What is it with Labour leaders?
How Plaid Cymru abandoned some of the traditional ways of communicating with voters...
What is it with Labour leaders and announcing retirement dates? Hot on the heels of Blair’s decision that he would not serve a full third term, Rhodri Morgan announced that his preference would be to go in 2009, around halfway through the third National Assembly.
Saying when you intend leaving is never a good thing for a political leader as Blair has found out. It inevitably erodes authority and creates a power vacuum. This problem has dogged New Labour in London, despite having a successor in waiting. Imagine the situation in Wales, where half a dozen names can be thrown into the pot.
The words ‘sack’, ‘ferrets’ come to mind – not necessarily in that order. The situation is compounded in Wales, as the Labour party is fundamentally split between a ‘Unionist’ and ‘Welsh’ wing. Between those in essence who support devolution in an evolutionary manner and those who would pull up the handbrake and look for reverse.
The consequence has been the most basic of election strategies, void from vision and ideas. Surely we have a right to deserve better from a party that has governed for 8 years, and who had driven through a new (very weak) Government of Wales Act, presumably with some idea with what they wanted to do with the new limited powers.
The Labour party are fighting the most negative campaign in modern political history. It seems that the whole campaign is based upon the notion that it’s either them or the Tories. After our leader Ieuan Wyn Jones ruled out serving under a Tory First Minister, Labour’s core message is based on a lie. The final nail came last week when ‘Senior Labour sources’ briefed the BBC that they were actively looking at a Plaid – Labour agreement based on the New Zealand model. No wonder Rhodri has been booed and heckled during this weeks two leadership debates.
The Tories are talking a good game, but two recent polls do not make pleasant reading. David Cameron is desperate for some good news from Wales on Thursday night, but all the evidence seems to suggest that the Tories are failing to mop up votes from Labour’s meltdown.
The Lib Dems have decided to sit the election out, presumably preparing for negotiations after May the 3rd.
All this has gifted an opportunity for Plaid who according to all political commentators in our great nation is fighting the best campaign in our proud history as a party.
On assuming the role of Director of Elections last year, I set ambitious targets for the new National Campaigns Unit the party had set up. I wanted to run the most professional, exciting and innovative campaign in the party’s history.
The party has delivered on all counts. Messaging is consistent and effective; our party’s policy ideas are snazzy and catchy; activists are enthusiastic with well over a million leaflets delivered in 2006 – a non election year; communication techniques are modern and sophisticated. We are ticking all the boxes and more. Admittedly we are faced with a governing party in crisis, but we have made substantial steps forward during this campaign.
The quality of the party’s political broadcasts sums it up really. Pioneering in approach, we have abandoned traditional models and produced a trilogy of broadcasts highlighting some of our exciting policy proposals and creating clear division lines between our approach and the governing party.
I sense a tipping point is out there. The Labour vote is on the verge of relative collapse, and Plaid has put itself in a position to mop up! We’ll have to wait until the early hours of Friday morning to see if we have done enough.