Monday 15 September 2008

Another year, another conference

Our conference went very well in Aberystwyth. The mood was positive and confident, and we're looking forward to the future. I think the media were a little disappointed - although unsurprised - at the lack of controversy and debate. Vaughan Roderick made precisely that point in giving his reasons for not joining us in Aber. There's nothing like a good row to give them something to report.

Actually, I think they're (almost) right. Our conferences have become pretty bland compared to the days when I first started attending them, back in the early 1970's. We used to have some really good rows and debates then, and in one or two of them, I seem to remember being one of the chief stirrers.

Some seem to assume that the lack of argument is somehow due to the party's hierarchy suppressing dissent. I rather like the idea that we could have that much control of course; but the truth is that there simply aren't a vast number of things about which we disagree at present, and we are not getting controversial proposals submitted for debate. I think, though, that the NEC need to work harder to find some controversy for each conference – it would liven things up a bit.

In the absence of any open appearance of dispute, sometimes people go looking for dissent. I was quite surprised at Betsan Powys' suggestion that a straw poll of 15 members suggested that a majority of party members were not confident that a referendum would be held on or before the Assembly elections in 2011. I am entirely convinced that there will be a referendum on the full implementation of the 2006 Act in the agreed timetable.

Although the detail of the promise does include a caveat, the spirit of the commitment given was completely clear, and I am confident that both parties recognise the importance of that pledge to the very existence of the One Wales coalition. If I believed for one moment that the leadership of Plaid Cymru were not intent on delivering that pledge, I would find it impossible to occupy my current role, given the clear statements of confidence which I have given on a number of occasions.

I am sceptical of the commitment of some in the Labour Party, and have expressed reservations about that from the outset. However, I am absolutely certain that they understand that any deliberate failure to abide by the spirit of the agreement to which they, like us, committed would be damaging to 'One Wales' and probably fatal to any prospect of a 'One Wales Mark 2' in the future.

Some of the initial coverage of our conference concentrated on the I-word. Given the nature of the questioning at the opening press conference, I can't say that I was surprised at this. As I have said before, the fact that we have a long term vision for the sort of Wales we want to see sometimes creates difficulties for us. People don't always understand the difference between short term programmes for a single term of office and longer term aspirations.

Those parties (basically, all the rest) who never look beyond the next election and are not at all troubled by any grander vision have no such difficulty, of course. It would be easy to forget, or shelve, the long term vision in order to concentrate on the here and now, and some people urge that we should do so. For me, that misses the point. If my only interest at any point was in what can be achieved in the next four years, I would have joined one of the other parties, not Plaid. It is the vision and the aspirations which set the context for the short term; without that context, what would be the point of Plaid?

1 comment:

Draig said...

Well, Ieuan Wyn was on the telly the other day saying that commitment to a 2011 referendum was contingent on continuing positive support in the POLLs for a Welsh Parliament (even though it's not a Parliament).

Relying on opinion polls to steer us through the stormy seas of constitutional change does not smack of good Captaincy in my book I'm afraid...