“Wales needs a strong voice” is not a surprising comment from a Welsh politician of any political party, but Plaid Cymru’s proposals are more radical than others. Indeed, the party’s website includes the view that Wales could ‘flourish as an independent nation’. I spoke to the party’s candidate in Cardiff North, Elin Walker Jones, about the issues which matter most in the constituency, the effect of the Scottish Independence Referendum on nationalist politics in Wales, and the inclusion of the party’s leader, Leanne Wood, in the televised leadership debates.
Cardiff is not a Plaid Cymru electoral stronghold. The party currently represents three constituencies in Westminster: Arfon (1 of our 50), Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, and Dwyfor Meirionnydd. That success is not replicated in Wales’ two largest cities: the party currently has two Councillors in Cardiff and none in Swansea. Labour is the strongest party in these cities, and I asked Elin what she thinks Plaid Cymru can do to bolster its support there. “[Remind voters that] all three of the Westminster parties signed up for austerity messages,” she responds, adding, “Austerity hurts people of Wales more than the rest of the UK.”
Budget cuts in Cardiff City Council have led to planned closures of public services in the Cardiff North constituency, which Elin cites as the most important issues facing local voters. She lists the proposed cuts with clear disapproval: a proposed local library closure “just doesn’t make sense” (since our interview the proposed library closure has been dropped by the Council), infrastructural demands “are not being met,” and she worries that the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP) will mean that the “world-class” NHS will become at risk of being “sued by private companies.”
For Elin, answers to current problems should be considered “far more carefully and radically” than the solutions posed by current policymakers. The party advocates that further powers should be transferred to the National Assembly and has the long term goal of independence from the UK, and many activists were involved campaigning for “Yes” during the Scottish Independence Referendum.
Elin described an “amazing atmosphere” in Scotland during the referendum campaigns, which she attributes to an “exciting and creative” type of politics. “People are asking more questions on the doorstep” was her response when I asked her to consider the impact of the referendum on politics in Wales. Whether that will translate into votes for Plaid Cymru is not yet clear, but with growing support for the greater devolution proposed as part of the vow for Scotland, further plans have been made for the Welsh Assembly too.
The inclusion of Plaid Cymru in the televised leaders debates will increase the party’s visibility across the UK before the election and Elin commented that the debates will be an opportunity to “celebrate democracy and diversity” within the country. A controversy arising from the current proposed line up of seven parties is that the Northern Irish parties are not included. Should those parties be included? Elin’s reply – “absolutely!” – will be welcomed by the parties in Northern Ireland, but perhaps not the TV moderators, who would then have to keep over ten party leaders in check.
The interview fell on the 100 day marker for the election so in concluding the interview I asked Elin what her campaign will focus on in the final countdown to May 7th.
“The last hundred days is about speaking to people at the doorstep: listening to the problems that people face can be extremely humbling. It’s about knowing what really matters to people so you can represent their views in a meaningful way.”