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Monday, February 25, 2008

Let battle commence

Labour's reaction to Nick Clegg's Welsh Conference speech at the weekend is actually quite heartening. It shows that they are worried by the threat that the Welsh Liberal Democrats pose to their strongholds around Wales. It also confirms that Nick's criticism of their record has hit home.

The Liberal Democrat leader asked the question: “What has 100 years of Labour dominance in Wales delivered? Families are trapped in poverty. A boy born in Merthyr will die five years before a boy born in Ceredigion.” He argued that Liberals were the original champions of devolution and the Welsh language and had succeeded in disestablishing the Church in Wales.

This generated a predictably outraged response from Huw Lewis AM, Dai Havard MP and Paul Flynn MP all of whom actually struggle to defend Labour's failure to make any inroads into their target of eliminating poverty.

It is important though that we keep our feet on the ground when we criticise the government. It is perfectly legitimate to point out, as Party President Christine Humphreys did at the weekend, that Plaid Cymru has failed to stamp any distinctive mark on the 'One Wales' Government. It is also right to say, as Mike German did, that Plaid has been left “high and dry” by Labour having been “lured in by the bait of a referendum”, which will not now be delivered. However, to then claim that the Rainbow Coalition document was "the best programme for government this country never had" is a step too far.

There is no doubt in my mind that this document contained some very attractive policies but there were also a few things in there that I and other Liberal Democrats thought were unpalatable. More importantly, there is no evidence that it hung together as a 'programme for Government'. Questions were raised at the time about how affordable and deliverable it was. The fate of the 'One Wales' coalition agreement has reinforced those doubts and if anything vindicated criticisms of the rainbow proposals.

It is time for members of all parties to put the disappointments of last May and June behind them and move on. Reflecting aloud in this way on what might have been helps nobody and distracts from the task at hand, that of rebuilding the party and of campaigning on our positive policies and very real achievements in May's elections.
It shows that they are worried by the threat

This is my favourite standard-issue political rejoinder type:

1. Party A makes an eegegious statement about Party B
2. Party B refutes it
3. Party A claims that refutation shows how "scared" Party A is of Party B.

It's tragic.

Here's an idea - perhaps it just shows how wrong the original allegation was?
Or..it could be a true allegation and Labour are running scared!
This sort of stuff is plain stupid, Peter. Clegg's speech was way out of line - election tub-thumping to one side, some of the claims made were outright offensive, not to say historically dubious. Congratulations, though, on managing to make yourself look even sillier than Eleanor Burnham with this silly, crowing post.
If it secures this reaction off you Luke then clearly Nick Clegg has hit home. By the way if you think this is a crowing post you have only read the first half of it.
Is that the measure of the speech? To "hit" Labour? You judge your leader's statements by how much he can provoke your opponents, rather than by whether he can inspire people or present a vision? What a deeply stunted approach to politics.

Why not go all the way and accuse senior Labour figures of drug dealing? That would really provoke a response. The truth of it seems to be strictly secondary as far as you are concerned.

Perhaps Labour could respond by alleging that Lloyd George was corrupt.

Oh no, hold on - he was corrupt.
Now you see you could only draw that conclusion by relying on the Western Mail report to measure the content of the speech. Predictably they focussed on one comment in it only and missed out the bits that did have vision. That is why I am able to defend it in the way that I do.
No, I draw that conclusion by your rather demeaning insistence that Labour's rebuttals are a measure of the speech's effectiveness.

They're not, not least because the "100 years" of Labour rule aren't even that. 100 years ago Liberals led the government that ruled Wales, and for 58 of the following century Tories did.
This is nothing but Lib Dem spin, for the majority of time that Labour has been the largest party in Wales, there was, for most of a time a Tory govenrment in Westminister.
Well we certainly seem to have hit a raw nerve.

Irrespective of whether it is 100 years or 20 years, the fact remains that Wales has been a Labour stronghold for many generations and the problems of poverty and inequality persist.

If the speech was so ineffective then why are you still arguing about it?
Re-read my original comment. I am complaining not so much about the speech but to your ridiculous argument that anyone who objects to the speech is running scared. It is a thoroughly dishonourable and shallow debating tactic (which, for the sake of balance, all parties use from time to time).

As for Labour and Wales, the number of years Labour has enjoyed a majority of votes and/or seats and the number of years Wales has been ruled by a Labour government are almost entirely disconnected. In fact, of Clegg's quoted 100 years, Liberals have led governments for 14, while Labour has led governments for 28 (never for more than 6 years at a time until 1997).

So by your own logic, The Liberals are half as culpable as Labour for the continuing inequalities in Welsh society. It's bunkum, of course, but it's your logic.
I did not say that 'anybody who objects to the speech is running scared', I said that Labour critics of it are worried by the threat we pose to them. I think that is a reasonable analysis that does not necessarily rely on just one piece of evidence to sustain it. Huw Lewis' very full complaint for example portrays considerable irritation at progress we are making in his constituency.

I accept that Clegg's characterisation of 100 years of Labour rule was necessary hyperbole so as to make a point, but the point is valid nevertheless. Labour have set targets on poverty which they are not meeting and part of the reason for that is that they are not applying UK solutions that have been available to them for over ten years of government. They are talking the talk but not walking the walk on this issue.
Was it such hyperbole though? True, the Liberals were in govt at the early part of the 100 years, but then and afterwards they delivered on a radical agenda - the old age pension, national insurance, the welfare state.

What has Labour done since? What has it done in the last 10 years it has had unfettered power and moeny to spend? Nothing. It hasn't even managed to maintain the structures the Liberals put in place back at the turn of the last century. Well, I suppose there is their'ethical foreign policy'....

This is why there's such heat and light over Nick's speech - it has hit home because Labourites know that their 'movement' is out of steam and out of time. The party has no ideas beyond deperately trying to cling to power for its own sake. It has no moral compass, not even a post-socialist direction.

No doubt Labour won't do what it should, which is to roll over and die of shame, but it is time for it to be killed off. Are the Liberals up for the challenge in Wales?
Judging by the labour diatribe; both Nick's speech & your blog has hit the nail on the head as well as hitting a raw nerve.

I would just like to comment about the life expectancy bit. In Neath Port Talbot someone living in Trebanos would have a crude life expectancy of 74.6 years, while those living just 5 miles away in Godre'r Graig have a crude life expectancy of 84.5, a difference of almost a decade.

Of course Labour fails to mention that when they were singing the praises of Neath Port Talbot council on their Conference Party Election Broadcast.

Yet another example of a Labour run council doing better than a Lib Dem lead council!!!!!!!!!!
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