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Plaid Cymru and Labour co-operation deal could end early

Rhun ap Iorwerth
Rhun ap Iorwerth is holding his party conference in Caernarfon

Plaid Cymru's co-operation deal with the Welsh government could end earlier than planned, the party's leader has said.

The agreement - which includes expanding the size of the Senedd - is due to run out in December.

Despite the election of a new first minister both sides have said they are committed to the deal.

But Rhun ap Iorwerth said Plaid had "every right to discuss" the agreement's length.

Plaid Cymru is an opposition party in the Senedd but is in the final year of a three-year co-operation agreement with Labour ministers on a range of policies, including childcare and free school meals.

Sources speaking to BBC Wales have said that much of the work is expected to be complete by the summer - indications are it could end after that point.

The leader's comments were made at Plaid Cymru's conference in Caernarfon where he said Vaughan Gething must rebuild trust after his controversial campaign.

Mr Gething's leadership bid was dogged by a row over donations. In a speech Mr ap Iorwerth said Mr Gething had "undermined" faith in his leadership bid.

Ahead of an expected general election, he asked voters to tell Labour that it could not take Wales for granted.

In charge of Plaid Cymru for nine months, Mr ap Iorwerth leads the third biggest group in Cardiff Bay, with 12 seats in the 60-member chamber, behind the governing Labour Party and the Conservatives.

Speaking to BBC Wales, the Member of the Senedd (MS) for Ynys Môn, said: "We're talking about an agreement that was for a very specific period with a specific number of policies. Most of those have been realised.

"There is a deal that goes on until December. We have every right to discuss the length of the deal between now and then. What's important is what we achieve."

He added: "We have high expectations and there's a determination to show very clearly that there is clear green water between us and the government."

Mr ap Iorwerth said Plaid would be "professional" in its work with Labour. "This is politics - we don't go to the Senedd because we're friends, we go to the Senedd because we have work to do."

'Same again'

In his conference speech at the Galeri in Caernarfon, Mr ap Iorwerth said Mr Gething's new government was "a palpable gasp of 'same again'".

"Let's not forget that this was no ordinary campaign. The voting stitch-up, the ducking of scrutiny for his own record, and whilst we're used to questions about dodgy donations around the Conservative party, what we've seen during this Labour campaign has undermined so much faith.

"When we talk about the need to pay something back, we can mean that in two ways - it's not just the cash, it's trust too, and that is even more valuable."

Vaughan Gething maintains he followed the rules in taking £200,000 from a company owned by a man twice prosecuted for waste crimes, but has agreed to review those rules.

He has rejected called from Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives for the money to be handed back.

Vaughan Gething
Vaughan Gething became first minister last week

Mr ap Iorwerth criticised both Labour and the Conservatives as he argued why voters should mark their cross by his party's candidates at a UK general election, due in the next 10 months.

"From Ynys Môn to Monmouth, Conservative MPs have backed a wrecking ball regime causing untold damage to the people they're meant to serve," he said.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer's answer was to "proclaim the need for an entirely new approach to politics" but "following the Conservative orthodoxy isn't a new approach to politics", he told Plaid members.

Mr ap Iorwerth said the "sight of Rachel Reeves", Labour's shadow chancellor, "walking in lockstep with Jeremy Hunt", her opposite number, "only offers more austere times".

Rachel Reeves and Jeremy Hunt
Rachel Reeves and Jeremy Hunt both represent an austere approach to public finances, Plaid's leader says

Plaid Cymru's leader argued voting for his party would "keep the Tories out, put Wales' interests first" and "tell Labour that we won't let them take Wales for granted", a reference to Labour's long dominance of Welsh politics.

Labour has been in government in Cardiff since devolution in 1999, and currently possesses 30 of the 60 seats in Cardiff Bay and 21 of Wales' 40 seats in Westminster.

"We stand apart from UK establishment politics," Mr ap Iorwerth said.

"We don't want the future to look like the past. We want people to feel hope about politics once again."

Mr ap Iorwerth was elected unopposed as Plaid Cymru leader last June, in the wake of Adam Price's dramatic resignation after a damning report alleged a culture of bullying, harassment and misogyny in the party.


Analysis

David Deans, BBC Wales political reporter in Caernarfon

Plaid Cymru's leader is critical as you would expect of Labour's new first minister.

But since 2021 the party has ridden two horses - it is both in a co-operation deal with the Welsh government while trying to hold ministers to account at the same time.

Does the election of the new first minister mark the point that the deal will end? It doesn't seem it will - right now.

There are still parts of the co-op deal which are being worked on. Reforming the election system for the Senedd and enlarging the institution is a big chunk of it.

People at conference tell you that much of that should be done by the summer, bar some bits and bobs.

That has begged the question whether the deal, and all the structures Plaid and the government set up to support it, will run to the end of the December as scheduled.

With the prospect of an autumn election looming, that might prove tempting and convenient.

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