openness as witnessed by the speech made by its Leader-in waiting Cllr Jamie Adams at its recruitment meeting.
The following extract will give a flavour, though the full monty can be seen at (Leader's speech)
"As you know, there were nine Labour members returned, there are five Plaid, three Conservatives and one Lib Dem and the question is would it be correct to allow a group that's politically aligned to undertake the responsibility of the administration of the authority, when you consider that the largest group has nine out of 60, you do question whether they have a mandate to undertake that.
That is why it is my firm belief that we must align as a group to ensure that we carry out, basically, the mandate of the electorate."
Whether Cllr Adams was deliberately trying to pull the wool over members' eyes by suggesting that Labour with nine seats could control a council of 60 members, or whether he is just arithmetically-challenged, I will leave for you to decide.
However, the fact that a majority of councillors - the ones that control the council -seem to have swallowed this hogwash might give a clue as to why a recent report by the Wales Audit Office concluded that it doubted whether the elected members of PCC had the "capacity" to hold the executive to account.
It seems to me that candidates are either independent, or they represent a political party.
There is no third-way.
I know that Crufts had a class for mongrels in their most recent event, but in this particular dog show there can be no place for mutts.

Just deserts

I copied this comment on the Chris Huhne/Vicky Pryce affair from the Daily Mail's website.
This case will have cost a fortune, now we are told they will go to jail, all for pulling a fast one to save 3 points on a licence(this is a common occurrence). However burglars, muggers, shop lifters, thugs etc etc get small fines, community orders, tagging etc.
There has been much more in the same vein in the Daily Telegraph's letters' page.
However, what Huhne and Pryce got up to was much more than just "pulling a fast one"; it was a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
And, like all forms of corruption, such crimes are notoriously difficult to detect because, in the absence of an obvious victim, they go largely unreported to the police.
Indeed, in this case nobody would have been any the wiser had not Ms Pryce been blinded by her desire for revenge after Mr Huhne abandoned her for his press secretary.
Had she gone to the police because her conscience was troubled by her illegal behaviour, she might have come out of the case with her reputation intact, but the way she went about it made her as blameworthy as he was.
This has been presented as a serious error of judgement on her part, but in fact it was a huge stroke of luck for society as a whole.
If, as the Daily Mail commenter says this point-swopping is "a common occurrence" then this rare opportunity for the courts to demonstrate that such behaviour is not to be tolerated is a blessing.
In my view, the only complaint about the sentences it is that they were nowhere near long enough.
After all, Huhne was an MP whose role was to make laws that the rest of us are expected to obey.
For him, of all people, to be undermining the rule of law on which democracy rests, means he got what was coming to him.

All to play for

I thought it was very sporting of England to go easy on the Italians, otherwise the Six Nations Championship would have ended not with a bang but with a whimper.
Of course, even if England had won by thirty points, Wales would still have had the incentive to deprive them of the Grand Slam, but think how much more interesting it is when they only need to win by eight points to take the Championship as well.
There are those who claim that had it not been for the Irish referee penalising the Italians off the park, England might have been coming to Cardiff needing a win to take anything from the season.
While I don't necessarily agree with that assessment, I don't think the ref did Italy any favours.
Referees are only human after all and can't be expected to be completely objective.
And then there is what Jung called the "ancestral memory".
That would account for the string of dubious decisions against England by the Irish referee Alain Roland (French father, Irish mother) who has both Agincourt and the potato famine lurking somewhere deep in his subconscious.
I can't think why Mr Clancy would favour England over Italy unless it was part of some long term strategy to make sure Wales couldn't win the championship.
That would only go to show that the ancestral memory can be masked by the hurt caused by more recent events .
And the Irish are still smarting from that "wrong ball" incident in Cardiff three years ago.
Just in case things go completely awry at the weekend, I would point out that the ref is from New Zealand and he wouldn't be human if he didn't have issues over the drubbing England handed out to the All Blacks in the autumn internationals.
That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
Joking aside, I just hope we see a decent game because last weekend's three matches were among the most boring I've ever witnessed.
The number of penalties dished out by referees bent on winning the man of the match award was beyond belief.
That together with the dire commentary by Eddie Butler and Brian Moore was almost enough to make me switch over to the film on ITV.
I've come to the conclusion that the only reason Moore is there is to make us forget how awful Butler is.
It's hard to believe that, in a population of 60 million, there isn't somebody better that either of these.
And most of the other pundits aren't a lot better.
Bring back Bill Maclaren!

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