Budgeting for trouble: a disunited opposition, but for how long?

Kirsty Williams and Leanne Wood announcing their budget deal
Kirsty Williams and Leanne Wood announcing their budget deal Photo:

The three opposition parties in the Assembly disagree on most things but largely agree on their assessment of the Labour Welsh Government's record in 2013. You can read Plaid Cymru's criticism by clicking here, the Welsh Conservatives' here and the Welsh Liberal Democrats here.

The end of the year is an obvious time for the opposition parties to list what they see as the Welsh Government's failings, but today is also when AMs vote on Labour's budget. That's expected to pass thanks to the abstention of Plaid and Lib Dem AMs after those parties jointly reached a deal with Labour. Details of that are here.

If that deal hadn't been done, the Labour minority Welsh Government wouldn't have been able to get its budget through and the Assembly could have been in confidence vote territory. So how can the two parties criticise Labour so severely on one hand while allowing it to go ahead with its plans?

They both reject the accusation that they're 'propping up' Carwyn Jones' government. Plaid's Leanne Wood told me that public sector and third sector organisations need to know what their budgets are which made it 'the right decision' to enable those budgets to be set.

But she said that apart from the measures Plaid's agreed, 'it's not our budget.'

The Liberal Democrat AM Aled Roberts agreed that 'there has to be a budget' and that the two parties achieved significant concessions.

He too denied 'propping up' Labour telling me, 'this isn't a coalition budget.'

Leanne Wood also told me 'it may not be the case next year' that her party will allow the budget to go through.

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies does think Plaid and the Lib Dems are letting Labour off lightly but is in magnanimous mood, saying that despite the bigger political differences between his party and theirs, the opposition parties are getting better at working together to force concessions on legislation.

And he's predicting that the closeness of European, Parliamentary and Assembly elections will add 'greater political tension' into the Assembly mix making it more likely that the three parties will find further ways of working together more often in the next few years.

The maths mean that any united opposition action would only succeed in stalemate but they've learned that even threatening to block the government can be productive.

I'm far from predicting a return to the close working between Plaid, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems which made a non-Labour 'Rainbow coalition' a very real prospect after the inconclusive 2007 election.

But it seems highly likely that if the three parties can put aside their differences, Carwyn Jones can expect a rougher ride in 2014.