Although Plaid Cymru's main focus is normally on winning power in the Assembly, it's holding a very Westminster focused conference in Llangollen over the next two days. The party's leader, Leanne Wood, sees her speech later today as an important opportunity to get her General Election message across, as she gets far fewer opportunities than the leaders of other Westminster parties.
She'll call them "four shades of Westminster grey", a four that includes UKIP, the new rival that out polled Plaid in the European election. Leanne Wood claims that Plaid's mission is to provide a positive alternative to what she calls "the dark side of politics". She says she saw that alternative -the politics of hope- when she campaigned for a yes vote in the Scottish independence referendum.
The Plaid leader says the party could emerge from the election with five Westminster seats, up from its current three, and form a group with its SNP and English Green allies that could hold the balance of power. They would use that influence to push for a move away from austerity in economic policy and demand that policing, justice and control of natural resources are devolved to the Assembly, together with major tax and borrowing powers.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has said that although legislation is not the only requirement for tackling Wales health and education problems, she's pleased that the Welsh Government has adopted what she claims are some of her parties policies in those fields.
The Qualifications Wales Bill will introduce the independent exam regulating body that Plaid Cymru has called for, although the Labour government will need to do a lot more to convince people that it has the measures in place to drive up standards when it comes to the Welsh education system.
The establishment of a Welsh Treasury through the Tax Collection and Management Bill is a significant move. There is great symbolism in establishing this function, which goes beyond the essential role it will have in administering the devolved taxes and borrowing powers. All self-respecting Parliaments must have the ability to vary taxes. Unlike Scotland, it has taken Wales fifteen years to establish this important symbolic function.
Plaid Cymru very much welcomes the establishment of a Welsh Treasury. For the first time, future Welsh Governments will have acquired the extra economic levers needed for job creation, although the powers proposed in the Wales Bill are limited and will not yet lead to a government that is properly accountable to the people of Wales.”--
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Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has paid a warm tribute to Bob Crow, the union leader who's died at the age of 52. Mr Crow's Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers' Union (RMT) was disaffiliated from the Labour party in 2004 over its support for other political groups.
This very sad news has come as a complete shock. Bob has been a tenacious advocate of the rights of members of the RMT. I’ve shared a platform with Bob: he has been a good friend to Plaid Cymru, having been a guest speaker at our party conference back in 2003 – the first UK trade union leader to do so.
Bob’s emphasis on placing the needs of his members above all else - including and especially party politics - will be sorely missed. We need more like Bob Crow.
He was fearless and would not back down in the face of frequent and unfounded attacks from the ‘right.’ He was also a firm and vocal opponent of the politics of austerity and was excellent at articulating that there is an alternative to the current, cosy Westminster consensus. He will be deeply missed by all on the left throughout the UK.
Welsh Labour also issued a tribute on behalf of the First Minister.
Bob Crow was a highly respected trade unionist who tirelessly fought to deliver for his members. The trade union movement has lost one of its most prominent members.
Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans has urged party activisits to keep faith with the European Union, despite admiting it needs reform.
On the second day of Plaid's spring conference in Cardiff there was also a call to devolve more powers over our railways.
At Plaid Cymru's conference in Cardiff, Political Editor Adrian Masters talks to two delegates who are in full election mode. Liz Saville-Roberts is the party's parliamentary candidate in Dwyfor Meirionnydd for 2015. Marc Jones is one of four candidates for May's election to the European Parliament.
Plaid Cymru's Health spokesperson Elin Jones has strongly criticised both UK and Welsh Governments for using the Welsh NHS as a political football 'in a particularly ugly football match.' She said attacks from Conservative politicians in Westminster were part of an 'appalling..pre-election spree.'
But she condemned Labour too for 'dismissing' concerns raised by Cynon Valley MP Ann Clwyd, calling it a 'shameful example of the tribal politics of Welsh Labour.'
And she blamed the First Minister for starting the row between the two governments by using his weekly question session as an opportunity to 'have a pop' at the UK Government.
Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans has called for an end to the 'ludicrous' practice of moving the European Parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg every month. She told delegates at the party's conference in Cardiff that axeing the monthly move could save more than £100m a year.
She said she recognised that the European Union needs to be reformed but she said that leaving it wouldn't solve its problems.
I understand why people have lost faith in the EU. But the answer is not to walk away, but to change it.
The MEP also called for the creation of a European Civilian Peace Corps, made up of people doing jobs like teaching or nursing, to work in conflict zones.
Plaid Cymru has pledged to cut red tape for teachers to allow them to concentrate on teaching with minimal bureaucracy. Education spokesman Simon Thomas told the party's conference a future Plaid Welsh Government would give schools more freedom.
Having excellent teachers and heads sitting before a computer filling in forms or ticking boxes, or sweating over reports at home, is a waste of their talent and commitment. I want to see them freed up to teach at the whiteboard face as much as possible.
That’s why I’m proposing to set up a taskforce to work with teaching unions to cut unnecessary bureaucracy. We want to work with schools and give them the freedom to achieve.
I want to see a system where the Welsh Government sets learning outcomes for schools, but to allows them flexibility to decide how they want to get there. We need to nurture best practice, and teachers need freedom to do that.
In her speech to Plaid Cymru's conference, the party's MEP is expected to say the European Union needs a shake-up to make it 'more relevant' and 'more democratic.' JIll Evans says she wants to return to Brussels to complete 'unfinished business.'
She's the longest-serving of Wales' current group of four MEPs, having first been elected in 1999. But she faces an uphill struggle for re-election in May with support growing for UKIP.
She's expected to tell delegates,
The European Union is a remarkable achievement. But now is the time for change to make it more relevant, more democratic and more successful.
It has led the way on combatting climate change, but it is losing its nerve at the very time when we need radical and positive action.
As a nation with natural assets and huge potential as a powerhouse for renewable energy, Wales should be working in close partnership with the EU and internationally to develop that potential. We need ambitious targets if we are to tackle this serious problem.
I aim to be back in Parliament after the May election, to continue to work for the Welsh national interest and for EU reforms so that the people of Wales benefit fully from membership. Europe must work for Wales.