Dylai Plaid Cymru feddwl eto cyn ceisio tynnu lawr ased etholiadol gorau y blaid

Erthygl gan Guto Prys ap Gwynfor yn olrhain hanes arweinwyr y gorffennol yng nghyd-destun y tensiynau a welwn o fewn y Blaid ar hyn o bryd. Mae’n disgrifio nifer o achosion dros y blynyddoedd, yn mynd yn ôl i gyfnod Gwynfor Evans ble mae pwysau o’r tu mewn wedi cyfrannu at anhawsterau’r


Guto Prys ap Gwyfor

“California earthquakes are a geologic inevitability”.

So said a report on the American network CBS. California is expected to suffer a severe earthquake every hundred years or so, and it is said that California is now overdue an earthquake. Plaid Cymru is much the same.

Every twenty years or so it goes through its own little earthquake. In nearly every case, except for the first, it boils down to frustration and knee jerk reaction. And as with every such case, decisions made in frustration are inevitably the wrong decisions.

Plaid Cymru was formed in 1924. The party only fielded one candidate in elections between then and 1943, and that was in Caernarfon.

Then, during the 1943 University Seat by-election the party had very high hopes of winning, with Saunders Lewis considered to be head and shoulders above every other prospective candidate, only to be scuppered by the betrayal of WJ Gruffydd, who had previously been a party member.

This was seen by the party’s enemies as the high-water mark for the young Plaid Cymru. However, with the hope and reinvigoration that came with the 1943 by-election, it also heralded in a new era.

By 1945 the party’s old guard decided to step aside. Saunders Lewis, JE Daniel, and other stalwarts decided for various reasons to move on.

Saunders Lewis, on his departure, announced that it was his opinion that the young Gwynfor Evans should be President.

And so Plaid Cymru became a professional party. Gwynfor Evans changed it from what was seen as largely a protest party, to be an electoral force, increasing the number of candidates that they fielded in every election.

Crisis

In the 1959 election the party fielded no fewer than twenty candidates. However, by the early sixties things were not all well.

The party was coming under continuous sniping for not doing enough for the Welsh Language. It had failed to make an electoral breakthrough.

And worst of all it was facing an existential crisis, with a real threat of the party splitting in two – between the more Anglicised Valleys of south Wales, and the more Welsh-speaking rural north and west.

It was all coming to a head, when, in mid-1966, a by-election was called in Carmarthen following the passing of Lady Megan Lloyd-George. Gwynfor Evans won a historic by-election, becoming the party’s first MP, and changing the course of Wales’ history. Plaid entered its next phase, as a Parliamentary party.

The 1966 success stimulated the party faithful and brought in a generation of new supporters. Plaid had a series of very strong by-election showings.

By the second 1974 election Plaid Cymru had a candidate in every one of the 36 constituencies in Wales, and succeeded in getting three MPs elected.

But, as with every elation there comes a fall. The party was once again experiencing an existential crisis in the early eighties following the hammer blow loss of the 1979 devolution referendum.

Gwynfor’s triumph over Thatcher with the establishing of S4C galvanised the party and the movement, and gave it that thrust that it needed to carry on with the fight.

It also resulted in Gwynfor stepping down as the party’s President, and saw the heralding in of the new generation – the leadership of both Dafydd Wigley and Dafydd Ellis-Thomas.

Threat

Fast forward twenty years, and the party was once again facing a crisis. This time largely of its own making.

Plaid Cymru’s 1999 National Assembly elections were truly historic. They won seats across the south Wales Valleys and became a real political force. And what did they do? A plot was hatched, and the experienced and popular Dafydd Wigley was dispatched.

The party wasn’t facing any sort of crisis. It had just managed to get the Labour First Minister, Alun Michael, sacked. It had had its most successful election ever, and was seen as a real political threat.

It’s difficult for us today to understand just how much of a threat Plaid Cymru was back then.

So much so that London newspapers, most notably the Labour loving Mirror, threw resources at discrediting the party and damaging Plaid’s political chances. This was a sure sign of success.

Irony

And here we are today. History suggests that we’re due for another internal crisis. It’s a generational thing. Plaid Cymru are once again building up a head of steam.

However good or strong the leader, once every generation frustration boils over and the knees start jerking. Gwynfor Evans, Dafydd Wigley, and Leanne Wood.

The sad irony is that it isn’t pressure from the outside, but in every case it’s pressure from the inside.

However, the party isn’t facing an existential crisis, like it did in the 1960s and early 1980s. In fact, Plaid enjoyed one of its most successful local election campaigns ever last year.

They increased the number of MPs back to 4, with the first ever female MP elected in 2015. Half of Wales elected Police and Crime Commissioners are there as Plaid Cymru representatives.

And they succeeded in capturing the symbolic Rhondda constituency in 2016. And yet, for some peculiar reason, much like the plot of 2000, there are people itching for an internal, damaging fight.

Liked

Having just come out of a bitter public row with former Plaid Cymru AM, Neil McEvoy, and just as Labour are embroiled in their own internal fights about their structures and leadership, some of the Plaid group of AMs have taken it upon themselves to demand a leadership election.

Conversely, Leanne Wood has, and is, travelling the length and breadth of the country, holding open meetings in village halls, pubs and clubs, engaging with people of all political persuasions and none.

The Labour Party will go into the next election with the least known First Minister in the history of the National Assembly.

Whether it’s Mark Drakeford, Vaughan Gething, Eluned Morgan or AN Other, the new FM’s recognition factor will be tiny. Leanne Wood is the most well known and most liked politician in Wales.

Plaid Cymru will go into the next election with what can only be called political gold. Recognition, brand awareness, call it what you will, but it’s one of a political party’s main currencies.

Leanne Wood has this in bucket loads, especially when compared to her rivals. What would be achieved by throwing all of that away?

Plaid Cymru supporters are all frustrated that the party is not in Government. None more so than Leanne herself, I’m sure. Yet the blame cannot, and should not, be laid at her feet.

Root

Politics is a team event. The whole membership, especially the professional, elected politicians, should take a long hard look at themselves before trying to topple the party’s best electoral asset.

If anyone thinks that changing one person will change the fortunes of the party, then they’ve completely miss-read the political situation in Wales, and are failing to tackle the root causes of our problems.

If some Plaid Cymru politicians fail to identify the democratic and media deficit, which are at the root of our problems, then heaven help us.

Leanne Wood has clearly identified these problems and is doing everything within her considerable ability to redress the issues. They should all get behind her.

Greddf gwrth-ffasgiaeth Leanne Wood yw’r rheswm pam ein bod ei hangen hi fel arweinydd Plaid Cymru

Erthygl gan yr awdur a’r cyn-ymgeisydd seneddol Mike Parker ar y rhesymau pam y dylai Leanne Wood barhau fel arweinydd Plaid Cymru. Mae’n tynnu sylw at y ffaith bod ei greddfau i adnabod bwli yn mynd i fod yn hollbwysig wrth i elfennau’r asgell dde eithafol gael ail wynt yma ac draws y byd. Mae’n dweud ei bod yn ddynes sydd wedi arfer â brwydro dros gyfiawnder a bod y cryfder hwnnw sydd ynddi wedi mynegi ei hun pan wnaeth tri Aelodau Cynulliad y Blaid ysgrifennu llythyr yn galw am her i’w harweinyddiaeth, a hynny ar drothwy ei hymddangosiad ar y rhaglen deledu Question Time.


Mike Parker

Like most queer people, I can smell bullies a mile off.  It’s part of our training, you see, something we had to learn as youngsters growing into an identity at odds with the mainstream, sometimes violently so.

We learned to scan any situation and quickly identify the thugs, the blustering egomaniacs fizzing with insecurities and the passive-aggressive narcissists who’ve learned the right vocabulary, but not a jot of the meaning behind it.

It’s good training for life, and for politics in particular, because politics is crock-full of them all.

Quite how full only became apparent to me after publishing The Greasy Poll, a diary of the turbulent time I spent as Plaid Cymru’s 2015 Westminster candidate in Ceredigion.

Over the decades, I’ve written more than a dozen books about place and identity; each brings reaction from readers, sharing their stories, agreeing or disagreeing with me.

With The Greasy Poll though, it was amazing just how radically different were the responses, especially the emails from politicians and activists in all parties.

Too many saw themselves in it, and only themselves; to them, it wasn’t so much a book, more a wander through a fairground hall of mirrors, marvelling at their own reflection.

People I know to be savage bullies wrote to wail about how badly they too had been pushed around by party machinery, the press or their colleagues.  Devious schemers painted themselves as misunderstood ingénues.

People who have been tipping poison down the communal well for years screeched in horror about the barrenness of the political landscape.

Beliefs

Hiding behind smokescreens and subterfuge, bullies love to whip up problems, and then move into the light to present themselves as the solution.

It’s been there for all to see in every party in the Senedd (except, to be fair, the LibDems; it’s hard to split a group of one).

My concern is with Plaid.  If there is a leadership challenge, it will be a tough call for many.

Plaid has not been in a good place this last couple of years.  We’ve lost two AMs, internal discipline has been badly handled, election results are patchy, the party has sounded quite hesitant on Brexit, and – its real bête noire, in my opinion – there’s been far too much timidity and emphasis on PR over substance.

As leader, Leanne Wood has inevitably copped much of the blame for Plaid’s woes.  She’s far from perfect, but that’s unfair.

It’s no secret that I’m a mate of hers, but – as she would tell you too – I’m that kind of gobby mate that doesn’t hold back from criticism when needed (and even when not!).

She knows that I wish she was less carefully calibrated sometimes, and show more of the fire in her belly that powers her politics.

I wish she’d occasionally overrule her advisers, and voice her real beliefs on everything from nuclear power to drugs, and yes, Welsh independence too.

As a fellow Welsh learner, I’d also like to see her be bolder in using the language.

Ambush

That all said, there is one huge, over-arching reason why I want Leanne to continue as leader: she too can smell a bully at forty paces, and always refuses to play their game.

Right now, that is just about the most important thing we could need in a leader.  Left unchecked, bullies become fascists, and at a time when real fascism is flexing its muscles, we need all the opposition we can muster.

Grim election results all over the world tell only a sliver of the story; evidence is mounting by the day of increased tensions and hostility, and dangerous zealots strutting with newfound confidence.

We are not immune to it here, however much we like to think we are.

Leanne is a fighter, a woman who instinctively takes on the bullies and the bullshitters, and always has.  There was no careful calibration when she shot down the dog whistle drivel of Farage and Nuttall in those election debates, nor the creepy utterances of their sometime colleagues in the Senedd.

She has fought racism, misogyny and homophobia all her life, and not just for the hashtags and selfies.

She relishes the scrap, as demonstrated so resoundingly on last Thursday’s Question Timefrom Caernarfon, the very day that three Plaid AMs (and the fingerprint of a fourth?) had put out a letter calling for a challenge to her leadership, surely hoping to ambush her appearance.

If anything, it had the opposite effect to the one they intended, for Leanne came roaring out of the traps and showed just what a formidable operator she has become in her six years of leadership.

Neither does she fall back on the tactic of stoking easy resentment for quick buck electoral gain or social media likes.

Need

I fear that some in and around Plaid don’t quite understand how dangerous that game is, and what dark places it can lead to if encouraged.

During last week’s Question Time, my Twitter feed was full of people getting way more upset by people’s accents than the actual words they used.  Where does that leave those of us who will never sound local?

The new and shiny is always appealing when we’ve had our old model six years.  It’s all about upgrades these days, even if they promise the earth and deliver very little.

I’ve wavered in my support for Leanne, and for Plaid too, but now that there is talk of a challenge, it has made me think hard about where we are and what we need.

Leanne is well-known, liked and respected.  Her confidence is growing, as is her clarity about the perilous state of Wales and the world, and her determination to improve things.

She needs to finish the job, to take us to the next Assembly election, and to work tirelessly to spread nationwide what she did so convincingly in Rhondda last time.

Fel arweinydd Plaid Cymru, rwyf yn cynnig y llwybr at wir annibyniaeth

Erthygl gan Leanne Wood yn cyhoeddi ei bod yn sefyll unwaith eto fel arweinydd Plaid Cymru gan ei bod yn gyfnod ble mae modd i bobl eraill roi eu henwau yn yr het yn unol a rheolau’r Blaid. Mae hi’n dweud y bydd yn arwain Cymru ar lwybr tuag at wir annibyniaeth, gan ddadlau bod annibyniaeth go iawn yn mynd tu hwnt i drefniadau cyfansoddiadol. Mae’n ymwneud, meddai hi, ag agwedd a hyder pobl pan maent wedi eu grymuso yn wleidyddol ac yn economaidd i wneud eu penderfyniadau eu hunain dros eu bywydau eu hunain.


Leanne Wood AM, Leader of Plaid Cymru

This week I have resubmitted my nomination to lead Plaid Cymru.

In line with our party’s democratic principles, I am required to table my nomination to lead the Party of Wales every two years. This ensures that Plaid Cymru is always led by our membership.

As Leader, I have one overriding objective – to lead a Plaid Cymru government that begins our nation’s journey to independence, so that we can realise our potential as a country.

Westminster never has and never will deliver the solutions Wales needs. I believe there is a better way.

As a Plaid Cymru First Minister, I will deliver a programme for an empowered nation and an empowered people – for a future based on equality, dignity and opportunity for all.

That is why, on my re-election as leader, I will deliver a Pathway to Real Independence. Real Independence goes much further than national constitutional arrangements.

It covers the attitude, outlook and confidence people have when they are politically and economically empowered to determine the direction of their own lives.

I will set-up a national forum to discuss the steps we must take to end our social, political and economic dependence on Westminster.

With representatives from all walks of life, we will map out a future for Wales that doesn’t have to wait for Westminster to build our own, better society.

Review

I got into politics to make a difference. I want to create a Wales where we don’t settle for second best. Where our communities grow richer not poorer. I want to see decisions about our country made in our country.

And, as the Leader of Plaid Cymru, I know that I can deliver on this positive vision for the future of our country. It won’t be easy, but I can promise, the party I lead has answers to the big questions our nation faces.

What is Wales’s place in the world? Where should the balance of power lie – Westminster or Wales? What type of society, economy and environment will we create for future generations?

As an initial step, I am commissioning a review of our energy policies – a full appraisal of the effects that Wylfa B and Hinckley Point could have on the communities and economy of Ynys Môn and Gwynedd and the south east.

Special attention will be paid to potential damage that nuclear development could cause to health, the Welsh language as well as our natural environment and overstretched infrastructure.

Power

Labour and the Conservatives have both failed to show they have the answers. Both are complicit in delivering an extreme Brexit, costing Welsh jobs and wages.

They even colluded on a deal that will see our National Assembly weakened – with Westminster taking control over key powers relating to our environment, agriculture and state aid.

That is why I will continue to push the case for Wales to have an open and job-protecting relationship with our European neighbours and to bring back the powers that were so cynically handed to Westminster by Labour.

That is also why I will not enter into coalition with any party that stands opposed to our principles, values and policies.

Hope

Growing up during the 1980s in Rhondda, I saw first-hand the problems caused by political choices when Wales and our working-class communities were side-lined.

I knew then, as I know now, it doesn’t have to be this way. I know there is much more we can do to ensure people reach their full potential.

This not only means electing more Plaid Cymru representatives at all levels, it also means Plaid Cymru itself must better reflect all of the people of our nation.

For this reason, I will make sure our politics and elected representatives can properly reflect the diversity which makes up Welsh communities.

Raymond Williams described Real Independence as “a time of new and active creation: people sure enough of themselves to discard their baggage; knowing the past is past, as shaping history, but with a new confident sense of the present and the future, where the decisive meanings and values will be made.”

Inspired with a vision for a better future, we can build a nation shaped by its citizens. Giving hope and opportunity to those who have been denied it for so long.

Together, we will deliver an empowered people and nation, ready to take our future into our own hands.

Pam y dylem uno tu ô i Leanne Wood, y gwleidydd a dorrodd y mowld

Cyng. Steve Collings, cynghorydd Plaid Cymru dros Ward Deiniol, Bangor, yn trafod sut y bu iddo fo ymuno â Phaid Cymru oherwydd arweinyddiaeth Leanne Wood, a’i gweledigaeth radical hi mewn môr o wleidyddiaeth llwydaidd. Mae’n nodi fod cryfder Leanne Wood fel ased i’r Blaid yn ymgorffori tair elfen hollbwysig:

Amddiffynydd angerddol o ddiwylliant Cymru, rhywbeth a fyddai’n apelio at yr ardaloedd traddodiadol

Yn gryf o blaid annibyniaeth

Menyw ddosbarth gweithiol sydd a’i chartref diwyllianol yng nghanol byd y cymoedd, yr ardal mae Plaid angen ei hennill.


Steve Collings

After having spent most of my adult life being an activist, ‘mainstream’ politics held little interest back in 2012.

There was no variety, no radicalism and no sincerity to be found in any of the political parties as far as I could see.

It was a politics populated by grey suits with bland politics who always seemed to be more interested in getting their own seat at the table rather than holding power to account.

During this time of neoliberal consensus every politician owed their career to being seen favourably by a constantly shrinking and more centralised media elite, who acted as middle men between politicians and the public.

If they said something too radical or too far from the mainstream belief in capitalist market economics their views would be blocked or condemned by this very small number of media channels.

The public figure in question had no way of addressing the public directly to correct the record.

What emerged was a culture or conformity and timidity that led to the commonly held belief that “politicians are all the same”.

Even well-intentioned and radical hearted individuals had to ‘tone down’ their message and be very wary of saying anything that was too far from the norm as an eerie group think settled over politics.

The result was an entire political class raised in a culture of fear of saying the wrong thing.

Change

Leanne Wood was different. I and many others were drawn to Plaid by her political leadership. The new ideas and radicalism that she represented broke the mould.

A staunch republican, feminist, socialist and advocate of Welsh independence, Leanne was a state school educated, working-class woman who seemed to say directly what was on her mind.

I was convinced that she would be ‘weeded out’ by the natural selection of all-powerful media scrutiny. Surely, she would be hounded for her every word and could not rise to the top of a political party?

Maybe it was because Plaid was a small party when compared to the Westminster behemoths, or maybe it was because the SNP in Scotland had already managed to put independence back on the agenda, but I was wrong.

Either way, her leadership campaign on a platform of ‘real independence’ won through and nearly secured her the Plaid leadership in the first round of voting in 2012. When the second round was counted she won decisively.

Plaid had chosen its radical.

Unique

So why did Plaid break out of the ‘grey consensus’?

From the current vantage point of 2018, there doesn’t seem to be anything too unusual about a political party electing a radical and outspoken leader.

The politics of ‘business as usual’ has rapidly been replaced by a political climate in which radicals and populists of both left and right and thriving.

In the era of Corbyn and Sanders, Trump and Farage, the mainstream mould is no longer a barrier to reaching the top; it actually seems to be a benefit

Leanne’s breakthrough, however, was unique for its time.

For a considerable period before her election, the party seemed stuck in a rut. Their message of gradual independence and cultural preservation had always done well in the Welsh-speaking heartlands, but failed to attract serious interest in the majority English speaking Valleys where the bulk of the population lived.

She embodied a combination of three vital elements. She was:

  • a passionate defender of the culture who could appeal to the heartlands
  • a staunch advocate of independence
  • a working-class woman who’s cultural home was right in the centre of the valleys world that Plaid needed to win.

Leanne represented an opportunity for Plaid, and the party grassroots overwhelmingly decided to take a risk on doing something different.

For me, an English-speaking leftist from the north-east borders, she stood out in an otherwise stale political landscape.

In order to support her vision of a united Wales that could push its way towards independence by focussing on the bread and butter issues that most concerned people, I joined Plaid Cymru.

Centre 

It is a badly kept secret that some elected members at the top of the party have been jostling for position and putting pressure on Leanne since the summer of last year.

Shortly after she released a publication that restated her commitment to focusing on the grassroots issues and paving the way towards independence – including a discussion on the place of community-led socialism in Plaids economic thinking – a counter-narrative of ‘moving to the centre’ and being open to working with the Tories has gradually emerged, one hint at a time.

This has since been picked up by a media establishment quick to exploit the perceived weakness in any party and have a pop at a radical.

To me, this appears to be an attempt by some elected officials to retreat back into Plaids comfort zone and abandon the drive to reach out to the electorally vital valleys.

More than that, a willingness to work with the Tories would push Plaid further to the right than it has ever been before, so this position goes further than just a retreat back to Plaid’s more centrist days.

It is natural that there were always going to be elected officials in Plaid who were uncomfortable with the party having such a different leader and so it is logical that a reaction was always going to come at some point.

Perhaps the remarkable thing is that it has taken this long for Leanne to face a formal challenge.

Valleys

The argument against Leanne is that her strategy has failed, and the party is not moving on. But that is quite simply false.

In 2016 Leanne – with her unique message, platform and style – won a resounding victory in the Rhondda, unseating a Labour minister right in the heart of Plaids main target area with 51% of the vote and a huge swing.

This is the first time the party has had a break-through in the valleys since its short-lived gains of 1999. Its significance cannot be under-estimated.

This seat – combined with Leanne’s huge public profile – can now be used as the launch pad and model for a campaign at the next election that seeks to take a string of valleys seats.

The formula has been tested and it works.

However, Leanne has rather unfairly had to shoulder the blame for a turbulent year within Plaid, where the party’s creaking machinery failed to quickly deal with numerous disciplinary issues that have still left a bitter taste in the mouths of many.

This is unfair because the leadership has no influence in these matters, and Leanne has rightly focussed on promoting the radical, one Wales, real independence message that she was elected on.

Neither the lack of break-through nor the recent internal troubles are the real reasons for the emerging challenge and ‘change of direction’.

Disastrous 

I may have joined the party and stood for election as a councillor because of Leanne Wood, but since then I have become attached to the vision of a more independent Wales that is free to chart its own course in the world.

Giving up the post-2012 strategy and toning down the progressive economic message that seeks to appeal to all of Wales would, to me, be strategically disastrous. This is an impoverished country where about 60% of the population ‘votes left’.

A change of direction would not be enough to drive me away from the party. Cuddling up to the Tories, however, would.

I would resign, and I would not be the only one. Anecdotally, I’ve heard people use the ‘R’ word a lot in recent weeks.

It is one thing to state that Leanne’s Valleys strategy should be abandoned, but it is another to suggest teaming up with the austerity-promoting, ultra-British Nationalist party that has caused so much pain to so many in Wales.

Sadly, the statements of several elected officials have hinted in this direction since Leanne restated her platform with her publication in January.

For many who have joined the party in recent years such a change of direction would be a serious red line.

This retreat is being presented as a strategy because the Tories have opened the door to future cooperation.

To retreat at this point would be a terrible mistake, and to lurch to the right would be catastrophic.

The reality is that the comfy, consensus, grey suit politics has collapsed.

Rather than recognising this and getting behind their own unique public hero in these radical times, the small ‘c’ conservative instincts of some in the party are using this turbulence to try and go back to a politics that is more familiar to them, just as the Blairites did in Labour and the Clintonites did in the Democrats.

I support Leanne Wood for First Minister in 2021 and we need to get behind her.

Rydym angen bod o ddifri am roi’r anrheg o ddwyieithrwydd i bob plentyn yng Nghymru

Erthygl gan Leanne Wood ar drothwy Eisteddfod yr Urdd ble mae hi’n trafod pwysigrwydd addysg Gymraeg i blant Cymru fel bod pob plentyn yn gadael yr ysgol yn ddwyieithog. Mae hi’n trafod ei dicter a’i rhwystredigaeth o fod wedi colli allan ar y Gymraeg yn blentyn fel wnaeth cenhedlaeth gyfan o bobl yn y Rhondda. Mae hi’n nodi sylwadau Lloyd Macey – yntau hefyd o’r Rhondda ac yn fab i gynghorydd Plaid Cymru – un o lywyddion yr Eisteddfod ac un o sêr cyfres yr X Factor sydd wedi talu teyrnged i’w addysg Gymraeg fel rhywbeth a agorodd ddrysau iddo i ddigwyddiadau fel eisteddfodau’r Urdd, a fu yn eu tro yn allweddol iddo yn ei yrfa fel canwr.


It is difficult to convey the feelings of loss that come with missing something you never had. Isn’t it a contradiction? How can anyone possibly miss something they never had?

Let me try to explain.

I was brought up as a monoglot English speaker and as I grew I heard different languages spoken around me. I had the feeling that there were things going on that I couldn’t fully be a part of.

We had language lessons in school, including Welsh, but we didn’t see the value of it then as children. But now, when I look back, I wish that I had paid more attention.

I wish someone had explained to me why learning other languages was important. I wish someone had shown me that languages can open doors for you into different worlds.  I wish someone had told me how important the Welsh language is.

I wish they had explained the threats it has faced through history and still faces. I wish I had known what I could do – what we can all do to make sure there is a future for this unique and precious treasure that runs through the contours of the beautiful and rugged landscape of my home country, Cymru.

My own story is a microcosm of the problems our language faces. I understand a lot of Welsh, but I am not a fluent Welsh speaker and I don’t have the confidence to use it. I know I should. I know that using it will help it survive.

But the confidence question gets in the way.

The lack of confidence is, in my view, linked to the mixed feelings I have towards the Welsh language – and these feelings run deep.

I’ve lost count of the times I have felt awkward, uncomfortable and wrong when a group of Welsh speakers all switch to English for my benefit. Every time that happens I feel like I am striking it yet another blow.

I feel resentful of the art, film, poetry, prose, and plays I am missing out on because my understanding isn’t at full fluent. but most of all, when I think about the opportunities missed, I feel anger.

Growing up in Wales, I should have been given the gift of bilingualism from birth.

Hope

Today, more children than ever before are in Welsh medium education, which means all of their lessons are taught through the medium of Welsh.

It’s known that this is the best way to achieve bilingualism – children end up proficient in both English and Welsh when they leave school.

It is also known that bilingual children find it easier to learn a third, fourth, fifth language.

We are also beginning to understand the benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism in terms of preventing illnesses like Alzheimer’s and dementia in later life.

If we are really serious about not just protecting the Welsh language but creating citizens who are equipped to live long, independent lives, to be confident and to reach out to others throughout the world, then we should be serious about giving this gift of bilingualism to every child who grows up in Wales.

But I am hopeful.

This week saw yet another successful Urdd Eisteddfod held this year in Llanelwedd in Powys.

We really are fortunate to have something like the Eisteddfod for children and young people here in Wales which gives them the opportunity to express themselves and develop their creative talents through the medium of Welsh.

The Rhondda’s very own Lloyd Macey, singer and former X-Factor contestant, said that he would not have been able to take part in the TV talent show without the experience of competing at the Urdd Eisteddfod.

Like me, Lloyd is from a non-Welsh speaking household and said that the Urdd showed him that Welsh was more than ‘just a subject in school’ but a gateway into something much richer and valuable.

The last time the Rhondda hosted the Urdd Eisteddfod was in 1947 in Treorci and the last time the Rhondda hosted the National Eisteddfod was in 1928 – the Gorsedd stones placed to commemorate the Eisteddfod still standing proudly on the Maindy hillside overlooking Cwmparc and Treorci to this day.

Perhaps it is time for the Rhondda to host the Eisteddfod again.

So let us put an end to robbing people of something that is arbennig iawn – very special to us all.

Let us celebrate – dathlu.

Let us have confidence – hyder.

Let us make sure Cymraeg has a future – dyfodol.

That future is in our hands – ein dwylo ni.

Let us rise to the challenge of the responsibility that has been given to our generation.

Ymlaen.

Planet Extra – Ynghylch Leanne 25.06.18


Mae’r erthygl yn trafod y prif feirniadaethau ar arweinyddiaeth Leanne Wood ac yn eu gweld yn ddiffygiol. Er gwaetha’r cyd-destun gwleidyddol anodd i’r Blaid, mae Leanne Wood wedi llwyddo i osod y mudiad cenedlaethol ar flaen y gad. Yng Nghymru, oes Occupy a’r ymgyrch yn erbyn llymder, oes #MeToo, yw oes Leanne Wood.

Daniel G. Williams


 

 

 

Some politicians seem to embody and define a period. Writing of Dafydd Elis-Thomas in Planet in 1988, Ned Thomas noted that occasionally a politician can offer a

way of fixing a period and a style in the political culture of Wales, and also a set of contradictions. They are, of course, not just one person’s contradictions, but society’s contradictions, revealed as only a politician can reveal them, at a particular moment of the national life.1

At the time of writing Leanne Wood is clearly preparing for someone to stand against her in a forthcoming Plaid Cymru leadership election. This moment offers an opportunity to assess her leadership so far, and to consider what the reactions to that leadership tells us about our contemporary political culture. A drip feed of negativity has been emitted from certain, sometimes wholly opposite, sectors of Plaid Cymru ever since the ‘Leanne-slide’ of the 2012 leadership election. By now the nature of these critiques are well established. This article describes their substance, assesses their accuracy and attempts to interpret what they tell us about the state of the national movement.

She’s Too Attritional

The first criticism, associated with Dafydd Elis-Thomas who now sits as an independent on the Labour benches, claims that Plaid Cymru has been too abrasive and insufficiently consensual under Leanne Wood’s leadership. The role of a national party is to be in government, goes the argument, and coalition with Labour should always be the intent.

It is true that during the first ten years of the National Assembly’s existence ‘consensus politics’ was seen as the marker of Welsh political maturity, and an embodiment of the ways in which things operated differently in the Welsh Assembly when compared to the attritional nature of politics at Westminster. Plaid Cymru made a strategic decision to ‘steady the boat’ after the wafer-thin ‘Yes’ vote of ’97, seeking to establish the legitimacy of devolution as opposed to attacking its limited nature and the failures of the Labour administration. If society seemed to have lost respect for its elected politicians, and voter apathy was seen to undermine the democratic process, then ‘consensus’ gestured towards a political culture where discussion replaced bickering, where policy ideas were considered on their merits no matter what their source, and where politicians would regain the respect of their constituents.

The roots of this drive for greater cross-party unity can be found in the pre-devolution period. Among those (across all parties) who believed in greater Welsh autonomy, this desire for consensus was an understandable response, and a successful tactic, following the debacle of the 1979 referendum in which the Labour party’s plans for an Assembly were defeated by a majority of 4:1 (956,330 against, 243,048 for). From then on the project of slowly building a consensus among pro-devolutionists of all parties in Wales was adopted by many, and the Iron Lady’s rule offered a congenial context for such a strategy to mature. In the years following the establishment of the National Assembly there was a desire to see the institution succeed. Rhodri Morgan proved adept at creating a rhetorical (if not material) sense that a river of ‘clear red water’ separated Welsh Labour from Blair’s New Labour, and 2011 saw the leaders of all the main parties combining in the successful campaign for a Yes vote for further powers (517,132 (63.49%) voted yes, 297,380 (36.51%) voted no).

The historian Merfyn Jones suggested in 1992 that in moving ‘beyond identity’ it was time for Wales to cease being ‘a cause with adherents’ and to transform itself into ‘a place with citizens’. The notion that the Welsh national movement was a ‘cause’ belonged to the age of Saunders Lewis. Merfyn Jones’s argument was also Dafydd Elis-Thomas’s position, a position that he used consistently to attack Leanne Wood and her leadership. The nadir was reached at the conference of 2014 where Thomas described as ‘banal’ a characteristically robust attack by Leanne Wood on UKIP and their racist politics. Enjoying the nudges and winks of the patrician old guard on the conference fringes, Elis-Thomas seemed to delight in sabotaging the leader and in doing so undermining the selfless work put in by the very small group of people running the Plaid Cymru conference machine. Elis-Thomas’s vision was one that in effect ruled out any constructive role for a party in opposition. The commentator Gareth Hughes noted that there was an anti-democratic element to such an approach to politics.

The age of consensus might have been necessary in establishing the Assembly, but that was surely now over. The 2010s had indeed seen the emergence of a different kind of politics. A civic culture characterised by consensus was increasingly seen as one where those in need had failed to make their voices heard, or had been silenced. Was the rise of a populist Right not a response to the impression that politics had become too consensual?

The danger at the time of the 2012 leadership election was not that Plaid Cymru would be seen to be advocating a narrowly defined Welsh ‘cause’. The danger was that party members and representatives perceived themselves as, and were perceived to be, shareholders in a regional company, rather than civic contributors to a national, political, project. Leanne Wood was elected in 2012 to break the consensus that belonged to the previous decade. In keeping her distance from Labour, Wood set the basis for her 2016 victory in the Rhondda, when she defeated Leighton Andrews, widely seen to be the most effective of Labour’s politicians and a seasoned campaigner. Leanne has remained in opposition, eschewing a coalition with Labour and ruling out a coalition with the Tories. The strategy is clear: rather than calling for coalitions Leanne Wood aims to build towards forming a Plaid Cymru-led government after the elections in 2021, and has agreed to stand down as leader if that project fails.

She’s Too Consensual

Yet, despite her victory in the Rhondda and unwillingness to enter into coalitions, the second influential critique of Wood and her leadership – associated primarily with Neil McEvoy and his followers – is that she’s too consensual. This is the inverse of the Elis-Thomas critique. Leanne Wood is, according to this line of thought, a paid-up member of the ‘Bay Bubble’, in the hands of powerful lobbyists, and in the pocket of a thoroughly corrupt Labour establishment. Leanne Wood’s problem from this perspective is that she couples her nationalism with a range of other concerns and commitments relating to gender equality, anti-racism and social justice. One of the great successes of the British right-wing press has been to establish a wholly skewed ideology by which those embracing a principled opposition to the Far Right, a commitment to anti-racism and a feminist politics, belong to a ‘virtue-signalling’ ‘elite’. A sector of the national movement seems to have internalised this world-view and regard Wood an elitist product of the consensual ‘Bay Bubble’.

But Leanne Wood doesn’t fit this model very well. A grass-roots activist and campaigner, born in Penygraig, where she still lives, she is the daughter of a bus driver and school kitchen assistant who spent much of the 1980s moving precariously between employment and unemployment, before working as a probation officer . Wood regards the route to independence as being marked by work and struggle. Her form of Leftism is one that aims to build bridges, that aims to persuade people that Plaid Cymru is defending values that are more widely held than the party’s current membership numbers would suggest. The implicit argument of her ‘Greenprint for the Valleys’ (2009) revisited and updated this year in the form of ‘The Change We Need’, is that in fighting for the local school, the local arts centre, the immigrant family down the road, for linguistic rights or for clean air, alliances are forged. And some of these allies, in the course of the campaign, will come to identify themselves with the cause of Wales and with, what Wood describes as, the empowering decentralist politics of Plaid Cymru. There’s some irony in the fact that, viewed from this perspective, Leanne Wood is precisely the working-class community activist that many of Neil McEvoy’s supporters would wish to see.

She Should Have Done Better

The charge of elitism has partly gained traction due to Leanne Wood’s failure to make a decisive breakthrough in the Valleys. The hope in 2012 was that she would make significant advances in areas where Plaid Cymru had achieved limited support in the past. That this has not yet happened is a source of frustration directed at Plaid Cymru’s leader. Some claim further that she should have achieved more given the coverage that she has received on the British media and mainstream press. These criticisms seem to ignore the fact that gaining that kind of coverage, unprecedented in the history of Plaid Cymru, is itself one of Leanne Wood’s major achievements. Much was made of Dafydd Wigley’s close relationship with Alex Salmond, but Salmond never spoke at the Plaid conference during his period as leader. Nicola Sturgeon has not only publicly and frequently expressed her admiration for Leanne, but also spoke at the conference in Aberystwyth immediately after the independence referendum of 2014.

This connection between Wood and Sturgeon was reinforced by the General Election debates of 2015. Labour supporters saw many of their views – anti-austerity, redistributive, anti-racist, Green – being articulated on mainstream TV for the first time in a generation. Those views were not coming from Ed Miliband, but from Leanne Wood, Nicola Sturgeon and Natalie Bennett. Wood in particular, unencumbered by the pressure imposed by the English right-wing press, directly attacked Nigel Farage for stigmatising the ill, vulnerable and homeless. It may be argued with some legitimacy that the willingness of large numbers of the Labour membership to elect a left-wing leader in the Autumn of 2015 was a result of seeing the success of progressive politicians leading the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties and in giving voice to leftist values on mainstream television.

Those who accuse Leanne Wood’s Plaid Cymru of wanting to ‘out-Corbyn Corbyn’ are thus reversing the lines of influence. One of the great failures of devolution is that it has not lead to a realignment of Welsh politics. Indeed, those arguing that Plaid Cymru should shift to the centre in response to Corbyn’s Labour may be seen to be exemplifying the Anglocentric terms in which they view politics. It is to be regretted that we continue to find ourselves reacting to changes in London, and Leanne Wood has been unfortunate in being leader throughout a period of Tory government in Westminster. Every breakthrough in the history of Plaid Cymru has happened with a Labour government in London. The party’s politics, like Welsh politics more broadly, continues to be reactive. The unionist parties recognise this, and use it to their advantage: calling a General Election during the Welsh council elections resulted in every single British newspaper featuring a picture of Theresa May on its cover on the day of the council vote in 2017; calling the EU Referendum during the Welsh Assembly elections created the context for a right-wing wave that propelled seven UKIP members into our Senedd. Within this context, the charges of failure against Leanne are somewhat misplaced.

No, there has not been a major breakthrough, but Plaid has more councillors than ever before and managed in 2017 to match the best-ever performance of 2008 (which took place in far more favourable conditions). In Westminster elections, when Tories come into power Plaid’s percentage vote tends to fall; descending to 7.8% in 1983, 7.3% in 1987, and only creeping up to 9.9% in Blair’s landslide election of 1997. The Plaid Cymru leader to have achieved the highest vote during a period of Tory Westminster government is Leanne Wood, achieving 12.1% in 2015. Even given the squeeze of 2017, Plaid returned 4 MPs on 10.4% of the vote, which is the best they’ve ever managed.

Assembly results are disappointing after the heady days of 1999, but it’s worth remembering that Plaid voters were mobilised while turnout was disappointingly low in the ’99 election. With Labour in power in London one would have expected the party to have done better under Ieuan Wyn Jones’s leadership in 2003 and 2007. Prior to Leanne becoming leader of Plaid Cymru, the only Assembly campaign fought with a Tory government in Westminster was 2011 where the party slumped to its worst ever result of 17.9% in the regional vote. Leanne returned the party to 20.8% of the vote in 2016, only 0.2% behind the percentage achieved in 2007. (The same pattern can be seen, less dramatically in the constituency vote, with the equivalent figures being 22.4% for 2007, 19.3% for 2011 and 20.5% for 2016). The wave of right-wing reaction made possible by the EU Referendum is waning. Leanne has stood by her principles and convictions and may yet prove to have weathered the storm. Granted, there has been no great leap forwards, but these are not the disastrous results described by some. The next few years are likely to be difficult for a party that has argued for some form of a ‘Wales in Europe’ throughout its history. Brexit continues to pose an existential threat to the party, and Plaid Cymru’s position continues to be somewhat ambiguous. But the popularity and recognition that Leanne Wood has built for herself makes her the likeliest candidate to achieve a breakthrough in the Assembly elections of 2021.

