Wales politics

Welsh political hits and headlines of 2014

A look back at some of the top stories in a rollercoaster year for Welsh politics and politicians as the general election approaches.

Redrawing the map

Local government faces what is now becoming its regular 20-year shake-up after the Williams Commission report in January recommended the number of councils be cut from 22 to between 10 and 12.

Most if not all of the authorities accept change is coming, but as few agreed with the suggested pattern of mergers the debate will rumble on into 2015.

The Williams Commission suggested the following mergers:

  • Isle of Anglesey and Gwynedd
  • Conwy and Denbighshire
  • Flintshire and Wrexham
  • Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire (and possibly Carmarthenshire)
  • Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend (and possibly Swansea)
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil
  • Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan
  • Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly and Torfaen
  • Monmouthshire and Newport
  • Powys to stand alone, and possibly Carmarthenshire and Swansea

Bowing out - then fighting back

Veteran Labour MP Ann Clwyd announced in February her decision to retire at the general election after more than 30 years in Parliament.

But she later changed her mind and was forced to face re-selection in December before being confirmed as Labour candidate to defend the Cynon Valley seat she first won in a by-election in 1984.

'Line of death'

Image copyright PA

David Cameron fuelled a bitter dispute between Westminster and Wales over their respective records on health when he told the Conservatives' Welsh conference in April that Offa's Dyke "has become the line between life and death".

The row was reignited in October when articles in the Daily Mail newspaper prompted Health Minister Mark Drakeford to accuse the Tories of spreading a "tissue of lies" over Labour's running of the NHS in Wales.

Davies's demise

Natural Resources Minister Alun Davies was accused of a conflict of interest in June for asking Natural Resources Wales to reconsider its concerns about a planned motor racing circuit in his Blaenau Gwent constituency.

First Minister Carwyn Jones cleared Mr Davies on that matter, but sacked him in July for pressurising civil servants to gather private information on opposition AMs.

Call-up for Crabb

Image copyright FBA/Mumph

Stephen Crabb's promotion to the UK cabinet as Welsh Secretary in place of David Jones in July created a stir among Westminster watchers who noted he was the first bearded Tory cabinet minister for 111 years.

He soon made his mark by improving the strained relationship between the UK and Welsh governments, which helped earn him the accolade of Welsh Politician of the Year.

Class act

US President Barack Obama dropped in on lessons at a Newport school in September during his first visit to Wales as more than 60 world leaders and 4,000 delegates gathered in the city for the NATO summit.

First Minister Carwyn Jones hailed the Welsh government's £3m budget for the event as money well spent, but some traders in Cardiff claimed security barriers in the city centre drove away customers.

Back in office

Image copyright BBC news grab

Leighton Andrews returned to the Welsh cabinet in a September reshuffle 15 months after resigning as education minister.

He stepped into the newly-created role of public services minister with a mission to drive efficiencies and the re-organisation of councils, suggesting the target number of authorities may now be as few as six.

Back on track

Image copyright BBC news grab

David Cameron returned to Wales in November to confirm the go-ahead for electrification of the south Wales mainline and Valley rail services.

It followed months of wrangling over which government should pick up the bill for a project first announced by the Labour UK government in July 2009.

Power play

Image copyright PA

The prospect of more powers for Wales was fuelled by promises to Scotland in the run up to its referendum in September which rejected independence.

Already in process was the Wales Bill, passed in December to pave the way for tax powers.

But the debate continues over whether power over tax - and any further devolution - is good for Wales without a review of UK Treasury funding under the Barnett formula.

Headlines and howlers

UKIP made a lot of headlines in 2014, and Wales was no exception.

The party staged its first ever Welsh conference in Port Talbot in December after coming within 4,500 votes of beating Labour in Wales in May's European election.

Leader Nigel Farage caused an outcry when he blamed immigration for traffic congestion on the M4 which led to him missing a Friday night eve-of-conference event - whether this alleged gaffe will help or hinder UKIP's electoral chances in Wales remains to be seen.

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