Monday, 20 September 2010
Butterflies and coalitions - beware
This theory came to mind today on hearing that Trish Law the Independent Assembly Member for Blaenau Gwent was to retire from politics next May.
Now whether chaos theory applies to politics, who knows. Although many would argue that politicians have been known to cause chaos, but as they say, that’s a story for another day.
But what is certainly true is that small changes in one part of the body politics can have fairly dramatic consequences in other parts of the system. This was true in the case of how an Independent got elected in one of Labour’s safest seats in Wales.
The story starts in the year 2000 when Rhodri Morgan decided to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. To make room for his new chums Rhodri Morgan got rid of Peter Law from his cabinet.
So Peter Law returned to the back-benches to became a vociferous critic of the Labour led coalition.
It’s a truism of politics that ex-ministers with time on their hands have an infinite capacity for mischief. Law, certainly lived up to this billing, with his acerbic intervention from the back benches. The devil certainly made work for these idle hands.
Rhodri Morgan missed a golden opportunity to busy those idle hands and perhaps silence this back bench critic following the next Assembly elections in 2003. Following that election Law put his name forward as candidate for the Deputy Presiding Officer of the Welsh Assembly. However, the Labour AMs were encouraged by the party leadership to vote for John Marek, an Independent AM rather than for Law, the Labour man.
It seemed the mantra of the Labour leadership at the time was, anyone but Law. This all resulted in Labour having a semi-detached member on its benches in the Senedd whose loyalty to his party had been reduced to zero.
Law finally got himself kicked out of the party when he stood against the official Labour candidate Maggie Jones for the Westminster parliament. He defeated her by over 9000 votes. He justified his action as a protest against the imposition of an all women short list against the wishes of many in the local Blaenau Gwent party.
His time in Parliament was sadly short-lived as he died as a result of a brain tumor in just under an year of his triumph. As a result of his death, there was a double by-election in Blaenau Gwent one for the UK Parliament and the other for his Welsh Assembly seat.
Dai Davies, Law's former agent, won the election to Westminster, but failed to hold it in the recent general election.
Trish Law succeeded her husband to the Welsh Assembly. She subsequently held onto her seat at the last Assembly elections.
Her retirement next April should deliver the seat back to Labour.
The lesson, butterflies and coalitions can have unforeseen consequences.