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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Tory pledges support for reform of Barnett formula

Yesterday's Plenary debate on ten years of devolution was a good knock-about not least for the Welsh Liberal Democrat amendment that the Assembly 'does not support independence for Wales'. This amendment was supported by all parties other than 12 Plaid Cymru members who then allowed the amended motion to go through unopposed. A good example of political confusion if ever I saw it.

However, it is difficult to see what the hour long discussion achieved. Surely we would have been better off discussing government legislation or key policy issues.

By far the most entertaining speech was that by Mark Isherwood whose grasp of rhetorical devices is unrivalled in the chamber. Whether it is effective rhetoric is a matter for discussion, especially when Mark's words get him into trouble:

It is no wonder that, semi-facetiously, in a recent opinion poll, 10 per cent clapped Rhodri Morgan’s achievements; 90 per cent wanted him clapped in irons. Some 10 per cent considered that Ieuan Wyn Jones was a legend in his own lifetime; 90 per cent considered him a story to frighten children with at bedtime.

When the Richard commission produced its unanimous report recommending that we move to full law-making powers in devolved areas by 2011, the Labour Party fell apart. Its AMs and MPs could not agree, so, instead, it produced this dog’s breakfast of a scheme that we are currently working with, which the Labour chair of the commission, Lord Richard, described as a tortuous route.

Bethan Jenkins: It is all well and good for you to criticise, but the reports coming from the Tories on devolution are fudged. Will your party get its act together in this regard?

Mark Isherwood: Each of us will vote according to our own conscience—[Laughter.] At an All-Wales Convention event in Mold, I pledged my support.

I was quite intriqued by Mark's assertion that Welsh Conservatives believe in funding the Welsh Assembly with a needs-based funding formula. That is certainly a spectacular u-turn on their part as it goes against all their previous pronouncements on the matter. I await official confirmation.

However there is no doubting Mark's passion for his politics as his final remarks show:

Devolution provides an opportunity for Wales to do things differently and for different approaches to be road-tested on either side of the border, but the objective must be to do things better rather than to do things differently just for the sake of it. We must avoid at all costs a slate curtain in services between these two British nations. Never has so much been spent by so few to such little effect. Socialism only works in two places, but those in heaven do not need it and those in hell already have it.
Fair do's that last comment made me belly laugh - what a bumpa clart!
Back to basics Peter. We socialists believe in greater equality of outcome. To Tory boy its a fantasy. Where do the great fence sitters reside on this?
Why is everyone getting so exercised over Mark Isherwood quoting Churchill on socialism in his speech?

Isherwood's quip was entirely in keeping with most speeches he makes in the Assembly - totally unoriginal!

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