More devolution down to Welsh Labour?

[Tuesday]

I am a little sceptical about this, but if true, it indicates that Welsh Labour is seriously departing its parent party, which is a good sign:

Devolution deal ‘came from Labour’
Aug 7 2007
by Tomos Livingstone, Western Mail

THE new constitutional convention that will assess the timing of the next devolution referendum was the Labour Party’s idea, rather than a concession to Plaid Cymru, according to a new book.

Crossing the Rubicon: Coalition Politics Welsh-style, by John Osmond, traces the winding path from May’s Assembly elections to the Plaid-Labour coalition in Cardiff Bay.

The convention, a key part of the deal, will start its work later this year. It will comprise AMs, MPs and members of civic society, who will take the political temperature and gauge whether there is support for a referendum on a Scottish-style parliament.

The idea was a key part of the Plaid-Labour coalition deal, which proposes a referendum by 2011.

But Mr Osmond, above right, director of the Institute of Welsh Affairs and a Plaid election candidate, suggests the idea came from the Labour side – despite the hostility of many of its MPs to more devolution.

Mr Osmond said the idea was intended to show that the Labour leadership was serious about delivering greater devolution.

Labour’s lead negotiator in the coalition talks, Vale of Glamorgan AM Jane Hutt, now Education Minister, says the convention idea reflected the reality that Labour and Plaid needed “a route map” to secure a positive result in the referendum.

She tells Mr Osmond, “It was an indication of our desire to make the commitment work in practical terms rather than setting it out as part of a wish list. There is no point our going into a referendum unless we know we’re going to win it. The convention idea is a clear indication that One Wales is a serious document.”

The convention idea was “a very good example of what can emerge from the dynamics of political negotiations over a short period”, she said.

Labour and Plaid eventually agreed a deal after alternative talks between Plaid, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems failed to produce a Government.

Labour won the most seats in the elections but was short of a majority.

Ms Hutt reveals that her close relationship with Plaid Cymru’s chief negotiator, South East Wales AM Jocelyn Davies, was crucial to the success of the talks.

“My relationship with Jocelyn Davies was pivotal. I think we developed a level of trust which is vital in these kinds of talks,” she said. “When you’re negotiating seriously you have to do so in good faith.”

The book also reveals why Plaid Cymru opted to be a junior partner in a Labour-led government, rather than choosing what became known as the Rainbow alternative, with the party’s leader Ieuan Wyn Jones as First Minister in a coalition with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

The sticking point was that question of a no-confidence vote in First Minister Rhodri Morgan, a pre-requisite for forcing Labour from office.

Plaid AM for Arfon, Alun Ffred Jones, switched sides on this issue, saying, “Once we’d installed Rhodri Morgan as First Minister, the game had changed.

“I felt we couldn’t play fast and loose with votes of no confidence. There would have to be a credible reason for making a challenge. I would have felt uncomfortable in manufacturing a vote of no confidence.”

Five of Plaid’s 15 AMs were in favour of a deal with Labour, with six preferring the rainbow coalition, Mr Osmond suggests.

Leader Ieuan Wyn Jones, Alun Ffred Jones, Rhodri Glyn Thomas and Mohammad Ashgar were in neither camp, he suggests.

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