Plaid Cymru: Ninety Wasted Years

Former First Minister Rhodri Morgan is getting increasingly crabby in his twilight years. In his Wasting Mule column following the Scottish independence referendum he suggested that Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, failed the Richard Nixon ‘Would you buy a second-hand car off this guy?‘ test. A strange way of trying to put down a man widely respected across the political spectrum, both inside Scotland and without. A man regarded as a politician of intellect, ability and commitment to his cause. But then, reading what I’ve just written, and thinking back to the lazy and superficial Rhodri Morgan, a man renowned for soundbites and little else, it was probably just jealousy.

Last Saturday Mr Lightweight was at it again, this time laying into Saunders Lewis, president of Plaid Cymru from 1926, a year after the party’s creation, until 1938. His specific point was that Saunders Lewis made a big mistake in supporting Franco in the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) because had he supported the Republican side – which backed Basque and Catalan self-government – that stance would have resonated beRhodri Morgantter with Welsh people and resulted in increased support for Plaid Cymru, and of course he’s right . . . if one adopts a simplistic interpretation of events coupled with a deliberate mis-reading of history and the benefit of looking back from 2014.

Despite receiving aid and military support from both Mussolini and Hitler Franco was never a fascist himself. He certainly didn’t involve Spain in World War Two. (Although Falangist volunteers did fight on the Eastern Front.) I’ve always viewed Franco as a political animal of a variety we’re unfamiliar with in northern or Protestant Europe, by which I mean an authoritarian, Catholic reactionary. For while the Spanish Civil War may have been an ideological struggle to idealists of Right and Left in other countries, within Spain – certainly from the Nationalist side – the struggle was to maintain Catholic Spain from internal enemies. Due to it having been so ‘politicised’ we tend to forget that this was a war in which religion and the role of the church played a big part. When churches were being torched, nuns raped and priests butchered, it should have surprised no one then – or now – that a convert to Catholicism like Saunders Lewis supported Franco and followed the Vatican line.

As for why ‘Plaid Cymru’ didn’t challenge Saunders Lewis on his position vis-a-vis the Spanish Civil war, as Morgan asks, well the answer seems to have come in a reader’s letter in today’s Wasting Mule. In it, Hywel Davies of Morriston in Swansea says, “As to the claim of the tacit support of Plaid membership for Lewis, Saunders Lewis himself stressed that it was exactly the lack of such support that impelled his resignation as party president in 1938”.

It’s really scraping the barrel for a senior Labour figure to try to smear a political party and a wider movement as fascistic (despite protesting that he’s not doing that) just because of Saunders Lewis’ religious beliefs. Equally deplorable is Morgan reminding us that Lewis once said something favourable about Hitler. Wow! Just about everybody said something favourable about Hitler and Mussolini at some time in the 1930s; whether it was complimenting Hitler for getting Germans back to work or praising Mussolini for making the trains run on time. Far more sinister and self-deluding were those from Morgan’s own political background who travelled to the Soviet Union and came back believing that Stalin was the saviour of mankind, at the very time of show trials and engineered famine!


Though Rhodri Morgan’s spiteful little diatribe did serve to make me think about Plaid Cymru, and Saunders Lewis, whose real failing was that he was out of touch with twentieth century Wales. For his ‘Wales’ was restricted to the rural, Welsh-speaking west and the north that my great-grandparents had left a generation or two earlier. Which makes me suspect that someone else he admired – another devout Catholic and dweller in Never-Never land – was Eamon de Valera, who also dreamed of a bucolic Celtic paradise unsullied by anything English . . . such as cities, and industry . . .

And yet, this paradise to which Lewis wanted us all to return was overwhelmingly Protestant, and not just Protestant in the easy-going way of the Anglican church (a body known to my paternal grandmother as ‘them English Catholics’), but a forbidding realm of Saunders Lewisdisputatious sects for whom stained glass windows came close to idolatry and enjoyment of almost any sort could be highly suspect. (A world where, as Gwyn Thomas put it, ‘The only concession to gaiety was a striped shroud’.) Yet to these severe and self-denying country-folk Saunders Lewis, the English-born former army officer and academic who had converted to the smells and bells of Catholicism, was offering himself as the Messiah! There was more chance of Joe Stalin being invited for a few friendly beers down a Nazi bierkeller!

