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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Arian i'r chwipiaid?

The row about proposals to pay party whips in the Assembly continues to rumble on with an article in the Western Mail this morning. This is not a new controversy of course. If first appeared on Betsan Powys' blog on 21 September. Glyn Davies wrote about it on the 11th October. It was only when the BBC picked up the story properly yesterday that things started to kick off with the Welsh Liberal Democrat and Conservative leaders accusing the First Minister of misrepresenting them.

In truth, shocking as the proposal is, the whole mess owes a lot to Rhodri Morgan's clumsy and inept approach to it. According to reports his letter to the Presiding Officer claimed that a 'consensus view' had emerged on the payment of whips. Despite this he had not discussed the matter with either the Conservative or Welsh Liberal Democrat leaders, whilst the publication of the contents of the letter caused minor ructions in the Plaid Cymru group. Clearly, there never was such a consensus other than in the First Ministers' office.

In the paper this morning Jane Davidson, speaking on behalf of the government, claimed that their understanding was that there was a broad agreement on the matter but that this "seems to have fallen away." What nonsense. It would be nice if she could demonstrate where this "broad consensus" existed in the first place.

The fact is that since the One Wales coalition got underway, regular meetings of all the party leaders have ceased. It is almost as if Rhodri Morgan has abandoned consensus altogether now that he has a majority. That cannot be healthy for democracy and it is certainly not conducive to the smooth running of the institution.
In the pre Cabinet days on Swansea Council, where you are a still a Councillor long serving member Peter, the extra Special £££££££ Allowances were not restricted to a specific number as they are now. So the then large ruling Labour Group created enough Committtees and Sub Committees to pay every single Labour Councillor, however talented or daft, however experienced or incapable, a Chair or Vice Chair's EXTRA £££ Allowance. There was one generous Special Responsibility paid then that should in several opinions NOT been paid but none of you then in Opposition queried it - it was a Full Chair Allowance paid to the then Labour Whip. That was public money paid for service to the Labour Party and NOT the Council and went on for very many years unchallenged. So this sort of thing happening now at Cardiff Bay is not new to Labour / Plaid Coalition politics in Wales or to Labour's old "get your snouts in the trough boys" slogan!
Yet another example of Rhodri losing the plot? He probably believes that he can now do what he likes because of the coalition.Ieuan Wyn Jones should watch that he doesn't end up looking like the Spitting Image David Steel in the top pocket of another politician. At this rate a referendum on extra powers for the Assembly seems lights years away. No wonder civil servants quite rightly talk of reputational damage to the Assembly. The real question is do you really need whips in a political institution with no rebels and an'after you Claude' attitude to politcs.
Pleased to see that you were not party to this proposal Peter. I would have been surprised if you had been.

You've been attacked unfairly for not fighting the previous Labour Administration's policy of "money for the boys". The same is true across the UK, equally in NPT where the Labour group refuse to provide well respected and capable opposition members even a vice-chair role on committees. I wish the press would pick up on this more! In NPT there are some real donkeys running very important committees - jobs for the boys!

Glyn is right to say that any of us would be surprised to see you support such a move.

Rhodders is on the rocks!
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