Plaid Cymru is becoming an anti-establishment party again

Plaid Cymru campaigning in Rhondda. Picture: RhonddaPlaid Twitter feed

Ifan Morgan Jones

You’ve probably heard someone say ‘in a few years we’ll all look back at this and laugh’.

Well, we may not laugh, but I think that in a decade or so we’ll look back at the current convulsions within Plaid Cymru and realise that they were inevitable.

Plaid Cymru is becoming an anti-establishment party again.

They’ve always been an anti-establishment party at Westminster, of course, but they have had to be an establishment party at the Welsh Assembly.

Devolution was very fragile in its first decade. It was won by just 50.3%, and was so politically weak that many questions whether it was just a talking shop.

Under the circumstances, the main objective for Plaid Cymru was to steady the ship. That meant doing what was best for the institution rather than what was best for the party.

An example of that was when they voted to bring down the unpopular Alun Michael’s premiership within the first year of the Assembly and replace him with the much more popular Rhodri Morgan.

Rhodri Morgan’s own autobiography notes that a (now former) Plaid Cymru AM told him that ‘You’re the one the people of Wales wanted in the first place anyway’.

Now, political parties don’t usually help each other out when they have unpopular leaders!

But Plaid Cymru could see that public opinion was turning against the Assembly and that they needed someone in the post that would win support.

And throughout the 17 years of devolution so far they have been happy to work together with Labour – including in coalition between 2007 and 2011.

This wasn’t just to get what they wanted but also to maintain a sense of stability in government.

Secure

Most crucially, because of this need to defend the institution, they’ve never made the argument that devolution just hasn’t worked out for Wales so far.

And as a result, they haven’t been able to successfully make the argument that the Labour Government haven’t been working out for Wales, either.

Things have been very different in Scotland. The mandate for Scottish devolution was so apparent from the very beginning that the SNP were even able to oppose even the process of setting up the institution.

By burnishing their anti-establishment credentials from the very beginning they emerged as the natural opposition to Labour and seized power in 2007.

What Plaid Cymru are beginning now is a process of becoming an anti-establishment party once again. After 18 years, there are many who now feel devolution is secure enough – it’s safe to do so.

Not everyone agrees, of course. There are still plenty of members within Plaid Cymru who feel that the Welsh Assembly is still an institution under threat.

Westminster’s attempt to claw back devolved powers as part of the EU Withdrawal Bill could be pointed to as proof of that.

But one gets a sense that the party membership now feels that it’s time to move on. Many have dim memories of the campaign to win devolution in the first place.

For many, like myself, devolution seems to have always been there. I don’t remember a world without it.

Shift

There is currently a growing split within Plaid Cymru between the more consensual style of politics favoured so far, and growing calls for a more hard-bitten opposition to Labour.

Perhaps the fiercely anti-establishment Neil McEvoy is the first symptom of that shift, although many would argue that he’s an imperfect vehicle for it.

Opinion is divided as to whether he’s the next leader of Plaid Cymru or deserves to be thrown out of the party altogether. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle.

Yes, Neil McEvoy’s enemies are out to get him. Of course they are – that’s politics.

But he also needs to make it harder for them to get at him by not behaving in a way he calls forceful, but others call bullying.

But whoever ends up at the helm, the shift from establishment to anti-establishment Plaid Cymru now seems inevitable.

How long that shift takes probably now depends more on the membership rather than the leadership.

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Graham John Hathaway
Guest
Graham John Hathaway

But does it take one anti estsblishment AM to seek to rewrite history. The movement of a minority party to the middle ground, on an anti estsblishment ticket is not achieved by party disunity, or any one exponent of the art of change management. It takes a body of like minded politicians within a party to grasp the components of successfully managing a sea change of mind set that some will feel uncomfortable about and may cause uncertainty of re- election. This is more about policies and programmes of action that speak to the leanings of the majority of voters.… Read more »

Gareth
Guest
Gareth

Plaid Cymru need to decide if they’re left wing or right wing.

If you’ve learnt nothing from the demise of the Lib Dems it’s thats you can’t be all things to all people.

Wrexhamian
Guest
Wrexhamian

An interesting thesis, Ifan, but I think Plaid Cymru have been more scared of alienating ‘British-minded’ voters than of threatening the legitimacy of the Assembly following the narrow margin of victory in the first referendum. The Assembly has been secure from abolition or rejection for some time now, and Plaid have made no move to present themselves as a radical pro-Wales party, while their record in local government in the Bro Gymraeg has shown them to be complicit in the imposition of Local Development Plans on the England-and-Wales model. I’ll be watching to see if your forecast of the emergence… Read more »

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

Or maybe Plaid has become British minded itself. It also wants to attract the English speaking Welsh folks – but they’ll always be seen as the Welsh speaking party. If thats what they want to base Welsh nationalism along… well what was the prediction? 2050 for a million Welsh speakers? So we’ll have a crack at Independence around 2060 then? Its not that they’re failing to present themselves as a pro-Wales party I think they are actively ignoring the vision. No Independence? Probably because they seem happier within the context of the UK. Though its not like they’re not alienating… Read more »

