Speaking of the new coalition government in Westminster, Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones called for a constructive relationship with the new prime minister.
With Labour now assessing how to take progressive politics forward into the next Parliament from opposition, Carwyn Jones, Welsh first minister, a man little known outside his own country, now takes on the mantra of the most powerful Labour politician in the UK. Speaking of the new coalition government in Westminster, Mr Jones called for a constructive relationship with the new prime minister:
“It is my intention to have a constructive working relationship with the new Tory/Lib Dem Government. As First Minister, it is my job to lead Wales and make the case for Wales – irrespective of who resides in Number 10 Downing Street – and that is what I will continue to do.
“My prime consideration from this moment on will be to ensure that the priorities of the people of Wales come first – economically, socially and constitutionally. As a consequence, I will be seeking an early meeting with the new Prime Minister to seek his assurances on such issues.”
Top of Mr Jones’s priorities will be to protect Wales from the worst pain of the cuts that are to come to public services and spending. In March, the Welsh Audit Office warned that the public sector in Wales faced “significant pain”. Given that the public sector accounts for 70 per cent of Welsh GDP, the fear will be that frontline staff in key services across the country could face disproportionately greater cuts.
The second key area will be on extending powers to the Welsh Assembly as pledged in the One Wales agreement. The Conservatives have pledged (page 83) not to stand in the way of a referendum, and the Lib Dems have called for the Welsh Assembly to be given the legislative powers needed for it to become a fully working Parliament along the lines of Holyrood. The Lib Dems have also pledged to replace the Barnett Formula with a new needs based funding arrangement, in line with Plaid Cymru’s policy.
When he visits Cardiff, Mr Cameron will be able to see at first hand how coalition government could works, as Plaid and Labour have made their power sharing agreement durable and strong, despite some misgivings in sections of both parties when the coalition was formally approved.
Though Mr Jones’s calls have been for a constructive relationship, Labour’s partners in government in Cardiff, Plaid Cymru, appear to be in a more bullish move. Speaking for the party, its new MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefw, Jonathan Edwards, said:
“The immediate concern of people in my constituency and the rest of Wales will be what the implications of a Tory-Liberal deal will have. There are a lot of questions that the Conservative and Lib-Dem leaders in Wales now need to answer.
“We already know that both parties were planning slash and burn cuts which will disproportionately hit our front-line services hard. Urgent detail is now needed to see the implications for the Welsh budget and to our front-line services.”
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