Benjiman L. Angwin
Welsh democracy will not fully mature until the Labour party’s dominant position in our country faces serious opposition.
This will be difficult to achieve as voting Labour in many parts of Wales is as much an expression of belonging to a community as it is a vote for a political vision or particular set of policies.
In the same way that many in ‘Y Fro Gymraeg’ vote Plaid Cymru because of a sense of belonging, so do many vote Labour in the ‘Welsh Wales’ of the south-east.
Unfortunately, while a competitive political sphere forces parties to change and innovate, voting for the same political party repeatedly leads to stagnation.
After 95 years of Labour rule, Wales is the poorest country in Western Europe.
As the Native American civil rights activist DeShane Stokes said: ‘Blind party loyalty will be our downfall. We must follow the truth wherever it leads.’
But what is keeping Labour in power in Wales is not so much their vote – they only won 34.7% at the last election – but Plaid Cymru’s reluctance to work with the Conservatives.
Labour has been a minority government for most of the Senedd’s existence but have always managed to cling on to power by divide and rule.
The greatest trick Labour has pulled in Wales is to divide the opposition with constant anti-Tory rhetoric, casting them as the ‘enemy’, as a bête noire.
This rhetoric has strongly influenced Plaid Cymru which has been reluctant to work with the Conservatives, even at council level.
For instance, the Plaid Cymru leader of Conwy county – former AM Gareth Jones – had to leave the party to form a coalition with the Conservatives.
The solution to this problem is for Wales to move on politically from what happened in the 70s and 80s under Thatcher.
I understand that this will be difficult. It will require a certain amount of communal forgiveness. It will require effort.
Having Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives work together would allow that healing process to begin to take place.
It would show that working with Conservatives at the Senedd would not cause the sky to fall in.
Especially if that coalition could take real, practical steps to help people in the former industrial communities scarred by the 80s.
Wales could put aside prejudices and hatreds which have been built up over the last 94 years of Labour rule, and forgive those portrayed as enemies by those in power.
As Martin Luther King said, ‘Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?’
Wales is not one ideology
Labour is not Wales and Wales is not Labour. It is not healthy to have a party in power for one hundred years which only represents a fraction of the country.
Welshness cannot be expressed by one small part of the political spectrum; Cymru is more than that.
I hope Plaid and the Tories will consider abandoning prejudices and differences in economic ideologies and working together to make this happen.
It would take a lot of political bravery, and some forgiveness.
But it would be the break with the past that would allow Welsh democracy to mature and move on from the battles of the 80s, to a new post-devolution era.