Plaid Cymru Conference – Key Note Address 2013

Araith Cynhadledd / Conference Speech

Araith Cynhadledd / Conference Speech

Friends, it is a privilege and honour to be addressing you today on the first morning here at Plaid Cymru ‘s annual conference in Aberystwyth. It is particularly pleasing to be in the Ceredigion constituency – and I very much look forward to welcoming Mike Parker to the ranks of the party in Westminster following the 2015 election.

As a former student at the University of Aberystwyth, it has been somewhat emotional returning to the hall. Fifteen years ago I was taking my final exams in this room. I had spent the best four years of my life studying in the departments of History and International Politics.

After years of extra-curricular activities such as the immortal ‘half-pint crawl’, somehow I managed to leave Aberystwyth with a postgraduate degree.

I had specialised mainly on the history and politics of the end of the Cold War – with a focus on events in Eastern Europe. After spending years studying the breakdown of the Soviet empire, I feel that I have a good feeling about current developments in the British Isles. We live in exciting times where a new order is developing. Where the political relationship between the people of the British Isles is changing from one based on the centralised nation-state in London – to an equal relationships between nations.

We are all watching the amazing developments in Scotland eagerly. And there is a clear message to the people of Scotland from this conference that we wish them well in the coming year as they campaign for their political freedom. Do not believe the British Government propaganda and mass media that support it – the’Yes’ campaign will win despite the destructive and uncompromising efforts of the Unionists.

The ‘No’ campaign has branded their campaign ” Project Fear ” . Any political campaign based on destroying people’s confidence and hope in their future – deserve to lose. I am confident that the people of Scotland will respond to these negative tactics by deciding to support a positive vision of the future of their country.

In Wales of course we are familiar with this despicable tactics from the enemies of our country. We’re too small, too poor and too stupid to govern ourselves according to the unionist parties . We must get our betters in London to make decisions for us – that is the unionists’ cry. It has made a profound impression on the conscience of our nation.

But even in Wales – the first appendix of the British state – the Welsh people are beginning to challenge the old order and gain confidence in their nation.

In 1997 we narrowly won a referendum to give Wales a degree of self-government. A few years ago we won a significant referendum with an overwhelming majority in which the Welsh people decided that they want to be completely sovereign over policy areas that are devolved.

Over the summer, research by the Silk Commission – the most comprehensive research since devolution – showed that 62 % of our people want more powers for the Assembly with just 20% against; 80 % believe that the National Assembly for Wales protects our interests better than Westminster; 80% want Wales to have responsibility for energy policy; 63 % support the devolution of police, and I was very pleased to see that 58 % are in favour of devolving broadcasting.

I was shocked to see that 20% want to see defence and foreign policy devolved – namely independence – when we have not even begun to seriously make the case for these issues yet!

The most significant thing about the research is that the figures are consistent among people of all ages and from all over the country – a clear sign that our Government enemies’ work of creating artificial divisions among our people have failed.

Conference, the important work of this report as well as Part 1 of Silk on taxation powers – clearly shows that the Welsh people’s support for devolved governmental systems has increased and strengthened.

Friends, there’s a place for everyone in the room here today to congratulate ourselves on making a historic contribution to the development of our country as a political nation. And we’re only just starting our work.

I would like in this part of my speech to pay tribute to some of the party’s politicians who have, or are about to, leave the front line. Our former Leader Ieuan Wyn Jones, of course, has already moved on to pastures new. Alun Fred and Rhodri Glyn have also announced that they will surrender their Assembly duties. Both have served the country when we were a party in government, making incredible contributions over many decades.

We have enjoyed many victories in Carmarthen East since 1999 – and this is thanks to Rhodri’s contribution in building the party in the county of Carmarthenshire. Although he has announced that he wants to retire he remains as committed as ever, forcing two U-turns by the Welsh Government this year alone.

I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Rhodri for all the help he has given me over the years, especially since I was elected. I cannot imagine a better politician to serve alongside in our constituency. My personal debt to you, Rhodri, is great.

