"The Nineteenth century saw a great Springtime of Nations as the revolutions of 1848 saw new countries created the length and breadth of Europe. In our world today we are now seeing our own Spring Awakening with people and cultures that have long been dormant and subdued asserting their right to exist, their right to dream." Adam Price MP
Tuesday, 13 April 2010
A Celtic Alliance becomes a Reality
Plaid Cymru manifesto: aim to create a 'formidable bloc' of Celtic MPs
Welsh nationalists hope alliance with the SNP will lead to greater influence in a hung parliament
Ieuan Wyn Jones, leader of Plaid Cymru, said the party would work to protect Wales against 'London cuts'. Photograph: Barry Batchelor/PA
Plaid Cymru today revealed a raft of manifesto pledges designed to tempt voters to help it create a "formidable bloc of Celtic MPs" that will wield influence during the next parliament.
The Welsh nationalists have formed an alliance with the Scottish National party that they believe will help them shape policy at Westminster if there is a hung parliament.
Plaid's leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, said at the party's manifesto launch in Cardiff that Welsh and Scottish nationalists could form a "strong wedge" and force the next government to do more for their respective countries.
Future working arrangements did not stop Jones and his colleagues fiercely attacking Labour and the Conservatives. Jones accused Labour of mismanaging the economy and the Tories of being complicit in the errors made, adding that Plaid would work to protect Wales against "London cuts".
He spelled out policies that Plaid would talk to Labour or the Tories about in exchange for their support during the next parliament.
Plaid's first pledge focuses on the claim that the current funding formula leaves Wales shortchanged to the tune of £300m a year. This threatens frontline services such as hospitals and schools, it claims. Plaid also suggests the "London-centric focus" on the 2012 Olympic games is causing Welsh communities to lose out.
The manifesto (slogan: Think different. Think Plaid) argues pensioners are having to choose between "heating and eating" and says it would fight to substantially increase pensions, at first for the over-80s, later for all pensioners. It says this could be paid for by limiting income tax relief on pension contributions to the standard rate. The current system, it says, favours those earning more than £150,000 a year.
Plaid also says the next government should make the abolition of child poverty a priority. It says it wants the wealthy to pay "a little extra" to make sure vulnerable people are protected. It would introduce a new tax rate of 50% on those earning more than £100,000. It would also raise the personal tax allowance by £100, taking 1 million low earners out of the "income tax net".
The party also calls for a "maximum wage" to begin to close the "massive pay gap" between rich and poor, and for bank bonuses be curbed.
Plaid called the war in Iraq "illegal" and the conflict in Afghanistan "unwise", and says it wants a phased withdrawal of troops. It also calls for a "Military and Well-Being Act" to safeguard service personnel while they are fighting and afterwards.
The party says it wants to set up a venture capital fund to help smaller businesses in Wales get started. It pledges to improve access to broadband and boost mobile phone coverage. Plaid says it wants to bring high-speed rail to Wales and develop infrastructure for electric vehicles.
It is not calling for independence at once ‑ though this remains a long term goal ‑ but does want a referendum on giving the national assembly in Cardiff more powers. Plaid will also continue to campaign for a separate legal jurisdiction for Wales.
The party is calling for a halt to "unnecessary" spending such as on the ID card scheme and the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system.
Other eye-catching proposals include a cut in VAT to 5% on home maintenance, repairs and improvements. It also wants a reform of the Allotment Act to cope with demand.
Jones refused to be drawn on which of the main parties he would prefer to see gain power. Plaid won three seats at the last general election and Jones said the party would get more of the 40 it is fighting for this time.
Jones said Plaid and the SNP had worked closely together to maximise their chances of winning influence. He pointed out that Plaid had experience working with other parties: it has formed a coalition government with Labour at the assembly and works with the Liberal Democrats on Cardiff council. To the concern of some activists, the leadership has confirmed it will also talk to the Tories.
Jones said Plaid and the SNP could create a "formidable bloc of Celtic MPs".
Plaid's leader at Westminster, Elfyn Llwyd, said the party had punched above its weight before and with more MPs would be able to "punch even more".