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

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Has Ed Davey overreached as the party's federal leader?

Back in 2000, when the then Welsh Liberal Democrats group of Assembly Members were considering entering into a coalition government with Labour, we were, at one point, gathered into Mike German's office for a telephone conference with the federal leader of the party, Charles Kennedy.

I am still unsure what those who arranged this meeting hoped to achieve. Maybe, it was considered that Charles could sway the waverers into taking the plunge. If that was the case then the organisers would have been sorely disappointed, for Charles had come to listen, not to exhort. 

He understood that the decision had to be taken in Wales, and that it was not his place to interfere. He may have been the federal leader. but that did not give him a mandate to tell the Welsh Party how to conduct its affairs.

Things have gone a bit downhill since then, with the Federal Party in 2019 dictating to Wales which seats they could and could not contest in the 2019 General Election, effectively overriding local party autonomy and driving some key activists out of the party. And then there is this intereview with the current federal leader, Ed Davey.

In this piece, Ed Davey is quoted as saying that the party's only Member of the Senedd (MS) is right not to be involved in deal talks with the Welsh government. Jane Dodds is sitting on the Senedd's opposition benches, which Ed believes, allows her to have a "distinctive message":

Asked if he would prefer the Welsh Liberal Democrat leader to be in the co-operation talks instead of Plaid, he said: "No."

Speaking ahead of his party's autumn conference, he told BBC Politics Wales: "Jane was right to say that she will be in opposition to the Labour Senedd government.

"I think that's right because we need to show that we've got a distinctive message."

He added: "There was no proposal that we would go into government and there's no option for her to do what Kirsty was able to do.

"I totally support Jane Dodds to say she wants to be an independent opposition, and get that Liberal Democrat voice for our priorities, whether it's for parents, carers or small businesses, or the environment".

Now, I don't know if Ed was authorised to say any of that, or if he was making it up on the hoof. It is certainly the case that none of the options he has dismissed have been discussed by the Welsh Party as a whole. More importantly, it isn't really his place to say one way or the other, as not only is he not the Welsh Liberal Democrats Leader, but he cannot know what is going on behind the scenes.

The Labour Government may be in talks with Plaid Cymru, but they are not going to want to put all their eggs in one basket, and in doing so. weaken their negotiating position. They will want to talk to Jane Dodds about their budget too, and she will have things she wants to achieve as an MS, that she can only get done through negotiation.

Has Ed Davey overreached by making those discussion more difficult? Will he stand back, as Charles Kennedy did and let the Welsh Party get on with whatever they want to do? He is going to look really silly if Jane Dodds does broker a budget deal with the Labour Government.

This basic failure to understand the devolution settlement and the federal nature of the party was one of the main reasons why I could not vote for Ed Davey as leader. So far my decision appears to be justified.

Even with a federal structure there are areas where the leadership has to have some level of control to provide a united front.
It is alright for the Welsh section decide generally on Welsh issues or put forward their views on national issues. However at the end of the day they may have to accept National views.
Er...no, they don't. Such a view is against the spirit and practise of devolution and the party's federal structure. That is something Ed Davey needs to learn.
Post a Comment

<< Home

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