Kind words and empty chairs in the Bay
- 16 April 2013
- From the section Wales politics
Instead of questions to the First Minister, this afternoon's session in the chamber will start with tributes to Margaret Thatcher. Only the party leaders have been asked to speak and the list of those who will not be attending is growing.
All four leaders will be there. All four will speak- one in praise of the former Prime Minister, three choosing to concentrate on the impact she had in Wales.
Unlike his counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland, Carwyn Jones has said nothing publicly so far. The First Minister released a carefully worded statement on the day of Mrs Thatcher's death and has since only confirmed that he will attend her funeral.
Was he, Plaid leader Leanne Wood was asked this morning, hypocritical? She supposed, rightly you suspect, that had he not gone, "there would be strong criticism. I guess he's had to balance that with his strong feelings". There spoke a woman who understood his dilemma and who in the past has come to different conclusions. Today she stressed repeatedly that it was "her duty as leader to participate".
Kirsty Williams understands her group will all be present for what she called "the most controversial tribute we've ever had to pay". The Presiding Officer had, she felt, been put in an impossible situation but the decision was rightly hers. It was, again, "right" that the decision to offer tributes had been left to the judgement of the PO.
Andrew R T Davies will be at tomorrow's funeral in St Paul's, and today the Conservative leader in the Assembly had little respect for those who will stay away from the chamber. Plaid's Simon Thomas may have spelled out on You Tube why he won't be there for the session but Mr Thomas was a democrat, he said. So is Mr Davies and they both lived in a democracy because of what Margaret Thatcher had done to bolster and protect it.
One Labour AM told me a "half empty chamber would be good". Another, Mick Antoniw, is staying away precisely because he will not be allowed to speak. Had he had that opportunity the former lawyer who represented striking miners would have read a strongly worded and damning letter to Mrs Thatcher. He is clear that the Presiding Officer has got it wrong:
"I don't believe we should be having this debate and certainly not a state funeral coasting around £10 million of public money. This state funeral is an establishment charade".
Those who think she's right will shortly be on their way to the chamber.