Free at Last!

I didn’t vote in the European elections yesterday. In fact, this was the first time ever that I failed to vote in an election. Previously, I had always voted Plaid Cymru at Assembly, Westminster and European elections (there’s rarely a Plaid candidate for local elections). I got a bit twitchy as the ten o’clock deadline approached, but after a good night’s sleep I felt much better, like I’d finally rid myself of a bad habit. So why did I do it?


To begin with – and aTribans readers of this blog will know – I don’t really support Plaid Cymru, I haven’t supported the party for decades. I don’t believe in Plaid Cymru, it’s policies, its leaders, its anything. Which means that since I lost faith in the party I have been voting Plaid Cymru for the wrong reasons: 1/ Because there is no real alternative and 2/ Because I hoped that my vote, and the votes of others like me, would help Plaid Cymru to be viewed – in England – as ‘the voice of Welsh nationalism’ and might therefore get Wales a better deal. But the first reason is totally negative and the second is nonsense, because anyone who studies Plaid Cymru for ten minutes knows that far from being a threat to the constitutional status quo it is actually one of its pillars.

So why did I make the decision at this time? In a word, or if you prefer, an acronym, Ukip. The rise and rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party posed a threat to Plaid Cymru’s European seat and this resulted in social media being alive with desperate pleas to ‘vote Plaid to stop Ukip / Tories / Labour getting a second seat which, again, is a very negative reason for voting for any party, and no better than Labour’s message at every election: ‘(Ignore our appalling record and) send a message to London by voting Labour’. In addition, I was being told that Liberal Democrats I’d never heard of, and equally unknown Greens, were heeding this call and being collectively described as “progressive elements”. Jesus! “progressive elements”; now there’s a truly chilling phrase, from the same Stalinist lexicon as ‘freedom-loving peoples’, ‘enemy of the people’ and all the other phrases earlier generations came to love. Knowing I’d be on the same side as these ‘progressive elements’ was another reason to finally break with Plaid. (Those unfamiliar with my views on Liberal Democrats and Greens should either scroll down to Wales Euro Election 2014: Runners and Riders or click on the link.)


I’m writing this before the Euro results are declared, I can do this because the actual result is irrelevant to my decision, and to my feelings towards Plaid Cymru. Which can be summed up quite simply – Plaid Cymru is a complete and utter failure. It first lost its way a few decades ago when it turned its back on Welsh issues to adopt some flavour-of-the-month left-liberalism. (This happened around the same time as I have always believed the party was compromised.) The death-knell was rung when it decided that discussion of our survival as a nation was a taboo subject following the mauling received by Councillor Seimon Glyn in the English media, and the humiliation dished out to party leader Ieuan Wyn Jones by Glenys Kinnock on Question Time. (Here’s a report.) Which means that the colonisation of WalPlaid logoes, and our inevitable assimilation into England, is off the agenda . . . of a ‘national’ party!

On the purely political front, Plaid Cymru has now reached a ‘plateau’ on the lower slopes of electoral success from which it is incapable of advancing and will, before long, and inevitably, start sliding back. At the European level, this ‘plateau’ means 1 seat or no seat (of four); at Westminster level; 2 – 5 seats (of 40); and in the Assembly 8 – 18 AMs (of 60). The reason for the inevitability of Plaid’s demise lies in the fact that its support is concentrated in those areas – largely Welsh speaking – targetted for social engineering. The English immigrants to these areas won’t vote Plaid, and the diminishing percentage of Welsh in these areas’ populations will soon realise that Plaid has failed them. Couple these painful realities with the ‘breakthrough in the south’ never materialising and it should become obvious to all that time is running out for Plaid Cymru.


Over almost fifty years of political activism of one kind or another I have heard all sorts of theories, been made all kinds of offers, and been involved in some pretty weird shit myself, but the more I think about the abject failure of Plaid Cymru the more I remember something I heard that, with hindsight, and looking at the state of Wales and Welsh politics, makes sense, of a kind.

