Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labour – what is going on? (with addendum)

Throughout the entire Welsh Assembly election campaign, it was obvious to just about everyone that the best chance of a stable government, assuming no Labour majority, would be some sort of deal between Labour and Plaid Cymru. But there is a world of difference between stable government and good government.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 11.47.27Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 11.48.38

Plaid Cymru have spent much of the last five years, and especially the campaign period, lambasting Welsh Labour, entirely justifiably, for their complacency, lack of imagination and shocking record in areas of key services like health and education.

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“No deal” (Fingers crossed behind back)

Leanne Wood repeatedly said that she wanted no deals with anybody and that she wanted a Plaid Cymru government. That was always a pipe dream, but more realistically, and one of the main reasons I ended up up voting for them, she also has repeatedly said that as the main party of opposition, they would provide the robust opposition so patently missing when the Tories were the main opposition party.

All this make the shenanigans of the last week hard to fathom.

Plaid Cymru took a calculated risk in standing Leanne against Carwyn last week. It almost led to Leanne becoming the First Minister – which would have been an embarrassing car crash – no way could she form a government – and had Kirsty Williams to thank for saving her from that mishappenstance. As it turned out, Carwyn got his bloody nose, and Plaid Cymru had to deal with the shame of having the full support of both Tories and the devil-incarnate, UKIP, tarnishing their public image before the new Senedd had even got started.

With both these gifts pocketed, Tories and UKIP could now manipulate things further by offers of support to Welsh Labour (with strings attached, of course) and by undermining any need for Welsh Labour to do any bargaining with Plaid Cymru by, as the Tories have done, declaring the intention to abstain in the next First Minister vote and thereby rubber stamping Carwyn RT Jones as First Minister, after a week’s fun and games.

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“What do you want from me?” (through gritted teeth)

At this point, both Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labour should have realised their proper places and had the maturity to take those roles more seriously going forward. There was no need for any deal at all, let alone a cosying up behind closed doors. Both will claim it was in their best interests, whereas in reality it undermines them both.

Welsh Labour will presumably have been seeking assurances that Plaid Cymru will not continue to pull stunts to undermine the government process. With Kirsty Williams

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Kirsty puckering up for Carwyn?

likely to be largely co-operative, and UKIP likely to be absent increasingly often as they get bored with provincial minutiae, I am not sure they really had much to worry about. That was very much their thinking before last weeks stunt. They have now made themselves publicly beholden to Plaid Cymru. Whatever has been agreed, that will be the perception.

Plaid Cymru will presumably have been seeking pledges to give them a few snippets from their manifesto. This will be held up as justification for the farce they have made of the first week of the new Senedd (following on from the Health Bill farce they enacted in the last week of the last Senedd before the election). However, as the lead opposition party against a minority government, I find it hard to imagine that they have been given any concessions from Labour this week that would not have been able to achieve on a case-by-case basis anyway. Wrapping up such concessions in a secretive deal behind closed doors now is going to reap more negatives than positives in terms of positive perceptions of the Party in the eyes of voters next time around. Regular public concessions as time goes by in the Senedd would have a more positive impact. It is the difference between a strong opponent putting in regular telling blows that might eventually lead to knock out, as opposed to a virtual coalition where partners prop each other up because they are both too weak to stand tall and strong.

Will we ever find out exactly what they have agreed? I somehow doubt it as they will probably both feel a bit embarrassed about all the fuss over what I suspect amounts to very little.

And where does all this leave Bridgend’s Green Leftie? Having given up on a largely clueless Green Party, I had been hoping to join a largely ecosocialist Plaid Cymru that might actually be on the verge of achieving major positive things in Wales. Their manifesto was pretty impressive overall.

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McAvoy – the ‘Bluebird Bruiser’

However, they still seem to lack the maturity and guile to convince people that they are fit to govern. I can’t be doing with such nonsense when there is so much pressing work to be getting on with immediately (e.g. Port Talbot steel in particular). Those that know the ‘marmite’ Neil McAvoy, one of PC’s new AMs, will also understand why I expect an increase in petty, immature squabbles going forward.

Many of my ecosocialist friends have been tempted to join the Labour Party in support of Jeremy Corbyn‘s vision of the way forward. I would be sorely tempted by that too, but I am struggling to find any sort of socialist in Welsh Labour (other than Mick Antoniw) and Carwyn RT Jones local branch would be my branch here in Bridgend – and a more Blairite mafia you would struggle to find.

So I guess that leaves me here sniping from the sidelines. I will continue to try of offer constructive opinions to anyone (is there anyone?) prepared to listen, and when I eventually, if ever, see evidence of a Party that actually has a clue about how to put the world to rights, not just on paper, but in practice, then I will sign up and try to do my bit.

