Friday, 20 August 2010

What does losing look like?

In an interview with the BBC, Nick Clegg has confessed his party is likely to lose ground in the next couple of years:
In an interview with the Westminster Hour, to be aired on Sunday evening, he conceded that his party was likely to suffer in the local elections next May, saying: "I think it is one of the oldest rules in politics that parties in government... tend to get a dip in their popularity."

"Do I think we are going to be able to defy those rules of gravity at a time we are taking very difficult decisions on deficit reduction?" Mr Clegg added.

"No. I think that is unlikely."
No surprise there but how badly could the party lose out in Wales at next year's Assembly elections?

Taking into account current polling trends, I've tried to think ahead (far ahead) to next May to see what the outcome might be for the Liberal Democrats here. Much like predicting the weather though - changes in the political climate between now and then will inevitably change this outcome...

At the moment the party hold 3 constituency seats (Brecon and Radnorshire, Montgomeryshire and Cardiff Central) and 3 of the regional seats (in North Wales, South Wales West and South Wales East).

Brecon and Radnorshire

Kirsty Williams’ seat. If they lost here it would be a devastating blow to the party in Wales and across the UK. Ms Williams holds a majority of 5,000 in the seat she’s held since the creation of the National Assembly. Her nearest rival was a Conservative while Labour and Plaid came a distant 3rd and 4th. If the Lib Dems were going to lose this seat, one would have to ask to whom would they lose it? Labour need to find 13,000 votes if they’re to come close – that’s about as many as they, the Conservatives and Plaid had at the last election here. Roger Williams’ majority over Labour and Plaid is even more impressive and with Lib Dem voters unlikely to abandon the party to vote for the Conservatives I dare say Kirsty Williams could well cling on.


They lost this seat at the General Election, and this time they don’t have an incumbent candidate. It wouldn’t be a total surprise if the Lib Dems aren’t able to get their vote out here because of the coalition deal, while the Conservatives are – they could well take this seat. However, like Brecon and Radnorshire, all other parties come a distant 3rd and 4th in Montgomeryshire and the Conservatives (who traditionally don’t always have the best showing in Assembly elections) might struggle to meet expectations – after all having Lembit Opik as his opponent probably helped push Glyn Davies over the mark in May. I’d put Montgomeryshire as too close to call.

Cardiff Central

Jenny Randerson made an all important breakthrough for the party by winning this seat in 1999. The area had traditionally been Labour but the Government in Westminster wasn’t quite living up to expectations (as they never do) and so the Lib Dems snuck in – winning the corresponding Westminster seat in 2005. The tables could well turn this time around. Labour need an increase of 7,000 votes this time but anger and frustration might just about rally their supporters enough, and bear in mind Jenny Randerson is standing down this time too. This seat could well be a loss for the Liberal Democrats next year, they’ll be fighting bitterly to save it.

The Regional Seats

Due to the peculiarity of the Additional Member Voting system the more constituency seats the party loses the more regional seats they pick up (that’s assuming the vote doesn’t completely and utterly collapse).

If the party lost the Powys seats they would almost certainly pick up a seat in Mid and West Wales – likewise in South Wales Central. Because of their poor showing at constituency level in South Wales East and West but a reasonable vote on the list (by comparison to other parties) those seats would likely not be lost.

Their North Wales seat is under threat (that’s Eleanor Burnham). The party polled just 15,000 votes across the whole region at the last Assembly election while other competitive parties all had more than 50,000. The Conservatives could well gain some constituency seats, as could Labour, and Plaid look competitive. If any constituency seats change hands and the Lib Dems lose regional votes (and they don’t have to lose that many) through a fluke of maths (and democracy I suppose) they will lose this seat.

So where does that leave them?

Not looking too shabby actually – but then they are starting from a low base. The party is unlikely to gain in the Assembly election but they may only come away with a net loss of 1 or 2 seats. Which wouldn’t be devastating. They always did want to break that six seat deadlock they’ve had since the Assembly came into being but it’s a long way of Kirsty’s Project 31...

Dewi Tri


Monday, 28 June 2010

Nerys Going For It All

Nerys Evans, the Plaid Cymru AM for Mid and West Wales, announced earlier that she hopes to change seats. The 30 year old who has sat in the Assembly since 2007 said on Twitter that she’s put her name forward for nomination in the Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire seat .

“have put my name forward for the #plaidcymru nomination for Carms West and South Pembs for the Assembly election.”

This isn’t the first high profile potential constituency swap at the next Assembly election – remember that attack by Alun Davies on Blaenau Gwent AM Trish Law? Its over a year now since he announced his intention to run for her seat. Interestingly 50% of the Mid and West Wales regional AMs are now contesting other seats in the 2011 election. I wonder if there’s something in the water...

This isn’t the start of a mass exodus of regional AMs challenging for constituency seats – Peter Black has already ruled out standing in Swansea West for example. But it may be an indication that AMs who are looking to climb the party ladder feel that being a constituency AM gives them more legitimacy.

So what are Nerys Evans’ chances in Carms West and South Pembs? Well in the last two Assembly elections Plaid Cymru have not been that far behind there. In 2007 Angela Burns won the seat with only 250 more votes than Plaid Cymru’s John Dixon. But Plaid Cymru came third. With the 2007 vote being such a close race - two parties on 29% and one on 30% - anything is possible.

Angela Burns should still feel quite confident however given that the Conservatives had a 9.8% swing to them in Carmarthen West last time around. It makes even better reading for the Conservatives if you look at the Westminster election results there. Plaid Cymru nowhere near the top spot – fighting it out with the Lib Dems for third place.

So why take the risk? As the top name on Plaid's Mid and West list Nerys Evans is pretty much guaranteed to hold onto her seat in 2011. If Nerys Evans was moving to a safe Plaid constituency you could understand – but Carmarthen West? Am I perhaps being too cynical about politics? Could it be that as a local girl Nerys Evans just wants to fight for the chance to represent her local area?

