- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
Aug 16 2010 by David Williamson, Western Mail
As the great summer holiday getaway continues a year after the UK’s staycation damp squib, Senedd correspondent David Williamson asked a selection of AMs where they intend going in 2010
WALES’ politicians are dashing across Europe and enjoying a brief moment of freedom before an Assembly session littered with Godzilla-sized challenges commences.
In the coming months they will have to scrutinise a budget riven with cuts, fight a referendum to win full law-making powers for the Assembly, and then go to the polls for re-election.
The final weeks of August represent a brief opportunity for AMs to spend time with their children, read a work of fiction, and breathe oxygen that hasn’t come through the Senedd’s air conditioning system.
In choosing a break, they are forced to deal with the annual age-old question of where to go – and what particular message it conveys to the electorate – that their counterparts at Westminster have been grappling with since their choices first came under increased public scrutiny.
Prime Minister David Cameron has just begun his holiday in Cornwall, where just two years ago as the then leader of the opposition he was famously photographed on a beach wearing floral shorts and a faded polo shirt.
Setting out in suitably frugal and practical terms why a UK holiday would be on the cards for the Cameron family this year, he said: “We have some great holiday locations in Britain and I can tell you that, as someone who is expecting a baby this autumn, I think you will find my holiday will be in Britain this year.”
Nick Clegg is known to visit Olmedo in northern Spain every summer, near the birthplace of his wife Miriam González Durantez and the city where they got married.
Labour leadership contender David Miliband, meanwhile, is taking a cottage in Northumberland, while his brother Ed Miliband will be in a cottage in Cornwall. Fellow contender Ed Balls will be touring the United States in a camper van.
And it is a similar mixed bag of destinations when it comes to our politicians in Cardiff Bay. Is it a year for taking the plunge and taking an expensive school holiday-time break – when the mark-up can be up to 85% on a package holiday compared to its term-time equivalent?
Or is it another year for a UK break – like the mass “staycation” that gripped recession-hit UK last year – risking the widespread predictions of a generally dull finish to this year’s holiday season?
From the traditional West Wales family caravan break, epic European train rides and biking through German forestry, our AMs spill the beans on this year’s holiday plans.
Conservative AM for Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire
The straight-talking politician is looking forward to briefly escaping the political jungle for the glories of south-west France.
She said: “I hope to dangle my toes in the pool, lift my eyes to the Pyrenees and remember that I am a Mum, that I can be nice, that I can wear dresses, that I am married, that the ends of my fingers don’t have to be keyboard-shaped and there are more exciting things to read than the economic renewal programme or anything to do with waste.”
During the remainder of the recess she will deal with constituency issues, visit the sites of planning applications and visit local shows, but she is sceptical about AMs who claim to use their holidays for high-falutin’ political purposes.
She said: “[Anybody] who e-mails you to say they are reading anything worthy, are out canvassing for next year or are on a trip to some grey country somewhere to study Marxist literature should be quietly but firmly ignored!”
Labour Counsel General and AM for Newport East
He has yet to book his holiday but hopes to get away for a fortnight by the coast somewhere in southern Europe.
He knows that he will be packing Paul Foot’s Red Shelley, a 1981 study of the iconoclast poet.
Mr Griffiths also has plans for “some weekend mountain and coastal walking in Wales”.
Labour AM for Mid & West Wales
Firmly on fatherhood duties this summer, the AM said: “We had a wonderful beautiful little baby boy, named Rhys after my father, at the end of July and so myself and Clair are not having a holiday this year. We are staying at home to look after the little man.”
He added: “At the moment I’m very well employed changing nappies and rocking cots!”
Alun Ffred Jones
Plaid Cymru AM for Arfon and Heritage Minister
The Heritage Minister has swapped the official car for a bicycle this year.
“I spent a week cycling in the Black Forest, Germany and a week in Blaenau Gwent at the Eisteddfod,” he said.
Mr Jones has also managed to put down the text of the Welsh Language Measure and pick up some lighter reading.
“I sped through Stieg Larsson’s door-stopper The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and I’ve just started the dramatist Mike Povey’s autobiography and Daniel Williams’ study of the relationship between the Welsh and the Civil Rights Movement in North America, entitled Canu Caeth,” he added. “That’ll keep me going.”
Conservative AM for South Wales Central
Having also turned his thoughts to the United States, like Alun Ffred Jones, Mr Melding said: “I took my main holiday at Easter while lecturing in the US – I visited Savannah and Charleston, quite wonderful Southern cities.”
He is halfway through Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind, which he describes as “not Tolstoy but surprisingly well written”.
As the leading Conservative advocate of a federal Britain, it is no surprise he is also reading Allan Massie’s The Thistle and the Rose – “a stimulating Toryish study of the relationship between Scotland and England”.
Labour AM for Mid & West Wales
Intending to visit another Celtic nation, camera in hand, she said: “I am off to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland with my sister and her husband who live in Stranraer, and my husband … [We] are staying in Stornoway and Skye. We are also going to St Kilda and I am hoping to get some fantastic shots of landscape and birds and any wildlife that I can.
“My family bought me a new camera for Christmas and now’ is my chance to use it. I am a keen birdwatcher and wildlife enthusiast…”
Conservative AM for Cardiff North
He is looking forward to recharging under Spanish blue skies, with the added pleasures of “too much food and wine!”.
He plans to take “quite a few books” including former Tory whip Gyles Brandreth’s Something Sensational to Read in the Train and “plenty of other light-hearted stuff”.
He said: “As chair of the Public Accounts Committee it’s good to get away from anything too complicated!”
Tory Assembly leader
His carbon-friendly holiday features an epic train ride to Italy via Paris and Lugano.
He said he had been reading the “Prince of Darkness”, referring to Peter Mandelson’s recent memoir The Third Man.
The Mid & West Wales AM has also enjoyed Tom Sharpe’s The Gropes and a selection of PG Wodehouse and Colin Dexter novels.
He is now delving into Michael Palin’s diaries.
Conservative AM for North Wales
In what must be a busman’s holiday for anyone working in Cardiff Bay, he has spent a few days in Cardiff with “some of the progeny”.
He used the stay as a base for sightseeing and visiting his mother.
But he also has a week in Corfu booked with his wife and four of “the offspring”.
This, he said, would be “our first-ever overseas holiday together”.
Previous holidays had been in a caravan in Abersoch.
Labour AM for Neath
Someone who has no plans to desert the Welsh caravan holiday this year, however, is Gwenda Thomas.
She said: “I will be making the most of our family caravan in Tenby again this summer with some light reading, some leisurely walking and some fishing.”