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Change afoot?

Betsan Powys | 11:23 UK time, Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Presiding Officer for the past three Assemblies has been spotted carrying a few personal belongings from the fourth floor.

Does Dafydd Elis-Thomas know something for sure that we don't yet?

The speculation, as reported yesterday, is that the Conservatives would nominate Angela Burns as Presiding Officer for this fourth term. They are the official opposition, they had a good election, they feel the job should be theirs.

But who takes over as DPO - another opposition politician, giving Labour a two seat majority? Nice try but you must be joking seems to be the response from Plaid and the Lib Dems.

Would the Conservatives agree to fill both jobs (in what Plaid are already calling a Labour-Tory deal?)

This morning Paul Davies, the intermin Tory leader, chose his words carefully: "My own personal view is that I don't think the PO and DPO should come from the same political party. However I think we've got to see how things develop ... Nothing is inconceivable".

But he added: "We don't want to give the Labour party a majority because it was us that deprived them of a majority in the first place".

If there's no deal then, what will Labour do? We assume it'll be back to plan A - nominate Labour's Rosemary Butler as Presiding Officer and go for it. William Graham is the favourite to brush of his button-hole flower and be nominated as DPO.

Off to see Carwyn Jones, standing - alone - in the Senedd.


He's going it alone.

Flanked by the other 29 Labour AMs, Carwyn Jones sounded confident but conciliatory.

He will form a government consisting solely of Labour ministers but "will do this without any triumphalism and with no trace of any political tribalism.

"We will take the next step - to form a stable Government for our people - with humility and total recognition of the responsibility now facing us."

Did he have the appearance of a man forming an interim government before doing a deal in a few weeks time? Hard to tell. His initial strategy would seem to be to appeal to the other parties better natures.

"Over the recent election campaign, one message that voters sent all political parties in Wales - loud and clear was that the old style of politics, opposition for opposition's sake, sits uncomfortably in our modern Welsh democracy."

But then came the indication that a deal could perhaps materialise in the future.

"Over the coming weeks and months, I will have ongoing discussions with the other parties about what shape this role will take, but some time and space must be afforded to the opposition parties for them to consider what this election has said to them, and how they wish to interpret that message.

"I won't be giving a running commentary on that process of discussion with the other parties - and time to get it right in the interests of building a better Wales is more important than setting artificial deadlines."

That mention of deadlines does sound as if he make seek something more formal than working with individual parties on individual policy areas on an ad hoc basis. We shall see.

Whatever discussions there were about creating an artificial majority via the Presiding Officer / Deputy Presiding Officer have clearly come to naught. Those discussions, we're told, came from the Conservatives, who were very keen to put Angela Burns' name forward as PO and who tried to persuade Plaid or the Lib Dems to nominate a deputy. It didn't work. A Tory scheme, say Labour. Nowt to do with us.

All of which now leaves Angela Burns free to run for the party leadership of course, which officially kicks off tomorrow when nomination papers are sent out.

Labour will nominate Rosemary Butler as PO, who is highly likely to be elected, most probably with Tory William Graham as her deputy.

Tomos Livingstone wins the prize for best DPO joke in show: well, it'll be a change for William Graham ... finding himself working for a Butler!


  • Comment number 1.

    If the Conservatives take on PO and DPO in a "deal" is it likely to be because Labour see that as having some influence with a coalition Government party in Parliament?

  • Comment number 2.

    Let's hope that you are right and that the appalling Elis-Thomas is sent packing. For far too long this narrow minded Nationalist has made the Assembly look childish and amateur.

    Well done to Labour for showing courage and conviction in forming a Government without handing out Ministerial roles to the AM's of minor parties

  • Comment number 3.

    Golly gosh! Once Carwyn sets off and appoints a full hand of Ministers, it would be very difficult to have a formal coalition which meant Ministers standing down - never forget the Peter Law thing and Rosemary Butler had to be consoled with the prize of DPO...

    In that regard, do AMs (outside her supporting friends) really think RB can do the job of PO - her performance in the Chair has not been great, has it? How is her Welsh? And how helpful would it be to IWJ to have the good Lord more active in the Assembly PC group? If Carwyn really is intent on avoiding triumphalism, pressing a Labour PO on the Assembly would be a poor start.....and pushing DET aside is surely a poor reward for all he has done?

  • Comment number 4.

    Presumably, if no one volunteers, the AMs as a group can compel one of their member to be PO or DPO - and if all Labour AMs vote en bloc, they can determine who will serve (or at least block any and all other candidates).

