Independence? It's stupidity of the first degree

Among the endorsements that Dafydd Elis-Thomas has chosen to put on his new website in his bid to become leader of Plaid Cymru is this statement from Gwilym Owen:

Yn ôl rhai mae o'n euog o fod yn anwadal ei genedlaetholdeb a hynny yn fwy na dim am ei fod o'n ymwrthod a'r gair hwnnw "annibynniaeth". Dyna'r gair bellach sydd ar wefusau'r rheiny sy'n credu ei bod hi'n bosib ail adrodd stori'r Alban yng Nghymru. Ond twpdra o'r radd flaenaf ydi hynny wrth gwrs – ac mae Dafydd El yn ddigon hirben ac yn ddigon onest i gyhoeddi hynny.

Mae gan Blaid Cymru swyddogaeth bwysicach a hynny ydi cydweithio gyda, a sbarduno'r Llywodraeth Lafur i gynnal economi Cymru drwy gyfnod o galedi mawr. Mae gweithredu felly yn anhepgor y dyddiau hyn – ac mae gan y Cenedlaetholwyr ddyletswydd i wynebu'r her honno.

According to some he's guilty of being fickle in his nationalism and, more than anything, this is because of his rejection of the word "independence". That's the word which is now on the lips of those who believe that it's possible to repeat what's happening in Scotland in Wales. But that of course is stupidity of the first degree – and Dafydd El is shrewd and honest enough to say that in public.

Plaid Cymru has a more important role, and that is to co-operate with and spur on the Labour Government to support the Welsh economy through a period of great hardship. Working in this way is indispensable in times like these – and Nationalists have a duty to face that challenge.

Gwilym Owen in Golwg, 5 January 2012

There are two things about this endorsement that I'd like to focus on: first independence and second leadership.

Fickle about independence

Let's look first at independence and the idea that the narrative in Scotland is different from that in Wales. I don't think it is, and neither does Dafydd Elis-Thomas.

Before his professed conversion to the cause of independence for Wales, Dafydd certainly didn't think there was that much difference between Scotland and Wales. Of course he never believed in independence for Wales, but perhaps some people reading this won't remember that only a few years ago he was equally against independence for Scotland too. This is what he said in September 2004:

This week the SNP gathers in Inverness. Last week, the former leader of the Welsh nationalists spoke up about the SNP's failure to adjust to devolution, commenting: "There is still a role for them but not as a nationalist party."

He added that the SNP’s only chance of government was to cease to pursue "Scottish independence as if this is the real issue" and transform itself into a "party of government within the devolved set-up."

Scotsman, 22 September 2004

This was at a time when the SNP were at a low point, rather similar to the position that Plaid Cymru is in now. They had done very badly in the elections to the Scottish Parliament in 2003, and people were saying that they needed a change of direction in order to become electable.

But thankfully Alex Salmond refused to take Dafydd's advice and in fact laughed off the idea that the SNP should backtrack on the idea of independence.

I was amused by the Scottish press who ran the piece just before our conference and they said, "Dafydd Elis-Thomas doesn't believe in independence anymore."

"Well he never believed in independence anyway."

When asked whether there was any merit in Lord Elis-Thomas's arguments, Mr Salmond said, "Most of the criticism of the SNP actually comes from those who say we have lost sight of the vision of an independent Scotland by getting involved in devolution and getting wrapped up in the day-to-day running of politics.

"We have to do both. Where I disagree with my distinguished colleague is that you have to have a successful national party. You have to have a vision of independence galvanising support and the promise of what independence can deliver linked to a social and economic vision that you want to deliver. The job of the SNP is not to substitute the constitutional debate with the social and economic debate or vice versa but to link the two."

Western Mail, 12 November 2004

And that of course is the whole point: it is wrong to think that the debate is either to talk about constitutional matters or to talk about social and economic matters. The point is that we can only deal with social and economic matters in Wales to the extent that we can make decisions about these things in Wales. It is a question of whether we are content to let a government in Westminster make these decisions for us or whether we are prepared to take on that responsibility for ourselves.

