Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Keeping the dream alive

I thought we were going to hear the fat lady singing on Monday, but it looks as though Rhodri Morgan’s untimely indisposition will keep her waiting in the wings a little longer yet. With the Assembly about to break up for the summer, I hope that there is someone out there who can re-assure us that that doesn’t mean that nothing can be decided until after the recess, leaving the whole summer free for more twists and turns before she eventually emerges into the limelight, because the audience will be long gone before then.

I admit to having half-feared, right to the last, that the rainbow conjurors, Bourne and Jones, would somehow manage to perform some final act of prestidigitation which would make One Wales disappear in a puff of smoke, and reveal the All-Wales Accord standing in its place. Merlin Morgan’s wizardry proved to be the more powerful in the end.

However, as Cleckanndra points out, one thing that this is not is a pact between two groups of socialists, whatever Adam Price might be saying. (Although I cannot agree either with Cleckanndra’s assertion that this was a vote for Independence. It has more to do with self-interest than self-government, I fear).

It has become fashionable in some circles to say that we are in a ‘post-ideological’ era, but here at Ceredig House, we’re not convinced by that argument.

If there is an apparent lack of ideological divide between the parties, it is a result not of society (and the needs of the people) moving past ideology, but of a situation where all the parties have come to accept the basic constructs of the status quo. That is to say, we have a market-driven economy and four parties which all want to play at managing and controlling that market-driven economy. When politicians talk about ‘post-ideological’ politics, what they are saying is that they accept that Capitalism has won, and that globalisation is now an inevitable fact of life.

None of the parties is, any longer, offering a serious alternative – or even a critique – of that system. In a sense, all four of the main parties at the recent election offered, at core, a form of social democracy, and that ‘consensus’ is what created the circumstances in which alternative coalition arrangements became possible.

That is not to say that there are not people in both the Labour Party and Plaid who hold to an alternative view of society; there are. But they are now being marginalised. There is nothing new here for socialists in the Labour Party; they’ve been a marginalised minority for decades. But I suspect that some members of Plaid, who’ve always had difficulty understanding how the ‘good socialists’ in the Labour Party could remain in that party despite everything that the party’s leaders have said and done in the pursuit of power will start to show a great deal more understanding as they find themselves in a similar position.

As Plaid move into government, that party too will find that its ‘good socialists’ are uncomfortable with the decisions taken in the party’s name, uncomfortable with blatant careerism, and uncomfortable with accepting market driven decisions. And they, too, will come to realise that there is simply nowhere else for them to go.

Normal Mouth makes a cogent case for the Labour Party to embrace the devolutionary agenda in order to undermine Plaid; the debate in that thread is an interesting one. NM is clearly right that Plaid would be reluctant to make the case for outright Independence at this stage. The party’s leader is not convinced about the policy anyway, and most of the sensible members of the party have always believed that any progress would be gradual. I accept that the path proposed by NM would effectively settle the constitutional status of Wales for many decades to come.

The question that I would ask is whether that then opens the door for the political realignment that we really need, rather than the one we appear to be getting – the one which allows socialists to come together within that agreed constitutional arrangement, to start offering a real alternative to the market-driven economy.

The Red-Green deal looks to me like a form of reconciliation between the devolutionary social democratic wing of Welsh Labour and the pragmatic social democratic wing of Plaid, and that may well be for the good of Wales in the short term. But in the longer term, Wales needs to be offered the real alternative which is currently failing by default.

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