Locking horns on M4 relief road

There appeared to be a distinct lack of supportive noise behind Carwyn Jones when he and Andrew RT Davies locked horns over the cost of the M4 relief road during First Minister's questions.

It may be too great a leap to interpret that as dwindling support within Labour ranks but there must surely be concern about the escalating price tag, which inflation and VAT does not explain, despite the best efforts of Carwyn Jones.

After all, it was only in 2015 that the First Minister said it would come in at nowhere near £1bn.

Unfortunately for him he was right, but in the wrong direction.

The Welsh Conservative leader has tapped into this with his call for a price limit - nobody knows what it is but there must be a tipping point on the cost that would shift the balance.

King makers

The Tories are potential king-makers here if, as expected, there are a number of Labour rebels, but they have a dilemma.

If the inspector recommends approval following the public inquiry, then the Conservatives will have to decide whether to oppose what has become a totemic issue for their friends in big business, the CBI.

They will also have to square their position with the Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns who is a strong supporter.

It is unclear how this will play out politically. As things stand there will be no binding vote on the M4 relief road as it is tied up with the Welsh Government's budget which has already been voted on.

That said, the opposition parties could force a vote of some kind which, although not binding, could heap on the political pressure.

RIFW

On a separate note, two observations of recent days.

Carwyn Jones has been filmed at two official photo-calls with his education and health secretaries respectively at a school and a hospital.

This is rare for a First Minister whose style is not to interfere in the briefs of his ministers, in fact I cannot ever recall seeing him on a hospital ward in his time in charge.

With all the problems of recent months surrounding the death of Carl Sargeant, it appears to be a clear attempt to show that this is a First Minister with a busy schedule getting stuck into the business of government.

And finally, we have had confirmation that the Welsh Government has sued its two main advisors on the RIFW land sale for professional negligence and breach of contract.

Not joking

The problems with the deal are well-documented, what it less well-known is what the Welsh Government thinks because it has been so cagey in its response.

One of the reports into the matter concluded that ministers had been badly advised - the fact they have taken these steps so long after the deal tells us they share that view.

A senior civil servant told AMs last year they were prepared to "pursue every penny we can." He was not joking.

Interestingly, the former Conservative AM Byron Davies, who first referred the matter to auditors, also felt they had no option but to go down this road.

We will have to wait to see whether the decision is vindicated in the notoriously complex world of corporate litigation.

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