Rhun ap Iorwerth
Caernarfon is of my favourite places in Wales, without a doubt.
And no, it’s not just because that from here you have one of the best views of Ynys Môn (although that helps).
No, there’s something about Caernarfon. The Welsh confidence in this town in the shadow of Edward I’s castle has always been striking to me.
Confidence is something that is so important. It’s something that we in Wales have maybe been lacking.
We’re regularly told that we’re too weak, too poor, too small or too stupid.
Building on that confidence in our nation is one of the main reasons why I decided to join Plaid Cymru, so that we could set a different course for our nation and offer a better future to everyone in Wales wherever they are, whatever their background.
But if I’m honest, our national confidence has felt quite sparse recently.
I don’t know about you but there’s a feeling that our interests as a nation is suffering blow after blow.
- Our most disadvantaged people and communities are coming under attack after attack by Westminster governments. The cruelty of the Universal Credit system is proof of that.
- Wales, the international nation, has been led to turn her back on European partnerships that have been so valuable to us.
- The parliament in London is using leaving the European Union to undermine the power of the Welsh parliament.
- Even Newsnight has joined in the game of undermining the confidence in our language and culture!
Even Labour and Tory MPs can’t be bothered to take their seats on the ONLY Westminster committee dedicated to discussing Welsh affairs. Shame on them.
But there we are, we will take their place, and for the first time ever, Plaid Cymru has TWO members of the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee.
Not only is it easier to doubt where we are going as a country in terms of the challenges we have faced, it’s easy for us as a party to lose confidence.
Yes, this year’s snap election was a challenging one. It was difficult to see Wales following British patterns – or to be more correct – English patterns of voting.
There was almost a feeling of being under siege. Feeling powerless.
But remember in the middle of all this, a young lad from Llanbed, Ben Lake, was elected as the youngest Plaid Cymru MP ever, and the party went back to its highest number of MPs ever.
No, that doesn’t tell the full story of the election – it was a challenging one.
But Plaid Cymru in Ceredigion saw that there was a way of winning. With the right candidate, the right message, the enthusiasm, the energy…the confidence. Plaid Cymru won Ceredigion on the front foot.
And it’s on the front foot that we as a party will face the challenges of the future – united, disciplined, and with a clear aim.
I’m adamant that only under the leadership of a confident, committed, hard-working Plaid Cymru can we see this country starting to truly come out of her shell and reach for a better future that I know is within our grasp.
I joined Plaid Cymru because of its ambitions for my country. I looked to Plaid Cymru for its clear-cut dedication to seeking the best for communities in all parts of Wales.
I want Wales and its people to feel empowered to face the future with a new-found confidence, and a belief that we can take responsibility for our own destiny.
Setting our own priorities to look after our old and vulnerable, able to help our young people map out a better future. Wales – international in outlook!
Our future is built on strong links with our neighbouring countries in these islands and across Europe.
Oh, the stark contrast of that vision with the ‘shut-the-borders’, splendid isolation of hard Brexit Britain.
And that’s not to deny what happened in the vote last year – not at all. I accept the sentiment expressed through the ballot box that day, in that rush-job referendum, that gave little time for a real assessment of what was at stake for Wales. But I think people get it now.
As we look to the future, a newly confident Wales needs a newly confident Plaid Cymru – it’s YOUR party, wherever you are, IF you think Wales is worth something.
If our nationhood is something you value. You might have been born here, you might have moved here yesterday, you might speak Welsh, you might not… if you believe you have a stake in Wales future – let’s do this together.
Plaid Cymru is for ALL of Wales.
And no, not everybody sees that yet. It’s our job to help people understand that. Our appeal can and must be broad. And it’s the country, not the party, that matters.
I just happen to believe Plaid Cymru has our best interests as a country at heart. This is about building momentum behind people and communities Wales-wide, not behind a political ideology.
When we as a Plaid group in the Assembly go about our business, under Leanne’s leadership, it’s all aimed at building up Wales, in prosperity, in education, culturally, our jobs, our life chances, our aspirations, our health.
I want to and I look forward to doing that in Government, but for now it’s our job as a strong opposition to hold Labour to account.
At the same time, we can even make some real gains. From opposition.
As Shadow Health Secretary, I know workforce planning is one of the biggest challenges facing the NHS.
It’s shameful that Labour running the NHS in Wales for 18 years has taken its eye off the ball to such an extent that we now face crises in recruitment and retention across so many parts of the health service, among Doctors, nurses and other health professionals.
That’s why I’m determined not to let up at all in our campaign for a new centre to teach doctors here in the north of our country.
We are desperate for doctors, we need to give more opportunities for young students from Wales to study medicine in Wales. But Plaid Cymru has a plan.
Nearly forty percent of all medical vacancies in Wales are here in the north. This has to be addressed for the service itself, for the staff, and of course for the patients.
It’s also hugely costly. Betsi Cadwaladr is finding it impossible year after year to stay within budget. In the last financial year, agency staff costs – including locum doctors and agency nurses – soared from £33m, to over £40m.
That’s just here in the north. Health boards Wales-wide are spending millions of pounds every week on agency staff. And at the same time agencies are profiting.
Well, let me announce that a Plaid Cymru government would want to take the profit out of agency staffing.
As Health Secretary I’d make sure we have a not-for-profit model for supplying agency doctors and nurses, as we build up the longer-term resilience and sustainability of our full-time workforce.
I came into politics not only knowing that there’d be challenges ahead… but because there were challenges ahead.
It just so happens some of those challenges have deepened since then. But all that means is that Plaid Cymru has to be even more determined to step up to the plate.
Labour’s complacency and lack of any real vision for our country is taking us nowhere. The Conservatives at Westminster show time and time again they care not one bit about our welfare or what’s in Wales’ interests.
We in Plaid Cymru – the party of ALL of Wales – have to offer an alternative to the people of Wales.
An alternative government they can trust and believe in.
Caernarfon Castle just up the road was one of Edward I’s Iron Ring of castles. His idea was to bring the story of Wales to an end.
It says a lot that this Labour government planned to celebrate that Iron Ring at Flint Castle. But just like the ring was ditched, Labour’s rule in Wales WILL come to an end.
It’s a matter of ‘when’. And it’ll come when we’ve convinced enough people to put their trust in Plaid Cymru.
It really is that simple. It’s important to remember our history as a nation – but our interest is in the future. The story of Wales is only just beginning. We can be authors of our own destiny.