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Carwyn slips easily into Rhodri's well-worn shoes behind the microphone.

Byline: matt withers

A MUCH-CHERISHED national institution, known for his hackneyed jokes and easy-going style, his often rambling anecdotes delivered in Celtic tones, made way for a new, younger man on his main show this week.

But enough about Terry Wogan handing over to Chris Evans (Boom! Tish!).

Yesterday was all about Carwyn Jones making his debut at First Minister's Questions after taking over from Rhodri Morgan.

Evans has received plaudits in his first couple of days for not frightening the horses too much. Mr Jones has clearly been paying attention as his motto, judging from yesterday's performance, is - if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Humour? Check. Toe-curling planted questions from the Labour benches? Check. Repeated references to the Conservative Government which left office 13 years ago? Check.

Tonight, Matthew, Carwyn Jones is going to be... Rhodri Morgan.

It all started so good naturedly. Every AM who rose to ask his question congratulated Mr Jones on his victory and his first appearance at FMQs. Questions were asked about public transport, the Ryder Cup, the electrification of the Cardiff-Swansea rail line.

Mr Jones answered them all as expected, without offering up too many commitments, at times leaning away from his microphone so much it was difficult to hear what he was saying.

Unlike Mr Morgan, whose microphone was largely superfluous.

Shadow Finance Minister Nick Ramsay said: "It's good to know that the Labour Party does have at least one leader who they actually want!" A joke he was obviously very pleased with, judging by how much he laughed.

"It's right to say this party has leaders both here and in London who know what's devolved and what isn't," countered Mr Jones, in a reference to posters plastered across Wales with David Cameron focusing on the NHS.

The Labour backbenches did their usual rigorous job of holding the Government to account. Ann Jones AM (Vale of Clwyd) announced she would give Mr Jones' performance "11-and-a-half out of 10 so far", a comment which caused the Presiding Officer to remind her it was "question time, not assessment time".

Jeff Cuthbert (Caerphilly), the master of the planted question, asked whether Mr Jones thought Labour's "attitude contrasted dramatically with the do-nothing attitude of the Tories". Mr Jones, unsurprisingly, concurred. The opposition leaders failed to land too many blows on the new man. Conservative leader Nick Bourne concentrated on ambulance waiting times but asked the wrong questions - the percentage hitting targets went up at the last count.

Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams went after Mr Jones on his education spending commitments, but did herself few favours with a closing line asking whether he was "the kind of First Minister who talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk", a line which invited the retort: "I hoped for questions without cliches. I was disappointed there."

In fact, if there was any doubt that the new man is a chip off the old block, it was that Shadow Local Government Minister Alun Cairns - the man who always seemed to wind Mr Morgan up most - earned the biggest rebuke.

After Mr Cairns asked a lengthy question about boiler scrappage schemes, Mr Jones replied: "What is it about the Conservative benches that they all want to talk like barristers? "Let me give you a tip, Alun - make your questions shorter, then you might get the answer you want."

So, like Chris Evans taking over from Terry Wogan, there were no alarms and no surprises.

More like putting on a pair of well-worn slippers.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 13, 2010
Words:584
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