Election pact talks between Plaid Cymru, Welsh Liberal Democrats and Greens break down

The Assembly elections take place in May. Credit: ITV Wales

There have been informal talks about a possible pact between three of the political parties in Wales ahead of May's Assembly election.

I understand that representatives of Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the Wales Green party discussed the possibility of working together to present voters with a united alternative to Welsh Labour.

It would have involved a pre-election pact in which the parties would have agreed not to field candidates in some areas in order to maximise the number of votes each of the three parties could achieve.

Those involved in the talks believed the three parties could have won in this way as many as 22 seats in the Senedd chamber, giving them a real chance to form a Welsh Government if Labour lost ground.

After the election, the leader of the largest party grouping would have been put forward by the three parties as their joint candidate to be First Minister.

The talks were instigated by Plaid Cymru who were represented by senior party figures Adam Price and Elin Jones.

Although the discussions were informal and hadn't involved party leaders, they were detailed and the leaders were due to begin the next phase in a meeting last Monday.

If the leaders had been able to reach agreement the plans would have been put to the parties' respective memberships.

The plan fell apart when the Welsh Liberal Democrats pulled out from the negotiations. One source says they withdrew an hour before the leaders were due to meet.

Sources within all three parties have confirmed that the discussions took place and that they've ended without agreement. A Plaid spokesperson said,

After 17 years of Labour, Wales needs a new government to replace the current tired administration. Our country needs a new direction and fresh thinking in order to save our NHS and improve our economy. Informal, exploratory talks were held with the Liberal Democrats and Green Party in order to establish whether any cooperation was feasible between the parties.

These discussions have since come to an end. Plaid Cymru – the Party of Wales will continue to demonstrate that it is ready and able to provide the strong leadership Wales needs following May’s election.

– Plaid Cymru spokesperson

A Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesperson said:

We can confirm that we were approached informally on this matter but we decided it wasn’t the right approach.

– Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesperson

The leader of the Wales Green Party, Alice Hooker-Stroud says she welcomed the approach as a way of trying to form 'an alternative to our tired, inert one party state.'

Her full statement is below:

Our electoral system in Wales needs a good shake up. Progressive voters regularly have to hold their nose and vote for another term of a Welsh Labour government that has run out of ideas and has nothing left to offer but more excuses.

Representatives of the Wales Green Party were approached to explore whether we could form an alliance as an alternative to our tired, inert one party state. People want real change, and we were looking to from alliance with parties who share common ground with the Wales Green Party to see if we could offer them a chance to vote for it.

The electoral math was there, but the political will wasn't. Talks took place but no final proposal to take to our members for final agreement was reached. We are a party on the ascent and we will work, whether together or on our own, to ensure the next Welsh Government is accountable to those who want a fairer Wales, run for the common good. We now continue with our focus on the election, and we are excited that Green supporters in every part of Wales can still vote to to secure Green voices in the Senedd in May.

– Alice Hooker-Stroud, Wales Green Party leader

Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Greens joined forces in a 'progressive alliance' ahead of last year's UK General Election. However then the parties were largely operating in different parts of the UK. It would have been much more difficult to form an alliance when their candidates would have been in direct competition with each other.

Other parties have greeted the news with scorn. Welsh Labour says the 'astonishing revelation' shows 'a complete lack of respect' to voters.

This is an astonishing revelation. By trying to stitch up local contests, these three parties have essentially tried to subvert the electoral process. That shows a lack of confidence in their own campaigns– but also a complete lack of respect to Welsh voters. There’s a very clear choice facing the people of Wales on May 5th – between a Welsh Labour led administration focused on the economy and public services, or a chaotic coalition led by the Tories.

– Welsh Labour spokesperson

A Welsh Conservative spokesperson condemned it as 'embarrassing' and showing a 'huge lack of ambition or confidence.'

This revelation is hugely embarrassing for Plaid Cymru and their leader, who were clearly the driving force behind these aborted talks. Not only does this demonstrate a huge lack of ambition or confidence in the party’s prospects, it makes a mockery of their claims to be the Party of Wales if they were willing to leave some constituencies uncontested.

Just this week Plaid AMs said that it wasn’t appropriate to talk coalitions before the election, and now we find out that they have been desperately scratching around for a deal with other minor parties – disrespecting voters and undermining democracy.

It does seem that Leanne has given up on her election chances before a single vote has been cast; leaderless, rudderless and utterly hopeless.

– Welsh Conservative spokesperson

And a UKIP spokesperson condemned the talks as a 'stitch up' attempt.

It's not right that three parties think it appropriate to try to stitch up who stands where in the elections in order to shore up the most votes possible between them. They are all flailing and desperate as their support dwindles but trying to con the electorate like this just goes to show they all put party before people. We in UKIP believe voters should be given the opportunity to opt for the party that they think best represents them based on policies, rather than be denied having a particular candidate in their area because three parties have calculated how they can get as many bums on seats as possible to preserve their own self interests rather than campaign honestly on the big issues. It just goes to show what the mindset in Cardiff Bay is and why UKIP is essential to bringing back honesty in politics.

– UKIP Wales spokesperson

Update 2030

Plaid Cymru sources close to the talks expected some difficult conversations after the abortive talks became public and tonight there's a taste of what they can expect.

A Plaid AM has contacted me to say that they weren't told or consulted about the proposed pact and will raise it at next week's Assembly group meeting.

They tell me they don't understand the thinking behind the proposal given that they believed Plaid strategy to be to fight to win the election. The confusion is extended further because, the AM says, 'the Greens are not a force in Wales and we need to be beating Lib Dems in key areas and on lists.'

The AM went on to say that they would have appreciated being informed particularly if a pact had involved asking some candidates to stand aside at a time when those candidates are out campaigning, fundraising and spending money.