Two Plaid Cymru politicians have laid out competing visions for their party in a likely challenge to leader Leanne Wood.
Here is Adam Price's essay:
Welsh politics is at a hinge-point in its history. By the end of this year all our political rivals will have a different leader from 2016, with an accompanying shift, however, subtle, in style, platform and appeal. The crucial question, of course, is whether these surface changes in Welsh politics will result in the more fundamental changes that we need to take Wales forward in the world.
Even among Labour supporters there is a growing recognition that after twenty years of Labour rule, Welsh politics has become dull, repetitive, tired and complacent, out of touch and out of ideas.
Against that backdrop it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that Plaid, as the only party that can end Labour’s dilapidated hegemony, should be doing better - and arguably, a lot better -than we are. We need to effect a real and substantial change in Welsh living standards; we need to be driving the policy agenda for the critical change our people are calling out for on a daily basis.
So, let’s get to it; it’s time to resolve the very much harder question facing our people, our members and our party.
Where ARE we are going wrong?
An important part of this involves the practical challenges of party organisation. We’ve allowed the impressive campaigning structures we invested in a decade ago to wither – but with reform, the right plan and some greater focus and application, I am sure we can, together, rectify that.
However,there’s a more difficult-and strategic- challenge that we must confront.
The way we frame our politics; the projection of who we are, what we stand for, what we have fought long and hard for and what’s ultimately important to us. The areas where we will not compromise; the places where we can work with partners.
Our 2016 manifesto was widely praised as a detailed and popular prospectus for an alternative future.
Excellent work has been done in discrete areas like Simon Thomas’ work in energy, BethanJenkins’ opposition to the super-prison, Jill Evans’ and the Westminster team’s campaign around continuing EU Citizenship - just a few exemplars from a talented pool of committed representatives.
BUT I have to say it’s my view, and I believe that of many others in this great party, that we have generally failed to consistently articulate a comprehensive and compelling vision of the future.
Our comfort zone has been a strange mixture of philosophical abstraction and the predictable, plodding politics of the parsimonious press release, the tired tweet and the formulaic FB status.
Nowhere has this shallowness been more exposed than on the question of independence, our very raison d’être, where our failure to present a clear and persuasive exposition explains why we have lost more than a thousand of our eight thousand members in the last eight months, while the civil society Yes Cymru movement has blossomed.
Pressing the reset button for our party has to start NOW; and it comes with the hard but vital work of developing a creative and credible body of ideas that will excite the interest and inspire the confidence of the people of Wales.
For me it is axiomatic that this programme will be about social transformation as much as national liberation.
It allmeans nothing if the mass of our people are left languishing in poverty.
I see little real disagreement on the centrality of economic justice to WelshNationalism – and that’s true whether people style themselves decentralist socialists (as I do), or radical liberals (in the Nonconformist sense) or Tolstoyan pacifists as Gwynfor was so effectively. We have always been a broad church with a radical creed and a heart of steel, coal and rolling green landscapes. We are one Wales and we should never let others divide us.
My late great uncle, the farmer Gwyn Price, and my father, the miner Rufus, both ended up in the Plaid family, though they got here decades apart and by different paths. The intrinsic beauty Welsh Nationalism is its social solidarity –the sense of us – which allows people to build bridges across divides of ideology, class and geography. It’s that “pan-Wales politics” – a judicious mix of red and green, well exemplified by Dafydd Wigley - that proves it’s easier to justify progressive ideas through the persuasive force of dynamic nationalism, than to try and do things the other way round.
Talking by default in the conventional Left/Right terms of UK political discourse is counter-productive. If that is perceived as the key axis of Welsh politics, then why shouldn’t our supporters vote for Corbyn’s Labour Party?
The key dividing line should always be between the Welsh People and the BritishState, and its Unionist cheerleaders, Labour and Tory alike.
If weare to defeat them in 2021, we need an effective change project.
We need it badly and we need it fast.
I assert that the ‘one more heave’ school of thought will inevitably disappoint, as it does in most parties that do not flex their thinking in response to persistent under-performance.
I contend that this is not about personalities. For instance, what is the value of simply ousting Leanne via a leadership challenge? One definite consequence is that it would leave a toxic residue of bitterness and recrimination.
We need to be healing the self-inflicted wounds of division in our party, not creating new ones.
