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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Speaking out inappropriately

This morning's Wales on Sunday carries a two page spread on my views on the Welsh Assembly Group leadership. It was not easy speaking out publicly like this but I felt that it was necessary when it became obvious in meetings on Saturday that Mike German was already manoeuvring to stay on as leader for most if not all of the next four years.

I have nothing against Mike personally, in fact I think that he has given exceptional service as leader and done an outstanding job in very difficult circumstances. However, it is in the best interests of the party in my view that we move on and have an early election for leader. This is required in our constitution anyway but can be dragged out for twelve months, a timetable that would impinge on local council elections.

I also have no problems with Mike standing in that election. After three Assembly elections in which we have made no progress whatsoever, he has a right to put his case and ask for a further mandate from the membership, but we need a leader with that fresh mandate if we are to change.

I also believe that entering a coalition now would do irreparable harm to the party. It would prevent us from developing a fresh image and refining our policies and principles. Indeed key players in that process would be tied up in the workings of Government and any chance of distinctiveness would be lost.

I was amused to read in the Wales on Sunday that I had been rebuked by Brecon and Radnor MP, Roger Williams, for speaking out. He did not say any of that to me yesterday when we discussed what I had said in the National Executive Meeting about the leadership issue. In the newspaper he said:

"I think it's inappropriate just after an election. We're considering the result of that election and the issue as to whether the party should take a role in opposition or a role in government and at that time I think it's inappropriate to start speaking about this."

The leadership of course forms a integral part of the process he describes and therefore needs to be discussed openly as well. Nevertheless, I could always have taken the other option of secretly and anonymously briefing the media so as to undermine Mike's position. After all that is how the MPs got rid of Charles Kennedy. That, though, is not my style.
You are dead right to speak out now. The last deal was presented as a fait accompli by the Cardiff elite before any real discussion had taken place. It is clear from the Lib Dem lack of progress that the party did not benefit from the argument that it was responsible for many of the decisions of the partnership govt. You will also find it very difficult to hang on to the anti Labour voters who supported the Lib Dems in 2004. The sensible approach is principled opposition under a new Leader with the aim of making clear progrss in 2011. It wouldn't please those who like the trappings of power but given the difficult financial environment in which the assembly will operate in over the next few years it is the right approach.
You're the Education spokesman but didn't twig that private schools don't have to tech the National Curriculum?
I'm pleased to see that at least Roger Williams recognises the stupidity of what you are currently doing, Peter. My respect for you is is diminishing considerably.

By doing what you are doing, you are undermining the authority of the National Executive and trying to impose your 'Kirsty for leader' agenda by manipulating the media. Where has your integrity gone?

Ultimately we do need a change of direction, but now is not the time to be doing this.
Gosh. Mike German was the best asset the Liberal Democrats had during the election campaign!

His TV appearances got you thousands of votes which would have certainly gone to the other main parties.

Are we witnessing another shortsighted attempt to self destruct from the Lib Dems?
Who will it be then, Peter... Kirsty Williams?

You're calling for Mike German to go, but you aren't telling us who you'd like instead.
I've said pretty much all I intend to about the Welsh leadership, but I have to agree that if now isn't the appropriate time to debate it, when is it?

In 2005, Charles Kennedy managed to get every single MP except John Hemming to sign his nomination in a rushed re-election immediately after the election with a view to shutting down the debate. That move did neither the party nor ultimately him any good at all.
Interesting, but you do realise that you are dooming Wales to another four years of Labour minority government?
On the contrary Sanddef, there are many other options for government.
Peter, you are right to speak out and James Graham draws an appropriate analogy with the situation vis-a-vis Kennedy following the 2005 election.

Sadly, we are seeing the same thing at Westminster level. Debate about Ming's leadership is closed down. Mike German and Ming share the same problem; they are both decent men but ultimately they are not inspiring and not pushing the party in an upward direction. Both seem intent on deals with Labour, which will prove fatal for the future. Time for both of them to go.
The question on my lips is, does Peter Black want to become the leader of the Lib Dems himself? and if not, who does he favour as leader of the Lib Dems, and what combination of parties does he favour for government?
Amazing. You are being attacked by Pontygwindy who on Glyn Davies's blog is urging Glyn to stand against the elected Leader of the Lib Dems in Wales. Talk of the pot calling the kettle Black!
I just like this comment from Liberal Democrat AM Eleanor Burnham: "I think Peter Black is being irresponsible. He's in a minority, I assure you". (BBC)
So, if Mike German gets his limo, nice office and cabinet salary does that mean he will support the closing of hospitals in West Wales? Will he rubber-stamp the moving of life-critical medical units from Swansea to Cardiff. Will he have a choice?

If Peter Black is in a minority on this then by all means go ahead and get your moment of power as Rhodri's poodle. No doubt come the next Council elections the people of Swansea will dump the Lib Dems en masse - some will go back to Labour no doubt, some will go to the Nationalists but I suspect many will look to the recent Gower result and consider that enormous leap to the Tories.

Yes Mike and Eleanor, go ahead and hop into bed with Rhodri's Cardiff Taffia and watch how the people of West Wales who voted Lib Dem this week abandon the party for good!
I applaud Peter Black for having the courage to say what most of us are thinking - No to coalition and that a new direction is needed within the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

-Richie Northcote
"I also believe that entering a coalition now would do irreparable harm to the party"

is anyone thinking about Welsh people instead of party politics? Who will run Wales? No-one seem to care...just leadership and internal party fights
Thank you so much, Peter, for being the one AM to publicly say what I am thinking.

I became a party member only recently, despite a long-term interest in politics and loyalty to the Liberal Democrats. I became a party member after meeting two very principled men, John Gossage and Bill Powell, at the Senedd when I went to protest against the changes that the Labour administration had planned for Withybush and other hospitals. Talking to them, I got the strong impression that the Liberal Democrats were not only my traditional and natural choice, but they were also a strong voice against what I saw as the worst policies of the Labour Party.

In the weeks leading up to the election, I spoke to hundreds of people on the doorstep, and the most common response when asked if they had decided who they were supporting in the assembly elections was: "anyone but Labour". I sincerely believe one of the biggest reasons we were squeezed so much in the tactical vote in my constituency (Carmarthen West and South Pembs) is that the people of Wales do not yet trust the Liberal Democrats not to prop up the very party they are voting out. A coalition with Labour is the last thing I want to see: we may push through a small amount of policy in the next four years, but as far as I can see that would come at the massive cost of losing the confidence of any of our voters who dislike Labour.

And as for the people who are jumping the gun by assuming that you want Kirsty for leader.. well, I think much worse things could happen to the party than that, too! She has the highest approval rating of any AM and when pondering whose television appearances swung us extra votes, if anyone's, I would come down on the side of Kirsty every time. On her ITV debate she was fiesty yet level headed and everything she said resulted in a tumultuous round of applause from the supposedly non-partisan audience. Mike German may be a nice guy, but he wouldn't be able to elicit that kind of enraptured response in a million years.
> Who will run Wales?
A minority administration would be viable. The nationalists have already said that they are prepared to acquiesce in this, and not even demand cabinet seats in return.

Whatever AMs agree now is not set in stone for four years.

Moreover, we have a Welsh civil service which has had eight years to establish itself. The day-to-day machinery of government can tick over nicely for the period of political negotiation.

- Frank Little
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