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The Blog of Adam Price AS/MP, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

Adam Price MP / AS - Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

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13th August 2007

Rainbow redux

The reaction to my latest proposal for a new model rainbow in Welsh politics was decidedly mixed. But at least it has roused me from my post-coalition torpor. My inaugural Golwg column was variously described as “ignorant trash”, “mendacious” and “barmy” by Huw Lewis, an “absurd rant” by Republicanos, “silly season” material by Tomos Livingstone, and most depressingly of all, a “disappointingly poor piece of mischief-making” by Normal Mouth, the Welsh blogosphere’s nearest equivalent to an organic intellectual. At least the Western Mail’s leader writer was more generous. The criticisms seem to amount to: he’s not serious, he’s not to be trusted and, in any way, it won’t work. My defence, not surprisingly, is something along the lines of: I am and it could.

Why raise the idea at this point? Well, in this multi-polar democracy of ours, no sooner have finished with one election than we face another: in fact three rounds of elections – local, European, Westminster – not necessarily in that order. As things currently stand the Labour Party is in a dominant position in each of these three electoral contests. As a member of Plaid Cymru, naturally enough, I want that dominance to be challenged - and challenged from the Left rather than the Right. Labour’s hegemony, when unchallenged, tends to degenerate into the kind of self-serving bureaucratic sectarianism which propelled people like me to join Plaid Cymru in the first place. So I make no apology for wanting to unseat ineffective and unaccountable Labour councillors or rabidly Unionist, and in the Welsh context, reactionary Labour MPs: if comrades in the Labour Party fail to deselect them then it falls to the rest of us to defeat them at the ballot box.

So why doesn’t Plaid Cymru simply do it on its own? That relates to the difficulty of creating a genuinely national movement in a country which, unlike Scotland, lacks a national media and is much more diverse in cultural-linguistic terms. Plaid is demonstrably a much more inclusive and pan-Wales party than it was twenty years ago. But it remains the case that support among the English-speaking working class in the south-east (and north-east) and among English newcomers remains disappointing. It was this realisation that catalysed the formation of the alliance between Plaid and the Greens (with the support of the post-communist Democratic Left) in Ceredigion and Gwent in the run-up to the 1992 General Election.

But to me this is never just about papering over the cracks in the national movement. Progressive politics is often about coalition-building, creating new connections between disparate political and social constituencies out of which a radical new agenda can be developed. Simply replacing one monolithic hegemonic movement with another is surely not the answer: tomorrow’s battles are best waged with a flotilla rather than a Dreadnought. After all, the most fruitful period in Welsh politics in the 20th century, that created the likes of Jim Griffiths and Nye Bevan, was the inter-war years with their creative inter-play between the Labour Party, the ILP and the Communist Party rather than the ‘monopoly Labourism’ that followed the 1945 landslide.

An electoral alliance, of course, has to work for all concerned, as it did, indeed, last time. In 1992 the Green Party elected its first ever and to date only Westminster MP who went on to become the leading voice of the environmental movement within Parliament. It was the Green Party that broke the agreement because they were temporarily hijacked by a small clique of aggressively anti-Welsh Unionists, a scourge that is by no means unique to the Labour Party. An electoral alliance with the Green Party, with whom we already sit in the European Parliament as part of a joint group, would stand a strong chance of delivering the first Welsh Green MEP. If the alliance was successful then it could pave the way for Greens being represented in the National Assembly for the first time, where, judging by the Scottish experience, and considering their conversion to the cause of Welsh independence, I believe, they would play a very progressive role.

People’s Voice, as a popular movement more akin to the civic forums that defeated Stalinism in Eastern Europe, is more difficult to characterise ideologically. But everyone I have spoken to in PV Blaenau Gwent – including Peter and Trish Law and Dai Davies – can be described as passionate socialists ‘of the Welsh stripe’. In a sense People’s Voice is in a long tradition – from Harry Pollitt’s near-miss in the Rhondda, to S.O.Davies’ successful rebel candidature, to Plaid’s various Valleys’ breakthroughs, to Forward Wales – of the Welsh Working class’ deep underlying desire to send a signal of its disaffection to the Labour leadership of the time. If People’s Voice is not simply to fade away and become one more brief flowering of dissent of a merely localised or personalised nature, then it has to place its politics in some kind of wider regional and ideological context. Far from seeking to subsume People’s Voice, I want it to help it survive and put down roots.

Is all this mere pipe-dreams? Not necessarily, though I should stress that there have been no formal discussions between any of the parties nor a formal decision by my own. But, I dare say, that the prospect of Plaid Cymru winning a seat in Tredegar and the Labour Party losing Bleanau Gwent for the fifth time in three years is a good enough reason to, at least, be discussing it.

4 Responses to “Rainbow redux”

  1. alanindyfed says:
    August 13th, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    The Green Party is the natural ally of Plaid, and both parties should work together for the good of Wales.

  2. alanindyfed says:
    August 13th, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    A good thing we didn’t go with the Rainbow coalition now David Cameron and John Redwood have scuppered the Tories’ chances in Wales!!

  3. alanindyfed says:
    August 16th, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    No doubt you will have noted that Paul Flynn’s views differ from those of the other Welsh Labour M.Ps (your “Yesterday’s Men”) and that he is a supporter of Assembly government in Wales.

  4. alanindyfed says:
    August 20th, 2007 at 6:47 am

    “Britishness…is a political synonym for Englishness which extends English culture over the Scots, the Welsh, and the Irish” - Gwynfor Evans

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