I want to focus this article on one of the two other parties that seem to vex our minds more than any other – Plaid Cymru (UKIP will be next)
If anyone is intending to engage with this debate, then you must read Leanne Wood’s ‘Greenprint for the Valleys’ document first. This is her personal manifesto, the one which took her to the leadership of Plaid Cymru. It is an ecosocialist manifesto and I will be surprised if there is anything a true Green Party ecosocialist could take issue with in there.Of course, this is not necessarily PC policy and, it is not as easy to locate a full set of their policies online as it is for ours, but most reasonable estimates reckon that there is close to a 90% overlap in policies. It will be interesting to see how the PC manifesto compares to the GPEW in a few months time.
The point is that we have a hell of a lot in common policy-wise. What we have less in common about is tangible support. Plaid Cymru currently has over 8000 members, to WGP’s 900 or so. It has 3 MPs out of 40 in Wales (compared to UK Greens one out 650). It has 206 councillors in Wales, compared to WGP’s zero and GPEW’s 139 in the whole of England and Wales.So this is what we are up against. In my local area, Bridgend, we have built a rapport with local Plaid Cymru members and worked closely with them on ‘Bridgend Against the Bedroom Tax’ in particular, and have informal agreements to ensure we avoid getting in each others way in our target wards. We are, I believe, seen as more or less equal parties working co-operatively for shared objectives. I see the relationship growing and being of mutual benefit.
The current Wales Green Party officers seem set against attempting to do anything similar at a Wales level, citing historical issues that bear little relevance to current realities. And of course we would be in a pretty weak bargaining position, given the figures above. We could not expect equal shares in any electoral pact for sure. But if we do not come to some arrangement, we will continue to split the ecosocialist vote, to the detriment of all.
I happen to believe that Leanne Wood would welcome having her own ecosocialist principles endorsed by the Green Party – GPEW, if not WGP, is a bigger party, and it would, after all, be little more than an extension of, and recognition of, the fact that we are already formal allies in Brussels with GPEW and PC MEPs sitting and working together as part of the Green/EFA grouping.
There is growing recognition of left wing factions having to pool their resources and build a spirit of co-operation if we are ever going to defeat the neo-liberal caucus represented by the big three parties and the right wing fringe parties – at the ballot box at least. This is the rationale behind the PAAA and Left Unity, for example. In this respect, working with Plaid Cymru makes even more sense, as here in Wales they are an established electoral force already. A Welsh Ecosocialist Alliance could well provide electoral credibility for left wing alliances across the UK. If Leanne Wood was able to take most of the credit for that, I am sure she would buy into it. In her own words:
“Plaid Cymru genuinely wants to support people in England who want to rebalance political and economic power. Our party is co-operative, internationalist and of the left. We will work with progressives of any hue in England who want to decentralise. We are also prepared to actively support a new Left party in England.”
Local context is. of course, important, but sometimes at this level, people are standing too close to each other to have a proper perspective. We always feel uncomfortable when people enter what we see as our personal space. But we have to look at what we can expect to achieve and prioritise acceptable outcomes.
Of course, the perfect outcome of any election would be a Green Party win. As far as I am concerned, the least acceptable outcome would be a UKIP (or BNP) win. FPTP forces us into some awful dilemmas. Do I really vote Green when a likely consequence is letting a UKIP candidate win? What would be in the best interests of the electorate in that situation? Shouldn’t PC be our automatic second choice?
There are one or two places in Wales where this scenario is very real. Should we be self-serving, or selfless?
Irrespective of the views of some in WGP and GPEW, I am personally determined that one of the hues Plaid Cymru work with in Wales will be Green. I think that both Leanne and I share not just ecosocialist principles, but an understanding that it has to be about change on the ground – positive changes to people’s lives – ahead of any party sectarianism. I am involved in politics to do the right things to create a better world for us to live in. I will work with anyone and everyone that can help me turn this vision into a reality.
People are always very good at homing in on points of disagreement and conflict, rather than the sources of harmony and solidarity. I regularly hear people saying we cannot touch Plaid because ap Iorwerth supports Wylfa B. Most of his Party do not. I do not hear them complaining that a leading Welsh Green supports putting soldiers into classrooms to improve discipline.They know very few others support such a notion. I also hear a lot about Plaid Cymru supporting the badger cull and being too close to the tory farming community. So how about we tell them we just won’t support that (they know it already, but are still happy to work with us). Simple.
Sectarianism is an ugly thing, and something my generation have seen too much of over the years. Nonetheless, it appears to be the younger generation that are particularly keen to embrace amore inclusive and collaborative form of politics.
Adam Ramsay is one of the most respected Young Greens on the national scene. He has said this to me:
I think there should be seperate identities [for PC and WGP], which can sometimes be brought together on one ballot paper, and which never compete – a better analogy is perhaps an eco-socialist version of the Coalition in Australia. But in any case, the end game isn’t really the point – as you say, that’s a long way off. The first steps might be some kind of loose pact in Westminster relating to one or two seats…
And also written this in his respected blog:
“Local Greens and Plaid members will know their local situations better than I do. But, from where I’m sitting, I see an almighty task ahead of us if we are to displace the neoliberal parties which dominate British politics. If modern pluralistic, progressive movements are to succeed in that task, a little co-operation wouldn’t go amiss.”
Glenn Page is a former Green Party member who is now very prominent in Plaid Cymru Youth.He wrote in Daily Wales:
It seems bizarre to me that two parties should contest elections against one and other and then promptly, post-election, take up seats on the same benches in the same group.
He has told me:
Everyone I speak with still wants to see you as leader of the Welsh Greens, excited by the prospect even. By the prospect of achieving our shared objectives that is.
And Compass Cymru explicitly state:
“We’re trying to get progressive parties working together and focusing on what we have in common.”
I accept that this approach will alienate some Green Party supporters, but I will always stand by my convictions and am happy to be judged on them. This is the best way forward.
You do, at least, have another choice, which is a position of luxury in my time in the Party. But with the choice comes the responsibility. Engage with the issues. Talk to other people (dare I say in Plaid Cymru even) and make a positive choice in the election so that, whoever wins, has a proper mandate to take the party forward with.