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.