Thursday, 26 May 2011

Who is the First Minister of Wales?

I woke up this morning with the thought that I do not know the name of the First Minister of Wales. This must have something to do with yesterday reading Private Eye's Dumb Britain - in case you don't know, a regular feature cataloguing the woeful ignorance of TV quiz contestants.

Of course, I have an excuse: he's new in the job, isn't he, because in the May elections Labour just about ousted the Lib Dem-Plaid Cymru coalition ... But then I don't know the name of the last First Minister of Wales either.

I do know the name of the First Minister of Scotland (Alex Salmond), the President of Ireland (Mary Macaleese - but have I spelt it right?), the Taoseach (spelling?) of Ireland, Enda Kenny, and I think that Peter Robinson is First Minister in Northern Ireland (with Martin McGuinness at Number Two).

Anyway, the government of Wales is not much more than a County Council and no one expects you to know the names of County Council leaders. So that's all right, then.

I grew up in a boys' culture where General Knowledge was regarded as up there with footballing abilities: you practised it and you showed it off. In primary school, I was once the only boy in class who could spell Czechoslovakia.

Of course, what counts as being good at General Knowledge is relative to a culture. I would be hopeless nowadays in any kind of Quiz because I know nothing about TV personalities (I don't watch TV), footballers ( and someone had to tell me yesterday that the Cup Final is tomorrow and I still don't know who between), and only a very little about recent films and music ...

But I do know who wrote The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (clue: a Scotsman) and I knew it in 1968 when I was the Reserve player for my college's University Challenge team - and I had to sit in the audience desperate to put up my hand when they couldn't answer that question.

The United States of America alarms me not because of its military might but because poll after poll shows that its voters have a World Affairs general knowledge score in minus numbers, and some of its Presidential wannabes no better. It's scary.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and it may be that being good at General Knowledge is an example of that. But when voters in a democracy get enthusiastic for their country dropping bombs on another country, I do rather feel that they should at least be able to pin point it on the map.

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