A year for Wales to say no to mediocrity

Leanne Wood

Leanne Wood forecasts the Scottish referendum will result in greater economic powers for the National Assembly

The coming year will be an extremely important for Wales. The tectonic plates of the United Kingdom will shift after the referendum in Scotland in September, providing fresh opportunities for Wales to maximise the powers we have – the set of tools we need to do the job of turning around our declining economy.

Plaid Cymru’s focus has been and will continue to be building the Welsh economy.  People will be better off and will be able to better make ends meet if we can build a flourishing economy with plentiful, good, and well-paid work. The wider context: cuts to public services and our social security safety net, the rising cost of living and more “austerity” on the way, provide great challenges.  That context also provides us with a good reason to build up greater resilience so that we can plan to deal with these threats.  Do we really have a choice?


Looking ahead to 2014


This week the four party leaders in the National Assembly and set out their hopes for the New Year. On Monday we published the reflections of Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones, and yesterday those of Conservative leader Andrew R.T. Davies. Tomorrow we hear from Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

It is up to us to improve our economic situation. If we don’t do it for ourselves, who else will do it for us? And why can’t we? If it is made a priority, and if there is determination to see through a long-term plan, there is no reason why our economy can’t be a success.

We will be contesting the European Parliamentary election in May on the basis that Plaid Cymru is the only party to put Wales first, every time.

We want to work with people in other countries across Europe to deliver decent pay, rights, terms and conditions. We also want to build on relationships with other nations and regions so that we can maintain the structural funds aimed at reducing the inequalities between Wales and other comparative European countries. The benefits for Wales from structural funds and agricultural support must be maximised by the Welsh Government. We must make sure those funds deliver the best possible outcomes, in partnership and working with industry to help more businesses stay in business, safeguarding and creating jobs.

Plaid Cymru supports the principle of co-operation between the countries and regions of Europe. Being in the EU is in the best interests of Wales and of working people. That’s not to say we don’t want to change the EU. It can work better for Wales.

In the Euro elections, Plaid Cymru’s position will be pro-European and against the politics of hate which aims to exclude other cultures and isolate the UK from the rest of Europe. Ours is the polar-opposite position to those parties espousing xenophobia and intolerance.

The Party of Wales wants to see our country be able to stand in its own two feet, without need for handouts from elsewhere and we maintain that there is no reason why we cannot achieve that. For too long Welsh people have been prepared to accept second best. We have been prepared to shrug off poor performance or languishing at the bottom of all of the league tables.

I would like to see 2014 as the year when Wales says no to mediocrity.  I’d like it to be the year that our government makes a determined push to end poor economic performance and inequality. I would like us to make 2014 the year where we decide that we will make sure that no child in Wales will fail to reach her or his best educational potential.

Historically we have valued education. A strong economy requires a well-educated population. We can’t afford to fail on this. And I would like to see us make this next year one where people’s deep and real concerns about health centralisation are heard and acted upon so that we can create a health service that is fully accessible to all, able to deliver services to people in good time.

Let’s make 2014 the year we aim to be the best.  Let us make it the year to demonstrate confidence in our abilities to do more and better for ourselves.

Leanne Wood is AM for South Wales Central and Leader of Plaid Cymru.

9 thoughts on “A year for Wales to say no to mediocrity

  1. O my, was tempted to give up after the terrible tectonic plate analogy (Britain is all on the same Plate by the way). The sad truth about Plaid is that in practice they do little more than prop up Labour when needed. The naïve student politics embodied by Leanne Wood and Adam Price does not stand up to mature intellectual scrutiny, and the dwindling influence Plaid seems to have as an independent force in the Assembly is testament to the Party’s lack of direction.

    It’s a shame really. As the only non more of the same leadership candidate she had a real opportunity to appeal to a new kind of Plaid voter. Clearly this has failed thus far as the Party has instead focused on the use of minor TV personalities to win local votes.

  2. Lets concentrate on the economy. Amen. Let’s fulfil the educational potential of all our children. Amen. Let’s say no to mediocrity. Amen, twice over. But what are we supposed to make of – “make this next year one where people’s deep and real concerns about health centralisation are heard and acted upon”. You know this is purposefully ambiguous. All parties need to spell out how they would reconfigure the health service in Wales, within a static if not shrinking financial envelope. Governments and all opposition parties know that this cannot be done with out pain, and it cannot be done by backing local opposition to every plan for change. That would be mediocre leadership, which I am sure you are opposed to.

