Monday, 25 July 2011

Personal agendas

Plaid’s infamous “senior sources” are at it again.  They get away with it not because, as they think, no-one knows who they are, but because short of an admission, or a journalistic breach of confidence, it’s impossible to prove.  From experience, it’s often a case of people who absent themselves from meetings and discussions where decisions are made using a friendly reporter to pursue their personal agendas anonymously.
Ostensibly, one of the issues which has led to this little spat revolves around the question of the manifesto for the Assembly election, and who did or did not write it.  Simon Thomas and Rhuanedd Richards both get some flak in this article, one for allegedly not having written it, and the other for allegedly writing it.  (Although one of my anonymous commenters told me back in May that it was neither of them that wrote it, since “after meeting Nerys recently I was very much under the impression it was a solo effort” - i.e. by Nerys.)  It reminds me rather of another bit of consultant speak – “Whilst success has many fathers, failure is a bastard”.
In fairness to whichever of the three – or whoever else – actually wrote the words which appeared, the basic thrust of the document was very much laid down by Ieuan.  The wordsmith(s) was/were then tasked, essentially, with trying to make it look as if it might in some way resemble a silk purse.  I thought they did a good job; it was far the best quality rhetoric, as I noted at the time.  The problem is that even the very best rhetoric is no substitute for a lack of content.
However, the key word above is “ostensibly”.  As the report itself suggested, I suspect that the “sources” aren’t really interested at all in manifestos or the remit of the party’s directors; this is all about pursuing agendas – promoting the image of favoured candidates, or undermining the image of unfavoured candidates.  It’s what many of the anonymous briefings have been about over the years.
It isn’t only Plaid that suffers from this phenomenon, of course.  Indeed, Plaid has been something of a latecomer to the practice, albeit a fast learner.  It’s a fairly natural outcome from a political process which rates personality and career as more important than mission, but it’s a diversion from real debate about direction and policy.
And that’s the worst aspect of this latest outbreak of indiscipline.  Whether Plaid is or is not in turmoil as the paper chose to report it is of peripheral relevance here; the real problem is that there are too many people in the party who have learned nothing from the last decade.  A change of leadership is an opportunity to put the timidity of that decade into the past, and re-affirm a sense of mission and purpose.  But concentrating attention on personality and the promotion of careers amounts to a continuation of current direction rather than a break from it.  Just as rhetoric is no substitute for substance, so personal agendas are no substitute for collective ones.


Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Da iawen a digon gwir, wrth gwrs dyda ni ar y Pwyllgor Gwaith yn gwybod dim am y pethe ma. Lle mae'r agendas yma'n dod o felly??

John Dixon said...

Gallaf feddwl am sawl ateb i'r cwestiwn hwnnw, ond dwi ddim yn siwr mai blog yw'r lle gorau i ehangu arnynt...

maen_tramgwydd said...

I agree with a lot of what you say regarding personal agendas and the unwelcome development of career politics in the party.

I don't think that the content of the manifesto regardless of who wrote or inspired it played a pivotal role in the outcome of the election. Plaid's performance has been slipping for a decade. The outcome of the election was all too predictable well beforehand.

I don't understand, given that the number of candidates for the leadership is extremely limited, why the election has to wait until next spring.

We await the inquiry of course, but neither do I understand why it has to be such a prolonged exercise. The shortcomings are pretty self-evident, imo. A Rolls Royce Report would be superfluous when there are only dodgem car drivers available - a slightly tongue-in-cheek remark - but with an element of truth.

There should at least be a preliminary report by the early autumn, paving the way for an election shortly afterwards. To wait the best part of a year with a lame duck leader is tantamount to shooting oneself in the other foot.

I cringe at the thought of at least two of the possible candidates, who must be seriously deluded if they consider themselves capable of turning the party's fortunes around. They would wed Plaid to Labour for a second time, thus putting a final nail in its coffin.

Glyndo said...

If you know who they are John, name and shame. You can always use "allegedly"

Spirit of BME said...

