Wales Home Article – The Next Road Lies Before Us

I SUPPOSE I should start this article by eating humble pie. Despite my pre-election prophecy of near-meltdown for Labour in Wales, the party remarkably managed to hold on to 26 Welsh seats.
In mitigation, I wasn’t the only one to underplay the remarkable ability of the Labour party in Wales to beat the odds. My constituency neighbour Peter Hain admitted on election night that the result ”exceeded all expectations”. The Labour national vote fell by 6.5% (0.3% higher than the UK average), but in first-past-the-post elections it is seats won that counts, of course.
I have to admit that Westminster has been a very strange place since the election. Despite losing office, the Parliamentary Labour Party seems to be in euphoric mood. Perhaps the pre-election words of Mervyn King that the victors would find themselves out of office for a generation raises hopes that they might be back in power once again in the not-too-distant future. The current political trajectory of the new Westminster Government certainly makes a Labour UK victory in 2015 more than just a distinct possibility.
Even stranger has been Labour’s Damascene conversion to a range of issues. I must admit it has been somewhat strange to see even the most ardent unionist among the Welsh Labour contingent rallying to the call for an early referendum, and Barnett reform. Quite where they have been for the previous 13 years is another matter. But in the interests of the new politics, I welcome their conversion wholeheartedly.
However, the major strategic shift we have seen from the Labour party since the Westminster election has two primary strategic aims. The first is to polarise the political debate between Labour in Wales and the new ConDem coalition in London and, secondly, it attempts to triangulate my party by placing Labour firmly on our traditional territory. It’s on the latter that I wish to concentrate on for the remainder of this piece.
The recent YouGov poll for ITV Wales that reported a surge in Wales for Labour of 10% indicates that the strategy has so far been successful. The First Minister, who was docile during the Westminster campaign, probably to protect him in the expectation of a bad result, has finally stirred. If he continues at this rate we might have to call him y Mab Darogan.
Considering all this you would think that Plaid strategists would be in a state of panic. For Plaid, however, politics is far more than just electoral results. One concern is for political objectives and outcomes which are in the national interest. After all, party leader Ieuan Wyn Jones promised when the coalition was formed to create a new politics in Wales – a politics which would elevate the specific needs of Wales to the top of the Welsh political agenda. As we celebrate three years of the One Wales agreement, we can toast his foresight and his influence in ensuring that the Welsh Government, including the Labour party, has delivered on Plaid’s agenda.
The referendum on attaining political sovereignty over devolved fields, a growing consensus on the need for the devolution of extra policy fields, a new language Measure, structuring the NHS on a Plaid model, developing our transport infrastructure and the focus on affordable housing and sustainable communities – these all indicate that the aims of the national movement are being achieved both directly and indirectly. The condemnation of the One Wales deal by former Pontypridd MP Kim Howells was somewhat over the top when he said that the deal would transport the “nationalists to the gates of independence”. However, his suggestion that Labour’s decision to work with Plaid would effectively act as a vehicle for the aspirations of the national movement holds a great deal of truth.
Considering this, readers would undoubtedly expect me to firmly advocate a One Wales 2 agreement after the 2011 National Assembly elections. However, I believe it is imperative that the party maintains a position of being able to negotiate an alternative deal. The lesson of 2007 was that having two options enabled us as a party to get the maximum possible deal for Wales from one of the London parties. The primary motive for Plaid at all times must be achieving the best possible deal for Wales and that is why we must keep all options open after the next election.

One Response to “Wales Home Article – The Next Road Lies Before Us” [latest first]

  1. Excellent article Jon.

    Personally, for a national general election, you will see me (for the foreseeable future!) still vote Labour (Llanelli), for UK-wide interests mind you. However, for assembly elections, that is another animal altogether, and…., say no more. That is the quirks which makes politics these days so interesting in the islands of ours.

    Furthermore, it is incredible what Labour has done since 1997, raising living standards in those tory-ravaged areas of Britain and NI remarkably, but do we get reminded of that by the London-centric media press? Don’t think so somehow. All they are interested in is shallow back-biting and back-scratching! Loved the interview Alex Salmond did on the BBC a while ago – clip;

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