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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Et tu Rhodri!

I thought it worth reproducing Rhodri Morgan's speech from yesterday's opening ceremony in full, simply because it was quite witty, even the Queen laughed. Rhodri at his best in fact:

The First Minister (Rhodri Morgan): Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses, honourable guests, Presiding Officer and fellow Members, a good St David’s Day to you all.

However, is it actually St David’s Day? At a church service last Sunday, I was staggered to find out that this year St David’s Day has been moved from 1 March back one day to 28 February. This is because Ash Wednesday is on 1 March this year and it takes precedence over any saint’s day, even the day of St David. So, we are all 24 hours late. I have been accused in the past of being late for some royal gatherings, but if I am 24 hours late, we are all 24 hours late. That is only under canon law—another area of legislation not devolved to the Assembly.

We can say that this 1 March is a very special St David’s Day indeed because of your presence at this very special occasion to celebrate the official opening of the new home for the National Assembly for Wales—the crucible of our still young democracy.

On a previous royal visit to the Assembly one somewhat cynical metropolitan parliamentary correspondent referred to the old chamber next door as resembling the passenger lounge in an ageing cross-channel ferry. This new chamber, with its computers, has been compared to the control room of the starship Enterprise, so that is progress for you—boldly going into the future which, on this occasion, managed to arrive both on budget and on time.

In its design, this new building has to tread a fine line between symbolising the pride of a nation in the home of its legislature on the one hand, without tipping over into opulent overstatement on the other. That is especially important in Wales, as a nation that survived for centuries without institutions. So, we are naturally suspicious of institutions, lest they turn into establishments. This new home is a textbook example of how to walk that tightrope. Even the naming of the building as the ‘Senedd’ has occasioned a certain degree of wariness. However, I can say that we will not follow all the traditions of the original senate of ancient Rome, especially the bit where the leader of the government is stabbed in the back by a bunch of guys wearing sandals. [Laughter.]

The successful completion of this building is part of a growing confidence in Wales that we can get things done. If we can build buildings to be proud of to a budget, we can assuredly take decisions that affect our future. Wales can run things and do things. It is part of our maturing as a nation. The Government of Wales Bill, which received its Third Reading in the House of Commons last night, is likewise part of that maturing of our democracy.

The challenge for us as politicians is now to draw inspiration from this worthy new home as we deliberate, debate and vote with all the vigour and integrity at our command, so that the people who elect us in this and future generations will judge that this new building was worth the effort. We dedicate ourselves today to meeting that challenge in your presence, Your Majesty, in the spirit of St David, our patron saint, and under the people’s gaze. [Applause.]

The Labour members preferred to think that the reference to guys in sandals was about the Liberal Democrats, though the only person who does wear sandals in the chamber is the Deputy Presiding Officer. However, I don't think they should take it too literally, after all it is Labour AMs who sit behind the First Minister and once the 2007 elections are over, it will be open season to succeed him.
What do Julius Caesar and Charles Kennedy have in common again?
Veni, Vidi, Vici!
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