Tactical voting? Not in this election

I must admit to being a little surprised by the reaction to what Adam Price said over the weekend when he urged Dafydd Elis-Thomas's supporters to give their second preference votes to Leanne Wood, and vice versa.

The first and most important thing to stress is that there is no such thing as tactical voting in an election where we can place the candidates in order of preference. Tactical voting can only apply in voting systems where each voter only has one choice. Specifically, tactical voting is where someone votes for a candidate that they think is second or third best because they will have a better chance of beating another candidate that they definitely do not want to see elected. In this election for the leadership of Plaid Cymru each one of us will be able to list the candidates in order of preference by putting a 1, 2 and 3 in the boxes beside their names ... although we could, if we wanted to, just put a 1 and a 2 leaving the third box blank, or even just a 1 leaving two boxes blank. It's entirely up to us.

That's why it's so misguided to accuse Adam Price of making a plea for Plaid Cymru members to use tactical voting. It shows a basic misunderstanding of how a fairer voting system than first-past-the-post works. All we need to do is rank the candidates in order of preference, we don't need to make any other calculation.

So at the most basic level, if Adam Price or anyone else thinks Elin Jones is only the third best of the candidates in the race, what on earth is wrong with him expressing that opinion and urging fellow members of Plaid Cymru to vote accordingly? I certainly disagree with Adam about who will get my second preference, but we're all entitled to our opinions.


But that said, it's probably right to say that second preferences are going to be the decisive factor in this election. When all the first preference votes have been counted the candidate with the fewest first preferences will be eliminated, and his or her second preferences will then be added to the first preference votes the other two already have to determine the winner.

So the big question is which of the three is most likely to be knocked out in the first round. Most people think that Dafydd is going to be eliminated first, and I would imagine that Adam Price is one of them. But I'm not so sure about that. I think Dafydd will get quite a lot of first preference support based on two factors:

The first is his geographical location. When I looked at the numbers a month or two ago more than a quarter of Plaid's members were in Gwynedd, and nearly half were in north Wales. Perhaps that will now have changed because of the recent increase in membership, with many joining specifically in order to support Leanne, but many members in north Wales as a whole and Gwynedd in particular will support Dafydd purely because they see him as their local candidate.

The second factor is familiarity. We have to bear in mind that not all Plaid members are as actively involved in the party as others. Not all of them will have kept track of the policy positions of the three candidates or, frankly, be that interested in them. Dafydd has been around for a very long time, and in the earlier part of his career did a lot for the party. So some will give him their first preference vote simply because of that, or because they think he is a more recognizable public figure than the other two. For these reasons I have an uneasy feeling that Dafydd might just survive round one.


I don't expect Leanne to be eliminated in the first round. On top of her wide support from longer standing party members, I think it's clear that a very large part of the increase in membership over the past few months has been due to people joining specifically in order to support Leanne. She more than anyone has galvanized this election.

If Leanne has any problem, it's not any lack of enthusiastic supporters who will give her their first preference votes. It's that she is likely to be seen as too radical a leader by the more conservative (with a small c) members of the party.

So in a sense both Leanne and Dafydd are "Marmite" candidates. People tend to either enthusiastically support them or think that it would be a mistake to elect them as leader. Elin doesn't quite fall into that category. Of course she will have a good few enthusiastic supporters of her own but, in general terms, I think she is most likely to be seen as the candidate with the "safe pair of hands". For that reason, I would say that she is likely to get a higher percentage of second preference votes than either of the other candidates.


So let's run through the permutations. If Dafydd is eliminated in the first round, the second preferences of those who put him first will come into play. I think most of those would be likely to go to Elin, so Adam's intervention to try and get Dafydd's supporters to put Leanne second makes perfect sense from his perspective. It's not an appeal that I could make, for I've made it perfectly clear that I think Dafydd is totally unsuitable as a leader and therefore his supporters are not very likely to listen to someone like me urging them to put Leanne second ... though I hope they will.

I think we can safely rule out Leanne coming third, so the other possibility is that Elin is knocked out in the first round. If that happens, the second preferences of her supporters will be the ones that matter.

I hope it will be clear from what I've written in previous posts that I think Elin would make a good leader of Plaid Cymru. I think Leanne is a better choice, but Elin is certainly a close second. So just as Adam—who evidently has more affinity with Dafydd's supporters than he has with Elin's—can rightly appeal to Dafydd's supporters to give their second preferences to Leanne rather than Elin, I would in turn like to appeal to Elin's supporters to give their second preferences to Leanne rather than Dafydd.


It's hard to imagine that your first preference candidate isn't going to win, but I would urge each of Elin's supporters to at least face that possibility. If Elin were to be knocked out in the first round, who do you think would be the better leader: Leanne or Dafydd? That's the stark choice you need to face.

I was impressed by a comment from Aled GJ in my previous post, who crystalized things perfectly when he said:

We all knew that Leanne would be fiery for independence from more of a leftist perspective but it's been great to see Elin more than matching her here, albeit more from a centrist perspective. We've also had the Lord providing some entertainment for members, putting the case for a completely different sort of independence, i.e. his right to follow his own line completely on all matters, whatever party policy may be on a range of issues.