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

“If, as it looks to me, that separation somewhat subsides in Scotland then we will be left with a constitutional settlement that 20 years on, for all its stresses and strains from time to time, has kept the UK together.” -Tony Blair. One thing thats struck me this week beyond the McEvoy situation was the continuity bill. Power grabs by Westminster are good for the pro-Wales cause. But the problem is Plaid believe devolution to be a beach head – and only a budding establishment party would see it as such. But we know Plaid Cymru absolutely lacks any concept… Read more »

JE Lloyd
Guest
JE Lloyd

Just don’t understand how you can suggest Plaid is becoming “antiestablishment”. This week has shown more clearly than ever the close links between the current Plaid leadership, the Welsh Government (Labour) and the lobbyists, Deryn Consulting. You have to really struggle to discern any significance differences between the economic policies of Plaid and Labour. And Plaid has all but given up talking about any aspiration to independence for our nation

JE Lloyd
Guest
JE Lloyd

And the “others” who call McEvoy’s style “bullying” turn out to be Deryn Consulting, the notorious lobbying firm — who were of course the subject of a powerful campaign by McEvoy designed to achieve a system of registration for lobbyists

Petroc ap Seisyllt
Guest
Petroc ap Seisyllt

Its only 20 years since the “Yes maybe ” vote but thats just how red the clear red water has been. Tuition fees and continued sell off of council houses. Yes, so more soggy consensus (or gritty politics ) from whom?
Efallai bydd angen 40% toriad pellach i S4C, i dileu Comisiwnydd Iaith, a mynnu symud pwerau Cymru i Lundain i sbarduno Pleidiau Cymru.
Ymlaen at y miliwn (o fewnfudwyr o Loegr) ife?

Oh dear
Guest
Oh dear

BS. I wish. Those who call the style of @neiljmcevoy “bullying” turn out to be @DerynConsulting, the notorious lobbying firm — who were of course the subject of a powerful campaign by McEvoy designed to achieve a system of registration for lobbyists

David Walters
Guest
David Walters

The idea that Plaid Cymru is turning into an anti-establishment party is at least one that recognises that Plaid Cymru IS the establishment, or part of it. Therein lies the first issue. Many members of Plaid Cymru think that they are already an anti-establishment party, that the party is radical and revolutionary. They think that they are already revolutionary outriders in what they do. They don’t realise that their role in relation to the political establishment is one of insider rather than outsider, such is the Stockholm Syndrome now pervading the party. Plaid Cymru is Labour with some extra Welsh… Read more »

Pen-Cloch
Guest
Pen-Cloch

au contraire. Plaid Cymru is the establishment now since they tried to out shoulder pad and out suit the other political parties in Wales on their agendas rather than a separatist, Independence agenda whatever the perception or temperature of the electorate on this matter. The party will be losing members as we comment, over the Neil McEvoy situation. The photograph you choose is interesting since it shows Leanne Wood in red who said that the ‘Rhondda’ seat was do-able and that she was strongly considering standing and then leaves it to Branwen Cennard in the camouflage trousers to suffer the… Read more »

Tanydderwen
Guest
Tanydderwen

Ni allai hynny ddod yn rhy fuan. Nid Toris Lludain sy’n dal Cymru’n ôl bellach, ond y Blaid Lafur Gymreig.
This can’t come too soon. It’s not the Tories in London holding Wales back any more, but the Welsh Labour Party.

Neil McEvoy
Guest

Those who know my political history will tell you that over the years, I have beaten Labour fabrication after Labour fabrication. For fabrication read “lie”. Ombudsman complaint after Ombudsman complaint were dismissed. I even found myself being sued in High Court on two occasions and effectively won both cases. It doesn’t get much more intimidating than having to risk your home for a matter of principle. I gambled twice and came out the other end.The third action in High Court, I initiated and that’s the one you hear about. It didn’t go brilliantly, but a little known fact is the… Read more »

Anarchist and Welsh Nash
Guest
Anarchist and Welsh Nash

This really is a fanciful argument on your part Ifan. Plaid Cymru as an anti-establishment party?? That really has to be the best laugh out aloud line you have ever published on Nation. There may have been some truth in this line about having to focus on safeguarding and establishing the new Assembly in the early 2000’s. But, PC have unfortunately become an integral part of the establishment within the Assembly for a good while by now because of their ideological affinities with the Labour Party. Their links with this shadowy lobbying firm, Deryn, also shows how establishment minded they… Read more »

Ifan Morgan Jones
Guest
Ifan Morgan Jones

Wouldn’t it be more time-effective, for you and me, to actually read the article before commenting? The whole point of the article is that Plaid have since devolution been an establishment party but that Neil McEvoy’s rise suggests that it’s becoming an anti-establishment party again.

JD
Guest
JD

Sorry Ifan but he’s right, and this article is almost more of a joke than the bridge to Ireland.

