Thursday, 3 March 2016

I know I’m meant to hate Plaid, but I don’t

This column was published in the Llanelli Herald on March 4th 2016

Plaid Cymru are holding their annual conference in Llanelli this weekend. The constituency is their number one target seat in May’s Assembly elections so they are here to make some noise.

Ever since 1999 the seat has swung back and fore between Labour and Plaid, and as they only lost it by 80 votes at the last elections, they figure it’s their turn.

Now as their opponent I know I’m meant to hate Plaid. The trouble is I don’t. I don’t take a tribal view of politics. There are some good ideas and people in many parties. When Labour and Plaid formed the ‘One Wales’ coalition in the Assembly between 2007 - 2011 there was much common ground.  But Plaid have taken a new direction.

They are now dead set on getting Labour out of office, and given the way seats are distributed in the Assembly that can only mean letting the Tories control Wales in some form. Some in Plaid bitterly regret that the attempt to form a formal coalition with the Tories - the so-called Rainbow Coalition in 2007 - failed, and are biding their time before they can try again.

Leanne Wood has ruled it out, but it is widely expected that she’ll either stand down after May’s election or will be removed.

Despite unprecedented UK coverage in last year’s General Election Leanne has failed to persuade people that she is a future First Minister. After seeing her on telly, more and more people may stop her to have a selfie taken, but celebrity and credibility are very different things.

Plaid have not made the breakthrough that the SNP has, and research shows that in Wales their obsession with independence and the Welsh language turn-off many voters.

One of the issues I think they’ve got wrong is the NHS. The health service across the UK is facing a very tough time. The reasons are well rehearsed - people are living longer, but often with health complications; medical advances and drugs are putting pressures on budgets and overall demand is growing at a time when money is tight.

Plaid know all this, but have been pretty cynical in using people’s justifiable concerns about the NHS for political advantage. During the election before last they even formally changed their name so that on the ballot paper they’d be described as “Plaid Cymru - Save our hospital’.

But their political manoeuvring can’t change the reality of the NHS, and even though their AM said ‘over my dead body will services be taken from Prince Philip Hospital’. Changes were made to the hospital at a time when they were in coalition. But they still brought out the placards.

Now they claim to be able to magic out of the air a 1,000 new Doctors for Wales. But it takes 9 years to train a Doctor. Where are they going to get them from? The NHS in England and Scotland are struggling to recruit new Doctors, but it's not a problem for Plaid apparently. All to manipulate people’s concerns about the NHS for their electoral advantage.

And on top of it all they’re proposing a massive reorganisation of the NHS in Wales. Our Doctors and nurses need that like a hole in the head.

They may be a well meaning bunch, but Llanelli needs practical ideas to solve our problems. And that’s my focus.

Lee Waters is Welsh Labour's candidate for Llanelli

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