Osborne refreshes First Minister others cannot reach

The list of politicians charmed by George Osborne is yet to reach the length his closest allies might wish.

But the Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones, emerged from an hour of talks with the Chancellor yesterday to praise his "refreshing approach" to the funding of the Welsh Government.

Praise indeed from a man whose Government has spent the last month lobbing verbal hand grenades in the direction of Westminster.

Mr Jones valued the way Mr Osborne listened to his shopping list of funding demands (including a change in the Barnett formula) without closing down options. He even got a free cup of Treasury coffee. Perhaps the Chancellor was just being polite ahead of the next Tuesday's expected announcement of yet another commission to look at devolution.

This is the "Calman-style" commission that follows the commission on Scottish devolution whose report blended greater powers for the Scottish Parliament with more financial accountability to the electorate.

Sir Kenneth Calman was, among many things, England's chief medical officer, in a long career. It had 14 other members taken from the great and the good, including party political figures. Take a glimpse at the membership and, if the Welsh Calman is organised on similar lines, you can probably hazard a guess at the likely suspects.

The search has long been on for a chair of the Welsh Calman, someone suitable to both the Welsh and UK Governments.

Gerald Holtham, who chaired what is formally known as the independent commission on funding and finance for Wales, was seen yesterday popping into Gwydyr House in Whitehall for a chat with the Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan.

Mrs Gillan has been working overtime on the issue this week, dining with the secretary to the Calman commission (and former UK Government head of devolution, Jim Gallagher, and meeting the Prime Minister more than once.

Gerald Holtham's work was apparently respected within Whitehall and even if he doesn't chair the Welsh Calman his previous reports could form part of the new commission's report.

Carwyn Jones, emerging from the Treasury, said he expected the new commission to take no more than a year to report.

That won't be the end of the matter, of course. The long grass around Whitehall is littered with dusty copies of reports published by committees of the great and the good.

There are also two (or more) sides to the debate on the Barnett formula, which effectively decides changes in the Welsh Government's budget.

Tonight, in the House of Commons, the Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris will present a petition from his constituency in Daventry

They too want the Barnett formula changed - because they say it's unfair. To England.