For those of you less interested in the goings on in the Welsh Assembly than I am, allow me to tell you the extraordinary thing that happened there yesterday. A vote was taken to decide who would be the First Minister. This should have been relatively straightforward – Labour are short of a majority on 29 seats (there are 60 altogether), but the opposition is all over the place. Plaid has 12, the Tories 11, UKIP 7 seats and the Lib Dems one.
But Labour underestimated just how annoyed Plaid would be regarding deal making, or rather the lack of it that occurred after the election. Basically the larger party said to Leanne Wood, “Look, we’re governing as a minority government again. What are you going to, gang up with the Tories and UKIP against us?” Interestingly enough, either by design or by accident, that is exactly what happened. The vote was tied, 29-29. The only reason Leanne Wood isn’t First Minister right now is because Kirsty Williams, the lone Lib Dem, voted for Labour’s Carwyn Jones.
What happens now is uncertain. There’s no point in having another vote to reach the precise same conclusion. If it stays this way, there’ll be another election called in June. The strange thing is, I can’t see any good result for Plaid out of all of this unless they just let Labour govern. And even that has considerable downsides apart from the obvious.
Trying to lead a government with 12 seats is madness and would never work. Plaid would be technically leading a government in which they were outnumbered by the other smaller parties in the Assembly significantly (the Tories and UKIP together have six more seats than Plaid). PC are extremely lucky that Kirsty Williams voted for deadlock – had they had to go through with that arrangement, it would have been political suicide.
Jones and Wood are now locked in talks trying to get everyone out of this bizarre situation. But I don’t see how it gets resolved. Having thrown their toys out the pram, walking away with nothing would be incredibly embarrassing for Plaid. Yet why would Labour give them anything? PC have nowhere to go. If Plaid convince Williams to vote for Wood as First Minister in another internal Assembly election, I’ve already demonstrated the considerable downsides to this. If they wait it all out and there’s another election, my hunch is that they’ll be punished for it at the polls. Particularly as Labour will assumedly be far better resourced.
Situations like this are rare in politics. I look forward to watching what Wood does next.