State-funded satirist pens balanced article
Absolute scenes in the Senedd this week as First Minister Mark Drakeford further tightened his grip on freedom of speech in the nation.
Wearing his customary peaked cap, epaulettes, and mirrored sunglasses, the Premier swept into the chamber accompanied by an escort of female bodyguards, who are recruited from his tribal stronghold in Carmarthenshire.
There had, he raged, been threats against his personal safety. As a punitive measure, his government would be reducing the national speed limit to 10 mph over the Christmas period.
‘Your Judeo-Christian festivals mean nothing in the New Wales,’ Drakeford glowered.
‘Loyal citizens may celebrate a responsible Ecomas in the safety of their own homes. Dissidents will be struggled with by the masses and held to account by licensed journalists.’ A spontaneous round of applause broke out in the press gallery, where correspondents had been issued with new iPads by the regime.
There you go: three solid paragraphs of anti-Welsh Government satire, as demanded week-on-week by puce-faced Twitter commentators with profile pictures that feature them holding large game fish aloft.
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Stop the boats!
Mindful of your insistence on ‘balance’, however, you’ll forgive me if I briefly cast an eye over this week’s contributions from Andrew ‘Reliable Target’ Davies.
It seems that Windcheater Winston feels that his treatment at the hands of this outlet has been too robust.
In response to Mark Drakeford’s disclosure that thousands of threats had been made against himself and Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters, Davies complained that Nation Cymru, a ‘purported news site’, had ‘painted a target’ on the backs of him and his family.
The leader of the Welsh Conservatives wants https://t.co/O5TOAVYB3J to be defunded because he doesn’t like being scrutinised by an independent Welsh news outlet.
We won’t be intimidated by him.
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— Nation.Cymru (@NationCymru) September 26, 2023
Suggesting that Nation Cymru be defunded, Davies sought to draw an equivalence between our coverage of him and threats on social media to coordinate physical attacks on the First Minister.
Who knew that the horny-handed son of the soil was such a fragile soul? I’d been given to understand that this plain-talking defender of free speech welcomed a bracingly agricultural approach to political discourse.
The idea of his whimpering into the silage due to journalistic doggedness seems off-brand.
Davies’ own approach to the national debate is notable for two reasons: a propensity to misrepresent facts in the service of narrative — see the ‘blanket’ 20 mph limit or Labour’s supposed desire to hand £1600 a month to asylum seekers — and a willingness to repeat such claims relentlessly, and long after they have been discredited.
Davies is an internet troll. His Twitter account exists not to inform nor persuade the electorate, but to inflame it.
A sympathetic explanation for this behaviour is that Davies hopes that entrenching division will shore up the existing Conservative vote in the upcoming Westminster election. A glance at the polls, however, suggests that this strategy isn’t bearing fruit.
Another, less palatable, explanation for Davies’ online behaviour is that it is unrelated to electoral behaviour in Wales and not aimed at us at all. The Tories in England are facing the loss of previously safe seats, and their biggest fear is that elderly, traditionally Conservative voters will stay at home on election day. It is to these voters that the culture war is pitched.
The fringe fearmongering that used to be the preserve of UKIP et al has now been deployed by a government that sees an existential threat to the Conservative brand.
Knowing that we are an electoral lost cause, the party has utilised Davies to peddle misinformation about life here in Wales and spook English voters about the prospect of Labour governance.
He is, however, a minor player in the wider game.
The disintegration of UK politics is happening at a dizzying speed.
In the last week alone, we have seen Suella Braverman unleash an attack on multiculturalism that drew condemnation from the United Nations, while over on GB News, where Davies appears alongside Lee Anderson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Nigel Farage, a female journalist found herself attacked in sexual terms by Lawrence Fox.
This is desperate, grim stuff and, after the election, we can expect to watch the protagonists play musical chairs, as they seek to cling on to whatever political or media positions remain open to them.
We’ll see what all Davies’ tweets are worth to him then, I suppose.
The direct losers from Davies’ clownish political persona, and disinterest in the nuts and bolts of Welsh policymaking are serious Conservative politicians and voters who would like to see a centre-right government in the Senedd.
Wales is, and always has been, to the left of centre in relation to England. It follows, therefore, that electoral success for the Conservatives is unlikely to come from the extreme right wing of the party.
In pursuing the approval of that faction in England, Davies has left mainstream conservatism without a voice on his own watch.
There is plenty to take issue over with our Labour government. From NHS outcomes to Cardiff Airport, and a perceived over-cautiousness in approach, an engaged opposition could hold it to account in a way that made it a potent force.
Instead, the Welsh electorate has been used as scenery in the disaster movie of Westminster politics by a politician who seems ambivalent at best as to whether the democracy that has sustained him thus far should exist at all.
If Davies has a target on his back, it is not because the press has painted it on him.
Rather, he has chosen to place himself beyond the pale of reasoned debate in Wales, and the incoming arrows he should worry about are from sensible Conservatives who have had enough of being humiliated by his leadership.
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