Letter from Wales: Threats to Labour are rumbling in the Welsh Senate

by Julian Ruck

Having spent some time attending press briefings and familiarising myself with the general goings on at the Welsh Senate, I am able to draw a number of conclusions, by way of pure observation you understand.

Upon entering this concrete, modernist incubator for the first time, I was immediately struck by the fact that reception staff had little idea of when and where press briefings were taking place – the replies to my questions were, “Sorry, no-one tells us anything.”

My first impression I have to say, was one of objectionable serenity, there was something of the Sinai about the place. Empty and unpopulated. Having bought a cup of coffee, I began to wonder if I had turned up during a holiday recess, until a horde of school children appeared and delivered me from my isolated anticipation.

I watched and listened to a teacher explaining what the, and I quote, “Welsh Parliament” was all about. Echoes of Ignatius ap Loyola here thinks I, you know “Give me the boy….” Anyway, having listened to this fanciful titbit of nationalist propaganda, I eventually found my way to the press briefing room.

The Tories, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems, all appeared one after the other to advise journos of what they were up to, and I must say that I was impressed by their general openness and willingness to answer my challenging questions, albeit that most of said questions were off topic.

There wasn’t much fire and brimstone exploding from the Welsh media journos though, who struck me as a rather passive and unrepentant  bunch. A Paxman? An Andrew Neil? Definitely not, but they did seem mildly exercised by the esoteric drafting amendments to the Social Services and Well Being (Wales) Bill – not much here of public interest you may be wondering, particularly when one considers the political scandals that break out in Wales on a daily basis, but then Welsh journos hardly enjoy a reputation for brutal and fearless political commentary, do they? (John Humphries excepted, but he doesn’t count as he operates from London)

Readers will observe that so far I have made no reference to Welsh Labour in this particular column. And why?

The answer is simple. Evasion is the Bull’s eye of Welsh Labour’s political agenda when it comes to any kind of serious scrutiny. No-one apart from the co-operative and friendly types, are ever advised of when their press briefings are taking place (usually at the last minute) and this also applies to press releases.

‘Very strange’ as one politico commented when I asked about this approach to democratic accountability. Indeed all the opposition politicians are fully aware of Welsh Labour’s distaste for journalistic contrariness but as one insider pointed out, “If nothing else, one has to admire the discipline of Carwyn’s team. They certainly stick together and tow the party line.”

You will note that in recent months I have interviewed all the Welsh opposition party leaders and even the odd  MP but do you think I can get anywhere near Welsh Labour? Carwyn and his Team Druid are not just towing a party line, they are also towing a barrage balloon bursting with disingenuous evasion, an obtuse disregard for the people they serve and who pay their ‘hospitality’ bills, and enough white feathers to have forced Harry Flashman right up to the guns at Balaclava without as much as a by- your- leave!

The above notwithstanding, I did learn something from one insider that rather surprised me. To date I had always assumed that Plaid and the Tories were at political loggerheads as it were.

It seems I have been wrong.

There is a view at the Senate that some in Plaid are right of centre and not totally averse to snuggling up to the Tories. Leanne Wood is apparently all for the Valleys and damn the Tories (this was certainly the conclusion I drew upon interviewing the lady) but there are undoubtedly those in her party who think otherwise.

A real politik threat to Labour perhaps?

A Tory/Plaid alliance would certainly be a serious threat (if only Plaid would stop being so potty now and again), particularly when one considers that at the present time they have 25 seats between them (Tories 14, Plaid 11) and that Welsh Labour doesn’t even have a majority ie 30 seats with the Lib Dems holding the other 5.

At the next Assembly elections, it would only need Welsh Labour to lose a seat or two and the Tories/ Plaid to make some modest gains and that’s it – bye bye Welsh Labour.

An impossible proposition? Maybe, but if we look at Labour’s collapse in Scotland over the past few years, is Welsh Labour really so secure?

One final observation: All three Welsh opposition leaders impress in one way or another. There is however one concern. The Senate is often seen as a stepping stone to Parliament by ambitious AM’s, and nothing wrong with this. It is a pity however, that Wales sometimes loses politicians of genuine talent at a time when it needs them most.

Julian Ruck is an author, journalist and columnist. He also makes contributions to both Welsh and national broadcasting and media

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6 Responses to “Letter from Wales: Threats to Labour are rumbling in the Welsh Senate”

  1. Geraint says:

    I think Welsh Labour are aware of this. Don’t forget that this exact thing almost happend in 2007. Plaid, the Welsh Tories and the Welsh Lib Dems nearly formed a coalition government, until the Welsh Lib Dems chickened out at the last minute.

    I think Labour in Wales is more than aware that a rainbow coalition still could happen next time.

  2. Tafia says:

    why on earth do you think the Labour Party of Wales should bother their arse to talk to you Julian?

    And to say that you didn’t know that Plaid have some things in common with the welsh Tories suggest only two explanations – that you are a cretin, or that you don’t have any knowledge whatsoever of welsh politics.

    As for a Tory/Plaid alliance, you are pissed. There isn’t that much in common between the two and the Labour vote would have to go into total meltdown. In fact if their vote halved they would still be the largest party by quite a long way.

    I brought you up with a very senior member of the local Labour party and asked why Labour Uncut stooped to the gutter in allowing you airtime. His reply was – ” It’s obvious to all but A F**kwit the man is a wanker and a tory. He serves a subconscious purpose – if you don’t vote for us you run the risk of to$$ers like this getting in power”. Pretty good assesment I thought.

  3. dave rodway says:

    “At the next Assembly elections, it would only need Welsh Labour to lose a seat or two and the Tories/ Plaid to make some modest gains and that’s it – bye bye Welsh Labour.”

    nonsense – welsh labour have failed twice to get overall majorities and gone into coalition, first with the Lib Dems and then with Plaid. Straight afterwards they won majorities again. Though we may wish it was by bye welsh labour, the polls – all of them – suggest that whatever fibbers like Ruck think they’re on for a majority next time around.

    The history of Welsh politics is that it goes against the trend of English Labour, that’s the whole point. Ruck seems to think that Welsh Labour need to follow London, but each time it has differentiated itself from London, or claimed to, it has done better in Wales.

    Here again Ruck, your ‘Welsh’ correspondent who has not corrected his ‘England pays 85% of Welsh GDP’ lie/mistake, is utterly clueless.

  4. Gez Kirby says:

    Okay, just the 3 corrections for now:

    1) There is no such thing as a “Welsh Senate”. That Ruck gets even the Assembly’s name wrong tells you all you need to know about how insightful is his analysis.

    2) It’s “Humphrys”, not “Humphries”.

    3) Of all the Assembly Members elected since devolution, precisely how many have gone on from the Assembly to the House of Commons? Actually, the Assembly is *seldom* “seen as a stepping stone to Parliament by ambitious AMs”. The great majority see serving in the Assembly as achieving their ambition.

  5. dave says:

    How many AM’s have used the Assembly as a stepping stone to becoming MP’s?

    The answer is 2 – both Tories: Alun Cairns and David Jones.

    Hardly ‘often’, Julian.

    How much more of this bilious inaccuracy can a politics website take?

  6. john abell says:

    Even by Julian’s lamentable standards, this takes the biscuit. How can LU justify publishing this well of inaccuracies? Are your other bloggers as bad as this clown?

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