Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Pre-election tension and Gordon's guarantee

You may well have noticed that yesterday's historic vote in Cardiff Bay to allow the people to have a vote on the Welsh Assembly's powers failed to register during Question Time at Westminster today.

I was too busy to notice whether this oversight led to gasps in the public gallery, a gallery still recovering from Sir Paul McCartney's appearance to watch last night's debate on voting systems.

Sir Paul is himself now doubtless composing a ditty to mark the Alternative Vote Referendum - or maybe not.

Perhaps it was the imminence of the general election, but MPs confined themselves to issues such as the economy and jobs rather than constitutional affairs during the 30 minutes they get each month to question the Secretary of State for Wales.

Perhaps the MPs took the Plaid Cymru line (before yesterday's debate) that a referendum is a "tidying-up exercise" rather than today's Plaid line that the 53-0 vote was a major constitutional event.

Peter Hain did his best to distract attention from #triggertuesday by comparing Wales with Rwanda to make his point that Wales remains a relatively wealthy country.

The 30 minutes MPs get to question Gordon Brown were largely devoted to a very loud shouting match about how to care for elderly people in England.

The Prime Minister tried to attack the Conservatives for failing to match Labour "guarantees" on NHS treatment (again in England).

Mr Brown promised a modern health service with "personalised services available to people and tailored to their needs."

He then told David Cameron: "I cannot for the life of me understand why the Conservative party is rejecting the cancer guarantee that would allow people to see a specialist within two weeks. I believe that that challenges its very commitment to the health service."

Does Gordon Brown believe that any party that doesn't apply the cancer guarantee has a dubious commitment to the health service?

He may need to be cautious with his pre-election rhetoric lest others highlight a Labour-led administration in Cardiff that, as far as I know, won't operate the same enforceable guarantee.

But enough excitement for one week. MPs are off until February 22 - and so am I. Bye for now.

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