Plaid should push for another referendum

Gareth Hughes argues that the party of Wales shouldn’t hide its light under a bushel

Political parties crave publicity. They crave such oxygen for they know that to be ignored inevitably leads to decline. Criticism is preferable to invisibility. Minority parties have to work hard to be heard.

Now that Plaid Cymru are no longer the official Opposition in the Assembly there is a danger that they might find themselves increasingly marginalised and getting less and less attention.

OK Plaid Cymru might get a headline or two in the next few months as they conduct the leadership contest, but what then? How will they grab the news agenda by the throat and demand to be heard?

More of the same will not do. To discuss the nuances of service delivery by the Welsh Government important though that role is, it is not enough. Even developing policies does not guarantee attention. After all the other parties are doing the same.

No, Plaid gets the attention when they’re dealing with matters of nationhood.  Whether they like it or not “independence” is the issue most voters associate with Plaid Cymru. After all that is why they were established.

Now as a party they’ve tended to play down this aspiration sensing that it commands little support amongst the Welsh electorate. They with some justification adopted a gradualist approach, taking the line that strengthening the National Assembly was their first priority.

Indeed they passed the opportunity to form a Rainbow Government with themselves in the driving seat in order to win over Labour’s support and more importantly their votes, to trigger a referendum on law making powers.

The National Assembly is now a law making body. So where next for Plaid? Their historic aspiration of ‘independence’ now becomes centre stage. It’s centre stage because the SNP are going to have a referendum on the issue.

The Scottish referendum will dominate the political news agenda for the next few years.

Indeed Mr Cameron is taking the threat to the Union so seriously that he’s instructed cabinet ministers to visit Scotland to underline the advantages of the current settlement. A dubious strategy methinks, but nevertheless it shows Cameron’s serious intent to do all he can to keep the status quo.

So the debate on ‘independence’ will be out there. So what will Plaid’s stance be? Should it ignore the debate or should it too enter the fray.

Plaid Cymru should now start pushing hard for a referendum in Wales. Why should the Scots have all the fun and all the attention?

If nothing else Plaid would be seen setting the political agenda again and the party centre stage spouting on about an issue that is close to its historic heart. The people of Wales might see the relevance of the party again and the haemorrhaging of its vote might stop.

And who knows, they may even succeed in building a head of steam for a more satisfying political system for the countries of the island that is Britain. If not independence, then perhaps Federalism is the answer.

Gareth Hughes is a political commentator who blogs here

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