Which is why Rhodri Morgan was wrong to suggest that the political map of Wales would look entirely different today if Saunders Lewis had backed the other side in the Spanish Civil War. Plaid Cymru’s fortunes as a political party, and the refusal of most Welsh to accept the party, go well beyond the position of one man on a short war in a foreign country a long time ago. I say that because I believe Lewis had nothing to offer the urban and industrial areas with their anglophone majorities, and his aloofness and Catholicism meant that few heeded him even in the areas he hoped to speak for. Yet this is typical of Plaid Cymru, for the party has always been out of step with, if not alien to, the majority of Welsh people, due to its refusal to accept the reality of the Wales in which it found itself. Apart, that is, from a few, brief moments, when the party seemed to ‘connect’ . . . before hurriedly and fearfully ‘disconnecting’ again.


I joined Plaid Cymru in the mid-1960s, an exciting and turbulent time in Wales; bombs were going off, there were regular protests on the language and other issues with many being imprisoned, we had the tragedy of Aberfan and provocations such as Tryweryn and the Investiture, all of which combined to excite passions and lead many of us to believe that our country was being exploited and our people neglected. Plaid Cymru inevitably benefitted from this bitterness; first, with Gwynfor Evans’ by-election victory in Carmarthen in 1966, and then running Labour close in the by-elections at Rhondda West in 1967 and Caerphilly in 1968.

One strong memory I have of that period is how people could comfortably belong to a number of different organisations; a situation that allowed a card-carrying member of Plaid Cymru to don a combat jacket and forage cap on Friday night and head for the hills with the Free Wales Army. Obviously Gwynfor Evans and mostCayo of the party’s hierarchy disapproved of violence (which Gwynfor regularly attributed to MI5), but at a lower level there was a more ambivalent attitude. In this kaleidoscope, Plaid Cymru was merely the political wing of a much wider movement, a genuinely national movement. I suppose a comparison could be made with the Labour Movement of the time, where many Labour Party members, and certainly trade union officials, also belonged to the Communist Party, and other extreme Left wing groups.

Plaid Cymru’s 1960s momentum was maintained in the General Election of 1970 that saw the party, for the first time, field candidates in all seats and win 11.5% of the vote, though Carmarthen was lost. In the February election of 1974 Plaid won two seats – Caernarfon and Meirionnydd – then held those two and re-gained Carmarthen in the October election of the same year. Other seats – Ynys Môn and Ceredigion – were won in the late ’80s and early ’90s, but the share of the vote slipped, as Plaid retreated into its rural strongholds. Carmarthen was lost again in the 1979 general election but perhaps worse was the shattering defeat for devolution in the referendum of that year. A defeat ensured by a Labour Party campaigning against its own initiative and giving us a first good view of the odious Neil Kinnock and his venomous spouse.

The late 1970s and 1980s also saw Plaid Cymru change, in a number of ways. The party moved perceptibly to the Left. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it also started ‘reaching out’ to minority groups (no, no, not the Welsh) such as Gays, hippies, ban the bomb types and others. I remember one Plaid conference at which Dafydd Elis Thomas, then party leader, became quite emotional over his new best friend, Brig Oubridge, and whoever or whatever he represented. So who was Brig Oubridge? Well, he was an English hippy who, like so many others, had invited himself into Wales, squatted on some land near Llandeilo – ‘Tipi Valley’ – and then demanded to be given legal rights! Read about him here. These are the sort of people Plaid Cymru’s leadership wanted to co-operate with. It’s not a lot different today.


Despite this ‘reaching out’ to the non-Welsh Plaid Cymru still managed to be dismissed as ‘the language party’, and this perception – carefully promoted by opponents – has lost the party votes among the anglophone Welsh. But Plaid’s concern for the language is often little more than arguing over legislative minutiae, as if such nit-picking will save the language. It won’t, and Plaid Cymru knows that.

