Why we need to get behind Leanne Wood, the politician who broke the mould

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.

As leader of Plaid Cymru, I can deliver a pathway to real independence

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.

Leanne Wood’s anti-fascist instinct is why we need her as leader of Plaid Cymru

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.

Plaid Cymru should think again before trying to topple the party’s best electoral asset

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.

Sticking with Leanne Wood will be a huge advantage for Plaid Cymru in 2021

Daniel Roberts

The official deadline for candidates to be nominated for the Plaid Cymru leadership is but hours away, but it feels like we are already in the early stages of the campaign.

That’s why yesterday’s poll, showing that Leanne Wood is the most popular Plaid Cymru Leader with our party’s voters and those of our rivals in the Labour party, is so significant.

Wood would score best with all voters (and is the most popular leader or potential leader of any party, in the whole of Wales), but does particularly well with Plaid Cymru and Labour voters.

The same poll shows Plaid Cymru holding four Westminster seats and going up to 15 seats in the Assembly, enough to bid to form a minority government.

Labour would not be able to form a government, even with their loyal sole Lib Dem lieutenant.

In that context, I want to reject the narrative that some have tried to build up about Plaid Cymru going backwards in elections under Leanne Wood.

Playing down

I am not saying that people using this narrative are dishonest or deceitful. But I’m saying it is a misunderstanding, but Leanne Wood’s record needs to be put in context.

In an interview with S4C, Elfyn Llwyd, a respected figure, said that “we haven’t moved or made any progress in local government, the Welsh Assembly Government (sic) or at Westminster” over a suspiciously framed time period of “six to seven years”.

But in those three electoral arenas – local government, Assembly and Westminster – progress has in fact been made in a consistent way for the first time in years.

  • In local government, we now control more councils than was the case before Leanne became leader.
  • At the Assembly, we gained a seat when Leanne Wood herself took Rhondda, previously one of the safest Labour seats in Wales, and lost none despite the surge in the UKIP vote which robbed the other parties of so many regional seats.
  • In the last General Election, we won a new seat in Ceredigion despite the presidential nature of the contest which saw a huge swing towards both the Tories and Labour.
  • Plaid Cymru took two Police and Crime Commissioner seats, in North Wales and the Dyfed-Powys region, where Labour and the Tories had been predicted to win.

Leanne Wood’s critics would see to downplay her influence in these victories.

A local councillor who nominated Adam Price said that it would have been a surprise if Leanne Wood didn’t win the Rhondda after so much coverage.

This is clearly wrong. Leanne beat one of Labour’s most talented Ministers and one of Wales’ best political campaigners, Leighton Andrews, in his own backyard.

No other party came close to taking any constituency seats off Labour at that election.

Even Leighton Andrews pointed out that, while the coverage helped, it wasn’t enough and stressed the importance of the local issues Leanne and her team campaigned on.

What Leanne Wood’s victory demonstrated was that the right candidate with enough support could take any seat in Wales. But there’s only one Leanne Wood – she may be the leader, but she can’t stand everywhere.

Tory

Leanne Wood’s gains are all the more impressive because they have happened under a Tory UK Government.

All the evidence from political scientists suggests that the voting behaviour of the Welsh people depends hugely on who is in power at Westminster.

Under Labour Governments, Plaid Cymru historically does better as people feel it is safe to vote for them. Under the Tories, the Plaid/Labour swing voters tends to swing back behind Labour.

That Leanne Wood has held Plaid’s support firm, and actually increased our number of seats, through eight years of Tory Government is hugely commendable.

Popular

Over and above her electoral record is Leanne Wood’s personal appeal to the Welsh voters.

Labour, Tories and UKIP are currently going through their own leadership elections. Recent polling suggests all of the candidates are largely unknown to the Welsh public.

Leanne Wood has always been popular and has enjoyed comparatively widespread recognition in Wales.

If she remains leader she will have a huge advantage over the other party leaders, who will be introducing themselves to voters for the first time.

A Leanne Wood for First Minister campaign could have more, not less, momentum than it did in 2016.

