Tenei Te Tangata Puhuruhuru*

Keep a keen eye on airport departure lounges over the next few weeks. The assembly has a further 22 days to elect a first minister, which would take them conveniently into their Whitsun holidays.

In the meantime, nobody except Mike German is returning Rhodri's calls. So Wales goes on without a government. And the longer it goes unresolved, the more people are talking about Labour going it alone with Plaid or the Lib Dems backing them up in a confidence and supply type arrangement.

This, we are endlessly told, is the New Zealand model. They even sent over a cabinet minister to give Rhodri some tips on how it's all supposed to work.

But hang on a minute, why are we taking lessons from a country that's only got one vowel sound?

Their election was won narrowly by the Labour party, but only after what has been described as a "dirty campaign punctuated by threats and bullying". Even then, the auditor general found they overspent by $768,000 and ordered them to pay it back.

Despite the predilection for rugby and sheep farming, New Zealand is not Wales. Neither is their much-lauded governmental agreement necessarily transferable.

For instance, in New Zealand the government is supported by minority parties in exchange for ministers outside of the cabinet. But Welsh legislation wouldn't permit such a deal here.

In the Senedd, it's cabinet or bust. And nobody seems to want to share a table with Brian Gibbons. So, Labour would have to fill the 13 seats themselves. That means means half of Labour's assembly members would end up in government. Bearing in mind that Rosemary Butler is deputy presiding officer, the other 12 would have to spread themselves very thinly indeed across the various scrutiny committees which will be central to the new system.

Martin Shipton will be polishing his axe with relish, because if some of the women in Labour's ranks weren't up to it last time around, they'll find a minority government under the new system even tougher.

In New Zealand, meanwhile, there are 20 members of the ruling party in the government, leaving a further 29 to perform backbench functions.

Neither situation is ideal, but at least down in Mordor there's a somewhat more realistic ratio between ministers and ordinary members within the ruling party.

No doubt some people will use this as an opportunity to call for more assembly members. But that misses the point. The system is designed to work when there are a reasonable amount of people in government. In the end, it might come down to a call from Rhodri to decide whether he considers his 26 members numerous and capable enough to pull it off. As they say in New Zealand, 'He who stands, lives, he who sleeps, dies.'

*lit. 'this is the hairy man'. Line five of the haka, apparently.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:14 am,


At 1:20 am, Anonymous McFadden said...

You're a dead man.

At 7:53 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting comments fromRoger Scully, Professor in International Politics at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, said, “This is unusual territory for UK parties but this is fairly normal politics in the rest of the democratic world.”

British politicians, he said, were used to competing with one another but not co-operating.

“They recognise they have to do this but are obviously very uncomfortable,” he said. “Politicians need to learn a very different way of interacting with people from other parties.

“You have to be able to engage in a good degree of public and private bargaining.”

However, he added that the National Assembly will struggle to hold a government coalition to account if it lacks sufficient numbers of skilled AMs to staff committees.

He said, “It’s very much on the small side by any international comparison. If you want serious levels of expertise being built up by non-governmental members on committees, 60 is too few.”

Prof Scully acknowledged that it would be difficult to persuade the electorate of the need for more paid politicians, but said they could be added if and when the public voted in a referendum for a Scottish-style parliament.

“It’s difficult to sell that but if that were part of the deal for primary legislative powers, I imagine it could be sold.”

The dilemma facing the parties is likely to return at the next Assembly elections in 2011, when Labour will fight without Rhodri Morgan as First Minister.

Prof Scully observed that Labour’s share of the constituency vote (32.4%) is exactly the same as in Scotland; this is the first time since 1924 that the Welsh wing of the party has not enjoyed a larger share than their Scottish counterparts.

He said, “For a party that’s been hegemonic in Wales for 60 years, I think the election’s far worse for Labour than the number of seats would indicate.”

At 9:00 am, Blogger Ian said...

I'm sorry to complicate things further, but there will be a major problem in terms of scrutiny of primary legislation due to the lack of AMs, both in quality & quantity.

There could be a political 'catch 22' here, where the Assembly will struggle to establish itself as a credible future Parliament due to a lack of numbers, yet unless it can argue the case for at least another 20, then it has no hope of gaining that credibility.

There is currently no support for more AMs, perhaps unless such a decision is matched by a corresponding reduction in Welsh MPs. Can you imagine the reaction of Labour MPs to this proposal?

We live in interesting times!

At 9:07 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets just have another election.

That way we might be able to get some different AMs who can actually get on with the job!

At 9:30 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many of the AMs would struggle on a council scrutiny committee. Labour returned the same old faces in many seats who had failed to inspire anyone in the last 8 years. How they will manage in the tougher financial climate in the next few years God only knows

At 9:46 am, Blogger Che Grav-ara said...

I think Labour expected other parties to be clamouring at their door post election, certainly the Lib Dems. But have now found themselves at the begging bowl trying to make a deal, even though they are the largest party.

I certainly agree a minority government, even with confidence deals with outher parties, would very much stretch Labour's capabilities to perform.

At 10:09 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will Plaid still be allowed to be the opposition even if they sign up to one of these Kiwi coaltion jobbies?

At 10:53 am, Anonymous Martin Shipton ate my hamster said...

Blammer - interesting piece, though genuinely sad to see you swallowing the obscenely chauvinistic / clearly biased Shipton rankings. You should - and I think probably do - know better.

At 11:19 am, Blogger Blamerbell said...

I said *if* - therefore implying a condition upon which something depends.

It's not my job to judge politicians' ability.

In fact, it's not my job to do anything:)

Anyone need a string quartet?

