Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Stability is sexy

Tony Blair's spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, once spun a line that "stability is sexy" and then laughed at all the newspapers who fell for it and dutifully ran the line the next day.

He was talking about the economy but a Welsh Alastair Campbell (Ali Ap Spin?) would probably be spinning the same line today in the political sense.

Even critics of the Labour/Plaid Cymru coalition government in Cardiff acknowledge that it has brought stability. At times it seems rather more stable than a Gordon Brown administration with an overall majority of 65.

But for one of the arch critics of the deal, stability isn't the point. Don Touhig, MP for Islwyn and former UK Government Minister, told me:

"I haven't been invited to the party, you might be surprised.....there's no doubt the coalition has brought a degree of stability in terms of the administration but so far as the Labour Party is concerned I warned a year ago that if we went into coalition with the nationalists they'd have their greatest advance in 50 years. That is what they have had.

"They've practically run rings around us politically. They've been very skilled, much more skilled at it than we have. They've exploited their position in the Assembly very well to make sure that the people believe that advances and changes and benefits to Wales are coming from them and not from the Labour Party. We're too dull, we haven't done that."

First Minister Rhodri Morgan says that's a million miles from reality. Mr Touhig says Plaid have been given jobs where they can spend cash and open railway lines funded by Labour (I paraphrase slightly), while Labour Ministers have the "bed of nails" portfolios of health and education.

This was a familiar complaint during the first coalition government in Cardiff, between Labour and the Lib Dems - that the junior partner took the credit for things that went right and blamed the bigger partner for things that went wrong.

Those nostalgic for the days when Lib Dems were in government (hello, Mike) can remind themselves of a previous first anniversary here.

I'm off to the Cabinet War Rooms to try to evoke even older memories of coalitions from days gone by. I'll try to keep the wartime metaphors to a minimum.

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