THE leader of the Liberal Democrats in the National Assembly yesterday put pressure on Rhodri Morgan by saying that time is ticking towards an alternative coalition deal.
Michael German warned that any future coalition government with the Lib-Dems, Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives must have time to shape the next Budget in order to push forward policies.
Budgets are usually drafted during the summer recess and then presented to the Assembly. Plaid Cymru will not be able to give final approval for the coalition plans until its National Council meets on July 7.
Before this can happen, the All- Wales Accord – the document which would form the basis of a three-party government – must be approved by the 30-member National Executive. This body meets on Saturday.
Mr German claimed he was not trying to hasten the formation of a coalition, but said, “Having control of your budget is a way of delivering your programme. If the All-Wales Accord needs to be delivered, it needs a budget behind it. You need to be able to shape your budget to be able to shape your programme.”
If a Plaid-led government did not take power before a Labour Budget was passed, he doubted the coalition could pass its four-year programme in full.
He said, “You have to be realistic about the timescales people can make the alterations in.”
Politicians of all parties have now fixed their attention on Plaid’s National Executive. If they turn down the three-party plan, supporters of a Plaid-Labour coalition will push for an historic alliance between the two parties.
Helen Mary Jones, one of four Plaid AMs to oppose doing a deal with the Conservatives, said there were “encouraging” signs that Labour wanted to work with her party. She has recently met Health Minister Edwina Hart to discuss NHS issues.
She said, “I’ve been extremely pleased she’s responded positively and she has committed herself to action, rather than just listening.”
Fellow Plaid AM and coalition opponent Bethan Jenkins said, “I think it can only be a positive thing for us now to work with Labour. The Labour Party has realised its hegemony in Wales cannot continue.
“We wouldn’t be sane just to oust Labour for the sake of it.”
Mr German acknowledged supporters of a three-way coalition likewise had to wait for Plaid’s executive to reach its decision.
“I can’t say or tell you what’s going to happen in Plaid Cymru.
“I do know, however, they are taking these matters forward this weekend and into July. I have to, like you I suppose, be patient.”
He added, “I think the Labour Party is in a very difficult position. It’s in an unstable position. You can’t deny that.
“We are waiting for Plaid Cymru to make clear what their position is going to be.”
Mr Morgan has offered an olive branch to Plaid and the Lib-Dems by inviting them to contribute to policy-making.
Last week he wrote to the leaders of the two parties outlining his legislative programme for the forthcoming year.
Mr German said it was “important to behave like sensible opposition in the circumstance of a minority government”.
He added, “I’m not a betting person. I think we must wait for the outcome of Saturday.
“Plaid Cymru members are individually telling me, and certainly AMs here are telling me, it’s a runner.”
Speaking on BBC Radio Wales, Mr Morgan said he had extended a hand to Plaid and the Lib-Dems to bring some stability to the Assembly.
He said, “We are a minority administration but a minority administration that would like to have some stability.
“I don’t think we have got a preferred partner.
“We have got feelers out to the Liberal Democrats and to Plaid Cymru to say, ‘Look, do you want to talk?’.”
He added, “There are risks for Plaid in going in with the Tories because they would risk splitting their party. There are risks for the Liberal Democrats and there are risks for us.”
Former First Secretary Alun Michael said the prospect of a rainbow coalition could harm Wales’ economy.
He told ePolitix.com, “If investors have the choice between going somewhere unstable or going somewhere where they think things are very dependable and straightforward, then it’s a no-brainer as to which one they are going to choose.
“Such a marriage of inconvenience seems very unlikely to deliver leadership on points of principle or a good service to the people of Wales.”
The Conservatives’ leader Nick Bourne said Mr Michael was “very much out of touch with events in the Assembly if he thinks Rhodri Morgan and the Labour Party are capable of delivering stable government over the next four years”.