Monday, April 06, 2009

How to smack a friend in the mouth.

This is one of the most disappointing posts that I've ever read on ConservativeHome. Despairing is probably a better adjective to use. How Wales is governed is a matter of great concern to me, and would be my principle interest if I were to be elected an MP. Though not directly connected to this issue, the 'row' has reinforced my opinion that the 2006 Government of Wales Act is the constitutional equivalent of a slow-motion car crash.

At the next General Election, I will be seeking election to the UK Parliament. Because of my almost obsessive interest in Welsh politics, many friends are surprised when I tell them that I would now prefer to be an MP than an Assembly Member. I explain to them that Wales is a part of the United Kingdom, that the National Assembly is a 'devolved' institution and a creation of the UK Parliament, and that I want to see our MPs enthusiastic about the creation of a successful and effective Assembly. It follows that I want there to be a stable UK constitution, which in turn spawns my enthusiasm for establishing a clear division of responsibilities. It is this approach that drives my belief that full law making powers should be transferred to the National Assembly in those policy areas that are devolved. The current position is, in my opinion, a constitutional crisis waiting to happen - and it seems that we won't have long to wait. Only last month, the Assembly's Presiding Officer was all over our TV screens talking about a complex matter concerning the transfer of power finishing up in the law courts. And now this. Thankfully, most of the media have signed off for Easter, so its unlikely that anyone outside the political 'village' will get to know about it. Let us look briefly at what's behind it.

A few days ago, the leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron announced that should he become Prime Minister, he would want to submit himself to questioning by the National Assembly for Wales. I thought this a big deal - though I admit to being unsure about how it be arranged. I was looking forwards to a constructive discussion about what form this proposed annual meeting would take. So much of what happens in the Assembly flows from decisions by the UK Government, that an annual meeting with the Prime Minister seemed to me to be a really positive commitment by David. But it seems not - to some. This is one part of how the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly of Wales responded.

"The idea that the Prime Minister of the UK can breeze in for a Q & A isn't allowed under our standing orders and I have no intention of changing it. He is the first minister of another Government in terms of our constitution. I would think that if those people were serious they would have looked at the constitution. It smacks a bit of paternal unionism."

HE has no intention of allowing such a thing. It seems that the other 59 AMs are of no significance whatsoever. I despair.


Anonymous said...

Well Glyn I read the post on Conservative Home ok, but the anti Welsh comments really hurt and disappointed me.
What can you do from inside your party to make people realise that we are a different country, we are entitled to make decisions for ourselves.
We are not spongers living off English taxes or a sub human race.
I so wish people could be nicer to each other in politics.

Anonymous said...

DET seems reasonable to me. The PO should not change things just because of an off the cuff statement from a Westminster politician. This is exactly the problem that Alun Michael created by beleiving that a power that had been devolved could be dictated to.

The PM being questioned by the Assembly would be a good thing. But it should be an offer not a command.

Anonymous said...

He's doing his job. Well done, say I.

Glyn Davies said...

VM - Comments are very often based on prejudice rather than any genuine understanding - so I do not worry about those. I don't really mind when politicians take up what is usually referred to as a 'robust' approach. What bothered me about this issue was that there did not seem to be a positive desire to engage and work out a solution that would be beneficial for Wales.

Anon - The PO is a servant of and elected to his position by the other 59 AMs. He has an opinion (and is one I would always respect) but I find it disappointing that he should have been so offensively dismissive of a proposal by the man who well be elected our next Prime Minsiter. I cannot comment on how the proposal was presented because I was not there to hear it. I believe that an annual meeting between AMs and the Prime Minister would be a positive development.

Dewi Harries said...

A friend eh....we'll see

Anonymous said...

This is what the Jerusalem Post once described Elis-Thomas's behavior: "It is not hard to locate the bigotry in Elis-Thomas's behaviour, the cosmic leap from disagreement to deafness".

Rodney Berman, the leader of Cardiff council, said Wales' Jewish community would be shocked at the "strident tone" of Lord Thomas's response.

In re Presiding Officer of the National Assembly of Wales refusal to meet with the Israeli Ambassador.

Glyn Davies said...

Dewi - I hope so.

Anon - Cannot really see the connection here.

Sarah said...


I was there on the Sunday morning with Aled and Russ.

The proposal was delivered as part of David Cameron's speech on the Sunday morning. A very good speech in fact.

It appeared to be well received by everyone and to resonate with everyone in the conference hall.

I thought personally the idea of him coming to Cardiff for a Q & A was a good idea, I'm surprised the PO does not appear to be gracious enough to even consider the idea of a man who is very likely to be the next Prime Minister.

Anonymous said...

Glyn> only that this seems to be developing into a pattern of intemperate behavior on the part of Elis-Thomas.

Elis-Thomas's arguable bigotry this time around is likely to put Wales in a very bad light (at least in the eyes of some) just as what happened after Elis-Thomas gave the bum's rush to the Israeli Ambassador. A lot of Jews were offended by Elis-Thomas's behaviour.

