Monday, 9 May 2011

Last post of this blog

This was just an election blog, so this is the closing post and a short one at that.

My personal view is that Ieuan Wyn Jones has done the right thing in this statement. It is clearly a time for a slow and methodical response and with a five year term we have the time to rebuild. Rash decisions while the rawness of the election still remains won't not be helpful.

Lastly, it is my personal view that fightback for Plaid as a party would be better served without also being in coalition Government. As an ordinary member I would consider any potential coalition on merit, but it is my view that we need the space and time to come back fighting in opposition.

(Fat) Elvis has left the building, this post will remain online until Friday.

Friday, 6 May 2011

A blog post about not doing what bloggers do

"Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation..."
Alasdair Gray

Rather than write a blog post about it, you know what I am going to do. I am going to speak to my fellow Plaid colleagues, my friends, voters, people who profess hate/love/interest/ambivalence to our party and both say what I think and listen what others do.

Anyone who mentions the bloody words 'navel' and 'gazing' are doing exactly now.

If, as any organisation have to do, we are to review how we can improve our lot, we have to front up to external criticism and embrace it. An organisation willing to embrace to transformational change is never insular, it leaves no stone unturned in hearing out those who do not sit within it.

But ultimately, my invite to Plaid colleagues, readers of this blog, friends, haters and don't carers is this. Face to face, not online - speak to me, argue with me, tell me I am wrong, challenge my assumptions, encourage worthy ideas but do so in a brutally honest manner.

Let's be more passionate in our arguments and not afraid to have them challenged and seek to convince
people, not just reflect to them what they say to us.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Signing Off for this campaign

Phew. I am ready to drop, but have two more hard days slog in me.

This has been the first national campaign I have been heavily involved in. It has been a lovely experience and has taught me alot about so many different aspect of things. I am going to stop blogging from here on in, primarily because I won't be around to blog, but also I am not offering my opinion post-results, good or bad and my words be used by others for twisted means. I will leave you with some observations;

The Welsh Electorate are still not receiving a Welsh signal

Tonight the Scottish leaders debate is being shown at peak viewing time - 830-10p. In Wales we have had debates all after 1030. Is it any wonder that so little is known about devolved politics?

The time has come to actively campaign against the BBC's current malaise. Far more has to be done to federalise the BBC. We have hours and hours of AV referendum, while the Welsh General election has not featured.

This has led to a campaign about other things and places

Any one of the parties could get 100% of the vote in this election and it won't make a blind bit of difference to the ConDems in London. Labour's unwillingness to give us Scottish style powers during their 13 years in power has left the Welsh Government unable to 'be the alternative' that Labour are now arguing they can be. Most of the worst cuts will be felt in the non-devolved areas - cuts promised by Labour if they won in Westminster anyway.

Labour have been allowed to get away with this because they know the Welsh media simply does not have the power to sway opinion.

2011 will be Labour's easiest 'opposition' year

The fact is that this so soon after a General Election and with the inherent lack of reach of the Welsh media, people are rewarding Labour for little more than not being the party bringing in the cuts they all promised. This will be temporary. If the polls are correct they will remain in power in Cardiff Bay and eventually they will have to appear like a potential Government in Westminster.

If Ron Davies wins in Caerphilly we could see a Valley's revolution

I don't like to comment on a campaign I am so involved in, despite what others may say, it is very difficult to gauge the result of close seats. However, I am confident Caerphilly is going right down to the wire and we are in it to win it.

If we can win Caerphilly, it could act as a lightning rod for a Plaid revolution in the South East.

Plaid need to be measured post-election

Hand on heart, it's been a pretty static campaign in general. We have hardly seen any deviation in the polls, it's been stop start with the holidays, the Royal Wedding etc. It's been very difficult for Plaid to change the political tide. Many will offer reasons as to where we went right and where we went wrong, but I believe we have been unlucky in that the focus is still on London. While we can work the ground war in seats, the air war in the media (that swings people we cannot reach) is being fought in a different place.

I also think it would be unrealistic to measure the 'being in Government' factor at this election. Labour's poll rating is not because of One Wales, it is because they are given equal UK media time to oppose the Tory Cuts.

Given this, I hope that we don't get carried away either way. From what I understanding the margin between 12 or 15 seats was quite small and even holiding our vote might not bring us the same seats.

I believe we have alot to be positive about

We probably all wish there was more movement's in polls during this campaign, but ultimately I believe Plaid are winning the war. I believe this election will feature famous victories, down to the wire races and new areas of Growth.