The suggestion was that it might have been better for Wales if Plaid Cymru had never been formed. Because then, Labour would have taken on the mantle of Wales’ defender and been able to do a much better job without accusations of being ‘nationalist’. (I am of course talking here of the Welsh Labour Party of S. O. Davies, Cledwyn Hughes, James Griffiths, Gwilym Prys Davies, Elystan Morgan et al.) Also because it has widespread support across the country and could form a government in London. But as things stand today, Labour – and especially at Westminster level – often takes up positions inimical to Wales’ best interests almost to spite Plaid Cymru and to avoid being seen – or accused of – ‘making concessions to nationalism’. While Plaid, stuck on its ‘plateau’, will never achieve its objectives yet blocks the emergence of a genuine nationalist party. The worst of all possible worlds.


The real irony is that Labour’s vote in the south, the vote Plaid needs to become the biggest party in Wales, has never been solid. In many cases it is a vote Labour gains due solely to the absence of an attractive alternative of the kind the SNP is, but Plaid Cymru is not. Earlier this year I posted a piece on an opinion poll that showed most people, even Labour voters, were dissatisfied with Labour’s running of Wales – yet most of them still intended to vote Labour. Today I read that Ukip is set to become the second party in the Heads of the Valleys region, because Welsh working class men find Ukip more attractive than Plaid Cymru. Clearly, much of Labour’s sDragon union jackouthern vote is there for the taking . . . but not by a party with all the appeal of Sinn Féin on the Shankill Road!

Plaid Cymru should now do the honest thing. It should admit that it has been a miserable failure. Concede that it will never become a national party. Then it should apologise for wasting everybody’s time for the past ninety years and promise to disband so that a genuinely national party can arise.

But no. Instead, Plaid Cymru plans to enter into a formal coalition with the Green Party of Englandandwales. With a single stroke of tactical genius Plaid’s leaders not only prove me wrong but guarantee my future support. Where do I join? (Hope I don’t get trampled in the rush.)

33 thoughts on “Free at Last!

  1. Thinking Out Loud

    Couple of points

    No one seems to have mentioned that according to the Oxford Migration Observatory a couple of months ago that Merthyr Tydfil had the 2nd largest influx on Eastern European migrants in the UK since 2004 that along with high unemployment and Labour soft vote in the Heads of the Valleys accounts for a lot of the UKIP vote I suspect.

    Second lots of talk about EU money making a difference to the Valleys and I agree the UK government wouldn’t give us the funds and they’ve been better than nothing at all, but refurbishing community facilities and cultural regeneration are things the local councils should have been doing anyway and the regeneration hasn’t created many jobs for people, which is what valleys people want.

    I worked in Ireland for a while when they had their EU cash, they bent and sometimes broke the EU rules all the time and used the cash for what was needed it, can you imagine any Labour Government or Minster being that bold in Wales? Look at Blaenau Gwent where EU cash is being spent on the racetrack when any fool can see its a white elephant and the smarter thing to would be to give 50/100 local businesses the cash and help them expand and create jobs locally and keep wealth in the area, it will never happen mind far to sensible.

    And I’ve noticed the Labour Welsh hierarchy are spinning furiously that the result (particularly in the Valleys) was nothing more than disillusion with the party and trying to shut any debate down that doesn’t agree with their point of view, its a good trick but one of their own Tal Michael has already tweeted that the UKIP vote in North Wales is to do with English immigration, oops a daisy!

    I guess Labour is trying to reinforce the view that the Valleys at least are Labour property and only they can win there and it also stops anyone questioning their failed EURO campaign coming second to UKIP in England and failing to get a second MEP in Wales despite an opinion poll showing Labour on course for 3 MEP’s at one point.

    It also stops any awkward questions about the Welsh Labour Governments failure on EU funds for the last 15 years (see above) it’s nice to know they haven’t got clue about what’s going on on the ground and will probably sleep walking into losing the General Election next year with Ed and Carwyn at the helm.

    1. Daley Gleephart

      OMO doesn’t mention the number of Eastern Europeans who moved to Merthyr. Instead, they state the percentage increase (225%). If there were 3 Eastern Europeans and another 4 arrived that would be a 233% increase.

