Positioning Plaid for power

Andrew RT Davies and Leanne Wood
Image caption Does Leanne Wood need to move Plaid Cymru closer to the worldview of Tories like Andrew RT Davies?

In a guest blog, Aled ap Dafydd relays talk within Plaid Cymru circles about the need to keep an equal distance from Labour and the Conservatives.

As the renowned home of the International Eisteddfod, they call Llangollen the town where Wales welcomes the world. When Plaid Cymru met there in March for their spring conference there were no singers and dancers greeting Leanne Wood.

Instead there was a stark warning from MP Jonathan Edwards, warning that the party faces "oblivion" if it lurches to the left.

It's know as chucking a grenade, a bit of friendly fire to get a debate going. But what became of it?

On Saturday Plaid's elected representatives had an important engagement - no, not that one.

They met in Aberystwyth - nothing out of the ordinary was the impression given to journalists by AM Simon Thomas in a briefing last week.

But there were some extraordinary things said behind closed doors.

Twice a year I enjoy my five minutes of jousting with Adam Price on conference programmes. He's the type of politician who gives as good as he gets, a raconteur with a killer quote.

Two stand out in recent times. Looking ahead to the party's electoral fortunes he told our conference programme audience that "the tectonic plates are shifting" and predicted a "political earthquake".

The candid version however is rather different.

Image caption Adam Price reportedly gave a "reality check" on Plaid's chances at the 2021 assembly election

On Saturday in Aberystwyth, Adam Price gave what sounds like a sober analysis of Plaid's prospects looking ahead to the assembly election in 2021.

It was described as a "reality check" by one person and as a "realistic discussion" by another. Another view is this was a conversation the party hadn't faced up to for years.

You cannot decouple the issue of electoral success, or lack of, from that of positioning. There are many in the party who believe that the only way of having a Plaid first minister is to work with the Conservatives. Tory leader Andrew RT Davies is already publicly saying he's ready to cooperate.

Not even a sunny day by the sea brought the NEC to a point of agreeing a policy and, under the Plaid constitution, members would have the final say.

But the term "equidistance" is now doing the rounds and was mentioned in Aberystwyth. It means Plaid putting an equal amount of distance between themselves and the Tories and Labour.

This is significant because apart from the flirtation with a rainbow coalition in 2007 Plaid have never looked at the Tories with the same begrudgingly sympathetic eyes as they've viewed Labour.

Brexit has changed all that and the assembly vote on the EU Withdrawal Bill looks like a defining turning point in the Plaid/Labour relationship.

I'm told that Saturday's debate around positioning was conducted in good spirit with an appreciation that people had differing views.

But working with the Conservatives would be inconceivable for the current leader, a point that Leanne Wood has made several times.

As it happens the official window for a Plaid AM to challenge her is now open. Whether someone does or doesn't could in large part determine Plaid Cymru's positional game plan for the next three years.

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