The silent divorce: Why did Plaid Cymru keep quiet about leaving Labour?

Leanne Wood. Picture by Garry Knight. (CC0 1.0)

Daran Hill                  

Two weeks ago, Plaid Cymru ended the compact with Labour which had existed since the formation of the current Welsh Government in May 2016.

It was, to my mind, the least noticed important event in recent Welsh politics. I’m still scratching my head and wondering why they kept it so quiet.

Not why Plaid left – there are obvious advantages to both them and Labour in being positioned apart – but why the hell they did it in quite the way they did.

There was almost no media coverage off the news.  It is not that the Welsh media would not have found this newsworthy had it been done properly. Neither is it a case of a media biased against Plaid (as many in the party believe).

The message was slipped out to party members on a Friday afternoon. There is no deader time, other than a Saturday. The echo chamber isn’t switched on and the amplifiers certainly aren’t.

The announcement being thrown out almost haphazardly on a Friday afternoon was because Plaid Cymru, for strategic reasons, didn’t really want it picked up on. It was a muted move.

There were a range of much more impactful moments available. The previous Tuesday morning’s press conference ahead of the budget would have presented an ideal opportunity for the same announcement.

It would have deeply unnerved Labour, while maximising exposure. The media were all switched on to the budget deal and it would have been the perfect topline for the news.

More particularly, why couldn’t Leanne Wood have hung on another two weeks until this weekend?

Plaid is meeting in Caernarfon. The delegates are listening attentively. The media is in full court. Just imagine the moment: Leanne could have made it the centrepiece of her speech to conference.

This would have really stolen some headlines and the room would have had little choice but to cheer it. Even the UK media might have noticed.

No doubt she will still use her speech this weekend to explain to the party faithful why the compact is ended. So, what on earth is the logic behind the massive spoiler?

Bewildering

Alongside the weird timing, why were Plaid so honest about the reasons for their departure?

Leanne’s missive to member included a laundry list of grumbles such as keeping the public sector pay gap, things that had been rumbling on for months.

Not particularly newsworthy. She could instead have chosen something new and impactful as an immediate pretext.

Indeed, to give a string of reasons reads more like an apologia than a hard-nosed political decision.

It has felt like someone had calculated this was a good time to bury bad news. Except that this wasn’t bad news at all.

If Plaid was taking this step it was surely to put clear water of any old colour between it and Labour. It was surely a “shout about it” moment.

Yet it was packaged to members, not the press or the public, and presented so bewildering quietly that half of them probably didn’t notice.

All of which leads me to conclude that Plaid has made a strategic decision to sever its ties with Labour as quietly as possible.

One occasional lover has crept out while the other is still asleep and certainly none of the neighbours are at the curtain.

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Roy Woolmans
Guest
Roy Woolmans

On that very day of the split I wrote to they North Wales Daily Post . They printed my comments

thypiratedave
Guest

It wasn’t quietly done – I thought everyone knew.

Jason Morgan
Guest
Jason Morgan

Just a thought: maybe they thought announcing this would actually detract from the news that they secured concessions from the government in the budget, which they thought would get positive attention (it didn’t really get that much attention). Although, as you say, this would garner more attention and probably be quite beneficial – I think this is the most logical reason, although it’s somewhat naïve (which in PC’s case probably makes it the most probable scenario)

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

Why is Plaid Cymru’s PR machinery so ineffectual. Is it lack of finance, lack of interesting things to say or is it the media?

Capitalist and Welshnash
Guest
Capitalist and Welshnash

It could be because they are so concerned with being honest and clean so as to stain their ideological opponents with ‘holier than thou’ dirt, so oft wielded by the Left. Or it could be my imagination.

There is no other plaid so protective and nurturing of the Welsh Language, so they shall as of yet retain my vote. But they could do with reading Napoleon’s memoires.

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

Beth am – Plaid dychmygoliaethus Cymru. (Does that make sense?)

Capitalist and Welshnash
Guest
Capitalist and Welshnash

Na.

Capitalist and Welshnash
Guest
Capitalist and Welshnash

Wedi sgwennu gan Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne.

han
Guest
han

Good article. It’s all very bizarre. Plaid lack any sort of coherence. Why were they in the ‘Compact’ (a ridiculous name) in the first place? It suited Labour, as it simply dampened attacks from an opposition party, yet Plaid got next to nothing from it. Over the years they have continuously done budget deals, yet for well over 5 years they usually ask for something different each time. A different priority every year (except last 2). That is hardly coherent is it? How are the public to know what they stand for? When push comes to shove, they can’t decide!… Read more »

Royston Jones
Guest

Doing it on the quiet was a combination of guilt and not wishing to screw up the chances of a reconciliation, cos there will be one.

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

Ive only ever voted Plaid Cymru because of my vision for Wales….not because they have sold me anything that inspiring………Where is there vision……..Plaid Cymru need to have critics….that means they are going down a good road….not being wimpy and treading on egg shells I was on the verge of leaving with this recent Neil McEvoy stuff, my non-member friends feel completely disillusioned with the party over many things…..sadly thats a problem for Plaid….voters told us on the door very very specific reasons why they dont vote plaid “nothing against their policies just disagree over badger culling / or / disagree… Read more »

Blogdroed
Guest

Except they disn’t really do it “quietly” seeing as they posted about it on their social media outlets and the BBC and WalesOnline wrote articles about it …

… anyone would think this was written to be published on the opening day of Plaid’s Conference for a reason.

DaranHill
Guest
DaranHill

God alive, I didn’t say no coverage, I said pitiful coverage. The media uptake was minimal.

And yes, Blogdroed, it was precisely written to be published on the opening day of Plaid conference. As per the central thrust of the content. Well spotted.