Health commission a non-starter

There's no real surprise at the assembly that talks to set up a cross party commission on the future of the NHS have collapsed before getting off the ground.

It shows how difficult it was always going to be to try to remove party politics from the NHS so soon before the general election and with the assembly election on the horizon.

The party that wanted this to go ahead the most was the smallest, the Liberal Democrats.

The Welsh government said it was disappointed but I didn't get a sense that many AMs and ministers were willing to go the extra mile to try to salvage the situation.

It will be interesting to see how it changes the terms of the debate.

Silver bullet

Almost inevitably the Welsh government will use Plaid and the Conservatives' refusal to take part as a way of accusing them of not being serious about reform.

On the flip side, there was concern from Plaid that the creation of the commission may have made it more difficult to hold the Welsh government to account.

There is also the point that if all the parties were in the tent then it could have made it harder for them to criticise Labour's handling of the NHS, although that was denied by senior opposition figures.

What is clear now is that there won't be any cross-party consensus on the future of the NHS this side of next year's assembly elections.

It's also worth saying that a commission is no silver bullet for the NHS.

Bad feeling

A number of times this week people have been referring to the Williams commission into local government reform, which was published well over a year ago and is still being argued over by the parties.

That said, there is an acknowledgement from many that some different way of analysing the problems in the NHS, and coming up with solutions, is a good idea.

One question is whether the political parties should be involved. The main objection from Plaid's Elin Jones to the commission was the political involvement but the Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams' point is that buy-in from the parties is essential to make sure it results in meaningful reform.

There's also been no shortage of bad feeling. Publicly the Conservatives, and privately the Welsh government, say the Lib Dems scuppered their own deal by talking to BBC Wales last month when we broke the story about the commission on the eve of Labour's Welsh conference in Swansea.

Kirsty Williams has responded to this by accusing Andrew RT Davies of taking his toys home and in effect saying that there are more important things at stake than hurting someone's feelings in the political bubble.

And that leads me on to the final thought on how all of this must look to the public, who won't be remotely interested in disagreements between the parties over the timing of letters and terms of reference.

I suspect many will want to see as much politics removed from key decisions in the NHS as possible and developments over the past few days are unlikely to have changed their minds.