Why the 2021 Senedd election is a big opportunity for Plaid Cymru
The General Election results suggest, at first glance, that Plaid Cymru has made almost no progress electorally since 2017.
Ifan Morgan Jones has already written an excellent article pointing out that Plaid has a mountain to climb if they are to make gains at the 2021 Senedd election.
I don’t disagree with what Ifan has written. However, I do think that this election was particularly difficult for Plaid.
They were at a disadvantage in this election, not just because it was a UK Parliamentary election, but because it was also a Brexit election.
UK Parliamentary elections have become almost like Presidential elections over the last decade or so, particularly with the introduction of head-to-head leader’s debates.
The two main parties attract most of the media attention and therefore, voter’s minds are likely to focus on that choice between the two main parties.
The polarized nature of the debate around Brexit also meant that voters were pressurized to back either the Conservatives or Labour as a route to leaving or having an opportunity for a second vote.
As a result, smaller parties such as Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats found their vote squeezed during the last days of the election.
These two problems are unlikely to arise in the Assembly elections. Firstly, a vote for Plaid Cymru can realistically be presented as a vote for a Plaid Cymru government.
Secondly, it can be assumed that by the time of the next Senedd elections, whether Brexit happens or not will no longer be an issue for the voters.
Many Brexit negotiations will still be outstanding but the Withdrawal Agreement will have been signed off by Westminster for over a year.
The Brexit fiasco has distorted and skewed voter allegiances in bizarre ways but politics may by then be restored to some semblance of normality.
However, one of the most encouraging signs for Plaid Cymru does not concern Plaid Cymru at all but rather their rivals, Labour.
Despite winning 22 of 40 seats in Wales last week, Labour’s support here continues to erode even after nine years of Conservative government.
They lost six seats to the Tories, all but one in the north-east of Wales. In the south Wales valleys, now the last Labour stronghold in the UK, Labour was more resilient in holding on to most of their seats, but in some cases with much-reduced majorities.
But this was not generally because the Conservative vote went up (it only rose 3% in Wales) but because Labour lost support to alternative parties.
If Plaid Cymru can present itself as a credible alternative to both Labour and the Conservatives in 2021 it could be the beneficiary of Labour’s lost vote.
Also of advantage to Plaid Cymru in 2021 will be the contrast in talent between Plaid Cymru’s leader Adam Price and the Labour leader Mark Drakeford.
The General Election was skillfully used by Adam Price as a springboard to increase his public profile. He won many plaudits through his debating skills on national TV.
This contrasts very much with the leadership of Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Labour leader. It’s generally agreed that he lacks the charisma of his two predecessors, Carwyn Jones, and Rhodri Morgan.
He had said whilst campaigning for the Welsh Labour leadership election that he does not enjoy doing TV interviews. He was seldom seen in TV debates and has had a very low profile during the General Election campaign.
Since becoming First Minister and Welsh Labour leader one year ago he has presided over last week’s very poor General Election results, and the European Union elections in May were the worse ever.
Welsh Assembly opinion polls before the General Election campaign kicked in also showed a similar trend with Welsh Labour performing poorly by historical standards.
When we look back in a few year’s time Plaid Cymru’s General Election performance may be looked at as a time of laying the foundations for future growth rather than stagnation.
They consolidated their support in the seats that they did hold. For example, in Ceredigion, they succeeded in turning around a wafer-thin majority of 107 in 2017 to over 6000 last week.
And by focusing on issues directly relevant to devolved elections such as health and the environment they laid the groundwork for the 2021 campaign.
If the party can broaden its appeal outside its heartlands in the western parts of Wales, there are many reasons for Plaid Cymru to be optimistic about their chances of success in the next Assembly elections.
They could be well placed to return to the high levels of support they enjoyed in the first Assembly elections in 1999.
UK Labour’s attention is likely to be elsewhere: focused on electing a new leader and deciding on where the soul of their party now lies during the next few years.
These two elements together give Plaid an excellent opportunity to perform well in 2021.
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“If the party can broaden its appeal outside its heartlands in the western parts of Wales, there are many reasons for Plaid Cymru to be optimistic.” Thing is, Plaid aren’t really trying. I am still being told that saving the deposit in Preseli (W.Wales) and coming 3rd, 13,000+ votes behind Labour, second, is some kind of achievement. Decades of trying in S.Wales result in still no hope of beating Drakeford. BTW, Adam Price is not standing against Drakeford. McEvoy was due to. But Labour wanted him out and Plaid obliged. McEvoy might well have beaten Drakeford, because he is/was the… Read more »
I agree that there’s – to put it mildly! – a hill to climb before Plaid can break out beyond y Fro Cymraeg, where it seems to have established a solid support base. But past experience suggests that, in the south-eastern valleys at least, it’s not an unconquerable hill. I recall , back in the ’70s and ’80s, that at the local government level Plaid became the first serious and credibles challenge to Labour dominance fot many decades, taking control of the councills in Merthyr and the old Cwm Rhymni. And, more recently at Senedd level, who thought Leanne Wood… Read more »
Gwir iawn. What Jonathan Edwards said. There are some truths in the article, but Plaid Cymru cannot rely on Welsh Labour venturing further down a dead end, and hope thereby to capture the Senedd by default. Plaid needs to refactor itself soon, and develop policies that directly confront the real problems facing this nation: relative poverty, a lack of Welsh-owned businesses, an excess of new housing that is nonetheless unaffordable to most locals, a zip-wire economy that relies on imported expertise and on minimum wage for locals, with much of the profit leaving the country, the Third Sector rackets in… Read more »
All rests upon the fate of the Welsh Language. Not much will change in the 2021 election. We have not changed tactics to ensure the survival of our language since 1962.
