Now that he has been selected as Plaid Cymru's candidate for the Ynys Môn by-election, Rhun ap Iorwerth has made a public statement about where he stands on Wylfa B.
I have long held my own opinion on Wylfa and its potential for Anglesey and there was nothing lukewarm about the potential that Wylfa B offers Anglesey in the selection meeting last night or among members of Plaid Cymru on Anglesey.
We are very comfortable with the position taken by many members of the party throughout Wales in their principled stand on nuclear. Even though Labour tries to say we are split we will work to make the Wylfa development if it happens work for the people of Anglesey.
In Plaid Cymru in Anglesey we need to make sure that this happens in the interests of Anglesey, our young people and communities.
The first paragraph is tortuously ambiguous. He says he has his "own opinion" of Wylfa, but won't actually say what his position is. He owes it to us to make his position clear: does he support it, or is he opposed to it?
Nor do I know who else is included in the "we" in his second paragraph; but if he means Plaid Cymru members on Môn, he is presenting the same false picture that others have done before him. Bob Parry recently told Taro'r Post that the whole Plaid group on Môn supported Wylfa B. They don't. In 2011 he criticized Jill Evans for speaking at an anti-nuclear conference in Caernarfon saying that her presence would be "misleading". But it was he who was doing the misleading.
Rhun is on the brink of going down the same path. It is worth repeating—and I will repeat it as many times as others in the party say misleading things about it—that Plaid Cymru's opposition nuclear power is not a position taken by just "many" of its members, but by most of its members. It is party policy, decided by our members at our party conference.
The full text of the party's position on nuclear power is here, and it clearly states our:
total opposition to the construction of any new nuclear power stations
And in case anybody tries Elfyn Llwyd's trick of saying that Wylfa B isn't "new", but an extension of what is already there, the very same motion specifically states that Wylfa B would be a "new nuclear power station".
Up until now I have not known where Rhun stood on this issue. My objection to him being allowed to stand or being selected was based on the fact that we could not properly assess his suitability to stand as a Plaid Cymru candidate in such a short time. I had hoped that his first statement would be something much more positive:
I had hoped Rhun would say that he is totally opposed to Wylfa B and will fight to stop it happening.
I had hoped Rhun would say that it is being forced on us by a Westminster government that will not let Wales decide our own energy policy for ourselves.
I had hoped Rhun would say that we in Wales can produce more electricity than we consume from renewable sources, a major part of which are around the coast of Ynys Môn, and that we will create better jobs on the island by developing these than by building a new nuclear power station.
I had hoped Rhun would say to those already working in the nuclear industry who are concerned about their jobs that there will be plenty jobs for decades to come in decommissioning Wylfa A, making it safe and cleaning up its toxic legacy.
I had hoped Rhun would say that the cost of dealing with new and very much more toxic nuclear waste—which would have to be kept on the island indefinitely rather than moved to Sellafield as happens now—will be a millstone round the neck of future generations that Wales as a nation will struggle to afford.
... and I had hoped Rhun would also say that if, and only if, a Westminster government forces Wylfa B onto us despite all our objections, it had damn well better ensure that we at least get something out of it in terms of construction jobs, supply chain opportunities and the skills necessary for the operation of the station once completed.
If he has any political sense at all, Rhun will say all of these things. It is not too late for him to do so. What is wrong with Rhun's statement to the Daily Post is that he makes the last point without making all the other points. He cannot hope to get away with that. He needs to unequivocally express his opposition to nuclear power before he gets to the "if".
Even if Rhun is hesitant to do this for personal reasons, he needs to do it for electoral reasons. Apart from any argument based on principle (and by that I mean both being opposed to nuclear power on principle and the principle of having a Plaid Cymru candidate who supports Plaid Cymru's policy) it is stupid to support a new nuclear power station at Wylfa B when most local people think there are better ways of generating electricity and creating jobs.
A survey carried out by Bangor University in 2010 showed that:
91% thought renewable energy was a good or very good idea. Only 2% didn't.
People put solar power, wave machines and windfarms ahead of nuclear power as a way of producing electricity. Only a minority wanted to see nuclear power developed.
74% wanted energy jobs on the island to be created in the alternative/renewable energy sector. Only 35% wanted them created in the nuclear sector.
Of course there is a need for more high-quality jobs on Môn. No-one disagrees with that. But only an idiot would try to attract votes from a small percentage of people when, by speaking out clearly against nuclear power and in favour of the alternatives to it, he would attract votes from the much larger percentage of people who don't want Wylfa B. Do the maths.
If he fails to oppose nuclear energy Rhun will be in grave danger of throwing this by-election away. This would be bad enough, but there would be much more serious consequences for Plaid Cymru than the loss of one seat, and those consequences will be just as real if we fail to express our opposition yet somehow manage to hold on to it.
We need to face up to the fact that our party has been a laughing stock for years by allowing political commentators and opponents to say that we are opposed to new nuclear power stations everywhere in Wales ... except in Môn! That now needs to change.
If we're afraid to look at our own face in the mirror, then we should look and learn from what has just happened to Leighton Andrews. We have rightly criticized him for trying to make his local patch an exception to the policies of his own party. Do we think that the same won't apply every bit as much to us if Rhun tries to do the same in Ynys Môn? Mae'n cymryd aderyn glan i ganu.
What is at stake here is Plaid Cymru as a credible and electable national party. We need to be consistent. We cannot say one thing to one small part of Wales while saying something else to the rest of the nation. The rest of the nation will laugh at us; people who laugh at us will not vote for us; and unless we can win votes all across Wales we will never move our nation forward.