Monday, 11 July 2011

Leaders come, leaders....

The success of a party leader is more often a matter of luck than judgement. But if lady luck deserts you and your judgement is not what it should, then you’re in serious trouble.

And who can deny that this is where Kirsty Williams now finds herself. The last few months have been her mensis mirabilis.

The disaster that was the Liberal Democrat result in the Assembly elections is somewhat clouded by the fact that they only lost one seat. They now have five rather than six Assembly members.

But, and it is a mighty big but, the drop of one AM hides a truly awful set of election results.

The fall in their vote in all constituencies was dramatic. In 2007, under the leadership of Mike German they gained 144,410 votes, 14.8% of the total vote. Under Kirsty Williams in 2011 they lost over 44,000 votes. The number of votes they got in all the constituencies fell to 100,259, 10.45% of the votes cast.

Well, what does a drop of this kind mean? Well, for the Liberal Democrats it meant being thrown out of two of the three constituencies they held prior to the election, namely Montgomery and Cardiff Central.  OK, they got back up to five when the list system come into play but nevertheless losing seats where they had previously had such large majorities, was careless indeed.

Not only did they lose seats they came bottom of the poll in twenty-six of the forty constituencies. Sadly, they were even over-taken by the British National Party in three seats. Could the results have been any worse?

Now many would acknowledge that all the blame does not lay at Ms Williams’s door. It was just sheer bad luck for her that she found herself in an electoral mess of someone else’s making.

The decision of the Westminster’s Liberal Democrats to consummate a marriage of convenience with the Tories to form a right of centre government went down badly with the voters of Wales.  So Kirsty Williams and her merry band take the rap and get the kicking from the angry voters.

OK. it would be unfair to blame the election results on her, but who said politics was fair, it happened on her watch, the results abysmal so she gets it in the neck.  Bad luck, yes, unfair, yes, but that’s how the cookie crumbles.

Bad luck has nothing to do with the next problem. Namely the cavalier way she and her party put up candidates for election. Here it wasn’t bad luck, but sheer incompetence.

Four of the candidates they put up were ineligible, because they were members of bodies that were on a prescribed Assembly list.

Now one candidate falling foul of the rules may be deemed unlucky but four! Especially when the committee that drew up the rules had a certain Kirsty Williams as a vocal member. Indeed at the time she piped up to say she knew personally of one candidate that would be affected. Why, if she warned one member, did she not have the wit to tell all the candidates to check on the rules?

Was it incompetence or was it a calculated risk? Did they read the runes and thought that many of these candidates would not be elected if the polls were to be believed?  Did they reason that it might be best to keep Lib Dem membership of some of these important bodies in place? After all in a small party there is a limit to the number of Liberal Democrat available, willing and able to serve on such bodies. So why resign if election to the Assembly is uncertain. Well, we’ll never know whether it was simply a cock-up or more.

Whatever, as some would say, these events have made the Welsh Liberal Democrats look foolish and amateurish. In any other political party the leader would resign, mea culpa. But it's unlikely. The cupboard of replacement leaders is bare. So for good or ill they are stuck with Kirsty Williams for sometime yet.
Due to a technical difficulty I cannot answer comments directly so here is a response to one of the comments below. 
"Hope there's no ageism creeping into Anonymous's comments. I'm still not gagga, yet, so will be around to comment and post a blog or two for awhile. I've even retained the ability to fill in forms correctly and truthfully, and would happily help anyone of any age to fill them in either Welsh or English provided, of course, they've been downloaded. Clearly there are some within the "bubble" that could do with my services."


  1. "...they are stuck with Kirsty Williams for sometime yet."

    And so are we all.

    Political life in Wales is worse than a bad joke.

  2. Out of interest, did any of the other parties have candidates (unelected) on any of the excluded bodies?

    I think this makes the Lib Dems look amateurish (no change there!) but I can't see it being of lasting importance once the Assembly term eventually gets underway. When September comes, Kirsty Williams will go bak to what she does best, which to be fair is being quite a decent opposition leader, and I'm sure all of this will be forgotten.

  3. Poor Kirsty looked tired and lost in a recent television interview. I suspect that she is a caretasker leader until someone better comes along.

  4. Gareth I'm afraid many of us in the bubble don't pay much attention to you anymore. Just last week you predicted that both of the lib dem two would be replaced by the second on the list, and that didn't happen. Perhaps it's better now if you finally retire and stop getting yourself mixed up, Cardiff Bay will be a less muddled place.