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Wednesday, 9 February, 2000, 15:47 GMT
Q&A: The Alun Michael vote







BBC Political Correspondent Guto Harri answers questions about the no confidence vote tabled against Welsh Assembly leader Alun Michael.


What did Plaid Cymru say was the reason for tabling the vote of no confidence in Alun Michael?

The issue was European money for some of Wales' poorest areas. More than 1bn has been allocated by the EU for west Wales and the valleys, but every pound from Brussels has to be matched.

Under pressure: Alun Michael
Unless the Treasury gives extra funds to the Welsh Assembly, the money would have to come from within the existing budget - at the expense of health, education, local government or whatever.

Plaid Cymru wanted two assurances: A promise that the government would match the money over the next five years and an extra 85m pounds this year.

No promise was made on the day the assembly finalised its annual budget so they pressed ahead to table a motion of no confidence.

But weren't Plaid just making life difficult for Labour or is there more substance in their grievances?

The issue has grabbed the imagination of many across Wales. There is a sense that an opportunity to get much needed cash to very poor areas is being missed.

The EU itself has criticised the assembly's handling of the issue. Plaid also feels that the assembly is less popular than it should be because of its unpopular and uninspiring leader.

Is it true that Alun Michael was not much liked by some Labour colleagues and civil servants in Wales - that they prefered someone else in the job?

Rhodri Morgan: The popular choice
Undoubtedly. He was widely seen as London's choice to lead the party, and as a "poodle" of Tony Blair.

Many believe the leadership was "fixed" for him. Most ordinary members voted against him but he won because of the trade union block in an electoral college and the pay-roll vote of Labour MPs and MEPs.

Rhodri Morgan was the popular choice. He is well known, and well liked, and as a graduate of Oxford and Harvard, a former senior civil servant and a Labour frontbencher for years in opposition, he is also believed to be capable of the job.

Alun Michael was Tony Blair's choice - how embarrassing is his resignation for the PM?

Very. Labour suffered badly because of the leadership contest. Losing Alun means the efforts would have been in vain. It can also be seen as a rejection of "London" interference in the devolved assembly

Chancellor Gordon Brown has ruled out help for Wales to attract EU funding - doesn't this prove that devolution in Wales is a sham?

The chancellor refuses to make any new spending commitments until the comprehensive spending review is concluded in July.

The assembly is free to spend its current budget (around 8bn) as it wishes (though much of the money is allocated already), but the financial dependency on the Treasury for extra funds for match funding shows the limits of devolution without tax-raising powers.

With a general election in sight, what harm might all this do to Labour in Wales?

Labour has dominated Wales for decades, but since the general election it has lost some of its heartlands and failed to secure a majority in the Welsh Assembly.

It has lost seats in the European Parliament and it came fourth in the Ceredigion by-election last week.

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See also:
08 Feb 00 |  Wales
No-confidence motion for Welsh Assembly leader
08 Feb 00 |  Wales
Alun Michael: from safety to controversy
06 Apr 99 |  The Welsh Assembly
CV: Alun Michael

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