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'Unite or weaken' warning at Plaid Cymru conference

Leanne Wood urged Plaid Cymru members to 'pull in the same direction' Credit: ITV News

Plaid Cymru members will hear another warning today against giving into division at a conference which has seen open discussion about the party's future direction.

Frontbencher Simon Thomas will tell delegates in Llangollen that they face a choice: either 'to unite and fight for independence together or factionalise and weaken.'

It comes as party chiefs prepare themselves for the disruption of a fringe meeting due to be held by the expelled AM Neil McEvoy who's also launching a Momentum-style group within Plaid Cymru.

And it follows an opening day when senior Plaid figures spoke in public to urge the party to reposition itself politically in order to be able to replace Labour in government in Wales.

In his speech to conference yesterday the MP Jonathan Edwards asked his colleagues to avoid a lurch to the left.

I would appeal to my party not to respond to the electoral challenges we face from Corbyn's Labour by basing our political strategy on the intricacies of socialist theory. I fear that road leads to political oblivion. In the face of an increasingly insular, hostile, right wing centralist Tory party and a hard left statist command and control Labour party - we have to aim for the gaping void in the middle.

– Jonathan Edwards MP, Plaid Cymru

His points were echoed by Plaid's Parliamentary leader, Liz Saville Roberts who used her speech to remind delegates that 'Plaid Cymru isn't here for the fun of being critical, for the frisson of a political hit' but to win power.

In an interview with me she spelled out that, in her view, Plaid will no longer be able to rule out working with the Conservatives as it has in the past.

What I would aspire to is that Plaid Cymru will have a set of policies and ideas so that, if there are other parties that are prepared to buy into those ideas and sign up to those ideas, the door isn’t shut for us not to discuss working together. But the ideas need to come first. We need to move away from the idea that we can only work with one party ... whoever is prepared to work on those [policies and ideas] with energy and enthusiasm and abide by those policies then we would work with anyone - in theory - as long as it’s our policies that are leading.

– Liz Saville Roberts MP, Plaid Cymru

You'll be able to see that interview in full in Monday's Sharp End at 1040 on ITV Cymru Wales.

I gather that while there have been some grumblings about holding such discussions in public, many others have welcomed the debate.

One leading figure told me that it was important that the points were being made by senior politicians.

It's not about Leanne Wood's leadership, I was told, but is about working out what Plaid needs to do to try to oust Labour from government in Wales.

However it's hard not to see the points being made as being at least in part a questioning of her time in charge.

After all she's seen as being a left-wing politician who's been adamant that Plaid shouldn't work with Conservatives and has intervened in councils to ensure party members didn't form coalitions with them.

She also oversaw a 'compact' with Labour which kept Carwyn Jones in power after he failed to win a majority in 2016.

There's also scrutiny on her leadership from the expelled AM Neil McEvoy.

Although he can't attend the conference, he will be holding a fringe meeting at another venue in Llangollen where he'll give more details of a Momentum-styled grouping within Plaid Cymru.

Organisers say it's born out of frustration at the party's leadership.

During his speech Simon Thomas will commit Plaid Cymru to a Clean Air Act

In his speech later, Simon Thomas will set out a series of environmental commitments including banning new diesel and petrol cars in Wales by 2030 and a clean air act.

Air pollution contributes to an estimated 2,000 deaths per year. Public Health Wales describes the situation as an urgent public health crisis, second only to smoking.

It is up to us to start to do something about this inaction by Labour. It took a court case for them to finally take the situation seriously. Their lawyers admitting the Welsh Government’s lack of plan was unlawful.

Diesel vehicles are major contributors in urban areas to air pollution, with roadside levels highest where traffic is busiest. To start the debate on how we move from dirty diesels to hybrid and hydrogen powered vehicles I’ve commissioned research to see how we can transition to become a totally electric nation.

I am also announcing today that Plaid Cymru will seek to introduce a Clean Air Act in order to make sure the air we breathe is of excellent quality.

– Simon Thomas AM, Plaid Cymru

Meanwhile Adam Price will use his conference speech to set out what he describes as his vision for the sort of country he says Wales could be by 2030 if Plaid Cymru were to win power.

He'll promise a referendum by the end of a second Plaid government which would include the option of independence.

He's expected to commit to the creation of a Wales national air line, associate membership of the United Nations and to hosting a World Expo, the first he says, since 1907.

The speech will also include commitments to free university education, a minimum income and to making every school bilingual.