Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood

Last week I argued that Plaid and the Greens should make electoral pacts to protect (and maybe win) seats for Plaid. My argument was that Plaid and the Greens agreed on enough for this to make sense.

I got a lot of feedback. Much of it was highlighting genuine policy differences, differing values and ideologies. But the big reason the pacts won’t happen is they involve the Greens backing existing Plaid candidates. The surging Green Party essentially stands aside in several constituencies. This doesn’t feel like something a growing political party should do. Green and Plaid supporters on both sides of the debate identified this.

For the pacts to happen the Greens need something in return. So here is my proposal. The Welsh Assembly elections will be in May 2016. Plaid could help the Greens get an Assembly Member. It’s that simple. The Greens help Plaid win Ceredigion and maybe keep Arfon and Carmarthenshire East. Then in 2016 Plaid help the Greens get one of their people into the Senedd. The Greens and Plaid should make a long term agreement that extends over this year’s general election, and next year’s Assembly election.

To understand how this would work requires delving into how Assembly Members are elected in Wales. (Skip the next two paragraphs if you don’t want – or need – the background). There are 60 assembly members. 40 of the are elected in exactly the same way MPs are elected to Westminster. The remaining 20 seats are elected in a way that makes the final mix of AMs better reflect the vote shares of the parties. These 20 seats are split up amongst several mega-regions within Wales. So Mid and West Wales elects another 4 AMs. We vote for these in a separate ballot. And the seats are allocated using the D’Hondt proportional representation system. But the number of AMs won in the constituency part of the election affects the number of AMs each party is likely to get in the regions. Winning lots of constituency AMs makes it harder to pick up regional AMs.

I said the system “better reflects” vote share because the system isn’t completely proportional. Last time the Greens got enough votes that if the system was completely proportional they would have landed an AM.

In 2011 Plaid took one regional seat in Mid and West Wales. I think they are likely take two in 2016. Some extra Green votes would make this even more likely. Plaid and the Green Party could present a joint list for Mid and West Wales. The first person on the list would be a Plaid person. The second would be a Green. The likelihood is that this joint list would send two people to Cardiff as AMs. (h/t Adam Ramsay for the idea)

I don’t think the Greens will take an Assembly seat in Mid and West Wales on their own. They took just over 8500 votes last time. The Greens would need nearly 13,5000 to secure seat. A jump of over 50%. A joint list with Plaid would pretty much guarantee the Greens an AM. This is win-win for the Greens. They get an AM and they couldn’t have taken Ceredigion on their own. So in actual bums on seats the Greens do well. Plaid would be one AM down. But they could also be one MP up.

So the final outcome of this two-election pact could be:

  • One new anti-austerity MP in parliament. Check. (Plaid in Ceredigion)
  • Two anti-austerity MPs seats protected. Check, check. (Plaid in Arfon and Carmarthenshire East)
  • The first Green Assembly Member in the Senedd. Check.

Not making a pact only serves our opponents. Let’s make it happen.

Editor’s Note (JM): I got in touch with the Ceredigeon Green Party candidate Daniel Thompson on Tuesday to ask if he would consider standing aside for Plaid Cymru. Here’s the response:

“Plaid are not the Greens and given the unprecedented surge in support we have had lately it seems odd to be asked such a question. As I have said to them this is about giving people the chance to vote for what they believe in.”

No luck yet, then…