Alex Salmond realized that the SNP had failed to make an electoral breakthrough because they had lost focus on what they existed for as a political party. But by sticking to their core aims, and by not being afraid to even mention the word independence in the way that Plaid Cymru has avoided it over most of the past decade, the SNP were able to form a minority government in 2007, and then went on to win a spectacular overall victory in 2011.

The lesson is obvious. If a political party is ambivalent about what it is for, it will get nowhere. The public won't tolerate two-faced politicians. But they will listen and respond positively to a party that wants independence for their country if that party is honest and open about it.

After being proved to have been so humiliatingly wrong, it is little wonder that Dafydd has had to change his tune in recent months. If we believe what he said to Martin Shipton, he has now become an enthusiastic supporter of independence for Wales. I was prepared to give him the benefit of any doubt about whether he was telling the truth or whether he was lying through his teeth to try and prolong his political career by a few years.

But now? All I will say is that he has done himself no favours by putting this endorsement from Gwilym Owen on his website. He's simply reopened an issue which it would surely have been wiser for him to let rest. Put simply, he's still trying to have it both ways at the same time. Dafydd clearly wants one group of people to believe one thing about him on the matter of independence for Wales, but wants others to believe something else.

Put more bluntly, he's being two-faced. But what's new about that?

Clueless about leadership

The second thing I want to look at is what Dafydd would do if he were to become leader of Plaid Cymru. For the second part of the endorsement he has put on his website maintains that the "more important" role Plaid Cymru should fulfil is to co-operate with the Labour Government.

But why?

Is the main reason for Plaid Cymru's existence to lend a helping hand to the Labour Party? Is this the limit of Dafydd's ambition for the party? Labour are our political opponents. In order for Plaid Cymru to form the next Welsh Government in 2016 we will need to take seats from Labour in their own heartlands, and we won't do that by positioning ourselves as nothing more than Labour's little helpers. Besides that, Labour don't need our help ... they have enough seats to manage on their own.

So the whole premise of Dafydd's strategy is misplaced. All he appears to want is to put a few more years of life into a political career that's been dead on its feet for a long, long time. Other candidates (well two of them, anyway) have put forward a vision of where they want Plaid Cymru to go under their leadership, how to take Wales forward instead of continuing the slow downhill slide under Labour. The best I can find on Dafydd's new website is this page on what the job of leader is and what he will do. It's just a cut and paste from the Assembly's own rules but with nothing new, nothing special and nothing unique to offer.

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Anonymous said...

I want to like Daf El. I really do. I want him to be Daf Wigley mk2.
But the things he comes out with makes this impossible.

The UK PM has an official residence.
The Scot PM has an official residence.
The NI FM/DFM has an official residence.
Why hasn't the Welsh one been given? surely a "centre" of government is needed to help people distinguish between WAG and Assembly - this doesn't happen with Cathays Park!

Anonymous said...

His electoral past is dire.
In 1999 his constituency had 63% strong Plaid vote, this fell 57 in 2009 and is now down to 46%.
This is not a man that can lead Plaid to electoral victory.

Glyndo said...

Anon 1. If we believe Borgen, the Prime Minister of Denmark hasn't got one?

Anonymous said...

I don't really understand why he's standing..he's making a mockery of the whole thing.

I'm seriously thinking that if Leanne doesn't get it, that I'll cut up my card. I'll find something better to spend my time and £25 on.

Even if she does succeed, people like him will still be representing Plaid in the Assembly - it won't make her job of turning the party around at all easy.

Anonymous said...

I don't know anon, I think "he's just there" - I don't get the feeling he really gets involved with party policy / party moral. He doesn't even sit next to them in Y Siambr. He's just one of those figures that the party "let him get on with things". Out of the other parties I'd say he's quite similar to Mike Hedges (Swansea).

I sincerely hope he will do the decent thing and retire before the next election so we can have some new blood in. The same is true for IWJ and Alun Ffred.

However the fact that he has 1 in 4 chances of becoming leader makes me feel pretty ill!

Anonymous said...

Jacothenorth's blogspot has an online poll which puts Leanne well into the lead..nearly twice as many votes as the others put together, altho Jac has added a health warning that it might be unrepresentative.

