Mae angen adfywio gwleidyddiaeth Cymru – Welsh politics needs reinvigorating

Mae Gwynoro Jones yn dadlau mai etholiad arweinyddiaeth Plaid Cymru yw’r etholiad pwysicaf sy’n digwydd yng Nghymru – Gwynoro Jones argues that the Plaid Cymru leadership election is the most important election happening in Wales

Gwynoro Jones cyn Aelod Seneddol Caerfyrddin - Gwynoro Jones is a former Member of Parliament for Carmarthen

*English text follows the Welsh*

 

Etholiad arweinyddol Plaid Cymru yw un o’r datblygiadau pwysicaf yn y degawdau diwethaf i’r blaid ac o bosib i wleidyddiaeth Cymru yn gyffredinol ers datganoli.

 

Yn wir, bu’n flwyddyn o ymgyrchoedd mewnol i bleidiau Cymru.

 

Yn gyntaf oedd y Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymreig, gyda Jane Dodd yn cael ei hethol yn arweinydd gyda 33% o’r 3000 aelod yn pleidleisio. Sylwebaeth drist ar blaid sydd ers sawl blwyddyn bellach yn cael trafferth gwneud unrhyw argraff ystyrlon ar dirwedd gwleidyddol Cymru – oni bai eich bod yn cynnwys cyfraniad Kirsty Williams AC yng nghabinet Llywodraeth Lafur Cymru, yn dosbarthu arian cyllideb Llafur.

 

Yna, UKIP Cymru, plaid mewn cyfnod cythryblus nid yn unig yng Nghymru ond ar draws y DU ers ychydig flynyddoedd, wedi ethol Gareth Bennett gyda 60% o’i 900 aelod yn cymryd rhan.

 

A’r wythnos hon, gyda 52% o’r aelodau’n pledleisio, cadarnhawyd Paul Davies fel arweinydd newydd y Ceidwadwyr Cymreig. Yn rhyfeddol, ni wnaeth y blaid ddatgelu nifer y pleidleisiau a fwriwyd i’r ddau ymgeisydd – rwy’n amau nad oeddent am ddatgelu nifer isel aelodau’r blaid yng Nghymru.

 

A chyn diwedd 2018 bydd Llafur Cymru hefyd yn ethol arweinydd newydd, gan benderfynu yn fuan a fyddant yn ddigon democrataidd i symud tuag at ddull pleidleisio un-aelod un-bleidlais yn yr etholiad mewnol. Mae’n anodd credu mai’r cwestiwn pleidlais un-aelod oedd un o’r rhesymau pam y ffurfiwyd yr SDP yn 1981! Mae gan Lafur oddeutu 100,000 o aelodau unigol ac aelodau cysylltiedig yng Nghymru.

 

Mae dau ymgeisydd wedi datgan diddordeb, ond byddai’r blaid yn elwa o ddewis ehangach, yn sicr pe bai yr aelodau profiadol Eluned Morgan a Huw Irranca-Davies ar y papur pleidleisio hefyd. Ond mae gan Lafur Cymru ffordd unigryw ac arbennig o gyrraedd y canlyniad ‘cywir’ yn ôl dymuniad y rhai sy’n rheoli grym yn y blaid.

 

Nawr, gadewch i ni drafod yr etholiad pwysicaf sy’n mynd rhagddo, sef cystadleuaeth arweinyddiaeth Plaid Cymru. Rwy’n dweud mai dyma’r pwysicaf gan fod gwleidyddiaeth Cymru angen ei adfywio, os nad eil ail-ddeffro, ac er y byddwn wrth fy modd yn gweld y Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymreig yn codi o’u cwsg, mae’n amlwg mai Plaid Cymru fwy denamic a chynwysol sy’n ganolog i’r gwaith o wella democratiaeth wleidyddol yng Nghymru.

 

Mae yna dri ymgeisydd cryf, pob un â chryfderau a gwendidau.

 

Mae Leanne Wood, yr arweinydd ers 2012 ac mae wedi cael uchafbwyntiau ac isafbwyntiau. Yn Hystings teledu arweinwyr Etholiad Cyffredinol 2015 roedd hi’n ddigon effeithiol ac roedd ei buddugoliaeth yn etholiadau’r Cynulliad yn y Rhondda yn drawiadol. Ond rwy’n credu ei bod wedi cyrraedd pwynt sy’n wynebu pob arweinydd yn ei amser – mae Leanne wedi pasio ei ‘dyddiad gwerthu’ gwleidyddol. Mae hyd yn oed ei pholisiau yn perthyn i oes wahanol, yn agosach at Brydain ganoledig fy ieuenctid na’r Gymru ddatganoledig!

