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    07 April, 2006

    Silly censure

    The Welsh Tories made idiots of themselves on Wednesday with a censure motion on Alun Pugh. The whole debate was pretty pointless, and it seemed that the Presiding Officer wasn't too pleased with it either, as he limited most speeches to three minutes.

    I spoke in the debate. I have not always been the biggest fan of our approach to the Arts in the National Assembly. However, the censure motion was ridiculous, and owed more to Tory leader Nick Bourne's desire to promote his Culture spokesperson Lisa Francis in the selection battle for the Mid and West Wales. The Tories have 3 seats there at present: as we are targetting to win back a seat in that region, the position of the third person is somewhat precarious. Bourne would like Lisa to be second on the Tory list instead of Glyn Davies.

    I tried to make one or two serious points in my short speech (see over): but I am well aware that some of the criticism of Labour's Culture Minister has been based purely on snobbery, and I wasn't surprised that my comments on that received the most attention!

    Leighton Andrews: I am happy to support
    the Minister for Culture, Welsh Language
    and Sport today, and I urge the Assembly to
    reject the motion. It is completely over the
    top to see a censure motion against this
    Minister. I speak as someone who has not
    always agreed with him on every issue to do
    with arts policy—I do not think that that is a
    state secret. However, at a time when we are
    going through a review of arts policy, when
    we have agreement on the terms of reference
    for that review of arts and cultural policy, and
    when we have an interim chair of the arts
    council, who is leading the council through a
    difficult period in its development, we should
    seek to give support to that interim chair. It is
    disappointing that I have not heard any words
    of welcome or praise for the new interim
    chair of the arts council from other parties in
    the Chamber.

    This debate, unfortunately, from the point of view
    of the opposition, appears solely to be about
    personalities. There are deep and legitimate
    issues of public policy that neither we nor the
    arts council have dealt with.

    They relate to legitimate questions about the
    relationship between arts organisations, the
    Government, the arts council and the
    committee in what is a small country, and I
    do not think those issues have been worked
    out or thought through intellectually, either
    on a pre-2007 basis for the Assembly, or on a
    post 2007 basis. I hope that the arts review
    will do that. I have seen people talk in the
    Chamber about the need for an arm’s-length
    relationship and then place demands on the
    Minister to fund this or that of their favourite
    pet projects. That is not about having an
    arm’s-length relationship, and it has confirmed
    in my mind that the reality is that most
    people have not really thought through the
    complexities of those issues.

    I return to one of the issues that has
    disappointed me. We have not had any words
    of welcome for the interim chair of the arts
    council, who is taking on a significant
    challenge. That is a great credit to him. He is
    someone of substance in the cultural
    community in Wales. There have also been
    some rather snide attacks on the interim
    chair, not in the Chamber, but outside,
    because he does not speak Welsh, and that is
    to be deplored. It is a shame that those
    comments have not been deplored elsewhere.
    There has been much snobbery and elitism in
    this debate over the arts over the last few
    months; there has been snobbery and elitism
    in the arts community and some of it has
    been directed at our Minister. It has been
    directed at him, at the end of the day, because
    some people do not believe that the son of a
    Rhondda miner should be a Minister for
    culture. That is what we have seen; we have
    seen disgraceful, elitist attacks on the
    Minister inside the Chamber and without.

    Rhondda TV
    The Labour Party

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    Promoted by Leighton Andrews AM, National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff CF99 1NA.

    Author's editorial policy: This blog does not publish anonymous comments, unless they are really witty and I like them. If you have something to say, then have the courage of your convictions and use your name or an identifiable alias. Even then I reserve the right not to publish comments that are malicious, defamatory, stupid, pointlessly cynical or boring. Any of the statements or comments made above should be regarded as personal and not necessarily those of the National Assembly for Wales, any constituent part or connected body.