Thursday, 31 March 2011

Coalitions - the new kid on the block

Coalitions in UK politics are still new. Despite being rather normal in most of the Western world, it appears many even in the political media in London cannot even grasp what a coalition means.

Not enough is given to the electorate about coalitions in general. The problem is that coalitions are communicated often by political parties either justifying or condemning that particular agreement. Even within coalition partners, there is a sense of oneupmanship, either that the larger party has got the smaller to sell their soul or the smaller party has managed to steal a marcher on it's less cunning but larger party.

And to add to that confusion people wade in and make conflicting arguments depending on their viewpoint or the latest poll or whatever. So True Wales were telling all and sundry that Plaid Cymru had some cosmic spell over the three Unionist parties in February, but those very same Labour supporting True Wales heads will now tell you that Plaid were minor players in Labour's solid record of Government.

It will be interesting to see once we have a coalition between similar sized parties. At the moment there has been a larger party going into agreement with the smaller party. A changing dynamic will be two parties of relatively the same electoral support trying to get a programme of Government together.

Which does make my point for me - that coalitions are not mergers. Yes we can argue about whether an agreement is against party principles, selling out or even a massive bonus for each party; but ultimately they are agreements for a term of Government. This might well become a bit more solid now we will have fixed terms in all elections.

I have stayed away from individual parties and coalitions for good reason, because I have yet to see a foolproof way of measuring how much or how little a coalition has affected those parties fortunes. For instance, I would argue that policy wise that Plaid have came out of the One Wales coalition unscathed but also in relative credit. The referendum won is clearly the golden egg so to speak, but there is a solid list of achievements for both parties to point to.

However, many people will use the current polls and even more so the election results as proof as to how successful it was for Plaid. How much of that can we accurately say is proof of how One Wales affected Plaid's ratings?

The fact that we will never know should serve a purpose to any of us willing to rush to judge regardless of the results on May 6th.

6 weeks of blogging - I promise

Let's be honest, those of us who feel strongly about politics live for elections. They provide the drama, the nerves, the worry and the joy. It is a time where the public are most likely to be paying any bloody attention to the stuff we care about.

So I will be keep a blog, nothing major, during the Welsh General Election Campaign. This blog will self destruct on May 6th I promise!

Perhaps one thing I could begin on is polls. It has always been my view to not really pass comment on polls. I don't doubt their importance to the political debate, they are relatively accurate in a national sense I would imagine, but I just don't see the point in debating what a 2% change in your opinion polling means.

The simple fact is that in my relatively small experience of elections there are two wars - the ground and the air (waves?) war. The ground war is the bread and butter, localised campaigning. The air war is about the national debate through the media. At a later date I might perhaps write a piece on why the air war is stunted in Wales.

Both 'wars' important for different reasons, both are important at different times although both are fought at the same time. The one thing I have noticed is that many people are undecided on which party to go for. It is that potential to win that vote on the doorstep that makes us go through that sometimes daunting activity of knocking on people's doors.

It goes without saying but I better say it - these views are my own, they do not represent anyone or anything else but me, myself and I.