So, keeping Leanne and supporting her isn’t about “one more heave” as some would characterise it. The situation has changed and the hard work Leanne Wood has done will soon bear fruit.

2021 will be the ideal time to deploy Leanne Wood as our candidate for First Minister.

I don’t know her that well, but those who do say that her inner strength is formidable. This contest will barely affect her determination, and if she succeeds she will only be stronger.

It will be easily possible to regroup quickly, form a new Assembly team and lay the groundwork for a manifesto and campaign team.

We need to maintain our advantage over the other parties, and support one of our country’s most popular politicians.

This movement has a leader – let’s get behind her.

We finally know Labour’s plan for a no-deal Brexit: to ‘run around in circles screaming’

Leanne Wood AMLeader of Plaid Cymru

“Running around in circles screaming” was the sum-total of the Labour First Minister’s plan to mitigate the worst of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit for Wales. That’s what he told me in First Minister’s Questions.

Westminster is in chaos and leaving the EU without a deal looks more likely than ever.

The Westminster Government, beginning to face-up to the consequences of its own incompetence, has confirmed to MPs that no-deal planning has begun in earnest.

The head of NHS England has also confirmed extensive no-deal planning is underway for health services across the border.

In Wales, nothing of the sort.

In the country set to be most affected by a no-deal scenario, the First Minister refuses to plan for it.

No deal. No plan. No vision.

In fact, the Labour First Minister claimed that such provisions were impossible.

With reckless abandon they choose political expediency instead of responsible government – washing their hands of the whole issue and blaming the Tories rather than offering real leadership.

Rather than defending Wales from the increasingly possible no-deal scenario, they are putting party before country – a hallmark of Labour rule in Wales.

The Labour Welsh Government’s own analysis confirms £5 billion will be wiped off the Welsh economy by a no-deal Brexit.

37 million patient packs of medicines are imported to the UK from the EU every month. In a ‘no deal’ scenario, there is no guarantee that a single one of these packs will make it to Wales.

Yet, Labour think there is no point in planning for such an outcome.

There is, of course, a simple solution – we stay in the Single Market and Customs Union, as Plaid Cymru has argued from the very beginning. Labour and Tories alike seem intent on pulling us out of both.

Chaos

I accept, that the blame for the current chaos does not lie wholly at Labour’s feet, but that does not absolve them of their responsibility to act to mitigate against it.

That said, Labour are undoubtedly complicit in creating a context conducive to a ‘no deal’ separation from the EU.

They voted for Article 50 without sight of a plan, abstained on votes that would keep us in the Single Market and have failed to articulate anything close to a coherent alternative to the current extreme Brexit we are facing.

The Westminster Government’s irresponsible approach to the most serious issue in generations is now laid bare. The Conservatives are not only coming up against each other, but up against reality. Those who misled people during the referendum are absconding as the facts force their arguments to crumble. And the slow-death of Theresa May’s Government seems inevitable as a result.

Whether it is through chaos or a coup, a disastrous no-deal Brexit now looks more likely than ever.

The writing is on the wall for the economy and the Labour Welsh Government can’t afford to ignore it – our biggest employers are warning of the perils of crashing out of our largest trading bloc.

Labour in Wales must now do their job. They must now accept reality. They must plan for a no-deal scenario.

Audio: Leanne Wood puts independence at heart of leadership campaign

Leanne Wood is facing the first challenge for her leadership of Plaid Cymru since securing the position in 2012. The three-way battle pits her against Rhun ap Iorwerth –  the AM for Anglesey since 2013 – and Adam Price, the former MP and current AM for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr. Both confirmed they would stand against her early last month, after Wood had previously stated that she would welcome any challenge to her leadership.

Having worked closely with both her rivals, Leanne Wood says she doesn’t see many differences between herself and them in terms of policy, but feels that if she loses the contest it could signal a repositioning of the party.

