How I went from being a Tory to joining Plaid Cymru

The Conservative Party logo. Picture by NCVO London (CC BY 2.0)

Joe Chucas

I used to be a Tory.

My friends were aghast; ‘Do you not care about the poor? Do you realise what Thatcher did to the valleys? They don’t care about Wales.’

My response was that under Thatcher my grandparents were finally able to buy their own house.

It also thought it was beyond belief that students received £30 a week EMA (Educational Maintenance Allowance), while I worked every Saturday for 8 hours and only received £32.

I also explained my view that Tory economic policy (lower income tax, less unionization, privatization) would benefit us as consumers, employees and taxpayers.

There was never any bigotry or malice in holding these views. Contrary to what some on the left think, Tories aren’t evil.

Many people agree with these ideas, and think they are doing what is best for society. It is perfectly possible to be right-wing and still be reasonable, caring, and intelligent.

You can hold these views and remain socially liberal, eco-friendly and compassionate.

My views have now changed on all of these issues. I’ve realised that young people massively struggle to get housing, and need help.

I’ve discovered that the increase in earnings for people on EMA far outweighs its costs.

I understand that there’s no sound basis to the economic theory underpinning Tory policy.

I additionally came to realise that the Welsh ‘left’ has collectively been a tremendously valuable force within and beyond Offa’s Dyke.

We have them to thank entirely or in part for the NHS, pensions, reform of the House of Lords, devolution, and the foundation of the modern welfare state.

There is only one party left standing whose aims align with this radical tradition of social and economic reform in Wales, and that is Plaid Cymru.

The Party of Wales

For those long frustrated with the ineptitude of bipartisan politics, there is a party with clear commitments to improved transport links and tackling fuel poverty, and further devolution of much-needed powers.

This is the party that exposed the ‘Cash for Influence’ scandal, turned down pay rises, opposed plans by both Labour and the Conservatives to increase tuition fees.

Their environmental credentials have been so strong that joint candidates have been fielded with the Greens, and the leader of the Green party in Wales has just jumped ship to join them.

Plaid Cymru is the only party who truly acknowledge what needs to be done to tackle the poverty endemic to Wales, and the potential solution of a national infrastructure commission.

The only real option for Wales if it to solve its myriad problems is the improved political settlement of a pluralistic Parliament with legislative and tax-varying powers. Only with these economic levers can Wales be lifted out of poverty.

Plaid politicians recognize this need, and propose Research and Development tax credit and support infrastructure to support improved employment prospects and capital accumulation and eventually reverse the outflow of capital and labour.

Of course, no party is infallible. At the grassroots level, there will always be the virtue-signalling, ‘leftier-than-thou’ ideologues and the insular oddballs sharing memes on independence.

It remains the case however that for Wales to thrive, it will need to move ever further from binary unionist politics towards representative democracy, further devolution and Nordic social democracy.

And Plaid Cymru is the only viable vehicle for that change.

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