At 2:49 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

why the hell can't the opposition parties agree on a programme for Wales for the next four years. Labour have done piss all for the Welsh people in the 80 or so years they've ruled the roost here. A long period of opposition would be richly deserved.

I suppose the fly in the ointment are a handful of Nats who think they're "socialists". Morally conceited twits.

At 3:49 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

how much appetite, or rather how bovered will Rhodri have for a Zealand type arrangment?? Time to pass on the baton?.....

At 4:38 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He said, “For a party that’s been hegemonic in Wales for 60 years, I think the election’s far worse for Labour than the number of seats would indicate.”
Should these things be pointed out to the Labour party They don't seem to have a mandate and they are certainly loosing ground. Yet they remain arrogant – do they think they have a god given right to govern here in Wales. Time for change

At 5:57 pm, Blogger Ian said...

As one of the majority 'morally conceited twits' in Plaid, I also have no idea what is going on in the negotiations. The Rainbow coalition is still an option, but the largest party must have the first opportunity to get something sorted-and still have time to do so.

When we eventually get STV in Assembly elections and fully accept the end of one party domination, we will wonder what all the fuss was about.

At 6:30 pm, Blogger Geraint said...

Wales needs a Lib-Lab or possibly a Plaid-Lab coalition, an informal deal would be bad for the country and bad for devolution in Wales.

The people in Wales also do not want the Tories in government, the majority voted again the Tories, and against Plaid, and against the Lib Dems and against Labour (yes, unlike many hyprocrites from other parties, I point out that the majority didnt vote for any party)

However a Rainbow coalition would be disasterous for the "oppisition" parties, the people of Wales will not want the Tories back in power, and they would not forgive Plaid or the Lib Dems easily if they did jump into bed with the Conservatives.

At 8:17 pm, Blogger dewi_o said...

Totally agree Geraint. I wonder if an informal agreement would exclude a party from voting against Labour in a no confidence motion. If it doesn't would a Minority be able to last moe than a couple of years.

If Plaid join a rainbow coalition they're finished in South Wales.

At 8:24 pm, Blogger Dylan Jones-Evans said...

I am quite surprised at Geraint's comments.

The evidence clearly shows that the people of Wales do not want a Labour Government in power with less than a third of the electorate voting for his party.

There is also no evidence whatsoever that the people of Wales would 'not forgive Plaid or the Lib Dems easily if they did jump into bed with the Conservatives'.

Quite the contrary - if Labour were so trusted by the members of the other parties, this discussion would not be going on now and we would have a coalition already in place between one of these parties and Labour.

Both Plaid and the Lib-Dems know full well that any such arrangement would be electoral poison at next year's council elections.

I just hope that their politicians have the courage to finally put a rainbow coalition together that can make a real difference to Wales because this country needs it.

p.s. as a gog, I believe it is about time the pleidwyr in South Wales grew up and thought about the rest of country north of Merthyr.

Plaid Cymru - including the new member for Aberconwy - seem to have no problems in being in coalition with the Conservatives on Conwy Council - an arrangement that has worked well up to date and has kept Labour out of office here for the last three years.

At 8:32 pm, Blogger ianjamesjohnson said...

I thought that it was about getting the best deal (and government) for Wales, not about keeping anyone in or out of government.

Sadly, some people in here are a little too caught up in their own political bubble to realise that the public don't care who is in charge as long as our essential services work and people have jobs.

Give the personal politics a rest and get on with making a difference.

At 8:59 pm, Anonymous haf said...

country north of Merthyr.
no one cares about merthyr either Dylan leat of all labout

At 9:04 pm, Anonymous Deal Breaker said...

Wise observations, let me point you to more thoughts from our brethen in the Soujth Seas...

He mahi kai te taonga

(Survival is the treasured goal.)


E raka te mauī, e raka te katau

(A community can use all the skills of its people)

At 9:42 pm, Blogger Blamerbell said...

"I wonder if an informal agreement would exclude a party from voting against Labour in a no confidence motion."

It would depend on the type of agreement.

It may be that the extent of it is to vote in Rhodri Morgan as First Minister and as such offer 'general support' in exchange for policy commitments. Such an outcome would still leave the party free to act indpendently on issues of confidence.

But that does not equal stable government and I'd be surprised if Labour settled for something so risky.

They would prefer a 'confidence and supply' scenario in which the minority party gains policy commitments in exchange for voting with the government on the budget and in votes of confidence. This would still leave them free to oppose the government in other situations, though after the election campaign we've just had it would be enormously difficult to communicate/sell this to voters.

At 9:59 pm, Anonymous Dai Walters said...

I agree with Dylan Jones Evans (well some of what he said anyway!) and IJJ.

There are lots of us in Plaid sceptical about a deal with the Tories and about a deal with Labour. (hell ,we can't have it all ways!) Either way I'm not sure the Welsh public share the parties' tribalisms.

It IS about what's best for the country but we're all kidding ourselves if we think that parties aren't looking at the pros and cons in future electoral terms. Parties aim to increase their support and seats. They're not going to sign up to a deal that's electoral suicide.

On the other hand, how many people really give a bugger who's in coalition with who anyway. It exercises the jaws of political anoraks but I don't think normal people care. Come the next round of elections in 12 months more than half the population won't have a clue who's in coalition with who in Cardiff bay anyway.

At 12:09 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ian, when I said a handful of morally conceited twits in Plaid Cymru I meant a handful of AMs. I didn't mean morally conceited twits outside the Assembly such as yourself. As you say they may well constitute a majority of Plaid members although certainly not of Plaid voters.

Just thought I'd clear that up. By the way I thought you were confident of winning a seat, what happened?


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