Making the situation in Plaid’s ‘stronghold’ areas today bizarre. On the one hand the indigenous, Welsh-speaking population can see its linguistic and cultural heritage being destroyed by tourism, colonisation, discrimination in employment and other areas . . . so they vote Plaid Cymru Brig Oubridgeas a means of showing they’re still here – ‘Yma o hyd’ – and in the desperate hope that Plaid Cymru will do something to protect what remains of the Fro Gymraeg (the Welsh-speaking areas). But Plaid Cymru has its head so far up the arse of the English Left, the Third Sector, and the Green Men that it won’t do anything to save the Fro. This is a situation that cannot endure. The destruction of the Fro can only result in the collapse of the Plaid vote, and this might come about quite suddenly if enough Plaid voters realise how they’ve been betrayed, or if a genuinely Welsh party was to appear.

But even while Plaid’s heartland areas endure, to be taken seriously as a national party Plaid Cymru needs the ‘breakthrough in the south’. (God! I’ve been hearing that for 50 years.) But of course it’s never happened. Yes, Plaid might have come close in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when it was still a nationalist party, but as I’ve explained, it was carefully steered away towards ‘rainbow alliances’, socialism, and a betrayal of the Welsh people. The only other time Plaid came close to the ‘breakthrough’ was in the first Assembly elections of 1999, and what happened then? – there was a coup against the most charismatic, most popular, and most successful leader the party ever had. On both occasions when Plaid might have pushed on to seriously challenge Labour’s hegemony in Wales it chose instead to make itself less electable. Yet people still wonder why I believe Plaid Cymru was compromised at the very highest levels in the late 1970s or the early 1980s!

To achieve this ‘breakthrough in the south’ Plaid’s leadership believed the party had to be socialist, more socialist than the Labour Party. Which tells me that Plaid Cymru is either deliberately sabotaging its own electoral chances, or that Plaid’s leadership fails to grasp a fundamental truth, which is, the great majority of Welsh who vote Labour do so out of nothing more than habit or self-interest, sometimes both. They do it because parents / grandparents voted Labour, or because they believe that Labour in power in London will ‘look after them’ better than the Tories. But the important thing to understand here is that socialism has nothing to do with it. Which makes any attempt to be more socialist than Labour an exercise in futility.

Plaid Cymru seems unable to accept that there are very few socialists left in Wales, very few indeed among the indigenous working class. In fact, your average working class, Labour-voting, tabloid-reader is very often a conservative and even a racist. Not a violent, Hitler-worshipping nutter, but a person who undemonstratively shares almost all the prejudices of the far Right. The identikit Ukip voter (as the May Euro-elections showed). We all know them. We work with them, we talk with them down the pub.


We live in interesting times. Never in my lifetime have ‘London’ parties and Westminster politics been held in such contempt. Scotland is on the brink of independence. A new party is on the rise. Welsh people are beginning to realise that Britain is one of the most corrupt and unequal countries in the western world. This state of flux should provide the perfect opportunity for a radical Welsh party, untainted by corruption, ineptitude and the ‘sameness’ of professional politicians, to make massive inroads into Labour’s Welsh vote . . . but instead, it looks as if the beneficiary will be Ukip, an English nationalist party! What a verdict on 90 years of Plaid Cymru!

A party that started out as a movement to defend Welsh language and culture, and to restore the language to the whole of Wales, has totally failed in that ambition. Within a generation what remains of the Fro Gymraeg will be but a memory. Then came the socialist phase, standing shoulder to shoulder with ‘oppressed minorities’ and seeking to tap into the great socialist tradition of Wales . . . which has achieved absolutely nothing. How can a Welsh political party be in existence for ninety years without realising that its greatest – perhaps its only – selling point is its Welshness? Blame England! – play on Welsh grievances! – stir the passions! – reap the rewards! BGwynfor DET Dafydd Wetter to do that and fail than be a bunch of mealy-mouthed compromisers satisfied with crumbs.

The Scottish National Party enjoys its position of strength, not because it ‘reached out’ to colonising Greens (Scotland has its own pro-independence Green Party), not because it indulged itself in sixth form ‘socialism’, not because it snuggled up to Labour and certainly not because it tried to out-Labour Labour; no, the SNP’s strength is the result of confronting the Labour Party and the British system head-on with a message of hope for the Scottish people. This is why Glasgow voted Yes last month. All Plaid Cymru does is agonise over the nuts and bolts of devolution and whine about the Barnett Formula, (basically, just asking for a bigger begging bowl). Plaid Cymru is a defeatist party; it is a collaborationist party.

