Wish you were there?

Whoppee! It's the Whistun break and our hard-working politicians are enjoying a week in the sun. All except those who've decided to holiday in Wales, that is.

So what's the state of the nation? Well, it's a complete and utter shambles. Good job, bring on the Pina Coladas.

On Friday, Rhodri Morgan became first minister of a minority Labour administration. On Saturday, the Lib Dems voted to pursue a rainbow coalition with Plaid and the Tories which would necessitate his removal.

The ball is now very much in Plaid's court. But rather than smash it down the line for a winner, Ieuan Wyn Jones is hanging on to it for a game of keepie uppies.

The noises coming from the Plaid camp are that they now have time to discuss the rainbow option in earnest. I was on a panel with Rhodri Glyn Thomas the other day and he suggested they wouldn't necessarily need to make a move before the summer. Speaking on yesterday's Maniffesto programme, Ieuan Wyn Jones implied that the party's national council wouldn't even be discussing the proposals until July.

In the meantime, Rhodri Morgan will announce a cabinet and get on with the job. But he is a first minister on probation in charge of a government in paralysis. Plaid should beware, however. The longer he's in charge, the more difficult it will be to remove him.

Mathematically and constitutionally, Plaid can take as long as they like. But realistically, they will need a bloody good reason. We're not used to putsch politics here in Wales. Coups are for chickens, not for Cardiff Bay.

It may be possible for the opposition parties to engineer disquiet over hospital reconfiguration or the budget which would prompt a vote of no confidence. But they would be taking power in very different circumstances then compared to now.

At the moment, the election still isn't too far gone. A cabinet hasn't been named and the machinery of administration is still in cold storage. Moreover, the rainbow is still widely seen as an alternative to Labour rather than a calculated plot to oust the government. People may not look upon the idea so favourably in a few months time.

But while the Lib Dems and the Tories have now played their hand, let's not forget that Plaid have emerged strengthened. For the next couple of weeks, at least, they have the threat of the rainbow to keep Labour on its toes. A red-green deal is not out of the question.

And yet there's still that glint in Ieuan Wyn Jones' eyes which suggests he's keen to govern. If that's so, there's nothing to stop him moving fast. Otherwise, there's every danger the assembly will be a national joke by the time he finally makes his move. This comedy of errors has gone on quite long enough.

Labels: , , , , , ,

posted by Blamerbell @ 12:32 am,

36 Comments:

At 2:38 am, Blogger Mike Cridland said...

Good time for separation of powers?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_powers
By default?

Good night from Kansas!

 
At 7:34 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We definitely need something along those lines. The situation since May 3, where the shape of the government is completely dependent upon the various deals being discussed in backrooms by the politicians, is obviously undemocratic.

The actual result on May 3 has been shown to be meaningless. The voters have been totally removed from the process of forming a government. Instead, it's largely up to the leader of the second-biggest party, and the decision he makes about who to side with.

We're new to PR and we haven't addressed the question of how to regulate these discussions about coalitions. They're not supposed to be a post-election event that's bigger than the election itself. Either we need separation of powers or we need to force the politicians to have these coalition discussions before the elections so that they can form alliances that the voters can pass judgment on.

 
At 9:55 am, Blogger Aberavon & Neath Liberal Democrats said...

There were two speeches at Llandrindod on Saturday, by Bob Barton and Richard Tyler, which perhaps pointed the way forward. Richard cited the four-way cooperation on Powys CC and decried knockabout party politics. Bob spoke of the best people from all parties coming together to form an administration.

This would be in the spirit of the framers of the first National Assembly constitution. But we are not there yet. We haven't grown away from party factionalism on Westminster lines.

We have even made two major steps back, in my opinion. The increase in the number of plenary sessions at the expense of committee meetings makes for headlines and party point-scoring instead of constructive politics.

The other retrograde step is the abandonment of regional committees.

- Frank Little

 
At 10:16 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with people from all parties coming together is that it would leave us without an opposition. I think most people regard an opposition as an essential element of the scrutinising machinery.

I would certainly like to see a coalition that maximised the talent in the Assembly. In my opinion, no party has enough talent to fill all the cabinet positions. Neither does any party have a mandate to govern alone.

I'm opposed to the rainbow because it strikes me as opportunist, contradictory, and certainly not something that the people of Wales voted for. It's not the case that LibDem and Plaid voters realised that Ieuan Wyn would cosy up to Nick Bourne. Nor, I suspect, are many Conservative and Unionist Party members happy to go into power with the Welsh nationalists.