 

Yna mae Adam Price, sy’n AC ers 2016, ond fu’n AS yn 2001 ac am ryw reswm na allaf ei ddirnad gamodd i lawr yn 2010. Efallai y gall rhywun daflu ychydig o oleuni ar hyn? Mae ganddo hefyd lawer o gryfderau, yn berfformiwr cryf, yn gwybod sut i ddal y penawdau a sydd a defnder i’w feddwl yn gyffredinol. Ond mae’n dueddol yn aml o ‘saethu o’r glun’ heb fod yn ddigon strategol – yn debyg i Boris Johnson sydd hefyd yn tueddu i saethu bwledi i bobman.

 

Yn olaf, mae’r newydd-ddyfodiad, Rhun ap Iorwerth, oedd â phrofiad cyfryngau a phrofiadau proffesiynol eraill cyn cael ei ethol yn AC yn 2013. Mae’n sicr yn gyfathrebwr a datblygwr polisi effeithiol, gyda’r gallu i apelio at gynulleidfa ehangach y tu hwnt i sylfaen pleidleiswyr presennol Plaid Cymru. Mae’n eithaf tebygol bod Rhun yn wleidydd mwy cynhwysol a fyddai’n gallu cynyddu aelodaeth Plaid Cymru o’i lefel isel presennol o tua 8,000 o aelodai, ar adeg pan mae gan yr SNP dros 125,000 o aelodau!

 

Nawr, dydw i ddim yn aelod o Blaid Cymru ond petawn i, dyma rai o’r cwestiynau allweddol y byddwn i’n gofyn i fy hun:

    1. Pa un o’r tri fyddai’n cynnig toriad clir gyda’r gorffennol, gan gynnwys yr ‘arbrawf sosialaidd’ ar y chwith, a gynigir gan Leanne ac Adam? Cofiwch ddatganiad enwog Adam ‘Roeddwn i’n sosialydd cyn dod yn genedlaetholwr’. Mae’n amlwg i mi fod eu gwleidyddiaeth yn eithaf tebyg. Mae gan Rhun hefyd werthoedd ar y chwith, ond mae’n ymddangos bod ganddo sylfaen ehangach i’w wleidyddiaeth.
    2. Ai parhau â pholisïau ‘Labor lite’ yw’r ffordd ymlaen? Mae hyn wedi gweld y blaid yn aros yn llonydd. Gyda Llafur dan arweiniad Corbyn, bydd Plaid Cymru yn ei chael hi’n anodd cymryd pleidleisiau oddi arnynt ledled Cymru. Dangosodd yr etholiadau Cyffredinol a Chynulliad diwethaf hynny yn glir – daeth Llafur o fewn llai na 100 o bleidleisiau o ennill sedd Arfon, gyda Hywel Williams AS yn cadw ei sedd, o drwch blewyn …
    3. Sut mae Plaid Cymru yn torri allan o’r cylch y mae wedi bod ynddo ers 1974? Bryd hynny, derbyniodd 174K o bleidleisiau ar gyfer etholiadau San Steffan, gan aros tan 2001 i gyrraedd ei lefel uchaf o 195K, cyn llithro i lawr – ar wahân i welliant bach yn 2015 (181K). O ran canran y pleidleisiau yng Nghymru, cafodd Plaid Cymru eu canlyniad sylweddol cyntaf yn 1970 (11.5%), yna’i chael yn anodd trwy gydol yr 1980au, gan gyflawni eu perfformiad gorau yn 2005 (12.6%), yna mynd lawr i 10.4% yn 2017.
      Ar gyfer y Senedd, y flwyddyn orau o gryn bellter oedd 1999, gyda 17 AC a thua 28% o’r bleidlais. Fe welwyd adferiad da dan Ieuan Wyn Jones yn 2007, ond erbyn 2016 eu cyfran o’r bleidlais oedd 20% a dim ond 12 AC a etholwyd – ac mae dau ohonynt sydd ddim bellach yn swyddogol yn y blaid!
    4. Sut mae’r blaid yn mynd i’r afael â’r cwestiwn ‘annibyniaeth’? Mae nhw wedi osgoi hynny ers dyddiau Gwynfor Evans. Dychwelaf at hyn eto …
    5. Ac yn olaf, pa un o’r tri ymgeisydd fydd yn cynrychioli y ‘newid clir a mawr sydd ei angen’ gyda’r gallu i gyrraedd cynulleidfa ehangach? Yn wir, mae’n amser am arddull gwleidyddol fwy cynhwysol i Gymru gydag agenda radical a diwygiedig.\

 

Rwyf am fentro i awgrymu mai’r unig ymgeisydd sy’n ateb y gofynion hyn yw Rhun ap Iorwerth, ac fe allai hyd yn oed fod yn wleidyddiaeth y gallwn i a phobl tebyg i mi gael fy nenu ato.

 

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Plaid Cymru’s leadership election is by far the most important development in recent decades for the party and quite possibly Welsh politics overall since devolution.

 

Indeed, it has been a year of internal party campaigns in Wales.

