Friday, 3 December 2021

Constraining the work of the Senedd


One of the consequences of the exceptionalism so prevalent in Westminster is that most of the politicians there are incapable of imagining that there is any way of doing things that could possibly be better than that used by themselves. They really do believe that dividing legislators in binary fashion into government and opposition and lining them up on two sides of a room – at a distance equivalent to the length of two swords, just in case things get a bit too heated – to bellow at each other is a rational and reasonable basis for debate. So it’s really no surprise to find that the Secretary of State, who survived the last reshuffle presumably because Boris Johnson had forgotten he was there, is struggling to understand how an opposition party can formally agree to support the government on some issues but not on others. The idea that the political parties in any parliament can set out to work on a more consensual basis is clearly causing his brain some processing difficulties.

It seems, however, that there is indeed a potential problem under the rules of the Senedd, on which the Llywydd is seeking legal advice. Those rules are contained in the legislation governing the operation of the Senedd – which was, of course, written by those who think that Westminster is the only conceivable model for running a parliament. There’s nothing at all surprising that people who believe that a binary division is the only possible modus operandi would end up imposing the same principles on its subordinate legislatures. Whether the deal between Labour and Plaid is good or bad is, of course, a matter of opinion; but the attempt to agree in advance on a deliverable programme in a host of policy areas is in principle a noble one and an entirely sensible approach in a chamber elected by a proportional (albeit imperfectly) system. The idea that a national parliament can be prevented from deciding for itself what processes suit the nation best underlines, yet again, the core problem with devolution. Power, even over what look like procedural minutiae, remains in London.


Anonymous said...

I think it's only the minority that feel Wales is a nation. Most of us are content to feel we live in a region of the UK.

Perhaps we should have a referendum on this very matter. It might prove a wake up call for some.

John Dixon said...

"I think it's only the minority that feel Wales is a nation" I fear that, and not for the first time, you allow your prejudices and a good dose of wishful thinking to overrule mere fact. There have been many surveys carried out around the question of nationality and national identity (here's just one example) all of which indicate the complete opposite. The extent to which that national identity should form the basis of government structures is, of course another question entirely - but that isn't what you said.