Today saw the results of the 2018 contest for leadership of Plaid Cymru, my political party. Basically there were three candidates, the leader, Leanne and two challengers, Adam and Rhun. Adam Price won the ballot and is now the party’s leader. I didn’t know what to expect so I’ll vent my spleen here.
I do feel a sense of disappointment as I voted for Leanne as I feel she is the right person to lead this party at the current time. I’ve met Leanne several times and perhaps feel disappointment and an empathy with her ‘loss’.
The Welsh national movement has for many years had the problem of not making the breakthrough with the people of Wales I believe we should be. Plaid Cymru’s message is simple: Decisions about Wales should be made in Wales for the benefit of all the people of Wales. Wales is the poorest region in Northern Europe because Wales is governed by the UK government which has neglected the Welsh economy. Run the Welsh economy for the benefit of Wales and everyone who lives in Wales will be better of, it’s that simple.
However their are barriers to getting this message through are barriers in people’s heads. A principal barrier being that Plaid Cymru is the party for Welsh speakers and the Welsh speaking community. Another is the idea that Wales will never get to govern itself, so why bother seeking it. I’ve been a member of this party since I was nineteen and for most of that time not a Welsh speaker, though I now am! [Unrhywun sy’n medru dysgu Cymraeg] Hence I know what it is like to be Welsh and not speak Welsh and to be Welsh and speak Welsh. I know about the language barrier, as I felt it myself for many years and then grew through it to realise that no such barrier exists, that it is all in our own heads.
Leanne’s great strength is that she understands this barrier and knows how to break it down through listening to people. Whilst Plaid Cymru may not have many more votes now than before, I believe Leanne’s work is a longer term project of breaking down those barriers and showing that Wales can be an open inclusive nation and that Plaid Cymru are the only party that will deliver it, that does take time. You can’t persuade everyone with one impassioned speech or one killer argument. That work was developing and I’m concerned that the party may be taking a step backwards in losing Leanne’s leadership. Much of the leadership debate seemed to concern whom was able to reach out to the most potential supporters. The difficulty with personalities is that any individual can naturally appeal to some people, particularly people like them but rub other people up the wrong way. There are people who don’t like Leanne, but the difference was she focused on getting the message through to all sorts for people, which others have failed to do.
I’m also concerned about a return to squabbling amongst ourselves, rather than focus on getting the core message across to everybody in Wales. Sometimes there seems to be people this issue of people wanting to get people from their part of Wales into positions of authority, or people from their zone on the political spectrum. I have always felt that this doesn’t and shouldn’t matter, we want a united Wales. We’d like a United Britain and indeed Europe in fact, but we realise that to get a strong economy and society you need to start from the bottom up and we can build a Wales where every part is treated fairly and equally. So it’s far far more important to concentrate on winning support for a self-governing independent Wales, than having a leader that represents us as individuals. The work of deciding which policy is best can be done once we have achieved the ability to implement those policies. An analogy is that it’s more important to be able to choose which colour you want the passport to be, than it is to support a particular colour for it. I’ve always felt that Plaid Cymru is a pragmatic party, looking for evidence based solutions for the challenges we have in Wales, whether the ideas come from the right, left, centre or behind.
I just really hope I’ve got this wrong. I hope that Adam is able to reach out to more and more people and continue to get our message through to more people so this movement can continue to grow and I’m sure he can. The leadership election is over. Adam is now our leader, I still like him and it is time to unite behind him and step up our work of making Wales an even better country to work rest and play in. Felly, Llongyfarchiadau Adam a pop lwc!