Last Thursday evening, I joined Plaid Cymru. I’ve voted for them at my last two visits to the polling booth, and I explained why here and here. From the outside it seemed easy, and only cost me £2 per month. From the ‘inside’ however, this has been quite a convoluted struggle, as I tried to work out whether I was better placed to effect change outside of the political process, or from within. I even toyed with the idea of starting something up from scratch…. What I realised, is that I needed to ‘do’, and although my work with Indycube is clearly community-centric, for me, it wasn’t enough.
Over the past few years, I’ve come to the firm conclusion that Wales needs a different road map – we’ve slavishly followed the same plan as everyone else, and consistently failed to address the major issues that are relevant to us, here in Wales. Moreover, in lots of ways, using the plans of others has simply exacerbated some of our own problems – and yet political discourse in Wales is filled with managerialism and incrementalism. There are few radical alternatives being discussed, let alone put into action. For those who the current system benefits, I can understand a willingness to continue with the status quo – but for the vast swathes of Wales where it’s not working, this mustn’t be as good as it gets. The entire Welsh political agenda should be rebalanced to deliver better lives for all, not simply for an already well heeled minority. In simpler terms we need to beat inequality.
Alternative models are starting to emerge, and for once this is our time to lead. Not necessarily for others to follow, but for ourselves. To do so effectively, we need all the levers of power in our own hands. Our dependency as a Nation is what holds us back as a Country. It’s what holds back communities and what holds back individuals too. We need to break this damaging cycle, and the opportunity to do just that is here and now.
I’ve not been a fervent ‘Welsh Nat’ all my life. In fact, had you asked me five years ago, I’d probably have described myself as believing Wales is better off within the UK. I now think I was wrong. The main reason I’ve changed my mind, is seeing at close hand, how damaging policies focused (but rarely delivering) on growth alone are to our communities. I also see a global economy that is in the process of slowing to zero or perhaps no growth. Soon the rest of the world will need to get its head around how communities can act as the bond in troubled times. We get that here in Wales – all we need to do is believe in ourselves a little bit more.
I blame all the political parties in Wales for the position we currently find ourselves in. The Brexit referendum highlighted in sharp outline just how out of touch ‘do-good’ politicians and their allies were with disadvantaged communities. Ever since the heavy industries left those areas, politicians of all colours have promised they could make things better, and time and again they simply haven’t. The missing trick, I think is the need to let communities ‘have their head’ – we should seek out and support emergent activities from within communities – often things won’t work, but at least the locals will feel win, lose or draw, the result was down to them, and they own that result, together.
Plaid aren’t getting an easy member in me. I want to influence the Party, and I want to be part of a much changed Wales. I clearly see the need for a radical, progressive Wales, and one where the deeds match the rhetoric. I’ve no intention of swaying from this course, and will push the Party to really believe in Wales, and it’s people. Only then will we start to see a way forward that will collectively be ours to own. I want Plaid to be brave, and to take risks – after all I do wonder what’s to lose if they shy away from this challenge.
I’ve always been engaged in politics, and Plaid isn’t the first party I’ve joined. In the spirit of full disclosure, as a youthful 14 year old I stood and won as the Conservative candidate in our classroom mock election in 1983. More seriously, I was a member of the Lib Dems for a number of years, and stood for election for them in 2005 (Westminster) and 2007 (Assembly), and apart from a brief look at the Greens immediately after leaving the Lib Dems, I’ve remained engaged, but on a non-partisan basis since then. I’d consider my politics to be the result of a political and economic journey, and one I’m glad I’ve taken. I’m therefore no partisan politician – I believe the success of the Nation comes before the needs of the Party, and I’m not one for dogma.
So what does this mean for me?
- I’m going to continue to work on the development of an alternative economic model for Wales. I see Indycube as playing a role in that, but I also see the work having a wider reach too. A think/do tank approach seems most appropriate, perhaps not dis-similar to Common Weal in Scotland. This work will be independent of Plaid, and I’d hope the work influences others from differing parties and those outside of party politics.
- I’m also going to apply to stand as a candidate for Plaid in the upcoming Vale of Glamorgan council elections. If selected, I intend standing in the ward where my family and I live; the Buttrills ward in the centre of Barry. I know how demanding it is to be a good local Councillor, and am up for the challenge and the election.
- One thing, I’ll be continuing to do is to seek the views of others from around the Country in relation to ways we can improve the lives of all, not just the few. I’m constantly impressed by the ideas and vitality of people who live and work in Wales – I’m just disappointed as to how their opinions and projects are often suppressed by the established norms. Those who’ve been involved in shaping the thinking thus far, I hope will continue to support this work, irrespective of any Party allegiances.
I’ll continue to use this blog to consider concepts as they emerge in Wales. There’s already a few blogs here if you’d like to get a feel as to the ideas that interest me. I’d welcome feedback, and will always respond (to everything but abuse!).
To end, the other day this came through on Twitter, and it made me realise I had to do something. I feel it’s worth sharing. For day to day thoughts of mine, I’m quite active on Twitter as @markjhooper