I cannot think of one issue of policy on which Leanne differs from Elin. Both of them are equally committed to party's democratically decided position on policy issues, Dafydd isn't. Both of them have an equally consistent record on independence for Wales, Dafydd doesn't. For these reasons alone I would urge Elin's supporters to make sure they give their second preferences to Leanne.

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One of Three

In the next day or two, nigh on eight thousand ballot papers for the Plaid Cymru leadership contest will be coming through our letterboxes. In itself, this huge increase in membership over the past few months has been one of the good things about this election and about our vitality as a party. Of course some will be lapsed members who only pay their subscription in years like this when there's something worth voting about; but many will be old members who left because they were disillusioned about the party, and many new people will have joined too. As I see it, they will have joined in the hope of being able to help transform a party which has languished in the polls since the days when we won seventeen seats in the National Assembly including the Rhondda and Islwyn in 1999.

One big question has stood over Plaid Cymru for the past decade. Why has a party that could make such a breakthrough in 1999 fallen back so far since then? Part of the reason has been our leadership. I don't mean in terms of personality, nor do I wish to single out our leaders alone; instead I believe that we have suffered as a party from a collective leadership that lacked the confidence to articulate our aims, and therefore spent too much time on the back foot. With the bitter taste of 1979 still very real, and only winning the referendum of 1997 by a wafer-thin margin, it was as if we were too scared to go further. We started to hide our aims behind convoluted words.

One thing I am convinced about is that the party as a whole—made up of its individual members and activists at branch and constituency level—has always been very clear about what Plaid Cymru is for. We joined because we wanted to see an independent Wales; a Wales in which we take responsibility for ourselves and our own prosperity rather than letting others make decisions on our behalf. But too many of those we chose as our AMs felt comfortable enough with a half-baked Assembly and lost sight of the final destination. Now, in this leadership election, we have a real chance of changing that and getting a leader and leadership team that is not afraid to speak about independence for Wales being the first and foremost aim of Plaid Cymru.

So I want to take a final look at what the three contenders have got to offer in the hope of helping any Plaid members who are undecided about which way to vote.

Dafydd Elis-Thomas

Let's start with something positive: if Dafydd is elected his first aim will be to get Plaid Cymru back into government with the Labour Party.

Being in government is a good thing, so that's a good priority to have, right? Well, my answer is no. Being in government should be the reward you get only as a result of winning enough seats in an election. Getting into government through some sort of back door is a very different thing. There are times when it will work, but it will only work when two conditions are met. First, when a coalition of some sort needs to be made because no one party can form a government on its own; and second, when a clear programme of government can be negotiated to include the things that matter to us as a party. One Wales was a perfect example of both conditions being met: Labour could not form a government on their own, and Plaid negotiated a commitment to hold a referendum on primary lawmaking powers, which we could only get with Labour support because it required a two-thirds majority to get it through the Senedd.

But this time round Labour have enough seats to form a government on their own. They don't need our votes to get any legislation through the Senedd—not that they have many ideas about what they want to legislate on anyway—and there is nothing that Labour could offer us in the way of constitutional advancement because Labour's MPs in Westminster are not in a position to deliver it.

So any attempt to get Plaid into the current Welsh Government will be nothing more than pointless vanity. Of course it will be nice for one or two Plaid AMs to be called ministers and I'm sure they'll run their departments competently. But it will come at the cost of us being able to criticize Labour, and in the election in 2016 we will be unable to present ourselves as an alternative to Labour. We paid a heavy price for the One Wales Agreement in terms of seats lost in May 2011, as is usual for junior partners in a coalition; but it was a price worth paying in order to get primary legislative powers for the Assembly. The referendum was held too late for us to effectively decouple ourselves from Labour as would have been possible if it had been held in autumn 2010. But what on earth is there to gain this time round? We will just give Labour an easy ride for the next four years. If Dafydd becomes leader, Labour will be the ones who benefit, and we will end up paying the electoral price for it in 2016.


However, I probably need to make it clear that I do believe Dafydd is now in favour of independence for Wales and that my objections to him becoming leader of Plaid Cymru have nothing to do with that. It is his lack of honesty and integrity which disqualify him.

Dafydd's problem is that he very clearly wasn't in favour of independence before, and the first anyone knew about his closet conversion was when he told Martin Shipton about it, as I noted in this post. But rather than admit that he was wrong and had been forced to change his mind, he has tried to make out that this is what he has always believed; and trying to reconcile two irreconcilable positions simply results in him making statements that are little short of gobbledygook.

For all his experience in life we have to be clear that Dafydd is a raw novice about the issue of independence for Wales. He might well have all the enthusiasm of a new convert to the idea; but when it comes to working out a plan to achieve it he's still wet behind the ears.

