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15 September 2021

The dilemma facing Plaid Cymru

The party must decide whether to focus on differentiating itself from Welsh Labour or whether to help shape the government.

By Stephen Bush

The Welsh Labour party and Plaid Cymru are inching towards a cooperation agreement that would give Welsh Labour a reliable (or at least somewhat more reliable) path to a majority in the Senedd.

Following Mark Drakeford’s election-winning heroics in May, the Welsh Labour government has 30 seats in the Senedd, equalling its best ever election result – but one short of a majority. Most people I’ve spoken to in Welsh Labour would prefer to go back into coalition with the Liberal Democrats – but the problem is what they really mean by that is a coalition with Kirsty Williams, who has now retired and is therefore unavailable. Jane Dodds, her replacement as the Senedd’s sole Liberal Democrat, is minded to seek influence on a case-by-case basis rather than in coalition. 

Plaid Cymru are also dubious about a full tie-up, as it feel it lost its distinctiveness during the ‘One Wales’ coalition government in 2007 – so a partnership deal between the Senedd’s first party and its third does make a lot of sense.

But it does create problems for Plaid Cymru: its leader Adam Price was and is absolutely right to believe that his party’s interests lie in separating its identity from Welsh Labour’s. His difficulty is, his party’s interests also lie in helping to produce social democratic government in Wales. Finding a way to balance those competing interests will decide whether at the next election Plaid Cymru are able to call the shots, or if they are once again just a possible junior partner for Welsh Labour.

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