Tuesday 16 June 2009

Define 'listening'

In his interview in today's Western Mail, Peter Hain again states that he doesn't see a referendum happening in the timescales set out in One Wales. Nothing new there – he's been saying the same thing for some months.

What is slightly different though is his claim that failing to hold the referendum will cause no problems for the One Wales coalition partners. I found his phrase, "Talking to Plaid Cymru members at a very senior level there is an understanding of that" particularly interesting.

Now, it's not entirely unknown for me to "talk to Plaid members at a very senior level" from time to time. The consistent message given to me and the various bodies within the party is that we are all expecting the referendum to be held within the agreed timescale. Of course, no-one wants to hold a referendum and lose; but there is absolutely no indication that that would happen, and every indication that some in the Labour Party want to renege on the commitment for their own narrow party purposes rather than because of any real danger of defeat.

I'm not sure what Hain's game is. I do not believe that any of the party's leaders would say one thing to myself and the rest of the party whilst saying the opposite to Peter Hain, so I simply cannot believe what he is saying today.

He could of course be deliberately trying to give Plaid members the impression that the leadership is about to backtrack. Devious and underhand; but that just makes it a more credible explanation for his comments. He needs, however, to understand that Plaid's membership has rather more faith in its leadership than Labour Party members do in theirs. Such a tactic will just not work.

He could be trying to reassure his own side by repeating the mantra that there will be no referendum and assuring them that they can scrap the referendum with impunity. A decision not to hold a referendum might well please many in his own party; but to argue that there would, by so doing, be no breach of faith with Plaid as Labour's One Wales partners would be to seriously underestimate the damage he would be doing in terms of faith and trust.

I suspect that his statement is in large part down to the fact that he just doesn't listen to what people are actually saying to him. It fits with much of the rest of the interview, in which he talks about Labour's leadership needing to listen to the grassroots, and the Labour Party as a whole needing to listen to the electorate. The only lesson he seems to admit that Labour need to learn is "to change how we campaign". Typical New Labour – it's all about presentation, and nothing to do with the underlying policy direction of the government and party.

And his attempt to 'listen to people' and 'learn the lessons' last week seemed to boil down to little more than rebuking people for not voting Labour, and threatening them with consequences if they do the same again next time.

Perhaps the comment will do something to reassure some in his own party; but as a statement of Plaid's position it is just plain wrong.

1 comment:

David Walters said...

I think you're right John. Hain is trying to get us to throw our toys out of the pram and walk away from One Wales so that he and his party don't have to be held to any of its commitments.

New Labour have been trying to goad us into walking away since the very start of One Wales.

As, probably, the most leading member of Plaid, it's good to hear you confirm that we the members are not being stiched up though.