  • Comment number 5.

    #3 writes:

    "How is her Welsh?"

    Ha! I knew it wouldnt be long before somebody mentioned that!

    Tell me Caradog_Minchin, is the role of Presiding Officer now the preserve of elite Welsh speakers along with First Minister and director of BBC Cymru etc. etc. Is it the case that 80% of us monoglot plebs need not apply for the role or will those insanely expensive headsets powered by vast armies of Welsh language translators (all paid for by the public purse) be finally put to good use?

  • Comment number 6.

    I must admit the news that Labour will "go it alone" in music to my ears. As far as the Presiding Officer, I think that as much as I dislike them the Tories as the 2nd party should fill that post.

    I agree with #5 you should NOT have to be a welsh speaker.

  • Comment number 7.

    Lets hope that Dafydd Ellis Thomas has been told to "sling his hook" from his post as PO,and get a non-welsh speaker into a major job,rather than looking for a member from the minority language speakers. What we REALLY need is the best person for the position,rather than the pandering to the "elite". Whilst all this "malarky" is going on down the BAY the real world is still turning,and our relative position is getting worse. Perhaps our First Minister would tell us about the performance of Bridgend CBC with regard to education,but perhaps not as it might be embarassing. 5. Your brave,as comments such as that tend to be removed as they dont meet the objectivity of BBC Wales/CYMRU.

  • Comment number 8.

    Re post 5: the NAfW is a bilingual institution. The PO is an important public face for it and it is helpful for him/her to be bilingual - there are plenty of AMs that fit the bill. To be a Welsh-speaker must be a great blessing, but it is not the stuff of elitism. Young people in Wales are further ahead in these matters than those of us influenced by the older generations for whom Welsh was seen to be a handicap.

  • Comment number 9.

    I'll take that as a yes then Caradog_minchin. As I was expecting really and a very sad reflection of life in Wales since devolution.

  • Comment number 10.

    Re post 9. For the record, Devolution does not come into it - it was the Thatcher Government that gave us the first Welsh Language Act and, so, equal status for the Welsh Language.

  • Comment number 11.

    #10 caradog_minchin

    For the record, there are two Welsh Language Acts, 1967 (Harold Wilson's administration) and 1993 (John Major).

    Ironic that the Parliament which legislated to destroy the language nearly five centuries ago still held the power over it into the twenty-first century. Even then, it only begrudgingly allowed the National Assembly of Wales the power to pass a Measure regarding Wales' native language. What other self-respecting people would tolerate such arrogance?

    As far as the election of a Presiding Officer is concerned, I think the present incumbent has been in it for too long for his own good, his party, the Assembly, and for Wales. It should be time-limited, in any case.

    Clearly it would be helpful for the person to be bilingual. After all there is no law which says that anyone needs to remain monoglot. Learning a language should be well within the intellectual capacity of those who put themselves forward to represent us. All AMs represent speakers of both languages. Welsh-speakers are virtually all bilingual - they had to learn English. There's no reason that English-speakers can't be bilingual as well.

  • Comment number 12.

    Re 11.
    they had to learn English. There's no reason that English-speakers can't be bilingual as well

    Exactly, they had to learn English to be a functioning member of the planet Earth!!! What planet are you on?

  • Comment number 13.

    12 etc.
    I take it you never sing or stand for the National Anthem, with all its sentiments, either.

  • Comment number 14.

    @12. Jack_Wilkinson
    " they had to learn English to be a functioning member of the planet Earth!!! What planet are you on?"

    Just to let you know, Jack, that the majority of the nearly 7 billion people on this planet don't speak English and yet manage to get by ok.

  • Comment number 15.

    Re 13.
    Are you being serious? Of course I don't. I like being British, but singing our national anthem of God save our gracious Queen, seems to be a bit old fashioned, don't you think?

  • Comment number 16.

    Re M3; "How is her Welsh?", How does that matter ?

  • Comment number 17.

    @16. merthyrmarkf
    "How does that matter ?"

    Simply, à la Jack Wilkinson, it would help her to be a better functioning member of the planet National Assembly of Wales. Some of the awkward natives are going to want to speak in the local (non-functional?) lingo, so she might be able to get her oar in quicker and keep them under control.

  • Comment number 18.

    Re 14.
    Just to let you know, Jack, that the majority of the nearly 7 billion people on this planet don't speak English and yet manage to get by ok.

    Wise words indeed? But, how many of those 7 billion have English as their second Language?

