Plaid leadership 3: A politician on the move

Jonathan Edwards argues that as leader Leanne Wood would be able to unite her party and expand its appeal

These are exciting times for Plaid Cymru and for Wales. In January, Plaid published its internal report on the party’s future and by mid March the members will have elected a new party leader. There is no doubt that the current leadership contest has captured the public’s imagination. An increase of 23 per cent in membership – around one thousand five hundred people re-joining or joining Plaid for the first time is proof of this. Just like millions across the world, the Welsh people are tired of the economic structures that impoverish the majority and reward the few. They seek an alternative model – a model that places their communities at the heart of politics.

The nature of the British State is rapidly changing. With Scotland leading the way to their independence, the people of Wales are looking to Plaid Cymru for Welsh solutions and direction. It will be the job of the next party leader to harness this support, appeal to the whole of Wales and set a clear vision for the future of our country.

Plaid members have a big decision ahead of them over the coming weeks. We are not talking here about the leader of their respective Assembly Groups as is the case with the unionist parties. We are electing a figurehead for the whole of Wales. With the eyes of the world on Wales as events develop in Scotland, it will be the leader of the national movement who will speak for our country.

We have seen over the past decades that Plaid is the party that sets the political agenda here in Wales. It has carved out the constitutional roadmap, forcing the unionist parties to come with it on the journey. But we cannot rest on our laurels. The magnitude of the Yes vote in the Welsh referendum was a huge achievement – a historic success for the national movement – but we must now concentrate on the job ahead and choose a party leader who is able to unite our party as well as expand its appeal.

I believe that very leader is Leanne Wood. In modern politics the leader above all else defines its party. Leanne has proven over the years that she is one of the party’s leading communicators. People connect to her, they trust her, and these attributes would place her leadership and the party in a very strong position in these very exciting times for our nation. She is a conviction politician whose vision has always been centred on the needs of ordinary working people and families across Wales.

With the unionist parties all obsessed with restoring a business as usual approach to a totally discredited neo-liberal economic order, the people of our country are looking for a Leader who can articulate a different vision. They want a system that works in the interests of the common good rather than the select few. The answer to our country’s problems won’t come from changing the colour of a government in London to another which holds exactly the same views.

Leanne’s appeal has already led to endorsements from progressive voices outside the national movement like the Fire Brigade Union and Mark Serwotka from the Public and Commercial Services Union. For Plaid Cymru to become a major political force over the coming years, the key political battleground will be the south Wales Valleys. The party needs a figurehead for our drive to challenge Labour’s hegemony in these vital political battlegrounds. Leanne is the one who can do that.

At the very heart of Leanne’s campaign is her vision for real independence, a sense in which the journey to independence is just as important as the goal itself. Her vision, rooted firmly in Raymond Williams’ thinking, challenges nationalists to ask themselves why we want independence, how we intend getting there and in what way we wish to see independence safeguarding and transforming our communities. Leanne has emphasised that in order to achieve our aims we must get Wales into a stronger position economically with control over job creating levers a vital strategic objective. This message of hope for our communities contrasts starkly with the current position of the unionist parties which base our future on dependence and fiscal transfers from London.

Leanne’s vision for real independence is rooted in Plaid Cymru’s past. She doesn’t claim to have new Welsh solutions, but rather has managed to shed new light on Plaid Cymru’s core economic principles enshrined in the works of those two great Carmarthenshire Welsh political philosophers, D.J. Davies and D.J. Williams. She has shown how Plaid’s decentralist tradition offers solutions to challenging some of the biggest economic and cultural problems facing us as a nation today.

From Robert Owen’s co-operative ideas to Leopold Kohr’s vision of smallness being the basis for economic resilience and stability, Leanne has been able to craft a new narrative for Plaid Cymru that is chiming with people from Penygroes in Gwynedd to Caerffili in Gwent.

They can see that her ideas are key in order to protect our Welsh language communities. They can see that her ideas offer solutions to the high levels of unemployment in our communities. At the heart of her political project is the Greenprint. This is the basis for a radically different economic infrastructure based on the values of co-operation and self-sufficiency. The Greenprint shows that creating resilient, sustainable communities must be our top priority, creating top quality jobs in people’s local areas and offering support to our local businesses. Plaid Cymru has incorporated the principles from the Greenprint into its local elections manifesto. Already, her vision is on the move.

We in Plaid Cymru should be grateful that we have in Leanne Wood, a politician whose principles are rooted in Plaid Cymru’s original vision but who has the ability to communicate the message with the whole of Wales. She is exactly what Plaid Cymru and Wales has been waiting for. She is a leader with a vision, ready to make the best of all of our talents as we strive to unlock the potential of our people and our country.

Jonathan Edwards is Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr.

4 thoughts on “Plaid leadership 3: A politician on the move

  1. DJ Williams is a much neglected figure in Plaid. One of the Penyberth 3, he was the only one allowed an interpreter at the Old Bailey trial, as no police or other official had heard him speaking anything but Welsh. In fact, he held a first class honours degree in English from Oxford, having paid for his education by boxing professionally in fairground boxing booths, and was at the time the head of English at Fishguard Grammar school. English Law is an ass at the best of times, but he really made fools of them on that occasion!

    I met him a few times when I was a boy, working after school in Gwynfor’s office (addressing envelopes and sticking stamps) at Heol Dwr (which DJ had paid for with the proceeds of selling his farm). He was one of the nicest, gentlest most engaging and impressive men I have ever met – I wish I could meet him now because I would have a thousand questions for him that did not occur to me when I was 11.

    Leanne has the same modest, single minded, determined demeanour, and ability to inspire others to greater things. I hope and believe she will win on the first ballot. Wales needs her!

  2. If you could combine the experience and worldly-wisdom of DET and the obvious energy, sincerity and niceness of LW, you would have a leader. However DET carries the scars of too many battles, lost and won, while LW comes over as, well, rather naive. The vision of Wales she presents would be better than the present state of affairs but would still be relatively poor. Contented, co-operative bucolic poverty lacks the general appeal claimed for her message. Perhaps they should agree to form a joint ticket, like Elin Jones and Simon Thomas. But do they even get on?

  3. I was a Plaid member in Flint in the 70’s. I rejoined just before the last British general election. For me it’s simple: Dafydd El = the past; Elin = the presnt and LEANNE WOOD = THE FUTURE. Look at her eyes I have not seen that passion in our leader since Gwynfor who I saw at conference back in the 70’s.

  4. The next few years will offer great opportunities for us as a party, it is absolutely crucial for us to put forward the strongest possible Leader to stand up for Wales and to appeal to voters across our nation. We need someone who will put Wales first and who recognises our values as a party. Someone who can shape the next steps for us as a national movement. Someone like Leanne Wood.

    Leanne is Plaid to the core. She has the ability, the persistence and the commitment to stand up for our Nation. Leanne is an instinctive nationalist who will fight for our communities every step of the way. She is a genuine, intelligent and a tireless campaigner. Her roots are deep in Plaid’s tradition of fighting for fairness and justice and has consistently stood up for our nation’s prosperity.

    I very much hope to see Leanne lead our nation shoulder to shoulder with her colleagues in the Assembly, Westminster, County / Community Councillors, fellow members as well as new members. She has an important contribution to make to Plaid Cymru and to our nation.

    Vote Leanne Wood as Leader!

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