Elin Jones

I think Elin would be a good leader for the party. She is competent, determined and ambitious for Wales. For me this was best illustrated not so much by her being the minister for agriculture and rural affairs—though I think she did that job well—but that over the years of the One Wales agreement she was one of the few AMs (Jocelyn Davies was another) who appeared to understand how the process of getting the referendum on primary lawmaking powers was playing out. There were many times when things looked as if they would go wrong, and the message coming from Ieuan was not as positive or confident as it should have been. In fact his caveats about it when interviewed actually fuelled the impression that the referendum might not have taken place as agreed.

The other positive is that Elin is unequivocally in favour of independence for Wales and has been one of the few AMs who was not afraid to say it. For this reason alone she would be far better than any of the leaders we have had in recent times.

I am in broad agreement with most of what she's said in her campaign, apart from two things. The first was the rather strange condition she set when she said that Plaid Cymru would have to win two Assembly elections before we would get a referendum on independence. My thoughts on that are here. It was a pointless thing to say because we may well not win the 2016 election. Let's say we did much better than ever before and got just over 20 out of 60 seats, but one or two fewer than Labour and still not enough to form a government. If we followed Elin's logic it would mean we couldn't hold a referendum even if we won an absolute majority in 2020.


But more disturbing than that was what happened when Simon Thomas threw in the towel and she accepted his support on condition that he became her deputy leader. Put bluntly, it was a rather sordid deal. As I noted here, it was not only one that she was in no position to make but one that could pull her down with him.

Now I fully accept that if Elin were to become leader she might well get her choice of deputy leader, not because she has the right to make that decision (it is in fact decided by a vote of Plaid's AMs) but because after any internal election everybody is anxious to make a show of uniting behind the new leader so as to heal any wounds that might have been inflicted during the campaign. But it was an error of judgement to be presumptuous, and the worse presumption was that those AMs who have come out in support of Elin as leader will also want Simon to be her deputy. If Elin wanted to engineer that sort of "joint ticket" the time to do it was before the contest started rather than half way through it.

Now I don't have anything in particular against Simon ... well, except that he did made a complete mess of the manifesto for the last election. On his own merits he might make a half-decent deputy leader, but I certainly don't think he deserves that position just by making a private deal behind closed doors. I think Elin has tied a millstone round her own neck.

In one sense her calculation was good: before Simon jumped the bookies had her trailing behind Leanne, but the deal she made with Simon put her back in front, though only by the tiniest of margins. But let's imagine she does win and think about what the consequences would be for Plaid Cymru as a whole. It seems obvious to me that having both a leader and deputy leader from the same part of Wales would send completely the wrong signal to the electorate. It would do nothing to expand our appeal to the parts of Wales outside our natural heartlands, and indeed would reinforce the idea that we are a party that finds it difficult to reach out to other parts of Wales. There's no problem with Elin becoming leader, but if she does become leader the party will need a deputy leader that's not from her own back yard. Elin on her own is fine, but Elin and Simon are a terrible combination. It was a bad decision, but Elin has tied herself to it and now she can't get rid of him.

Leanne Wood

I wasn't at all sure that Leanne would put her hat into the ring for this election contest. She left it late, and it was a bit of a surprise to me that she did so, but certainly a very pleasant surprise.

For me, she is an ideal leader for the party because she has been in the forefront of developing ideas. For too long we have had leaders who have lagged several steps behind the party as a whole. But in Leanne we have someone who has a record of actively developing policy ideas, someone who is usually a few steps ahead ... which is, after all, what a leader is meant to be. During the course of this campaign we have heard a lot about her Greenprint for the Valleys, but her work on the Justice system in Making Our Communities Safer was impressive too.

Make no mistake, the future of Plaid Cymru depends on our ideas for Wales. Other parties are basically about working within the existing structures, and find it difficult to see beyond those boundaries. Our business is to transform Wales, and without that transformational agenda we are nothing. The challenge for us is to convince others that tinkering around the edges of our current constitutional settlement—maybe devolving a few more powers and responsibilities from Westminster every few years—will do nothing to reverse our continuous, slow economic decline over the last twenty or thirty years. We need more radical solutions.

Leanne has that vision, the ability to flesh out the detail and the ability to communicate it. If we're looking for an inspirational leader then she is by far the best choice available to us, and in particular our best chance of making the breakthroughs we need to become the government of Wales. In concrete terms, we must beat Labour in their heartlands to do it. We will not do it unless we can win in places like the Rhondda and Islwyn as we did in 1999, or unless we can also win places like Caerffili and Neath. So often this is portrayed as us having to out-Labour Labour, as if Labour would be fine if only it hadn't systematically abandoned most of the ideals of the people it was formed to represent. But it is much more simple than that, it is about having better ideas about how to make us a fairer and more prosperous society. As everybody can now see all too clearly, being in the One Wales Government lent Labour a sense of direction and purpose; but on their own and with a slow-moving, lack-lustre leader, Labour are struggling to come up with anything that will move Wales forward.

Vote wisely

In a nutshell, these are our choices as party members. If we elect Dafydd, we will ruin ourselves as a party. It will take many years to pick up the pieces again, if at all.

