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Adding up

Betsan Powys | 07:41 UK time, Tuesday, 6 November 2007

A long day yesterday. What did I learn all in all?

Over breakfast with the Heritage Minister, Rhodri Glyn Thomas two things: that he supports Welsh journalism and journalists, though if that means spending any money (beyond coffee and pastries), he may have to think again.

I also learned that the All Wales Convention isn't simply there to ensure a 'yes' vote in the referendum (and I use 'the referendum' as short hand ... take that to mean 'a referendum if we ever get one') - no, not at all. According to Mr Thomas it's there to ensure the yes vote is an informed one. Aha, that's all right then.

Mid morning I learned that the government really weren't going to budge from 3.30pm in handing out the budget and the Special Advisers who patiently try and explain it to us (or should that be 'explain away'?) Given that Good Evening Wales is on the air at 4pm that means you get no more than basic headlines - the headlines they have very kindly flagged up for us - while we're still busy searching through endless columns of figures, trying to find where the bodies are buried. But then that, of course, is the plan.

Not even lunchtime yet and I'm still learning, that Mike German's mother had called the Western Mail not to complain that they'd got her son's age wrong a few weeks ago - they'd aged him by some three years - but to complain that they'd given the impression he'd been born before his parents were married. So there you go. Mike German is - officially - not a ... you get the drift.

I learned too that he grimaces, laughs a bit too much and talks rather fast when he says he isn't that bothered about Peter Black's monstering of the leadership in his blog. He has no intention of spelling out when exactly he's planning to stand down either. 'Next year' is good enough for the group, he says so it's good enough for us. He'll take the political playing field, the views of the groups in Cardiff and Westminster into account and only then will the new All Wales leader tell us that - with the blessing of the whole lot of 'em - he's off.

I then learned that on budget day there's no time for lunch and that no amount of comparative figures from the last three years really help when you're handed the big brown envelope.

Imagine you're the Finance Minister, you've got very little money to play with and it's bonfire night. What do you do? You come up with a nifty phrase like "bonfire of inefficiency" and pledge to save £600million by 2010. That 'by 2010' is worth thinking about for a start. An awful lot of figures you'll hear from here on in will be 'by 2010' or 'by 2011'. That will mean more often than not that the Welsh Assembly Government are adding the figures from years one, two and three before presenting them to us ... exactly what they accused the Treasury of doing to make the figures seem more palatable. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?

Most of what I learned you'll know all about by now. But you may have missed that the All Wales Convention, along with the commission to look at the Barnett Formula, will cost £2.5million. Perhaps the Special Advisers who worked that one out were inspired by the date again ... a penny for the Guy, a pound each for the Convention.

I'm still trying to learn how many of Plaid's 7 for 07 pledges have made it through to the money-where-your-mouth-is stage and the same goes for Labour's 11 for 11. The Assembly Government assures us they're there. Now we've asked officials to show us the money - not just the column but the pot of money that will pay for honouring pledges. More on that when the maths starts adding up (or falling apart).

At 6.30pm on Wales Today I not only learned never to push 'firework' metaphors too far again but that Steve Thomas, the Chief Executive of the WLGA was in Rome last week. When the details of the local government settlement started to leak out he threw caution to the wind, switched on his Blackberry and started sending furious messages ... from inside the Sistine Chapel. Divine intervention never came but in case you're interested, the reception is great, particularly when you stand next to a Bernini.

AT 7.30pm I learned that the people of Crwys Chapel not only care how Wales is represented on network tv and radio but spot glaring errors from a great distance.

And at 9.30pm I got home to find that the fantastic young girl who makes sure the children aren't left standing at the school gate when I'm elsewhere, learning about things, has found another (proper) job.

What was that in the Western Mail about bleak times ahead?

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