Plaid Cymru is nearing the end of the road and maybe it’s exactly what we need to move on.

Ifan Morgan Jones
Guest
Ifan Morgan Jones

Disappointed it’s taken you so long to log on to post your usual negative complaint about an article on Nation.Cymru, JD. It’s been a whole day – it’s usually there within hours. Your standards are slipping. 😉

JE Lloyd
Guest
JE Lloyd

@Gareth “Plaid Cymru need to decide if they’re left wing or right wing.” Absolutely not. Learn from the SNP how effective a broad-church party can be that is focused pragmatically on the needs of communities, not on ill-fitting ideology. Most of our people would, I suspect, be quite comfortable accepting rail nationalisation AND robust policies to attract inward investment. Focus on communities and ditch the Left-Centre-Right hangups. For most of us, our common interest in a successful and fair Wales transcends tribal factionalism

Keith Parry
Guest
Keith Parry

J.E. Lloyd is right, the SNP got where they are today by consistently campaigning for independence and having nothing to do with the Labour Party. Plaid Cymru has still not learnt these lessons.Years ago Alex Salmond was thrown out of the SNP and made a come back and led them to great success, as a broad church that had support from left and right.

Graham John Hathaway
Guest
Graham John Hathaway

The comment from J E Lloyd is the sliver thread on old woven clothes that covers Wales. That PC may be considered the alta ego of politics in Wales and has yet to force itself into main steam psyche to be a credible governing politic. It must come out of the shadow of Labour speak and mentality, yet not forsaking democratic socialist ideology, since recent events, even with often discredited leadership is resonating with disillusioned voters seeking change. It would be unnerving to plough the same ideology though when juxtaposition with the concept of a free and independent Wales. The… Read more »

Anarchist and Welsh Nash
Guest
Anarchist and Welsh Nash

And my point is that it is virtually impossible to try and re-position yourself as an anti-establishment party if you have become part and parcel of the establishment in the Assembly, and considered to be so by large sections of the voting public!

Royston Jones
Guest

A bit of light relief here, Ifan. Good for you. As I hope to show in my next post on Jac o’ the North, Plaid Cymru is now so in bed with Labour, so much part of the Welsh political establishment, so integral to the corrosive influence of lobbyists and third sector, so divorced from the real world inhabited by Welsh people, that it is doomed. The Neil McEvoy saga was indeed Plaid’s chance to break with the establishment, but no, it chose to side with his attackers among the lobbyists, and in the third sector, and of course, in… Read more »

Graham John Hathaway
Guest
Graham John Hathaway

I see sense in the re positioning arguement, to anti establishment. It seems overly to some to be, ‘chocolate boy now loves raw meat’. It’s not going to happen for obvious reasons of choice and comfort. To many of us who read politics it is more symbolic and aggressive to the solutions of life style changes that are stagnant or declining. The causes of which lie in the bowels of state management and jurisdiction. A dislike of totalitarian regimes but not wrestling with the means of production or outright dislike of capitalism, and globalisation. But I remain unsure the neat… Read more »

sianiflewog
Guest
sianiflewog

Plaid Cymru’n blaid wrth-sefydliadol – go brin! In Gwynedd where that load of **** rules, it goes from bad to worse. They can’t collect the rubbish – they seem not to have heard of our extreme winds, and so the bins fly off dispensing yet more **** everywhere. They have no idea of what Cymraeg is: if the youth in the schools can re-spell English words into our orthograffy, good enough – it’s actually beyond a joke now. And to cap it all, they can’t manage the local bus services. Owing to the ruling party’s incompetence in Gwynedd, many people… Read more »

Michael Costas-Michael
Guest
Michael Costas-Michael

[Dear Michael, I have edited the below message for reasons you will no doubt understand. Nation.Cymru isn’t interested in getting involved in legal disputes, and so anything that could be interpreted as being in any way defamatory is removed. This isn’t to be construed as bias towards any party – we simply do not have £150,000 to spend on a court case! – Best, Ed] [For the lay reader, this message is in reference to Neil McEvoy’s post above – Ed] Fact, he lost the libel case he started against me. He withdrew and paid my costs. I will donate… Read more »

Neil McEvoy
Guest

With respect to Councillor Michael and our libel case, I was insured and only had to pay part of his costs. Councillor Michael was not insured. The overs bill was £250k. I had to pay £120k.

Michael Costas-Michael
Guest
Michael Costas-Michael

Once again form McEvoy no evidence,show Nation Cymru the full bill of costs and your evidence that it cost me more than it cost you.
More playing the martyr.
Simple challenge.Prove what you say.
You won’t because it’s simply not true.
Show Nation Cymru the evidence your insurance actually paid.(They haven’t )
Shame faced liar.
If you had to pay only £120k Why did you pay me £140k then and remember my lawyers have all the evidence and receipts.plus other payments earlier on.
Please also prove the total cost of the case at £250k.
Here’s you chance for one time in your life to prove something you say.