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