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Tony Blair wanted Assembly leader to be called ‘Chief Executive’ not First Minister

26 Jul 2021 2 minutes Read

Tony Blair wanted the leader of the Welsh Assembly to be given the title of Chief Executive” not First Minister, according to a released memo.

Downing Street official Angus Lapsley said the New Labour Prime Minister felt the title of First Minister “plays into the hands of those who would argue that the assembly is primarily about creating a new tier of political activity”.

This was revealed in a newly published letter to Dr June Milligan, in the Welsh Office, dated 15 September 1997.

It is also suggested that the title of Chief Executive would be preferable to Blair because the leader of the Assembly would not be a Minister of the Crown.

The letter says: “The Prime Minister has seen your Secretary of State’s letter to the Deputy Prime Minister of 5 September, which proposed that the title of the leader of the Welsh Assembly should be ‘First Minister and that other Members of the Executive Committee would be called ‘Minister’.

‘Two problems’ 

“Although he has noted the arguments in favour of these titles, the Prime Minister sees two problems with them.

“First, as your Secretary of State’s letter explains, it is not proposed that the leader of the assembly or leaders of subject committees should be Ministers of the Crown.

“The Prime Minister feels that this in itself is a good reason not to use the title Minister.

“Secondly, he feels that the title plays into the hands of those who would argue that the assembly is primarily about creating a new tier of political activity.

“He would prefer titles that better reflect the assembly’s aims of delivering better public services and working with business, such as ‘Chief Executive’.”

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Bruce
Bruce
2 months ago

Typical bloody Blair, the more I hear about how the assembly was created the more convinced I am that he was trying to set it up to fail. For this reason I don’t trust Labour on devolution much more than the Tories. Independence is the only viable option to avoid assimilation into a Greater Ingerland.

Chris
Chris
2 months ago
Reply to  Bruce

Bigger. Definitely not greater 😉

j humphrys
j humphrys
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Or significant? Did Brexit happen because England felt insignificant in the EU?
Does England fear the loss of Alba, Cymru, Ireland will lead to insignificance?

Bruce
Bruce
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris

OK ‘bigger’. Perhaps we should refer to ‘Great Britain’ as ‘Bigger Britain’ from now on. After all the the term only came into use to distinguish it from Brittany.

Chris
Chris
2 months ago
Reply to  Bruce

Nope largest island of the north European archipelago. Great Britain and Less Britain (now Ireland). Geographical not political.
But take offence if you must

defaid
defaid
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Chris, Less Britain is Prydain Fach, but it’s very definitely Brittany, not Ireland.

Bruce, since Less Britain is not current, why don’t we just use Britain and Brittany with no reference to stature, geographical or moral?

Bruce
Bruce
2 months ago
Reply to  defaid

I was suggesting ‘Bigger Britain’ for no better reason that it sounds silly and childish, hopefully to make the point that we no longer need the term “Great Britain”. Anyway, my original post was about how we need independence so as to avoid assimilation into a ‘Great Ingerland.’ And in response to J Humphreys, yes I think the English do have a lot of insecurity about ‘losing’ Wales, Scotland and Norther Ireland. I say ‘losing’ but these countries never belonged to them in the first place, any more than India did. Ditto with EU membership hence all the nonsense about… Read more »

Bruce
Bruce
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Nope, “Greater Britain” referred to the island of Britain, “Lesser Britain” referred to Brittany.

Alex
Alex
2 months ago

“plays into the hands of those who would argue that the assembly is primarily about creating a new tier of political activity”.

Isn’t that the point of devolution? If the only purpose of the Senedd was to just rubber stamp decisions made elsewhere then there’s no point even having it, it would have been no different from the Wales Office that came before it. Of course this is the same party that originally thought a parliament without law making powers would be enough to satisfy people’s demands for autonomy from Westminister.

Last edited 2 months ago by Alex
Chris
Chris
2 months ago

Up to a point I see the sense in not using Minister. With hindsight, we might not now have the Viceroy of Wales claiming that Y Senedd is just an unnecessary layer of government.
But beyond that point …. it’s Tony Blair. I’d be glad if he just disappeared

Shan Morgain
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Me too. I saw him before he became PM shallow empty salesman. But Blair, Johnson and Starmer alike are about centralisation = Westminster govt. Starmer doesnt dare challenge Welsh Labour though because it’s the only Labour which is a success.