      Oh yes, give money to people and let them do whatever they like with it – What a marvellous investment programme!!!!!!!!!

      European Elections. Labour’s share of the vote in the UK : –
      2009 – 15.4%
      2014 – 25.4%

  2. Taran

    There’s potential for a strong right-wing nationalist vote in the Valleys. Many of these UKIP voters hate the English/Cardiffians a lot more than they hate Eastern Europeans/Asians!

    1. Jac

      If nothing else, the Ukip vote in the Valleys proves that the ‘deep socialist roots’ we keep hearing about is a load of old bollocks.

  3. The peopleof Wales have just voted for a ‘hard edged’ party in their droves. This ‘hard-edged’ party came within a whisker of gaining more votes that Labour. I think that nice people at Plaid Cymru think that if they repeat the terms ‘left of center’ and ‘progressive’ often enough, then they will become reality. The real world finds a different situation of course. Leanne Wood was chosen as leader because she would go down this left-leaning path and gain votes in the ‘valleys’. This strategy has failed miserably.

    1. Jac

      And if what we heard and read before the election came true, then Plaid kept its seat due to Greens and Lib Dems voting Plaid in order to stop Ukip getting a second seat.

  4. Llew

    Jac, I respect you as a blogger and am not slating you but a “hard-edged” party is what you want, rather than what the people of Wales want. Wales is not a very nationalist country at all. The rugby is a lie or a mask. Plaid Cymru is already perceived as being intensely Welsh, outside the heartland areas. That’s why so many people think its not for them. The party needs to help shift the country towards being a nation, which is why devolution is the only game in town and is the only arena where we’re going to be able to talk about Labour’s record. Where I now live the party is very confrontational towards Labour but it’s not that trusted, some of this is a lack of familiarity and some of it is suspicion. Actually in Sir Gar its really confrontational and national too, but this is not a conflict with being left-of-centre, it reinforces it.

    “Something new” could always happen, but to what end? To get fewer votes than the BNP? To talk about colonisation and independence but have no credibility or policies for running the country or local authorities? Being more hard line than Plaid isn’t electorally useful and in my personal opinion, won’t actually address most Welsh people’s living circumstances or world view. Maybe the problem is with making Welsh nationalism more relevant to the majority of people in Wales.

    1. Jac

      Plaid Cymru is perceived as being “intensely Welsh” in purely linguistic or cultural terms and this is why it makes no headway in Welsh Wales, among the anglophones who described themselves as Welsh only in the 2011 census. Plaid has never come up with a convincing Welsh identity that doesn’t include a language most Welsh don’t speak. Plaid has learnt nothing from Ireland, or Scotland.

      The lesson of these elections is that a ramshackle party that didn’t exist 10 years ago has rocked the political establishment by saying the things many people were thinking but no other party was articulating for them.

  5. Well, it looks like the good people of the valleys aren’t as left wing after-all. If the success of UKIP in Wales wasn’t so serious in what it could mean, I would laugh. But in actual fact, I’m more likely to cry.

  6. Llew

    There is a tendency to overthink the relevance of left-right terms but in Wales, right-wing politics tends to coincide with anti-Welsh politics, and this has been the case for at least living memory, maybe longer. Plaid Cymru isn’t hard left, its social democratic. I follow their website every day and there are often stories about business and the economy. Leanne Wood has been slagged off above for going to a food bank but she has also been to a factory (its on the website) for a campaign launch in recent weeks. For some reason this isn’t mentioned on this blog, which I think is an ideological swipe, probably.

    All said, I take what is probably a minority view on this website. I don’t think Plaid Cymru has been an “utter failure”. Wales is not very nationalist. Plaid has had to basically be a ‘steer’ to get other parties to deliver things for Wales, including devolution. Plaid has been absolutely crucial to proving and sustaining the fact that Wales is a nation. Read Richard Wyn Jones’ history of the party, it details many mistakes and wrong turns being made over the years but also testifies to the value of the party.

