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Monday, July 24, 2006

Governing Wales

When the Assembly resumes after the summer recess one of its first debates will be on the Government's forward work programme - a sort of Queen's speech debate without the Queen. Nobody is really expecting any great things of this work programme, after all the Labour Assembly Government ran out of steam a long time ago and are now seeking to find things to say to the electorate for the next set of elections in May 2007.

Nevertheless, Rhodri Morgan held a press conference today in which he gave a flavour of his message for the next 9 months:

"I make a pledge today that, whatever the outcome of that election, Welsh Labour will never take part in any Assembly Government which includes the Conservative Party. I know I don't need to make such a pledge because my body and soul would not allow it anyway, but I make it anyway.

"Our aim is to win a clear, working majority, so that the Labour partnership between Wales, Westminster and the ordinary people of our nation, that partnership which has delivered so much already, can continue to do so in future.

"The people of Wales could wake up on the Friday after the election, when it's too late to undo the votes cast, however much they may be horrified by the unintended consequence of what they've done.

"There will, I know, be many committed supporters of both the Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru who will be absolutely horrified that their leaders down at Cardiff Bay are in such close contact with the Conservatives in Wales - colluding with them, voting with them, taking their instructions from them. But that is what has been going on.

"And that - in secret, and without ever being willing to admit it - is what they may well be planning for the future.

"They may think they have a date with destiny, but what they plan to offer the voters is just another episode of anti-democratic Blind Date.

"My challenge to the 'socialist' Party of Plaid Cymru and the self-described 'most socially progressive party in British politics', Welsh Liberal Democrats - their descriptions, not mine, taken from their 2005 election manifestos is simply this: "Welsh Labour is 100% committed not to enter government with the Tories: will you be doing the same? Don't hold your breath, my friends. I suspect you'll be able to read War and Peace or even write War and Peace before you hear any answer."

Instead of setting out the policies that he hopes to put into effect over the next four years; instead of responding to the passage of the Government of Wales Bill today with a list of primary legislation he wants to enact; instead of setting out a vision for Wales, Rhodri Morgan bundled us all into his Tardis and took us back to 1997. A vote for Labour is a vote against the Tories. The only problem is that nine years on most people believe that New Labour are Tories as well.

As Mike German put it in his response to this rather feeble gauntlet: “Rhodri knows that the Tories are not the only force of conservatism in Wales. The conservative streak that runs through the Labour Party saw them water down the Richard Commission proposals for devolution; block moves to introduce fair votes for our councils; and saw them turn their back on setting maximum school class sizes of 25. The stick-in-the-mud tendency in the Labour Party are the real conservatives in Wales.

“Welsh Liberal Democrats have a clear position for the 2007 election. We will fight to win as many seats as possible, based on our programme, our ideas and our beliefs. We will campaign positively on our policies, and our commitment to making the most of the new powers available to the Assembly. Our message will be one of hope of a brighter future for Wales, not fear of the Tory past.”

I am already on the record as saying that I would not support a coalition led by a Conservative First Minister. I say that for two reasons. The first is that I do not have any philosophical common ground with the Tories and could not work with them in that situation. Secondly, I do not believe that my party has any philosophical common ground with the Conservatives either and accordingly such a coalition would inevitably founder.

My objections are not rooted in fear or negativity, but in a strong commitment to Liberalism. It seems that the First Minister's only commitment is to conjuring up bogeyman and urging us all to join him in a madcap dash for safety. Perhaps somebody should tell him that the lights have come on at last.

Politics should be about hope not fear, about making people's lives better and about putting differences aside when necessary to work together in the common good. There is no place for tribalism in that sort of society.
Welsh Labour policies will be announced in due course…don’t worry about that Peter!

You said “I do not have any philosophical common ground with the Tories”

If that’s the case, how come you are so comfortable sharing power with them in Swansea, Bridgend and Cardiff?

Can you commit yourself here and now, to refuse to serve under a Conservative led administration, even if they offered you the post of Education minister?
Martyn, there is no coalition with the Tories in Cardiff. In Bridgend and Swansea the Tories are largely bereft of philosophy and we share a platform promoting the future interests of the area. In any case we are leading the coalitions.

Nobody said it was comfortable by the way.

I believe that I wrote that I could not support a Conservative-led coalition in Cardiff Bay. I think you can take it as read that I would not serve as a Minister in a Government led by a Tory First Minister for the reasons set out in my post.
Do I detect a slight change of emphasis in Peter's line on getting into bed with the Tories? He now says he couldn't support a government that was Tory LED, but what of a government that incuded the Tories (possibly as the largest party in the govt) but was led by a non Tory figure such as Lord Daf El?
It is a form of words I have used earlier
I doubt you need worry about there being a Tory first minister there are no signs of the Tories improving in Wales. We beat them in their heartland of Rhos on sea last week. Labour voters in the North are responding to the message "vote Plaid on the list and get Dafydd Wigley instead of a Tory"
Dream on Mark.
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