.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Friday, April 15, 2005

Tales of the unexpected

Once more Welsh politics and the Wales Labour Party in particular, have been shaken out of their comfort zone. For some time we had all expected a challenge by Labour Assembly Member, Peter Law, against his own party in Blaenau Gwent. It was likely that this could have led to the loss of Labour's safest seat. However, Peter Law withdrew, due to being diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Having announced that Peter had effectively expelled himself from the party by his declaration of candidacy, Labour hastily withdrew that threat. It now transpires that not only does Peter consider himself to be no longer a member of the Labour Party but he is feeling well enough to consider standing again.

Whether Peter puts a nomination form in to become an independent candidate before 4pm on Tuesday is something we can only wait to see, but his formal separation from Labour does have much wider implications for the Assembly itself. It means that Labour no longer have a majority with which to govern. In retrospect I now cannot help wondering what it was that was discussed when the Deputy Presiding Officer and Forward Wales AM, John Marek, phoned Peter Law on Tuesday.

John Marek is, of course, another refugee from Welsh Labour hegemony. He was expelled after standing as an independent in Wrexham and went on to win it from Labour. He formed his own party and is rumoured to be interested in facilitating a coalition to remove Labour from power. Will Peter Law now join Forward Wales? If he does he may have to start wearing the uniform already made famous by the Party's leader and sole AM - open top sandals with socks.

The impact on the Assembly itself will not become apparent for some months. Firstly, Peter Law himself needs to fully recover and resume his seat. There is also the added complication that he might actually find himself to be an MP after 5th May. Secondly, I understand that Plaid Cymru AM, Leanne Wood, will be on maternity leave until after the summer recess, though that will not stop her appearance at key votes. Thirdly, three Tory AMs are currently campaigning in the General Election and are not attending Assembly meetings. If one of them were to be elected then that would also have an impact on the arithmetic.

The odds are that Labour will stay in Government but without a majority. They would not enjoy that in any way whatsoever. At any stage they would be subject to being ambushed by the opposition and they could never be certain of getting any policy through Plenary. The first test will be the debate on the Rees Commission report on student finance. Could this new scenario lead to there being no top-up fees in Wales?

Labour may respond to this new situation by seeking a coalition with another party, possibly the Welsh Liberal Democrats. The fact that they have burnt their boats so effectively in the last two years will make it very difficult for any party to respond positively to such overtures. Equally, there is strong resistance amongst a number of AMs in both Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Liberal Democrats Groups to any grand coalition involving the Conservatives.

How things will play out is difficult to forecast. What is important is that all parties use the opportunity constructively. We cannot allow the Assembly to lose further esteem with the general public.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?