    I’m surprised to read that Plaid has “abandoned…the Bro”, as it will be news to my relatives in Sir Gar who just voted for them en masse, and who don’t feel “abandoned” by their local left-wing Plaid MP, but feel like they’re being well represented. Usually he is to the left of Labour. Big deal, its a just cause and he still understands the countryside better than them. Plaid is the only party that speaks for y fro but the problem is they are not picking up in urban Wales or in Brit Wales, which is where it needs to do better.

    I voted for Jill Evans though and glad she got back in. A few months ago she was a goner and the party managed to turn it around quite late in the day. Everything Jac has said about greens and liberals is wrong, IMO. Voting is a marketplace and you have to shop around. My feeling though is relief, but not triumphalism or happiness. The rise of UKIP is a disaster for Wales, and a disaster for society on this island.

    1. Jac

      You concede that Plaid Cymru is making no headway outside of its heartlands. But it’s strength in the heartlands has 10 – 15 years to run due to the elephant in the room that Plaid Cymru refuses to discuss. There will come a point fairly soon when even Plaid’s loyal supporters will look around them, realise it’s all over, and give up.

      Wales is more important than Plaid Cymru. Either Plaid reforms to become a more hard-edged and confrontational national party, especially when dealing with Labour, or something new will be needed.

  7. Tarian

    Plaid has clearly been pursuing a failing strategy for years and have lost a lot of capable people due to its narrow focus. As Jac says it has alienated many of its natural supporters and failed to attract new voters. It is an invisible and irrelevant party in many parts of Wales. Despite talk of breaking through in the valleys I have seen little concrete evidence of attempts at this beyond a naive attempt to out-Labour Welsh Labour. I can’t understand Leanne Wood’s strategy because she is from the valleys and should know better than most that the Labour vote here is not based on hard left attitudes, rather it is based on a pragmatism and a soft-left belief in social justice. Masses of people in these communities don’t vote and there are very many active voters who are solidly centre ground or just right of centre. Plaid have abandoned the cause of the ‘Bro’ and are pursuing a disastrous policy of cosying up to Labour in the South.

    I don’t wan’t to criticise individuals because, despite everything, the party still has some capable representatives. However, sanity has to prevail and we need Plaid to become a broad curch which encompasses all nationalists from left, right and centre. We need a balanced and moderate programme which combines social justice with some real plans for economic growth – just as the SNP has done it needs to appeal across the board. Finally, we need to go toe to toe with Labour and be absolutely merciless in our criticism. Plaid will get no favours from the unionist media but if they start ripping into Labour’s failures they will get coverage and people will start to see Plaid as a possible alternative to Labour rather than a pale and irrelevant imitation.

    Alwyn says that it is pointless trying to start a new movement and in many ways he is correct. In theory Plaid policy is made at conference. A far as I know there are about 8,000 members. A determined and organised group could bring about singificant change. Time for a revolution from below?

  8. Llanrumney Boy

    Appropriately, I think Jack mentions Sinn Fein towards the end of his article.
    Ireland clearly has a far different (understatement of the week!) recent history to Wales, but there are surely helpful indications from the way that Sinn Fein has emerged as a successful opposition to Dublin/Belfast establishment parties.
    Welsh people appalled at Plaid Cymru/Labour old and new/Tories should examine SF’s strategy on social and economic issues. As I write, results from Irish republic local elections and two by-election are suggesting a very strong SF showing. I confess this short on detail, but it is late at night.

    Finally, please excuse me going off-subject Jac, but following Prince Charles’ ”go” at Russia the other day, those damned Ruskies have back at Carlo with interest, going into detail over the Windsors’ past connections with unsavoury types in Germany. Putin and his associates are horrors themselvs, I’m fully aware, but some fair points are made in a Guardian article which can be found at –

    Llanrumney Boy

    PS: congratulations to Gareth Bale for scoring in Real Madrid’s 4-1 win in the Champions League final tonight

  9. I agree that the national cause in Wales is stagnant; opinion polls have consistently put support for independence at around 10% for the past 30 odd years. I agree that the colonisation of Wales has gone beyond crisis point with nothing having been done about it. But blaming Plaid for the situation is a too simplistic and probably counter-productive. As you note in your comments above there have been alternatives to Plaid in the guise of political parties and non party movements but they have failed just as spectacularly as Plaid Cymru to convince the vast majority of the people of Wales of the merits of the national cause. I can understand the frustrations with Plaid, I’ve been a member of the Peeved with Plaid Front for the past 25 years, but fighting Plaid for the support of the 10% of current nationalists is just a waste of time. By all means let’s start a new vigorous national movement, but let’s make it one that appeals to the heads and hearts of the 90% of those yet to be convinced, rather than yet another vehicle for infighting amongst the 10%.

