Why doesn't Welsh politics sell newspapers?


When politicians at Westminster talk about a "deficit" they are usually referring to the gap between what Britain spends and what it earns.

But politicians in Cardiff Bay were today focused on a different kind of deficit - the gap between political activity in the National Assembly for Wales and media coverage of it - or the lack of it.

There are frequent complaints that media coverage is too English-centric and the assembly's presiding officer organised today's conference to look at the issue and come up with solutions.

You won't be surprised to learn that this morning's panellists, especially those who have to sell newspapers for a living, weren't terribly sympathetic to the idea that more assembly coverage would deliver the circulation boost their papers desperately need. AMs are simply not box office in Fleet Street.

Kevin Maguire, associate editor of the Daily Mirror, acknowledged that newspapers needed to be more accurate in explaining who runs public services in parts of the UK.

But he had watched assembly proceedings on TV - and isn't a fan. "It's as boring as hell," he complained. "I'm amazed anybody watches it."

Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas responded via twitter: "We're not supposed to be Brucie, we're to scrutinise government and legislation properly."

Even BBC Parliament Controller Peter Knowles acknowledged that some debates can be "grim to watch" with AMs "typing and fiddling with their computers".

His solution was that AMs should - for the duration of the weekly questions to the first minister - stop typing and pay attention to the exchanges.

Deputy Presiding Officer David Melding said he couldn't possibly comment on the standard of debates but promised to pass on Mr Knowles' comments to colleagues.

Mr Melding said that when computers first arrived in the assembly chamber it was "ground-breaking - we had people coming from all over the world to look at that".

Peter Riddell, late of The Times, now of the Institute for Government, suggested politicians should simplify their language and explain things clearly. (Politicians who routinely refer to "Silk" or "Barnett" without explanation please take note).

The afternoon's panellists included Welsh newspaper editors Kevin Ward, Jonathan Roberts and Holly Robinson.

None has a full-time reporting presence at the assembly, but all argued they covered the impact of Welsh government decisions on their readers.

Jonathan Roberts explained what his readers want: "They don't buy process. They don't necessarily buy policy. They buy people.

"It is the people that matter: the process and the policy are only the supporting cast."

The editors appeared optimistic that newspapers had a future in print, at least short-term - reassuringly optimistic for an old print romantic like myself.

Kevin Ward said his personal view was that within five years most newspapers would be charging for content online.

Would you cough up (say) 50p to read what your local politician is up to?

Holly Robinson said the two most popular recent stories on the Western Telegraph website involved "the beast of Tenby" and that keepy-uppy man from Milford Haven. Not a politician in sight.

As today was what David Melding described as "a working day" committee business kept other AMs away from the conference.

The deputy presiding officer assured the audience that the conference would soon be available to view on Senedd TV, one of the few channels you won't see Brucie on.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em - as other media moguls might say.

Politicians in Cardiff Bay and Westminster are now embarking on their Whitsun recess. They'll be back - and so will I - in early June.

David Cornock Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

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  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    ... #12, they are not hand-outs, from London or Brussels, it is the distribution of taxation to the collective regions of the UK, money provided by the taxpayers.

    Being comfortable with the majority status quo is not being disrespectful, it is a democratic right, as is being sceptical of our very poor performing devolution/WAG.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.


    Certainly, to lessen Wales' dependence on handouts from London and Brussels. To increase self-reliance.
    Against that are you? If so, why?

    A majority actively/passively said Yes/No Objections to devolution, twice. A minority actively said No, twice.
    I put it to you that it is you who is disrespectful, disrespectful of people's democratic choices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    You misunderstand its not the way they debate but rather what they debate. Also the fact that they never implement anything. Even the things that are a good idea never quite seem to come to fruition. The donor law still trundles on with provisos beeing added, soon it will be so diluted that its worth will be questionable. As is with the vast majority of bill put before the chamber.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Back to the question, why doesn't the WG get press coverage? Well it could be down to the fact that the vast majority of the populous are like sheep and vote the way they always voted with only small swings one way or the other. It could be that our politicans have not managed to deliver on their promises. Or it could be the fact that the press have no interest in non stories about / on baboons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    ... #11, your language is the language of someone wishing to take Wales elsewhere.

    The people are allowed a personal level of self-belief and ambition, to suggest otherwise is disrespectful. Insulting the population because it is comfortable with the history of "England & Wales", comfortable with the status quo, demonstrates those characteristics the majority find alien.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    'Grow up' celticfringe? Do you proof-read and edit your posts?

    Wales' problems are historical and stem from unhealthy, excessive external authority/control which has created a dependancy mindset and a lack of self-belief/ambition in far too many of the population. The country needs a kick up the donkey and devolution (taking responsibility and control, raising the bar) is a start. YOU GROW UP!

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    and I can't spell hordes. However moving along here. I love Wales, its my home but the narrow minded, introspective, lets all hark back to a non existent "golden age" twaddle peddled by some on here, aided and abetted by the public sector elite and particularly the fourth rate WG nonentities is really making me so angry that I am off to listen to Dusty, the poor man's Cerys according to Boxer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    No 8 That's a very stereotypical comment I'd expect it from a person with very little knowledge of Wales not you. Wales punches well above its weight in many walks of life. Imperialist is an old fashion word and not worthy of a modern society. In order to engage the public lets include the UK not just London

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Inorder to enage the public lets have a new Welsh channel promoting all that is good about the WG. Suggested programmes include "How Green was my Valley (before the English imperialists aggressors led by David Cameron and the Tory hoards ruined it)" and Game of Thrones in which Leighton plots usurping the Dear Leader whilst facing both ways on health reform.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Lets all be Welsh on the Weekend supporting Team Wales but lets make sure on Monday we go back to being subservient to Westminster on Monday, We' ve always done so well under successive governments in London. UKIP will sort it out English Parliament with English MPs even more marginalised

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    No.4 Oh dear oh dear. Once again the "big idea" is lets's all be Welsh as if that would solve anything. Parity with Scotland? How much oil is there in the Irish Sea and wouldn't most it belong to Ireland? GROW UP!

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    The standard of debate in plenary and many of the televised committee meetings has been absolutely appalling at times. Ministers, especially the FM, don't answer questions properly, they look like they can't be bothered/don't want to be there, they read prepared statements from their spin-meisters, show little command of their porttfolios, and the net effect treats the voters with contempt.


  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Welsh politics boring? Well, a relatively toothless, disempowered institution of national government is hardly going to set the media world alight, is it? Remedy - parity with Scotland, NOW, without any further excuse or delay. Followed by the election of a strong government that will unapologetically pursue the Welsh national interest, rather than socialism, capitalism or any other dated fad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    ... the democratic deficit that exists in Wales is not going to be cured with a few print inches in any newspaper, national or otherwise, and it’s not going to be fixed overnight with political hot air.

    The education minister is the place to start to generate public understanding; the largest deficit is the dominance of a single political party that stifles debate.


  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    All media should be brought under the control of the Welsh State and then we can have a lot more of the unbiased drooling over the WG that the BBC thinks we all deserve. How about an hour on engine manufacture in Bridgend with shots of the Dear Leader addressing crowds of workers? Truth is that as long as the tax payer continues to dole out sweeties like free prescriptions, no one cares less.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    What would the papers rather have - verbal bashing a la Westminster or reasoned debate?

    The civilised way that the Welsh government debates is adult and reasoned compared to the yahoo boys at Westminster who love scoring political points.

    Which one helps sell papers I wonder?


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