Tag Archives: peter-black

Who killed the rainbow?

An unseemly spat has broken out between Bethan Jenkins and Peter Black on Twitter:

PB: @bethanjenkins you were considering rainbow option weeks after LD exec vote. Your rejected it. Nothing delusional about that.
BJ: @peterblackwales- your party refused it before that.
PB: @bethanjenkins no it didnt Bethan.My party voted for it. Stop rewriting history.
BJ: @peterblackwales i think you are the one doing that.
PB: @bethanjenkins not at all. Review the events not the myths generated by your spin doctors.

…and so on. Speaking as an outsider, what surprises me is that this is even a matter of debate. The timetable of events is quite clear:

24 May 2009: Rainbow Coalition talks in disarray after Lib Dem NEC rejects the proposal on the chair’s casting vote.
25 May 2009: Rhodri Morgan reelected first minister unopposed.
26 May 2009: Special Lib Dem conference overturns executive decision.
27 June 2009: Labour and Plaid form “One Wales” coalition.

Now, you could argue a lot of things here. The first thing would be that the Lib Dems were badly split, chaotic, unreliable and not exactly broadcasting their fitness to govern. You could argue that Plaid were only doing the sensible thing from both Wales’ and their own best interests. If you did, I’d be inclined to agree with you. What you can’t argue however is that the Lib Dems were the ones to kill the rainbow coalition talks – that responsibility rests with Plaid and Plaid alone. If you read the quotes from both Mike German and Nick Bourne at the time the deal was struck, it is clear that both of them considered the Rainbow deal to still be on the table. It was Plaid who walked away.

I simply don’t understand why Bethan is denying responsibility here instead of taking pride in walking away from a deal which I sniffed of stitch up (at least from the Tories’ point of view – they hardly seemed to be negotiating at all). I suspect it has something to do with the fact that she doesn’t feel particularly proud of Plaid’s record in office.

But the other thing about this whole debacle worth noting is that what was bad for political parties was very good indeed for democracy. One of the common criticisms of proportional voting systems is that they lead to government being stitched up by people in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms. What the 2007 Welsh (and for that matter, Scottish) experience shows is that this is far from the case. The Welsh negotiations were held in public – too public for a lot of people’s liking. They took place over a period of weeks and the challenge was to sort out an agreement that best reflected how Wales as a whole had voted.

Contrast that with FPTP. Normally there are no formal coalition deals, to be sure. But since all parties are coalitions of interest, that isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of negotiations going on behind the scenes. But ultimately, as the typical Labour backbencher will agree (off the record and out of the earshot of the whips), their power is strictly limited. The real power lies in the party funders and the pollsters. With so much focused on winning those all-important swing votes in those all-important marginal seats, the number of people who have a real say in proceedings is just a handful.

To be sure, parties are dependent on funders and pollsters in elections regardless of the electoral system, but their role is much more limited. Parties have to fight for every vote instead of being forced to take most of their core vote for granted and the party or coalition which goes on to take office has to have a mandate from at least 50% of the electorate.

The negotiations surrounding the running of Wales in 2007 were not very attractive, but there is little doubt that process was a robust one.

Paul Flynn a victim of net censorship? Don’t make me laugh

Paul Flynn is crying foul over the Parliamentary authorities’ decision to force him to pay for his own blog. Prior to that, he had tried charging the costs to the taxpayer via the Communications Allowance.

Derek Wyatt has also joined the fray:

“They don’t get in the way of my letters or phone calls, so why do they want to interfere in what I put on the web? They only want me to publish anodyne videos that no one will watch.

“They have got it completely wrong. They don’t understand the net. They simply don’t get it. It is like 1984.”

1984? How does this in any relate to state surveillance and state-sponsored torture?

Let’s be clear about some things: not a single MP is being censored or told what they can and can’t say – the issue is whether they can use Parliamentary expenses to do it. Paul Flynn is apparently shelling out £250 for his not particularly impressively designed Typepad blog. Looking at Typepad’s pricing structure, I can’t for the life of me understand why he is paying more than $50 for the service – so what is the other £180-ish being on?

Peter Black
and Lynne Featherstone‘s blogs doesn’t cost them, or the taxpayer, a penny yet by all accounts is considerably more successful. Reason? They haven’t confused style for content. By arguing the toss over this, the only thing Flynn has achieved is to illustrate an example of the ‘sense of entitlement‘ that Sir Christopher Kelly was warning about last week.

German fights to put off Welsh Leadership contest

My mole in Aberwystwyth has been bloody useless this morning and failed to notify me of Mike German’s decision on whether or not to restand as leader of the Welsh Assembly. To be fair, the mole was exactly right about what they throught German would say, and so it has passed. He has decided to restand (and presumably stand for the vacancy left by Lembit yesterday), but only on the basis of standing down again in 12 months.

Why the lame duck act? Simple: it’s called Operation Stop Peter. If Mike had stood down, the only viable candidate at the moment would have been Peter Black. If Mike hadn’t stood down, Peter would almost certainly have stood against him, and possibly would have won. With no-one else in the running (Eleanor Burnham has repeatedly implied she might stand but hasn’t been setting out her stall in the way Peter has, and as far as I can see lacks his power base), the idea would appear to be to create a 12 month “open vacancy” period with a view to persuading someone else to stand.

With only six Assembly Members, the options are a bit thin on the ground. Kirsty Williams is often sited as the heir to Excalibur but she hasn’t shown much enthusiasm for pulling the sword out of the stone thus far. This is partly because she has a young family, but if this is the case her youngest will still be 2 in 2008 (at least according to that unimpeachable font of all knowledge Wikipedia). The only other option that I’ve heard people mention is Jenny Randerson.

So we must hope that a transitionary period will work and that a strong challenger will emerge from it. In the meantime, we must hope that an essentially rudderless Assembly party will not cause significant problems for the Welsh local elections next May; I suspect it will be effectively neutral, neither helping nor hurting local parties’ chances of making serious inroads and defending their territory. But it will only work in the long run if the potential candidates start sticking their heads above the parapet and begin to engage in a debate on the party’s future.