  3. I think the comments above, and those on the previous two articles by CJ and ARTD, just go to prove that there is not much appetite within the Click on Wales readership for this sort of format…

    You always get out what you put in, and on this occasion the IWA has asked for ‘state of the nation’ New Year ‘addresses’, and our party leaders and their researchers have delivered just that. Regrettably, such a format will always be full of rhetoric, platitudes and bunkum and always fail to penetrate serious issues or debates.

    I think, on this occasion, this is one for the IWA to reflect on for future editorial commissioning rather than any meaningful engagement by readers in what are inevitably no more than pieces of party-political grandstanding.

    I do, however, look forward to separate and individual articles from all party leaders over the coming year on specific and detailed areas of policy.

  4. Any party advocating a major constitutional change, such as independence, has above all to answer one simple question: ‘What exactly are the practical measures you propose to improve our economy and the lives of our people under the system you advocate which cannot be implemented under the current system?’ Or, even more simply, ‘How precisely would an independent Wales be better?’ Some of us would sincerely like to discuss those questions. It is therefore very disappointing that the elected leader of the Nationalists, given about a thousand words to outline her priorities, does not even address them. All we get is a series of bland ‘motherhood’ statements that, with slight amendments, could have been signed by any of the party leaders. Where is the great clash of ideas? Where is the original thought? Where is the evidence of how Wales could be different? ‘Say no to mediocrity’ is a great slogan, but this article is itself a perfect demonstration of the mediocrity of our current political culture.

  5. I don’t think I agree with Peter Dobbs about ‘naive sudent politics’. I think Plaid’s line on the M4 buy-ass at Brynglas is sensible and cheaper than Labour are advocating; their plans for Glas Cymru style Post Office was ambitious but doable; Simon Thomas advocating primary school managers to oversee clusters of schools in rural areas and so relieve heads to concentrate on the academic side the vote in HofC this week of bringin water under Assembly control (which was voted 282 to 6 with no Labour MP supporting the motion despite it giving Labour control!). These aren’t student politics nor naive. I’m at a loss to see what Labour’s policies are despite them being in government.

    The line about minor tv celebs is rather unnecessary too.

    However, like him I did cringe with the tectonic plate imagery … but maybe not for the same reason.

    I have to disagree with Leanne on this point. The implication at the beginning of her article is that even in the event of a No vote in Scotland that there will be some devolution to Scotland (and Wales).

    I don’t think there will and I see no sign to suggest that except wishful thinking by Plaid and ‘string-along the nats and devo enthusiasts’ by Labour/Tory/LibDem.

    The unionist Better Together parties had the opportunity to have ‘Devo Max’ on the ballot paper in Scotland. This, in all probability, would have been the prefered option in Scotland’s forthcoming referendum. It could also have been painted as a defeat for Salmond where Devo Max to get more votes than Independence. The unionist parties decided not to offer that option to the electorate. They have still to produce their version of a Devo Max ‘White Paper’. There, frankly isn’t any consensus on what Devo Max is.

    If Scotland votes No in September then there will be a huge British nationalist (read ‘One Nation’) backlash lead by Labour against Scotland. Yes, there’ll be some warm words about devo max, some useless commission set up to keep the kids happy and a report duly published and ignored in 18 months time after the Westminster election. The report conclusion will be no more new powers to Scotland except for the most minimal. There could then even be some salami slicing of powers back to Westminster once the Labour MPs feel ‘safe’ to say this.

    The scenario in Wales will be further erosion of Nat Assembly powers. This could come in the form of a suggestion, maybe by Owen Smith and Labour, that the Commons could become the Assembly’s Second Chamber; or, tightening the powers the assembly has in health and education by ‘streamlining services’ in new Englandanadwales bodies.

    We’ve seen at the Water vote this week that Plaid’s amendment that water be devolved to the Assembly (after being singled out in the Govt of Wales 2006 Act by Hain, Rhodri Morgan and Labour not to be in the Assembly’s competeneces) was defeated by 282 to 6. Not one Welsh Labour MP voted to transfere power over water to their own party in the Assembly. This despite the fact that Trent Water (which owns huge tracts of mid Wales) plan to sell 30m litres .p.a. for some £5bn to Anglia. That is, water would be a much needed income stream for an already impoverished Assembly. And despite it being a Welsh Labour aspiration (or is it now – student politics maybe).

    So, if Scotland votes ‘Yes’ there will be tectonic changes, if Scotland votes ‘no’ (and no matter how close the vote, a ‘no’ will be a ‘no’ – there’s been no transfer of powers to Quebec despite the no vote winning the 1995 referenedum there by a smaller margin than our vote in 1997) it will start the roll-back of powers to Wales and Scotland.

