Wales politics

Plaid Cymru 'genuinely torn' over coalition with Labour

Leanne Wood Image copyright Getty Images

Plaid Cymru is "actively considering" whether to seek a coalition with Labour, leader Leanne Wood has said.

Plaid is cooperating with Labour's minority government from opposition.

Ms Wood said there was "ongoing discussion" about whether it was better to formally share power, with members genuinely torn over the "dilemma".

But Plaid Cymru AM Neil McEvoy said that the agreed official position was against coalition and "reports to the contrary surprise me".

The South Wales Central AM is due to speak at a fringe meeting at Plaid Cymru's conference on Saturday in opposition to joining Labour in the Welsh Government.

But Ms Wood told BBC Wales that her party was "actively considering this all the time".

"This question of how best Plaid Cymru can play a role that protects Wales' best interests," she said.

"We have taken the view thus far that we can use this minority government situation to get as many of our manifesto commitments through and to influence other aspects like legislation, like the debate on Brexit.

"But we have also taken the view that the government deserves opposition as well and scrutiny and we can't afford to leave it just to the parties of the right to do that."

"That could change as time goes on, but as things stand at the moment the compact has served us well and the fact that we've managed to deliver £119m worth of our commitments in the budget shows that it's working quite well for us at the moment."

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Media captionNeil McEvoy "would not describe the party as torn" over the question of coalition

The compact was the agreement Plaid made with Labour to allow Carwyn Jones to return as first minister, a week after he and Ms Wood were deadlocked in a vote to take the top job.

The two parties have a "good working relationship", she said, but there remained big differences between them over Brexit.

Ms Wood added: "I think people [in Plaid] are genuinely torn between the two views of whether or not they [Labour] are so bad at governing that we should be in there helping them, or they are doing such a bad job they need to be held to account with a strong opposition. This is the dilemma.

"I think that's the conundrum for most members."

Simon Thomas, who represented Plaid Cymru in the compact negotiations, stressed what he saw as the success of the arrangement, while accepting that some in his party were pushing for a place in government.

The Mid and West Wales AM said: "Though there's always been, and always will be in Welsh politics, discussion about coalitions we have an actual relationship with the Welsh Government which I want to see work because I think it's delivered in the budget process.

"I think we need to maintain that going forward as the most appropriate method for challenging the government and holding them to account whilst, of course, not being in coalition with them."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A Labour deal with Plaid meant Carwyn Jones kept his job as first minister after the assembly election

Plaid will use its conference in Llangollen to demonstrate t secured concessions in this week's draft budget including more money for higher education and medical training.

As a result, Plaid plans to abstain on voting on the budget, which will allow the Labour-led Welsh Government's spending plans to pass.

However, Ms Wood said it was "Labour's budget" and "not our programme".

'Plagued with insecurity'

The Conservatives said the budget deal was proof Plaid was propping up Labour.

Former Plaid AM Lord Elis-Thomas quit the party last week, saying it was not serious about working with Labour.

Other leading figures in the party are known to be in favour of working more closely with Labour.

A Tory spokesman called Ms Wood's comments about coalition "knee-jerk stuff from a leader plagued with insecurity, seeking at all costs to avoid further mutiny from her members by rushing to do a budget deal with Labour, and in the process, attempting to publicly undo the damaging comments inflicted by Dafydd Elis-Thomas".

"In her indecision to form a coalition with Labour, her ambition to reverse the will of the Welsh people after the EU referendum, and her failure to manage her members, Leanne Wood's leadership is painfully on the wane," the spokesman added.

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