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Monday, January 02, 2012

Strange alliances

Today's Western Mail article in which former Heritage Minister, Rhodri Glyn Thomas argues that Plaid Cymru has gone backwards since 1999 and desperately needs to find a new way of talking to the voters is nothing new and is so self-evident that it is hardly worth talking about.

What makes the article worth noting is the comments from an anonymous Labour source at the end, who virtually urges Plaid Cymru members to vote for Leanne Wood in their forthcoming leadership contest. It is a rambling, almost stream of consciousness contribution that sounds like it was based on a phone conversation that took place during New Year celebrations, but it is interesting nevertheless.

The paper quotes a senior Welsh Labour source as saying that if Plaid Cymru are serious about wanting to become the biggest party, the part of Wales where they need to be winning seats from Labour is the Valleys. He continues: "Without question, they should elect Leanne Wood as their new leader. The fact that she is not a Welsh speaker would be an enormous advantage in dispelling the still widely held view that Plaid is essentially a party for Welsh speakers.

“Leanne is by no means perfect – she’s a bit too far left for a lot of people and certainly to the left of where the average Welsh voter is.

“She should cut back on her obsessions with the likes of Hugo Chavez, although, having said that, Ken Livingstone proved that voters will forgive you a certain amount of eccentricity if you convince them you are a competent and serious figure."

Somehow I don't think Leanne Wood will welcome that intervention.

Another interesting cross-party endorsement in today's Western Mail comes on the letters page, where the Plaid Cymru leader of Gwynedd Council writes in support of Carwyn Jones' 'isolationist' position on Europe.

Nobody should be surprised that a leading nationalist should be supporting a national leader pursuing his own foreign policy, though when the national leader in question is a self-avowed Labour unionist politician it can get a bit tricky.

N.B. Is it me or does the demand that 'Cheryl Gillan confirm what discussions David Cameron had with her in order to ascertain the views of Wales prior to his mastication on the European stage' sound a bit odd?

I know that they hold a lot of banquets and dinners at these European summits but surely the British Prime Minister can choose what he eats himself without having to consult with the Welsh nation first.
There's no doubt that Cameron got 'chewed over' at the summit. He looked a bit shell-shocked afterwards.

Though not nearly as shocked at Clegg appeared the following day. I'm not surprised he couldn't make up his mind how to react, so he made it up as he went along, managing to look silly.

I haven't got much time for the likes of RGT and his notions of 'nation building'. Many countries have achieved sovereignty with far less than Wales has in terms of structure. We need independence not dependence.

That is not to say that Wales doesn't need those structures or can't develop them on the road to independence. RGT's approach is.. "this week, next week, sometime, never..". He does the party no favours, imo. But he is correct when he says that the party has gone backwards over the last 12 years.. but then he didn't make much of a positive contribution himself.

Generally politicians don't make public comments about leadership contests in other parties, and I'm not surprised that this Labour person prefers to remain anonymous.

Plaid is unfortunate in having managed to 'lose' a couple of excellent leadership candidates, and regrettably now has a limited field, but much better even so than those the LibDems potentially have.

In fact one could go so far as saying that the Assembly isn't exactly brimming with leadership material.

Carwyn Jones has turned out to be rather dull, but even he realises that someone in his party has to stand up for Wales, when it is being trampled on by a right wing eurosceptic Tory-led ConDem coalition.

I think that of the Plaid candidates putting their names forward, Leanne is the most promising, and if no-one else stands, I will be supporting her bid.

Happy New Year, Peter.
It's interesting to note that the senior Welsh Labour source quotes Ken Livingstone. He/She should be reminded that when Ken won the London elections he was not a member of the Labour Party and stood as an independent.

There is a basic reality in Welsh politics. Whoever wins the valleys gets to rule Wales. Whilst elections in the rest of Wales results in seat swapping between Plaid, Tory, LibDem and Labour, whoever makes inroads in the valleys will inherit the future political direction of the nation. This was also the basis of the 1999 success which RGT speaks of. It's also Leanne Woods home turf, and while many commentators deride Plaids performance since 1999, there is one part of Wales where Plaid actually increased their vote in the 2010 Westminster election and the 2011 Senedd elections. The valleys. I have no doubt the 'Leanne' effect influenced this. The question arises as to whether Plaid has the courage to give her the leadership.

Having campaigned for Plaid in elections both in the North and in the Valleys, I find Leanne Wood (and Jill Evans who is cut from the same cloth) is very adept at winning both votes from Labour and other voters outside the valleys, and see no negative effects from existing Plaid voters in these areas. If fact, with a LibDem/Tory government in Westminster and a Labour Party in a 'do nothing' paralysis in the Bae, political events of the future is likely to give a Leanne leadership fertile ground to grow Plaid support.
You don't have to be Malcolm Tucker from the Thick of It to see that the Labour endorsement is a cack handed way of undermining Wood. By saying she's looney left or a "maverick" and also by suggesting Labour wants her to win, to put off Plaid membership voters.

What's more interesting to me is that this means Labour's source thinks Wood will have a chance of winning and wants to make it seem like Labour will be happy with her winning. She is the only candidate that would really challenge Labour, except I suppose for a certain someone who isn't standing.
The fact that she is not a Welsh speaker would be an enormous advantage

Oh! What a disadvantage to Plaid!

Leanne can and does speak Welsh with a beautiful valleys lilt!

I may not agree with what she says - but she can say it di-flewyn ar dafod yn y Gymraeg!
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