Why Plaid Cymru needs a new Chair this year
Dewi Evans, candidate for the position of Plaid Cymru Chair
I remember the absolutely electric feeling of Gwynfor Evans defeating Labour in my home town in Carmarthen in 1966, when the shockwaves from that win were felt across Wales and beyond.
That win came just a year after Capel Celyn was flooded to provide water to Liverpool, with Welsh MPs powerless to stop it. That was the wake up call when we stood up as a nation and made it clear we weren’t going to be pushed around.
We are doing it again now. That feeling of excitement is back. Cofiwch Dryweryn murals and Independence Marches are taking place across the country. Once again we are standing up for ourselves.
But this time we’re not looking to win our first seat for Plaid Cymru. We are on the verge of winning a National Election to our Welsh Parliament – the Senedd.
I want Adam Price elected as First Minister of Wales in May 2021. I supported his nomination and canvassed on his behalf.
Recent election results have been encouraging. In this year’s European Elections, for the first time ever, Plaid Cymru achieved more votes than the Labour Party and the other mainstream political parties.
But this is no time to be complacent. There are some issues in Plaid that must be addressed to give us the best chance of winning that 2021 election.
Under the surface Plaid has experienced numerous operational problems, all of which could have been avoided. In 2017, scores of members left Plaid in Llanelli. Some were expelled. Plaid’s candidate in Blaenau Gwent, who came within 650 votes of winning Aneurin Bevan’s old seat, has left the party.
I’m not happy with the public things he’s said since. But we can’t lose candidates in winnable marginal seats.
Cardiff West has also been a running sore. Despite Neil McEvoy turning the Labour First Minister’s seat into a Plaid – Labour marginal at the last Assembly Election he has been expelled from the party. The current Chair, who I’m standing against, was the main complainant!
Conflict is ‘resolved’ through divisive expulsions and personal arguments. That is not the way that the Chair of the party should behave. The role of the Chair is to bring people together, not tear them apart.
Can we afford more expulsions, more resignations, more conflict? I don’t believe we can. It’s why we need another Chair, someone who can ‘do listening’ not ‘do dictating’, a Chair who values the contributions of all members of our Party.
‘More of the same’ just won’t do. Dare I say it? We need a Chair with an effective bedside manner.
Any vibrant organisation is likely to encounter differences on policies and how to implement them. That’s both necessary and healthy.
What is not healthy is when differences get personal, and members are expelled for being in the ‘wrong’ group or on the ‘wrong’ side of the debate.
We can only win by working together. We have a clear and public aim. Independence for Wales, We need independence from those hapless and hopeless ‘unionist’ parties currently making fools of themselves in Westminster and across the world.
But Plaid Cymru lacks an effective system of conflict management and conflict resolution.
So how do we fix this?
We need to really value the opinions of our members. We, the members, sustain Plaid. We are the resource that funds our party. We need our members, all of them, to deliver a sovereign Wales, an independent Wales.
The more we engage with our members, the greater their participation and the greater the opportunity to increase our membership. This could also improve our financial resources.
As a party we need to trust our members to do the right thing and make the right decisions. We can do that through a better platform to make our voices heard.
I was astonished to be told by one of our most senior officers that we just don’t liaise with our members. We do not seek their views on topical issues. We have no effective structure in place that allows liaison with groups; teachers, farmers, health staff, business people, trade unionists, on a regular basis.
I would establish regular surveys with our members; easy to arrange with the benefit of 21st century technology. Those surveys can assist our party spokespeople in the Assembly, helping them develop policies that represent our party.
Many of our members cannot get to the Annual Conference in Swansea to vote. This means that nurses and health care staff working weekends, farmers with heavy workloads, parents with young children, members reliant on public transport, members where money is short, are all excluded from the democratic process. That’s not fair. That’s not right. That needs to change.
As Chair, I would aim to get all our members are able to participate in future internal elections, with the use of online voting (and a postal vote for the few not familiar with newer technology). That’s how internal elections should take place in the 21st century.
We must also invest in our staff. We have excellent staff. They need better support with regard to training, attendance at courses, time to study. That’s been the norm for healthcare professionals like me for decades. We need to apply the same support for our staff. Let’s ask them what skills they need to do an even better job and then make sure they get them.
I will establish a Campaign Office in the north of Wales. Restrictions prevent Plaid staff who work out of the offices of Assembly Members to campaign for the party, thus the need for a separate campaign office.
A political campaign office in North Wales would provide crucial help and impetus towards winning in areas like the North East and Aberconwy. For some communities, the nearest Plaid campaign office is just too far away.
I’ve spent most of my career as a consultant paediatrician. I’ve given evidence numerous times in highly complicated court cases. I understand due process, I understand justice and I know how to work as part of a team.
I know how to interpret standing orders, ensuring that they are not used against individuals just because we don’t like them or because they have a different point of view.
I will develop an effective structure that will lead to the resolution of conflicts instead of the current arrangements that frequently make matters worse.
If you elect me as Chair, I will offer the hand of friendship to those who have left the Party. I will campaign to get an amnesty for those expelled. I will welcome everyone who can make a positive contribution to our national movement working towards an independent Wales.
We need to reach out to all parts of our nation.
Plaid Cymru can best make progress by recognising the rich diversity of our people and our members, and recognising their many talents. We won’t win through divisive politics.
Plaid Cymru is not a private club. It’s our vehicle for governing our country and delivering independence. It’s our nation’s most important political movement.
If you agree with me you will have the opportunity to vote for a new Chair of Plaid Cymru. I look forward to meeting you at Plaid’s conference on the 4th & 5th of October in Swansea.
Let’s win together!
Gyda’n gilydd y safwn ni.