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I have been quite surprised at the number of commentators who have referred to the Fourth National Assembly being opened, or even officially opened, by the Queen yesterday. Some have even called it a state opening.

This is either assumption or invention. Elizabeth Windsor did not come to open the Assembly, she was simply one of the guests invited to be present at the occasion. Our Fourth Assembly could have opened with or without a celebration, with or without her ... and indeed with or without a number of those who might otherwise have felt able to attend

I've no objection to the celebration, but a better choice of guests would have resulted in more people being able to enjoy the event.

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26 comments:

Valleys Mam said...

Good point, although from what I saw few were there to watch other than some school children who had been bused in.And of course the small group of invitees who are part of the Crach

Anonymous said...

I'm all for pomp and ceremony and was glad to see that leading members of the judiciary, county councils etc were there. I'm like even more pomp to be honest - but without the royalty.

Can they also sort out the Siambr - it really is an embarrassment and totally unfit for purpose. The audience in the balcony can't see half the seats it's like being in a goldfish bowl for the AMs. The background seems to be made of mdf. When we go up to 70 or 80 members could they take down the balcony and so make the ceiling larger and place seating around the chamber - it would be much better for the AMs and those who've made the effort to see their Assembly at work.

Siônnyn said...

Isn't it still term time? Will UKIP be reporting to the police the politicisation of the union jack waving children who were obviously only there to cheer the Queen & co?

Like Annon , I am all for the pomp and ceremony, but can't see what the royals added to the party. Perhaps a special convening of Y Gorsedd would be more appropriate in future.

Anonymous said...

OK - is Ieuan Wyn Jones going to stand down this week? He's terminally weakened his party, taking away in one selfish act the Plaid narrative of 'Labour and Carwyn aren't standing Wales's corner'.

Unless he goes, I can't see how any Plaid AM can stand in the chamber and accuse Labour of not standing up for Wales when their leader wasn't bothered to celebrate the opening of the Assembly which his insisted had a referendum to give it more powers.

Syd Morgan said...

I'm glad it's Plaid policy to have a referendum on who our head of state might be - hereditary or elected. Pity nobody on BBC Not Wales knew this on the phone-in today.

On pomp, you can't beat Bastille Day.

MH said...

I've given a few moments of idle thought to how we could devise a better ceremony. I believe that the key would be to make it popular, for VM is right, hardly anyone was there on Tuesday, just kids who were bussed in for the occasion ... and those who got to eat the vol-au-vents.

Perhaps something like the Lord Mayor's parade in London. Floats and bands, the Gorsedd, AMs taking a better oath of allegiance to those they were elected to represent. A gala concert in the Millennium Centre with overflow in Plas Roald Dahl followed by a huge firework display to round off the evening when it's got dark enough. A four yearly celebration of Welsh democracy, maybe on the late May bank holiday weekend.

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I have a question for Syd. How, exactly, do you know this is Plaid policy? I'm not questioning it, because I agree entirely. But one of the big problems with Plaid right now is nobody being quite sure what our policies actually are. We need a section on our website where people see our policies in black and white. The manifestos we fight elections on are fine, but by definition they only tend to contain policies for the next four years ... not the "big picture" stuff.

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We should not conflate the issue of independence for Wales with who should be head of state. Elizabeth Windsor is already the head of state of 15 or so countries, and as a newly independent country we would be no different from, for example, New Zealand, Canada, Pakistan or Ceylon. However, like all of those countries, we would be able to choose for ourselves whether to change this. Pakistan did so 9 years after independence, Ceylon did so 24 years after independence; New Zealand and Canada have, so far at least, retained her as head of state.

I would vote for an elected Tywysog(es) Cymru, maybe for a six or eight year term, for the office would be civic rather than political as it is in Ireland. By giving him or her this title rather than Llywydd/President we will very effectively detoxify the now contaminated Prince of Wales brand. If we don't do it, the Windsors will just keep on using the name anyway.

Anonymous said...

Is it wise for Plaid to make a stance now? They are getting hammered by BBC Wales. Have you read V Roderick's blog? I don't see Salmond making an issue of the Royalty. In fact, he's said that the queen can still be head of state for an independent Scotland. He as more important things to fight for. Do you think the stance taken by the Plaid AM's and IWJ's absence has enhanced the party at all electorally? Couldn't they have just put up and shut up for now? Of course, there's no need to go to the extremes of DET. They could still campaighn for a more inclusive 'Assembly opening' without fronting the Royalists. They have a lot to learn from the SNP it appears. Just my thoughts.

Syd Morgan said...

On Plaid policy, I'm pretty certain of that one. However your wider point is 100% correct. Now we get ephemeral election manifestos. We have no post conference reports, i.e. only motions not resolutions. When I was party chairman, I insisted we published records of proceedings so people would know what was decided. You can imagine some people hated that and it stopped when I resigned. The uncertainty created leads, of course, to mistakes like the (uncharacteristic) Elfyn Llwyd incident which you highlighted.

