Gareth Hughes argues that those urging a coalition with Labour are failing in their democratic duty as an opposition

July 26th, 2012

So party stalwart and former Plaid MP and AM for Ceredigion Cynog Dafis wants Plaid to forget about independence and concentrate on trying to be nice to Labour. Presumably so that Labour relents and allows Plaid Cymru back into government. In a Radio interview Mr Dafis said his party should do a deal with Labour and agree a way forward for the Welsh NHS.

Mr Dafis seems to be singing from the same hymn sheet as Dafydd Elis-Thomas. Both want a governmental role for their party rather than a constant oppositional role. What both are saying is: don’t bother trying to hold the Welsh government to account, don’t co-operate with the other opposition parties. Put simply, just cosy up to Labour.

Such a strategy must be music to the ears of Carwyn Jones and Labour. If Plaid Cymru was to adopt such a policy, Labour would be given a free hand in the governance of Wales. Doubtless some in Plaid Cymru might agree with Lord Elis-Thomas that there was no evidence that a no confidence vote was warranted on the Health Minister last week. Maybe, however, on this occasion the party got it wrong.

But surely there will be occasions when the government will need to be held to account by the opposition parties. And yes even a vote of no-confidence will be warranted. But a party whose main strategy is getting into bed with the government rules out any constructive role of opposition.

The nub of it is that with such an approach Plaid Cymru is accepting Labour hegemony. It is accepting one-party rule in Wales. And is not inclined to challenge Labour’s dominance. Such a policy is inherently anti-democratic. It it is exactly the approach that was taken in the old Soviet Bloc where other parties were allowed to exist, but in name only. There was, of course, a condition for their existence. They always had to vote with the comrades in the Communist party.

Forget the realignment of Welsh politics. One party rule forever.

Is there room in the Welsh political scene for a party that adopts this attitude? Is there room for a party that kicks its reason for existence into the very long grass  and turns its back on independence? Is there room for a party that believes its only role in life is to prop up Labour?

“Vote for us and we’ll help Labour.” That doesn’t do it for me as a winning formula to gather votes on election day. Why vote for the monkey when the organ grinder is on the ballot paper?

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Gareth Hughes is a political commentator who blogs here

9 Responses to:“Accepting one party rule in Wales”

  1. Gwion Owain says:

    I could not agree more with Gareth’s comments here. The results of the One Wales Coalition was a loss of both electoral support and credibility for Plaid Cymru. I also agree that it would be completely anti-democratic and in fact injurious to the credibility of the devolution project as a whole if the two main parties in Wales are seen to be one and the same.

    Sadly there is tendency amongst the Plaid old guard to want to eschew their democratic roles as opposition politicians in return for a role at the ministerial table. Personally I’ve come to the conclusion that this yearning to be in government is some form of psychological hangover from the days of the chapel where being part of the ‘establishment’ is seen as being more ‘parchus’ than opposition – it is as Gareth says an abrogation of their democratic duty.

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  2. Siôn Eurfyl Jones says:

    I think you – along with other media commentators – are giving too much credence to DET and Cynog. They are isolated within the party, and represent a wing of the party that was comprehensively rejected by the members when we elected Leanne. They should both retire gracefully – DET to spend more time with his House of Lords chums, and his expenses.

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  3. Jon Jones says:

    It’s always geat to see Plaid re-writing history, recent or ancient. In opposition Plaid did…..nothing. In Government they changed the direction of Wales for ever. Labour is still following agreements struck with Plaid under the One Wales accord. Gwion is under the illusion that Plaid is, and will remain one of “the two main parties of Wales”. That isn’t written in stone by any means. Plaid is very similar in many respects to Labour, indeed it is often identical except for little forays down opportunistic blind alleys like the recent attempt at a vote of no confidence in the Minister for Health. When two parties are so similar then opposition comes from a party with fundamentally different philosophies; in Wales as in England that opposition is the Tory party.

    Recently, with Scotland showing some inclination towards independence, Plaid have got over excited and made Independence the main plank of their aspirations for Wales. That is to say they oppose Labour fundamentally with that policy alone. How wise is that? Polls usually show between 9 and 11% of the public supporting Independence and so, despite talk of a sudden surge of support for the break up of the Union, commitment to opposition under all circumstances is a commitment to impotence.

    Plaid have recently appeared petulant and childish in their dealings; Leanne Wood has been badly advised by the more rabid left wing of the Party and in comparison DET and Cynog Davis have appeared statesmanlike. Sion Jones likes to talk of the huge and unconditional support that Leanne has received from the membership but I think I remember that she was second choice as leader for the majority of the party.

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  4. Gareth A.Ll. ap-Sion says:

    I have the highest respect for Cynog Dafis and his political wisdom. I agree with his readiness to ally with the Welsh Labour party where doing so is believed to ameliorate our country’s political, social, economic health. Plaid Cymru’s raison d’etre is to fight for Wales and its people – not simply taking party-political stances; we have far too much of that sterility already. After all, there are Labour Party followers who are not entirely Unionist. Furthermore, as Wales becomes increasingly confident in herself even those who are less independence-minded may become, at least, less Unionist and jealously guard newly won freedoms. Cofiwch: Cymru cyntaf. Remember: Wales first.

