Plaid have work to do to keep Ceredigion

Ceredigion’s new MP, Ben Lake

Mike Parker, Plaid Cymru’s candidate for Ceredigion in the 2015 Westminster General Election, looks at this year’s contest…

“Were you up for Ceredigion?” was never quite going to have the mass appeal of Portillo’s 1997 defenestration, though for some of us, it was a moment of even sweeter delight.

After two recounts, and with the sky having long turned to milky grey, 24-year old Ben Lake of Plaid Cymru became the final MP of Wales’ forty to be declared.

I was too knackered to think of the perfect tweet at the time, so here it is belatedly: Yng Nghymru, mae’r LibDems wedi dod i Ben.

As the constituency’s Plaid candidate at the last Westminster election, only two short (but in many ways, so very distant) years ago, my joy was intensely personal, as well as political.

Numerous people messaged me to gauge how bittersweet it felt for me.  Not at all, is the honest answer.

Two years up to my hocks in party politics only made me realise how much I adore my indolent writer’s life, and although I would have given it everything had I won, I think it would have fried my soul.

Ben is exactly what Ceredigion needs as an MP: a local lad with a wide worldview, a youngster in a two-Uni seat, someone who has the energy, politics and personality to bridge the divides of this splendidly stubborn county.

Lib Dem Ceredigion candidate Marks Williams

Filthy

There is, of course, enormous pleasure that their highly elastic concept of truth finally tripped up the Ceredigion Liberal Democrats.

Mark Williams having to make a public apology to Plaid in the final week of the campaign was surely enough to lose the few dozen people that cost him the seat.

For three years in succession now (Westminster 2015, Senedd 2016, council and snap elections 2017), the Ceredigion LibDems have run filthy campaigns.

It has not gone unnoticed, even amongst those whose interest in politics is relatively slight.

There are only so many times you can dig down into a seam of slime before it leaves its stains on those doing the digging.

These are the lessons the LibDems – and not just in Ceredigion – need to learn, and fast.

Clean up your campaigns.  Try matching your deeds to your fine, noble, ambitious words.

Learn that sanctimonious certainty in your message is not a justification for brazen lies or appalling behaviour.

Stop relying so heavily on pasty-faced kids who treat the whole thing like a computer game.

Realise that what you could get away with in the analogue age gets quickly found out in the digital.

You have long been known by everyone as the muckiest election fighters, and that is not a badge of honour.  It’s time for a rethink.

I say all this with some genuine sadness.  Beyond Wales, I wanted the LibDems to do an awful lot better in this election than they did.

I would love to have seen them win back some of the seats in the south-west of England that they lost in droves to the Tories last time.

I applaud their unashamedly anti-Brexit stance, and wish it had been more successful.

I so desperately wish negotiations for government were now happening between Labour, the LibDems, the Greens, SNP and Plaid, rather than a fatally wounded Theresa May and the terrifying neanderthals of the DUP.

Cynog Dafis, Ceredigion’s former Plaid Cymru MP, with AM Elin Jones and MP Ben Lake

Sobering

So what of Plaid in the election aftermath?  Fair-to-middling, at best.

As the MP with the lowest winning percentage of them all (29.23%), Ben Lake has to reach out, and fast, to the 7 in 10 voters who didn’t support him, especially if there is another election, heaven help us, before long.

I’d suggest a charm offensive like no other towards the newly-energised younger population and students, for whom he could be a real advocate.

The LibDems in Ceredigion have always ruthlessly milked the ‘anyone but Plaid’ vote, and Ben’s win will only sharpen their message that they are the only ones who can keep the boo-hiss Nats at bay.

That message alone will be enough to tempt back some Tory and Labour voters who this time returned to their natural home.

Beyond the windswept western shore, this was yet another election where Plaid Cymru did just about enough to keep itself afloat.

It comes on top of us doing just enough in 2014 to squeak Jill Evans back as the final Welsh MEP; just enough in 2015 to hold our ground in the Westminster poll; just enough in 2016 to take one more seat in the Assembly election and just enough last month to make a modest advance in council seats.

It’s a sobering thought that if only one hundred residents of Arfon and Ceredigion had voted differently, we’d be down to 2 MPs, which would have unleashed recriminations and doubts galore about the party’s strategy and direction.

Even as it stands, with 4 MPs and the happy return of Ceredigion to the Plaid fold, we are now more or less back to where we were 25 years ago.

‘Just enough’ is not enough, and we must stop pretending that it is.

