It all kicks off in Wales…

I suspect there may be a bit of buyers’ remorse setting in amongst the Welsh electorate soon if this afternoon’s shenanigans in the Welsh Assembly are anything to go by. Call me bitter if you like, but I think that swapping a conscientious Liberal Democrat group with its heart absolutely in the right place with a whole bunch of UKIP is not the wisest thing they could have done.

I go out for a couple of hours expecting that when I return, Carwyn Jones will have been elected First Minister. The only alternative would be for Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrat Kirsty Williams, the Tories and UKIP (who have just ditched their Welsh leader and elected Neil Hamilton, yes, THAT Neil Hamilton as leader of their Assembly Group to gang up and outvote Labour. Then they could all govern together. That wouldn’t be awkward at all.

Incredibly, that, believe it or not, is what happened. Not Kirsty, of course. She was much too sensible, as you would expect.

That meant that the vote for First Minister was tied leaving an unholy mess for Elin Jones, the brand new Presiding Officer in her first session in the chair, to sort out. 

It is difficult to see how Leanne Wood can come out of this with any credibility at all. As the BBC reported at 15:05:

AMs are voting for FM in roll call by alphabetical order, so the last two names are, crucially, Kirsty Williams and Leanne Wood.

She says she didn’t stitch it up with the Tories and UKIP, so she must have worked out what was happening by the time she cast her vote. A mature leader would have just said something like: “I didn’t expect that to happen. There’s no way I could govern with that lot, so I’m abstaining.” Carwyn would then have won the vote 29-28 and would have owed her a favour and she would have retained her dignity.

The whole thing has just very quickly made us aware of the potential for chaos in the new Assembly. UKIP and the Tories are clearly along for the LOLZ.

Kirsty Williams had this to say after the vote:

I was not re-elected into the National Assembly to support a ragtag coalition made up of UKIP Assembly Members who at the moment can’t even agree with each other.

Obviously either Plaid or the Tories will have to back down before the Assembly reconvenes next week. The sensible thing would be for Leanne Wood to withdraw her nomination. I’m not so convinced that Carwyn Jones should offer her any concession to do so. Labour could just call her bluff and watch while she tries to govern for the small number of hours any such coalition would last.

The parties could muck about until 2 June before the Welsh Secretary calls fresh elections but, however much of an opportunity that might be for us, I suspect common sense will prevail.

I am idly wondering if Armando Ianucci is around to write the story of a Plaid/UKIP/Tory coalition. That would make great television.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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26 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 11th May '16 - 5:55pm

    This provided some late afternoon excitement! Plaid Cymru and Leanne Wood are denying doing a deal with the Tories and UKIP, but as Alastair Campbell said about New Labour and Rupert Murdoch:

    “you can do deals with Murdoch without saying you were doing a deal. Did we do that kind of thing? Maybe.”.

    I would offer some concessions to Plaid Cymru if I was Labour. They should not act like they have a majority.

  • paul barker 11th May '16 - 6:11pm

    This is just the sort of thing that puts people off politics, it looks both infantile & cynical. The only practical effect is to delay the new Senedd getting on with its work.

  • David Evershed 11th May '16 - 6:40pm

    We desperately need to differentiate ourselves from other parties.

    Lib Dems should not be seen to be propping up a minority Labour government in Wales and looking like a Labour lite party. Labour is a centralist, authoritarian party. Lib Dems are a localist, liberal party.

    Kirsty should at the very least abstain.

  • Antony Hook Antony Hook 11th May '16 - 6:47pm

    Make Kirsty FM of a national unity government….

  • @ David Evershed – abstaining would have been propping up a UKIP/Conservative/Plaid Government, Kirsty did the proper and sensible thing. That alone differentiates her from the people voting for Leanne Woods.

