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Posts Tagged ‘Ieuan Wyn Jones AM’

Plaid Cymru has today set out some of what it wants from Carwyn Jones if he wants the party’s support in avoiding stalemate in the Assembly.

AMs Elin Jones and Simon Thomas said Plaid wants the First Minister to publish a programme of government for the entire five-year term; an early indication of his likely budget priorities and to see how the legacy of the last government will be continued by this government.

Surely, I asked Simon Thomas, governments only publish programmes when, as happened with the One Wales coalition, they need to formalise agreements with other parties?

Not at all, he told me. Governments in fixed term parliaments often publish such programmes and in this case, it would give the other parties chance to debate the different plans on which Labour would be seeking co-operation.

On leadership matters, both Simon Thomas and Elin Jones agree that the timetable is up to the current leader Ieuan Wyn Jones who’s said he’ll step down sometime within the next two and a half years.

He’s said to prefer to go sooner rather than later but wants to oversee Plaid’s review into what went wrong at the election.

Simon Thomas said today that that review is due to last ‘well into next year’ and that Ieuan Wyn Jones should remain in post to lead it.

So I asked him if that meant there wouldn’t be a leadership contest this year.

‘There doesn’t need to be one,’ he said. ‘But it’s up to Ieuan Wyn Jones.’

When there’s a vacancy, will he be amongst the candidates? ‘When the time comes, I’ll say.’

Elin Jones meanwhile reiterated her position that she’ll ‘seriously consider it’ when the time comes.

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It’s a war of words that gets to the heart of the way the two parties which form the One Wales coalition government distinguish themselves after four years of working together.

I’m told there’s real anger and very red faces amongst Labour leaders in Cardiff Bay and some backbench AMs in Cardiff Bay following Peter Hain’s latest intervention.

It started when the Shadow Welsh Secretary responded to comments made by the Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, about the future of the Wales Office. The Plaid Cymru leader said there should be ‘a mature debate’ about it.

Mr Hain issued a statement saying,

Ieuan Wyn Jones wants a discussion that goes wider than the future of the Wales Office.

I think we need to have a mature debate about the future role of the Welsh Deputy First Minister.

Can you really justify having a Deputy First Minister in an Assembly Cabinet of only nine?

It is difficult, I think, in the long-term to justify having a Deputy First Minister in the Welsh Assembly Government as ineffective as Ieuan Wyn Jones.”

I put those remarks to the Deputy First Minister who brushed them aside saying

Well I don’t think I want to respond to any personal comments like that. I think it is totally inappropriate for me to do so.

But it was the bald statement that the First Minister and leader of Welsh Labour, Carwyn Jones,made immediately afterwards that was most interesting. He said,

I don’t have any ineffective ministers in my Government.

You can’t get much clearer a response than that.  ‘A very public slapdown’ to Peter Hain’ as the Conservative leader Nick Bourne put it later.

But there was more. Carwyn Jones asserted his authority saying,

I am the leader of the Welsh Labour party. It’s my role to speak on behalf of the party.

And it didn’t end there. A Labour party source pointedly told me that Ed Miliband is the UK party leader and Carwyn Jones speaks on matters devolved to Wales before adding,

The future of the Wales office is not a devolved matter.

Some Plaid sources and other commentators have called this a power struggle within Welsh Labour and in one sense it is.

But it’s not a struggle for the top job; rather it’s a fight over the way Labour and Plaid emphasise the difference between themselves ahead of May’s Assembly election.

There are those within Labour who think that, while the One Wales coalition was a necessity, that the relationship between the two parties in Cardiff Bay has become too cosy.

Speaking at their joint press briefing today, Carwyn Jones and Ieuan Wyn Jones both emphasised that they want an orderly separation before May 5th and to avoid personal attacks.

As one Labour backbencher put it to me today, interventions like this don’t help.

It’s connected to another division within Labour that I mentioned in an earlier post at the time of the party’s Llandudno conference and that’s what is considered to be the minimum number of AMs Labour needs after May to avoid going into coalition again.

There’s a strong view amongst some Welsh Labour members that the party should certainly go it alone if it wins 31 seats, but should seriously consider forming a minority government with 30, 29 or even 28 seats.

In my earlier post, I quoted one party figure as saying

Nobody said government should be easy.

But around the Bay I’ve heard said repeatedly – and I’ve heard it again today – that 31 is too few to form a stable majority government.

A backbencher told me today they remembered with horror the last time Labour governed alone with 30 AMs:

You can’t be ill, ministers can’t go on visits, there’s no slack.

A minister told me that a coalition with 31 seats would be ‘a hard sell’ to the party but there’s no doubt there’s a significant number within Labour who’d prefer a large majority coalition, One Wales II in other words.

