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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Crisis? What crisis?

So what is really going on with the One Wales agreement? Is it in trouble as Martin Shipton surmises today or are Plaid Cymru just turning the screw a bit harder so as to get Labour to play ball? I wrote earlier this week about the tensions that currently exist within the coalition government and amongst the governing parties, now that dialogue has spilt out into the dead tree press.

The Western Mail tells us that concern is mounting within the National Assembly’s junior partner of government that Labour is not keeping to the spirit of the agreement in two key areas. There are fears that Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy will back the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee in a stand-off with the Assembly Government over a proposal to transfer lawmaking powers covering affordable housing to Cardiff Bay. Whilst Plaid is equally concerned by the growing assumption that a referendum will not be held on primary lawmaking powers during the current Assembly term, which lasts until 2011:

One senior Plaid figure told the Western Mail: “It would not be appropriate to issue threats to Labour, but we have a lot of serious thinking to do unless things change.

“Some of us are beginning to feel we were sold a pup at the One Wales negotiations last year.

“It was not envisioned that Labour MPs would be as obstructive as they are being in dealing with applications for LCOs made by the Assembly.

“It also seems that Labour may have made a decision that there should not be a referendum before 2011.

“We are still a few stages away from considering pulling out of the coalition, but a point will come, possibly within the next few weeks, when that may become an option.”

Strong words and ones that reflect the more measured response to my blog posting by Plaid Cymru Chair, John Dixon:

I actually think that Rhodri Morgan was - and is - sincere in his commitment, along with a number of other people in the Labour Party. But the running is being made by those who seem to believe that they can simply tear up or ignore the commitments that were made, not just by Rhodri Morgan and the AMs, but by the whole party in a special conference.

I'm not currently convinced that they understand either the importance of the commitment they made to the agreement that was reached or the likely consequences, not just in the short term, but for any sort of inter-party trust in the longer term, of not honouring their pledges.

Mr. Dixon is quoted by Martin Shipton too in similar terms:

Plaid national chair John Dixon said: “My starting point is that I do trust Rhodri Morgan. I have known him for a long time and I think he is a sincere and committed devolutionist.

“When he signed up to the One Wales agreement, I am sure he was entirely sincere and knew what he was doing.

“I think however there were a lot of people in the Labour Party who signed up to the deal on an a la carte basis rather than a table d’hote one, thinking they could pick and choose the bits they liked.”

Mr Dixon said Labour MPs seemed to think they had a right to scrutinise any future Welsh laws – known as Measures – that the Assembly Government might wish to introduce after an LCO had been passed.

“If MPs are going to be scrutinising Measures, what’s the point of involving the Assembly at all?” he said.

His view appears to be that the two crunch issues for Plaid are the pending LCO relating to Welsh language rights and the need to have a referendum. I suspect that if Plaid Cymru get the Welsh Language LCO they will be prepared to accept some form of fudge on the referendum, but if Labour MPs start interfering with that LCO in the same way that they did over affordable housing then all bets are off.

A warning shot has been sent across their bows. Will they take any notice and if they do not what will Plaid Cymru do? We will see.
The interesting question you are missing is what will the Lib Dems do? Neither Kirsty or Jenny is saying if they would consider Lib/Lab during this term. This should be the biggest issue for the election but you are all ignoring it.
There is no point in addressing a hypothetical question, especially when in my judgement the One Wales Government will continue for some time. Kirsty has said she is open to all options providing that an agreement is deliverable and clearly benefits the people of Wales. I have said before that the problem with a mid-term change of course is that all the budgets have been set for the next three years and the opportunity to change anything is minimal. In these circumstances it is difficult to see what can be achieved from a new coalition. My view is that if One Wales does break-up we will get a minority Labour Government instead but that is not a prediction or a preference.
"There is no point in addressing a hypothetical question, especially when in my judgement the One Wales Government will continue for some time."

So, it has to be asked Peter - if that's the case, why are are hypothesising and speculating on this issue?

It's nothing to do with detracting attention away from that lack-lustre leadership contest you are so heavily involved with, is it?
It is not me hypothosising and speculating on this issue. I am merely reflecting what is being said elsewhere. It also has to be said that the tensions themselves are newsworthy and worthy of comment irrespective of the potential outcome.
I have drawn some criticism for predicting that a Rainbow Coalition is likely when Rhodri Morgan stands down. I think there's a sporting chance. I'm told that Kirsty would veto again, though I don't believe it. The Roberts Review would on the surface seem to rule it out, but it does contain the caveat that if the Assembly made a request for a referendum a Conservative Welsh Secertary would have to consider it on its merits. I suspect that if a Rainbow was a realistic prospect Cameron would over-rule his MPs to secure the potent symbol of his party in power in Wales. Nothing is certain, but it is all fascinating
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