Sunday, November 09, 2008

Return of the Quangos.

Assembly Minister, Jane Davidson is clearly demob happy - and why not. Saying something 'outside the box' is usually healthy. But I don't agree with this. She has identified a problem, but has come to a conclusion that is both partisan and unacceptable. I watched today's interview on the BBC's Politics Show. I also knew about it because David Williamson of the Western Mail asked me what I thought of it sometime last week.

I agree with Jane that there's a problem with how Wales is governed. Because there are only 60 Assembly Members, elected from candidates who are selected by political party machines (except one), there is not much room for the individuals who have been successful in other fields, that Jane Davidson refers to - even if I'm not sure that we need too many 'celebrities'. It is the same old faces that are put in front of the cameras time after time. Its no surprise that the public switch off.

But Jane's idea of using the 20 'regional' Assembly seats to accommodate the new faces is not acceptable. Firstly, this idea is blatantly partisan - just the sort of 'tribalism' she objects to. Its not just a happy coincidence that only two of the twenty are held by Labour AMs. Now I'm not suggesting that this would stop Labour. After all this is the party that forced through the offensively partisan ban on dual candidacy, which was such an affront to democracy. Its just that no other party would accept it. And secondly, its no longer acceptable to have people sitting in our National Assembly who have not been elected by a genuine system of democracy.

Seems to me there are two ways this issue can be resolved. Firstly by establishing a 'Second Chamber' which would be, at least in part, 'nominated' - an idea about as appetising to the Welsh public as a rat sandwich. Or we could reinstate what we used to do until Jane's Government abolished it - appointing these special individuals to Assembly Sponsored Public Bodies, for limited periods to carry out Government objectives - within the confines of a 'Remit Letter'. Now, most people of stature are not going to be interested in being used as 'promotional' material, appointed just to give credibility to Assembly Government policy. There will have to be a good degree of independence. As far as I can see, Jane Davidson is making a case for establishing some high profile quangos.

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