A week has gone by now since Wales voted Yes in the referendum.
I was the Yes campaign Agent in Denbighshire, and was also involved to varying degrees with the campaigns in Wrexham, Aberconwy and Meirionnydd.
I was therefore in a fortunate position to see the hard work carried out by the Yes supporters across most of the north.
The fact that the north east voted so strongly in favour gives me great pride. Denbighshire saw a complete reversal of the ’97 results, with 62% voting Yes this time around. Rachel Banner of the No campaign has admitted that they targeted the north east specifically, believing that the region was fruitful territory for their deceitful campaign. After all this is the region:
- that is home to John Broughton (Llandrillo, voted 65% Yes, by the way John!) one of the No campaign’s foremost members and agent to the Clwyd South Tory candidate;
- where the Tory group of Councillors on Denbighshire CC launched a No campaign and urged a No vote;
- where that disparate group of Councillors on Wrexham CBC held a press conference calling for a No vote.
With all this public activity it is no wonder that the No campaign thought that the north east was theirs for the picking.
Denbighshire was the first to announce the referendum results in ’97. Therefore considering the above facts and the fact that the region voted strongly in favour of No last time around, I knew that a good result in Denbighshire would bode well for the National result.
Denbighshire was the second authority to announce this time at 13:30. However those of us at the count knew the result within 1% of the actual final result by 11:00, thanks to the superb work carried out by our counting agents. We knew at that time that it was going our way.
But how was the vote won? How can we explain the strong support that was given to the Yes campaign this time around?
Plaid Cymru. You might expect me to say this, but here are the facts.
I accept that it was a cross-party campaign…or at least it was in parts of Wales. I managed to attend several public meetings across north Wales, all of which had representatives from all four of the main parties, and they all spoke well (or at least most did).
On a personal level I was in fairly regular contact with Susan Elan Jones, MP (Labour) and Mark Isherwood AM (Cons), and I’m sure that were it not for their political commitments that they would have done even more. But it was Plaid Cymru members and supporters who walked the streets and did the donkey work. The lack of information regarding the referendum is well documented. What made the difference is the fact that Plaid members and supporters managed to deliver over 100,000 leaflets across north east Wales. Without this grafting by our supporters the people of north east Wales would have had NO information relating to the referendum, other than the booklet posted out by the Electoral Commission.
On the day that the votes were counted Vaughan Roderick, BBC Welsh Affairs Correspondent, said that it was the Labour Party’s support for the referendum that won it in Flintshire. This made a number of Plaid supporters very angry as it was they that had walked the streets, knocked on the doors, and delivered the literature, in Delyn at least.
In Clwyd South and Wrexham while Plaid members were out campaigning for a Yes vote the Labour party were campaigning for their own election candidates.
The truth is that without Plaid Cymru there would never have been a Yes campaign in north east Wales.
Yes Chris Ruan Vale of Clwyd MP (Lab) started campaigning for a Yes vote with a fortnight to go, this after originally stating that his priority was getting Anne Jones AM re-elected in May. The reason he started campaigning for a Yes vote was because the Tory group on Denbighshire County Council (mainly Prestatyn) had started campaigning for a No vote. His motivation was a purely selfish party political one.
A prominent Tory was meant to be one of the main campaign organisers in Denbighshire, but failed to organise anything other than show his face in a few public meetings. The whole campaign fell on the shoulders of Plaid supporters, and they did themselves proud managing to distribute tens of thousands of leaflets and organising several events across the county.
Rachel Banner and her gang were playing on people’s fears, claiming that nothing ever came to the north. Their intention was to undermine any confidence in the Assembly and in the Assembly’s ability to deliver; to divide Wales and turn the Welsh against each other. They failed. The north east gave a resounding Yes vote – a vote of confidence in the National Assembly and a vote of confidence in Wales.
This isn’t to say that the people in north east Wales are not concerned that there isn’t enough investment in the area, and that there is a very real concern and perception that the south, especially Cardiff, gets favoured ahead of the north. But they voted Yes regardless. Why? Because their not stupid. Because they can see that this isn’t the Assembly’s fault as an institution, but is rather the fault of the individuals that they elect at the elections.
It is these politicians that decide on the Assembly’s priorities. It is these politicians that are supposed to fight their corner and speak on their behalf. It is their failure, not the Aassembly’s, and the electors in north east Wales are wise enough to understand this.
Some weeks ago Peter Hain said that Plaid Cymru was running the show in the Assembly – Plaid Cymru insisted on the referendum, he said. Thanks goodness for Plaid Cymru then!
As we look over the border at our brothers and sisters in England, and see how their NHS is being privatised, how their public services are being decimated, and how a class structure is being re-introduced into their education system, remember that it was Plaid Cymru that secured the powers for Wales to defend her own people from the Tory and LibDem cuts.
The National Election turn-out won’t be that different from the referendum turn-out. The referendum success was Plaid Cymru’s success. It is clear that the people of north east Wales are ready to listen to what Plaid has to say.
They’ve already given one vote of confidence in Wales. It’s only a matter of time before this becomes a habit and they start voting regularly for Plaid Cymru.
PS Thanks also to the people of Cefn Mawr, Davi Chris, and all at the Rock Stadium for a brilliant party on results night!