John Dixon has been an outspoken critic of Plaid Cymru since resigning his membership at the end of last year.
I’ve got huge respect for John, and I it’s a great shame that he’s left us. I feel that he still has a lot to contribute, and I would much rather him working to develop Plaid from within than sniping from the outside.
His blog postings are always thoughtful and worth a read. This one in particular, for Plaid members and Plaid supporters, is worth spending some time to think over, more especially to my mind, the first half, which discusses the breadth of Plaid’s ambitions forWales.
I have no doubt that Plaid is the party that has the clearest vision of where we wantWalesto be in 5, 20, 50 years time. It’s obvious however that we have failed to convey that not only to the electorate but to our own supporters, John included.
But instead of going into discussion about that particular point, it might be worth considering this.
In the past Plaid Cymru has conveyed some grand ideas for where we would like to seeWales. Each and every time the party has been criticised, not just by the opposition parties but also by the media and commentators, of developing pie-in-the-sky policies, ideas that were undeliverable. This came back to us on the doorstep each time without fail.
With each election it could be said that though our long term vision has remained the same our short term vision, that of the immediate election, has been limited by the scope of what is immediately achievable. Because elections come around so frequently we have had to spend an inordinate amount of time concentrating on short term success at the expense of our long term ambitions.
Could it also be said that we are too thin skinned, and too nice? We can’t handle the criticism of not being able to come up with (according to others) realistic, deliverable policies, so what do we do? Spend our time coming up with these exact kinds of policies. With the current structure of devolution it should come as no surprise that what is immediately achievable will inevitably be limited in its scope. It should also come as no surprise that they will be broadly similar to pledges made by other parties, after all Wales is a left-of-centre country, and each of the parties seek advice from the same organisations and considers if these suggestions tie in with the party’s broader objectives and principles. These minor changes will undoubtedly make Wales a slightly better place, but will admittedly not achieve that utopia that we are constantly searching for.
What we failed to do previously was explain that previous policies were deliverable, but admit that they were not necessarily deliverable within the current settlement. We were painting a picture of the kind of Wales that we would like to see.
Now, it seems to me that one is the more pragmatic, realist route – that of telling the people of Waleswhat they can realistically expect over the next five years; and the other is the more distant, visionary route, what we would like to see achieved, given the proper powers.
Does the two have to be mutually exclusive of each other? No I don’t think so. One of the challenges facing us now is to understand how we can put both sets of ideas in front of the people of Wales and ask them to join with us on this journey over 5 years and over the next generation.