Labour are the party with the electorate's endorsement to form a coalition. But the people they have to negotiate with are in a position where they know that, if they say 'no' to Labour, they get to form a coalition themselves.

It's a mess. I described our situation to an English friend the other day and she said it sounded like we'd adopted Italian politics.

 
At 10:36 am, Anonymous daran said...

"The problem with people from all parties coming together is that it would leave us without an opposition. I think most people regard an opposition as an essential element of the scrutinising machinery."

Yes we would have an opposition - those not amongst the best people coming together. And anyway, the Conservatives and Labour have both said they will not work together in government - they were clear electoral pledges on both sides and won't be broken.

Regarding the longevity of the new Welsh Labour government, I do not accept Blamerbell's assertion that the rainbow warriors have to move quickly. Plaid still has an internal argument to be had and last Friday Rhodri Morgan was nominated by the Assembly as its First Minister. Last Friday - the ink from the fax hasn't dried yet. After the debacle of last week all the opposition parties need to stand back and think. They must look at the situation before leaping into the dark again.

Nevertheless, I still feel convinced they will take that step at some point if Plaid resolves to join the rainbow once more. The temptation of government will be too strong to resist if they get to a coherent and united position. It just won't be before the Assembly rises in July.

In the meantime Welsh Labour governs, well aware of the dangers it faces. Their tactic is already clear - splitting the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru from the Conservatives. The progressive consensus is not open to all. Labour do not buy the changed view of the Conservatives accepted by the leadership of the other two parties.

So expect a few months of bedding down. One of the things that intrigues me is where the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats now stand in terms of policy. If their own manifesto policy is not the one that ended up in the All Wales Accord to which they have subscribed, when they oppose Labour which set of policies would they use? Further, how would two (or even three) parties reciting the same opposition policies actually feel?

This is different territory to the last two years: the opposition parties are now uniting not just in opposition, but around an alternative programme for government. That is a real legacy of the past few weeks.

 
At 10:45 am, Blogger ianjamesjohnson said...

The fact is that this is a new type of politics and I think it's right for us not to be jumping in at the deep end this week and find ourselves floundering by next.

Far from being an anti-climax (well, except in terms of spectacle), a delay but an inevitability of a Rainbow Coalition will ensure that all the ground has been covered and all the angles triple-checked so that we know how it's going to work, and ensure that people familiarise themselves with how politics will work in Wales in future.

 
At 10:48 am, Blogger ianjamesjohnson said...

Surprised that no-one has brought up the results of the Irish election yet.

Fianna Fail won 78 of the 166 seats, leaving them a handful short of a majority. They're now trying to cobble together a coalition with the Progressive Democrats (the election's big losers having been hugged and strangled) and an array of Independents.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael haven't yet thrown in the towel on an Alliance for Change Government.

 
At 11:15 am, Blogger ianjamesjohnson said...

Or the results of local council elections in Bristol for that matter where a minority Lib Dem administration seems to have been kicked out by Labour and the Conservatives voting together.

 
At 11:28 am, Blogger Blamerbell said...

Ian, that's certainly an interesting parallel. Wonder if they'll make a better job of it.

Anon, I think that's the reality of PR politics. Next time around voters will be able to decide whether or not the second-largest party deserves fewer or more votes as a result of that decision.

Daran, don't you accept that if the rainbow is to act, the time to do it with the most legitimacy is now, in this post-election period?

Waiting leaves Wales without stable government for months to come.

It may well be in Plaid's internal interests to wait - just as the Lib Dems put their own internal politics first on Wednesday night - but ordinary people will quite rightly wonder what the hell is going on.

Oh, and Frank, having a government of all the talents is certainly a nice idea, but it would only exacerbate the shambles in the bay. Just about the one thing people understand about politics is that there's a government and an opposition. The new GWA strengthens that notion.

 
At 11:33 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Daran

I think it's fanciful to imagine that a govt formed from 'the most talented' across all parties could be opposed by the 'less talented' members of their own parties. So you'd have, say, Helen Mary Jones, David Melding and Carwyn Jones as Ministers being opposed by Janet Ryder, Brynle Williams and Irene James...? It couldn't work because the likes of Irene, Brynle and Janet just do what their leaders tell them to anyway. And they'd be outmanoeuvred with some ease by the Cabinet, you'd imagine.

IJJ

If the rainbow is an inevitability (and I agree that it's more likely than not), then our political system becomes less and less democratic. Not only is the formation of the govt taken out of the voters' hands, but the timing of the formation of the govt is also to be decided at the politicians' convenience, and not at the time of the actual election.

