Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Maverick or Outrider?

David Cornock draws attention to what, at first sight, is just another gaffe by Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid’s leader in the House of Commons. Llwyd apparently briefed journalists to the effect that he isn't particularly bothered about holding a referendum on a parliament before 2011, even though his party made this a key element in the One Wales accord. Llwyd said that he believes it to be more important to get the current system working properly first.

Now, call me cynical, but I think that if a Labour MP had said that, there would have been indignant howls from Plaid quarters, and the words 'dinosaur' and 'Brit-nat' would be flying all over the place.

I find it difficult to believe that even Llwyd, who does seem to find it difficult to remain on-message at times, could have made a blunder on this scale. Although I generally err on the side of the cock-up theory of history in preference to conspiracy, in this case I start to wonder. Could he be acting as an out-rider for his leader in Cardiff?

Many inside and outside Plaid have long doubted whether Ieuan Wyn Jones is really that keen on another referendum, suspecting that slow creeping gradualism (aka the LCO procedure) is much more in his nature. Of course, he needed to get a commitment to a referendum before his party would sign up to One Wales, but the ‘commitment’ is, in reality, a lot less firm than some might think.

Many have commented previously that the purpose of the Commission, under Emyr Parry-Jones, is far from being clear, and there has always been a suspicion that it was intended, above all else, to simply buy some time. It took one of the most contentious issues in the agreement, kicked it safely into the future, and thus allowed the deal to be struck.

If this line of argument holds, then, having bedded the government down nicely, there comes a point where Plaid members’ expectations have to be ‘adjusted’ to match that which the party’s leaders expected all along, namely that there will be no referendum in the term of the current Assembly. Those who negotiated the deal can hardly simply stand up and say that they always knew it wasn't going to happen, and there has been a strong adverse reaction whenever anyone from Labour started stating the obvious. If someone had to fly this kite, then who better than Llwyd?


alanindyfed said...

Are you saying there are dinosaurs in Plaid too?
If so we have to ignite some dragon breath. There's no smoke without fire.

Alwyn ap Huw said...

Elfyn isn't the first member of Plaid to make this comment. Dafydd Elis said the same in Welsh on the Maniffesto programme back in July (I mentioned it on Hen Rech Flin at the time)

This is Parr for the course for Plaid changing its mind on policy. A comment is made in Welsh in a medium that has low circulation. It is made in Welsh again in a more popular area. It is suggested in English as an aside and then it is "announced" to a wider read media a few months later as a "long standing" view, or even with a statement that Plaid "never ever" thought differently.

This is how Plaid changed from being a liberal party into a Socialist Party, from being anti Europe to being hugely pro-Europe, from being a nationalist party to becoming a devolutionist party; from opposing Lords to selecting Lords.

Given the party's track record - expect an announcement from IWJ during March-May, stating that Plaid "never expected" that a referendum would be held before 2011.

Ceredig said...


No, I'm not. I'm saying that there are people in Plaid who think the same way as the people you call dinosaurs, and have come to the same conclusion as them. You just let them off the hook rather than resort to the same level of criticism as you would if a Labour hack had said the same thing.


Thanks for the feedback. I hadn't realised that the process of 'adjusting expectations' had already started in meetings with the ministers across the country.

(I'm not sure though that Dafydd Elis Thomas counts as a member of, or spokesperson for, Plaid in any meaningful way. In his case, 'maverick' is surely the correct description?)

Che Grav-ara said...

It’s an interesting theory but not one that I buy into. Those members on the commission have stated clearly that they believe a referendum should and will be held before 2011 so I can't see how it can be described as a measure to bid time. If reports are to be believed the Plaid members of Sir Emyr's commission are pushing for it to be used to promote the referendum.

I think this is more a case of Elfyn being misconstrued than intentionally plotting

Anonymous said...

Plaid Cymru are only in this mess because they have failed to win the argument over more powers to turn the Assembly into a Parliament and now all they can do is play along with Don Touhig and Paul Murphy and the Labour Party line that we dont need any more powers. A sad day for Welsh Patriots indeed.

Anonymous said...

If they fail in securing a referendum before 2011, then what is the point of the One-Wales Government?

Surely that is the only thing that holds this coalition together, at least from the point of view of Plaid Cymru's grassroots members.

Anonymous said...


how the hell do you come up with the line that plaid are playing along with don touhig?

there should be some test you should pass before posting comments to ensure you have at least some grasp pf politics!

Anonymous said...

Plaid is trying to be gamekeeper and poacher.
It cannot be done. Their inexperience in strategic politics is showing, Sticking to one line and stated policy would be good. Is that why they got rid of Lila Haines, so policy could be fudged?
Plaid find your ground again please, we need opposition as well as coalition.

Ceredig said...


Given the direct quotes from Elfyn, I think it's a little hard to see how he could have been 'misconstrued'. Time will tell whether or not this is the start of a deliberate piece of back-pedalling, but it would be s mistake, in my view, to believe that a referendum by 2011 is as likely as it was presented as being when the coalition deal was signed.

Anon 16:47,

'failed to win the argument' or 'failed to put' the argument? But I really don't see how it can be seen as 'playing along' with the Labour Party line. The point I am making is that there are people in Plaid - at a senior level - whose views on the timing of the next steps do not seem to be very far distant from those of some in the Labour Party, but that this degree of similarity is being masked by howls of outrage whenever Labour people say things.

Anon 18:05,

The apparent 'promise' of a referendum is what made the coalition possible; it is not what holds it together. It was key to selling the package to Plaid's membership; but once in, tribal loyalty takes over.


You are right; it is impossible to be both poacher and gamekeeper; the danger is that Plaid have stopped even trying to be the poacher. I don't think they're fudging their past policy - just ignoring it.

alanindyfed said...

A view on this might be that Plaid is hellbent on pushing for independence, while at the same time appearing to backpedal in order to keep the debate in the forefront of public attention, keeping the debate alive by provoking press coverage and comment. On the other hand, this may not be the case.

Ceredig said...


Ever the optimist, eh? Let me just ask you one simple question. Have you ever, ever, ever heard either Ieuan Wyn Jones or Elfyn Llwyd putting the case for Independence? Of course not. You may think it's a good idea, many of the members of your party may think it's a good idea, but the leadership is quite happy to leave it on the back burner indefinitely. So, of the two options you give me, I go for "On the other hand..."

Alwyn ap Huw said...

alanindyfed said...
A view on this might be that Plaid is hellbent on pushing for independence.

During the last twenty years I have only ever heard one senior member of Plaid make an unequivocal argument in favour of independence - but, he's a Labour AM now :-)

Anonymous said...