My 'silver jubilee' - 25 years of Wales at Westminster


Enya was at number one in the charts, you could buy a pint of beer and still get change for a pound, and the national newspaper of Wales sold around three times as many copies as it does now.

Chloe Smith, whose ministerial career has just ended, was in year two at primary school. William Hague was a 27-year-old by-election candidate in waiting with hair (well, some). The current energy and climate change secretary was a Liberal Democrat researcher. There were no cameras in the House of Commons.

On October 24, 1988, I started work as a lobby correspondent at Westminster, working primarily for the Western Mail. Five prime ministers and 10 secretaries of state for Wales later, I'm still here, so please forgive the self-indulgence of what I hope you are about to read.

The first story I covered was Ann Clwyd's sacking from the Labour front bench. Hang around long enough here and you cover the same story twice - Mrs Clwyd was sacked again (by Tony Blair) in 1995. She's still here, of late earning cross-party respect for her work on the NHS.

John Major and David Cornock David Cornock interviews John Major

She's one of only three Welsh MPs (Paul Flynn and Paul Murphy are the others) still in the Commons from the 1980s. Others are no longer with us, retired, were kicked out by the electorate, went to the Lords (where 1980s party press officers also sit), or left to pursue careers in the National Assembly for Wales. I've covered two Rod Richards resignations too.

I've covered the fall of Thatcher, the rise and fall of Blair, and Peter Hain's cooker of choice. I've interviewed every prime minister of the past 25 years, Margaret Thatcher for an hour, John Major for 30 minutes twice, and Gordon Brown for two questions, neither of which he answered. I've been patronised by Alex Salmond and shouted at by Alastair Campbell, earning a fleeting mention in his diaries.

I've stood in as a presenter on Wales at One, Wales at 11, Dragon's Eye, Called to Order, Good Evening Wales and Today in Parliament, two of which have survived the "curse of Cornock" and, at time of writing, are still on air.

I've made it into Hansard twice, courtesy of Welsh MPs; once to be called "that egotistical, self-opinionated, self-indulgent comedian who scribbles for the Western Mail", more recently "the distinguished correspondent for BBC Wales. The latter description is far more damaging to my professional reputation.

There have been two big changes in my time here: the internet and devolution, although it's sometimes forgotten that administrative devolution existed before 1999, with three Welsh Office ministers responsible for health and education. Welsh Secretaries Peter Walker and John Redwood (to pick two at random) both did things differently without using the "Welsh solutions for Welsh problems" mantra.

The arrival of the assembly did change the focus of life here, as more policies were made in Wales, where - crucially for TV reporters - the better pictures were. With the secretary of state for Wales's powers having transferred to the assembly, my job now is mainly about reporting UK politics for Welsh audiences.

David Cornock interviewing Tony Blair for the Western Mail David Cornock interviewing Tony Blair for the Western Mail

In 1988, our high-tech fax machine would occasionally whir into life with a press release from a future police commissioner or first minister. Now MPs, and the rest of us, can communicate by twitter or Facebook.

The internet caused problems for newspapers and opportunities for broadcasters. My successor-but-several on the Western Mail also now reports for the Daily Post - an entirely separate job in 1988 - and for Wales On Sunday. Television remains the dominant news medium, even if some politicians are still wedded to 20th century forms of communication.

By the time I celebrate my "golden jubilee" here, in 2038, I suspect even more of the world will have moved online, sad news for print romantics like me. There may be fewer Welsh MPs here and no secretary of state for Wales in the UK cabinet. And - although this may sound far-fetched - the coalition may even have responded to that Silk commission report.

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

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  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    R165, I've head welsh shouted at a couple of pubs in Cardiff and in the welsh club which I used to visit some years ago, I suppose it proves the few folk who speak welsh have loud voices...Take your point about a backlash though, never ever anywhere in the world has anyone ever defied a robust legal framework that goes to the High Court, I think we'll all be silenced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    "164- Unfortunately for this supposed ''backlash'' though, the policy is supported by a robust legal framework that goes all the way to the High Court, so bring it on."

    You just don't get it do you? No court can force a business to domicile or operate in Wales - many have already left and many more are planning to when the time is right. Wales is being 'removed from the map' for investment!

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    If you are living your life via WL - as is your right to try, but not our duty to subsidise, how much luck are you having dealing with your on-line bank ? Don't buy anything on-line. I wish you luck explaining your problems with your washing machie - in Welsh - to a complaints department in Bangalore. Frankly the English isn't too hot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Re 158

    So magnanimous and gracious of you as a long-term immigrant:

    "I deny you have a right to have official letters sent to you in the language of your choice"

    Does that go for you as well?

    By the way, what is your opinion of immigrants into England who refuse to learn English?

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    163- you may not have, but I certainly have. Very rarely in the valleys but certainly in Cardiff.
    164- Unfortunately for this supposed ''backlash'' though, the policy is supported by a robust legal framework that goes all the way to the High Court, so bring it on.


Comments 5 of 169



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