Kirsty Williams AM writes: Why Welsh Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru have joined forces

welsh-liberal-democratsThis week, and much to the surprise of many political commentators in Wales, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood and I held a joint press conference announcing that we are to join forces to negotiate with the Welsh Labour Government on next year’s budget settlement.

In the National Assembly, the Welsh Government has exactly half of the Assembly Members. Therefore, each year the Welsh Government needs the support of at least one of the opposition parties to pass their annual budget. In the past, this has given the Welsh Government the opportunity to encourage opposition parties to compete against each other to do a deal with them. This year will be somewhat different, as both of our parties will refuse to negotiate with the Welsh Government unless it’s on a joint basis.

Many have been discussing what this announcement now means for Welsh politics.

Firstly, I must highlight that this is certainly not a formation of any sort of alliance. The Welsh Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru are two very different parties with different ideologies. However, that is not to say that we can’t work together. By negotiating as a team, I believe that we will strengthen our hand in achieving our parties’ priorities. We are committed to ensuring that we can provide a better education system, sustainable health services and provide a much needed boost in the Welsh economy.

In 2012 the Welsh Liberal Democrats managed to secure our very own Welsh Pupil Premium through budget negotiations with the Welsh Government just as, in England, Nick Clegg persuaded the Tories of the importance of extra funding for our most deprived children. I am immensely proud that we managed to persuade Labour of the same in Wales. This extra money is making a huge difference in our schools.

My Welsh Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will be looking to build on this success. We will not support a budget that does not make progress towards closing the funding gap with England – starting with the poorest children who often need help the most.

I am pleased that were are able to work with Plaid Cymru to try and secure a budget that will get the most for the people of Wales.

* Kirsty Williams AM is Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats

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  • Makes sense. Very smart move.

  • Defenestrate Clegg 28th Jun '13 - 9:41am

    How does this report square with Kirsty’s claim to want to help poor children – is she not aware of what the party are doing in Westminster ?

  • Good to see that at least some Lib Dems can work with a party that isn’t the Tories. Pity to see that this nowadays doesn’t seem to extend beyond Wales (and in the reasonably recent past, Scotland).

  • Geoffrey Payne 28th Jun '13 - 12:41pm

    Good to see Liberal Democrats persuing progressive policies and in particular seeking to reduce poverty.

  • Generally, Kirsty’s doing an excellent job with very limited resources. The Lib Dems are a federal party and under her leadership have a distinct take. The charmingly named ‘defenestrate clegg’ should be aware that in additionto the national Labour party now committig to the colation’s policies, the Labour Welsh Govt is quietly a disaster, as Cameron keeps reminding Milliband at PMQs. Kirsty’s surgical strike on the Education Ministr this week, which led to him being forced out of office, was masterly.

    Please don’t anyone assume that Plaid will be a natural partner for working with us, unlike the SNP (in my view). In policy terms they’re all over the place, and try to play one hand in rural wales and quite another in the south. They are all for a nuclear free wales, execpt where a nuclear facility provides jobs in a plaid constituency. They are not a party wholly committed to progressive politics, although having done pretty badly as rural christian democrats recently under Ieuan Wyn Jones and the Lords Elis Thomas and Wigley (both being the usual Plaid exceptions to party rules against membership of the house of lords) they’re currently trying their luck being ‘left of labour’ .

  • @David Allen – Lib Dems often work with parties that aren’t the Tories at local government level. And to be fair, at Westminster, we’ve only had the need for one coalition who knows who’d we will work with in the future depending on the maths.

  • David Allan, what the devil are you talking about? Nowhere have I seen any evidence that shows we would refuse to go into coalition with labour in westminister.

  • David Allen 28th Jun '13 - 1:42pm

    You’re right Anders, I should of course have said “…Lib Dems at national level”.

  • Alex Macfie 28th Jun '13 - 1:51pm

    We also work mostly with parties that aren’t the Tories in the European Parliament. The Liberal ALDE group works with the centre-right EPP and centre-left PES groups on different issues. It works quite a lot less with the group to which the Tories belong (ECR).

