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


New Committee Members

I’m sure there's some people out there who are genuinely interested in who sits on certain committees in the Assembly. So for that silent majority here’s a list of some changes to those committees.

Legislation Committee No.1 - Val Lloyd AM (Labour) in place of Huw Lewis AM (Labour).

Legislation Committee No.2 - Rhodri Morgan AM (Labour) and Lynne Neagle AM (Labour) in place of Jeff Cuthbert AM (Labour) and Sandy Mewies AM (Labour).

Legislation Committee No.3 - Joyce Watson AM (Labour) in place of Janice Gregory AM (Labour).

Legislation Committee No.4 - Christine Chapman AM (Labour) and Brian Gibbons AM (Labour) in place of Lorraine Barrett AM (Labour) and Joyce Watson AM (Labour).

Legislation Committee No.5 - Andrew Davies AM (Labour) in place of Lesley Griffiths AM (Labour).

Subordinate Legislation Committee - Rhodri Morgan AM (Labour) in place of Joyce Watson AM (Labour).

Enterprise and Learning Committee - Andrew Davies AM (Labour) and Brian Gibbons AM (Labour) in place of Huw Lewis AM (Labour) and Sandy Mewies AM (Labour).

Communities and Culture Committee - Sandy Mewies AM (Labour), Alun Davies AM (Labour) and Mohammed Asghar AM (Conservative) in place of Janice Gregory AM (Labour), Lesley Griffiths AM (Labour) and Alun Cairns AM (Conservative).

Sustainability Committee - Irene James AM (Labour) and Joyce Watson AM (Labour) in place of Alun Davies AM (Labour) and Lesley Griffiths AM (Labour).

Public Accounts Committee - Alun Davies AM (Labour), Jeff Cuthbert AM (Labour) and Sandy Mewies AM (Labour) in place of Janice Gregory AM (Labour), Lesley Griffiths AM (Labour) and Huw Lewis AM (Labour).

Finance Committee - Lorraine Barrett AM (Labour), Andrew Davies AM (Labour) and Brian Gibbons AM (Labour) in place of Alun Davies AM (Labour), Huw Lewis AM (Labour) and Joyce Watson AM (Labour).

European and External Affairs Committee - Rhodri Morgan AM (Labour) in place of Sandy Mewies AM (Labour).

Equality of Opportunity Committee - Mohammed Asghar AM (Conservative) in place of Jonathan Morgan AM (Conservative).

Children and Young People Committee - Sandy Mewies AM (Labour) and Joyce Watson AM (Labour) in place of Christine Chapman AM (Labour) and Lynne Neagle AM (Labour).

Petitions Committee - Christine Chapman AM (Labour) in place of Val Lloyd AM (Labour).

Business Committee – Jane Hutt AM (Labour) in place of Carwyn Jones AM (Labour).

Dewi Un


Friday, 8 January 2010

Cameron in Wales Video

Following my colleague's earlier post, here's a look at David Cameron's trip to Newport.

Dewi Tri


Cameron in the Port...

It can’t be often that a Newport City Council depot comes to a standstill because a flock of journalists turn up. That was the case this lunchtime however, the journalists arriving in force for David Cameron’s flash visit.

Cameron spent his time meeting local AM Mohammad Asghar as well as the guys who have been out and about gritting the roads, he seemed genuinely interested to find out how they’ve been getting on. He was in and out faster than you could say “marriage tax proposals” off to do more press events and I suspect have some meetings about Conservative strategy in Wales.

Although his visit can only be described as a flying one it shows that Wales is no longer a no go area for the Conservatives. On the way from Cardiff to Newport we came across 3 different Cameron posters, which shows they’re spending money here. There also seems to be an air of confidence around the party in Wales now and they seem to genuinely believe they can return 10+ MPs and are actively campaigning hard here.

It’s often said that David Cameron is a good communicator and you could see why today. He looked happy and comfortable talking to the local councillors and to the boys driving the gritters. His presence here will help those door knocking for the Welsh Conservatives fight the accusation that their party is too South East-centric.

We all know that the Conservative pre-electioneering has started, today it came to Wales. The only question know is, will it be enough.

Dewi Un


Thursday, 7 January 2010

The Welsh Election

It’s unlikely to have passed you by: it’s an election year!

With so many Welsh MPs standing down, the political landscape here will certainly change, but with the Conservatives polling so well and Plaid Cymru offering a real challenge to Labour in several seats, the landscape could well change beyond all recognition.

