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What next for Plaid Cymru?

15/06/2022

by Elin Jones, Plaid's Director of Communications and Assembly Member for Ceredigion

Follow Elin on twitter: twitter.com/elinjonesplaid

 

Following the successful referendum on March 3rd and securing a legislative Parliament for Wales, some commentators posed the question whether Plaid Cymru had served its purpose and passed its sell-by date.  I was asked myself, on the day after the referendum, whether there was any real role left for Plaid Cymru.  I laughed off the question. 

As members of Plaid Cymru, we know that there’s an obvious role for Plaid – but it may not be obvious to everyone else. Either it was not obvious to Welsh voters on May 5th or, if it was obvious, they were not overly-enamoured by it. I think it was, probably, the former.

Prior to 1999 and the establishment of the National Assembly, Plaid’s single mission was to deliver a democratically-elected Parliament for Wales.  It took another 12 years and Plaid’s commitment in the One Wales Government for that to become a legislative Parliament. 

 

What next for Plaid and for Wales?

Plaid has already started on our process to define our future political strategy (Labour is undertaking a similar exercise after its defeat in 2010).  Members and supporters will be able to take part in this review and its conclusions will set this party on track for the next 20 years. 

There are also immediate priorities for Plaid.  Holding Labour’s Welsh Government to account and challenging policy and legislative deficiencies will be daily priorities.  We also need to seek more allies for the cause of further devolution of powers from Westminster to Wales– such as the criminal justice system, broadcasting and large-scale electricity generation.  Perhaps the most pressing is the need to fully engage in the discussion on future funding mechanisms for Wales. 

 

We have seen Alex Salmond storm the barricades for greater fiscal autonomy for Scotland, whilst our First Minister reverts to Labour’s usual default position on all matters devolution: No! 

The UK Coalition is intending to establish a Funding Commission for Wales and Plaid Cymru will need to offer constructive proposals to deliver a fairer funding deal for Wales and greater autonomy over financial matters.  Carwyn will be reluctant to seize the initiative – he is no swash-buckling Salmond, so Plaid’s role will be essential in articulating a clear case for fairer funding and fiscal powers.

There is no doubt that a majority SNP Government is grabbing all the headlines.  The predictability of yet another Labour Welsh First Minister grabs no-one’s headline. 

How many consecutive Labour First Ministers will it take before Wales becomes known as a one-party state?  There has to be an alternative to Labour in Wales.

I’ve no doubt that Wales will continue to vote centre-left for many years to come and therefore the alternative to Labour is highly unlikely to be the Tories and there is almost no prospect of it being the Lib Dems. That alternative can only come from Plaid Cymru. 

The Office of the First Minister is the most important in this land and Plaid must aspire to it, and use it for the benefit of the people of Wales. The Welsh First Minister should not always be Labour.

Our goal must be to see a Plaid First Minister elected and to break the stifling, dominating hold of Labour on Welsh politics. However, it would be a grave mistake for us to sit around and wait for Labour to become unpopular again and hope to steal a few seats off them. 

We should not define ourselves in relation to Labour or to other parties. Neither should we allow other parties to seek to define us for their political expedience. 

As always, Labour in this recent election sought to scare Welsh voters with accusations that Plaid would work with Tory Ministers. The exact opposite is true.  It is Labour that prefers to see Tory Ministers in London decimate our police forces and slash funding for the BBC in Wales and S4C.  Whilst Plaid wants to see Welsh Ministers in charge of these important public services, Labour are happy to leave them in the hands of UK Tory Ministers.

The fundamental difference between Plaid and other parties is that Plaid believes that decisions affecting us inWalesshould be taken inWales.  Other parties would rather see these decisions taken by UK Ministers, even if those decisions are detrimental toWales.   

Plaid is the only national party inWales. All others are British and define their nation as Britain. We are the only party which wants Wales to take a journey towards prosperity and opportunity by building a fairer and more confident independent country.  

In wanting to see Wales achieve greater autonomy and asserting greater authority in the world, we need to build the confidence of Welsh business and Welsh people to believe that our future can be different to our past.  We need to reach out and seek the confidence of those who have shied away from us in the past.  In accusing others of political tribalism, we must not become tribal ourselves.

Many have said over recent months that Welsh Labour and other parties have moved their tanks onto Plaid Cymru’s lawn, by becoming more pro-devolution.  Well that may be so and Plaid Cymru may well have willingly opened the garden gate to let them in – knowing that their votes were needed in order to secure the referendum on a law-making Parliament.   

However, Plaid Cymru’s vision for Wales is not confined to one lawn.  It is a field, a valley, a nation of valleys.  Our vision is for a free, fair and prosperous Wales and all are welcome to join us in realising our vision.

 

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