Tensions flare between First Minister and Labour MPs
- 19 March 2013
- From the section Wales politics
It took place two weeks ago but it's still the talk of the tea room at Westminster.
Saturday's Western Mail reported (accurately) that Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones was given a "roasting" by Welsh Labour MPs at Westminster but it appears to have gone even worse for Mr Jones than has so far emerged.
One of those present said he'd not been at a meeting like it since the same gathering discussed plans for a Labour/Plaid Cymru coalition in the Welsh government in 2007 in a meeting where one senior politician compared Rhodri Morgan to Ramsay Macdonald, Labour's first prime minister who was expelled after forming a coalition with opponents.
The Western Mail reported that the argument was about Carwyn Jones's desire to see policing devolved to Wales, with criminal justice to follow eventually. But the agenda ranged rather wider than that in what MPs describe as a major bust-up.
Worryingly for the first minister - and Welsh Labour leader - one loyalist Valleys MP told him directly it was a pity he didn't pay more attention to health and education in Wales.
The MPs' main grievance was Mr Jones's failure to consult them over the Welsh government's submission to the Silk commission on devolution. Another complained: "He didn't consult anybody, he didn't discuss his proposals with his own cabinet or even Labour AMs."
The Welsh government points out that cabinet minutes show ministers were consulted.
Mr Jones was pressed repeatedly to say who wrote the Welsh government's submission. Eventually, he admitted it was written by the civil service. One Labour MP told me Mr Jones was going down "a very dangerous road" if he thought he could avoid controversy by leaving the party out of policy-making.
A senior MP told me Mr Jones didn't appear to "get" the mood of the meeting and continued to head for a wall at great speed in a performance that "staggered" MPs.
Mr Jones's suggestion that policing and criminal justice be devolved is understood not to have gone down well with Labour's spokesmen on those subjects at Westminster - Welsh MPs David Hanson and Wayne David.
Mr David said he wouldn't comment on private meetings but added: "We are not in favour of a separate justice system for Wales. That is Labour Party policy.
"It is a long term aspiration the Welsh government has decided on but it isn't Labour Party policy and hasn't been discussed."
The row was raised in the assembly today by the Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood. Mr Jones told her: "The Welsh government's evidence stands."
Tensions between Labour figures in the Welsh government and Welsh Labour MPs could perhaps be expected when Labour was in power at both ends of the M4. Few expected relations to get so bad when one might expect both elements to make the most of the chance to unite against a common enemy at Westminster.