Aled ap Dafydd, Plaid Cymru parliamentary candidate for Ynys Môn
This article was first delivered as a speech at the 2019 Plaid Cymru conference at the Swansea Grand Theatre.
I have been to Plaid Cymru’s Party Conference many times before. Many times. Here with you, but not officially one of you.
I am now.
For that reason – for me – this will be the best conference ever. This is the annual time of year where I would be scripting the final television item, philosophising about whether the conference was a successful one or not – empty philosophising, some would argue!
But much better is having the opportunity to play a part in shaping the path to a New Wales and laying the foundations of our Government in 2021.
And every design has its architect.
William Hope designed this magnificent theatre, and we will be the architects of hope in the two upcoming elections.
The curtain has arisen, and the light is on us. United, enthusiastic and committed – we are approaching our best election results ever.
This atmospheric cauldron has been the home of the Ballet Russe for twenty years. It has been more Ben Lake than Swan Lake over the weekend! But friends, there’s a rhythm to our dance too. In our posture, there is new confidence.
Where there was formerly ambiguity there is jubilation. Those who have been challenging are now supportive. The curious are now enthusiastic. First-time Plaid voters – here to stay. The seed of independence is well planted, and at last, the harvest has come.
Now is the time to look forward – counting the months before the early birds sing. But friends, a long winter threatens the sweet melody.
A winter of hardship, a winter of conservatism, a winter of abandoning European cousins. As Boris Johnson and his gang boast their destruction – Jeremy Corbyn has retreated to the margins – no veneration, no leadership, and no hint of Brexit policy.
No wonder the people of Wales flocked to us in Plaid Cymru for the European elections, ensuring that we beat Labour in a national election for the first time ever.
Leadership – this is what is needed in an emergency – and this is what Plaid Cymru’s excellent MPs have offered in recent months. From shouting loudly against Brexit to fighting day and night to keep the doors of Westminster open – the tireless contribution of Liz, Hywel, Jonathan and Ben has already won a prominent place in our party’s history books.
Friends, our party’s debt to our Members of Parliament is one that we will never fully be able to repay. We’ve all heard of the power of three – well the power of four is something else! But I stand here before you today as I want to turn the Fantastic Four into the Famous Five.
Two years have passed since the Conference in Llanelli where Adam and I had something of a memorable exchange.
Live on air, I was questioning when exactly his much-lauded ‘tectonic plates’ were actually going to shift. They very much have by the way!
He retorted with his usual sharp wit that he hoped his unbounded optimism was attracting me to the cause. “Some of us have ambition!” he quipped. “Some have even left the BBC for Plaid Cymru”. And here I am.
Tired of looking from the outside in. Tired of being allowed to ask the questions but not able to offer the answers. Well, now I can. And I sincerely hope I will, as your parliamentary candidate for Ynys Môn.
My family has a proud record of public service on the island. My grandfather, the Reverend Meic Parry, was born and raised in Llannerchymedd before moving to London to join the ministry.
My father was headmaster at Ysgol David Hughes for over a decade – and my mother taught at Ysgol Gyfun Llangefni.
She was born and bred in London – a girl of the swinging sixties in a city which transformed itself from a gritty post war capital to the beating heart of hedonism.
Freedom of expression flourished which explains why she stood for election in 1966 at Layton High – and did so proudly as a Plaid Cymru candidate. Thankfully Gwynfor did far better in the election that really mattered that year.
Thanks mum, for lighting the flame and for being here today.
So, I know Ynys Môn and its people. I know what devastation Brexit will bring to Holyhead port and the island’s rural communities. And I know that as one of the constituencies with the lowest average salaries in the whole of the UK, Ynys Môn is crying out for high skilled, well paid opportunities.
Delivering such opportunity is no mean feat. But I also know that I will be learning from the best.
Of course, you don’t have to have an ‘ap’ in your name to represent Anglesey, but if every constituency could download Rhun then we would have long since won independence!
In Rhun and Ieuan, Anglesey has had world-class ambassadors. It is an honour and privilege to try to follow in the footsteps of two people who have put Anglesey on the map in our Parliament and Westminster in the face of the contempt of unionist parties.
The people of Anglesey will have two choices in the election.
Turning their island into a huge car park, seeing jobs lost as the recession takes hold, industries disappearing overnight. That’s the Conservative manifesto for Anglesey.
Or, it is possible to put hope ahead of worry. Only a Plaid Cymru MP will fight bravely and consistently to avoid a devastating Brexit and to protect the island’s economy and communities. Whenever the election, whatever the conditions – that’s my promise to the people of Anglesey.
And what will life be like after Brexit? Yes, it’s hard to imagine. But imagine we must – imagine, aspire, and design a better future for Wales, whatever the circumstances.
We know that the people of Wales are best served by Plaid representation at all levels of government. We know of the success of close co-operation between the Council, the Assembly Member and the Member of Parliament, from Arfon to Ceredigion to Carmarthenshire. Imagine what we could do with a Council Leader, an Assembly Member and a Member of Parliament on Anglesey.
Why not reopen the Llangefni to Amlwch railway line?
Why not make Westminster responsive to Anglesey’s needs so that we can turn the island into a green, working island?
Why not make it a blueprint of how viable Welsh-speaking and Welsh-speaking communities can be designed?
Why not ensure that Anglesey’s natural wealth does not hide behind the poverty of statistics?
Conference, the richness of Anglesey’s culture, heritage and resource is being hindered by Westminster’s poverty of ambition. A fence-sitting Labour party won’t have the answers. Nor will a Tory party whose Secretary of State rarely crosses the Severn Bridge, let alone the Menai Bridge.
The Tories recently tweeted a map of the United Kingdom and Ynys Môn wasn’t even on it. Further proof if proof was needed that they know little and care less about us. In Ynys Môn we are the only option for those who value an outward-looking Wales that wants to forge a European future.
Labour won’t do it. They can’t do it. They’ve already committed to inaction, a conscious decision and a dereliction of duty. And let’s bust the myth that ‘Welsh Labour’ is a living thing. It isn’t. A vote for a Labour candidate in Wales is a vote for someone who takes the Corbyn whip.
On Anglesey Iet’s invoke the spirit of ’87. It began a decade of delivery, but only because we had a Plaid Cymru MP on the island. Those were the days when Mon’s representative in Westminster was winning awards for his contribution to business.
We can get those days back.
From banking to broadband, Plaid Cymru MPs are leading the way in reinvigorating our rural way of life. And conference, count me in.
Friends – in his book Putting Wales First – which traces the party’s history, Professor Richard Wyn Jones refers to two deeply rooted prejudices. One of them is the assumption that one of the most prominent features of Welsh politics is its inability to act as an incubator for political thought of any substance. But we know that, if I may quote the author – we are active thinkers.
We’ll have part of the answer, but the essence of success is our unity. Plaid Cymru has no ranks. Only one front row, where volunteers, staff and elected members work as one to cross the line.
Jonathan Edwards was right to mention the Mab Darogan. What he forgot to mention was the the “meibion a’r merched darogan” who predict that a greener, more equal and enlightened Wales is within our reach.
Friends – this is no false dawn, the sun really is rising on a New Wales.