There isa different way forward; one which is optimistic, vibrant and retains and builds upon the positive breakthrough that Leanne’s leadership has produced - in the Rhondda, among young people, women and non-native Welsh speakers – while also recognising the need for the injection of fresh impetus and new ideas and energy.
Let’s redefine what the leadership could be like in a 21st century, progressive democracy.
It’s obvious to me that no single leader in any party will ever be able to deliver the conflicting demands we place upon them.
We want them to be unwavering in their principles, but also agile and adaptive in the face of change.
We want them to deliver our unrealistic expectations and when they come up short, we simply transfer our loyalties to the next in line who also, indue course, show us their feet of clay.
Sohere’s a passionate but nevertheless a thought through view.
I wouldlike to propose a very different way of doing politics.
Aco-leadership model, where two leaders, male and female, jointly lead the party, can give us a radical and powerful leadership that will avoid the traditional vulnerabilities of placing power in a single pair of hands.
It’s time to put two hearts and two minds forward; to provide balance, insight and critical challenge. That’s why an increasing number of parties around the world are adopting co-leadership, from Green Parties everywhere, to the Left Party in Germany, to the Kurdish HDP and the Maori Party in New Zealand.
In our own party, co-leadership would allow us to embrace all viewpoints, to harness all drive and commitment for the widest political progress possible.
It would allow us to blend the competing ideas of what Plaid is for which the late greatPhil Williams defined as choosing between being the conscience of the nation or its Government. That tension reminds me of the famous conversation between Aneurin Bevan and Jennie Lee in which he berated his ILP supporting partner:
“And as for you, I’ll tell you what the epitaph of you Scottish dissenters is going to be – pure but impotent.”
Idealism without power is as empty as power without idealism. What Wales is crying out for is a creative synthesis of the two, which is why it’s so vital that we win in 2021.
Yes, we will have to work hard and work smartly - but the prize is worth it and the people of Wales are thirsty for us to find a pathway for such progress.
I believe if we, together, enthusiastically lead they will enthusiastically respond and support us.
It’s time to make it happen.
Here is Rhun ap Iorwerth's essay:
I was born in Rhondda Cynon Taf, was brought up in Meirionydd, then Ynys Mon. I lived in Cardiff for years, with a period in London and a splash of Italy thrown in. I’ve looked at Wales from different angles and from the outside in. I’ve reported on Wales as a journalist, and I’ve been in the news myself.
Through it all, I’ve spent a lifetime thinking and talking about my desire for Wales to flourish, to grow in confidence, to come out from the shadow of its neighbour and establish itself as a nation among nations.
In politics, I chose Plaid Cymru because, for unshackled ambition for our country, there simply is no other choice. Genuine ambition and a clear national vision can’t be optional extras for a ‘real’ country, as opposed to merely a go-getting ‘region’. (If Wales being a ‘region’ is enough for you... you needn’t read on. Unless you’re curious.)
I’m comfortable with the ‘i’ word, as a lifelong supporter of Welsh independence, but I also understand why the concept of independence makes many people nervous, and that it needs some explaining. You’ll also hear me using terms like ‘self-Government’ or ‘running our own affairs’. At the end of the day, the terminology used to describe Wales’ status isn’t the most important thing... it’s what we can achieve that’s important. We must articulate a vision of what we can achieve and how we’ll achieve it rather than playing this continuous and tedious act of buildingWelsh democracy on a piecemeal basis subject to the inclination of each and every individual Secretary of State for Wales.
And we should explain at all times that this is change for a purpose. Poverty of ambition in Wales in a constitutional sense has gone hand in hand with real poverty – the kind that should shame a country as rich as ours. My desire is for a Wales where there’s real equality of opportunity, where our citizens get the support to reach their potential, and when they do, they’re able to – and feel driven to - make a real contribution to their communities and their nation. We should talk about redistribution of wealth in every sense – not only from the richer to the poorer but also in terms of jobs and capital investment to strengthen local economies across the WHOLE of Wales. (Let’s explore how we can press ahead with the Swansea Tidal Lagoon without waiting for Westminster’s go-ahead, for example!)
Brexit has clarified my vision for Wales. I’ve been asked many times, “how can you support the EU, but not the UK.” The question is often accompanied by a smug “Aha – gotcha...explain that one!”
