I'm the Hen Ferchetan. This is my take on the world through the eyes of Wales. While mostly about Welsh politics (that most famous of dour topics!) I try to scatter some humour around, but I doubt anyone but me will find it funny! Have a read, and if it bores you then feel free to never come back!

Friday, 1 February 2008

Fun and Games Down the Bay

Over the recent week or two there's a feeling that the Assembly is getting periously close to the farce that was the seating arrangement debate. We have had a recent flood of opposittion motions criticising the London Government over all kind of things.

The Lib Dem and Tory tactics are clear, propose these motions and watch with glee as Plaid vote against them even though they really support them. The latest edition of this cat and mouse game had the bizzare situation of both Labour and Plaid AM's agreeing with the motion, voting against it, then privately criticising London anyway, telling them that voting against the motion hurt badly.

Each and every party in this mess needs to look at themselves a bit closer, none more so than Plaid.

There's no doubt that for the Tories and Libs they can make a lot of political point scoring from this tactic. Whenever a Plaid AM or Plaid candidate mentions one of these subjects in the future, the opposition can point out that Plaid voted against them. On the other hand by using Assembly time (and, more importantly, the rare commodity of Assembly publicity) for petty point scoring they are hurting the whole Devolution project. Welsh people want to see the Assembly DOING things, not arguying back and forth on whether they should criticise London or not. Whether these motions were passed or rejected does not make one tiny difference to the life of any Welshman (apart from the AM's themselves of course).

Then there's Labour. What on earth are they doing refusing to criticise London, then privately doing so anyway? Clearly this is an indication that, to the Welsh Labour in the Assembly, protecting the party in London is more important than being honest about what they, and Welsh voters, actually think. Devolution was supposed to bring in a whole new style of government. By refusing to criticse London even when they disagree with them Labour AM's are making the Assembly Government look like the little kid of the London Government, not allowed to do or say anything to hurt the masters over the border. Labour AM's should look at to who they owe the greater duty, the people of Wales or the British Labour Party.

Finally we come to Plaid. Now, with all the other parties I've managed to explain why they are doing what they are, and why I think they are wrong. With Plaid I can't even do the first part. What possible logic is there in Plaid voting against these motions? Is it some misplaced loyalty to Labour? Plaid members voted for the One-Wales Government. That government was based on a very specific document which stated:

"Matters reserved to the UK Parliament, other than those mentioned in this Programme, are outside the scope of this Agreement."

In other words, there is no duty on Plaid AM's to blindly follow Labour on these issues. So why are they doing it? Voting for these motions would do no damage to the One Wales Government, only to the London government and the Labour party (and that would be very minimal damage in all honesty).

Yes, being in Government carries responsibility and is a steep learning curve. But by voting against motions which they actually agree on, Plaid are doing themselves, the Assembly and the One-Wales Government serious damage.

Let's hope that the Lib Dems and Tories will grow up very soon, that Labour will realise very soon it is supposed to represent the people of Wales and that Plaid realise even sooner that they have merely joined Labour in Government, not merged parties.

These people are supposed to be acting for OUR benefit, not their own.


bob the gob said...

All the parties are playing a strategic game - the Lib Dems and Tories trying to split Plaid from Labour; Plaid trying to split Labour into Unionist and Devolutionist camps, Labour trying to split Plaid into Devolutionist and Independentist camps.
What a waste.

Given the appalling poverty, deprivation, ill health and poor educational performance in our communities - let alone the need to plan for a post-oil economy in terms of energy and environment - I would have thought our AMs would have been better served spending their allowances on proper researchers to find some answers.

Instead we find that a quarter of them have got their wives/husbands/kids working for them.

Mark Isherwood admitted he pays his wife to answer the phone at home - who does he pay to wipe his arse?

Welsh Spin said...

The government parties have decided on a policy of ALWAYS voting against opposition party motions irrespective of the subject matter. This not only underlines who is in power and who is not, it also avoids endless Lab/PC negotiation over vexatious motions put forward by the Cons & LD's with the sole purpose of highlighting splits in the coalition.