You can follow Mike Parker @mikeparkerwales or visit his website www.mikeparker.org.uk

Articles via Email

Get instant updates to your inbox

12 Comments

  1. Gains in all last 3 elections (WA council and WM) against backdrop of brexit in WA, GE announcement in Council and UK media framed GE as May v Corbyn.
    Even Chris Ruane (labour VoC) in his victory speech has thanked plaid voters for lending him their vote.
    That’s worth noting…lending.
    Despite all the forces working against plaid cymru gains have been made each time….That’s worth celebrating.
    Work to do but that comes again now.

  2. Nice piece.Much of Plaid’s progressive policy+message still undone by the tricky legacy of badger cull and support on Mon for Wylfa B nuclear station.More acres than votes in farming of course but more significantly W.Wales farming needs price regulation a lot more than mega-dairies.Policy aimed at tackling the latter might just head off TB,(and it’s likely vector slurry)and give hope for a steady farming future.Anybody for a Milk Marketing Board? Hard to imagine getting beyond existing core vote without dealing with this stuff just when Wales needs some nationalist political sentiment.

  3. Love “Yng Nghymru, mae’r LibDems wedi dod i Ben”… but the note of caution is also advised. Politics isn’t just about elections but elections is where people get to judge your effectiveness and ability. Plaid is best when it campaigns and we should use the next few years to campaign for the alternative Wales we want. Alternative as in different from the poor backwater of a British state hell-bent on privatisation and starving our public services of funding, while mollycoddling the rich.

  4. Two things – Plaid Cymru does need a review of why isn’t picking up more votes ESPECIALLY why it flunked in Ynys Mon – maybe the wrong candidate at wrong time?
    (I know Plaid cymru got squeezed in the UK system – but that’s the reality you are in)

    Secondly, You want desperately there to be a labour alliance….yet one upside is that continued Tory rule causes a surge in people wanting independence in Wales (now at 36% with tories) – and in Scotland (60% yes if tories rule)

    • ”But that’s the reality you are in”. Correct, so it’s frustrating to read comments that use the squeeze as an excuse for a poor election, where Plaid are confined to the west again. This trend will continue, so we need to work out how that Lab/Con dichotomy can be overcome.

  5. Interesting article. Funny how Ben is an energetic youngster but the young Lib Dem activists are ‘pasty-faced kids’.

    • Exactly Bendigedig

      Mike Parker is showing himself for what he is – a bitter, twisted and slightly nasty individual.

      • There is absolutely no need whatsoever to use that sort of language about somebody. Uncalled for. This blog is too good for that sort of silly nonsense.

    • Mike Parker

      Point taken, and I did think very hard about it when I wrote those words, knowing that they could be spun badly. But I didn’t write them lightly. I have decades of experience of the LibDems in many different areas, and it is staggering how many of their core staff and activists have long fitted the (admittedly colourful) description I gave. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but when they are the only ones running the show, they get carried away with themselves and play dirty. I genuinely believe that Ben is not in that mould – he seems like a much more rounded and rooted young man, and that’s the difference.

  6. All elections are special cases in one way or another, and in this one we saw the revival of the ConLab duopoly, which allows Labour to be in government in Westminster every now and again. Vote Labour get Tory; as true now as ever.

    The duopoly’s tide has, this time, been very high, but Plaid Cymru have survived it (give or take a narrow squeak or two). This tide will go out again, and in the meantime, Ben – and all Plaid Cymru activists, come to that – would do well to be positive, to make Plaid attractive, on their own terms, to voters, and for people to see for themselves that the Westminster system is broken beyond repair. Voters will eventually see that, by its poverty, Wales has paid a high price for following the Labour approach. The last 12 months have released new ideas and energies (new conversations, new activists, Yes!, etc.) which will make this a fertile area for action.

  7. Diolch am draethawd mor deg ei feddwl, a diolch am gylchrawn ‘Nation Cymru’ sy’n ychwanegu trafodaeth wleidyddol Cymru.

  8. Gwion Hallam

    I agree diwc69 – new and energetic ideas are needed – which must include a return to a clear call for welsh independence – and the new energy behind that belief. Plaid Cymru survived the high tide of Corbynism and the ConLab duopoly this time – but only just. Treading water won’t keep Plaid afloat – nor the hope of a better Wales for everyone which can only be achieved by self government. Ben is an energetic youngster and like Mike Parker I celebrate his victory and wish him well – but I really hope he, like other Plaid Cymru politicians, will embrace the new ideas and energies that as you say have been released recently. New conversations, new activism, a new self belief in our ability to self govern.

Leave a Reply