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Politics

The Lib Dem 2: Will they stay or will they go?

Assembly members will get the chance to vote on whether or not to reinstate the two disqualified Liberal Democrat AMs on 29 June.

That’s the date when two motions – one relating to Aled Roberts and one to John Dixon – have been tabled to be discussed.

The date is the latest possible under the timetable outlined in legal advice given to the Presiding Officer. But according to several sources I’ve spoken with today, it’s also the earliest realistic date.

The view is that AMs will need to have all the facts and legal opinions in their possession before making a judgement. That means waiting for the police to conclude their investigation, for the Crown Prosecution Service to make its decision, and then for the Assembly’s own investigation.

One political source told me that setting a date also sends “a clear message” about the intent to try to find a way to overturn the disqualifications to the returning officers of North Wales and South Wales Central.

These men, Mohammed Mehmet and John House, are crucial to what happens next because it’s they who will declare the two seats officially vacant and they who will nominate the next candidates on the regional lists.

I gather that they will wait until the outcome of these motions before taking any further action although that won’t stop them preparing for that action, i.e. contacting the next on the list and checking that they’re still willing and able to become Assembly members.

It’s not clear what chances the motions have of succeeding. Labour members are taking a strong line against the disqualified two as are many Conservatives.

One Labour source said to me, “How can they be re-instated? They were never elected?”  If that view holds sway, then it’s all over for the Lib Dem 2.

They may find support amongst Plaid members although even there it’s said that, while there’s no hardening of opinion against them, there’s not much by way of positive support.

But the Welsh Liberal Democrats remain hopeful and aren’t planning to abandon their efforts to re-instate their colleagues.

A senior source told me that the party acknowledges mistakes have been made, but that members think highly of Aled Roberts and John Dixon and want to see them in the Senedd.

Several party figures have told me that many of the sternest critics have changed their mind when the legal position has been explained to them. They hope more will do so when the final reports are in.

Whatever the outcome, it means another three weeks of uncertainty for Aled Roberts and John Dixon. By then will have been in limbo for nearly two months and another three weeks when the Liberal Democrats only have three members in the Senedd chamber.

All this could change when the CPS makes its decision public. According to a CPS spokesman, the matter is still with the police. The police will only say that they are still investigating.

I understand that the barrister Gerard Elias QC has been lined up to head the Assembly’s investigation.

The Assembly spokesman wouldn’t confirm this or otherwise, saying only that there is no investigation yet, and, therefore, no appointment. But other sources have confirmed the name.

It’s a name which may be familiar to seasoned Assembly watchers. Back in 2004 there was a row when it emerged Mr Elias had been vetoed by then First Minister Rhodri Morgan for the job of Counsel General.

UPDATE: 16:32 Here’s an Assembly statement on the Clerk’s investigation.

The investigation initiated by the Clerk of the National Assembly, into the circumstances that led to the disqualification as Assembly Members of two Liberal Democrat candidates, was suspended pending the outcome of the police investigation into the matter. For as long as that investigation is on-going it is not possible to take any final decision as to the form and timing of any resumption of the Assembly’s own investigation, although the aim of the Clerk would be to ensure that if the need arises, that investigation would be carried out as a matter of urgency. We cannot make any further comment at present.

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About Adrian Masters

By day, Political Editor at ITV Wales. By night, obsessed with music and books.

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