With feelings still running high amidst the fallout from the Carl Sargeant affair, his son Jack was selected to run for the vacant Alun & Deeside seat, with the by-election held as late as possible under electoral law.
A few weeks later, an internal Welsh Government inquiry found there were no “unauthorised” leaks in the run-up to Carl Sargeant’s sacking – though many disputed this.
The Welsh Government unveiled plans for a new Local Government Bill, which would introduce automatic voter registration, lower the voting age to 16 in local elections and will give individual councils the option of introducing single transferable vote. As of yet, no Bill has been introduced.
Jack Sargeant comprehensively won his late father’s seat for Labour with a 15% increase in the vote share. He became the youngest-ever AM as a result.
The First Minister launched a paper on post-Brexit trade, declaring that Wales “must” have single market access.
In the Senedd, AMs called for a ban on new-build leaseholds, the Welsh Government announced its intention to introduce a vacant land tax (after rejecting the idea of a tourist tax) and a public consultation was launched on electoral reform at the Senedd following the McAllister Review.
The Welsh and Scottish governments introduce emergency laws to enshrine EU law in Welsh and Scottish law respectively. The Continuity Bill – as it became known – was passed by 39 votes to 11 with one abstention on March 22nd and was immediately referred to the UK Supreme Court.
The Assembly votes for a report into leaks around the sacking of Carl Sargeant to be published due to a mass abstention of Labour and Welsh Government AMs. The report isn’t published.
AMs back a petition calling for a ban on wild animals being kept in circuses, with a suggestion that a law could be introduced by July 2019.
The Welsh Government threatens legal action against the National Assembly unless a second Senedd vote calling for a report into leaks around the Carl Sargeant sacking to be published – using an obscure clause in the Government of Wales Act 2006 – is called off. The vote is eventually won by the Welsh Government.
In a bit of good news for the First Minister, he was cleared of breaching the Ministerial Code and despite the testimony of a number of people, the report concluded there was no conclusive evidence of bullying within the Welsh Government.
At Welsh Labour’s spring conference, the First Minister announced his intention to stand down by the end of 2018.
In the Senedd, AMs voted down calls for a public consultation to overturn a unilateral decision by the Welsh Secretary to rename the Second Severn Crossing “The Prince of Wales Bridge”. It later transpired this had the Welsh Government’s blessing.
The Senedd’s Public Accounts Committee publish a damning report on Welsh Government support for the (mothballed) Circuit of Wales scheme in Blaenau Gwent, with particular criticism over a decision to buy a (now bankrupt) motorcycle company in England and an outburst from the Economy Secretary, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South), where he claimed the civil service didn’t have time to read the report when they were given a month’s notice.
Elsewhere in the Senedd, the Children & Young People Committee call for children’s mental health to be a “national priority”, UKIP’s Neil Hamilton is ousted as group leader by Caroline Jones and the Welsh Government outlines plans to introduce a vacant land tax.
The UK Government withdraws support for the Swansea Tidal Lagoon, effectively scrapping it in its current form. The news is met with disappointment from AMs across the political spectrum.
Airbus drop a “Brexit bombshell”, saying they could leave the UK in the event of a “no deal” Brexit. The reaction of the Leader of the Opposition Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central), who accused the company of “hyperbole” and “making threats”, leads to a showdown with the Tory AMs. Following a “frank and open” meeting he resigns as leader.
Keolis Amey was announced as the winning bidder to run rail services in Wales and the Borders, as well as the South Wales Metro, promising new trains, extra services and station upgrades.
Elsewhere in the Senedd, AMs voted by 45-5 to introduce a minimum per-unit alcohol price in Wales (currently expected to be 50p-per-unit), Labour sidestep a 2017 UK election manifesto commitment in favour of publicly-owned energy and a report is published which strongly hints the flagship Active Travel Act isn’t making much of a difference.
Following an all-weekender at Chequers, the UK Cabinet agree on a final set of proposals for Brexit….then immediately fall apart with a string of senior Brexiteer ministers resigning, notably David Davis and Boris Johnson.
Paul Davies and Suzy Davies are announced as the contenders to lead the Welsh Conservatives. Another leadership election is triggered as Adam Price and Rhun ap Iorwerth challenge Leanne Wood for the position at the head of Plaid Cymru as part of a mandatory biennial leadership review. UKIP also hold a leadership contest.
Following a consultation, the public backed an enlarged National Assembly with a proportional electoral system – though there remain major political hurdles to overcome.
On July 25th, the then Plaid Cymru AM for Mid & West Wales, Simon Thomas, was charged with possessing indecent images and videos of children, including some of the most serious category. He resigns from the Senedd immediately and was eventually handed a suspended prison sentence.
A major polling exercise showed the Welsh public might be changing their minds on Brexit, with a majority of people and parliamentary constituencies in Wales now favouring Remain.
There was a mixed picture in the annual exam results, with Wales seeing some of its best ever A-Level results, but also seeing a marked decline in good GCSE pass rates – blamed on qualifications reforms.
