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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Shocks of the day

The defection of Mohammed Ashgar AM from Plaid Cymru to the Tories was first announced on the Welsh Liberal Democrat blog Freedom Central, before the Conservatives had even had time to announce it to the press.

Sharing a floor with the Tories has its advantages and marching the defector to the Tory leader's office in full view of everybody was a dead giveaway, especially when Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan was also there. There was also the mysterious moving of offices last night after everybody had gone home.

I am told that Mohammed Ashgar was once a member of New Labour and before that the Tories. However it was Plaid Cymru who offered him the opportunity to serve in the Welsh Assembly even though it was evident from day one that he was not at home in that party.

Freedom Central has recorded most of the key events and some of the reactions but there is one more observation I should make. The defection means that the One Wales Government no longer have a two thirds majority in the chamber. This should not matter as of course the Welsh Liberal Democrats will support the motion for a referendum on full law making powers.

However, they now need to rely on other parties if they wish to change standing orders. That is not a bad thing in itself and will hardly give Carwyn Jones any sleepless nights.

There is no doubt that the Tories have received a boost as a result of this defection and Plaid Cymru suffered a demoralising blow. Already there is talk of putting Adam Price into the vacancy at the next Assembly election but of course this particular list seat is quite marginal and swung between Tories and Plaid in the past.

If though we throw in the possibility of the Welsh Liberal Democrats winning Newport East and the Tories taking Newport West in 2011 then Plaid should be safe in retaining both their regional seats in South Wales East. If Labour holds on in these two seats then it may be between Mohammed Ashgar and Adam Price for the final list seat. Definitely one to watch out for.
It surprises me that Plaid Cymru would have picked a unionist as an AM and it perhaps suggests they need to re-visit their selection procedures!

Even so as a regional list member I'm surprised Mohammed Ashgar can actually switch parties in this manner.

After all the people had voted for a Plaid AM and that is the basis for his election. He was not elected in a personal capacity. If he had been then he could no doubt legitimately choose to change his party and the voters could decide to keep or reject him on that basis.

Perhaps PC should take this to the courts because legally I would imagine that they have a case for putting in the next person on their regional list to the parliament.
Surely if someone has been elected via a regional list and then changes their views and joins another party then the party should be allowed to replace them with another representative from their regional list. Mr Asghar was not elected in his own right. The voters voted for Plaid Cymru not the Conservatives, their polar opposite.

Also it suggest there is something wrong with Plaid Cymru's procedures if someone can become a Plaid AM without actually supporting Welsh independence!

If as you say he had previously been in both Tories and Labour the alarm bells should have been ringing long ago for Plaid.
Sorry, didn't mean to add two comments. I thought the first one hadn't worked.
This really is quite amusing...

The Defector, elected by regional list goes from Plaid to the Tories, and there's nothing Plaid can do about it! He! He!

They should have been more careful who they chose to put in the Number One slot when they voted on the list.

Mr Ashgar didn't seem like your typical Plaid supporter, like "Freescotlandnow" pointed out the guy is a Unionist.

From the BBC website....

"...Joined by the Conservative group at a news conference, he said he had "felt out of tune with the views and policies of Plaid Cymru" and "believed in the royal family and one United Kingdom"...."
These "Regional Wales Assembly Seats" are interesting and do add a bit of spice to Cardiff Bay. Plaid Cymru have obviously got their selection procedures totally wrong in terms of lack of judgement over this "Oscar winner" and even more in their ability to get an AM elected top of their list simply by having only fourteen votes in a Cell Meeting - (you cannot call Plaid Meetings "Branch" or "Constituency" meetings - or "Cyfarfodydd Etholaeth" - anymore since their halcyon days under Gwynfor Evans and Dafydd Wigley who they back stabbed after too much curry for their West Walians bellies). Plaid Cymru's organisation is now at rock bottom meeting in little "Cells" rather than "Branches" that are totally out of touch with reality since Cynog Dafis had his hands on Policy for several recent years.
Peter, I don't think Plaid and Labour had enough votes to pass the referendum before today. My understanding is that neither the Presiding Officer nor his Deputy could vote in a powers referendum, which left the coalition with just 39 votes. They need 40. All today has done is leave them with 38 votes. Now tell me I've got this wrong. As you say, it no more than an academic point anyway.
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