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Leanne Wood, Bae watch (March 2012)

(March 01, 2012)

Bae Watch; with Leanne Wood


Leanne Wood - Senedd


It has been an eventful few months since I announced I would put myself forward as a candidate to be the next leader of Plaid Cymru. I made the decision because the next few years will be crucial to the future of our country. The shape of Plaid Cymru will determine the shape of Wales and I have ideas as to what is needed to maximise the benefits for Wales during the events ahead of us.

Plaid Cymru is the only party to prioritise the fortunes of Wales. Now is an important time for the party. Big decisions are there to be made. Should we be content for Wales to continue to be reliant on hand-outs from Westminster? My view is that the time for Plaid Cymru to build and to push the case for greater autonomy, and eventually independence, is now. Wales has been treated as the inferior relation in the United Kingdom for too long. We have become accustomed to being poor and powerless. A host of statistics - long-term health; unemployment; and property prices - confirm this to be the case. Now is the time for us to learn to become prosperous, strong and ambitious.

Opinion polls towards independence have largely remained static for decades, showing general indifference. This is hardly surprising given that Plaid Cymru has yet to argue the case. However, support for independence will grow in Wales, once its benefits are demonstrated. Imagine what we could do if Wales had control over its abundant natural resources and had the powers to set its own fiscal policies.

If our Celtic cousins in Scotland vote for independence in 2014, what will we do in Wales? I find it hard to see how people would be content to throw in their lot with England, with its almost guaranteed Tory majority. Everything we have seen of the regressive, Tory-dominated coalition government in the past two years, which has clamped down on hard-won workers’ rights and callously eroded the welfare state, opens the door for more people to consider the benefits of Welsh autonomy.

Even if Labour somehow managed to gain power in Westminster in a post-independent Scotland era, they would have to lurch so far to the right - even more than they did between 1997 and 2000 - that they would risk a large proportion of the Welsh electorate rejecting them. Under such conditions our arguments would hit home.

The next leader of Plaid Cymru will be announced on March 15th.  Whether I am successful or not remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: the future for Plaid Cymru looks exciting. In the last few months alone our membership has increased by 23%, which bucks the often-reported trend for political apathy. What is particularly encouraging is that some of these new members have never been members of a political party before, yet they have seen something in the debates around the next leader of Plaid Cymru that has inspired them to become politically engaged for the first time. If we can utilise our recently enlarged grass-roots movement and keep them enthused and onside by listening to them carefully and aligning the leadership more closely with their views, we have the potential to cause the Labour Party major problems in their heartlands. The enthusiasm is already there – it can be felt during the many meetings and hustings I have attended as part of this leadership campaign. Turn-outs have been very good – in the Caernarfon hustings an estimated 350 people gathered to hear what we all had to say. Altogether, a few thousand people have been engaged in the process so far, whether in meetings, or online. People have been discussing politics everywhere. That alone bodes well for the future.

I'd like to round off this column with a virtual high-five to this website’s co-founder, Dai Barnaby. Dai was responsible for bringing to my attention the fact that Wales was officially being classed as a ‘principality’ by an esoteric but highly influential publication produced by the International Standards Organisation (ISO). Since the Prince of Wales has no role in the administrative control of Wales and has not done for centuries (if at all), the term is archaic in constitutional terms. While some may view this as a trivial issue, the ISO’s newsletter is a reference point for influential decision makers in the international community up to, and including, the United Nations and Dai was concerned a false perception of Wales could develop if the mistake was allowed to go uncorrected; I agreed with him. After two years of letter-writing to Westminster, the First Minister, the Welsh Government’s Counsel General and to the ISO itself, the ISO agreed to list Wales as a country; and have now done so. We are hopeful that the term will be phased out and that in future Wales will always be referred to as a country. Those reporters looking for another way to describe Wales can think again. Wales is officially a country. Anyone using the ‘P’ word to describe Wales, is just plain wrong. For that, I and many others, must say thanks to Dai.

 

Leanne Wood, 1 March 2012

 

Also from Leanne Wood:

     Bae watch; December 2011

     Bae watch; September 2011

     Bae watch; June 2011

 Leanne Wood contact details:

     Website  www.leannewoodamac.blogspot.com/

     Facebook  Leanne Wood

     Twitter  @LeanneWood and  @LeanneWood2012

    

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