Anonymous said...

I don't sign up to the description of Dafydd El that Syniadau chooses. He has done great things for Wales and you will find many people who agree with that. As much as we all do want in independence on this blog's readership, there also have to be stages of development prior to that. I really don't mind him and when he is building links with the queen etc he is doing it because he thinks (rightly or wrongly) it will advance Wales.

However, when you read Dafydd El's website you see that he actually has the official Assembly job description of what the leader of an opposition should do- the actual constitutional description! This is not a man in touch with real world concerns. His biography states his committee chairmanship! Nothing about his long career exploits or his work on the National Left. The people of Wales don't know about Assembly committees or official Assembly job descriptions they want to know about their own jobs and their pensions, train fares, health care etc.

Anonymous said...

This election is to chose a leader for Plaid Cymru. DET isn't offering leadership. End of.


Anonymous said...

Anon - 22.01 I agree. If leanne doesn't win this, then we will have a better chance of fighting for independence from within the Labour Party, or whichever currently unionist party suits us best. So I will be chopping my card up as well if anyone but Leanne wins. I hope Leanne wins in the first round so that everybody will have to support her wholeheartedly.

I agree that a defeated DET could be a potential saboteur - he is that sort of man. I don't believe that all the kwowtowing to the queen that he has been doing is motivated by anything but self agrandisment. Leanne, when she wins, must stamp her authority immediately, and put him in his place quite publicly, otherwise he could well undermine her.

Gwalchmei said...

Until I heard of this leadership campaign I was a lapsed member of Plaid. I left in disgust when I heard that Plaid did not rule out working with the Tories in Wales and I decided to put all my efforts instead into the campaign for more autonomy for Llydaw. It was only when I read about Leanne’s candidature that I rejoined last month.
I believe that for any political party to succeed it must have a clear set of aims clustered around the ‘Big Idea.’ It must also have a leader who is absolutely committed to that idea and is putting forward strongly a clear set of political values that one can identify with.
At a time of crisis such as now, people are looking around for some sort of different alternative to what has gone before. We are lucky in Wales that the notion of independence is on the agenda.
I want to see a clear radical set of proposals linked to a viable, workable plan for the transition to a socialist future for Wales. Leanne Hall seems to embody that alternative. An alternative that will attract the bulk of left minded people of Wales to the party to make it a mass party of the left that will attract those who might naturally turn to labour if it had anything to offer.
Whether she wins or not is not the issue. Should she lose, I will not be ‘cutting up my card’ as an earlier comment suggests. Now that I know there is a sufficient body of like-minded people within Plaid I will stay and work towards building on and supporting the ideas she puts forward.
We need to build a leadership, that is, a group of Plaid members adhering to the sort of ideas that will attract and enthuse the ordinary people of Wales. Those on the right in the party do not concern me. We are not fighting for the same thing and their ideas aren’t going to work for the bulk of Welsh people.
In the meantime I am going to the ‘William Hill’ site to check up on the odds. Better to keep our feet firmly on the ground when it comes to predicting who might be the winner.

Gwalchmei said...

William Hill are no longer taking bets on this event

Current odds at Ladbrookes:
EJ 6/4
LW 6/4
DET 4/1
ST 10/1

cf 3rd Jan

EJ evens
LW 9/4
DET 3/1
ST 10/1

Anonymous said...

The momentum certainly seems to be with Leanne - but I dont know whether all of her cyber support will translate into votes - but I sicerely hope so.


Glyndo said...

"altho Jac has added a health warning that it might be unrepresentative."

No sh*t Sherlock

Ambiorix said...

Perhaps Dafydd El should leave Plaid and join the Labour party if he likes them so much.

Anonymous said...

DET just seems to want to go out of his way to upset Plaid members ... but nobody else. And he'd be the same if he was leader.

I like him, I think he's done a lot for Wales. But I can't trust him.

Barcud Coch

Anonymous said...

I agree with Leanne; a lot of young voters / online users will vote for her. But what about old Mrs Jones from Pwllheli?

