Saturday, 19 May 2012

To be or not to be - The President's Club

I was recently asked my view on an institution of Plaid Cymru's which has existed for a good number of years now, The President's Club.

It is possible that many party members and readers of this blog will have no idea of what the President's Club is; in essence, it is the status given to party members who pay a monthly membership fee of £20 or more. Members of the club enjoy a special reception at the Eisteddfod and at Annual Conference, an opportunity to attend a special event with a guest speaker, and a personal Christmas card from the President of Plaid Cymru.

I admit that the President's Club isn't something to which I've given much thought. Personally, I am not a member of the club, and never have been. As a student, I simply can't afford to give the party £20 a month but I hope that my contribution to the party in terms of the work I do for it, not only as Chair of Plaid Cymru Youth, but also on various campaigns and at election time, makes up for what I cannot give financially.

It was put to me that the President's Club isn't fair, as it excludes those who cannot afford to give much to the party financially, and I accept that. The person with whom I was speaking suggested that if we want to build a society of equals, why do we need a special club like this in the first place, because surely it goes against all our principles? After all, our party's constitution states that one of our core aims as a national movement is
to build a national community based on equal citizenship, respect for different traditions and cultures and the equal worth of all individuals, whatever their race, nationality, gender, colour, creed, sexuality, age, ability or social background.

I'd like to briefly set out my view on the President's Club. I do find myself feeling slightly uncomfortable that there should be some sort of 'special club' for those in Plaid Cymru who can afford to give more money to the party than others; I find that to be something rather more suited to the unionist parties which we so vehemently oppose.

Having said that, Plaid Cymru is extremely fortunate in that we have hundreds, if not thousands, of committed activists all across Wales who play such a vital role in the development and promotion of the national movement, and it is only right that the party appreciates them, even if it is only with a couple of receptions and a Christmas card. Plaid Cymru activists are by no means half-hearted in their work for our party, so they deserve our thanks.

The problem is that the President's Club does not recognise their contribution - it only recognises those who give in financial terms.

Having said all of that, I am lucky to be in a position to know how the party works, to know the challenges that it faces, and the difficulties involved in running a national movement such as ours with only a limited number of staff at HQ, who, I have to say, work extremely hard for the cause. I imagine that it would be terribly difficult for the party to keep a record of all those who give so much to this party in non-financial terms, and it would be costly to thank them with three such events every year.

Of course, Dr Eurfyl ap Gwilym's internal review made reference to getting closer to party members - for there to be a better connection and relationship between party officials and staff in HQ and our activists on the ground - but I would suggest that it would be beneficial for the party to find a mechanism for officially appreciating hard-working party activists. I think the internal report by Dr ap Gwilym goes a long way in doing this, by raising the possibility of party members being invited to HQ to see how the party works, and of course, all party members are allowed to attend conference.

So, being that the party is working with a view to developing and strengthening the relationship between the party in central office and the activists at grassroots level, and also the fact that it would be very difficult to include hard-working party activists in some sort of club, I am not of the view that the President's Club ought to be scrapped.

I know this blog has been a bit dry, but I thought that I'd better clarify my position on it, as I'd been asked by a party member.

Cerith Rhys Jones
National Chair

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Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, until society is 'equal' the President's Club will always be around. Regardless of what anybody thinks - all political parties need money to function. And if this encourages people to give a bit more, then I am all for it. FOR AS LONG AS IT DOES NOT INFLUENCE PARTY POLICY.

If we look to the SNP for example, the recent Euromillions winners donated £1million to the party. Salmond then invited them for tea (basically to thank them). Frankly I find this ok, again FOR AS LONG AS THEIR MONEY DIDN'T INFLUENCE PARTY POLICY.

Unfortunately with Labour and the Tories (in fairness the LibDem's are pretty 'clean' on this issue). Their donations DID influence party policy (re: banking, unions, bskyb etc).

Anonymous said...

**just to add to the above - I am concerned though at the money HQ spends. The office is a little nicer than it really needs to be. Everything including envelopes are branded (which is unnecessary).
..... this sort of money could be put into the 'warchest' ready for 2016!

Cerith Rhys Jones said...

As far as I understand, membership of the President's Club does not mean that one can influence party policy. As far as I am concerned, National Conference, as well as the NEC and National Council, are the only bodies that influence and decide party policy. Naturally, all members of Plaid Cymru have the ability to make their opinion known, and being a member of the President's Club doesn't mean that one can do that any more than non-members. That's definitely something that Plaid Cymru can be proud of.