Think Quick

In many a manic restaurant waiters flash with irritation when they ask diners for orders and are told: “Oh, we haven’t looked at the menu yet.”

This coming year will be a time when voters and politicians will have to make decisions in a hurry, even if none of the choices look particularly palatable.

There were probably very few Christmas Day dinners in Wales at which families talked with rapt excitement about whom they would like to see elected in November as the local police and crime commissioner.

But just as many of us have had to make a split-second choice between General Tso’s chicken and shredded chilli beef, we may find ourselves confronted in the ballot box with the names of well-known politicos promising to banish criminality from Wales.

May’s local elections will determine the composition of councils across Wales but none of the parties will be in a position to dangle juicy promises of high-calorie spending projects. The contest is about whom you want in control of public belt-tightening.

Labour will hope to make gains across Wales, and anger at the lack of economic growth is much more likely to focus on the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats than the party of government in the Senedd.

Before then, Plaid Cymru members must choose a new leader. He or she will have to use the March conference to present themselves and their vision to the Welsh public and then jump into a daunting council election campaign; a disappointing result would be another morale blow to a party which has yet to come to terms with its ejection from government.

The Westminster Government must decide how it wants this epic of uncertainty which has hit the EU to conclude.

Many Tory backbenchers were delighted when David Cameron blocked a new EU treaty and left the eurozone governments to thrash out a rescue deal. But would the transformation of euroland into a German-dominated fiscal union be a triumph for British foreign policy?

This would be preferable to the economic collapse of a continent but ministers know that if the UK passes up the chance to shape the new EU the UK will be shaped by the beast which emerges from the crisis.

Scores of Tory MPs argue the proper way forward is to ask the British public if they want to quit the EU or at least radically renegotiate the terms of membership but at the top of Government there is no appetite for another referendum.

Meanwhile, American Republicans are still searching for a credible challenger to President Obama ahead of November’s election.

On both sides of the Atlantic, it’s time to study the menu.

A Thursday Column.

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