Launch that defies gravity

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The Independent Online
DELIGHTED AS the Welsh were to see the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Bonnie Tyler and Shakin' Stevens to mark the official opening of the National Assembly of Wales yesterday, the celebrations would have been, for many, a temporary covering over the deep well of misgivings about what this new democratic instrument will do to Wales and Welsh unity.

The progress of this chamber since its inception in the dreams of patriots and, more lately, the plans of new Labour and a photo-finish in a referendum race that didn't attract many runners, has been accompanied by embarrassments.

If the majority in Wales felt luke-warm, at least the Royals took it seriously. It's been a long time since we've seen all three here at one time. It was a treble only slightly less of a rarity than that achieved by some football teams. Alas, the turnout to see the Royals was not of sports-crowd proportions. And it was just as well thousands of children were bused in. How big a part the Assembly will play in their futures remains to be seen. Growing up with it will be much easier than having it thrust upon you.

No doubt, we will get rid of the little teething niggles that have bothered the Assembly so far. These can be expected from a gathering that doesn't yet possess an atmosphere of great gravity. The few sessions we've seen on television bear an uncomfortable resemblance to a meeting of the Llareggub council parks and baths committee.

They are in a temporary home, however, and this explains the humble surroundings that greeted the Queen. But humility, and an absence of Westminster pomp, will continue to be the keynote. One confused member referred to another as "the honourable gentleman" and was rebuked. "Please remember that there are no honourable gentlemen here," he was told.

The AMs face a long battle. Welsh heroes have usually come from sport and the arts.

It would have sobered up the celebrations to realise that last night one Welshman, Ryan Giggs, playing in the European Cup final, was capable of bring more pride to Wales than anything else the day had produced.