Thursday, May 12, 2016

Uncertainty in Cardiff Bay

"Events dear boy, events" have been happening at the National Assembly for Wales down at Cardiff Bay today. Beautifully chaotic events, charged with possibilities and promise of exciting uncertain times ahead. Must admit I did not see it coming - which makes the chaos all the more interesting. Like a chinook rumbling up behind a high hedge and suddenly rising up to fill the horizon. As I sit at my keyboard, I have no idea where it's going to end. Are dreams of real change the triumph of hope over realism? "Time will tell" dear boy.

Let's start with the election of Plaid Cymru's Elin Jones as Presiding Officer. Elin is very sound, and knows Mid-Wales and understands rural. And she's a friend of mine. So that's good. Lord Elis Thomas, whom Elin defeated in the vote is also a good friend. He knows the job better than anyone, but I suppose he's already had a fair stint. I'd have liked to see David Melding as PO, but when he ruled himself out, Elin is a good alternative. And Ann Jones as her Deputy is OK. Though she won't have much time to follow Rhyl FC now!

But it was the vote for First Minister that really set the cat among the pigeons. More like set the lions among the wildebeest I'd say. Like most people I had assumed Labour's Carwyn Jones to be a shoe-in. Yes, thought there would be a Leanne Wood challenge to him, but I did not think it would be 29-29. Bet Elin panicked a bit. "What on earth do I do now"? The answer was "No idea" I suspect - except to suspend the sitting and come back next week to have another go. Bit of time to think. But there's no reason why it should be different next week. Plaid AMs are voting for their own, Tories and UKIP are voting to oust Labour. Unless illness, accident or fear of earthquakes intervenes the 29 anti-Carwyn votes will stand. The most enjoyable aspect of all this is that none of the ubiquitous experts, pundits, no-all's etc. had a clue until just before it all hit the fan.

Now, personally, I like Carwyn Jones, and most of the other Labour Assembly stalwarts. It's not personal. But I've always wanted to see Labour in opposition. So many voters in Wales assume Labour will always win.  It makes friends of mine oppose giving any power to the Welsh Govt because "it will always be Labour". If nothing else today's turbulence shows us that is not the case.

But where is all this going. In truth, I do not know. Tories and UKIP positions are easy to understand. They want Labour out. And I'm with them on that. The big question is "What do Plaid want"? If it's just to force Labour to offer them a good deal, I can understand that. That's what the Welsh commentariat (so blindsided by today) will be thinking. But what if Plaid mean it. What if they actually want to take power. The compromises involved deserve a bit of serious reflection.

Must admit I cannot see a Plaid/Tory/UKIP coalition working for 5 yrs. So best plan short term. It means Plaid would need to go for power with a very limited programme - looking for immediate wins. Plaid's immediate programme for Govt would have to be limited to what Tories and UKIP would support. And there is more than you would think. Perhaps a Wales Bill incorporating financial accountability. Perhaps even a changed PR system - one designed not to deliver the Labour one-party-state the current system was designed for. Perhaps a genuine policy for rural Wales. Perhaps a comprehensive North-South road improvement. Oh the possibilities are so exciting. But it will mean risk, ambition and leadership. Is it there? Is this dream I see before me real. Never felt more sorry to have lost my place as an Assembly Member than I do tonight. 

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