As we come towards the close of our first full year in existence as a party, political life in Wales is becoming more interesting than ever. While the red wall held for the time being in South Wales, there’s every reason to believe that the Labour Party’s long dominance over Welsh life is coming to an end and there’s everything to play for.
There are finally signs that people’s frustration with Plaid Cymru is boiling over so that, although we’ve led the way, other nationalist parties and movements seem to be springing up. We’re aware of a few one- and two-man bands in various places, but the one to watch is Neil McEvoy’s new Propel party. We’ve always been very supportive of Neil McEvoy, who’s done his honest best to reform Plaid from the inside even when we thought it wasn’t possible, and what he’s doing now is the logical next step. The crucial test will be whether they can build on Neil’s undoubted talent and energy to become a party with coherent and compelling policies that will appeal well beyond Cardiff. If they can, then we shall have to examine ways of working with them, since while Wales needs another national party besides Plaid Cymru it really doesn’t need two of them!
That doesn’t mean that we’re going to ‘do a Plaid Cymru’ ourselves and go around making ill-thought-through deals with other parties. On the contrary, we want to engage with our members and supporters much more effectively than we’ve been doing so far, to gauge their opinions on this and other matters. You can expect a range of new initiatives in this area during the coming year, including a new private on-line discussion forum and more opportunities to meet face-to-face.
We did of course consult with members over the decision to stand in the recent General Election, and the main lesson we learned from that was the importance of having a presence ‘on the ground’ between elections. During the campaign, we found that when we could engage with people over our policies then they were well-received and taken seriously, but the vast majority of the voting public simply had no idea who we were. Clearly, turning up in a constituency a month before an election and putting a single leaflet through people’s doors isn’t going to cut it. With the Senedd elections less than 18 months away, we need to be taking every opportunity now to make people aware of us, all over the country. Therefore we shall be encouraging members to write letters to their local press – providing templates and helpful pointers to make this as easy as possible – and looking out for council by-elections where members might like to stand. We’d also like to encourage people to start considering now whether they could stand for us in the Senedd election, and start to build a profile in their area as ‘prospective Senedd candidates’.
So, there’ll be plenty to do next year; but in the meantime we wish you all a restful and happy Christmas and New Year.