  • Leekliberal 11th May '16 - 7:13pm

    David Evershed says –
    ‘Kirsty should at the very least abstain’ I disagree. What is in any way attractive about a Tory/UKIP/Nationalist coalition apart from the entertainment value during the half-hour it would take to self-destruct. She made the correct and principled decision that Labour for all their many deficiencies are the only practical lead party of Government and should be allowed to form a minority Government. We can expect the Welsh NHS and schools to further deteriorate under Labour and perhaps they may vote for us in much higher numbers in future.

  • Leekliberal 11th May ’16 – 7:13pm………We can expect the Welsh NHS and schools to further deteriorate under Labour and perhaps they may vote for us in much higher numbers in future…
    Well, that’s a change from the, “We put country before party”, defence of our coalition fiasco…

  • Richard Underhill 11th May '16 - 7:51pm

    Is it legal for someone to be both a member of the Assembly and an MEP? It would not be for the national parliament (affecting Sarah Ludford) or for the Northern Ireland assembly (as per campaigning by APNI).
    UKIP should choose. The EP is by party list and would not cause a bye-election. Is the Welsh assembly seat first-past-the-post or party list? The EP might pay more, but does UKIP really want to be there?

  • I think it would have been good for us had Kirsty Williams supported the Plaid bid to run the government.

    What Wales needs is for a potential alternative to decades of Labour to be seen as real by the people. Even the SNP did a deal with the Conservatives to get their first foothold in governance. Ultimately, the Lib Dems could find it easier to pick up seats if we stand on a milestone that we have achieved in government. A rainbow coalition was a lost opportunity last time around. We should seize on it now.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 11th May '16 - 8:18pm

    @Democrat: I’m the last person to praise Carwyn Jones’ ineffectual administration, but those failings would be irrelevant compared to the chaos of a UKIP/Tory/Plaid coalition which would have lasted several hours before imploding. Where is there any common ground between Leanne Woods and Neil Hamilton? I mean, really?!

  • Caron LindsayCaron Lindsay 11th May ’16 – 8:18pm Where is there any common ground between Leanne Woods and Neil Hamilton? I mean, really?!

    Two ‘Ns’?

  • Why could Leanne Woods not be elected as First Minister and then formed a government with Labour and Kirsty? Broad Centre-Left. A coalition does not have to be led by the leader of the largest component.

  • I’ve often commented here on plaid’s lack of principle, I think their putting Leeanne forward was a naive protest, a bluff which was called by opportunisitic Tories and kippers. The context though is an ineffective yet imperious Labour party (which got about a third of the 50% or so of votes cast, yet are just short of a majority; a riven bunch of conservatives; plaid (are they social democrats, are they christian democrats – does anyone know); Kirsty and the squabbling kippers, whose leader doesn’t live in wales!
    Long term, labour will say plaid did deals with the kippers and tories, and people will believe it.
    short term, we have no govt, and all sorts of issues to be tackled. And Neil Hamilton!
    I suppose at least it’s not dull … and I expect the kippers will find surviving in yhe assembly much harder than they expect.

  • The Welsh fiasco is symptomatic of how disgraceful politics has become…..Leanne Woods assured the electorate that she would NEVER deal with Conservatives/UKIP and within hours is explaining why she has…Is it any wonder that few believe anything/anyone says? ….

    In England David Cameron has issued an apology to Suliman Gani, the Muslim cleric he accused of supporting Islamic State in the House of Commons, saying he regrets “any misunderstanding” that had arisen…..
    Having lied to parliament, and having brought UK political campaigning to a new low, Cameron says, “Sorry”…So that makes everything OK?

  • Why would they need to be a coalition? All Wood needs is support in one vote.

    Are Labour really going to vote against legislation that they otherwise agree with but proposed by PC, just because PC proposed it? If that is the case, who are the real juveniles here?

  • “Lib Dems should not be seen to be propping up a minority Labour government in Wales and looking like a Labour lite party.”