    1. Jac

      How many of Plaid’s voters truly believe in the party? And how how many are like you (and me prior to last Thursday)? What you are saying, Alwyn, is that Plaid Cymru is failing to satisfy its natural support while also failing to reach out to the rest of the electorate. What is the point of such a party? What future can it possibly have?

  10. Docks Soul

    It says something that Plaid can no longer even pick up the protest vote in the valleys.

    For most Welsh people Plaid are now either just another establishment party or a total irrelevance.
    Leanne Wood packing food parcels for the needy or pontificating about the unjustness of that nasty Tory governments’ bedroom tax is not going to change that view. Someone needs to point out to her she’s a leader of a Nationalist movement and not a social worker.

    If UKIP winning more working class votes in Wales than Plaid doesn’t set the alarm bells ringing then nothing will.

    1. Jac

      Just like Labour, Plaid wants to blame the Tories for everything and then capitalise on the poverty and deprivation. But doing the same as Labour, living in Labour’s shadow, doesn’t get them anywhere. The correct strategy should be to confront Labour head-on – ‘Look at the mess this country is in after you clowns have been running things for a hundred years!’

      Coincidentally, “the social worker” is an unflattering epithet I’ve heard used more than once – by Plaid activists – to describe another of the party’s luminaries, a woman associated with a town linking with Swansea to the west.

  11. Thinking Out Loud

    I didn’t vote on Thursday either and I’ve made my peace with UKIP dominating welsh politics and setting the agenda for the foreseeable future.

    We don’t know the results yet, but even if Jill Evans is re-elected, logic would dictate that after the car crash of a campaign strategy and the humiliation of having to beg for votes to keep a seat in Europe that there would be a period of reflection and some changes in direction. It wont happen because the majority of Plaid’s membership like the fluffy nonsense the leadership is selling but the other parties must be pissing themselves watching Plaid fall apart.

    Begging for votes is certainly a long way from the previous periods when Wales has been under threat and politicians of all parties with the intellect, belief and willingness spoke out, stepped up and did the the deals that made things better for people. Our current political class have none of the above and leave me cold, frankly they’d struggle to organise a piss up in a brewery with a manual.

    And a quick point on the Valleys as a resident, Labour will be happy enough to see UKIP in second place in lots of seats as it gives then another ‘nasty right wing party’ to rile against and pretend to oppose, while safe in the knowledge that even if they lose 50% of their vote in seats like Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent at UK, Welsh and local elections they can still win comfortably.

  12. Family affairs what a same that llyr hughs griffiths,could not be euro m.e.p then he could sit down somewere quite in bavaria,and write love letters to his father in carmarhen.

  13. I read about Mohammed Ashgar’s attack on Labour for it’s dismal record in Ebbw Vale and similar areas comparing them to parts of Eastern Europe. Labour in Wales attacked him saying it was an insult to the people living in these places. And what did Jocelyn Davies of Plaid Cymru do? She joined Labour in attacking Ashgar for saying what is blatantly obvious. I voted Plaid two days ago as I don’t want to see Jill Evans lose her seat. It’s basically a tribal reason for supporting her. But I do see where you are coming from Jac. There are people who vote Labour who are crying out for an alternative And they don’t see Plaid’s ‘progressiveness’ as offering much at all. But I’m afraid they’ll be very disappointed with UKIP.

    1. Jac

      What utter stupidity. The figures prove the state of the Heads of the Valleys. Asghar was right, and gave Plaid a chance to damage Labour. But, no, socialist Plaid has to join with Labour to attack a Tory. The sooner Plaid Cymru is dead and buried the better.

