.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Monday, June 07, 2010

Clegg's slip of the tongue

I made a point this afternoon of putting Nick Clegg's first Commons performance as a Minister on the computer as I worked and was actually very impressed with the way that he handled the experience.

He was compelling in the way he put the argument for constitutional reform and brushed off all attempts to derail him, whilst also showing that he wanted to build consensus and work with the opposition to get it right. A more comprehensive account can be found here.

It was almost a flawless performance except for one small mistake. When asked by Wrexham Labour MP, Ian Lucas what the government's stance will be in a referendum on further powers for the Welsh Assembly, he said: "Yes, the government does support a yes vote in that referendum.

"As for the timing of the referendum the Welsh secretary of state and the first minister are meeting today with a view to identifying a date most likely in the first few months of next year to hold that referendum."

However, despite widespread welcome around Wales for this unexpected commitment the UK government later denied that its policy on the referendum had changed. Officials said that Clegg's remark was a a "slip of the tongue" and that he meant to indicate his support for the referendum, in which ministers are expected to remain neutral.

It is easily done. In my eagerness to please in one of my first outings as a Deputy Minister in the Welsh Assembly I committed the government to £1.5 million of extra spending on affordable housing. Fortunately, the Minister agreed to bail me out and found the cash from another budget.

Still, Clegg does appear to have developed a certain blind spot when it comes to Wales in recent weeks, missing the opportunity to make obvious points to reinforce our party's strong support for fiscal and political fairness on a number of occasions.

It is a blind spot that needs to be corrected soon before it is misinterpreted and used to undermine the Welsh Liberal Democrats' longstanding committment to a full law-making Welsh Parliament and reform of the Barnett formula. These feature in part in the coalition agreement. It would just be nice if the Liberal Democrat leader talked about them a bit more.
Only marginally less surprising than Nick Clegg's statement of support for further devolution was Alan Johnson's response to the roll-back. Johnson said that he had been pleased that the deputy PM had pledged support for a "yes" vote, implying that Labour MPs were enthusiasts for increased powers for WAG.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?