We delivered a lot by working with Labour – but the real battle is about to begin
Adam Price, Plaid Cymru AM for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr
When it comes to casting their votes most people ask two questions of candidates: what have you done and what will you do.
Those from governing parties will have answers to both those questions, while Opposition candidates most of the time only have an answer to the latter.
That’s why governing parties are re-elected most of the time (Labour has a 100% record so far post-devolution) and one-term Presidents are the exception not the rule.
Tangible gains that deliver to key constituencies of support are key building blocks of electoral success – every bit as important as slogans.
Gwynfor “dual carriageway” Evans’ reputation as a champion of vitally important local infrastructure was as crucial to his victory in 1966 as his status as a nationalist hero.
This classically pre-figurative strategy – improving the Wales that is while imagining the Wales that could be – was reflected in our adoption in this Assembly term of a stance of ‘constructive opposition’.
Our view was and is that if we are to have any chance of winning the next election then we need to demonstrate the practical difference that Plaid Cymru makes – not in the dim and distant future, but in the here and now.
Eighteen months in, how successful has that strategy been?
In total, between the two budget agreements and the original Compact, we’ve managed to secure two-thirds of a billion of extra investment in our policy priorities.
Proportionally that’s about thirty times better than a similar number of DUP members were able to achieve at Westminster, in what many have lauded as a master-class in deal-making.
A £675m deal for an Opposition party is certainly unprecedented since the start of devolution. It means that the majority of major spending pledges – (>£1m) from our 2016 Assembly Manifesto – will have been delivered in total or in part.
Not bad in Opposition! Imagine what we could do in Government. This will be a narrative we’ll seek to drive home in the months and years ahead.
Behind the headlines there are some achievements that should not go unnoticed by nation-building nationalists.
A total of £80m in additional Investment has been secured for the Welsh language, the biggest single increase in Welsh language funding since the creation of S4C over thirty years ago.
Moving from the national to the political, some of what we’ve achieved will make a difference to the lives of Welsh people in the most tangible way imaginable.
Thanks to Steffan Lewis’ passionate advocacy our budget agreement means that mothers and their babies will in the future be able to receive perinatal inpatient mental health care in their own country again.
The urgent additional investment in roads like the A487 and the bypass solution to the air quality crisis in Llandeilo will also, we hope, soon help in saving lives cut short tragically and unnecessarily.
This is the kind of difference for which most of us went into politics to make.
In a number of cases we used our budget leverage to actively change Welsh Government policy:
- Creating a new Welsh language promotion agency
- 100% business rate relief for community hydro schemes
- Launching a young farmers entrants scheme (a One Wales policy ditched by Labour)
- A Brexit Preparedness Fund for business (another Steffan Lewis victory).
As a member of the LGBT community I’m especially proud that it’s Plaid Cymru that secured a gender identity clinic for Wales.
This has been long overdue, especially given the fact it was a Welshman who was responsible for the first gender reassignment in the UK over fifty years ago.
The Government has also agreed to fund the first stages of a new economic collaboration focused on the Welsh-speaking West, the ‘Arfor’ idea first floated by me in a Plaid discussion paper six years ago.
Getting a greater spread of Investment across Wales was also a priority for us:
- Abolishing the Cleddau Bridge tolls
- Upgrading the Traws Cymru service from bus to coach
- Establishing a National cultural institution for the first time in the North East (the Wrexham Football Museum) since the First World War (when the Royal Commission on Welsh Historic Monuments was briefly based there)
- Work towards an integrated Transport system for Swansea Bay and the Western Valleys plus a Metro line in the Rhondda Fach
- A full feasibility study on reopening the Aberystwyth to Carmarthen railway line
- A medical training hub for the North West, and many more locally important investments.
Labour and Conservative politicians attacked this as pork barrel politics but delivering for our constituencies to us is the very essence of democracy.
We hope the National Infrastructure Commission – another Plaid policy gain – will ensure a better all-Wales spread of investment in future.
Wales under Labour is undoubtedly stuck in a rut of historic proportions.