In the meantime, although it was pretty immature in itself putting this out as an election broadcast, this Green Party video sums up British politics at the moment pretty well (a Welsh language version featuring Carwyn, Leanne, RT, Hamilton and Kirsty anybody?):

(Click image for the video)

ADDENDUM

I was wrong about them keeping the details of the deal deal quiet – Plaid Cymru have been keen to brag about what they have achieved. They have summarised it thus:Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 19.18.49

Looks impressive – but on closer analysis, especially in the context of the Welsh Labour manifesto for these elections,  what exactly have they extracted from Labour that was not likely to happen anyway? The answer is very little.

Looking at the lists above and starting with the left hand column:

  • 30 hours of free childcare is in the Labour manifesto – nothing gained.
  • National Infrastructure Commission is something gained – but commissions and commissioners are no assurance of change on the ground (e.g Electoral Commission and Police Commissioners) – it is potentailly a low cost quango offering some jobs to some mates and corprate connections, if we take a cynical view of it.
  • A new Drugs Fund is in the Labour manifesto – scope may be slightly different now, but no significant gain.
  • Welsh Development Bank – another quango gained. Labour’s manifesto pledges £2billion in devlopment investment. Overall then, a gain of dubious value.
  • Recruitment and training of GPs is too vague to have much meaning. Recruitment and training of GPs goes on all the time. The Labour manifesto cites other strategies for relieving pressure on GPs that may help stem the loss of GPs that are quitting under the strain. This may well be more effective overall. Thus, a gain of dubious overall value.
  • 100,000 new apprenticeships – exactly as in the Labour manifesto – nothing gained.
  • Support for the steel industry – surely a given and therefore, without specifics, nothing gained.
  • Campaigning to ‘Remain in EU’ – an already declared given – nothing gained.
  • Anti-smacking legislation – a gain, but not really contentious to most Labour AMs, so not a hard fought gain. May prove more contentious in wider circles.
  • Additional Learning Needs Bill and Autism Act – takes Labour manifesto pledges a little further (into legislation). Probably the most significant gain, but not a huge stride forward.
  • Strengthen Welsh Language Measure – in the Labour manifesto – nothing gained.
  • New Public Health Bill – a given after the debacle preciptated by ‘Cheap-date-gate’ in the last session of the last Senedd. Removing the e-cigarette element was a ridiculously late change of heart by PC to justify their petulance. It’s removal is a mistake in my opinion – thus I rate it a step backwards rather than a step forward.
  • A review of Health & Social Care – assuming a presumption towards better integration of these services – is in the Labour manifesto. Nothing gained.

To summarise, behind all the spin is only ONE gain that genuinely excites me – regarding legislation to improve services to those on the Autistic spectrum and with additional learning needs. As an educationalist, I fully recognise just how important this is, but it is, sadly, a measure of limited mass appeal across the general public.

There a few gains of dubious and/or uncertain benefit, but at least 8 things listed here that are either in the Labour manifesto or that were going to happen anyway.

And where is anything on fracking? On fossil fuels and climate change? On scrapping the Black Route option for the M4 relief road? Plaid Cymru are supposed to make the Greens irrelevant in Wales, aren’t they?

Thus my overall feelings are not changed. The whole thing has been a convoluted stunt that, when the dust settles, will have achieved very little. Indeed, I still think the negative impacts on public perceptions will prove more costly to both Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labour in the long run. We knew they had areas of common ground already. Cosying up together behind closed doors to do deals does not constitute the robust opposition I expected from PC, despite Leanne Woods trying to say otherwise. The best that can be said of the whole affair is that Welsh Labour may have learned a bit more humility, but that did not necessitate them choosing to kowtow to just one of the opposition parties. That takes humilty into the realms of humiliation.

An inauspicious start to the new Senedd!

 

12 thoughts on “Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labour – what is going on? (with addendum)

    1. Bridgend's Green Leftie Post author

      I have not said there no gains at all – simply that they amount to nothing to get exceited about. You cannot hide the fact that much of the wording is lifted directly from the Labour manifesto either.

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  1. 4cities

    I’d like to put this piece up in the Celyn blog, a rather quiet affair since Leanne, one of its original key supporters, became leader of PC, leaving the ‘spiky, red, green’ project rather dangling. I’ve been keeping it alive with occasional articles but this one is pretty much on the mark. I suggest you contact Gareth Phillips, who is a councillor over there. He can tell you about the emergent pro-Corbyn Momentum group in Swansea – we’ve had a series of events and have over 130 supporters on our Facebook page Swansea Stands up for Corbyn, hopefully soon to be something like Swansea Bay Momentum. Long story. There were quite a few people over from Bridgend, Ogmore, Neath and PT to a recent meeting. Best contact us via the Facebook page or my email

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  2. Llyr

    Think you’re wrong and some of the points are all over the place. You want Plaid to attack Labour, but then are sorely tempted to join Labour as well?

