Confederation Report (June 2010)

It was Woodrow Wilson, the US President during the first unpleasantness, who said “if you want to make enemies, try to change something”.

Well, we have had quite a few changes since I last put finger to keyboard.

We have a new Government. All the broo ha-ha of the nutty night in early May when the British people, having had to endure (or, in some cases enjoy), the new real politic of the equivalent of that daft programme “Total Wipeout”, the “Leaders Debate”, decided to be undecided. I do feel that we should have done the whole hog and had Richard Hammond putting Gord, Nick “Don’t turn your back or I’ll run off with your less attractive sister” Clegg and Dave “I’m a Morris Minor and three pints of Double Diamond man, so I can’t be posh” Cameron, through the big red balls, nasty boxing gloves and dizzy dummies, whilst outlining their manifestos.

Don’t you love those big red balls? Everyone I know who watches the inane nonsense has a theory about how to do it. None are remotely feasible, and we would all make complete idiots of ourselves if we tried. It’s compelling stuff. To see one of the presidents - elect plunge into the mud and then say “Now here you have a perfect example of the change of true economic recovery!” – worth a million votes.

I fully intended to watch the whole drama unfold. I’d even bought a packet of Pringles and a bottle of

Sauv Blanc (New Zealand of course) and laid a fire in the ancestral inglenock (actually a marble job costing about £300 to replace the ghastly “Pembrokeshire Slate” effort that my late lamented Grandpa got conned about 500 smackers for in the fifties. Turned out to be a slab of concrete with a few bits of skinny stone stuck on).

I voted late (6pm is late for the Queens Hall, Narberth), watched the Shawshank Redemption (best film ever) Morgan Freeman clutching his bag on a Mexican bus, The Warden turning shades of puce to sickly green after chucking a chess piece through Raquel Welch’s poster, brilliant.

Anyway, ten o-clock arrived, and I was ensconced on my tatty red armchair. The exit poll came up. A bit of “Dimbleby suave”, “Paxman nasty”, some political analyst who did a “Monty Python” foaming at the mouth and gibbering. Then “The Boat”. Who in the name of all that is sensible agreed to that idea. A load of celebs getting oiled and spouting what you would expect from... well a load of celebs getting oiled. Andrew Neill bustling from the freezing cold deck, where he had left a load of worthless (and therefore obviously expendable to death by hyperthermia) journos with nary a thought, to the plush toast innards of a boozer cruiser, turning himself into a fawning sycophant, begging for astute political comment from Joan Collins, who, lets be honest, thinks that fiscal recovery is what happens when the botox relents and stops turning her face into a numb haddock.

I decided that it would be more fun to go to bed, ready my book, and see whether it would prove more sensible to have a good nights sleep, see if the exit polls were right, and whether we would have a hung Parliament. It was, they were, we have.

Of course there was a small matter of those who were unable to vote (EU says they have to), and the fact that all those who did NOT make it into the Polling Booth being compensated to the tune of 750 dabs (What-all 50% off who didn’t bother?) “Please take my life jacket Clegg-San”, four places on the cabinet – no have six! PR, AV, OK!!

So for the first time this Millennium I write this column with a different bunch in power. Will they change things? Will we see justice restored, legal aid for all?

Well I was a bit bemused to see Ken Clarke installed as Lord Chancellor. Jolly nice he looked in the full shoulder length wig and Johnny Shafto silver buckled shoes in place of the tatty hush puppies he normally sports, and not as Minister of Injustice but in the old job title. All for a bit of tradition, me.

But wait! Isn’t Ken an economist? What is he doing in charge of Law and Lawyers. Could it be, perchance, that he is being perched on the woolsack for the purpose of helping the six billion save? Not a good sign, methinks! “Star comedy by Democrats”. (Which incidentally is a palindrome).

And if we just look at the differences between the Lib Dem and Tory Manifesto’s on Justice, we can see that, to coin a tune “There may be trouble ahead”.

The Tories say “prison works!” The Lib Dems want to abolish short sentences in jail. The Tories want a Bill of Rights, the Lib Dems want to have a EU model. And they disagree on immigration. Not exactly singing from the same hymn sheet from the outset then.

Still, it is fairly momentous time in British politics – the last coalition Government in this country was during the Second World War (The Lib Lab Pact was just that – a pact in 1977 which allowed Labour to stay in power for nine months. The one before in the thirties (the last peacetime coalition) didn’t last long at all.

What I am interested in is this. If Nifty Nick is Deputy Prime Minister and Deb’s Delight Dave is indisposed and forced to take a break, does Mr Clegg take over as PM? Not that would be a real change- the first Liberal (admittedly Lib Dem) to be PM since David Lloyd George. Who was Welsh. Which is, I know about as relevant to any of this as the fact that a pig sleeps on its right side, or that a monkey was once tried and convicted of smoking a cigarette in Indiana USA. Or even that Pamela Stephenson once stood for Parliament for the Blancmange Throwers Party, but the best I can come up with.

