Monday 6 June 2011

Nuclear confusion

I didn’t see Question Time last week myself, but MH draws attention to a pretty black-and-white statement by Elfyn Llwyd which clearly is not in line with the wording of the motion passed by Plaid’s members at last year’s annual conference.  The amendment proposed by Plaid’s Assembly Group – and therefore, presumably, supported by at least a majority of that group - only called for any benefits of building Wylfa B to go to the local community. 
It did not support the building of the power station itself.  For an allegedly nationalist party, the wording was more than a little wishy washy though.  “Conference recognises that the decision as to whether a new nuclear power station is built at Wylfa is a matter for the UK Government”, as though that is excuse enough for taking a more neutral stance on the issue.  It’s akin to saying that we can’t influence the decision, we can only deal with the consequences of it.  I found it hard to believe that this was coming from the same party which did so much to oppose the Tryweryn proposal half a century ago.
As I noted at the time, many of those who spoke in favour of the amendment made it very clear that they were actually supporting the building of Wylfa B.  My concern then was that the amendment would be interpreted in precisely the way in which Elfyn interpreted it last week.  And I suspected at the time that that was probably the intention of those behind the wording.
What is perfectly clear by now – and again, it’s a point to which I’ve alluded before – is that Ieuan Wyn Jones is by no means alone within Plaid in supporting the construction of Wylfa B; there are a significant number of other elected members and candidates who support his stance.
There are two separate issues here which are often confused.  The first is whether opposing nuclear energy is the right or the wrong thing to do.  Personally, I’m opposed; I’ve made that clear, along with the grounds for my opposition, on a number of occasions.  It’s not a great issue of principle for me, but a conclusion to which I have come on the basis of the evidence available.  Others come to a different conclusion on the basis of the same evidence.  That’s a viewpoint which I can respect and debate with.
But the second issue is the one of political credibility, and it’s much more general than the simple question of nuclear energy.  To what extent can any party claim to take a clear position on a particular policy issue when a significant number of its candidates and elected members will not actually support that policy when it comes to a vote?  And how can a party claim that its policy is determined by the membership if the party’s elected members are free to ignore it or even argue the exact opposite?
‘Policy’ is supposed to be what a party would implement if in government; it’s pointless having a policy on an issue if that ceases to be true.


Ioan said...

Trust me, Plaid would not win in Ynys Mon if Plaid (and IWJ) was seen to be anti-nuclear.

John Dixon said...


I'm not entirely convinced about that; after all, Plaid is, and has been for many years, anti-nuclear even if IWJ is not.

The point is, though, that if members want Plaid to be pro-nuclear instead, they should propose that and seek to convince the rest of the party - not simply ignore democratically taken decisions by claiming that the party's position is the opposite of what the members have decided.

maen_tramgwydd said...

Regrettably, this is just one symptom of the party's failings.

It seems to me it sells its principles cheaply.. in this case, to get IWJ elected!

When nuclear goes wrong, it goes disastrously wrong. One catastrophic event and much of these islands could be uninhabitable, not just Ynys Mon.
What a price to pay for a few hundred jobs!

Jobs are needed throughout Wales, and the only way they will be created in sufficient numbers and quality is if we in Wales are in charge of the economy, not the incompetents in Whitehall and Westminster who care not a jot about us.

Plaid has been satisfied to jump for the crumbs falling Wales' way, instead of putting the case for self-determination honestly to the Welsh electorate. It's ironic that Salmond has to do it by proxy.

Plaid has been heading in the wrong direction since 1999, and especially since 2006. Sad to say in my opinion IWJ has a lot to do with it.

If you get the wrong leader you end up in the wrong place. Unfortunately it's where Plaid is today.. in the wilderness for at least five years.

Anonymous said...

The nuclear issue has been a long-running sore in Plaid. Remember Lord Trawsfynydd B?
A strong and clear policy that is gaining ground among the population is undermined by party leaders incapable of seeing further than their own political survival. Frankly, if IWJ lost his seat on an anti-nuclear platform would that be as bad as him keeping it and undermining his entire party?
As people have said elsewhere, the loss of anti-nuclear voters who would otherwise be natural Plaid voters is not be discounted. As well as those voters who like their politicians to have a backbone and principles.

