Fantasy politics 2

I wrote a blog earlier in the week called fantasy politics in relation to Plaid but I'm going to stick with the theme as it seems the perfect headline for a speech by the Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb in Aberystwyth on Wednesday night.

He spoke about the need for a three-way coalition between the Conservatives, Plaid and the Lib Dems to provide a "fresh effective" alternative to Labour.

In fact he even used the F word when he said: "This may seem an ambitious prospect. Or just plain fantasy.

"The divergent views between the three parties are obvious. But I believe there is also a great deal of common ground: a progressive and proactive approach to devolving further powers to the assembly, a shared ambition for a fair funding settlement for Wales, an outlook which takes in all four corners of Wales, not just Cardiff, Swansea and the Valleys and a mutual aim for more accountable government in Cardiff."

My first impression, like many others I suspect, was to come up with a sarcastic "yeah right".

Rainbow coalition

My admittedly cynical view was shaped by my recent trip to Plaid's spring conference in Caernarfon, where the leader Leanne Wood said the Conservatives were "toxic" and treated with contempt in Wales. The anti-Tory rhetoric was everywhere.

In that context, how on earth can it be feasible to talk about a coalition between the two parties, and the Liberal Democrats?

And if anyone caught the discussion between Kirsty Williams and Andrew RT Davies on Good Morning Wales on Wednesday you'd realise that it's not just with the leader of Plaid that the Conservative leader has a personality clash.

It is noteworthy how little attention a rainbow coalition gets these days. People have just stopped talking about it.

I'm told Andrew RT Davies was going to focus on a coalition of ideas in his speech to the Welsh conference in Llangollen last year, but scrapped it at the last minute to give an impromptu address to delegates.

Tribalism

It's interesting that Stephen Crabb has chosen to talk about it now, but in a way it makes sense.

He has portrayed himself as a pragmatic secretary of state who likes to cut deals and get things done.

He touched on it in his speech: "We are not living in an ideological age.

"I want the traditional tribalism of Welsh politics to become a thing of the past so that we can focus on how the new powers which will be devolved to Wales can be used to best practical effect - and, in so doing, replace the never-ending debate about devolution with the right focus on economic growth and jobs that Wales needs.

"I have endeavoured to apply this principle to my own work as secretary of state for Wales. But the new pragmatism requires a shift in thinking by all politicians in Wales."

Power

You could argue that if the Conservatives aren't in the business of trying to form a coalition with Plaid and the Lib Dems then what's the point in doing anything, as they're always going to be consigned to opposition.

In other words there is no alternative for the Conservatives, which isn't the case for the other opposition parties who have all struck deals with the current Welsh government over budgets and have formed coalitions with Labour in the past.

I'm told that one of the reasons the Conservatives were involved in the rainbow coalition, which came so close to power in 2007, was because they understood power and what was required to get it.

Leanne Wood's preferred political partner will always be Labour. She's already said her party, like the SNP, would be willing to deal with Labour and not the Conservatives.

When I asked her why she'd already tied herself to one potential partner she said it was because the Conservatives don't have a mandate in Wales.

Another big problem for a future rainbow coalition could be the rise of UKIP and the possibility of it having a few list AMs next year, replacing some of the Lib Dems.

Plaid would never do a deal with UKIP so it tilts the numbers game in favour of Labour, and against a potential coalition.

On the broad point, the opposition parties may have some policies in common but it's very difficult to see past the personalities.