    Don’t fool yourselves. Westminster – Labour and Tory – will claw back powers in the event of a No vote in Scotland. Tectonic in a sense I suppose.

    As for Geraint’s points. I think I’d be in agreement. Plaid need to stop speaking in code – ‘ambitious’ no mediocrity’ etc. Who isn’t against that. They need to say clearly they want independence. At least then there is a coherent argument and course of action which one can agree or disagree. But it would give Plaid a definitive stance. At the moment, the policies are mostly right (it’s foolish to paint those who are circumspect of the benefits of immigration to the UK as all racists or little Englanders) but the overall narrative is weak.

    Plaid has nothing to lose from being more forthright (and prepared) on their long term aspiration. Not all people will agree with it. Even some who vote Plaid will disagree but will still vote for them as they’ll perceive them to be the strongest and toughest negotiatior around the table at Westminster or Cardiff Bay. But all would know that Plaid existed and Plaid wouldn’t be seen as a slightly greener version of Labour.

  6. Urien, I like your piece. But, unlike you, I do not think that it matters one jot if Scotland votes yes or no. Never again will it be politically possible for any Westminster government to sanction large-scale UK investment in any territory other than England. The effect on public sector jobs in the outlying regions will be catastrophic. But this is the price the ordinary people must pay for not standing up to ‘nationalism’, nationalism of any form or nature other than sporting.

    Mind, Leanne asking, ‘Who do we want to be and what do we want to achieve’ has a much better ring to it that the Adam Price mantra of ‘Who are we and what are we for?’

  7. Urien is right. If Westminster had been serious about DevoMax it would have been on the Scottish ballot paper and the SNP platform would have been seriously undermined. In reality England has no desire for any further devolution and would prefer either the status quo, or a completely detached Scotland which would no longer be their concern.

    Please be aware that a ‘Yes’ for Scotland may not benefit Wales, at least not in the immediate future. First, Scotland as an independent nation would have no more influence over what goes on in England-and-Wales than does the Irish Republic at present. No more SNP MP’s at Westminster to back up Plaid. The Scots will have their hands full with their own nation building, and in any case it would be quite inappropriate for them to even attempt to interfere in the affairs of what then would be a foreign country.

    Secondly, without Scotland the rump of the UK will take a small but significant lurch to the right. Add to this the fact that it will be obvious to everyone that devolution does not “kill nationalism stone dead” but only encourages it. Expect a rolling back of devolved powers, or perhaps simply a strangling of the Assembly’s budget. With less money, hard choices will have to be made. Leaving the details of where the axe fall to the Assembly means that whatever they do, they’ll get the blame. Since they won’t be able to cater for everyone’s priorities, Wales will be set up for that most favorite game of ‘our masters’, divide-and-rule. I don’t need to point out some of the obvious fault lines that will be exploited within Wales and Welsh society. Finally the Assembly will be scaled-down or abolished on grounds of cost.

    I really hope none of this comes to pass, but unless there is a major upsurge in support for Plaid combined with the realisation that Labour is at the beck and call of London and always will be, then how can things change? Make up you minds soon or there may no longer be anything really Welsh worth saving.

  8. “the Commons could become the Assembly’s Second Chamber; or, tightening the powers the assembly has in health and education by ‘streamlining services’ in new Englandanadwales bodies.”

    What a fantastic and sensible idea! Standards in Welsh education and health would skyrocket over night. Best thing I’ve seen on here….ever!

  9. Perhaps Plaid need to clarity and expand their policies. Cymru needs the powers to help itself. What can any country achieve when its hands are tied by successive Governments in London who from time to time allow the Cymry to decide for themselves what is best for us, not what is best for London and the south east. Let it not be forgotten that many parts of England are as poor as Cymru. The Tories, the Lib Dems and Labour (the socialists? I don’t think), pay little heed to the Cymry. Last week, even though Labour gave evidence to Silk for the Senedd be responsible for water resources within our borders, not one Labour MP attended the debate or voted. The vast majority of energy produced here goes to England. We have plenty for our use yet do not profit one penny from its export. We don’t need Wylfa B or any more wind turbines. We don’t want a nuclear weapons base on the Haven nor go to war in Afghanistan, Iraq or anywhere else. We don’t want Trident either. What we need is investment and a bank such as North Dakota to service SMEs to build up our economy.
    If we rely on London and a moribund Government in Caerdydd I dread to think what the future of our children and grandchildren will be. CYMRU AM BYTH.

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