‘Irrelevant’ Plaid is isolated in the Bay Bubble: We need to empower the people of Wales

Neil McEvoy AM

Neil McEvoy

I grew up in the 1970s on a council estate with a memory of nearly everybody’s parents working. I became politicised during the 1980s with the miners’ strike, the teachers’ strikes, cuts and an anti-society right wing dogma ripping apart our communities.
In my young world, Plaid Cymru didn’t exist. I flirted with the Worker’s Revolutionary Party as a fifteen-year-old and then joined the Labour Party in 1987.

That was the start of a journey, because I never quite fitted into Labour; I was too working class, too dark, too outspoken and rejected top down, centralised politics.

My main problem was that I wasn’t particularly good at being told how to think!

Fast forward to 1991 and I listened to a radical Dafydd Elis Thomas address the crowds in a huge anti-Gulf War rally at Hyde Park. I agreed with everything he said and felt a Welsh pride swell in my chest.

In 1995, I met a member of Plaid Cymru for the first time. He didn’t fit into the right wing, racist stereotype I had been sold. I empathised with the oppression he had suffered when he opened his mouth and wanted to use his mother tongue in his homeland.

He was white and I wasn’t, but we had been through incredibly similar experiences.

In 1997 I met many more Plaid members and l recall listening with Labour Party friends to Dafydd Wigley in the Cardiff City Hall. The great man made us all uncomfortable, because we couldn’t fault him! We joked at the time that he should be in the Labour Party. Just 6 years later, we would all be in Plaid Cymru.

Goal

The most outstanding point of all this was that Plaid Cymru was a well-kept secret. Unfortunately, it still is in too many areas of Wales; fourteen lost deposits in June tell us that.

My political party is as irrelevant to many Welsh youngsters in 2017, as it was to me in 1987; this needs to change.

Plaid needs to be confident and proud of what we are, or perhaps what we should be.

Plaid should be a social movement, not just a political party isolated in the Bay Bubble. We should loudly stand for a fully self-governing and sovereign Wales at every given opportunity.

The national Welsh project must be our centre of gravity. The national cause is more important than any individual or indeed any group of individuals. Just look at what Sinn Fein and the SNP have achieved with a united goal.

We must define our rights as Welsh people through a Welsh constitution. This will establish the standards we can expect in public life through a social contract between Welsh people and the Welsh institutions that govern us; all backed up by a fully-fledged sovereign law system.

We must stand for a reversal of the centuries old trend of young people having to leave Wales to seek their fortune. Neo-liberal capitalism continues to be a very isolating and lonely system of economics that we must reject. No amount of consumerism can fill the voids left in people’s lives in 21st century Wales.

Building community is the key. We should also seek to give people a stake in their workplace. John Lewis shows how successful an employee owned business can be; Wales has a radical history of workers’ cooperatives. Plaid also needs to be pushing this for the industries of the future. Relentlessly defending free trade agreements is not going to get us anywhere and aids neo-liberalism.

Social and environmental criteria must be inserted into economic growth models and plans. Furthermore, Plaid should put proper distance between the Party and Cardiff Bay lobbyists; we should clean up the Bay in every sense.

Above all we must light up the national imagination, empowering people and communities from the bottom up. I never did like top down politics; Plaid must practise grassroots innovation. Plaid politicians should get elected to empower people to live their own lives.

Cosy

Crucially, instead of meekly seeking to “influence” Labour to implement Plaid Manifesto ideas, which is our current trajectory, we should embrace full-on opposition.

Opposition done in the right way carries its own power; a group of just 2 Plaid councillors out of 75 in Cardiff 2012-2017 proved this time and time again.

As just one example, look at Ysgol Hamadrayad in Butetown. 45 out of 75 Labour councillors were unable to stop the rolling ball of opposition we kick started in September 2013 and Labour’s decision to scrap the new Welsh medium school was defeated.

What could 11 Plaid AMs do against a Labour Government with a soon to be wafer thin majority? Let’s find out.

I want to see the Plaid Group in the Assembly supporting what is right, but opposing with every ounce of our energy what is wrong.

Let’s stop hearing “Would the First Minister agree…” questions from Plaid and bin the cosy pairing system, where we have prior agreement on how many votes the Government will win by.

Let’s take Welsh politics to the Welsh people outside of Cardiff Bay.

Labour has run Wales for close on 100 years and look at the state we are in. In 1997 Labour won in Westminster with a massive majority. After the unprecedented loyalty Wales showed to Labour, you would have thought that going to war on poverty in Wales would have been the priority.

But instead Labour spent billions going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. They showed no loyalty to us and they never will.

It is time for change. Plaid Cymru must prove through actions that we are that change. I want to defeat the Welsh Establishment. I don’t want to be instructed to bend my knee to it.

Labour is the Establishment in Wales. We will not move Wales forward until we move Labour out of the way. Let’s get it done.

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