Caroline Jones was humiliated in the UKIP leadership race, being removed as leader after only a few weeks and replaced by Gareth Bennett, whose platform in favour of abolishing the Assembly saw him romp home with 269 votes. Caroline subsequently left UKIP to sit as an independent after the party openly courts football hooligan and convicted fraudster, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka. Tommy Robinson).
Adam Price ran out as a convincing winner of the Plaid Cymru leadership contest, with Leanne Wood surprisingly eliminated in the first round of voting.
In the Tory leadership contest, Pembrokeshire AM Paul Davies saw off a challenge from Suzy Davies.
After a lengthy internal debate, it was decided “one member, one vote” would be used to elect Carwyn Jones’ successor as Labour leader in Wales after it’s claimed there was a “campaign” to limit the number of candidates on the ballot.
Elsewhere, prison staff staged a walk-out over violence, two north Wales hospitals recorded the worst A&E waiting times on record and AMs debate a 40,000+ signature petition calling for a proposed hospital reorganisation in west Wales to be scrapped.
The Senedd votes down a Plaid Cymru motion calling for a no-strings-attached second referendum on Brexit (“People’s Vote”), with the Welsh Government seeing it as an option of last resort if no deal is agreed at Westminister and there’s no subsequent UK General Election. As the weeks pass, the Labour position in Wales gradually shifts towards a People’s Vote.
In the draft Welsh-budget for 2019-20, Wales sets a proportion of income tax for the first time (though it’ll remain unchanged). The NHS is set to be the big winner overall. However, real terms cut to local government prompts calls for the Public Service Secretary, Alun Davies, to resign after he unflatteringly compares local government’s calls for extra money to Oliver Twist.
The Welsh Government votes down a motion calling for a halt to dredged mud from the Hinkley C nuclear power station in Somerset being dumped off the coast of Cardiff.
Elsewhere, AMs back the devolution of criminal justice following a botched privatisation of the probation service, additional powers over fracking and teachers’ pay are devolved, there was a surprise fall in Welsh recycling rates and Transport for Wales officially takes over the running of the Wales & Borders rail franchise….just as Wales is battered by Storm Callum, causing significant disruption.
After a delay of several months, a majority of AMs vote to repeal the Continuity Act, weeks before the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, agrees on a draft deal with the EU on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal.
The coroner’s inquest into the death of Carl Sargeant is adjourned until 2019, with Carwyn Jones and a senior aide expected to be recalled following last-minute evidence which reportedly contradicted their own submissions.
Elsewhere, the Welsh Government said the issue of Saudi pilots training on Anglesey wasn’t their problem, Transport for Wales found itself in hot water due to ongoing disruption to rail services following the withdrawal of trains for technical reasons, plans to rename the National Assembly “Welsh Parliament” are dropped and Labour AM Jenny Rathbone has the whip withdrawn following anti-Semitic comments made in 2017.
AMs reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal in a non-binding advisory vote on December 4th. After pulling a vote on the deal in the House of Commons at the last minute, Theresa May faced a no confidence vote from her own MPs on December 12th, which she won by 200 votes to 117.
A final decision on whether to give the go-ahead to (the freshly estimated) £1.7billion M4 Newport bypass is pushed back to 2019.
That decision will be made by the Corbynite Finance Secretary, Mark Drakeford, who won the Labour leadership contest ahead of Vaughan Gething and Eluned Morgan. He was officially nominated as First Minister on December 12th, taking over from Carwyn Jones after 9 years in charge. On December 13th he appointed a new, gender-balanced, Cabinet.
Top Posts of 2018
In keeping with the end-of-year tradition, here are the most read posts on each of the three sites that form the Oggy Bloggy Ogwr umbrella.
1. Committee recommends AM is suspended for 7 days for “coconut” slur
2. It’s a real war outside your front door
3. Can we stop bullying becoming “The Welsh Disease”?
4. What AMs said about medicinal cannabis
5. UKIP leadership: Silly season gets sillier
6. Plaid Cymru Leadership 2018: The Candidate Manifestos
7. Labour sidesteps 2017 manifesto pledge favouring publicly-owned energy
8. “Not our place” to question Saudi pilot training on Anglesey
9. Senedd backs Brexit Bill
10. Economy Secretary: Wales shortchanged by UK rail infrastructure spending
1. A must read if you own a dog in Bridgend
2. All bus subsidies could be cut in Bridgend next year
3. What You’re Not Being Told: Bridgend Primary School In Crisis
4. Why are there so many accidents on the M4 around Bridgend?
5. Future of public toilets in Bridgend to be decided next week
6. Decision due on bus subsidy cuts
7. How has the councillor community fund been used?
8. Options for car parking reforms revealed
9. Deadline for Brackla wood development comments extended
10. Confirmed: Bridgend to switch health boards in 2019
1. What we were told about the future of Wales
2. How rich is Wales?
3. Equal Wales: The Welsh Language
4. The Big Noes II: Too Poor
5. Where’s the centre ground in Welsh politics?
6. How political should the IndyWales movement be?
7. Alyn & Deeside byelection preview
8. Can the Union be salvaged?
9. The Big Noes III: Too Stupid
10. Celtic Crossing: An Irish Sea Tunnel?
With that, I all readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!