Friday, 18 August 2017

What is the basis of the alternative?

On Monday, the BBC reported on Neil Hamilton’s call for Plaid to work with UKIP; yesterday there was an article on Nation.Cymru calling for a coalition between Plaid and the Tories.  It’s obviously August, and the traditional dearth of hard political news is being replaced by the equally traditional speculation, which is unlikely to lead to anything at all once 'proper politics' recommences in September.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a serious point underlying all this though.  There is a perception that Wales, and Welsh democracy, have a problem.  We are eighteen years on from the founding of the Assembly and one party has either formed, or led, the government for the whole of that time.  Only once, and then only briefly, was there a serious possibility of an alternative, but since then the possibility has disappeared and currently seems further away than ever.
I’ve talked before about the question of the so-called rainbow alliance in 2007, and I’m not going to rehearse all the arguments here.  For a variety of reasons, some of which I’ve mentioned before and some I have not, I was opposed to that proposal, but my opposition wasn’t based on some vague ‘principle’ about never dealing with the Tories; it was more to do with whether such a government was viable, and to what extent it would advance the cause of independence.
Those latter questions go to the heart of my reaction to the idea that Plaid should be prepared to work with the Tories.  Any party of independentistas should be judging and responding to that question on the basis of an assessment of whether, and to what extent, such a government would be a step towards or away from achievement of that goal, and an assessment of the political costs and benefits to the national movement over both the short term and the long term.  It says a lot about the stage that Plaid has reached that the reaction is more to do with a refusal to work with evil baby-eaters than about making such an assessment, predictable though such a reaction is.  Plaid, as I’ve commented before, seems unable to decide whether Labour are pink Tories, little different from the real ones, or a progressive force which should be supported.  It frequently seems that they believe – and want the rest of us to believe – that both of those things are simultaneously true.
I don’t entirely share the analysis in the Nation.Cymru article, but neither do I believe that basing the entirety of Welsh politics on an assumption that the Tories are inevitably and immutably toxic is showing any understanding of the reality of political trends in Wales.  For sure, the threatened Tory surge in the June General Election didn’t happen, but the fact that – however briefly – the polls suggested it as a serious possibility underlines, yet again, that Welsh politics (at Westminster level at least) is converging with, rather than diverging from, the mainstream of English politics.  Any party which bases its whole approach on an assumption that the Tories and their ilk are forever beyond the pale is likely to find itself being overtaken by events.  It’s simply a question of time before such an essentially negative approach fails.  And there’s a danger that Labour take Plaid down with them.
The bigger problem that I have with the suggestion of such coalitions is the assumption that having an alternative government is, axiomatically, a good and necessary thing for Welsh democracy, and that, if the people don’t choose one themselves when they go out and vote, it’s down to party political manoeuvring to create one.  After all, we have a Labour-led Government in Wales, and have had one since 1999, because that’s what the people voted for under the electoral system which is in operation.  One could (and I do) criticise the electoral system for not adequately representing the range of opinions amongst the Welsh electorate, but even under my preferred option of STV, I’m certain that Labour would have emerged from the Assembly election as far and away the largest party.
The so-called ‘problem’, in short, isn’t that there is a lack of an alternative government, it is that the government we have is the one that the electorate chose; and any post-election stitch-up between parties which claim to be fiercely opposed to each others policies, with the sole aim of displacing Labour, lacks any obvious legitimacy.  I agree with the perception that continuous government by one party is leading that party to be complacent, timid, and lacking in vision.  But the solution to that is to do with persuading people that there is a better alternative and getting them to vote for it, not some back-room deal.

1 comment:

Spirit of BME said...

My congratulations on this blog, you show that unlike the leadership in Plaid, (from the days of Thatcher onwards) you are above what today is called “virtue signalling” and are focused on good government in the interests of the people of Wales, rather than “playing the game, for the games sake”, as the English private schools instil in their pupils, or as I would put it- keeping your heads in the trough and carry on making a good living.
Plaid currently do not have the quality of members that would, in my opinion be able to add anything to enhance HMG in Wales. I further have a problem, in that history shows us that colonial governments are always the problem, by their very construct and never the solution to restore freedom and dignity to the people they are set up to administer.