According to a post by Vaughan Roderick a few days ago, Plaid's leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, was forced to agree to the Labour deal rather than follow his instincts and go with the Tories because he was effectively being blackmailed by the party's Left. Vaughan suggested that the rainbowistas would accept the party's decision to go with Labour, but the Red-Green supporters would not accept a decision to go with the rainbow.
I think Vaughan has got it wrong, at least in part. Certainly, if the party decided to follow the rainbow, there would have been resignations; probably including some public and high profile resignations. But I suspect that the party's central office is resigned (no pun intended) to the fact that there will be resignations over the Red-Green deal as well. Maybe not as public or high profile, but probably more numerous, and certainly every bit as damaging. Perhaps it doesn't look as much like blackmail, but appearances aren't everything.
Is there another way out? I think there may well be – if Plaid's membership has the courage to simply say 'no'. The result of a 'no' vote would be a minority Labour government, almost inevitably. I suppose they could go back to the Lib Dems, but why? They wouldn't need to, and the Lib Dems are now so utterly discredited as to deserve their inevitable marginalisation.
Conventional wisdom (pace Ieuan Wyn Jones and others) has it that to be 'stable', a government has to have an overall majority of votes in the Assembly; but I think that the negotiations over the last seven weeks have changed that, for the next four years at least.
As a result of the proposed deal with Plaid, Labour now know exactly what they have to deliver as a minority government to avoid defeat in the chamber. And thanks to the negotiating skills of the Plaid team, much of what is in that document has already been agreed with the other two parties, who would surely now find it impossible to publicly vote against what they have already agreed to as a programme for government.
So there is a possibility for a real consensus to develop over the core programme for the next four years, as well as a constitutional convention to develop the campaign for a full parliament. The people of Wales get an agreed programme - and a proper parliament.
What's in it for the parties?
The Labour fundamentalists would still have to agree to the programme of government that has been put forward, but avoid having to sit at Cabinet with the hated nashies.
Plaid remain as the main opposition party, able to oppose anything not in the programme. The party remains united, and can sell its tacit support for a Labour government on the basis that more people voted for Labour than for any other party, but Plaid have forced Labour to accept much of its programme, and particularly to campaign for a parliament.
The Tories are kept out of government and remain as, at best, second fiddle in opposition – but have been locked into a consensus on much of the government's programme.
The Lib Dems have marginalised themselves – nothing can change that now.
Looks like a good deal to me – will Plaid's members have the courage?