Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2010 Election special: Plaid Cymru

Part 6 of our Pre-Election series: Ceri Ames makes his pitch for Plaid Cymru, 'the Party of Wales'.

For the first time since 1992, this year I will be casting my vote in a UK general election in Wales. In 1992, despite some reservations, I voted Labour, hoping that they would form a government. This time round I will vote Plaid Cymru, and while there may not be any great breakthrough for Plaid, I suspect that many ex-Labour voters will act like me.

There are two main factors influencing my vote. The first is my despair at Labour’s policies. Whatever lip service New Labour has paid to its leftwing over the years, and despite the pitiful attempts recently to shore up its traditional support, it remains committed to the policies that have predictably failed over the last 13 years.

Plaid offers the kind of social democratic policies that Labour shed in the years leading to power, such as a commitment to reining in the power of the financial sector, greater employment rights and the creation of worthwhile jobs, and a more progressive tax regime.

Of course, Plaid will never be in a position to implement these policies from Westminster (even a conveniently balanced hung parliament would allow a few concessions more likely to involve issues regarding increased Welsh Assembly powers or overall funding), but a vote for Plaid will strengthen its position, and show both the U.K. and Welsh Assembly governments that Welsh opinion is to the left of the U.K. political mainstream and in favour of pursuing policies based on these views thorough the Welsh Assembly.

As well as this, there is a more general reason for my vote, that of creating a more accountable democracy.

The current disillusionment with political parties and politicians will negatively affect progressive politics more than the right. A more responsive, smaller scale, devolved polity can help to combat this cynicism. The more power is devolved, the closer individuals and communities are to the decisions that affect their lives. One of the key issues in Welsh and Scottish devolution was the 18 years of Tory government that essentially had no mandate in these countries, and key decisions were made by these Governments, or worse, by one man appointed by the Government.

Whilst I wouldn’t suggest that the Welsh assembly is the answer to these problems, it is a vast improvement on what went before, and could be a step in the direction of a healthy, more participatory democracy for Wales.

Ceri Ames blogs here at Hagley Road to Ladywood.

[Tomorrow: Respect, by Salma Yaqoob]

12 comments:

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

If I was Welsh, I'd vote for them but I'm not...

socialist sam said...

I'm of Welsh ancestry and I have some sympathy for Plaid. However, I don't trust their policies. Many ex-Labour supporters have convinced themselves that Plaid is a party of the left. It isn't. It's another single issue platform, which is why I don't trust it. Their support of neo-liberal EU policies give sthe game away. No wonder their support has collapsed since 1999.

claude said...

sam,
what in the holy name of crap are you blabbering on about?

You speak in slogans, an old vice of the far-left, in my book, and you're the epitome of that.
Aside from an incredibly vague "support neo-liberal EU policies" you haven't supported your opinion with anything.

Not to mention that it's simply false that Plaid Cymru's support has "collapsed". Last time I checked they actually increased their number of AMs.

Welsh Ramblings said...

Great blog post and always nice to see a different perspective.

In response to socialist sam, Plaid isn't a single issue platform. It is not a far-left party or a revolutionary one, but is essentially a reformist, social-democratic coalition of Welsh national interests.

Their support did collapse after 1999 but from 2005 onwards has been steadily increasing.

They do not support neo-liberal policies at the EU but stand for a social Europe. They voted against the postal services directive (privatisation) in Europe, meaning for example they can campaign against post office closures with a clean conscience. The evidence from the voting record at the Euro Parliament suggests Plaid are in fact one of the few voices in that Parliament that opposes neo-liberalism.

socialist sam said...

You think it's a social democratic vote, but only in theory.

Ask yourself this simple question: who's currently in government in Wales?

The answer is: A coalition Labour-Plaid Cymru. Without nationalist support, Labour in Wales would be gasping for oxygen.

There's also a second and more fundamental aspect. In principle I'm not a Unionist and have nothing against an independent Scotland or Wales.

The problem though is that when parochialism and excessive localism become the central tenets of a political creed, the position becomes inevitably a reactionary one, no matter how many papers about environmentalism or social justice are published in an attempt to snatch the progressive vote from under Labour's nose.

