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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Interesting times

The last Plenary day before summer recess is always busy but rarely as eventful as yesterday. There has been much comment and discussion about whether it was wise for the opposition to go for the nuclear option of a no confidence vote in the Health Minister, and no doubt opinion will be equally as divided as to who won the argument.

What the debate and the previous scrutiny session established though, is that civil servants had an input into the drafting of the 'independent' report on which the government is making its case for reconfiguration,in terms of the provision of facts and the offering of opinion. That will make it much harder for Ministers to use it as a shield behind which they can make difficult decisions in the future.

Equally, the rather gungho and tribal reaction of Labour AMs to the debate may well come back to haunt them. When they are standing up in the chamber and stating loudly and unequivocally that there needs to be reconfiguration, they have pretty much nailed their position to the mast of public opinion.  It will be much more difficult in the future for any of them to join protests against the closure of local services as a result.

The day was also an eventful one for two of the other opposition parties. Firstly, there was the case of the missing Tory AM for Monmouth, who was apparently taken ill in the night after having partaked of the local hospitality. He failed to show up for a committee he was meant to be chairing, leading to a point of order in the chamber later that day.

Secondly, there was the fact that the motion of no confidence exposed huge problems within the Plaid Cymru group. Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas failed to show up for the vote despite a three line whip and was later critical of his party's leadership for agreeing to go along with it. He has now been suspended from the group and is facing disciplinary action.

That issue could run and run and will continue to distract Plaid Cymru from their role as an opposition party, something they have been noticeably poor at in recent months. Thank goodness for the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
Labour AMs are just as capable of adopting a conflicting stances on issues as any of their Lib Dem, Plaid or Tory counterparts.
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