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Friday, May 25, 2007

For the sake of clarity

Many people seem to think that I have organised some massive putsch both to rid the world of Mike German and to sabotage the rainbow coalition. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is true that I have taken a consistent line that the Welsh Liberal Democrats need to regroup and learn how to take the party's distinctive message out to voters within a Welsh context. We need to re-learn how to campaign at a national and local level. However, that does not make me opposed to coalitions of any sort. The issue is that the party must be capable of sustaining one.

It is also true that I am uneasy about the prospect of putting the Tories back into government in Wales, but I can see that if the package is right then it is time for me to grit my teeth and accept that this is the price we must pay. At the end of the day I am a democrat and if I lose the argument or the vote, I accept that I must work with whatever is the outcome for the good of my party and the good of Wales and I will do so enthusiastically.

At the meeting in Llandrindod Wells I voted in the group not to proceed with the Accord. I did so however in a bit of a comfort zone because I knew that there was a majority in the group for it. If it was likely that my vote would have meant that the group blocked the proposal going to a conference then it is likely that I would have relented, simply because I believe that it is right that members should have a say too.

On the Executive I did not have a vote. I was not therefore one of the nine who voted to abandon the Conference. As I have said elsewhere on this blog I was surprised that this vote turned out the way it did. There was no attempt on my part or others to organise for this result. There were some members who came to the meeting determined to vote against whatever, but others listened to the argument and made their minds up on the merits of the case. In a way the outcome was almost accidental because I believe that if some of those who voted against had realised that they had disenfranchised members then they would have voted differently.

Tomorrow's Conference may well define the direction the party is travelling in for some time to come. I will go there and put my point of view. However, at the end of the day we are all Liberal Democrats. I remain commited to this party, its principles and its policies. I hope that we can all accept that there are differences of opinion but that none of this is personal and that we all have a common purpose and will work together to achieve it come what may. I will accept the outcome and work with it. I will also do everything I can to try and put my party back onto the right track in Wales.
Why campaign for a party that has no policies? Please don't miss the lesson of these last few days, people are shocked when they realised all the promises were were just that, a way of getting votes, the party was really just a pressure group.
The electorate witnessed this week that the current bunch of Lib/Dem AMs can be very reckless with their campaiging and put party issues above those of their constituents.
"neurosurgery will stay in Swansea" you have to be tempted..........
But Peter, the incredibly frustrating thing for me, as someone who was not and remains unconvinced by the coalition, but who felt incredibly strongly that the decision should have been made by spec conf and not NEC is as follows.

Why, oh why did someone in the meeting, not argue that whatever people felt, it should have been put through to allow the membership to decide.
Despite not having a vote, you could have argued that and it would have swung it.

My spies inform me that no-one made this argument.

If they had, we would have gone tomorrow and had a much healthier, less damaging debate which could have gone either way. The actual turn of events have presented the worst case scenario.

I hope with hindsight that you will admit that you should have done this.
I was astonished that this argument was not made as well. It was not until the vote was being taken that anybody realised what was happening. It was certainly an oversight on the part of those who were promoting this agreement. Hindsight though is a dangerous thing.
"I was astonished that this argument was not made as well. It was not until the vote was being taken that anybody realised what was happening"

You were there! Are you admitting you couldn't keep up with the debate, that the need to give members a say slipped your mind? Never mind your colleagues (who also have plenty to answer for) - how do you think this reflects on you? Aren't you admitting you're not up to even the basics?
All of this has the feel of the cock up theory of history. The problem we have at the moment is that we have a Labour government in office but hardly in power. It will be interesting to see what skeletons come out of the closet when the budget is discussed this year. In politics governments tend to produce good budgets for election years and then tell the truth afterwards. The problem for the assembly is that all the indication for the new CSR is that it is based on all public bodies achieving 3% cashable savings. Many English local authorities have already said that this is not possible without serious cuts in services. It will be interesting to see what happens in this year's assembly budget debate. If Labour cannot get its budget through there is a real possibility of a no confidence vote and a resuurection of the Rainbow coalition. On PR in local government Peter the suggestion of a referendum in the joint document is a sensible one. It will be a major change in the voting system and it should be approved by the people. As a suppporter of PR in local govt I have no problem with this because the arguments against are so weak given the awful state of Welsh local government.
‘’They let down the voters, led down the pupils, let down the parents.
That’s not the leadership our Assembly needs.’
Mike German – 2007 Conference speech on Plaid
‘They remain a wolf, however many layers of sheep's clothing they put on.
And however soft their woolly cloak, Wales will never forget how sharp were the wolf's teeth bit in Wales in the 1980s.
Wales has never been a Conservative country. ‘
Mike German – 2007 Conference speech on the Tories