This blog is an overview of the whole country as we head into an election year like we’ve never seen before...

Gwynedd and Anglesey

Major Plaid target area. There are currently 4 seats covering Gwynedd and Anglesey – 2 of which are held by Labour and 2 by Plaid. Next time around there are only going to be 3 seats: Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Arfon and Ynys Mon. All 3 of the corresponding seats are held by Plaid in the Assembly. However, Ynys Mon is by no means a cert for Plaid. Albert Owen is popular on the island and has been very vocal on Anglesey Aluminium and Wylfa B. Llais Gwynedd might just throw a spanner in the works in the Gwynedd seats – they won’t win, but they could well take key Plaid votes in rural wards which could upset the nationalists in Dwyfor Meirionnydd (but whether it’d be enough to stop Elfyn Llwyd is unlikely).

North Wales Coast

Labour would dearly love to win back Clwyd West but the Conservative strongholds along the coast to the west of Rhyl are likely to come out strong. The new Aberconwy constituency will prove very interesting. Plaid are stronger in the southern parts like Betws y Coed, but the Conservatives are very strong in the most populated part which is Llandudno and Labour also have some support along the coast to the west. The corresponding seat’s held by Plaid in the Assembly but Labour hold the current Conwy seat which covers big parts of the new constituency (although incumbent Betty Williams won’t be standing again and boundary changes mean that Labour-strong Bangor isn’t in Aberconwy). It’s a seat all 3 parties want but both Labour and Plaid’s priorities are elsewhere while the Tories are very serious about it!

North East

It’s all Labour right now and if they have a really bad night they could face losing Wrexham. The Liberal Democrats are targeting the seat and that party often prove popular in university towns but Wrexham politics aren’t quite that simple; for instance there are 5 separate independent groupings on the council. It was also the first Welsh Assembly constituency to elect an independent back in 2003 (incumbent John Marek). The Conservatives might fancy their chances in Vale of Clwyd and Clwyd South (the latter of which being Martyn Jones’ constituency and he’s one of those standing down at the next election). Prestatyn (one of the primary population centres in the Vale) is a Conservative area and if the Tories can get out their base here they could be in for a big win.


Both the Powys seats are held by the Liberal Democrats. They’re interesting electorally: the further west you get (Machynlleth for instance in Montgomeryshire) the more liberal it seems to be. The Conservatives, though, are strong in the most eastern parts of the constituencies (in the villages around Welshpool for instance). The colourful Lembit Opik is the sitting MP in Montgomeryshire and his main challenger is the Conservative Glyn Davies. Plaid are in the mix in the constituency as well; especially in those western areas and a strong showing by them is probably more likely to hurt Lembit. Roger Williams’ Brecon and Radnor seat will probably be seen as safer by the Lib Dems but a strong showing by Conservatives in the more southern and eastern areas could provide an upset.


A unique seat in that it’s the only Lib Dem/Plaid marginal. Most people will tell you Plaid are a shoe-in but the Lib Dems are confident of retaining the seat. Plaid’s base is the agriculture industry who have their favourite minister (Elin Jones) serving as the local AM, Plaid are also confident they’ll be able to get more student voters out next time in Aberystwyth. The seat will be won and lost in the southern towns – they’re more traditionally Conservative areas. The Lib Dems are banking on their “Tories can’t win here” strategy to win over these voters.

West Wales

The Conservatives will be confident of retaining Preseli Pembrokeshire and gaining Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (they hold both seats in the Assembly and they don’t need a huge swing in Carms West). If you’ve been to Llanelli recently the Plaid stamp on the town in unmistakeable. It’s one of those seats they’d love to win and stand a strong chance of doing so (we’ve written a whole blog about Llanelli in the past and it’s certainly worth a read).

Swansea and around

A Labour stronghold if ever there was one! The Lib Dems will hope to replicate their 2005 success in Cardiff Central in Swansea West this time around. Alan Williams has been a very popular member in that seat for decades but even his majority was hit hard in 2005 and with him off, as well as his Assembly counterpart Andrew Davies, the Liberals could stand a real chance. The Conservatives will have half an eye on Bridgend and Gower. They saw quite tight Assembly races in 2007 but, truth be told, it’s a bit of a mountain for the Tories to climb.

Further East...

