Peter Black AM (Liberal Democrats) sent a somewhat suspicious response. His first response stated;
“Thanks for your e-mail. I have noted your concern. I do not accept that Wales has been marginalised under this coalition government as you imply.”
However, after Keir sent a response expressing disagreement but appreciation for the quick response which also, incidentally, came on Bank Holiday Monday, Mr. Black surprisingly responded again, saying;
“I will obviously keep an open mind and maintain a dialogue with my party on this issue.”
Maybe it is reading in a bit deep, but it did seem a bit bizarre that he replied to a simple reply indicating our appreciation that he responded in the first place. Some might say it has the sound of a caged man. Or some may just say he is merely highlighting the democratic and open nature of Liberal Democrat policy-making procedures. Keir will leave you to judge for yourself.
David Davies, MP for Montmouthshire, said,
“I don’t think membership of cabinet committees can be determined by who represents which area of the UK, otherwise who is in there specifically representing the English[?]”
A fair point, Keir conceded. But the issue that the English don’t have a representative is totally separate. Keir also added that if Ministers are given Cabinet posts to represent the devolved areas, then surely government acknowledges that representation in Cabinet and, thus, on Committees is necessary? It was also pointed out to Mr. Davies that Cheryl Gillan has very little experience of Home Affairs yet has 5 years experience as the Opposition spokesperson for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. So what is her one membership, on the Home Affairs Committee, based on? Mr Davies simply responded;
“Well I haven’t got the time to look this up but I could have sworn she had something to do with prisons at some point. I am relying on memory.”
It may sound like Mr. Davies is dodging the issue, but Keir appreciates that he is a busy man and the fact that he sent 3 quick responses to our persistent e-mails in the space of around 20 minutes is commendable enough. Especially given that Keir is not a constituent of Mr. Davies. Keir welcomes debate and disagreement and Mr. Davies’ frankness made him go up a bit further in the estimation.
On a more positive note, John Griffiths AM (Labour) responded well to the letter. Mr. Griffiths simply said;
“Well done on your initiative on this. Labour AMs and MPs amongst others have been and will be making appropriate points on this as you suggest.
Well you can’t ask more than that, can you? And Keir does like a “Best Wishes” as opposed to a “Regards”.
David Jones, Conservative MP for Clwyd West, seemed in lazy mood when he responded to Keir, simply saying,
“I am sure Mrs Gillan will send a response to you direct”
A slightly bizarre e-mail from David Hanson MP. Verbatim, it read,
“when i was parliamentary under secretary for wales 1999-2001 i sat on 23!”
Ummm...great. This doesn’t really help Keir or the Welsh people though. But thanks. I guess.
Gwenda Thomas, a Labour, AM fobbed Keir and the people of Wales off onto her “Researcher/PA”, who responded by saying,
“Gwenda Thomas AM thanks you for your email and notes the contents.”
Can’t help but think, “well fuck off then”. Keir wonders, if he was a raw 16-year old trying to get involved in politics, whether he’d become disenchanted with everything after getting this sort of response. Thanks for engaging Gwenda, thanks. I’m sure you’re much busier than David Davies.
Tory MP Guto Bebb simply said,
“We are very keen to ensure that there is a strong Welsh voice in parliament and your comments have been noted.”
Huw Irranca-Davies, MP for Ogmore, sent a slightly more encouraging response to Keir’s letter. He said,
“I share your concern that Wales is now in danger of being sidelined and even ignored by the new coalition government. The appointment of a Secretary of State who does not represent a seat in Wales, the bypassing of the First Minister when Cameron announced there will be no referendum on further devolution of powers this autumn, and the proposal to cull the numbers of MPs from Wales are all unmistakeable signs of the new direction of travel. Labour MPs from Wales will of course be speaking up for Wales, because I worry that the new government in Westminster will not.”
Hear, hear, Mr. Irranca-Davies.
So, quite a feeble response so far sadly. Without a cross-party consensus among Welsh MPs, the resistance from the few who voice dissent will be futile.
This sort of issue needs a much more organised revolt. A letter to MPs, evidently, will not achieve enough. Keir feels the campaign methods and Labour Party structural changes being proposed by some of the leadership contenders will allow for grassroots rebellion to be a lot stronger. So, come October, when we have a new leader and if the response to this issue isn’t good enough, Keir assures his no-doubt wide readership that he will be agitating on the ground, just like he did at the start of the twentieth century.