House arrest

The new chief executive of Cardiff council, Englishman Jon House, has started his £175,000 a year job with a mission statement of heart-sinking banality varnished with all the vacuous buzzwords of clapped-out marketing-speak (anyone who uses “benchmark” as a verb is invariably spouting drivel). Mr House looks set to annoy for years to come.

Quite how he got the job is a mystery. He has never run a council before, he has no knowledge of Cardiff and his underwhelming CV amounts to 15 years as a policeman and two years at Bristol council. According to Lib Dem council leader Rodney Berman, House was appointed because of his “vision and drive”, two suitably meaningless abstract nouns from the master of empty rhetoric. One can only assume he gets to trouser the vast salary (greater than that of Wales’ First Minister or the UK’s Prime Minister) because he is a compliant yes-man who will do Rodney’s bidding. His early pronouncements confirm that suspicion. Among the more ludicrous Bermanesque formulations was the categorical statement that “Cardiff will be the best city council in Europe by 2015” – a textbook example of the kind of vapid hype Cardiffians have had to endure for years: no such competition between Europe’s city councils exists, and there would be no way of measuring it even if it did. So, when 2015 comes around Mr House will no doubt get up on his hind legs and announce, would you believe it, that Cardiff has passed this fabricated test with flying colours and it’s THE GREATEST CITY IN EUROPE!!! It’s a familiar LibDem strategy: repeat somethng often enough and a few fools might believe it. However, no Cardiffian with a couple of operating brain cells will be taken in, and the other city’s of Europe will not lose any sleep.

Yet to get a mention in Mr House’s incoherent ramblings is “Wales” – Cardiff’s only distinguishing identity and its sole hope for a prosperous and purposeful future. This fits well with the council’s endless “capital city” drum-beat, in which wild claims about being “capital” of this, that and the other (shopping, sport, culture, events, etc, etc) never include the one thing that Cardiff actually is the capital of: the taboo W-word. The LibDems, hardly any of whom are Welsh let alone Cardiffian, see Wales as little more than a region of England; we can be sure anyone appointed by them will share their Brit values.

Mind you, Jon House does have a skill which may be of use to the city. Joining the constabulary at age 22 (he obviously didn’t do youthful rebellion), he climbed the ranks to become a specialist in hostage negotiations. This could come in handy when trying to extract a slip road and a couple of shrubs out of the next developer holding a Cardiff neighbourhood to ransom.