Assembly Party(s) of Government: Time will tell…

Brenig Davies considers the outcome of this election should no party reach a majority.

The ‘winning party’ to this assembly election may not come during the night of May 5 and May 6. It could come much later if there is not a party, initially, with a sustainable working majority.
Mainstream media, and increased traffic on social media in particular, have made it much easier to think about which parties may work with one another should the result offer several options for forming a sustainable government.
Understandably the major parties will not engage in talk, publicly at least, of coalition during the election campaign. Nevertheless, reading between the lines, Plaid Cymru and Labour seem less emphatic about not entering into an arrangement if the final poll result provides each with the possibility of forming a sustainable government in partnership with one or more parties who have significantly fewer votes than themselves.

Even if UKIP get a small number of seats and possibly more than the Greens and LibDems, remarks on social media suggest that no major party would dare enter into an arrangement with them.

Polling intentions point to Labour being the largest party, but perhaps not with enough AMs to govern completely on their own. If this is so the options for Labour will be strongly influenced by the number of Plaid Cymru and LibDem AMs. Indeed just one LibDem AM or Plaid Cymru AMs might save Labour and enable them to govern on a ‘ confidence and supply’ basis; or any other acceptable party. Circumstances in the past have shown a willingness of LibDems and Plaid Cymru, independently, to assist Labour in governing thought an assembly term.

It seems reasonable to say that Plaid Cymru and Labour will never have a governing arrangement with the Welsh Conservatives. Conversely the Conservatives will never have an arrangement with Labour. But the Conservatives may just be more inclined to consider one with Plaid Cymru, albeit, on a limited number of policies. Indeed the Conservatives have much more in common with Plaid Cymru in rural parts of Wales than Plaid Cymru will readily admit to in public. Though latest polling suggests that an arrangement with Plaid and the Tories will not provide enough AMs for a coalition government, even if there were a meeting of ‘expedient minds’.

Yet one possible, though now seems increasingly improbable, is a scenario after polling day where Plaid Cymru and the Conservative party are neck and neck, with a combined number of seats greater than Labour. Thoughts though of discussions on another ‘rainbow’ coalition seem are out of the question; even if the LibDems or UKIP have a respectable number of seats.

Possibly, the most likely first engagement in seeking to form a sustainable government will be between Labour and Plaid Cymru. Both parties never miss an opportunity to distance themselves from conservative values and in particular the express the distain they have for the Conservatives in Westminster. So including the Conservative Party of Wales in an arrangement with Plaid Cymru or Labour is ‘for the birds’.

The Conservative Party in Westminster is implacably opposed to any form of proportional representation. Yet in Wales the Conservative Party has gained much in successive assembly elections from a form of proportional representation. It has been the largest party of opposition. In fact it was not the Conservative Party that was the first to bow out of the ‘rainbow discussions’ in May 2007 with Plaid Cymru and LibDems. Paradoxically it was the LibDems who scuttled the formation of the ‘rainbow’: the Party of proportional representation!

These remarks will hold little sway come the morning of 6 May by any party, publicly at least. One is left, nevertheless with the thought that the spirit and vision of the architects of the current system of proportional representation, designed to reduce the likelihood of a continuation of party hegemony, seems less evident when party dominance takes precedence over representation of the people.

Brenig Davies is contributor to The Eye website.

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