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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A breath of fresh air

I was at Kirsty Williams' manifesto launch at the Wales Millennium Centre yesterday and was impressed with both the document and with Kirsty's presentation of it. The manifesto can be read here.

As I have said in a previous post it is not the role of leader to impose policy onto the party however Kirsty did pull out some key issues that she wishes to lead on, including simplifying local government funding, attacking the erosion of civil liberties and building a green economy. She also re-emphasised the key message that in voting for her she is asking party members to put in place a leader for the long term. She said that we need to embrace change and a new generation of leaders.

Rather predictably, her opponent responded by adopting the Gordon Brown refrain that this is no time for apprenticeships. In doing so she does Kirsty a great disservice. The Brecon and Radnorshire AM has been a member of the Assembly since 1999, she worked as a key part of the group when we were in government, has chaired the important Assembly Health and Social Services Committee and has had a major impact in the Assembly. There is no doubt that Kirsty is ready to hit the ground running as leader even if the first thing she does is to enter negotiations for a new coalition.

Personally, I think that the chances of such negotiations are negligible. Jenny's claim that party members "could well be electing someone who might be in the cabinet and Deputy First Minister within a few months’ time" is a misreading of the situation and appears to have been made solely to promote her own over-inflated view of herself as the Welsh Party's answer to John McCain. In fact Kirsty is perfectly capable of taking on either of these roles and would do so with competence and panache.

The one advantage Kirsty does have is her ability to unite the group behind her. By instinct she is a conciliator and has always been at the centre of efforts to resolve disagreements within the group. In fact the present leader relies on her to do this job as he is not comfortable with it himself.

In contrast when the leadership was discussed by the group in the run-up to the October 2007 Welsh Party Conference, it was Jenny Randerson who threatened to make the group unworkable if Mike German was opposed. It is difficult to see how this action fits in with the role of leader or how she can mould the Assembly Group into an effective team when she has done nothing to resolve the resentment that her actions generated.

In her manifesto, Jenny claims that the last Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Manifesto was a failure. She is right and yet she spent hours working on it with Mike German and was instrumental in blocking a number of radical proposals on the Party's Policy Committee.

She also claims in a recent leaflet that she negotiated us into government in 2000. That is not how I remember it at all. Jenny was certainly part of the negotiating team but I did most of the work on the finance side, helping to bring the various interests together into a workable document, whilst the final coalition document was concluded between Mike German and Rhodri Morgan.

It is true that Jenny played a key role in the creation of the Rainbow Agreement but that document, like the One Wales Agreement was largely undeliverable. More to the point Jenny admits herself that she failed in the leadership role of persuading the Party's Executive of its merits. In fact a majority in favour was turned into a stalemate by the end of the meeting.

That was unfortunate because the party needed to vote on the document itself, which it eventually did. However, the reason that the mechanism was in place at all was because the group and the party executive had been misled as to the degree of discussion that took place before the Assembly elections with all the other parties and felt the need to avoid being railroaded into an agreement without the opportunity to consider it properly.

We cannot afford to have that sort of secrecy and mistrust again. Members need to be engaged in the process and the new leader needs to reach out and involve them in the running of the party. We should be open to all options when the opportunity to negotiate comes around again but we must also be realistic in the final proposals and open with the membership as to the options available to us.

When Jenny emphasises her experience she underlines her closeness to the present leadership and the fact that she is the continuity candidate. Kirsty is the only option for those who want to see change, who want to see the party more focussed on winning across the whole of Wales, who want to see us make an impact in the national media and who want to see a distinctive edge to our campaigning.

Kirsty is rooted in both urban and rural Wales, she has the experience to take us forward, and she can provide the inspiration and the direction that we need.
Peter, the campaign seems to have got very nasty behind the scenes, with Jenny's crew doing most of the mud-slinging. Have you come across the stuff they are peddling about Kirsty?
I'm sure you're right about uniting the group behind Kirsty. I have heard that even the most rebelious 17% of the members of the group will be loyal if she is elected whilst I'm sure he will do everything he can to wreck a Jenny leadership.

I really thought that you were taking the p**s when you were talking about the ability to unite 6 (yes 6) people as a prerequisite to being Lib dem leader. This really is an irrelevant position.
Its a leadership campaign, for a Welsh Party, with 6 AMs. As a Lib Dem and a great admirer of yours Peter, it pains me to see a rather nasty side to you on your blog.

I am of the view that both Jenny and Kirsty will actually be fabulous leaders for our Party. Just because you support one, and I support the other, does not mean we have to hate the other one we don't support! Where did that idea come from?

Yes, Jenny has experience. Yes, Kirsty has passion. Really, if we're all honest, there isn't that much difference between the two. Whoever is elected Peter, has to lead the party to success, and you throwing mud on Jenny is largely irresponsible, given that she could be leading the party in a month, and that anything you say here would tarnish her reputation.

I find it absolutely ridiculous that some tiny elements of the party are becoming increasingly rabid about their prospective leadership choices, and then forcing that rabidness onto members who would rather make a decision, vote, but be happy with WHOEVER is elected.

As a Lib Dem, who wants us to do better and really improve our electoral showing to finally help Wales in a real way, I really want to ask you not to post more blogs like these. Obviously its your choice, but it just seems very nasty, very provocative, and very counterproductive, SINCE WE'RE ALL ON THE SAME SIDE.

Thanks. :)
The building of a green economy is a noble ambition. One that needs to be done and shows a future looking ethos.
Problem with this is that a green economy is not going to be developed overnight and there will be much resistance to this from business and certain pressure groups who deem the economics to be against them.
One thing that could be done is to set a target to plant more trees for the future. Maybe to stop grant feeding some occupations and make these uneconomic farms into Woodlands.
Trees will provide forestry jobs, bring a source of wealth to Wales in the future and of course, a re-newable resource.
Fossil fuel prices will only increase over the next 30 years due to emerging economies and more demand. Afforestation in upland Wales will bring economic, as well as Environmental benefits.
I think we have got the message already Peter ;o)

by the way, to the anonymous LD who admires you so much that, would that publicity-shy person care to at least say whether he/she happens to be cardiff-based, or on the payroll?

only asking ...

(and anon - praising experience over passion just days after w
everyone feels inspired by Obama perhaps is akin to carrying on digging when in a hole)
No, I'm not "on the payroll" and no, am not "Cardiff-based". I'm just a normal member of the Party who is concerned, and doesn't quite trust people in the current climate of "rabid support" not to react negatively. Hence my "publicity-shy" post. When everyone's really alright with us offering disagreement as opposed to just officially, I'll trust people enough to post under my name. Oh, well.
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