Thursday, 15 July 2010

Nat Gain?

Here's a thought for you: can you imagine Jim Murphy deciding that Labour don't quite cut it any more and standing for the SNP at the Scottish election next year?  No? No, probably not.  Perhaps he's not a good example to use for this.  What about previous Scottish Secretaries - Des Browne, Douglas Alexander, Alistair Darling, Helen Liddell, John Reid?  Any of those aspiring Nats do you you think?  No?

Why do I ask anyway?

Well, it seems that former Secretary of State for Wales (and, indeed, architect of Welsh devolution it would appear) Ron Davies HAS decided that.  Indeed, he decided that Labour weren't very good six years ago and joined Forward Wales, a now-disbanded left-of-centre Welsh regionalist party.  Well, he has now gone further, and after campaigning for Plaid at the UK election in May, he is now the only nominee for the party to contest the Caerphilly seat in the Assembly election next year.

I'm not sure what to make of this.  Of course the comparison with Scotland is crude, and doesn't work on any level.  Each of the living former Labour Scottish Secretaries are still active in Labour politics, have recently retired from the Commons or are in the Lords.  And none of them resigned from office in disgrace after a "moment of madness" on Clapham Common.  And I suppose the best comparison (in terms of the person who steered devolution on the Labour benches in Scotland) would be Donald Dewar, and he is no longer with us (and, perhaps, even less likely to join the SNP than any of the aforementioned Labourites were he still alive).

But what is interesting, particularly for folk like me with more than a passing interest in Welsh devolution is the fact that the guy who practically designed devolution in Wales now wants more.  And though that is a fairly common view among the Assembly politicians - they voted unanimously to move to a referendum on the topic - it is not exactly popular among current and former Welsh MPs.  The fact that Ron Davies is ready to stake his political future on it by standing for Plaid - in the seat he held as a Labour MP and AM from 1983 until 2003 - made me think a little harder about it.

On the other hand, relations between Labour and Plaid are much more amicable than those between the SNP and Labour.  They have to be, for the sake of the coalition.  And in spite of tensions here, former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish has readily offered his support to the SNP on issues where he agrees with them while Susan Deacon has recently taken on a role in the SNP Government advising on Children and Early Years education.  However, I would hazard that neither will be campaigning - or standing - for the party next year.

Of interest to electoral anoraks is if he wins.  He'd have represented the constituency for two different parties if he did so.  Betsan Powys points out that his former colleague in Forward Wales, John Marek could do the same, and represent 3 parties - he's just joined the Tories, having represented Wrexham for Labour between 1999 and 2003 and the John Marek Independent Party from 2003 to 2007.

Anyway, I'm not sure I can add much more to the analysis.  Just interesting stuff.

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