Carwyn’s First 100 Days

All anniversaries are to some extent artificial, and in politics 100 days may be more artificial than most. Nonetheless, First Minister Carwyn Jones is making the most of his first 100 days in office with an upbeat message on his website today.

He highlights the following as among his main achievements so far:

· Representing Wales at the Climate Change summit in Copenhagen, an opportunity to reaffirm the Assembly Government’s commitment to tackling climate change.

· Assembly Members backing plans for a referendum on further powers.

· Chairing the first ever Public Services Summit, to ensure greater collaboration between public service partners.

· The appointment of Wales’ first Chief Scientific Adviser – Professor John Harries from Imperial College London.

· Meeting the new European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, who has responsibility for managing European funding programmes.

Looking ahead he says, “My priorities for the future include making sure that Wales is well-positioned to benefit from the opportunities of the changed post-recession economy. Science and innovation will be vital elements in the programme of economic renewal which will guide our approach to economic policy over the next few years.

“I will also continue to focus on public service delivery to ensure money gets to frontline services. There is huge potential for efficiency and innovation across the whole of the public sector, where every 1% efficiency gain in Wales’ public sector procurement budget could save us up to £50 million a year. Frontline services need that money – and one of my priorities is to make sure they get it.

“Moving forward with the referendum process will also remain one of my future priorities. Also, in the autumn, we’ll be welcoming the world to Wales for the Ryder Cup. This will be a great opportunity to showcase our beautiful landscape and culture to thousands of visitors who will be visiting Wales for the first time for this major competition.”

All this is relatively uncontroversial. The First Minister is proving himself a pretty shrewd operator. An achievement he doesn’t list is his expert avoidance of political bear traps. There was a moment’s hesitation ahead of the vote on extending the Assembly’s powers, and for a moment, a crevasse opened up between him and his coalition partner Plaid Cymru. However, he swiftly moved to close it. In the process he closed down the misgivings of the Secretary of State for Wales Peter Hain, who was seeking to kick the whole process into the long grass, and certainly until after the forthcoming general election.

Carwyn’s big test will come in the aftermath of that election. Much is out of his control. It all depends on whether Labour remains in power, is out of office or in coalition at Westminster. A secondary, but important consideration is how well Labour does in Wales. Both factors will influence the depth and timing of public spending cuts, and the politics around the timing and organisation of the referendum.

So the verdict can only be: so far so good, but the acid test begins on 7 May. But Carwyn, being Carwyn, will put all this out of mind in Cardiff Arms Park at tomorrow’s Six Nations clash between Wales and Italy. At least he can hope for a good result there.

John Osmond is Director of the IWA

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