Creating a buzz



By Jill Evans MEP and President of Plaid Cymru

An increase of nearly a quarter in the electorate just weeks before an election would normally make us very suspicious, but in the case of the Plaid leadership election we really welcome it. Some are lapsed members rejoining, but many are new members who have been inspired to join the party. It is, of course, partly a result of our very successful membership drive launched at the end of last year. But it also a reflection of the buzz generated by our leadership election.

A few months ago the press were criticising us for using the word "exciting" too often. They like to cast a critical eye at leadership contests as bland and far removed from the electorate, But it didn't take long for our contest to generate huge interest - and excitement - from the press and media too. I don't ever remember such attention being given to an internal election in Plaid Cymru.

I attended the first hustings in Pontypridd with about 160 other members. It was lively and interesting. Several will be held across the country and the debate is clearly thriving online. Everyone is twittering!

Who becomes Plaid Cymru's next leader and a future First Minister is of interest to everyone in Wales. Transforming Plaid means transforming Welsh politics. This is a critical time for our economy. Rather than slashing public spending, jobs and services, we want investment to regenerate the economy. The massive difference between the policies that Wales would adopt compared to those of the UK, on this and many other issues, highlights the need for progress towards independence.

Each of our three candidates has a view on how we do this and they are setting out their priorities and proposals. We are challenging them to win our support, but they are challenging us too. As a truly democratic party where every member has a vote, the decision on which direction the party takes is literally in our hands as we vote for the new leader. If we are to inspire Wales, we have to be inspired.

Ballot papers will soon be winging their way across the country to our members. I will be chairing hustings meetings next week in Caernarfon and Neath and I look forward to hearing some very energetic debate. This election has been the focus of attention since day one. Exciting doesn't even come close!