Monday 26 August 2019

Plaid Cymru's Grubby Letter to Labour

"Dear Mr Johnson", begins Plaid Cymru's latest data harvesting exercise, "Rule out No Deal, Commit to a Final Say Referendum, Start investing in our country". And it's signed off, rather presumptuously, by "the people of Wales". The very same people who voted 854,572 to 772,347 to leave the European Union, just so you know. Okay, so what do you note about this "letter" to the Prime Minister? It is reiterating in Plaid Cymru's Brexit policy, which as it happens is the same as the Liberal Democrats (whose position is not to revoke Article 50, despite their posturing), and also Labour's position. Readers will recall the Labour's policy set by conference last year is to push for a general election, and if we can't get one push for a referendum as a means of preventing a no deal Brexit or one based on Theresa May's withdrawal agreement.

Consider Plaid Cymru's position as of this morning. Ahead of Tuesday's meeting between Jeremy Corbyn and other parties, including even Anna Soubry for the Independent Group for Change, Plaid's new leader, Adam Price, has issued a "message to Corbyn". Talking up his party's contribution to the Brecon by-election and the EU election results in which they beat Welsh Labour by 40,000 votes, he says Plaid will only support Labour's plan for a caretaker government if it commits to remain in advance.

Let's just set this out as crystal as language allows. Labour plan to no confidence Boris Johnson's government. If it is successful Corbyn will try and form a caretaker government for the single express purpose of extending Article 50, and calling a general election with a second referendum on Brexit in Labour's manifesto. Caroline Lucas for the Greens prefers a referendum first, the LibDems aren't keen on the idea because Jo Swinson is vulnerable to the SNP, and neither are the two halves of Change UK nor the Tory "rebels" who we keep hearing rumours about. Why? Because after an election, none of these people will exist. Nevertheless the general election plank of Labour's position is flexible and might be up for negotiation if it means stopping a no deal - no doubt this will be a topic for some discussion tomorrow. Once in office, all Corbyn has pledged to do is these tasks. So, unfortunately, all those things our centrist friends hold dear, like benefits sanctions, the housing crisis, and crippling tuition fee debt will go unaddressed.

It turns out this isn't enough for Price who has chosen to demand more from Jeremy Corbyn than their pitiful "Dear Mr Johnson" letter asks of the Prime Minister. For someone boasting "under my leadership, Plaid Cymru has taken the strongest anti-Brexit stance", this is a funny way of averting no deal and securing the second referendum he supposedly covets. What is Price's game?

Party politics, of course. Unlike Leanne Wood whose politics were firmly on the left of the party, her successor is firmly in the socially liberal, economically liberal mould. And by economically liberal, I mean a fervent enthusiast for the Thatcherite settlement: income tax cuts, driving down council tax bills, and corporation tax to try and tempt companies from England to relocate. No wonder as she departed office Wood accused him of being willing to do a deal with the Tories - and in quick response Price ruled out any coalition with any party. Furthermore, Price has doubled down on Welsh nationalism and has argued for an independence referendum of its own. It's more than coincidence then that he found cosying up with the LibDems in their so-called remain alliance a more inviting prospect than Jeremy Corbyn's Labour, even to the point of adopting the same tactics.

Like Swinson, Price is overplaying his hand. Drunk on the fragmented EU election results, he thinks Plaid's position can improve by appearing the most ultra of ultra remainers. The party's banked its present electorate, and so going all-out remain presumably would peel off Labour voters and remain-inclined Tories. The problem with this, as noted many times before, is most remainy Labour voters support a Labour government for reasons other than Brexit (the myth Corbyn and co. hoodwinked remain voters in 2017 on the basis of an explicit 'we'll deliver Brexit' manifesto refuses to die). By pushing neoliberalism on a bed of daffodils Price is running the risk of losing the left flank Wood helped build up over years. His ridiculous open letter to the Labour leader was sure to have gone down like the proverbial cup of cold sick among these activists, members, and voters.

This isn't Price's sole consideration. He is desperate for the remain alliance to work as clear runs in a number of seats could help him achieve the party's objective of doubling representation in the Welsh Assembly in 2021 and scooping up more seats in Westminster. By demonstrating his Corbynphobic creds, formalising this arrangement with the LibDems becomes more certain.

"This is not a time for political posturing", when every single angle of this stunt screams political posturing. No deal might be bad, but placing impossible demands on Labour just goes to show Adam Price is willing to sacrifice the well being and livelihoods of others for the miserable prospect of winning a few extra parliamentary seats. He might style himself an iconoclast and a "progressive", but his politics are as grubby and self-interested as any establishment politician's.

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1 comment:

Shai Masot said...

Maybe Adam's got a longer-term game plan in mind? If Scotland/NI leave the Union, Wales will remain economically and politically attached to a solidly Tory voting English nationalist rump UK post Brexit. I'm sure our Welsh Labour comrades (socialists and Blairites) would push for independence and EU membership in those circumstances. The case address what would be a clear democratic deficit would be compelling in a country with an electorate which is still overwhelmingly Labour.