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.


  1. "Nationally also I think that the sun still has not set on the General election." - Good point.
    One I missed in my blog.

  2. Thanks.

    The debate has not really shifted in Westminster for understandable reasons. The new government is pinning their current policies on the old Government's mistakes and with the added novelty of a coalition.

    There was no 'new broom' so to speak.

  3. Good blog Marcus. I think you're right to sit back and survey the scenery for a moment. This is a curious election in many ways, and one in which Plaid is actually doing pretty well in terms of thinking and acting like a mature, responsible party, with good policies and good leadership. It is also an election which takes us another step away from the old, pre-devolution Wales. The future is exciting for Plaid and for Wales!