Election pact talks between Plaid Cymru, Welsh Liberal Democrats and Greens break down
So says the headline on the ITV news page today.
First of all, let me applaud the Plaid Cymru leadership for taking the initiative. It shows that they are beginning to learn some harsh truths for a start. They are not going to form a government on their own in May and they seem to finally be acknowledging this. As no party is going to form a government on its own in May, it is time to stop all the ridiculous posturing and get down to some serious politics.
The knee jerk reactions from Labour and Tories tell you all you need to know about these two parties that have grown ever closer, especially since Blair’s red toryism so beloved of Welsh Labour, on the back of the inbuilt injustice of our electoral systems.
Thus we have the anonymous Welsh Labour Spokesperson saying:
“By trying to stitch up local contests, these three parties have essentially tried to subvert the electoral process….. also a complete lack of respect to Welsh voters.”
Electoral alliances enhance democracy if done properly. It is not stitching up a local contest, it is giving a broader range of opinion a chance of getting representation. I vote for the chosen alliance candidate is a vote for the common elements of all the alliance parties. If Labour gets 50 % of the vote it still cannot be beaten, but a system that allows them to constantly clean up with 30 to 40% the vote – that is a system that shows contempt for the electorate. But it is a system that suits the big two – as they can regularly have all-powerful absolute majorities with a third of the vote – which given the typical turnout figures can mean less than 25% of the electorate. (Don’t forget, the Labour hegemony in the Welsh Assembly, with all those careers it has provided for the likes of Carwyn RT Jones, owes itself to that initial 50.1% of a 49.9% turnout in the referendum that created the Assembly in the first place!)
A similarly anonymous Welsh Conservative Spokesperson uttered the same disingenuous drivel, adding:
“it makes a mockery of their claims to be the Party of Wales if they were willing to leave some constituencies uncontested”
This may have superficial credibility, but I would assert that this depends on the integrity of the alliance put before people. If it is purely self-serving opportunism, then Anon Tory is right. But if it is a genuine alliance, rather than a mere electoral pact, then we are really talking about something noble that really does seek to address the needs of the Welsh people in increasingly dire times. It is exactly the path trodden by the Greek people in response to the ravages of ideologically imposed austerity as they rallied behind the SYRIZA alliance of more than a dozen anti-austerity parties, that otherwise would have never have been heard at all. The Party of Wales, with the interests of the people ahead of its own interests, needs therefore to become the driving force for the Welsh Ecosocialist Alliance that will contest every constituency on that basis. (An idea I put forward in November 2013)
This is almost certainly a long way from the tentative discussion reported this week. Although it may be the reason the Lib Dems ran away from the idea. While once upon a time they may have been convincing as libertarian (mild) lefties, they have no credibility for such a description these days, since Clegg’s neoliberal Orange Book. In fact, I am a bit surprised that PC even saw fit to try and include them. However, Tim Farron has some anti-austerity credentials and was a commendable gesture to at least talk to them. That they chose to walk away probably saves problems down the line, although I would have thought that anything that might help them maintain a presence in the Assembly would have been welcomed by them. They have a few very good people that are going to be lost to the Assembly for sure now.
As for the Greens, it is a huge relief that post-Bartolotti, Wales Green Party is back in the real world. Even before the ‘love in’ between Leanne Wood, Natalie Bennett and Nicola Sturgeon, in the run up to the General Election, I was sounding out the prospects of developing working relationships between PC and Greens at all levels. There was considerable potential at one time, scuppered by Bartolotti’s ego and and some unseemly sectarianism. It is encouraging to see the new leader off the Welsh Greens, Alice Hooker-Stroud, talking more pragmatically:
“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 form alliances with parties who share common ground with the Wales Green Party to see if we could offer them a chance to vote for it.”
That reference to shared common ground is the crucial one. There is so much of it between the Greens and PC; far more than the average member of public will realise. It really is madness fighting over essentially the same votes for the most part. The bits that they don’t share are undoubtedly highly important to some of their respective voters, and this puts some people’s noses out of joint when talk of working together surfaces. However, with proper selling of an alliance, these voters would be cutting said noses off to spite their faces in not getting on board as they would not get their especial concerns addressed anywhere else.
In conclusion …….
This news amounts to nothing at the moment. Its timing raises legitimate questions as to what has motivated it. It is, however, and encouraging sign that some parties are seriously grappling with the realities that face them. It has to be the way forward and has to be applauded and encouraged, if not for this year’s elections (it should have been done at least 18 months ago, before everyone had candidates selected everywhere), it should be something revisited and developed for all our sakes.
Given the likely scenario of an assembly with no party close to an overall majority, watch the typical two-faced hypocrisy of Welsh Labour and the Welsh Tories as the scratch around to see what deals they can do to try and cling to what they believe is their god-given right to rule over us. Probably the most appropriate coalition would be between the two of them. A Labour/Tory coalition? You heard it here first!
PS. Most recent polling data – treat with caution after the General Election!
- Labour falling away
- PC gaining most – but not enough!
- PC+Greens+Lib Dems = more than UKIP (just!) (WTF!!!!)
- Don’t knows increasing and likely to be decisive
- ‘Would not vote’ low – a high turnout would be refreshing!
I despair at the UKIP figures. So many idiots, very depressing.
Couldn’t agree more!
I agree with much of what you’ve said, Andy. You’re clearly a bit sceptical about the LibDems being part of any pact, but in these particular circumstances I would say that, for it to be workable, it needs LibDems votes and needs the LibDems to win seats in order for Plaid and the Greens to benefit as well.
I agree with that to an extent. It couldn’t be called an ecosocialist alliance with them involved though!
That’s a fair point, Andy. However one of the problems of a Plaid/Green alliance now is that Plaid are so much bigger than the Greens in Wales, and therefore likely to take unfair advantage because of that size. With another party involved, one party is far less likely to get away with any attempted bullying. In time, of course, I expect the Welsh Green Party to grow in its own right.
There are other parties that could be involved in an Ecosocialsit Alliance – such as Left Unity, TUSC, Pirates, Respect, and potentially some of these: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_parties_in_the_United_Kingdom#Minor_UK_left.2Ffar-left_parties
Syriza shows what is possible with a spirit of comradeship!