Why the Plaid-Labor deal makes sense to both sides as Welsh devolution hovers around the wagons

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Mark Drakeford. Photo of the CPMR – Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CC BY-SA 2.0) Photo of Adam Price by Plaid Cymru.

Ifan morgan jones

“Vote for Work, get Plaid. Vote Plaid, get work, ”said a conservative member of Senedd in reaction to the confirmation that the two sides had reached a cooperation agreement.

The problem with this line of attack is that I suspect that many voters from both parties would think, “Yeah, okay? “

It is not fair to say that Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labor are interchangeable. Although Welsh Labor has moved in favor of greater autonomy for Wales, Plaid Cymru has also turned to full support for independence.

But on the main issue driving Welsh politics today – the UK government’s attempt to roll back decentralization post-Brexit – the two sides find themselves on roughly the same team.

Accordingly, this cooperation agreement can be interpreted as the political institutions of Wales encircling the wagons.

Many of the measures it contains, since the enlargement of the Senedd, a new media authority, the fight against the housing crisis and the development of north-south transport links, aim to develop or at least stop the dissolution of the Wales as a distinct and more integrated cultural and cultural territory. political sphere.

It is nation building. And national institutions build the nation at least in part as a defense mechanism. At the most basic level, if you are the Welsh Parliament you need a Wales to exist to justify your own existence.

The ironic side effect of the Conservatives’ “tough unionism” may well be to speed up this process, where Labor might have been more reluctant in the past.

I thought Mark Drakeford’s comment that ‘the content of the deal was very much in line with Labor principles, although Plaid would no doubt wish to claim the credit’ was quite revealing in this regard.

That is, these are things that many Labor members of Sended would have liked to have done anyway, but without the need for a deal with Plaid it might have been difficult to justify to the the more unionist and devosceptic wing of the Westminster party.

Plaid Cymru wasn’t quite pushing towards an open door, but one that was permanently unlocked.


Of course, Plaid Cymru wants to build a nation, because being a nationalist party is its USP.

However, Labor sees no realistic prospect of a return to power in Westminster in the very near future, and is also the subject of increasing attacks against the devolution of a hostile UK government. From their perspective, anchoring the Senedd and the Welsh with this also makes sense.

The argument against such a deal from Plaid Cymru’s point of view is that these types of deals hurt the smaller party, because the larger party takes credit for it.

Examples include the 2010-2015 Conservative-Liberal-Democrat coalition and Plaid and Labor’s own 2017-2011 Wales government.

But I suspect that the idea that the smallest party is still suffering is largely a myth. What hurt Plaid Cymru in 2011 was not that they were in a coalition with Labor, but that Labor was suddenly out of power in Westminster.

Being in power in Wales but not in Westminster then enabled Labor to take on Plaid Cymru’s previous role as a local defense against a distant and neglectful central state.

From Plaid Cymru’s perspective, this is a dynamic that is unlikely to change until – if it ever happens – Labor forms another Westminster government.

In the meantime, to a large extent, Wales has two national parties – Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labor – with mutual interest and from their perspective and that of their supporters they might as well work together to advance the things.

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