LABOUR insiders who now hope to strike a deal with Plaid Cymru had described the nationalists as “a shambles which could not run a cockle stall, let alone a country,” a leaked document reveals today.
The astonishing document, intended to brief Labour bosses in the run-up to the election, also says Plaid are “leaderless, rudderless, and hopeless”.
It will spark fury in the ranks of Plaid, who are on the verge of striking a deal with Labour and rejecting a rainbow coalition.
Last night the prospect of a Labour-Plaid government running Wales took a huge step forward as the plan was approved by Labour’s Welsh Executive.
Chairman of the Welsh Labour Party Tecwyn Thomas last night confirmed the move and said the decision was either between Labour in government with Plaid Cymru or “the horrific prospect of the Tories back in charge of key public services”.
Plaid’s Assembly group is predicted to back a coalition with Labour this morning, with special meetings of both parties rubber stamping the deal next week.
But the leaking of a report, written by Cabinet special adviser Mark Drakeford, to the Western Mail reflects the hostility towards such a deal held by many within Labour.
It also shows the contempt in which Plaid has been held by senior Labour figures, especially in the run-up to May’s election.
Referring to Plaid, the report says the party:
Is officially the main opposition, but in practice is “a shambles which could not run a cockle stall, let alone a country;
Has been in headlong retreat since 1999, and spent most of the term of the Assembly trying to shore up its heartlands;
Its latest proposals on the Welsh language, for example, show it to be inward and backward looking, trying to preserve the past, rather than make things fit for the future;
Is leaderless, rudderless and hopeless.
Mr Drakeford recommended that the basic political strategy should be to “talk Plaid Cymru down, not up”.
By contrast, his advice was to “talk up the danger the Conservatives pose to Wales – it’s Rhodri or Bourne”.
A Plaid spokesman last night said the election result was proof that Labour’s election strategy hadn’t worked.
The report is a draft Labour election strategy written by Mr Drakeford, who in recent weeks has been a senior Labour negotiator trying to woo Plaid into coalition.
The document is dismissive of the Liberal Democrats, describing them as “bit-part players with no capacity to lead a government”. Mr Drakeford states, “ignore the Liberal Democrats as much as possible”.
Overall, he stresses, “Taken together, our primary political aim is to do whatever we can to expose and disrupt the plans for a grand coalition.
“Inside the Assembly this means acting in ways which divide rather than unite the other parties.
“Outside, it means pushing hard on the challenge to Plaid Cymru and the Lib-Dems to give a guarantee that they will not go into coalition with the Tories.”
Welsh Conservative Assembly leader Nick Bourne said the document will throw plans for a Labour-Plaid deal into disarray.
He said, “This document demonstrates the contempt in which Labour holds Plaid Cymru and its leadership, not to mention their distasteful scorn for the Welsh language.
“It begs the question, ‘If they really believe this, why is Labour now seeking to work with Plaid to shore up its failing minority government?’
“Once again we can see how Rhodri Morgan and Co are unwilling to recognise the reality of Welsh politics without a dominant and arrogant Labour Party at the helm.
“It shows a determination to disrupt the possibility of a ‘grand coalition’ not because it is bad for Wales – which it isn’t – but because it is bad for the Labour Party.
“The comments about Labour being the ‘natural party of government in Wales’ are the height of arrogance and show just how out of touch they have become in recent years.
“Their attitude towards the Conservative Party is stuck in a time warp. They are pandering to outdated and unfounded fears instead of accepting the reality of modern politics.”
Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly leader Mike German said, “This kind of political name-calling is typical Labour behaviour. They will have great difficulty shaking off this set of comments. This will haunt them for the future.”
Former Plaid MP and AM Cynog Dafis said, “I can’t say I’m surprised by Mark Drakeford’s comments, which reflect a fundamental hostility for Plaid Cymru and indeed contempt for its values and principles.
“I wouldn’t expect such views to be held either by members of the Conservative Party or the Liberal Democrats, and I think this demonstrates that the rainbow coalition would mean that Plaid Cymru was in more compatible company to form a constructive government.
“However, I don’t believe that Mark Drakeford’s comments reflect the views of all members of the Labour Party, nor of all Labour AMs.
“What Labour needs to do with the kind of views expressed by Mark Drakeford is to bin them for good if they wish to form any kind of government with Plaid.”
A Welsh Labour spokeswoman said, “All political parties will have attempted to identify weak points in their opponents during an election campaign. It is an old document and it really should be seen in the context in which it was written.
“We have now moved on, and are dealing with the verdict of the voters.”
And a Plaid spokesman said last night, “This is typical electioneering blurb and should not be taken too seriously.
“However, Labour didn’t have the most successful of election campaigns which is proof enough that their strategy didn’t work very well.
“Their willingness to work with Plaid now shows that they have probably acknowledged their past mistakes.”
Meanwhile, former Labour MP Gwynoro Jones yesterday warned Plaid Cymru it will lose significant electoral support if the party joins a Labour-led Assembly coalition.
Mr Jones, the former MP for Carmarthen who stood as an Independent candidate in last month’s Assembly election, said, “Plaid is a broad coalition of members and particularly voters or supporters.
“For years they have benefited from the support of Conservatives, Liberals, social democrats and people of no party who have become disillusioned with politics and especially how Labour has run Wales at local and national level.
“I forecast serious difficulties for Plaid in West, Mid and North Wales should the Plaid-Labour pact take place.
“In the Valleys and Labour heartland the people who support and vote Plaid do so because they are fed up with Labour and how they have ignored their communities. It is an anti-Labour vote they are casting.
“After working hard in the South Wales Valleys since the 1960s, there are elements in Plaid Cymru about to throw all that effort away.
“They should ask themselves why anyone in the Valleys and Labour heartland should vote for them if all they do is bail out Labour when the crunch comes, rather than be bold.
“Some of the Plaid AMs are further left than Labour, and the new intake – the likes of Bethan Jenkins – are lacking in knowledge and understanding of the way Labour has promised so much for Wales, but so often has disappointed the Welsh people.
“They should learn from the lessons of the last 50 years and more, and the past broken promises on devolution.”
Mr Jones added, “I advise Plaid AMs to make sure any referendum on lawmaking powers for the Assembly takes place before the next general election and before Rhodri Morgan retires.
“The Rainbow Coalition All-Wales Accord is a radical document and one that will transform Welsh life and democracy.”
So, how DO you run a cockle stall?
KELLY McDonald, 19, of Swansea, said yesterday that running a cockle stall was anything but easy – and she should know.
The teenager has been working on the Carol Watts Gower Cockles and Fresh Seafood stall at Swansea’s famous indoor market since she was 15.
In between serving customers on the busy stall, she said, “It’s an insult to suggest that running a cockle stall is a simple thing to do. It’s not.”
This is her run-down of the life of the average cockle stall worker,
Arrive in work at 7am to take delivery of fresh cockles and other seafood.
Stand all day serving customers who come in their thousands.
Add every purchased item correctly and punch it into the till and ensure that every customer gets the correct change.
Make sure you know the latest hygiene regulations and bear in mind health and safety rules.
Clean surfaces regularly in between sales.
Deal with thousands of different customers and build up a rapport with them and speed up for the “lunchtime rush” when office workers boost customer numbers.
At around 5pm close down and thoroughly clean every surface to be ready for the next day.
Ms McDonald added yesterday, “Also, you have to remember a cockle stall is a business just like any other, and the owner has to be sharp because there is so much competition in the food industry, from supermarkets for a start.
“I would say anyone who can run a cockle stall is doing a good job,” she added.