All that's left is the results.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Victims of our own success

It’s beginning to feel like Groundhog Day: every morning the meeja are summoned to some inane photo opportunity in some poor unsuspecting town; the respective machines reel off constant announcements and statements (go visit the Steamie to see how relentless they are); news programmes dutifully report the day’s headlines and if they’re really lucky, a gaffe. And then everyone goes leafleting, canvassing, to hustings and meetings and then they do it all again the next day. Yep, so far, so dull.

From Better Nation.

It isn't just Wales then who is having a flat campaign. To a Welsh politico this is unbelievable; imagine the excitement in Wales if we had a media focusing relentlessly on Welsh issues, a nationalist party on the cusp of a majority for an independence referendum, the polls altering dramatically over the last few months and Labour looking for a game changer to pull victory out of the jaws of defeat?

But I actually think all campaigns have become flat. Perhaps this is because campaigns have almost become too professional, too '100% success' too Starbucks in their goals. Parties I believe embrace the Cannibalization strategy.

This leads to often similar policy platforms (if you cannot beat them join them) to voters but also when a genuinely different idea breaks through it is browbeaten by crass attacks from others. I will put my money on the fact that the new Welsh Government will adopt a version of Plaid's Build for Wales idea, with or without Plaid in Government. Yet this was attacked by the other parties.

It also leads to very professional campaigns, despite the rise in social media, that cannot tolerate anything but perfect coverage. Anything as normal as meeting the odd shouty, sweary bloke who hates all politicians for reasons only known to himself is seen in politics land as a 'gaffe' or a 'crisis'.

Anything as normal as bumping into non-plussed voters, or voters hostile to your party is seen as a mistake and an image problem. You might think me naive, but in the long run the best way to promote your party is to present things sometimes as they are. That is not some naive kamakazi call for things to go to pot, but I do think that we will never get game changing campaigns if all parties seek to stick ten men behind the ball, rather than try and score some goals.

And given it was Plaid who needed to make this a far more explosive campaign, perhaps there is a lesson in there. I do accept and understand however that a good deal of people are now somehow accustomed to the 'professionalisation' of political presentation - the actor politician/party.

While I would not expect sympathy, the more the public understand what political campaign and elections are about (and let's be honest - someone has to win the election and run the Government - which I do wonder whether those refusenik seem unwilling to care about), the more we might be able to score hits and roll with the punches.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

You are only as good as your weakest seat...

No doubt many will hardly feel any sympathy, but political campaigners have had a pretty tough year. Tough in terms of the General election, referendum, Welsh Election being a huge drain on resources of every kind.

Like any organisation such as businesses, it is difficult to assess things strategically in the medium and long term when the short term is so hectic and challenging.

The one thing that struck me from last year's Westminster general election was that Plaid were losing deposits, particularly the two lost in Newport. In my own seat in Torfaen we didn't but we wasn't far off. This is not a criticism to say that as a party of Wales we should not be losing any deposits in national elections.

To return to the strategic planning point, we have as a party been all hands to the pump on 'election' footing for pretty much 18 months. With a week to go and with one massive push ahead, I can safely say I am looking forward to a rest (and bear in mind many more people have done far more than me!). Given this, it is difficult to plan for things, notice things and develop things outside of that electioneering.

Plaid are a very professional party it must be said so planning is carried out well. But I hope we as a party with no national elections until the Euro ones in 2014, focus on things outside of target seats*. To be perfectly frank, we can look at raising the vote by 1000 in our third city of Newport an provide resources to do so.

In the longer term, small gains in places that are not our target seats is massively important to the list vote and given I fully expect 80 AMs in the future (with 40 being regional/proportionally elected), then it's vital.

Don't get it twisted, in places like Torfaen and Newport we work our butt off with limited resources. Some of that work will bear fruit this year and certainly next year, but the next few years, out of the necessary election war footing, we need to firm up and develop Plaid support in new areas. This will take hard work and strategic support - some Plaid possess in abundance.

*Before anyone pipes up - I am a candidate in 2012, it's going to be the most important one ever for me, but you catch my drift. In fact, winning council seats is an absolute necessity to grow the Plaid vote (it's pretty true that my personal vote is bigger than the Plaid vote - but I am starting to get the Plaid vote to solidify and then catch up). This is the template for growth surely.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Carwyn dances to an altogether darker tune

Social security, benefits and most economic levers are not devolved. Labour could win 60 seats next week and none of these things will alter. It is a cowardice that a party that have stood solely on being against the Tories lack the cahones to take control of areas that will remain in the hands of those same Tory ogres.

