Jonathan's Speech at Plaid Cymru Conference

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MP Jonathan Edwards delivers a key note speech to Plaid Cymru's Spring Conference this weekend.


(Scroll down for English content)

Gyfeillion, mae’n fraint ac anrhydedd unwaith eto i gael y cyfle i’ch annerch.

Rydym yn cwrdd ond ‘chydig o fisoedd cyn etholiadau Llywodraeth Lleol. Roeddwn arfer meddwl fel gwleidydd ifanc mai yr etholiadau pwysig roedd rhai San Steffan a’r Cynulliad, ond bellach rwy’n hollol argyhoeddedig bod Llywodraeth Lleol yn gydradd pwysig o ran gallu y Blaid hon i lywio dyfodol ein cymunedau.

Hoffwn felly dalu teyrnged i’n Cynghorwyr Sir led led Cymru am eu gwaith di-flino dros gymunedau ein gwlad. Yn enwedig hoffwn ddiolch i’r tim yn Sir Gaerfyrddin dan arweiniad Emlyn Dole sydd wedi trawsnewid gwaith y Cyngor ers iddynt gipio’r awennau o’r blaid Lafur a’r Annibynwyr.

Nid yw’n gor ddewud i amlinellu yr oedd y Sir mewn llanast pur cyn i’r Blaid cipio pwer, ac mewn llai na dwy flynedd maent wedi cyflawni cymaint. Mae democratiaeth wedi cael ei dychwelyd i brosesau’r Cyngor; mae penderfyniadau gwariant yn llawer fwy trwyadl; mae yna raglen glir i yrru adnewyddu economaidd ymlaen; cynllun arloesol o ran ehangu stoc tai cyhoeddus; a strategaeth glir i amddiffyn ac hyrwyddo yr iaith yn y Sir.

Rwyf wir yn cael fy nghyffroi gan calibr yr ymgeiswyr bydd yn sefyll yn enw’r Blaid ar draws y Sir. Ein tasg dros yr wythnosau nesaf yw sicrhau mai’r Blaid yn unig sydd yn rheoli’r Cyngor yn hytrach na chael ein rhwystro mewn clymblaid.

Pob lwc i bob ymgeisydd ar draws Cymru felly a hoffwn ddiolch i chi o’r llwyfan hon am eich ymroddiad dros achos ein gwlad.

Gyfeillion, ar sawl achlysur rwyf wedi eich sicrhau bod hanes o’n plaid a bod gwawr y Gymru newydd yn anochel. Bod twf a chynnydd ein democratiaeth genedlaethol yn anorfod ers datganoli wrth i’r pleidiau unoliaethol, am resymau synigaidd dealladwy, safleoli eu hunain fel grymoedd Cymreig ei naws.

Mae hanes wrth gwrs yn llawn trobwyntiau – ac ofnaf bod y bleidlais o blaid gadael yr Undeb Ewropeaidd wedi tanseilio yr hyn yr oeddwn yn ystyried yn anochel.

Fis Ionawr wnaeth Senedd San Steffan basio deddf Cymru am y tro cyntaf yn lleihau sgôp y Cynulliad Cenedlaethol i ddeddfu. Hynny yw, am y tro cyntaf mae gennym ni ddeddf Cymru sy’n cymryd pwerau i ffwrdd o Gymru, a’r mwyaf rwy’n meddwl am y peth mae hynny yn gynsail pryderus iawn.

Er fod yna enillion yn y ddeddf, mewn gwirionedd deddf llipa iawn ydyw. Methodd â chyflawni argymhellion y Comisiwn Silk, a rheiny wedi eu cytuno cyn hyd yn oed i ddeddfau pellach, mwy sylweddol gael eu rhoi i’r Alban ac i Ogledd Iwerddon.

Y gwirionedd yw bod Cymru unwaith eto wedi derbyn deddf cyfansoddiadol ail-ddosbarth, ac mae’r setliad newydd – fel wnaethom ddadlau yn ystod trafodaethau’r deddf – yn barod angen ei adnewyddu.

