Monday, 13 December 2010

Looking back, looking forward

Leaving ITV after a ten year period of commenting upon the Welsh political scene has caused me to reflect on the events and developments of the decade.  In that time I’ve seen three general elections and two Assembly elections.
In order to make these events more meaningful I’ve been driven around Wales in a chauffeur driven car with Sian Lloyd, she of weather fame. Made my own way round Wales using a bus pass. Taken my shirt off in a bookies in Pontypridd, gone to the races. All to bring politics to the viewers of Wales. No dumbing down of politics here!!
More recently have journeyed Wales with  the wonderful Andrea Benfield. On this journey we weathered, floods, hail and snow to bring our collective thoughts to bear on the last general election. And despite it all neither of the two of us guessed the outcome. Mind you if we had the gift of getting such results right, we would not be doing television programmes but enjoying our spoils, having cleaned up with the bookies.
In the whole of that time some things have remained constant. Labour have been in office in the Assembly all that time. Sometimes alone, more often in partnership with an other political party. 
For hacks it’s not the night of the Assembly election results that matter but the weeks that follow. These weeks are like the audition days for Blind Date, when Labour’s partner for the next few years is decided. Yes, usually a shot gun wedding rather than a measured betrothal. Mind you there is often considerable discussion over the dowry.
But in looking back on my days with ITV it is not the one big event that has caught my attention but the gradual progress of turning the Assembly from being a glorified county council into a proper parliament.
In the original settlement all AMs were part of the corporate body sitting with Ministers in committee all supposedly forming policy. Scrutiny committees, they were not. 
When Rhodri Morgan took over from Alun Michael in no time at all he changed the title of his post from First Secretary to First Minister. A small change in name but certainly a mark of his intention. 
And that intention was to gradually create a welsh government that was different from the rest of the Assembly. In time WAG, as we affectionately call the Welsh Assembly Government, was formed. A different entity to the National Assembly for Wales which became like the parliament in Westminster the legislative and scrutinising body. A distinction so often missed by many a newsroom in Wales who often use the terms as if they are interchangeable.
These changes were finally given a legal status in the Government of Wales Act 2006
 which created a formal legal separation “between:
  1. the National Assembly for Wales, which is the legislature comprising the 60 Assembly members, and
  2. the Welsh Assembly Government, the executive, which comprises the First Minister, Welsh Ministers, Deputy Welsh Ministers and the Counsel General.”
The final moves to making it, in the eyes of many, a proper parliament will be the referendum next March. 
If there is a ‘yes’ vote then it will be able to pass laws in the devolved areas without reference to the two Houses of Parliament in Westminster. 
So will next March be the end of the journey towards self government? To that the answer must surely be, no.
After all what self respecting parliament can exist without the ability to raise it’s own revenue. Indeed even the lowest levels in our democracy, the community councils have powers to raise some of their own money. Will this be the next political issue to concern us in Wales?
And what about the powers devolved. Real Home rule will not have happened until all powers on domestic affairs are passed down to Wales. 
So there are plenty of issues to occupy the political class in the years ahead. 
And despite not looking at the changing tide of political events for ITV. I shall hopefully be able to chronicle these in other media outlets. After all the tyranny of youth hopefully, has not spread to all media outlets.


  1. as ever an interesting and thought provoking article gareth - but sorry to hear your stint with ITV wales has come to an end! Im sure i speak for many viewers in wales whatever their political persuasion when i say you'll be missed!

    But now you are no longer constrained by the 'neutrality' that all those employed in the welsh media have to observe do you think you might come off the fence and tell us what result you'd like to see come march the 3rd?

    The yes campaign and the case for a stronger welsh assembly would certainly benefit from an endorsement from someone as respected in wales and in welsh political circles as yourself gareth.

    Leigh Richards

  2. sorry to see you go Gareth you served us well. Sadly yet another Welsh accent disappearing from our screens, probably to be replaced with either someone with a manufactured English accent a la BBC Wales, or a genuine imported one from Ingurland.
    ITV "wales" sounds more like ITV England already. Unfortunately, diversity and reflecting the customer base does not apply in "Welsh" broadcasting. Unless you sound English you are not fit to be on TV or indeed radio

  3. Gareth, I've always enjoyed (if not always agreed with) your take on things - both here and on the TV. Can we look forward to a personal blog from you in the future?

  4. I will continue to post blogs as the mood takes me and will be working on two documentaries for showing on the BBC later this year. Hopefully there will be an opportunity to see me more often on the BBC in the two languages. I shall of course continue to keep a watchful eye on our politicians. Shortly, I shall post my Old Hughes's political almanack for 2011. Meanwhile all have a good Christmas