Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Not a fortunate traveller

One of the frustrations of elected politics must be the rapid discovery that political power is limited.

Fortunately, that doesn't stop politicians at various levels from having a go, from doing their bit to change the world.

Broadcasting issues are decided at Westminster, but the Welsh Assembly has a broadcasting committee - the chairman of which doesn't believe broadcasting should be devolved to it any time soon.

Foreign affairs is usually the preserve of diplomats and nation states, but the Assembly's impartial presiding officer has made waves with his own distinctive contribution to the Middle East peace process.

The Welsh Liberal Democrat leader, Mike German, let it be known "I don't believe in silly boycotts". (All ideas for "sensible boycotts" (Geoffrey Boycott?) gratefully received).

One advantage of devolution for politicians is that there is always someone else to blame. When Welsh Labour loses elections, Tony Blair/Gordon Brown's Labour Party can take the rap.

The Labour/Plaid Cymru Welsh Assembly Government may have placed great store by tackling child poverty but when the number of poor children rises Plaid can blame the UK Government.

Benito Mussolini was credited (wrongly) with making the trains run on time. That's a harder task for today's politicians in the age of privatised trains.

If your train is late, you might contemplate approaching customer services. Unless you're an MP. Lembit Opik has tabled a couple of Commons motions highlighting delays on Virgin railways (at a cost to the public purse that could almost have paid for a day return to Bangor).

It must be something to do with Lib Dems and trains. My spies in Cardiff Bay alerted me to this exchange between Eleanor Burnham and Leader of the House Carwyn Jones.

Eleanor Burnham: "Considering that Network Rail, Arriva Trains Wales and the Deputy First Minister were parading around last week talking about improvements to the railway, I was very shocked to experience yet another disruption in Wrexham yesterday because of a points failure, or something similar, in this vulnerable infrastructure of ours on the train service between north and south.

"Those are two very important issues. Could we have a statement on them soon and certainly some improvements?"

Carwyn Jones: "You will forgive me, Eleanor, for saying that you are not a fortunate traveller. You have eloquently expressed your views on the railway service many times on the floor of the Assembly, we have heard about the tribulations that you have experienced when you have flown internally, and now we find that you are experiencing difficulties on the A55.

"I am sure that the Deputy First Minister will have heard what you have said and will be able to provide you with answers to your queries. Do remind me never to travel with you, if I can possibly avoid it." [Laughter.]

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