“I think it is about the future direction of the party. There has been a discussion with people saying things like Plaid Cymru has to move more into the centre ground. That we need to be more open to working with the Conservatives in a coalition after the next election and I am opposed to both of those things. In terms of what are the differences between the candidates that is where the differences lie.”

She accepts claims Plaid hasn’t been clear enough about its support for Welsh independence in the past but pledged a referendum on the matter after two terms of a majority Plaid Cymru government.

“I think that’s a fair criticism to make up until the point I became leader. I remember being in a number of different conferences prior to 2012. We had all kinds of discussions around what we call our long-term constitutional objective. The people know what independence means especially after the Scottish referendum.”

“I want to go further though than just constitutional independence. I am not interested in just creating a mini Britain on a Welsh scale where the centre overheats to the detriment of everywhere else. The purpose of independence for me is so that we can do things completely differently.”

“I look at Raymond Williams’ concept of real independence. To talk about a shift in attitudes as well, so that we empower ourselves as individuals and as communities, as well as a nation, to be able to do more for ourselves and throw off the dependency culture we’ve managed to get stuck in for such a long period of time.”

“I hear people’s frustration quite a lot that we are not independent already but we can’t put the cart before the horse. We have got to get into government first. There has to be a majority government who are in favour of progressing towards independence before we can even move on this.”

“My message to the National movement is to get behind Plaid Cymru and ensure that we have got enough constituency seats in order to be the government after 2021, so we can put in place those foundations that every other independent nation has got.”

“We’ve got no banking and finance system. We’ve got no criminal justice system. The taxation powers we’ve got are very, very limited. We need to have a first term to build on all of that, put those building blocks in place and then I think we’ll be ready to have a conversation about our national future”.

Ruling out the possibility of forming a coalition government, the Rhondda AM says she would only consider striking deals with other parties in the event that Plaid failed to secure an overall majority if they shared her party’s aims.

“We will work with other parties that want independence if our goal is to have an independence referendum. I want to see Plaid Cymru govern on our own platform, on our own programme and if other parties want to vote for that, that is fine but it is on our terms and that means not doing coalitions with other parties either.”

Prior to the 2016 Assembly election Wood scored the highest approval rating of any politician but that profile has failed to lead to the hoped-for the surge at the ballot box, something she believes is due to the limited coverage of politics in Wales.

“I think it’s a question of communication and we struggle because we don’t have the devolution of broadcasting. We have a situation where the vast majority of people in this country receive their media from sources that are created in London or even further afield. We don’t have a national conversation like they do in Scotland. I think that’s been a huge challenge which is why I put so much emphasis on our activists having individual conversations with people.”

”I’ve asked members to get engaged in projects at a community level. To hook up and engage with other people. To use those opportunities to have those conversations about our national future. We have to do that. It is hard work. It is slog and grit. It is a big effort but we get nowhere without it.”

Why Leanne Wood is the greatest electoral asset Plaid Cymru has ever had

 

Daniel Evans

Full disclosure. I joined Plaid Cymru to vote for Leanne Wood.

Joining a political party goes against everything I believe in, but I did so because I believe that this is an issue which transcends Plaid Cymru and impacts the whole Welsh body politic.

Leanne Wood has been, for around a decade now, Wales’ moral compass. As Welsh Labour continuously drag the name of socialism through the mud, she has been the only champion of socialist values in Wales (and until Jeremy Corbyn, across the whole of the UK)- standing up against austerity, racism, and championing minority rights.

She has been a vital bulwark against the creep of the far right both in Wales and beyond. It was Leanne who publicly put Farage in his place, and her interventions on these topics have been even more important when set against Carwyn Jones’ embarrassingly spineless, value-free leadership.

Without Leanne Wood, Welsh politics would be in an even worse state than it is now.

Shift

I also believe that in Wales, only Leanne Wood really gets the gravity of the current moment in world politics.

As Istvan Meszaros so brilliantly pointed out, ‘socialism or barbarism’ is not just a slogan: mankind – not just Wales – faces a stark choice between fascism, warfare and environmental catastrophe under capitalism; or a green socialist future which promotes tolerance and community.