The 2016 Assembly elections must be Plaid Cymru’s last chance to make the oft-heralded ‘breakthrough’. It deserves no more chances; ninety years is long enough. As things stand, Plaid Cymru’s greatest ‘achievement’ is taking up the space that should be filled by a genuine nationalist party. If Plaid Cymru fails again in 2016, but tries to carry on as if nothing has happened, then it will only strengthen my belief that the party has been compromised. If that happens, then a new party, a nationalist party, must be created. Wales can’t afford any more ‘blocking’. Time is short.

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First point having read some of the posts is that it is said that the Welsh are the longest surviving indigenous peoples of Britannia and that England and the lowlands and Central belt of Scotland are the occupied territories, if that is so, why is the writer of the original post so worried about a very small area of Britannia ?, when some would say most of mainland Britannia belongs to the Welsh just like people might say that America belongs to the native Indian tribes or Australia to the Aborigines, is it ok to give up on the occupied territories but not some small corner of what is now known as Wales ?

As regards Plaid and Wales only a small percentage of the population of Wales could be regarded as Y Fro, the political party that wins Wales is the party that wins the industrial South and its valleys, so Plaid pandering to the language and to uber Welsh culturists is not going to cut it as regards one day becoming the largest party in Wales, Wales is left leaning and having a red Rhondda rebel as leader is a positive, if not now but in the future, for the party to have a female leader, a non Welsh speaker [but a learner] and somebody from the South will stand the party in good stead in the future.

Plaids movement to the left that has been on going for many many years now is to be applauded, Wales is a left leaning country, Plaid need to major on the economy and social justice policies, many think the language has had a fair deal over the years, Plaid need to learn from the SNP and get savvy, the population is sympathetic to socialist policies so that line needs to be the basis of their policies, the population is mixed with lots of incomers over the generations but everybody in Wales is Welsh and should be regarded as such and all rhetoric needs to be all inclusive, Plaid obviously wants to keep their voters happy in the Plaid heartlands but to breakout of those heartlands and become the biggest party in Wales Plaid need to start courting the people of the towns and valleys in the South, therefore their strategy needs to reflect this if they have aspirations to be the biggest political party in Wales..


My goodness Gwalch, kinder. kuche, kirche but presumably the ends justify the means. Cannot see it taking off though, realistically households need 2 incomes.


Isn’t Plaid Cymru lovely, always on the correct side of the metropolitan liberal agenda. Trouble is that agenda isn’t what Wales needs – take feminism for example – for the last 40 years it’s been treasonable to suggest that women should have the choice to stay at home and have big families – yet that’s exactly what Welsh speaking Wales needed. The British taxpayer would even have been happy to subsidise it, as they do for Muslim women. Instead the liberal types have promoted a lot of guff about careers to girls with no O levels – Great for the university types but what about the working class women stuck in skivvy jobs in order to pay the ridiculous rents and mortgages that their extra income made inevitable.

Llew doesn’t believe we should call the 20% of foreigners colonists. Does he accept that what is happening in the countryside is a real ethnic cleansing? Not at the barrel of a gun of course but the results are the same – one ethnicity replaced by a quite different one. What’s his solutuion? Is there one that wouldn’t break EU rules or offend that metropolitan elite which we always aspire to pease?

Adarynefoedd thinks that Wales can’t supply the necessary workforce to maintain a welfare state. Why ever not? Is it because the rulebook is written elsewhere, for the benefit of outsiders, and not to meet Welsh conditions? It strikes me that he/she is infected by the mentality of poor little Wales however will we cope without the English. He/She is also concerned about the long standing ethnic minorities in Cardiff and Newport. Aren’t they Welsh then? Haven’t their lives been shaped by the same historical processes that have affected all in the industrial south. Why single them out as if their different to the Irish, Rural Welsh and West Country English etc who came into Wales and now regard themselves as Welsh?

The development of a Welsh-speaking petty bourgeoisie has turned out to be something of a negative for Wales – I mean the teachers, council officials, S4C types etc. They don’t create any jobs and far too often their interests coincide with their English counterparts. They mouth pseudo-radical platitudes while the Welsh speaking working class and the English speaking working class see their lives and hopes go down the drain.

Mab y Mynydd

Agree with every word, well said!


