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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Le premier crunch

Although many journalists are pointing to Saturday as the crunch moment in talks to form a rainbow coalition, today may prove to be more important. To be frank, I am not expecting many problems from the Welsh Conservative's National Committee in Llandrindod Wells tonight, though I guess that their endorsement of a deal cannot be taken for granted. The crunch will come with the meeting of the Welsh Liberal Democrat NEC in the same town at 7pm.

If our National Executive does not endorse the deal then put simply, the Conference on Saturday does not happen. Tonight's meeting is a very significant obstacle that has to be overcome and opposition by a number of AMs and prominent party figures means that anything can happen.

The latest prominent Liberal Democrat to throw his weight behind those resisting a deal is the former Mongomeryshire MP, Alex Carlile. Lord Carlile will, I understand, be telling the BBC's Dragon Eye that unless there is a very strong incentive in terms of, for example, a significantly fairer voting system introduced for the next Assembly election together with STV for local elections, there is no sensible basis for doing a coalition or arrangement deal with Labour.

I believe that he will also be telling the BBC that the only legitimate and ethical approach to the election of a First Minister is at least not to oppose the election of the Leader of the largest Party, and possibly to support him and then allow him to run a minority government on either an issue basis or a limited agreed programme.

If Alex comes to Conference and says that then it may have some impact.
Two questions on a "fairer voting system"

1. True PR would have given at least 2 seats to the BNP at the last election. I'm happy to see that happen, but would you be?

(I don't like the BNP, but then I don't like several of the main parties either, but I don't advocate disenfranchising their supporters).

2. Would STV make the election of Independents less likely? If so, is this a bad thing as far as you are concerned?
Inspired clairvoyancy, Peter - he hasn't even been interviewed yet. I'm sure Rhun will ask the right questions.....
A lot of PR systems have a threshold that parties have to pass to win seats that could apply here as well. I am not sure if an STV system would have given the BNP any Assembly seats earlier this May. However if they win the votes then a democrat could not deny them the representation.

Where STV is in place it has been proven to actually help independents. Although the multi-member wards are bigger the percentage of vote needed for election are smaller and if an independent has a substantial base in one part of a ward it will normally be sufficient to see him or her through.
And could the BNP have afforded to stand under a MMC/STV system? It seems to me that they got the maximum coverage from a small outlay by laying out £500 for each of a few list candidacies.

In a purely constituency-based system they would have needed to lay out more than this even to qualify for a PEB.

- Frank Little
When Alex Carlile says: "the only legitimate and ethical approach to the election of a First Minister is at least not to oppose the election of the Leader of the largest Party, and possibly to support him and then allow him to run a minority government on either an issue basis or a limited agreed programme," then people should listen. He was, after all, the father (with Ron Davies) of our electoral system.
- Frank Little
I believe that Lord Carlile's view makes perfect sense. Whether we like it or not Labour did win the largest number of seats in the Assembly. for them to be the opposition seems somewhat wrong.

How have coalitions benefited the Liberal Movement in Wales (or the UK). It was a coalition that was almost the death of Liberalism in the 1920s. Just read George Dangerfield's book "Strange Death of Liberal England".

I think what we need to do now, is support that which is ethically right, and not something that is motivated by petty partisanship.

We need to build up Liberalism in Wales. Just remember we were "The Party of Wales"! We can be again.

The Tories and PC will accuse us of opportunism. So what! We are a party of the left.

Forward Wales!
Up above the streets and houses,
rainbow climbing high,
Everyone can see it smiling over
the sky.
Paint the whole world with a

All along the streams and rivers,
shining in the lakes,
See the colours of the rainbow as
the morning breaks.
Paint the whole world with a

Red, the colour of New Labour,
White clouds floating in a sky of
Green for Plaid Cymru,
Gold for the Lib Dems,
The day is shining new.

Red, the colour of New Labour,
Grey shadows creep across the
The sun is sinking, colours are
The fields are dark and still.

Take some green from a forest,
blue from the sea,
Find the misty pot of gold,
And mix them for a week.
Paint the whole world with a

Red, the colour of New Labour,
White clouds floating in a sky of
Green for Plaid Cymru,
Gold for the Lib Dems,
The day is shining new.
Surely the Lib and Plaid members have a right to decide what their party does and not a smoke-free room? How can you call yourself a Liberal party if you deny your members a say? and that goes for Plaid as well!
It's too late to hold an inquest. The Lib/Dems should seriously think of disbanding now.

Very seriously.
Well, there we are then.

Sorry Peter, I am appalled. I was coming round to your way of thinking but strongly believe that it should have been down to special conference to have the say.

I was appalled by the tactics that have been displayed by your camp, tonight and in the run up.

So much for our internal democratic credentials that we allways harp on about.
Your party's handling of the situation has been nothing short of disgraceful.

How can your executive support a Rainbow Coallition 6 days ago and reject the very same idea (that supported PR in local Government) tonight?

What IS the point of the Lib Dems. You are a complete waste of space!

And this is coming from somone who opposed the idea of a rainbow coallition.
Congratulations Peter. You've just killed off the Lib Dems as a political party.