One-Party-Statism and the managerialist muddling-through mediocrity of Carwyn Jones’ leadership are doing real damage to our fledgling Welsh democracy.
Plaid’s historic task is now undoubtedly to create the conditions for the first non-Labour-led administration since the creation of the Assembly and the first nationalist-led Government since Glyndwr.
The first step in that strategy was amassing a record of achievement, even while in Opposition, that demonstrates tangibly the spirit in which a Plaid Cymru Government would govern.
Government innovation is an oxymoron under Carwyn, but in the Plaid budget deal you see a glimpse of the transformed nation that Wales could yet be, scouring the world for ways of working better.
Whether it’s the Dutch Buurtzorg approach to social care, leading the UK with a bottle deposit scheme, or the first major pilot of the made-in-Wales concept of the Foundational Economy.
Show, don’t tell, is a good mantra in politics as in life. Plaid has plenty to show for its eighteen months of constructive opposition. But now we are entering a new phase.
Where there has been accord, there can now be antagonism – not for its own sake, but with passion for a purpose.
In recent weeks we have opposed the Government on hospital downgrading plans in the rural west, on their lack of support for small businesses, and on their failure to deal rapidly with the homelessness crisis.
These are all areas where Plaid Cymru has better answers.
To move beyond little victories we have to win the greater prize of governing ourselves. Success in this next phase necessitates us communicating the difference we have made. It will also require the iron discipline and steely determination of a long campaign.
Win we can and win we must, because if we fail so does Wales. The longest and loudest battle of ideas in the recent history of Wales is about to begin.
It’s an exciting time to be an optimist, a radical and Welsh.
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“When it comes to casting their votes most people ask two questions of candidates: what have you done and what will you do”
I assume therefor Plaid will not attack the Lib Dems and/or Kirsty Williams for ‘propping up Labour’ then, given that they like Plaid have used both budget deals and coalitions to deliver priorities from their manifestos.
IF you do not want Labour in power at the moment, only route is going with Tories … .. either tory or labour and lib dems and plaid rather labour it seems
The Lib Dems should work alongside Plaid and coordinate there campaigns together. The main difference between our Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems is, of course, the Lib Dems believe that Wales can get self-rule within a federal Britain; But that assumes the English electorate are sensible enough to take up the road to de-centralised reform, that would mean the English shires ditching the Tories for the LDs, an event that at present shows little sign of happening. So until then Lib Dems should support Plaid Cymru to get the best for the people of Wales. Independence for Wales means… Read more »
Where did Neil McEvoy’s comment go?
Indeed, where did it go?
I think it’s a bit late for Plaid Cymru to start putting distance between itself and Labour. The damage is already done by Deryn and those playing gender politics, and those who think socialist solidarity is more important than Wales.
I welcome such a statement from Adam, being responsible for economic matters as he is.
And shall hope it forshadows oscillation towards ideas more familiar to Justin Trudeau, Vince Cable and Emmanuel Macrón. If you seek divergence with Labour without a Conservative approach, the Liberal path is what you are looking at.
Private co-operatives for instance. Spread ownership, make business and companies more democratic by doing away with models that pit trade unions against investors without the restriction of Statism. Encourage ownership of property, which is the basis of free and democratic societies.
