Flexing his muscles in Brussels

There were daffodils and handshakes aplenty in Brussels but Carwyn Jones was hoping we'd be homing in on something else - the political muscles he was flexing in Brussels.

Why was he there? To meet two European Commissioners, Johannes Hahn, the Commissioner for Regional Affairs (it was his team who'd seen to the daffodils) and Janusz Lewandowski, the Commissioner for Financial Planning and the Budget.

Mr Lewandowski shook Mr Jones' hand vigorously, then kept going for the sake of the cameras. "Ah - sorry, this is boring" he said, through slightly gritted teeth. "Ah no, talking about the money's never boring!" responded the First Minister.

There was a reception to promote Welsh food - a case of the other type of muscles, from the Menai Straits, in Brussels - and a chance to remind his audience why Mr Jones was really there. Wales, he said, wanted to be "an active and constructive partner" in Europe. The "harsh rhetoric" of the EU's critics "often drowns out the benefits."

In a city awash with interpreters, the real message needed little deciphering: Wales' national interests had been damaged by David Cameron's row with European leaders over his use of the UK's veto before Christmas. Carwyn Jones was on an exercise to set Wales apart. For "Wales", as his advisers put it, do not read "UK".

Bear in mind too that a few weeks ago, the deputy First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, had been in Brussels discussing policies that were, as her twitter account had it, "#indyref related". Carwyn Jones wants Wales to be, not just a strong partner in Europe but to remain a partner in a strong UK too. For Wales, do not read Scotland.

Then, he was off - a quick stop in a supermarket to promote Welsh lamb and beef on his way to the airport and Mr Jones was on his way, job done.

Welsh Conservatives reminded the Labour First Minister he'd suggested last month he "probably would've vetoed" too. He would, they said, have been better off making sure that the funding Wales gets from Europe is spent more effectively, "creating a dynamic trading relationship with our EU partners ... rather than going to Brussels full of empty words and tired rhetoric about Europe".

For them, talking about the money isn't boring either - they'd just rather talk about how it's spent at home.