Friday, March 09, 2007

On the disproportional representation of obscure policy

I'm at the Welsh Lib Dem conference.

I feel a bit sorry for the Lib Dems. They have got hundreds of whiz-bang policies which they say will make Wales a bloody better place. Except us in the media only want to talk about one - proportional representation. Which is a bit strange really. I mean, how many people in Wales's pubs are at this moment talking about proportional representation in local government elections? Probably none.

It is important because it could be a deal-breaker in coalition negotiations after May's election. Sir Menzies Campbell has received a bit of flack about it, with accusations that he could downgrade the policy so he can go into government with Gordon Brown in a hung parliament. No, says he. His commitment to it is "absolute".

The Welsh Lib Dems might have to drop it so they can do a deal with Rhodri Morgan in a hung Assembly. So their leader Mike German has come up with a form of words that is supposed to defuse the speculation. It is very important, but no more or less so than all those other blinding polices that will be in the Lib Dem manifesto, says he.

Except he is wrong. Kirsty Williams suggested it is less important when she addressed activists on Friday night. She said: "Not once has a constituent come up to me and said, 'Now then Kirsty Williams, when are we going to have fair votes for local elections?" Meanwhile on his blog, Peter Black says if a coalition deal was struck after May 3 that did not contain local PR "then the chances are that the deal would be rejected outright" by rank-and-file party members.

And that is the problem. Mike German cannot endorse a deal - he has to take it to the grass-roots who have the final say on coalitions. I'm convinced the reason why people join the Lib Dem party is simply because they can have a good old row about every aspect of party policy, unlike the corralled Labour and Tory foot soldiers ... unfortunately for Mr German and Sir Menzies.

More importantly, what has happened to my Lib Dem caption competition? The pictures have gone corrupt. I suspect foul play. I'm asking party officials and attendees here in Swansea if they are the responsible saboteur. So far I am yet to find the culprit.

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