100 days of Plaid in power

Several months ago, I wrote a piece for LDV setting out what I thought was a golden opportunity for the Welsh Lib Dems following a disappointing night in May.

Now, 100 days have passed since Plaid decided to kick the prospect of alternating government in Wales into touch and instead prop up a discredited and unpopular Labour administration.

The “one-Wales” government as it is known has had nothing but gentle times so far. The position within the year and the Welsh electoral cycle have not presented the real and serious challenges to the stability of coalition politics. And yet, relations between the two governing parties have been anything but amicable. It all started when Peter Black pointed out the immature and almost laughable way in which back-bench Plaid AMs were failing to adhere to the principal of collective responsibility. They were openly attacking government announcements and claiming that because they were made by Labour Ministers, their party bore no responsibility for them. It beggars belief what the relationship will be like when times actually begin to get tough.

Those within our party who argued against joining Plaid and the Tories in Government, were particularly concerned by the lack of clear costings and affordability of Plaid’s manifesto. The party’s immaturity was clear when it offered a succession of promises to the Welsh public such as free laptops for kids and big grants for first time buyers. This “happy-meal” politics as Kirsty Williams called it, took no account whatsoever of the tougher budgetary times ahead. With the CSR announcement earlier this month, it has become clear that the one-Wales agenda is worryingly unaffordable.

Despite their strong socialist leanings, the Lib Dems in Wales have had many agreements with Plaid on policy over the years. There was hope within the party that Plaid may deliver PR for local Government, a nuclear free Wales and smaller class sizes, but unfortunately all the evidence suggests they have simply been absorbed into a cosy, illiberal, centralist Labour agenda.

They have consistently voted against Lib Dem plans that they once supported and have failed to introduce anything radical or distinctive.

Plaid are a party of immaturity, who value independence as the goal that comes before anything else. That is why they have put themselves into coalition with Labour, they see it as a step towards separation.

It has been a difficult period for the Lib Dems, but at our Welsh Conference last weekend, Mike German was right to say there was a quiet optimism among delegates. While Plaid and Labour monopolise two thirds of the Assembly, we now have the opportunity to be the only progressive, radical alternative to Labour in Wales. We will keep working, keep fighting for a fair, green future for the Welsh people.

Many in the party are looking forward to the leadership hustings coming to Cardiff. We hope that whoever our new leader is will continue to support and nurture Welsh Liberalism as both Ming and Charles have done. We have a lot to offer and we will make the difference.

Dominic Hannigan is PPC for Cardiff South and Penarth.

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12 Comments

  • “Despite their strong socialist leanings, the Lib Dems in Wales have had many agreements with Plaid on policy over the years. ”

    I hope we haven´t got “strong socialist leanings”!

  • For an outsider like me it seems that there are big regional differences within the Liberal Democrats party. Perhaps the Welsh Liberal Democrats do have strong socialist leanings?

  • Jeremy Sanders 22nd Oct '07 - 1:30pm

    All of this only confirms my surprise that there was so little opposition to the coalition within Plaid. There was never going to be much that they could plausibly claim to have got out of it, and in return have given up the opportunity of being able to seriously oppose Labour – their biggest opponent, and source of potential voters.

  • Dominic Hannigan 22nd Oct '07 - 1:33pm

    No, I can confirm that we are liberal to the core and do not have strong socialist leanings. Its one of those grammatical traps that I often seem to fall in.

  • Dominic Hannigan 22nd Oct '07 - 1:36pm

    “All of this only confirms my surprise that there was so little opposition to the coalition within Plaid. There was never going to be much that they could plausibly claim to have got out of it, and in return have given up the opportunity of being able to seriously oppose Labour – their biggest opponent, and source of potential voters.”

    There thinking has always been that the only way to get a referendum on more powers has been to get Labour on side, which because of the phenomenal power of Peter Hain is possibly quite true.

    You are right though, I think it will go down in history as one of the biggest miscalculations in Welsh political history and I think Plaid will have big, big problems in the coming years.

  • Bonkalot Jones 22nd Oct '07 - 2:40pm

    “Plaid are a party of immaturity, who value independence as the goal that comes before anything else. That is why they have put themselves into coalition with Labour, they see it as a step towards separation.”

    “It has been a difficult period for the Lib Dems, but at our Welsh Conference last weekend, Mike German was right to say there was a quiet optimism among delegates. While Plaid and Labour monopolise two thirds of the Assembly, we now have the opportunity to be the only progressive, radical alternative to Labour in Wales. We will keep working, keep fighting for a fair, green future for the Welsh people.”

