The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

The Election No One Cared About

Posted by The Futility Monster on December 3, 2009 @ 09:13

Who is this man, and why is he occupying space on my blog?

Yesterday, the Welsh Labour Party announced that Carwyn Jones is to be their new leader.

But not only their new leader, but the next First Minister of Wales when Rhodri Morgan shuffles off into retirement in a few days time.

The country shrugged its shoulders. A few hours of coverage… but the next day, barely a sausage. BBC News relegates it to a video clip only. On the Wales page, of course – cos it doesn’t matter to the rest of us (though Scottish political news is treated differently). If you’re a resident of Wales and want more details of the man who’s about to become your new leader, you have to click on the “Welsh politics” page: a terrifying title that only the boldest would ever click for fear of being assaulted by the Taffia.

Carwyn Jones has been assumed to be the next Welsh Labour leader for many many years. I remember hearing one of my colleagues – back in the days when I was somewhat connected to Welsh politics – talking in such terms as if Carwyn was born to be the next Welsh Labour leader. Labour is invariably like that: the favourite almost always wins. The party membership faithfully back the anointed one. It’s all very Soviet.

And so it came to pass yesterday, with a storming victory for Carwyn. But, at the very least, he did have the decency to have a real-looking election. You can’t beat a bit of electoral legitimacy. And that’s what he told Gordon:

“It’s important for the party that we have a vigorous election campaign” (1:27)

Too right. If only Gordon had been subject to a proper campaign process, maybe Labour would finally have learned that the favourite isn’t always right.

But perhaps the real lesson of this process is that the Assembly and its associated Executive still hasn’t convinced the Welsh. Maybe that’s down to the fact that the Assembly still has very few powers, and currently has to ask for permission from Westminster for extra ones, in a ridiculously contrived process invented by none other than Labour themselves.

It would be unfair to say, however, that it has slipped under the radar because of poor visibility. Perhaps so at first, when it’s first First Minister Alun Michael was such a bore that nobody cared. But Rhodri Morgan changed that, with his affable personality and media skills. And don’t forget Ron Davies, with his “moment of madness”.

Topping all that was the sensational Assembly election result of 2007, which almost brought together an Unholy Trinity of Tories, Nats and Lib Dems… but in the event resulted in Labour forming an old school coalition with Plaid, and proving once more that the British can do coalition government, and that it is neither weak or ineffective.

So what prospects then for the Assembly in future? That all depends upon whether Carwyn Jones is prepared to push through a planned referendum on turning the Assembly into a Scottish Parliament clone before the next Assembly election in 2011.

He really ought to do it. The Welsh, like anyone, deserve the right to better self-determination. And it might even shield them from the worst excesses of a future Tory government.

In those circumstances, I’ll bet that Llafur suddenly become serious advocates of a stronger devolutionary settlement. And that they had always been so.

Good times ahead!

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