I’m afraid that I gave up on Plaid after they decided that they would prefer to be the junior member of a coalition with Labour rather than the senior to a rainbow coalition of the other parties at the Assembly and therefore providing the First Minister. It condemned us to permanent Soviet-style Labour administrations and incidentally revealed a shocking poverty of ambition.

E Jenkins

“Welsh village’s hydro plan shows power of community” (Oct 17).
Why is Daily Wales reporting so favourably on these Bozos?
adarynefoedd, I personally have no problem whatsoever with ethnic minority migrants in Wales. The problem we face in our desire to continue as an identifiable Welsh people is the vast movement of hundreds of thousands of people from England who have no need and overwhelmingly no desire, to integrate into, respect or even acknowledge the indigenous culture.


The trouble is Jac that without the ‘colonists’, we would not have enough GPs (huge recruitment problems), nurses, foster carers, social workers, not everybody who comes is a retiree, dysfunctional family or good lifer. And are these comments friendly to ethnic minorities? We have substantial numbers in Newport and Cardiff, some for many generations. Whilst I am sympathetic to your key points, I think there are grave dangers in promoting ethnic nationalism as shown by many examples elsewhere. The key area, failed so far by the WG is that of decent jobs. The job that could support a working class family without a second income has largely vanished. That is why people are so angry, coupled with the ridiculous privatisation of council work, and the degradation of the environment.


ok I personally think there is no point for calling 20-odd% of our population colonists. And if you want a party to do that it wouldn’t be one that is appealing or attractive. Maybe you don’t want a party to do that but that’s the impression I get.


Chwarae teg about Asghar! I never liked him. He’d been in Labour and the Lib Dems before apparently. Chancer.

I agree that there is a strength in the SNP not having to be all things to all people. I just wanted to point out they are on the (sensible) left, they are very much about “civic nationalism” (openly using the term), plenty of English members, and they now have a trade union section of 12k members. If you transplanted them to Wales they wouldn’t mention the word colonisation. They say its okay to be British and so on. They are probably less republican than Plaid although I don’t know their grassroots. They are actually more liberal than Plaid and more “open”/less exclusive but perhaps that is the very point you were making.


“I agree that there is a strength in the SNP not having to be all things to all people. I just wanted to point out they are on the (sensible) left, they are very much about “civic nationalism” (openly using the term), plenty of English members, and they now have a trade union section of 12k members. If you transplanted them to Wales they wouldn’t mention the word colonisation.”

Well most of Scotland isn’t being physically colonised by English people. They can claim to be civic nationalists because Scotland is still overwhelmingly Scottish, “multiculturalism” hasn’t arrived there yet. Many areas remind me of the Wales I grew up in, where everyone knew each other and English accents were scarce.

English immigrants fear the Scots because they know that they’re outnumbered up there. Many keep a low profile and play down their Englishness (especially in the Central Belt!). That isn’t the case in most parts of Wales…


The SNP is to the left of Labour, but Scottish Labour has of course drifted strongly to the right so that’s a difference to Wales. Nicola Sturgeon has her seat in Glasgow. As does Bob Doris a significant anti-racism and pro-refugee campaigner on what is a huge issue in Glasgow. Bill Kidd another SNP MSP in Glasgow was a founder of the ex-Scottish Socialist Party.

It is incorrect to try and argue that the SNP doesn’t have anything to do with green issues. Notwithstanding the asset of oil, the SNP strongly believes in renewables and especially wind (maybe too much for my liking).

They have taken on Labour and replaced them as the main left-of-centre party. Obviously jac points out that Plaid has not done that and his example of saunders is historically spot on. Alien values to most Welsh people at that time.

I also feel that to fit a certain anti-left narrative jac has glossed over the amount of ethnic minority and English members and candidates in the SNP. They have appealed to ethnic minorities much more successfully than Plaid has.

Let’s make the debate honest and not just pick and choose bits to suit us.

green dragon

you do seem very hostile to renewables but would you rather a new nuclear power station was foisted on wales at wylfa or our water is poisoned through fracking? as thats the terrible alternative facing our country if we dont develop our renewables.

Energy matters need to be devolved to wales as a matter of urgency, a demand which sadly and surprisingly appears to have been absent from the list of demands for further devolution for wales agreed by the four political leaders at the senedd this week – leanne should have lobbied harder to get that demand included. Wales has an abundance of natural resources and by developing its renewables could in the future be an energy self sufficient nation – in fact in the future wales might be in a position to sell energy to England.


