2016 has been a heck of a year in politics. From seismic shifts to crossing the floor, the team at NDW have been tuned in to every twist and turn. We follow every development then report back to our clients. For our own amusement and yours, we also file away the funny bits for this very blog post…
The First Minister’s healthy eating regime didn’t get off to the best start this year. Mick Antoniw was to blame as the Pontypridd AM highlighted local success at First Minister’s Questions: “Can I, first of all, congratulate the Member on the craft that he displayed in being able to raise The Crispy Cod as an issue here in the Chamber? Could I add my congratulations, of course, to Ryan himself and to The Crispy Cod? They provide a wonderful service to the people of Tonyrefail and beyond. It is not often I get an invitation for a bite to eat while answering First Minister’s questions, and so, on this occasion, I’d be delighted to accept.”
And it all kicked off at Public Services Questions. Nick Ramsay (Monmouth)(Con): “Minister, you’ve thankfully kicked your local government reorganisation plans into the long grass beyond the election. In fact, earlier, you distanced yourself from the draft local government Bill and said, ‘It’s not my Bill, it’s the Welsh Government’s Bill.’ Isn’t it a fact, Minister, we have no guarantee that this reorganisation will have the support to go through after the election? This was a flawed process from the start. You know it, everyone knows it. It’s no way to undertake a local government reorganisation, and you should back away fully from it now.
Minister for Public Services (Leighton Andrews): “If that’s the Member’s contribution to the consultation on the Local Government (Wales) Bill, it won’t take me very long to read it.”
Rhun ap Iorwerth (Ynys Mon)(PC) played down his musical ambitions in a debate on Arts and Education.
Eluned Parrott: “Rhun talked about his own experience of music, what it gave to him and his children. Maybe it was a mistake from the translator—I’m sure you said the Beaumaris band—you talked about the standard it reached after you’d left—
Rhun ap Iorwerth: Yes, I did.
Eluned Parrott: Maybe you meant—
Rhun ap Iorwerth: No, that’s right.
Eluned Parrott: It was after you’d left. Fair enough. I’m sure you’re afflicted by false modesty there, Rhun.
Rhun ap Iorwerth: No, that’s not right either.”
As she prepared to retire from the Assembly after 17 years, Jocelyn Davies demonstrated she had no figs left to give in Finance Committee as she outlined the difficulties ahead for the civil service as parties set out the Bills they wish to introduce… “You can either do things by the law or do things by policy, or do things with money and there is a temptation then to create other mechanisms, and other political parties will not give a rat’s *** about how difficult it is for you, the civil service, to deliver Regulatory Impact Assessments when they put forward their manifestos that they take out to the country; it certainly wouldn’t be the top of my agenda”.
Sir Derek Jones, Permanent Secretary: “I’m glad you said that Chair, rather than me”.
Over at Westminster, Craig Williams MP (Cardiff North)(Con) shared his passion for legislative scrutiny during the Welsh Grand Committee’s session on the draft Wales Bill: “We need to understand as Welsh politicians that it is okay to disagree and to disagree forever. I cannot see how we think we are all going to get round a table and finally agree forever on Welsh devolution. That is simply never going to happen and is an aspiration that none of us should share. As a proud Welshman and a Welsh MP, I love Committees. I love joining Committees, I love serving on Committees and I love setting up Committees. I just think we need to be mindful of this constitutional journey we are on. There will be no terminus, no end, but there will be significant movements, and this is one the most significant that I have seen and studied.”
At Education Questions, Minister for Education & Skills (Huw Lewis) proved his professional credentials: “I’m a former teacher myself and with the absence of a blackboard, diagrams, or some kind of interactive whiteboard, I can’t make it any simpler for the Welsh Conservatives than that.”
All politics is local for Llyr Huws Gruffydd (North Wales)(PC) in a debate on the Commonwealth Games: “I have to say that I feel Mike Hedges’s pain with his references to Paul Bodin and Joe Jordan, but that pales into insignificance compared to the depths of despair and despondency felt by many Carmarthen Town fans when Mike was a Welsh league referee, of course, years ago. But let’s not look back. Let’s not dwell on the costs and the problems. Let’s look at the advantages and the positives that would come from, for example, hosting the Commonwealth Games here in Wales.”
There was some top-notch heckling at FMQs.
Andrew RT Davies (South Wales Central)(Con): Thank you very much, Presiding Officer.
ASSEMBLY MEMBERS: ‘Boris.’
Andrew RT Davies: He’s got more hair than me.
Long before PISA, the First Minister once doubted Kirsty Williams’ maths skills when at FMQs
First Minister (Carwyn Jones): “The leader of the Liberal Democrats will forgive me for being sceptical about Lib Dem surveys.
Kirsty Williams: Presiding Officer, I am stung by the First Minister’s assumption and assertions that you cannot trust a Liberal Democrat survey—absolutely stung. Bar charts maybe, First Minister, but never a survey.”