In hustings to choose a successor to Rhodri, Adam Price revealed that nobody has served Carmarthenshire for as long as Rhodri, and that speaks volumes about his contribution.

It’s a sign of the strength of political parties of course when it comes to a change of generation – a period we are living through it at the moment. I trust that we can develop a generation of new politicians who are prepared to lead our country to the next stage of our development as a nation under Leanne’s political leadership.

Sian Gwenllian in Arfon has already proven herself as a councillor of the highest calibre.

In Carmarthenshire, the people rejoice that Adam Price is back – and I’m looking forward to restarting our partnership serving the former Deheubarth.

With him and many other talents in the front line, exciting times lie ahead.

And on that note, we are honoured to welcome the newest Assembly Member to conference in a slightly different capacity to his usual one. Rhun, your victory in August was one of the greatest in our party’s history – a triumph over our opponents’ negativity. I very much look forward to working with you over the coming years. Your victory has inspired the whole of Wales.

I told you that having an ‘ap’ in your name is political dynamite in the age of the iPad and iPhone. I have suggested to the Director of Elections that each of the candidates adds ‘ap’ to their name by contacting deed poll!

It is a great shame that I only managed to visit Anglesey on two weekends during the campaign. But I remember having a pint with Rhun after one canvassing session in MenaiBridge and asked him why he had risked a comfortable career by putting his name in front of party members for the nomination, not to mention the election itself.

His answer is an inspiring one – he said that life is short, and the opportunity to serve Wales was too much of an attraction. Now, the experiences that created that mindset are known to Rhun’s family and friends. But his words made me realise how much of an honour it is to serve this particular party for a great cause.

Friends, our victory this summer in Anglesey shows what we can truly achieve as a party. Leanne and her modern style of leadership is building political momentum that is going to lead to more victories in the context of elections – but far more important in our fight to secure self-government for our nation.

Friends, the future of the Party is flourishing. When I look at the young talent in our midst it is absolutely clear to me that no other party throughout the UK can compete with the excitement and buzz of our party. Young politicians who understand that the only way to change the fate of our country is by challenging the old regime of the British state. Young politicians who are willing to sacrifice materialistic gain to achieve something far richer – national liberation.

What I have described so far is nothing short of political climate change,both in a party context, but far more importantly in the political context of our country.

Our ambitions are largely driven because the old system of direct rule from Westminster has failed our country and our people for far too long.

Although I have enjoyed every minute so far of representing the fantastic people of Carmarthen East and Dinefwr in the House of Commons – I think my great friends Elfyn, Hywel and Dafydd will agree with me that the imperial Parliament is not a very natural habitat for Welsh patriots such as ourselves.

The architecture of Westminster is deliberately designed to seduce anyone who spends any significant periods of time there.  There is little doubt in my mind that the architecture is deliberately designed to make you feel extremely small – to compress you as an individual and to make you conform.

That could explain how many a radical elected from the periphery soon find themselves losing their accents and their political identity.

Together with the corrupting influence of big money on Westminster politics it’s no wonder that there is little difference between the three London parties. Thatcher morphs into Blair and Blair morphs into Cameron in a seamless transition.

Westminster embodies the old politics for the elite by the elite.   I had hoped that the great financial crash of 2008 and the longest lasting recession since records began might have changed matters.

I thought the complete collapse of the neo liberal economic order might lead to the Westminster political class finally realising that a more equitable economic strategy was required where the proceeds of wealth are not funnelled to the very few – but shared amongst all.

I was convinced that the Labour party would renege on its Tory lite strategy. That they would admit that in trying to out Tory the Tories they had betrayed those communities that had been so faithful over the decades.

How wrong could I be?  Despite this disastrous Tory Lib Dem Administration using economic catastrophe as an excuse to pursue their ambitions of redefining the role of the State and their obsession with small government – Labour has signed up to the exact same spending plans as this Tory Administration following the next election.

Let’s be crystal clear here, Labour has signed up to Tory spending plans lock stock and barrel.   In doing so, they have committed to implementing the same small government model.  It’s an incredible strategic decision that shapes all other policy decisions – but has hardly been mentioned in dispatches – apart from the Western Mail!

