Rhun ap Iorwerth, Plaid Cymru leadership candidate
As Plaid Cymru members we share a common belief that Wales and its people are being held back from their potential. We share an ambition, and with the right leadership, it’s within our reach.
The reason I’m standing for the party leadership is that members told me they wanted this debate, and I was urged by many to stand to unite the party, to give it a renewed focus and because they believed I could articulate an exciting new vision in a way people can identify with and trust.
As a communicator, my task throughout my professional life was to ensure people listened, heard and understood. There’s not much point in having great ideas and a clear vision, unless it’s communicated in a way people understand. Selling a dream isn’t enough in itself – no matter how eloquently it’s sold – unless people trust in your ability to realise it.
But we need ideas too, and this leadership election is a chance for me to outline some of mine – the need to map a road to independence, publishing an ‘i-plan’ explaining what we can achieve through independence, alongside our current policy programme, to show how constrained we are by the limits of devolution.
Then as First Minister, I’m looking forward to overseeing the first ever Government-led study of the challenges and opportunities of independence. It’s then that we really get down to business of building a civic debate on the opportunities ahead of us.
I want to develop a strong Welsh Brand, at a time when Welsh Government is rolling over and letting the British Brand take over, as they did with our food at the Royal Welsh Show
I want to reverse the brain drain, with a ‘Bring Your Skills Home’ plan bringing young people with their degrees and skills back home to build the Welsh economy.
I want a ‘Young Wales Plan’, putting the interests of children and young people at the heart of Government decision-making, unprecedented investment in physical activity to make us a healthier nation.
And as part of a new Welsh economic plan – Future-Proofing Wales – I want investment in infrastructure that unites us as a country.
But as Leader, it’s not just about my ideas. I’ll bring together the best ideas from across the party – and outside, for that matter – and put us in a position to implement them in Government. That’s why we need to build this new trust with the people of Wales.
I’m determined to make Plaid Cymru the go-to for everyone who wants a focus on developing Wales as a nation, so we can build a safer and more prosperous future, so we can tackle poverty, and build our confidence to take our place as a real nation, rejecting the efforts of the British establishment to undermine our identity. I won’t stand by quietly as they do so.
Plaid Cymru has to be a home for everyone who shares the ambition of making this country a better, a more equal, a more confident and a happier place to live, and that means people who were born and bred here, and people who moved here yesterday.
Everyone who wants to share in our joint venture has to feel they have a home in Plaid Cymru. The student or apprentice restless about limited opportunities, the parent worried about their child’s future, the businesswoman wanting Wales to be the place to succeed, the grandparent excited about the Welsh language being revived through the tongues of their grandchildren, the farmer worried that rural Wales is being overlooked, the aspirational young family looking to get on, the doctor, nurse or care worker wanting to work in the best possible NHS and care system, the teacher wanting the freedom to teach.
My message is – join us! Other parties will always put the preservation of the UK before aspiration for Wales. Let me lead a party that puts our communities and our nation’s interests in the driving seat.
We’re facing real threats, with an ill-thought-out or no-deal Brexit looming. This should always have been a two-stage referendum, and people should now be allowed a vote on the actual exit plan.
With the evidence in front of us, I’m clear that our interests are served by staying in the EU and not by allowing the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson to have their selfish way, because believe me, they’re ready to blame the damage of Brexit on those who voted Leave in good faith, even though they did so on a flawed prospectus.
But whilst our relationship with the EU overshadows everything, I want the people of Wales to think about the potential that comes from how we define all our relationships.
We would all benefit in these islands from redesigning the relationship between us – independent countries working together. And that Wales, in stark contrast to hard Brexit Britain is an open one, rejecting isolation, and always striving to work in partnership with others.
There’s an exciting future out there, we’ve just got to communicate to people what it could be.
I look forward to the work ahead of us, not least the build-up to the 2021 election – bringing people with us on the journey.
And remember, this isn’t just about leading Plaid Cymru – it’s about Leading Wales. I’m asking for the support of party members to be that Leader.