Seven Sisters to Severn Barrage


One of the first - if not the very first - phone call I got on being made BBC Wales Political Editor was from Peter Hain, the then Secretary of State for Wales. He wished me well, then added that he hoped I'd approach the job with fairness uppermost in my mind. I assured him I would.

The first thing I did was store his mobile number. The second thing, to note that he's a man who is political to his fingertips and a shrewd player of the Westminster and wider game.

It may have been, as his adviser put it this morning, the worst kept secret in Welsh politics that Peter Hain was planning to step down from the Shadow Cabinet before the next reshuffle - but to do what? Now we know. From Seven Sisters to the Severn Barrage, as a colleague put it.

It's not every politician who gets to choose the time of his departure from frontline politics (for now). Mr Hain got to make that choice and true to form, planned carefully the manner of the announcement.

He remains MP for Neath and will fight the next election. He remains a big beast in the Welsh political jungle. He remains a huge force in Welsh Labour, they'll make no mistake about that in Cardiff Bay. It's just that that force will be now be focussed on Peter Hain the campaigner, making the Severn Barrage, or the 'controversial Severn Barrage' as it's usually known, happen.

Who'll take over his job?

There is a long list of possibles: Kevin Brennan, Chris Bryant, Huw Irranca Davies, Nia Griffith are all on it and were all there or thereabouts in the early twitter action from Westminster. That won't come as a surprise to you, or, you suspect, to them. Owen Smith is on the list too. He may be relatively new to Westminster but if the Severn Barrage attracts words like 'controversial,' Mr Smith tends to be called 'uber-competent' and 'impressive'.

We're told it's unlikely we'll get an answer today.

And should Labour win the next election, Mr Hain's resignation letter makes it quite clear that he'd fancy a comeback to frontline politics - if one's on offer. The experience he's about to gain, fighting for the barrage, would perhaps be relevant, ventured Mr Hain.

What was that? Political to his fingertips and a shrewd player of the game.

Betsan Powys, Political editor, Wales Article written by Betsan Powys Betsan Powys Former political editor, Wales

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  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    JT re barrage viable.
    in 2010 the electricity generated in UK was equiv to 28,230 thousand tonnes oil equiv, 5% is 1411 1000's toe.

    UK market price for electricity is about £55 MWh. Simple payback just over 33 years , not including ongoing maintenance, plant replacement etc. and any revenue costs, e.g. wages. interest on loans.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Alf, As I wrote, I use Nats as shorthand for those who, in my opinion, support, too enthusiastically, a minority of a minority.
    The German lot in the coloured shirts used a similar short form but had a rather different set of beliefs.
    In fact, as I have written here, I think that the Welsh 'Nats' problem will be their lack of a common ideology if they ever get independence. Socialist republic???

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    I'm not sure how resigning can help his cause in promoting the barage, surely more clout if he remains there. Perhaps Glyn T has touched on it at 40, but I'm not so sure.
    One thing is for certain though, it aint being done for the benefit of others!

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    John thank you and I hope that is all that will be licked. Though I think I get your gist. Glyndo. Forward is the way to go, unlike Wales. At least we don't have to go trawling through Post Pages to get to the up to date ones now.
    GlynT. My point exactly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Why are the comments now newest first? A conterintuitive way of presenting them. Why no option to reverse the order?

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    A thought;
    As Shadow SoS Hain cannot be paid for work which could conflict with his Parliament duties.
    But as a back bencher providing he declares an interest and registers any Payments he can.
    Is that correct?

    If it is, would a business group be prepared to pay him for the PR and Lobbing work he appears enthusiastic to start, and would that be worth resigning his Front Bench position.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    ... alf, I wrote elsewhere ...

    "The symbol of universal salvation is ice cream. We are blessed with an infinite number of cleverly created delicious flavours. But we are required by law to use someone else's tongue to lick them."

    I am sure that Hain would have a hand in that particular legislation !

