Lessons history lessons geography

Image copyright bbc
Image caption Dafydd Iwan

The former Plaid Cymru president, Dafydd Iwan, when he looked more like he did in the days of this picture than he does now, used to sing - in Welsh - of school days that were filled with "lessons history, lessons geography" and "lessons English " all the time. Every now and then there was, he sang ruefully, a little lesson "yn Welsh chware teg".

Kirsty Williams's lesson wasn't "yn Welsh" this morning but she did have a very modern Welsh lesson for delegates here at the Liberal Democrat conference in Birmingham and it was all about Mr Iwan's party.

It went a bit like this:

Listen up. Plaid Cymru, like us, were junior coalition partners. They put Labour into government and by the end of the partnership, Plaid had delivered, in particular, on the key plank in their coalition negotiations. "The referendum was held and won".

In other words, in government, Plaid could point to having made a difference. In the polls? They took a hammering.

What do we learn, junior coalition class of 2011?

"For me it is clear. The smaller party in government has to be able to show it has made a difference. Not just on issues of concern to their core supporters but across government, and in particular on those issues that matter most to voters".

Forget 'it was Labour's fault'. The Lib Dem leader's message was that if they'd stuck to their own successes, they might have come out of coalition in better shape.

It was a warning, without flash cards but with recent evidence, that made delegates sit up and applaud. They like the Welsh leader. They like "the cheek" as one who was there put it, of "the most dynamic and exciting of all the party leaders in Wales" - at least that's how she was presented to conference.

Was it "cheek" to quote Nye Bevan's description of Tories as "lower than vermin?"

Was it "cheek" to taunt the Welsh Secretary in this passage:

"Conference, do you think we can rely on a Conservative Secretary of State to deliver?

The Conservative understanding of devolution is too shallow.

The Secretary of State's accountability to the people fo Wales too tenuous?

The Wales Office's belief in giving away power too - well it's non-existent.

That is why we need Liberal Democrats in Government to really push forward radical reform.

And I know that at every stage Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander are pushing the case for wales.

Well, Cheryl, somebody's got to do it".

It's not how the Wales Office saw it. They went to the trouble of letting it be known they were "baffled and disappointed" by the 'cheek' of the Welsh Lib Dem leader.

"Can we swap her for Michael Moore please" said one Scottish journalist who'd read what she was planning to say.

The audience in Birmingham liked the 'lesson history'. They heard the warning and reckoned she was right.

Plaid might not delight in it - but I suspect they wouldn't argue on this occasion that teacher was wrong.