Whatever the rationale behind it this is a big gamble by Nerys Evans. If it pays off it may give her more credibility as she moves up the Plaid ranks. But if it doesn’t - one of Plaid Cymru’s rising stars will be out in the cold this time next year.

Dewi Un

P.S Nerys Evans has yet to win the nomination –she has simply put herself forward.


Thursday, 24 June 2010

Child Poverty - Mini Progress Report

So this was published today – and it made me think, just how much progress has the WAG made in eradicating child poverty? :

“Deputy Minister for Children Huw Lewis has announced his intention to create several “pioneer” areas within Wales to pin-point best practice models of family support in our efforts to help lift children and young people out of poverty...”

(For more go here -

Remember the WAG has signed up to eradicating child poverty in Wales by 2020. They missed their target of halving child poverty by 2010 and one wonders, why has it taken ten years to start working on best practice for family support systems?

It also makes you think that more than ten years after the Assembly started work this was unveiled:;jsessionid=lYXJMjjp82LsT0nDQ5TgnzRmTDJn2ZNZGkbqTkZf6vyltM1QW5TJ!-395677726?lang=en

Currently in consultation phase the “Child poverty strategy for Wales and delivery plan” seeks to “set out the Welsh Assembly Government’s vision for tackling child poverty in Wales and improving outcomes for children and parents living in low income families”.

The consultation is due to finish in August. But why the need for another consultation? What’s been going on for ten years? Shouldn’t there be some sort of action plan already in place?

I appreciate that there’s been a change of First Minister in the past six months, but it’s still the same party (coalition accepted)in control – so why another consultation?

Department for Work and Pensions’ figures show that child poverty remains at the2007/2008 level of 32% for Wales. With a 192,000 children living in poverty and 126,000 of those in severe poverty. With less than ten years to go before the 2020 deadline, and a lot of work to be done, is the WAG doing enough?

Dewi Un


Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Broken Heart

There’s a very quiet crisis developing in the broadcast media industry in Wales.

In March Radio Ceredigon owners Tindle announced they had sold the station to Town and Country Broadcasting who, in turn, announced they would be moving the station from its traditional home (and indeed broadcast area) in Aberystwyth to Narberth in Pembrokeshire – already home to Radio Pembrokeshire, Radio Carmarthenshire and Scarlett FM. The station has been playing a mix of jingles and music ever since with the promise the new Radio Ceredigion will be along shortly.

Last week more than 50 jobs were lost in Caernafon as TV company Barcud Derwen went into administration while its neighbour Antena also issued some staff with redundancy notices. And this week another blow to the north west media industry as its owners announced Heart radio (formerly known as Champion FM and Coast FM) would be moving from its base in Bangor to Wrexham to form a new super station: Heart North West and Wales.

These days there are only a handful of people working out of the studios in Parc Menai (pictured) but the implications of the move are more wide reaching. For starters the station was obliged by Ofcom to broadcast a certain number of hours of Welsh-language programming every day, Welsh language news as well as Welsh music – none of these issues have been formally addressed by Global Radio to my knowledge.

They’re issues that have prompted a statement by Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Gymraeg – see a partial translation below:

Gerallt Roberts, a member of the Gwynedd/Môn branch of Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Gymraeg, said:

"For months Cymdeithas Yr Iaith has been in dialogue with officials from Heart FM about our concerns that the station no longer reflects the community it’s supposed to serve by playing a very high proportion of English music. We feel that the decision to move the studios from Bangor to Wrexham will do nothing to alleviate our concerns about the future of the station as a forum to discuss and reflect the full range of Welsh life in Gwynedd and Môn.”

Osian Jones, Cymdeithas’ organiser in the north added:

“This decision proves Heart FM isn’t serious about its claims to be a community radio station. We’ve been worried for months about the Welsh language offering on Heart FM, this decision will do nothing for Heart FM as a Welsh-language station for Gwynedd and Môn.”

“We’re asking OFCOM to reconsider the Heart FM licence, because it’s become obvious that the station no longer fulfils it’s licence obligations...”

That will be a tall order for Cymdeithas. Ofcom announced in April that radio companies would have far more powers to alter their licence obligations without seeking approval from the authority.

But the implication are wider still. Real Radio no longer wants to broadcast a radio station to North Wales, instead proposing a new national service (based in Cardiff) and other than Radio Maldwyn which is still going in Newtown there is no local commercial radio outside Cardiff, Swansea, Narberth and Wrexham.

So why do we care?

For starters there’s no longer a training ground for young talent in mid and north Wales. Aled Haydn Jones – now one of the most successful radio producers in the country – started his broadcast career at Radio Ceredigion in Aberystwyth. Many presenters on Radio Wales, Radio Cymru, Real Radio and S4C are veterans of these dying stations too. In the medium and long term, it could prove to be an almighty blow to the creative industries in Wales and an obstacle for any young people with an ambition to inform, educate or entertain through broadcast media.

And what of the local communities who listened to their local station to hear people who talk like they do and talk about the things they care about? The lives the presenters of the new Heart FM lead in London is far removed from the lives their listeners lead in Pwllheli, Menai Bridge and Conwy. In an era where localism seems to matter more than ever, and there are more powers being devolved to the Assembly and local authorities there will be fewer individuals keeping watch over them and fewer people informed of their activities as a result.

The future is very uncertain indeed. This is by no means the end of this story.

Dewi Tri


Cheryl's Welsh Questions

Just watched the honourable member for Chesham and Amersham’s first Welsh questions on the BBC’s excellent Democracy Live. Here are some highlights:

Cheryl Gillan announced that she has sent a preamble and question to the electoral commission – who will now road test them for 10 weeks. Mrs Gillan claimed that she’s done more in her short time in office on the issue than Peter Hain ever did.

Peter Hain took exception to her account of his work and wasted a question trying to vindicate his legacy. It’s nice to see such unpartisan politics on this issue.

Mrs Gillan again announced that she would be staying impartial during the referendum campaign – to which she was roundly jeered by the opposition benches . It appears than neither she or her junior minister have an opinion on the matter.

