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A leap of faith?

Lynn Courtney reflects on the start of a new year in Welsh politics

Could John Warman's defection from the Liberal Democrats to Labour spark a lemming-esque exodus?

For some reason, seated at Welsh Labour’s first press briefing of the season, my thoughts turned to lemmings.

Not so much the real creatures that occasionally group on a cliff then throw themselves off to an uncertain fate but to animated lemmings that feature in a fairly amusing arcade game

These lemmings chirrup happily as they mass on the side of the cliff as above and when they throw themselves off they can either net you a decent windfall if they reach dry land or they can go splish splash in to the water and earn you absolutely nothing.

It was this thought that came to mind as the combined might of Carwyn Jones, Peter Hain and Gwenda Thomas proudly unveiled Neath County Councillor John Warman from the Cimla as a deserter from the Liberal Democrats who had finally come home to the safe shores of Labour.

Now I have known John Warman a long time since the heady days in fact, when I was Head Of News at Swansea Sound. He’s a decent, hard-working chap who left Labour in the early eighties to join the SDP after what he described as “a row over selection”.

Now it seems goaded by the Lib Dems recent vacillation over tuition fees, he feels compelled to return to the fold. Good for him, I say, and no doubt he will toil away, helping Gwenda Thomas in her bid for re-election come May and all the other work that comes his way.

But does this defection of one person, really indicate that the more radical Lib Dems are massing on the cliffs to seek their fortune with Labour? Or does it merely mean that one of them has hurled himself off in the brave hope of seeking a better life as he swims for the horizon? I don’t know. And I was equally puzzled that Councillor Warman, although a senior figure was presented as a major coup. It’s not as if an AM or an MP had left for pastures new

Certainly First Minister Carwyn Jones used this defection as a platform to appeal to all disillusioned Lib Dem voters and activists in Wales to come home to Labour.

And of course the gloves are now off in terms of electioneering and Labour will be looking to win a clear majority in the Assembly Elections in May. Perhaps appealing to those Lib Dems off-sided by the UK Coalition Government may well be a good tactic to swell the vote.

Well it’s the Oldham East and Saddleworth bi-election next week and I read on Twitter today that Lib Dem AM Peter Black will be making his way to Lancashire to lend support to his party in what is a three-way marginal.

All three parties have won the seat over the last 20 years and no doubt all eyes will be on the result.



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