Sunday, February 24, 2008

Do AMs work as hard as MPs?

Trawling my favourite blogs tonight after a weekend away and I see that Miss Wagstaffe has a photograph up of a full chamber in the House of Commons for Prime Minister's Questions. 'Sights you don't see in the Senedd' she/he entitles it. Not sure this is fair. There are around 650 (don't know exactly) against 60 and they can sit where they want, while AMs have their own individual seats. And there's only room for around 400 (don't know this exactly either) on the green benches anyway. And there is the problem that the front row seats are reserved for Ministers who tend not to be there.

But there is another reason, which was one of the issues that Alun Davies and I discussed with Patrick Hanaan on Called to Order last Friday. And that is the sheer boringness of some of the exchanges. The clips that Patrick used were Rhodri and Nick Bourne having a verbal joust, over several questions and answers when they seemed to totally agree with each other. It did sound a bit silly. I had to agree that the aspect of Assembly activity that I didn't miss were the 'Questions to Ministers' sessions - especially FMQs. Main problem is that everything is so contrived or so predictable or so repetitive. If a question is at all interesting, Rhodri won't answer it. And he gets away with it, because he has the most amazing headful of facts and information that he can talk for so long about any subject under the sun that he can totally anaesthetise the brain of the questioner and the listening public.

I must admit that I resented having to sit in the Chamber listening to what passes for questions and answers, which rarely provided any new information, when I had a stack of work to do in my office. What happens of course is that AMs bring work down to the Chamber with them. Ministers might even be caught signing Xmas cards! AMs might even be caught blogging!


Anonymous said...

The problem is that the Assembly in trying to be different to the UK Parliament introduced an 'after you Claude' style of politics in the chamber. Calling each other by your first name doesn't help. It is boring and frankly uninspiring. The simple fact is when Rhodri calls Nick Bourne by his first name and Bourne does the same then many people will assume that either they are friends or they are in the same party. The design of the chamber also doesn't help. Welsh politics needs personalities. Unfortunately the way in which political parties now select their candidates seems designed to ensure that anyone who thinks outside the box or isn't on message is excluded. This isn't good for Wales and politics in general. Just look at the 4 potential candidates for Labour in next year's European election. The are hardly likely to cause anyone to use their votes.

Glyn Davies said...

anon - Good comment. Totally agree. I always tried to address Minister's as "Minister" and used surnames when referring to other members. The Christian name culture made the whole thing look amateurish. 'Sitting Room' politics I used to call it.

Frank H Little said...

Furthermore, the Great Welsh Helmsman has more notice of questions - at least of their subject matter - than the Prime Minister.

"Planted" questions seem to go on interminably, too.

In need of Inspiration said...

enjoyed you on Call to Order and Alun Daives and his Overload Class remarks make me giggle all weekend.

Agree with Patrick i think that shortening First Minister Question in both time and questions asked is a good idea and also it might be useful if the BBC/ITV and Press picked up on stories from First Minister Question and the Chamber once in a while that would help the image in the public's mind.

Glyn Davies said...

both - agreed. Problem is there is very little worth picking up. Anything remotely interesting would be released elsewhere so that the Government had more control. When the Assembly began, there was a strong media presence, but it has reduced because the material just isn't there

in need of inspiration said...

thanks for the reply Glyn, what a sad reflection on the Assembly and the Labour Party more generally for stifling debate, im not sure even the WAG Press release are reaching the general public.

all I would say is where are the individuals surposed to be interested enough in Wales to create the media outlets that are not aligned any party?

Southpaw Grammar said...

Planted questions are the real problem, there needs to be far greater scrutiny of what is being asked in my view. The 'lottery/draw' they operate in the assembly maybe fair, but it doesnt discriminate half decent and sycophantic questions.

'Will you join me minister in...insert something you couldnt disagree with'

Like Simon Hoggarth says- if something sounds utterly stupid when the opposite is said then you know it rubbish...

"I believe in a modern health service" is a classic, i mean who believes in a prehistoric one?

Glyn Davies said...

in need of - I do think there is not enough independent thought, but the major problem is that not enough of the debates make a difference. The hours I spent listening to debates about 'motherhood and apple' pie. When the vote really makes a difference, the standard of debate greatly improves. The most pathetic attempt to curtail any semblence of independence was the decision by the Labour machine to reprimand Lynne Neagle recently. And Southpaw Grammer, at its worst is the sycophantic question which is read out - and you had a close view of a few of those.

johnny foreigner said...

This clearly supports the cause of the NONE of THESE TURKEYS Party.

An election with a majority for the NoTT Party would certainly shake 'em up and remind them that the electorate are not the fools that they think we are.

Your pal.


Southpaw Grammar said...

"and you had a close view of a few of those."

I couldn't possibly know what you are referring to glyn! haha.

Glyn Davies said...

johnny - In my opinion, there is never a good case for a NOTT vote - but I do prefer the deliberate spoilt ballot paper to not voting at all. At least that expresses an opinion of sorts..

johnny foreigner said...

Spoilt ballot or None of These Turkeys, the sentiments are the same.

I just feel that NoTT provides a little cohesion for the disaffected.

NoTT is obviously an ad hoc affair without structure or formality but merely seeks to make the point that the mainstream parties just aren't listening.

I'm quite sure that a majority for NoTT or spoiled papers would bring a reality check to the politicians who seem to live in some unreal world that the electorate know nothing of.

Your pal.


Glyn Davies said...

Johnny - I'm not challenging your argument because its sound enough. But where it falls down is that it does not discriminate at all. If you look at a ballot paper and decide that none of them are acceptable, fair enough. But if there is one or more genuine candidate(s) and you apply the same principle, it hardy offers any incentive to anyone who might fit your bill from thinking about standing. Where's that going to get you?