Vale of Glamorgan is one of the seats the Tories really need. David Cameron’s been there on his Cameron Direct tour and experienced Assembly Member Alun Cairnes is the candidate. It’s a constituency which has (almost always) stuck with the party of government – this could be Wales’ best example of a bellwether constituency. At the end of last year, Kim Howells announced he’d be standing down in Pontypridd (as is Jane Davidson his Assembly counterpart) which might mean the Lib Dems could be in with a chance there – a slim one nonetheless.


The Central and West constituencies are likely to stay the same (in the hands of the Lib Dems and Labour respectively). But in the North and South (and Penarth) the Tories are looking to make gains. In Cardiff North it was a very close race between Julie Morgan and Jonathan Morgan last time around but the other Jonathan (Jonathan Evans that is) could well do the job for the Tories in 2010. Alun Michael has a healthy majority in Cardiff South and Penarth but that’s not deterring the Conservatives who are going on national issues to attack Labour here. The development of Cardiff Bay in the past decade has seen a fair few young professionals moving to this constituency giving it a higher proportion of middle-class voters. This could well be one of Labour’s “big upsets”.

South East

No change? Newport and the Valleys are Labour strongholds and have been for years. They’re unlikely to see a change but Newport West might be worth watching, it’s one of those the Conservatives would like to win but don’t need to win. Monmouth and Blaenau Gwent are probably not going to go Labour anytime soon. Plaid would like to make a dent somewhere in this region (as they did in the early days of the Assembly) but they have bigger fish to fry in the north and west...

If I had to take an educated guess, I’d say Labour will come away with 21 seats out of 40 after the next election (they've currently got 29). I think the Lib Dems will also lose out, coming away with just 3 seats (down from 4). I’d give Plaid 5 (2 more than they have right now) and the Tories will be the big winners hitting double figures - I’d give them 10 (up from just 3).

It’s a tough call as there are so many interesting races here.

I have no idea how wide of the mark I’m going to be and it could all change before May – a week may be a long time, but a campaign is a lifetime in politics...

Dewi Tri


Wednesday, 6 January 2010

An open goal

There's either something really clever going on or Ms Hewitt and Mr Hoon's campaign is just what it seems.

Already other parties are reacting (Eric Pickles, Chairman of the Conservative Party, could hardly contain himself on Sky News this lunchtime).

For a Welsh angle, Elfyn Llwyd isn't impressed at all:

"This petty internal squabbling amongst Labour MPs only emphasises how out of touch they are.

"With Wales fighting a severe recession, and many people continuing to lose their jobs, Labour’s priorities today are unsavoury to say the least.

"Meanwhile the Tories seem to have arrogantly assumed that the election is a forgone conclusion while Wales still bears the deep scars of previous Conservative governments.

"There is little choice between the two parties and both have proved they are incapable of defending Wales. Brown’s leadership battle means very little to Welsh communities. This government should be getting on with tackling the precarious state of the economy.

While the Liberal Democrats take a similar line.

Danny Alexander MP says:

"Labour has given up any hope of winning this election and given up on governing the country.

"Labour MPs are now in a desperate scrabble to save their own seats and minimise their defeat.

"People have no reason to vote for a party that’s failed to deliver fairness, failed to fix the rotten political system and failed on the environment. The only party to vote for in the next election if you want a fairer society is the Liberal Democrats.

"The country doesn’t need a secret a ballot to get rid of Gordon Brown, it needs a General Election.

There's been some speculation that might be coming sooner rather than later but there's hardly been a flurry of support for this coup so far...

Dewi Tri


It’s as if they want to lose...

Today we have seen the Labour party once again going out of their way to shoot themselves squarely in the foot. Just when they were clawing their way back in the opinion polls, just when the bookies had been reducing the odds on a hung parliament, just when Conservative credentials were under fire and just when the air of competence was returning to the party they go and undermine it all by starting a mud-slinging session.

The move by Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt to reopen the Labour leadership issue and put Gordon Brown’s position in doubt cannot be helpful to the party as a whole. Things for Labour have been getting better (very very slowly I admit,) even today Brown had the better of Cameron and Clegg in PMQ’s, but instead of starting to build momentum Brown is once again on the defensive focusing on his own position as opposed to attacking the other parties.

The Conservatives must be loving it. The former cabinet Ministers have done their work for them, now there will be wall to wall coverage of the possible Coup giving the Tories a chance to escape the heat that was coming their way after their Marriage Tax debacle. It also gives them more ammunition to throw at Brown in the lead up to an election. This proposed secret ballot weakens the Prime Minister, and therefore the Labour party, just months before an election.

