A rumble in the political jungle

Ok, so it wasn't quite a rumble in the jungle but it's rare for who came out on top in First Minister's Questions to cause much debate. It did today.

Politicians in the Senedd generally mind their Ps and Qs during FMQs rather more so than those in Westminster during PMQs - if you get my drift. Today's session in Cardiff Bay, though, is worth watching.

First: Tory leader Andrew R T Davies who asked about a Royal College of Nursing survey.

The four steps to combustion were these:

  • Question asked about the findings of the survey which suggest a high proportion of nurses - including those in Wales - are thinking of leaving the profession.
  • Question batted off with a reference (the now customary reference Mr Davies would argue) to what the UK government is up to with regard to the NHS.
  • Same thing happens again ... and again.
  • Carwyn Jones, expecting the last word, goads Mr Davies for failing to fill Nick Bourne's shoes (the former Tory leader who 'many of us' in the chamber had admired.) "He does nothing unless he's been told to do it by the Secretary of State!"

Game over? No.

Back came Mr Davies, ignoring the three question quota and the handicap of a microphone that was still closed (a neat reversal of last week's mic on mic off issue). It was opened in time to hear him accuse the First Minister of putting government bashing ahead of people. "I asked you a very pointed question about the health service in Wales. You turned your back on the nurses of Wales with your answers today and they will watch your answers with disgust".

You ask Welsh nurses where they would rather work, Wales or England, they would choose Wales - Mr Jones' line.

It was, from where I was sitting, equal on points but it was the opposition leader, perhaps, who'd thrown the sharpest jab.

Plaid leader Ieuan Wyn Jones wanted a re-match - a second go on Labour's record on capital spending.

The four steps to his most efficient punch were these:

  • Last week I asked you about capital spending and you were struck dumb.
  • After that exchange you put out a press release that re-released everything we already know about capital spending in the pipeline.
  • Today you are better prepared but have nothing much to work with.
  • Forget about projects on paper without start dates - what about shovels at the ready?

Then the point Plaid have been gearing up for some time to make: "The only conclusion I can now draw from your failure to act is you've decided to sit back, let the economic crisis do its worst and blame the Tories for everything."

It's quite an accusation - that Labour would allow more people and businesses in Wales to suffer, so that they can gain political advantage. But it wasn't made in haste and it's a line of attack Plaid clearly believe, in turn, they can turn to their political advantage.

Mr Jones dismissed it. Those close to him accuse Plaid of "behaving like ex lovers - they just can't believe that we can carry on without them".

No news on who got the Nirvana album but if you're wondering how early-ish budget talks are going, you can now assume one thing: Plaid has clear a negotiating strategy, one that says 'we'll continue to talk but you now know we can't strike a deal unless our influence on the final budget is significant and clear for all to see'.