I recently re-read Patrick Hannan’s ‘Wales Off Message’. Published in 2000 the events and misadventures in Welsh politics it recounts are all familiar to me although he always managed to find a new angle from which to view those events or a undiscovered nugget of fascination, such as Rhodri Morgan’s unprecedented tidying of his sock drawer as he awaited in vain a phone call from the newly-elected Prime Minister Tony Blair.
As that story shows, Patrick always took great delight in finding the absurd in politics and there was plenty of it. When I knew him in his later years he’d seen every possible permutation of the political wrangling which I was only just beginning to report on. He’d grown impatient with some of the practitioners of the sport, but never the sport itself.
Perhaps his greatest skill was to spot the absurdity, dig it out and polish it into a witty aphorism. Here are three examples from ‘Wales Off Message:’
Of the four chief temptations in political life – greed, sex, alcohol and pomposity – it’s perhaps the last which is the most dangerous.
The point about protocol is that it is essentially only what happened last time.
(Wales has a) ‘long and passionate love affair with the past. Behind ‘Cool Cymru’ you find Cawl Cymru, a reheated stew made from the leftovers of another life.