Along with just about everyone else, I had assumed that Dafydd Wigley was an absolute shoo-in for a peerage now that Plaid have changed their stance on the issue. But the more he talks himself up, the less certain that I become.
Yesterday’s Western Mail piece was, ostensibly, an indication that he was ready and willing to go (and was accompanied by the now customary paean of praise from his chief fan Martin Shipton). But he also seemed to be laying down some conditions - one of which is outside the control of his party, and the other is one that they may well be unwilling to agree to. Is he perhaps trying to give himself some Wigl(ey)-room to decline the ‘opportunity’ after all?
Firstly, he wants to go as part of a phalanx of new peers from both his own party and the Labour Party, and even goes so far as to suggest the people whom the Labour Party should nominate. There is no chance of his own party being able to deliver on this condition - and I cannot imagine that Labour will be overly ecstatic about having him tell them what to do either. (Hopefully, some of the more outspoken Labour members will leave it a day or two to calm down before responding to his friendly 'advice'.)
Secondly, he seems to want to become an ex-officio member of the party’s group in the National Assembly – a status which is currently not even granted to elected members of the Westminster parliament. Is this really about helping him to do a job in the Lords, or is it just a way of trying to get more influence over what his party's group are doing in Cardiff? I can really imagine Ieuan Wyn Jones welcoming this sort of potential interference in the Assembly group. Not.
So, when Wigley says that he would find it difficult to acept nomination if both conditions are not accepted, what is he trying to achieve?
I suspect that, in agreeing to nominate peers, Plaid may have crossed one bridge only to find a much tougher one in front of them. They want 'working' peers; people who will spend significant amounts of time in the House of Lords scrutinising Welsh legislation and attempting to table amendments; what they do not want is a few celebrities with titles (so I guess that weather presenters need not bother applying).
Despite the talk of the level of ‘allowances’ payable to peers, the job is not salaried like that of humble MP’s and AM’s, so the only people likely to be able to meet the party’s requirements are going to be those with another income and no real need to work. 'Retired' politicians fit the bill quite well (which is why there are so many of them in the place already), but they have always been in rather short supply within Plaid. Perhaps the would-be Lord Bontnewydd simply believes that his hand is so strong that his party can’t refuse him.