If we elect Elin, we will get a better party than we've had for some time. Better because we will have a leader that agrees with and supports Plaid Cymru's aims and policies. For all Ieuan's good qualities, it was often embarrassing to have a leader that didn't agree with some of our key policies and who could hardly bring himself to mention the word "independence". Elin will get my second preference for that reason. There is absolutely no point in putting Elin last because it will not help Leanne one way or the other.

But if we elect Leanne, we will get a party that is capable of reaching into Labour's heartlands, leading the next Welsh government and leading Wales to independence.

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Politics by innuendo

When I saw a headline yesterday's Western Mail which said that Cheryl Gillan had spoken out against the "glaringly obvious" risks of a separate legal jurisdiction for Wales, I thought we would at least be told what she thinks these glaringly obvious risks might be.

But even after reading what she said several times, I couldn't see anything that even hinted at what she meant. The substance of what she said was that she saw no case for changing the current arrangements and questioned how it would benefit the people of Wales. Maybe so, but that's very different from saying that a separate legal jurisdiction for Wales carries any risks.

I can only conclude that what she had in mind must have been so glaringly obvious to her that she felt relieved of any need to tell anybody else what she meant. That's one way of doing politics, I suppose. At least it's good for a laugh.


Say no more, Cheryl. Politics should be about presenting what you believe simply and openly in the hope of getting others to see the merits of your position ... not resorting to cheap innuendo.

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Rally against Wylfa B

For those that didn't watch the launch of Sianel 62 on Sunday evening, this is an extract from one of the programmes about nuclear energy on Ynys Môn. It shows a rally held last month to oppose the construction of the proposed new power station:


There's no doubt that building a new nuclear power station will bring jobs to the area, but most of the jobs will not be for local people and the population influx is inevitably going to damage local communities and the Welsh language in those communities. That's why Cymdeithas yr Iaith played such a prominent part, alongside PAWB, in the protest.

I really doubt that those in favour of the plan to build this new nuclear power station have thought things through. At present some 600 or so people are being employed to decommission the nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd, which has long ceased to produce any electricity. So in terms of jobs, there will inevitably be plenty of work for many decades to come just decommissioning and making the existing Wylfa power station safe.


Building a new power station will also have serious consequences in terms of independence, for it is clear that the provisions being made to get the operators of new nuclear power stations to set aside money for the future clean up are inadequate. As with so much else under the agenda being followed by successive governments in Westminster, it's fine for private companies to make their profits, but the risks end up being taken by the taxpayer. As Wales is on course to produce more than all the electricity we need from renewable sources, the electricity that a new Wylfa B will produce will be superfluous to our own needs and will have to be exported from Wales. While we remain part of the UK, we could expect the UK government to pay for the excess costs on decommissioning after Wylfa B stops producing electricity. But when we are independent, who will pay the excess on the costs for decommissioning? Are we naïve enough to expect the English government and English taxpayers to do that? Fat chance. We will be stuck with the liability of cleaning up the mess for something that was built primarily to benefit people in England.

So politicians like Dafydd Elis-Thomas, who have always been opposed to independence before now, are supporting the construction of a power station that will make independence that much more difficult to achieve. That sort of thinking could only make sense to someone who was opposed to independence.


And as for the damage to the language, I don't think we should kid ourselves into thinking that someone like Dafydd is particularly concerned about that either. Just look at his track record in recent years as Llywydd. He was the one primarily responsible for changing the Cofnod (the Record of Proceedings) in the Senedd from something that was fully bilingual into something in which Welsh contributions were translated into English, but not vice versa.

Thankfully, that shameful decision has been reversed, but only now that Dafydd has stood down as Llywdd and been replaced by Rosemary Butler. So I would again warn people in Plaid Cymru to be very careful about him; so many of the policies he advocates simply make no sense for someone who purports to be a Welsh nationalist. I'll be the first to give him credit for some of the things he did in the early days of his political career, but he sold out on nationalism years ago.

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One Wales: One Planet

I was amazed to read this in Dafydd Elis-Thomas's latest newsletter:

“As Plaid Cymru spokesman on Energy and the Environment and Chair of the Assembly's Environment and Sustainability Committee, I consider it to be my role to be a critical friend to the three Energy Ministers in the Welsh Government, and encourage them to be increasingly confident in following the low carbon path Wales and our world so desperately needs. After all, this path was laid down very firmly in 'One Wales One Planet' by the Government that Plaid Cymru Ministers had such a full and active role in."

I would certainly want to echo that call. However I have to wonder if Dafydd has actually read One Wales: One Planet for himself ... for what it says is very much at variance with his ideas, particularly with regard to energy.

The document is in three parts which people can download by clicking the image:


These are some of the things it says on the subject of energy:

Vision: Within the lifetime of a generation we want to see Wales using only its fair share of the earth’s resources

Outcome: We use less energy and are more energy efficient. More of our energy is produced at a community level close to where it is used and we are self-sustaining in renewable energy.

Our aim is to generate annually more than 30TWh of electricity from renewable sources by 2025 and 3TWh of heat, mainly from biomass. Our aim is to produce more electricity from renewables than we consume as a nation within 20 years.

