(Title Image: ITV Wales)
A debate between the Plaid Cymru leadership contenders took place on ITV Wales’ Sharp End last night.
The programme is available to watch here and lasts about 45 minutes – but if you would prefer a summary instead, here’s it is with the contenders listed in the order they sat from left to right.
Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda)
Why are you in politics/Plaid Cymru? – Injustice and inequality; to try and remove as many obstacles people face in their lives so they can live to their fullest potential. She decided Labour wasn’t “a home for a young woman from the Valleys”.
What makes you think you’re right for the leadership? – Leanne wants to continue her “long-term project”. Labour has a grip on power right through Welsh civic society (Trade unions, Third Sector) and you change that by getting involved in communities and having face-to-face discussions.
What sort of Brexit do you want? – Plaid is united, unlike Labour and the Tories. A vote has taken place and she doesn’t want to overturn it, but she supports a vote on the final deal if there’s a potential “disaster for Welsh business”. We shouldn’t give the far-right any “grievance” by simply doing a u-turn. We can’t overturn a Brexit referendum either if we expect to hold an independence referendum in the future.
Will Wales be independent in your lifetime? – People have genuine fears over finance and that’s why it’s essential to map out how things are now and how they can be improved through independence.
What’s your policy on nuclear power? – It’s been a “difficult policy” for Plaid. Leanne’s always been against nuclear power and it shouldn’t be looked at in isolation. Where alternative energy schemes are found they should replace jobs in areas currently reliant on nuclear economically.
What’s your policy on coalitions? – Plaid wants to become the government and to do that they need to win constituencies from Labour. The party has to be unequivocal that they wouldn’t do any deals that result in Conservative government ministers – though she was open to budget and other agreements with other parties.
How do you get more people involved in politics and the party? – Community action. In areas where Plaid has brought together different groups, more women have been willing to stand for election. She wants to change the culture in society so her daughter won’t face harassment.
Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr)
Why are you in politics/Plaid Cymru? – He shares the same motivations as Leanne after living through the effects of the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike. The only way to prevent these inequalities forced upon us is to take responsibility for ourselves through independence.
What makes you think you’re right for the leadership? – He described his decision to run as “one of the most difficult in his life” due to his friendship with Leanne, but it’s necessary as Wales faces a crossroads. There’s an appetite for change and leaders need to be able to present a compelling vision for Wales, outline opportunities and multi-task.
What sort of Brexit do you want? – It’s “patently obvious” the British establishment are unable to produce anything but a hard “crash out” Brexit. Any opportunity to stop Brexit should be taken; public opinion in Wales has shifted against it. The national interest has to come first.
Will Wales be independent in your lifetime? – Absolutely. Opinion is shifting depending on who asks and how you ask the question. Plaid needs to take away some of the “mystery and confusion”. Independence has to be at the heart of Plaid Cymru’s policy, otherwise what’s the point of the party?
What’s your policy on nuclear power? – The north-west of Wales needs a specific economic strategy. Having two nuclear power stations in the north-west hasn’t provided them with any long-term economic certainty; Anglesey is currently the least economically productive part of the UK.
What’s your policy on coalitions? – Adam rules out working with the Conservatives in the Senedd; it would be “political suicide”. Labour is a small-c conservative status quo party and working with them should be ruled out too.
How do you get more people involved in politics and the party? – Politics needs to excite people again and be a safe and welcoming place; that can build bridges across gender, race and class.
Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn)
Why are you in politics/Plaid Cymru? – Wales isn’t currently able to reach its potential; there’s an unfairness and lack of prosperity that’s not inevitable. As a journalist, he was able to test all parties and his own opinions before coming to conclusions.
What makes you think you’re right for the leadership? – It’s not a matter of being a “better leader”; he believes he has a set of leadership and communication skills to present a vision in a way that builds trust as Plaid are seen to be too defensive.
What sort of Brexit do you want? – It should always have been a two-step referendum – one on the principle, one on the final agreement. The likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg will be laughing at those who voted Leave in good faith.
Will Wales be independent in your lifetime? – Rhun has no doubt we should be independent but it’s up to the people. He wants to communicate very clearly what independence means. He sees Wales in a union of independent nations on “these islands” and across Europe.
What’s your policy on nuclear power? – He’s enthusiastic about renewables and Wales should press ahead with its own tidal energy projects. His constituency has had nuclear power for generations and when presented with a choice decided it was best to “engage positively” with Wylfa Newydd.
What’s your policy on coalitions? – It’s a waste of discussion because these things are decided after elections. Plaid has to lead the government, but no party since 1999 has had a majority so there has to be co-operation, which can often be very informal.
How do you get more people involved in politics and the party? – A positive national debate that includes everybody. Politicians shouldn’t be put on a pedestal, but respect has to be earned again and that starts by being respectful to each other and to other people.
I don’t think that told us anything we didn’t already know about the contenders and none of them really gained an advantage; Leanne focused on community action and inequality, Adam focused on urgency and independence while Rhun wants more pragmatism and communication.
The only heated discussion was over Brexit, with Leanne seeming to accept a form of Brexit in one shape or another without wanting to overturn it (and she made a good point about any future independence referendum); the other two want to stop and get off, perhaps because they can see a wall coming up as Westminster puts their foot on the accelerator.
The missed opportunity – as has been mentioned on social media – is both Adam and Rhun fluffed a chance to criticise Leanne’s leadership when they were given the opportunity to do so. You can argue that it’s gentlemanly behaviour and if they had been critical they probably would’ve been immediately accused of misogyny on Twitter, but if they want to replace her then it’s not inappropriate to give reasons as to why they believe she should go.