Wednesday, 11 May 2011

No Excuses


Since the referendum in March, many party members and commentators have asked the question 'what is Plaid Cymru for?' We had very little time to consider our answer. Two months before the election, Plaid Cymru contributed vast staff and volunteer resources to the 'Yes for Wales' campaign. We had comfortably secured a strong YES vote in the referendum on the Assembly's law making powers, which, we must remember, had only come about because of Ieuan Wyn Jones's insistence and persistence.

By then, Plaid had met all of its short term goals. As part of the One Wales agreement, the Holtham Commission managed to finally persuade the other parties of the need for reform of the way the Assembly is funded. The other major gain for Plaid had been to secure legislation to protect the future of the Welsh language, granting its' official status for the first time. A key question was asked: what is Plaid's Unique Selling Point was now that all of that has been achieved?

Comparisons with Scotland's election results can't be avoided. Some will argue that a more independent broadcast and print media would have helped to ensure that the election there was fought on Scottish issues. That the election in Wales was dominated by the UK coalition government's cuts and Labour's claim to 'stand up for Wales' went unscrutinised. How, exactly, are they going to stand up against the Tory cuts? The political context has changed beyond all recognition since the last UK general election. The SNP (and Labour in Wales) have managed to work out their response to the new context quickly. Has Plaid? The SNP's UK-wide known, strong, tub-thumping leader is only part of the SNP's success story. Salmond was able to push a clear message with a clear Unique Selling Point – uncompromising promotion of independence and a means to fund it (through controlling Scotland's natural resources and fiscal autonomy). No-one is in any doubt what the SNP is for.

At the first Plaid Cymru Assembly group meeting, it was decided to recommend to the party's National Executive Committee that a root and branch review of all aspects of Plaid's structures, communication, messages and organisation takes place so that we can work out what needs to change. The plan is to look at everything. But before we work out the processes, we must first address the 'what is Plaid for' question. As members, we all know why we do the work we do, but can we explain it to people in simple, understandable terms? In answering this question, we will have to show what makes Plaid unique. There should be no ambiguity. People should be left in no doubt as to what Plaid Cymru is for.

Last summer, I presented a lecture at Plaid Cymru's Summer School outlining the decentralist/co-operative ideas of DJ Davies and his wife Noelle Ffrench who emphasised the power of 'community' to create an alternative, viable economy for Wales. DJ and Noelle were part of the first group of people who came together to form Plaid Cymru in 1925. The pair spent years during the financial crash of the 1930s carrying out detailed work which provided a basis for Plaid to offer a vision of a different, better, economically-functioning post-imperial Wales. They provided the economic case for self-government in very difficult financial times and it is inspriring. Can their work be applied to the cuts context we are in now? The Davies/Ffrench programme offered practical solutions to tackle unemployment, limited state welfare and the lack of control over our natural resources. Community, co-operation and self-sufficiency have been the basic principles underlying Plaid's economic philosophy since the party was formed. They are principles which can be re-applied today to offer a vision for a better, economically and environmentally sustainable and more equal Wales which would be radically different to the same-old management approach to Wales favoured by the British parties. Wales faces a range of challenges which can not be met with more managerialism. Plaid Cymru now has the time to work on this and to make sure our message is radical and bold. Why not? And if not now, when?

8 comments:

Spiderman67 said...

I welcome Plaid Cymru Assembly members recommendation to the party's NEC: that a root & branch review should take place on all aspects of Plaid's structures.
As a member of Plaid Cymru I wish to be consulted on the progress of these developments. When this review has been completed, I trust & believe that it should become the the only policy document to be presented to a 2011 Conference.
Victor Martin Hunt. Membership No 77262.

iwanprys said...

Have you considered standing Leanne? I'd back you, and many other would too.

iwanprys said...

Have you considered standing for the leadership Leanne? I know many people would support you.

Huw Gilasbey said...

My belief is we took "the eye off the ball" by donating huge amount of time and resources to the YES whilst certainly in the Llanelli area, Labour gained from, they hardly did no canvassing, so were fresher for the Assembly election.
With due respect to Ieuan he's not exactly a charismatic leader, he does not come across well on TV, where the likes of yourself,Helen-Mary (certainly did). In the TV debate with the other leaders,he came across poorly.

Possibly its time for a change of leadership, to re invigorate the Party.

greensforplaid said...

Fully agree about total review starting with What is Plaid for?

What is it for: Wales needs a party based on commitment to the people and land, not only the present but the future (and past). Not on old class divisions.

For the survival and wellbeing of people and environment we must live within our means, locally, and long-term. Plaid can pick up this flag, it is the obvious party to do so. Althoug a difficult path, it has the distinct advantage that we will have to do it or die, eventually!

Leanne leader:
I thought speaking Welsh quite fluently would be essential for a Plaid leader?
Efallai chi'n siarad rhygle nawr?

SiƓnnyn said...

I would support you leanne - in fact I have been inspired to renew my membership for that very reason.

Please go for it - you are the outstanding candidate. Plaid need a good Kick up the aarse and you are the one to deliver it.

That Bara Brith Experience said...

The work of Drs D J Davies and Noelle Ffrench were indeed inspiring, and still have a huge relevance today, however, as is always a problem in Wales, to my mind, is that there is far too much talking, and not enough doing. Also, Plaid's constant skirting of the Independence issue is bound to cause questions like 'What is Plaid for?'. I've never believed that the majority of Welsh people are of necessity opposed to independence, but rather confused over what it means. In the light of Plaid's avoidance, obfuscation of the issue, plus constantly being sent into a tail spin by Labour taunts over the issue, it's hardly surprising the Welsh people are sceptical about Plaid. Adopting and making real some of the ideas outlined by Davies and Ffrench showing how beneficial they are to the communities served by them, and showing in a practical way how independence could work may just allay the fears of the majority, who in the absence of hard evidence, will play safe and stick with what they know. Plaid could also adopt a far more 'up front' embracing of the Independence idea, and promote it instead of being apologists. In the face of the Labour taunts a strong, well reasoned response is needed, not the faltering denials and squirming that has happened up to now. Surely it can't be that hard to wrong foot Welsh Labour in their complacent smugness. Plaid should be going for Labour's jugular, and whilst I accept that this is difficult when in coalition, this no longer applies. I am not a Plaid member, and will not become one again, I left in 1989 due to Dafydd Elis Thomas's acceptance of an English peerage, and though Plaid now has two peers,I for the moment continue to support with my votes at every election, as despite my reservations/disgust over Plaid peers in the House of Lords, Plaid remains the only political party that Wales has. All the others are local versions of mainstream Brit parties, and must thus be considered with scepticism.

Thomas said...

Plaid would do well to have a party leader who recognises that small scale, local, land based development - and a new 'permanent-culture' is the key to the future of Wales. What else could be the answer for a rural nation with a small population and a post industrial landscape?

Wales could be a model of post industrial living. We have an empty countryside with a fading livestock industry and a whole series of industrial towns and villages that have simply outlived their function.

If the people of Wales do not manage to redistribute themselves and use this land, it will be taken from us by 'land investors' and massive agro-businesses, and where will the urban population be then?

Wonderful and inspirational to hear someone in the party addressing these issues. Also, As a passionate Welshman and first language english speaker myself, i think your election would bring in many radicals across the country who currently feel they are not welcome in Plaid

best of luck

good luck