I wonder what Hoon and Hewitt’s end game is? Who do they have in mind to take over? Given that the election will be won and lost on the economy who do they think is better placed than Gordon Brown to win the economic argument for them? The letter also says that a ballot would unify the party, but does such a ballot really create a sense of unity? Or more importantly portray a unified party to the country?

Whatever happens next the Labour party will now have to waste energy infighting rather than doing other things like tackling recession and trying to win an election.

I have just heard on BBC News 24 the first call for an early election I suspect there will be a lot more throughout the day.

Sometimes something’s in politics baffle you – this move at this time is one of them.

You can read the letter here, maybe you’ll understand how Hoon and Hewitt thought this would help the Labour Party.

Dewi Un


Tuesday, 5 January 2010

What’s in those minutes?

Recently a decision made by the information commissioner to disclose copies of minutes relating to the Cabinet Sub Committee on Devolution to Scotland and Wales was vetoed by Jack Straw. To put this into context it’s only the second time that the ministerial veto has been used to stop minutes becoming public knowledge. The only other time was relating to cabinet meeting in the run up to the Iraq war.

That just makes me wonder what must contained within those minutes? Why would Jack Straw bother to stop publication unless something was said and or done that is really juicy. The reasoning behind Mr Straw’s decision is that disclosure of the notes would be “damaging to the doctrine of collective responsibility” and whilst he felt that disclosure would ” improve the public’s understanding of the committee’s work and devolution issues” ultimately public interest was best served by non-disclosure. He also felt that the case was “exceptional” and so fell well within his remit and allowed him to veto.

If the case was “exceptional” then there must be some real juice tucked away in those minutes! Especially given that most MPs outside the nations find devolution a boring hum-drum issue, so something must have been said to make Jack Straw sit up, take notice and lock the minutes away.

It’s a decision that has frustrated some. Not least Christopher Graham the Information Commissioner himself who says in his report:

“Laying this report before is an indication of the Commissioner’s concern to ensure that the exercise of the veto does not go unnoticed by Parliament and, it is hoped, will serve to underline the Commissioner’s view that the exercise of the ministerial veto in any future case should be genuinely exceptional.”

Plaid Cymru are also annoyed with the decision, Elfyn Llwyd added:

“This must be deeply embarrassing for the Government and by refusing to publish suggests there must be some dynamite in those minutes. I cannot see how it is in the public interest to refuse to let the public see the process and thinking behind how the devolution settlement was put together...

It appears that we will be unable to discover what happened in the discussions on devolution in 1997, despite the Information Commissioner’s initial decision that the public interest in disclosure was greater than that in refusing publication.”

You can read the whole report here and make up your own mind as to whether or not the minutes should have been hidden or not.

It does make me wonder, what’s in those minutes?

Dewi Un


Monday, 4 January 2010

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda – Happy New Year

First things first – all of us here at Politicscymru hope you all had a very happy Christmas and wish you a prosperous 2010.

Now to business. Back at work today busy trawling through the press releases that have gone unread over the past week. Carwyn Jones’ new year message was one such presser. Whilst containing nothing particularly groundbreaking the new First Minister had the following to say:

“2010 will see us looking to gain more powers for the Assembly to use for the benefit of the people of Wales” (Emphasis added)

So, is this the beginning of a new Welsh Labour line on the referendum? On its own probably not, but coupled with this statement from the new counsel-general it could be that Carwyn Jones is looking to make amends for his party’s recent flaky stance on the referendum date.

It’s a move that will no doubt help cement the ‘One Wales’ agreement, which has been on dodgy ground in recent months. Remember the deal was made between Rhodri and Ieuan not Carwyn so a change of stance on the referendum issue would no doubt help smooth the transition process, and appease any Plaid members who are still hankering for rebellion.

We’ll find out pretty quickly if Carwyn and his team are going to push for that Autumn referendum because they will need to start the ball rolling by the end of the month. Politically it makes perfect sense for Carwyn Jones to put his money where his mouth is. It can’t be worth risking the wrath of the opposition parties on this most contentious issue in his first few weeks in charge.

Whilst we sense a change in the air, no-one can be a 100% certain that the polcy has changed or is changing apart from Carwyn himself.

What we are certain of is that the clock ticking.

Dewi Un