Leanne Wood’s recent blueprint, ‘The Change Wales Needs’, recognises the threat of creeping fascism and militarism.

It recognises the need for a complete economic paradigm shift, that economic growth is not only not desirable, but not sustainable.

This is not just being radical for the sake of things, it is the only approach that will work: only a wholesale transformation of society – a break with capitalism – can save the planet.

Critics

The Plaid Cymru leadership race has been jarring for me in a couple of ways. The first (and the most upsetting) reason is that it has revealed a nasty side of the Welsh nationalist movement that I had hitherto believed was simply a bogeyman, a smear dreamt up by the Labour party in Wales.

But no, it definitely exists: a vocal minority of the Welsh nationalist movement absolutely despise Leanne Wood.

Leanne is ‘labour-lite’. She cares too much about ‘niche issues’ like LGBT rights and the rights of refugees.

Leanne Wood, who has been arrested in the past for campaigning against nuclear weapons, is now apparently not sufficiently anti-nuclear. Above all, she is not nationalistic enough.

Of course, the majority of Leanne’s critics within Plaid Cymru are not like this, although I note that there does not seem to have been any organized effort by her more sophisticated critics to reign in the right wing lunatic fringe.

Leanne Wood has, as ever, taken the high road and kept things comradely and dignified, yet the vitriolic tone of some of the personal attacks on Leanne and her supporters may make it difficult to heal some of the divides which have opened once the election is over.

Limitations

The second issue, and the focus of this essay, is that the leadership race has revealed that many people in Plaid Cymru have little clue about the huge structural barriers faced by Welsh nationalism.

The belief that all Plaid Cymru’s ‘failures’ and limitations are down to Leanne Wood, and that if she can only be replaced by Adam Price or Rhun ap Iorweth, Plaid will suddenly start to win, is staggeringly naive.

I have also noticed complaints that Plaid hasn’t emulated the SNP, and that (of course) this is Leanne Wood’s fault. Scotland is a completely inappropriate comparison, but that is another essay (although I will say that when the SNP outflanked Labour they did it from the left, not the centre).

One glance at the Labour and Plaid leadership races should illustrate to Plaid how warped Welsh politics is.

The Plaid candidates are all intelligent, articulate, capable, passionate.

Mark Drakeford aside, the Labour candidates can’t even get 5 votes off their own peers. They have to crowdsource policies and values because they don’t believe in anything, because they have no ideas.

To an outsider who knew nothing about Welsh or British politics looking at the candidates from the two parties side by side, the notion that the Labour candidates represented the dominant force in Welsh politics and Plaid represented the challengers would be completely ludicrous – as indeed it is.

The best and brightest are not in power in Wales, and this is because of how Welsh politics is structured.

Welsh politics is set up, whether through accident or design (in reality, it is a bit of both) to perpetuate one partyism and the status quo – it is not conducive to Plaid Cymru.

Media deficit

The first thing is visibility. We don’t have a media in Wales.

The lack of a media means that Welsh politics registers to a tiny amount of people. Welsh labour can:

And they still won’t be voted out because people simply don’t hear about these things. There is no cause and effect in Welsh politics.

Adam Price is a brilliant mind. Rhun ap Iorweth is a fantastic, engaging orator. But what does that matter when no-one has heard of you, or when no one will ever hear or see you do it?

Plaid have had all the radical policy ideas since devolution, yet no-one knows about them. Welsh Labour barely even bother putting out a manifesto, then simply take Plaid’s ideas and pass them off as their own.

Plaid routinely stand capable, excellent candidates who get thrashed by labour candidates who are barely sentient.

None of this is Leanne Wood’s fault.

The media deficit, coupled with the culture of one partyism, is a huge, crippling albatross around Wales and Plaid in particular.

This is about political communications, not personalities. Until this is rectified, Plaid will never get anywhere.

The language barrier

In the 80s, political scientists mapping party loyalty and voting patterns in Wales characterised Plaid Cymru as a ‘dwarf plant’- a tree which will only grow to a certain height. It will be sturdy and fertile, but it will not grow.

They believed Plaid Cymru’s electoral failures were down to it being associated exclusively with the Welsh language in the popular imagination, and therefore limited in its electoral appeal.

Scottish nationalists, by contrast, had a larger potential electoral audience because they had no such links to Scottish Gaelic.

This is an area which I believe nationalists, in particular, have developed a real cognitive dissonance. They have convinced themselves that devolution is the settled will of the people, and that the Welsh language is universally popular.

Neither of these are true, and they are certainly not true in the parts of Wales where Plaid needs to win- not just the valleys, but Cardiff, Newport, Bridgend, Wrexham, Pembroke, Powys, the Vale of Glamorgan, Flintshire: ‘British Wales’.

There is in these areas a deep ambivalence towards the Welsh language and a deep suspicion of Welsh nationalism. The systematic smears that the Labour party have mounted against the language over the last century have penetrated deeply into the national consciousness.

People are on the one hand often very supportive of the language, and it is often as a pillar of national identity amongst non-Welsh speakers.

But the language also simultaneously reminds people that Welshness is widely understood as hierarchical, that they are ‘less Welsh’ compared to Welsh speakers.

The language in these places ultimately remains ‘other’, and Plaid Cymru is perceived as being for Welsh speakers, not ‘people like us’.

Welsh nationalism is seen as a bit scary. In these places, Plaid have a very small footprint. They generally come third, sometimes fourth. These results don’t lie.

Overcoming these perceptions is a massive challenge that will take years, decades even. Challenging and changing perceptions about Welsh speakers and Plaid Cymru are vital to becoming hegemonic in the English-speaking parts of the south of Wales, and therefore winning Wales.

I don’t think that Adam Price or Rhun ap Iorweth, for all their strengths, necessarily understand the scale of the challenge Plaid face here.

In many parts of Wales, you can’t rely on a solid, secure sense of Welsh identity. Many people still feel extremely British. You can’t assume people like or even care about devolution.

You can’t assume people speak Welsh or even care about the language.

Post-devolution, I believe that many nationalists simply assume that everyone feels like them about the language and about Wales, and that people share their hostility to Britishness.

It’s hard to overstate how influential Leanne Wood has been in starting to gradually change perceptions of Welsh nationalism in the south of Wales.

Leanne has convinced many people that Plaid don’t ‘hate non-Welsh speakers’, that Plaid can be a party for ‘us’ as well as them.

She has broken down barriers and challenged perceptions in a way that I don’t believe Adam and Rhun would ever be able to do.

If it looks easy, then that is because she has made it look easy – it is not something that just anyone else could achieve.

The structures of power

Power does not just lie in the Senedd. The Senedd is a citadel, but power is diffuse, spread throughout society.

Labour’s power in the Senedd is defended and buttressed by numerous ‘trenches’ and fortifications. Labour control the civil service, the third sectorlocal authorities & councils, the quangos, the trade unions.

To take power, Plaid need to become hegemonic in these ostensibly ‘non-political’ areas of society too.

More prosaically, the Assembly voting system itself was literally designed to keep Labour in power in perpetuity; or at the very least prevent Plaid ever taking power. It would be hard to take power in a truly representative system, let alone the system currently in place in Wales

Adam Price, like me, is a fan of Gramsci. He believes in a ‘war of position’. He will know, then, that the war of position is protracted.

The ‘long march through the institutions’ is just that, long. Taking power, becoming hegemonic, requires tireless work in political and civil society and in local communities.

I would argue that another maxim associated with Gramsci is also appropriate here – the need to cultivate a ‘pessimism of the intellect’: dispassionately map out the existing material conditions of the society you occupy so that you understand the scale of the task you face.

How things are

The fact is that becoming hegemonic will take even longer in Wales, such is the extent to which Wales is integrated into the UK. People in Wales occupy a British cultural world. Everyday life in Wales is not Welsh, it is British, to a far greater extent than everyday life is in Scotland.

We read British newspapers, watch British TV shows, listen to British radio, have English money, consume British products, support English football teams, listen to English bands, wear the same clothes.

We shop in the same supermarkets in towns with the same architecture, on the same roads and on the same public transport system. We have the same legal system.

When most Welsh people say ‘this country’ or ‘us’ in a political sense, they are referring to the UK, not Wales. Changing this will require a seismic cultural shift.

This is the reality of how things are, not how we would like them to be.

Conclusion

Bearing these structural barriers in mind, the leadership campaign has set a ridiculous timeline. Plaid in government in 2021, ready for independence by 2030.

It is unrealistic to expect Plaid to go from their current low baseline to being in government next election, especially if a coalition is apparently being ruled out.

I believe these timescales have been deliberately chosen as a way of forcing Leanne Wood out.

Plaid Cymru’s history is one of repetitive failure: constantly winning in the same 3 or 4 seats in Welsh-speaking areas, with occasional, brief forays into south Wales. It has always been a party with an inherently limited electoral appeal.

Leanne Wood’s leadership should’ve been seen as a break from this pattern and the start of a long-term hegemonic project, a way of permanently changing perceptions about the Welsh nationalist movement and making Plaid a truly national party with universal appeal across the disparate communities of Wales.

Instead, people want to abandon this after just 6 years, foolishly at a time when Welsh Labour are at their weakest.

To an outsider, it has long seemed like Leanne has been trying to fight this battle on her own, with little support from a party hierarchy that has never really liked her or been keen on what she was trying to do.

You would never know this from listening to the current debate, but despite the aforementioned obstacles, Leanne Wood has actually been very successful in narrow electoral terms.

Under her, Plaid have greatly increased their vote share in the National Assembly elections, and amidst an unprecedentedly polarised General Election actually increased Plaid’s seats.

As for parallels with Scotland, the SNP lost 21 seats to the Corbyn bounce (I note that Nicola Sturgeon was not attacked by her own party in the aftermath).

Plaid have established a secure beachhead in the Rhondda which gives them an excellent platform from which to grow and spread across other parts of the south of Wales.

If Leanne Wood loses, Plaid can forget about taking seats off Labour in the future. The thousands of disaffected Labour voters who went to Plaid because of Leanne may well drift away for good.

Plaid can forget about breaking into British Wales, too. The marginalised groups who have been welcomed into Plaid by Leanne, will they still feel welcome in Plaid? Perhaps, perhaps not.

I suspect that many of Adam and Rhun’s supporters know all this and simply do not care. I have seen some people on social media say that Leanne’s leadership was a failed ‘experiment’- she was ‘allowed’ some time to try something different, but in the eyes of some Plaid traditionalists, this ‘experiment’ hasn’t worked, and now it’s time to take their party back.

Strategically, I suspect that Adam and Rhun’s backers may simply want to fall back on what they know, consolidate Plaid’s core support and simply focus on nicking marginal seats.

Ultimately, although they are both clearly very talented people, I fail to see how Rhun and Adam represent anything other than a return to the same electoral strategy Plaid have utilised for the hundred years before Leanne Wood became the leader.

For all their radical rhetoric, I have yet to see any genuinely radical policy ideas to supplement their focus on independence. Ironically, much of it seems to be reminiscent of the largely meaningless managerial economic language favoured by Welsh Labour: more focus on ‘growth’, ‘building the economy’, ‘wealth creation’- I suspect through low corporation tax, noises about investing in tech, and so on.

We could ‘grow’ the Welsh economy significantly overnight, but this would not have any impact on poverty or end austerity or improve people’s lives.

Unlike Leanne Wood’s blueprint, these ideas do not seem to represent a break from the current economic paradigm which has served Wales so poorly.

I am also uneasy about Rhun’s nuclear policy, and Adam’s statement about ‘cutting back our spending’ .

Leanne Wood is the biggest electoral asset Plaid Cymru has ever had. If she loses Plaid will learn the hard way that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Beyond Plaid, however, it will be a body blow for the left in Wales and beyond to lose such a prominent champion of socialism and progressive politics. We need people like Leanne in public life.

