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Friday, March 30, 2007

Proxy election

A number of us predicted at the beginning of the year that the last Assembly Term could degenerate into a verbal bloodbath as parties vied for political advantage in the run-up to the elections. I am pleased to report that for the most part we were wrong and that things did not get too out of hand.

Inevitably however, that did not apply to the last week and there were one or two bizarre questions to the First Minister that sounded a bit like husting speeches. A good example was the question asked by Nick Bourne on Tuesday:

Nick Bourne: Good afternoon, First Minister. On your watch, since 1999, waiting lists have gone up by more than 40 per cent, more than half of the adult population does not have access to an NHS dentist, NHS trusts are riddled with debt, the school funding gap with England has continued to widen, and council tax bills have almost doubled. However, I do not want to ask you about any of those issues now, as I know that we will lock horns on those issues on the campaign trail. I want to ask you about an issue on which there is probably a degree of consensus across the Assembly, namely attacks on public servants, whether they are teachers or nurses and other medics. It is a real issue that is becoming more serious, so what is the Government doing to tackle it? The figures that relate specifically to the NHS and to schools show that the number of violent attacks is going up.

And it carried on in that vein for several minutes. It took the debate on Tir Mynydd on Wednesday to really liven things up though. However, many of us think that Kirsty Williams was fighting the wrong election:

I disagree with Mick Bates’s remark that the Minister is weak and incompetent; I do not believe that for a minute. The Minister is, however, ambitious and clever. [Assembly Members: ‘Oh.’] He also finds himself in the unenviable position of being Minister with responsibility for agriculture in a Labour Welsh Assembly Government. While Andrew Davies hoovers up the trade union vote in anticipation of Rhodri’s departure, Carwyn has to do something to catch up. I argue that in cutting this money and in acting in this way, the Minister seeks to counteract Andrew’s trade union vote by currying favour with his backbenches. What is an ambitious young man to do?

The Labour leadership contest of course comes afterwards. So many elections, so little time.
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