A joke that's no longer funny. It's time to act

Catching up with some of the television I missed during the week, I came across this snippet from Dafydd El Cid on Sharp End:


No serious constitutional changes at all, eh? No devolution of police and the justice system? No devolution of broadcasting? No control over our natural resources? No control over energy? No powers to set taxes?

How can we possibly have "self determination" when control of all these things lies outside Wales?

No wonder this man can think of little else than joining the Labour Government at the first opportunity. I can't help thinking that this would be the perfect place for him, for Carwyn Jones isn't really serious about devolving more to Wales either. They both clearly think the referendum in March was quite enough and that our constitutional settlement shouldn't be progressed any further.


As far as I'm concerned, Dafydd El ceased to have any relevance to Wales when he chose to join the House of Lords. I didn't mind him continuing to be a member of Plaid simply because of his record before then. When he then became a member of the National Assembly, things just about worked out because he took the position of Llywydd, which precluded him (or at least should have) from being an active party politician in a similar way as applies to the Speaker of the House of Commons. But when he hinted in December last year that he no longer wanted that job, I said that I thought there was no place for him as an elected politician within Plaid Cymru and that the party should act to prevent him standing if it was his intention to step down from being Llywydd.

But we didn't do that, and we are now suffering the consequences, because loose cannons are dangerous.

There is simply no room in Plaid Cymru for people who are content with the current constitutional settlement for Wales. For many years the first and foremost aim of the party, as stated in the party constitution, has been:

2.1 To promote the constitutional advancement of Wales with a view to attaining Full National Status for Wales within the European Union.

Plaid Cymru Constitution

But even this statement has now been superseded, because at conference this year delegates voted in favour (I think it was unanimous, for even the one person who spoke against the motion did not actually vote against it, but it easily got the two-thirds majority necessary) of this change:

(Canton and Llandaf branch / Caerffili Constituency / Pontllanffraith and Maesycwmer Branch)

1. Conference reaffirms its support for independence for Wales in Europe.
2. In order to clarify the party’s constitutional stance, conference agrees to delete paragraph 2.1 of the constitution and insert:

“secure independence for Wales in Europe.”

Plaid Cymru Conference Handbook, 2011

This means there can be no place in Plaid Cymru for people who do not share this aim. In fact, it is clearly set out in the constitution (4.2i) that members must "agree to further the aims of the party as described in this Constitution". The five aims, as amended in accordance with the vote at conference, are:

2. As the National Party of Wales, Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales's aims shall be:

2.1 To secure independence for Wales in Europe.

2.2 To ensure economic prosperity, social justice and the health of the natural environment, based on decentralist socialism.

2.3 To build a national community based on equal citizenship, respect for different traditions and cultures and the equal worth of all individuals, whatever their race, nationality, gender, colour, creed, sexuality, age, ability or social background.

2.4 To create a bilingual society by promoting the revival of the Welsh language.

2.5 To promote Wales’s contribution to the global community and to attain membership of the United Nations.

We need to be clear that there is plenty of room for disagreement over individual policy issues ... and indeed we have very lively debates over what our policies should be, as do all democratic parties. But there can be no place in the party for those who are openly opposed to the party's fundamental aims as set out in its constitution.


Dafydd Elis-Thomas has put himself on record as not only being opposed to independence for Wales, but of being opposed to the constitutional advancement of Wales. These are his exact words:

"I wouldn't advocate any serious constitutional changes at all."

If Plaid Cymru continues to tolerate the likes of Dafydd Elis-Thomas as even a member of the party, let alone one of our elected representatives, we will make ourselves a laughing stock in the eyes of the people of Wales. If we are seen as a party that doesn't take its own fundamental aims seriously, how can we ever expect the people of Wales to take us seriously?

We need to get rid of this dead weight.

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Anonymous said...

Dafydd El is a good politician and a great asset to Wales. It's just that he belongs in the Welsh Labour Party.

Cibwr said...

I like Dafydd El on a personal level, he has given great service to Wales in his work as Llywydd - and as an academic argument he can say that independence does not exist for any country in the world, so semantically it makes no sense for Plaid to advocate it. However it would be a disaster for Dafydd to become leader, I think a graceful retirement at the next election is called for. His defeat would certainly cement the new focus on independence in the party.

Anonymous said...

MH, I think your piece sums it up, really.

Cibwr: As for DET having given great service to Wales, if you mean in the mould of George Thomas, perhaps yes, but then his was a disservice.

