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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cracks in the coalition?

Things must be a bit fraught on the fifth floor of Assembly House this morning after Labour AM, Alun Davies launched into Plaid Cymru in the Western Mail.

Alun has written to the Electoral Commission to demand that some of this year’s National Assembly election results be investigated following a ruling that Plaid Cymru’s three MPs misused public money for campaigning purposes:

Last week the Standards and Privileges Committee of the House of Commons issued a report saying Plaid MPs Elfyn Llwyd, Adam Price and Hywel Williams should not have used their communications allowances to take out newspaper advertisements during the run-up to May’s election campaign.

In a letter to Glyn Mathias, the electoral commissioner for Wales, Alun Davies, a regional AM for Mid and West Wales, said, “The Standards and Privileges Committee have found that the adverts were effectively political campaigning.

“While I understand that Plaid Cymru will now be forced to repay the taxpayers’ money and apologise to the House of Commons, I also believe that this raises several wider and more fundamental issues. It has undermined the integrity of the Assembly elections in May and will impact public confidence in the results of those elections.

“This decision of the parliamentary authorities follows the Electoral Commission’s own ruling that Plaid Cymru did not declare this expenditure as a part of their financial returns. This position is strengthened by the finding that the timing of these adverts, ‘was clearly related to the Assembly elections, and any attempt to pretend otherwise is disingenuous’.

“I hope that Plaid Cymru will now be compelled to submit full and accurate financial returns for last May’sAssembly elections.”

Mr Davies went on to refer to the Electoral Commission’s concern about the use by Plaid of slogans on the ballot paper. A number of Plaid candidates included statements like “Save Withybush Hospital” in their ballot paper descriptions. According to Mr Davies, this was, “designed, in my view, to mislead the electorate – or at the very least to campaign within the confines of the polling station which is contrary to electoral law.

“Taken together I believe that these issues – the misuse of public money, the failure to provide full and accurate financial returns and the abuse of the ballot paper – establish a pattern of behaviour which is contrary to both the letter and spirit of the law.

“It also raises real questions as to the outcome of the election in those constituencies where these issues may have affected the result of the election. I am therefore asking you to urgently investigate the outcome of the Assembly election in a number of Welsh seats where these illegal activities may have had a bearing on the outcome of those elections.

“I believe that the Electoral Commission should establish a full review of the results of the election with a view to declaring the results in constituency and regional seats null and void if there is any evidence that this has had a material impact on the result of the poll.

“Without this investigation I do not believe that we can restore public trust in the political and electoral process.

“I share the very real concerns of many people that this election may have been stolen from the people of Wales by the illegitimate activities of Plaid Cymru.”

Apparently, Alun believes that the result in six seats could have been influenced by these adverts. Plaid are taking it all in their stride but somehow I cannot see the Deputy First Minister presenting the Mid and West Wales AM with a complimentary One Wales Government mug in the near future.
Perhaps you could ask him how many seats could the half million quid that Labour knowingly accepted in an illegal manner have affected?
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