On the wider point raised by Anon 07.36, we need to recognise a real difference between us and Scotland. Elizabeth (the First there - note the oath MSPs take), is Queen of Scots, a status entirely separate from the union of parliaments. Having been annexed - 'Anschluß-ed' - the House of Saxe Coburg Gotha is also the (separate) monarchy of England&Wales. We have the added complication of a 'Prince of Wales'.

Unlike 'look-at-me-now' republicans, I just ignore monarchy. Much more important than gestures opposing them is to construct the alternative, positive case. For example, monarchy is why the UK has no constitution but has that ridiculous and corrupt concept, 'parliamentary democracy', a contradiction in terms.The so-called 'British constitution' is merely the current state of power relations. A true constitution would be determined by the people, enabling and restricting holders of public office. That, then, is a republic and the ruling house will wither away.

Anonymous said...

"On the wider point raised by Anon 07.36, we need to recognise a real difference between us and Scotland. Elizabeth (the First there - note the oath MSPs take), is Queen of Scots, a status entirely separate from the union of parliaments. Having been annexed - 'Anschluß-ed' - the House of Saxe Coburg Gotha is also the (separate) monarchy of England&Wales. We have the added complication of a 'Prince of Wales'."

The difference between us and Scotland is relevant to anorachs. To the man/woman in the street the issues are the same. Salmond knows how the average person's mind works......Could this be said for Plaid AM's? I'm only asking. :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm with Syd Morgan on this. Bastille Day parade is very very impressive. Welsh nationality needs to offer its citizens the kind of colour and pageant that British royalty does. The wearing of sack-cloth and complaining about £2k spend here and there is barking up the wrong tree.

People like colour, they lack pageantry. Don't fight it - use it.

Cibwr said...

The Scots have the Riding of Parliament, which is a procession from the old Parliament Hall down the Royal Mile to the new Parliament building. That is something we could emulate? Maybe a procession from Cathays Park to the Waterfront?

Anonymous said...

Cibwr - good point, trouble is the urban design of the Bay (Mermaid Quay) and the windswept, badly proportioned Lloyd George Avenue (you need two sides to an avenue and buildings in 'golden proportion'to the width of the road) is hardly regal nor noble nor fitting to the opening of our Senedd be that by the Queen or not.

M.

Cibwr said...

Ah the wonders of PFI - Lloyd George Avenue is indeed a mistake - though it would be good if the procession went down Bute Street - the Welsh Government has done very little for the people there - going through it might sharpen a few minds.

Anonymous said...

What's so special about Bute Street? I don't live in Cardiff.

MH said...

7:36's comment about Plaid "making a stance now" is curious. First staying away from the celebration was something only done by 5 of our AMs, rather than the whole party. More of them were there than stayed away. Second nothing different is being done now from what was done before. It won't make any electoral difference, because nothing is different.

In fact there's no difference between Plaid and the SNP on the matter of the monarchy either. We're both saying that independence for our respective countries will mean a continuation of the Queen as head of state. Once independent, and only after we are, we can decide whether we want that to continue. I gave the examples of Pakistan and Ceylon to show that the decision doesn't have to be taken immediately.

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That said, I'm afraid that I don't have much sympathy with IWJ. Being away on holiday is not the same thing as taking the principled stance of the other four. It smacks of selfishness, and he has therefore opened himself up to criticism he could have avoided.

But if Labour are minded to criticize Plaid for showing disrespect by not being there, they perhaps need to be reminded that many Labour MSPs in Scotland didn't want to be around when the Windsor entourage is in Holyrood. In 2003, they had to issue a three line whip to make their MSPs attend. At least one of the Scottish papers managed to put the importance of the queen's visit to Holyrood in the right perspective:

" ... the Queen’s involvement is limited to a courtesy visit at the beginning of each four year session."

And in 2009, nearly 50 MSPs boycotted the queen's visit ... including 17 Labour MSPs. Believe it or not, EIGHT of them gave as their reason the fact that they had booked holidays before the date of the visit had been announced. For sheer hypocrisy, Labour are unbeatable.

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It's worth bearing in mind that in the BBC we are dealing with an institution that has a pathological bias towards royalty. They are one of the guilty parties that talked of the Assembly being opened by the queen and calling it a "state opening". They misrepresented the importance of the event by giving it blanket live coverage on two channels.

The day before, we had the "Ceremony of the Mace" which appears to me to be something, in embryonic form, that could be developed into the parade and pageantry a number of us have just said we want to see. But that more inclusive event to celebrate mark the very same opening only got an eleven second mention on Wales Today. Perhaps it was an attempt to mirror what had happened when the Millennium Centre was opened: a proper popular opening followed by a low key royal visit the day afterwards. If the feeling is that the queen has got to come, we can make sure she's not given pride of place.