The constitutional requirement to hold an election every four years is meaningless if there is no longer a link between the election and the formation of a govt.

As for Ireland - the 'Alliance for Change' campaigned as a coalition group throughout the election. Here is an article on a press conference they held weeks in advance of the vote.

http://tinyurl.com/22v7ny

There's a huge difference between running as an alliance and forming a surprise rainbow after the event.

 
At 12:15 pm, Blogger Ordovicius said...

Coups are for chickens, not for Cardiff Bay.


Says who? Says you. Forgetting Alun Michael are you?

 
At 12:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PR is untidy but fair, "first past the post" is tidy but unfair.

We knew Labour weren't going into coalition with the Tories before election day - they said so. The other parties kept their options open, so the voters knew that a Rainbow coalition was a distinct possiblity. Anyone who really couldn't stand the thought of the Tories being in government should have voted Labour.

It's been suggested in another thread that there should be some legal requirement for the biggest party to be part of the coalition and provide the FM. What nonsense, I can envisage a situation where the BNP with say 21% of the vote was the biggest party, even though it was abhored by the great majority of the electorate. This legal requirement would put them into power!

 
At 12:33 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't Plaid threaten to sue Labour for suggesting 'Vote Plaid, Get Tory'? That is the exact opposite of the way the campaign was conducted in Ireland, with the Alliance saying 'Vote Fine Gael or Labour for change'.

Strikes me the parties all ran a FPTP campaign in an AMS election. Now we're seeing why coalition discussions usually take place before, not after the voting. It's because the public will insist on choosing their own govt, instead of having done for them at LibDem party conferences.

 
At 12:37 pm, Anonymous Daran said...

"I think it's fanciful to imagine that a govt formed from 'the most talented' across all parties could be opposed by the 'less talented' members of their own parties."

I should have used inverted commas to describe the "best people" coming together - I was referring to Frank Little's post. I stand by my view that such an action would open up opposition in all parties, and the "most talented" could well be split across such a hypoethetical divide.

Welsh politics is getting curiouser and curiouser, but even taking the impossibilities of recent times into account I still can't see a Conservative-Labour power sharing agreement!


“Waiting leaves Wales without stable government for months to come.”

So what’s new? It took 9 months from the election of 1999 to the toppling of Alun Michael in February 2000. Different circumstances I know, but this is the closest parallel we have to present circumstances.


“If the rainbow is to act, the time to do it with the most legitimacy is now, in this post-election period.”

No, I think the moment is passed – for a while at least. I’m with the Presiding Officer on this one: the constitution of Wales is above the positioning and repositioning of parties. Labour was ready to play ball on Friday, and seized the moment. Rhodri Morgan should now be given the chance to govern. Plaid is NOT fully endorsing the All Wales Accord until after their next National Council, providing the vote goes that way, so they’re not ready to sign up yet. It may be convenient to forget broad party memberships in all this but, as the Liberal Democrats have already proven, if they’ve got something to say then party members need to be heard.

Rhodri Morgan IS the First Minister. A minority Labour government is the option none of the parties wanted, but it’s what we’ve got. Rhodri needs to be given the chance to demonstrate his leadership now. By damn it’s going to be hard going for Labour, but that’s just the way it is.


“Coups are for chickens, not for Cardiff Bay.”

I’m with Ordovicius on this one. What brief Assembly history we have shows that is how three party leaders, including a First Minister, have been removed.


"Didn't Plaid threaten to sue Labour for suggesting 'Vote Plaid, Get Tory'?"

I think the precise threat of legislation was over the suggestion Plaid would work under a Tory First Minister. I may be wrong though - it's all such a long time ago...

 
At 12:37 pm, Blogger Blamerbell said...

"Forgetting Alun Michael are you?"

That was a different - that was a dictatorship.

 
At 1:03 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

//The other retrograde step is the abandonment of regional committees.
- Frank Little //

Is that another expensive layer of government? Can't we trust the AMs?

 
At 1:11 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:

...I'm opposed to the rainbow because it strikes me as opportunist, contradictory, and certainly not something that the people of Wales voted for. It's not the case that LibDem and Plaid voters realised that Ieuan Wyn would cosy up to Nick Bourne. Nor, I suspect, are many Conservative and Unionist Party members happy to go into power with the Welsh nationalists.....

When I read something like this, I groan. Here we go again. Anon still believes that New Labour is a socialist party.