Remember the 2001 campaign against 'English immigrants' in Wales and the rising property prices due to 2nd homes?

WHhat was a fundamental class issue was then automatically hijacked the moment ethnicity was brought into it: the English vs the Welsh; Them vs Us.

It is on those bases that I take the progressive credentials of Welsh nationalism with a pinch of salt.

the patriot said...

Welsh and Scottish nationalism are another frankenstein of the British left. Created by Tony Blair in the 1990s they were his devious way of securing power north and west of the border at the expense of the British nation without any consideration for what is clearly a pro-Union majority.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Claude! You let patriot's small-minded bullshit through again!

You'd think he'd quit it wouldn't you?

You're a fool, as if Scottish and Welsh nationalism did not exist before New Labour, you monstrous tit. Fuck me, someone put this awful human out of their misery!

Read some books please! Educate yourself, stop making horrendous gaffs.

claude said...

But that's because 'patriot' is hilarious, Daniel. Even better than Newmania. The last comment he left here is just quality stuff.

And note his squint-eyed reference to "British nation". I hear there are job vacancies at the BNP.

Ceri said...

SocialistSam,
Plaid Cymru has been avowedly social democratic for 3 decades, in the face of a general rightward shift in politics, and the fact that it is willing to get its hands dirty in coalition with Labour is nothing to be ashamed off- given its limited powers, the Welsh Assembly govt has tried to move left, or at least put a handbrake on any rightward shift.

As for 2nd homes, in Wales the issue of identity and ethnicity is as fundamental to this as class- the reason for the prominence of this issue in Wales is less the protection of traditional communities as such, more their position as Welsh speaking communities, and the survival of Welsh as a living language. In this respect, the 'single-issue' of nationalism has proved more durable (and more secure a source of electoral support for 'fringe' parties) than class.

I don't see that nationalism or 'localism' is automatically reactionary, and I believe that any attempt to create a more democratic system is going to need to devolve more powers and be based around smaller, more responsive political units.

welshramblings- spot on, and one of the greatest disappointments around the EU has to be the failure of its potential as a way of devolving power, and its increasing emphasis on neo-liberal economics

Welsh Ramblings said...

Socialist Sam, I am happy to say you're mistaken on alot of fronts!

"You think it's a social democratic vote, but only in theory.

Ask yourself this simple question: who's currently in government in Wales?

The answer is: A coalition Labour-Plaid Cymru. Without nationalist support, Labour in Wales would be gasping for oxygen. "

Sam, Plaid IS in government as you state, and IS social democratic in practice. As is Welsh Labour. The alliance between Plaid and Labour was predicated on Welsh Labour rejecting privatisation and rejecting New Labour. Thus, Plaid in government has cemented the gains of the left in keeping the Welsh NHS in public hands (as just one example).

"Remember the 2001 campaign against 'English immigrants' in Wales and the rising property prices due to 2nd homes?

WHhat was a fundamental class issue was then automatically hijacked the moment ethnicity was brought into it: the English vs the Welsh; Them vs Us."

You're wrong, because Plaid in fact has some support from English migrants, and approaches that issue on a class/socio-economic basis rather than a ethnic one. Thus, the English migrant left-wing author Mike Parker is a particularly high-profile supporter of Plaid in rural Wales.

"It is on those bases that I take the progressive credentials of Welsh nationalism with a pinch of salt."

Modern Welsh nationalism has been progressive since the 60s, they were against the war in Vietnam, against Stalinism, for trade unions, backed the miners strike, backed civil rights and anti-colonialism and have always opposed nuclear weapons.

Welsh Ramblings said...

"Welsh and Scottish nationalism are another frankenstein of the British left. Created by Tony Blair in the 1990s they were his devious way of securing power north and west of the border at the expense of the British nation without any consideration for what is clearly a pro-Union majority."

Plaid got their first MP way back in 1966!

Welsh Ramblings said...

"I don't see that nationalism or 'localism' is automatically reactionary, and I believe that any attempt to create a more democratic system is going to need to devolve more powers and be based around smaller, more responsive political units."

Quite right Ceri. Anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism is in fact far more likely to be progressive than reactionary.