Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Constitutional change sponsored by Argos

The scaffolding is up, the gazebos are on the lawn. College Green is starting to look like the camping section from the Argos catalogue.

The circus is in town as the world's media descend on Westminster for the departure of Tony Blair and the arrival of Gordon Brown. Election or not, this is the nearest thing to a change of government at UK level since 1997.

There's wildly conflicting speculation about the members of Brown's first Cabinet. It won't include Paddy Ashdown after the former Lib Dem leader turned down one of Peter Hain's jobs as Northern Ireland Secretary.

Which reminds me - the Welsh angle. Will there be one? A lot depends on who you talk to. Colleagues in the Scottish press were briefed that a full-time Scottish Secretary would be restored - partly to "mark" SNP First Minister Alex Salmond and partly because there are a few old Brownites the new PM will need to reward.

Others believe that Wales will be lumped in with Scotland in a new department of the nations, to be joined by Northern Ireland next year - perhaps to be run by a new Secretary of State for the Nations and Regions?

Or that Scotland and Wales could join English regions in the Department for Communities and Local Government, currently headed by Ruth Kelly. That would allow Gordon Brown to demonstrate his inclusive commitment to Britishness.

Or there's the status quo - with the Wales Office part of the Ministry of Justice, probably to be run by Jack Straw and given a significant role in fleshing out a new constitutional settlement.

You've probably worked out by now that I don't know what's going on - but I'm not alone. Government Whips and Ministers are as much in the dark on this as I am.

The Sun has reported that Peter Hain will be sacked altogether after his less than successful deputy leadership campaign.

If The Sun is right, and the Welsh Secretary's job remains distinct from other territories in the cabinet, then a new Welsh voice will be needed.

There are only two Welsh MPs working as Ministers of State - Kim Howells in the Foreign Office and David Hanson at the Ministry of Justice. Dr Howells has previously shown a lack of enthusiasm for the Welsh Secretary's role (although his previous views on devolution would make his appointment to that role great fun for the media). David Hanson has only been doing his current job for a few weeks.

So will Gordon Brown need to bring back a former stalwart? Don Touhig has taken a couple of bullets for his old friend politically. Some feel Paul Murphy was unfairly sacked as Northern Ireland Secretary.

But then politics is unfair - weeks ago Peter Hain could claim the credit for a major role in the restoration of devolution to Northern Ireland. Now he reads in what has been a New Labour newspaper of record that he's going to be sacked.

The Neath MP remains hopeful that he'll stay in Gordon Brown's Cabinet, perhaps moving to International Development.

An ally explains to today's Western Mail: "If you look at the first round of voting, Peter took a sixth of the vote in a six-way contest."

Isn't it nice to know that the age of spin is dead?

1 comment:

Christopher Glamorgan said...

Welcome back! You've been much missed as a daily read for those who tune in to Welsh politics.