Alun Cairns, half in Cardiff Bay - half in Westminster, opened his Welsh questions account - jumping to the defence of the St Athans and calling for progress.

David Jones said that the treasury had more pressing matters to worry about at the moment, when quizzed on Barnett reform. He said the Government would wait until Holtham reported again in the summer before making any decisions.

John Bercow, the speaker, got stuck in a few times – keeping the MPs (especially Huw Irranca Davies) in check. Perhaps most notable was his impression of a primary school teacher. He made a point of telling Mrs Gillan to face the front when answering questions - just like teaching an Eisteddfod recital.


Hopefully the standard will improve as people get used to their new roles. The opposition will feel like they missed an opportunity today – they didn’t take advantage of a nervy Gillan and Jones.

The Labour frontbench wasted questions. Hasn’t Wayne David got anything better to ask other than “How many times have you been in Wales since your appointment?”. I understand the point he’s trying to make – but surely there’s a better way to make it? Plus Susan Jones had just asked a similar question minutes before.

But it was quite feisty at times, giving me hope of some Welsh questions gold in future.

Dewi Un


Monday, 21 June 2010

Brace yourselves

What can we expect in tomorrow’s budget? The government’s warning it’ll be a hard pill to swallow...but this morning’s Financial Times has new research that suggests it will be a slightly tougher pill to swallow for those in places like West Wales and the Valleys than it is for those in London and the South East:

I don’t suppose that’s anything new.

Will be interesting to see how it plays somewhere like Ceredigion...

Dewi Tri


Green Fingered

Darren Millar and Mark Isherwood have declared their shock in today’s Daily Post at the level of WAG spending on flora and fungi.

Over the past five years £175,000 has been spent looking after various shrubbery in WAG buildings – which, according to the two Conservatives, is far too much. Mr Isherwood *cleverly* uses gardening puns to get his message across.

“This Welsh Assembly Government must take a leaf out of the book of good financial husbandry and root out the deep waste in its own back garden.”

So just how much should an institution the size of the Assembly spend on its perennials? Would there not be outrage if guests and workers at WAG buildings were greeted by the sight of dead and dying daffodils? Don’t our AMs have better ideas how to save some cash?

Permenant secretary Gillian Morgan responded to Mr Millar and Isherwood by saying:

“Whilst plants have been used to improve the public and working environments in buildings with very low levels of natural light, these costs are currently under review given the current financial and economic situation.”

Interestingly £175,000 over 5 years is less than the cost of an AM for the same period – some may argue that the flowers are a better use of public money....

Dewi Un

P.S Here’s a good site for some green fingered cash saving tips – maybe the WAG should take note?


Friday, 11 June 2010

The Big Ideas

What now for Labour? The big question. It’s the subject of a 2 page spread in this morning’s Guardian G2 magazine. Journalist John Harris has asked 9 “leftwing thinkers” what “big new ideas” the party should embrace.

Here’s a selection:

  • Proper voting reform
  • Focus on fathers
  • Get more women into politics
  • Establishing a green investment bank

    The thinkers include Will Straw (from Left Foot Forward), Neal Lawson (Chair of pressure group Compass), Sunder Katwala (of the Fabian Society) and a little-known Labour politician called Carwyn Jones.

    So amongst the calls to put VAT on private school fees, introducing a 35 hour week and looking at breaking up this big banks, what are the big ideas our First Minister thinks will set the world on fire...

    Here’s an extract:

    “We need to clamp down on dangerous and nuisance driving. I get this time and time again on the doorstep: people complaining about cars racing up and down roads, a hell of a noise...we should fight the idea that speed cameras are a bad thing. They’ve saved a hell of a lot of lives.

    I also this we should investigate the activities of pubcos [big pub companies]. We’ve had a problem over the years with pubs being turned into flats and house - if you take a put out of a small community, you rip its heart out.”

    I wonder if these will be the transformational policies the Labour party need to revive their fortunes? You never know...

    Dewi Tri


  • Wednesday, 9 June 2010


    Welsh Lib Dems have come under fire for their No vote on an amendment to the Queen’s Speech proposed last night by the nationalist parties and the Green Party asking for Trident to be included in its Strategic Defence and Security Review.

    The amendment was voted down 27-330. Ayes included all three Plaid’s MPs, Caroline Lucas the Green MP and Welsh Labour MPs Paul Flynn, Nia Griffydd, Dai Havard and Siân James.

    Welsh Lib Dems Mark Williams and Roger Williams voted against the amendment.

    This morning Elfyn Llwyd said: “I am quite frankly aghast that two of the three Welsh Liberal Democrats have gone against their convictions, and their previous commitments that Trident should be included in the strategic defence review - if not scrapped altogether.

    “At a time when they are part of a government telling us that we must leave no stone unturned in finding cuts to make, they are happy to splurge £100billion of money that we apparently don’t have, on an immoral weapon that we will never use.”

    He goes on to bitterly attack both Williams’.

    Trident was specifically named by Mark Williams in a statement during the campaign as an area the Lib Dems would look to cut so that it would have no knock on effect to Welsh funding.

    It’s worth pointing out Plaid Cymru have been accused of similar hypocrisy over their coalition at the Assembly...well, they are politicians after all...

    Dewi Tri


    Tuesday, 8 June 2010

    No News is...

    The IFNC pilot proposal is dead. Under plans outlined in the Labour government’s Digital Britain report, they were set to fund 3 pilots (one in Wales) that would replace and run the news on ITV. The winning bidder was Wales Live, a proposal by UTV and North Wales Newspapers.

    Jeremy Hunt as Shadow Culture Minister argued all along these proposals were not in the best interest of the industry and promised to scrap them if he got elected. Job done.

    Earlier this year, the Welsh Assembly passed a motion by the Welsh Liberal Democrats supporting the pilot in Wales. At the time their spokesperson Eleanor Burnham said: “I believe that this pilot provides Wales with an opportunity to restore momentum to English-language news provision. It is vital for our democracy that the people of Wales receive high quality local news from more than one source.”

    The motion was opposed by the Welsh Conservatives.

    Today Mr Hunt, now the Secretary of State, said: “I have long believed that the lack of high quality local TV is one of the biggest gaps in British broadcasting. Why? Because, ironically, in an age of globalism people feel the need for stronger not weaker connections to the communities in which they live...

    “[The] plans for Independently Funded News Consortia were misguided.

    “They had the positive benefit of stimulating new and imaginative thinking amongst local media companies for which I am grateful – and I want to carry on talking to those who submitted bids about your ideas.

    “But, fundamentally, they were about subsidising the existing regional news system in a way that would have blocked the emergence of new and vibrant local media models fit for the digital age.”

    See a full transcript on the DCMS website.

    Plaid Cymru have been the first to respond today. Their MP for Arfon, Hywel Williams, said: “In a country with very few news outlets and many difficult political decisions ahead – the referendum and next year’s Assembly elections to name but two – this is disappointing news for the Welsh public, who will now not be allowed a wider spectrum of news.

    “I am extremely disappointed that the ConDem government have not at least allowed these pilot schemes to get underway to see whether or not they do work. It appears that the time and effort put into these developments have been wasted.”

    So what does this mean for national news in Wales? There’s a fear in the industry that ITV, having pledged their commitment to local news will seek to further cut budgets with unknown consequences.

    Jeremy Hunt will publish further plans for local media in the autumn so I guess we’ll find out then – it’s often been said his favoured option is city-based TV (a licence for such a station in Cardiff was awarded last year but no one has used the spectrum since) but the viability of such proposals was brought into question by the demise of Channel M earlier this year.

    So what awaits the Welsh media? We’ll wait (slightly nervously) and see...

    DISCLAIMER: The Dewis (Steffan Powell and Glyn Tansley) worked on the IFNC proposal for Tinopolis – a rival of the Wales Live bid

    Dewi Tri


    And the nominees are..

    Choosing Select Committee Chairs is a long and drawn out process - and I'm not an expert in the ins-and-outs of it!

    I do know however that the Welsh Affairs Select Committee will be chaired by a Conservative and as the nomination process draws to a close the only Conservative (or indeed Member) to be nominated for the Chair of Politics Cymru's favourite committee at Westminster is Mr David Davies of Monmouth.

    Guto Bebb and Alun Cairns are among his backers.

    The elections are being held tomorrow so there's still time for any other keen Conservatives to put their names forward - but I wonder if they will? Given Mr Davies' backing for the True Wales campaign, I can't imagine he's going to be many devolutionists' favourite choice...

    The House of Commons has a full list of all Select Committee Nominations (up to the end of yesterday) together with their list of nominators. Nominations close tonight.

    Dewi Tri


    Wednesday, 2 June 2010

    For One Night Only...

    Usually when an MP isn't an MP any more they take up a job as a consultant or a lobbyist or perhaps even as a non-executive board member. I think it's fair to say Lembit Opik was never a usual we probably shouldn't have assumed he'd be a usual ex-MP either.

    This evening he'll be appearing as a stand-up comedian at Cafe Koha in Central London. £7 entry. I wish I could be there. Really I do.

    Dewi Tri


    Tuesday, 1 June 2010

    Setting the date

    When the new Con/Lib Government at Westminster announced the date of the next UK General Election it raised more than a few eyebrows in Cardiff Bay and at Holyrood because it clashed with something else they had planned for that particular day in May 2015...

    Now an adviser to the United Nations has warned of the extent of the dangers of holding the two elections simultaneously. This article from The Guardian over the weekend is focussed on the Scottish perspective but much the same arguments apply to the Assembly.

    Previously on this issue, Vaughan Roderick has blogged:

    "I don't think for a second the Electoral Commission will allow the two elections to go ahead on the same day.

    So what are the alternatives? Extending or shortening the fourth Assembly would be a possibility but there is another solution. They could postpone the 2011 election for a year.

    Perhaps I'm cynical for suggesting it but that would suit certain parties down to the ground."

    Hmm...I'm not so of the legalities or practicalities of that...I think it's more likely this is going to be one of those issues that rolls on and on well into the next Assembly and prove to be another point of contention between the administrations in Cardiff and Westminster.

    Dewi Tri


    Friday, 28 May 2010

    Arise Lord German

    Alun Cairns might be sticking around but Mike German is off! The Liberal Democrats have decided to appoint Mike German to the House of Lords as a "Working Peer".

    Here's a brief statement from Mr German...

    "I was thrilled when, many months back, Nick Clegg asked me to join his team in the House of Lords as a working peer. Now at this very exciting period in British politics, it will be a great privilege to be helping put Liberal Democrat policies into action.

    "There is a real sense of excitement at the challenges and opportunities for my party, and I am grateful to be given this chance to be at the heart of the action in parliament.

    "Being a working peer is the equivalent of a full time job. I will be alongside a team of very experienced and talented Liberal Democrat peers taking through legislative and policy changes. My precise new role will be determined by the Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords, Lord McNally. However, I have indicated to him that I also wish to do all that I can to support the work of the National Assembly for Wales in Parliament. This includes the transfer of powers and functions to Wales and supporting a strong relationship between London and Cardiff.

    "The task Nick Clegg has offered me to carry out is full time. It will mean that I leave the National Assembly as soon as is practicable following my introduction to the House of Lords. The next person on the party’s regional list, as democratically selected by members, is Veronica German, and she will take my place as the new Assembly Member for South Wales East.

    "It has been an immense privilege to serve Wales in our National Assembly since its inception in 1999. I contributed to its establishment, and have seen it grow in stature and power. This has been a period of great significance in the history of Wales. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve Wales. I will always continue to do so."

    Kirsty Williams says she's "very proud" that Mike German will working for the Welsh Lib Dems in the House of Lords.

    The other new peer of note to Wales will be Don Touhig, former MP of Islwyn (if I've missed anyone else let me know!)

    And here was me thinking is was going to be a boring afternoon...

    Dewi Tri


    Smart Move?

    Alun Cairns, MP for Vale of Glamorgan and AM for South Wales West looks set to retain both titles after the Welsh Conservative Board of Management met today.

