Plaid Cymru’s conference this weekend is a conference of firsts. Our first digital spring conference. Our first conference with a pledge for an independence referendum. And the first conference where politicians and delegates will be wearing our slippers!
Yes – work, life, school and indeed politics have been thrown together under one roof by this pandemic. While some have appreciated the opportunity to spend more time at home, others have experienced heightened anxiety and frustration. Covid, rather than being the great leveller, has rather brought deep inequalities to the fore.
From the rubble of this pandemic we must lay the foundations for a home we can truly be proud of. A home that keeps all its inhabitants safe and turns no-one away from our front door.
The pandemic has been a health disaster of proportions that we have never previously experienced. It’s no exaggeration to say that it is a mass casualty incident, with the worst civilian loss of life in living memory, overshadowing even casualties lost in the Second World War.
67,635 civilians were killed in air raids on Britain, 984 of whom were in Wales.
Over 120,000 lives have already been taken by the coronavirus pandemic, over 5,000 of whom were in Wales.
The UK’s catastrophic failure in the pandemic is not the result of bad luck. It has been caused by a negligent Tory government in Westminster following decades of underfunding.
When experts were warning of an oncoming pandemic, Prime Minister Johnson was boasting on television about shaking hands with Covid patients in a hospital. International borders were unmonitored for months.
He undermined his own government’s authority by refusing to dismiss Dominic Cummings, his chief adviser, for breaking the rules.
And still. Despite all this – the Welsh Conservatives are still calling for a ‘one nation approach’. They see the party’s mismanagement in England, and beg to be subjected to the same chaos in Wales.
Even in a pandemic, the Tories’ obsession with the Union comes before common sense.
Some Tory candidates for the upcoming election have blithely promised to abolish Welsh democracy. Moderate, pro-devolution candidates were unceremoniously ditched in favour of an array of Boris Johnson groupies. The days when the Conservative Party could credibly claim to be pro-devolution are long gone.
And where is Labour in all this? With their leader in London draped in an omnipresent Union Jack – Labour is a party which will always put its allegiance to the Union above all else – even when faced with the Tories’ disastrous mishandling of the pandemic.
Where is the anger at the Tories’ pandemic cronyism? Billions of pounds of public contracts awarded to the Tories’ friends then unlawfully hidden from the public – and Labour barely make a sound. That isn’t leadership. That’s hiding in the shadows until the storm has blown over
Meanwhile, our Labour First Minister says that "the temporary failure of the current occupants of power at Westminster” to be an engine of redistribution should not lead us to conclude that “the system is incapable of delivering” what is in Wales’s interests.
But it isn’t a temporary failure. Red and blue Westminster governments have let Wales down, time and time again.
We mustn’t forget that Labour voted with the Conservative Westminster government to impose austerity.
That Labour worked with the Conservatives to reject Plaid Cymru calls for Wales to receive fair funding from HS2, resulting in Wales losing out on £5bn of funding.
Wales will have eight fewer MPs following the next Westminster election – our ability to effect change and even carry out scrutiny in London hampered even more.
We shouldn’t have to wait for a fantasy victory under a political system that it fundamentally stacked against us.
We need the confidence to build our own future – regardless of what happens next door.
As we approach May’s election, those who believe in Wales must decide whether we want control of that destiny, or whether we are content to let those who belittle us choose our future on our behalf. We cannot trust Labour – bereft of vision or conviction – to stand up to Westminster.
Wales deserves a party that stands for Wales. Let’s turn Wales into a home we can all be proud of.