Lib-Lab?

As we come to the end of the One Wales government the natural question is who will form the next Administration. Polling suggests that Labour may get a razor thin majority. If those polls are correct it will put a huge amount of pressure on the Labour’s Assembly group. We have already seen Peter Hain, prompted by his own political irrelevance, doing all he can to scupper any potential deals with Plaid in future. He, and other anti-devolution MPs, would no doubt move mountains to force their spokesperson on devolved matters (First Minister), as he was relegated to by Peter Hain’s camp recently, to go it alone.

Now we should of course remember Peter’s track record on these things, he claimed that there would be no coalition between Labour and Plaid only a matter of weeks before it was ratified and stated a referendum would not take place and could not be won. That referendum took place on March 3rd with an overwhelming Yes vote. My constituency neighbour is a divisive figure, and therefore despite these credibility setbacks he will continue to undermine his Welsh Leader. This is a significant challenge for Carwyn Jones, his authority will be fatally undermined within his own party and outside if he fails to get the Shadow Secretary of State in line.

Going it alone for Labour would of course lead to far less freedom than what is enjoyed at present. Labour AMs have stated privately that a majority as small as 2 or 3 would be very restrictive. Ministers could not go on visits or hold meetings during voting time. AMs could not get ill or fall pregnant. It would be a government in shackles.

The obvious option for stability would be One Wales 2. However the elephant in the room for Labour in Wales is what can they really offer Plaid Cymru? In negotiating One Wales Plaid Cymru achieved significant social justice, cultural and constitutional concessions. We put an end to Labour’s hospital closure programme, we delivered fundamental changes to the way the economy is run, we delivered a new Welsh language act making Welsh an official language, we exposed the way Wales is funded unfairly and most of all delivered constitutional change for the better with the referendum on further powers. These were all Plaid victories at the negotiating table and delivered in Government.

The alternative, which has been briefed up by Labour Westminster sources, would be a Labour-Lib Dem coalition. We know from previous experience here in Wales and lately at UK government the Lib Dems seek power for no specific purpose. A Lib-Lab deal would therefore be attractive to Labour knowing that they wouldn’t need to concede anything politically meaningful. A Lib-Lab deal in Wales could also pave the way for a post 2015 deal at Westminster.

However the fact that Labour sources are talking up a deal with the Liberals highlights the vacuity of their current political strategy in Wales.

How could Labour in Wales present the party as a serious alternative to the Westminster government whilst being in coalition with one of the UK government parties? It would simply lack any credibility. Voters would be asking how they could trust Labour, who on the one hand are standing solely on an anti-UK government platform at this election, whilst at the same time manoeuvring a deal with Nick Clegg’s party. A potential Lib-Lab deal would effectively sign Labour up to delivering the Tory-Lib Dem cuts agenda and make a mockery of their entire campaign. They would not only be in government in Wales but in government by association in Westminster, responsible by association for the cuts inflicted on Welsh families.

To paraphrase a tired Labour campaigning slogan; Vote Labour get Lib Dems

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