Monday, 10 May 2010

Our Future in the Balance

Gan Daniel Pryce Lawrence

Well, its all over. Or is it? As it seemed likely, we are now in Hung (Balanced) Parliament territory, and predicting what will happen in the coming days and weeks is not an easy game. As I write this the talks between the parties are in full swing. But can all these parties, with their different ideologies and plans for the future of the UK form some sort of stable government? Will it be a Tory/Lib Dem government or will we see a rainbow coalition of the 'progressive' parties to fend off the Tory threat, the arithmetic is there, but only just. Can Plaid secure a good deal for Wales at the end off all this?

It has to be said it was not a great night for Plaid on May 6th, we failed to gain our main target seats of Llanelli, Ynys Mon, Ceredigion and Aberconwy, although we did put ourselves in a strong position for next years Assembly elections. But what went wrong? There certainly wasn't a lack of effort on the part of Plaid Cymru and Cymru X activists. Was it the parties campaign strategy? Plaid have always struggled in UK elections compared to Assembly elections, where it is more difficult to stress the importance of our unique message in the wider British context. But one factor that played against us must have been the impact of the leaders debates on the whole campaign.

The UK leadership debates focused minds on the 3 main London parties, and these debates essentially became the election campaign for each of the parties. Even the supposedly 'slick' media performer David Cameron suffered from these with his poor first performance, but at least he had the exposure and the opportunity to rectify it. It was argued that Plaid wasn't going to form the next government and being a relatively small player had no right to access this potential game changer. It sounds fair enough if we are looking at things from a UK wide perspective, but from a Welsh one it wasn't. British media is Welsh media to all intents and purposes, and we sadly suffer from Wales' poor media sector. One national newspaper read by less than 70 000 people will not give us a good opportunity to act on an equal playing field.

It seems that Plaid was squeezed at this election, and we struggled to really make the argument for major change that people are really screaming out for. The sad fact is that if Plaid had won an extra 4 MP's, we would have had much more of a positive change here in Wales, then a couple of extra Tories, Liberals or Labour members could ever make.

Despite all this, change does now seem inevitable, whether for the good of Wales or bad we are yet to see. The last couple of days of election fallout have been fascinating, and it is clear that whatever happens now British politics will be changed for ever. As I write this I have learned that Gordon Brown has stated his intention to step down as Labour leader and therefore Prime Minister, and a rainbow coalition of the progressive parties has become a more realistic option. Plaid could make real gains for Wales.

Let us hope in the days ahead that in the ashes of the old politics, a new more open and fair politics can emerge. I for one would be keen to see a change in the voting system, and a move towards a fairer more proportional system of electing our representatives. I have heard from a number of people since the election telling me that they had voted, but that it was a waste because their chosen candidate had no hope of winning. There can be no greater incentive for young people to vote tactically in the future (where we would find ourselves only ever voting against something rather than for something), or not to vote at all when faced with democratic choices in the future. At a time when people have less trust in political institutions and the political establishment than they have had for decades, and when cynicism rules, surely it is time we re-adjusted the system to give power back to the people. This is our perfect opportunity.

Gan Daniel Pryce Lawrence
South Wales East Representative

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