Tories and Plaid furious as Jones whips AMs against AM-led inquiry

ITV Wales reports that Carwyn Jones has fended off a Conservative bid to have allegations of bullying in his administration investigated by Assembly Members.

Both UKIP and Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalists, supported the motion but it was defeated by a whipped vote of every AM on the government benches. In addition to Labour this includes Lord Elis-Thomas, an ex-Plaid independent, and Kirsty Williams, the lone Liberal Democrat. Each holds positions in Jones’ ministry.

Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Tories in the Welsh Assembly, argues that the alternative proposal for a probe by an independent advisor is insufficiently transparent and hasn’t been allocated sufficient time to investigate properly, according to Wales Online.

The First Minister is up for investigation over claims that a ‘toxic bullying culture’ prevailed in his administration and that he misled the Assembly about whether or not he had received allegations thereof.

Pressure has been mounting since the apparent suicide of Carl Sargeant, a former minister who was suspended over sexual misconduct allegation. Jones has announced that he won’t be attending the funeral. A recent poll found 27 per cent of voters thik he ought to resign, with 31 per cent disagreeing and the rest unsure.

However, there is as yet no sign that the Conservatives are managing to capitalise on Jones’ problems to rebound from their disappointing setback at the June general election. According to Professor Roger Scully’s latest Welsh Political Barometer poll, not a single seat in Wales would change hands if another election were held tomorrow.

DUP set out UK role as they gear up for direct rule

Writing in the i, the News Letter’s Sam McBride sets out how the Democratic Unionist Party took advantage of its conference last weekend to set out how it hopes to shape Government policy across the United Kingdom.

Devolution shows no signs yet of being re-established, and with every month that passes power is shifting towards Westminster and the party’s ten MPs – and their leader, Nigel Dodds, who has described direct rule as “the lesser of two evils“.

In a possible attempt to assert her authority Arlene Foster, the party leader and former First Minister, this week seemed to set herself against proposals from those MPs to grant an amnesty to soldiers who fought in the Troubles.

This comes at a crucial moment as the Northern Irish party – the only one in the House of Commons – negotiates with the Government over what compromises to make with Dublin over the border. Current proposals centre on devolving responsibility for agriculture and energy policy so Ulster can remain harmonised with the Republic.

Of course, such a deal being dependent on Stormont means that James Brokenshire is even less likely to do anything decisive about direct rule than he was previously. Northern Ireland had probably best get used to limbo.

Illustrating how tricky compromise is, the Belfast Telegraph speculates that the plan is for Northern Ireland to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union – which may be why Ian Paisley Jr has taken a tough line against the Irish Government in this morning’s press.

Lord Trimble, the former First Minister and Ulster Unionist leader who now sits as a Conservative peer, has also criticised Leo Varadkar’s administration for ‘pandering to Sinn Fein’ with its hard-line stance. The Irish premier has his own problems, having only just fended off a snap election caused by a scandal involving his deputy.

Elsewhere I set out in the News Letter how Northern Ireland’s isolated party system leaves it stuck in de facto ‘special status’ most of the time; Andrew Gimson profiled Foster; and Owen Polley of the Northern Irish Conservatives’ attacked the Alliance Party for pursuing unionist votes for an anti-unionist agenda.

MSPs deal further blow to SNP’s ‘Named Persons’ scheme

One of the Scottish Government’s most fiercely controversial proposals has been dealt a serious setback this week, the Scotsman reports, after a Holyrood committee announced that it cannot approve the legislation as it currently stands.

The Education Committee has apparently demanded that ministers provide an ‘authoritative draft’ of the code of practice which will accompany the bill for the measure before it will recommend it to the Scottish Parliament. This is in response to a ruling by the Supreme Court that the original bill violated the right to privacy and family life laid down in the ECHR.

‘Named Persons’ is a policy which will assign every child in Scotland a specific public-sector worker who will monitor their welfare and serve as a point of contact. It has been attacked by the Conservatives as undermining family life, and sparked an energetic campaign against it.

Before the last Holyrood election the Nationalist majority in Holyrood, combined with their phalanx-like internal culture, severely undermined the Scottish Parliament’s committee system, but it looks as if it’s finally growing some teeth.