Leanne Wood, UKIP and that Progressive Alliance

The last time Neil Hamilton was national political news was in 1997 when he lost his Tatton Parliamentary seat to Martin Bell, following the “cash for questions” affair.  Nineteen years on, he is headline news again; elected to the Welsh Assembly for UKIP, rapidly gaining the UKIP leadership in Wales and – if reports are true – apparently cooking up a deal with Plaid Cymru to allow Leanne Wood to become First Minister.

It’s an unlikely alliance.  Here is the leader of Plaid Cymru, a party who have made their pitch as being anti-austerity, and whose members routinely abuse Labour on social media and elsewhere as Red Tories, cutting a deal with an English nationalist party of the far right led by a man who refuses even to live in Wales.  And all this in the name of undermining a Labour Party which, for all the problems it faced in the elections, remains comfortably the largest party in Wales, one seat short of an outright Senedd majority under an electoral system designed to prevent such majorities, and one seat below the record result it achieved in its annus mirabilis of 2011.  Is this really what those people who voted Plaid last week wanted?

We are a long way from the talk of a progressive alliance between the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party.  The SNP still talks the anti-austerity talk, while refusing to use Holyrood’s new financial powers to alleviate it.  Last week the Greens put the Tories into office on Norfolk County Council, after complaining that the Labour administration wasn’t opposing the Government’s devolution campaign vigorously enough.  It’s becoming increasingly clear that the participants in the alleged Progressive Alliance are united less by a desire to effect change than a desire to undermine the Labour Party; and are quite prepared to cut deals with Tories and even UKIP when it suits them.  It’s not progressive at all; it’s cynical, self-indulgent and frivolous.

It’s worse in Wales when one remembers that we are in the midst of a crisis in the steel industry that threatens tens of thousands of jobs in some of the poorest communities in Britain.  The very last thing those people and communities need is a political crisis, undermining the ability of the Welsh government to negotiate with authority (unless you are prepared to believe that an alliance between Plaid, UKIP and the Tory Party would provide the coherent and authoritative voice at the negotiating table that Wales needs).  Above all, it’s a disgracefully irresponsible piece of behaviour that ultimately shows real contempt for the people of Wales.

And as far as progressive is concerned, how about Labour’s record here in Wales?  How about free prescriptions (with Labour being the only party prepared to give an unequivocal assurance that they would continue)?  How about the increased resources for the NHS, with no doctors’ strike, no outsourcing, no PFI, no privatisation?  Or Flying Start, or the retention of EMA?  Or Labour’s childcare pledges?  Or keeping student debt down? Or the jobs that Labour has brought to Wales because its Ministers have been credible and indefatigable negotiators?  Just how progressive do you want?  And does anyone – anyone at all – seriously believe that a Plaid – Tory – UKIP government could really set aside what we were assured were the profound ideological differences between the parties, even if Leanne Wood wanted to retain those fine things?  And where does Leanne Wood stand now on issues like the EU, or immigration, if she’s happy to rely on UKIP votes to embarass Labour?

It’s obvious that Plaid Cymru has a lot of explaining to do.  They need to explain why, in the face of their rhetoric in the election, they’re prepared to sit in alliance with the Tories, let alone UKIP.  They need to explain exactly what unites what Lib Dem AM Kirsty Williams rightly called “a ragbag coalition”.

And perhaps – just perhaps – we’ve heard the last of the Red Tories jibes.  But that would imply that Plaid has a sense of shame.

2 thoughts on “Leanne Wood, UKIP and that Progressive Alliance

  1. Neil has allowed his hatred for the Greens, Plaid and SNP get in the way of clear facts

    Leanne Wood *has* explained. There is no alliance with UKIP or the Tories. There was simply a vote because Labour refused to talk first.

    Labour and Plaid are now talking and let’s hope there will be some kind of agreement, which is as Leanne Wood said, should have happened in the first place.

    And here is where there is a degree of hypocrisy about Neil’s post, if working with either the Tories or UKIP is a problem: Neil’s mention of Norfolk.

    At first, as a Green living in Brighton, I was concerned at the news of Green councillors siding with the Tories in Norfolk at the expense of Labour. That is until you look at the facts.

    The Greens didn’t vote for a Tory leader they abstained on the leadership. This let in a Tory leader instead of a Labour leader. So now there is a Tory minority council.

    But the alternative wasn’t, I REPEAT *WASN’T* a progressive alternative. The alternative was a Rainbow Alliance of mainly Labour and UKIP, with Lib Dem and Green support.

    So if never working with UKIP is Neil’s argument, then the Greens did the right thing.

    There is also Portsmouth, where, in 2014, as I understand it, a Conservative council was created with Labour and UKIP support at the expense of Liberal Democrats.

    From afar, these things all look shocking but local and regional politics is complex and often is about challenging hegemony.

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