Friday, 20 May 2016

Time to get serious

This column appeared in the Llanelli Herald on May 20th

Two weeks after the elections and Wales, at last, has a First Minister and a Cabinet.

With 29 of the 60 seats in the Senedd Welsh Labour are by far the largest party, but we don’t have a majority of seats. Nor did we have the majority of votes cast.

We all need to acknowledge that Wales has entered a new phase of multi-party politics. There are now five parties represented in the Assembly, and the style of politics that operated 50 years ago when two major parties dominated will no longer work in an environment where loyalties are fractured.

I’m sorry that Plaid Cymru seem to be adopting such an aggressive posture in the Senedd. Firstly they tried to use their 12 AMs to launch an audacious power-grab in the Assembly - linking up with right-wing parties they swore in the campaign they’d steer clear of.  And this week, despite taking part in talks which allowed us to form a Government, refused to settle on a long-term arrangement to bring stability to the Government of Wales.

I hope we can take some of the aggression out of the debate. I’m all in favour of Government based on consensus.  I’m really encouraged that there is a progressive majority in the Assembly - 42 of the 60 members represent parties of the centre and left and should be able to broadly agree on the main issues.

Labour of course have a part to play in that.  We had a terrific result in the circumstances, had it not been for the unexpected loss of the Rhondda we’d still have 30 seats - and nobody predicted that.

But it could easily have been different. In our delight at winning 29 seats it would be foolish to airbrush the fact that we had just 35% of the vote. Of course that it is partly a function of the new five-party scene, but nonetheless it stands as a warning not to take anything for granted.

The story of Scottish Labour is a chilling one. We can avoid their fate, and can still be the dominant party in Welsh politics, but we can’t be the dominating party - that’s the cultural shift we need to absorb. People don’t want that type of politics anymore.

So, let's switch the focus back on to what unites us, rather than what divides us. The people of Llanelli, and Wales, deserve nothing less.

Lee Waters is the Assembly Member for the Llanelli Constituency

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