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The Common Ground Alliance

Our Monitoring Officer Fergus Turtle takes a look at the alliance between Plaid Cymru and the Green Party at the Local Elections

Here’s a question for the political anoraks: who was the first MP to be elected under the description ‘Green’?

The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is not Caroline Lucas but Cynog Dafis. Elected as MP for Ceredigion and Pembroke North in 1992, Dafis stood under a coalition between Plaid Cymru and the Green Party from 1991 to 1995.

Though Dafis later said he did not consider himself the ‘first Green MP’, this alliance is part of a long history of cooperation between the two parties.

They fielded a joint candidate for the Monmouth by-election of 1991, although only managing an unimpressive 0.6% of the vote. In the 2003 and 2007 elections to the National Assembly, the Greens stood only on regional lists, endorsing Plaid Cymru in the constituencies.

Then there was the Unite to Remain alliance of 2019 where Plaid Cymru, the Greens and Liberal Democrats stood down for each other in what were deemed key seats.

All this is to say that this year’s local election alliances between the two parties in no way out of the blue. 

The parties are standing a slate of 71 joint candidates this year across Cardiff and 10 joint candidates in Swansea, alongside 17 Plaid Cymru only and 2 Green only candidates.

In the capital the two parties have formed the ‘Common Ground Alliance’. Aimed at attacking the incumbent Labour administration’s record from the left, the alliance has pledged to increase council housing, focus on green transport, and overhaul planning in the city.

Cardiff Labour’s most significant opposition has historically come from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Plaid Cymru have struggled to make headway peaking at 7 councillors in 2008. In 2017 they only managed 3 seats, all elected from the Fairwater ward. All three of these have left Plaid Cymru to join the new Propel party set up by councillor and former Member of the Senedd Neil McEvoy. 

Due to a young and diverse population the city has also been one of the Wales Green Party’s strongest areas with them gaining 7.8% of the regional vote in Cardiff Central at last year’s Senedd election. Despite this the party have never managed to gain a council seat.

Both parties are hoping that their combination will prove more than the sum of its parts, but they have a long way to go before seriously challenging Labour’s hegemony. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how the alliance fares in Cardiff’s central wards, allowing them to replace the Liberal Democrats as the challenger to Labour there and enabling Plaid to break out of their heartlands west of the Taf. This will be especially important for Cardiff Plaid as the can no longer rely on their councillors’ personal vote in Fairwater.

In Swansea both parties have even less history of success, hence the alliances smaller slate and lower profile here. The aim for the Swansea parties is to gain some representation to build on. Failing that they hope that they can at least cut down Labour’s sizeable majorities to make more promising targets next time around.

Will these pacts prove successful? History shows us that a combined Plaid Cymru/Green ticket can find success. There’s certainly no evidence that it puts voters off. Success though will hinge on the parties’ abilities to put forward a coherent and compelling vision. Unless they can successfully present themselves as something new to voters, they will likely be judged on the merits of the individual parties, along with all the baggage, rather than part of something bigger. Such an outcome will be unlikely to yield a large change in fortunes.

For a bird's eye view.
Am olwg oddi uchod.

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