Your analysis (as always) is spot on.
The seeds of this tragic state of affairs go back to the late 70`s when the growth in Plaid Cymru support attracted entryism over the years ,by diverse groups from tree huggers , homosexual consent at 14 (why not 12?) Greenham Common women, worker`s rights at GHQ Cheltenham and bra burners (Ah! Where are they now?), none had any interest in our Aims and Mission (The Cause) and were there to soap box their agenda.
A main conduit was Mr Elis “Rooster” Thomas and his National Left and being a good Marxist with no interest in Nationalism he declared “splits are a good thing”. The leadership at the time backed off and avoided confrontation in case the growth of support would be stunted.
As we saw in the manifestos the Aims were down played to “aspirations” or planted at the back of the document, but you are correct that most pages can be traced to an individual`s interests e.g. “Our Troops”, Palestine and specific Green issues.
Plaid Cymru has become franchised space and the Policy Director invited anybody (non-members most welcome) to submit their ideas to the create the Manifesto.
To fix this shambles is a simple task that would take half a mornings work, but it does come with a health warning – “there will be claret on the carpet”

John Dixon said...


I agree that manifestos play little part in an election, in the sense that few - apart from parties and journalists - actually read them, They do, though, through the former of those inform what candidates say and how they feel, and through the latter, they inform the coverage of the party's 'narrative'.


A lawyer friend of mine once advised me that saying something true which you can't ptove is potentially more libellous than saying something false. And I don't think 'allegedly' helps the person making the allegation!


What's the 'lemonade' like where you are? I think you went a bit over the top here. The fact that someone supports a cause other than nationalism doesn't mean that they aren't nationalists - many who espouse a variety of other causes have also been committed nationalists.

Glyndo said...

"I think you went a bit over the top here. The fact that someone supports a cause other than nationalism doesn't mean that they aren't nationalists"

True, but not always.
What about the prominent member of the Party who said - Given the choice of a republican UK or an independent Wales but still under the Queen they would probably take the republican UK. Allegedly.

MariHelenCooke said...

Reading both this blog entry, and Saturday's Western Mail article, I am struck by how badly informed and how inaccurate these accounts are. It is fascinating to read the theories of people who are, at best, peripheral to the decision-making processes of the party, and at worst, no longer members. None of the loudest critics attended any of the meetings in which any of these decisions were taken.

It is not the opinions with which I have a problem - if you think the manifesto was uninspired, fine, although a manifesto should be a prosaic programme for government, not an intellectual treaty on the future of a nation, in my opinion - but the inaccuracies and the falsehoods, especially from certain sources quoted in Saturday's article.

I do wish people would tell the truth. I recognise that realpolitik dictates that people have agendas, and personal ambition, but I don't have to like it.

maen_tramgwydd said...


I’m not quite sure what the thrust of your comment is.

Sadly Plaid isn't in government, and hasn't furthered its agenda regarding self-determination either. It has lost ground, and is losing ground through dithering.

Serious mistakes have been made during the past decade concerning its leadership, and the direction it has taken, which have led to the slough it finds itself in.

I haven't felt, as a member, part of the decision-making process at any level in recent years.

For example, I attended one of IWJ's meetings in 2006, held ostensibly to gauge party opinion on a coalition with Labour.

It seemed clear to me that the decision had already been taken, regardless of grass roots party opinion. It reminded me of Blair's decision on the Iraq war - a done deal. Unfortunately IWJ had none of Blair's charisma or political skills – not that I’m an admirer.

If Plaid elects a leader who continues in the same direction, I see no point in wasting my time, money and efforts (which have not been inconsequential) in supporting it. Stating such opinions at branch meetings don't seem to hit the mark, or reach the people who take the decisions within the party. In any case, there hasn’t been a branch meeting in my constituency since the election, which says a lot.

After a poor election result in May - in what is a small party - why on earth have an inquiry lasting until Christmas, and delay electing a leader until next spring? It's a luxury the party can't afford. It also allows for personal agendas and damaging articles in the press.

Anonymous said...

last straw for me is that a new CEO is appointed and as a ember I am not told
Plaid isnt a party its a private club
I have now resigned,

eclecs said...

Mae'r sylw yma'n hollol wir. Yn enwedig yr un lle mae'r gyrfa'n bwysicach na'r neges. Yn anffofud mae hefyd yn gymhwysol i wleidyddiaeth yn gyffredinol.