    They've just released the following statement:

    "The Board has considered Alun Cairns’ offer to resign as the Assembly Member for South Wales West and has resolved to ask Alun to carry on in his role until the next Assembly election.

    "No further comment will be made on this matter."

    Ooo...touchy much?

    In case you missed it here's why they're not so keen to see the back of Alun: link.

    So that's the end of that then...maybe...

    ADD: according to @RhiannonMichael, Alun will not be accepting a salary as an AM – he’s entitled to about £17k pa..

    Dewi Tri


    Friday, 21 May 2010

    Not another commission?

    Yesterday the full Liberal Conservative coalition document was published (you can read it firsthand here – complete with pictures of Dave and Nick being all chummy).

    If you look through it there are a couple of paragraphs of interest to Wales, particularly page 28:

    “We will introduce the recommendations of the Calman Commission and introduce a referendum on further Welsh Devolution”

    “We recognise the concerns expressed by the Holtham Commission on the system of devolution funding. However, at this time, the priority must be to reduce the deficit and therefore any change to the system must await the stabilisation of the public finances. Depending on the outcome of the forthcoming referendum, we will establish a process similar to the Calman Commission for the Welsh Assembly”

    As Betsan blogs in far more detail (here) this second paragraph causes a great deal of problems for the Welsh Liberal Democrats who pledged in their manifesto to replace the Barnett formula.

    What we have now is a change of tone from Kirsty Williams and her party who are dressing this new commission up as a positive, as something they’ve been fighting for. In response to an earlier Tweet of mine Peter Black defended a new commission saying “a commission owned by the Treasury this time so we can make progress and which goes further than Holtham”.

    Well contradiction o’clock – let’s roll back to July 7th 2009. In this press release Kirsty Williams says quite clearly,in response to the Holtham Report,“The Westminster Government needs to act immediately” .

    She also says “.... We have long argued that the Barnett formula is not fit for purpose and needs to be replaced with a fairer system.”

    So it would seem that the Welsh Liberal Democrats no longer think that Westminster needs to act immediately on Barnett reform. Instead they are advocating yet another commission to look into it.

    Is it any wonder that people have a perception that politicians just talk about things and don’t actually do anything?

    Dewi Un


    Thursday, 20 May 2010

    Playing politics with the referendum

    Today, this morning to be more precise, Carwyn Jones finally let us all know that he is in favour of an Autumn referendum – late October if possible. Not only has he set out his preference for the date but he’s kindly provided Cheryl Gillan with a potential preamble and question:

    “At the moment the Assembly can make laws about some, but not all, things which only affect people in Wales.

    Parliament has decided that the Assembly should be able to pass its own laws for Wales on all devolved subjects. But this can only happen if voters in Wales support this in a referendum.

    The devolved subjects include health and social services, housing, education and local government. The laws could not be about social security, defence or foreign affairs.

    Do you want the Assembly to have the power now to pass laws on all the subjects which are devolved to Wales?



    Is it coincidence or design that it is now Carwyn Jones decides to act on this issue? Now that the Secretary of State is from another party? A party that has struggled to fight off its traditional anti devolution stereotype. Surely Mr Jones isn’t playing politics with this issue?

    But you have to ask if Peter Hain was still in office would the First Minister have made such an announcement? What Carwyn Jones’s statement does is put pressure on the Secretary of State to ‘push through’ the referendum process to try and ensure an Autumn vote. If (as I suspect will happen) the vote is sometime after October 2010 expect Welsh Labour to start accusing the ConDem coalition of ‘blocking’ the vote.

    If Carwyn Jones has listened to anything that Mrs Gillan has said up to this point – or incidentally what she has said in response to his statement – then he knows that it’s unlikely the referendum will happen this October. Does this mean that the referendum is going to become a victim of cross boarder government squabbling? Is this the spirit of co-operation that we’ve all been hearing about recently?

    The cross party mudslinging has already begun. Peter Black of the Liberal Democrats (here) and Jonathan Morgan of the Conservatives (here) placing the blame of a delayed vote firmly at Peter Hain’s doorstep.

    It’s long been accepted that for a successful ‘YES’ campaign there needs to be good and strong teamwork between all the parties.

    Those who are hoping for that outcome will no doubt be pleased to see the spirit of co-operation getting off to such a good start…

    Dewi Un


    Tuesday, 18 May 2010

    Stop the press

    You might need to sit down for this one. The British press have mentioned devolved politics in Wales.

    See The Guardian AND The Telegraph.

    I know. It's a shocker.

    Dewi Tri


    Monday, 17 May 2010

    Jenny Randerson to step down

    News just in - Jenny Randerson to step down at the next Assembly elections.

    Here's her statement, analysis to follow later:

    "I have this weekend informed my local party executive that I do not intend to seek re-election in the Assembly Elections next May.

    This has not been an easy decision to make but after 12 years as AM for Cardiff Central, I believe it will be time to move on and find new challenges.

    While I made this decision some months ago, I felt it was important to get the General election out of the way before making this announcement to allow my local party to focus completely on the job at hand.

    I am delighted that I am making this announcement just days after we entered Government at a UK level with a strong reforming and liberal agenda.

    The Lib Dems entering UK government is something that I have been fighting for, for decades and I’m really pleased to be starting the process of handing over the baton with a feeling of “job done.”

    I do not intend to retire from politics completely and believe I have more to contribute however I also plan to have more time to spend with my young granddaughter and the rest of my family.

    It has been, and continues to be, a huge privilege to represent Cardiff Central. It would be hard to find a more diverse and vibrant place to live and represent. I have been an AM throughout the development of the Assembly and I have enjoyed helping to develop it as an institution.

    I have been lucky enough to have one of the most rewarding jobs imaginable and I continue to enjoy every single day of it.

    Enormous thanks must go to the Cardiff Central team of Lib Dem activists and to my staff who have worked hard to support me. I give my promise to my constituents that I will continue to work as hard as ever on their behalf in the remaining year of my term as an AM."

