Thursday, 28 June 2007

Courage to say no

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?

7 comments:

gwe said...

A Labour Minority government would have been possible and it certainly has its merits, but the fact of the matter is that the leadership of the three opposition parties have decided that this is not an option they will allow to happen. Because of this, there are only two choices, and both involve Plaid sharing power. This may be seen by some as a poisoned chalice, but there is no 'way out'. Plaid has no choice but to show it can co-govern and not just be an oppostion party. Excuse the language, but either way it's shit or bust.

Ceredig said...

Gwe,

"the leadership of the three opposition parties have decided that this is not an option they will allow to happen"

The questions I would ask are how and when was this decision taken? And have things not changed since then?

As a result of all the negotiations - led in both cases by Plaid - there are now two potential programmes for government, both of which offer Wales more hope than the past. But there is a huge amount of overlap as well, and by concentrating on that overlap, there is a real possibility of consensus government in the Assembly over a four year term, if Labour are willing to follow the consensus and listen to the other parties.

All it takes is for the opposition leaders - and Plaid's leaders in particular - to realise the potential and allow it to happen.

gwe said...

Ceredig, I am sympathetic to your argument about a Labour minority government, but if it did come to pass after all that has happened, in my opinion, it would be the worst of the three options available, for Wales and also for Plaid.

As for when the decision was taken - I don't know - but I have it from both Plaid Assembly members and NEC members that although Labour remaining as a minority government was indeed favoured by some, the firm view of the leadership was that this would be unsustainable.

It may be that Labour's willingness to present a joint programme with Plaid may have softened this attitude, but I have heard, as yet, nothing to the contrary.

alanindyfed said...

I do not agree with Vaughan Roderick's analysis here

Ceredig said...

Gwe, I'm not so convinced that it would be such a bad thing, but we can probably agree to differ on that. What I am convinced about is that Plaid should be considering it seriously, before locking themselves into a position which could be damaging electorally.

The problem sometimes is that those who are most closely involved in events don't always have the time or the inclination to take a step back and ask themselves whether, in the light of changed circumstances, the goal towards which they are working is still the right one.

As to what is or is not sustainable - it really depends what Plaid want to be sustainable. The only thing that would make minority Labour government unsustainable would be either an unwillingness on the part of Labour to keep to an agreed programme, or an unwillingness on the part of Plaid to allow Labour to govern. Minority governments work elsewhere; there is nothing especially unique about Wales which makes them an impossibility.

gwe said...

"Minority governments work elsewhere; there is nothing especially unique about Wales which makes them an impossibility."

You are right. The situation, i.e. Labour holding on to more seats that the oppostion parties had been expecting but nowhere close to a majority, would suggest that a minority government could be advantageous to all three opposition parties. It's the context that speaks against it. The thing is, Plaid, Tories and the Lib Dems were convinced they'd be in power by now... second best will prove too difficult to take in the long run.

Ceredig said...

Gwe,

Indeed, I suspect by now that the context does speak against it, although I think that's a great pity. One of the things that often prevents people and organisations doing the right thing is that they go so far down one route, and don't have the courage to challenge what they are doing. At the start of the process, it seemed obvious to most that minority Labour government was just not a possibility. Eight weeks of negotiations have produced a changed context, in my view, but I suspect that few if any are prepared to take a step back and ask whether the original assumption still holds.