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Monday, November 17, 2008

Follow our leader

This morning's Western Mail gives us a flavour of a new book being launched today by the Institute of Welsh Affairs containing chapters by representatives of each of the four parties in Wales.

The chapter that attracts the most attention is that by Labour First Minister, Rhodri Morgan. He repeats earlier assertions that his party’s poor performance at the ballot box in Wales in recent years is because the party is not seen as sufficiently Welsh. He argues that Labour were punished in West Wales, both North and South, for their apparent opposition to the Welsh language. He says that they were considered by many to be a party of the valleys rather than one that can represent the whole of Wales.

To an extent Rhodri is right though we cannot overlook the proposed changes to the NHS that were on the table before 2007 and their impact on Labour's performance. Rightly or wrongly these proposals were perceived as hitting West Wales more harshly than any other area of Wales and underlined for many electors the failure of Labour to understand the needs of rural West Wales.

The First Minister's problem however is taking his party with him. All the signs are that the Welsh Language LCO when it is published will meet opposition from Labour MPs in Westminster, an act that will send out all the wrong messages to Welsh speaking Wales.

I was interested too in Rhodri's suggestion that Labour should consider allowing local authorities to hold referendums on introducing a proportional representation of electing councillors. He believes that such a move would allow Labour to get a valuable local government base in West Wales.

This was of course Conservative policy at the last Assembly elections and yet when I put forward legislation that would have given the Assembly the power to introduce such a system the Tories sat on their hands and Labour voted against. The exceptions to this were Rhodri Morgan and Jane Hutt both of whom supported my legislation but later claimed that they had pressed the wrong button by mistake.

The point is that it is all very well floating these ideas but if you are not going to vote for them when you have a chance then nobody is going to believe that you are being sincere. It is also a problem for Labour that they are proposing this change out of self-interest rather than on the merits of the proposal.

Rhodri Morgan may well have identified some of the issues that Labour need to address but he has not demonstrated that he can take his party with him on this path. The question of whether Labour can learn the lessons and bring in the changes will be crucial in determining if they move forward or fall back further at the next Assembly elections.
Boring! Yaaaawn!!!!! Is it cheap enough and heavy enough to use as a door stop? I'd like to know who the "Anoraks" are who will buy and read such crap from a Parish Council in Cardiff Bay. Together with Patrick Jones' poetry anthology, these volumes might warm up a few wood burners for the "good life Greenies" like Jane Davidson who hates fossil fuels. There is one big serious question - is this book being published with any public grant aid?
Yet Labour was the largest party in four out of the five electoral regions in Wales. Even in North Wales the party managed to best Plaid. The anti Welsh issue is an excuse put forward by Rhodri Morgan for a lack lustre campaign by the Labour Party and the failure to produce relevant policies. In 1999 he polled 14035 votes in Cardiff West and secured 61% of the votes cast. By 2003 his vote had fallen to 10420 but even then he mangaed to obtain 50% of the votes cast. Last year his vote fell again to 10390 and his percentage share of the votes cast was just 38%. The majority of those who voted in Cardiff West in 2007 did not want Rhodri Morgan as their AM. Perhaps he could explain how during his term of offcie Cardiff West as this year's council election results show has been turned into a marginal for Labour. It can hardly be because voters saw Rhodri as anti Welsh can it!
Why in the Western Mail this morning was there no mention of the lib contribution?

Who did it?

What did they say?

I found Nick Bourne's piece was interesting. The Welsh Tories are very capable of changing themselvess to reflect circumstances.
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