Plaid Cymru seem to be fully signed-up members of the sham left which is tolerated, even encouraged by the 1%ers since it offers no real challenge to their rule.

One of the worst crimes of the sham left is how they try to shut down discussion of issues with screams of racism, sexism and the like. Yet these are the ones who support any war that’s on offer. Even Plaid’s pacifists voted for the bombing of Gaddafi, and that has turned out to be an utter disaster for the people of that country. Has Leanne ever apolgised for that vote?

Meantime they continue the moral conceit of thinking they are better people than UKIP or the Tories because they mouth a few platitudes about multiculturalism and islamophobia etc.

It seems to me that the Assembly’s voting system is tailor made for a genuine Welsh party. Just stand on the regional lists on a platform of houses for locals, jobs for locals etc. Most people still feel Welsh and might be attracted to a party that is Welsh and steals a bit of that UKIP thunder and the general contempt for PlaidConLibLab.

If Wales can’t get its act to together then it deserves to go down the plug hole.

The Earthshaker

I enjoy your blog but it does make depressed, because it reminds me that Wales is more likely to end up as a region of England than independent despite your best efforts to inform people of what’s really going on.

By chance I met a UKIP voter this week the bloke who was fitting my new boiler. I think he was in his early 60’s, he supports Wales at football and went to the Cyprus game this week, his grandkids are in welsh schools in Newport, but because work has been slow for him and his partner for the last 3 years he’s puts the blame on immigrants and wants them gone, how you win people like that over I don’t know but he’d never considered voting Plaid Cymru.

As for Plaid Cymru problems in south Wales it’s odd, they have run or been in coalition recently of the two largest councils Rhondda Cynon Taf and Cardiff along with Caerphilly and the Vale of Glamorgan and they ran Merthyr Tydfil Council in the 1970’s when Dafydd Wigley was a Councillor so valleys folk will vote for Plaid Cymru at Council election but not at Assembly or Westminster election in enough numbers to make a difference, that’s what Plaid need to work on.

It’s a shame because Plaid Cymru do have a good track record, when they ran Rhondda Cynon Taf the Council was in the black at the end of their period in office and approval ratings for services were among the highest in Wales, yet Labour retook control and RCT was back in the red in 12 months and redundancy notices were being handed out and Plaid Cymru have struggled to get a foothold since. Do they need to start reminding people of this and promoting their achievements?

But I agree with Docks Soul Plaid Cymru do struggle with understanding the work class, the main issues at elections for them like most voters are economic, the lack of jobs and opportunities in the Valleys is always top of the list and explains in part why UKIP are gaining ground, they blame the immigrants and saying that by stopping them coming over here, jobs will magically appear for everyone – it’s bullshit but in the absence of anything concrete from Plaid Cymru, Labour or the Tories it gets traction and half truths become cast iron facts which are hard to shift.

It’s all about the economy Leanne Wood at least understands that, but how you sell a new economic plan to a jaded welsh public who are sick of magic bullet economic solutions is tough and it will make or break Plaid Cymru and Wales in the next decade.


I’m not sure that you are correct that the Welsh working class don’t give a toss about the environement, the starving in Africa or female genital mutilation, though these issues may not be on the front of their minds when paying the bills, and thinking about where next weeks food is coming from in the week before the next JSA payment goes into the bank account, or worrying if their JCP advisor is going to be in a bad mood and sanction them. In all the years that I have had dealings with people from the Valleys I have found them to be compassionate and caring almost to a fault. I remember one group from the Penrhys Estate (not known for it’s affulence) who had, after having worked together to get chwarae teg from the local authority for their community, had banded together and formed a choir. The occasion I met them they were involved in raising money, not for themselves, though goodness knows that they could have done with it, but to support a good cause in, wait for it, Lesotho, because that community in Lesotho was far worse off than they were.