Mae Brecsit, yn enwedig y fersiwn eithafol sydd wedi cael ei mabwysiadu gan Lywodraeth y Wladwriaeth Prydeinig, yn annog ail ystyried y perthynas gwleidyddol rhwng Cymru a Llundain.

Mae’n ymddangos yn glir i fi bod dwy daflwybr bosib. Yn gyntaf, bod San Steffan yn ail-rymuso ei phwer dros yr Wladwriaeth neu, yn ail, bod yna symudiad buan at system llawer llai canoledig lle mae grym gwirioneddol yn gorwedd gyda’r senedd-dai datganoledig.

Pe bawn yn unoliaethwr byddwn yn galw am ddeddf yr Undeb newydd i grisialu perthynas conffederal am yr oes ôl Brecsit. Yn anffodus, pryderaf yn fawr mai ymateb elites gwleidyddol San Steffan bydd hepgor diddordebau Cymru a’r Alban.
Yn ein Cynulliad Cenedlaethol mae traean yr Aelodau bellach yn perthyn i grwpiau sydd yn elyniaethus i ddatblygiad gwleidyddol ein gwlad ac yn cefnogi symud meysydd polisi o Gymru i San Steffan.

I wneud pethau yn waeth, mae’r Llywodraeth Llafur fel yr arfer yn neulltio diddordebau Cymru ac yn blaenoriaethu amddiffyn diddordebau ei plaid. Er gwaethaf y storom ar y gorwel, mae’n well gan Brif Weinidog Cymru danseilio ei arweinydd yn Llundain yn hytrach na pharatoi’r amddiffynfeydd anghenrheidiol.

Am wahaniaeth o’i gymharu â Llywodraeth yr Alban. Mae’n amlwg bod Theresa May yn becso yn dwll mae ei etifeddiaeth gwleidyddol hi bydd siambls o Brecsit yn ogystal â diwedd y Wladwriaeth Brydeinig. Tra’i fod yn hollol glir lle mae Llywodraeth yr Alban yn sefyll, mae Llywodraeth Lafur Cymru yn amharod i wir herio’r Ceidwadwyr yn Llundain. Ar ddiwedd y dydd mae teyrngarwch Carwyn Jones i’r Undeb llawer yn fwy pwysig iddo na diddordebau pobol Cymru.

Heb fygythiad o greu dyfodol amgen cenedlaethol does gan Lywodraeth Lafur Cymru dim pwysau gwleidyddol wrth negodi gyda’r Ceidwadwyr.

Fel mae teitl llyfyr Paul Flynn, Aelod Seneddol y rhan yma o ddinas Casnewydd yn datgan ‘ Dragons led by Poodles’ fu hanes y Cymry dan arweiniad y blaid Lafur eirioed.

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In an age of political polarisation those parties who have traditionally prospered by building an electoral coalition find themselves completely exposed. Aneurin Bevan once remarked that those that stand in the middle of the road get run over – and it would be a lesson well remembered for his current party. Indecisiveness is terminal in a landscape where politics is polarising, and Labour cannot make a clear decision on where it stands on the defining issues of our time.

It seems to me that the Labour party will be the first big political casualty of Brexit. In Wales they are split along two major fault lines. Firstly on the national question, and now on how to respond to Brexit.

No party has a divine right to exist let alone succeed - including ours - and in these defining moments in history, those who are unable to provide clear leadership find that events overtake them.

In Scotland, Labour’s fate has already been settled. In England, they could easily find themselves out flanked by the Lib Dems in metropolitan areas.

In Wales, Labour is vulnerable to both us and UKIP. Although, in the Llanelli constituency, it seems Labour is happy to work with UKIP when it comes to undermining bilingual education, and I pay tribute to those parents and teachers in Llangennech who have had to withstand a nasty and divisive campaign led by Labour.

Friends, we have a unique opportunity which may never come again to displace the Labour party as the hegemonic force in Welsh politics.

To succeed we need firm strategic decision making and a clear will to win. Our opponents on the far right are mobilising and gaining ground. Labour is too weak to withstand them. Only this party, the Party of Wales can now fuse the dreams of a more progressive future with the political development of Wales.

