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Archive for the ‘ITV Wales’ Category

Blog changes

If you’re following this blog, you’ll have to change your bookmarks, subscriptions or RSS feeds I’m afraid, because I won’t be blogging on this site any longer.

Most of what I post here is also published on the main ITV Wales blog. When I joined ITV Wales we felt that I could use this site for first publication and for the more arcane political gossip or snippets which might not interest readers of the main blog.

What’s changed is that I now use twitter for that sort of information and blog less often so all posts are duplicated which seems a bit of a waste of time and can prove confusing when there’s a time delay between one or the other and if I update or correct information on one and not the other.

There are further changes in the pipeline too as ITV develops a new online presence but, in the meantime,  last night’s post on corporation tax  will be the final entry (apart from this one) to appear here. New links below.

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Uncertainty is the only certainty on this last day of election campaigning before voting gets under way tomorrow morning.

That uncertainty may be interesting for people like me and nerve-wracking for politicians, but it’s the civil service for whom it causes a real challenge.

They have to be ready to swing into action to deliver a government programme from Friday onwards. Trouble is they don’t know who’ll form that government.

So how have they been preparing themselves?

I’m told there’s been a ‘rigorous process’ by which every party’s manifesto has been combed through to see what each of them is promising.

Department-by-department, civil servants have examined and discussed in detail the implications of all the proposals, the likely costs, the legality or otherwise and other strictly practical questions.

The aim is to be armed with all the facts and figures so that the relevant officials are fully prepared for whichever party or parties the next set of Welsh ministers come from.

What the civil service here won’t do, I’m told, is to play the kind of  role played by the head of the UK civil service, Sir Gus O’Donnell after last year’s inconclusive Westminster election.

In the build-up to last May, Sir Gus had led civil servants in wargaming exercises, working out the implications of different scenarios and then played an active role in bringing the eventual coalition partners together in as binding a partnership as possible.

Officials here have taken the position that they won’t make any assumptions about  possible permutations – so no ‘wargaming’ of different coalition arrangements.

While they expect to play a pivotal role, they won’t play a political role and that distinction is crucial.

There’ll be no ‘second-guessing’, I’m told.  Rather, civil servants in Cathays Park see their role as ‘being in a position to enable the democratic process to be run through.’

We’ll get our final clue as to what possible scenarios they might be confronted with on May the 6th in our eve-of-poll poll which will be published later.

I should be able to bring you the headlines of it in our lunchtime bulletin at 1.55pm ITV1 Wales and I’ll update with a link to the details  when we have them.

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I’m going to disappoint you by not declaring a winner in last night’s Wales Decides Leaders’ Debate on ITV1 Wales.

I think each of the four leaders gave a good account of him or herself at the Coal Exchange.

Perhaps more importantly I don’t think there were any losers. I say importantly because I reckon that, as our YouGov poll has been showing, most voters’ minds have been made up for a while now.

So last night, apart from a few uncomfortable moments, nobody lost their temper or struggled for too long on areas they’re weak on and so while they might not have changed many voters’ minds, they won’t have lost any supporters.

Don’t take my word for it though. Esyllt Carr was speaking to members of the audience last night. You can see what they told her in Wales Tonight at 6pm.

And there are two more YouGov polls to go. The first, for S4C’s Y Byd Ar Bedwar programme will be published on Monday.

The second ITV Wales 1000 survey will be the first we’ve published on eve of poll itself, on Wednesday.

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I’m raising the C-word on this evening’s Wales Tonight. After all we’re grown-ups.

Politicians from the four main parties don’t like you to use the c-word – of course I mean coalition – during an election campaign.

I can understand why: none of them know exactly how the maths will work out on May the fifth and none wants to commit to any deal before then.

And for some voters, the prospect of their party sharing government with another could put them off going to the polling booth altogether.

As I say, I can understand their reluctance to answer the question, so why am I and other journalists so eager to ask it repeatedly?

In the first instance it’s because coalitions have become such a big part of Welsh politics (and more recently UK politics).

In fact for seven out of the 12 years since the Assembly began, government has been shared by two parties.

So it’s more likely than it used to be, but the polls show Labour’s on course to win a majority so it shouldn’t matter this time, should it?

While that’s certainly true, what’s also true is that the electoral system for the Assembly, with 20 regional seats shared out amongst the parties, is designed to make majorities extremely difficult to achieve.

Add in the usual unknowable effects of a significant number of volatile and unpredictable constituencies and you have a scenario where, even with Labour doing very well, it still doesn’t reach that magic number of 31 seats.

In my interview with the Welsh Labour leader last week, Carwyn Jones  said that 30 seats would be very difficult to go it alone so that it’s still quite likely that Labour could have to look for a coalition partner.

Self-justification over, what are the possibilities then? I’ll tell you what I know.

Within Welsh Labour, opinion’s split.

There are many who have become relaxed about partnership with Plaid Cymru. The sky didn’t fall in and they feel the arrangement worked smoothly and efficiently.