I agree that Plaid Cymru is too often up it’s own arse, and too often bends over backwards to appease any notion that they be anti-English through apparently supporting any petty bouregois cause. They do fail miserably in starting where people are at, which is a fundamental, and if Plaid are wondering why they don’t seem to be able to dent Labour’s hold on Valleys people then to state the bleeding obvious. people are voting for the devil they know. If Plaid did what the LibDems did over many years in Cardiff, and gradually build up their support, then they can gain a lot of support. That’s the way it worked at a ward level where Labour had for years got in unopposed, even when 3 the councillors lived outside the ward, to a point where the LibDems took all the council seats, and eventually the Cardiff Central Westminster constituency. Hardly surprisingly, the LibDems have lost every council seat and we now have slumbering Labour councillors, and will no doubt also have a Labour parliamentary representative… I wonder why? It’s not as if the LibDems had to do that much other than being an alternative that appeared to care, and to be honest, they did take up local causes, and made sure that someone came along to support local campaigns etc. It’s a hard slog, but hardly rocket science, but it builds trust. If Plaid rolled it’s sleeves up and started to deliver something of value at a local level in the Valleys, then not only could they gain support over the local issues, but also further their agenda of supporting the wider human community worldwide.

It’s certain that Saunders Lewis didn’t understand the Welsh working class, I doubt very much if he truly understood the rural Welsh either. Despite his, (and his classes peculiar Welsh speaking bourgeois) rurutarianism, it was a ruritarianism that was almost strictly restricted to urban Wales. He was born into a bourgois Liverpool Welsh family, and he didn’t learn Welsh until he was an adult. His career was in Swansea and Cardiff, and he ended his days in that most rural of places, Penarth.

However, it seems to often be forgotten that one of the earliest economic thinkers that Plaid Cymru posessed, Dr DJ Davies certainly did understand the Welsh Working Class, as he understood the working class anywhere. Much of his thinking was published in the book ‘Towards Welsh Freedom’ in which he outlines ideas that still hold as sound today as in the 1930s and 40s when they were originally written.

To be true, Wales does posess a rag bag of sad rightists, of the variety who parade at Cilmeri every 13th December to celebrate the death of a historical nonentity. But then, I suppose it is aposite, as Llywelyn ein Llwy Olaf was no more than a self seeking robber baron attempting to carve out his own feudal fiefdom, as much as most present at that sad spectacle are trying to persuade the Welsh people that Wales can be a little fiefdom for them, the petty capitalists to exploit. That these people have become disillusioned with Plaid Cymru is probably the better for Plaid Cymru, though I still am of the opinion that there should be a name change to Plaid Llymru!


Point of information: Dafydd Wigley was a Merthyr Tydfil county borough councillor from 1972-74; Emrys Roberts led Plaid Cymru to a council majority in 1976, two completely different types of personalities, there was another contrasting type in the Rev. Gareth Foster.

Docks Soul

Come election time and people generally put their X next to the party they believe will either put more money in their pocket or allow them to keep more of what they earn.
That alone is the deciding issue for most.

What Plaid has spectacularly failed to do over the years is put up a convincing case that Welsh people would gain financially from interdependence.
The recent Scottish referendum boiled down to whether the Scots would be better off in or out of the Union, nothing else.
The Unionists eventually won the day by frightening voters into thinking that they would be made poorer by independence.

What Plaid prove time and again is that they have no real understanding of the working class vote in Wales. Trendy leftie/green policies designed to try and appear ‘more caring’ than Labour is never going to be vote winners in urban Wales (not too many Guardian readers in the Valleys).

Maybe he Plaid vision for Wales is one where we all live ‘sustainable lives’ in hippy communes saving the planet like Brig Oubridge,


Oh boy, dear ole’ Rhodri turns up again spouting his senile drivel all over “Llais y sais” – not surprising. Track record of freeloading within the Euro hierarchy before moving on to a life of sniping and sound biting once back in the “political mainstream”. So he keeps up his well developed habits as he slides into a very comfortable retirement funded entirely from the public purse. Barnett formula worked well for him !

The discussion on why Plaid did whatever way back when is largely academic, the big issue remains why have they not learned from their experiences as individuals and as a campaigning party ? Events and developments over the last 100 years, but particularly the last 50, have changed the context almost continuously, but like the British MOD the Party of Wales is always engaged in fighting the “last war”, maybe even 3 or 4 wars ago.

1999 was a chance to break through, the gate blew open and the sheep ran back into the field – did they fear the wolves outside ? Perhaps many of then lacked the maturity and tenacity to become a party of government, preferring the comfort of permanent opposition ? Yet later they quite cheerfully formed the coalition, can claim a few minor successes, but have done nothing of note to secure the identity of our people and the turf they occupy.