Plaid is in the situation it's in because of fudging the issues. DET has become an arch-fudger. That's the last thing the party or Wales needs - ever. I find it demoralising every time he opens his mouth.

Anonymous said...

Get rid of him.

MH said...

I must admit that I've never had much time for those who say that "independence" is an inappropriate word, Cibwr. The meaning of a word can only be understood in the context in which it is used; and Montenegro, Kosovo and South Sudan (the three most recent examples) are universally described as having become independent. No other word is used. So why should we use a different word?

As for DET becoming leader of Plaid Cymru, I don't think anyone in the party thinks that this is even remotely possible. The people that entertain the idea tend to be those outside the party. My point is that DET shouldn't be a member of the party.

Anonymous said...

Its hard to swallow the idea that independence doesn't exist for any country, at a time when the Palestinians are seeking that very same status, and when in Europe several new states have joined the UN quite recently (without even mentioning the less comparable South Sudan etc). It just isn't true and I don't understand where Dafydd El is coming from anymore. It's slightly different to someone like Cynog Dafis who has a federalist politics based on nationhood. The Lord just seems to be coming from a much less grounded position than Cynog and is saying things that are don't make sense.

Anonymous said...

I agree- I get annoyed when the leadership give a stupid answer on independence. I.e- no, no country can be independent, we are all interdependent. Why say this? do people REALLY think that people like me want Wales to become independent- build a huge wall between Eng/Wales have a massive army? Of course not! the U.S, S.Sudan etc all use it- so why can't we!?

As for this man, what was the party in Dwyfor thinking of choosing him. He could do so much for this party. But doesn't. Somebody must have a word with him, and consider suspending him.

We can all disagree about Nuclear, free school meals, royal family etc. But the whole purpose of Plaid is independence- if you don't agree with this then really you are in the wrong party.

Aled G J said...

I'm afraid the fact that Dafydd El has been able to hold sway for so many years is just another indicator of the emasculated nature of our national movement. Every time the Lord speaks, he reinforces this idea of a timid, comfortable and acquiescent nationalism which is just so dispiriting for grass-roots nationalists and so counter-productive for the movement itself. During the Lord's stint as Llywydd, Plaid should also have been preparing a successor to him in Meirionnydd/Nant Conwy- instead they just ignored this need completely, and allowed Llais Gwynedd to gain a foothold in the area. I just hope that the forthcoming election will give the members a chance to show the Lord what they think of his "post-nationalist" vision.

Anonymous said...

I have never like Daf El Cid, personally he makes my flesh creep - even in the 70s when I first met him, I formed the opinion that I would never buy a car from him.

His personal ambition long ago eclipsed any political fire he had in his belly. As a socialist or a nationalist,I felt his principles were only skin deep.

He was reasonably competent as a Llywydd because, I suspect, he alone amongst the AMs was content to abase himself so shamelessly before the English queen.

Now he is 'at large', and recanting all the radical, socialist nationalism he once espoused with such (now questionable) passion, watch him being wheeled out at every occasion by English media as a 'spokesman' for Plaid Cymru.

He must be purged!

The Welsh Tories would welcome him with open arms, and he could sit alongside Mohammad Ashgar, his natural unprincipled soul-mate, in the assembly!

Rhys said...

Eight years ago I started university and joined the Plaid student Fed having been a member of the party since I was fifteen. I was asked what I thought of Dafydd Iwan's recent election as party president: I replied that I'd voted Cynog as I he believed that he was more able to meet the demands of the job than Dafydd, but I hoped he'd be able to do so. I was immediately rebuked by a third-year telling me that I shouldn't be saying things like that in public, and that the party needed to be unified. To me, that meant that there was no room for dissent, and never returned to another meeting.

This thread reminds me of that occasion: there is no room for dissent. I'd be intrigued to know whether federalist, confederalist, and pan-European regionalists are included in the above contributors' proscribed lists, as they don't support independence in itself (although the latter is markedly close to what I've always percieved Plaid's aims to be)?

I'd also be intrigued to know whether the above commentators would be happy to substute 'member' with 'voter'? Surely, the same argument applies? If this is the party's central aims - and it's raison d'etre - then, surely, all those crossing the Plaid candidate's box are voting for the wrong party? Shouldn't they be told?

Elections are won on visions for the polity's everyday life and its future. The SNP won on creating a vision of Scotland that captured the electorate's imagination. It came up with a vision that voters identified with, alternatives such as minnimum pricing on alcohol, keeping extra police officers, and freezing council tax. It will provide a programme for Government that will continue if the referendum is lost.