 

First up the Welsh Lib Dems, with Jane Dodd elected leader on an approximately 33% turnout of a 3,000 membership. A sad commentary on a party that has been for several years now struggling desperately to make any meaningful impact on the Welsh political landscape — unless you consider its lone AM Kirsty Williams’ participation in the Welsh Labour government cabinet, distributing Labour budget monies.

 

Then UKIP Wales, a party in turmoil not only in Wales but across the UK for a couple of years, elected Gareth Bennett on a 60% turnout of its 900 members.

 

And this week, on a 52% turnout, Paul Davies was confirmed as the Welsh Conservatives new leader. Intriguingly the party did not divulge the number of votes cast for the two candidates — I suspect it did not want to reveal the low number of party members in Wales.

 

Before the end of 2018 Welsh Labour will also elect a new leader, deciding soon whether it will dare to be democratic enough to move towards a one-member-one-vote method of internal election. It is hard to believe that the question of one-member-one-vote was one of the reasons why the SDP was formed in 1981! Labour has around 100,000 individual and affiliate members in Wales.

 

Two candidates have been declared, but the party would definitely benefit from a wider choice and certainly if the experienced Eluned Morgan and Huw Irranca-Davies were on the ballot paper too. But Welsh Labour has a unique and special way of arriving at the ‘right’ result its party power-brokers wish.

 

Now let’s discuss the most important election going on — that is the Plaid Cymru leadership contest. I say it’s the most important because Welsh politics needs reinvigorating, if not reawakening, and whilst I would dearly love to see the Welsh Lib Dems rise from their slumber, it is clearly apparent that central to the task of improving political democracy in Wales today is a more vibrant, inclusive Plaid Cymru.

 

There are three strong candidates, each with strengths and weaknesses.

 

Leanne Wood, the incumbent since 2012, has had highs and lows. In the televised leaders’ hustings for the 2015 General Election she was effective enough and her Assembly victory in the Rhondda was impressive. But my strong hunch is that she has reached a point that confronts every leader in time: Leanne has passed her political ‘sell by’ date. Even the policies she espouses hark back to a different era, closer to my youth in over-centralised Britain rather than to devolved Wales!

 

Then there is Adam Price, AM since 2016, an MP in 2001 and for some reason unexplained and difficult to fathom a role from which he stood down for the 2010 General Election. Maybe someone can shed a little light on this? He too has many strengths, being a strong performer, knowing how to catch the headlines and a deep thinker generally. But he is prone to shooting often from the hip with little strategy in mind — in Boris Johnson scattergun style. A classic example is his suggestion that Plaid Cymru should change its name to the ‘New Wales Party’.

 

Finally the new kid on the block, Rhun ap Iorwerth, who had a range of media and other professional experiences before being elected as an AM in 2013. He is certainly an effective communicator and policy developer, with the ability to appeal to a wider audience beyond the present Plaid Cymru voter-base. Rhun is quite likely a more inclusive politician who would increase Plaid Cymru’s membership from its current low point of about 8,000 — incidentally, at a time when the SNP has over 125,000 members!

 

Now I am not a Plaid Cymru member but if I were, these are some of the key questions that I would be asking myself:

  1. Which one of the three would be a clear break with the past, including the hard left ‘socialist experiment’ propagated by Leanne and Adam? Remember Adam’s famous statement ‘I was a socialist before becoming a nationalist’? It is apparent to me that their politics are rather similar and intertwined. Rhun also clearly has values of the left, but appears to have a broader base to his politics.
  2. Is continuing with ‘Labour-lite’ policies the way forward? This has seen the party more or less stagnate. With a Corbyn-led Labour party, Plaid Cymru will struggle to take votes from them across Wales. The last General and Assembly elections clearly illustrated the point: Labour came within less than a 100 votes of capturing the Arfon seat, desperately held onto by Hywel Williams MP, but only just…
  3. How does Plaid Cymru break out from the cycle it has been trapped in since 1974? Then it received 174k votes for the Westminster elections, waiting until 2001 to achieve its highest support of 195k, before sliding downwards, apart from a modest improvement in 2015 (181k). In terms of percentage of votes in Wales, Plaid Cymru received its first significant outcome in 1970 (11.5%), thereafter struggling throughout the 1980s, then achieving its best performance in 2005 (12.6%), and declining to 10.4% in 2017.
    For the Senedd, its best year by some distance was 1999, achieving seventeen AMs with roughly 28% of the vote. 2007 witnessed a good recovery under Ieuan Wyn Jones, but by 2016 its share of the vote was 20% and only twelve AMs elected, two of whom are no longer officially in the party!
  4. How does the party address the ‘independence’ question? Something in truth it has avoided since the days of Gwynfor Evans. I’ll return to this again…
  5. And finally, which one of the three candidates will represent ‘clear and much needed change’ with the ability to reach out to a much wider audience? It is indeed time for a more inclusive style of politics in Wales with a radical and reforming agenda.

I venture to suggest that the only leadership candidate who fits the bill is Rhun ap Iorwerth and it’s a politics that I and others like me may even be attracted to.

 

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