Guest blog by Luke Nicholas
Enough dust has settled and enough stock has been taken, in terms of Plaid's Westminster election performance, that we can now move on. And in doing so, we should completely reject the idea that somehow Plaid was slaughtered or massacred at the election. This doesn't mean adopting complacency or spinning the result as a good one, but it means recognising that we retained 3 members of Parliament. Not very good, but not the end of the world. I know that Cymru X members threw themselves into the campaign. In all of the target seats young people were heavily involved. Away from the targets, it was young people that ran Chris Williams' campaign in Cardiff Central. Not an earth-shattering result, but where better for the next generation of nationalists to learn their trade than at the coalface?
We held 3 seats. We wanted more, but quite simply, not enough people decided to vote for us. The real problem isn't Plaid's loss in not having a stronger team at Westminster. The real losers are the people of Wales who will now suffer disproportionately from savage public spending cuts. Empirically, you could conclude that a larger group of Plaid MPs would have made disproportionate cuts to Welsh public finances less likely, because the likelihood of us getting reform of the Barnett formula would have been considerably higher. A larger group of Plaid MPs would have saved jobs and protected services.
The question also has to be asked, can young nationalists still hold their heads high, having failed at the ballot box so recently? I believe we can. It is not our party that is responsible for these devastating cuts. We maintained all along that you have to create better economic conditions before you reduce the deficit. We put those arguments forward and most of the people of Wales decided to reject them. That is their democratic shoice. Most people in Wales didn't want a Plaid MP this time around. We'll have to keep trying.
In Scotland the benefits of more people voting for nationalist MPs are starkly obvious. They are not only getting less cuts, but are receiving a small proportion of the fossil fuels levy. This is the first time in history that Scotland is being directly paid for the exploitation of its own resources. It represents a significant break with traditional imperial policy. In Wales all such resources have long been extracted, but it is a well-established fact that if fairness is adopted as the principle for financing the nations and regions of the UK, Wales would be due far more in funding through the Barnett formula. I do not see this as a contradiction to the long-term aim of independence, which is not possible without a period of national development similar to that which the liberation movements on the African continent used to advocate before they mostly turned to globalisation and post-colonial malaise.
On one of the shelves in Ty Gwynfor is a stack of tea-coloured pamphlets from the "Plaid Cymru Commission of Inquiry, 1981". The guys that wrote those pamphlets really were up against it. At the time, the people of Wales had exercised their right to self-determination and had resoundingly turned self-government down. Plaid faced an existential crisis and the Commission of Inquiry was a fundamental, wide-ranging and incisive examination of the party's nature, organisation, policies and future.
I've been reading the report from the inquiry and the intelligence, attention to detail and excitement in terms of proposals is breathtaking. But at the same time there is a sense of disenchantment with the likelihood of getting a resolution to the national question, of making any step towards freedom, and of seeing what they called "community socialism" ever being put into practice. Like I said, they were up against it. One passage even declares that the only forseeable way Wales could ever gain even a limited measure of self-government would be in a revolutionary situation!
A few decades on and much of what they are asking for is now reality. So Plaid flatlined on 3 MPs a couple of weeks ago. But we're in government in the Assembly. Plaid's Assembly group has steered a positive course. Further self-rule is very much on the agenda. People outside of Plaid are prepared to openly discuss fiscal autonomy as a possibility within the next decade. The people of Wales, not Plaid, will ultimately decide on these things, but we are in as strong a position as we deserve in terms of being able to argue for incremental progress and eventually national liberation.
There's alot to be learned from what the likes of Dr. Phil Williams were talking about in the pamphlet. And in learning those lessons we can also look to a national future that is more optimistic than anything nationalists in 1981 would dare to dream of. And young people have a duty to the 1981ers to fulfil this task, because it's only because of the grumpy 1981ers that our party still exists today.
We shall overcome!
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