Being tainted by the Tories would decimate Plaid

Alun Cox

The Welsh Conservative Party will today announce their new leader in the Welsh Assembly, with Suzy Davies and Paul Davies vying for the post.

There is also an ongoing leadership contest within Plaid Cymru – between Leanne Wood, Adam Price and Rhun ap Iorwerth – which will conclude at the end of the month.

One of the key issues within both leadership contests has been whether the candidates would be willing to come to a deal in the Senedd that would depend on the support of the other party.

The Conservatives have been particularly keen to snuggle up to Plaid. And while there is no appetite for a coalition with the Tories in Plaid, there is an ongoing debate about the merits of some kind of deal.

We know that Labour Labour predictably plays the ‘vote Labour to keep the Tories out’ at every opportunity, often to mask their own failings.

However, it’s also true that fear of Tory rule remains a key driver for many voters in Wales.

One experience of canvassing a voter for support in the Rhondda sums up how being tainted with the Tories could devastate Plaid’s support.

This voter, a health service worker, had supported Plaid Cymru in 2015. She voted for Leanne in 2016 and again in the 2017 council elections, where we became the largest party in the Rhondda for the first time since 1999.

Yet a month later, this voter told our canvasser she was voting Labour to ensure that the Tories didn’t get in.

“I’m really sorry,” she said, “I know that they’re rubbish but I’m so scared of the Tories getting in that I had to. I feel really bad and I’m still Plaid really.”

For me, it was a defining conversation of that election, but I could see in her eyes the kind of turmoil that I suspect many voters had faced in that election.

It showed how easy it is for Labour to use the fear of the Tories to buttress their support and the deep visceral fear of that party in power.

Are there any lessons?  The lesson for me is that she is a symbol of the perils that face Plaid Cymru if we cannot deal with this effectively.

Goals

The British Election Survey conducted by the Universities of Manchester, Oxford and Nottingham has collected data on voters’ attitude in Wales and have formed some conclusions based on the data.

The data collected between 2015 and 2017 seeks not only to look at Plaid Cymru voters (those who voted or said they voted Plaid at the assembly election) but also looked at “possible” Plaid Voters – voters who voted for someone else at the assembly election but rate Plaid above 6/10.

The similarities in views between these two groups of voters in terms of attitudes are astounding. And, tellingly, when compared with the “others” (those not voting Plaid Cymru and rating Plaid Cymru as 5 or less /10) the differences are stark.

The study concludes that amongst other things:

  • Plaid supporters and potential supporters are very likely to see themselves as strongly Welsh. But many also see themselves as British.
  • Plaid supporters and Potential supporters both like Jeremy Corbyn and Leanne Wood. They strongly dislike leading Conservatives.
  • Plaid Supporters and potential supporters dislike the Tories
    • Over 40% strongly dislike
    • 50% choosing Angry as the word that best describes feelings to party
  • Plaid supporters and potential supporters are generally liberal on issues such as gay marriage, tend towards remain and strongly dislike Trump.
  • Plaid supporters and potential supporters see both themselves and Plaid as being left wing. The vast majority placed both between 2 and 5 on left/right scale.

The lesson is that our potential supporters look a lot like our existing supporters.  Our supporters and potential supporters see themselves as left wing and they dislike the Tories – just like our voter from Porth in the Rhondda.

I write this in the midst of a Leadership election in Plaid Cymru, an election in which I am supporting a candidate, Leanne Wood, who I believe is best placed to win over those potential supporters.

Not only do I believe she is best placed to win those voters to Plaid Cymru but as the only candidate who has publicly rejected going into coalition with the Tories in 2021 she is the only candidate who can not only reach out to new supporters but can keep existing supporters from deserting Plaid.

If our voter from Porth or many of our existing and potential supporters believed for a second that we would “consider” doing a deal with the Conservative and Unionist Party in order to form a Government I don’t think we will be contemplating government, I think we will be contemplating how we can rebuild a movement that has been decimated.

