The McEvoy Enigma

Neil McEvoy AM
Neil McEvoy is an abrasive, rough around the edges, populist politician promising his supporters that he’ll take down a corrupt establishment and ‘Drain the Bay’.

In the words of Theresa May: ‘Remind you of anyone?’

Neil McEvoy isn’t Donald Trump or Nigel Farage or Marine Le Pen, of course. His politics are firmly on the centre-left. But he’s adopted their populism, their straight talking, and their ability to generate outraged headlines by angering the establishment middle-class.

In a previous blog I made the case that Plaid Cymru were a party of front-row nationalists trying to appeal to a back-row electorate.

This back-row electorate feels increasingly estranged from the front row running the nation’s institutions, and don’t feel that globalisation has improved their lot. They’re looking for a party that will represent their interests.

Plaid have never been a back-row party, which is why they tend to be regarded as a part of the establishment – a ‘crachach’ - even though they’ve always fallen short of forming a government.

Labour were certainly a back row party in the past, but have slowly lost the working class vote over the last decade or so, and under Corbyn’s leadership are considered a party of the metropolitan hard left.

If Welsh Nationalism wants to make itself relevant in the current political climate, if it wants to win elections, it must appeal to this back-row.

Neil McEvoy is firmly a back-row politician. As one of my fellow front-row nationalists told me the other day, he’s a ‘dog shit and pothole politician’.

But this perhaps ignores the reality that the majority in those areas where Plaid hope to make inroads don’t care about Wales’ constitution or the Welsh language, the issues that animate front-row nationalists - or at least, not enough to change their vote.

Their votes need to be won on local issues that affect their day-to-day lives, one pot hole and dog shit at a time.

Labour hate Neil McEvoy, because they fear that his kind of politics could easily make inroads into their working-class support, as it did when McEvoy almost toppled the previous Health Minister Mark Drakeford in Cardiff West in the last Assembly election.

But there is an element within Plaid Cymru that also dislike him, because his values don’t chime with the front-row nationalism they hold dear.

The challenge for Neil McEvoy will be to temper his abrasive nature so that it can’t be used as a means of attacking him, while retaining his reputation for no-nonsense straight talking and taking on the Welsh establishment.