We hear a lot of chat about “a new kind of politics”, usually from hardcore tribalists who have absolutely no intention of doing it. But if we are to tackle the escalating disengagement of millions from the democratic process, we have to try things differently.
This thought has been uppermost in my mind in the last few days, as people have been discussing the informal collaboration between Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Green party. This has resulted in Plaid officially exhorting people in England to vote Green, even though it is a competitor party in Wales. Some people are questioning the wisdom of this as a strategy.
I fully understand people’s doubts, and as the Plaid candidate in Ceredigion, I’ve got more cause to think about it than most! After all, Ceredigion was where, in 1992, the pioneering alliance between Plaid and the Greens vaulted what had been the 4th and 5th place parties at the previous poll into first place, and Cynog Dafis’ historical win. Less joyously, once the alliance had ended, it was notable that the Green vote in 2005 (846 votes) was considerably larger than the majority (219) that the LibDems squeaked in gaining the seat from Plaid (and thus knocking out Simon Thomas, widely acknowledged as one of the greenest MPs we’ve ever had).
There had been some hope last year that a similar electoral arrangement could be reached for the forthcoming Westminster election in Ceredigion, but it was not to be. While many Green party members in Wales wanted to unite behind me as the Plaid candidate, more did not, and so a candidate of their own has now been selected. I’ve not met him yet, but I look forward to it. Although there are elements of the Green party in Wales (such as their apparent blind spots towards our cultural and linguistic sustainability) that cause concern, we have much in common and, now more than ever, need to co-operate.
So yes, I’m in the strange position of encouraging people across the border to vote for the very same party that is my direct competition in Ceredigion. It’s not ideal, but that, I believe, is the price to be paid for being sincere about wanting “a new kind of politics”. It is a leap of faith.
The 3 Plaid, 6 SNP and 1 Green MP in this parliament have worked together brilliantly, and have provided more effective opposition to this miserable government than hordes of Labour and LibDem backbenchers combined. Our three parties are clearly fighting this election on a common platform of saying no to continued austerity measures, for serious infrastructure investment and the scrapping of the Trident replacement, and for an absolute moratorium on fracking. Polls suggest that the Plaid-SNP-Green bloc will be both considerably larger in the next parliament and potentially holding the balance of power.
If that can happen, then we might begin to see some real change in the clapped out politics of the UK. If we can harness some of the energy and engagement of the Scottish referendum campaign and the anti-austerity forces of Greece, Spain and elsewhere, then anything is possible. Rest assured that we in Ceredigion Plaid will be going all out to capture every vote, and explaining to Green-inclined voters that I am the candidate they need to back as by far the best chance we have of turning the tide.