Bridge over troubled water

We were delighted to be asked by PubAffairs to contribute to 'The Week in Wales' column - here is the article in full:

I doubt the Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns, foresaw the furore he would cause by his announcement earlier this month to rename the Second Severn Crossing.

The decision to rename it the Prince of Wales Bridge was met with indignation across Wales, with thousands signing a petition calling for the Crossing to be named “after someone who has achieved something for our nation” and for people to be consulted before deciding on a new name.

Although it was reported that Alun Cairns wrote to First Minister Carwyn Jones about the proposed renaming last year and no objections were raised, the first the public knew of the proposal was the announcement in the press.

The strength of reaction surely shouldn’t have been a surprise – our society has changed and consulting people has become the norm. Then there was the issue of identity and pride and what some saw as a hark back to imperialism and English rule.  And that, of course, raised the issue of ownership – whose bridge is it anyway?

No surprise then that a question about the renaming was raised in the Senedd on Wednesday.  In response, Ken Stakes, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport, said there is support in Wales for the new name and that he was more concerned with the removal of tolls over the second Severn Crossing to ease traffic and boost the Welsh economy.

The talk of bridges this week was quickly surpassed by the row between the assembly and Welsh Government, after the Conservatives tried to use a debate to force the Welsh Government to publish the inquiry into whether the sacking of Carl Sargeant was leaked.  The call for the debate was initially met by the threat of legal challenge from the First Minister.

The debate went ahead but failed to win majority support, and the report remains unpublished.  Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies told the Assembly that publishing the report was “morally right” and tweeted that failure to do so was a “dark day for Welsh democracy.”

There no doubt remains an ongoing tension between the Assembly and Welsh Government, with many questions being asked from the public around accountability and transparency.

But finally, as we head towards Welsh Labour spring conference this weekend, we wait to hear who will reign victorious in the inaugural Labour Deputy Leader contest between Cardiff North AM Julie Morgan and Carolyn Harries, MP for Swansea East.  The competition this week has been marred by the news that three Unite officials were being investigated for publicly backing Julie Morgan (Unite are officially backing Harries). 

The contest is too close to call, but there is little doubt that this side story could have an impact on the final result; bearing in mind the key differentiate of this campaign has been internal democracy - with Julie Morgan calling for a one member, one vote system in Wales.  

So, we turn our attention to sunny Llandudno and wait with bated breath for the winner to be revealed.