She came and conquered the faithful. The first of many standing ovations that will be hers as she leads this most sentimental of parties.
For a new leader the first speech is always the most difficult and she succeeded. Her style is conversational, understated, discursive but effective. She held her audience.
The message, well, one of hope. She wants to do politics differently. To do ‘politics positively.’
‘Let’s talk about ideas, not personalities. Let’s talk about our vision of what Wales can be instead of running others down.’
A noble aspiration, indeed the last politician that had a similar message of a new type of politics was dear old Lembit Opik and look where he’s now. Not that Leanne Wood is in the same mould, thank god.
There were clues in her speech of the direction she wants to take the party. ‘to get the job done…..doesn’t always mean sitting around the Cabinet table. That’s not the only way that co-operation works.’
She sees the aspiration for independence and the new Wales being built from ‘the ground up, piece be piece, ward by ward.’
Almost like Obama she wants to activate the young and other groups that have hitherto not been greatly concerned with politics. The leadership campaign showed that she understands and can reach the twitter generation. Her background as a social worker and community activist means that she’s playing to her strengths in pushing micro politics. After all she is a warm engaging person and has the enthusiasm.
The difficulty with trying to build politics from the ground up is that it takes an awfully long time. Political parties are not known for their patience. They want and demand instant gratification.
Under the new leader Plaid will worry less about the National Assembly and worry more about the big world outside the Cardiff Bay bubble. Indeed the fact that she’s not changed the jobs of any Assembly Members would indicate that this is not a priority.
Her economic policy has three strands. First is to build the green economy. Her ambition is to to see the ‘whole of Wales, retrofitting every home and every building until every last one is fit for the future – staring with those that need the help most, the homes of those on low incomes.’ A noble aspiration but one at the moment without a price tag.
Secondly, she wants investment in the knowledge economy. ‘knowledge will be the economic frontier of the future.’ She wants a 1% minimum investment across all companies for all workers. And a Welsh research council so Welsh universities ‘no longer lose out to the Oxbridge college cartel.’
The third strand is that old Plaid chestnut of Build for Wales. This will get much needed infrastructure work underway. But this is not currently a runner so meanwhile she hopes to get borrowing by piggy backing on the local councils right to borrow.
But much of these specifics were simply padding for a speech that’s aim was to rally the troops to her cause and ambition. Her optimism was infectious and not many in the hall would disagree with her. The challenge she faces is to get the 93 per cent of the population that don’t care a toss about independence to buy into the vision.
A big ask.