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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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Tonight’s Sharp End is the last one until after May’s Assembly Election.

Next week we start a series of in-depth interviews with the party leaders called Wales Decides 2011: Face to Face.  First up is Kirsty Williams, the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

In subsequent weeks, she’ll be followed by the Conservatives’ Nick Bourne, Plaid Cymru’s Ieuan Wyn Jones and Labour’s Carwyn Jones.

There’ll be election talk in tonight’s Sharp End too. Last week I talked to senior Labour and Conservative politicians about their approach to the forthcoming election.

Tonight Plaid’s Deputy Leader Helen Mary Jones tells me about the rocky road to separation for her party and its coalition partner, Labour, as well as speculating about possible future coalition partners.

Meanwhile I’ve been asking the Liberal Democrat AM, Peter Black, how his party here in Wales might be affected by the unpopularity of the party at a UK level.

I’ll be talking too about this week’s budget and the potential impact on Wales with my guests who this week are: Labour AM Alun Davies; Conservative Assembly candidate Suzy Davies and Steve Theaker, senior partner at the accountancy firm UHY Peacheys.

Now as well as being a financial whizz, Steve has a hidden talent which will also be on display. He’s the Singing Accountant who’s garnered a cult following in the business world for his budget-themed songs.

He’ll be singing his latest opus in tonight’s Sharp End. 1035 ITV1 Wales.

 

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For tonight’s Sharp End, I’ve interviewed the Shadow Welsh Secretary Peter Hain about Labour’s Assembly election hopes.

First though I wanted to know about his relationship with the First Minister, Carwyn Jones.

You may remember from last week the behind-the-scenes row over Mr Hain’s criticism of the Deputy First Minister, Plaid Cymru’s Ieuan Wyn Jones.

Last week Carwyn Jones’ response seemed to suggest a sharp difference of opinion between he and Mr Hain.

Since then though both sides have done their best to pour oil on troubled waters, issuing a joint statement and holding back from any overt criticism of Plaid ministers in Mr Jones’ government.

And in my interview, Peter Hain denies intending to undermine Carwyn Jones, telling me that ‘this is a Cardiff Bay bubble story’ before adding that he supported Carwyn Jones in his leadership bid and that ‘we remain good friends.’

What Mr Hain really wanted to talk about what his belief that Labour has the best opportunity for forming a majority government that it’s had since the Assembly was created.

His reason for saying that? The fact that this will be the first Assembly election without a Labour government in Westminster.

I wondered if that ran the risk of making Labour’s campaign for May the 5th entirely negative – not according to Peter Hain who reckons it can do both things: channel opposition to the UK Government whilst building on Labour’s record here.

Is he right about that? That’s what I’ll be discussing with my guests who are the Liberal Democrat AM Veronica German, Plaid Cymru’s Neil McEvoy and the former council leader Jeff Jones.

They all have experience of local government so we’ll be talking about this week’s dramatic intervention on Anglesey: was it the right thing to do?

And I’ll be speaking to the man behind the Welsh Conservatives’ manifesto, David Melding AM, to find out how his party plans to fight the Assembly election campaign.

Join me for Sharp End, tonight at 1035pm, ITV1 Wales.

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Our latest YouGov poll has been published today. Details here and you my Wales Tonight report here . My interview with the US Ambassador is here if you don’t want to wait for tonight’s Sharp End.

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Sharp End is back tonight at 1035pm ITV1 Wales and there’s more than enough to talk about.

Now that the referendum campaign is over, fragile cross-party consensus in Welsh politics is beginning to break down.

Senior Labour figures are attacking the Plaid Cymru ministers who share government with fellow Labour politicians in Cardiff Bay and at the same time exposing tensions within their own party.

And Plaid Cymru politicians are criticising the record of the Assembly Government their party has been involved in for the last four years.

Where will it all end? In one way that’s easy to answer: May 5th when the Assembly election is held.

But what happens afterwards is less easy to answer.

The latest YouGov poll for ITV Wales is out today with some clues for the parties. It’s good news for Labour, but what does that mean for the way the campaign will be conducted?

I’ve interviewed the United States ambassador, Louis Susman, who’s been paying a diplomatic visit to the Assembly. I’ve asked him about the trade relationship between Wales and the US and in particular where that relationship may be a bit strained.

For example, last month the European plane manufacturer EADS (which makes wings for Airbus planes in Flintshire) lost out to the  on a chance to supply the US Air Force with aerial fuel tankers. Was that protectionism?

I also wondered what he makes of devolution. The notorious ‘Welsh wikileak’ suggests previous American diplomatic information about the modern Wales was a little bit shaky. Has it improved?

Following International Women’s Day, Lynn Courtney has been taking stock of the role of women in Welsh politics. You can see her film tonight.

To discuss all these things I’ll be joined by the Labour MP Julie Morgan, the Plaid Cymru candidate Heledd Fychan and the Conservative AM, Andrew RT Davies.

Join us for Sharp End 1035pm ITV1 Wales.

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When I was chatting to the former First Minister Rhodri Morgan before tonight’s Sharp End, I asked him what his plans were after he retires from the Assembly in May.

‘Gardening, music and writing,’ he said. Will he be writing his memoirs? ‘I’ve already started doing that.’ I don’t know if he’s confirmed this previously; it was news to me.

It’ll certainly be an interesting read when it’s published and given his phenomenal memory for detail you can bet it’ll be a goldmine of behind-the-scenes stories.

I wondered if he had kept a diary over the years to help him remember? No he hasn’t, being more than a little suspicious of the version of history that those who keep political diaries tend to present. And he says he hasn’t yet had to refer to the official archives either, although he is allowed access to them.

 

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With just two weeks to go until we vote in the Assembly powers referendum, I thought I’d heard pretty much all the views on both sides of the debate. Until today.

I’ve been chairing a debate in the old Assembly chamber for A-level politics students from across Wales and what a range of strong opinions they had.

6th Formers before today's referendum debate.

What exercised them most was the role played by language in shaping Welsh identity and what sort of role – or otherwise – it should play in Welsh politics.

What surprised me most was the closeness of the vote we held at the end of the session. I’ll get the exact count later but it looked pretty much divided equally between those who’d support a Yes vote and those who’d vote No.

You can see highlights of the debate in tonight’s Sharp End.

I’ve also been interviewing the former Economic Development minister Andrew Davies.

Despite not having done that job for four years, he’s faced criticism of his tenure in the last week after similar criticism was levelled at his successor.

Education remains in the spotlight so I’ll be discussing that too with my guests, the Conservative AM Andrew RT Davies, business expert Dr Paul Thomas and former Liberal Democrat candidate now a politics watcher, Alison Goldsworthy.

Join us for Sharp End, 1035pm ITV1 Wales.

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