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What happened in the Assembly this week? – 29 June 2018

Where to start? A party leader resigns, a no-confidence vote, a rejected tidal lagoon, and new contenders enter the Welsh Labour and UKIP leadership contests…

Business Secretary confirms tidal lagoon abandonment

On Monday, the UK Government’s business secretary finally put to rest speculation over the proposed Swansea Bay tidal lagoon. Greg Clark told Parliament that the project will not go ahead, citing concerns over the project’s value for money and its impact on energy prices for consumers. There was widespread anger in the Assembly as the Welsh Government tabled a late statement denouncing the decision. There was also a last-minute statement on Airbus, after the company issued a warning on the implications of a no-deal Brexit. This, along with the lagoon decision, had implications for certain Welsh Tories…

The Welsh Conservatives are looking for a new leader

Andrew RT Davies, whose Welsh Conservatives have consistently backed the tidal lagoon project, announced his resignation as party leader on Wednesday morning. Mr Davies had been under significant pressure since campaigning to leave in the EU referendum; he had a fractious relationship with some senior Tories at Westminster for most of his leadership and there had been talk of a rebellion within the Assembly group for some time. The straw that broke the camel’s back may have been his attack on Airbus on Sunday Politics Wales, but there has been speculation of a longer-term plot to oust him. The early favourite to replace him is his former deputy, Preseli Pembrokeshire AM Paul Davies, but there have been calls for a vote on the leadership. These have been especially strong from Brexiteers who want a leader fully behind exiting the EU – Paul Davies voted remain in the EU referendum.

Alun Cairns under pressure from Plaid

The Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns, is a senior Welsh Conservative who looks to have considerably more backing than Andrew RT Davies, though his popularity in Cardiff Bay is at an all-time low. Plaid Cymru tabled a no-confidence motion – of sorts – in the Welsh Secretary, citing a failure to deliver major infrastructure projects such as the tidal lagoon and rail electrification. The fairly-meaningless motion was only backed by Plaid AMs, as Welsh Labour labelled it “gesture politics”, noting that Mr Cairns is not an elected member of the Assembly and therefore not accountable to it.

Huw Irranca-Davies enters the Welsh Labour leadership race

The Ogmore AM, who formerly represented the constituency as an MP, threw his hat into the ring to replace Carwyn Jones as Welsh Labour leader and first minister on Thursday evening. Mr Irranca-Davies has not yet received the backing of any AMs, and would join the favourite Mark Drakeford, the Welsh language minister Eluned Morgan and health secretary Vaughan Gething in the contest were he to receive adequate support. He currently serves as minister for children, older people and social care, and has also held junior ministerial roles during his time at Westminster.

Anti-Assembly candidate in UKIP leadership contest

Leadership races are all the rage in the Assembly these days; Labour, the Conservatives and UKIP are in the midst of one and there have been calls for a challenge to Leanne Wood within Plaid Cymru. Gareth Bennett, who has courted controversy during his time as an AM for South Wales Central, has announced his candidacy for leader of UKIP in the Assembly, stating that he would campaign to abolish the Assembly and reduce investment in the Welsh language. National leader Gerard Batten has said he wants the leadership issue resolved to allow the party’s AMs to resume regular business.

Photo: Andrew RT Davies, who resigned as Welsh Conservative leader this week (Photo credit: National Assembly for Wales via Flickr)

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