Election Focus – Plaid Cymru

With Plaid Cymru in partial control of the Assembly Government, Wales is a country now largely red with increasing shades of green.

Plaid Cymru launched its manifesto today with a pledge to protect the “vulnerable and front-line services”, leader Ieuan Wyn Jones saying the party would seek “the best possible deal for Wales” if there is a “balanced parliament”. The manifesto has seven key priorites, pledging to tackle the deficit by scrapping ID cards and Trident, and reforming the banks.

It also calls for a change in the funding formula to give Wales an extra £300m a year; to create venture capital fund to help home-grown business develop; to raise the basic state pension for all over time; for an environmental action plan to create high-quality green jobs, with electrified railways; for a referendum on greater Welsh assembly powers; and the phased withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and greater care for ex-service personnel.

The Independent says Wales “can usually be counted on to turn solid red each election year”; with Plaid Cymru in partial control of the Assembly Government, Wales is a country now largely red with increasing shades of green. In 2005, former leader Dafydd Wigley admitted the party’s performance had been disappointing after it saw its record number of 4 MPs reduced to 3, director of policy Simon Thomas losing his Ceredigion seat.

Five years later, and Plaid, under their new leader, go into the election in confident mood. Having gained seats in the 2007 assembly elections, Plaid found itself as a party in Government as Labour’s junior coalition partner, Jones gaining control of the Welsh economy. Indeed, the ProAct scheme, providing employers with wage and training subsidies has been widely praised as being one of Jones’s biggest successes stories.

By February this year, Plaid secured its principle objective in coalition negotiations, with the assembly voting to support a referendum on granting Cardiff Bay full law making powers. By St David’s Day, Jones had secured his position ahead of the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives.

In launching his party’s election campaign, Jones said:

“It’s time to burst the Westminster bubble … Only Plaid can be depended upon to ensure greater support for our pensioners and fairer funding for the Welsh budget to protect jobs, schools and hospitals.”

And what of a hung Parliament? This is territory not unfamiliar to Plaid. When the Labour Government of James Callaghan struggled on a near daily basis to secure its business through Parliament, Plaid, with its three MPs, traded their support for for a number of concessions, including the establishment of a compensation scheme for industrial injuries.

In the event of history repeating itself, Plaid have pledged to work with their allies in the SNP to pursue a programme to include a reformed funding system for Wales, protecting public services, taking action to help the green economy and supporting business growth.

The elephant in the room, however, remains independence. Despite setting an ambitious goal of securing majority support for independence in 20 years’ time, Plaid have so far failed to mention it as an issue in the election. It has led Labour’s Albert Owen, defending his Ynys Mon constituency from a strong Plaid threat to ask:

“Have they given up on their over-arching aim of a costly separation from the UK, or are they simply embarrassed to talk about it?”

Plaid’s aim in the election is to secure a greater number of seats then its high water mark of four. As such, the Independent has identified the seats of Ynys Mon, Cereidgian and the new seat of Arfon as ones to watch on election night. If they secure all three, Plaid will be doing well. Whatever the result, the BBC have report that after leading his Party into the 2011 assembly election, Jones will likely stand down as leader.

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