Opinion

Why the Plaid-Labour deal makes sense for both parties as Welsh devolution circles the wagons

22 Nov 2021 4 minutes Read
Mark Drakeford. Picture by CPMR – Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CC BY-SA 2.0) Adam Price picture by Plaid Cymru.

Ifan Morgan Jones

‘Vote Labour, get Plaid. Vote Plaid, get Labour,’ said one Conservative Senedd member in reaction to the confirmation that the two parties had come to a co-operation agreement.

The problem with this as an attack line is that I suspect that many voters from both parties would think, ‘yes, fine?’

It’s not fair to say that Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labour are interchangeable. Even as Welsh Labour have shifted in favour of more autonomy for Wales, Plaid Cymru have shifted too towards full-throated support for independence.

But on the main animating issue of Welsh politics today – the attempted post-Brexit roll-back of devolution by the UK Government – both sides find themselves very much on the same team.

As a result, this co-operation agreement can be interpreted as Wales’ political institutions circling the wagons.

Many of the measures within it, from enlarging the Senedd, a new media authority, tackling the housing crisis, and developing north-south transport links, are aimed at developing or at least stopping the dissolution of Wales as a distinctive and more integrated cultural and political sphere.

It is nation-building. And national institutions nation-build at least partly as a defence mechanism. At the most basic level, if you’re the Welsh Parliament then you need a Wales to exist to justify your own existance.

The ironic side effect of the Conservatives’ ‘muscular unionism’ might well be to speed up this process, where Labour may well in the past have been more reticent.

I thought Mark Drakeford’s reported comment that “the content of the agreement was entirely in keeping with Labour’s principles, although Plaid would no doubt wish to claim the credit” was quite telling in that regard.

That is, these were things many Labour Senedd Members would have liked to do anyway but without the need for an agreement with Plaid may have been difficult to justify to the more unionist and devosceptic Westminster wing of the party.

Plaid Cymru weren’t quite pushing at an open door but one that was definitely left unbolted.

Distant

Of course, Plaid Cymru want to nation build because being a nationalist party is their USP.

Labour however see no realistic prospect of being back in power at Westminster in the very near future, and are also under increasing attacks on devolution from a hostile UK Government. From their point of view, entrenching the Senedd and Welshness along with it makes sense too.

The argument against such an agreement from Plaid Cymru’s point of view is that these kinds of agreements hurt the smaller party, as the larger party takes credit.

As an example of this some point to the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition of 2010-15 and Plaid and Labour’s own One Wales Government of 2017-2011.

But I suspect that the idea that the smaller party always suffers is largely a myth. What harmed Plaid Cymru in 2011 wasn’t that they were in coalition with Labour, but that Labour were suddenly out of power at Westminster.

Being in power in Wales but not Westminster then allowed Labour to take on Plaid Cymru’s previous mantle as the local defence against a distant and neglectful central state.

From Plaid Cymru’s point of view, this is a dynamic that is unlikely to change until – if it ever happens – Labour form another Westminster government.

In the meantime, to a large extent, Wales has two national parties – Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labour – with a mutual interest and from their and their supporters’ point of view they might as well work together to get things done.

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Dewi Evans
Dewi Evans
12 days ago

The vote Vote Labour Get Plaid comment is from Tory S Pembs MS Kurts (?)

He failed to add “Vote Tory get Sleaze” of course

GW Atkinson
GW Atkinson
12 days ago

75% of the last Senedd election vote went to left wing parties. This is what people in Wales want and this is democracy in action. No doubt self proclaimed victimhood will be vomited out by the plastic Welsh tories, but this is what Wales voted for. Progression, more powers, more public ownership and more representation in our democracy.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
12 days ago

With a xenophobic british nationalist govt at westminster doing all it can to stymie the devolved parliaments in Scotland and Wales this deal is in Wales’ best interests at this time. In plaid cymru we unashamedly put Wales’ best interests before party interests

Last edited 12 days ago by Leigh Richards
Paul Reynolds
11 days ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

In what way is the most ethnically diverse country in Europe (England) xenophobic compared to white Wales?

Alun
Alun
10 days ago
Reply to  Paul Reynolds

Well, rather obviously, in the messages coming from the respective governments

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
9 days ago
Reply to  Paul Reynolds

Be your country ever so ethnically diverse, the hostility directed towards the Welsh and Scottish Governments from the government on your side of the border is, I hope, something that you would want to discourage.

Llywelyn ein Llyw Nesaf
Llywelyn ein Llyw Nesaf
12 days ago

Obviously I’d prefer a majority Plaid government, but this is a good stepping stone. What many are reticent about saying is that this isn’t the end of a process. It’s the next step on a journey that will inevitably lead to full independence for Cymru, whatever the Unionists want. Devolution in Cymru has worked – to a very limited extent. Obviously we are still restricted by the devolved powers and our inability to decide our total budget. People in Cymru have seen this. Every indication is that they want MORE devolution, not less, even if they aren’t completely pro-Indy yet.… Read more »

