Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Poppies and Dragons.

Enjoyed the conference in Carmarthen at the weekend. The party really has got its act together after a couple of poor years and a lot of the background work over the last six months is coming to fruition. Our finances are on a very solid foundation we have a new campaigns unit and we have a new image unveiled for the first time.

I am a big fan of the new look although I must confess I was not expecting to like the design as much as I do. In fact I turned up to conference rather nervously wondering what we had let ourselves in for. Set on a dark background the image is quite stunning. Its warm and friendly and although it will take a little time to "bed down" will develop into a well loved symbol.

A number of people have asked why we have dropped the dragon. My take on it is that the dragon has now become the emblem for the Country. Twenty years ago there were far fewer dragons on display around Wales now they are everywhere. This is a reflection of the growing Welsh identity and the fact that we are moving in leaps and bounds towards becoming a "nation". I think its important that the symbols of that nation are not owned by any one party or group. The fact is that there are members and supporters of other parties who are just as "welsh" as anyone in Plaid. Why they would choose to support the unionist/british nationalist parties is beyond my comprehension but I don't question their Welsh identity and we need to ensure that we can all unite around the symbols of the broader community/nation.

The issue of the leadership roles has been an interesting one. I was a supporter of the move to split the role of President and Assembly leader. Howver its clear that the leader in the Assembly needs to be the overall leader with the President working with the local parties and members to develop the party on the ground. The most intersting aspect has been how the party has united behind Ieuan Wyn Jones in the last few months. He is seen as having handled the new situation in the assembly very well and has delivered some serious gains for Plaid. Previous opponents are happy to praise his strengths and offer help to resolve any weaknesses.

There is a clarity, sense of purpose and determination about the party that I have not seen before. Nobody has any illusion that the assembly elections will be anything other than a hard fight but we will go into them in a far better condition than we entered the last round of elections.

Nye bevan would be ranting and raving....

My speech to last weekends conference in Carmarthen went something like this:

"Conference I know we have been talking about the future this weekend but perhaps you could indulge me a moment and think back a couple of years to Culture net Cymru's search for the top Welsh hero.

You may remember that Nye Bevan "won" the vote in rather odd circumstances. I wonder what Nye would make of the way Labour in London and Cardiff is running the NHS.Its tempting to say he would weep or be spinning in his grave if he could see what Labour have done to the NHS. Surely he would raging against these incompetent Labour governments. In denbighshire we face cuts in hospital services and in prestatyn the closure of a well used and well loved Community Hospital. The Local health Boards approach to consultation is to decide to shut the hospital and then consult people over hwat should replace it. They then profess astonishment when people react angrily.

In next door Conwy Alan Pugh recently announced there would be 1000's of new nhs dentist places in Conwy provided by the private sector. After reading an article in the local paper I was astonished to see Mr Pugh boast that these new places would restore the number of NHS places to the level they were at in 1997! After eight years of Labour government in London and six in Cardiff we might get back to the level of NHS dentistry we had after eighteen years of Tory rule!

Nobody would seriously suggest Nye Bevan would ever have joined or supported Plaid Cymru. The fact is that those people who support the Bevan Ttradition and value the NHS need to make their political home here in Plaid Cymru".

Thursday, February 02, 2006

First Minister concerned about "uncertainty"

I was in Colwyn Bay to see the First Minister under scrutiny. He told the committee he had personal experience of "facing an uncertain future, not knowing whats happening from one to the next can lead to all sorts of problems people being unwell through anxiety etc" . He was talking about those staff in organisations that are being brought under direct assembly control. However the audience was wondering if he was referring to his government.......

In the part of the meeting dedicated to transport the Labour Members were talking about road signs and potholes. I thought I had wandered into a parish council meeting by mistake. It was up to Plaid and the Tories to raise the issue of North South links the role of transport in economic development etc.

The Fiirst Minister was surprisingly poor and seemed very complacent. There was no sense of urgency or of real interest. I got the feeling that he knows he wont be around as First Minister after 2007 and is just winding down. It was astonishing.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Always consistent........

No apologies for returning to the subject of Liberal democrats. After all they are a never ending source of amusement. So what are they up to at the moment beside trying to find a new leader?

Well in Scotland they are fighting a by-election campaign. Their candidate is fighting against Toll charges on a road bridge. Fairly typical of the Lib dem campaigning style to pick on a local issue and campaign on it. Nothing wrong with that you might think. However the tolls will only be brought in thanks to Lib dem councillors on the Transport Authority who voted in favour of the Tolls. Yep thats right. The Lib dem candidate in the by-election is campaigning against something that is only happening due to the support of the Liberal democrats.....

In Wales the Lib dems are part of the united opposition campaigning against the decision to take funding decisons regarding five major Arts Organisations off the Arts Council and bring them "in house". In other words politicians will make the decision about how much he organisation receieves. If the Welsh National Opera produced an opera about the Life of Owain Gln DWr and it does not find favour with the fanatical unionists on the Labour benches there is a fair chance it will get its funding cut or more likely they would not take the risk and stick to more familiar operatic tales from Italy or Germany. The same proposals have come forward from the Scottish Executive (government). The interesting thing is that the Lib dems are part of the government in Scotland. So one policy in Scotland and a different one in Wales.