Just what positive thing is going to come out of this intemperate response on Elis-Thomas's part? How will this look to folks in England. Why antagonize them unnecessarily?

Doesn’t make much if any sense.

Anonymous said...

The Llywydd is doing his job. Well done, I say.

B Griffiths said...

Glyn, I remember just two years ago Nick Bourne was saying that the Welsh Conservative Party was seen as an 'English' party in the eyes of many, and needed to develop a more of a Welsh Conservative indentity. And I agree with him, with devolution Wales has become more self-confident as a nation and the party needs to realize that. That is why the Conservative party should campaing for a yes vote when the referendum comes to scrap this nonsense LCO system, and alongside that, having Prime Minister David Cameron coming in front of the Senedd answering questions from AM's two or three times a year, that would be the right approach.

Gareth Orton said...

Elis Thomas should not be presiding officer, given that he is a member of a party that is in the coalition.

He is increasingly irascible, making intemperate statements and generally doing his best to disrupt the devolution settlement.

He is an embarrassment to the Welsh assembly and to Wales.

He should go.

Jeff Jones said...

Another non issue in my opinion. By suggesting that he would come to Cardiff for a question and answer session once a year David Cameron was clearly trying to get a headline in the Western Mail and nothing else. Why should a UK Prime Minister want to address a devolved institution on a regular basis.. It would be just as relevant as the President of the USA addressing the Legislature of Virginia. Dafydd El then makes it worse by giving the impression that Cameron is the equivalent of the Prime Minister of Slovakia. What is real funny about all of this is that if the Prime Minister of Latvia offered to give a question and answer session he would probably be welcomed with open arms. Given the cutbacks that will be required in UK government expenditure and the effect this will have on the Assembly's budget in the next 7 to 10 years I doubt whether any UK prime Minister will want to attend what will probably be a shouting match down the Bay!

Glyn Davies said...

Sarah - Well said.

Anon - I agre with you that this intervention by the PO will do nothing but harm - but I'm not generally critical of Lord DEL. I think he is an impressive politicain who has done a good job for the Assembly.

Simon - Years ago my neighbouring farmer and I were at loggerheads over the poor state of our boundary fence, which deeds showed to be his responibility. To remove the source of disagreement, I repaired the fence myself. He accepted my helpful gesture, and we've been friends ever since. Of course he could have told me to p*** off and leave his fence alone.....

BG - If there were to be a referendum, I would anticipate that some Conservatives will support he campaign for law making powers to be transferred all in one go rather than bit by bit - and some will campaign for a no vote. But I have not the slightest doubt that the coalition partners will not ask for th ereferendum to be held.

Gareth - Must admit that I'm a fan of Dafydd El - even if I do think he is a bit off the wall sometimes. He adds much needed colour. I think he got the tone very wrong this time though.

Jeff - You may accuse David Cameron of angling for a headline, but the offer was for real. I still think its a big deal for a Prime Minister of the UK to visit the Assembly for a Q&A. It would also be a big deal if the President addressed the Legislature of Virginia. Who would be the Dan Hannan?

Anonymous said...

Tokenism by Cameron. One day a year he is offering to think about Wales and we should be bending over backwards to praise him. Come on.

Bonetired said...

You are famous:

"brilliantly incisive Glyn Davies"

Doris said...

DET is right to pour cold water on this idea. Cameron in the Senedd answering questions for an hour or so is likely to generate far more heat than light. Private meetings would be more constructive and productive but DC seems to want to do his turn on stage. Daft idea.

Penddu said...

While I think that DET has made some huge contributions to establishing the credibility of the Senedd, he does go off the deep end at times.

I dont think having the PM attend a Q&A session in the Senedd is a bad idea - PROVIDING it is not doen as some sort of alternative to transfer of powers.

ps Glyn, can you come and fix my fence...

Anonymous said...

DET is not to be underestimated Glyn. He is friend to all at the long as they stay in line and acknowledge him as " el presidente".

I am awaiting the much promised memoirs of John Marek his one time Deputy ... almost as much as those as Alun Michael the late First Secretary of our Assembly who is now back in " Welsh" mode as a member ( and future Chair?) of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee.

Both men have some realy good stories they could tell i hear.

As for an annual chat from a PM to the National Assembly - why not as Westmister still for the time being runs many functions that concern Wales and as MPs do a " pis poor2 job of questioning ...let our AMs have a go!!

Jeff Jones said...

