Sunday 6 May 2007

A New Voice

Now that the election is behind us, I have been thinking about its impact on the cause of Welsh Independence. In order to achieve this goal, it is essential for Nationalist parties to get more seats than Unionist parties, and that just didn’t happen.

The problem is that we only have one Nationalist party, and while Plaid have done extremely well in Y Fro Gymraeg, they have not made much impact outside of their heartland. Plaid have a good base in the Valleys but even with a very unpopular Labour Party, they just can not seem to deliver. Just imagine what we would be talking about today if Plaid had secured another 5 or 6 seats…………

Politics is largely about momentum – the Liberal Democrats have often been very effective in starting a bandwagon in by-elections which swings floating voters behind them until they become unstoppable. Today, the Welsh Conservatives have some momentum, but no one is seriously suggesting that they can win anything in the Valleys, and they are in any case Unionists. Ron Davies’s group of independents almost got moving, but suffered from a lack of organization, but did again demonstrate that there is a large potential anti-Labour vote in the South, which just needs to be mobilized.

There are maybe two ways forward:

One is to establish a new Nationalist party – left of centre, and primarily English (or Wenglish) speaking, targeting the Valley seats, and supporting Plaid in a nationalist coalition. But the problem with this (apart from the costs and timescale) is that it would just split the existing Plaid base, and let the Unionists attack Plaid as not being representative of all Wales.

The alternative is to keep Plaid as the main Nationalist party, but to adopt a bit of niche marketing (or devolution). Create a new grouping – say Valleys Voice – with a visible local leader (why not Ron Davies??!!). The group would still be part of Plaid, and use the new logo, but could adopt local policies more suited to local problems. It would give Plaid a new momentum locally which was largely absent in these elections, and could make a big difference in the 9 Valley seats. Maybe a Clwyd Voice could help deliver 3 more seats and a West Glamorgan Voice 3 more. You get the idea.

Four years to the next election seems like a long time, but there are local councils to be won and Westminster seats to be fought before then, and Plaid have to strengthen their base before taking the next leap forward.

But I do not want to see Plaid elected for the sake of it – I want them elected to lead our drive for independence. I believe that Plaid can win 25 seats or more in the next Senedd, and win a vote on Independence by 2020 – providing that they start working towards it now!!


Dr. Mark L. Woods said...

Forgive me for asking, but while I see lots of stuff about N. Ireland in the U.S. Irish blogs, I see NOTHING about Wales's politics in Welsh-American sites (did you even know that they exist?)

Does it ever occur to anyone in Wales to leverage the Welsh-American diaspora for support and dialgoue, if only to elevate the international visability of their nationalist causes?

The Irish have done this to great effect, in politics, music and film.

Most of my ordinary Welsh-American friends feel ignored or put off by folks in Wales, with the exception of scholars and tour agents.

One excuse is that 'the Welsh assimilated and never remember they are Welsh' -- this is hogwash!

Another excuse is that 'the N. American Welsh didn't "breed" as quickly as the Irish', and we can't match their numbers, etc.

Hogwash, again! For example, there are more Welsh-descended folks in any county of Utah, than there are living people in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion or Prembrokeshire. See:

Anonymous said...

Well, tell them to visit my blog! Seriously though, if Welsh Americans want some attention then they're just going to have to seek it. We don't know who they are.

Dr. Mark L. Woods said...

Well, I guess it's my drum to beat, but you could start almost anywhere. here for example:

I attended a conference in Ireland where they outlined their strategy over the past ten years to 'leverage' the Irish diaspora -- they didn't wait for people to come to them, they went out and beat on doors, those Irish -- is it so typically Welsh -- that is, to be inward looking and to 'nay-say' any good idea that comes along?

I forgot -- I was told by some old Welshspeaking Americans from my grandmother's chapel, years ago, that 'all the Welshmen with any get-up-and-go in Wales, had already got-up-and-gone to America . . .'

I must say that living in Wales for four years has been wonderful, and I loved getting to know my Welsh 'cousins'.

Maybe I'm naive, but I am always astounded to meet another cluster of Welshmen who are compulsively inward-looking, and who lift 'nay-saying' to a national art from.

Anonymous said...

I quite like your idea of 'devolving' Plaid for different areas. It might help in getting more able politicians like Ron Davis to run as Plaidish candidates. The poor performance is probably down to the Plaid candidates being poor politicians. For instance, Helen Mary Jones in Llanelli, who is well known as a very strong politician and campaigner absolutely knocked Labour out of Llanelli.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the 9 Valley seats (from Ogmore to Torfaen), Labour polled 58% against Plaid’s 20% in the 2003 election. This year the Labour vote fell to 43% but Plaid could only manage 19%.

Plaid lost 40,000 voters in the Valleys from 1999 to 2003 but did not recover these in 2007, with the electorate preferring the ‘Independents’ who collected a healthy 32,000 votes, despite only standing in half of the seats!!.

If Plaid is to become a serious contender then they have to change their strategy in the Valleys, as it clearly isn’t working.

View from the Glen said...

Is this a good idea? Is this the kind of debate that Labour are looking for. Find splits in the Plaid support to neutralise it in future elections. I'm not comfortable with this discussion. If you look at countries that have become independent then natural selection shows that left, centre and right political groups will spring up to ensure the electorate has a voice. Thus splitting a vote is just plain daft.

Anonymous said...

I am not suggesting splitting plaid - but developing more of a local voice to focus on winning issues.

It is said that Plaid is a broad church - I am just suggesting that we can have more than one choir - one for the tenors, one for the sopranos - both singing the same melody but in a key which suits them best.

Just need a good choirmaster to keep them in tune!!

MH said...

I wonder if another option is to form a closer alliance with the Green Party. Most of the stuff in their manifesto was excellent, and they are only a hair's breadth away from wanting an independent Wales.

Plaid would then continue to hold sway in the Bro Gymraeg, but the Greens might prove a more attractive option to the more Anglicized parts of Wales. Their emphasis would be on Wales being more successful on its own as a smaller scale political unit (a twentieth the size of the UK) with more precise, locally aimed policies.

Do we think that could work?