But there’s just as significant a number who want that to be the very last resort.

There’s a clear difference here and it’s not – in public at least – between the two parties.

As one Plaid source said to me, ‘it’s ironic: everyone was thinking there’d be increasing strains within the coalition. It seems the strains are appearing elsewhere.’

 

UPDATE 16:55 Carwyn Jones and Peter Hain have now issued a joint statement setting out what they CAN agree on.  Here it is:

The blunt truth is that although there are four parties in Welsh politics, there are only two futures for Wales. A country that is fair and equal with Labour, or a Wales that faces death by a thousand Conservative and Lib Dem cuts.

People in Wales understand that this is the real choice in this election. They want to hear about our plans to provide jobs for young people, to protect policing in Wales from Tory cuts and to improve the NHS. This is what we are focusing on and will continue to focus on until May 5th.

We are committed to protection of Welsh representation in both Government and Parliament at Westminster. Especially at a time when Wales is under greater attack than ever before this is vital.

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Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones has named six business leaders who’ll advise the Assembly Government on economic development.

They’ll head six ‘sector panels’ in six areas of the economy that the Labour-Plaid Cymru government has already identified as being crucial to the future development of Wales.

It reminded me of Gordon Brown’s effort to bring  outside expertise into his government, a move that didn’t always have the desired effect as strong-minded individuals used to the freedom of being in business struggled to come to terms with being in government.

And there’s always the scope for conflict of interest and specific criticism of the particular businessmen.

Not that Ieuan Wyn Jones is worried. He told me the appointment process has been ‘robust’ and ‘rigorous’ and, more importantly, that ministers haven’t been involved in the process.

And they won’t be making policy, they’ll be advising officials who will in turn advise Mr Jones. Although he said he’d expect that advice to be listened to and acted upon in most cases.

So who are these captains of industry? The full list from the Assembly Government is below.

Politics watchers as well as business people will recognise the name of biotech tycoon Sir Christopher Evans.

You may remember he was caught up in Labour’s ‘cash for honours’ scandal a few years ago after donating £1m to the party.  No charges were ever brought against him.

Today, Ieuan Wyn Jones said we should be ‘celebrating the fact that such a leading figure is working for the Assembly Government.’

 

Biographies on Sector Chairs (source: Welsh Assembly Government:

Gareth Jenkins, Chair of Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Sector Panel

Currently Managing Director of FSG Tool & Die Ltd in South Wales, the UK’s leading design and manufacture Tool making Company. A former President of EEF Western and Chairman of the Wales Council, in addition to his duties as a main board Director of EEF Ltd.

During his thirty eight year career in manufacturing he has always been passionate about the development of young people. In particular as a former apprentice himself he has championed Modern Apprenticeships on behalf of the sector skills council, the Welsh Assembly and the Wales Manufacturing Forum. He has been actively involved in the creation of The Pathways to Apprenticeship, Young Recruits, Work Based Learning and World of Work Initiatives in the Principality.

 

Kevin McCullough, Chair of Energy and Environment Sector Panel

Mr Kevin McCullough is currently Chief Technical Officer at RWE nPower having held other positions within the company, and was formerly the Executive Vice President for Innogy America LLC in Chicago. Previously, Mr McCullough was a board member of the Renewables Advisory Board which assisted in advising the Energy Minister to develop Government policy on renewable energy strategies.

Mr Christopher Nott, Chair of Financial and Professional Services Sector Panel

Mr Christopher Nott is the founder and senior partner of Capital Law LLP and as a solicitor, advises other professional services firms. Mr Nott chairs several private sector companies within the Financial and Professional Services sector, as well as the board of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Mr Thomas Kelly, Chair of ICT Sector Panel

Mr Thomas Kelly has over 30 years of ICT expertise including MBO and private equity experience and has been Managing Director of Logicalis UK since 2004. Mr Kelly is an active member of the advisory committee for the Digital Forum for Wales.

Sir Christopher Evans, Chair of the Life Science Sector Panel

Sir Christopher Evans is regarded as one of Europe’s leading biotechnology entrepreneurs with an impressive record of establishing successful, high-quality science companies such as Excalibur Fund Managers (formerly Merlin Biosciences). Sir Christopher is a long term advisor to governments and numerous Heads of State.

Sir Christopher’s considerable contributions to the biotechnology industry have been honoured with a Knighthood in the 2001 New Year’s Honours List and an OBE in the 1995 New Year’s Honours List.

 

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As we count down to next month’s referendum on changing the Assembly’s powers, we wanted to get a bit of context about the powers that Cardiff Bay already has and how they might change if there’s a yes vote on March 3rd.

Of course, Wales isn’t the only devolved part of the UK so I’ve been on a whistle-stop tour of the two other big devolved institutions: Scotland’s Parliament and Northern Ireland’s Assembly.

