When you’ve been tracking Welsh politics for over two decades, there’s always a bit of a buzz around a reshuffle, even if that bee noise is usually just confined to those of us who sit watching the hive and waiting for a bit of queen action when often we just see the drones at work. It’s a rare reshuffle that is so down beat that you barely even notice it, but that’s exactly what happened on Thursday night when Mark Drakeford MS (Lab, Cardiff West) put down the Caerphilly flavoured royal jelly and rejigged things a bit. A small bit. A tiny bit.
Bearing in mind this was the first time the First Minister had reshuffled his team since he first assembled it in December 2018, it hardly formed the basis of a wholescale refresh. After all, no matter the numerous merits and energy of Eluned Morgan MS (Lab, Mid & West Wales) – and the clear sense of having a minister with clear responsibility for mental health – in order to make that really impact then you actually have to make more changes too. It has to say busy bees. You have to give the reshuffle a bit of oomph and create a narrative where new impetus is happening across the board, with one appointment then leaping out as significant. The Welsh Conservatives managed it in July when Angela Burns MS (Con, Carmarthen West and Pembrokeshire South) took on the Office of Government Resilience and Efficiency, giving an energetic talking point to a wider reshaping. Unfortunately, the Drakeford rebrand seems so lacklustre that the talking point seems to be not mental health but “Is that it?” It’s more Zzzz than buzz.
The same low level buzzing seems to have come out of all the different party conferences that are happening this autumn. Be it Labour, the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats, nothing on the UK level seems to have made much of a noise and cut through. Virtual conferences simply don’t really energise in the same way as physical ones. Plaid Cymru last weekend suffered from the same syndrome. That’s not to say that they did not do a good job within the confines of the technological challenges, unveiling some new and catchy policies in relation to house building and the care sector, but those engagement limitations were all too apparent. Still, Plaid members seemed happy enough and not in the least put off by having a leader’s speech by video at 7pm on a Friday night. It takes all sorts, I suppose.
Meanwhile, the actual drone business of the Senedd provided little drama this week if you discount the latest escalation of the war between Neil McEvoy MS (WNP, South Wales Central) and Elin Jones MS (PC, Ceredigion) over her decisions as Llywydd and his decisions as the Senedd’s most stinging/disruptive/challenging/rebellious/destructive/dangerous/forthright/impassioned/principled Member ever (you can choose the word that best fits in with your existing perceptions and narrative). He’s most definitely not welcome in the Llywydd’s hive any more and she’s told him in no uncertain terms to buzz off.