What’s eating Paul?
It’s been a bit of a revelation joining the world of twitter. Having very deliberately ignored it since its inception, the Welsh Assembly elections in 2011 proved to be the draw that finally brought me into this wonderful world of updates. The insights it has provided have at times been very boring, a little depressing, especially, for instance, the Secretary of State for Wales her unhealthy levels of interest in Eurovision, but on some occasions, they have proven to be quite fascinating. None more so can this statement be applied, than to Parliamentary stalwart, Paul Flynn.
The Newport MP has taken on the role of the elder statesman of the Welsh political community left in London, and it is perhaps with an eye towards retirement, that Flynn has decided to stick two fingers up to convention and logic and decided simply to ‘go for it’. Flynn has made his views on the WAG Badger Cull proposals very clear through a number of outlets, and has been at it on twitter as well. But the badger cull has provided Flynn with a springboard to launch some of the most impressively illogical and angry anti-agricultural statements seen by a Welsh politician.
For Flynn, the demise of the specific rural affairs cabinet post in WAG was a time of celebration (though confusingly he appeared to also decry its demise), and it afforded the Newport man the opportunity to go on the offensive, lashing out at the agricultural community for its heavily subsidised nature and its general lack of economic contributions. Perhaps Westminster MPs don’t have budgets for researchers anymore, though Flynn would do well to find some spare change to rent one for the day, as bizarre and wildly inaccurate statistics are spat out in his assault. One wonders as well, in Flynn’s celebration of the marginalisation of rural affairs in WAG, just how prominent of an issue his precious badgers will now be without being part of a high profile core cabinet position?
Irrational and ill-informed Flynn’s statements might be, but he knows his audience. In fact, he knows Labours audience. Rural Wales largely turned its back on Welsh Labour in May , and perhaps these statements, linked to Carwyn’s move to take rural affairs out of the political spotlight, can be seen as a response to those voters who are very clearly outside of the Labour heartlands. After all, who cares about rural affairs in Newport? The danger for Flynn is that rural affairs are a far more complicated beast than turning soil and planting seeds. While Ministers continue to hunt for the golden fleece of industrial revival in Wales, tourism continues to hold up Wales’ end in the world, and a compromise to the importance of rural affairs could well see that which plays such a central role to the Welsh tourism product, suffer dramatically. With the reduction of heritage to a bit part player in the current government as well, we may well be seeing a return to the type of Labour politics that Flynn feels most at home in, industries over arts and agriculture. Whether this is a positive or a negative step in Wales’ effort to become, as Rhodri Morgan once called the country, ‘an outward looking nation’, is unclear. Certainly following this issue through twitter probably won’t be any more enlightening, but at the very least it will offer the opportunity to be confused and entertained.