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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Progress, what progress?

All of the media are reporting that the next 48 hours will be crucial in finding a way forward in terms of establishing the next Welsh Assembly Government. The BBC tell us that a series of party meetings is taking place to try to reach a deal.

Meanwhile the joint Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Group and National Executive Meeting, scheduled to take place at 7pm tonight in Llandrindod Wells, has been postponed until Thursday. It seems that there was nothing to discuss.

Update: Rhodri Morgan has emerged from the Labour group meeting this afternoon to say it is unlikely that Labour will reach a deal to form a coalition Welsh Assembly Government. He is now looking to continue talks with Plaid Cymru and us to try to form a "sustainable and stable" minority Labour administration.

In a conversation with a journalist this evening I was informed that Mike German had told Rhodri that a Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference would not approve a coalition with Labour. I do not know if that account is true, but it is a fair assessment of the mood of the party.

At one point today I was stopped in the corridor by a Labour AM. I was asked what was happening. When I explained that nobody was talking to me on this issue the AM expressed the view that Labour would be happy to talk to me. I said that this was not an option for me this time.

I think these coalition/pact discussions reflect badly on all the parties. Particularly those parties who are most enthusiastic about PR.

The Welsh electorate have voted for a Government in which Labour are the lead party, but not the only party. However, the question of whether the 3 million people of Wales will get what they voted for is to be decided by a handful of politicians: Mike German, Ieuan Wyn Jones, perhaps Peter Black.

The Liberal Democrats, who got fewer votes than any of the other major parties, are in a position where they are kingmakers: their six AMs can decide whether or not Labour, a party that received hundreds of thousands of votes, are able to govern. It would surely be difficult for you to justify that.

If the 'rainbow coalition' happened, I accept that it would have some legitimacy, in that the three opposition parties between them command a majority of the votes - even though the most popular party would have been excluded. However, it seems to me that the opposition parties are currently content to simply refuse to co-operate with Labour, while not being courageous enough to go it alone.

As a supporter of PR, I wonder if you could explain why the current mess is desirable, and what kind of Govt you think should be the outcome of an election in which Labour get 26 seats, Plaid 15, etc etc

No doubt FPTP has its weaknesses, but I think you must concede the weaknesses of AMS are equally visible now (and the weaknesses of STV would be similar).
The problem with Welsh politics is that too many of the politicans follow the Westminster model. Hence the interest in New Zealand a Westminster based democracy which has had to adapt to PR. The real models are in Europe in countries such as Denmark. The problem we face at the moment are being caused by a combination of Labour arrogance and Mike German's comments before nad during the election which suggested that what ever happend the Labour party was safe in power for ever. Labour might be the largest party but it faced its worst election performance since modern democracy was established in Wales. The Labour party must realise that it can limp along but if it wants stable government it has to make reasonable realistic concessions to the other parties. PR for the Lib Dems is such a reasonable concession which would transform local government. Of course what is also interesting in all of this is while the 26 Labour AMs debate the future ordinary Labour party members area as usual kept in the dark.
"When I explained that nobody was talking to me on this issue the AM expressed said"....said what Peter?

Come on, don't leave us guessing!
Oops, don't know what happened then. I have reconstructed that passage.
We have heard a lot about “putting the good of Wales above personal ambition”, “grown-up politics” and “stable government” just lately – mainly from Labour supporters. Christine Gwyther on BBC-2's AM-PM is just the latest.

However, as Lisa Francis (ex-Conservative AM) pointed out on the same programme, it's all about policies. The electors of Wales would not thank us for acquiescing in such Labour policies as shutting down local hospitals, denying nurses their full pay award and resuming the closure of post offices.
- Frank Little
Frank - the Welsh electorate didn't thank you for anything, so far as I could see on May 3.

It's one-eyed misrepresentations of Labour policy like yours above that make negotiations more difficult.

Kirsty Williams has accepted that the electorate are not much interested in your idea of PR for local govt elections. They certainly didn't vote for that on May 3. So why should that be the cornerstone of pact negotiations?
I didn't mention PR in local government - you brought that up. Who said that it was the cornerstone of negotiations? Mike German merely said that it was unfinished business.

However, a proper system of PR is important and overdue. While voters may not have it specifically at the top of their shopping list, they do complain about the power of the Labour machine to push through unpopular decisions. "They think they are royalty," is one comment made to me.

PR would prevent these party citadels (which might be Plaid, LibDem or even Conservative next year, judging by the current mood in Wales) from returning.

As to misrepresentations of Labour policy, does Anonymous deny that nurses are threatening to take industrial action over their pay settlement? Does he expect today's expected announcement not to be of many post office closures?

- Frank Little
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