    I'm sure you are not perceived a fascist alf ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    I for one am glad to see the departure all be it too slow of this particular politician. He has done little for Wales and everything to further his own career. As you put it "He remains a big beast". Predatory to the last looking for an easy kill which will bring him more. I feel he has lived off others unlike he predecessors, the truly great Welsh politicans.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    John. That is a good point seeing as no one has any plans for investing in Wales for the distant future, other than as far as Cardiff anyway. I am still sceptical about Peter Hains' involvement without it being of benefit to Peter Hain. Boxer. Just the same it is offencive to be categorised the same as Right wing Fascists because I peacefully love and am proud of my country of birth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    cont … subsidy (world wide observation). I can understand the need in the South East of England where vast numbers of people travel into London, but West of Swansea or Bangor-Merthyr passenger numbers are insufficient to justify the tax spend.

    Now Hain's proposal, particularly if joined up with Glyn's preference, could be the incentive to expand electric transport on the roads.

    A winner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    cont… road freight trend increased by 500%, my view is the changes reflect the changes in the way industrial UK works so unless there is a very real industrial need West of Swansea, industrial need should not be used to support expansions of the network.

    As a mass transport system for people is there a real need West of Swansea, no matter what the volumes you need a permanent public cont ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    I agree Boxer that during the industrial revolution that canals and then railways were a necessity for the coal industry to move goods (raw materials) to its markets. And without these transport arteries industrial expansions would probably have been restricted in the coalfields of Wales.

    But modern trends show rail freight reducing by 40% since the 1950's, whilst cont …

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    #31 'I'm not sure how railways improve Wales, you might like to expand'
    Not my expertise, but I have always gone along with the idea that the Industrial Revolution was advanced by canals, better roads, then continually improving railways. Bringing raw materials to factories and taking away the produce efficiently reduces costs, brings prosperity. Also Nation-Building c.f. the USA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    I'm surprised Glyn, if the returns were not good enough why the commercial interest, could it be the rising energy prices have made the project more interesting to investors, the 120 year life is a big plus.

    I'm a fan of the pump storage projects, there are plans afoot to use them as energy storage from other green methods of generation.

    My favourite though is Nuclear .........

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    I'm afraid the Barrage is not designed to improve Wales Boxer, just as its not designed to improve England, its just a very sound long term investment that guarantees an excellent return for the investors.

    I'm not sure how railways improve Wales, you might like to expand ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    #28 'Boxer. With respect you often call me and like minded people Nats. Why not call us Plaid Cymru supporters?'
    With respect, your term uses 22 characters, Nats uses 4. This on a blog with very limited characters allowed. Also, as I have commented, now Plaid has gone leftwing, or at least their leader has, not all Nats support Plaid.
    Simple brevity, no offence intended.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    John #24 I was involved in early studies on Welsh tidal energy opportunities
    The barrage was a non starter then, it still is, and for the same reasons
    Technically feasible - it is economical untenable, delivering minimal energy for the investment.
    The Dynorwig pump storage facility on the other hand was expensive but delivered not just energy security, but massive cost benefits.
    Easy to be misled

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    #26 Now there's a thought, John. Most French presidents have tried to leave a large project to mark their reign. So we have the Little Prince building his monument in the principality. I would have thought putting the odd £100M or whatever into extending the electrification of the railway to west of Swansea, or improving the Bangor-Merthyr route would have done Wales more good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Boxer. With respect you often call me and like minded people Nats. Why not call us Plaid Cymru supporters . I believe I always refer to you and other opposing views anything other than Labour, LibDem or Conservative. Please show us the same respect. I also believe many derogatory things have also been said to us from Labour and Conservative supporters. It takes two to Tango

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    I'm amazed that you even read the poster in question Boxer, I read him/her when he/she first posted comments, nothing was brought to the debate, when the personal abuse began I just took to passing the comments by.

    Alf, Hain will gain a bag full of cross-party prestige through his patronage of the project, they might call the new umbilical cord between Wales and the West "Hain Barrage" ......


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