But the point Glyn is that the President would not address any State legislature.In the USA which has been a federal state from the beginning politicians at all levels understand what areas of policy they are accountable to their electorate for. The Cameron offer was a gimmick probably thought up by some adviser to get the headline. If he is going to address the Welsh Assembly on an annual basis why not the London Assembly or even Birmingham City Council for that matter. I really can't see the point of the whole exercise. Just imagine the scene as AM after AM demands cuts in defence expenditure in order to shield the Assembly from the cuts in public expenditure which will come after 2010 whoever is in power in Westminster. As the IFS report which should be required reading for all politicians at all levels shows the argument is going to be about the balance between tax increases and cuts. Today's Telegraph argues that Darling has to be honest with the voters on April 22nd. This plea should equalling apply to George Osborne who was pretty poor when being questioned by Evan Davis on Radio 4 yesterday. You can't bridge the £39 billion gap by merely cutting the salaries of senior public servants I'm afraid. If the Tories don't intend to increases taxes ( £39 billion requires about an 8p increase in income tax!) then they have to set out where they will cut public expenditure if they are elected in 2010.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Bonetired> Here, here. You are dead right. Few as “brilliantly incisive” on the Welsh blogosphere as Glyn Davies.

dowlais twp said...

det is a servant of those who elected him,and he must listen to them.
If the other AM's wish the leader/Prime Minister of a UK party/parliament to address the Senedd and then be questioned by the AM's so be it.

While the offer is there, ways and means must and should be looked at to make it so.

This can work both ways, whilst the First Minister nor the Llywydd or AM's can address the floor of the House, they can have a say via committees of parliament.

If we can change, then so can parliament

Anonymous said...

I suggest you take a look at the comments on conservative home to get a sense of what tories think of us welsh people - they despise us and mock us and think we're too big for our boots. They hate and fear devolution and they despise our heritage and culture.
If they're typical tories, then your party deserves to remain in permanent opposition in Wales.
Meanwhile, please tell us whether you'll support more powers for the assembly. The anti-devolution wing is really getting up steam as they start to scent Westminster victory. Are you going to stick your neck out for what you once fervently believed in, or are you going to tow the anti-devo line?

If I was Plaid and Labour I'd make damn sure some of those welsh-hating comments from conservative home get press coverage here in Wales. Perhaps in Montgomeryshire, even...

PS - if you're going to allow personal smears, of the 'Elis-Thomas is a bigot' ilk on your site, you may as well consider why your party is preparing to join a rightwing European caucus which includes overt racists and anti-semites.

Glyn Davies said...

Anon 1 - One man's tokenism is another man's genuine attempt to be positive about devolution. Penddu - I was rather pleased with my fence analogy!

Anon 1 - Underestimate DET? Me. Never. I'm one of his greatest fans - but that does not mean that he's always right. Nothing he likes more than a row, so a bit of criticism will bring happiness unto his Lordship.

Jeff - All fair enough - but at present the Secretary of State for Wales has a seat in the Assembly Chamber - so the principle is already accepted. I accept that it could be open to abuse, which is why a session outside of Plenary time (and thus outside of standing orders) may be better.

I also accept your point about future budgets - but its impossible for a Shadow Chancellor who may become the Chancellor to outline plans in detail. They never have and they never will - mainly because they have no control over what the Governmemnt does. Labour have so changed the position in terms of public borrowing that anything said 3 months ago can so easily be overtaken by events.

Christopher - Spare my blushes.

Dowlais Twp - I take the view that if the Prime Minister of the UK Parliament is prepared to enter into a discussion/Q&A with Assembly Members, it should be accepted. It may be that it could be a session before Plenary begins, or it could be that standing orders could be changed.

Anon 2 - No need to be so snorty with me. I too find some of the comments on the ConservativeHome post to be deeply offensive.

I have said many times that I will campaign for full law making powers being vested in the National Assembly in all devolved policy areas - though I've also said many times that I would not want to be a part of any official Yes campaign. I have been rather stronger on this than any of the Assembly Government Ministers!!

Plenty of my comments have a real go at me - so I don't see why anyone else should be spared. I just draw the line at serios profanity and slander.

Don't know enough about what is going to happen in the European Parliament groupings to venture an opinion.

Glyn Davies said...

Sorry but I managed to mess up my response to comments - but I did manage most until I pressed something I shouldn't.

Anonymous said...

Years ago my neighbouring farmer and I were at loggerheads over the poor state of our boundary fence, which deeds showed to be his responibility. To remove the source of disagreement, I repaired the fence myself. He accepted my helpful gesture, and we've been friends ever since.

David Cameron has yet to put forward any ideas regarding how to fix the fence, just that he'd like to visit once in a while.

Anonymous said...

Glyn - don't go grovelling to these Plaidi creeps. The Tories are well in tune with the way most Welsh people think about that pack of losers in the assembly. Keep the screws on them!

Glyn Davies said...

Simon - Its once a year - which in my opinion is a big deal. And its more than any other potential or actual UK Prime Minister has proposed. Seems to me that some Plaid Cymru supporters are discomforted by a genuine willingness by the Conservatives to look at innovative ways of strengthening the National Assembly of Wales - not positioning ourselves in the slot that you have designated for us.

Anon - Luckily, I'm very confident in my own opinions on this issue, and am unlikely to be blown off track - wherever the strong winds are blowing from.