Think Plaid should have gone into Coalition with Labour in 2016. Plaid would have given Wales a strong, national, radical government. I’m afraid we put party before country. There’s now an assault on the Assembly and Wales and Labour are ill-equipped, unwilling and unable to defend it. A government with Plaid would have been a good government with deep structural change to Wales’s economy, infrastructure and society. We’re waiting for some El Dolardo which won’t come. I’m afraid that 2016 will be seen in years to come as a totally pivotal year in Welsh politics … and Plaid wasn’t there… Read more »
Adam can try to spin this how he likes but this is pork barrel politics and the party has suffered. 2 AMs gone in barely a year and half is a sure sign that Plaid is in crisis. If the plan is to look like a government in waiting then it has gone badly wrong. Almost a year just dealing with some complaints from lobbyists against Neil McEvoy is a terrible look. And when the leader could have been making statements about natural justice and due process she was instead emailing members to tell them there was more to come.… Read more »
Adam doesn’t need to explain to members why McEvoy was permanently expelled from the group. The group have emailed all members with an explanation! Here is a snippet: “Neil McEvoy has demoralised colleagues through an evidenced pattern of behaviour towards Members and their staff which any reasonable person would deem unacceptable. This behaviour has included: Using angry and intimidating language towards staff and colleagues Making persistent unreasonable complaints about the process of his suspension and other matters Issuing persistent requests for information from individual Plaid Cymru AMs which have diverted valuable time and resources from our work Making disrespectful public… Read more »
McEvoy is a distraction. Expelling him doubly so. Plus this is work, liking the people we work with is not compulsory. As a Plaid member I do have to say that this is all well and good but Plaid have to choose between destroying the Labour Party or changing the Senedd if they want power. Labour only uses them when they need to and given the complete lack of empathy towards Wales coming from most of their “front bench” it dismays me to see us swallowing such nonsense. Try going to a Union conference or attending a third sector conference… Read more »
So your view is that “this is work” and that the Plaid group should adopt a stiff upper lip (very English!) and not complain if they find a fellow worker’s behaviour intimidating? Your advice to the group flies in the face of accepted wisdom – which is that if someone is intimidating you in the workplace you should report it to your line manager. This appears to have happened – note the last paragraph of the quote from the group email in my comment above: “Neil McEvoy’s behaviour regularly left colleagues feeling undermined and occasionally distressed with some interactions having… Read more »
Thanks for spelling it out. We now know that Plaid rolls over when Labour shouts at it but when a member of the Party argues a point forcefully its leadership gets shirty and fetches the disciplinary code down off the shelf. Pretty supine snivelling stuff, maybe some of that stiff upper lip that you dismiss is called for.
The point that all of McEvoy’s fanboys and fangirls ignore is that McEvoy was a member of the Labour Party for FIFTEEN years and only joined Plaid because he was deselected. An ex-Leader of the Labour group on Cardiff council told me, in 2005, that McEvoy could have an argument in a phone box. I, as a member of Plaid in Cardiff West, defended Neil on that occasion. Man, was I wrong! Where was McEvoy’s talk of sovereignty when he was in the Labour Party? In fact, where was his talk of it at all until recently? Has he “stolen”… Read more »
Before this is done I suspect many, many members of the Labour Party would have switched sides. If the nationalist movement is to survive we cannot go around saying “Ommm he was in the Labour Party and had no interest!” but the Labour Party doesn’t talk sovereignty does it? But that said Plaid does little these days… suppose a few token gestures. Would be truly curious why that is… if there’s something behind the scenes… but i imagine the pro-EU element faced with Brexit would want to leave the Union ASAP. But I suppose Brexit vote being close, Scottish vote… Read more »
excellent piece blue…………………mcevoy is now threatening legal action against signatories to the petition.another example of bullying?
If Plaid Dont get their act together with regards to using social media, like Neil Mc does, to pursue their agenda and trumpet their policies, or “radicalism” ( sic) they are finished. They are absolutely 5 years light years behind the Labour party when it comes down to this and nobodys seems to be doing anything about it desptie it being th eolny way to target the younges voting polpulation who wer engaged by Corybyn and Momentum – wake up and smell the coffe Plaid – at the moment you are an embarasement and that is coming from a lifel… Read more »
All Plaid seem to be able to do is be anti tory, hate the tories etc yet not be a party itself of opposition and holding the governing party to account, when Mr NcEvoy does it he gets pilloried. Plaid is now just a slightly more populous coalition partner whose sun is going down just like the LibDems in Westminster. The Deryn, gender and rights ishoos and internationalist stuff doesn’t get you into government and you end up being distant and disconnected from the electorate. If you are bully and intimidating for questioning how things are being done by the… Read more »
You can do much worse than take Adam’s comments seriously. Why do so many people spend so much time un unproductive squabbling?