FWIW I think Plaid's agreement to take this high handed policy from day one (rather than being harried into it down the line) is an interesting demonstration of their committment to the OWA and making the coalition work.

Hen Ferchetan said...

Gobby Bob - I dont have much trouble with AM's or MP's employing their own family to work for them, after all every other employer under the sun does it (How many "Jones & Sons" are there in Wales!) All I care is that they make it absolutely transparent, with every oenny and every hour accounted for.

Spinner - if the whole government always votes against opposition motions, what's the point of having opposition? We might as well just let Rhodri decide everything.

One of the things that really pissed me off during the last Labour administration was the fact that every single vote in the Assembly had the same result - government v opposition. With only 60 members it's hard for any member to vote against their party as they do in London.

When did voting for what you believe is best for Wales become such a rarity?

Anonymous said...

"The government parties have decided on a policy of ALWAYS voting against opposition party motions irrespective of the subject matter"

Interesting - and a major surprise to most members of Plaid Cymru. I don't think the party's National Executive is aware of this 'decision'; and I suspect that it will even come as a surprise to most of the AM's. But they've gone along with it in practice - words like spineless and gutless spring to mind - and indulged in silly game playing in the process.

If it is really the policy of Plaid, then the Tories' next step is obvious - a motion praising the government for something or other, and another - with 1st March on the horizon - calling for a bank holiday on St David's Day. Watching Plaid voting against the latter in particular should be fun.

welshspin said...


There is no point to opposaition save to oppose, harry and offer an alternative. The 2006 GoWA has changed the Assembly from corporate body to seperate executive and legislature. The accepoted way such systems work is that ministers propose and the Assembly as a whole disposes. It maybe that the consensual, corporate type system envisaged in the 1997 Green paper could never have worked. What is clear is that it was never seriously tried.

Anon 3rd Feb is probably right, but I doubt it will pose Lab/PC many problems. Apple pie motions (e.g. congratulating Ryan Jones and the boys on the triumph at twickers) that don't throw up issues for either party can be safely supported. A St David's Day BH is covered in the OWA is it not? One can find excuses for refusing to support most motio9ns if one thinks hard enough. I recall a semi-serious suggestion during the last coalition that an opposition motion be rejected on the grounds that it contained incorrect use of a past participle! I couldn't personally really imagine Edwina delivering that to William Graham with a straight face, but ...

Hen Ferchetan said...

"One can find excuses for refusing to support most motio9ns if one thinks hard enough."

So that's it? We just get to sit back and watch them "make excuses for refusing to support"? Is that really what we want from a legislature? If a Tory came up with the best idea ever tomorrow, the Assembly would vote it down because of party politics - doesn't that strike you as a little sad spinner?

Welsh Spin said...

It's all a bit sad Hen - but that's the nature of the system we have (and one it has to be said which all parties called for).

The fact is that playing semantic political games with motions and amendments is all the opposition can do. They are deliberately trying to trip up the two governing parties, particularly Plaid. In government it's vital to focus on what's really important. That's not what the Tories are saying, but what Ministers are DOING. Implementing two manifesto's within a single budget is challenging enough without adding the ideas of tories and LDs. Plaid can wield most clout in Cabinet and in Crickhowell Hse / Cathays Park by not raising Labour hackles over extraneous issues outwith the OWA, but concentrating their demands on the issues where they need Labour in Wales to convince their colleagues in Westminster and Whitehall to co-operate over policy issues. One is either in government or in opposition. The halfway house option of "confidence & supply" while staying out of the cabinet was (rightly) rejected by Plaid and they are demonstrating a clearsighted comprehension of what this must entail. I reiterate that I am impressed by the discipline and will to power Plaid have shown over the past 6 months. Only time will tell if they can keep it up as the going gets tougher and the Westminster elections loom closer.