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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Losing the air war

James Graham writes about the Welsh Assembly elections:

Partly because we are at the mercy of the electoral system, the Lib Dems have a sad history of failing to live up to our ever declining ambitions in Assembly elections, and once again we have failed to break our duck of 6 AMs. Back in 1999, I remember being confidently told by the then-Lib Dem Chief Exec that we would get 11-12 AMs. In 2003, at least one person predicted we’d get up to around 10. This year, people were talking of 7-9 AMs being a sure thing. The worst thing of it all is that, on paper, they should have been right. Because the system is only semi-proportional (2/3rds FPTP, 1/3rd list), each region has 4 top ups and we are the fourth party, we need to make fairly modest gains in each region to significantly increase our number of assembly members. In South Wales Central, we only needed an increase of 1% to double our Assembly Members. The fact that we have failed to do this twice now ought to be setting off alarm bells about how we fight the Welsh air war.

This was echoed by my own experience. I spent the last week being a footsoldier in a non-target constituency in Wales. We got a disappointing result, but our vote held up in our target polling districts. The national campaign didn’t just fail to boost us in the polls, it failed even to cushion the work we were doing locally.

Initial thoughts? All those ‘cheeky’ references in the media didn’t exactly help, however Lembit might like to dress it up. In and of themselves, I doubt they cost us votes, but they did make it tougher to get a coherent message across. They were an unnecessary distraction.

After three campaigns at the helm, Mike German can’t avoid responsibility. His performances on TV failed to impress. True, none of the Welsh Party leaders exactly set the world alight, but as the longest-serving leader, Mike really should have stood out.

So, your fantasy cabinet for
2007-11 would involve the Tories I take it?

Jonathan at Health with Millar as Deputy Social Justice Minister?

Or would you prefer Rhodri as FM with your goodself as Education Minister?
By rejecting Labour you are embracing the Tories and the Nationalists. Jumping into bed with Leanne and Alun Cairns? could you really stomach that?
You are putting the party in an impossible situation. Pushing Mike out before the country even know's who will be forming the next government. Have a discussion, have a debate but stop making us look like spoilt brats in the eyes of every one else. Shame on you Peter, I thought you knew better. If you an whatsherface are looking for my vote in a leadership contest, well think again!
The thing about Lib Dems is that on the ground they fight very dirty. I saw you in Swansea West for instance where you basically lied about who was second in the Assembly vote and did your utmost to deceive people re your own responsibility for voting for Labour's health 'reforms'. The fact that you get 6 is in my view more than you desrve.
I'm no nationalist but your last poster who said Plaid were anti-English and only for the welsh language had obviously swallowed a load of crap. There are extremists on all sides, but then again Plaid had 3 ethnic minoriy AMs on their lists, and one got in. They also have more ethnic minority councilors than any other party.
Where are yours then?
Your campaign against Simon Thomas in Ceredigion contained outright lies, furthermore, and I actually heard on LD canvasser in Granegtown Cardiff call Plaid 'The Welsh BNP'.
Is that clean electioneering in your view?
I have often topyed with voting LD, and I am increasingly against it because you seem now to stand for different things in each ward, to have no 'core principles', and to be, on the ground, the most manifestly deceitful party of them all.
So in my view 6 AMs is about right.
David Rodway
I have no ambitions to be a Minister and no intention of promoting Tories in Government if it can be helped. I have not rejected Labour I am merely saying that it is not in the Liberal Democrats best interests to go into coalition with them at this time. There are plenty of other scenarios including the Plaid/Labour coalition advocated by Ieuan Wyn Jones.

Disgruntledlibdem, this is precisely the time when the party needs to have this conversation. It is just after an election and we have failed once more to make any impact. If we walk blindly into coalition without stopping to think where we are going as a party then we will be doomed to repeat the same mistakes next time. I dont like doing it publicly but it seems to be the only way to get the issue on the agenda.

David Rodway, I dispute much of what you say. The Welsh Liberal Democrats did not misrepresent the position in Swansea West, they reminded people of what happened the last two times that they voted. By comparison May 2003 was ancient history and that was borne out by the result.

I am not aware of any poster that claimed that Plaid were anti English. They are of course to be congratulated on getting an ethnic minority AM. We had at least one ethnic minority candidate in Gower that I am aware of but he was not successful.

I cannot respond to claims about Ceredigion or Grangetown but I very much doubt that an independent observer would concur with your view on those two campaigns.
"Jumping into bed with Leanne and Alun Cairns? "

A fantasy and a nightmare in one sentence. I will leave the readers to judge which is which. he he
Mike German was your best asset during the campaign.
His TV appearances got the Lib Dems thousands of votes which would have gone to the other main parties, absolutely no doubt of it.

The Lib Dems need to mature into the 21st century if their want to be taken a seriously political party and not a relic from the past. And guess what, how many of us predicted that there would inevitably a leadership challenge in the Welsh Lib Dems? Just because they want to, and because they can. Not because it's deserved and they do not have a good leader. This shortsightedness has always singled them out from the other partyies, look at what they do to their National leaders.
All the opinion polls show that most Welsh voters do not have a clue who Mike German is. The simple fact is that Labour had its worst result since 1918. 78% of those who voted do not want the Labour party. If the Liberal Democrats who came fourth prop up the Labour party then the winners in the long run will be Plaid and the Tories.It will be interesting to see what message those who support a colaition with Labour intend to use on the doorstep in next year's council elections. Vote Lib Dem to stop Labour even though we are in coalition in the assembly! Principled as usual Peter and right as usual.
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