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21 June 2011

The New Assembly: the story so far

A few weeks have now gone by since the elections to the fourth National Assembly for Wales took place on 5 May. Much has transpired since then - First Minister Carwyn Jones has announced his Cabinet and the legislative priorities for his government over the next five years, the Tory leadership race to succeed Nick Bourne was launched and eventually won by Andrew RT Davies, Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones announced that he would be stepping down as party leader at some point during this Assembly term…..and the sage of the "Lib Dem Two" became a protracted drawn-out affair before being finally settled in early July.

Faith groups - previously under the portfolio of the minister for social justice - now fall under the remit of Jane Hutt, whose responsibilities include equalities and community cohesion. She will be attending the Faith Community Forum meetings with the first minister in the future.

The Cabinet was a mixture of old faces and new, with speculation that the relatively small number of ministers, when compared to the previous administration, would easily allow for an expanded Cabinet should Labour decide to form a coalition government later on in the term. At the moment, however, they have decided to go it alone, with the first minister expressing Labour's need to work with and listen to other parties.

The announcement of Labour's legislative priorities over the next five years was met with disappointment by some, with accusations from the media and others that there was little there to excite and engage the public.

In some ways, the issue that had most interested the Welsh media was that of the saga of the Lib Dem Two, John Dixon and Aled Roberts, who had both been disqualified from the National Assembly after winning seats in the May election. It was Dixon and Roberts' membership of bodies to which AMs can't belong that resulted in their disqualification, with the ensuing fiasco drawing in, among others, the Electoral Commission and Cymdeithas yr Iaith. In the end, the motion to reinstate John Dixon was withdrawn by his party when it became evident that he had not read the legal guidelines. In the case of Aled Roberts, a Welsh speaker, it was discovered that the Welsh-language version of the guidelines, which he abided by, was out-of-date and had not included the recent amendments regarding banned bodies. In his case, when the vote went to the AMs in early July, his disqualification was overturned by 30-20.