27 April 2010

Dr Eurfyl ap Gwilym: "Do your homework!"

In other amazing technical innovations found in modern Scotch bothies, we also get YouTube up here. And if your eyes tire of lingering on the close peaty texts that your candle light is gloating over, you might well gloat over this joyous, immolating section of BBC Newsnicht last night when Jammy Paxman got into a fearful wax, and melted.

Dr Eurfyl ap Gwilym is not, perhaps, a household name. Nor is he a particularly prepossessing looking chap. He is, however, an economic advisor to our Welsh friends Plaid Cymru. And Paxo thought it'd be spiffing fun to tear into him, sneer figures, allege fiscal illiteracy and generally singe the Welshman's eyebrows. As is so often the case with those who play with fire and statistics - its all too easy to scorch your own fingers if your opponent avoids getting flustered and knows the documents inside out. When the devil detail turns on you, you are left like the egregious rubber-faced Paxman was yesterday evening - huffing like a miffed teenager instructed to complete an unloved chore, at last reduced to pitiful hectoring he looks longingly and petitioning for the end of the interview. Paxo almost whimpered farewell. A joy.

My thanks to Love & Garbage for bringing this to my attention.


  1. Yes I would just have to to congratulate him, it was an excellent perfomance and he really tore Paxman to bits (Paxman of course just being a puppet of the big 3 London Parties)

    Join the Facebook group- http://www.facebook.com/pages/We-love-Dr-Eurfyl-ap-Gwilym/105712869472119?ref=search&sid=100000311120751.315596701..1

  2. "In other amazing technical innovations found in modern Scotch bothies, we also get YouTube up here."

    Equally amazing then is that in central Dundee my (mobile) broadband connection isn't quite fast enough to stream the video without interruption at this time, so I'll have to deny myself the joys of this reverse Paxoing until later on tonight.

    A slight technical point, however: my understanding is that the term Newsnicht is used to denote the Scottish-only section. Indeed, I suspect that the featured interview took place during the Newsnicht section proper, and was thus not broadcast in Scotland.

    But thanks for the mention last week of one of my recent blogposts. I did intend providing some sort of response to the extent your post was a critique, but by the time I'd, er, cogitated, ruminated and generally got my mental faculties into a terrible tangle I decided that discretion was the better part of valour!

    I also meant to say recently, regarding your following comment:

    "To whit, see Gray’s suggestion above that we should Forget the Celtic Lion, now Alex Salmond is the Celtic Kiwi. Frankly, I’ve no idea quite what this metaphor denotes. He is flightless? Cowrin’ and timorous with nocturnal habits? Surely not fluffy and cute? Or is Gray alleging that the Māori believe the Maximum Eck to be under the protection of Tāne, God of Birds and Forests?"

    Not sure if you were aware, but there was a brief mention in the press at that time that the SNP had been promoting the New Zealand economy as one for Scotland to emulate, presumably in lieu of the slightly tarnished 'arc of prosperity', hence Iain Gray's reference.

  3. Anonymous,

    There is always the pleasure of things springing from unexpected places - refreshes the sense of the potentialities of life. In particular, the too often unrealised possibility of showing the equine-phizoged Paxman up for being fatuously aggressive - a script-creature who too often uses his aggression to distract and deflect from discussion of the issues.

    Not that he is wholly without his charms. Like all growling curs, I never mind seeing him chew up my enemies. Even so, one hopes he takes something from this humbling lesson!

  4. Stuart,

    Thanks for the comment (against your usual practice!). Taking your points in order - I'm sorry to hear about Dundee's tenuous connectivity. I'd encourage you to persist - the footage is well worth it.

    Second, it was a post well worth linking too - and actually I never came close to answering your question. Why do they adopt different policies north and south, and how might that be justified? Largely, I expanded (I think, rather abstrusely to be honest) on the second part of that question. Or tried to look at how things might be more complicated than they appear and embark on charting that complex relationship between political ideals and the given material context and entrenched social positions, with their dominating inertia.

    Your questions stand, and I think stand without a particularly convincing argument appearing from the Labour party. While there is, I'd argue, something to be said for differentiating between broad themes and ideals and particular conceptions followed as policy - the empirical end of the judgement is also interesting and anything but straightforward.

    We need different policies because Scotland is different. Reasonable perhaps. Politically, I'm obviously a supporter of the notion. But if that is so as a Labourite - point our your sources! Show us the empirically traceable divergences one one side of the Tweed from the other which make you do one thing in Manchester, another in Mull. Labour don't seem to be able to do so - to isolate that part of their argument which is situational or empirical - or have chosen not to bother. No doubt because fundamentally, as I argued, Downing Street and Scottish Labour just don't agree on some issues. Simple.

    Thirdly - I had a loose background sense of the New Zeelander reference in Gray's speech. Mostly, I was just enjoying myself by pouring a measure of comical disdain over the whole thing! Or at least, my contempt was intended to be comical...

  5. "No doubt because fundamentally, as I argued, Downing Street and Scottish Labour just don't agree on some issues. Simple."

    Indeed, and even more cynically perhaps divergences arise from just doing things differently for the sake of justifying devolution, although perhaps this arises subconsciously rather than as a deliberate course of action.

    But thanks for the lengthy reply; indeed I think 'abstruse' was the word I was looking for vis-a-vis your orginal ;0)

    As for Paxo, I think he missed a trick by not pointing out to the Plaid representative that public spending figures for London are highly skewed by the amount of central government functions undertaken there (eg the foreign office, DfT or whatever it's called now, etc.) thus can't really be compared with Wales.

  6. Its just about possible, I'd say, that 'difference for difference' sake' might be pursued strategically. One thinks of the late phases of Jack McConnell's last administration and the looming difficulties which perceptions of too much adherence to Labour's London centre caused him.

    Interestingly, at FMQs today this very issue that we've been discussing made its presence felt. The Maximum Eck was bashing Liberals and Labour on their responses to the minimum alcohol pricing policy. Salmond held up some of their English counterparts' support of the notion, to their manifest discomfort in Holyrood.

    Caron (of Musing fame) styled this as "Salmond misunderstanding devolution".

    In some ways this debate proves a helpful example, because it concretely presents us with the two clear problems I was unclearly attempting to articulate previously - why do things differently on alcohol? Secondly, how to justify the difference in approach? If devolution says that taking different policy tacks is fine - then I don't think the devolved defence alone provides any get-out argument when when a UK party like the Liberals or Labour seem to have an internal disagreement, resulting in these policy discontinuities (ostensibly, temptingly, for party political advantage).

    On what basis might one group in the party support minimum pricing, the other oppose? Different circumstances? Or simply a different communal sense about what is the right thing to do? Is it fair, then, to criticise them by citing their colleagues alternative position? Should the "devolution exculpation" put a cork in Salmond's mouth? I don't think so.

    On your last point - I imagine that dear Paxman was feeling too bruised to risk straying into another (potentially dangerous) field of detail. That, and the bunny-paralysis which comes over you when you've lost all control but can't stop talking...

  7. Indeed, and it would be interesting to read Caron's elucidation of what she means.

    But as well as perhaps underlining the point about having different policies merely to justify devolution, this particular issue perhaps also justifies the accusation of opposition for the sake of it.