    Kirsty Williams response:

    “Jenny has been a devoted and hard working Assembly Member and an integral part of the Welsh Liberal Democrats. Her devotion to her constituents and to Welsh devolution cannot be underestimated and I was proud when she was the first private member to pass a Welsh law in the Assembly.

    “Her contribution to the party and Welsh politics has been considerable, first as a councillor in Cardiff and for the past decade, as an Assembly Member. As Culture Minister, she was responsible for implementing Iaith Pawb, the language strategy supporting and encouraging the Welsh language and establishing the Wales Millennium Centre. Jenny was also the first female Welsh Liberal Democrat to serve as a Welsh Minister in the Cabinet.

    “Among these achievements in government, Jenny’s lasting legacy will be her own legislation to ensure that school children in Wales are provided with healthy school meals and the fact that across Cardiff Central, there are many hundreds of people for whom she has made life better."

    Dewi Un


    Friday, 14 May 2010

    Smart Guy

    The Conservative management board are meeting today to decide what to do about Alun Cairns.

    The new MP for the Vale of Glamorgan announced earlier this week that he intends to step down as an Assembly Member.

    We have already seen a re-jigging of the Conservatives Assembly group in reaction to Alun Cairns’ departure – Nick Ramsay is taking over the roles of chief whip and business manager – a good promotion for the Monmouthshire AM and an indication perhaps of the high regard in which he is held by his Conservative colleagues.

    So what is there to discuss? Alun Cairns is a regional list member, so in the event of him leaving the next person on the list takes his place, no? Alun Cairns has tendered his resignation. The Conservative management board has said previously that AMs should resign if they get elected to Westminster. So it looks pretty clear that Mr Cairns won’t be doing a David Davies, or is it?

    Well as Betsan Powys hints here and Wales Home explains here it’s not that straight forward. So who is next on the list? Who ‘should’ be taking over form Alun Cairns?

    Well it’s none other than Mr Chris Smart.

    Don’t know who he is? Well in all honesty neither did I until a few days ago, but having spoken to a few people and done a bit of research, it’s pretty clear that he isn’t universally seen as an ideal replacement.

    Why’s that then?

    Well there’s a saying that says “all publicity is good publicity” – that’s not necessarily the case with Mr Smart here. Here are two excerpts from articles about him (full links here and here).

    “THE Tory leader of Porthcawl Town Council has been declared bankrupt.

    Coun Chris Smart, who held his Newton seat in May’s elections by just 14 votes, was declared bankrupt on June 6 by the High Court of Justice”
    – Glamorgan Gazette June 2008


    “... he was bound over to keep the peace after a series of bizarre incidents where he was said to have posed as a school inspector.

    Port Talbot magistrates were told Mr Smart stopped children in streets at Margam, Aberavon and Sandfields and asked them why they were not in school.

    In each instance the children had full authority to be out of school.

    On one occasion Mr Smart was alleged (emphasis added) to have made children bend and touch their toes and threatened to spank them with a cricket bat.

    Mr Smart, who at the time was 22, was bound over in the sum of £100 to keep the peace for two years.” – Western Mail March 2007

    He defended these actions by saying:

    "I was over-zealous at the time and I don't deny that... I was motivated purely by a desire to stop truancy." – Western Mail March 2007 (same article)

    The above article is about how his past has been used against Mr Smart before. In 2007 there was a series of anonymous leaflets produced. Read the whole article (link above) for the full context.

    We will find out by the end of today whether or not Mr Smart will take over from Alun Cairns in the Senedd. He is certainly “ready, willing and raring to go...”

    I suppose we’ll also find out if “all publicity is good publicity”...

    Dewi Un


    Thursday, 13 May 2010

    The other side of Cheryl Gillan

    In response to my fellow Dewi's questioning of Cheryl Gillan's appointment as Welsh Secretary, I've taken the time to think about why we perhaps shouldn't pre-judge her tenure...

    The appointment of an MP from an English constituency as Welsh Secretary does indeed lack the “sensitivity” Peter Hain refers to. But is there actually any more to it than that? In practice, does the fact Cheryl Gillan got the job over her 8 Welsh Tory colleagues or 3 Welsh Lib Dem colleagues make any difference?

    Firstly, if one wanted to start an argument about Ms Gillan’s Welsh credentials they might start by pointing out that the fact she was born in Cardiff, has Welsh ancestry and has (apparently) sung the national anthem on the radio puts her in a far better position than her Conservative predecessors (and indeed Nairobi-born Peter Hain who was parachuted into the safe seat of Neath for a by-election in 1991). But I for one actually think this argument is largely irrelevant.

    Cheryl Gillan will ultimately be judged on the job she will do not where she lives or where she comes from. What the Conservative party were really judged on in Wales in the 1980s and 1990s was record unemployment and little regard for Wales as a nation. Things have changed. The Conservative party has certainly changed – from a party that was vehemently against a Welsh Assembly in 1997 to a party at least divided on the issue (with, I think it’s safe to say, the majority of Tory AMs being largely in favour of devolving more powers).

    So down to work for Cheryl Gillan then! I reckon there’ll be 2 jobs (entirely within her control) that will determine her success or failure:

    1. Giving Wales a referendum on further devolution to the Welsh Assembly. Peter Hain has had this one in his in-tray for a couple of months now and there’s been little movement. Cheryl Gillan said she would get it done and if she gets the wheels in motion quickly, fulfilling her promise, there could be a referendum in the autumn (the successful passage of which does, to some extent, reduce the role of the SoS)

    2. Relationship with the Assembly – a much tougher needle to thread! It won’t have escaped anyone’s notice that the two parties in Government in Westminster are the two parties in opposition in the Assembly – laying the foundations for a name-calling, buck-passing and fractious relationship. If the new Secretary of State can manoeuvre that minefield with any degree of success it will bode very well for her amongst her colleagues at the very least. I should point out that in our time around Cardiff Bay Cheryl Gillan has been a far more familiar face around the place than Peter Hain or Paul Murphy

    Cheryl Gillan will also undoubtedly be judged on how successful the British government are in boosting the Welsh economy and tackling any number of other national issues so you really have to ask: what difference will the location of Ms Gillan’s constituency have? Probably not a lot.

