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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sabre rattling

Reading reports about Adam Price's extraordinary speech to his party's conference yesterday one is left wondering where exactly Plaid Cymru think they are going at a UK level. For some reason the text of the speech is not on the party's website nor that of Adam Price himself, however the gist of it seems to be that the nationalists are now setting themselves up as potential coalition partners with Labour at a UK level.

Mr. Price believes that the most likely outcome of the next General Election is a hung Parliament. He is a bit miffed that Gordon Brown has been poaching talent from other parties but has so far ignored the SNP and Plaid Cymru:

"There have been olive branches strewn across the political spectrum, offers of Cabinet seats to Ming Campbell, Tory grandees leading Government reviews.

"But so far nationalists need not apply. What is he afraid of?

"I've got a message for Gordon, pick up the phone.

"If you don't call us now you'll have to call us later if you don't want a Tory government".

Plaid Cymru's negotiating position is so steep that it is almost as if they know they will not get the call. They want a cut in corporation tax, £1bn to eradicate child and pensioner poverty and a transfer of justice and policing matters to Wales. Further demands will be for the assembly government to have a lead role on agricultural matters within the Council of Ministers in Europe, a high speed rail link between Wales and Europe and a fair share for Wales of £10bn Olympic investment.

Desirable as all of this is, it would be astonishing if any British Prime Minister would agree to the majority of these policies, even to stay in power. For a start it would provoke a revolt amongst MPs from the English regions, who would want similar treatment. There is the whiff of gesture politics in this speech, a tactical re-positioning that is perhaps too clever for its own good.

I believe that Price also told delegates that once justice and policing matters are devolved to Wales, it would be possible for Tony Blair to be prosecuted for his role in pursuing the Iraq War if he dared to take a single step over Offa's Dyke. Is this the sort of vindictiveness that Wales Labour wants to be associated with?

Blair's government may well have broken international law but singling out the former Prime Minister in this way will not change any of that. In fact it will achieve nothing except satisfy old scores and personal vendettas. Blair has gone, let us be content with that. Plaid Cymru are in government now, it is time their senior politicians started to behave accordingly. Personally, I am beginning to think that we had a lucky escape when Plaid walked away from the rainbow coalition.

I am not sure how this leaves Plaid Cymru at the next General Election. Having gone into government with Rhodri Morgan they are already going to have problems shaking off the mantle of Labour's little helpers in many constituencies. Taken with the fact that they are positioning themselves increasingly to the left this could make it difficult for them to attract conservative-minded voters in key marginals such as Ceredigion, Ynys Mon and Conwy.

Now that Plaid are openly courting Labour at a UK level, they will also find it hard to convincingly attack the present government on key swing issues such as the continuing presence of troops in Iraq. An attempt to find relevance at a UK level could backfire on them. Adam Price may well find that he is talking Plaid Cymru out of the very influence they so desire.
I really don't know why you've wasted so much space on this one, Peter. It's just so much lips-flapping-in-the-breeze, as my Granny used to say. With the coalition deal done Adam clearly doesn't have a big theme; making wholly implausible demands looks like a good wheeze to make PC seem like a force in London as well as Cardiff. That's up to him, but there's no reason why anyone should give those kind of antics any more airtime than necessary.

A hung Parliament is less, not more, likely than it was a few months ago. If it happens, Gordon will be picking the phone up to you lot, not Adam Price and his two colleagues.
I agree with NM. If Gordon does need Plaid at a UK level, then he really is in trouble and so is the Labour party.
Peter do you have to keep up your pathetic story that it was plaid who walked away from the coalition.

Grow up and take some responsibility for you actions. You brought down the Rainbow with Kirsty and you should accept this. You are becoming a laughing stock.
Tomos, I am not denying that I opposed the Rainbow Coalition and believed that it was not in the best interests of Wales to put the Tories into government. However, at the end of the day both the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the Tories voted for it. Plaid had two options in front of them but opted to go in with Labour. Those are the facts. What is funny is how Plaid seem intent on refusing to accept responsibility for their actions and seek to try to shift the blame elsewhere.
Peter, your argument is ridiculous. The decision facing Plaid was drastically effected by the actions of you and Kirsty. Prior to your decision against the Rainbow it looked like Ieuan Wyn Jones could become the leader of a coalition of sensible parties united around a policy programme. After your actions Rhodri Morgan was elected First Minister. For the rainbow to be enacted you would have first needed a vote of no confidence which would have looked opportunistic followed by a coalition where one party has shown itself to be disunited and unreliable. This party was also on the verge of a leadership challenge where a large section of the party were opposed to the coalition and supported a deal with Labour.

