I for one will be supporting Leanne Wood AM in the Plaid Cymru leadership election and I will tell you for why. I met Leanne the first time I became a member for Plaid, I think in 2008 – seems a lot longer than four years ago now; I believe it was at the Newport spring conference. Leanne was and still is a down-to-earth person, someone people can relate to and social enough that she can communicate with anyone she meets.
Since that first meeting I have watched Leanne and looked back at the work she has done, not just for Plaid or Wales, but for her local community and Leanne is one of the most hard-working politicians there are. Her grassroots attitude (a Plaid core attitude) inspires people I feel, to take on the issues that matter to them. I have never seen a politician on so many picket-lines as Leanne. Leanne is a true socialist, fighting for workers’ rights and pushing the issues that matter most to the working classes at the forefront – let’s be honest, Wales still has a very large hardworking working class people who seem to be forgotten about and the first to take the brunt of any cuts or redundancies. Without those workers there would be no middle classes, which some tend to forget. With a Wales that is working (please see Leanne’s Greenprint for the Valleys initiative) we can close the gap between the rich and poor and pull people out of poverty – creating a more equal society.
I was privileged to have won a placement with Leanne Wood in 2010; given to me by Aberystwyth University. Here I saw first-hand how busy a politician she really was; always popping off to meetings or to a rally and receiving large amount of letters from her regional voters who knew that they would receive a fast response and that she would do her utmost to help them with their issues – we must remember that it is our communities and constituents that put us in the place we aspire to be – a place where we can influence government to help them and better their lives.
I am happy to see the various actors that have come out in support of our Leanne. From our most prominent of members and ex-politician Adam Price to the other swift and hardworking AM Bethan Jenkins. She also has support from the most charismatic of AMs Lindsay Whittle ex-leader of Caerffili County Borough Council and also that of our newest MP at Westminster, who is a tough campaigner and works extremely hard for the party in the foreign Parliament, Jonathan Edwards.
It is not just people in political circles that are backing Leanne – Menna Machreth of Cymdeithas yr Iaith; proof that Leanne has worked tirelessly on Welsh language issues though she is only a learner. She can gain support not just from those of us, like me who only speak English, but those that speak the two languages of our nation. The academic Daniel Williams and the arts critic Sioned Williams have pledged their support for Leanne as well as the Chair of the Fire Brigade’s Union in Wales, Cerith Griffiths – this just shows the wide range of people that Leanne can pull in and that is just what Plaid needs – to reach out to everyone in Wales, no matter where they come from.
Plaid needs to rejuvenate itself – take a few steps back and ask itself, why are we a political party? What are our aspirations? Leanne has taken the bull by the horns and has pledged to put our main objective at the heart of her leadership role. Like the SNP, she will not push aside the aim of independence – the aspiration of nationalists around the globe. There is nothing wrong with wanting to see your nation become free and sovereign and its people to become responsible – we have a talented lot in Wales, we should be inspiring them, not rolling over and letting Westminster and the unionist-British nationalist parties bully us in believing that we are lazy and worthless. From 51 sovereign states at the end of WW2 to 193 today, many the same size or smaller than Wales, many with their own voice in the EU and UN – Plaid is not an exclusive ethnic party, but a global inclusive civic party, with the same aspirations of sovereignty as those current 193 states, including that of recent South Sudan, Serbia, Montenegro, Czech Republic and Slovakia – where were the cries from London opposing their freedom?
Leanne has proven to attract people from all walks of life and she has also changed with the times and has become a modern activist on the World Wide Web – appealing to those that use social networking sites and drawing in the youth of today – the future of Wales. Plaid will win a Welsh general election and be in government once again, but not just with votes from those old enough to vote now, but those that are coming of age. Her work in schools is inspiring young people to get involved in politics and showing them that politicians will and must listen to them as they are the most vital part of our nation.
So, when that polling card comes through my door I will be putting my mark beside Leanne Wood AM; beside the name that is the next true leader of our party; beside the name that can draw support from English and Welsh speakers, the young and the old, the private and public sector, the cities, towns, villages and valley areas – a politician that will stand up for the Wales at a time when Wales needs them the most. I hope that I have persuaded many of you to take a look at Leanne and see why I am pledging my full support to the next First Minster of Wales.
Iago ap Steffan – 29 years old Masters student at Cardiff University, ex-student of Aberystwyth University – English speaker, Welsh learner – from Cardiff but a Pontypridd boy since 2000 – currently works part-time at the National Assembly for Wales and Plaid candidate for the 2012 council elections - Hawthorn ward; from a working-class background. : )