Tuesday, 16 June 2009

As if he'd never been away.....

It was just like old times at the Wales Office. The "Mandela for President" ANC poster had been restored to its place above the fireplace, although I struggled to spot the Nye Bevan statuette.

Peter Hain had his feet behind the Secretary of State's desk. Staff scurried around with an increased sense of purpose. One civil servant told me Mr Hain did more media interviews in his first week than Paul Murphy did in a year.

The media arrived for what you would have to term a wide-ranging briefing and left, almost an hour later, with notebooks bulging.

Digital Britain? Legislative Competence Orders? the Calman Commission? Labour's Welsh woes? The Neath MP had views on them all.

His views on the latter were rehearsed in today's Western Mail. He argues that Labour is performing worse in Wales than elsewhere - "It's not good enough just to blame it on Westminster and the expenses issue."

I did try to find out who he had in mind, who had been blaming Westminster and the expenses issue? I failed to persuade Mr Hain to name names, although you may have your own ideas.

On the Calman Commission, he suggested the Welsh Assembly could get to keep some tax revenues raised in Wales - the landfill tax and the aggregates levy - if similar powers are devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

On LCOs, he confirmed that the Assembly Government's housing plans were back on the drawing board, but hinted that it could ultimately acquire stronger powers.

As we left, civil servants entered the room carrying platefuls of crisps, nuts and other nibbles.

Had the head of the private office been promoted to butler under the new regime? Alas, not.

Besides the media, the Welsh Secretary was hosting 11 children with cancer and leukaemia from south Wales, for whom the spread was intended.

The children also got the chance to visit the Commons Speaker, Michael Martin, for one of his last engagements before he steps down at the end of this week.

They are currently visiting Downing Street, where the Chancellor's wife, Maggie Darling, is organising a tea party.

The children were marched up Downing Street by Welsh Guards and Queens Dragoon Guards in full ceremonial reds.

Unlike last year the soldiers left their regimental mascot - the goat, Shenkin - behind, sad news for the children although possibly not for the Wales Office cleaners.

No comments: