A former Llanelli branch Plaid Cymru activist claims that the party are in chaos, rife with dictators and entrenched in a modus operandi of top down first, community activists last.
Speaking to Llanelli Online the once staunch Plaid Cymru supporter Mary Roll described what had happened in the lead up to the 2017 general election and the state of the Llanelli branch of the party today. She said: “In 2017 we democratically chose a candidate. The result was 46 for Sean Rees and 43 for Mari Arthur. As far as I understood that was the end of it. Shortly after we were called to another meeting, a secret meeting. Leanne Wood came down with Gareth Clubb. We were told quite clearly you will not tell anybody what has happened at this meeting.”
We asked Mary to clarify what happened at the hustings meeting, which should have put forward the Plaid Cymru candidate to stand for MP. She explained: “What was said was quite simple. In order to be a candidate for Llanelli you had to be on a certain list. As far as we knew Sean was on that list and Mari Arthur was not on that list. It would appear that in the interim they had altered that list. They were not able to tell us in any coherent way how people got on the list. Who decided who was on the list. We asked why Sean was good enough to be on the Gower list but not good enough to be on the Llanelli list but nobody could answer the simple question. It was hard to justify that Mrs Arthur had more experience as far as we could make out Sean had the political experience. If events since then are anything to go by she does not appear that politically clever because anyone with common sense and who knows anything about politics would have reached out to everyone. She was parachuted in but failed to communicate. What sort of communication is it when you slam the door in people’s faces?
“After this unfortunate event we could have moved on. Plaid Cymru selected Mari Arthur and she lost. We were told that Sean was not eligible. I would take a step back and say that Plaid had decided she was a better candidate and that they could swing it and make it look democratic by putting new people on the list. At the hustings she really was not terribly convincing. They tried to get it to look like it was democratic, unfortunately Sean won by three votes. So when that didn’t work I think they thought they should think of something else to make Sean ineligible.”
We asked Mary if Plaid Cymru’s central office in Cardiff had got things wrong in their procedural approach to selecting their candidate for Llanelli. She said: “Yes, I would say that and say that it was a concerted policy from Central Plaid to impose their methods or way of seeing the future of the party on the local members and we are now dealing with a disconnect between their political objectives that they presumably discussed amongst themselves that we know nothing about. People here in Llanelli have continued to operate in the old fashioned way at community level in a way that the community know.
“Unfortunately, they are out of touch with the community of Llanelli and they are not even listening. It is common sense. If you alienate all the people you are trying to serve you don’t have a hope. You have to have a balance. You can’t do what they have done and decapitate the local leadership. I don’t think it is an accident that the two people initially suspended were the two leading people in Llanelli town and Llangennech. They probably thought that by suspending these two people everyone else would just shut up. Unfortunately for them it hasn’t happened because Llanelli is a close knit community.”
We asked Mary if Simon Thomas was right to be critical of Plaid Cymru’s application of disciplinary procedures and if she thought Alun Ffred was ‘out of control’. Mary answered: “Yes, on both counts. Alun Ffred has allegedly given £20,000 to Plaid Cymru. What does that sound like to you? It comes across as buying one’s way into power. I don’t think they care if half the people withdraw their membership. They don’t need their money.”
We asked Mary if in her view Plaid Cymru’s approach had changed since she became a member and if so in what way? Mary said: “My view is that Plaid Cymru are not doing enough on the issue of independence. I would vote tomorrow for a free Wales. That is why I joined. I did not join for them to behave like Labour. Anyone who has disagreed has been closed down. We have had meetings and we thought we would be democratic and have a resolution asking for the key to Bres Road to carry on with normal business. The local activists have no access to computers or printing. It is a classic political move to close down the dissenters. There has not been a constituency meeting for ages. There are mice running around the building and the place is freezing. Simon Thomas has left and it is empty. A lot of us were chipping in £20 a month towards the upkeep. What we are now confronted with is a disconnect. If they don’t deal with this at the Party Conference they are in trouble.”
There has been little or no communication with Llanelli Online from Plaid Cymru regarding the alleged difficulties in Llanelli despite efforts to communicate with them. We asked Mary what her view was of the relationship Plaid Cymru has with the press. She said: “Their PR is lamentable. I was a communications officer. I have worked with the UN so I do know a what I am talking about. The last thing you do is refuse to talk to the press. They are asking for trouble. They have a duty to reply to the press. They had a duty to respond to simple members. We were chastised for speaking to the press. The press is your resonance. I honestly think that if we didn’t have the press democracy would be in pretty bad shape. A letter was sent to the Llanelli branch. ‘Thou shalt not speak to the press’. We were just asking for facts, the truth. Either they are completely incompetent or they are doing it deliberately.”
Mary has compared the Plaid Cymru central office approach to Llanelli to that of the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s dealing with the Catalans. She said: “Plaid Cymru have been in support of the Catalans and are against this type of dictatorship but they are guilty of the same here in Llanelli. I was really angry when I made the comment comparing them to the Spanish Prime Minister but now I know it is true. They are robbing people of the ability to communicate and that is effectively a power grab. It is exactly what they are doing. They want to snuff out any local initiative. They have a model of what we are allowed to say, what we are allowed to do. Those people they have now are puppets. This lady Deris Williams is a family member of Emlyn Dole. If Plaid were elected there would be a direct line from central office to the local MP to the leader of the council bypassing the community. That is not what anyone who has joined Plaid Cymric expects. I only joined Plaid because I thought they shared my values.”
We asked Mary if she believed that Plaid Cymru had an identity crisis. She said: “They are trying to sail with the wind but it would be better if they kept their course. It is hard to see what they stand for and to differentiate them from Labour. If they are trying to link with Labour, then say so. Maybe we are being forced in to that choice. The hard liners will be suspended or leave. They are getting Alun Ffred’s money so they don’t need us. I don’t think the party is in meltdown but there is a split and if they don’t address the issues then there will be a meltdown. Decisions should be taken by the conference not by a bunch of people in Cardiff. If you take away people’s voices of course they are going to over react. If Alun Ffred continues to behave in the way, he has so far people will leave. It is either do as we say and follow central party line of take the door or they will start insulting people to the extent where they hand in their resignation as I have.”
Llanelli Online has been furnished with emails sent to the Llanelli branch and we will be publishing these along with missives sent by Mary Roll. Here is a taster of one she sent to Plaid’s central office.
I have just seen the communication sent to the Llanelli Town Branch. Are you all mad? All we have asked for is justice and a fair investigation. If you had a clear conscience, you would accept this. If you fear the press, you have a serious problem. If I want to speak to the press, I shall. Are you going to sling me in prison, like Erdogan in Turkey? You are worse than Mariano Rajoy and the Spaniards. Before supposedly supporting the Catalans, you would do well to look to your own house.
Photo: Mariano Rajoy, ©David Plas. Licensed under Wiki Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mariano_Rajoy_(13537266535).jpg