I can. The Leave campaign sought ‘independence’ for the UK, but the UK was already independent.It is an independent state tied into a large European network – tightly tied in, yes (as the complexity of Brexit negotiations prove) but independent nonetheless.
The independent Wales I seek ISN’T that kind of Brexit-style shut-the-world-away, we-can-do-it-alone,Empire-inspired ‘independent’. My independent Wales could comfortably be a EU member and that is clearly my preference (Brexit is undermining and threateningWales, and those who voted to leave in good faith are being taken advantage of by hard Brexiteers who are indifferent to the needs of Welsh communities). If being part of wider international networks is a positive vision, by definition Wales could also be a part of a network of sovereign countries within the British isles - a newly redesigned Britain, constituted of three or more independent states.
Some way off? It’s a vision. Not of ‘separatism’, but of new relationships, respecting and reflecting natural cross-border realities and common needs, but recognising and celebrating diversity, distinctiveness and different priorities.
If we’re to get there (or to another vision of what Wales ‘could be’ – please... tell me yours), we have a choice. Either a) we limit the numbers who can get on board with such aPlaid Cymru vision, or b) we try to attract as many people to the cause as possible – people driven not exclusively by the left-right political axis, but who have a genuine interest in the Welsh-British axis and in wanting to see the development and growth of our nation.
It is an axis which has Britannica’s ‘for Wales see England’ at one end.. and at the other stands a confident Welsh nation. I know which I want. Other political parties self-impose limits on that axis through their unionism. That’s not for me orPlaid Cymru, and I’m firmly of the opinion that people with differing left-right perspectives can contribute to the project.
Some have concluded that this ‘broad church’ pitch necessitates that Plaid Cymru must move ‘from the left’ to the centre ground. I don’t think so. I certainly don’t see that Plaid has to move ‘from the left’ to anywhere. That just continues to limit breadth, but in a different part of the spectrum. The way I see it is that we must create a people- and ideas-driven movement in which those on the left and over towards the centre can feel equally comfortable and feel they have a contribution to make.
What about cooperating with other parties? Not really what we ought to be focussing on, but it’s a question journalists and others will always ask of Plaid, so it’s important to address.
I want a Plaid Cymru majority. No surprises there. But considering there’s never been a single party majority in the history of Welsh devolution, I don’t think I can be accused of defeatism in suggesting that outcome is unlikely any time soon!
Next is forming a minority Government. Now we’re talking! Can we get to that point? Absolutely. However, there are a host of possible outcomes in this strange political system of ours where cooperation of some sort may be necessary.
Can I see a coalition with Labour? We’ve done it before, and I can imagine a results scenario where Labour being a junior partner to Plaid could work. But I genuinely think another 5 years of Labour-led Welsh Government would be bad for devolution. Very bad. So I don’t want to back another Labour First Minister.
Conservatives? There isn’t a set of circumstances in which Plaid Cymru could back a Conservative First Minister. In fact, it just couldn’t happen. A Plaid Cymru-led coalition with the Conservatives? I don’t see the appeal in that, either.
Another possibility is a Plaid Cymru-led programme of Government being supported less formally by another party, whichever party that may be, and if that programme could be shown to be truly transformative, that could be an exciting prospect for Wales.I could find that appealing, as does Leanne and other elected members, but it’s ordinary members and the wider Welsh electorate that would make the call, after the election cards have been dealt.
The point I make is that we must be clear and focussed. Our vision is to take Wales places, to grow as a nation. To become a Wales that looks forward, not over its shoulder. A Wales that rolls up its sleeves to look after its most vulnerable, and that seeks to develop the best ideas in order to prosper. A Wales that welcomes new citizens, encourages and helps them to embrace its culture, and asks them to make Wales not only their home but their nation, too. That is the broad vision, and to deliver it we must be a broad party.
To those who’ve read this far waiting for an announcement... I apologise. This wasn’t the launch of a campaign. But it does prove my intense strength of feeling that we need to be clearer about our vision, and be willing to discuss it. I’m on the record saying I’m considering my response to Leanne’s invitation for a debate on the leadership. What that means in reality is that I’m speaking to as many people as possible about how best to take Plaid Cymru forward. We’re in this for Wales, not ourselves.