Agreement, what agreement?

I don't think anyone should be surprised by the bad blood that's already surrounding the so-called St David's Day agreement.

Labour pitched their tone early by pointing out on Friday that the announcement wasn't on St David's Day and there was no agreement.

The fact that Carwyn Jones was in New York told its own story. I suspect if he felt this was going to be momentous he would have made sure he was in the country.

It's not often you get a government minister talk about Whitehall intransigence, but that's how Stephen Crabb described government departments in order to emphasise how far he'd got in his negotiations.

He feels he's "moved mountains" but Labour aren't even on the "dance floor."


Behind the rhetoric is a serious accusation, which is that at a time when Carwyn Jones is saying Wales is not being shown the same respect as Scotland, Welsh Labour's main man at Westminster - Owen Smith - is blocking the devolution of powers that were discussed in cross-party talks over the past five months.

It leads to questions about honesty and questions about who is calling the shots.

Labour say this is nonsense and that, in effect, the St David's Day agreement has been a stitch-up between the coalition parties.

Carwyn Jones is sticking with his line which is that he won't sign up to any deal on funding unless he sees specific figures.

At that point he will consider whether to hold a referendum on income tax powers - in other words he's looking to break any direct link between the two.


His view was broadly backed up by the economist Gerry Holtham, who wrote the definitive report on this issue, when he told Radio Wales that the introduction of a funding floor could be hugely significant, and much more important than any kind of top up payment, but it all depends on what level it is set at.

What's clear is that the First Minister's stance has left Stephen Crabb exasperated. The Welsh Secretary claims the comments don't stack up with what he's been telling him privately.

I've been jumping back and forth between the Welsh Conservative and Liberal Democrat conferences in Cardiff this weekend.

The constitution has played a big part in each. The Tories are looking to differentiate themselves from the other parties by making themselves the party that wants to put the debate on the constitution to bed once and for all.

Clearly that is not going to be the case with Plaid Cymru, who want independence, the Lib Dems, who want a federal state, and Labour, who want a constitutional convention.

Reflective mood

The message from the Conservatives is that no-one really cares about this on the doorstep so the quicker it can be dealt with the better in order to focus on things like the economy, which they hope will win them the general election.

They say they're polling strongly in seven out of the eight seats in Wales they hold. Cardiff North will be the toughest because of the tiny majority but party sources say they're banking on David Cameron's personal poll ratings making a difference later in the campaign.

The Liberal Democrats have been in reflective mood, looking back at five years in government.

They have to make it work for them with arguments over the income tax threshold and the triple lock on pensions which they say is evidence of them making a difference.

Can they hold on to their three seats? The feeling is that Jenny Willott will come under most pressure, in Cardiff Central, despite her starring role juggling family life in the fly-on-the-wall TV documentary on life in the Commons recently.

Council concerns

She says the current problems at Labour-run Cardiff council is playing into her hands on the doorstep, particularly as it used to be run by the Liberal Democrats.

Those problems, and the pending vote of no-confidence in the leader Phil Bale, was also the first thing the chairman of the Welsh Conservatives Jonathan Evans referred to when he opened their conference.

The continuing problems at the local authority are clearly being used as much as possible on the doorstep by Jenny Willott, and by Craig Williams for the Conservatives in Cardiff North.

The Lib Dems appeared to be more comfortable about prospects in Ceredigion and Brecon and Radnorshire.

I shared a joke with Mark Williams saying that the most dangerous thing in Ceredigion is standing between him and a coffee morning.

It's a light-hearted line that reflects the important point that both him and Roger Williams in Brecon and Radnorshire are considered to be MPs who work their patch well.

More on this story