During the campaign for the Westminster election in May, the Tories promised that they would deliver £12bn of welfare cuts ... but refused point-blank to tell us what, exactly, they were going to cut. Of course nobody doubted that they could make this level of cuts, but if they'd been specific about what they were going to cut, a lot of people might have had second thoughts about voting for them.
Yesterday, Plaid Cymru took a leaf directly out of that Tory book. They made a promise that, if elected next May, they would generate all Wales' electricity from renewable sources within 20 years ... but refused point-blank to tell us how they intended to do it.
As with the Tories and their welfare cuts, nobody doubts that Wales can produce more electricity from renewable sources than we consume. Although, to be precise, this isn't the same as saying that all Wales' electricity would come from renewables, but is probably what Plaid would have said if they'd thought more clearly about it. That in itself should give people a good idea of how seriously Plaid have thought this through.
But, to make that point more forcibly, we need to ask why Plaid only intend to produce this "route map" after they've been elected. What new information will be available next summer that isn't available right now? It's not as if there is some "secret" information that will only be available to Plaid Cymru if they form the next government.
In short, this policy announcement, as it stands, is nothing more than a confidence trick.
So what are Plaid Cymru playing at?
As I see it, there are two factors at play.
The first is blunt, but honest. There is no way that Plaid Cymru have a hope in hell of forming the next government of Wales. Plaid Cymru might, if they're very lucky, win one or two more seats next May, but (especially with the rise of UKIP) it is actually far more likely that they will lose one or two seats. In other words, they're pretty sure that they will never be called upon to deliver this "route map". It's the luxury of being in opposition.
The second is that if they were clear about how they intended to achieve it, they think (wrongly, in my opinion) they would alienate people and therefore stand even less chance of winning any new seats. However they formulate the renewable energy generating mix, it will mean many more wind farms and/or solar parks and/or tidal lagoons in Wales ... and will also mean new grid connexions to link these to the gird. Remember that only about 10% of our electricity is currently generated from renewables. We have a very long way to go.
From my time as a Plaid Cymru insider, I know that the party is all over the place when it comes to energy. Their policies in this area are hopelessly contradictory, and no-one is strong enough to unite the various factions and narrow interest groups within the leadership.
So, as it stands, this announcement should be, and will be, seen as nothing more than a joke. If Plaid Cymru want to be taken seriously, the answer is simple. Produce this "route map" now—before the election, not after it—and, if it's any good, they might be pleasantly surprised at how many people vote for Plaid because of it.
That's the way honest politics is meant to work. Only a party of charlatans could expect the public to buy a pig in a poke.