At another FMQs, William Graham revealed his heart’s desire: “Certainly on this side of the house we greatly welcome the arrival of Aston Martin and the jobs that it will bring. I’ve never had an Aston Martin myself…”
And in the final few moments of the Fourth Assembly, celebrating the contributions of many members who were leaving at the election, Peter Black (South Wales West)(LD) suggested he may have been there under duress: “So, thank you, Presiding Officer, for giving me this opportunity, for bullying me into doing this—“
Mike Hedges (Swansea East)(Lab) was caught out by autocorrect on Twitter: “The cheese economy has slowed down so they are dumping steel on the world market. We need a tariff that will protect British steel.” He corrected it saying, “should say Chinese economy” but it was too late for the cheese-based puns. One called it an “Edaming appraisal of the situation”; another “Camembert how careless the politicians [are] about this situation” and someone concluded: “You Gouda laugh, even if it’s not very mature…”
Neil Hamilton (Mid & West Wales)(UKIP) revealed that he has a long memory for owed drinks: “Like Andrew R.T. Davies and Leanne Wood, I congratulate all those who have been appointed to their offices in this administration, in particular Ken Skates, who informed me the other day that I bought him a drink in the House of Commons 20 years ago. I now look forward to toasting his success at his expense when he returns the favour.” Cabinet Secretary for Economy & Infrastructure (Ken Skates) responded by putting his head in his hands…
First Minister (Carwyn Jones) attempted to break down the new Wales Bill, Top Gear style: “The vehicle is not as broken down as the last vehicle we were presented with, but there needs to be a lot of work done to sort the engine out and the seats and the wheels. That is exactly what we need to do over the course of the next few weeks. At least it wasn’t something that appeared without an engine or with any wheels, which is what the last Bill was…”
Paul Flynn brought all the lolz this summer.
The recess was in full swing for both the Assembly and Westminster, but some politicians appear to have been looking forward to their summer break far less than others. In a Sunday Times article on MPs’ holiday arrangements, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales (Paul Flynn) placed himself firmly in this camp by raging: “Holidays are a distraction and often an extravagant and boring self-indulgence inferior to my daily job.” High praise indeed for the office of Shadow Welsh Secretary...
In an Adjournment debate before Westminster’s summer recess, Shadow Leader of the House (Paul Flynn) congratulated Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP (Tooting)(Lab) on her recent by-election victory, highlighting: “I noticed from her maiden speech that she has the good luck to be married to a Welshman, which is rather like being upgraded on a plane.”
Darren Millar (Clwyd West)(Con) broke a world record with his son, when he stumbled upon the world’s tallest hawksbeard plant. On the find, he said: “We found the weed just a few days before my 40th birthday […] it's the best present I could ever have hoped for!” Perhaps jealous by the find, Russell George (Montgomeryshire)(Con) responded: “Always thought @DarrenMillarAM was a bit of a weed!”
Andrew RT Davies (South Wales Central)(Con) tells Tory conference “we will make breakfast BREXIT! a success”.
In trying to satisfy everyone when it comes to local government reform, Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Local Government (Mark Drakeford) expressed scepticism that local authority leaders could do it by themselves: “I’m afraid we’ve been around the track of bringing horses to water, encouraging them, leading them around the pool, letting them see their reflection in the water, hoping they will drink, only to find out, at the last minute, somebody makes a bolt for it…”
The Culture, Communications & Welsh Language Committee discussed television production. Bethan Jenkins (South Wales West)(PC) welcomed that major dramas were being made in Cardiff but said programmes such as Casualty did not represent life in Wales. Dai Lloyd (South Wales West)(PC) added “no-one is advocating bilingual Daleks”. No Welsh Language Standards for Skaro, then.
The First Minister (Carwyn Jones) gets fired up at FMQs: “And, of course, what he is saying, in effect, is that we should look to build more coal-fired power stations. Well, good luck to him on that. If he wants to see people being angry and annoyed, putting a coal-fired power station next to them is a sure-fire way—pardon the pun—of doing that”.
David Rowlands (South Wales East)(UKIP) went viral, after his question about accessing Irish EU funds to help fund improvements to the M4 was jeered during FMQs and covered in the national press. When the dust settled in the Siambr, Steffan Lewis (South Wales East)(PC) made the obvious comparison: “This is a surreal question, even by the standards of this year. But I must say, Mr Rowlands’s question is reminiscent of a chap who once had a plan to build a wall around his country and bill his next-door neighbours for the work. I’m not sure what happened to that gentleman.”
Ken Skates and Julie James may or may not be spending Christmas in Vegas…
During economy questions, Cabinet Secretary for Economy & Infrastructure (Ken Skates) deferred answering responsibilities to Minister for Skills & Science (Julie James) for a question on the apprenticeship levy.
Ken Skates: “This relates largely to the skills strategy and the work that the Minister for Skills and Science has been undertaking. Sometimes projections do come right; we predicted that this might happen today, this question, so I’ll pass you over to the Minister.”
Presiding Officer (Elin Jones): “Oh, we have a tag team. That’s a new innovation. I’m all for that.”
Ken Skates: “We’re going to go into gambling as a consequence of this being right.”
And every day’s a school day for David Melding (South Wales Central)(Con). Especially the day AMs considered the new Codes of Welsh Law: "Can I just start by saying I’ve learnt something that the laws of Hywel Dda are dated to 962, and Dai also mentioned this, but Hywel died in 950? But I suppose it took the monks of Whitland a little while to produce the manuscript."
We hope you enjoyed reading this round up as much as we enjoyed compiling it.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Valerie, Tom, Sion, Robyn, Huw, Joe and Enfys!
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