Wales: Good but not that good

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Fri Jul 20 21:03:45 UTC 2007


Thursday, 19 July 2007 good, but not that
good<http://g-w-e.blogspot.com/2007/07/good-but-not-that-good.html>

<http://bp3.blogger.com/_w9T1mIZo0eM/Rp-ld9a_dWI/AAAAAAAAAG8/GX9sw-_EZmQ/s1600-h/chili+coch+a+gwyrdd.jpg>Immediately
after Plaid's National Council voted overwhelmingly to support the One Wales
agreement, it was Dafydd Wigley, not Ieuan Wyn Jones, who went on record
saying Plaid should get no less than three cabinet portfolios and not just
any old portfolios but economic development, finance and rural affairs. As
it is, Plaid have secured three (plus one junior minister), albeit only two
of the departments Dafydd Wigley wished for. A case of two out of three
ain't bad?

Out of the three Wigley mentioned, you'd have to say yes. Plaid were never
going to get economic development* and* finance. Whether it was IWJ's
preference for economic development or Andrew Davies' obvious appetite for
finance that finally settled matters is a matter of conjecture for those not
involved in the negotiations. What is certain, however, is that both men
will be delighted with their respective portfolios. Another certainty is
that economic development is the only department that in any way 'hurt'
Labour to cede to Plaid.

The economic development brief is a huge ask for IWJ, but also a great
opportunity. If he passes the test, it will be an enormous boost not only
for his own credibility but for that of his party too. Just as New Labour
back in 1997 were anxious to appear business-friendly and a safe pair of
hands, IWJ will too – although he will have to be 'innovative' as well as
'safe' if he is to have a real effect. New ideas are needed to move further
away from the tired formula of pumping millions into the coffers of foreign
investors for often poor return and give Welsh-based small and medium sized
businesses a much needed boost. It's a very difficult balance – trying to
satisfy the immediate needs of vulnerable regions while at the same time
laying down structures and implementing initiatives that will be sustainable
and effective in the medium to long term. IWJ will need every bit of the
determination and tenacity he has shown since the election in his new role.
Not least because Andrew Davies will be holding the purse strings.

Elin Jones will be widely welcomed as Rural Affairs Minister, I'm sure. I
daresay Jane Davidson is pretty relieved too. A farmer's daughter, Elin will
be only too aware of the difficulties facing agriculture, and is also
sensible enough to know that the issues that effect rural communities are in
no way confined to the narrow confines of her department. Economic
development, education, tourism, housing, the Welsh Language, sustainable
development and transport are all key components of any joined-up policy to
a cohesive policy for rural Wales, to say nothing of fears regarding the
provision of medical and dental care. On paper at least, there seems to be a
good opportunity for some progress on inter-departmental cooperation.

The third portfolio is the renamed 'Heritage' brief. Of the three, this is
probably the least attractive portfolio from Plaid's point of view, although
doubtless Rhodri Glyn Thomas would disagree. Whilst it is most certainly not
just a 'Mickey Mouse' department as some commentators seem to suggest, it is
nevertheless a double-edged sword. On the one hand Plaid has a real say in
Welsh language policy, but on the other it will be simultaneously attacked
from both sides as doing too much and too little. I have no doubt that Plaid
would have preferred either health or education as their 'third' portfolio,
but that was obviously a pill too bitter for Labour to swallow.

As to other appointments, the one that immediately jumps out from the page
is that of Carwyn Jones in a double role of counsel general and leader of
the house, together with responsibility for assembly business and
communications. It is difficult to argue with *Vaughan
Roderick*<http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/vaughanroderick/2007/07/cnoi_cil_am_y_cabinet.html>who
says that "freed of departmental duties, he (Carwyn Jones) will have
the
time and the stage to build his profile as Rhodri's natural leader."

Without wanting to seem churlish on what is, of course, yet another in a
series of historic days (no cynicism implied), it is however clear that
there are those on the back benches who are more capable than some in the
cabinet. I feel duty bound to point out the two glaring omissions: Huw Lewis
and Helen Mary Jones. Looking at the make up of the cabinet, it is difficult
not to come to the conclusion that both have been left out because of their
respective stance during the coalition talks. *Normal
Mouth*<http://normalmouth.blogspot.com/2007/07/knife-wielding-and-polarisation-of.html>has
a great post on this concerning Huw Lewis. The irony is that the same
fate has befallen the one who was most vocal for this coalition and the one
that was most vocal against. (This is perhaps not correct, strictly
speaking, but with all due respect, these are the only two cabinet
contenders that fall into this category.) I think both, in different ways,
have a tremendous contribution to make and it is a great shame that the same
inter-party cooperation could not be extended to intra-party forgiveness.
Their exclusion has denied the cabinet of considerable drive, determination
and not a little talent. And that cannot be good for Wales.
http://g-w-e.blogspot.com/2007/07/good-but-not-that-good.html
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