Mike German’s speeches remind me of the Spittelau Waste Recycling Plant in Vienna – but working in reverse. At Spittelau the city’s rubbish goes in one end and after some hugely technical processing emerges as something useful at the other end.
But sometimes Mike comes up with a good line – and he did yesterday in the Queen’s Speech Debate when he likened Peter Hain to a ‘Sandwich Board Man’. He then went on to spoil his joke by explaining the mechanics of it at such great length, so that every last one of his admirers (and the others) could understand it. The gist of it was that Peter emits one message about devolution to those looking from Westminster and a different message to those looking from London. This is not a particularly acute observation as Peter is fairly shameless about it.
Peter Hain is a very polished performer, made to look even better by Rhodri Morgan’s shambling style. He did seem a touch off yesterday though – no doubt affected by his wife, Elizabeth’s road accident the day before (we all hope she’s back on her feet soon).
The only really daft thing he said was that Westminster would not be prepared to approve any Assembly Measure, using our new powers after May next year, to ‘privatise education’. I think he knew it was daft when he said it. I pointed out that a Westminster Government, led by Tony Blair working on his own legacy, is far more likely to come up with such a ridiculous idea than any combination of AM’s or parties in the National Assembly. But I suppose Peter Hain is looking to a different audience at the moment - the electorate who will choose the next Deputy Prime Minister.
Leighton Andrews, who is rumoured to be Peter Hain’s fancy as Rhodri’s replacement, was in very lively form yesterday, bouncing up and down like a spring chicken and paying homage to his high-powered sponsor by repeating his line about the next election being a contest between Labour and a Tory-led coalition. This suits us fine. Poor old Ieuan must be feeling a bit like Rocky, loosing his title in the 15th round after leading on points for the first 14.
But it was a good debate with several enjoyable backbench contributions. A good day for the National Assembly, I thought.