    Dewi Tri


    Cheryl, Chezza, Chegsy e.t.c...

    Well, so much to talk about and so little time.

    However for now I’d like to focus on one lady in particular - Cheryl Gillan. The new Secretary of State for Wales polarises opinion and made me choke on my Curlywurly when it became clear that she was to take over from Peter Hain.

    Why’s that I hear you cry? She was shadow Secretary of State for ages and so it makes perfect sense for her to get the job. Well I choked on my Curlywurly because:

    As I’m sure you’re all well aware Mrs Gillan represents the good people of Chesham and Amersham, now last time I checked that was not a Welsh constituency. Surely the Secretary of State for Wales should be accountable to a Welsh constituency? Considering that she makes decisions that directly affects Welsh voters? Are the people of Chesham and Amersham happy that Mrs Gillan will spend all of her non-Westminster time here in Wales? Will she spend all of it in Wales? If she doesn’t - that can’t be fair on the people here either?

    What I find strangest about this decision is that it’s not like they don’t have other options. How demoralising must it be for the 11 MPs that represent the governing coalition in Westminster that not one of them was deemed up to the job? Are they that badly thought of by Dave and Nick?

    Word on the street is that David Cameron has a bit of a soft spot for Mrs Gillan and given that 90% of the new cabinet are middle aged white men here was a chance to get another woman into the mix. Is that good enough reasoning?

    Can you see them taking the same approach in Scotland? Didn’t think so...

    As Daran Hill points out here – the next Assembly elections are going to be tough for the Liberal Democrats in Wales and this can’t help, being associated with an ‘English’ Welsh secretary is not likely to be a vote winner.

    Here’s what Kirsty Williams had to say on Mrs Gillan’s appointment:

    “Commenting on Cheryl Gillan's appointment as Secretary of State for Wales, Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats said:

    "I wish Cheryl well in her job. The real test for her now is to show how committed she is to Welsh devolution. Cheryl Gillan has to stand up for the people of Wales and give us a say on how we want our devolution to proceed. An early referendum on further law making powers for Wales will be her first test." “

    Hardly a ringing endorsement of her new ‘partner’ I think you’ll agree.

    I suppose I shouldn’t really be surprised. Cheryl Gillan has been in the Assembly and around Wales a lot over the past few years and has played a prominent role with the Welsh Conservatives.

    However given she had been ‘unable’ to attend the BBC's Welsh leaders debate. Plus the fact that there are 11 Welsh MPs to choose from (even some Welsh speaking conservatives!). I just thought it was curtains for Cheryl.

    Cue the John Redwood comparisons

    Dewi Un


    A new kind of Politics....Cymru!

    Yes! We're back blogging.

    It's been such an incredible few weeks for British politics and the coming months are set to make history in Welsh politics (it's almost time for an Assembly election you know!) - and so the Dewis can't keep away! We have been about in these past couple of months (you'll notice my fellow Dewi's recent take on what a hung Parliament means for Cardiff for instance- see here and here) but haven't been on Politics Cymru in far too long.

    At the moment it doesn't look like the podcast will be back which we're both quite disappointed about but when we can we are going to aim to have some bits of audio and video so we can keep one of our favourite bits about the blog going. You'll notice we've spruced the place up a bit...but not too much and we've got a new list of What We Read down the left hand side.

    We'll be getting down to business later this afternoon and we'll be back (with a bit of luck) in the coming weeks and months with more insight into the world of Welsh politics - looking forward to it!

    Thanks for your continued support

    Dewi Tri


    Friday, 12 March 2010


    You may recall this exchange between Bethan Jenkins and Peter Black on Twitter a few months ago.

    Now, not to be left out, British politicians are getting in on the act.

    Witness John Prescott vs Clwyd West’s own David Jones earlier:

    DavidJonesMP Just heard @johnprescott in my constituency today. Hope he comes another couple of times before polling day. Will do me no end of good.

    JohnPrescott @davidjonesmp Thanks for promoting my visit. Why don't you come & debate with me & Donna Hutton in Abergele at 2.45 IF you're in your seat!

    DavidJonesMP @johnprescott no, I'm actually working in Westminster. And don't you notify colleagues of visits to their constituencies?

    JohnPrescott @davidjonesmp Why don't you send your mate Ashcroft? He bought the seat for you last time

    DavidJonesMP @johnprescott and how much is Unite bunging Labour?

    DavidJonesMP @johnprescott mind you, I suppose Clwyd West's loss is Hull's gain. They must welcome the relief.

    JohnPrescott Unite members pay tax in this country. Shame your fella doesn't RT @davidjonesmp

    DavidJonesMP@johnprescott still I'm disappointed you didn't write to say you were coming. Haven't you got a diary secretary to do that?

    Democracy at its best? Awaiting any further comebacks...

    Dewi Tri


    Friday, 26 February 2010

    The Assembly or the Assembly?

    If ever there was any doubt that the names of the Welsh Assembly Government and the National Assembly for Wales are a cause of mass-confusion try searching Google with the specific search term National Assembly for Wales:


    So’s everyone else.

    Dewi Tri


    Wednesday, 17 February 2010

    How long does it take to write a letter?

    I’m sure as First Minister there’s a lot to do.

    Searching for your security pass takes it’s time. And there are all those Plenary sessions to attend on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (not this week though because it is the half-term recess after all).

    But amongst all that chaos, one would imagine Carwyn Jones might find an hour in the course of a week to sit down and draft a few pages to Mr Hain at the Wales Office to formally let him know the Assembly have approved a referendum vote on further law-making powers .

    I guess not.

    Dewi Tri


    Monday, 15 February 2010

    Try, Try Again?

    Last week 3 whole LCOs were given Royal Assent and power was transferred to the Assembly.

    This week it’s likely we’re going to be back talking about the sticky and (ever so slightly prolonged) LCO process...

