Plaid Cymru doesn’t want voters who will ‘give up on politics’

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Plaid Cymru doesn't want voters who will 'give up on politics'

Rhun ap Iorwerth at the launch of Plaid Cymru (Alamy) general election campaign

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The leader of Plaid Cymru has said his party is not for people who are “giving up on politics” as the Welsh nationalist party look to increase their number of seats at the general election.

Rhun ap Iorwerth was elected unopposed as leader of Plaid Cymru last year after his predecessor Adam Price resigned in the wake of a report detailing the party’s failings to prevent sexual harassment and bullying.

Ap Iorwerth told it PoliticsHome Since then he has been trying to transform Plaid Cymru into a more ‘positive’ party – both in terms of tackling a ‘toxic’ internal culture and creating a ‘new sense of trust’, but also in terms of the wider range of Wales.

“I think positively about the future of my country,” he said when asked what motivated him to pursue a career in politics.

“I’m frustrated about where we are, but confident about where we could be. I want us to be brave enough to be willing to take those levers of change into our own hands.”

He argued that his party is therefore “not interested in selling Plaid Cymru as a voice for people who are fed up with everyone else”, but instead “wants to sell a positive vision from a party that wants to do things in a different way” .

According to Iorwerth, Reform UK hopes to capitalize on significant voter apathy in Wales. The right-wing party, which is fielding candidates in every seat in Wales, hopes to target areas along the border with England and in the valleys of south Wales – where UKIP and the Brexit Party have previously won significant support.

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“There is a section of the Welsh population that in a sense finds right-wing votes attractive as a blight on the whole of politics,” said Ap Iorwerth. But he said this was “not a pool we fish in.”

“Giving up on politics doesn’t help; seeking an alternative path forward is what we would urge people to do,” he continued.

Plaid Cymru won just four seats at the 2019 general election, and while they hope to win more seats this year, they face a number of obstacles that are likely to make this a major challenge.

In the words of Ap Iorwerth himself, the revision of constituency boundaries has “not been kind” to his party. By reducing the total number of Welsh seats from 40 to 32, the review has effectively abolished two of Plaid Cymru’s incumbent seats, leaving only Ceredigion Preseli and Dwyfor Meirionnydd. In this election, their main targets are Ynys Môn (Anglesey) and Caerfyrddin, both in areas won by the Conservatives in 2019.

As a left-wing party, how will Ap Iorwerth try to convince voters who switched to the Tories at the last election to now vote for Plaid Cymru?

“2019 was a very special election,” he said, adding that many voters were convinced by “compelling arguments to get Brexit done.”

“What we see now, four and a half years later, is an electorate where I am undoubtedly fed up with a Conservative government… a particularly clear vision,” he continued.

“I think the situation has changed a lot and Plaid Cymru is in a strong position to take advantage of that.”

The party leader suggested he was encouraged by the local election results in England, where the Conservatives “took a blow” not only from Labour, but also from “alternative” parties such as the Greens and the Lib Dems.

“Labour will be the next government,” Ap Iorwerth claimed, with Labor likely to do well in many of its traditional heartlands in Wales.

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“But [voters] we don’t have to settle, giving the Labor government a large majority, allowing it to act with impunity if there are other voices.”

Keir Starmer and Vaughan Gething
Keir Starmer and Welsh First Minister Vaughan Gething on Barry seafront in Abergavenny during the election campaign (Alamy)

While Labor uses ‘change’ as a key phrase for their campaign, Ap Iorwerth sees the Tories and Labor as having a ‘budget consensus’, while he sees Plaid Cymru’s main policy offering as reforms to the way Wales is financed.

He argued that the Barnett formula, used to calculate the funds allocated to devolved countries, is “decades out of date”.

“And yet the British parties are refusing to make the kind of commitments we need to fund Wales as needed,” he added.

“That is then seen in a more specific issue, which is the need for Wales to receive the impact of HS2 rail funding which we have not received and means we cannot invest in our infrastructure, rail and other transport here. in Wales.

“So finance is at the heart of it, and then gives us the means to grow our economy and strengthen Wales’ prosperity, for example through the transfer of the Crown Estate.

“None of the UK parties speak to Wales and seemingly understand the issues we face on a daily basis. We will hold the feet to the fire of whoever has the keys to 10 Downing Street.”

Ap Iorwerth hopes that voters will not only have become ‘sick and tired’ of fourteen years of Conservative rule in Westminster, but will also look for alternatives to Labour, which is responsible for devolved areas such as the NHS in Wales, as the party has been. since its inception in 1999 in the Welsh Senedd government.

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“It is poor management and poor decisions that have made the situation the NHS in Wales is in much worse,” the Plaid Cymru leader said.

“What Labor is doing in Wales, of course, is hiding behind the fact that the British Conservative governments have failed to fund Wales as we should.

“Decisions on whether to modernize or not modernize the NHS in Wales are absolutely the responsibility of Labor health ministers, which we have had continuously for 25 years. Financing, of course [from Westminster] is important, but they make the decisions.”

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer will meet for their first TV general election debate on ITV on June 4. But it seems likely they will not continue to debate the leaders of smaller parties, with some former strategists claiming this would feel like a “distraction” to Starmer if Labor is so far ahead in the polls.

Ap Iorwerth told it PoliticsHome that it would be “fundamentally undemocratic” if Starmer and Sunak did not engage with him and other leaders in a televised debate.

“I’m tired of elections like this being presented as a two-horse race,” he said.

“It undermines the ability of the electorate in Wales and across the UK to truly measure the parties against each other and give political parties an equal platform.”

The leader of Plaid Cymru said he would take part in a debate even if the two main leaders were not present: “Plaid Cymru must always fight for political platforms. Already in these elections we have had to turn to major platforms and say that you have forgotten us.”

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