The one criticism is I think she's wrong about ruling a coalition with the Tories so early. As a senior partner (like in 2007) Plaid should take it. I simply don't buy the argument that "people were worried" that there would be a Tory-Plaid Government. It's the same in Ireland - and people always vote for whichever party they want, not "who may or may not form a coalition". Fundamentally a 'no tory' coalition means that Labour would be in power in Wales for at least the next decade - now we don't want that!

The problem with DET is all I know is he's "for sustainable development" - I know nothing else.

Anonymous said...

Anon 15:52 I don't know about old Mrs Jones, but Mrs Williams and myself along with Ms Griffiths from Nefyn are voting for Leanne Wood.

Mr Williams

Neilyn said...

Perhaps DET is just trying to wind up the membership so that we all go and vote for the strong pro-independence candidate?

It seems to be working!

Cibwr said...

I have great respect for what DET was 20 years ago and what he has achieved as Presiding Officer of the National Assembly - however he would be a disaster as leader again. Id be comfortable with either of the two women candidates but I am greatly inspired by Leanne.

Anonymous said...

To be fair to DET he has done a greta job as presiding officer, using the power of office to achieve far more for Wales than the Labour leader ever did.

But if elected as Plaid leader he would be disastrous for Plaid, and would encourage Labour to turn back devolution.


Anonymous said...

'The one criticism is I think she's wrong about ruling a coalition with the Tories so early. As a senior partner (like in 2007) Plaid should take it' Anon 15:52

Plaid is currently not in the position to beat the Tories in Wales, because for as long as they govern the UK level, enough Welsh voters will back Labour as a defence mechanism, to relegate Plaid to third place. Despite what you say, people do worry, and we'd better understand this now becuase whoever we choose people will flock to Labour in May as an anti-Tory vote.

I support Leanne but only Simon Thomas is dealing with reality and saying Plaid should be aiming to get back to second place.

Think about it. Labour are so directionless that the second placed party in the Assembly has as much influence as the first placed party in the Assembly. Getting back into second puts Plaid in the driving seat and then that builds the ground to become the largest party. At that stage Plaid could have a coalition with whoever they liked on their own terms, but that's a long way off! Wales is not Ireland. Irish voters are used to coalitions. Class politics means that a Tory-Labour coalition is less likely than a Sinn Fein-DUP coalition, even though suppoters of the Shinners and DUP were at one point actually killing each other! The Tories in Wales are also politically very different to Plaid on almost every issue.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:24

"..Simon Thomas is dealing with reality and saying Plaid should be aiming to get back to second place."

Aim for second place and you'll likely end up fourth, if that's possible.

Plaid should aim for an outright majority in the Assembly.

Tell me how would your strategy for becoming second differ from that of aiming for first place?

Voters in Scotland turned from Labour (and LibDems) in droves when they realised they had a competent and confident alternative in the SNP.
That is what Plaid has so far failed to provide.

Now is the time for the party to break with its rather mediocre past, choose a leader in a different mould, who has that confidence and ability to appeal to a wide constituency throughout the country.

I predict that if Leanne isn't elected the party will stagger on, and will probably be third or even fourth in the next Assembly.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:43- 'Tell me how would your strategy for becoming second differ from that of aiming for first place?'

It wouldn't differ that much. We're not really disagreeing. It's just we wouldn't worry about the Tories or coalitions.

'Voters in Scotland turned from Labour (and LibDems) in droves when they realised they had a competent and confident alternative in the SNP.
That is what Plaid has so far failed to provide. '

Not disagreeing with that.

I think whoever wins there will be significant losses for Plaid in the May elections. People in Wales that worry about the Tories will go to Labour, and they had a bad year in 2008 (and Plaid a good year) so their gains will look disproportionately good. The new leader won't have enough time to turn things around and will need to be shielded from those results. With Leanne the recovery will be better, admittedly, but seeing her as First Minister leading a coalition involving the Tories is fantasy politics that doesn't understand the policies the Tories actually want. Nobody wants to hear this but its better to be prepared. The SNP had some dreadul years under Swinney when they failed to get their message across, so it's not the end of the world!

maen_tramgwydd said...