Anon. 12.16 argues that policy on nuclear power, free school meals, etc are up for discussion, but independece is not. If a party can't agree on such points, it must be asked if it has a vision: if the only answer it can give is 'an independent Wales', it will look amateruish and idealistic. It may be the result of a both centre-right and centre-left Welsh nationalists being drawn to the party over its history, but allowing this to be the only unified answer provides very thin paper over very deep cracks.

Plaid was the only party to give due prominence to the hot-topics of Wales. The other parties have, over the last ten years, now responded to this in differing degrees. For too long Welsh nationalists, patriots, etc have been perceived as being focussed on large constitutional answers, rather than imaginative policies that influence the everyday sphere. If Plaid take this route it will only walk into irrelevance abd oblivion.

Jac o' the North, said...

Rhys, my boy - you preferred Cynog!

At least Dafydd Iwan has been fairly consistent in his views, whereas Cynog Dafis has played the eminence grise to the point where he has made himself distrusted and left people unsure where he stands on anything.

Anonymous said...

It’s true that, after 700 years as a colony, significant steps have been made in achieving a weak legislature in Wales. Unfortunately it seems that DET believes that Wales has reached its zenith.

It was a stated aim of unionist devolutionists that their purpose was to kill nationalism stone dead. It was the principle of giving as little as possible rather than lose the lot.

One of the fundamental differences between the SNP and Plaid is that the SNP has played the devolution game to its advantage. Plaid has got bogged down in the process, partly because it hadn’t got a CLEAR AIM or GOAL. The party’s history is responsible for that, coupled with timid leadership.

Without the desire for sovereign statehood a party isn’t truly nationalist. DET and Cynog Dafis could well belong to one or other of the unionist parties as they have members who hold similar aspirations.

‘Independence’ may not be politically popular in Wales right now. But we have to start somewhere. Without sovereignty Wales is doomed to continue as a poor ‘region’ of Europe. It is our only hope for prosperity. That has to be Plaid’s gospel – its unique selling point. It is potentially very powerful.

The setback of the last election can be a spur to address the strategic policy failures of the past. It is a crossroads for Plaid. It has to become a party which can appeal to every person who lives within its borders. That might mean ditching or sidelining a couple of ‘sacred cows’. Being more socialist (sic) than Labour, or more green than the Greens is not what will gain solid support for Plaid. Regrettably, I also believe that it has to change its name to reflect a wider appeal.

If this doesn’t happen, and frankly I think it’s unlikely, then the party will continue to flounder, and Wales will be the loser.


The central plank of the SNP’s policy at the election was a referendum on independence (not some vague statement on ‘pan-European regionalism).

That Plaid shouldn’t have policies on a range of issues isn’t in dispute, but they must always be consistent with the party’s ultimate goal.

Are you saying that the party hasn’t looked amateurish hitherto?

It’s true that Plaid has adopted slick professional managerial methods which it has employed during recent elections, but they are a veneer, and are no substitute for clear policy aims and strong charismatic leadership.

Regrettably Plaid’s arrived where it is through a series of strategic errors, toppling or demoralising potential motivational leaders who either left Wales or left the party. It then leapt into bed with Labour in a secondary role. Predictably disastrous – it could have been worse, had Labour not made such a mess under Brown.

IWJ even believed that he would get an electoral dividend from the referendum success. That was naive. Truth be told, it was won with Labour votes, but though Plaid’s efforts. Unfortunately the limits of those powers are now apparent – cycle paths and allotments!

If such mistakes aren’t recognised for what they were, they will be repeated. There are those in Cardiff Bay who would support Labour a second time. Pity help us if that happens.

Neilyn said...

When Scotland breaks it's Union with England and Northern Ireland follows to embrace reunification with the Republic, does Lord ET envisage the Welsh settling for autonomy as a small appendage of a newly independent England, with the current "constitutional settlement" permanent?

Under those circumstances I'd dearly love to see the International Rugby Board move to ban the Welsh national rugby team from participating at an international level.

That should focus a few minds!

MH said...

You say that there is no room for dissent, Rhys. But the key is to distinguish between the fundamental aims of a political party and the policies it advocates. There's room for dissagreement and dissent over policies, but the aims as set out in the constitution are fundamental to what the Plaid Cymru is for.

