Friday, 28 May 2021

Usurping Plaid's role?


There was a Conservative candidate in the Rhondda in the 1970s who complained that he got fewer votes than there were members of the local Con clubs (that’s Con for Constitutional, the brand that they used to use a lot in areas where the word ‘Conservative’ was regarded as an expletive). It had to be pointed out to him that possession of snooker tables was a bigger drive of membership numbers than any association with a political viewpoint. In fairness to him, though, he did at least recognise that putting his political views into action depended on fighting elections and winning votes.

As this story indicates, that’s by no means something that can be taken for granted amongst the current day crop of Conservatives in Wales. Adrian Mason correctly identifies that, as things stand, the probability of his party gaining power in the Senedd in the foreseeable future is as close to zero as makes no difference. His solution is that the UK government should simply ignore the Senedd and/or work around it, and implement Tory policies in devolved areas in Wales anyway. His dislike of permanent Labour government might well be something that I share, even if we would probably disagree about who should replace Labour, but my starting point is that, if a Labour government is what people vote for, a Labour government – for all its failings – is what they should get. It’s an outcome which could and should be mitigated by a move to full STV, which would make it unlikely that any single party could gain a majority in the Senedd and therefore encourage more searching for consensus and agreement, but getting the representatives you vote for is a fundamental aspect of any democracy. It’s still unlikely to help the Tories much though; even with recent changes to electoral patterns, Conservatism is still very much a minority pursuit in Wales (as a driver of voting behaviour anyway – I suspect that many Conservative attitudes are rather more widely-held than the party’s electoral support suggests).

The idea that a party which accepts that it can win neither a Welsh election nor a majority of Welsh seats in Westminster goes on to claim that it has the right to implement its policies in Wales anyway on the basis of winning a majority of seats in England goes to the very heart of the problem with devolution. As a statement of the legal position, it is absolutely correct – all Welsh government powers are held by dint of the ‘permission’ of Westminster, and that permission can be withdrawn or over-ridden at will. But treating Westminster as the only legitimate source of power, and the majority of the Welsh electorate as a voice which can therefore be ignored (no matter how well that fits with the constitutional position), is a direct incentive to people to consider the alternative, which is independence. There has long been a view amongst some that Plaid Cymru’s role in Wales wasn’t to lead Wales to independence so much as to push Labour into doing that. Is it possible that that role has now been usurped by the Conservative Party, some of whose members seem set on a course, by accident rather than design, which will provoke Labour in Wales into ever more pro-independence positions?


dafis said...

That is a clear reversion to a full on colonialist relationship with no attempt to hide it behind anything else. The nation must be a sickly docile bunch to ever entertain such an attitude towards us.

Gav said...

A very long time ago I heard someone explain the popularity of Con clubs on the lines that the beer there was subsidised by the Tories so every pint drunk was a blow against their party's coffers. Nice bit of Valleys' humour.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that Welsh identifiers are becoming a rapidly decreasing minority. Down to under 63% according to Welsh Govt stats. How can independence gain a majority?

John Dixon said...


Not sure what point you're trying to make here. But supporting independence isn't limited to Welsh identifiers, and many Welsh identifiers don't (and never will) support independence. That makes your statistic irrelevant at best.