And yes, the preoccupation with “begging bowl size” whether tapping into London or Brussels should be a matter of immense shame to people who are supposed to lead a country to better things.


Well I found that very interesting, although your conclusions seem to be a bit inconsistent. The SNP succeeds by going for what is now known as ‘civic nationalism’, that is it is inclusive of anyone who happens to live in Scotland and wishes to see the place regain its former status as a sovereign nation. It’s had its blood and soil types in the past but got over that adolescent phase decades ago. It’s also a little to the left of Labour, which these days is hardly much of a feat. The optimistic view of a possible better future that developed in the run-up to the referendum, and which refused to die down (SNP membership has now topped 80,000 while Labour in Scotland is simply falling apart) is founded on the belief that Scotland could be a wonderful place and anyone who agrees is welcome to come there and lend a hand with the project.

Of course for historical reasons there is not the same strong linkage between language and politics as there is in Wales. Scots would probably benefit from indy, Gàidhlig might or might not. In Ireland Gaelic language and culture were important up to independence, but once their state was established they got little more than lip service. Everyone in theory learned Irish in school but few ever used it and the genuine heartlands continued to erode despite their special legal status.

Now while I’m in favour of cultural survival and resurgence, in Wales as elsewhere, I honestly think that the only way forward is to somehow decouple the two projects, that is political independence and ‘Welshness’ (Cymreictod). Both are worthy causes but tangling them together probably benefits neither. Indeed, didn’t Saunders Lewis himself say that if the language were not saved before independence it would certainly not be saved afterwards (in his opinion)?

If the language and its culture are to survive, it can only be through communities regaining their self-confidence and creativity to such an extent that most people who come into contact with them will be wanting to join (and will be welcomed not cold-shouldered!) That’s how it always used to happen, that’s the mark of a viable community. It’s tempting to adopt a siege mentality and go into isolation, but that would simply make Y Fro instantly irrelevant to the world at large and consign it to a lingering death.

Political independence otoh requires a broad-based movement within the geographical territory of Wales, aiming to take control of the country’s natural and human resources for the benefit of the population at large. Most people would probably call that ‘socialism’, but if the word offends you, call it whatever you like, the important point is that it contrasts starkly with the current Westminster attitude, and with UKIP’s xenophobic ‘Little Englander’ stance. Like the SNP agenda, it needs to inspire and give hope to all the people, or at least a large majority, without anyone playing at being “more Welsh than thou”. So you would have to embrace the hippies (no really they don’t smell that bad, some of my best friends …) and greens and mewnfudwyr, all of them as far as possible. And use whatever vision and talents they have to offer to build a better Wales. But you can’t do that from inside a self-imposed ghetto. It won’t work as long as you treat a significant proportion of the Welsh population as outsiders, enemies even.

Actually I think S.L. was probably wrong in that independence might well help to create circumstances that assist the survival and growth of Cymreictod, at the economic level at the very least. And the existence of ‘Welshness’ provides an important part of the rational for political independence. Nevertheless the two are probably best kept separate most of the time for campaigning purposes.

OK, that’s what I think 😉


This is to say the least a perplexing problem. For a start Welsh people are free to move to other parts of the UK, and rather a lot of them do. How would you feel if the English put up ‘Keep Out’ signs along the border? Sauce for the goose … ? But the real problem surely is that your culture, your Welshness, has decayed to such an extent that incomers are no longer ‘converted’ after a few years’ residence as would once have been the case. Indeed, since you don’t appear to be a language enthusiast, a Labourite or a chapel-goer, what in your mind does make someone Welsh rather than English/British in this day and age? That’s not rhetorical btw, I’m genuinely curious.


You are right. Plaid Cymru’s so called heartlands will be gone within a generation or two. Many communities today in West Wales, once traditionally Welsh speaking strongholds,have according the 2011 census just over 50% of Welsh born residing there. This is alarming and yet no politician is prepared to speak out

R. Tyler

“Other seats – Ynys Môn and Ceredigion – were won in the 1980s”.
Sorry Jac but Ceredigion was won in 92. Yes, I know, I am a pedantic git.

Robert Tyler

“Other seats – Ynys Môn and Ceredigion – were also won in the 1970s”. News to me.