Plaid needs to solve the Corbyn conundrum – and fast

Picture: Chatham House (CC BY 2.0)

Ifan Morgan Jones

Today’s Welsh Political Barometer Poll makes for very sombre reading for Plaid Cymru.

The poll shows Labour on 50% of the Westminster vote in Wales while Plaid Cymru has slumped another two and a half percentage points to 8%.

I had expected Plaid Cymru to regain some ground as the adversarial, two-party focus of the General Election media coverage subsided.

Instead, Corbyn is continuing to cut through their support like a knife through butter. Plaid will have to hope that 8% is as low as they can go.

The problem for Plaid Cymru is obvious: Given the choice between two similar left-of-centre parties, voters will always pick the party most likely to actually form a government.

Since that shock result in June, Labour has looked for the first time like the inevitable government in waiting, so their support has risen even further.

But while Plaid Cymru continues to bleed support, they don’t seem to have a plan to deal with Corbyn. Little has changed in terms of messaging since the General Election.

The party is a rabbit caught in the headlights of Labour’s Mansel Davies lorry – it needs to move, fast, or it will get squashed at the next General Election.

It can’t afford to wait 10-20 years for Labour’s popularity to wane in office.

To cut through electorally, Plaid Cymru needs to re-frame the debate – not as left-wing against right-wing, where they will always come second best to Corbyn.

Instead, it needs to highlight the real problems Westminster’s negligence is causing in Wales, and contrast that with what Wales could achieve if given extensive power to shape its own future.

Corbyn’s weakness is that he knows little about Wales, and seems to care even less. Labour too often get away with criticising services in England and Scotland that are performing even worse in Wales.

Plaid need to focus all their resources on highlighting this. No tweet, Facebook post or press release should be wasted in the attempt.

Labour is the party of government in Wales. If Plaid Cymru wants to unseat them, they have to be willing to give them a thorough roasting, rather than present themselves as a mostly supportive but mildly critical friend.

A change of strategy is needed. The sad truth is that the party has little to lose – its vote can’t dip much further.

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