    How many have got Welsh as a second language? Hmmm?

  • Comment number 19.

    @18. Jack_Wilkinson
    "How many have got Welsh as a second language?"

    Couldn't tell you, Jack, but I'm not really interested. The whole argument sounds childishly like "mine's bigger than yours". You win, so give yourself a medal.

  • Comment number 20.

    I fear I miss the point of M17, however, if the nats want a clue as to why they are not popular amongst the majority in Wales and why the assembly is an irrelevance (albeit an irrelevance with extened powers...) to said majority, simply read the comment "How is her Welsh ?" How many people in Wales would care about such nonsense ? A couple of hundred at most ??

  • Comment number 21.

    Re 19.
    Honestly, honestly, I feel for your loss, much like I feel for the English, English speaking folk of once English Monmouthshire, to the forces Llafur Cymru!!!

  • Comment number 22.

    @20. merthyrmarkf
    "I fear I miss the point of M17"

    Ok. I'll try and make it simpler. A Presiding Officer with greater competence and more skills is going to be more effective at the job than one with less competence and fewer skills.

  • Comment number 23.

    @21. Jack_Wilkinson
    "I feel for your loss"

    No loss, Jack. I taught English for many years to foreigners so they could communicate with English-speaking monoglots such as yourself.

  • Comment number 24.

    Re 23.

    You're just being a tad supercilious, why d'you assume that I'm a monoglot?.Uh?

  • Comment number 25.

    Re M22, But she can speak serbo-croat and whistle the bolivian national anthem under water (apparently), so she has MORE competence and HIGHER skills !

  • Comment number 26.

    Touché No.15

    But you know the National Anthem I mean, and you know the line I mean.

    “O bydded i’r hen iaith barhau.”

    Regardless of your language background (and I am English speaking) this is the Welsh National Anthem, but given your expressed views of the Welsh language and ridicule of those who speak it, how can you stand up for it, or sing it, with any respect? - If indeed you do.

    Oh and by the way which part of Monmouthshire was ever English?

    Unless of course you come from Fwthog which I grant you was in Hereford until 1891.
    - But then they had got Welsh Bicknor (note the name) from Monmouthshire under the 1844 Act in return.

  • Comment number 27.

    @24. Jack_Wilkinson

    My apologies if you're not.

    @25. merthyrmarkf

    Wow! Bring her on!

  • Comment number 28.

    And again language issues take over...

    Anyway, elsewhere...
    There is a little too much focus in our media on Plaid in the post election fever. I assume this is because they are the outgoing government partners..

    I am sure Betsan doesn't scan these comments for inspiration (or entertainment) but if she's passing by perhaps she would spread the word that the political geography of Wales has shifted and Plaid is no longer the fulcrum.

    Not for the next 5 years anyway.

    Think of it in terms of Market forces. You've got a bigger audience that is not interested in Plaid-centric politics than the one that is.

  • Comment number 29.

    If the next Presiding Officer isn't bilingual, and I agree that DET has been in the post long enough, then that's his/her business and nobody else's.

    Having said that, if he/she then finds that he/she can't cope and effectively chair a bilingual Welsh parliament then that's equally his/her problem, and I suspect the incumbent won't last too long!!!

  • Comment number 30.

    #29, your logic is flawed, the European Parliament uses translation services without issues, there is no reason why a PO couldn't be monoglot English or Welsh, to suggest otherwise would debar the vast majority of the population from the position.

    Might it not be prudent at this time to elect a monoglot English speaker as affirmation of bilingual Wales.

  • Comment number 31.

    Given the mess Wales was left in by the outgoing Assembly Coalition Government, and the catastrophic economic situation inherited by Cameron in 2010 - this incoming Assembly Government has more pressing priorities than the Language.

    We need the best possible people in the new ministerial posts, where they were born, or whether or not they are bilingual is irrelevant.

  • Comment number 32.

    The issue is very simple. If the Presiding Officer is not Welsh speaking then so be it, that's a matter for him or her. However, Welsh will continue to be used by various Ministers and AMs from all parties as and when they choose, including addressing the PO. If a non Welsh speaking PO has other ideas, well, you can just imagine the consequences.

  • Comment number 33.

    Does it matter either way? The best person fore th job right now is what matters. You ought to aspire to satisfy everybody all the time and it is only decent to respect bi-lingualism as a preferable ideal rather than to attack it from a monomanical monoglot perspective. I think one will find that countries from Scandinavia to Switzerland thrive through a degree of mutual respect for their national cultures.


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