Lib Dems cease coalition talks with Labour

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have abandoned coalition talks with Labour after being unable to reach a deal on the shape of the assembly government.

Instead the Liberal Democrats will seek a “triple crown” government with the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru.

However, Welsh Labour – who are the single largest party in the Welsh assembly – have refused to accept defeat.

Plaid Cymru are still in talks with Labour over a possible coalition, while also beginning negotiations with the Liberal Democrats.

Leader Ieuan Wyn Jones said Plaid had no preferred option at present, and is not expected to make a decision until next week.

The Welsh secretary Peter Hain said a coalition with the Liberal Democrats was the preferable option for Labour AMs.

However, with this now out of the question, Rhodri Morgan could be moved to form a government with the nationalists.

Liberal Democrat AMs and party members voted to abandon talks with Labour last night. Leader in the assembly Mike German said it was “not right to continue negotiations with both sides.”

In breaking away from Labour, Mr German said the Liberal Democrats were leading Wales in “a historic new direction.”

He said: “No-one is pretending that a three way government will be easy. But government never is. Both the Assembly Group and National Executive Committee feel we have a duty to examine what can be achieved.

“The Welsh triple crown has been a cause for celebration on the rugby field down the decades. We now need to work hard over the weekend to ensure a triple crown government could give Wales a fresh start.”

The Conservative’s assembly leader Nick Bourne confirmed it had been approached by Plaid for coalition talks.

During their election campaign, the nationalists had robustly insisted they would not enter a coalition under a Conservative first minister.

Mr Bourne said any agreement involving the Conservatives would have to be a formal coalition, insisting the Conservatives would not prop up a minority government with a “stability pact”.

He told the BBC: “We Conservatives do government and sometimes we’re obliged to do opposition but we don’t do limbo.”

The Conservatives won 12 assembly seats in this month’s election, making them the third largest party. Labour lost three seats – and their guarantee of power – to take 26. Plaid Cymru have 15 seats and the Liberal Democrats six.

Assembly members have until the end of the month to form government, or they will face a second election.