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Dogs, cakes and reputations

Betsan Powys | 23:03 UK time, Monday, 11 May 2009

I started the day talking about dog food and how the knowledge that receipts will one day be published concentrates the minds of Assembly Members. I know some of them own dogs, though can't for the life of me think of anyone with a moat that needs cleaning.

Within the hour I was listening back to an interview with Dr Who fan and devolution baby Matthew Edwards from Swansea who'll be ten tomorrow. He'll be coming to the Senedd for a birthday tea and cake, though a glimpse of the Torchwood tower is what he's really after.

He'd heard a presentation in school on the First Minister. "We had to talk to the class about leaders. I did Lance Armstrong. Gwenllian did Rhodri Morgan. Tomos did Genghis Khan."

I moved on to mulling over this question from Radio Scotland: could it be that Wales has got more out of a decade of devolution than Scotland? We talked about expectations, how the tasks faced by the two institutions in Cardiff and Edinburgh had been so different from the very beginning - or even before the beginning - about yardsticks and how the view of Wales from Scotland has changed and vice versa.

I ended the day listening to Rhodri Morgan's speech in the Senedd and found him touching on the same territory. Those of you who instinctively cringe when you read the words "country" and "Wales" in the same sentence - and there are times when it feels as though you exist only in responses to this blog - had better look away now.

"The birth of the National Assembly was, as you all know, the most damned close run thing since the Battle of Waterloo. My own conclusion, at the time and since, was the result demonstrated that deep ambivalence which runs through our national psyche. We are a top-sliced country, used to years and centuries in which we had no decision to make, but all the time in the world to complain about decisions made about us by others ... Reputations depend on a great deal on starting points, as well as ending ones. The Scottish Parliament was born in enthusiasm and high ambition. It has, predictably I think, faced a struggle to meet the high bar which was thus set for it by the people of Scotland.".

Out of the long passages justifying the 'freebies' and 'gimmicks' of the past decades, the personal recollection of dads in Ely who couldn't afford to take their children to the local Leisure Centre and the Rhymney Valley pupils whose hunger had prevented them from learning properly, came the argument that while no-one had expected much of the Assembly, it had got a lot right.

Put simply: it was born in ambivalence, went downhill but then, got better.

Come to think of it the cake was big enough to have those thoughts iced on it.

Hope there's a big piece left for Matthew.


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