Thursday, 29 January 2015

A LEAP OF FAITH...



We hear a lot of chat about “a new kind of politics”, usually from hardcore tribalists who have absolutely no intention of doing it.  But if we are to tackle the escalating disengagement of millions from the democratic process, we have to try things differently.

This thought has been uppermost in my mind in the last few days, as people have been discussing the informal collaboration between Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Green party.  This has resulted in Plaid officially exhorting people in England to vote Green, even though it is a competitor party in Wales.  Some people are questioning the wisdom of this as a strategy.

I fully understand people’s doubts, and as the Plaid candidate in Ceredigion, I’ve got more cause to think about it than most!  After all, Ceredigion was where, in 1992, the pioneering alliance between Plaid and the Greens vaulted what had been the 4th and 5th place parties at the previous poll into first place, and Cynog Dafis’ historical win.  Less joyously, once the alliance had ended, it was notable that the Green vote in 2005 (846 votes) was considerably larger than the majority (219) that the LibDems squeaked in gaining the seat from Plaid (and thus knocking out Simon Thomas, widely acknowledged as one of the greenest MPs we’ve ever had).

There had been some hope last year that a similar electoral arrangement could be reached for the forthcoming Westminster election in Ceredigion, but it was not to be.  While many Green party members in Wales wanted to unite behind me as the Plaid candidate, more did not, and so a candidate of their own has now been selected.  I’ve not met him yet, but I look forward to it.  Although there are elements of the Green party in Wales (such as their apparent blind spots towards our cultural and linguistic sustainability) that cause concern, we have much in common and, now more than ever, need to co-operate.

So yes, I’m in the strange position of encouraging people across the border to vote for the very same party that is my direct competition in Ceredigion.  It’s not ideal, but that, I believe, is the price to be paid for being sincere about wanting “a new kind of politics”.  It is a leap of faith.

The 3 Plaid, 6 SNP and 1 Green MP in this parliament have worked together brilliantly, and have provided more effective opposition to this miserable government than hordes of Labour and LibDem backbenchers combined.  Our three parties are clearly fighting this election on a common platform of saying no to continued austerity measures, for serious infrastructure investment and the scrapping of the Trident replacement, and for an absolute moratorium on fracking.  Polls suggest that the Plaid-SNP-Green bloc will be both considerably larger in the next parliament and potentially holding the balance of power.


If that can happen, then we might begin to see some real change in the clapped out politics of the UK.  If we can harness some of the energy and engagement of the Scottish referendum campaign and the anti-austerity forces of Greece, Spain and elsewhere, then anything is possible.  Rest assured that we in Ceredigion Plaid will be going all out to capture every vote, and explaining to Green-inclined voters that I am the candidate they need to back as by far the best chance we have of turning the tide.

15 comments:

  1. I appreciate what you're trying to achieve Mike, but as an impartial observer I feel it's a strategic error for Plaid Cymru to be publicly praising the Greens. A few points:

    1.) Even if they see a large rise in support in England, percentage wise, the Greens are unlikely to take any further seats. Plaid, if you play your cards right, can take back Ceredigion, and perhaps Llanelli. So Plaid are actually more likely than the Greens to add to the anti-austerity coalition in Westminister.

    2.) The danger with this strategy is that it splits the 'anti-austerity' vote in Ceredigion, in an election where Plaid Cymru needs every last vote to topple an unabashedly party. The more Plaid Cymru plugs the Greens (and I notice that they haven't returned the favour) the more potential Green but perhaps reluctant Plaid voters will be swept up on a wave of optimism about the party's chances.

    3.) The Green Party have their own support and their own electoral machine in England. Plaid's message is unlikely to be heard loudly there, while it will catch the attention of the Welsh media and the ears of potential Green voters in seats like Ceredigion.

    If what you really want is to form an anti-austerity block in parliament, the way forward is to do everything you can to win Ceredigion. Putting that in peril for the sake of a few Green votes, spread out over hundreds of English seats, isn’t worth it. The time to be principled is when you're in power – to get there, you need to be ruthless. >:)

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    1. I disagree - I think Plaid calling for a Green vote in England makes potential Green voters in places like Ceredigion more likely to vote Plaid. It highlights the similarities between the parties.