Shan Morgain
2 months ago

Pen Cymru

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
2 months ago

Not really surprising – blair and his middle england nulabour acolytes watered down ron davies’ original plans for a welsh assembly. Then in the early 2000s peter hain sat on the recommendations of the richard commission which called for the then welsh assembly to be upgraded to a parliament along the same lines as Scotland’s. Labour at westminster has only ever given Wales the least it can get away with. Labour at westminster had 13 years to reform the barnet formula to Wales’ benefit but did zilch about it. And UK labour have sadly always been able to rely on… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Leigh Richards
Tim
Tim
2 months ago

Alun Michael wasn’t a first minister either, can’t remember the title

Mike Murphy
Mike Murphy
2 months ago
Reply to  Tim

First Secretary. Very Soviet sounding

Quornby
Quornby
2 months ago
Reply to  Tim

Chief parachutist.

defaid
defaid
2 months ago

I don’t suppose imtoryplanb ecpected much of the Assembly beyond it being a public palliative.

I’m quite happy to drop the First Minister title immediately and would like to suggest that it should be simply Prif Weinidog.

Nick
Nick
2 months ago
Reply to  defaid

Sadly “Prif Weinidog” could be a problem in English.

Just “Premier” might work in both languages although those of us who remember the CCCP might smile.

“Arweinydd Senedd’ sounds good to me.

Last edited 2 months ago by Nick
Gill Jones
Gill Jones
2 months ago
Reply to  Nick

Tough, it should be Prif Weinidog only. No need for the english version. See Y Senedd. If the Irish Taoiseach is used then it should be Prif Weinidog and Prif Weinidog only – no need to pamper to the english.

Chris
Chris
2 months ago
Reply to  Gill Jones

So the Anglo nats will call him preef whiny dog

Gill Jones
Gill Jones
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris

So what do the anglo nats call the Taoiseach? Stick & stones … tough … Prif Weinidog is the correct title.

defaid
defaid
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris

You should hear them trying to pronounce Machynlleth…

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Priff, surely?

Gill Jones
Gill Jones
2 months ago
Reply to  defaid

Cytuno yn llwyr mae Prif Weinidog yw’r teitl dylai fod.

defaid
defaid
2 months ago
Reply to  Gill Jones

Yn union. Does dim angen enw Saesneg.

Nick
Nick
2 months ago
Reply to  defaid

So Prif Weinidog it is then. You there at the back of the United Nation General Assembly, stop that schoolboy sniggering!

Don’t worry it could be worse, my name means f*ck in Arabic.

Nick
Nick
2 months ago
Reply to  Nick

I once worked in a division called BIPS (Business Information Products and Systems), In a senior management meeting I informed the assembled suits that “bips” meant arse in Dutch, which got about as many laughs as noting that a Welsh Prime Minster could sound like a whiny dog.

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
2 months ago
Reply to  Gill Jones

Fy hefyd.

Cymro newydd
Cymro newydd
2 months ago

Blair. Former Young Conservative. War criminal. The one who destroyed the Labour Party (in England).

Nick
Nick
2 months ago
Reply to  Cymro newydd

“The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;”.

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
2 months ago

No, Tony, Chief Executive is for civil servants and corporate bosses, not elected leaders of a country’s government. Fortunately, Cymru has moved on from the toothless parish council that you patronised us with.

Last edited 2 months ago by Wrexhamian
Welsh_Sion
Welsh_Sion
2 months ago

At the time of the initial devolution settlement, “First Minister” was good enough for Scotland (which was given a Parliament) and Northern Ireland (which was given a Legislative (my emphasis) Assembly). Obviously, Cymru fach was considered the least important of the three devolved institutions by Bliar and its chief honcho was to be a rather Eastern European, Sovietesque style “First Secretary”. Heck, way back then, there was no legal difference made between the Assembly and the Executive. And following the first elections, Bliar is known to have commented on the “f—ing Welsh”, glossed as being a rebuke to the ineffectiveness… Read more »

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