Does Labour have a vision?
Posted on Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 5:48pm
This week, Dafydd Elis Thomas joined us on the backbenches of Plaid Cymru for the first time in quite a while. I welcome him back in to the heart of the Plaid Cymru Assembly group, though it is odd not to see him in the Presiding Officer’s chair.
Carwyn Jones announced his new cabinet on the floor of the chamber yesterday. It was amusing to watch the Conservative leadership candidates jockey for position by seeking to out speech one another, though, with regards to Carwyn Jones’s appointment I have a few comments to make. I now understand that Huw Lewis takes responsibility for S4C, and that the Welsh Language is firmly in the Education brief. Heritage is also in the same department as housing and regeneration.
I’ve heard a few whisperings from people in the sporting World, who are worried that sport will be sidelined due to the sheer variety of this portfolio. The same has been said on the issue of rural affairs, with a Deputy Minister now responsible for the majority of the work in this area. Time will tell if this is sufficient. Transport isn’t linked in to the same brief as economic development, and this point was made by Ieuan Wyn Jones during the plenary session yesterday, when he stated that he was concerned about policy divergence as a result of this portfolio split.
I welcome the fact that there are less Ministers in the cabinet, which was a pledge made by us in our Manifesto, but I am far from sold on the concept of the delivery unit that Carwyn Jones is going to set up. Labour, after all, have been in power for 12 years. Isn’t it a bit odd that they now see fit to set up a delivery unit after all this time? What have they been doing up to this point, people will surely ask.
If individual Ministers are going to be scrutinised by AMs on a weekly basis, isn’t it just a waste of time to set up another layer of bureaucracy? It sounds more like a PR stunt to me, and an excuse to put out propaganda from the Government as opposed to detailed information on delivery and targets. How much will this unit cost? Who will run it? Who will report back to us as AMs on its progress?
My view is that the best way forward for Labour would be to release a plan of action and detail their vision for Wales, with key targets and pledges so that we can scrutinise them on their performance in a clear and transparent way. We need to understand what Labour’s vision is at the very least, and for them to show the people of Wales respect in this regard. They pledged to stand up for Wales against the UK coalition cuts. How exactly can we hold them to account on this if they do not publish a working document?
After all, Labour has 30 seats, which isn’t a very comfortable number for them to be able to govern. They need our support to get things through, basically. Presenting a plan of action/ a document separate to their legislative programme would show that they are willing to work with other parties, and that they are serious about eradicating the culture of tribalism. Surely they cannot be expected to get away with saying ‘ look in our manifesto’ time and time again? Some Labour Councillors are in denial that they facilitate the tribalism that exists in our communities. Quite often, it feels that if you are not Labour, you are not welcome. For example, I have been shown invites to events by our Councillors, such as an opening of a care home in the area, where one AM who I will not name ( though you can guess the party) will be invited consistently to events, whereas other AMs will not be on the list. If this isn’t tribal, I don’t know what is.
On another note, the saga surrounding the 2 Lib Dem AMs who have been disqualified for holding positions on statutory bodies while they were candidates is ongoing. Some say that their positions should be void, UKIP has referred the matter to the Police, and all political parties are considering the way forward. The Assembly Commission is also looking in to the matter. I genuinely believe that the candidates were not aware of the rules in this area. But the question I would ask is, why not? The agents of regional candidates should be able to advise them on the rules, and so should the Electoral Commission. This matter has to be taken seriously, though I would say that if the Assembly has the power to rectify this problem, by perhaps referring it to the Standards Committee, then this could be a potential way forward. The Lib Dems in question have resigned their seats on the statutory boards, but whether this is enough for them to get their seats back as AMs, I do not know. The pressure is mounting on them to step down, and to allow the people who are second on the regional lists to take their places…..I bet Eleanor Burnham is sitting at the edge of her seat in anticipation….