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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Shaping History

The Western Mail reports that the voting in the Plaid Cymru group yesterday was 10 AMs in favour of the Labour/Plaid deal and five for the rainbow coalition. Elin Jones, Dai Lloyd, Janet Ryder, Gareth Jones and Chris Franks were the members who voted for the All-Wales Accord.

I was astonished to read on Betsan Powys' blog, and then subsequently in the Western Mail, that Ieuan Wyn Jones told reporters that a major factor in his decision to go with Labour was his uncertainty about whether the Welsh Liberal Democrats would stay the course in a rainbow coalition. Even at this time he does not seem able to take responsibility for his own actions and prefers instead to try and pass the buck. What sort of Minister will that make him?

Ieuan knows that the Welsh Liberal Democrats took a democratic decision to support the Rainbow Coalition and all of our members have accepted that outcome and are committed to working to implement the views of the majority. The party has sustained a difficult coalition in the past and we also lead substantial and diverse groupings of Councillors on three of the biggest local Councils in Wales.

Even if there had been a leadership contest, and that would have been unlikely if Mike German was a Minister, then there was no way that any candidate could reverse that position. There is no doubt that the Welsh Liberal Democrats would have lasted the course, so let us not get carried away in thinking that this is a real or a valid reason for Plaid's decision.

It is also the case of course that both Labour and Plaid have some significant dissenters. Rhodri Morgan is meeting with Labour local government leaders today to try and mollify them, whilst the Welsh group of MPs are in open revolt. Plaid too, have a substantial body of opinion who would have preferred the Rainbow Coalition and there is some nervousness amongst some of their AMs about the outcome of their National Council meeting on 7th July. Nevertheless I will be surprised if either party rejects the deal now.

Meanwhile the paper asks what does all of this mean for the Welsh Liberal Democrats? Their conclusion is that we face a crisis of identity and strategy. They say that there is no sign that Rhodri Morgan is prepared to consider seriously Lib-Dem Assembly leader Michael German’s invitation to discuss building a “stable government” in Wales. That does not surprise me at all.

The newspaper goes on to speculate that we will be out of government, competing with the Conservatives for protest votes and will shortly be plunged into a leadership contest that will involve soul-searching and recrimination.

What they and others do not seem to have factored into this equation is the resilience of the party. The others may be gathering to pick over the carcass but the party is very much alive and kicking. We have responsibility for providing local government services to about a million citizens, we have six talented and experienced Assembly Members, the second largest block of Welsh MPs and a strong message on civil liberties, green issues, open government and trust in politics.

It is true that we face difficult decisions and that we have to conduct a review of where the party goes from here and how we relate our values and policies to a Welsh context but that is a unifying exercise. Equally, we have a good record in holding passionate and intelligent debates on issues and then uniting around whatever consensus emerges. Internal debate does not always equate to splits, but can strengthen a party. That applies too if we have a leadership election.

It seems to me that what faces the Welsh Liberal Democrats are challenges and opportunities. We will now be one of only two opposition parties in the Assembly and will therefore face less competition to get our message across. Our strength is in scrutiny and in policy development. We have a chance to carve a distinctive position that sets us apart from the Tories here. We may not be in government but we are far from down and out.
I certainly was not surprised by Ieuan Wyn Jones's remark. He is just playing the blame game. There was much more likelihood of rebellion from within his own party than the Lib Dems not being able to 'stay the course' over the Rainbow alliance. There are a lot of people blaming and criticising each other at the moment. It's petty and childish. The Welsh Lib Dems are at a low at the moment but for every trough there is a crest. We will put this behind us and rebuild. We have made no progress at the last election. That needs to be addressed. We have great policies and great ideas but the general public is not aware of them. This needs to be addressed. Does this need new leadership? The party has got to decide and I am sure they will do so in an open and democratic fashion. To quote the late and very great Sam Cooke "It's been a long, a long time coming, But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will"
I cannot believe the nerve you have in denying that your Executive wobble was not responsible for the failure of the rainbow coalition. Many Plaid members like myself were excited at the rainbow option at that time, disgusted in Labour's lack of interest and ready to work with the other parties for the sake of Wales.

You obviously don't understand what a body blow it was for your party to hold back the momentum on that Wednesday evening. It not only allowed Rhodri to get elected as First Minister, but also allowed Labour to re-group. Since that time, your party has voted to go back into the deal again, then offered to talk to Labour again-you are all over the place.

The time has passed and your party's actions will cost you dear, at all levels of Government. Don't think that your Council seats will be immune.
I cannot believe your nerve in posting such nonsense without owning up to who you are.

The Rainbow Coalition has been on the table for weeks but it is Plaid who have chosen not to pick it up. It was they who re-opened talks to Labour. How did you expect us to respond to such two-faced behaviour? We were not going to sit back and watch it happen.

It was also the case that whereas the Welsh Liberal Democrats closed down our talks with Labour to concentrate on the rainbow coalition, Plaid never did so. They have not trusted anybody throughout this process but expected trust back. In the end they repeated their actions of last December and left the other parties in the lurch so as to do a deal with Labour.

If there was momentum it was never created by Plaid Cymru, who seemed intent on serving their own interests ahead of those of Wales throughout the process.

We will see if there is an electoral consequence for these actions. My bet is that there wont be. However, it seems to me that if any party is all over the place it is Plaid.
Well that is the problem Peter - a lack of backbone. Too many of them willing to make snide comments from the sidelines but not really stand up and be counted.

At the risk of repeating myself, I have said all along that Plaid could not be trusted.

The prospect of this deal has angered many grass roots Plaid supporters (and indeed many Labour ones)but the likes of 'anonymous' instead of admitting the faults of their own party choose to try and turn the blame elsewhere.

It is six years since I left Plaid. They haven't changed one bit.
This comment has been removed by the author.
I decided to remove my last remark.Mainly due to the fact that there is just too much acrimony.

So will give it a go!!
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