Cai Wogan Jones
Cai Wogan Jones
12 days ago

The devolution model has now been demonstrated to have a fundamental flaw. Because of the unequal position of the Westminster and Cardiff Bay Parliaments, our Senedd and the Welsh Government can be overruled at will by Westminster. Devolution therefore offers no protection in the face of a hostile and determined Westminster administration. Ultimately, there are only two credible solutions. A proper constitution (basic law) binding on both the Westminster and Cardiff Bay Parliaments, placing them on an equal constitutional footing so that proper protection for the powers and competences of our Senedd and Ministers is enshrined in law. Or: Independence.… Read more »

Last edited 12 days ago by Cai Wogan Jones
Cai Wogan Jones
Cai Wogan Jones
12 days ago

Make no mistake. Plaid has bet its future on this deal. If it fails, then they will go the way of the LibDems — because they can no longer pose as a credible opposition (in the sense of an alternative goverment). But Welsh Labour have a lot to gain from this arrangement. It potentially extends their reach (and mandate, through this combination) much further into the North and West. The combination could genuinely claim healthy roots throughout our country, and not just Glamorgan-Gwent. My view is that it will fail unless it results in (1) severance of Welsh Labour’s constitutional… Read more »

Last edited 12 days ago by Cai Wogan Jones
SundanceKid
SundanceKid
12 days ago

I disagree that Welsh Labour could extend its’ reach to the North and West. Not at this time anyway. And it isn’t in either Plaid or Labour’s interest to split the vote in the Plaid heartlands and hand over the seats to the Tories.

But in essence, there is no need for Labour to extend their reach there, if their interests are aligned with those of Plaid. One can only hope that they will eventually align on the issue of independence, even if both parties come to that conclusion in a different manner.

Last edited 12 days ago by SundanceKid
Aled Rees
Aled Rees
12 days ago

Look’s like grown up politics to me.Let’s face it none of that coming from westminster.
I really hope this means labour moving towards a more nationalist stance,the people of wales would love them even more than they do now.

hdavies15
hdavies15
12 days ago
Reply to  Aled Rees

“….hope this means labour moving towards a more nationalist stance…” That’s the bit that bothers me. They are far too wedded to a must win Westminster mentality despite the evidence from England clearly indicating that their chances are slim to none !

Paul Reynolds
11 days ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Don’t forget those Etonians you thought should be shot!

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
9 days ago
Reply to  Paul Reynolds

You’ll have surely gathered that whoever made that comment did so in jest? There are currently no plans in Cymru to shoot Etonians. However, the comment did, I feel, accurately reflect the writer’s contempt for such people — a contempt which many in Wales would feel was justified.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
12 days ago

The Conservative party is a corruptive force that wants to destroy Wales & Welsh devolution. And Although not a Labour voter myself, in this case support any Welsh Labour/ Plaid cooperation, as it would be a dereliction of duty for both not to protect our national interests by putting ideologies aside seeing the hostility and contempt shown towards Wales Senedd Cymru by Boris Johnson’s fascist idiocracy in London. And with that know all too well how the Welsh Conservatives are proactive in the undermining of Welsh devolution. They have never accepted the democratic will of the Welsh people when we… Read more »

Quornby
Quornby
12 days ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Y Cymro hits the nail on the head. The “Welsh” tories would sell their granny for a ” nice” safe Westminster seat. We all know that….. my problem and concern would be the Kinnockesque wing of Labour if they suddenly re-take Westminster. Will their Welshness survive a handout of peerages? I want to be convinced Mark that your answer is “yes” …. So convince me.

Glen
Glen
12 days ago
Reply to  Quornby

There’s an element in ‘Welsh’ Labour that will tell you they hate ‘nats’ more than they hate the Tories.

Robert Williams
Robert Williams
12 days ago
Reply to  Glen

An aging and diminishing element, I think.

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
12 days ago

Ah yes, the “blue rinse” brigade section of the party!

Brian Coman
Brian Coman
9 days ago
Reply to  Glen

Very true..also there is an element of Labour that does not like a certain person who voted for Corbyn in the leadership contest….clue….M..k D………d !

Glen
Glen
12 days ago
Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
12 days ago

What will the UK government do next, I wonder? It’s strong arm tactics are achieving the opposite (supposedly! ) of what it wants.Judging by today’s announcement, though, regarding improving rail links between Wales and Scotland,without cooperation with repective governments, means I suspect it will just be business as usual for the clueless Tories. The trouble is they’ve had so long with getting their own way and bullying both countries – they think they can just continue with it. Times have changed – no longer will Wales and Scotland be pushed around. The alliance between Plaid and Labour is just one… Read more »

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
12 days ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

Let the Conservatives continue. Never disturb your enemy when he’s making a mistake!

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
11 days ago
Reply to  SundanceKid

Even if I pointed out their mistakes everyday – they are so pigheaded and full of their own colonialist importance it wouldn’t matter. They’ll never change it’s not in their genes.

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
12 days ago

This is great for Welsh democracy. Now please let’s have a Plaid / Labour alliance at the next Westminster election (i.e. agreement to only run one candidate in the Tory seats e.g. Plaid could run in Ynys Mon, Aberconwy, Labour could run in Vale of Glamorgan, Monmouth etc.) and let’s rid Wales of all Tory MPs.

Brian Coman
Brian Coman
9 days ago

Momentum supporter and a Welsh Nationalist leading the country……
Who would have thought it !

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