Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Rainbow Coalitions - The Case For.

I see that ThinkScotland, a right-of-centre 'thinktank' is being extensively reported in today's Herald as recommending the Scottish Tories to contemplate a 'rainbow coalition' with the SNP and the Green Party to form a Scottish Government after the Scottish Parliamentary elections next May. This seems to me to be sound thinking, which has more than a passing relevance to Wales.

If democracy is to become at all meaningful in either Scotland or Wales, there must be some prospect of a non-Labour Government. Unless there is a seismic shift in voting patterns, this cannot occur unless there is some form of agreement between the SNP and the Tories in Scotland - and between Plaid Cymru and the Tories in Wales. It may suit the short-term electoral strategy of both the SNP and Plaid Cymru to paint the Tories as right-wing anti-devolutionists but the reality is that over the last 7 years, the Tories in both Scotland and Wales have changed beyond recognition from the anti-devolution Tories of 1997. Many of us see making a success of devolution as the best way to strenghthen the union. There is a lot more common ground than one might think.

The next 4 months are going to be an interesting period in Scottish and Welsh politics. Every party will be seeking to portray itself as distinctive, while striving to maximise the number of MSPs and AMs - while at the same time assessing how the arithmatic is going to work out. Things look particularly interesting in Scotland because current polls indicate that the ruling Labour/Lib Dem coalition will not have enough seats to carry on - and the Tories may finish up as power brokers.

So what is going to happen in Wales. It seems likely that Labour is going to lose several seats and be unable to continue as a minority government. For political reasons, I cannot rule out the prospect of the Tories winning over half the seats but (and I hope that I will not be portrayed as unduly defeatist) I do concede the possibility that we might not quite make it this time. Surely, neither the Lib Dems nor Plaid Cymru will want to keep a defeated Rhodri Morgan in office. I just have this feeling that the Welsh Conservatives will be an important part of in the shake-up come next May.

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