Delyth Jewell, Plaid Cymru Senedd Member for South Wales East
“I am so tired of waiting, Aren’t you, For the world to become good and beautiful and kind?”
I’ve been thinking a lot about these words from a poem by Langston Hughes recently. To me, they represent the change we should strive for in our politics as we consider how we can do things differently in the post-Covid world.
The response to the crisis has blown away many myths that have permeated our politics for decades. The starkest example for me was the proof that allowing homelessness to exist was a political choice all along.
Plaid Cymru has long argued that, with the necessary political will, homeless people could be safely accommodated and given a chance to reintegrate into society.
I knew it to be true, but seeing it happen in front of my eyes was something else and brought on mixed feelings. I was glad that homelessness was eradicated more or less overnight, but saddened at the thought that many lives could have been saved had this happened years ago.
If politics is the art of the possible, we now know that more is possible than some hereto imagined. The question we face now is this: what should happen next in Wales to improve the lives of our citizens?
We know what the answer isn’t: the continuation of state-imposed austerity and the deliberate, destructive dismantling of community assets that seems to be the Westminster government’s default answer to everything. We must harness the powers of devolution – and the possibility of independence – as a tool to forge a distinct path, a Welsh way.
We must also learn from the painful lessons this crisis has taught us. Wales is currently tied to a sick British government that is a world leader only in incompetence and callousness. There exist deep-seated structural faults both within the British state and within Wales that has meant that people from BAME and/or poorer backgrounds have died in greater numbers and continue to face social and employment disadvantage.
Our public services are desperate for investment but we don’t control the purse strings. These are huge challenges, but we must face them head-on with a renewed spirit of purpose.
In order to understand how we begin to build a new future, it makes sense to take a step back, and try to imagine the sort of country we’d like to see ten years from now. Once we have that central vision, it’ll be easier to work back from that point and to see what steps should be taken now to help us to get there.
I’d like to see a confident country that has made substantial social, economic and environmental progress. A country where the existing structural inequalities – that have been brought to the fore so powerfully by the Black Lives Matter campaign – have disappeared. A country where absolute poverty has been eradicated.
A country that feels no need to clap its key workers because it provides them with fair pay and conditions. A country whose economy has been adapted to prioritise wellbeing over blunt profit-making. And a country that sets a shining example in being low-carbon and sustainable.
The current economic model favoured by the Labour Welsh Government is bereft of imagination and radicalism; rather, it’s based on mitigating the damage imposed by Westminster (and themselves) through discredited orthodoxies.
Their failure is crystallised by Carwyn Jones’s record as First Minister. Asked about his proudest achievements, he pointed to his actions in helping Aston Martin open a factory in St Athan. Incentivising foreign direct investment is standard practice and that there’s a role for it in creating jobs providing certain conditions are met and as long as it is part of a healthy and sustainable economy.
But it is telling that the previous First Minister produced such an uninspiring answer, and that he did not recall success in eradicating child poverty, increasing education achievement or creating a new low-carbon economy that provided green, sustainable jobs. The reason was that key targets in all these areas that are so crucial for the next generation’s future were missed, dropped and forgotten. He had no progress to celebrate after leading the country for nine years.
The question for those of us who want real, radical change is how to go about achieving it. It’s about how we build resilience, wellbeing, equity and sustainably into our economy and wider society, and it’s about how we can realise some of these radical changes now, before becoming an independent nation.
My colleagues and I have a lot of ideas which we’re working on, but I believe fiercely that it is the citizens of Wales themselves who should pave the way. So today we’re launching a portal on our website to give a platform to new ideas, where people can feed into our policy-forming process.
You can contribute your ideas by following this link.
We’ll be open to considering all sensible ideas that reflect our values, and we welcome contributions from any field that affects the way people live and will have relevance for Wales over the coming weeks, months and years. If you have an idea for how the future could be better than the past, we want to hear it.
And if there’s something you think Plaid Cymru should be doing differently, feel free to let us know.
I believe firmly that the people of Wales have an untapped desire to build that good, beautiful and kind country I believe in. Let’s build it together.