We shouldn’t derive pleasure from the misfortunes of others. But we are all humans and so we do.  The German word for it is “schadenfreude”.  A series of issues in my party (Conservatives) have not just been embarrassing, but more importantly have undermined the very good work that a lot of people do.  It leads to a narrative of failure and the successes get forgotten.

So it is interesting to see that others can slip up too.  And when those who have been only too ready to point the finger fall short themselves, a sense of schadenfreude is inevitable.

Here in Wales, donations to our new First Minister’s campaign fund are raising questions and causing a bit of a stench.  Vaughan Gething may not have done anything illegal in accepting £200,000 from a company owned by a man convicted for dumping waste.  According to the BBC the company owes the Development Bank of Wales £400,000.  It all leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.  Even Plaid Cymru who prop up the Welsh Labour Government are concerned about “Westminster levels of sleaze” in the Senedd!

Up in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon spent much of her time pointing out the faults of others. Meanwhile she led an administration that was failing shockingly badly on all the things that matter to normal people.  We got immune to the constant waste of tax payers’ money.  But with her husband (Peter Murrell) now charged with embezzling funds from their own party she finds herself in an “incredibly difficult” situation. 

He is yet to be tried for this and of course he has a presumption of innocence. Having said that, it will be really upsetting for ordinary SNP members to see their hard earned donations vanish. All £600,000 of them! The truth, of course, will become evident when the charges are heard in court.

But the one that I find most interesting is the Angela Rayner saga that seems to be rumbling on.  In the noughties, Labour gave us John “two jags” Prescott.  Then last decade Ed “two kitchens” Miliband came unstuck, being filmed in the staff kitchen of his North London mansion.  Now we have Angela “two houses” Rayner.

Let’s be clear, Angela Rayner has worked hard (just as John Prescott did) and like him she may well be our Deputy PM sometime soon.  In both cases it’s a great story of social mobility thatI admire.  And we are all entitled to arrange our affairs to (legally) avoid paying tax.  But the rules can’t be stretched or we get into the realms of tax evasion, which is illegal.  In this case there is an accusation that a small Capital Gains charge may not have been declared.  Likewise, there may have been an error in her registration on the electoral roll, which again is illegal, and would be embarrassing for an elected MP. And, like Murrell and all others, there is a presumption of innocence.

It all seems a bit of a storm in a tea cup.  She hasn’t been helped by the Labour Party destroying documents which would have confirmed the electoral roll issue one way or the other. There was, of course, no legal obligation to retain those documents, but it would be interesting to know when they went in the shredder.

Of course she could just publish her tax advice and tax returns; Angela has never held back in demanding transparency from others.  Potentially this would put the whole story to bed so why not do it?  Almost inevitably, some people will conclude that there is a bit of a cover up going on. There’s no smoke without fire as the old saying goes. I’m not sure they are right.  But what I suspect her tax returns would show is that she is just like the majority of us -- an aspirational hard-working person who wants to do well for herself and her family.  Someone who is happy to pay sensible taxes but doesn’t like being overtaxed, and someone who despairs of the endless red tape and petty regulations that govern our lives.

She’s probably got some sound investments, pensions or buy to lets, doing nicely and securing her retirement and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, the more I look at it, the more I think that Angie is really a Tory! 

Maybe that is what Labour wants to hush up.  I will just indulge in some mild schadenfreude.


Ken’s got his skates on


It is good to see that Ken Skates, our new Welsh Transport Secretary is rowing back on Welsh Labour’s blanket 20 mph scheme.  Hopefully we may end up with a sensible policy of 20mph where needed (everyone agrees) and back to 30 elsewhere. It cost something like £32 million to do the 20mph zones and now I guess another £16 million to partially undo it?

That’s not been a great use of our money!