Water but no Hot Water

  • Mark Devenport
  • 10 May 07, 09:53 PM

Spent rather more time than I was bargaining for hanging around outside Stormont Castle this evening, waiting for the conclusion of the first meeting of the new power sharing executive. Eventually at about 7.20pm the ministers emerged to be driven away in their limos.

The first meeting is being described as focussed and workmanlike, concentrating as expected on water charges and the peace dividend. Asked by photographers to move his chair before the meeting started, Ian Paisley responded "not an inch".

Increasingly, though, the old DUP Sinn Fein concerns appear to be compartmentalised.

During the day Gerry Adams put out a statement paying tribute to Tony Blair which went on to express the hope that the next Prime Minister would be the last to administer British rule in Ireland. Even as the Executive was meeting, the DUP put out a statement in Ian Paisley's name accusing Mr Adams of "scaremongering" and telling the Sinn Fein President there would not be a United Ireland in his lifetime.

But when I raised this with the First Minister he brushed it aside, insisting such a ritualistic row would not have a negative impact on working relations within the new Executive. "We are what we said we are" he told me. "I am what I said I am. He (nodding to Martin McGuinness) said what he said he was. Sometimes we just don't take it up and you have to rub it in."

Later he admonished me for trying to get him "into hot water" when all he wanted to concentrate on was the kind of water that comes out of your taps.

Swan Lake

  • Betsan Powys
  • 10 May 07, 04:51 PM

Just can't resist this one.

Rhodri Morgan has just called into the office to be interviewed about Tony Blair's departure.

As he left we subtly asked whether we could look forward to a quiet weekend or not?

He nodded and added: "The one-legged swan is swimming peacefully around Cold Knap lake".

We think that's a yes.

The Full Monty

  • Betsan Powys
  • 10 May 07, 04:03 PM

I'm sure there must be plenty of good reasons for reading Paddy Ashdown's diaries but this one had probably not struck you.

When he and Tony Blair were discussing the possibility of a coalition with Labour - we're talking the Autumn of 1997 in this instance - you might remember the suggestion that as part of the 'Full Monty' as they called it, the Libs would have been offered two cabinet seats.

But would the leader have been a shoo-in? No. The idea floated was that Menzies Campbell and Alan Beith took the two seats available, leaving Paddy Ashdown as leader from outside the cabinet.

Will anyone have a copy with them in the car as they travel to Llandrindod for the Lib Dem Exec meeting tonight?

I've heard the suggestion made, by pundits not party people, that - if ever a deal was struck - putting Jenny Randerson and Kirsty Williams in the cabinet would make a bitter pill easier for some to swallow. And no harm either, perhaps, in enhancing the two figures most likely to go for the leadership when it next comes up for grabs?

PMs and POs

  • Brian Taylor
  • 10 May 07, 03:26 PM

What a curious concatenation of circumstances. Tony Blair IS Prime Minister - but soon won't be.

In Scotland, Jack McConnell IS First Minister but soon won't be.

Are the two events connected? More than one Labour MSP - (and, still more strongly, ex MSP) - must wish that TB had stood down earlier.

They believe, in short, that Iraq had turned him from a vote-winning machine into a liability.

Others contest that his contributions to the campaign - which were many - helped turn round a potential calamity into a very close run thing.

Still and all, Tony Blair leaves office as - a) the most successful Labour leader in history; and b) the leader who presided over Labour's first voting share and seats defeat in Scotland for half a century.

He's also, of course, the Prime Minister whose government introduced Scottish self-government.

No great personal enthusiast for devolution, he saw the political necessity of acting - and drove the pre-debated scheme through to enactment, as one or two Cabinet colleagues squawked and muttered.

He backed Donald Dewar when it mattered.

PS: Looks as if the issue of the Presiding Officer at Holyrood could be close to a solution.

The hot gossip - again - is that Tory MSP Alex Fergusson could be up for the job.

It had been thought that the demands of his south-west constituency might prove insuperable.

But the latest thinking is that he might be able to combine both tasks successfully. Further, some argue that it would be a concrete demonstration of the Tories' readiness to make devolution work.

If I'm right, you read it here first. If I'm wrong, I blame a hacker who polluted my blog.

