Irish nationalists have sometimes found the Scots and Welsh a bit puzzling. Ireland, as a separate island, is clearly not British. At best it’s one of the British Isles but even that’s controversial, with neutral commentators preferring something along the lines of ‘the North Atlantic archipelago’. Great Britain though is one land mass, from Land’s End up to John o’ Groats. Why would anyone try to divide it up?
So it’s no big surprise when Plaid Cymru, in a similar blindspot moment, advises voters in England (and Cornwall) to vote Green. To their credit, the SNP and Mebyon Kernow have not, as far as we know, told English voters what to do. We expect that regionalists living on the Celtic fringe would want to support their respective nationalist parties. Even if they view separatism as a step too far, for them, personally, the strength of nationalism in the polls adds momentum to the debate on decentralisation generally.
Why then is the favour not returned? The nationalists could have said, vote for the Greens or for the regionalists, both are causes we recognise as travelling the same road as us. But no. If a choice has to be made then the consistent one would have been to back the regionalist parties. There’s no conflict with the nationalist cause in that case. Regionalists do not put up candidates against the nationalist parties and never would have reason to, because our territories do not overlap. The Greens do it all the time. If Plaid or the SNP fail to scrape through in some marginal seats it may well be because of anti-nationalist Green candidates splitting the vote. If the Greens are all that’s deemed goodenough for the voters of England, why are they not good enough for the voters of Scotland and Wales?
When Nicola, Leanne and Natalie get together, does Natalie ever ask why the Greens are being set up as an ersatz English nationalist party? No doubt they’re all genuine in their desire to work together but they do not do so as equals because the Greens are every bit as much rivals as allies. For all the talk of solidarity, electoral reality has to intervene, but to what extent? And at what price in integrity?
In Wales, the Greens are notoriously anti-Welsh, with a classic ‘white settler’ mentality towards the society they inhabit. Coincidentally, they share some peripheral policies with Plaid. The core outlook that Plaid shares with regionalist parties – a real commitment to decentralisation and the rebuilding of identities shattered by centuries of micro-management from London – is not a coincidence but deep philosophical common ground.
No-one in politics wants to be part of a coalition of cripples if they can sprint for the finishing line under their own steam. The point is not that they should hold back for others to catch up – that would be familiar Westminster federalist thinking. It is that those lower down the pecking order willremember how they’re treated by those who today are – and we hope can continue to be – a shining inspiration.