More voted "against" New Labour. Whatever you think of the Tories, and yes, we do not have short memories, what New Labour is doing to Wales is as bad if not worse. Our hospitals? Who is closing them. The Tories?

Thankfully most of us are not as blinkered. New Labour knows it has lost many of the old supporters because of it's middle right wing policies. Even Cameron fancies one or two of them. At least the Tories are honest and up front, you know where you stand with them. New Labour is a snake in the grass. And I am not Tory.

 
At 1:14 pm, Blogger Guto said...

"Didn't Plaid threaten to sue Labour for suggesting 'Vote Plaid, Get Tory'? "
No, they threatened legal action over Labour's insistance that voting Plaid would get us a Tory First Minister, something Plaid had ruled out.

Plaid always said apart from that (and the BNP) they'd talk to anyone, including the Tories

 
At 1:15 pm, Blogger ianjamesjohnson said...

"Didn't Plaid threaten to sue Labour for suggesting 'Vote Plaid, Get Tory'?"

I think the precise threat of legislation was over the suggestion Plaid would work under a Tory First Minister. I may be wrong though - it's all such a long time ago...


Commenting on Elfyn Llwyd's appearance on Dragon's Eye in February, where he explicitly ruled out Plaid working under a Tory First Minister, but not a Plaid-led Rainbow.

Whose-rainbow-is-it-anyway?

 
At 1:17 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ianjamesjohnson said...
"Or the results of local council elections in Bristol for that matter where a minority Lib Dem administration seems to have been kicked out by Labour and the Conservatives voting together. "

And that's just over the border. There is something almost sinister in the anti-conservative feeling in Wales. Both Plaid and Conservatives got 22% of the votes so the Conservatives, whether we like it or not are a powerful force within Wales.

Yet Labour can suck the life out of our communities, close down our hospitals and still get the most AMs?

 
At 3:17 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This "never mind the policies we just hate Tories" mindset should be recognized as what it is - no different from sectarianism or racism.

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

A few points:

1) re: the anti-Tory feeling in Wales. Thatcher made every adult male in my family redundant. My father didn't work for two years and we thought we were going to have to move into a caravan and live up the mountain. That experience was not untypical throughout the valleys. When we went shopping, the town centre was full of striking miners and steelworkers begging for money.

I look at David Melding and Glyn Davies and I don't see any connection between them and the Thatcherite brand of Tory. I actually thought the Tory manifesto was the best-written and most impressive of all the manifestos (though I disagreed with lots of it). But I also see why people in Wales, particularly in the former industrial areas, have such long memories on that one.

2) hospital closures. We're going off on a tangent even discussing this one, but...I would hope we can all agree that Labour are not closing hospitals out of malice or an ideological belief that the private sector is better. I think the worst you could say about Labour on hospitals, if you're fair-minded, is that they have not been competent enough. There's certainly an open goal on that one so far as Hutt's reign is concerned. But the issue as a whole is so complex, and Wales is such an unhealthy nation, that I'm not convinced that there's much informed criticism of Labour on hospitals. The Plaid manifesto disappointingly lacked a big idea for NHS Wales, though I'd concede that Plaid are better equipped to run health than Labour are.

 
At 4:01 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect the people who compare New Labour to the Thatcher govts of 1979-90 are simply too young to remember the latter. Or from a non-industrial part of Wales where Thatcher's impact wasn't felt so strongly.

 
At 4:50 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting article and comments but Labour have already out manouvered the other parties once, what makes anyone think they wont do it again after all they are in power and in the driving seat. By the way i am in favour of a rainbow coalition

we are forgetting how good Labour is at hanging on to Power, particulalry in Wales

 
At 5:23 pm, Blogger Ordovicius said...

That was a different - that was a dictatorship.

Nah. All's fair in war and politics. It's not like we've elected any altruists.

 
At 5:43 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember the 80s well enough and let's be frank a lot of those jobs had to go. Not all of them mind you and if the NUM leadership had been more interested in protecting its members interests rather than playing at revolution then maybe jobs could have been saved.

 
At 5:56 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the best way to bury once-and-for-all the anti-Tory prejudice in Wales would be to have a repeat election where the Rainbowites could simply stand as a formal alliance so that we all know the choice we're faced with, and they can explain why jobs in steel and coal needed to go, and why the NUM rather than the Tories are to blame.

 
At 6:41 pm, Blogger Alwyn ap Huw said...

