Friday, 24 February 2012
Gloves off in leadership race
The open Plaid husting was a tame affair. All the candidates on their best behaviour, none to them delivering a killer punch. There are very much more exciting things to do with one’s time, watching paint dry might be such an alternative.
But one shouldn’t be fooled by the outward display of courtesy and goodwill. You know and I know, things are not always what they seem.
As Harold MacMillan once wryly commented, about the nature of party politics. The Opposition are in front of you it’s the enemy behind you have to watch.
It’s in the nature of these internal party elections that the gloves come off behind closed doors and its only occasionally do outside observers get a whiff of the vitriol behind the scenes.
And lo, and behold such is the case with Plaid Cymru’s leadership election. No sooner are the Plaid Cymru hustings over, the bare knuckle fighting begins.
Just as the ballot papers land in the letterboxes of party members they are confronted with the spectacle of two of the candidates, not so subtly, ganging up on the other.
How? You may ask. Well, the prince across the water, a chap named Adam Price, has taken the pulse of the members and decided his candidate of choice was not anywhere near, home and dry. So he decided that it would have to be anyone, but Elin Jones.
It is difficult to know why, unless of course, it is based on the personal rather than the political. These things often are.
After all Elin Jones is the candidate that has made the clearest commitment to independence. She even said that she would produce a route map to such. Not a fare that many find palatable but red meat to others. And, right up Price’s street, one would think.
After all it was the very same Adam Price that wrote in December “ Without independence as our goal, what, frankly, is the point? We might as well have spent our time in the metaphorical (or in some cases, quite literal) pub..... If I had wanted a life of political posturing that was agnostic on the question of independence I might have joined the Liberals..... Unlike the current Welsh Government I think targets are a good way of holding yourself to account. So how about independence by 2036, as Elin Jones has suggested? Why not? Five hundred years of colonialism is surely enough, even for us long-suffering Welsh.”
Now to endorse the candidate that has almost the opposite view on independence to him, is strange indeed. That canny operator Dafydd Elis-Thomas, will be like the cat that got the cream with this endorsement. Indeed he wasted no time in posting it on his campaign web page.
For the good Lord, has from the very start based his campaign strategy on winning enough second preference votes to gain himself the crown.
Clearly Adam Price concurs “This election will probably be decided by second preference votes. For those of you who are supporting Dafydd with your first vote, I would urge you to consider supporting Leanne with your second. I would ask Leanne’s supporters to consider lending their second vote to Dafydd.“
So what are we to make of this dramatic intervention. From such a political thinker this is unlikely to be an impulsive intervention. He would have thought it through. As a political journalist I can ensure readers, stories such as this hardly ever are printed after some news breaking investigative journalism. They are handed to us on a plate, to suit the agenda of the politician that places it (and also the needs of a journalist to break a story)
So why was the story placed? Well, clearly, there is a feeling abroad that Elin Jones is the candidate that has to be stopped. Have the other two made a deal to stop her? Politics are full of marriages of convenience. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time in the sordid world politics that a deal had been struck.
And could there also be worry that if Elin Jones won, she might just be a successful and gritty leader. Now, if that happened there wouldn’t be any pressure for her to move aside in a few years time. In such circumstances there just might not be a coronation for the venerable Price. Perish, the thought.
But whatever the motive it would seem to be hamfisted. There is nothing that party members, who are usually sophisticated in their politics, resent more, than to be told what to do and how to vote.