Friday, 19 December 2008

Move the goalposts and score an own goal

As mentioned in my previous post. We're in need of a good story that not only demonstrates the inconsistency of those running the WAG machine, but also an example of the civil service not getting their own way and yet again promoting one of their own numbers from within.

The Western Mail reports the appointment of a freemason as the head of the NHS in Wales was attacked last night as inconsistent.

Paul Williams left his post as chief executive of Abertawe Bro Morgannwg NHS Trust at the end of last month on a two-year secondment during which he will be in charge of the Welsh health service. He is currently working a handover period with Ann Lloyd, his predecessor, who is retiring.

But a civil servant who contacted the Western Mail contrasted the appointment of Mr Williams with an earlier decision to block the appointment of Gerard Elias QC as the Welsh Assembly’s counsel general – partly because he was a freemason.

In 2004, Mr Elias, one of the best-known barristers in Wales, was personally vetoed by First Minister Rhodri Morgan after he was recommended for the post of top legal adviser at the Assembly by Civil Service Commissioners.

Mr Morgan’s refusal to appoint Mr Elias – and the revelation that he had unsuccessfully sought approval from the commissioners to appoint the candidate who came second, a former Labour parliamentary candidate – created a political storm at the time.

The Western Mail received a typewritten letter saying:

I am afraid this note has to be anonymous as I am a civil servant.

You might find it useful to ask the Welsh Assembly Government why it saw fit to debar Gerard Elias from the counsel general post on the basis of his rather inactive freemasonry but now sees no problem in appointing Paul Williams, a very senior and active freemason, to the post of head of NHS Wales.

No doubt the excuse will be that the counsel general offers advice on legal issues but there is no more sensitive post than head of NHS Wales.

I am not a freemason but I have no quarrel with that organisation. I have no axe to grind for or against Mr Elias, unknown to me, or Mr Williams, known to me but not well-known.

My beef is really with the inconsistency and – let’s face it the dishonesty – around decisions like this which devalue the whole Assembly position.

An Assembly Government spokeswoman said:

We appoint on merit and the best person for the job based on skills and experience. We do not have a policy of excluding individuals based on membership of the freemasons.

Candidates are not obliged to declare membership of the freemasons. The issue of Paul Williams’ membership of freemasons is viewed as a private matter.

I couldn't help but contact one anonymous insider that contacted me a while back on another issue. I was told that "one senior civil servant didn't get what they wanted for Christmas" which I think amusingly falls foul of the tradition of Secret Santa.

Merry Christmas everyone.

[Pippa Wagstaff is currently on a blogging break and hopes to return in the New Year]

Dead tree press can't see the wood for the trees

At this time of the year we're in need of a good story that not only demonstrates the inconsistency of those running the WAG machine, but also an example of the civil service not getting their own way and promoting one of their own numbers from within.

This story also makes a refreshing change from the media ignoring what other AMs have claimed in expenses. Instead, they choose to turn the rack on the Conservative leader Nick Bourne over a piddling iPod in a desperate attempt to make the story run and run until his resignation as group leader. Hoping then to happily turn the story into a column stocking filler by running another series of leadership election stories that saves them from having to examine and attack the policies and politics of the Welsh Assembly Government.

More effort should be placed on looking into the National Assembly rules and regulations on expenses that allows what may seem by the general public to be inappropriate claims being made by elected politicians. We need to remember that no politician has broken the rules of the Assembly as laid down by Assembly Commission staff.

Have the Western Mail also gone soft on the Assembly Government since coalition? Fear appears to have set in when it comes to taking on the Labour establishment and particularly since forming a coalition with Plaid Cymru. This needs to change.

The Western Mail's latest column filler - iPodGate - should go a long way to guarantee Nick Bourne's short term survival as leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the National Assembly. Welsh politics and political parties are not led by small Welsh media outlets, and no one is going to have the stomach to oust a leader just because a campaign is being run by a Welsh newspaper.

The Welsh Conservative party and group in the Assembly shouldn't follow the Western Mail's lead. It wouldn't be good for party politics in Wales whatever party you support.

Anyway. Enough of my rant before Christmas and back to the other Welsh politics story in the Western Mail that isn't classed as 'iPodGate' or 'a soapbox for Adam Price MP'.

This story of Christmas cheer can be read in the next blog.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Welsh Political Awards and National Assembly bias

Strange that there are 3 non-government Assembly Members among the winners of ITV's Welsh Political Awards, and the website of the National Assembly for Wales only manages to announce Dafydd Elis-Thomas as a winner.

Just who clears press releases from the National Assembly these days? Seems clear to me who runs the show at the Senedd.

Wales Yearbook 2008 Political Awards Results (Pippa Wagstaff too shocked to return)

According to the Western Mail the winners of the Wales Yearbook 2008 Political Awards (sponsored by ITV Wales), are:

LORD Elis-Thomas, Presiding Officer of the National Assembly, was last night named Welsh Politician of the Year at a ceremony in Cardiff City Hall.

The former Plaid Cymru president got the award “for his role in the Assembly’s transformation into a true legislature, passing Welsh laws under its new powers”.

The citation went on to say: “As the Assembly’s first, and so far only, Presiding Officer, he has had no precedent to guide him – something he has seen as an opportunity rather than a problem.

“Dafydd Elis-Thomas has never been afraid to revise his opinions to reflect changing circumstances.

“A radical republican when first elected to Westminster at the age of 27, he has been keen to involve the Queen and Prince of Wales in the Assembly’s ceremonies as he works to weave devolution into the constitutional fabric of the nation.”

Other winners were:

MP of the Year: Paul Murphy.
AM of the Year: Edwina Hart.
MP to Watch: Jenny Willott.
AM to Watch: Andrew RT Davies.
Local Politician of the Year: Councillor John Davies, Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council and the Welsh Local Government Association.
Campaigner of the Year: Nerys Evans.

Dafydd Wigley, the Honorary President of Plaid Cymru, received a Lifetime Achievement award.
Elis Owen, National Director of ITV Wales, said: “We are delighted to support these awards, which are one of the ways that we celebrate the hard work politicians do for us in Wales.”

The awards will be shown on ITV Wales in a special programme on Thursday December 18 at 11.05pm, hosted by Wales Tonight’s Jonathan Hill and Sharp End’s Mai Davies. All winners received a personalised cartoon by Mumph and a bottle of Penderyn Welsh whisky.

Is it me or are some of the award results highly questionable and could be described as scraping the barrel? No wonder Pippa Wagstaff is on a break from blogging. At this rate she won't have the will to return!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Taking one step closer to a new Welsh Assembly Government

Turnout in the ballot for the new Welsh Liberal Democrat leader is expected to exceed that of the party's other recent leadership elections across the UK.

Not only will the National Assembly have its first female leader but can we expect a new Welsh Assembly Government to be formed in the not too distant future? After all, new leaders come equipped with new bridges and opportunities.

The ballot to replace Mike German closes at noon and the winner will be announced later today.

A total of 62% of ballots had already been returned to the party's Wales HQ in Cardiff Bay by Friday afternoon.

The two candidates are Cardiff Central AM Jenny Randerson and Kirsty Williams, Brecon and Radnorshire AM.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats 'outgoing leader' Mr German welcomed the arrival of a female successor, saying: “I believe it will be very significant and should bring a change of character to the Assembly.”

BBC UK Politics

BBC Welsh Politics


Welsh Political News

UK News from Times Online

Telegraph Politics


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