Welsh Assembly: Labour were wrong to smear Plaid Cymru
Labour smears do a disservice to our National Assembly; and their actions created a Plaid ‘bounce’
This article is in response to the polling results in Wales which can be found here.
Five days after the National Assembly for Wales election, the vote to decide who will be the next First Minister was held. Instead of the formation of a minority Welsh Labour government as was widely expected, the lack of talks between Labour and any other parties meant that Plaid Cymru nominated their leader, Leanne Wood, for First Minsiter.
As the Assembly Members cast their votes, it was clear: the Assembly was clearly divided. The final result? Carwyn Jones 29–29 Leanne Wood.
In the following days, the Labour machine went into overdrive accusing Plaid Cymru of doing a ‘deal’ with the right and further right. Instead of talking constructively with the main opposition party, the Labour Party felt it had an inalienable right to govern Wales.
Going straight to a vote, knowing it did not have a majority in the Assembly Siambr, shows arrogance among the Labour Party’s ranks. It also highlights a complete disregard for the constitutional process: in order to become First Minister, an indiviudal must command the majority support from the Assembly first. Clearly, no one candidate had that support.
Even after the vote, it took the Labour Party two days to agree to talks with Plaid Cymru, as is their constitutional obligation. Everyone in the Assembly recognised that the largest party had the right to first attempt at forming a government. But only the Labour Party was ignoring parliamentary procedure.
After a one-off vote deal in which Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats achieved seerious policy concessions, Welsh Labour (rightfully) formed a minority government.
But what did Labour achieve in their arrogance and ignorance to Assembly procedure?
According to YouGov/ ITV’s latest Welsh Barometer Poll, it appears they achieved very little, while the behaviour exhibited by Plaid Cymru achieved quite a lot.
Plaid Cymru are up almost 3% on their election result and 5% on the final pre-election poll (constituency ballot), a significant achievement. While 11% said that the actions over the First Minister vote “damaged” Plaid Cymru, 19% said so for Labour, while 18% said it actually improved Plaid Cymru’s position.
What is clear from this is that Labour have failed to convince the public that there was any sort of deal between Plaid and the right- wing parties in the Assembly.
Quite rightly so, it shows that the Labour Party’s attempts to discredit and attack a party that is its only large political ally in the Assembly have left that party with a higher standing among voters. Not only was there no deal between the right and Plaid Cymru, the Labour Party’s insistence that there was, has damaged them and boosted Plaid Cymru.
But this attack and smear by Labour has done more than just damage themselves. In turn, it has damaged the standing of the National Assembly and the Welsh Government they lead.
The Assembly has a reputation for being better than the almost-childlike politics of Westminster. The very nature of the attacks coming from the Labour Party do a disservice to the people of Wales and to the Assembly’s high standing.
Meanwhile, the Labour Government in Wales now has a reputation for playing with UKIP- style political games. Neil Hamilton (UKIP Assembly leader), quite rightly, was called out in the Assembly by the Presiding Officer for using sexist language- and the smears that Labour used against Plaid are a part of that kind of politics.
That is the politics of negativity, the politics of false truths, and the politics of smears above the politics of progressiveness and co-operation- values the Labour Party is meant to meant to believe in. The lowering to this level, the same level as UKIP, does the proud record of the Assembly a disservice. It does the Assembly’s high standard of politics a disservice, too.
Above all ,particularly concerning to the party itself, Labour has placed itself with discredit. It makes them seem feeble and in line with UKIP: an image they don’t want to have, and they should worry about it sticking to them long term unless they continue to open up to a more co-operative form of politics.
The smears they ran against Plaid Cymru were wrong. They have left Labour and the Welsh Assembly tarnished and with a feel of child-like politics. Hopefully Labour can work with Plaid in the future to rebuild their reputation and that of the Welsh Assembly.
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