Privy Privileges

  • Mark Devenport
  • 10 May 07, 02:21 PM

Of course the DUP's motive in getting Peter Robinson and Jeffrey Donaldson on to the Privy Council is to ensure they have access to raw intelligence material on paramilitaries, rather than having to rely on the IMC. But there are also fringe benefits.

For example, you go to the front of the queue for speaking in the Commons. And, if you so desire, you get a uniform to wear. My Westminster colleague Ruth McDonald informs me it's "dark blue court dress, with red collar and gold braid."

And you pledge to defend the realm against "all Foreign Princes, Persons, Prelates, States, or Potentates".
Presumably that does not include the North South Ministerial Council.

Anoraks welcome

  • Betsan Powys
  • 10 May 07, 01:12 PM

I've no idea whether anoraks read this blog. You're very welcome if you do and to tempt you, here are three things that the uber-anorak, Roger Scully, Professor of Political Science at the Department of International Politics in Aberystwyth has spotted.

1. Labour’s vote share on the Constituency vote in Wales (32.2%) was exactly the same as its share on the Constituency vote in Scotland. This is the first time that Labour’s vote share in Wales has NOT been greater than in Scotland since 1924 (when they were also dead level on 40.6%).

2. Labour’s share of the Constituency vote fell in 39 out of 40 constituencies. The only exception was Sue Lent in Cardiff Central. (Their share even fell in Wrexham – it’s just that John Marek’s share fell even further).

3. The rise of the independents/small parties: a candidate from outside the main 4 parties finished in the first four (thus beating at least one main party candidate) in 5 constituencies in 2003, but in 11 in 2007. And the share of the list vote going to ‘Others’ rose to 16.3%, from 11.9% in 2003 and 4.9% in 1999.


Given that Roger's students - as part of their course - conducted a poll in Llanelli and got the result pretty much spot on, I think he's proven, once again, that he's a man worth listening to!

Wall to wall watching

  • Betsan Powys
  • 10 May 07, 11:15 AM

I'm glued to News 24 and that cavalcade making its way to Sedgefield.

What I should be doing is getting my act together to chair a discussion for the Manylu programme on Radio Cymru. Given that Carwyn Jones is on the panel, alonside the "old blogger" Glyn Davies, the winner and loser in Ceredigion - Elin Jones and John Davies - is should make for an entertaining half an hour.

And plenty to talk about. Glyn may be gone from Cardiff Bay but his blog is still worth reading. He's more or less stated now that he's intending to stand against Lembit Opik MP at the next general election and has issued a direct challenge to Ieuan Wyn Jones to get out his paintbrush and bring that rainbow coalition to life if he gets half a chance.

Ieuan has the chance to claim the glorious mantle of First Minister - but has he got the b***s. Or at least are they big enough to ring his pals Mike German and Nick Bourne to prepare a strategy to create a coalition government. Or will he prop up Rhodri Morgan's 32% Labour vote - either in formal coalition or as compliant Leader of the Opposition (a la Dafydd El). Go on Ieuan. Surprise us. Cast off the wobbly sobriquet. Stand up tall (well, as tall as you can) and take your place in history. I am behind you.

Yesterday I shared a studio with the brand new - well renewed anyway - Presiding Officer who said his money was on something other than a Lib-Lab pact. What? Wouldn't be drawn and yet the talk coming from the Plaid Cymru camp suggests Glyn should keep watching too. The Plaid group meet again next Wednesday and if there's no silver lining around the current cloud surrounding the Labour/Lib Dem talks, then that old rainbow could yet have its chance to shine. (Wow. Extended metaphor or what ...)

Do we really believe that? It would have to be a Plaid/Lib coalition with the Tories providing numbers and support. Can't see the Plaid young guns accepting a full-on deal with the Tories ... For their part they're just pleased to know we're all still talking about them.

Another story to throw in the pot. I seem to remember a few of you asking on election night how long it would be before someone called for Janet Ryder to stand down in favour of Dafydd Wigley. The answer is less than a week. This blog is congratulated by this one for taking the plunge. The Welsh-language magazine Golwg has more.

As Rosemary Butler, the new Deputy Presiding Officer put it yeterday, 'we live in interesting times'.

Back to News 24.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites