JUST when the independence movement is gaining traction again, a leading nationalist has decided he is to shift his attentions from Wales to Westminster.
Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth announced on Monday that he is to stand as Plaid’s candidate in the seat at the next general election, whenever that is called.
Thus giving up his seat and influence in our own Senedd in Cardiff for what would seem to be a very peripheral and marginal voice at Westminster.
It all amounts to terrible optics for the independence cause at the exact moment the movement itself is getting its act together again after a fallow two years, and presenting the case for independence to the people of Wales afresh.
Gwlad Leader Gwyn Wigley Evans said it was a very odd decision for the AM to take, and a step backwards for the independence movement.
“The Independence message is all about taking control of our own destiny here in Wales, so it seems bizarre that a leading nationalist is seeking to re-emphasize the importance of Westminster once again like this” said Mr Evans.
“Rhun ap Iorwerth will be a totally marginal figure in Westminster, lost among the 650 members there. This idea that he will be able to change things there is just for the birds”.
Mr. Evans said that Gwlad’s policy was not to contest Westminster seats at all – unless a situation arose where the nationalist movement as a whole had no representation at all in specific seats – as happened in the general election of 2019, when Plaid went into coalition with the Greens and the Lib Dems, and Gwlad then stood in three of the seats in which Plaid stood down.
“All our focus should be on Y Senedd itself. Getting even 10 nationalists in Westminster won’t change things one little bit there – but if you could get 10 extra nationalists voted into our own Senedd, you could then win power there” said Mr Evans.
The next Westminster election will be fought within new boundaries, so Rhun ap Iorwerth would contest a new seat combining Ynys Môn and the Bangor area to all intents and purposes.
The move would undoubtedly lead to more publicity for Plaid, and perhaps some momentum as well bearing in mind that a by-election for the Senedd seat would probably take place before the general election, currently scheduled for 2024.
But changing the focus of attention from Wales to Westminster in this way suggests Plaid are deeply worried there are moves afoot in Westminster to chip away at Devolution and even reverse the process completely.
So much so that the party has decided that one of its big guns has to be sent there to try and spike any such moves.
Whilst there is little doubt that Westminster has such designs in mind, most people would assume the defence would need to be based here in Wales rather than in Westminster itself.
The move also undermines the current argument that the Senedd needs 36 more members to strengthen the institution and solidify Welsh democracy itself.
Why should people believe this to be the case when one of the Senedd’s leading advocates decides its time to abandon ship and try his luck in a completely different Parliament?
Perhaps the whole story also reflects the obsession with “personalities” within politics at present, over and above substantive policies as such.
Over the past few years, Plaid have placed the personality of Adam Price at the forefront of all their election campaigns – only to find that this approach hasn’t yielded any electoral success at all.
Undeterred by this, they are now banking on the personality and brand recognition of Rhun ap Iorwerth to win the new Westminster constituency seat for them.
Rather than trusting and believing that strong pro-Wales policies can carry public opinion, over and above whoever happens to be the candidate concerned, and also allowing new faces to come through to reinvigorate the party.
It might make sense for Plaid as a party to safeguard their own electoral interests in this way, but you have to question how it promotes the wider cause of independence to provide Westminster with such prized attention once again.
Especially in a period when the Westminster model itself is so broken, and the whole place so tarnished and diminished in the eyes of the general public.
Wales not Westminster has never ever been so timely a message for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear right now.