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Storms and silver linings

Betsan Powys | 17:11 UK time, Wednesday, 8 October 2008

We're in the eye of a financial storm, one which the Assembly Government will try to ride if not calm next Thursday by holding an All-Wales Economic Summit to consider the impact of the crisis on the Welsh economy and to "discuss the challenges that are facing us". It's not clear yet who'll be on the guest list - who would you want tob e there? - but there's a pledge to try to "reinforce or add to measures to help our businesses overcome the challenges they are now facing."

There are cold winds blowing in from Iceland ... but more on that later.

Plaid AM Leanne Wood has looked at the £50b public investment in the banks, sniffed a fat-cat bail-out but spotted what she thinks is a silver lining. "If public ownership is good enough for the banks, it is good enough for the energy utilities that, after all, provide a service which people cannot do without". That's the way, she says, to abolish fuel poverty in Wales.

In the meantime AMs must get on with the day-job and so far this week, that has been a challenge for some.

Another Plaid AM, Mohammed Asghar, has stood down voluntarily from a major Assembly inquiry into a planning application after allegations that he'd shown bias and prejudice. QC Winston Roddick - and here is a man who sounds every inch the QC - didn't mince his words in condemning Mr Asghar's contribution.

"It was, if I might say, in proceedings of this kind, highly unusual and of a kind I have never seen before in the whole of my professional carreer at the Bar". Mr Ashgar had, he alleged, failed to keep an open mind and as all Assembly Members should know, that just won't do.

Mr Asghar stood down voluntarily this morning, not because the criticism was justified but because "he wanted to protect the reputation of the Assembly as whole".

Perhaps he should take a look at this. You may find the Subordinate Legislation Committee meeting hard to follow. Eleanor Burnham, who is a member, certainly seemed to find the whole experience of taking part via video-link from Wrexham pretty taxing.

Who cares?

The answer is Labour AM Alun Davies who has written a strongly-worded private letter to the chair accusing Eleanor Burnham of behaviour that is "wholly inappropriate ... This afternoon she appeared to be both shouting and laughing loudly and almost screaming at times. It was clear from her behaviour that she had little if any awareness of how she was being seen in the committee room. In my view her erratic behaviour was embarrassing, improper and wholly unsuitable for a formal meeting of the committee".

He goes on to claim that this "eccentric behaviour brings both the Committee and the Assembly into disrepute". That word again - the Assembly's reputation - and yes, that's why he cares.

They appear together on tonight's CF99 on S4C, where no doubt Ms Burnham can explain to Mr Davies that she is a pioneer in the use of video conferencing technology. She can also pass on the message that yes, it was unfortunate that she had to leave before the meeting was over to catch a train to Cardiff but that, she claims, was partly down to lengthy interventions made by Mr Davies himself.

Tune in.


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