Alun Davies puts himself up for Blaenau Gwent

From the BBC website and Betsan Powys' blog we have two angles on the news that Alun Davies intends to fight to become Labour candidate for his home constituency in 2011.

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I find this a very interesting story. Because Labour do badly in first past the post elections in Mid and West Wales they are nearly always guaranteed a couple of top up seats for their 20% of the vote there (Plaid's vote is up in the mid-30s). So Alun Davies is perfectly safe where he is.

Yet it is also true to say that Labour is in a mess in some of its "taken for granted" strongholds, and nowhere was this more eloquently demonstated than in Blaenau Gwent. Labour's greatest problem is its local structures and heirarchies. In too many instances they are a carry-over from the days when Labour reigned supreme in the Valleys .... with the result that timeserving, rather than ability, was the way to get to any position of power. Blaenau Gwent was more "Old Labour" than most, and therefore had the guts to rebel when New Labour started to try and reform the party by imposing a "new broom" candidate.

The problem is that Peoples Voice have shown themselves remarkably unable to come up with an alternative. Apart from the mantra, "we are fresh, new, exciting and the voice of change" (which is how ANY group will portray itself) PV have come up with nothing new or radical. It's very hard to figure out what their policies actually are, and the only one that I remember reading of was their plan for free public transport ... something which they lifted from the Scottish Socialist Party, probably their closest political equivalent.

What they certainly could not do is make any headway at local level. At the local elections last year, PVBG won only 5 seats. Labour won 17. All the signs indicate that the seat is there for Labour to win back, but Labour must get its act together in order to do it.

And that of course leads to this question: What Labour? For there are two very different versions on offer in Wales, one in favour of more devolution, and one very much against. All the signs are that the local party is in disarray, so someone like Alun Davies could be just the person that is needed to give the local party a new sense of direction ... one that is focussed more on Wales than Westminster. That would be good.

But on the other hand Labour does have a habit of swallowing its victims. When Alun Davies defected, he probably did so with a 50/50 mix of hunger for power and a sense of disillusion that people in Wales could ever get more self-government than the Labour Party in Westminster was willing to give us. However the clear indication from the polls is that the people of Wales now want far more devolution than Labour in Westminster is prepared to give us:

• a 13% margin in favour of primary law making powers
• a Senedd with law making AND tax setting powers is the most popular of the various models for governing Wales
• an agreement that the Senedd should have more influence over our lives than Westinster by a margin of nearly three to one

If Alun Davies still has enough conviction to fight for these things then I'll put his defection to one side and wish him well for the sake of Wales. Of course I'd prefer to see Plaid elected, but in Blaenau Gwent that's probably a long shot.

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