Badger cull reprieve signals power shift

Gareth Hughes suggests that Carwyn Jones has become a prisoner of his backbenchers as he goes into reverse gear

To cull or not to cull that is the question. It may be a question for the Welsh government but has not greatly concerned this commentator. The merits of culling badgers or not, is hardly a topic for polite company. Surely it should be left to the letters page of the Farmers Weekly and not of great concern to us townies.

Well, why are you writing about it you may ask? Ah, a perfectly valid question and one that deserves an answer. It is not because I’ve inherited a pair of wellies or that I’ve watched too many episodes of The Good Life on Comedy Gold. No, it’s because it gives us an insight into how things will be for the Welsh Government, now that they’ve decided to go it alone.

When John Griffiths, the Minister with responsibility for animal welfare, announced to Assembly Members that he wasn’t minded to rush headlong into a badger cull, I detected a rapid crash of the gear box as it is pushed into reverse.

John Griffiths said he wanted a review of the science on how to eradicate Bovine TB. Yet as members of the Labour-Plaid coverage both John Griffiths and Carwyn Jones backed the cull. What then has changed? Well, certainly not the science.

No, there hasn’t been a breakthrough in treating the disease. No one has shouted, “Eureka, I have the cure!” The science remains the same. Neither the scientific or rural landscape has changed since Elin Jones the previous Rural Affairs Minister took the decision to cull. The change that has occurred has been to that of the political landscape.

Having no majority but still deciding to govern alone Carwyn Jones, the First Minister, has now become a prisoner of his own backbench members.

There are many of his backbenchers that have little sympathy towards rural Wales and see badgers simply as cuddly animals. They would never have allowed their government to move towards a cull. In the light of this, Mr Jones and Mr Griffiths have decided to appease them by prevaricating. They both live in hope that the Chief Scientist and inquiry will get them off the hook.

Now this about-turn may not cause a great loss of sleep to Carwyn Jones and his urban focused Cabinet, but it surely should. For now that his Labour backbench members have tasted blood they’ll want more. Where will it all end?

Carwyn Jones should worry if the centre of power moves away from the Cabinet room to the Labour Group. Or, does what caused this week’s statement and U-turn, signal that an early return to coalition government is much higher up our First Minister’s agenda?

Gareth Hughes is a political commentator and a freelance journalist who publishes his own blog here.

2 thoughts on “Badger cull reprieve signals power shift

  1. Spot on I fear. Its going to be a long, long five years. We haven’t got a Welsh Government, we’ve got a Welsh Labour cabal wrestling for power and influence and trying to use their position to boost Labour’s flagging Westminster ambitions. Another party may have to go into coalition with Labour just to save our collective necks. Maybe Plaid and the Lib Dems could take turns?

    Poor Wales.

  2. Perhaps all commentators should look to assessing the Government’s actions against its pre-election manifesto commitments.

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