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Sticks and stones and politics

March 22, 2016

 

 

 

Politics is an adversarial business. Insults and intrigue are part of the deal - and just as likely to arise from your own side as from the opposition.

 

It’s for that reason that you don’t find too many overly sensitive souls in debating chambers. So my experience is that most politicians only take offence when it suits them.

 

This makes me a little sceptical as to how a piece of legislation recently failed to get through the Welsh Assembly.

 

The ‘official’ version is that Plaid Cymru withdrew support for the Public Health Bill following suggestions by a Labour minister that co-operation between the respective parties amounted to a ‘cheap date’.

 

It was a very ill-advised remark, to say the least, but can a throwaway comment really be considered a deal breaker? I rather think the statements that followed told their own story.

 

Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams began her observations by saying “We’ve given Labour a bloody nose”. Labour on the other hand thought the episode showed Plaid was “a party unfit for government”.

 

Plaid Cymru’s dignified silence after the event was slightly undermined by staffers referring on social media to “Drakeford's pig-headedness” and “Leighton's stupidity".

 

In other words, there was a lot more going on behind the scenes.

 

And if the week saw fireworks at the Senedd, Westminster villagers were rocked by a falling out of megaton proportions.

 

Speculation continues as to the real reasons why self-professed quiet man Iain Duncan Smith decided to make such a noisy exit from the cabinet.

 

Resignations these days happen when someone is caught up in a newspaper sting or is heard swearing at a policeman. Vacating a post on a point of principle is, well, counter-intuitive.

 

As one newspaper editorial stated, these things don’t happen anymore – and they certainly don’t happen in the Conservative Party.

 

Briefings continue from all sides as to who should emerge as the good guy from the shambles. So far the media is undecided but things won’t stay that was for very long.

 

My take, as with the Senedd debacle, is that a chain of events and consequences was involved.

 

The moment Iain Duncan Smith pinned his colours to the Brexit mast, he served himself with notice to quit his cabinet post, irrespective of the referendum result.

 

As I wrote here last week, plans announced in the budget to cut Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) for disabled people face significant tory back-bench opposition. Why should IDS even contemplate patching up a shaky policy before losing his job when he could jump ship and sink Chancellor George Osborne’s hopes of becoming PM into the bargain?

 

Of course, the trouble with all this clever manoeuvring, whether it happens in Westminster or Cardiff Bay, is that no matter how noble the intent, the outcome only reinforces the belief that politicians put their own machinations before the greater good.

 

There are a quite a few Welsh health bodies and charities at the moment who currently hold that view. I can’t say as I blame them.

 

 

 

Consumers are a basket case

 

Inflation, as we all know, is currently bumping along at less than half a percent. What you may not know is that the contents of the so-called inflation shopping basket are changed every year to reflect social trends.

 

The Consumer Price Index – the main measure of inflation these days – is calculated by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), who check the average percentage price increase on a group of 700 different goods and services.

 

Coffee pods and microwave rice pouches are now included while re-writeable DVDs have been dumped. Who knew?

 

We’re eating more chocolate so the calculations now include large and small bars. Meat-based party snacks, nail varnish and women's leggings have also been included for the first time.

 

I’m not sure if I’m more fascinated by the trends or that someone actually checks all this stuff for a living. Either way, I probably need to get out more.

 

 

 

Fitness report

 

According to a recent Sport Wales survey, the number of adults participating in activity three times a week has risen by 41 percent.

 

No-one is more surprised than me to realise that I’m actually among that increase, although in my case it took a cardiac bypass operation to get me exercising regularly again.

 

A big part of the recovery plan was a structured rehabilitation programme aimed at changing my poor lifestyle habits and improving activity.

 

Things kicked off with a six-week stint in cardiac rehabilitation. A further step I opted to take up was a three-month gym course, courtesy of the National Exercise Referral Scheme (NERS), sponsored by the Welsh Government.

 

I’m about to move on to gym membership closer to home, but I’d like to express my gratitude to the excellent teams at Morriston Cardiac Rehab and Morriston Leisure Centre for their support.

 

Thanks guys. See you in the gym.

 

 

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