The very idea of Wales could be in question if Wales’ does not fight back against Westminster’s attempts to scrub the nation off the map, according to Adam Price.
But as leader, he would attempt to channel people’s anger towards the political establishment into hope rather than resentment, he told Nation.Cymru.
The Assembly Member is in a three-way fight for the leadership of Plaid Cymru with incumbent Leanne Wood and challenger Rhun ap Iorwerth.
Perceiving what he describes as an historic window of opportunity, Price says there is a great chance for Plaid to change the political landscape in Wales under his leadership.
Price stresses the importance of Plaid Cymru presenting voters with a compelling vision of how Wales could be, and suggests channelling the current populist mood to get that across.
“I think it is certainly true that the very idea of Wales could be in question,” he said.
“We live in a time where identity, which was a marginal thing maybe in mainstream British politics, not in Wales, has come to the centre point of politics.
“There is a resurgent kind of British nationalism which is obviously trying to airbrush Welsh identity out of the picture.”
One problem, he said, was the crisis of trust in democracies around the world at present, which will soon be replicated in Wales as people lose patience with the “stale, ideas-free politics of successive Labour governments”.
“I think it is possible for progressive or radical movements and independence movement to learn from some of the elements within what has come to be known as populism,” he said.
“At its base what it is, is understanding that one of the key dividing lines in modern society is between a sense of alienation from an establishment and then a sense of the people not being listened to.
“That is a core message that works very well for Welsh nationalism doesn’t it? That is the history of the last six hundred years effectively in a nutshell. We shouldn’t be frightened of using that. “
He said that there was an opening in Welsh politics for an anti-establishment Plaid Cymru at the moment “largely because of the one-party-state dominance of Labour”.
“The pendulum will always swing eventually,” he said. “I think there is a palpable frustration with progress under the Labour government on a whole range of fronts, from the economy, to the creaking nature of public services and the lack of vision and lack of self- confidence generally.
“So, there is an opportunity there for us. The broad canvas of politics at the moment is inviting people to seek out change.
“And if we can be the vehicle for that aspiration then I think will win, but we won’t win by just continuing to do the same.”
The Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Assembly Member said that people in the corridors of Westminster and in the streets of Whitehall were laughing at Wales.
However, Welsh political leadership had been characterised by “lickspittle lackeyism”.
“Where is the anger that should be channelled by our political leaders in response to that?” he asked, referring to Wales’ treatment by Westminster.
“The tidal lagoon, electrification, the fact that 60% of the water in Welsh reservoirs is given for free, effectively, to companies over the border which then sell it at a huge profit.
“I think people are looking for a new leadership which crystallises that anger but hopefully channels it into hope as well.”
The continued lack of investment in Wales’ internal infrastructure, compared to London and the south-east of England, was one bone of contention that Plaid Cymru could draw attention to, Adam Price said.
“I think we need to have a compelling message,” he said. “Compelling in the sense it has emotional resonance for people and encapsulates for them, in a broad sense, the reality of their lives.
“In pointing out the state of our infrastructure in Wales and explaining to people ‘this isn’t the result of some technocrat incompetence over the last few years’ – though there is plenty of that in Wales under the Welsh Labour government!
“It actually has an arc which goes back hundreds of years. It is actually a function of, a product of, the colonised nature of the Welsh economy.
“And actually these points, which in a different period may sound like an academic seminar, actually have a real emotional impact for people.
“They get it because they have tried to get from south to north and north to south in their own country. They’ve driven on those roads and they’ve had that odyssey of a rail journey.
“And people have been abroad and they’ve seen that this is a fairly unique Welsh experience so I think that you can tell these stories.
“The key big difference between this kind of populism is you try channel it into hope rather than resentment.
“And of course, the hope project for Wales, the change project for Wales, is ultimately the self-confidence that can only come through independence. “
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