Anon Said I suspect the people who compare New Labour to the Thatcher govts of 1979-90 are simply too young to remember the latter. Or from a non-industrial part of Wales where Thatcher's impact wasn't felt so strongly.
I suspect that those who complain about the Thatcher years are to young to remember the mess that Thatcher inherited. Too young to remember the three day week and power cuts during Ted Heaths years caused by the NUM's decision to bring down the elected government. Too young to remember Michael Foot closing a steel works in his own constituency and offering the workers a marsh mallow factory instead. Too young to remember that Labour closed twice as many mines in south Wales than the Tories ever did, and too young to remember the Callahagn government when family members couldn't be buried for weeks because the socialist prime minister was too frightened to crack down on the unions powers.

 
At 6:47 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great post alwyn

 
At 7:13 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alwyn ap Huw said...
//I suspect that those who complain about the Thatcher years are to young to remember the mess that Thatcher inherited. Too young to remember the three day week and power cuts during Ted Heaths years caused by the NUM's decision to bring down the elected government. Too young to remember Michael Foot closing a steel works in his own constituency and offering the workers a marsh mallow factory instead. Too young to remember that Labour closed twice as many mines in south Wales than the Tories ever did, and too young to remember the Callahagn government when family members couldn't be buried for weeks because the socialist prime minister was too frightened to crack down on the unions powers. //

That's the way I remember it. Strange how history can be adapted to make Labour look better. I'm not Tory but Thatcher was in government for a long time because we all remembered how terrible it was under a Labour government.

 
At 9:32 pm, Anonymous go rhods go said...

Rhodri knows hes due a kciking in the next few months, the only question now is when? Its not going to happen but he could leave welsh politics with some respect restored in my eyes if he takes the bull by the horns and leaves now. He knows its coming what the point for him, labour and wales spending months working up a programme of policy etc for it to be scrapped in 6 months time. The assemby needs to be seen to work for wales and making the most of its resources, if NYONE IS KEEN TO SEE IT THRIVE WE NEED TO AVOID WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN IN A FEW MONTHS TIME AND AMICABLY AGREE A CHANGE OF POWER NOW. (LAUGING STOCK EITHER WAY REALLY, BUT A LOT OF MONEY SAVED!)

 
At 9:14 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plaid need to topple Labour quick. Labour will run the 2011 election on Vote Plaid get Tory again so why wait? Plaid has in it now, you can't be half a virgin.

There's no point in Plaid waiting too long otherwise people will get used to Rhodri Morgan's 'government'.

Do it ASAP.

Draenog

 
At 9:29 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alwyn - some of the points you made about the Wilson-Callaghan govt were valid. You don't have to be a big fan of that govt to be a Labour supporter. However, the comparison we were discussing here was between the Thatcher govt and the New Labour one at Westminster and Cardiff Bay since 1997/9.

The fact is that economic prosperity is easily taken for granted by the sort of person who is determined to find something to complain about in our govt. Near-full employment, redistribution through tax credits, a childcare revolution, record investment in schools and hospitals.

Thatcher would have allowed all that over her dead body.

Interesting to see that a Tory-like wing of Plaid does exist - I'd always thought it was the stuff of myth and legend.

 
At 1:45 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tax credits, would those be the tax credits that folk who work less than 30 hours a week can't claim - hence a doubling of their tax bill next year. Over £10 income tax a week for folk struggling on less than a £150

Would those be the Tax Credits that a million eligible tax payers don't claim because they don't want to go on to benefits and wouldn't Gordon be in a pickle if they did start to claim.

Would those be the tax credits that were so hopelessly administered by New Labour that folk were left with frightening bills they had to pay back to the Treasury?

 
At 7:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You clearly don't understand tax credits, my friend. I work more than 30 hours per week and tax credits make a very welcome contribution to my income, thank you very much.

So. On one side of the Thatcher v New Labour debate we have mass unemployment. And on the other we have the evil that is known to humankind as T*x Cr*d*ts.

I think you've all clearly shown that Thatcher was a progresive redistributionist wheras New Labour's tax credits scheme is a cruel and divisive way of robbing the valleys of their economy, community and self-respect.

Bravo, ladies and gentlemen. Now, who wants to debate "Black is actually white if you look closely enough"?

 
At 11:15 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeh you work more than 30 hours... work less than 30 hours and you don't qualify. You still qualify for income tax though and a lot of low paid workers working just under 30 hours will end up paying more than £10 income tax plus NI.

So who doesn't understand the Tax Credit system? You don't pal. I do hope you don't end up with a bill for a couple of grand like a mate of mine because of Labour's bloody incompetence.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home