She’s a woman

There is of course a gendered dimension to Leanne Wood’s leadership and the response to it. Indeed, when a public figure is attacked from mutually contradictory positions it is usually worth seeking alternative, underlying, sources for the criticisms. Leanne Wood’s very presence is a challenge to patriarchal, messianic models of leadership woven deeply into the history of Plaid Cymru, as of political radicalism more broadly. Her more communal and collaborative form of leadership is that of an emergent generation of female politicans and is the starting point for any serious talk about organising and mobilising social change in the 21st century. It is already clear that the resistance to the current rise of the Far Right has been led by women. January 2017 saw a million-strong march of women against the Trump administration. In Poland, mass women’s protests forced the government back from tightening the already restrictive abortion law, and 2018 saw Ireland voting overwhelmingly to repeal the abortion ban. Italy, Spain and Portugal have seen huge marches against domestic violence and economic precarity, and 8 March 2017 saw International Women’s Day placed firmly back on the calendar with demonstrations on three continents. The #MeToo movement is only the latest of a string of events reshaping our world. Leanne Wood has placed the Welsh national movement within this wider progressive vanguard. This might prove to be her greatest achievement. The age of #Occupy and the anti-austerity movement , the age of #MeToo, is – in Wales – the age of Leanne Wood. Whether this transfers to a breakthrough in 2021 remains to be seen, but she surely deserves to find out.

    Notes:

  • 1: Ned Thomas, ‘Can Plaid Cymru Survive Until 1994?’, Planet 70 (1988)

Correction: this article was corrected on 02/07/18. It originally read ‘Prior to Leanne becoming leader of Plaid Cymru, the only Assembly campaign fought with a Tory government in Westminster was 2011 where the party slumped to its worst ever result of 17.9% . Leanne returned the party to 20.5% of the vote in 2016, only 0.5% behind the percentage achieved in 2007.’

Leanne Wood – Arwain y ffordd ar gydraddoldeb.

 

Erthgl sy’n canmol gwaith Leanne yn hyrwyddo cydraddoldeb ac am ysbrydoli cenhedlaeth o bleidwyr ifanc, gan Fflur Elin, cyn-Arlywydd Undeb Myfyrwyr Cymru a Chyd-Gadeirydd Plaid Ifanc.


Article originally posted HERE
Fflur Elin 
is a Masters student at Oxford University and former President of NUS Cymru.

If you have ever hesitated before shutting down a sexist joke or been told that you’re over-reacting when you object to groping or cat-calling, you will know how important and validating it is to have someone else stand with you in solidarity and support.

The activist from Harlem, Tarana Burke understood this when she created the campaign ‘Me Too’ ten years ago to help black women who had experienced sexual abuse or harassment. She wanted them to know that they were not alone and to have a space where they could share their stories and draw strength from each other.

In the past few months, this campaign has seen a groundswell of people, mostly women, utilising the hashtag and taking to social media to share their own experiences of sexual abuse and harassment. Whilst it has been heart breaking to see the sheer volume of stories, it is also empowering to see people supporting each other and taking a collective stance against behaviour which is often rooted in the commodification and sexualisation of women’s bodies and the abuse of insidious power hierarchies.

I am honoured to be a member of a political party whose leader has long been leading the way in speaking out against harassment and challenging the patriarchal structures which have long kept women’s voices marginalised in public life. Leanne Wood has talked openly about the horrific volume of online abuse she receives which, like that received by other female politicians, contains gendered slurs and targets her body and appearance in ways which most male politicians do not have to face. Leanne has used her platform to fight back and to consistently remind people that there are many other women, particularly LGBTQ women, BAME women and women with disabilities who are kept out of public life altogether.

Leanne has fought to bring more women into politics, highlighting that there is still a large gender gap in Welsh local councils where only 26% of councillors are female. Achieving equality in public life is crucial because when our politicians are representative, it will be reflected in our policies.

However, Leanne also understands that achieving gender equality requires that we go much further than equal numbers of men and women in politics or boardrooms for, despite what some elements of popular culture would have us believe, women are not a homogenous group. We have multi-faceted identities which means that some women face multiple and distinct oppressions and societal barriers relating to other factors such as race, sexuality and gender identity. Under Leanne’s leadership, Plaid Cymru is working to tackle these barriers and the problematic gender and societal norms in which we operate which have often allowed inequalities to proliferate.

Leanne has frequently highlighted the terrible cost of austerity for communities in Wales and the way that cuts to women’s refuges, social services and domestic abuse services are negatively impacting on Welsh women. Plaid Cymru is committed to tackling austerity and the barriers facing women in disadvantaged socio-economic communities. As a party, we are working to eradicate zero-hour contracts, tackle the issue of lower pay in what are deemed traditionally female occupations and fighting to close attainment gaps relating to economic backgrounds in Welsh schools. Inspired by Leanne’s leadership, young activists within the party are flourishing and actively contributing to this goal such as Elyn Stephens who has undertaken incredible work on the issue of period poverty in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

As party leader, Leanne Wood has shown her commitment to fighting for all women time after time. This is crucial when we live in a society where three in four young trans people self-harm at some point and many trans women face difficulties when trying to access health care. Plaid Cymru’s determination to help support the trans community in Wales led to the party securing a million pounds of investment for gender identity services and eating disorder clinics in 2016.

Leanne Wood has a vision for Wales in which the goal is not simply for women to achieve equality with men, but that we build a more progressive Wales for all. A Wales in which everyone has an equal chance of succeeding, whatever success might look like to them. A Wales in which we tackle poverty, provide equitable access to education and have well paid employment. Her vision is an independent Wales that is economically, socially and environmentally progressive.

It is because of this vision that I am proud to call Leanne Wood my leader and have been inspired not only to join Plaid Cymru, but to campaign so that in 2021 Leanne Wood can set her vision in motion as our First Minister.