Events, dear boy, vents

June 01, 2002 ,

HAROLD Macmillan, the former Conservative Prime Minister, was once asked what politics was all about and replied, ‘Events, dear boy, event'.

Whatever plans you make, whatever careful strategy you lay, events will intervene from the minor to the catastrophic. One morning a politician can be visiting a school, when literally out of the blue hijackers fly planes into skyscrapers. The world, let alone your week, is changed utterly.
Of course for a President or a Prime Minister events are what can make or break a reputation. But for backbench MPs and their constituents, events can be hugely important. I was with my colleague, Hywel Francis, the MP for Aberavon, last November when news filtered through to Westminster of the explosion at the No. 5 blast furnace in Port Talbot.

It was impressive to watch his reaction, as he quietly and without fanfare went about serving his constituents in a crisis; comforting the bereaved families, meeting with the injured and with management and workers; making sure that the government gave the support required.
It contrasted sharply with some others who sought to point a finger of blame before the facts were known and before the injured men had had the chance to tell their story.

In the same style this week I have watched as Nick Ainger, the MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, has gone about dealing with the shock of the loss of 900 jobs in his constituency because of the closure of ITV Digital.

His diligent work behind the scenes to assist in finding new owners for the business has already helped to save 50 of the jobs.

But sometimes events can conspire to blow your existing plans off course. This week, in the House of Commons, my plan was to use a debate on ‘Wales in the World' as the ideal opportunity to promote Cardiff's bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2008.

In the speech I would describe the cultural and economic renaissance occurring in our capital, without ignoring the social problems that all successful cities face.

I would boast of our literary tradition, our fine poets like Dannie Abse, Gwyneth Lewis and Sheenagh Pugh. I would describe the vibrant performing arts scene and the long tradition of multiculturalism and racial tolerance of Cardiff.

And, of course, I would praise the sporting renaissance in the city. The successes in recent years of Glamorgan County Cricket and Cardiff rugby Football Club.

And I would, of course, be able to boast of Cardiff City's rebirth and look forward to a brilliant occasion at the Millennium Stadium, when City would take another step on the road back to the top, 75 years on from the famous triumph against Arsenal at Wembley.
‘Events, dear boy, events'.

Instead, the phone calls from the media are all about the events outside Ninian Park following City's defeat against Stoke; a sad end to the season after the club's magnificent recent run, and the tremendous support of the fans.

It doesn't really matter that much to have to alter my speech to take these events into account. Our immediate concern should be for anyone who was injured. But in the long term it is a problem which, if left unchecked, will threaten all our ambitions to see Cardiff play in the Premier League - in every sense.