Thursday, December 02, 2004

Latent Andrews AM

Leanne Wood, a Plaid Cymru AM, has become the first member to be ordered out of the chamber of the Welsh Assembly after referring to the Queen as "Mrs Windsor", reports the BBC.

This is not an incident we would normally take much notice of, except to remark that those who told us that devolution would lead to a new style of politics appear to be wrong. On this evidence, Cardiff is just as stuffy as Westminster.

But one thing here is remarkable: the identity of the AM who shopped Wood to the presiding officer Dafyd Elis-Thomas. Or, as I had better call him (he appears to be touchy about such things), Lord Elis-Thomas.

That AM was Leighton Andrews, Labour member for the Rhondda. In a useful post, our own AM Peter Black quotes him as saying:
I regret having to raise the issue but, during the course of the previous debate, Leanne Wood referred to the Queen as ‘Mrs Windsor’. Will you take advice as to whether this is in order? I am sure that in a week when the Queen has been in Cardiff to open the Wales Millennium Centre, my constituents, and others, will consider the remark to be childish and offensive.
I suspect the people of the Rhondda may have more important things to worry about, but Andrews' career is worth a little comment.

He was a prominent Liberal activist for many years. Indeed, he spoke at the first national Liberal event I ever attended - the Union of Liberal Students annual conference at Leeds in (I think) 1979. As a Liberal member of the NUS Executive - a very rare breed in those days - he was accorded an almost godlike status. In 1987 he was an energetic Liberal Alliance candidate in Gillingham.

Andrews eventually resurfaced in the Labour Party, winning Rhondda back from Plaid Cymru last year. Michael Meadowcroft described him as moving "from Liberal thinker to cheerleader for Blair's authoritarians". (There is a news report about Michael's comments here, and you can find a .pdf file of the relevant issue of Liberator here.) Having observed the way Andrews dobbed Leanne Wood in, you can see what he was getting at.

I would not go so far as those who claim to have known Andrews before he was Welsh, but it is fair to say that his Celtic heritage was not the most obvious thing about him in his Gillingham days. Peter Black once observed that "Leighton used to write columns in Liberal News extolling the virtues of Gillingham Town. He now claims to be an avid Cardiff City fan."

No comments: