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Showing posts from October, 2008

...there was a problem

Posted on the Bevan Foundation blog on October 27th: "Jonathan [Powell, Chief of Staff] came into my office and shut the door, which usually meant there was a problem". So began Alistair Campbell's diary entry for October 27th 1998. The 'problem' was to result later that day in the first resignation from Tony Blair's Cabinet, and the beginning of a new chapter in Welsh politics. Fans of the counter-factual school of history will debate the impact of the events for some time, no doubt. I'll sit that one out. The one thing it is easy to agree on is how swiftly and profoundly Welsh politics has changed in ten years. Since the beginning of the secret ballot politics in Wales has been predictable, but not any more. Who could have foreseen that a decade on John Osmond would be hailing Rhodri Morgan as "the father of devolution" , Ron Davies would be a County Councillor representing the seat he held when he was 21 and Alun Michael would be a backbench

Joined up Government?

Posted on the Bevan Foundation blog on 23 October The Assembly Government have announced, via the jobs pages of the Western Mail, a major re-organisation at the Senior level of the Civil Service. A new layer of thematic departments are to be created: Sustainable Futures; Public Services and Local Government Delivery; People, Places and Corporate Services; and Finance. Each gets a new Director General, seemingly in addition to existing heads of department, at a salary of 'circa' £130,000. The new structure is the brainchild of the new Permanent Secretary, Dame Gill Morgan. It is in principle a good idea to try and take advantage of the intimacy of Government in a small nation. But it still leaves challenges, not least in terms of culture. I'm personally pleased to see sustainability as a theme. There is some sense in putting the environment, housing, sustainable development, rural affairs, heritage and tourism all brought under one Director General. But transport - which c

To blog, or not to blog

Posted on Bevan Foundation blog on 16th October 2008 That is the question that Victoria Winckler has been openly wrestling with Blogging reminds me a bit of CB radios in the 80s. They started off with a techno-savvy elite, moved into the cool mainstream and for a time everyone was at it; but soon retreated to a small sad group talking to each other. And there some signs of that happening in the Welsh blogosphere. There was an explosion of interest around the time of the Assembly elections last year. And it had a significant impact - becoming an extension of the coalition talks. Adam Price’s overtures to Labour on his blog played a key role in seeing the One Wales coalition come to pass. But since then the Welsh blogging community has shrunk. Maybe interest will be cyclical. Outside the hard core, they might mushroom at the time of elections. But a bit like the mainstream Welsh media in the post-devolution age, an explosion of interest has been followed by a sharp contraction. For some

So why has she decided to stand down?

Posted on the IWA Blog I was as surprised as anyone. The night before she told her constituency party that she wouldn't be contending the next election, Jane Davidson attended a meeting of the Sustrans Cymru Advisory Board. She struck everyone present as being passionate and engaged with her brief. So why then is she off? The official explanation was that in a small legislature like the Assembly it is important that people should be able to move in and out of public life " to renew our democracy ". The Western Mail doesn't swallow it. Martin Shipton wrote that "it is difficult to believe there is not something more behind her decision than simply the desire to go off and do something else". Perhaps I'm na├»ve but it makes sense to me. We criticise our politicians for being alien, and then can’t quite believe it when one says that she’d quite like to do something else. And she’s right that a 60 strong Assembly needs oxygenising. Not least because wi

Time to move on from ITV

Posted on the Bevan Foundation blog on 9th October 2008 It is sad to witness the slow death of ITV Wales. Naturally I feel very sorry for the people who are likely to lose their jobs over the next year. But as a refugee from ITV I don’t entirely swallow the explanations given for pulling out of Welsh news and current affairs. It has been a badly run company for many years: poor investments and skewed priorities have matched an unimaginative and pedestrian creative culture in the company. Having made a fortune from its privileged position, ITV now want to be excused from their commitment to provide Welsh programming. And it seems the Government’s ‘light touch’ regulator is happy to go along with it. The Welsh media is already weak. And there seems little that we can do to prevent it getting weaker. More than two-thirds of the people living in Wales don't consume Welsh daily news . And it's getting worse. Just as Wales is becoming a more interesting place to report, fewer