By Daniel Pryce Lawrence
Tuesday night I and 2 other members of Cymru X (Emyr and Lleu) attended a meeting of the Plaid Cymru Cardiff Central Constituency at the Mackintosh Institute which featured a talk by Dafydd Trystan on 'The Road to the Referendum – Spring 2011 and beyond'. It was a fascinating talk on the challenges we face leading up to the referendum, and the struggles we face post the vote on the very soul of our party. In the style of all the most enlightening lectures it challenged the assembled members to think about and question what was offered, and to go away and really shape the future of the party.
He dealt briefly with some of the debates that will be had in the coming months on how we can convince the people of Wales that a Yes vote in the Referendum is vitally important to the future success of our nation. But there is much work to do in convincing people of the need for a change in the system and the positive benefits that would flow from that change. Two weekends ago on Armed Forces day in Cardiff, I spent 2 hours in the centre of our Capital city working for Cymru Yfory-Tommorow's Wales asking people what they thought of Wales' constitutional situation, whether they knew there was a referendum on the horizon, whilst doing my best to convince them of the need for a Yes vote. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who were very sympathetic to the Assembly having further powers and how they felt as an institution it had become the centre of national life. Out of the hundred or so people I must have talked to, only one gave me an angry response and expressed their wish that the Assembly be abolished. I came away feeling very positive about our chances, but we can never be complacent on these things, circumstances will dictate the shape of our future arguments.
Anyway, back to Dafydd's talk. Once he had said his bit about the referendum, he moved delicately to a new area. He asked us to look beyond it, past a hopeful Yes vote to where the party would be, should we have finally achieved one of our founding aims, a legislative Parliament for Wales. He asked us to think about what Plaid Cymru would stand for in that brave new world. Would we be content to, having won the long argument for Welsh autonomy, be a generally left of centre party fighting for Labours ground just with a slightly stronger Welsh language flavour? Would Independence feature more strongly in our campaigning? Where would we stand if we had just received a No vote? Could we become the only rational party of the left? What could we do that would better serve the people of Wales? What would be our vision of the future we could offer to them? And would it inspire them?
All good questions, but with no easy answers. What did seem to crop up though was, and with a perceptive question from Eurfyl ap Gwilym, that we as a party were not thinking as much as we used to. Not for any lack of effort or because we couldn't, but because we had matured into a party of Government. We have grown into a party that is ready to take responsibility for the running of our country, and now many of our brightest lights are involved in the daily, punishing grind of power. He said that it was up to the rest of us to provide those radical ideas which has for so long given our party its distinctive appeal.
We face some of the most important months in the history of our party and of Wales. With the first major test of Devolution, different parties in power on either side of Offa's Dyke, a Labour party that is trying to steal Plaids clothes and a referendum that will essentially ask people where the most important decisions on domestic policy should be taken Cardiff or London. So here is the challenge for the future, to provide the ideas and vision that can help take our party into the next stage of its life. So that the country has what it has always, and will always need - those who will speak up for it, unashamedly dream for it and shape its future progress. Where do we begin?
Gan Daniel Pryce Lawrence
South Wales East Representative