Friday, July 6, 2018

Thoughts on the Plaid Cymru leadership election

This speaks volumes about just how unequal this "union of equals" actually is, but I would have been totally oblivious to the fact that a Plaid leadership election is now underway if I had been reliant on the London-based mainstream media.  I just happened to stumble upon the information on Twitter.  Adam Price and Rhun ap Iorwerth, both highly charismatic and telegenic figures who have long been regarded as obvious leaders of the future, are both challenging Leanne Wood for the top job.  To put this development in perspective, imagine that John Swinney had not resigned as SNP leader in 2004 but had instead been challenged by both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.  Totally unthinkable given the closeness of those three people, but just imagine.  That's the sort of scenario Plaid are facing - there's not just the question of whether the current leader will survive, there's also the subplot of a battle between two different Kings Over The Water that only one (at most) can possibly win.  It really is the leadership contest to end them all.

I've followed Rhun ap Iorwerth on Twitter for quite some time and he's always come across as extremely progressive, so I was surprised to see the suggestion in a BBC Wales article that he might be more receptive to an arrangement with the Tories than Leanne Wood is.  I know unsubstantiated gossip from the BBC should be treated with healthy scepticism (if you believe Sarah Smith's running commentary on Nicola Sturgeon's supposed 'private views', you'll believe anything), but what doesn't seem to be in any dispute is that Mr ap Iorweth is taking a pro-nuclear stance by supporting the construction of the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power plant in his constituency, while Leanne Wood is taking the opposite stance as leader.  That's a classic case of local people backing nuclear power while those further away from the plant paradoxically tend to be the ones more worried about environmental and health effects - we used to see much the same pattern in the debate about Dounreay.  But that doesn't necessarily mean that the people further away don't have a more clear-sighted perspective, of course.

The same BBC Wales article characterises Adam Price as seeking equidistance between Labour and the Tories, with the implication that this also puts him somewhere in between Mr ap Iorwerth and the more Labour-friendly Ms Wood.  I do seem to recall, though, that back in 2007 Mr Price was a key cheerleader for the idea that Plaid should opt for coalition with Labour and not with the Tories and Lib Dems.

If the suggestion that Ms Wood is the most left-wing of the three candidates is true, and from what I know about her I can believe there might be a grain of truth in it, that would leave me with a big headache if I was a Plaid member with a vote.  Ms Wood is probably closest of all the candidates to my own political views, but my gut feeling is that the Welsh public might look upon either Mr Price or Mr ap Iorweth as credible potential First Ministers, in a way that they perhaps don't with Ms Wood. It's the age-old dilemma - do you vote for the candidate with the best policies, or for the best candidate?  Having seen what happened to Labour after head ruled heart in 1994, I suspect I would probably follow my heart and vote to re-elect Ms Wood - although there would be a loud, nagging voice inside my head wondering if I was doing the right thing.


  1. I wish schools in these islands taught kids at least how to pronounce the Celtic languages. I read a name like Iorweth and I don't know how to say it, rather to my shame. I don't know how to pronounce Gaelic place names near where I grew up in Scotland either. Even for those not keen on kids spending time learning these languages in depth - surely knowing how to pronounce them would be a worthwhile skill, for the satisfaction of knowing and out of respect for those who do speak them. It wouldn't take up much time and could be integrated into lessons in history or English. There's this whole rich part of our cultural heritage that is largely ignored. Anyway, I hope Iorweth doesn't win if he supports the building of a nuclear power station, should be championing renewable like crazy as the snp have done so wonderfully, and I say that as someone who has never voted for them.

    1. When I was at university I learned Russian. Due to lack of use I now remember very few words of it, but I do still have the ability to read cyrillic, which can be useful as often words across languages are broadly similar, so even if you don't know the language if you can read the letters you can sometimes get the gist of things. Once you can read a second writing system it becomes immediately obvious that welsh, gaelic, etc. don't actually use the same alphabet as english, it's just superficially the same as it uses the same characters. Learning an alphabet is much easier than learning a language, and more being taught at an early age would be fantastic.


    3. Really good points, Al. I wouldn't advocate compulsory Gaelic or Scots for all children - there's a shortage of teachers as it is - but in Scottish Studies in schools, children should at least have the chance to find out what their own names, and the names of places around them, mean and stem from.

  2. I follow Leanne on Twitter and Facebook - that's the only reason I've even heard about the leadership race

    1. I like the look of you. A lot.

    2. Liar. You hate everyone.

  3. What strikes me is that the Union cuts Wales off from Scotland and them from us.
    The Plaid leadership is a significant story even in UK terms.
    The idea that London should be some kind of filter for news from Wales Scotland and Ireland is the ultimate in controlling behaviour.
    The Empire has had its day.
    Nation shall speak unto nation, but not before Independence.

  4. There are a few nuances you won't be aware of, James.

    ('Our' media down here are even worse than 'the media where you are': not only as Unionist as Ian Paisley's drawers, but utterly buddy-buddy with the comrades in the Bay. So no-one should go there to seek the truth about life in our one-party state.)

    There are significant numbers within the party who are very unhappy with the direction the party has taken, not merely under Wood but under her predecessor back to 2000. At that time, Dafydd Wigley - who had just led the party to its biggest electoral success ever in the first Assembly elections - was manoeuvred out in a 'palace coup' and replaced. The two leaders since then - Ieuan Wyn Jones and Wood - are seen by many as being both too eager to cosy up to a Labour establishment which is even more corrupt than Scotland's (no, really!) and too much in thrall to fake-progressive pressure groups and lobbyists, most of them with agendas which are actually dangerous to our national identity.

    This has led to the continual downplaying of Plaid as being a Nationalist party (in order, so the theory goes, to outflank Labour from the left), and the immense reluctance to even utter the word 'independence'.

    As a consequence - since you can't out-turd a turd without become one yourself - Plaid's vote has flatlined in national and imperial elections ever since.

    Wood is, I'm sure, a sincere woman, but she is at the head of this clique of fake progressives and so is part of the problem rather than any solution to it.

    The way in which Plaid's current establishment has treated those who wish a more forthright line on national sovereignty - such as the Assembly member Neil McEvoy and most of the party's membership in Llanelli - has also caused revulsion amongst the 'traditional' wing of the party.

    There is also the matter of a new expressly-nationalist party called 'Ein Gwlad' ('Our Country') which will be formally launched at the end of August, many of whose founders have come from the more radically nationalist traditions, and this may be exercising the minds of certain 'traditional' Plaid members.

    With regard to the election itself, of the two Rhun ab Iorwerth has - to quote The Pet Shop Boys - The Look, and Adam Price The Brains. It would be a positive step for Plaid if ab Iorwerth were elected leader and Price was given the brief to formulate a whole new set of policies based on the principles of national sovereignty and of choosing the best policies for the nation whether they come from the 'left', the 'right', the 'centre' or none of the above.

    Only breaking the grip of the special interest and lobbying groups on the party will save it from permanent irrelevance.