Both have come to devolution by different means and for different historical reasons, but its worthwhile looking at the powers they wield as we plan to make our decision.

It was interesting to talk to the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond as well as Northern Ireland’s First Minister and deputy First Minister, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness to get their perspectives on devolution.

Alex Salmond said to me,

It’s very seldom in history that when a country gets the ability to have even a small bit of self-determination, very seldom it’s turned down. Wise nations tend not to turn it down and Wales is a wise nation.

In Northern Ireland, they’re playing the long game and making a go of devolution despite overwhelming odds being stacked against it.

Even so, it’s remarkable how optimistic both Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are about their experiences.

You can see the pictures I took here and here and you can see the film of my travels in tonight’s programme. There’ll be a flavour of them too in Wales Tonight at 6pm.

Back home, the two coalition parties in Cardiff Bay seem to be going through a rocky patch.

It centres on anonymous attacks by Labour figures on the Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones. He’s come out fighting, so does this mean the end of the One Wales coalition is in sight?

In one way it is, because there’s not much time between now and the Assembly election. Can we expect to see more of this?

Talking of tricky and tense relations, I’ve been interviewing the Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan, at a time when relations between Westminster and Cardiff Bay seem more strained than ever.

The latest spat is over the Assembly’s refusal to co-operate with the UK Government’s plans to set up scrutiny panels for proposed elected police commissioners.

It may seem a bit obscure, but there are those who think the unprecedented move by AMs should make ministers in London think again about their plans.

I asked Cheryl Gillan about that and, on a lighter note, about what she thinks of Meryl Streep’s portrayal of an earlier leading female Conservative politician, Margaret Thatcher.

Not only will you find out that, but you will also find out who Mrs Gillan would like to play her in a film of her life. You’ll never guess so you’ll have to watch.

My guests are Liberal Democrat AM Peter Black, UKIP’s David J. Rowlands and the journalist Felicity Waters.

Join us for Sharp End at 1035pm, ITV1 Wales.

 

 

 

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It’s a Sharp End day today so a lot of my time and attention is being taken up with that, but there are a couple of strands to pick up on briefly.

Electrification of the London to Swansea rail line.

* The Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones has been at Swansea railway station today stating as clearly as possible how important the Assembly Government sees electrification.  It’s a move clearly designed to put pressure on the Department for Transport to make the decision to electrify the line all the way to Swansea.

Countering the view that it wouldn’t make a massive amount of difference other than simply shortening journey times, Mr Jones said:

Electrification of the rail line all the way from London through to Swansea is essential to Wales. It is not simply just about shortening journey times. Electrification is an issue of vital strategic importance – it would boost Wales’ economy, help achieve our ambitions for the environment and benefit perceptions of us as a nation.

* Meanwhile according to a Whitehall source, the Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan has held high-level talks about electrification with the Prime Minister and Deputy Minister. She’s said to have told David Cameron and Nick Clegg in ‘no uncertain terms’ how important the project is to Wales.

* The Department for Transport says the final decision is still yet to be made. The prediction is though that it will ‘go right down to the wire.’

My colleague Esyllt Carr will have more on this story in Wales Tonight at 6pm ITV1 Wales.

Powers Referendum

We’re in uncharted territory with this now. Last night’s decision by the No campaigners, True Wales, not to seek the status of official No campaign has completely changed the dynamics of the pre-campaign.

The Electoral Commission’s rules mean that if there’s no official lead No campaign, there can’t be an official lead Yes campaign either. That’s the scenario we’re left with now.

But there’s a complication. The blogger Miserable Old Fart had applied to be the official No campaign in order to make the point that he doesn’t think what’s on offer in the referendum goes far enough. It’s highly unlikely that he could be designated as the lead campaign but the Electoral Commission is obliged to give his application due consideration.

It means we won’t get a final answer until some time next week.

In the meantime the Commission has published a list of registered groups who are permitted to take part in the campaign. So far they are Yes For Wales, Tomorrow’s Wales, Unison, Plaid Cymru and the Monster Raving Loony party’s Mark Beech (who’s the sole registered No group so far).

True Wales and Welsh Labour’s Yes campaign are expected to join that list.

Sharp End

In tonight’s programme we’ll look at what’s going on – or not going on – in the referendum campaign. Esyllt Carr reports on what effect the Westminster coalition is having on the Lib Dems and the Conservatives here in Wales. And I talk to Dafydd Wigley as he prepares to clad himself in ermine and join the House of Lords.

My guests are the former Labour MP for Pontypridd, Kim Howells; the Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central, Jenny Willott and the Western Mail’s Senedd Correspondent, Matt Withers.

Join me for Sharp End, 1035pm ITV1 Wales.


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