You mention federalists, confederalists, and pan-European regionalists. I would agree that holders of at least the first two of those positions can be defined as wanting the constitutional advancement of Wales, for they are improvements on the present constitutional settlement. But if a variant of federalism is someone's fundamental aim I would suggest that they would be far more at home with the LibDems ... although I would note that Labour now seems to be moving to a fereralist position too, because they are coming to realize this is their only hope for keeping Scotland as part of the UK.

It is no small matter for a party to change its constitution, and I'm sorry for anyone in Plaid who might feel that the explicit aim of independence is further than they would like to go. I can only repeat the change was supported unanimously at conference. But I would go further and ask you to look at membership of the United Nations in clause 2.5, which has not been changed. No constituent parts of a federal or confederal state are members of the UN, are they? So it can be said that independence has always been the aim of the party and that the change to the constitution simply clarifies that.

I repeat that if anyone is content with just a federal or confederal solution, they really do have no place in the party. But we need to be clear that this doesn't exclude those who want a federal or confederal UK as a step towards independence.


As for voters, as opposed to members, there is a very big difference. Every political party will accept people's votes for whatever reason they might have for giving us their vote. But I would say that any party that waters down its fundamental aims simply to get more votes has got things very wrong. We need only look at the SNP in Scotland. It might well be true that a significant proportion of those who voted SNP did not agree with the SNP on independence for Scotland. But should the SNP water down its aims because of that? Of course not. It is always better to be clear and "up front" about what you believe; it is only in this way that we can convince people about independence and shape public opinion in favour of it.

Anonymous said...

Plaid has implemented all kinds of professional appearing methods for campaigning, data, imagery, alot of work was done under Adam Price and the various staff members. The problem is that the politics haven't been right. The best brand in the world can't compensate for a lack of clarity or direction. Dafydd Elis-Thomas is 1 member. But the group now only has 11 members, and in a 60-seat legislature 1 member is actually worth a lot. Even having 1 member of the 11 adopting such obscure positions is too much. The idea Dafydd El voices that "Wales already has self-determination" isn't right, it's only partial in that Wales has full self-determination over 20 devolved policy fields. On decisions such as energy, policing, the media (areas which formulate the Welsh national identity, national cultures and social fabric), Welsh decisions are controlled by an English government that lost the vote in Wales. That is NOT a situation in which Wales has self-determination.

I don't wish to bring in Ieuan Wyn Jones or Cynog Dafis into this picture because whatever their politics may be, they have both stated on record that they see far further powers than the present as being essential for Wales. Syniadau has also supported Ieuan Wyn Jones' leadership and though I respect i'm anonymous and my views are devalued by that, I am not so terrified about electoral slippage or the progress of the constitutional agenda. It can be turned around. But, the point about Dafydd El remains.

I am not seeing evidence for Rhys' view that "This thread reminds me of that occasion: there is no room for dissent." There is plenty of dissent on this thread. People are questioning environmental politics, people are questioning social justice issues and issues of strategy. It is even possible to accomodate differing views on the spectrum of independence, federalism, European regionalism or whatever else people want. If those federalists want to be in an independentist party then that's their choice. Accommodating a view that no further devolution is necessary is a bridge too far.

Anonymous said...

The SNP is as realistic and pragmatic as they come. They know their likely result will be devo-max or independence-lite/fiscal autonomy.

But they're still putting independence on the ballot paper. They believe in it.

Alot of the SNP's vote don't support independence. But by keeping it on the ballot paper as their preferred option the SNP is taking their core vote with them.

I like the Blaid. Wales exists today because of Plaid Cymru. But there is no point in carrying on if we change and dilute who we are. We won't be thanked or praised by the electorate for changing who we are. The future will see if Plaid becomes a tame liberal party or a thorn in the side of the powers that hold Wales back. I worry for the future of alot of good people in the party if we don't stick to our guns on nationalism and socialism. The biggest honour for anyone is to support democracy and freedom for your country and to care for your fellow compatriots. The original post isn't that worrying in that sense. There is one Lord Elis Thomas but many people that support Leanne Wood, especially younger members.

Cibwr said...

Dafydd El's contribution was in securing the Legislature as an independent boy from the executive. Without him I think Alun Michael would have held sway for far much longer - that is his contribution. But that is it, he has had his time and now its time to go. Of course independence is what Plaid wants and has always wanted, unfortunately our our enemies have made independence equate with separatism and isolationism... visions of barbed wire along Offa's Dyke and poverty economics. That is why we pressed for full self government, that is why we tried to say our vision was different - we are not a Welsh version of UKIP.

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