Poor Man’s Parliament: Ten Years of the Welsh Assembly
A decade after devolution 6 out of 10 Welsh voters didn’t know which parties formed the Welsh Assembly Government. Rhodri Morgan, the long-serving First Minister, was recognised by less than 50%, other party leaders had less than 10% recognition. In addition to this voter disengagement, the system of law-making seemed not to be fully understood even by constitutional lawyers.
Poor Man’s Parliament explains why the hopes of 1999 failed to materialise and why the National Assembly has yet to capture the nation’s imagination. Its themes emerge through a chronological narrative, in which Martin Shipton offers a searching commentary on key events. They include: UK Labour’s installation of the uncharismatic Alun Michael as leader of an Assembly which needed to capture the public's imagination; obstinacy by the Westminster Treasury over crucial match funding for European money, and Michael’s subsequent downfall; Labour’s obsession with party unity at the expense of clear national leadership; the shutting down of public debate through reliance on Assembly patronage of so many organisations; the quality of Assembly Members; shameless defiance of Freedom of Information Act to stifle criticism.
Poor Man’s Parliament covers the Assembly from its beginnings in 1999 to Rhodri Morgan’s retirement as First Minister in November 2009, exploring the record of government by Labour and Plaid Cymru, and an analysis of recent electoral trends. It is written from a pro-devolution viewpoint, though one dismayed by events.