Badger v budget, conjecture v fact

Should I blog on the badger or the budget?

It's a close run thing but I sense an over-arching theme here that will let me mention both. Ok, all the talk about decisive action v sensible action, conjecture v proven facts lets me mention both - just about.

Let's start with badgers.

There will be no cull after all. Having considered the evidence put forward by a review he commissioned last year, the Enviornment Minister, John Griffiths, has opted for a badger vaccination project instead. "Labour saves the badger" tweets a Labour spin doctor. "And kills the cattle" adds a Conservative MP.

Perhaps the timing of the announcement suggested someone, somwhere had spotted an early opportunity to set a test - or is that trap - for the former Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones, had she won the Plaid Cymru leadership.

She didn't, of course. Leanne Wood did and Elin Jones' response in the chamber, said the Deputy Minister for Agriculture, "showed why she lost." What did she say? "Farmers will now have to decide how best to protect their cattle" adding that "I for one would not blame them for anything they do". That, said Alun Davies is "totally unacceptable".

The 'anything' certainly earned a rebuke from the Presiding Officer.

If you want to pore over the Science Review yourself, you can read it here. You can do so in the knowledge that farming unions have dismissed it as a review based on conjecture, rather than on proven science. What they see is a lack of decisive action. What the Badger Trust sees is a sensible, practical way forward.

So: conjecture v facts and figures, decisive action v a practical way forward. Allow me a segue into tomorrow's budget and one key issue: Regional Pay.

Having hinted that the Chancellor would announce plans to introduce regional pay in tomorrow's budget, the latest nods and winks coming from the other end of the M4 is that he will not. (We're fairly certain electrification of the Valleys lines won't be there either, though a decision on devolving Corporation Tax powers to Northern Ireland might be one to look out for. It would give both Scottish and Welsh leaders something to chew over.)

The Welsh Conservative group leader in the Assembly, Andrew R T Davies has warned in the past about regional pay creating "disparity in parts of the United Kingdom". He'll be happy enough if it's not there.

The Welsh Liberal Democrat leader, Kirsty Williams, has been blunter. She doesn't hide the fact that at this end of the M4, there is no Lib Dem support for regional pay. Neither does she hide the fact that she's told them so - 'them' being UK cabinet ministers.

The First Minister? Regional pay is "code for cutting pay" Carwyn Jones has said in the past. In this afternoon's First Minister's Questions he got his chance to condemn it as a policy "designed to reduce the living standards of those who live in the poorest parts of the UK, a policy designed to increase the wealth gap". I mis-typed there and wrote 'Welsh gap' - a typo Mr Jones might approve of given it rather makes his point for him.

So how about the new Plaid leader, Leanne Wood? She invited the First Minister to join Plaid Cymru in condemning plans for regional pay. He welcomed her support for Labour party policy. She invited him to join her, as Plaid Cymru leader, in a meeting of all four party leaders this very afternoon, so that a sign of cross party unity adn condemnation of regional pay could be sent to the Chancellor. He thanked her but suggested this afternoon might be a bit difficult.

She was nice to him. He was nice to her - on his terms.

Since then, Leanne Wood has written to her fellow leaders asking them to add their signatures to a letter that says: "As leaders of the Welsh political parties, we note with alarm that the current proposals for regional pay to be gradually rolled out across some parts of the public sector have been floated without prior Welsh consultation".

It's getting short shrift. The mood from the leaders isn't 'grow up' exactly; more grow into the job, perhaps. This isn't how they want to do business.

Andrew R T Davies has responded swiftly. "Considering the Chancellor of the Exchequer is yet to even deliver his budget, it would be both unwise and premature to put my name to what is still speculation".

He also finds it "ironic that a leader who stood on a platform of independence is promoting UK rates of regional pay, when you advocate the break-up of the UK."

He'd rather wait for details tomorrow, rather than join in speculation today.

So, I suspect, would you.