Yesterday, Royston Jones, a maverick Welsh nationalist who describes himself as 'right of centre', announced, on his blog, Jac O' the north, his intention to create a new right of centre nationalist party for Wales. He has booked a meeting in an Aberystwyth hotel for early november, although he stated that he planned no role for himself as a politician within any new political party.
As many of you will know, I am a Welsh-nationalist sympathiser who happens to be English. The purpose of this blog article is not to say whether or not I consider myself right or left of centre, or whether I will continue to support Plaid Cymru or not. The purpose of this article is to speculate on what I may think may happen and whether having two Welsh Nationalist parties is a good idea or not.
So, the first question to ask, I think, is 'Will this party go anywhere?' Can there be two seat-winning Welsh nationalist parties at the same time? The past, if it's anything to go by, is not exactly promising; there is a trail of former 'non-Plaid' Welsh nationalist parties - Cymru Goch, Cymru Annibynnol, Forward Wales, Plaid Glyndŵr to not even name all of them. What do these parties all have in common? They're parties you've never heard of. Arguably the most successful non-Plaid Welsh nationalist party was Llais Gwynedd, whose crowning glory was winning 13 council seats in Gwynedd at the 2012 election, a year after gaining 15% of the constituency vote in Dwyfor-Meirionydd in the Assembly Election of 2011. The truth is, there aren't any good precedents for a second Welsh nationalist party.
Even if a new Welsh-nationalist party is to emerge this November, it is just under 4 years until the next Welsh Assembly election, and nearly five until the both the General Election and local Welsh Council Elections happen again. That is a long time for a small party, and plenty long enough for them to be forgotten about. However, what could change things for them, of course, would be, if, say, elected AMs and MPs from other parties decide to defect and join them early on, à la Douglas Carswell. Certain politicians do spring to mind; Guto Bebb, the former Plaid Cymru branch leader in Caernarfon, who is now the Tory MP for Aberconwy, and Neil McEvoy, the Plaid Cymru AM who has fallen out with his party. Would they be willing to up-root and call their own by-elections? I'm not so sure, although it remains to be seen.
What is certain, however, is that if this party is to become anything of a success, it will have to consider where it is going to run for election, and where not, so as to not split the Welsh-nationalist vote. My advice would be that the party should not contest Westminster seats where they are at risk of splitting the nationalist vote so that a Unionist party wins the seat. However, that risk is much less with Assembly Elections since a) the system is one of Mixed Member Proportional Representation, and, b) Plaid Cymru's constituency seats for the Welsh Assembly are much safer than Plaid's Westminster seats.
Only time will tell if Royston Jones's aims come to fruition, but at least at the moment, I don't think Plaid Cymru should be too scared.