ON THEIR return to the Senedd, Welsh assembly members have failed to elect their new first minister. Carwyn Jones of Labour was expected to be re-appointed following Thursday’s election, having won the support of Liberal Democrat Kirsty Williams as well as his own party. However, the nomination of Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood was met with considerable support from UKIP and the Conservative Party. The vote tied at 29-29, with the Senedd having been postponed.
Labour have accused Plaid Cymru of making a deal with the Conservatives and UKIP. Alun Davies said, “I think Plaid Cymru have got to explain to the voters… why, less than a week after the election, they have now done a deal with the Conservative Party and with UKIP.” Plaid Cymru have meanwhile denied these accusations, with Plaid AM Rhun ap Iorweth commenting:
“At no point did we offer anything, or consider offering anything, to UKIP or the Tories. They were simply informed of our intention to nominate Leanne as first minister.
“The people of Wales decided by a narrow margin in terms of the number of seats, but by a hefty margin in terms of the popular vote, that they didn’t want Labour to have majority control in the National Assembly for Wales.
“We of course respected the right of Labour to have a first crack at forming a stable government, if you like, of seeking a majority.
“In a meeting this week Leanne Wood told Carwyn Jones to have a bit more time, don’t force this vote today, have a bit more time in order to try to find a consensus, reflecting on the fact that they are in a minority.
“They decided not to take that opportunity. We put Leanne Wood’s name up – why wouldn’t we?”
Andrew RT Davies, Welsh Conservative Leader, meanwhile responded by condemning Labour’s assumption, stating that the party had “no divine right” to assume that Carwyn Jones would be elected as first minister:
“It is for new assembly members to explore, and discuss, the best way forward for the Welsh nation, which has for too long fallen behind the rest of the UK.
“Certainly, I sense an appetite for a new kind of collaborative Welsh politics, and would welcome further discussions to build on those which led to today’s vote.”
Liberal Democrat AM Kirsty Williams commented that Labour have the strongest mandate from the people of Wales, as the party has 29 assembly members. Williams expressed her disappointment in the outcome of the election, stating:
“I was not re-elected into the National Assembly to support a ragtag coalition made up of UKIP assembly members who at the moment can’t even agree with each other.
“That is not my politics and not something I will even contemplate.”
The assembly now has 28 days following the election to choose a new first minister, with a projected deadline of 2nd June. If there is no subsequent decision, a new election will be called by Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns.