Monday, 11 August 2008

Unity of Purpose

Sometimes, it's not easy to tell how united any party is. There is, however, one obvious giveaway. When prominent figures in a party start to call for unity, you know that there is a problem.

In the case of the Labour Party recently, the number of calls for unity only serves to highlight the extent of the problem that they face. Splits within Plaid haven't been that obvious to me; but might there be some that are not so obvious? According to Richard Wyn Jones (translated here and here by Ordovicius), two very prominent members of the party (Adam Price and Alun Ffred Jones) have recently been warning against division.

Jones suggests that the danger of splits is always going to be there when a party which has been in opposition for a long time finds itself in government. For the first time ever, it has to take some difficult decisions and weigh up priorities rather than just blaming the government. I'd be inclined to accept Jones' argument on that point.

Jones also suggests that the oft-repeated claims of a huge gulf in the party between 'cultural' and 'political' nationalists are nowhere near as great as some would claim. I'd agree with that as well; attempts to define Plaid as two wings in that fashion are about as meaningful as claiming that Labour has a 'unionist' and a 'nationalist' wing. Both analyses are attempts to define the respective parties from an outsider's perspective, and both fail to understand the underlying agreements, which far outweigh the disagreements.

Having said that, it seems to me that there are some potential tensions building up within Plaid. Hence, from the point of view of the 'leadership', it might look as though there is a need to make members more aware of the problems of government; more aware of the need to accept some limitations. As Jones points out, 83 years is a long time for a party to dream of change with no power to bring it about, and the intrusion of harsh reality can be unsettling.

At the same time, however, the 'leadership' need to remember that it was those dreams which kept members and activists motivated and involved for 83 years; through the bad times and the worse times. The real danger comes if those activists think that they are being asked to show blind loyalty when the dreams are being betrayed. That's how I interpret the nub of Jones' article – as a very clear warning to Plaid's leaders.

I think he takes too narrow a view, however, in restricting his analysis to those issues in One Wales which concern the future of the language. There are some real pitfalls ahead over the language LCO; and I think Jones' assessment of the probable outcome is a reasonable one. The elephant in the room, however, is the question of a referendum on further powers. If, as seems to be increasingly likely, the Convention has been skilfully used by Labour to pin Plaid's leader into a corner where a referendum in the agreed timescale becomes impossible, then I suspect that loyalty will break down.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://riddlerwales.blogspot.com/

Draig said...

And not only is there the issue of the "agreed timescale" there is also the small problem of the fact that what has been agreed is not a FULL parliament/parity with Scotland, as Tomorrow's Wales have pointed out.

As someone who joined Plaid fairly recently, I was under the misconception that it was, and I will certainly be querying my AM at the Rhanbarth about it next month...

Ceredig said...

Draig,

Your party signed up to One Wales in a rush of enthusiasm. Are you telling me that no-one read the small print?

Draig said...

Or maybe someone read the small print, and hoped the rest of us wouldn't notice...?

Ceredig said...

Draig,

What a suspicious mind! But someone must have written the small print as well.

Draig said...

Peter Hain, probably...