    A few months ago I wrote a blog about the re-writing of the Affordable Housing LCO and its reintroduction as the Sustainable Homes LCO.

    I said that the Assembly Government were optimistic that this LCO would have an easier ride through the Welsh Affairs Select Committee because “the powers asked for in the Affordable Housing LCO were too specific and so they [the WASC] ended up scrutinising the laws the Assembly could make instead of asking whether or not they should get the powers to make them.”

    Turns out the WASC aren’t so keen on the powers being transferred actually – or at least the Conservative members aren’t.

    Well if at first you don’t succeed...

    Dewi Tri


    Wednesday, 10 February 2010

    Some thoughts on the Assembly vote

    Hello everyone! Many apologies for the light-blogging of late - there are good excuses I assure you!

    But yesterday's vote at the Senedd has probably not escaped your notice - and as the vote was passed the press released came flooding our way - here's what the 'big players' made of yesterday's vote:

    Dafydd-Elis-Thomas (Presiding Officer):

    "This is an historic day in the journey that is devolution in Wales,” said Presiding Officer, Lord Dafydd-Elis-Thomas AM.

    "It will now be up to the people of Wales, provided the Secretary of State for Wales agrees, to decide whether we move to the next phase of devolution."

    Carwyn Jones (First Minister):

    "“I believe this Assembly has shown - and this government has shown - that we can handle legislation responsibly. We have shown that we can deliver quality Welsh laws that can make a real difference to people’s lives in Wales. Today’s vote seeks to build on the real and tangible benefits that devolution has delivered for the people of Wales over the last decade."

    Ieuan Wyn Jones (Deputy First Minister):

    "People in Wales now believe that it is the Assembly rather than any other legislature which should make most of the decisions that affect their daily lives. And I am confident that if you ask people should the Assembly have more tools to do the job more effectively, then most people in Wales would say ‘yes’.

    "If the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Scottish Parliament have powers to make laws without having to seek the consent from Westminster, then why should it be any different for us in Wales.

    "We are proud that we have brought legislation closer to the people of Wales. But we know we can do more with the proper tools. We want to make laws in Wales, for Wales."

    Peter Hain (Secretary of State for Wales):

    "Carwyn and I have been working very closely together over the past two months to make progress on this issue. I fully support the First Minister's approach and now look forward to receiving his letter so I can begin the necessary preparatory work to take this forward. In the meantime, as Carwyn and I have said jointly, we both agree that the priority in the coming months will be the General Election, the outcome which will be so important for Wales. We must secure economic recovery for Wales, not choke it off with hasty cuts to Government spending.‬"

    Kirsty Williams (Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats):

    "While the General Election and issues such as the economy, our health service and schools must take precedence over procedural issues, this doesn’t mean that the yes campaign cannot start getting organised so that we can be quick out of the blocks when the referendum is called.

    "Any campaign for the referendum must make it clear that the next step is not about independence and will not result in more spending on the Assembly – but that it will simply give Wales the tools to do the jobs we were elected to do – to make lives better for people in Wales"

    Nick Bourne (Leader of the Welsh Conservatives):

    "Today’s vote will enable people on both sides of the argument to have their say on the way Wales is governed.

    "What is important now is that we get clarity and a resolution to the current unsatisfactory LCO procedure so the Assembly can get to grips with the issues that matter to the people of Wales."

    Elfyn LLwyd (Plaid Cymru leader in Westminster):

    "It is clear from the three years that it has taken for Westminster to transfer legislation to Cardiff on the Welsh language, sustainable housing and the environment that the current LCO method of transferring powers is slow and unwieldy.

    "Moreover the complex LCO system prevents the Assembly from taking ‘prompt action’.

    "A positive outcome for the referendum will mean that Wales has a faster, more efficient and less wasteful system that serves our communities much better."

    So Mr Hain! It's over to you...

    Dewi Tri


    Tuesday, 12 January 2010

    Is This Misleading?

    You've seen them, you can’t move without coming across one of David Cameron’s much talked about posters. They’re big, they’re snazzy and they’re part of the first salvo in the general election campaign, but do they mislead the people of Wales? (see one here)

    The thrust of David Cameron’s message is that should he become Prime Minister he would protect NHS spending saying “Ill cut the deficit not the NHS”. Given that health is devolved, and the decision on NHS funding here in the hands of the WAG, does DC’s poster mislead? Is this not a false promise? There may be people in Wales who decide to vote Conservative because of this pledge, how annoyed will they be when they discover that he has no direct control over how much the Assembly spends on the NHS?

    We asked Nick Bourne this very question earlier today and he didn’t seem to think that the posters are misleading. After reminding us that his party was unionist in its outlook, he told us that it’s important to remember that the decision on how much money the Assembly gets to spend ultimately comes from the UK Government. He also told us that that Newport and Cardiff get a lot of cross border travel from England, so no the posters are not misleading.

    Mr Bourne also said that he had not received a single complaint about the posters, so they must be fine. When then questioned about the lack of understanding amongst the people of Wales about who does what post devolution he suggested that most people knew what the deal is, and that in any case it was up to media to make it clear for them.

    We try our best to clarify here at Politics Cymru so here we go.

    Yes the cash given to the Assembly comes from central government. So should David Cameron win the general election and ring fence NHS spending then the Barnett consequential for health would remain the same.

    But that doesn’t mean that DC can guarantee that Welsh NHS funding stays the same. The consequentials decide how much money is in the Assembly’s pot but it’s then up to the Assembly to dish it out. If they choose to halve the health budget (which is very doubtful!) then they can.

    Does that not mean that these posters are muddying the waters?

    I don’t mean to single the conservative party out here, this is the first of many slipups that I foresee happening during the general election. You can bet your house that over the course of the next few months all parties will make announcements and statements here which are not directly applicable, interesting I’m sure, but relevant?

    It also throws up the question of when the leadership debates are in full swing and education policy is being discussed, for example, can we expect to see some text scrolling across the bottom of the screen reading: Not applicable in Scotland and Wales.

    Food for thought

    Dewi Un