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Last Updated: Monday, 5 February 2007, 16:16 GMT
Is Forward Wales in reverse gear?
By Adrian Browne
BBC Wales news

John Marek and Ron Davies
John Marek and Ron Davies both used to be Labour MPs and AMs
The future of Forward Wales is in question after it emerged that its two leading figures will not stand under its banner in the assembly election.

Former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies and assembly Deputy Presiding Officer John Marek will stand as independent candidates in the 3 May poll.

Both men said that changes in the electoral system made it very difficult for small parties to succeed.

Dr Marek has led Forward Wales since he launched the party in 2003.

On the face of it this seems to be a disaster for Forward Wales.

But, as so often in politics, things are not quite as they first appear.

Both Mr Davies and Dr Marek remain members of Forward Wales - 'enthusiastic' members judging by the BBC interviews they have been doing.

Yet, if successfully elected as official party candidates, their winning results would make it virtually impossible for Forward Wales members standing as such to secure regional assembly seats.

People's Voice took a decision not to have anything to do with Ron Davies
People's Voice spokesperson

That is because of the mathematical formula which gives the assembly its element of proportional representation (you and I both need to concentrate a little for the next bit).

This formula means that for every traditional, Westminster style 'first-past-the-post' seat a political party gains, its chances of having enough votes left over to win a regional 'top up' seat is reduced.

Big beasts

Now, if Forward Wales members stand as independent candidates, as opposed to representing a political party, the formula does not apply and their chances of winning a regional seat are much enhanced.

It could certainly be argued that standing as an independent whilst being a member of a political party might mislead voters.

The reality is that John Marek and Ron Davies have been independents in all but name for many years.

The very idea that a tiny party such as Forward Wales would tell them how to tie their shoelaces is fanciful.

In effect, as such big beasts, John and Ron are the party.

In fact, standing candidates under the 'independence' banner to get to Cardiff Bay appears to be all the rage.

Apparently the UK Independence Party will do so as part of a re-branding, and is boasting it is confident of winning two assembly seats.

All of the above does not in any way suggest that Forward Wales is close to feeling hands of history at its shoulder, to quote our prime minister.

The future of a party whose candidates will not be using its name on their stickers and balloons at election time has to be in question.

It is just that running Forward Wales candidates as independents increases their winning chances in May and that is what Dr Marek and Mr Davies' electoral plans are all about.

Any hopes that independents might be able to work well together should they hold the balance of power after the poll have also been dealt a bit of a blow.

Political mould

Trish Law's party, the People's Voice, has firmly rejected any suggestion that it could work with Ron Davies.

A spokesperson on behalf of the People's Voice said that the party had "washed its hands of any alliance - they don't want to know.

He added: "People's Voice took a decision not to have anything to do with Ron Davies."

We might have to wait a little for the Welsh political mould to be broken.

Davies makes Euro comeback
08 Apr 04 |  Wales
Forward Wales breakthrough fails
11 Jun 04 |  North East Wales
Forward Wales targets Labour voters
20 May 04 |  North East Wales
Marek strikes out with new party
10 Nov 03 |  North East Wales

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