Tuesday, 29 April 2008

A little ado about what, exactly?

Yesterday’s Western Mail had a story about Chris Bryant drawing attention to an apparent inconsistency between two senior Plaid Figures. According to the story, Ieuan Wyn Jones welcomed this year's air show at Sophia Gardens, whilst two years ago, Plaid’s Chief Executive, Gwenllian Lansdown condemned a similar event at the same location as being a showcase for arms dealers.

Bryant claimed that this showed a major inconsistency. Ordovicius explained this apparent inconsistency in terms of the elapsed time between the two statements – two years ago, Lansdown was not the party’s Chief Executive, and Jones was not in government.

I think this misses the point. The two people seem to have been speaking about two very different events. Jones was welcoming an exhibition promoting the aerospace industry because of the jobs in that industry in Wales. Lansdown, on the other hand, was condemning arms sales. Both positions are entirely consistent with long standing Plaid policies.

The problem is that neither the story nor any of the reaction tell us what sort of event it really is, and without that information, it is impossible to judge which reaction is correct. But if a Plaid leader were truly to be welcoming arms dealers to the Welsh capital, it would be an astonishing betrayal of previous Plaid policy. So - which of the two descriptions of the event is correct?

Monday, 28 April 2008

Let's go fly a kite

One of the joys of childhood is discovering a long forgotten favourite toy at the back of a cupboard. Last week, it was Adam Price who was rummaging in his cupboards, and having come across one of the many kites in his collection, he simply couldn’t resist flying it again.

But in floating, once again, the idea of a deal between Plaid and the Tories, is he speaking for his party or only for himself? My sources tell me that Price is not in the habit of showing his kites to anyone before flying them, so I doubt that this was officially sanctioned, although, not for the first time, it left other Plaid politicians trying to explain and defend what he was saying.

At one level, of course, Plaid would be foolish to rule anything out in advance of any election. Keeping options open is a vital part of any bargaining process. Not unlike the Cold War standoff, the ‘other side’ (in this case, Labour) has to believe that Plaid really would ‘press the button’ in order to maximise the pressure on them to keep their troops in order. And at the same time, the Tories have to believe that there is at least a chance of a deal in order to bolster Bourne’s devolutionist position – if all hope was taken off the table, there would be no conceivable reason for the Tories in the Assembly not to follow their MPs, and revert to their natural hostility to devolution.

But what does Price really want? Is this just a bit of bluster to keep up the pressure on Labour, or is he really trying to prepare his party for a deal with the Tories? Even if his real objective is only to put pressure on Labour, he’ll never own up to that. The parallel with the Cold War applies - even if Plaid would never do such a deal, they could never actually say that.

I suspect that he really does want such a deal. I don’t understand why, and it’s at odds with his apparent left-wing rhetoric, but we should remember that he worked hard to sell the All Wales Accord to his party, describing it at the time as a radical programme. I suspect that the left wing rhetoric is just that – rhetoric. It’s in a similar style to that used many years ago by another apparent firebrand in Plaid - the only member to actually reach the House of Lords, who turned out to be more establishment than the establishment. Is Price destined to follow the same route?

It's not only the fact of his previous form that leads me to this conclusion - it's also his choice of words. Describing Plaid as a 'centre-left' party will come as a surprise to many members, I suspect. They'd be happy to describe the One Wales agreement as a centre left government; but Plaid as a centre left party? This looks like part of the insidious re-positioning of Plaid on the political spectrum which has seemed to have followed their entry into government. I’m far from convinced that Price is as far apart from Ieuan Wyn Jones as they sometimes appear to be.

If one of the joys of childhood is discovering an old toy, one of the problems is a lack of patience; an inability to wait before playing with it. But my guess is that there are many Plaid activists and council candidates the length and breadth of Wales who’ll be wishing that Price had left this particular kite in its cupboard for a week or two longer – until after May 1st in any event.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Detached from Reality

There can, of course, be no excuse for faking e/mails in order to attempt to incriminate an innocent person. Indeed, there's no valid excuse for faking e/mails in order to incriminate a guilty person either.

So I had more than a little sympathy for Peter Hain after the revelations yesterday about some faked emails which attempted to suggest that he had misused facilities at a charity.

He goes too far, however, in claiming that these dirty tricks have cost him his job and his career. These particular 'dirty tricks' have only come to light after he had already been forced to resign for other reasons. His attempt to suggest that these latest e/mails are of a piece with the revelations which led to his downfall is, at best, disingenuous.

There is a world of difference between fake documents attempting to smear someone with false accusations, and genuine leaks which expose wrongdoing. Hain seems not to be able to grasp this vital difference.

Above all, his latest protestations indicate that he still does not accept that failing to disclose £100,000 in donations, in direct contravention of laws which his own government enacted, is in any way ‘wrong-doing’.

He keeps claiming that his experience is surreal. What I find not just surreal, but really rather sad, is his own inability to recognise firstly that he has committed an offence under electoral law, and secondly that there is widespread incredulity at the extent of his spending on an internal party election.