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Posts Tagged ‘John Dixon’

Assembly members will get the chance to vote on whether or not to reinstate the two disqualified Liberal Democrat AMs on June 29th.

That’s the date when two motions – one relating to Aled Roberts and one to John Dixon – have been tabled to be discussed.

The date is the latest possible under the timetable outlined in legal advice given to the Presiding Officer, but according to several sources I’ve spoken today it’s also the earliest realistic date.

The view is that AMs will need to have all the facts and legal opinions in their possession before making a judgement and that means waiting for the police to conclude their investigation, for the Crown Prosecution Service to make its decision and then for the Assembly’s own investigation. *

One political source told me that setting a date also sends ‘a clear message’ about the intent to try to find a way to overturn the disqualifications to the returning officers of North Wales and South Wales Central.

These men, Mohammed Mehmet and John House, are crucial to what happens next because it’s they who’ll declare the two seats officially vacant and they who will nominate the next candidates on the regional lists.

I gather that they will wait until the outcome of these motions before taking any further action although that won’t stop them preparing for that action, i.e. contacting the next on the list and checking that they’re still willing and able to become Assembly members.

It’s not clear what chances the motions have of succeeding. Labour members are taking a strong line against the disqualified two as are many Conservatives.

One Labour source said to me, ‘How can they be re-instated? They were never elected?’  If that view holds sway, then it’s all over for the Lib Dem 2.

They may find support amongst Plaid members although even there it’s said that, while there’s no hardening of opinion against them, there’s not much by way of positive support.

But the Welsh Liberal Democrats remain hopeful and aren’t planning to abandon their efforts to re-instate their colleagues.

A senior source told me that the party acknowledges mistakes have been made, but that members think highly of Aled Roberts and John Dixon and want to see them in the Senedd.

Several party figures have told me that many of the sternest critics have changed their mind when the legal position’s been explained to them and they hope more will do so when the final reports are in.

Whatever the outcome, it means another three weeks of uncertainty for Aled Roberts and John Dixon who by then will have been in limbo for nearly two months and another three weeks when the Liberal Democrats only have three members in the Senedd chamber.

All this could change when the CPS makes its decision public. According to a CPS spokesman, the matter’s still with the police. The police will only say that they’re still investigating.

* I understand that the barrister Gerard Elias QC has been lined up to head the Assembly’s investigation.

The Assembly spokesman wouldn’t confirm this or otherwise, saying only that there is no investigation yet and therefore no appointment but other sources have confirmed the name.

It’s a name which may be familiar to seasoned Assembly-watchers.  Back in 2004 there was a row when it emerged Mr Elias had been vetoed by then First Minister Rhodri Morgan for the job of Counsel General.

 

UPDATE: 16:32 Here’s an Assembly statement on the Clerk’s investigation.

The investigation initiated by the Clerk of the National Assembly, into the circumstances that led to the disqualification as Assembly Members of two Liberal Democrat candidates, was suspended pending the outcome of the police investigation into the matter. For as long as that investigation is on-going it is not possible to take any final decision as to the form and timing of any resumption of the Assembly’s own investigation, although the aim of the Clerk would be to ensure that if the need arises, that investigation would be carried out as a matter of urgency. We cannot make any further comment at present.

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Plaid Cymru’s former chair, John Dixon, has left the party after four decades as a leading activist.

It’s no secret that Mr Dixon has had his concerns about Plaid’s direction for some time.

He quit as chair  last July, citing ‘a number of reasons for this decision, mostly political, and some personal.’

Even so, his was a notable absence at Plaid’s conference over the weekend and the ‘about me’ section of his blog now describes him as ‘a former Plaid Cymru member, activist, candidate, and national officer.’

Clues to what’s led him to break with the party after nearly 40 years can be found in his latest blogposting which bemoans the increasing homogenisation of Welsh politics and in particular Plaid politics:

I expect a lot of similarity between Labour, Conservative, and Lib Dem parties; that’s become normal; but with Plaid joining the consensus as a post-nationalist party – what is the distinguishing feature?  Shorn of Obama-esque rhetoric about hope and change, the leader’s speech to Plaid’s Spring Conference as reported in the media seemed to be based primarily on the simple assertion that Plaid would manage things better.

It’s an outspoken post and I’d recommend you to read it in full and keep your eye on his blog, which has always been a thoughtful and free-thinking platform for views which haven’t always been welcome to party chiefs.

John Dixon is on record as saying he  has no interest in undermining Plaid.

But he’s asking its leadership some difficult questions about what the party’s purpose is. And those questions won’t go away.

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The row over the Assembly Government’s bid for powers over organ donation has taken another twist today.

Following what happened yesterday, the Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan, was interviewed about the row at length on Radio Wales this morning.

During that interview, Ms Gillan, was asked about her own backing of legislation on presumed consent in parliament some years ago. She denied that she’d introduced any such bill.

But after journalists, politicians and researchers took to Google to check their facts, Ms Gillan has now issued an apology, saying

Unfortunately I made a mistake in the radio interview and now recall that I did introduce a Private Member’s Bill in name only alongside several other eight years ago in my role as an Opposition Whip. This bill was objected to by the then Labour Government and was never debated.

That hasn’t stopped opponents weighing in though. Plaid Cymru AM Dai Lloyd said,

When you do not know your own views on an issue as important as this then it is difficult to expect to try and dictate to others how they should move forward.

And Labour’s Shadow Wales Office minister, Owen Smith MP, said,

We knew that Cheryl Gillan was out of touch with Wales, now it seems she’s out of touch with reality. It is difficult now to trust that the Minister has a full grasp on this sensitive issue, given that she doesn’t even appear to know her own record on the subject.

Meanwhile the war of words continues.  A Wales Office source expressed disappointment that the Assembly Government was ‘taking an agressive approach.’

And on the other side of the debate, passions remain equally inflamed.  Dai Lloyd said,

It is time the Secretary of State and the Westminster government put aside playing politics with such a vitally important issue.”

Interestingly ‘playing politics’ is exactly what the Secretary of State is accusing politicians in Cardiff Bay of doing.

For further developments, watch this space and Sharp End tonight at 1035pm ITV1 Wales.

UPDATE 1300: Peter Black AM has blogged on the row here. This is his take on the row over the timing of the legal advice.

However, the fuss seems to be over the timing of the UK Government’s response. It is a storm in a teacup. The fact is that this bid has come very late in the day. Not only was it submitted to the Wales Office as late as August but AMs themselves are going to have less than two weeks to take evidence on it and examine the order. That is the real scandal, the way that proper scrutiny is being curtailed in the Assembly because the elections are so close.

Listening to Cheryl Gillan on Radio Wales this morning the last minute e-mail that was sent by the Attorney General outlining concerns came as a result of a request from the Welsh Government for information the day before. They should be praising him for responding so quickly, not a known feature of Government law officers, not attacking him for saying what he thinks.

UPDATE 13:05 Plaid Cymru’s former chair, John Dixon, isn’t sure this row is as helpful to the powers referendum Yes campaigners as they make think. And he identifies in this dispute the germs of what  could prove to be a longer-term source of tension over where the boundaries of Assembly powers lie.

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