Cairns sets out the Conservative case for Cardiff Bay

Welsh voters face a choice between an income tax cut and seeing public money lavished on “pet projects”, according to Tory MP Alun Cairns.

The Vale of Glamorgan MP and Wales Office minister made his remarks at a debate organised to discuss the impact of the Autumn Statement on Wales, in which he clashed with Huw Irranca-Davies, the Labour MP for Ogmore.

According to Wales Online, Cairns built the case for voting Conservative in May on the UK Government’s promise to devolve to the Assembly the power to vary income tax, without a referendum first.

Andrew RT Davies AM, the Conservative leader in the Welsh Assembly, wants to campaign on a promise of a 5p cut, aimed at attracting entrepreneurs to the country.

SNP face fierce criticism over Forth Road Bridge closure

Nicola Sturgeon’s Nationalist administration in Scotland has come under unprecedented political strain following the emergency closure of a major commuter bridge.

The Daily Telegraph describes how the SNP Government – in power in Scotland since 2007 – postponed essential engineering works and abolished the £1 toll which used to raise funds for maintenance.

Further trouble has stemmed from an apparent u-turn by Derek Mackay MSP, the Transport minister, who appeared to u-turn on whether or not the maintenance work delayed by the NP would have prevented the closure.

One engineer has claimed the SNP were ‘gambling’ that the new bridge over the river would be completed before the consequences of their populist penny-pinching on the current bridge came home to roost, the Sunday Post reports – an analysis shared by Alan Roden of the Scottish Daily Mail.

The First Minister is trying to tough it out, with the Daily Record describing her attitude as one of “no regrets” over ordering cuts to the bridge.

Foster faces no competition for the DUP leadership

The Democratic Unionists, Northern Ireland’s largest party, have selected a new leader following the upcoming retirement of Peter Robinson, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, in January.

The News Letter reports that Arlene Foster, the Finance Minister, is set to accept the crown unchallenged.

The withdrawal of Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s Westminster leader, from the contest prompted some suggestions that there was unease with the succession, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

He withdrew unexpectedly, having long trailed the idea that the party leadership and the First Minister’s position should be separated. Ironically for a unionist, he latterly claimed the leader couldn’t be based at Westminster.

Foster will be only the DUP’s third leader since it was established by the late Lord Bannside, better known as the Reverend Ian Paisley, in the 1970s.

UKIP could get nine Welsh Assemby seats as Labour slip back

A recent poll for next May’s Welsh election has found that Labour has lost what little ‘Corbyn bounce’ it might have had as UKIP prepare to enter the Assembly, ITV report.

According to that poll they would lose three constituency seats, and end up without an overall majority in the chamber.

However due to the decision by Leanne Wood, the left-wing leader of the nationalists, to rule out any coalition with the Conservatives they would hold on to office, as the rightists would only 23 seats even on that optimistic projection of UKIP seats.

The Liberal Democrats meanwhile are performing worse even than in the general election and being reduced to one or two AMs. Roger Scully, of Cardiff University, provides more detail.

Northern Irish Labour revolt against ban on contesting elections

The Ulster wing of the Labour Party has voted to defy London’s orders and contest the upcoming elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, according to the New Statesman.

Labour has long neglected its Northern Irish wing – would-be members had to take the party to court before they were even allowed to join. It has since barred them from contesting elections, urging them instead to back the left-wing but nationalist SDLP.

Andy Burnham pledged to overturn this ban during both of his leadership bids, but with the election of Jeremy Corbyn local members seem to have taken the matter into their own hands.

Whilst it seems unlikely that the branch would split off, there is precedent: an independent Northern Ireland Labour Party returned several MPs to the old Northern Irish Parliament in the 1950s and 1960s.

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