The Welsh Labour government has 30 seats in the Assembly, with the opposition parties holding the other 30. Its grip on the electorate is as firm as the arthritic hands of an ageing amateur golfer. It will only take one of the opposition parties to clobber another seat in the Welsh Assembly for old Labour torpor, towering complacency and democratic violation to be nobbled once and for all.
Red water no longer comes into it, neither indeed does a thin red line of political obstinacy.
Old Welsh Labour is out of ideas, out of imagination and most certainly out of touch. This may have something to do with Carwyn’s honourable escape from the insecure financial vicissitudes of the Bar, to the less frenetic and undoubtedly more salubrious corridors of the Cardiff university madrassa – those who can’t, teach perhaps? Either way, lawyers are hardly renowned for creative energy and innovative thinking, albeit that Parliament is awash them. Well trained and sophisticated impudence and slyness may well have something to do with this.
Last week I interviewed Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru in the Welsh Assembly. A Valleys girl to her core, with the sense of humour to match. It was a straight, no nonsense and honest interview, which is a damn sight more than can said for Welsh government ministers and their apparatchiks.
I had trouble getting a word in, that’s a Valleys girl for you but let’s not hold this against her. The lady did come up with a policy that even I have to admit, is both laudable and well thought out – Ruck agreeing with Plaid? Yes I know, but indulge me for a moment or two.
Currently, the Welsh public sector spends £4.3 billion procuring goods and services from the private sector. Only 52% of this is spent in Wales (this is up from 35% in 2003). Plaid believes that this figure should be more like 75%, a figure based on Value Wales’ calculations that every 1% increase accounts for 2000 new jobs; this would create 46,000 new jobs in the Welsh private sector and note, not an edge of nationalisation in sight.
A worthy policy by anyone’s standards I think you will agree, and certainly one that would boost a Welsh economy that is in dire need of dumping its obsessive public sector dependency.
Ms Wood also insisted that ‘the focus for the Welsh economy must be on skills and infrastructure. Last year Plaid negotiated a budget deal with the Welsh government to provide an initial £20 million pa for two years in order to provide high skill apprenticeship places.” Once again, little to argue with here.
Having explored the economic woes of Wales and not being a pupil of the Adrian Masters or Huw Edwards school of soppy and deferential interview technique, I went straight for the Plaid political jugular, and was duly disappointed!
On the question of Welsh independence and Plaid’s reputation for being the ‘Home Rule Army of Wales,’ Leanne Wood was clear and unequivocal. She stated without pause, “Plaid’s aim is to achieve an independent Wales but not for the sake of it.” A hint here of real politik, for once? This response certainly took the wind out of my objectionable sails, just when I was looking forward to a gloves off free for all, so all credit to Plaid’s leader.
The point therefore must be this: If Plaid treads more gently on the independence front, it will I have no doubt, garner greater support from the Welsh electorate in the long run. A moderating of its historical raison d’etre will I believe reap dividends at the ballot box but more importantly, it may well have the power within its grasp to haul old Welsh Labour into the social democratic 21st Century and make Ed finally realise that he can no longer take Wales for granted.