Search high and low for it, but there is absolutely nothing in One Wales: One Planet about nuclear energy ... and why on earth should there be? At present Wales consumes about 20TWh a year of electricity, so if our aim is to produce 30TWh a year from renewable sources by 2025, that will be very much more than we will consume even if we take the electrification of railways and the increasing use of electric vehicles into account.

And how on earth is nuclear compatible with more of our energy being produced at a community level close to where it is used? Nuclear energy is the complete opposite of that.

Poor Dafydd just doesn't know what he's talking about. One Wales: One Planet is a good document. We should be proud that Plaid Cymru had a prominent role in framing it, and it does "lay down very firmly" the path that Wales should take. But if he really believes that, why is he so determined for us to depart from that path and resort to nuclear energy?

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Could it ever happen here?

Perhaps Scotland is not the beacon of progressive liberty we sometimes imagine it to be. The Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament has just banned singing in the debating chamber.

I hope the same thing never happens in our Senedd. We have had to fight hard to turn our National Assembly into an all-singing, all-dancing legislature for our country, and who in their right mind would want to stop any of our politicians singing from the same hymnsheet every now and then?

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Cameron supports independence for Wales

I was watching David Cameron's speech in Edinburgh this lunchtime and was delighted to see that he has accepted that Wales should be independent, even though he thinks that, "England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are stronger together."


And this caption summed it up perfectly. The man is obviously more intelligent than I gave him credit for.


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Brand new Sunday Politics, same old unfairness

I've watched the Scottish version of the new Sunday Politics programme a couple of times so far this year on iPlayer and noticed that the format of the Scottish version is very different from the Welsh version.

As people will know, we get an hour long programme: the first 30 minutes is from London, then there is a 20 minute slot for Wales, returning to London for the last 10 minutes. Anybody listening to what Andrew Neil says just before the first switch would think that this pattern applies "across the UK" ... but it doesn't.

Last Sunday the Scottish version was made up of the same first 30 minutes from London, but that was followed by 60 minutes of Scottish political discussion without returning to London. The programme was 90 minutes in total, and we can watch it here.


When I watched the programme that was broadcast on 15 January, the Welsh version had the usual 20 minute Welsh slot, returning to London for the last 10 minutes. The Scottish version shared the same first 30 minutes from London, but was followed by 50 minutes of Scottish political discussion without returning to London, 80 minutes in total. Looking at the programme guide, I can see that next Sunday's programme in Scotland will be 90 minutes long and that Wales will get the usual 60 minute version.


It's not the only BBC programme that does this. For some time now BBC2's Newsnight has a common first 30 minutes across the UK; but the final 20 minutes in Scotland is devoted to Scottish affairs ... or to whatever international affairs are of particular interest to the Scots.

Why should Wales be treated in a second class manner? Whatever might have happened in the past, the decision makers at BBC Cymru/Wales should surely have taken the opportunity offered by a brand new format Sunday lunchtime political programme to press for each of the devolved countries of the UK to be treated in a similar way. Perhaps they did, but were ignored.

A fresh start deserves a fresh approach. So we should now kick up a fuss and insist that the BBC doesn't treat Wales as if we were merely a region of England, but on an equal basis with Scotland. Devolved politics deserves—in fact it needs—the same exposure to public scrutiny in Wales as it is given in Scotland.

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Leanne's Vision for Real Energy Independence

In this post on Friday, I reminded people that Dafydd Elis-Thomas was telling a barefaced lie when he claimed that his position on nuclear power was not at odds with Plaid Cymru's position on the issue, and said that this deliberate untruthfulness made him totally unsuited as leader of the party.

But rather than concentrate on the negative, the more important thing is to show people that there are positive policies that we can pursue in Wales that will meet our energy needs without needing to rely on nuclear power. I've written a good number of posts on how Wales can more than produce the electricity we need from renewable sources, and people can read them here. But the immediate priority for Plaid Cymru is to make sure we elect a leader that supports our position on the issue rather than their own personal position.


On Friday, Leanne put up a new page on her website to made clear her position on this issue, and here are a few extracts from it:

Leanne Wood unveils clean energy revolution plan for Wales

Leanne Wood AM today set out her vision of meeting all Wales’ energy needs through renewables by 2050 – and also developing high quality, long-term jobs on Ynys Môn to replace those in the nuclear industry.

Under her energy action plan, a new Department of Energy for Wales would be based on Ynys Môn. Funding would come to the Welsh Government from winning control of Crown Estate revenue and a fair share of nuclear decommissioning funds.

The key points of the energy plan are:

•  Powers to consent all electricity generation infrastructure to be transferred to the National Assembly as a matter of urgency
•  An Energy Department for Wales to be established on Ynys Môn as soon as powers are transferred
•  A presumption against any new fossil fuel power stations, and a full moratorium on new nuclear
•  The Energy Department to publish a detailed energy plan leading to a fully renewable Wales by 2050

Advice on the energy policy was provided to Leanne Wood by Dr Calvin Jones of the Cardiff Business School, author of ‘Wales in the Energy Crunch’.