      1. There is a difficulty with Assgar’s comment and Jocelyn’s defence that is pertinent to the whole national cause: I can berate my sister for being a slag, but you call her a slag and I’ll kick you in your f**,ing B**s, in defence of her honour.

        I was born in Barmouth, I love Barmouth and I know Barmouth has its problems, if another Barmouth boy wants to engage with me about our native town’s problems, I will engage and discuss; but if an outsider slags off the town where I was born, because of those problems, I’ll be angry; very angry.

        Glyn Ebwy it is a fantastic community that is worthy of defending against bitchy Tory comments, but it does have major problems, how can we defend its honour, whilst recognising that the problems that the Tories are feasting on are genuine problems?

        Wales has major problems, our National Assembly has major problems, but how do we raise those problems in a way that doesn’t appear to be slaging off our own country and or our own communities?

        1. Jac

          I’m sure we all know what you’re saying, Alwyn; but when it comes to the state of certain parts of Wales Plaid should be “feasting” on the issue instead of always taking Labour’s side in any Labour v Tory issue. This is just Plaid, Labour’s future coalition partner speaking.

    2. treforus

      Assgar’s comments ought not to have been controversial because they were self-evidently true and needed to be said. I was astonished that a Plaid AM backed Carwyn Jones’ attempt at bluster in return. Do Plaid consider the dire economic conditions in the eastern valleys are therefore satisfactory or are they fawning like dogs to try to be seen as a suitable junior partner in any future coalition at Cardiff Bay.

      Jac is correct. Plaid are becoming a semi-detached cousin of Labour and are neutralising rather than creating proper opposition.

  14. Emlyn

    Alan, I’m afraid that UKIP is 100% guaranteed its seat. The question is, Who gets seat #4? Plaid or Conservative? On balance, I believe the Tories can represent us better in Europe.

    I agree with Jac’s diagnosis reluctantly, and it is with a heavy heart that I wish Plaid a happy hereafter.

  15. me

    I’m curious. In your previous post you correctly identified UKIP as a dangerous threat to Wales. In this post you say you effectively abstained from the one concrete way you could have registered your opposition to UKIP. Keyboard warriors are people who pass comment on the real battle while avoiding any contact with the real world.

    1. Jac

      Ukip won’t last long, partly because they’re an absolute shambles, and partly because once they’ve served the purpose of ‘repositioning’ the Tory party they will have lost their raison d’etre. Me voting Plaid Cymru wouldn’t have made a blind bit of difference.

      As for me being a ‘keyboard warrior’, I’m in my 60s now after a lifetime of political activism. I joined Plaid in my late teens; I canvassed and stood as a candidate (more than once). In the 1960s – great days by the way – I was honoured to know men who didn’t believe the struggle should be confined to the ballot box; got done myself for trying to take the head off a statue in Aber’. Then it was a succession of organisations that I hoped might become political alternatives to Plaid Cymru such as the Cyfamodwyr and Independent Wales Party. I’m still involved, now with the Welsh National Rights Movement. This year, in addition to my blog I have contributed to Cambria magazine, Daily Wales and other publications.

      So, yes, call me a keyboard warrior if you like; but I have been out there in the real world, and at the sharp end. What’s more, because I was active in the 1960s, when anything seemed possible, and Plaid Cymru was a vigorous, campaigning party that believed unequivocally in independence, I can see the decline and the sorry state of Plaid Cymru today.

      But don’t sit there reading this, get out and spread the word, otherwise you’ll be a keyboard warrior like me.

  16. Louise Hughes

    ‘Tactical genius’?! …. presumably you had your tongue wedged firmly in your cheek?!

  17. Alan Williams

    I’m sorry you couldn’t vote Plaid. It will be a choice between Plaid or UKIP for 4th place. Jill has been a very good MEP it will be a real shame if she failed to hold her seat.

    1. Jac

      I have never expressed any personal antipathy towards Jill Evans, I’m sure she’s an excellent politcal servant for Wales, but her party is now past its sell-by date and we need something better.

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