Opinion

Plaid Cymru and Labour’s radical, nation-building agreement has made Wales an exciting country to be in once again

23 Nov 2021 3 minutes Read
Mark Drakeford and Adam Price reveal the cooperation agreement. Picture by Plaid Cymru.

Cynog Dafis, former Plaid Cymru AM and MP for Ceredigion

Following last May’s Senedd election, one pundit castigated Plaid Cymru for concentrating on preparing a detailed programme for government at the expense of building an effective election-winning machine.

The historic agreement revealed yesterday vindicates the priorities of both parties: Labour saw off the Conservative threat, and much of the visionary substance the Plaid manifesto has found its way into a ground-breaking programme for government modestly entitled The Cooperation Agreement. It is a major achievement of negotiation, four months in the making.

In it we find a coming together of radical social democracy and nation-building. Plaid Cymru has long espoused its particular version of the former, while Labour has with increasing momentum moved towards the latter. Witness its adoption of “radical federalism” in constitutional policy, its unequivocal support for the restoration of the Welsh language and, most remarkably perhaps, Vaughan Gethin’s commitment to stem the tide of out-migration of the young as a key plank in his economic development strategy. Speaking as one who observed Welsh Labour at close quarters in the first Assembly, I find the current reincarnation almost unrecognisable.

For Plaid, all those years of earnest policy-development, of trying to reconcile vision and practicality, now promise to come to fruition. Dig beyond the headline-grabbing free school meals and tackling the holiday-home issue and you will find a range of potentially transformative nation-building measures: two publicly-owned bodies, for housing and renewable energy; our national history mandatory in the school curriculum; support for devolution of broadcasting and a clear intention to build a distinctive Welsh media landscape: working towards an integrated national public service; an expanded and more proportional Senedd – just a few examples.

Legacy

Now then, let’s not kid ourselves. There’s no way that a programme this ambitious can be delivered in one Senedd term, much less the three years of this agreement. This means that some permutation of this Plaid-Labour collaboration (potentially reinforced by a few Greens) will be with us for much longer.

Commentators will obsess about the electoral risks for Plaid in this; on the other hand, the party and its policy agenda will gain increasing credibility as a major force in Welsh (and indeed British) politics. More importantly, the task of building the new Wales will have begun.

Building a social-democratic, distinctive Wales cheek-by-jowl with a nationalistic, neo-liberal centralist English government won’t be easy. There will be constraints of capacity, time, powers and financial resources. There will of course be “events”.

But we are in for (shall we say?) a decade of intense, innovative, constructive hard work. Wales will be an exciting country, the place to be in, especially for the young. The prospect is almost enough to make me want to survive the decade.

One further point. This deal reflects well on the leadership of Adam Price. I understand though that the initiative for this agreement came from Mark Drakeford. For this and for many other things, we are in his debt. His legacy is secure.

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Rhosddu
Rhosddu
9 days ago

If the First Minister initiated this co-operation agreement with Plaid, then he has done Wales a great service. His legacy will be secure only if/when the aims of the agreement are fulfilled.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
8 days ago

In many ways the agreement is to be welcomed; anything that both addresses the problems of Wales (second homes for example) and helps drive forward our national life (protecting Welsh place names for example) is to be warmly welcomed. The overall commitments move us closer still to a greater national awareness and on to independence. But there is an elephant in the room. Read this article carefully and two clear messages appear. Firstly, it reads as a glowing praise of Welsh labour that could have been written by any labour sycophant and not by a former Plaid Cymru AM and… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
8 days ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

I gave you an uptick, you deserve hundreds for the clarity and accuracy of your comments. It should serve as a summary of the weaknesses of Plaid, a Party seeking credit for slitting its own throat. Drakeford on his own may be a half decent politician but that Labour party machine behind him is a Unionist Loyalist force wearing a light covering of concern for the future of Wales. Deception tactics and Price &Co fell for it.

Quornby
Quornby
7 days ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

The jury is out John but I share your fears.

yantog
yantog
8 days ago

Dark days for Wales ahead, saw this happen over the last 5 years in another country. Now the country is deep trouble. Before it happened though even intellegent people were on the side of the contollers… not anymore. Don’t be fooled by the school dinners there will be more to come once they have a taste of power thats it and they wont care. The nut jobs on here would never be able to see it. They are intent on destroying the Wales, UK and young peoples futures becuase of their own personal grudges. It is pathetic.

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