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Friday, 20 July 2012
The Dafydd El question
Will he go or will he stay? That’s the question being asked about Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas the Plaid Cymru Member for Dwyfor Meirionydd.
Although the former Plaid Cymru leader ruled out joining the Labour Party on Radio Cymru, on the very same programme he admitted to having considered joining Labour. The reason? The stance taken by his party both during the Assembly election campaign in criticising Labour when they'd just been in government with them. Proposing a vote of no-confidence in the Health Secretary he saw as crass politics. His view is that Plaid Cymru are being a “supportive opposition for the Conservatives.”
What really was the final straw for Elis-Thomas was what he perceived as a Plaid Cymru group u-turn.
The party first decided to turn a blind eye to his likely absence from the vote of no-confidence in the Health Minister. He was to be allowed to go to Bangor to hand out degrees in his capacity as Chancellor of the University.
On the eve of the vote, the party had second thoughts and insisted that the Lord turn his back on the pomp of the graduation ceremony and come back to vote. It is thought that this was after Tory pressure on Plaid Cymru.
It would have been odds on that had he turned up his vote would have been not with the opposition but with the government. It is difficult to see what Plaid Cymru were hoping to gain by their insistence.
His non-appearance has led to the whip being withdrawn from him and he faces a disciplinary panel of three Plaid AMs on Monday. The panel will be Elin Jones, Simon Thomas and Bethan Jenkins. They will decide what further punishment the good Lord will face, if any.
Elis-Thomas claims he will not turn up. He has the prior engagement of attending the Royal Welsh show. His way of raising two fingers to the witch-hunters general.
Last night he was given the unanimous support of his constituency party in Dwyfor Meirionydd. One of Plaid Cymru’s biggest constituency branches.
Meanwhile as yesterday’s blog made clear, the Labour Party are expressing warm words about Dafydd Elis-Thomas in the hope of enticing him into their ranks. Such a high ranking defection from Plaid Cymru would leave the party in some disarray.
It is indeed ironic that the most left wing leader that Plaid Cymru has ever had has now been manipulated into working and voting in cahoots with the Conservatives in the Assembly. She is now in grave danger of engineering the departure of a former leader of the party. Her naivety and inexperience has caused an embarrassment to become a crisis.
Unless wiser heads take a grip on things, the situation could spiral out of control and do lasting damage to Plaid Cymru.
So what of Dafydd El. It's unlikely that he’ll voluntarily jump into a party that is even more authoritarian and disciplined than Plaid Cymru.
But he is certainly playing the political equivalent of the game of chicken. He’s almost daring the party to push him out. How often have we heard someone claim that “they didn’t leave the party, but the party left them.” Is this what Dafydd’s up to?
His role over the years as Presiding Officer made him semi-detached from his party. Submitting to party discipline now can't be easy for the man. Perhaps, he's thinking that he'd find it politically more comfortable to be pushed out of the party and become an independent.
After all that’s the role he’s played in the House of Lords over the years. Even in those days he manage to get up the nose of his party. He accepted a peerage at a time when it was party policy not to.
Maybe, he'll sit as a cross-bencher in the Assembly as well as the Lords. Postscript Leanne Wood intervened and has restored the whip to Dafydd Elis-Thomas. It's now up to him what happens next. Will he jump? Plaid Cymru making it very clear that he's not being pushed out of party.