Just a few days ago, Dafydd Elis Thomas said that the deal between Plaid and UKIP to vote for Leanne Wood to become First Minister triggered his departure from Plaid. At the time of that vote, Plaid denied that there had been any such deal, and even last week – in direct response to what Dafydd said – a Plaid spokesperson claimed that “Leanne Wood has made no approach to UKIP at any stage…”. Then, yesterday, we had the story in the Western Mail based on an interview with Adam Price in which Adam stated very clearly that he had approached UKIP to ask for their support, which was forthcoming.
‘Truth’ in politics can be an elusive beast, and it is, just about, possible to argue that no-one has told any lies here. There’s nothing directly inconsistent between the statement that Leanne Wood made no approach and the admission that Adam Price did; and if one defines a ‘deal’ as being something of a reciprocal nature, then if UKIP and the Tories were offered nothing in return for their votes, it’s possible to argue that there was no deal done.
However… There’s more to honesty than merely avoiding telling lies, and to date, Plaid have striven to give the impression that the decisions by UKIP and the Tories to support Plaid’s nominee in that vote were taken independently and were not the result of any request for support from Plaid. That impression has now been revealed to be at some distance from the truth.
Does it matter? Well yes, it does matter to some of us at least if a party which claims honesty and transparency as virtues is revealed to be behaving in a fashion which is at odds with that claim; and it matters if that party then wants us to trust it on other issues. It’s arguable, though, that this is just froth, and there’s a deeper issue here.
It is a fact of life that, in a legislative body where one party or group holds half the seats and the other half are split between three parties or groups, effective scrutiny will be improved if those opposition parties are willing to talk to each other from time to time, and – yes, even agree on tactics on occasions. That doesn’t mean adopting common policy positions on what should be done, but it doesn’t preclude united opposition on things which all of them oppose. It’s a negative approach to a government programme, but on an exceptional basis, there’s nothing wrong with the opposition uniting in that way.The real problem that this highlights for me is that all of those concerned understand this reality but all are determined, for presentational reasons, to deny it, not least because all of them have, at different times, played the silly game of “he voted with her”. And they play that game because they believe that we will swallow it. So in a sense, it’s all the fault of the voters…