So the jury is well and truly out about how all this will evolve. However, I have a nasty feeling that I won’t be praising any of the new lot anytime soon for raising Legal Aid rates. As Groucho Marx said “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedy!”

So what else has changed significantly? English (and Welsh) cricket team actually winning something. Penny Smith leaving GMTV (tragedy!), a high official of the English FA being a tad indiscreet with a flirtatious lady and probably losing the World Cup (ok – not so different, thanks to Sven), volcanic ash disrupting air travel (come to Pembrokeshire this summer – it might not rain). Apparently fibbing is a true sign of a successful person. And there is a new Robin Hood film where our hero doesn’t wear tights. But gets a mite narky if you suggest his accent is a bit off. (How do we know what accent he had anyway?, Don’t recall the tape recorder being invented in 1290).

On a personal front, I have retired from the Cardiff & District Law Society Council. Since I am pretty firmly tied to my West Walean fastness, and can’t really justify the dash up the M4 twice in the first week of the month, I have had to reluctantly put the Confederation first. It will be a wrench after nearly thirty years, and I have many happy memories.

The great characters I served under- Layton Lougher, Sol Joseph, Sam Simon, Michael Jones, Jeff Thomas, Allen Oliver. I really could fill the page with our extraordinary Presidents. The enduring friendships, the sense of camaraderie, all these I shall cherish.

Being a member of the Cardiff Council, being the Secretary and President of the largest Local Law Society in Wales, seeing Cardiff lawyers fighting with real vigour on national issued and making a difference. It’s been a real honour. I am sorry I wasn’t able to make my final Council Dinner (perhaps I’ll get an invite next year-hint, hint!). My best wishes to you all for the future. Of course I shall still be available to help and liaise on behalf of the Confed.

The reason I wasn’t able to make the dinner, was because the Cardiff Accies were invited to play in a very prestigious veterans tournament in South of France. Antibes’ Fontanne Club hosted it and very grand it was too. The Czech Republic sent a side - all international. Thankfully we didn’t have to play them, but as the local newspaper put it “Whilst local French sides had physical confrontations, the Czechs and the Welsh drank beer together!” Could be worse press.

As usual there were a large number of current and past Cardiff Solicitors in the ranks apart from me. Richard Payne, Gary Rocks, Graham Miles (who, along with me played in the first European adventures in Belgium 25 years ago!), Greg Steele, Andy Owen and Tim Lucas.

Now you would normally expect me to relay the latest gaffe from Leo Abse partner Owen. He has figured largely in the past. But no! Apart from having the distinction of being part of the first ever Accie touring brothers (with Nick, who also works for the firm), putting in the usual 100% effort that he always does, and being similarly consistent as a great bloke to be with - nothing. Not an own goal, attempted back heel. Not a sausage. Oh, he did leave the presentation pennants in his room, but these were brought from the hotel by a room mate. Very disappointing, O son of Solva!

So no great tale to tell of Cardiff Lawyer notoriety then?

Au Contraire! Step forward the Irish bard Tim Lucas, whose tour was a newsfest for your humble scribe!

Tim, like the afore mentioned Gary Rocks, hails from Northern Ireland. Unlike Rocksy, he has stayed in Cardiff and is now a conveyancer in Penarth.

Both these lovely fellows are utterly charming, the terrific senses of humour, and, like all children of Erin, tell “a fine wee tale”.

However, since our last trip, Tim has allowed his very red hair to grow. Very, very long. Donning his new maroon Accies baseball cap (Oh Yes! Fashionistas in the Sud Francais we!) he looked like one of the terrible teenagers in Kevin and Perry go large.

But when he literally ran his boots off, and had to borrow my rather fetching pair of red ones (Correct, I do own red ones) he had the most amazing resemblances to Florence from the Magic Roundabout! Not only that, but he revealed a hitherto unknown talent. On scoring the winning goal against a team from Strasbourg, he celebrated by doing a back flip! A thirty plus Solicitor doing a back-flip! Now that is a change.

He repeated the trick later that evening, over a municipal flowerbed on a busy Antibes roundabout, then calmly announced he had been the Northern Irish boy Gymnast of the year sometime in the eighties.

Bearing in mind I could barely walk unaided by this stage, I was more than a little impressed, I can tell you. (No, No, injury and old age not beer!)

He then proceeded to teach me a pretty complex drinking game, which I lost six times in a row. Only then did he tell me that he had forgotten to tell me the last bit. Even that change didn’t make him my enemy.

Well, as they say “There are two rules for success: 1) never tell everything you know...”

Enjoy the summer.


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