Wednesday, 8 April 2009

A Tale of Two Speeches

Apologies for the delay in posting this, I'm currently sunning myself abroad (slight hint of smugness there) and have had a nightmare with the local internet connection - let's just say it's a bit ropey. So, four days late, here are some of my thoughts on the Plaid spring conference.

There were two moments that stuck in my mind that showed the two sides of Plaid Cymru and when put side by side show an interesting contradiction at the heart of the party.

First we have Simon Wooley. The head of Operation Black Vote strutted on to the stage with a confidence and an aura that I have never witnessed before. He very deliberately adjusted his glass of water before turning to address the crowd. The invitation offered to Mr Woolley to attend the conference shows Plaid's progressive nature, the party eager to be seen working with a key player in the modernisation of politics.

Initially you could sense an anxiety amongst the crowd: here was a cockney, who mispronounced Dafydd Ellis Thomas's name and was insistent that everybod gave people they didn't know a round of applause. You could almost hear the Plaid members think "Ble ma Dafydd Iwan wedi mynd?" - "Where has Dafydd Iwan gone?" (Plaid's president was the previous speaker.)

But then he spoke, and my goodness did he speak. Simon Woolley spoke was so self-assured, he had a passion that commanded not only the stage but the whole room and he soon had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. Everybody clapped when they should, laughed at appropriate times, nodded in agreement and sat silent when he emphasised the poignancy of his message. Woolley praised Plaid Cymru's efforts to have more ethnic minority members in elected office but he also said that they, along with everyone else, must do more to improve the representation of non-white ethnic groups in politics.

I have seen a lot of public speakers (I have been to Canada to represent Wales in that very discipline) but I have never in my life been so taken, so drawn to, and so impassioned by a speaker. He was driven to be a "warrior for change" and everyone who saw him speak that day would find it difficult not to be drawn to his message of social justice. He overran by a good five minutes but no one cared (apart from the impressive Plaid machinery based next to Dewi Dau and myself): he got a standing ovation......

And then we had Ieuan.

Where Plaid were progressive with their choice of Simon Woolley, Ieuan Wyn Jones' speech showed the opposite end of the Plaid spectrum.

Tired politics: attack, attack, attack. Plaid Cymru's leader reminded me of a Jack Russel biting at the heels of his owner. He slated Gordon Brown, he slated the Tories, harped back to Thatcher, slated the Liberals and even Plaid's so called partners in Government, Rhodri Morgan's Labour Party.

How can you in one sentence praise the work of the One Wales Government and in the next slag off the Welsh Labour Party? It seems to me that the Deputy First Minister missed an opportunity to be positive and forward-looking, it was almost as if he had decided to take the easy way out.

He may have got several rounds of applause mid-sentence (all started by Helen Mary Jones I might add) and a massive standing ovation, but it didn't feel authentic.

But then he did have quite an act to follow.

Dewi Un



Bethan said...

but I had to directly follow him- so unfair!!

Anonymous said...

Well I thought Ieuan's speech was a good one. Are you sure you're not being overly sensitive?

kairdiff West Kid said...

How can you praise One Wales and attack Labour? Is that a serious question? Labour are the party of government and have been for nearly 12 years. Plaid has been a junior partner in a devolved assembly coalition for less than two.
Ieuan's speech, what I saw of it on telly, was pretty good: it was funny, memorable and hard-hitting. There was Adam Price to do the hopeful future stuff.
Beaised, you're not comparing like with like: Simon Woolley is dealing with a very specific issue: the woeful under-representation of ethnic minority candidates in politics. It's something we can all agree on. He's a passionate speaker, and has a definite and precise goal, which is supported by everyne except idiots.
Heading an opposition party that is also a coaliition partner, with that entails in terms of compromise and day to day, unglamorous work, is very different.
IWJ is never going to win on charisma or passion, but he can do what he does best: look and sound efficient, make precise attacks on Labour and the tories, and try to explain to people why Plaid is trying, and try to justify the disappointments whcih were in the air at the time (over fees, Y Byd etc). That's not easy. Or glamorous. But it is politics.

Anonymous said...

Simon the plaid luvvie. Whatever next.

Anonymous said...

Simon the plaid luvvie. Whatever next.

Anonymous comments worth reading?