Current Affairs Politics

Is Plaid Cymru Behind The Curve?

Following on from my earlier post, calling for a more dynamic and self-confident political nationalism from the Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru, some related news. According to a report over on ClickOnWales:

‘A large majority of people who voted Yes in the March referendum on legislative powers for the National Assembly either wanted even more powers or independence for Wales. This was a major finding presented yesterday on extensive polling undertaken before and after the 3 March vote by YouGov for the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University and the Institute of Welsh Politics at Aberystwyth University.

The findings also show that a large majority back devolving tax and criminal justice powers to Wales.’

The report goes on to point at that the new survey confirms that there is,

‘…an appetite amongst Welsh voters for making progress on a wide-ranging constitutional agenda… Presenting the data at a seminar in Cardiff Bay Professor Roger Scully, of the Institute of Welsh Politics, emphasised that the wide gap between the relatively few Yes supporters in the survey who were against making further progress on more powers and the large majority who wanted to go further was unprecedented in findings of this kind. He said that in more than a decade of analysing such data he had never come across such a wide divergence.’

All of which raise some very important questions for Plaid Cymru and its new chief executive, Rhuanedd Richards. As I stated previously Plaid’s main problem is that is has,

‘…evolved over the last few deacdes into a very much small ‘n‘ nationalist party, less separatist than regionalist, with a focus on language rights and equality in Wales, followed by the devolving of powers from the UK parliament to a ‘home rule’ National Assembly in Cardiff. In this it has been far less ambitious than its nationalist counterparts in Scotland, where the SNP took the basic bones of devolution and ran with them turning the Scottish assembly into a parliament and a Scottish executive into a government.

Unlike Plaid Cymru, the SNP has never really moved away from the issue of independence, though at times the core objective has taken an expedient back place. In Wales expediency, in the face of a less than nationalist electorate, went too far in the wrong direction, and baby was thrown out with bath water. Trying to get a Plaid politician to use the ‘i’ word is like trying to get a nun to swear. It is possible but good luck with it.

While progressive nationalist politics is on the rise elsewhere in Europe (and beyond) Plaid Cymru seems stuck in a rut of its own making, neither fish nor fowl, and their electoral base will remain confined unless they can, like the SNP, create an opposition between Cardiff-based and London-based politics, and show that devolution is not only working but can be expanded to something greater. Alex Salmond’s example of ‘home rule’ representing a stepping stone to greater freedom (to borrow an Irish phrase) is one that has gone down well with Scottish voters – even if they haven’t come around to taking the final steps (yet).

Plaid needs to be more honest with the Welsh people, and more forceful in selling its vision of a new, self-confident Welsh nation. A more intellectually muscular Welsh political nationalism needs to be coupled with the highly successful language nationalism of the last two decades, and moved forward.’

Polls like this latest YouGov one seem to point to a significant nationalist-minded section of the Welsh electorate who in some respects may be ahead of the nationalist party that claims to represent them.

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