Leanne Wood believes that renewable energy development should be brought closer to communities. And each council should be given local targets for renewable energy generation. Her Greenprint for the Valleys document highlighted the Green Valleys project in the Brecon Beacons which has shown how a renewable energy co-operative can work.

Leanne Wood rules out the development of new nuclear power stations in Wales. “Some people argue that nuclear can be part of the solution for Wales but I fully support Plaid’s opposition to any new nuclear power stations. Nuclear power is very expensive and outdated, a view shared in Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Belgium. It diverts finance from investing in renewables, and it can’t come on stream soon enough to make Wales’ rapid decarbonisation a reality.

“Perhaps most importantly, while current generations reap the benefits of relatively cheap electricity, the costs of dealing with dangerous radioactive waste will pile up on our descendants thousands of years into the future. Buy now, pay later – a nuclear ideology that’s the antithesis of sustainable development. Nuclear is unsafe, expensive and a distraction from the cheap, abundant natural energy resources we have around us.

“Politicians have a responsibility to do more than just oppose, so that is why I’m proposing alternative plans to provide jobs for our young people so they are not forced to move away for work.”

Leanne Wood says the profits from Wales’ natural resources – the seabed and the land – which currently go to the Crown Estate should be owned by the Welsh Government for the benefit of the people of Wales. And she says the “national scandal of deaths and hardship caused by fuel poverty” must be tackled as top priority. All homes in Wales should be insulated to the maximum levels, she says.

Leanne Wood added: “Wales is blessed with some of the best renewable resources in Europe. It’s time to make the most of them, putting the people of Wales in control of the clean energy revolution – the path to real energy independence.”

Leanne Wood 2012, 10 February 2012

She has also written a more detailed position paper on the subject, which can be read here:

     Real Energy Independence: An Energy Policy fit for 2050

It's very impressive, and part of the reason I'll be giving her my first preference vote in the leadership election.

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How can anyone trust such a blatant liar?

I've said this before, but I'll repeat it. There is room for different opinions about what Plaid Cymru's policy should be on any particular issue, and we have lively debates about it. But at the end of the day we come to a democratic decision about what our policy is.

On the issue of nuclear power, Dafydd Elis-Thomas is perfectly free to disagree with party policy. However disagreeing with it is one thing, but lying about it is something very much more serious. This is a clip from last night's Sharp End:


Dafydd made it clear that he is in favour of building a new nuclear power station at Wylfa. But when Adrian Masters pointed out that the Plaid Cymru is opposed to nuclear power he said "No" and went on to talk about what was decided at conference ... although he doesn't finish the sentence. A few moments later he was asked if he could lead the party and have a different view to that which was expressed at conference. He said, "I've done that before ... but in this case it's not a different view."

In their answers, both Leanne and Elin also said that Plaid Cymru is opposed to any new nuclear power stations in Wales, and that they agree with that policy.


So are Leanne, Elin and Adrian telling the truth ... or is Dafydd? All we need to do is look at the motion that was passed at Conference:

(Newport Branches / European Parliamentary Group)

Conference notes:
1. The tragic consequence of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan which led to the dangerous situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, namely that fuel in the reactors produced considerable amounts of heat which led to a full meltdown, causing radioactive material to leak.
2. That the incident at Fukushima, occurring on the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl, heightens concerns for the safety of nuclear energy.
3. That as a result the European Commission has proposed stress tests on all current nuclear reactors, and the UK government has called on the Chief Nuclear Inspector to carry out a review of nuclear installations.
4. That as a result, Germany has announced that all the country’s nuclear power plants will be phased out by 2022. Switzerland has also committed to phasing out nuclear power by 2034.

Conference further notes:
1. The essential principle of energy independence given Plaid’s long term ambition for devolved sovereignty and independence.
2. That as a net exporter of energy with massive undeveloped renewable energy potential new nuclear developments are not required in Wales in the long term in order to meet energy demand. Further investment is required into developing the potential of wave and tidal technologies which when commercialised could lead to Wales becoming more self sufficient in renewable energy.
3. That cost per KW of production for some forms of renewable power generation are lower than nuclear.
4. That the long term costs of nuclear decommissioning are not calculated.
5. The proven evidence of the effect of carbon emissions towards catastrophic climate change, also the growing pressure on fossil fuel resources including significant commodity price escalation as we approach peak fossil fuel production.
6. That the current coalition government’s policies on the carbon price floor will serve in the short term to raise consumer fuel bills and will leave the nuclear industry by the far the biggest beneficiary and also therefore fail to optimise the potential investment in renewable energy that variants of this legislation could bring.

Conference reaffirms:
1. Plaid Cymru’s belief that all energy decisions should be devolved in full to Wales.
2. Plaid Cymru’s total opposition to the construction of any new nuclear power stations. If the Westminster government gives the go ahead for a new nuclear power station at Wylfa, we should make sure that the investment recognises the need to employ local people, invest in training to maximise local employment and make sure that indigenous companies benefit from supply chain opportunities.

