Senedd Bites #1: Silly Season Round-Up

 (Title Image: BBC)

Here’s a summary of stories which are worthy of mention but don’t warrant their own separate articles; think of it as a sort of gossip column. It’ll be another regular feature each week.

New rail franchise hits buffers following Cardiff-London row

An argument over where rebates paid by train operating companies should go to is threatening to seriously damage the process of awarding a new rail franchise for Wales & the Borders. The Welsh Government believe that they would be due around £67million a year from the successful franchise bidder, but the UK Department of Transport (who currently receive the rebates) claim otherwise because rail infrastructure will remain non-devolved.

The Welsh Government have also demanded £3.5million in compensation as they’ve had to delay the franchise award process due to the extraordinary UK General Election in June.

The row promoted Plaid’s economy spokesperson, Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr), to call for transport policy to be withdrawn from the Economy Secretary’s portfolio and given to a new minister.

Conservatives call for tobacco product nicotine cut

Shadow Health Secretary, Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W & S. Pembs.), called for UK health officials to greater restrict the amount of nicotine in tobacco products following a consultation on the same policy in the United States.

The idea is that by making tobacco less addictive, fewer people will take up smoking long-term; though you could also argue that tar and other additives are more dangerous, while reducing the nicotine hit from single cigarettes could encourage smokers to smoke more to get the same effect they do now.

Government plans to halve food waste

Wales has made great strides in recycling and waste reduction – hitting targets three years early – though despite having a food waste rate below the rest of the UK, Environment Secretary, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham), plans to introduce a nonbinding target to halve food waste by 2025.

One of the most popular ways of dealing with food waste is anaerobic digestion which produces both fertiliser and electricity, but reducing food waste could also save households up to £460 a year (based on Scottish figures).

Bored journalists silently press for Plaid leadership contest

What started with a silly season article on Plaid Cymru’s performance over the year slowly became a drip-drip of passive-aggressive, mostly anonymous, criticism of Leanne Wood AM’s (Plaid, Rhondda) leadership. Then it became a self-inflicted wound because of a lazy, ill-thought Tweet and a hysterical over-reaction to it.

I’ve said myself that Leanne hasn’t led any major breakthrough there are issues with how the party is going about its business – later echoed by Simon Thomas AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales). There may be an opportunity soon when a leadership election needs to be held under Plaid’s own rules. However, with a small pool of candidates you can’t help but think a contest which might air dirty laundry – after five years of happy clappy groupthink corked into a bottle by Leanne herself – is the last thing Plaid needs. Leanne might have to stay.

Anti-Islam turns off some in Anti-Everything UKIP

UKIP are holding another leadership election that’s very much a “bald men in competition to win comb” situation.

One of the frontrunners, Anne-Marie Waters, is vehemently anti-Islam, prompting Nathan Gill AM (Ind, North Wales) to threaten to leave the party completely (instead of playing hokey-cokey), as well as drawing condemnation from David Rowlands AM (UKIP, South Wales East).

Foreigners are a faceless blob, who are a large enough group to allow populists to deflect accusations of racism whilst still serving the role of “easy target”.

However, as both Nathan and David are members of minority groups who’ve been persecuted in the past – Nathan is a Mormon and David is a Freemason – perhaps both have come to realise that when populists start to get more specific in their targeting, they may not hit far from home.

Could AMs job share in the future?

Through the Wales Act 2017, the Senedd/”Welsh Parliament” will have control over its own electoral arrangements. One suggestion that came out of the Llywydd’s office a few weeks ago is the introduction of “job sharing”. The idea is that job sharing will encourage those from under-represented groups – particularly women and the disabled, who may be put off by the long hours involved – to stand for election.

There are many walks of life where job sharing works; the EnglandandWales Green Party have co-leaders, while regional AMs representing the same region from the same party technically job share. There would need to be a lot of work involved to see this though. For example, you could certainly argue that AMs’ pay should be slashed if they’re job-sharing, while this would also raise questions over the electoral system and confusion over who represents who.

This was later added to by calls for the Senedd to have a creche (I’m surprised they don’t already; apparently their arrangement with a local nursery was under-used) in order to encourage single parents to run for office.