(Title Image: ITV Wales)
The winner of the Plaid Cymru leadership contest is due to be announced on 28th September, so there’s enough time left to go through the candidate platforms in more detail, based on the amount and depth of information each of the candidates has provided so far.
Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn): Leading Plaid Cymru to Lead Wales (link)
Why should members vote for Rhun?
Rhun all but states he’s the candidate who would be able to “build support across Wales”, based upon the success he had in the 2013 by-election and subsequent elections – something he’s keen to replicate across the country. He believes his record in the Senedd chamber holding two of the more important portfolios – economy & health – proves he’s willing to put in the work.
- Pledges to “listen to the grassroots”.
- Welcomes “new ideas and open debate”.
- Seems to prefer focusing party investment on winnable/growth constituencies.
- Put the welfare of young people front and centre and develop a citizenship policy and “Welsh fluency for all by 16”.
- Future proof the economy by focusing on emerging technologies (5G, electric vehicles); supports resurrecting a WDA-style national brand for business development and tourism.
- A health policy that focuses on prevention and early intervention, with a rebalance of funding towards primary care.
- Supports a second referendum on any future Brexit deal.
- Develop and set out a plan for achieving Welsh independence (subject to winning power).
Summary: Each of the candidates is pitching to one of the three main “tendencies” within Plaid Cymru, and Rhun is clearly speaking to the party’s middle-of-the-road heartlands. It’s a very Ieuan Wyn Jones platform in both a good way and a bad way, so it’s no surprise Rhun secured the backing of the man himself. The pledges to “listen to the grassroots” etc. could be interpreted as a pitch to party members who have been frustrated over the last few years by the amount of power retained by the executive. He’s also the only candidate that seems to be keeping their options open regarding possible post-2021 coalition scenarios.
Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr): Adam Price for Leader (link)
Why should members vote for Adam?
Adam let others speak for him on this. Cynog Dafis describes Adam Price as a “visionary” who has the “intellectual authority and reach that will make, not just the Welsh, but also the UK and wider media and political audience sit up and take notice”. Three of the party’s four MPs said, “Adam has a detailed understanding and knowledge of the long-term economic problems which afflict us and striking proposals for regeneration.”
- Establish a National Organising Academy to improve and develop community campaigning through online and residential courses as well as sharing best practice from successful campaigns around the world (through the network of contacts Adam’s built up).
- Establish a Campaigns Unit to support local campaigns from the centre.
- Reduce Plaid Cymru’s financial reliance on wills and legacies by starting a small donations programme and converting as many people as possible from supporters to members; aim for a £500,000 campaign “war chest” for 2021.
- Use “deep-canvassing” techniques and detailed polling data to carefully target constituency campaigns issue-by-issue.
- Consider changing the name of Plaid Cymru to “New Wales”.
- Rejects a coalition with either the Conservatives or Labour.
- Independence by 2030 as part of a broader “seven steps to independence” plan, including the election of a pro-independence government, a constitutional convention and a formal referendum process.
- Increase annual GDP growth to 2.8% in real terms every year for a decade and close the fiscal deficit to 6% of GDP by 2030; he would do this via an expanded Development Bank, a £8.5billion infrastructure investment programme (taking advantage of low interest rates), constructing a number of new towns, introducing a digital Welsh currency and potentially cutting income tax by 9% to be replaced by a land value tax.
- Opposes nuclear power due to the current and future (i.e. decommissioning) costs it would place on a theoretical independent Welsh budget.
- Support the creation of a new Welsh media across a number of platforms, locally and nationally.
Summary: Adam’s put forward what is by far the most comprehensive set of proposals (with a heavy emphasis on the economy) to the point that it’s a stronger platform than many party election manifestos. If this were a contest of ideas, he should win hands down – but it’s not as simple as that. By pitching to hard nationalists and the party’s dreamers and thinkers, he might alienate “grounded” Plaid members who would prefer to win power by bending in the wind (perhaps gravitating towards Rhun ap Iorwerth), as well as those who would prefer to fight door-to-door on community and social issues (who might lean towards Leanne Wood).
Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda): Leanne 2021 (link)
Why should members vote for Leanne?
As you might expect, Leanne’s pitch focuses on the progress the party’s made under her leadership. She (rightly) says she’s the most recognised and well-liked party leader in Wales and that some electoral progress has been made in local councils, Police & Crime Commissioner elections and at Westminster. She clearly states her aim is to form the next Welsh Government and that a change in leadership can bring a level of uncertainty.
- Leanne Wood hasn’t, as far as I can tell, outlined any specific policies relating to the internal workings of Plaid Cymru itself – seeing as she’s the incumbent leader that’s perhaps expected.
- Explicitly rules out working with the Conservatives or “moving to the centre ground”; she remains committed to “decentralised community socialism”.
- Will review Plaid Cymru’s policy on nuclear power, commissioning work on the possible negative effects of Wylfa B and highlighting alternative renewable energy projects.
- Seek to establish a “Convention” on independence and possibly hold a referendum in the second term of a Plaid-led government.
- A “housing revolution” to eliminate social housing waiting lists within a decade by introducing non-permanent housing that can be moved as demand changes, as well as an inheritance tax on property linked to how long a person has lived and worked in Wales.
- Supports a ratification referendum on any Brexit deal.
Summary: Leanne’s campaign has boiled down to one underlying principle, “I started a project in 2012; let’s give it at least one last big push”. There’s not much we haven’t already heard of or seen pitched by Leanne in previous years and her platform is based mainly on the detailed The Change We Need paper (link) and, going back a bit further, The Greenprint (old site) – so it has a theory base to work from. While everyone knows Leanne has a commitment to community activism and face-to-face discussions, it may be a mistake to have not properly addressed some of the party’s internal issues or acknowledge areas where things have been less than stellar.
Well, there you have it. It’s not my place to tell Plaid members how to vote, but I think I’ve done each of the three candidates justice whenever I’ve written about the leadership election. Senedd Home will, of course, cover the outcome of the election and reactions to it as soon as the winner is announced next week.