Conference calls:
1. For Plaid at all levels to lobby the coalition Westminster government to restructure Carbon Price Floor legislation in order to exempt nuclear power from receiving any form of public funded subsidy.
2. For the EU’s nuclear stress tests to be carried out by independent experts and to be based on robust criteria.
3. On Plaid Cymru to welcome Germany’s decision to phase out all nuclear power stations and to encourage other governments across the world, including the United Kingdom, to follow their lead.
4. For greater investment by the Welsh government in renewables and energy efficiency measures.

Plaid Cymru Conference Handbook, 2011

This represents the original motion together with the amendments to it as passed at conference. Full details are in this post.

So what Dafydd said is clearly wrong. At our conference in September last year we reaffirmed our "total opposition to the construction of any new nuclear power stations" including Wylfa B.

The amendment that was added simply says that if it is forced onto us by Westminster against our will, we should try and get the best out of it at local level. Elin explains that very well later in the debate.


This is why Dafydd Elis-Thomas is totally unfit to be the leader of Plaid Cymru. He might well be eloquent, I'll willingly grant him that, but isn't it much better for us to have someone with who will tell the truth with a few umms and ahhs than a smooth talking, but blatant, liar? This is an internal Plaid Cymru election. If Dafydd lacks the basic moral decency to tell people in his own party the truth in this election, how on earth will anyone outside the party be able to trust anything he says on behalf of the party when it comes to future elections?

More importantly, how can we hope to make any electoral breakthrough as a party if we as party members are foolish enough to choose a leader who is a blatant liar?

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The Humpty Dumpty of Welsh Politics

It was sad to see that Dafydd Elis-Thomas's recently professed conversion to independence for Wales is based on a very idiosyncratic version of what independence actually is. On CF99 yesterday evening he said this:


"What I want to stress, in connexion with Wales, is that the only independence that is possible to any country in the 21st century is an independence which is co-dependence in a federal Europe, and therefore to transform the United Kingdom to make it part of a federal Europe. That's not very different from what I've been saying for years."

This is as complete a perversion of the idea of independence as it is possible to get. Why should independence for Wales only be possible if the United Kingdom is part of a federal Europe? The EU is not a federation, it is an organization of twenty seven independent member states. In terms of its organization, policies are primarily determined in the Council of the European Union, in which the individual heads of government (or sometimes other ministers, such as the finance ministers) of each state hammer out agreements. And even though the EU Commissioners have a good deal of power, they are all nominated by member states.

Our independence has absolutely nothing to do with what the EU may or may not become in the future. Perhaps we will see a federal Europe, but I very much doubt it. Are countries like France, Denmark, Portugal or Poland going to give up their seats in the United Nations and other international organizations to a single representative from a federal Europe? Of course not. Each of them realizes the benefits of being an independent state and isn't going to give that up. Tying Welsh independence into the idea of a federalization of Europe is almost guaranteed to make it less attractive to people in Wales rather than more attractive. Though, come to think of it, that might well be exactly what Dafydd wants.

What Plaid Cymru wants is for Wales to take its own place alongside the other independent nations of Europe, with the same status as each of them already has now. Wales' independence is simply not affected one way or the other by the future direction the European Union might take.


Dafydd is a victim of his own vanity. The only honest reason he could possibly give for his professed support for independence is that he has changed his mind about it. But his ego won't allow him to do it. That's why he has to twist his outspoken opposition to independence in the past in order to try and get us to believe that what he's saying now is "not very different from what I've been saying for years".

As Lewis Carroll put it:


It's pathetic. In Dafydd Elis-Thomas we have our very own Humpty Dumpty. Not only is he living in a make-believe world of his own, he's mastered the scornful tone to go with it.

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A toxic waste of space

One of the millstones around the neck of Plaid Cymru while Ieuan Wyn Jones has been leader has been nuclear power. The party is unequivocally opposed to nuclear power, but Ieuan was personally in favour of it.

But at least Ieuan was honest about the situation. He realized that his position was at odds with that of the party, even though it made things awkward, embarrassing even, whenever he was questioned on the subject; instead of being able to give a straight answer to the question, he had to give complicated answers that compromised him and made it look as if Plaid's policy on the issue wasn't clear. It's hardly surprising, because most other parties have policies that are determined by the leadership, rather than by party members.

So the very last thing Plaid Cymru needs is another leader who will not be able to give straight and unequivocal answers about nuclear energy.


Nuclear energy was one of the subjects that came up on the CF99 leadership debate yesterday evening. I think it's well known that both Leanne Wood and Elin Jones are against nuclear energy, but that Dafydd Elis-Thomas is in favour of it. But what I found disturbing was Dafydd's intervention to jump down Elin's throat when she made the simple statement that not only she, but that Plaid Cymru as a party, was opposed to nuclear power.


He interrupted her with a rather petulant, "Well you'll lose Ynys Môn if you carry on talking like that, I have to say." Then tried to interrupt her again later.