  • Sean O'Curneen 29th Jun '13 - 6:28pm

    Ditto for the ALDE Group in the EU Committee of the Regions.

  • Anders, Alex, Sean, all of you are right. In local government, Wales, Scotland, and Europe, we work with all reasonable partners of right, left or centre. There’s just one place where we seem to be falling short….

  • Alex Macfie 1st Jul '13 - 9:37am

    @David Allen: In case it had escaped your attention, Lib Dems are part of the governing coalition nationally. This means that for the term of this parliament, Lib Dems there are bound to working with the Tories. The coalition was not formed because of any perception that the Tories are our natural allies, but because it was dictated by the electoral arithmetic. In Wales and Scotland, we are in opposition, and can work with whomsoever we wish. In local government, we go into coalition, or not, with any party depending on the electoral arithmetic for any specific authority. As for the European Parliament, it doesn’t work like that, as it is independent of the “cabinet” (Commission), and “coalitions” between the party groups form dynamically, on an issue-by-issue basis.
    Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, we were often accused of only being willing to work with Labour, and given the Blair-Ashdown “project” (not dictated by any electoral arithmetic) such accusations had much more validity than claims now that we will only work with the Tories.

  • Jonathan Brown 1st Jul '13 - 9:48pm

    Very glad to hear this. I was upset at the time that we didn’t go in to coalition with the SNP too. I’m almost as far from Scotland as you can get, so perhaps there’s a lot more to it than meets my eye, but it looked like we were refusing to to a deal because they wanted a referendum, which not only was something they’d campaigned heavily on, but seemed to be something we could easily ‘agree to disagree’ on – in a much more amicable way than we ended up doing with the Tories nationally over AV.

    Since the general election I’m even more upset we’re not in coalition with the SNP, as it would have provided some really helpful insulation – at least in Scotland – to the view that we’re doing nothing but providing cover to Tory nastiness.

  • David Allen 2nd Jul '13 - 7:12pm

    “Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, we were often accused of only being willing to work with Labour, and given the Blair-Ashdown “project” (not dictated by any electoral arithmetic) such accusations had much more validity than claims now that we will only work with the Tories.”

    Wonderful argument, prizewinning stuff. We once had plans, which didn’t work out, to work with Labour. We now have plans, which we implemented, to work with the Tories. Outdated plans are of course so much more important than current realities. Therefore, Cleggie is a closet socialist. QED.

  • Alex Macfie 3rd Jul '13 - 1:22pm

    David Allen: My point was that any time the Lib Dems go into coalition nationally with another party, there will be people who will accuse us of being only willing to work with that party, and ignore the fact that at other levels we have no relationship with them.

    The Blair-Ashdown project opened us to the same sort of accusation *at that time* that the Lib Dems were only willing to work with one party (notwithstanding the fact that the party had no special relationship with Labour at local and European level) as the current national Coalition does now.

    But the Coalition was necessitated by electoral arithmetic; the “project” was not; it was motivated by a joint belief of the Lib Dem and Labour leaders that their parties were ‘natural allies’ against a common enemy (the Tories), so any accusation that the Lib Dems were only willing to work with one party (whichever that party was) had more validity for the “project” than it does now for the Coalition. I didn’t say it had much validity, nor that had any relevance to the Lib Dems’ relationships with other parties now. Then, the Lib Dems went into coalition with Labour in Wales and Scotland because the electoral arithmetic made that sensible, but we retained our independence at local and European levels. But for those people who think that only Westminster matters at all, it seems to be not easy to understand the concept that a working arrangement at that level has no relevance at other levels. Hence your rather strange comment:

    Good to see that at least some Lib Dems can work with a party that isn’t the Tories.

    But there is no significance to that, because Lib Dems in Wales (or Scotland, or Europe, or Kingston-upon-Thames) can work with whomsoever they like; the coalition at the national level is only relevant at the national level.

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