Is it little wonder that they are known on social media as the Red Tories.  And despite a vicious rumour – I didn’t start that one!

Remember this message loud and clear whilst campaigning in 2015, there is not a single penny between the overall spending plans of the three London parties.   If people want change from the Tories and the Lib Dems there’s no point voting for Labour.  Edward Miliband admits he has no intention of reversing the current governments’ cuts.

The social media pioneers have got it bang on the button.  In future there will be a game app named spot the difference between a Blue Tory, Yellow Tory and a Red Tory!  It will keep you going for hours.

Politics for the London parties is no longer a battle of ideas.  I feel a pity for the media who have to try and find artificial division lines between warring tribes that for all intents and purposes are joined at the hip.

Westminster political discourse is based on personality, poll ratings; latest narrative development; who’s employed who from the similarly debased political class in the US – rather than a genuine ideological debate.

Returning to the start of my speech, there is a direct correlation between the demise of Westminster to an ideas free conformity, its subservience to the economic elite – and the growing support for Welsh democratic institutions.  We in Wales know that no matter what the colour of the government in London, the trajectory of political travel will remain the same.  The only real alternative for those who want to create a more prosperous and just society is to empower our own national Parliament with the tools to make a difference.

The Party of Wales of course, for as long as we send representatives to Westminster, will be a reformist force.  We don’t go down to Westminster to protect the interests of the super rich – which is why we will be putting forward a radical platform for the 2015 Westminster election.

Whilst Labour couldn’t even be bothered to join us and vote against the Tory tax cut for millionaires – we would restore it and introduce a genuinely progressive taxation system.

Whilst the Tories block and Labour dithers – we will promote a Robin Hood Tax on big bank trading.

Whilst Labour join with the Tories in protecting the universal banking model allowing speculators to gamble with the backing of public money, effectively privatising profit and nationalising debt – we will commit to splitting the banks so that taxpayers do not pick up the tab for the next financial crash.

Whilst in terms of geographical and individual wealth the British state has developed into the most unequal member of the European Union – – we will continue to demand a Economic Fairness bill which will address the disgraceful legacy of the Labour Tory tag team.

Whilst Labour and the Tories remain committed to a new generation of Nuclear Weapons at a cost of 100 billion pounds – we will scrap Trident renewal and reinvest our share of this money in public services and productive infrastructure investment from Port Talbot to Prestatyn.

At the next Westminster Election we will be inviting the people of Wales to cast verdict on Labour and Tory  collusion at the behest of our First Minister to locate Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Cleddau following Scottish independence.

Whilst Labour and the Tories are more than happy to use UK taxpayers cash to fund England only projects without compensation to the Celtic countries – we will demand that Wales gets the billions of pounds – our fair share -  from HS2 which would revolutionise transport infrastructure in our country.

Whilst Labour and the Tories have built a risky economic strategy around consumer debt and house price inflation – we will demand a genuine industrial strategy that rebalances the economy away from serving the needs of the financial sector based in the city of London – towards the production side of the economy creating sustainable growth.

Whilst Labour MPs voted with Tory Eurosceptics to reduce Welsh European funding – Plaid Cymru will always put the Welsh national interest first.

Whilst Labour and the Tories are happy to see the energy and natural resources of Wales plundered – we will demand that they are utilised and developed for the benefit of our own economy and our own people.  As I said at our last Conference and the one before that, I say again – no one in an energy rich country such as ours should live in fuel poverty.

The Party of Wales has always and will always present credible policies which put the needs of Wales and her people first.We give our all in order to create a fairer, more just and more self-confident nation. We are respectful and passionate about Wales’ past, and excited and ambitious for her future.

Westminster isn’t working for Wales.  It never has.  This is why our party has dedicated its existence to the creation and development of our own democratic national political institutions.

We are living in the age of political climate change.  The old order of elitist direct rule from London is coming to an end.  It’s our duty in the Party of Wales to step up to the challenge of leading the people of our country to a better future.

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