How can anyone in Plaid contemplate having a leader that not only holds a position which is completely opposite to party policy, but one who is completely unapologetic about it and openly dismisses something that has been democratically decided by the party's membership? At least Ieuan was principled enough to acknowledge Plaid's position on the issue was at odds with his own.

Dafydd clearly does not share the same principles. He's just shown us that if he gets to be leader all we'll ever hear from him are his own personal views, rather than those of the party he is meant to represent.

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A clear direction of travel

I was pleased to see that ITV had commissioned another poll from YouGov; and the results were fairly comprehensively reported in last week's Sharp End, and here on the ITV Wales blog.

But I always like looking at the full information, which has just been put up on the YouGov website, here. I want to pick up on a couple of things from it.


First, although it is true that only a disappointing 33% of Plaid Cymru voters said they wanted to see an independent Wales, this was in fact the figure for those who would vote Plaid in Assembly constituencies. The equivalent figure for those who vote Plaid in Westminster elections is a much more respectable 45%. The difference is best explained by noting that appreciably fewer people vote Plaid in Westminster elections (165,394 or 11.3% in 2010) than in Assembly elections (182,907 or 19.3% in 2011). Those who vote Plaid in both can be considered as our "hard core" supporters, and they are obviously more likely to want an independent Wales.

The second thing that struck me was the marked variation of opinion about how Wales should be governed according to different age groups:

 18-2425-3940-59   60+Overall
No devolution6%16%15%25%17%
Assembly with fewer powers3%1%3%5%3%
Status quo28%30%32%31%30%
Assembly with more powers45%31%30%28%32%

The 17% who want to revert back to direct government from Westminster in the event of Scotland becoming independent is very heavily influenced by the negative attitude of older voters. Only 6% of young voters would do away with the Assembly.

The percentage wanting to stick with the status quo is remarkably similar across the all ages, so although wanting more powers is the most popular option overall (32%) that figure is much higher among younger voters (45%).


So the direction of travel is very clear. We're not going to go backwards, despite the 51% of Tory voters who would like that ... even Andrew RT Davies dismissed that possibility. So the only real question is what extra powers we should be pressing for now, and what the timescale should be. As I see it, the Silk Commission needs to produce a comprehensive package of additional powers and responsibilities—together with a larger Assembly and a revised voting system for it—which would be introduced though a new Government of Wales Act to be passed by Westminster before the next UK election in May 2015, and come into effect for the Assembly election in May 2016.

The temptation will be to do nothing until the result of the Scottish independence referendum is known. But that would be a bad idea. If the unionist parties are to have any hope of keeping Scotland within the United Kingdom, they must show that they are prepared to change the way the UK works by offering a radically improved degree of autonomy to its constituent nations. If the best they can offer Wales is a bit of tinkering around the constitutional edges, how will anyone in Scotland believe that the same unionist parties would be able to agree on and deliver some form of devo-max for them?

If, between them, they can't deliver a substantial degree of additional autonomy to Wales, there is absolutely no chance that they will be able to deliver an even more substantial degree of autonomy to Scotland, is there?

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Simon jumps, and might pull Elin down too

Starting with the obvious: Simon Thomas had absolutely no chance of becoming leader of Plaid Cymru and therefore it is not too much of a surprise to see him bow out of the leadership race. The only question to ask is why he put himself up for election in the first place.

However there is one aspect of his retirement from the leadership contest that is a cause for serious concern. He is reported on both the BBC and WalesOnline as saying that he would support Elin Jones "as her deputy on a joint ticket".

This is simply not possible. The Standing Orders for the party's group in the National Assembly make it quite clear that:

3.2  The leader of the party’s group in the National Assembly shall be elected by the party’s membership in accordance with the relevant Standing Orders.

3.3  All other officers of the Group [this includes the Deputy Leader] are to be elected by secret ballot of the members of the group following the party’s Rules for Internal Elections.

The new leader of Plaid Cymru cannot determine who will be her deputy after she is elected. It is up to the party's AMs, and only the party's AMs, to decide who the deputy leader should be. There is no such thing as a "joint ticket". In a way this is a shame, because I personally had argued for such an arrangement in this post back in May. But rules are rules, and it wasn't possible to change them.


However what seems more disturbing is that Elin Jones, judging by what she is reported as saying in WalesOnline, seems to have bought into the idea of Simon as her deputy. It is actually more embarrassing for a potential leader to not understand how the election of the deputy leader works.

If anything, she appears to have been so unquestioningly grateful for Simon's support that she was willing to offer him a position that is not in the gift of the party leader. And it might well prove to be a poisoned kiss. After all, if Simon doesn't have leadership qualities, it's tying a millstone round your own neck to say that you want him to be your deputy leader. And it seems particularly ill-advised for Elin to say that Simon's vision for Plaid Cymru is "identical" with her own when the one thing that was most obviously lacking in Simon's leadership bid was any sense of vision. That's surely the main reason why he was getting virtually no support from party members.

This is a shame, because I think Elin would make a good leader ... although in my opinion not as good a leader as Leanne Wood will be.

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