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Is the turbulence over? Where now for politics in Wales?

11th January 2018

It has been a turbulent twelve months in Welsh politics. We’ve had suspensions, resignations, scandal and tragedy. 

We started the year with pretty standard party political groupings – Welsh Labour, Plaid Cymru, Welsh Conservatives and UKIP, as well as a lone Liberal Democrat member serving as a member of the Government.  We ended the year with four Independent AMs, one serving in Government taking up the role of Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, and three on the backbenches. Of the three backbench Independents, one is serving a second suspension from his party, one has recently resigned to focus on his role as an MEP and the other tried, and failed, to re-join the Conservative party he left whilst still an MP. 

On the election front, we saw local elections, with three councils changing hands. Labour lost control of Blaenau Gwent & Bridgend, whilst the Independents lost control of Powys. The snap General Election called by the Prime Minister also saw some shocks, with Labour regaining Cardiff North and Plaid Cymru winning back Ceredigion. There were also shocks in the seats not won, with Plaid’s former leader Ieuan Wyn Jones failing to regain Ynys Môn for the party, eventually finishing third behind the Conservatives. 

The year has also seen the ending of hopes for the Circuit of Wales, although rumours of a revival continued to abound as we approached Christmas. We also saw slowdowns in key projects including the M4 Relief Road, the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, the South Wales Metro & the new Wales and Borders Rail Franchise. What happens with the last three projects remains to be seen. 

Of course, the political year in Wales was punctuated by two big tragedies. First, General Election campaigning was suspended to allow the Welsh political world to mourn the death of the father of devolution, and former Member for Cardiff West, Rhodri Morgan. The year ended with a Cabinet Reshuffle, amid rumours of a bullying culture within the Welsh Government, ultimately leading to the untimely death of a second political giant in Wales, Carl Sargeant.

We ended the year with a resignation. Nathan Gill MEP, who was often conspicuously absent from goings on in Cardiff Bay put an end to weeks and weeks of speculation that he was to stand down, by standing down. Of course, in true UKIP fashion, nothing was easy, with Mr Gill spending a good portion of his commute to and from Brussels tweeting Lee Waters, and others, that he was going nowhere. As a list AM, Nathan Gill was replaced by the next in line, Mandy Jones. 

So what will 2018 bring us? If the first few days are anything to go by, the UKIP circus will roll on, as their latest addition, Mandy Jones, is currently an Independent again, having been suspended by her party over allegations of bullying. 

The fallout from the death of Carl Sargeant will continue, and will likely lead to more resignations before the year is out. His son, Jack, will likely win the by-election and take his father’s place in the Senedd. 

Welsh Government projects will continue at a snail’s pace, with the M4 Relief Road still not having a finalised route by January 2019. The franchise will have to be let, but whether that leads to an improvement in services remains to be seen. 

Whatever happens in 2018, divisions will need to be bridged, and rifts healed if the Welsh Assembly and the wider Welsh political world is to move on and gain closure on a turbulent year. 

Grayling Team

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