Cheryl Gillan's attitude

I've just downloaded Cheryl Gillan's interview with Bethan Rhys Roberts on yesterday's Good Morning Wales. I did it because of this story in today's Western Mail about her attitude to holding the Westminster and Senedd elections on the same date in 2015. This is the relevant extract:


I wrote about the clash in this post last week, and it has been raised by a number of other people too, so Cheryl Gillan can really have no excuse for not having thought about it.

Her attitude was that she saw no particular problem in holding these two elections on the same day. She rejected any suggestion that there was a problem by saying:

Well I'm awfully sorry, but I think you can hold two elections on one day.

And she repeated almost exactly the same words later, in fact she emphatically said she didn't foresee the election being moved to avoid the clash. This should ring some very loud alarm bells, for the effect will be to drown out any discussion of Welsh issues because the media will concentrate on Westminster issues. Hywel Williams put it well:

Running these two elections at the same time, with the UK election dominating the media to the detriment of the Assembly election, would prove hugely unfair and confusing to the electorate in Wales.

It would be an injustice to voters in Wales if their coverage was dominated by UK and many England-only issues, while pushing so many important devolved issues to the sidelines.

The most important factor when deciding timetables for such important elections must be the interest of voters. I'm sure that the Electoral Commission would have concerns about how this would impact on voters too.

And of course the same is just as true for Scotland.


I was impressed with the way that Bethan Rhys Roberts handled the interview. She was able to press for an answer on a number of issues that Cheryl Gillan was clearly uncomfortable about and wanted to avoid. The interview showed that she had very little to say after her limited supply of stock answers had been played out.


One thing that stood out for me was how willing Gillan was to shift between "I am Welsh, you know" and "That's got nothing to do with me, it's up to the people of Wales to decide."

For example, why should she be so keen on the St Tathan development, telling us that she supported it completely, not least because it would benefit, in her words, "our economy in Wales" but on the subject of the referendum on primary lawmaking powers say that she had no particular view and wouldn't campaign one way or the other because it wasn't something for her, but something for the people of Wales to decide?

Not quite hypocrisy, but certainly a very large dose of double standards.

She can't have it both ways. It is appropriate for a "governor general" to remain constitutionally neutral, and not express political views. But if s/he does that, s/he can hardly then start expressing political views on some subjects but not others. It shows that the Tories' view on how to govern Wales has not changed. This is now the sixth Secretary of State we have had imposed on us by a Tory prime minister in Westminster: we have had Peter Thomas in the seventies under Heath; Peter Walker under Thatcher; David Hunt, John Redwood and William Hague under Major; and now Cheryl Gillan under Cameron. Not a single one of them elected by anybody in Wales. Nicholas Edwards was the only exception.

Not so long ago, one of the Tory catchphrases was that it was the job of politicians to represent people in either Westminster or Cardiff Bay, not for them to represent the government in Westminster or Cardiff Bay to the people. Yet this is exactly what the Tories have done. I don't wish Cheryl Gillan any ill on a personal level, but her appointment was a mistake and she needs to be replaced.

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Alwyn ap Huw said...

Nick Edwards was elected in Wales, he was the MP for Pembrokeshire, during his tenure as SoS.

Anonymous said...

The fact that David Cameron appointed Cheryl Gillan Welsh Secretary shows how little understanding of Wales there is in the current Conservative Party leadership and how little David Cameron really thinks of Nick Bourne and his colleagues in the Assembly.

But i would add that all of this was evident during the Election Campaign and for whatever reasons wasn't full exploited by the Tories opponents or the Welsh press and now we're living with the consequences because i can't see her being moved anytime soon.

MH said...

Quite right, Alwyn. Now corrected. Thanks.


CoP, I was just wondering (after a pint or two this evening) whether the Tories are playing a long game.

This is just their honeymoon period, and things will only really start to get bad after the first few months. It could just be that Cameron is planning to rotate his SoSWs so that they only have to be in the firing line for a year at most, take the flak, then move on to an easier job. I'd be willing to bet she won't see out the year.

Munguin said...

I look forward to hearing how our Lib Dem SOS explains this away in Scotland. From the one interview I have seen he was jaw droppingly bad.

But it just goes to show that the new politics does not stretch to foregoing dirty political tricks to maximise your advantage.

Munguin said...

I’ve listened to the whole interview now and I’m sorry to say that your SOS does not at first outing seem any better than ours. Terrible is the word that springs to mind. Her fighting her hardest for Wales around the cabinet table will not, I imagine, be very good at all.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness... She's going to travel "standard", or second class, just as if she were an ordinary person, just like the rest of us.... How incredible of her. We're humbled. (Actually, I thought that that was part of the new conditions of employment for MPs.)

I see that the respect for the budgets in Wales and Scotland, only means that we will have to double cut next year. Great! Something to look forward to.

As for your SoS, she sounds a tad ill-informed, uncomfortable, not to mention a little on the superior side.... I found her very patronising to Ms Rhys Roberts, continually calling her Bethan.

As for the nonsense at the end about the Secretary of State for NI isn't an Irish MP.... erm... does she know anything about NI politics?

And she seemed to suggest that the Prime Minister HAD to be English?

I don't see her lasting at all. She's dim.

Hendre said...

I wonder whether one of the main factors in Gillan retaining her shadow post is the lack of women in the Cabinet. Cameron may have been reluctant to jetison a potential female Cabinet member. And after all it's only Wales, no-one can't do any serious damage there...

Anonymous said...

fair point MH, we shall have to keep an eye on developments.

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