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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Will the Tory civil war impact on their Welsh Assembly campaign?

I am not sure who advised Baroness Ros Altmann to jump in with a very personal attack on her former boss, Iain Duncan Smith, but it cannot be helpful to either side of the increasingly rancorous civil war that has now erupted in the Tory party.

The Independent reports that in a personal statement reported by Sky News, Baroness Altmann said she was "extremely shocked by the news of Iain Duncan Smith's resignation and the way he has behaved":

She wrote: "Having worked alongside him as a minister in the Department for Work and Pensions, I have seen that he championed the very package of reforms to disability benefits he now says is the reason he has resigned.

"I simply cannot understand why he suddenly chose to quit like this when it was clear that Number 10 and the Treasury had told him they were going to pause and rethink these measures."

She added: "I'm particularly saddened that this really seems to be about the European referendum campaign rather than about DWP policy.

"He seems to want to do maximum damage to the party leadership in order to further his campaign to try to get Britain to leave the EU."

Recent opinion polls show that the public now perceive the Tory Party as more divided than Jeremy Corbyn's Labour. That is quite an achievement by Cameron, Osborne and their colleagues.

Up until recently the picture being painted for the Assembly elections was of a marginalised and unpopular Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn fighting for its life against a resurgent Tory Party and a popularist protest-vote-gathering UKIP. There is no doubt that on the doorstep lifelong Labour voters are reconsidering their options but it is no longer certain that the Tories will benefit from that disillusionment in marginal seats.

With UKIP also continuing to fight amongst themselves and with Plaid Cymru still failing to make a mark, the only viable and united party is the Welsh Liberal Democrats. And I am not going to pretend otherwise than we have an uphill struggle on our hands as well. Our other problem is that all parties are fighting to make ourselves heard over the European debate.

How all this will impact on the Welsh Assembly elections is impossible to predict. There no longer seems to be a clear cut path for voters to follow across the whole of Wales to secure change, whilst the liklihood of a fragmented Assembly with no obvious way to establish majority government is growing by the day.

My view is that in the light of this turmoil, the outcome of the Assembly elections is going to come down to individual battles at constituency and regional level. In other words it is all to play for.
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