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His non-appearance has led to the whip being withdrawn from him and he faces a disciplinary panel  of three Plaid AMs on Monday.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.
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.


  1. I think he wants to be pushed just so that he can say he was. He can then run in 2015 on how badly he was treated. Plaid need to avoid this trap.

    I'd say he does want to join Labour but I don't think they overly want him. I'd imagine he would be a thorn in the side of the party if he was. And ultimately I think he wants to be a Minister, but quietly Labour back benchers will not allow it (and quite right too!). I also don't think Labour want a majority that much either. It seems that Labour probably won't do much in the Assembly term, there will be no radical polices. It is very handy to be able to say in 2015 "oh we wanted to do XYZ, but couldn't as we did not have a majority - we need your votes". This was very handy for the SNP on why they never did a referendum in the 2007-11 term.

    So yes Gareth I think he has his eye on being a cross bencher. I can see him now rabbiting on how he was the first cross bencher in the Assembly doing whats best for the country etc etc.

    On the whole I think he has seriously miscalculated the situation and I feel he is backtracking. However LW needs to ensure that DET doesn't look like the victim, so I would keep him on for now until he says a few other things.

    It is such a shame as his biography in history books will now be tainted with defections, problems.

    It is now in Plaids hands and they need to seriously think their strategy. But personally I predict he will be an independent and will be a cross bencher, working with Plaid and Lab. Although I'm not sure why he'd do this as wouldn't he lose his chairmanship?

  2. Every party have their eccentrics - the Lembits, Redwoods, Bryants etc. of this world. The best political strategy for dealing with such people when they play up is to deny them the oxygen of publicity.

    Plaid should accept that Dafydd El is Dafydd El and just ignore him. A simple roll of the eyes and a shake of the head would put him back in his box.

    Removing the whip and setting up a Disciplinary Panel comprised of Simon Thomas, Elin Jones and Bethan Jenkins on the other hand is the political equivalent of treating a hyperactive toddler to a Big Mac, a thick shake and a Macflurry for tea in the hope that it gets him off to sleep.

  3. This is either weak leadership from LW or good strategical thinking on not wanting to kick DET out i.e to force his hand.

    Personally I think it is weak leadership, she wanted the hearing to go ahead and she hasn't followed through. Only later has some wise owl in Ty Gwynfor (I know they have't got a lot of them anymore since certain people took over [I'm not referring to LW here]) has whispered in her ear- this is what he wants.

    I've no idea what DET will do now.
    I've no idea how LW can recover from this.

    Personally the whole trip shouldn't have happened, however once a hearing was announced it should have been carried forward - I would even suggest that Plaid should have said 'we'll do it in the Royal Welsh, as we know how much that means to DET'. The hearing could then have punished him e.g censure and take him off the approved list of electoral candidates until he shows more loyalty, but no further.

    Neither party has come out of this well. Well apart from Labour who must be loving this!.

  4. Dafydd el has been semi-detached from Plaid since he defied the party to become a cross-bencher in the House of Lords in 1992. His time as Presiding Officer necessitated an element of semi-detachment but that has increased since he became a mere backbencher in 2011. He was a maverick back in 1981 and whether he goes or stays he'll always be a maverick - interesting but ultimately politcally irrelevant. The last thing Plaid needs is to create a martyr and this helps to reduce that possibility. If he goes ahead and jumps, then he will jump alone as a maverick who failed to understand collective rsponsibility.

  5. Yes DET has a independent frame of mind and free spirit and this is both a strength and sometimes a weakness. However what this pharse shows is the lack of credibility the leadership have and in the end that the wrong strategy has been pursued in relation to the Health Minister. Everybody should read John Dixons blog, somebody who understands Plaid and can think strategically.

    DET has more support than many in Plaid realise and the leadership needs to begin to listen more to those voices of wisdom and experience

  6. So you've swallowed Dafydd El's version/spin.
    The problem with this blog posting is that it is factually incorrect. Dafydd won't go as far as you have in saying this:
    "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."

    But he'll say enough to let you come to that conclusion, resulting in you reporting something that is factually inacurate.

    There was no u-turn.
    The decision to have a three line whip on the subject of a vote of no confidence could only have come to light AFTER the emails from Marcus Longley came to light and the groups had had time to discuss their various plans of action.

    He might indeed have had a leave of absence prior to this on another issue,, but to say/suggest (as Dafydd does) that he was given leave of absence from voting on the vote of no confidence a couple of weeks ago is patently absurd.

    Surely our journalists should be able to see that the timescale of the whole events put forward by Dafydd is inaccurate?

    So it WASN't, as you cliam with authority, "What really was the final straw".

    He's charming - yes; he speaks with authority - yes; he's very convincing - yes; but don't be fooled.

  7. who cares. What proportion of the 3.1 million taffs know about this? Is it in the BritSun or the English Torymail? No. so is it news? No. Who cares frankly!! In fact is it in the Brit Argus or the South Brit Echo? no on both counts and who reads the western mail any more? So irrelevant tosh!

  8. As a Plaid Cymru Councillor there is nothing that Dafydd El has said or done helped me to be a Plaid Cymru Councillor, he is an aloof individual who is detached from the vast majority of the party. I speak for someone who campaigned for him in 1974, and he is unreckonizable from those days!

  9. Rather agree Anon 00:13, politics in Wales is at the Parish council level. Trivial and meaningless to the majority.

    Do we really need yet more government for a trifling 3 million people, at least half of whom do not want it?

    Idiocy beyond belief!

  10. DET's antics and ridiculous 'Plaid are Tory poodles' has handed Labour an unfettered 4 years of government.

    The opposition parties will never cooperate again no matter how low Labour stoop with sexed up reports or incompetence. And hey, Dafydd, you won't get much hearing either because in the end party discipline is more important to Labour than 'doing what's right for Wales' - that's one reason for the mess in the NHS in the first place.

    Thanks Dafydd. You've given Labour unlimited power in the Assembly; given then the strap-line for the next election (no matter how many Tory policies they implement) and undermined a chance to create a more pluralistic politics in Wales.

    But hey, who cares? You're fine and so are the selfish Plaid constituency members in Meirion Dwyfor.

    Plaid Member

  11. Bite the bullet, lance the boil, get rid of him, sooner the better. Make him someone else's problem.

  12. I am a Plaid member in Meirion Dwyfor. Whatever happened in the meeting on Thursday, I have yet to meet any party member in this constituency who is not crtical of Dafydd El's recent behaviour. He is doing more for Labour where he is than he could ever achieve if he defected to them

  13. Gwylon Phillips25 July 2012 at 08:27

    Ignore him. The upsurge in Plaid's membership was in response to Leanne Wood standing for the leadership. The future of the Party belongs to a new generation and as leader Leanne has earned the right to lead without the so-called elder statesmen such as DET and Cynog Dafis carping from the wings. Their role should be to support the Leader and refrain from selfish self-gratification. They have had their day. Perhaps they should look to Dafydd Wigley for a lead. He is an elder statesman who wisely keeps his counsel to himself. Ymlaen Leanne, dros GYMRU.