What is the point of a party who, when given two opportunities to implement the policies it's voters voted for, it decides to wimp out and hide as the smallest opposition?

I never thought I'd see a party reduced to such cowardice. Whatever we might think of Plaid's decision ysterday, at least they had the guts to make a decision.

Come 2011 (or July even) 6 seats will seem like a ton to the Lib Dems.

Absolutly disgusted. What a joke of a "political party".
Guto, you are obviously smarting from something. The executive followed the correct procedures and voted on the package in front of it. They decided that it was not acceptable and could not support it to go forward to a Conference. Personally I think it may have been better for members to have decided but I did not have a vote on the Executive and did not expect this outcome.

I am not sure what tactics anonymous (11.02) is referring to. I have argued consistently against a coalition from day one and given good reasons for that viewpoint. There was no organised attempt to deny members a say, it happened almost by accident. The vote was the result of a long and detailed discussion in which members made up their own mind individually.
Swansea will not forget this Peter.
You have let down the people who vote for you.
What about the promises you made?
Roll on the next election.
Mike Cridland,
Listen to what people are saying. The Lib/Dems are not the old Liberals, they are a mix up of failed political parties and are unlikely to survive this.
Anonymous (9.07am): Whether we have let down the people who vote for us or not only history can tell. Certainly, many of them told me that we should not put Tory Ministers into power. Others said that they had voted for Liberal Democrats not for a coalition. The promises we made can still be delivered. This is not over by a long chalk.

many congratulations. You have turned the Lib dems in wales into a bigger joke than the lib dems in scotland. You claim to support PR which leads to coalition government however faced with a tough choice your party does nothing at all.What frankly is the point of the Welsh Liberal democrats?
The biggest joke Mark was the idea of Plaid Cymru putting the Tories into Government and the nationalist partnership agreement with unaffordable gimmicks and dubious delivery and an inability to confront difficult issues such as nuclear power. We did Wales a favour by rejecting it. Just because we support PR does not mean that we should always be the facilitators. In fact we suffered at the election because we were viewed as opportunists who were just after government limousines. That has never been the case and we needed to nail that lie.
"The promises we made can still be delivered."

All of them?
Some of them?

The Lib Dems decision means that minority Labour government is now the most likely option.

Albeit by default, the Liberal Democrats have bailed Labour out - again.

Probably hoping that in a year or so when the dust has settled, Labour will come back to you with another deal - just like int he first term

At least you haven't done this for electoral gain - cos there'll be bugger all of that now!

The newspapers are reporting that two people opposed the Rainbow within the Assembly group. I assume that you were one but who was the other? I understand if this was private (I'm sure it will be in the WM tomorrow).
Anon 912.

Some of us know our history. What do you think destroyed the Liberal Party in the 1920s? Yes a coalition with the Conservatives led by Lloyd George. For that he's not fondly remembered. and we learned that lesson.
Peter - first of all may i congrastulate tyou for being prepared to answer your (increasingly many) critics.

The reason we're "smarting" is that no-one can understand what on earth the Libs are playing at.

By refusing to deal with neither Labour nor the Rainbow they are simply saying "we are not good enough for power. we are scared of responsibility."

You had a chance to put Lib Dem policies into power. Instead you've deciuded to sulk in the corner, effectivly proping up Labour without getting anything in return.

Not only is that bad for Wales, it is the end of the Libs.

They now find themselves hated by Plaid, the Tories and even Labour. They are labelled as the wimps who turned their backs on their own voters to try and hold on to a couple of councils.

Everytime Labour messes up ion the next 4 years, people will lay the blaim at the Libs' door. Voters who support your maniffesgto of PR, smaller class sizes, referendum, stopping hospital closures etc will now see no reason to vote for a party who was offered all that and more, and chickened out. You have refused two chances to deliver on your promises.

I must say that I have never heard people so united in their political views than over the past 13 or so hours. Never thought I'd hear Plaid, Tory, Labour and Lib Dem voters all gather together to pan the Lib Dems with not a dissenting voice in sight.

Plaid were planning to play a high stakes game with their political future. While some may not have liked the odds, it could have paid off well for both Wales and Plaid. The Libs have decided to play one of those street card games where the odds are non-existant.

It's sad to see Wales return to a three party state. I guess once the other parties get over theiranger or dissapointment they'll see the silver lining of easy gains in Ceredigion, Montgomeryshire, Cardiff Central and Brecon & Radnorshire in 2009!
Whatever is said about the decision not to join Plaid in a coalition with the Conservatives, it is not likely to lead to the death of the party.

Indeed, the history of liberal parties is littered with instances of being punished at the polls for the appearance of propping up weak governments.

The Free Democrats in Germany were seen largely as a means of securing the Foreign Office for a senior figure in the party, whether in a conservative or social democrat administration. Where are they now?

The Liberals lost ground in 1979, after rescuing the UK economy by supporting the Callaghan government in 1978.

Contrast the Scottish National Party which had nothing to do with the convention leading to Scottish devolution. It stood aloof from government in 1999 and 2003, when Liberal Democrats took the responsible decision to share power with Labour.

Alex Salmond has now reaped his reward.

- Frank Little
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