Thursday 5 June 2008

Uncomfortable? Not I.

A letter in yesterday’s ‘Western Mail’ suggested that “many senior party figures do not feel comfortable in advocating independence”, despite it being the party's stated aim. As far as I am concerned, I beg to differ. I think I can count myself in the broad category of “senior party figures” (although it’s not a term I’d use in such an egalitarian organisation) but I have no problem whatsoever in supporting and advocating the party’s aims, and am not in the least afraid to say so. And I don’t do so just to "please a hard-core of party activists”; I do so because I believe that it is the most appropriate status for Wales to seek.

There has, of course, been a long-standing debate in the party about using the word 'Independence', and the word is one which many have traditionally shied away from. I have some sympathy with that position – not because I disagree with the aim, but because ‘Interdependence’ is a much better description of the relationships between states in the twenty-first century. That looks to most people, however, to be something of a semantic rather than a substantive argument, which is why the use of the word ‘Independence’ eventually became inevitable for the party.

Whether it is called ‘Independence’ or ‘Full National Status’, the party’s position is quite clear, and it didn’t change one iota as a result of espousing the I-word. We seek full membership of the European Union and the United Nations on the same basis as any other state. We seek the same status in the world for Wales as that enjoyed by Ireland or Denmark for instance.

There is, of course, a question of timescales. I’ve been a member of the party for close on 40 years, and I don’t think that there’s ever been a significant element in the party who honestly believed that Wales would or could sensibly move from where we are to full independence overnight. It has to happen in stages; we need to build the institutions of government which have been lacking in our nation for so long, and take on responsibilities in an incremental way.

Above all, constitutional progress in the direction which Plaid seeks can only happen with the informed and explicit support of the people of Wales themselves. In that context, I reject the view that because the majority of people in Wales do not currently support the aims of Plaid Cymru, that we should therefore change the aims. Phil Williams used to tell the story of how a man in Bargoed came up to him and said, “If only you’d drop this talk of self-government, Plaid would sweep the Valleys”. But what would we then be for?

I believe that it is the job of any party which has a vision of a different future to seek to lead public opinion on big issues rather than to follow it. Parties which merely follow public opinion all end up saying the same thing, and elections become nothing more than glorified beauty contests. And we would still have hanging and flogging as standard elements of our justice system.


Efrogwr said...

Another good post but there is an argument that now the new Assembly is running and with more powers an inevitability to make the system work, Plaid's role should leave defence of devolution to Labour and the LibDems and make the politicial, economic, social and cultural case for independence with enthusiasm now. 12-14% of the population nevertheless support independence. Just think what the level of support would be if we were actually campaigning for it! We don't make the very strong political, economic, cultural, moral case. Instead we still come across as defensive(compare the campaigning tone of the SNP's website with the total lack of arguments for independence on Plaid's site) and because we never run the arguments, they never get properly tested and strengthened and we remain all too often trapped in a Brit-Left intellectual agenda.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last comment and suggest that the question of independence should not be related to the background but should be given greater prominence from now on. It has always been the main plank in Plaid's bulwark and now is the time to proclaim and justify the cogent arguments for independence within the context of Europe and the wider world, as the equitable right and legitimate goal in the political and constitutional status of the nation.

John Dixon said...

I have to agree that we haven't done as much as we could to put the case in recent years. It was much more prominent in our campaigning when I joined the party all those years ago.

But we also need to remember that, if we can overcome the Labour roadblocks, we will be having a referendum in a couple of years' time on moving to a law-making parliament. There is a balance for us between placing that properly in the context of our longer term aspirations, and making sure that people are clear that they are voting on a very specific proposal. It sounds straightforward, but getting that balance right isn't a simple matter.

Draig said...

Have to agree with the first two posters here. If Plaid is a pro-independence party then it should be making the case for independence. I don't really see that at the moment.

I'm new to the Blaid but one of the main reasons I joined is because I support Welsh Independence. Scotland is confidently moving in this direction and we need to be more confident ourselves in at least stating our case.

Anonymous said...

For me the important thing is getting a parliament. Once that's in place then we can turn our attention to full national status.

Anonymous said...

Hear! Hear!
Please take note, John ;-)