You alone out of all politicians and observers seem to think it was Plaid (and not the Lib Dems) who destroyed the Rainbow. Please stop trying to rewrite history.
Tomos, facts are facts. There was no reason why the Welsh Liberal Democrats could not have participated in a coalition. We have consistently proven ourselves the most disciplined of the three parties concerned and of course if Mike German had been a minister there would have been no leadership challenge.

The fact is that when the Plaid group met the decision could have gone either way. Both documents were on the table and under discussion. They chose Labour, which was their right. What is not your right is to abdicate responsibility for that decision.
Peter, you seem to be arguing that their was no difference in the coalitions on offer before and after the lib dems started flip floping. The truth is that because of the Lib Dems Rhodri Morgan was first minister and one of the coalition parties looked ridiculously week.

Also are you honestly saying that there would not have been a challenge to Mike German if he had become a minister? as you pointed out on a number of occasions your party has been flatlining on 6 seats for a while. Surely a bad set of council elections (I accept that these are not guaranteed) would have led to a leadership challenge?

As for being the most disciplined party this is an extraordinary statement. There are only six of you so it is understandable that it is easier for you all to vote the same way but last time I checked you, Eleanor Burnham and Mick Bates are all calling for a leadership challenge and Kirsty Williams did so as well (although not as recently). If this is what you call unity I think you might have an answer to all your party's problems.
Tomos, I dont know why you and others keep repeating this nonsense. The rainbow coalition option was perfectly possible right up to Plaid's decision to walk away from it. I did not see either Plaid or the Tories opposing Rhodri Morgan as FM, in fact he was elected by the whole Assembly.

I am saying that there would not have been a challenge to Mike German if he had been a Minister. Why you do not believe that I do not know. By then the party would have voted for the coalition and he would have been in a much stronger position. The fact is that after the debate at the Special Conference ALL of the Welsh Lib Dem AMs had accepted the democratic verdict of the members and were prepared to implement it. That is the whole basis of democratic debate, you move on once a decision has been made. We are all mature politicians and we all know when that time is.

There will be no set of bad council elections next May, we expect to do well. However the assembly leader is not responsible for that aspect of our work and the Welsh Liberal Democrats do not work in the way that you envisage. You could equally make that argument about Plaid or the Tories but the fact is that you are just inventing excuses to avoid accepting responsibility for your own actions.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have consistently out-performed both Plaid and the Tories in the discipline we have shown in the chamber, turning up for crucial debates and voting together 99% of the time. We have also been in government and know and have direct experience of the discipline that is required for that. Something that Plaid is currently having problems with. We did it then and we would have done it again.

You cannot of course project the current circumstances on to a hypothetical situation. It would not have happened in that way. It is also the case that we are not so much calling for a leadership challenge but considering standing in an election that has already been scheduled. There is a difference. That is democracy. You should try it sometime.
I think the decision by the Welsh Lib Dem executive killed off the Rainbow Coalition. They were split, this makes it more difficult for the other partys to trust us in the future, if we couldnt make up our minds. I have to admire Mike German as he was committed to the Rainbow Coalition, and the party memebers voted by a wide margin for the Rainbow Coalition, we are left as a small opposition party with little influence.

Aberavon and Neath Lib Dems
The odd thing about the NAW electoral aftermath was just how difficult it was for any of the supposedly 'progressive' parties to show trust in one another. Rhodri managed to insult both the LDs and Plaid within moments of the loss of any majority situation situation becoming clear, and Mike G looked initially far too keen to dive straight into a ministerial jag with Rhodri. Plaid began neogtiations enigmatically, and remained so.

Too much is made of the LD constitutional blip (which was quickly righted, again by constitutional means), and while it should be conceded that many on the NEC were naive at best, I think the historic footnote will be Plaid's decision to pull away from the Rainbow and to work to Labour's agenda. (If this is a 'clever move' by PC to try to split WElsh Labour I doubt that it'll work.)

All of which said, I'm glad that the LDs are not propping up tired old Labour again, and even gladder that we're not having to work (as a very small 3rd partner) to the priorities of a Tory/Plaid coalition.

Now we must re-define ourselves in opposition and work hard to show just how bankrupt the Assembly Nationalist-Socialist regime is!
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