Boncath said...

The mention of Tryweryn touches a raw nerve in that an area of Wales was sterilised for the benefit of England.
Tryweryn could be drained and nature would reclaim it all in a relatively short space of time but in the case of nuclear power we are talking multi generations of decommissioning time
Plaid policy is still to oppose nuclear power.
What has happened is that it is not a simple matter to switch from one power source to another. If we were able to switch off nuclear power in Wales electricity generation from other sources could not fill the energy gap
Wind farms are not the solution in that they too are ouside of our control and we are still locked in the colonial vice with them
What is needed is full control of our own country and we should not shy from demanding that without fear or favour of any one

Anonymous said...

Plaid would still win Ynys Mon at Assembly level on an anti-nuclear ticket.

Nearly everyone who votes Plaid knows that they are 'anti'.

Nearly everyone on Anglesey knows that the overwhelming proportion of jobs buiding Wylfa B will go to outsiders living on camps and spending very little in the local economy.

Nearly everyone knows that a Wylfa B will employ less people than Wylfa A

Nearly everyone knows that it will make little difference to wage levels on Anglesey nor long term job opportunities.

Nearly everyone on Anglesey konws that you have X number of people in Wylfa A and that Wylfa B will employ less than that so in the long term that's a negative on job creation.

Nobody really cares that much whether it's built or not. They couldn't give a flying. The only thing that will chnage that is for the politicians to give their personal guarentee that if it's built, it will provide more long term full time jobs than what's there now.

I could gove loads of other reasons why people smirk about Wylfa but it just gets boring.

So far, despite repeated requests, the likes of Owen the MP refuse to gurentee that.

Ergo nobody really gives a flying.

John Dixon said...


Nothing to disagree with there.

Anon 17:01,

"As people have said elsewhere, the loss of anti-nuclear voters who would otherwise be natural Plaid voters is not be discounted. As well as those voters who like their politicians to have a backbone and principles."

As I've noted before, I found it uncomfortable during the 2010 election (and in 2007, for that matter) to be saying that, on this issue, the leader did not speak for his party. Did his stance lose votes in other constituencies? Certainly, although it's impossible to be sure how many. The problem is that no matter how many times someone like me said that the party's view was not the same as that of the leader, it is ultimately an unsustainable position to take, not least because a significant number of elected representatives seem to share the leader's view. People will believe, inevitably, that a party will do what its elected members say it will do, not what the membership says. And, if we're honest, that's entirely reasonable isn't it?


My mention of Tryweryn was in a more limited context - specifically, can anyone imagine Gwynfor in the 1960s telling a party conference that this was "a matter for the UK Government" and therefore all we could do was ensure that as many as possible of the jobs went to local people? It underlines how much the advent of devolution has limited the horizons and imagination of some. There is another parallel, of course - in both cases, we are talking about a major infrastructure project in Wales for the benefit of those outside Wales.

On your final point, "What is needed is full control of our own country and we should not shy from demanding that without fear or favour of any one", well, of course I agree.

Spirit of BME said...

I believe the amendment that the Assembly Group made was a fix to support Iron Whine Jones on a local issue, but does this surprise me – no.
I believe in the First Universal Truth of politics (FUT) which Plaid Cymru was nearly there in obeying, which is –Every decision you make in Politics, you create enemies. So not having the power to stop it or being in the power chain, do not make enemies. However, they should have said more and made the point that the people of Wales have no power to stop these English Strategic developments as long as Wales is under English Rule.
As for QT, you missed nothing but a toe curling and dreadful performance by Elfin Lewd. He feels he can make policy on “the hoof” and has a little bit of previous on this issue, when he has appeared on Newsnight.
Ah -if only I was his Constituency Chairman , I would be hauling his ample bottom back for a short business like meeting to advise him that he has spent his two yellow cards and explaining to him (in all fairness) what the next colour card is and it`s consequences.