A whole week after Hain’s little outburst, and the dust is settling nicely, after a fashion.
In his latest post on the subject, Normal Mouth argued that Labour need do nothing; and that by doing nothing, they would be calling Plaid’s bluff, since Plaid would not leave the coalition government—not yet, anyway. He’s right, of course, in saying that Plaid would find that they had nowhere to go - but that doesn't mean that it would have been a wise move by Labour.
Plaid are not yet ready to abandon the coalition, and will not do so unless and until they become convinced that Labour will not deliver. Last week’s incident is, however, the sort of thing which could hasten that day if allowed to pass without response. In the event, it looks as though someone in Labour has recognised the need for some soothing words, and Hain has issued a 'clarification'.
I suspect that it's not so much the detail of the clarification that will be important to Plaid as the fact that there is one, since that gives a degree of recognition to their concerns. And most important of all will be the implicit recognition that this is not the way to hold a discussion over the timing of the referendum.
Both parties need to become more aware of the internal pressures of the other, and refrain from this style of megaphone discussion. I tend to accept Normal Mouth's contention that Hain’s comments were never really aimed at anyone except his Labour colleagues. It was fundamentally a statement for internal consumption; but making it so publicly inevitably caused some to interpret it differently. The sooner the Convention is in place and this type of internal discussion within the Labour Party can be held in a more civilised (and less public) fashion the better.
Meanwhile, Nick Bourne seems to be trying to ensure that the route to the rainbow remains open - just in case. He misses the point completely. If Plaid's alliance with Labour were to come to a premature end, it would be because of Labour's failure to deliver on their own party’s policy of a legislative parliament. Why on earth would Plaid then jump straight into bed with a party which doesn’t support the idea of having such a parliament, and many of whose members would like to abolish the Assembly itself?
Of course, some would argue that they were close to doing precisely that just a few months ago, and that is true. But, and it’s a big but, the Bourne-Jones rainbow strategy depended entirely on bouncing both parties into a deal before the members of either really had an opportunity to consider the ramifications. So the Tories in the Assembly made their commitment to supporting a legislative parliament, and in their haste to form a government some of Plaid's leading figures accepted that on face value without even asking where the rest of the Tory Party stood.
And why not? After all, the other element of the strategy was that the Tories knew full well that, without Labour, there was no majority in the Assembly for a referendum, so their pledge would never have to be honoured or even tested. So Bourne bounced his AM's into making a meaningless pledge in return for a real share in government – hardly a major concession.
Things are very different now. The words of the Tories have been shown for what they were at the time – a complete sham. Crabbe and Davies have exposed the true views of the party on devolution; and for all that a brave soul such as Glyn Davies says and does, it is increasingly apparent that Crabbe and Davies are more in tune with the party’s membership. Bourne has been left isolated, with his party leader, the shadow secretary of state for Wales, and the rest of the party's AM's conspicuously declining to offer him any support at all. Bourne himself has even been forced to admit in his blog that his views are merely “some personal thoughts”.
Plaid return to the rainbow? I think not.