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Saturday, November 22, 2003

Civil War?

Wales' First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, must be breathing a small sigh of relief today. After two defeats on key votes last week due to the illness of a Labour AM and the possibility of more of the same next week, he now has the prospect of some relief for his slim majority in the Welsh Assembly. The Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for Brecon and Radnorshire, Kirsty Williams is expecting her second child. This means that she is likely to be on maternity leave for the second part of the spring term. Rhodri should not take too much for granted however, Kirsty may well still turn up unexpectedly for major votes. Furthermore, the position in his own party is far from settled. The selection of an all-women shortlist in Blaenau Gwent last night has left that local party in open revolt. The local AM, Peter Law, is threatening to stand as an independent, a prospect that could see Labour lose that seat in Westminster whilst also losing their majority in the Assembly.

In addition, there is also a major schism developing within Welsh Labour over the Richard Commission. This body was set up by the previous Labour-Welsh Liberal Democrat Partnership Government to look at the powers of the National Assembly. The indications are that when it reports in February 2004 that it will recommend primary law making powers and an increase in the size of the Welsh Assembly to 80 members. That will provoke an all-mighty row within Welsh Labour. Rhodri is already starting to backtrack on this report, even though the likely outcome may well reflect his own personal views. He is indicating that the conclusions of the Richard Commission will be buried in an internal Welsh Labour Party consultation exercise. Once more the interests of the party are being put above those of the nation. Welsh Labour's arrogance and belief in its own destiny to rule Wales is blocking fundamental reforms that do not work in their favour. That form of political corruption has been prevalent in Welsh Local Government for decades, perhaps it was too much to expect that given the opportunity Welsh Labour would embrace inclusiveness and put its own interests and internal divisions to one side so as to work for the greater good.

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