Lessons are sometimes difficult and unpalatable but ignoring reality in pursuit of a quick fix simply will not grow our movement or bring our shared goals any nearer.

Belligerent support doesn’t do Plaid Cymru any favours

Jasmine Donahaye

We all have private and public ways of dealing with the heightened stress we’re currently experiencing, both individually and collectively.

Often the public way seems to be a kind of unremitting road rage. Sometimes how we deal with it publicly entails further stress, as social media undermines our capacity to pay attention, absorb complex information, trust news, and, above all, trust each other.

Trust isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Our political system depends on it not only to work well but to exist at all.

An AM or MP or council member cannot be a carbon copy of each individual’s particular collection of urgencies.

Elected representatives have to act on behalf of all members of the community that elects them; they have to judge what is in the best interests of the community or constituency or nation – or, as in the current leadership campaigns, the party.

Your vote for an individual is not an act of trust that they will do precisely what you want them to do. Instead it’s an act of trust in that person’s judgement.

Even if you’re voting on the basis of policy or strategy or organisational capacity rather than on personality, it is still trust that informs the choice you make.

In this state of stress and uncertainty about the future, I find political choices harder than ever, and I’m sure it’s an experience felt very widely.

How do I decide who is worthy of my trust? Do I go on gut instinct? Loyalty? The analysis of experts, or the reporting of journalists?

What weight should I give to the opinions of the die-hard pugilists duking it out on social media?

In fact I can’t stomach the pugilism of supporters in the Plaid Cymru leadership campaign. Their certainties fill me with distrust.

Despite their opinionated noisiness and vituperation, it is in fact not they who matter, but the waverers – both the waverers within the party, and the waverers who are not members, because how the campaign is conducted will affect how such waverers vote in future.

These are the people whose votes Plaid Cymru has to secure if it is to be in government, or increase its representation at Westminster.

Integrity

I should say us waverers, because I am effectively one of them, even though I am currently a member of Plaid Cymru. I have always been broadly supportive of the party, but I have not always voted for its candidates.

I joined a few years ago in support of Mike Parker and Leanne Wood, but there’s not been a moment that I have felt comfortable as a member.

That has something to do with being a writer, of course, and the need to be able to write freely, but it also has something to do with members’ political certainties, diverse as those certainties are.

I have no such political certainties. In fact, in the face of expressed certainty, I tend to lurch in the opposite direction.

This isn’t because I am, to use a lovely Hebrew word, ‘dafka’ (contrary for the sake of it – though some might contend that this is exactly what I am). It is because there usually seems to be another way of looking at things that could be equally valid.

I mistrust certainty, and the deliberate ignoring of other possibilities that it seems to entail, which is to say I mistrust people who believe they can know absolutely what is right or true.

Such distrust is no virtue. We need to trust – to take that leap of faith in someone – if our political system is to work. That is true at every level of political engagement.

Tactical voting aside, I cannot imagine a case in which I would vote for someone I did not trust, least of all because of duty to a party of which I am a member.

And I could not vote for someone, no matter my trust in them, if I did not also trust their party as a whole, which entails trusting its leader despite any mistrust I might have of some of its members and supporters.

I have made no secret of my support for Leanne Wood, but I’m not going to presume to tell anyone how I think they ought to vote, nor make an argument for one candidate rather than another.

The reason I support Leanne is the reason that will inform everyone’s vote in some way, no matter who they vote for: I trust her. I trust her judgement. I trust her to act with integrity, whether or not I agree with everything she says or does or believes.

However people vote in this leadership election, and in the Labour leadership election, and in other elections to come, I hope they will trust their own judgement, and not that of the angry pugilists, nor the judgement of those who make anonymous allegations without evidence.

The vituperation, slander and smear of this current campaign, like most campaigns, taints everyone who engages in it. It is damaging to the party, and to the prospects of securing the trust of those wavering voters who this party needs.

More dangerously, however, it helps fuel the growing mistrust of our system of government, and of one another. That is a risk we can ill afford to take.