Does any more need to be said - just how hypocritical will the Lib Dems be if they vote for the rainbow on Saturday?
The Party has been badly wounded, and its own National Executive has fired the gun. To say we look foolish is an understatement. Incompetent, irrational and now, in the eyes of our potential coalition partners, untrustworthy. All these labels can be fairly attached to us now.

I really don't know what tomorrow's special conference will achieve other than to highlight just how bitterly divided the Party is on the tripartite deal. Even if it were to be approved there is virtually no chance of either Plaid or the Tories wanting to do business now.

We need to be taking refuge in a corner and lick our wounds, not throwing ourselves into the gladiatorial arena and fighting each other like rats in a sack - and there are plenty of rats.

For the first time ever, I am embarassed to be a member of the Party.
As a regional AM you must represent the views of the people of your region.
Bridgend and Ogmore are totally in favour of a Rainbow Alliance to keep Labour out of power in the assembly.
Chris Holly the leader of Swansea and a large amount of Swansea members are also in favour of a Rainbow Alliance.

If you do not support the Rainbow Alliance then you may be in danger of losing your support from the party members of the region.
What a shambles this all sounds. I suppose the Brecon and Radnor geriatrics will be out in force picketing today's meeting. They haven't yet woken up to the fact that their opposition to the coalition is going to lose them the Westminster and Assembly seats. I for one will never vote LD again. And as for this visceral dislike of Tories, it smacks of prejudice to me, the same mind set that breeds sectarianism and racism in others.
You said this

!It is now clear that the idea of forming a coalition with Plaid and the Tories deeply divided the party. Expectations were created which were not met and as a result we have some very bitter enemies on all sides of the political divides. The fact is that the leadership could not carry the support of the membership, something that needs to be reflected on."

The leadership could carry the membership, today proved that. What can not be endured any more is someone who describes himself as "Red Rob" being allowed to act as Labours agent within the party. What happened in the NEC, was a Labour agent undermining party democracy. If Rob has nothing to hide I'm sure he would be happy to publish his mobile phone records and texts sent and received over the last week.
"It's gone tits up" for you-who.
"It was certainly an oversight on the part of those who were promoting this agreement" - didn't this cross your mind? Or did you prefer to get what you wanted through undemocratic means rather than risk losing the argument in a democratic forum? It's in the name of your party, you know ...

By the way, did you catch Dragon's Eye on Friday, Peter? Easily the worst performance by a politician on television since George Galloway stopped doing cat impressions by your "next" leader. It's still if you missed it.
Peter - your assault on the Lib-Dem leadership has left egg all over your face. Are you going to fall on your own sword? You yapped on so much that the Lib Dems need to be back in touch with voters - and there's you out of touch with the membership.
Russ/seiriol: you obviously have not been paying attention. I did not have a vote in the NEC and I was arguing against the deal. It was for those promoting a coalition to make important points such as the Conference needed to have a say. As I assumed that the Executive had a majority in favour I did not feel the need to make this argument for them.

Anon 11.49pm: it is my duty as a politician to do and say what I think is right and to persuade others of my point of view. One of the advantages of being in a democratic party such as the Liberal Democrats is that we can agree to disagree and still work together for Liberal Democrat principles and policies.

ap-nominous and anon 1.18am: you cannot overlook the fact that 40% of the Conference representatives supported my position. This was in no way an overwhelming endorsement, though it was a decisive vote in favour of the rainbow coalition and as such I will accept that democratic verdict and work with it.
"you cannot overlook the fact that 40% of the Conference representatives supported my position."

But the Conference's votes was first past the post, not PR. According to German, it's an overwhelming majority! Is there anything you can agree upon?!
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