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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

'Labour's little helpers'?

Martin Shipton in this morning's Western Mail speculates that the likely budget deal between Rhodri Morgan and Ieuan Wyn Jones makes a Labour-Plaid coalition more likely after the next elections.

I can already hear Assembly Members such as Leighton Andrews and Catherine Thomas proclaiming that such an alliance will happen over their dead body, but that sort of opposition has never stopped Rhodri Morgan before, as was evidenced by a recent letter to the Western Mail from former Labour Minister, Tom Middlehurst.

What is clear from all of this is that the Conservatives have overplayed their hand. They allowed themselves to get carried away with the prospect of government and openly enthused about the idea of a rainbow coalition. In doing so they made such a creature less likely, if it were ever on the cards at all. They drove Plaid Cymru into the arms of New Labour and reinforced the opposition to a three-way coalition amongst both Liberal Democrat and nationalist AMs.

Labour however, need to be wary of recent history. In the first year of the Assembly there was a similar unwritten pact between the Government and Plaid Cymru when, in exchange for small concessions, the Party of Wales allowed Labour budgets to pass and generally oiled the mechanisms of government. There was never any formal arrangement but it was not for nothing that Plaid became known as Labour's little helpers.

The outcome of all of this was that past arrangements and any mutual trust were cast aside by Plaid Cymru as they led a successful no confidence motion against the then First Secretary. It was no wonder then that when Rhodri Morgan wanted some stability for his fledging government that he turned to the Welsh Liberal Democrats for partnership rather than the untrustworthy nationalists. Some Labour Ministers took great personal pleasure at having dashed Plaid Cymru hopes of government limosines in this way, whilst the Party of Wales itself acted like a spoilt child, deprived of its prize.

All of this history has apparently been put behind the two party leaders as they come to a new accomodation. But will it lead to a formal coalition? Nobody can say. It is certainly too early to say whether Labour and Plaid AMs will ever trust each other enough to serve in the same cabinet. What can be said is that if this coalition does not come about Plaid will find itself in opposition again. The events of that last few days have reminded both the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the Tories how unreliable Plaid can be. They will not be in a hurry to involve them in a joint effort again.

As for the election, Plaid Cymru's route appears to be clear. They now seem intent on securing a deal with Labour post-May. We will not be slow in pointing that out to voters and making it clear that if they want to give Tony Blair a bloody nose, then a nationalist vote will not do it. All that they will get by voting for Plaid is another Labour Government in Cardiff Bay.
Oh dear Peter have you been left flapping on the sidelines in irrelevance?

Perhaps if you had not been so keen to join with the Tories in a stupid personal attack on IWJ (see a variety of postings below) you would not now be feeling so left out.

We have always been happy to cooperate with other parties when its appropriate why exclude Labour?

Your confused rhetoric "voting Plaid will get another Labour government" "lIb dems would rather work with Labour etc" just shows the mess you are in.

All very funny. As a tactician IWJ has few equals.
So basically you went and did a deal with Labour out of spite and hurt feelings? In doing so you have shortchanged schools and left universities high and dry. You have also abandoned farmers by allowing the cut in Tir Mynydd to do unchallenged. I am sure that will really go down well in Ceredigion.

My concern is not so much that Plaid went alone on the budget but that in doing so you failed to press home a real advantage and lost the opportunity to get a better deal for Wales. If that is the mark of a good tactician then you are welcome to him.

Ieuan appeared weak and wobbly, that cannot bode well for you next May.
Its as good a deal for schools as anything that was ever going to happen. What split the opposition was the insane suggestion from both Lib dems and Tories that there wouild be a coalition government for six months.

Its not a bad budget, universities are not going to collapse if they have to wait another year to sort out their funding and it may yet be possible to do something about Tir Myndd.

To be honest you just look silly now Peter. Given the clear indications that Lib Dems would favour a pact with Labour its a bit much for you to moan now if we come to an arrangement to get the budget through quickly.

There is still the possibility of a multi party coalition after May but in the run up to the elections the Libs and Tories cannot ease up on their spin therefore you have been left high and dry.
I do not accept that it was the best possible deal for schools. Ieuan Wyn signed up to the idea of a coalition government for six months and then wobbled. I agree that it is an insane idea but to blame it for Plaid cutting and running is really disingenuous.

The fact is that there is not extra money in there for Tir Mynydd. Plaid have let down farmers yet again. There are also no indications that we favour a pact with Labour. In fact the group are split on this. Our official position is that we will let the voters decide and work with whatever the outcome of the election is. In contrast Plaid appear to have signed up to joining with Labour already.

All the spin on multi party coalitions is coming from the Tories. We have other priorities and it is the best interests of the people of Wales.
I still hope that a coalition deal will not prove necessary, since I don't believe either of the potential partners are fit for government, but if it is, then I still suspect Labour will find it easier to strike one with the Lib Dems than the Nationalists - on both policy and political grounds since we aren't in such fierce competition in terms of Assembly seats ...
I see the vote as just some practical politics and probably with Rhodri emerging as the "winner". He`is still First Minister and has set a budget. Opposition needs to reflect on last week's big media event that raised the threat of Rhodri's downfall, but then came to zilch in the heat of the day. I know minority government's face regular voting issues, and there might yet be some surprises before May, but today's budget vote was the BIG moment and the opposition left Labour with a calmer Christmas than had been threatened.
Peter, you are being disingenuous by suggesting that the Welsh Lib Dems have not been harping on about the possibility of a three way coalition, when clearly some in our ranks have.

Perhaps IWJ is brighter than he seems. The nationalists will lose their status as second party in the Assembly to the Tories. Could IWJ have seen the writing on the wall and thinks that a coalition with Labour offers Plaid their best chance of remaining relevant?

Whatever happens, the Tories will be the biggest winners come May. As for Welsh Lib Dems, we might pick up a seat, but I think that will be about it. We are in danger of becoming more irrelevant than ever. The aftermath of May 2007 will be a painful stock-taking exercise for us - and possibly a change of leadership.
There is nothing disingenuous at all. If I was aware of Welsh Lib Dems advocating a three way coalition I would have said so and condemned them on this site. I have been very clear on this. Clearly, an option might have had to have been taken if the budget had been defeated and Labour gave up government but that was never very likely. What happens after May is up to the voters but I would not support the Welsh Liberal Democrats going into Government with a Tory First Minister.

Actually, I also disagree with your analysis of Welsh Liberal Democrat prospects in May. I think we will surprise quite a few people. I dont believe that we are irrelevant - we are the second party in Wales in terms of MPs, we lead four Councils including the two biggest Cities and we continue to get things done in the Assembly.
There may well be a stock taking but that is natural after every election.
Pontgwindy that's rather a black (scuse the pun)view you have there. Come up to RCT catch a bit of optimism!
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