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  5. Celticus says:

    I agree with Gareth Hughes. The consolidation of an increasingly one party statelet reminds one of pre-reform Northern Ireland. Combined with a shrinking media infrastructure, this is a recipe for sterile policies, nepotism and worse. One can imagine a period of such crisis-ridden governance coming to a head and direct rule imposed from England. This toxic combination will threaten to sweep away devoluion.

    If Jon Jones thinks that the Plaid AMs’ disasterous decision to vote with the Tories on a chimerical no confidence motion is the fault of the partys’ “rabid left wing”, I fear his powers of critical analysis have left him. The answer can be found by asking that wisest of questions, “Cui bono?” [To whose benefit?]

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  6. Dave says:

    Jon Jones is completely out of touch with the mood in Plaid Cymru. Plaid’s fundamental aim is independence for Wales, and has been at least in spirit since its inception, whatever terms have been used – full national status, self-government/determination etc. Labour is a unionist party, which has failed the UK badly every time it’s been in government at Westminster, and failed Wales badly in the thirteen years of Labour-led government in Cardiff Bay.

    Labour is responsible for much of Wales’ economic failure and woes. It devised a humiliatingly weak devolution settlement in 1997. The Welsh Government is the only administration on this planet with no tax raising or fiscal powers. Supporting Labour is the worst mistake a national party like Plaid can make. The SNP certainly did not do so, realising that Labour had to be defeated at the ballot box if Scotland was to have any chance of progressing. DET and Cynog Dafis, I suspect for different motives, want Plaid to support Labour. In my opinion, that course of action is tantamount to suicide for the party. Labour has no strategy to re-invigorate Wales’ economy, and even if they had, they wouldn’t implement it, because it suits Labour to have a population in Wales deeply dependent on state funding and benefits, and who will continue to put an X in the Labour box in every election, lest the Tories bring in cuts.

    To equate Plaid with Labour is a big mistake. Plaid has the interests of the people of Wales at heart, not in achieving power at Westminster and getting its leader into 10 Downing Street.

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  7. Keith Parry says:

    Cynog Dafis has spouted his defeatest nonsense for years. I dont know why any one takes any notice of him. Plaid Cymru should be fighting for Welsh independence which is the key to solving our econimic problems. Research the party is undertaking shows that the union with England is a failure and must be ended.

    Carwyn ‘Nuclear Submarine’ Jones and his New Labour Party has presided over years of decline in Wales. They do not deserve Plaid Cymru’s support but rather vigorous opposition. Plaid Cymru must put the case for independence forward again and again, building up a momentum that will change public support and perceptions. The Welsh-national minded public will seek out Welsh based media that reflects its views, strengthening Welsh media and removing the nonsense of people in Wales reading London newspapers that have nothing to say about Wales.

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  8. Jon Jones says:

    DET and Cynog Dafis recognised an unpalatable truth in the matter of NHS reorganisation; it has to happen. The reason why it was held back is the past alliance between Plaid and Labour. What fascinates me is this mantra that “Labour is the enemy”. Labour may be a political enemy but not an enemy of Wales. Inevitably an alliance between Plaid and Tories shows Plaid as more concerned with “Spoiling” tactics than any true concern with constructive criticism. Now we have Plaid saying that Labour hegemony is an “Enemy of democracy”; how shallow is this? Does anyone think that if Plaid were (Lord help us) in such a permanently dominant position they would be so vociferous for more powerful opposition?

    In one respect I do agree; the present electoral system is too likely to throw up the need for coalition. Minor parties in coalition often hold to ransom the major party on objectives that were rejected by the electorate. That is undemocratic politics by the back door. Plaid blocking hospital reorganisation in the One Wales Government in order to satisfy “Our Communities” was bad for Wales… Nations cannot be ruled at the whim of pressure groups.

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  9. Jon Jones says:

    Of course it’s of no importance whether, as Dave says, “Jon Jones is completely out of touch with the mood in Plaid Cymru”. What should concern Dave is whether Plaid is “Completely out of touch with the mood” in Wales. Keith Parry might confirm from personal experience that Welsh voters are rejecting Plaid in droves. No matter. Plaid have displayed an unwholesome desire to give Lord Dafydd a good kicking at every opportunity. As far as I can gather there are three reasons for this:- His failure to embrace the hysterical enthusiasm for Independence NOW! His failure to show the contempt for Royalty that is judged to be a prerequsite of Nationalism in Wales and his reluctance to join in a Tory instigated Witch hunt against the Health Minister with a vote of no confidence that was doomed to failure.

    Now Keith Parry says that “The Welsh-national minded public will seek out Welsh based media that reflects its views” and goes on to say that following the English News papers is a nonsense. Nonsense or not, English newspapers are what people in Wales read, those of us who read the Daily Post and Western Mail are a minority but I noticed that hardly a good word is spoken by Plaid supporters about the Western mail these days. Its great sin? Apparently giving column inches to:- Royalty, Lord DET, Cynog Dafis and of course questioning public spending on translation into Welsh. So, how can we interpret this? No one should read the English press because it doesn’t reflect Wales but no one should read the WM either because it DOES reflect Wales, but not Welsh Nationalists’ Wales.

    Golwg360 it is then. Good Luck!

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