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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Will Plaid Cymru's decision weaken their negotiating stance after 2016?

Like all the opposition parties, Plaid Cymru face some difficult decisions in the run-up to the May 2016 Assembly elections. Like all the other parties they have a manifesto to put together, containing distinctive policies that take account of the financial reality facing the Assembly over the next five years. But in addition they also need to set out their stall on what they will do if there is no overall majority for any party once all the votes have been counted.

It is arguable that one of the reasons Plaid Cymru lost Llanelli last time was that they failed to rule out a deal with the Tories. Today's announcement formally ruling out any coalition deal with the Conservatives after next year’s National Assembly election is an attempt to avoid that trap this time.

Leanne Wood told the Western Mail: “Plaid Cymru’s vision for Wales sees a fairer distribution of wealth, a strengthening of our public services, and ensuring that everyone is able to reach their potential.

“Since they came to power in 2010, as well as historically, the Tories have proven that they do not share these values.

“They have shown that they are intent on pursuing policies that hit people in the middle and lowest income brackets the hardest while offering the best deal for those with the most. People in Wales have always rejected Tory politics.

"I reject their politics, and so does Plaid Cymru. There is no way that I would lead Plaid Cymru into coalition with the Conservatives.”

That is clear and no doubt the voters will judge her party on that basis. However, where does it leave a Welsh Assembly coming to the end of another term of Labour rule, 17 years in all?

It is an Assembly where the three opposition parties have failed to work together in any significant way so as to make it difficult for Labour to rule without a clear majority.

Plaid Cymru's decision means that it is inevitable that even if Labour have a disastrous election the next Assembly government will also be dominated by Carwyn Jones' party.

Such an outcome may Plaid Cymru in their comfort zone but tactically it is a disaster for them. That is because they have effectively destroyed their own negotiating position in any talks to form a new Welsh Government.

We will now have a situation where Carwyn Jones can play off Plaid Cymru against the Welsh Liberal Democrats so as to get the best possible deal for his party in any coalition deal. Leanne Wood though will be faced with a take-it or leave it situation, in which she cannot even threaten to go elsewhere if Carwyn will not give her what she wants.

If it is Plaid Cymru's position to go into opposition no matter what then that should not be a problem. But if they are serious about being a party of government, and accepting that they will not get a majority or come close to one this time, then it leaves Leanne Wood and her party whistling in the wind. After all, why vote for Plaid Cymru as an alternative to Labour, when by that route you are going to get Labour anyway and when all the policy positions they are presenting to the electorate are not likely to be implemented because they will have no leverage to force Labour into delivering them?

This announcement could be as bad for Plaid Cymru as the failure to rule out dealing with the Tories was in 2011.
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