Next week the Chancellor of the Exchequer will make his first Budget Statement. Pursuing a deliberate economic strategy outside the Single Market and the European customs union will require a reconfiguration of Treasury policy. The Plaid Cymru policy of increasing infrastructure expenditure has been vindicated as the Tories move meagrely to re-asses their inexistent “long-term economic plan”– although the sums the Chancellor announced are barely a fifth of what we have called for.

However, when it comes to capital expenditure and largesse, the Westminster establishment has no qualms about spending £5bn on the Houses of Parliament, and upwards of £200 billion on weapons of mass destruction we now know couldn’t hit a target if it was straight in front of it.

The money spent on the palace of Westminster more or less resembles the entire spend on Health services for the whole of Wales.

What an utter disgrace. Welsh taxpayers’ money spent on the vanities of self-serving Westminster politicians, whilst our own country is starved of investment.
It was the last Prime Minister to represent a Welsh constituency, James Callaghan, who was brought down by his supposed utterance of the now famous phrase ‘crisis? What crisis?’.

But today it is the Tory UK Government who best embody this state of denial.

The Chancellor on Wednesday must herald a post-extreme Brexit economic vision and outline what government intervention will be needed in future. Wales, with our export surplus and expansive trading relations with the European Economic Area is particularly exposed.

However, I fear that the Budget will be nothing more than a continuation of blind ambivalence – with a Union Jack blindfold the Tories’ reckless austerity and extreme Brexit is pushing Wales ever closer to the edge of an economic precipice.

It is for this reason that we are calling for a Brexit mitigation fund to be announced in Wednesday’s Budget. A fund to make sure that Wales, which has benefited so much from the EU, is not economically decimated as a result of the Tories search for a free-market, right-wing nirvana.

The Fund would be used in particular to ensure our rural communities, which have already faced unrelenting attacks by Westminster, can survive the storm that Brexit will bring.

I repeat, it is not ‘crisis? What crisis?’ it is ‘crisis? This crisis!’ and we will not stand by and watch it happen.

Friends, we are living in deeply troubling times. The response of the global political class to the great financial crash of 2008 was to lavish corrupt and irresponsible bankers with trillions of pounds, dollars and Euros. Once the immediate crisis was dealt with, it was business as usual for the economic elites whereas ordinary working people have faced nearly a decade of vicious cuts in public investment; undermining the services we all rely on, polarising wealth and diminishing standards of living.

The debased political response to the financial crash created the conditions for what has been labelled by some as the anti-establishment tide of 2016. Putin in Russia; Xi Junping in China; Shinzo Abe in Japan; Brexit; Trump and the re-emergence of fascism across Europe certainly points to what some call the return of the cult of the political strongman as democracy retreats.

Trump, the Brexiteers, and Putin rage against the establishment whilst cleverly deceiving people from the fact that they themselves are part of the political elite.

Closer to home the leading Brexiteers are all part of the ruling British political class. Farage is a publicly-educated former banker, and Boris Johnson is the epitome of the British establishment. When you sit back and think about it, does anyone seriously think that Farage and Johnson have a care in the world about the plight of working people?

Our communities face serious economic and social challenges, but for the elites, addressing the root cause of these issues and finding solutions for the future are not in their interest – it is all about short term political positioning.

One thing that history teaches us is that the political elites, and the Westminster establishment in particular, never leave a good crisis go to waste.

If the 2008 financial crash gave the perfect excuse for the Tories to slash public investment in the name of fiscal responsibility – although it was in fact quite the reverse – the Westminster elite has already seized on the opportunities for them in Brexit Britain.
Earlier I highlighted how I fear Brexit will be used to reassert direct Westminster control over Wales. Fiscal powers are devolved but they are virtually unusable. The powers available to the Welsh Government to all intent and purpose are insignificant to introduce transformational change. It’s a settlement set to fail, and the situation is hardly helped with a lacklustre Labour party in charge.

Brexit will also be used by some in the Westminster elite as an opportunity to achieve their real ambition of turning the UK into a zero corporate tax, minimal public services, de-regulated casino economy. The Prime Minister has even made public threats to that effect.

