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Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Scenes of chaos

Amazing scenes in the Assembly Chamber today as the sitting was suspended not once, but twice. The controversy centred on the continuing row over the non-appointment of a new Counsel General to the National Assembly. A recommendation was made by an appointments panel last year but it was blocked by the First Minister as he objected to the successful applicant being a Freemason and a fox-hunter. Instead Rhodri Morgan sought to put forward another candidate who had stood for Labour 30 years ago and who, it emerged today, may well have had as one of his referees, the former Lord Chancellor, Derry Irvine. The conspiracy theorists have had a field day since the revelations were first broadcast by the BBC last Thursday. One of those who went onto the TV to comment was the Deputy Presiding Officer, John Marek. He accused the First Minister of cronyism.

As it happened the Presiding Officer was ill today so the DPO ended up chairing the Plenary. When the First Minister got up to make a statement on the issue a Labour backbencher, Jeff "Victor Meldrew" Cuthbert, got up on a point of order to challenge the impartiality of the Chair. John Marek made it clear that if they wanted him out they would have to force him to resign and then suspended the sitting. After the second suspension it finally got through to the Labour Party that if they forced Marek's resignation then they would have to replace him with a Labour AM and they would lose their majority. They withdrew their objections and the session continued. Who says that Plenary is dull? Who for that matter claims that it has any credibility left? Debating strategy and policy all the time may not make the most exciting television but at least it maintains gravitas. Perhaps we should try it sometime.

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