Archive for December, 2010

Looking back, looking forward

Leaving ITV after a ten year period of commenting upon the Welsh political scene has caused me to reflect on the events and developments of the decade. In that time I’ve seen three general elections and two Assembly elections.

In order to make these events more meaningful I’ve been driven around Wales in a chauffeur driven car with Sian Lloyd, she of weather fame. Made my own way round Wales using a bus pass. Taken my shirt off in a bookies in Pontypridd, gone to the races. All to bring politics to the viewers of Wales. No dumbing down of politics here!!

More recently have journeyed Wales with the wonderful Andrea Benfield. On this journey we weathered, floods, hail and snow to bring our collective thoughts to bear on the last general election. And despite it all neither of the two of us guessed the outcome. Mind you if we had the gift of getting such results right, we would not be doing television programmes but enjoying our spoils, having cleaned up with the bookies.

In the whole of that time some things have remained constant. Labour have been in office in the Assembly all that time. Sometimes alone, more often in partnership with an other political party.

For hacks it’s not the night of the Assembly election results that matter but the weeks that follow. These weeks are like the audition days for Blind Date, when Labour’s partner for the next few years is decided. Yes, usually a shot gun wedding rather than a measured betrothal. Mind you there is often considerable discussion over the dowry.

But in looking back on my days with ITV it is not the one big event that has caught my attention but the gradual progress of turning the Assembly from being a glorified county council into a proper parliament.

In the original settlement all AMs were part of the corporate body sitting with Ministers in committee all supposedly forming policy. Scrutiny committees, they were not.

When Rhodri Morgan took over from Alun Michael in no time at all he changed the title of his post from First Secretary to First Minister. A small change in name but certainly a mark of his intention.

And that intention was to gradually create a welsh government that was different from the rest of the Assembly. In time WAG, as we affectionately call the Welsh Assembly Government, was formed. A different entity to the National Assembly for Wales which became like the parliament in Westminster the legislative and scrutinising body. A distinction so often missed by many a newsroom in Wales who often use the terms as if they are interchangeable.

These changes were finally given a legal status in the Government of Wales Act 2006

which created a formal legal separation ‘between:

  1. the National Assembly for Wales, which is the legislature comprising the 60 Assembly members, and
  2. the Welsh Assembly Government, the executive, which comprises the First Minister, Welsh Ministers, Deputy Welsh Ministers and the Counsel General.’

The final moves to making it, in the eyes of many, a proper parliament will be the referendum next March.

If there is a ’˜yes’ vote then it will be able to pass laws in the devolved areas without reference to the two Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

So will next March be the end of the journey towards self government? To that the answer must surely be, no.

After all what self respecting parliament can exist without the ability to raise it’s own revenue. Indeed even the lowest levels in our democracy, the community councils have powers to raise some of their own money. Will this be the next political issue to concern us in Wales?

And what about the powers devolved. Real Home rule will not have happened until all powers on domestic affairs are passed down to Wales.

So there are plenty of issues to occupy the political class in the years ahead.

And despite not looking at the changing tide of political events for ITV. I shall hopefully be able to chronicle these in other media outlets. After all the tyranny of youth hopefully, has not spread to all media outlets.

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Councillors have a go .. at each other!

Oh, it’s always sad to see old comrades fall out. Especially when one accuses the other “of using the tactics of fascists.”

This has happened in Caerffili Council where a Labour Councillor, Ray Davies has incurred the wrath of Independent Councillor, Ron Davies. He is most unhappy with a leaflet sent out by Comrade Councillor Ray.

The leaflet alleged that “two independent councillors called for an end to free prescriptions, free bus travel and free swims, since they were only gimmicks.”

Ex-Comrade Councillor Ron reacted angrily, accusing him of “deliberately trying to mislead people about what Colin [Hobbs, the other independent in the coalition cabinet with Plaid Cymru] and I have done in the ward. You should know, given your long political experience, that it is frauds and totalitarians who have to rely on lies and half truths.”

He goes on to warn Comrade Councillor Ray “do not fall into the trap of using the tactics of fascists. If you have something to say, say it honestly.”

Now there the matter would end as a local spat, an everyday occurrence in our valley councils. In such areas, political discourse is more cage boxing than the Queensbury rules.

But the spat has now taken a turn for the worse with a formal complaint being made to the Caerffili Council about Ex-Comrade Councillor Ron’s diatribe.

Many outside Caerffili may know ‘independent’ councillor Ron Davies in another guise, for he is a Plaid Cymru prospective candidate in next year’s Assembly elections. For where? For Caerffili?

In such circumstances it is understandable that Plaid Cymru candidate Ron would not want the electors to be mislead about such populist policies as free bus passes, free prescriptions and free swimming.

And he should know better than most about the winning potential of such policies.

In a fringe meeting at the Plaid Conference reported by Tom Bodden of the Daily Post whilst Ron Davies, was in political purgatory before entering the heaven of Plaid Cymru. He dismissed Labour flagship policies of free prescriptions, free bus passes for the elderly and free hospital parking as a “strategy to prop the core vote.”

In a looming period of cuts in public spending, after 10 years of growth, any move to axe these flagship freebies would prove politically difficult.

How true. And how understandable that you would want to appeal to the core vote.

For those interested in such political shenanigans and want to follow the exchanges, they are produced below.

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