This brings me back to the point I started with. Elizabeth Windsor was not there to open the Fourth Assembly, even though the sycophants are keen to portray it as just that. Worse, they think that it is her presence that gives the Assembly its authority ... because that's the way Westminster is meant to work, and they think we should aspire to nothing better than a pale imitation of the same. We can do much better.

Anonymous said...

MH said...
"7:36's comment about Plaid "making a stance now" is curious. First staying away from the celebration was something only done by 5 of our AMs, rather than the whole party. More of them were there than stayed away. Second nothing different is being done now from what was done before. It won't make any electoral difference, because nothing is different."

Yes....but you again are making the mistake of confusing what you know to be the case with public perception. It's the public that put politicians into positions of power. If nothing different is being done, then why the public outrage this time as mentioned by Vaughan Roderick on his blog.

Cibwr said...

I don't think there has been a public outcry, a classic case of the media creating a story and getting supporting and predictable quotes from the usual suspects.

Cibwr said...

Bute Street passes along side the old Tiger Bay district, it was the route into the bay before the building of Lloyd George Avenue and it is appropriate that one of the most deprived areas of Wales gets to share in this event and it will remind legislators of their duty to the people there.

MH said...

I think Cibwr has got it right, Anon. Public perception is often the result of a distorted presentation of the truth.

If I have to choose between what is true and "public perception" of what is true, then I'll stick with the first every time.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, MH, however we choose to perceive it both the Record of Tuesday's Assembly gathering and Carwyn Jones used the language of Royal Offical Opening.

The Record describes it as, The Royal Official Opening of the Fourth National Assembly for Wales (http://www.assemblywales.org/bus-home/bus-chamber-fourth-assembly-rop.htm?act=dis&id=217015&ds=6/2011), and the FM waxed sycophantically, "... it is my great honour to stand before you today as First Minister at the official opening of this fourth Assembly term."

Neither the Llywydd nor the Frenhines used "opening formulas", but it is clear that key players do see Tuesday's events are being parallel to a State Opening.

Emlyn Uwch Cych (sorry can't open my Blogger)

Siônnyn said...

My view is that once Charles the Last ascends the throne the much vaunted popular support for the Monarchy will evaporate into thin air, and the inevitable force of history will proceed with some speed.

In the meantime, the sight of so many fawning Welshmen (DET being the supreme example) subjugating themselves to the Queen is highly distasteful

Siônnyn said...

PS Good for Paul Flynn for standing against the motion of the House of Commons to abase our representatives in front of royalty. He said in the house:

. . .However, my purpose in speaking today is to make another point. As someone who is not a royalist and is happy to say that I am a republican and always have been, I want to ask why on earth, in this age, the address is to be “humble”. Are members of the royal family superior beings to the rest of us? Are we inferior beings to them? Is Prince Philip superior to Harry Polloway and May Mendleson? That was the feeling of the House seven centuries ago, when we accepted the rules under which we speak now. . .

MH said...

Be careful, Emlyn. Words have a precise meaning. A "Royal Opening" does not mean the Assembly was opened by the queen, merely that she was present at the celebration.

Rosemary Butler was careful "to welcome our royal guests" on behalf of her fellow assembly members.

Elizabeth Windsor said, "It gives me great pleasure to be with you today on the occasion of the opening of the 4th National Assembly for Wales."

I was very careful in my choice of words. There is absolutely nothing to remotely suggest that it was "parallel to a state opening". People have simply read more into it than was warranted. If enough people say the emperor is wearing the finest of clothes, then it is no surprise that most people will go along with it. It is typical of the pretence and muddle that surrounds the hopelessly ill-defined constitutional arrangements of the UK.

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John Griffiths, the Counsel General, is a confessed republican too, Siônnyn. He has said,

"I strongly believe in a republic - in citizens not subjects, getting away from deference, curtsying and bowing, it's about equality and empowerment; I believe in election not accident of birth and in leadership based on achievement and the will of the people."

"The class system continues to hold back too many of our people and communities, with the Monarchy embodying its regressive nature. In the new millenium it is high time we moved to a new egalitarian and democratic settlement, including a written constitution and elected head of state."


I just wish that people learned that the only legitimacy the monarchy has is the fact we're prepared to bow and scrape to them, playing along with the whole silly game. If you're forced to play the game, make a mockery of it in the same way as Denis Skinner does. But if you're not forced to, then just leave them to play with themselves.

Anonymous said...

What does Skinner do? I'm interested.

MH said...

My favourite Skinnerism was when he said, "Queen Elizabeth II ... and all who sail on her!"

Hwntw said...

Dennis Skinner, John Griffiths, Paul Flynn, etc., all members of the British Labour Party, despite the innumerable crimes its governments committed - and will repeat. They put and kept Blair and Brown in power year after year, did they not? They did not resign from public office, despite all. All they do is words; what have they actually done?

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