When I left Labour before the 2017 General Election, I left because I felt increasingly frustrated with a party that didn’t match the ambition that I had for my country – Wales.
I left because under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Wales was fast becoming an afterthought.
Meanwhile, the party in Wales under Carwyn Jones was running out of ideas and ambition to create a better society.
It soon became quite clear to me that Plaid Cymru was the party for me. However, 15 months on I have become equally frustrated with the current leadership’s inability to communicate and to translate Plaid’s clear ambition for a better Wales into tangible electoral success.
This leadership election gives us the opportunity to have a positive debate about the future of our party, assess our shortcomings and find ways to improve.
After attending Plaid’s leadership election launch at the National Eisteddfod, and speaking to all the candidates in turn, it’s clear to me that Rhun ap Iorwerth is the candidate best placed to be able to do this and communicate our ideas to the people of Wales and lead us to independence.
Rhun’s passionate vision for Wales, and ability to communicate it clearly, has ignited a fire within this young person.
He has inspired me for the future in ways I’ve yet to feel so far as a member of Plaid Cymru.
As a student at Cardiff University who frequently travels from our capital city to my hometown Aberystwyth, I know only too well the struggles of trying to get from one end of our country to another.
We urgently need to create a real One Wales – connecting rural Wales with our urban centres with transport links fit for the 21st century.
But transport links aren’t the only thing dividing rural and urban Wales. Far too many young people are leaving rural Wales to try and find work, never to come back leading to depopulation of rural areas and an ageing population which then increases the pressures on public services.
Rhun understands the need to support rural Wales, through encouraging rural enterprise and supporting agricultural industries as they face unprecedented threats from Brexit.
On the topic of our relationship with the European Union, Rhun has given his unequivocal support for a second referendum.
He wants to stop the car crash that is awaiting us if we let Westminster take us out of Europe without a deal, which will likely ruin our economy and strip us of our workers’ rights.
We must be passionate about our European identity and put forward the case for Wales to play a leading part in Europe in partnership with other independent nations.
Another issue Rhun has mentioned many times throughout the campaign is mental health. Mental health problems, especially amongst young people and students are increasing year upon year, which is why I was pleased to see that Rhun understands the need for urgency in putting the welfare of young people at the heart of decision making within Government.
His Young Wales Plan, if implemented, will support young people throughout Wales by promoting good mental health, which will help us deal with this urgent problem.
Perhaps most importantly of all, in our next manifesto Rhun believes that alongside our promises of what we can and will do, we should include an ‘I-Plan’ (Independence Plan) to show what more we could achieve if we actually had the power and tools to do so.
But as has been said by many throughout the campaign, to win on the issue of independence, we must show that Wales can, in fact, afford, and indeed profit from independence, and isn’t in fact too small a nation to succeed by itself.
Rhun has acknowledged the need to create a distinctive Welsh economy to make Wales fit for an independent future.
We will need to invest in our entrepreneurs and grow and create even more homegrown small and medium-sized enterprises whilst at the same time attract our graduates and skilled workers back home to Wales, who left when they were younger because they could not see a place for them in our economy.
Having a positive vision in a pamphlet means nothing if you aren’t able to communicate that vision to the masses.
Using his experience as a broadcaster, Rhun has the ability to communicate ideas with a clarity and an energy that Plaid Cymru has not achieved before.
It’s not a matter of leading the party away from the left as some have argued, but instead broadening our base to include as many people as possible.
It’s important that not one person who considers themselves Welsh feels left out of the party’s vision as some do at the moment.
We cannot afford the luxury of appealing to a narrow base and risk losing yet another election. We need to be able to win over voters who, like me, have voted for other parties in the past.
Rhun understands that to win, we must create an ever-growing consensus around the idea that we can take responsibility of ourselves as an independent nation and through doing this, take Wales to heights it’s never seen before.