The Green Party and Plaid Cymru should make three strategic pacts in Wales
- Alex Randall lives in Machynlleth and has worked on a number of climate change campaigns and projects. He is writing here in a personal capacity.
Plaid Cymru have already called on people in England to vote for the Green Party. The Green Party did not reciprocate by asking green sympathisers in Wales to vote Plaid. To some extent this is understandable as the Greens are standing candidates in many Welsh constituencies.
However, there are three constituencies where pacts should be made. These pacts would protect existing Plaid seats. And tantalisingly open up the possibility of a Plaid / Green alliance taking a seat from the Lib Dems.
Plaid hold three seats in Wales. Dwyfor Meirionnydd is a Plaid stronghold. They will keep it this election without anyone’s help. Plaid’s other two seats are not quite as safe. There is a risk that the surging Green Party could erode some of the Plaid vote in these areas and the seats could be lost. Or even if it isn’t the Greens taking Plaid votes, then new Green voters could bolster Plaid. By forming pacts, Plaid and the Greens could deliver an even more comfortable majority.
In 2010 Plaid took Arfon (a new constituency) with a 5.6% lead over Labour. This lead is predicted to be eroded to only 1.5% – or just under 400 votes. The Green Party didn’t field a candidate in 2010, but are predicted to take over 3% of the vote in May. A Plaid / Green pact would produce a majority of nearer 5% of make a much safer win for Plaid.
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, is in a similar but slightly stronger position. Plaid took the seat last time with a 9% lead. That lead is predicted to drop to 5% this time around. Plaid will probably hold the seat. But why risk it? A Plaid / Green pact would certainly deliver the seat with a comfortable(ish) majority.
Ceredigion: this where it gets exciting. The Lib Dems are predicted to win the seat. But only just. They might hold the seat with a 1.1% majority. The Electoral Calculus website predicts the percentages like this for May. Lib Dems: 30.1%, Plaid 29%, Greens 7.4%. Plaid and the Greens – you do the maths. Make a pact and you’ll take this seat from the Lib Dems. Don’t form a pact and the Lib Dems will probably keep it. Sure, Plaid might take it on their own. Or they might not. But a pact would deliver the seat, possibly with a 6% majority. This worked before. In 1992 a Plaid / Green pact won the seat, taking it from the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems re-took the seat in 2005 when the Greens fielded their own candidate. The Greens took over 800 votes. The Lib Dems beat Plaid by just over 200 votes.
The problem for the Greens is that in each of these pacts they would be the smaller partner. In each case delivering under 1000 votes to a pact in which Plaid would bring upwards of 12,000. In practice these pacts would mean Greens campaigning for a Plaid candidate.
My sense is that these pacts will probably not be made. But that this is because both Plaid and the Greens misunderstand each other’s politics. The Greens (wrongly) see Plaid as a party only focused on Welsh devolution and championing the Welsh language. Greens often pay little attention to Plaid’s other radical policies. I suspect that many Plaid supporters (again, wrongly) imagine the Green Party as narrowly focused on an environmental agenda and miss the Green’s other radical policies. Many members of both parties support them as part of a profoundly held expression of their identity. Making pacts would require members of both parties to seek out areas where those identities over lap. Or to see past identity and focus on areas of shared policy.
And these areas of shared policy are very strong. Both parties support radical devolution. Both parties oppose austerity. Both parties oppose privatisation, especially of the NHS. Plaid and the Greens present a united front against neoliberalism and the ever growing dominance of wealthy interests over the interests of ordinary people. Of course there are areas where the parties do not see eye to eye. But on the defining issues of this election – austerity, privatisation and the NHS – Plaid and the Greens are on the same page.
The Greens might ask – “well, what do we get in return?”. Probably the vote of every Plaid sympathiser living in England. And this has already been called for by the Plaid leadership. In order for any of this to happen the Green Party leadership in Wales needs to encourage, rather than discourage these pacts. At the moment the Green Party leader in Wales – Pippa Bartalotti – has ruled out any pacts. The first step towards creating these pacts is that the Green Party leadership must be publicly open to them.