Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Sunday, March 26, 2006
THE BBC's Politics Show has just reported some trade unions and Labour figures have approached Welsh and Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain to see where his ambitions lie in a post-Blair government.
The policies he passes in Northern Ireland have more in common with Rhodri Morgan's government in Cardiff Bay than Tony Blair's in Westminster - banning the 11-plus, for example.
Perhaps he would like to perform a John Prescott-type role - the Politics Show said - speaking up for the party at large?
Some might see traces of that in Mr Hain's pronouncements that Labour needed to renew its links with the grassroots and trade union movement, made at the Welsh Labour conference in Swansea last week.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
“It's nice when Team Wales can include the media,” she said.
Naturally everyone here is very proud of David, who is one of Ms Hutt's constituents. But what exactly is Team Wales? And how does one join? Do we have to line up against a wall while Rhodri Morgan picks a team, leaving the rubbish minsters, swimmers and journalists on the sidelines?
Reporters were not able to pose these supplementary questions as Ms Hutt had to dash off after a very brief briefing.
Team Wales is the name of the Welsh team at the Commonwealth Games. Why the Welsh team cannot be called “The Welsh Team”, or any other grammatically correct variation, is another question Ms Hutt was not asked.
But there is another group rejoicing under this name. This Team Wales is invoked by the Welsh Assembly Government when things go wrong. No announcement of job losses can be made without Economic Development (soon to be Enterprise) Minister Andrew Davies summoning Team Wales.
Team Wales is like the A-Team of the Welsh economy, springing into action at times of crisis to perform the economic equivalent of turning a rusty old combine harvester into a tank. My best guess is that this Team Wales is meant to describe the cooperation between the Assembly Government, councils, quangos and enterprise companies.
To which Team Wales is Ms Hutt referring? It's all very confusing, and just goes to show how an aversion to grammar could lead to the nightmare scenario of journalists swimming for Wales in Melbourne while swimmers are asked to attract inward investment.
Monday, March 20, 2006
Last week he reminded AMs why he is the two-time winner of an award for gobbledegook when he said Plaid Cymru's analysis of the impact of EU money on Wales was “like saying, if my aunty was a bloke, she would be my uncle”.
His off-the-cuff remarks can go askew, but when they work they get to the heart of the matter more effectively than the soundbytes other politicians spend hours crafting.
In a recent interview he talked about “The Three Bs”. They are not a 1960s beat combo, but proof of Labour's record, he said. They are the bill, the building and the budget.
Labour's Government of Wales Bill will deliver the prospect of full law-making powers for the Assembly. Labour has built the magnificent (if intermittently leaky) Senedd for the Assembly. And Labour secured another £1 billion to spend on reviving Wales's poorest communities through the EU budget.
But can Mr Morgan claim credit for these?
When the bill was published Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said it was a red-letter day for Wales. Strange. I seem to remember Mr Morgan using the same phrase to mark the publication of the Richard Commission report which recommended a bigger and more powerful Assembly than envisaged in Labour's bill. The bill is a politically clever piece of legislation, but it does little to answer critics who say it slows the process of devolution because MPs fear seeing their power handed to the Assembly ministers who crave it. It's a skip after the hop, when some wonder whether Mr Morgan might have preferred to proceed straight to the jump.
When the full powers do eventually arrive, assuming a referendum can be won, the debating chamber of the new Senedd will expand. It has space to accommodate more than the current 60 AMs, should they be too few to cope with the augmented legislative workload appropriate for Welsh democracy's new home. Its Royal opening on St David's Day saw the First Minister at his oratorical best, even teasing a smile from the Queen with a self-deprecating speech. This was despite him initially opposing the building. Now he says he's a convert. His insistence that it was delivered on time and on budget depends on your interpretation of “on time” and “on budget”.
And the budget. I'm not sure what part Rhodri Morgan played in the negotiations for the EU budget deal which brought another round of financial aid to Wales when it was struck late last year. As far as I'm aware it was Angela Merkel who salvaged Tony Blair's offer of a revised EU spending plan. Should the people of Wales return their Labour AMs to Cardiff Bay because the German Chancellor decided to boost her standing by throwing her weight behind the Prime Minister of Great Britain?
To convince them they should Mr Morgan will need all the rhetorical skill he demonstrated as Royal jester on March 1.