    I don’t believe that fairly reflects Kirsty’s decision. When the Tories came closest to winning the election in 2010 the Lib Dems did the right thing in having a conversation with them before having a conversation with a rainbow that weren’t the biggest party, and here again the Lib Dems have tried to ensure a stable government that best reflects the views of the voters (even if it means offering some support to another party the Lib Dems disagree with) which should be commended. It may not win votes further down the line, especially if Labour and Lib Dems are seen to be overly close, but it is the right, sensible thing to do – especially when UKIP wish to elect a person who didn’t deliver their best result in history and wishes to clash with the UKIP leader.

  • At the very least it’s got Lib Dems talking about Wales! This must be the first post on the Welsh Lib Dems to have more than 5 comments on this page.

  • Matt (Bristol) 12th May '16 - 9:45am

    I really cannot imagine Wales having assembly elections, a referendum on the EU, then assembly elections again, in one year.

    I am sure something will be done, by the mechanisms of brinkmanship – this is a theatrical opening shot to serious and drawn out (and probably semi-secret) Labour-Plaid negotiations leading to a bad-tempered coalition or minority government pact that will eventually unravel, but will work long enough.

    Surely no party in Wales (bar possibly the Tories) has the money to re-fight the election later in the year?

    LibDems have to tone down the outrage a little, here (although I agree neither Plaid, UKIP or the Tories come out looking very good) – it’s clumsy, but it does happen in proportional and semi-proportional systems. Too much spluttering and we look like we don’t have faith in coalition government or PR.

  • Tsar Nicholas 12th May '16 - 10:18am

    I would think that if there is another election in June then the Tories in Brecon and radnor will make a huge point about how Kirsty supported Carwyn Jones.

  • Gwyn Williams 12th May '16 - 10:24am

    Just to clarify, if Kirsty had abstained , then Leanne Wood would have been elected First Minister not Carwyn Jones. Whether she voted for Leanne or abstained, then the result would have been the same. By voting for Carwyn, Kirsty blocked Leanne Wood.
    During the Assembly election campaign, Plaid Cymru repeatedly ruled out any coalition with anybody and proposed a one party minority Government. This government would have had 12 members out of 60, a classic recipe for instability. Kirsty has laid out her conditions to support any party and to see our policies implemented. The key to that is a stable administration.

  • Huff, puff, huff, puff. Coalition negotiations are inevitably a messy horse trade. Accusing the other side of causing the mess and of perfidy is par for the course but it’s fairly hypocritical.

    This party above all others ought to know that rushed deals don’t work!

    For what it’s worth, my view is that a Plaid-UKIP deal is a recipe for chaos, one which Kirsty Williams has done well to steer clear of. Labour are a lesser brush to be tarred with!

  • I’m sure that Wales can sort itself out in the next few days.

    But isn’t the wider point Labour’s arrogance? They condemned the Lib Dems for jumping into bed with the Tories for 5 years, arguably delivering the Tory majority in the process. And having eviscerated the junior coalition partner, what do they find when it’s them needing support? In Norfolk County Council, the Greens have allowed the Tories to take over in preference to a Labour-led coalition. In Wales, Plaid, Con and UKIP joining forces against them. In Milton Keynes the Lib Dem group refusing to enter a coalition when the 2 parties have equal seats. Labour’s past antics are coming back to haunt them – surely a case of reaping what you sow.

  • Is this the same Leanne Wood who told Farage he should be ashamed of himself ?

  • Kirsty should sit back and wait until fresh elections are called and prepare to get the votes the party needs to win those extra seats! Lib Dems from across the UK should prepare to spend their holidays in Wales helping that effort.

  • Richard Underhill 18th May '16 - 12:19pm

    A Plaid Cymru MP has just announced that he is expecting the UK government to introduce another Wales Bill in order to try to settle the constitutional position.
    Would that mean another referendum in Wales? A Lib Dem federal conference delegate from Wales told me that supporting the party in Wales had chosen to use all available money to get a YES vote in the previous referendum.

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