FactCheck checks it out
The Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru, published their 34 page manifesto yesterday so – to ensure we didn’t get distracted by the larger parties – FactCheck picked two statements to look at a little more closely.
“Plaid was the only major party to oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the very start. We’re proud that we stood by our principles back then, and we’re proud of our ongoing campaign to bring our men and women home from Afghanistan now.”
It is well known that Labour and the Conservatives did not oppose either war at the outset – the opposition supported the government at the start of both campaigns.
Meanwhile, a Liberal Democrat spokesman confirmed to FactCheck that “the Liberal Democrats were not opposed to the initial intervention in Afghanistan in 2001.”
So how about the Scottish National Party, which Plaid Cymru is in partnership with at Westminster?
According to the SNP the party allied with Plaid Cymru in opposing the Iraq war but they took “a slightly different policy” on Afghanistan. While they now have very serious concerns about how the conflict is being handled, they did support it at the start because it was backed by a UN Resolution.
But did any “major” parties, as Plaid put it, oppose both wars from the outset?
Sinn Féin did. The party won five seats at the 2005 general election, while Plaid won three. However, Sinn Féin do not take their seats at Westminster.
And the Social Democratic and Labour Party, who also won three seats in 2005, consistently opposed the Afghanistan and Iraq wars but, when it came to a vote in the House of Commons on Afghanistan, they were unable to be present because of business in the Stormont Assembly.
Plaid Cymru responded: “We were and are the only party represented in the Commons to continue to oppose both wars.”
“As if the economic crisis hasn’t been bad enough for ordinary people, Wales’ public services are losing out by at least £300 million a year.”
FactCheck has looked at a similar claim before.
Then, as now, we were pointed towards the Holtham Commission which advocates a new funding formula for Wales. Plaid Cymru added: “These figures/arguments have been endorsed by reports such as the House of Lords Committee – and more recently by the Welsh Auditor General.”
Interestingly they did not cite the budget report, published in March, which showed that departmental expenditure for Wales will drop from £16bn in 2009/10, to £15.7bn in 2010/11 – a clear drop of £300m.
Plaid Cymru is on shaky ground claiming to be the only “major party” which opposed both wars from the start.
It’s clear that other parties with similar political standing also opposed the conflicts. However, had they added the line – “represented in the Commons” – in their manifesto, which they incorporated after queries from FactCheck, they would have been on firmer territory.
But, when it comes to budgets, Plaid Cymru is right – Wales will not escape the fiscal belt tightening and they are likely to have less money to spend in the future.