‘Triple crown’ coalition crumbles

The Liberal Democrats have pulled out of coalition talks to form a Welsh government, reopening the possibility of a Labour-led government.

Lib Dem leadership voted yesterday to abandon talks with Plaid Cymru, citing “deep divisions in the party”.

After losing 3 seats, Labour appeared unlikely to form a minority government of 26 AMs. Both the Liberal Democrats and Labour rejected the offer of a coalition, prompting expectation Rhodri Morgan’s tenure as Welsh first minister was over.

But the latest move by the Liberal Democrats casts serious doubt on Plaid’s ability to lead a government, even with support from the 12 Conservative AMs. Four of the 15 nationalist AMs have said they will refuse to work with the Conservatives.

Labour are reportedly willing to re-open coalition talks with Plaid or the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems have already said they will retreat to the opposition benches and will abstain from the first minister vote on Tuesday.

After the meeting in Llandrindod Wells, Lib Dem leader in the assembly Mike German said: “There was a deep division on this matter and the party decided that it would not be possible to move forward to recommend this to a special conference.

“On that basis then we will be making sure we fulfil our role in opposition in the next four years.”

Plaid leader Ieuan Wyn Jones attacked the Liberal Democrats’ decision, claiming they are unable to make big decisions.

He told reporters: “The people of Wales deserve leadership and a stable government. Plaid Cymru offered that option but the Lib Dems have tonight turned their backs on their duty to the people of Wales and have shown absolute contempt for the electorate.”

The Conservatives also said the decision reflects poorly on the Liberal Democrat’s ability to form a government.

Tory leader Nick Bourne said he was “saddened” by their decision, and accused the Lib Dem AMs of lacking the courage, ambition and desire to make big decisions.

The Liberal Democrats also pulled out of coalition talks with the SNP in Scotland, deciding to form an opposition. An SNP source speculated the Lib Dems were “licking their wounds on the back benches” after their partnership with Labour resulted in electoral defeat.