Plaid’s cooperation agreement with Labour won’t stop us taking the fight to them at May’s election
Peredur Owen Griffiths, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for the South Wales East region
There has been a fair bit said and written about the co-operation agreement that was announced between the Plaid Cymru group in the Senedd and the Labour Government. Even the eyes of the largely Wales-averse UK media turned to matters this side of Offa’s Dyke, albeit briefly.
Much of the analysis has been positive due to the many policies that will reduce poverty and improve social justice in our country.
But, as is to be expected in politics, not everyone has welcomed the agreement. As you would expect, many of our political opponents questioned what Plaid Cymru’s distinct identity would be after such an arrangement with the Labour Government in Wales.
As is often the case with the narrative of our political opponents, it has been soaked in hyperbole but not rooted in substance.
I am proud that the influence of Plaid Cymru is bringing these policies to fruition. They now represent a quarter of the government’s programme. The rest of Labour’s programme is outside of the Agreement, of course.
I do not need any persuading to back policies such as the expansion of the free school meal programme and an improved childcare offer; both of which will alleviate the disgraceful child poverty levels in Wales. These policies came directly from the Plaid Cymru manifesto which I signed up to support as a Senedd election candidate. The Senedd voting record demonstrates time and time again that they are only part of the government’s programme now because of Plaid Cymru.
Alongside groups fighting poverty in Wales, we have consistently campaigned for extra school meal provision. As party members, we can hold our heads high for ensuring that no primary school child in poverty will go hungry in school because of our influence.
In my view, the agreement gives us the best of both worlds – our policies in action and the ability to hold the government to account.
Just before the Christmas break, we saw a clear example of our autonomy when we voted for an independent inquiry in Wales into the handling of the Covid pandemic. Our position is diametrically opposed to that of the Labour Senedd group who are staunchly opposed to such an inquiry.
On that issue, it is baffling how Labour can justify being critical of the Tory Westminster government’s handling of the pandemic on the one hand but on the other display misplaced confidence in them to organise an impartial and thorough public inquiry that will not treat Wales as a footnote.
I have no doubt that points of difference over policy, positions and matters of conviction will continue to manifest within the Senedd between Plaid Cymru and Labour during this co-operation agreement.
Our members may have voted overwhelmingly in support of the progressive policy platform upon which our agreement is based, but they are free to campaign as they normally would in the local elections in May.
In many parts of Wales that will mean going head-to-head with Labour candidates who have been in charge of local government and therefore represent the establishment and status quo.
If you know some of the Plaid Cymru members and activists that I do in places like Caerffili County Borough or Blaenau Gwent, then you will know that the thought of them not throwing themselves energetically into their campaigning to depose Labour is preposterous. I know this is equally the case in other parts of the country.
I believe that the people of the area that I represent welcome Plaid’s willingness to work with others in the Senedd for the benefit of our communities. They know that Plaid always puts the interests of our families and our most vulnerable people at the heart of everything we do.
I have no doubt that Plaid Cymru candidates in the Local Government Elections will work as keenly, robustly and passionately as ever.