Sitting on the tiny island in Y Llyn Canol of Llynnoedd Ieuan at dawn on the Winter solstice, I have seen Aberhonddu speaking Welsh again if we change tactics.
Sharing the same language as the English nation did not prevent the SNP in Scotland from winning the majority of seats in Scotland (more than all the others put together). Plaid Cymru in Wales needs to be as positive as the SNP in Scotland. We must also address why the electorate in North East Wales voted for an extreme British nationalist party to leave the EU, when it will be seen to damage the best interests of themselves. It is probably because of the transport isolation from the rest of Wales and in particular South Wales and Cardiff. Therefore economics… Read more »
The people of NE Wales think as Welsh people, despite the evident economic and transport integration. Believe me, Ernie, the reason they voted Brexit, and (recently) Tory was in the hope of putting an end to East European immigration. But, yes, many people up there want better transport links with Mid and South Wales. Any Party in the Senedd that puts this in their manifesto will increase their chances of winning the North East; we know the Tories won’t do it.
I only wish that I had faith in sharing your optimism. Personally, I feel it will take a miracle for any party to win in the valleys apart from Labour!
But they said exactly the same about Labour in Scotland only a decade ago. Then, Labour held almost all seats there, and now, they hold just one. Labour has been decimated in Scotland. The change has gone from one extreme to the other, and it could easily happen in Wales. Change is inevitable at some time – even in the Valleys.
For Plaid to form a government they have to defeat Labour in Cardiff, not the Tories in Westminster.
Until Plaid start treating Labour as the opposition rather than allies on the Left they will make no progress.
Plaid have learned nothing from the SNP.
But the SNP is to the Left of Labour and they have destroyed Labour in Scotland. It’s not about being to the Right or Left, it’s about offering something different. Besides, I know comparisons of this kind are difficult but even the Labour hegemony in the Valleys is creaking and will not go on forever.
What are the top 3 points of focus for plaid in the next election? That will be crucial and until that is known, I see them treading water, squeezed between labour, new tories and anti assembly candidates.
Plaid will not be the only Welsh Party in 2021. Our new movement will offer a different voice. We reject the Establishment parties and will not do politics as usual. Only we can defeat Labour’s First Minister. In Cardiff West. Plaid’s only decision outside of the Fro Cymraeg will be to continue to enable Labour or not.
What is “not politics as usual”? If you are talking about Gwlad, some of their interesting policies are getting lost in some of their members personal agendas, adding populist branding could create a toxic atmosphere. Divisive, polarised, brand heavy/ idea light, is exactly what establishment parties do to keep power. Politics as usual.
Great to hear Neil…..will you be standing all around Wales, not just in the Diff?
Yes. People from all around Wales have already been in touch.
You might defeat labour in Cardiff West Neil – but you can’t form a govt in the senedd in 2021. Only plaid cymru can do that. If elected I hope you will support that plaid govt of Wales
What Wales doesn’t need is another 5 years of plodding Labour admin or rule by proxy from No. 10 Downing Street or for the Senedd to be a continuing platform for Nigel Farrage’s ego. I would urge politicians to spend the next few months talking to real people about their hopes and fears for their families and communities. Have a real deep think about what they hear, then formulate a credible vision of a New Wales that will get people right across Wales behind them.
That presumes a willingness to listen. You quite rightly mention the need to spend time talking to real people about hopes and fears, and should also include their needs as some of them are immediate or indeed long overdue, like affordable homes whether it’s to buy or even rent in some hot spots. But the main point is to spend time in “communication” with 50% or slightly more engaged in “listening”. Cut down on the preaching at the electorate, they’ve had enough of it, “What you need is…” is an opening gambit that should be binned until there is a… Read more »
I think the next Senedd election is likely to resolve at least one of your ‘Wales doesn’t need’s, in that there’ll be little if any representation from the Brexit party thereafter. In the aftermath of the Westminster election it’s clear that there’s no point to the BP – the ‘new’, purged Conservatives have entirely stolen their clothes and I think it’s unlikely that the semi-proportional voting system will save them. But if the electoral mood continues as it showed itself to be ten days ago, May 2021 may well see more Tories returned to Cardiff Bay. That might undermine the… Read more »
Weirdly, a whole raft of Mr Corbyn’s proposals got the thumbs up from the UK public; Re-Nationalisation of the Water, Electricity, Rail, Royal Mail, and Nationalisation of Bus Services.
So it was basically a personality contest with the press sploshing slurry over JC, while the guy who left his wife and kids, installing his lover in number 10, and promising everyone an incredible deal got the thumbs up from almost the whole of Fleet St. Plaid should think about the popularity of JC’s
proposals? How about Jersey status for Wales, entailing certain criteria for residence, tax, etc?
Weird’s the word. As you say, I also recall several reports of pollsters setting out Labour’s key domestic policies to voters and getting a favourable response. Only for said voters to back-pedal when the pollsters revealed that these policies were Labour’s. What wasn’t clear, to me at least, was whether those voters were put off by Corbyn specifically or by Labour more generally, given that the party’s never-ending internal griping, feuding and back-biting over the last few years have hardly given the impression that Labour’s been a credible alternative government in waiting. The limits around devolved powers mean that Plaid… Read more »
I’d double up-tick your post if that were possible.
I wonder if the public have noticed the first shafting coming their way, as Andrea Leadsom helps the sell off of a vital defence company, Cobham, to the US Private equity firm, Advent (note the name!).
Expect lots of money to be sploshing about now, though not in the direction of the general public. ie the mugs who voted for the Tories, and those that didn’t.