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  2. There is and has been great enthusiasm - I would even say relief - for the emergence of Anti-Austerity UK alliance (@AntiAusterityUK) of Plaid Cymru, SNP and the Greens, a sound alliance based on a shared commitment to an Anti-Austerity agenda, opposition to fracking, nuclear weapons - and a shared comitment to the NHS and the list goes on.... An alliance which includes Plaid Cymru, the Greens, and the SNP is one with 170,000 members, which is larger than the Tories. We must think of the United Kingdom as a whole and strengthen and energise the already existing Anti-Austerity movement. The alliance will hold the balance of power in a hung parliament in a situation in which we will have a real chance to change UK policy as a whole. We must work hard on the ground but never lose sight of the big picture. The alliance is real and the election is in less than 100 days.

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    1. "We must think of the United Kingdom as a whole". Why? For many in Wales, Scotland and England (not to mention Northern Ireland), the UK is an irrelevant anachronism.

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  3. Be assured that there are many of us in the Greens keen to see collaboration between Greens and Plaid in Wales again, and working to make it happen!

    good luck.

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  4. I have seen the enthusiastic appreciation of the Greens. Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales made a serious gesture of solidarity, demonstrating its commitment to the Anti-Austerity UK alliance and its shared goals.

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  5. Thanks for the comments, all very illuminating.

    Ifan, I absolutely take your points, but would say that there is a real chance that the Greens may take another couple of seats in England. Their support and strength is highly concentrated, and in those areas, they are in with a real chance, especially if the vote for other parties is fragmented, as seems likely.

    You're absolutely right that the Greens in Wales haven't officially "returned the favour", but that is exactly what I mean by a leap of faith. Individually, many Green supporters (as can be seen in subsequent comments here) are making their own decision to back Plaid, and I believe that that trend will continue (it happened for sure in last year's European election) as we get nearer the election. This is a statement of optimism, I realise, but that is exactly how we need to be thinking right now.

    Lastly, believe me we are going all out to win in Ceredigion; engaging with Green voters (as well as progressive, disenchanted Labour and LibDem voters - and boy, there are a lot of those!) is a core part of that strategy.

    Thanks to Adam and James too for their interesting contributions. This is a golden opportunity to break the stale consensus that is crippling us as a country and as a society. I'r gad!

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  6. Why is Plaid supporting an English party in Cornwall? Mebyon Kernow is an ally of Plaid in the European Free Alliance.

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  7. I echo Fulub's comment - why is a Plaid candidate uninformed about Cornwall?

    OK, we are further down the slippery slope, we are struggling to emulate Plaid, which is struggling to emulate the SNP, but that is part of what we are all supposed to be aware about - the refusal to be politically and culturally assimilated, and the knowledge of how the Westminster regime and the Anglophile media is ranged against us, and how difficult it is to campaign against a regime financed by megabucks which has propagandised our own people into blindly following - and voting for - the Anglopolitical monster.

    It is an observable fact - look at the manifestos - that Plaid and Mebyon Kernow are AT LEAST as green as the Greens, and in addition take into consideration homo sapiens... rather than treating the species (in all its varieties and variations) as an inconvenient nuisance, but as part of the whole picture... and, indeed, as the key species in with the largest influence on green issues.

    The SNP, Plaid Cymru and Mebyon Kernow need to negotiate a pact with the Greens not to stand candidates against us. Once independence is achieved they will have a legitimate role.

    Until then, if they stand against us, they will just split the anti-Unionist vote - which is pointless and, from their standpoint, politically dumb... but this is the party which has Jaguar driving anti-Welsh language Pippa Bartolotti as leader of the Green Party in Wales... which is only a branch of the England and Wales party, isn't it?

    For the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Mebyon Kernow to encourage Welsh, Cornish and Scottish people who live in England to vote Green ought to be a sufficient quid pro quo for them not to field candidates against us.

    Otherwise they are just behaving like colonialists and imperialists - and the electorate needs to be told so in no uncertain terms.

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  8. If Plaid are going to push the Green party in Cornwall then I'll have to push the Green party to all my friends in Wales.

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  9. PS

    We would appreciate it if you would amend the map.

    A St Piran's flag where Cornwall is would be just fine.

    Thanks.

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  10. Please let's not emulate teh traditional left and split every where. The leaders of the Greens, Plaid and SNP have demonstrated that we are stronger together.

    Who could have imagined that all three of us would actually get into the TV debates?

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  11. Please change the map to include Mebyon Kernow in Cornwall

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  12. To Cornish comrades: points taken. I can understand why the map, in particular, caused annoyance. I didn't make it myself; I took it off Twitter, and am not sure who created it. I'll change it for something else, though I suspect that will mean that all subsequent comments will vanish. Diolch!

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