By Robert Wigin.
Plaid Cymru has ended its ‘compact’ deal with Labour. The deal, signed after last year’s assembly election ended in deadlock, which meant that Plaid would support Labour’s programme of legislation despite being the largest opposition party. In return, Plaid were able to discuss Labour policy areas on a privileged basis. Effectively, Labour’s coalition majority has now fallen from eleven seats to just one.
In a letter to all party members, Plaid leader Leanne Wood stated: “The compact has secured funding towards Plaid Cymru’s priorities totalling half a billion pounds, enabling us to implement around 50% of our 2016 nation-building manifesto.” Wood cited several other Plaid policies which the agreement helped pass and went on to say: “The Compact enabled us to have influence without losing the right to vote against the government at any point, which we did on issues including consent for the Wales Act and the triggering of Article 50.”
Plaid announced its decision days after agreeing that Labour’s budgets for this year and the next would go unopposed by the assembly. Speaking to BBC Wales about the end of the compact, Leanne Wood, said that “this way now, it will be much clearer and cleaner what Plaid Cymru’s job of work is.” Although it seems that she has been indecisive about what the party’s ‘job of work’ should be herself. Her main objective will now be to oppose Labour in the Senedd and look to the next election to gain seats.
The compact was agreed upon after the Welsh Assembly failed to reappoint Carwyn Jones as First Minister with the vote count ending 29-29, Leanne Wood having run against him the backing of the Conservatives and UKIP. The agreement meant that Labour’s Carwyn Jones would be reappointed as First Minister, ending the crisis at the Senedd. At the time, Labour’s Westminster MP for Pontypridd, Owen Smith, said that “any claim Leanne Wood had to be a socialist or Plaid to be a progressive party has just been destroyed by her alliance with the Tories and UKIP”.
It seems odd that Plaid did not go in to a coalition with Labour if the compact created a nearly identical situation to that. Perhaps the ‘arrogance’ which both Labour and Plaid accused each other of being guilty when election campaigns were being conducted last year meant that a more productive coalition could not be created.
For the Labour party, the main outcome of Plaid’s decision is the loss of their effective majority over the assembly. This will make Carwyn Jones’s job harder but not impossible.
The move to end the compact shows that Plaid have failed in leading a strong opposition against Welsh Labour for the current political term. Welsh Conservative leader, Andrew RT Davies, described the ‘compact’ as “ineffective” and emphasised that the main objective of a government is to pass its budgets, something which Plaid have allowed Labour to do. He also stated that it would still be “business as usual for Plaid and Labour”.