The Opposition Years?


By Syd Morgan and Alan Sandry

Whilst it would be tempting for Plaid Cymru to re-immerse itself in coalition with a re-packaged One Wales 2.0, it could well be argued that a period in opposition – for reflection, realignment and a shake up in personnel – may be far more productive for Plaid Cymru and Wales. The benefits of oppositional politics would enable the party to fully engage with, and totally endorse, the SNP’s push for independence, whenever the Scottish referendum comes about. This support for the SNP will be a key moment for how Plaid Cymru is seen in Wales and beyond.

The SNP will, no doubt, have substantial assistance from all the nationalist and regionalist parties which are affiliated to the European Free Alliance. Plaid and the SNP's sister parties in Catalunya and Flanders are already on a parallel track. The movement for EU 'internal enlargement' is pan-European. There is no doubt that the mainland EFA parties will expect Plaid Cymru, as fellow ‘islanders’, to take the lead in offering back-up to the Scottish National Party. The unionist parties have already put down markers that Scottish independence is a UK battle, so Plaid can hardly be seen to opt out. If that support is not forthcoming, in an enthusiastic and active sense, Plaid Cymru will have to brace itself for the repercussions. Unless Plaid Cymru is vocal and visible in its backing of the SNP’s push for autonomy then its standing across the European polity would undoubtedly be diminished and its role within the British state exposed.

The choice, therefore, is between acknowledging that Plaid Cymru requires a period of productive opposition or an acceptance of what would amount to ‘One Wales Lite’, with Labour pushing its policies and expecting Plaid to rubber-stamp them. If the sleeping ‘One Wales’ is awoken, the language that Carwyn Jones will undoubtedly use will be that of “forming a Welsh left-of-centre consensus against the excesses of the London ConDems”. Whilst this may be admirable in sentiment, it would nevertheless bind Plaid Cymru into what will inevitably be portrayed as a Labour package and that without any critique of Labour’s massive failings in government.

If Plaid Cymru was free to pursue its own agenda and ideology however it could, if desired, support any onslaught on ConDem-ism (from whatever source, civic society or political parties) on an ad hoc basis, and also on Welsh not British terms. This would ensure that people were aware of Plaid Cymru’s opposition to the rightist policies emanating from Westminster (by any party) but, importantly, it would also allow Plaid Cymru some breathing space, as it would not be smothered through its identification as junior partners within a Labour-led Welsh government.

Whilst the favoured choice, whatever that may be, will be proposed by the National Assembly group, it is fair to conclude that this appears to be a genuinely key moment – a crossroads – in the party’s relationship with not only the people of Wales but also its rival parties (and sometimes partners) in Wales, and its sister parties throughout the EU. Above all else, therefore, it is the members and supporters of the party itself who require a period of introspection, in order to allow sufficient thought and discussion to take place with regard to their, and Wales’, future path and direction. This is a strategic decision and not just a matter of musical chairs in Cardiff Bay.

*Syd Morgan and Alan Sandry formed the Welsh Nationalism Foundation to engage in research into all aspects of civic nationalism in Wales and the rest of Europe. It is affiliated to EFA's Centre Maurits Coppieters - - a European political foundation recognised by the European parliament.