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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Double bluff

The Western Mail carries an interesting interpretation of Peter Hain's remarks that the UK Government will not allow the Assembly to legislate to introduce proportional representation for local government in Wales. Essentially, they believe that the Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland is playing an elaborate game of double bluff:

We should remember, however, the context in which Mr Hain's apparent threat is made. Welsh Labour is embarking on a difficult election campaign in which it could easily lose power. Most observers would assess its chance of winning an overall majority at less than 50/50. Whatever Mr Hain and Mr Morgan say publicly now, they realise that their party's only realistic way of staying in power is through a coalition with Liberal Democrats.

If the Lib-Dems can be persuaded, or browbeaten, into thinking their goal of PR is wholly unattainable, they might not be minded to deprive Labour of its role in government. The prospect of a rainbow coalition with opposition parties might seem less attractive if the Lib-Dems believed it could not deliver PR anyway. Then they might be tempted to link up with Welsh Labour after all.

The only thing that is worth saying about this bizarre suggestion is that the author of this piece is whistling in the dark. The Welsh Liberal Democrats, as they demonstrated in the last partnership government, are not in the business of seeking power for its own sake. Our objective will be to implement as many of our policies as possible and we will not be abandoning important principles just to save Labour's hide.

Our message next year will be that the more votes the Welsh Liberal Democrats get the more of our policies can be put into place in Government. We are not in the business of squaring Peter Hain's circles for him. If he wants to negotiate then he cannot set preconditions and it is rather strange that the Western Mail thinks that he can.
Isn't demanding proportional representation a pre-condition?
It is a very important condition but it is one of many. I guess that it would be one of half a dozen non-negotiable conditions.
It has been described as "unfinished business" from the previous partnership government.
- Frank Little
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