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Welsh farm chiefs eagerly await decision on rural affairs minister

With no overall majority Wales waits to see if First Minister, Carwyn Jones, decides to seek a coalition with other parties or go it alone. Barry Alston reports.

Those with farming interests are keen to learn who will hold the rural affairs portfolio.

 

Voting left Labour with 29 of the 60 seats, Plaid Cymru with 12, Conservatives on 11, Liberal Democrats just one and UKIP with seven – giving the party its first Assembly representation.

 

One likely outcome is that Carwyn Jones will shy away from a formal coalition and, as in previous administrations, negotiate for a consensus agreement on controversial issues.

 

Any coalition links with the Conservatives and UKIP, however, have been firmly rejected.

 

His choice to take on the food, farming and rural affairs role provides him with another difficult decision. Does he go for someone with previous experience of a post he himself once held or does he go for new blood?

 

He must also decide whether to accept calls from the farming industry to make the role a Cabinet appointment rather than as a Deputy Minister in the previous Welsh Government.

 

That position was held by Rebecca Evans, who was successful in her bid to become a constituency AM rather than a regional one by taking the Gower seat with a 1,829 margin over the Conservatives.

 

A former farming Minister, Alun Davies, is breathing a sigh of relief after only just holding on to his Blaenau Gwent seat – considered as one of Labour’s safest strongholds.

 

His support fell from 12,926 in 2011 to 8,442, to leave him with a majority of just 650 over Plaid.

 

Another past farming Minister, Plaid’s Elin Jones, also retained her Ceredigion seat with a 2,408 majority over the Lib Dems.

 

The party’s previous rural affairs spokesman and North Wales farmer, Llyr Gruffydd, also kept his regional seat.

 

Farmer’s wife Kirsty Williams stormed to victory in Brecon and Radnorshire, taking the constituency seat with an 8,170 majority, but leaving her as the only Lib Dem representative in the Assembly and the decision to step down as party leader in Wales.

 

Conservative leader and Glamorgan farmer, Andrew R.T. Davies, retained his South Wales Central regional seat but faces some serious questioning by the party hierarchy as to what went wrong with an election campaign that saw its representation fall from 14 to 11 AMs.

 

Both the Lib Dems and the Conservatives lost out to UKIP which, although not taking any constituency seats, came through strongly on the regional count to field seven AMs.

 

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