They’re the ones who’d be delighted to see a One Wales II and what may surprise you is that not all of them are those in the Bay who sometimes get derided by other Labour members as ‘crypto-nationalists’ or ‘red-greeners’.

In fact more than one of those who’ve spoken to me about the desirability of One Wales II is outside that faction (such as it is) and, in one case, Westminster-based.

However it’s certainly true to say that a good number of Welsh Labour MPs and many others in the party at large favour turning to the Liberal Democrats first.

I’ve heard it said that doing so could mean a better deal with a Lib Dem group either weakened by a poor election result or eager to distance themselves from their party in Westminster.

Of course both of those scenarios raise problems – as one senior Labour person put it, ‘How could you do a deal with 3 or 4 people?’

Would the Lib Dems be interested? As Kirsty Williams said in her Face to Face interview, ‘I’m not ruling anything in nor ruling anything out.’

As for Plaid, most members I’ve spoken to about this privately express a preference for a second round of government with Labour.

The question is, what would Plaid gain from joining forces with Labour?

There is of course another possibility: a rainbow coalition of Plaid, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

Potentially those three parties could have enough seats to outvote Labour.

Other commentators have previously noted that the conditions make a rainbow coalition less likely this time than it was back in 2007.

The three parties aren’t working regularly with each other as they were then and two of them are in government at Westminster, making decisions that are often unpopular here in Wales.

Furthermore there’s a good chance that the Conservatives could be the largest of the three after May 5th.

Nick Bourne said in his face to face interview that in that eventuality he would expect to be First Minister while, in his face to face interview, Ieuan Wyn Jones  said Plaid Cymru would never serve under a Conservative First Ministership.

There’s another factor though. Barring a major upset, Labour looks likely to make substantial gains on May 5th, to have ‘won’ the election whether or not it wins a majority.

One senior Plaid figure told me that that would make it very hard to see a non-Labour government in Cardiff Bay.

If that view is widely shared amongst Plaid’s leadership, it puts Labour very much in the driving seat.

But as senior Labour person put it to me, ‘It’s all about the votes’ and none of us can predict how they’ll be shared out.

There’s even the possibility of a Green or UKIP AM joining the other parties in Cardiff Bay.

I’ve had a go at explaining some of the basics of this for Wales Tonight at 6pm on ITV1 Wales.

And you may pick up some more clues in tonight’s Wales Decides: the Leaders’ Debate.

Jonathan Hill and an audience at Cardiff’s Coal Exchange put the four main party leaders on the spot.

Join them at 1035pm, ITV1 Wales.

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The ITV Wales presenting team for this year's election coverage- Andrea Benfield, Jonathan Hill, Lisa Haf, Owain Phillips and me!

Here’s a handsome crowd – the ITV Wales team for this year’s election coverage on ITV Wales and S4C. It was a feat in itself to get us all in the same place at the same time. We felt it was like a shot from Hustle but Jonathan refused to be cast as the Robert Vaughan character, claiming that he has his own teeth. I can’t verify that claim.

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The stakes are high in this election for all four of the main political parties.  To recap:

For Labour, the prospect of governing Wales alone – tantalisingly within its grasp but with so many circumstances which could rob it of that cherished prize at the last minute.

For Plaid Cymru, the answer to the question it posed to supporters, opponents and politics-watchers four years ago: what will it get from passing up the (admittedly challenging) chance of leading a rainbow coalition in favour of being the junior partner to Labour?

For the Conservatives, the aim is primarily to hold onto gains painstakingly made over the last decade in the face of an historic tendency by Welsh voters to react against Conservatives in power at Westminster by voting Labour.

For the Liberal Democrats: the task is to use every weapon at its disposal to prove the doomsayers wrong and survive a massive plunge in popularity.

At least two of the smaller parties – the Greens and UKIP – believe that they too have an historic chance to nab one of the Assembly’s 60 seats.

ITV Wales will be covering the election campaign on air and online throughout.

Tonight you can see the latest of our special Wales Decides 2011 programmes.  ITV Wales’ health correspondent Mariclare Carey-Jones analyses one of the key election issues, from cancer care to community nursing.  Plus the result of the latest Wales 1000 poll question – should free prescriptions be scrapped?

On Thursday night my second Face to Face interviewee will be Nick Bourne, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives.

You can follow our election coverage online here. You’ll find video and blog content there as well as Twitter feeds to follow.

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No Sharp End tonight or for the duration of the election campaign, but in its place is the first of four special programmes.

The idea behind Wales Decides 2011: Face to Face is simple: to get to know the four party leaders who will spend the next month trying to win your vote.

What motivates them? What sort of leaders are they? Why they’ve taken career-shaping decisions and what choices they might make after the election.

The first of the four people to spend half an hour in a darkened studio with me is the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams.

You can see the interview in Wales Decides 2011: Face to Face tonight at 1035 ITV1 Wales.

 

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