On the surface, the deal announced this week between the two parties represents a real break with the status quo. Bringing in rent controls, caps on second homes and new state-owned companies would mean a dramatic break with the idea that the ‘market knows best’, and that direct government action to protect people and communities is needed.
While Welsh Labour has traded on the mirage of ‘clear red water’, the reality has been a government that talks radical and acts slowly. The recently published The Welsh Way (with numerous contributions from Undod members) has finally laid bare the myth of Wales being more progressive than the rest of the UK.
Free lunches for all primary school children is a deserved victory for the alliance of civil society campaigners that have worked so hard. But any socialist government should never have let food poverty grow on its watch in the first place. It will cost something to implement, but fundamentally it doesn’t challenge any powerful interests in Welsh society.
That’s why the plans on second and holiday homes seem most significant. This is where the agreement does the most to challenge the rule of the market, but in most other areas the commitments are vague and could easily be left to gather dust in Cardiff Bay – like so many past promises.
Plans to cap the number of second homes, and using the planning system to stop the spread is the first real commitment to say that people and communities matter more than private profit. That makes it an even greater victory for Cymdeithas yr Iaith and other friends, and communities that have tirelessly fought for their very existence.
On a smaller scale, the very mention of rent controls, while currently weak, is a testament to groups like ACORN that have sprung up during the pandemic to organise working people. Plans for a community food strategy are encouraging and will hopefully lead to public procurement of locally produced food. Every school and hospital in Wales should be serving local produce.
As family farms are bought up for corporate carbon offsetting, the absence of land reform is disappointing. As Robat Idris outlines for Undod, this is essential to ensure Wales meets its climate change obligations whilst strengthening rural communities.
For everyone who wants a Wales that puts people before profit, this deal is the very start of that struggle, not the end. It represents the faintest outline of a Wales beyond neoliberalism that we must fight together to bring into full view. While only independence can create a Wales where our people not only survive, but thrive, this is a step to make full use of the powers our government already has.
Contrast this Labour-Plaid agreement, with the neoliberal announcement made by Keir Starmer this week. It’s clear that there is desire in Wales for something better, and that the union won’t offer that.
Powerful interests like the landlord lobby will do everything they can to stop this shift in our political direction, so it’s up to us to pile the pressure on politicians. We must say ‘go further’ ‘do it now, not after yet another investigation’ and not give them the benefit of the doubt that has allowed so much inaction from Cardiff Bay over the past two decades.
We will work with whoever wants to take advantage of this new opening. And we’ll demand the radical action needed to realise the vision of this deal – join Undod today to be part of it.