The men vying to be the Chair of Plaid Cymru have disagreed on the processes behind the expulsion of AM Neil McEvoy and the suspension of the party’s Llanelli branch.
Last night, Dr Dewi Evans launched his campaign to try and beat incumbent ex-Assembly Member, Alun Ffred Jones, at the Eisteddfod in Llanrwst.
Dewi Evans believes the expulsion system needs a thorough rethink after the friction it has caused within the party.
The election between the two men will be held at Plaid Cymru’s conference on October 4th-5th at Swansea Grand Theatre.
Dewi Evans was nominated by the Cardiff West branch to run against Alun Ffred Jones, and has previously stated that he is keen to welcome back both McEvoy and Llanelli’s disaffected members.
“I don’t think you can expel people because they found themselves on the wrong side of some standing order,” he told Nation.Cymru.
“We really need to recognise that the greater the support for Plaid Cymru, the more diverse its membership.
“We really need to find a way of accommodating a diverse membership and expelling members for disagreeing with the Chair is sending completely the wrong message to people who are sympathetic to Plaid Cymru’s views.
“We need a more effective structure of conflict resolution and conflict management which should avoid the need to engage in ritualistic expulsion.
“I think we should only expel people if they join another political party. If they’ve committed a serious crime or they’ve done something disgraceful like holding anti-semitic or racist views, for instance.
“This takes me back to my issue for conflict management and conflict resolution. Plaid is not a particularly large party. We get along very well.”
Alun Ffred Jones, however, said that Dewi Evans was “mistaken” if he thought becoming Chair of the party would allow him to welcome back expelled members.
“The chairman doesn’t have a veto or the ability to admit anyone to the party,” he said. “There’s a process which as it happens, and Neil McEvoy has decided not to take part in.
“But it’s not for the chairman – unless they want to change the standing orders – but to do that, you’d have to take it through the National Conference.
“You cannot stand claiming that you’d admit or not admit anyone into the party – there’s a process that has to be followed – and that has been followed.
“In that sense, I think, Dewi’s mistaken,” he said.
He said that part of the Chair’s role was to ensure that every member of the party “behave at all levels – responsibly and within the rules set out by the party”.
“And I’ll pick on the theme that Adam made in his contribution recently that we have to do that while respecting each-other at all times,” he said.
“So, there’s no room for any kind of intimidation or bullying or that sort of thing. We have to make sure that we behave with respect towards each other.
“We have to make sure that all our processes are transparent and that we adhere to them at all times.”
But Dewi Evans said that the problems within the party were due to Plaid Cymru’s success, and that he would be a more successful mediator.
“What has occurred is that with success our movement – there is friction – there’s no movement without friction,” he said.
“Undoubtedly there’s been some friction and I think it could have been handled better.
“But now we’ve seen growth … significant growth… and for the first time we beat the Labour party in an all-Wales election and in the last opinion poll, Plaid was ahead.
“In terms of Plaid Cymru policy – I don’t think we’ve ever been more united in regards to what we need to do with our priorities with policies with economic development, improve transport structures, change what is an unsatisfactory health service and so on.”
Dewi Evans also said that as Chairman he would be a better voice for members of the party in areas where Plaid Cymru had been weaker historically.
“I’m looking to become chair of Plaid because Plaid needs to extend its reach to all parts of Wales,” he said.“I’m launching my proposal that Plaid Cymru should have an office in north Wales to complement the offices of the MPs and Assembly Members.
“We need an independent Plaid Cymru office that is a full-on campaigning office – probably based in the north-east of the country because we need to reach those parts of north Wales where Plaid Cymru isn’t particularly well represented because there’s a great need for us to get more involved with areas like Wrexham and the north-east coast.
“It also sends a message to all of our supporters and members that Plaid Cymru is a genuine devolved political party and that we don’t want to separate everything to Cardiff.
“Secondly, we need to have a more sophisticated way to reach out to our members – not only to inform them of what we’re doing but to get their opinion on the issues of the day – in other words, I’d want us to engage in regular member surveys on topical and contentious issues.
“We don’t really know how many Plaid Cymru members support the development of nuclear energy… (or how many members were) supporters of remaining in the EU.
“If we engage our members more, they would feel more valued, they would engage far more, they would become far more likely to be candidates in local and other elections and also be far more willing to engage in campaigning and recruiting other members.
“We are on target to increase the number across the whole of Wales and I think the momentum is in our favour – and I think it can be sustained over the next years. And to do that we need to reach out to all parts of Wales and to the diverse electorate that is the Welsh people – I think we need to do that more effectively.”
There was one clear message in why he was launching his campaign in Llanrwst, however.
“We’ve got the best leader of all the political parties in Wales by a mile. Therefore, all of this needs to be done to enable Plaid to enable Adam to be the first minister in the next Welsh Elections in 2021,” he said.
“All of this centres in one goal – getting Adam Price to be first minister in two years time.”
However, the current-chair, Alun Ffred Jones, also said that he was keen to continue in the role as Plaid Cymru strives to make a breakthrough at the Assembly election in 2021.
“It’s an exciting time to be in Plaid Cymru and I’d like to be a part of that run up towards the assembly elections and I think I can provide continuity and stability,” he said.
“I’ve worked alongside the National Executive and two leaders, and I think that I’ve got the necessary experience to help in the campaign.
“What we need to do is make sure the party machine compliments the political lead of Adam Price and his team.
“We are there to serve that political ambition, obviously, but I also believe that I’m answerable to the national executive at all times – but obviously we need to make sure we provide the necessary funding and structures across Wales to ensure a successful campaign.”