And to be fair, I would happily prefer Labour AMs to be in charge of those policies rather than Tory (or indeed Labour) MPs. MPs in a Westminster context are beholden to swing seats in commuter towns in England, a rabid media that places scandal, pseudo racism and right wing nastiness at it's heart and the mythical 'middle England'.

All this is irrelevant though. Peter Hain's anonymous spokesperson made it crystal clear - anything not devolved is Ed Milliband's and MPs territory. Carwyn Jones is a siloed HR manager. So let's be clear what Labour's policy is in non-devolved areas and who is leading the debate on something like welfare reform.

Blue Labour.

Carwyn Jones could barricade himself to the IPPR office in protest, but the fact is that these policies are outside his payroll. It is why Peter Hain can vote for tuition fees, prescription charges etc for English voters, but then champion opposing them in Wales. It's why Carwyn Jones presents himself as the 'alternative' to the Browne report on tuition fees...commissioned by...Labour in Westminster.

Blue Labour is Labour in Westminster. It is the direction of thinking for all non-devolved areas. Carwyn Jones could be more left wing than Welsh Ramblings and this would not change - Heir to Blair, Heir to Blair, PFI, PFI.

Good post here by Ramblings.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

A flat campaign with a few bumps ahead

A number of respected commentators have put forward a sense of this campaign being a rather flat one. I recommend Gareth's post too.

I concur to a certain degree. Nationally the story, the debate that aroused passion, was the referendum on March 3rd. It was always going to be the context maker for this campaign, albeit perhaps not in a way I expected at the time. Had that referendum had been lost, you would have got all hell breaking lose and as a spectator a much more interesting campaign. One thing it truly immersed me in as Plaid member was the dual purpose to being a Plaid member - the goals as a party and the national goals for Wales.

Ultimately the national story was the referendum. I do wonder whether the dynamic of the campaign would have been different if the two votes were held on the same day?

Privately I remarked that Labour were using the referendum far more agressively as an election kick off. It would be crass to suggest, without empirical evidence, that this gave Labour a running start over the other parties. But Labour clearly gave their main theme (Vote Labour, the Tory are shits and will cut everything and by the way forget we was going to cut the same anyway) a test drive.

It was telling that Carwyn Jones was at pains to list things in Labour's manifesto that could not have been delivered under the previous system. But let's be honest here, Carwyn Jones is a far calmer presence than Rhodri Morgan in the media and has a party back feeling comfortable in it's own skin (many a 40+ Labour activist cut their political teeth opposing the Tories). Carwyn does autopilot very well thank you, hence why Labour is so keen to amble along.

Nationally also I think that the sun still has not set on the General election. Given the game changing nature of the last UK election (the first one since 1997 where the result was in doubt in the midst of massive economic upheaval), these arguments have been done to death - by the politicians, the media and let's be honest a pretty weary electorate.

It has been a challenge for Plaid, despite having genuinely fresh ideas, to shift that focus on Tory cuts, AV, Lib Dem betrayal and the luxury of opposition but equal media time for the UK Labour Party.

Added to this in terms of it being flat - the lib dems have been all but wiped out as potential challengers. In 2007 they were live wire opponents in Newport East, Labour was genuinely worried in such seats. Realistically the Lib Dems have been forgotten about in terms of winning new seats, merely holding on. Ditto the Tories, who I think privately admit staying still is about right.

This is not me talking down Plaid's chances, but merely why the campaign has failed to spark. To be perfectly honest, Labour could get the same 26 seats an Ed Milliband wouldn't worry, in Scotland they are shitting a brick.


That is the national narrative, one that simply is only a partial analysis. Seats that are in danger of changing hands are often beholden to local factors and about street by street campaigning. In Caerphilly this has been evident - the Plaid vote is absolutely rock solid and growing in our strong areas, built on continual growth at local election level (Plaid have double the county councillors than Labour in Caerphilly). Ron Davies has the profile to reach out to Labour voters and his personal vote alike. Even voices who question if they can vote for Plaid are often put at ease when they realise that the only way to have Ron Davies as your AM is to vote for the party he is standing for.

I digress and don't like to talk up or down chances, as it's hard even embedded in a campaign to really get a sense. But ultimately my point was that national polls can never tell the tale (I think Labour have realised this in terms of taking anything further than the obvious targets) of the local seats.