    Plaid forced Labour’s hand with the First Ministerial nomination. They will be an excellent opposition. This one-vote agreement is not binding for the term and does not constitute Plaid’s entire programme. As a supporter and member it’s nice not go through a crisis of faith, and to see what a great job Leanne is doing . I trust the group fully and this is the first time I’ve felt like that for a while. But now I want to see Labour’s feet held to the fire, especially on climate.

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    1. Bridgend's Green Leftie Post author

      I may well be wrong. I hope that I am wrong quite often. I am an ecosocialist struggling to find a political home. They all seem to flatter to deceive.
      The big problem that I have here is that I strongly believe that PC are blundering around without any really coherent strategy.They are making it up as they go along. Unless of course you are telling me they lied and did in fact carefully orchestrate the tied vote last week through doing some sort of deal with the Tories, UKIP and indeed Kirsty Williams. It is only that tied vote that that drew Labour into talks. I would love to know what the contingency plan was had Kisrty effectively voted Leanne into the First Minister role. As I have suggested – I believe all the evidence suggests that it was a canny move by the Tories and UKIP to decide to fully back Leanne and then sit back and watch the fun that ensued.
      PC have done probably as good a job as they could from the ensuing mess and are spinning as well as a Shane Warne over it.
      Labour are clearly suffering a major crisis of confidence right now, but are not going to tolerate PC’s foot on their throats for long, and in fact I’m surprised they have given as much as they have.
      Being an excellent opposition is not about being belligerent and antagonistic. It is about careful scrutiny, holding people to account and seeking constructive compromises, while remaining true to core values. An opposition so distant from power by itself, and barely ahead of the next party in line, also needs some humility and sense of what is reasonable in the circumstances.
      The deal done is pretty shabby. It is little more than a recognition of common ground that was there already. An alternative spin on it, that I am surprised that Labour aren’t using already, but is surely to come, is that it amounts to little more than an endorsement of much (as it was so brief) of the Labour manifesto. That is the antithesis of excellent opposition.
      I am not, at present remotely tempted to join either party on the basis of their recent conduct. Were I in England I would almost certainly consider being a Corbynite within the Labor Party. Blairite Welsh Labour hold no appeal whatsoever. Plaid remain the most tempting option here in Wales, but they still have a long way to go to persuade me they have the maturity and nous to gain the public support they need to bridge the chasm that still exists.

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      1. Llyr

        Those are some decent points. Just wasn’t sure what your coherent view or expectation of Plaid was or is (not a personal attack on you by any means).

        ‘Being an excellent opposition is not about being belligerent and antagonistic. It is about careful scrutiny, holding people to account and seeking constructive compromises, while remaining true to core values.’

        I agree but that’s what they’re doing? The deal, although it only covers one vote, was constructive. It seems Labour didn’t want to do a deal at first. That’s why Plaid called the vote.

        ‘Labour are clearly suffering a major crisis of confidence right now, but are not going to tolerate PC’s foot on their throats for long, and in fact I’m surprised they have given as much as they have.’

        They don’t have a choice to tolerate Plaid or not. It’s the only place for them to get votes to get things through, even with Kirsty Williams joining the Labour ranks. Plaid could really improve things now, but Labour will be responsible for delivery. I prefer this to coalition.

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      2. Bridgend's Green Leftie Post author

        I want to see PC standing alone – not cosying up/ doing deals/ getting involved in stunts with tories etc. – while engaging in mature dialogue and rigorous scutiny of the Govt. in the role of an effective opposition party promoting ecosocialist values and policies wherever possible. To my mind, the last week or so (and the last week of the last Senedd) does not tick any of these boxes. The whole circumstances leading to ‘the deal’ was an ill-conceived farce. ‘The deal’ itself is little more than an endorsemnt of big chunks of the Labour manifesto. Within a short period of time I am pretty sure Labour will have an effective majority (Kirsty Williams supporting them more often than not, and 29 votes holding sway anyway with UKIP absenteeism creeping in). The barely disguised contempt and lack of respect between the two parties – heightened by the presence of McAvoy – will lead to very different dynamics than may appear to hold sway today.
        You are right – Plaid could really improve things now, even while Labour remains responsible for delivery, but not by such clumsy and poorly conceived strategies as we have seeen of late.

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  3. Pingback: Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labour – what is going on? | Celyn

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