    Which roughly translated means you are like an indecisive virgin, who quite likes the idea of being married and having a family, but just can’t bring herself to doing anything so awful as allowing someone of the opposite sex to pop her cherry. And when she does start to realise you can’t have one without the other, she can’t decide who to get into bed with…

    By the time she gets around to making that decision she may well find her ovaries have shrivelled up, and it is too late to bear children.

    Folks, it is ‘make your mind up time’ – or maybe you are hoping a masterful partner will come and ravish you so that you don’t have to make a decision on the matter, and you are forced into bed with someone and then hope your dad can use the barrel of a gun to engineer a ‘shotgun wedding’..

  • Bonkalot Jones 22nd Oct '07 - 4:27pm

    “Now, 100 days have passed since Plaid decided to kick the prospect of alternating government in Wales into touch and instead prop up a discredited and unpopular Labour administration.”

    This has given the best laugh I have had all week!

    I seem to recall it was the Lib Dems who couldn’t be arsed to get into Government, and thereby put the kibosh on the only chance Plaid had to alter the status quo.

    As Jose Mourinho might say if he was a Liberal Democrat ‘I zink I would like to make ze omelette, and I zink I ‘ave some eggs, but I have to zink very carefully about whether I want to break ze eggs, so I shall ‘ave a long consultation over ze weekend in Llandudno..’

    Ace work, team..

  • Dominic Hannigan 22nd Oct '07 - 10:47pm

    Ah, now I understand the rather poor series of metaphors in post number six.

    “I seem to recall it was the Lib Dems who couldn’t be arsed to get into Government, and thereby put the kibosh on the only chance Plaid had to alter the status quo.”

    I am afraid you recall wrong. Following the NEC meeting where the agreement was not ratified,it took a grand total of two days for the Welsh Lib Dem Special Conference to be called by the membership and the All Wales Accord between Plaid , The Tories and us to be formally agreed by the party.

    Plaid then had a simple and straightforward choice; to fulfill their election promise to “kick Labour into touch” or to become Labour’s little helpers. Sadly, they chose the latter, and no amount of dodgy metaphors and poor Mourinho analogies can change that fact.

  • Martin J Ball 23rd Oct '07 - 1:25am

    Wel, as they used to say (and some of us still do):
    Cymru Rydd – Cymru Ryddfrydol

  • Bonkalot Jones 23rd Oct '07 - 9:37am

    Dominic – can I therefore take it that Lib Dems are ruling out ever being ‘Labour’s Little Helpers’ in Westminster, but might consider a coalition with the Tories ?

    Martin – Surely ‘Cymru Democratiaid Ryddfrydol’ [if not ‘Democrataidd..]

  • Dominic Hannigan 23rd Oct '07 - 10:37am

    “Dominic – can I therefore take it that Lib Dems are ruling out ever being ‘Labour’s Little Helpers’ in Westminster, but might consider a coalition with the Tories ?”

    If we ever run an election campaign promising the people of Britain that we will “kick Labour into touch,” then it would be very easy to see how we would be judged by the electorate if we then propped them up.

    I have nothing against coalitions. I just feel that Plaid made the wrong choice for the people of Wales. An alternating system of power in Cardiff would have been incredibly healthy at this stage of Welsh democracy. Even Labour friends of mine have acknowledged that.

  • Kevin O'Connor 23rd Oct '07 - 10:50am

    “Dominic – can I therefore take it that Lib Dems are ruling out ever being ‘Labour’s Little Helpers’ in Westminster, but might consider a coalition with the Tories ?”

    The point is that if we were to go into coalition with anyone we would get something for it. The agreement we had with Plaid and the Tories contained a significant number of our manifesto pledges. It also contained a significant number of Plaids.

    However, the colaition deal that has landed Plaid and Labour in government is one which has seen Plaid renege on several of its key manifesto commitments – no more nuclear power in Wales, fairer voting in local elections and fairer local taxation based on the ability to pay to name just a few.

    The government Plaid are in has little difference in style or complexion to the Laboru one we had in April. That’s what makes them Labour’s little helpers.

    I’m sure if there was LD Lab coalition at Westminster the style and policies of the current government would have to change a great deal.

    And just to finish: The All Wales Accord was agreed and ratified by the Welsh Liberal Democrats long before Plaid joined government with Labour. That’s just a simple fact.

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