Thursday, October 06, 2005

Rhondda Boys.......

I wonder what the Rhondda did to deserve being represented by Leighton Andrews in Cardiff Bay and Chris Bryant in Westminster? Perhaps it is some form of bizarre punishment for the, sadly brief, period when Rhondda elected a Plaid assembly member and a Plaid Council. Neither seem to have anything worthwhile to contribute to the debates in the institutions to which they are elected.

In the case of Chris Bryant this is only to be expected. In a previous life I was a Lib Dem political assistant in Hackney when Bryant was a Labour councillor and a whip for the Labour group. Before the Labour group split in 1996 they had run the council for 30 years or more and achieved the distinction of the highest council tax in London and arguably the worst services. A group of councillors left the Labour group claiming that the Labour leadership was not willing to back an independent enquiry into the Mark Trotter affair. Trotter was a Labour activist and senior trade union official, who worked for Hackney Social services, against whom three seperate allegations of child abuse were made and never properly investigated. After his death it emerged that merseyside police were investigating him regarding allegations of abuse.

One faction in the Labour group resigned the Labour whip and formed a new group called Hackney New Labour.Eventually this group disbanded and its members found their way into the lib dem and Tory groups. There were various enquiries and attempts to sort out the boroughs problems were made with no great success.

Of all the Labour councillors who remained in the Labour group only Chris Bryant has gone on to hold any form of elected office. Why has he escaped the "curse of Hackney" when no one else did. Anybody who has witnessed his performances in the Commons or in the media would confirm it is unlikely to be purely on ability. Perhaps he just got lucky.

Leighton Andrews on the other hand is a complete mystery to me. His splenetic rants in the Assembly debating chamber are the stuff of legend and there was a fine example in the budget debate the other day. Yet the Leighton Andrews I observed in the Liberal Party in the 80's was a very different character. Always associated with the ALC/Liberator self appointed keepers of the radical flame element he was a fluent persuasive speaker with impeccable anti authoritarian views.

It was astonishing to see him in Welsh Labour and his contributions to the assembly seem utterly at odds with his previously expressed opinions. One of the handful of Lib dems who still speak to me was in Llandudno recently . Over a beer or two he concluded that the only explanation for Leighton Andrews was alien abduction. He had know Leighton well as a member of the Liberal party and was convinced the two people could not be the same. Confronted with photographic evidence he suggested the real Leighton had been kidnapped by aliens. Who can argue with this?