Anon 12:35

I'd advise Plaid to shun a coalition with any party, and certainly not as a junior partner. Salmond proved that he could run a competent government with a significant minority, even with his unionist opponents united against him.

I suspect that three of the Plaid leadership candidates would enter into some kind of agreement with Labour at some point in the future.

I can't see the point of that. Why vote for the monkey when you can vote for the organ grinder? It turns a vote for Plaid into a proxy vote for Labour. That is party political suicide. It seems that DET and ST favour that road. Now that IS what I'd call 'stupid'.

At this point in time the future of the UK hangs in the balance depending on the outcome of the Scottish referendum. Whatever the result the UK will not be the same afterwards. The Scots will demand and get fiscal autonomy even if they don't vote straight out of the UK (I very much hope they do).

In either scenario Wales will be deeply affected. It will alter the political landscape in Wales. Labour politicians, members, and supporters will have to decide whether to keep the status quo - a weak Assembly - and have permanent Tory government at Westminster, or go for far greater powers. London Labour will lose its grip, as it won't ever govern again.

Carwyn Jones has already indicated, although in a cack-handed way, that things will have to change post 2014.

Plaid needs to have the right leader and clear direction in place well before then. To aim to be Labour's lapdog is pathetic. There is all to play for and Plaid can come out on top.

Never in my lifetime has the situation been so fluid. Plaid must not allow Labour in Wales to determine our nation's future, as that party has consistently let the people of Wales down, despite a century of loyalty.

I wholeheartedly agree with Adam Price that Leanne is best placed to take Plaid and the people of Wales forward at this strategic point in our history.

Gwalchmei said...

Things are going well.
The odds offered today according to ‘Politico Cambria’ are quoted as follows:
Leanne Wood 4/5
Elin Jones evens
Lord Elis Thomas 5/1
Simon Thomas 12/1
(Paddy Power 24/01/2012)
It’s still early days but it seems that Leanne is hitting all the right buttons. As long as she sticks to her guns she will be home and dry.
There might be some daftness, as often happens in these types of situation, whereby an attempt is made to undermine her position through underhanded means, but I would be very surprised if, should it come, it were to come from within Wales. All four candidates have conducted themselves appropriately towards one another.
I think the ‘Celtic Spring’ might come earlier than we hoped.....but always, ‘let’s keep our feet on the ground...’

MH said...

It's good to see the latest odds show Dafydd slipping further behind, yet even now I would want to sound a note of warning. I've been looking through the membership figures, and even I am surprised by how much of our membership is concentrated in north west Wales. There might well be an undercurrent against Leanne from people who regard Plaid as a party that should really concentrate on keeping Wales Welsh rather than get involved in politics. Not the active membership who regularly go to meetings, but those who were perhaps more active in the past, have kept up their membership, and still remember Dafydd as a nice boy. The Old Mrs Jones's from Pwllheli, as one Anon put it.


I certainly have no time for those who think Plaid Cymru's best hope is just to be second to Labour, or think that our role is to govern as junior partners with Labour in the hope of bing allowed to get one or two of our policies through. I would simply point to what has happened in Scotland. We shouldn't underestimate just how low the SNP had fallen in the 2003 election. We should also remember that at this time last year Labour were riding high in the opinion polls and strong favourites to win back control of the Scottish Parliament.

The point I would make is that Labour in Scotland suddenly and unexpectedly collapsed from what had seemed to be an impregnable position. The same could happen in Wales. In fact we should expect the same to happen in Wales, because Labour has now been in power for thirteen years, and in 2016 will have been in power for a whole seventeen years. Sooner or later there must be a backlash against the slow downhill slide. People will want radical change, that is the nature of democracy.

The question is whether Plaid will over the next few years build up the credibility to be voted in as the alternative. That's what we should be building towards.

Anonymous said...

Hi MH are those figures available to the public or members?

Anonymous said...

DET and LeanneW are both sides of a dud coin for Plaid, one wants to go forward into numptyland, with no debth substance or gravitas and frankly is winging it, and if she fails will be out because that is what is do with deadwood. Whilst DET has all the above but no connection with the party, or country grass roots having bubbled himself in the Bay

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