Simon Brooks, candidate for Plaid Cymru’s nomination in Dwyfor Meirionnydd
Beating Dafydd Elis-Thomas in Dwynfor Meirionnydd in 2021 will not be easy. He has been an elected member for nearly half a century. He has been Presiding Officer of the Assembly. He is a member of the Government. He will present himself as a statesman. He is one of the more wily political figures of his generation.
Dwyfor Meirionnydd is a traditional, rural, Welsh-speaking constituency. Dafydd Elis-Thomas is deeply ingrained in this society; he is part of it. If he is to be replaced, there will have to be a feeling in the constituency that the Plaid Cymru candidate is a suitable figure.
In order to win back the seat, Plaid Cymru will have to choose the right candidate. Only the right candidate can win.
Putting up an apparatchik will not work in Dwyfor Meirionnydd. The good Lord will be elected for another five years. And with it may well be gone Adam Price’s hope of forming a first historic Plaid Government.
Plaid needs a candidate who has been fiercely loyal to the national movement his or her entire life, but who can think independently. A candidate whose nationalism is beyond reproach, but whom people from other political traditions respect.
A candidate who has intellectual credibility. A candidate with profile, who has headed up institutions and movements in Welsh-speaking Wales, and who has run national and local campaigns.
A candidate who can create policy rather than merely echo it.
A candidate who can communicate effectively on television, radio and in print.
Dafydd Elis-Thomas will base his 2021 campaign on the idea that he is ‘independent’ and his opponent a puppet. He will struggle to get far with that line of attack against me.
What should be Plaid Cymru’s core strategic message?
Dafydd Elis-Thomas will not be defeated by throwing insults around. Plaid will be painted as intolerant and will lose votes as a result.
Rather Plaid should argue that Dafydd Elis-Thomas has served his constituency well but that it is time to move on.
I saw the tactic employed very successfully when I campaigned for Cynog Dafis (above left) in his historic win against Geraint Howells in 1992.
For the tactic to work, Plaid will have to choose the right candidate. He or she will have to be a figure that people can imagine as a strong, robust, credible Assembly Member.
To defeat a dug-in independent, we need a searingly clear vision of what a Plaid Cymru Government can do for the north-west. I have championed the cause of Welsh-speaking communities in Gwynedd for the best part of twenty years.
The candidate will have to understand Welsh-language culture from the bottom up. I am immersed in Welsh-language culture.
He or she will have to respond to the needs of majority English-speaking communities along the coast too. I am the Councillor for Borth-y-Gest, one of those communities. I have stood up for the community on the bread and butter issues that matter.
Once the Plaid Cymru candidate is chosen, the Welsh press will descend on Dwyfor Meirionnydd with some enthusiasm. Plaid Cymru vs. Dafydd Elis-Thomas will become the battle to watch, especially on Welsh-language media.
In Gwynedd, Welsh-language media is mass media.
Picture this scene a week before the 2021 Assembly elections.
Pawb a’i Farn turns up in a hall in Pwllheli or Blaenau or Bala for an hour of live television. Everybody who is everybody in Dwyfor Meirionnydd is watching. Half of Welsh-speaking Wales is watching.
Dewi Llwyd will be sat in the middle, with Dafydd Elis-Thomas on his right, and the Plaid Cymru candidate to his left.
That debate that night will decide who wins the seat.
Who do you think is best placed to out-argue Dafydd Elis-Thomas on live television?
Who do you think should sit in the Plaid chair?