22 to 27 February
Welsh Secretary, Stephen Crabb was hoping to make the grand gesture of introducing the latest proposals on more devolution to Wales but he’s been elbowed out by the big beasts of the cabinet David Cameron and Nick Clegg who made the announcement in the Millennium Stadium. After months of cross-party talks inevitably what is agreed will be the lowest common denominator and Wales is not disappointed. There is a promise of a guaranteed minimum funding for the Welsh government, the so-called Barnett floor. Originally this pledge was to be tied to Welsh Ministers promising to hold a referendum on income tax powers, but this was dropped after serious protests from Welsh Ministers and not least Kirsty Williams Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats. So dropped it was. (See http://welshpolitics.co.uk/2015/02/want-the-cash-well/). So what’s coming Wales is way? Energy. No not more of it, although god knows, some of the Ministers could do with a boost. No control of energy projects and decisions on such things as fracking and windmills on land and sea. The Assembly is also going to be in charge of assembly elections including how many members there should be. They can also decide to change the name of the Assembly to that of Parliament. Other things include the powers to set national speed limits across Wales and a promise to consider the merits of devolving Air Passenger Duty. Yes, I know, it’s all so underwhelming. But it should really read as what Wales will get if the Conservatives are in power after May. Labour, according to Miliband’s speech to the Labour conference, is promising all of the Silk Commission recommendations “and more.” Well, we’ll see.
Meanwhile both Clegg and Cameron leave the stadium to address their respective parties Welsh conferences. So expect more headlines this weekend on the dire state of the Welsh NHS and other public services.
Bungs dominated this week’s politics. Two ex-Foreign secretaries were caught be a Chanel 4 sting operation. (See http://welshpolitics.co.uk/2015/02/a-nice-little-earner/) This provided a platform for Miliband to score his first success in PMQs for the first time for some considerable weeks. He wrong-footed Cameron on the question of limiting the outside earnings of MPs. Sometimes even Miliband can score an open goal.
According to the ONS net migration to Britain was 298,000 last year. This is higher than when the Conservatives came to office. How David Cameron must regret saying “no ifs, no buts” promise to reduce it to the “tens of thousands” by the time of the general election. Well, Mr Cameron the election is here and no doubt you’ll be reminded of this promise, not least by Mr Farage. It shows what a nonsense it is to make immigration a political issue, especially as the real story should be how the economy has benefitted from the influx of these young and eager additions to the countries work force.
Another pledge. This time from young Ed, Miliband not Balls. He intends a cut in the maximum level of university tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 in England. And pay for it by potentially raising £2bn a year through the curtailing of pension tax reliefs. What is it about student fees and elections, another attempt to capture the middle-class vote, me thinks
Meanwhile the other Ed was campaigning in Scotland and sought to quash speculation that Labour could strike a formal post-election deal with the SNP. His preference, a Labour minority government to a coalition. The shadow chancellor said a deal with the SNP “is not part of our plan; it’s not what we want.” But Ed politics, just like life doesn’t always give you what you want.
The polls still point to a hung parliament with Labour still the largest party but with 18 short of that elusive majority.
YouGov/Times Con 34% Lab 42% LibDem 8% UKIP 9% Green 6%
YouGov/Sun Con 35% Lab 33% LibDem 6% UKIP 14% Green 7%
Survation/Mirror Con 28%(-3) Lab 34%(+4) LibDem 10%(+3) UKIP 19%(-4) Green 4%(+1)
ComRes/Mail Con 34%(+3) Lab 32%(+2) LibDem 8%(nc) UKIP 13% (-4) Green 8% (+1)
Populus Con 32% Lab 32% LibDem 9% UKIP 11% Green 8%
Ashcroft Con 32%(-2) Lab 36%(+5) LibDem 7%(-2) UKIP 11% (-5) Green 8% (nc)
YouGov/Sun Con 33% Lab 33% LibDem 8% UKIP 13% Green 7%
Opinium/Observer Con 35%(+2) Lab 33%(-2) LibDem 6%(-2) UKIP 15%(+1) Green 7%(+1)
YouGov/Sunday Times Con 33% Lab 34% LibDem 8% UKIP 13% Green 6%