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  • Lawrence Bailey

Opportunity knocks at the Senedd

I’m not a frequent visitor to the Senedd building on Cardiff’s waterfront. As a result I wasn’t quite expecting the distinct change of atmosphere.

Things are as frenetic as usual but get past the stuff about sackings, lobbyists, deleted tweets and investigations and the prevailing sense in the place is one of opportunity.

A relentless progression of events has prompted the departure of Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones from frontline Welsh politics. You can almost see the marks on the walls in some places.

Now the name of the game is “succession” – and maybe something else if opposition parties get their act together.

The only would-be FM replacement so far is Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford. The member for Cardiff West is a special advisor turned politician. Various factions regard this combination as either eminently satisfactory or totally unsuitable.

Other AMs are said to be actively considering their options yet whoever takes the helm, it’s now a very different Assembly and a very different world from that of couple of decades ago when the fledgling institution emerged as a “county council on stilts”; an epithet bestowed on it by former Cardiff leader Russell Goodway

Today’s Senedd is a burgeoning legislature with new and significant revenue-raising powers. This already seems to be feeding tensions between the executive and everyone else.

There’s plenty of inter-party spats such as the disagreement on how to respond to a post-Brexit ‘power grab' by the UK Government. It stoked up a fair bit of emotion on the day but the debate felt rather detached from the day-to-day problems that beset folks sat outside on the steps enjoying a bit of rare Welsh sunshine.

Whether Labour’s troubles mean another stab at an opposition rainbow alternative is something for Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies to evaluate as he presides over the only Assembly group that isn’t in overt crisis mode.

Given how the Welsh government’s majority relies on borrowed support, I suppose he’s right to speculate how there’s no guarantee that the next Labour leader will automatically become First Minister.

Then again, as I alluded, I don’t get out much.

Diplomacy gets Trumped again

Donald Trump is certainly not the first guy in the Oval Office to take mid-west voter opinion into account when deciding Middle East policy, but he certainly has his own way of doings things. Regardless of the hand-holding by his French counterpart (what was that about?) Mr T has opted to pull the plug on an imperfect Iran nuclear agreement. His rationale was that it had failed to deliver on objectives that were never actually included. Be assured though that there’s nothing geo-politically shrewd going on here. Restoring sanctions against Iran is a side deal linked to a $110 billion arms contract with Saudi Arabia. As ever, Trump’s agenda is about making America’s corporate rich a lot richer. Other signatory nations are keeping to the deal to ward off further de-stabilisation. That’s because, being more accomplished in world diplomacy, they know that pulling on a loose thread inevitably unravels a lot of good work.

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