The Future is Bright – The Future is Plaid

First appeared on Cambria Politico blog.

These are certainly exciting times for Plaid Cymru. A General Election when we expect to win the largest amount of Parliamentary seats in our history; an Autumn or 2011 New Year referendum on full law making powers within devolved competencies; and a Welsh General Election in 2011. From a personal perspective it’s great to be back full time in active politics at the heart of the national movement; the political equivalent of playing central midfield for the national football team every day of the year!

Over the next 18 months the future of Wales for a generation will be shaped. In this period, Plaid has the best opportunity in its history of replacing a discredited Labour party as the dominant political force in our country. It’s an opening we have a duty to grasp.

A new political environment will be shaped following the General Election. It is highly likely that we are looking at significant Tory victory across the UK. If tensions between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations have been all too often visible with a Labour Government in Westminster, imagine what it’s going to be like with a Tory Government in London that is at best suspicious of devolved politics.

The Labour party will inevitably implode after their defeat. In the medium term it has two choices in Wales. Firstly it grows up and becomes a party that genuinely promotes progressive nationalism – making itself relevant to the new political environment, or it continues along the path to self destruction with its current political malaise due to its own deep splits.

When Labour enjoyed political hegemony over our country it was able to pacify the two warring factions within its ranks by playing the politics of the lowest common denominator. Opposition parties working within this context had no option but to grit their teeth and bear it. Unfortunately for Labour, in the space of a few years their hegemonic control over Welsh politics (that lasted the best part of a century) disappeared. And the trajectory is only going one way. In the new plural political environment of modern Wales, Labour’s current approach will be ruthlessly exposed – the events within the Government of Wales only last week are a case in point.

In the face of a Tory Westminster Government, the alternative narrative will not be a replacement New Labour London Government – but rather the development of Welsh political democracy and sovereignty. As someone who has spent the last two years of my life campaigning directly for social justice with the CAB movement, it became evidently clear that Wales doesn’t have power over the real leavers to fully tackle social inequity. That is why, if elected, my political future will be in Westminster until Wales has control over the benefits system and fiscal autonomy are devolved. Northern Ireland already has administrative control over the benefits system and even the unionist parties in Scotland are campaigning for fiscal autonomy. We want Wales to have the same rights as our Celtic cousins – why should we accept less?

There are those in the Labour party who accuse us of naval gazing over the constitutional question. What they fail to acknowledge is that political power is the key to driving forward the social justice agenda. Without the tools to do the job – no craftsman no matter its skill can achieve its task. Are the unionists in their midst seriously arguing that a Tory Government in London is likely to deliver on the social justice more than a government of progressives in Wales?

The political dynamic of post General Election Wales will therefore be between a Conservative right wing, South East of England Centric UK Government in conflict with an increasingly Plaid dominated Government of Wales. If Labour fail to react to this new political dynamic they will become increasingly marginalised. Peter Hain is only half right – the real political choice is between Plaid and the Tories.

At this stage it’s important to pay tribute to the way in which current Plaid leader Ieuan Wyn Jones, an Amman Valley boy like myself having been born and raised in Garnswllt, is creating the new Wales. Ieuan knows where the future strategic battles lie. Apart from his contribution in steering Wales through the recession, his major contribution will be the way that he has paved the way and shaped the future of so many young politicians.

With Wales’ most effective political campaigner in Bethan Jenkins and the party’s Director of Policy Nerys Evans already elected at the Senedd, Ieuan has facilitated the development of the likes of the next Jennie Eirian in Myfanwy Davies , the hugely talented Steffan ‘Next But One’ Lewis, forensic thinker Colin Nosworthy and ultra impressive Heledd Fychan.

Added to this, he has managed to recruit a group of exceptionally gifted young staffers and advisers to drive Plaid’s ambitions. Having individuals as talented and committed as this team must make other political parties in Wales not only envious but also extremely worried.

A lesser leader would have pinned down the ‘young Turks’ in the party in order to preserve his own position. His selflessness is creating the new Wales that will shape the future of our nation.

In doing so Ieuan has not only ensured an increasingly impressive team to lead, but has also provided his party with a new generation of politicians ready to lead Wales to justice and prosperity well in to the future.

I am confident that the future is bright – and I’m convinced the future is Plaid.

Jonathan Edwards
Plaid Prospective Candidate, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

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