In choosing the most extreme option for Brexit, the negotiating strategy of the UK Government with the European Union seems to be based on a position of: ‘let us have our cake and eat it with a Trade Agreement on our terms or we will turn the British State into an off shore tax heaven’. These aren’t idle threats. But I cannot see in any possible scenario how a Trade Agreement can be negotiated with the European Union which improves on the market accessibility provided by membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union. Trying to agree a Trade Agreement in a very political environment following a strained divorce is a recipe for trouble.

The Customs Union and the Single Market are often misunderstood. As well as being the world’s most lucrative free trade area, it also serves to protect domestic producers, especially farmers, from global rivals who produce the same goods at far cheaper prices and lower standards.

The notion that the EU countries, each of which will have a veto over the deal will not protect their own interests, is optimistic at best and delusional in reality.

Of course when it all goes wrong it will not be the cavalier Brexiteers that will be held responsible by the alternative fact propaganda papers of London, but the Europeans and those of us deemed “the enemy within”.

It would be easy and probably politically safer for Plaid Cymru elected members at this epoch defining moment to swim with the tide, bite our tongues and let history take its course. However that is the way of the political coward. Our position on any political issue is governed by what we think is in the best interests of our country.

We accept the referendum result as a mandate to leave the European political Union, however the result did not authorise the severing of current structured economic links with our European partners. In choosing the most extreme Brexit option possible the Tory Westminster Government has decided to take a course of action which will inevitably damage the Welsh economy with an assured negative impact on jobs and wages.

At the end of the day it’s not the jobs of my colleagues and I that are important, but those hundreds of thousands of Welsh workers who toil in manufacturing or in the rural economy.

The decision to leave the Customs Union in particular is driven by Tory visions of grandeur as opposed to economic rationale. The Brexiteers in the Tory party are desperate to negotiate their own global free trade agreements. The fact that the British civil service has not negotiated a trade deal in over forty years seems to worry them little despite the intrinsic complexities of modern global commerce.

First in the queue is Trump’s United States. Desperate for a quick win and up against the most sophisticated trade lobby in the world mandated to an America first policy - the prospect of a UK-US trade deal in the current climate is fraught with dangers.
The Prime Minister has refused to rule out including public services such as health in the proposed deal. This would severely compromise the competence of the Welsh Government. For the Tories it would achieve two goals, of course; undermining devolution, and redesigning the British State into their vision of one where the public sector is cut to the absolute bone.

When it comes to post-Brexit international trade deals we cannot afford to let Westminster act unilaterally. The National Assembly must have a veto and the Welsh Government should be an active partner in composing trade strategy and priorities.

Our job is to always further the Welsh national interest and protect the interests of the people and the communities we serve. With the Tories intent on inflicting the most damaging possible outcome for Wales in the pursuit of their narrow ideological obsessions - it is our duty to resist them every step of the way and endeavour to mitigate as much damage as possible.

Our crusade has always been more important than securing political power for the sake of it. It has always been the vehicle for transforming the economic hopes of the people of our country and strengthening the social fabric of our communities. The reality, my friends, is that the people of Wales face a defining choice:

On the one hand a British State which looks inwards, which is intent on letting corporate interests let rip, where public services are minimal, ruled directly from Westminster and where wealth is polarised even further in the hands of the few. Where our children and our children’s children face a future far less favourable.

The only competing vision is ours: of a Wales which looks outwards to the world; where public servants and services are valued; where the economy works for people; where the proceeds of wealth are distributed on a more equal basis and where our children and our children’s children will be able to attain a better future.

We face overwhelming forces. Not just the unionist political parties, but the whole Westminster machine and the metropolitan media. But friends I ask you this in closing: if we do not dream for Wales, who will? If we do not fight for a better deal for our people, who will? If we don’t protect Welsh communities, who will? If we don’t demand a national future for Wales, who will?

It is our duty, at this vital moment in the history of the Welsh nation to stand up and not accept the seemingly inevitable.

Diolch yn fawr.

 


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