Step one in my Seven Steps to Independence is to elect a pro-independence party in 2021. To do this, we have to transform our party into an election-winning machine.
There are 5 key campaign machinery components that we need to win:
- Member Recruitment & Fundraising – Turning supporters into members and members into activists and improving the way we fundraise
- Training our team – Creating a national Organising Academy and developing community leaders
- A national Campaigns Unit – ensuring Plaid Cymru is at the forefront of political operations with cutting-edge campaigning
- Seat by seat targetting - Understanding our local electorate and developing relationships
- Learning from the best – Sharing best practice internally and learning from around the globe
If I am to have the honour of being the new leader of Plaid Cymru, I will dedicate my first year in office to transforming our party into one that can win seats at every level of government – town and community councils, local government, Westminster and the National Assembly – and in every community across Wales.
In my constituency of Carmarthen East and Dinefwr we beat Labour in the first National Assembly election in 1999 and gained from Labour in the 2001 general election where Tony Blair’s party lost just 7 seats across the entire UK. Nobody in Plaid Cymru has a monopoly on beating Labour. But in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr we know a thing or two about winning elections.
I am the only candidate for Leader whose constituency has a Plaid Cymru-led Council, Plaid Cymru Assembly Member, Plaid Cymru Member of Parliament and Plaid Cymru Police Commissioner. We also have 22 Plaid Cymru County Councillors out of 27 electoral wards.
We don’t just talk about winning elections. We do it.
What do I see are the 5 key components?
1. Member Recruitment & Fundraising
164,000 people voted Plaid Cymru in the 2017 General Election but less than 5% of those are party members. We need to turn supporters into members, and members into activists. This would immediately increase our regular income as well as expanding the number of volunteers.
We must end our dependency on wills and legacies to help us fight elections. Rolling out a small donations strategy similar to that used by various charities and organisations would help constituencies raise more income for local campaigning.
Nationally we must offer a comprehensive policy vision to inspire those willing to invest in the next party of government. We must aim for a minimum £500,000 campaign war chest to contest the 2021 National Assembly Election.
2. Expanding our Capacity
Our branches and constituencies are often dependent upon the same small group of volunteers to undertake a number of roles. If you’re a local candidate you’re often expected to be leaflet designer, campaign organiser, translator and fundraiser too! We must expand our capacity.
A National Organising Academy will not only assist Plaid Cymru’s campaigning, but will develop community leaders in their own right. The Academy will therefore have two key pathways: Campaigning and Organising. It will be one of the main ways in which Plaid Cymru will invest and give something back to our members.
The Academy will provide a series of training courses and modules, both residential and online, including digital webinars with senior campaign staff, on the core campaign elements, including messaging, public narrative, persuasion and canvassing techniques, and confidence building. It will help equip members and volunteers with the self-confidence to swap leaflet drops for door knocks.
The Academy will support volunteers in becoming leaders in their community and teaching the principles of grassroots organising. It will support candidates, branches and constituencies with their local strategic plans to achieve positive change in their areas. From the local ‘Save our School’ campaign to standing for Parliament, organising and expanding the group of grassroots activists through building personal relationships with voters will be crucial to achieving a Plaid Cymru government in 2021.
3. National Campaigns Unit (NCU)
The NCU would consist of a dedicated team to support campaigns across the country. It would be located outside of the main party headquarters.
The team would consist of specialists in communications, strategy, data analysis and design to lead on vital aspects of election campaigns.
It would pilot and roll-out cutting-edge campaign technology and provide quality literature and design and print services for candidates. It will scope out the best resources to help us win elections.
Echoing some of the work undertaken by the Analyst Institute in the USA, the NCU would conduct controlled testing of various campaign and ‘get out the vote’ techniques to assess the most appropriate for the local electorate.
4. Seat by seat targeting
We need to better understand our electorate. We will commission and conduct in-depth polling and data analysis to help develop the party’s policy priorities. Deploying ‘deep-canvassing’ methods across Wales, we can develop relationships with voters to provide the intelligence to determine our work in individual constituencies, and even individual wards.
We can bypass the effects of a London-centric media and instead lead efforts to inform local opinion.
Learning from the best
We will end the deserts of success in a small number of constituencies and ensure there is an oasis of victory across Wales. With contacts in political parties across the globe, I want to bring them to Wales and share best practice through our National Campaigns Unit and Organising Academy.
The obvious start is with our friends in the SNP who replaced Labour as the party of government in a short space of time. We will also ensure our organisers are better networked and well-resourced to capitalise on the opportunities for victory.
Although things are very difficult in politics in 2018, I honestly believe it is an exciting time for Plaid Cymru – we have ideas, we have commitment and we have the most dedicated party members of all the political parties.
We are not a party that simply wants to manage things the way they are like the Labour Party. We are not content with ‘more of the same’ like the Tories. We are a positive movement with radical ideas which was once at the forefront of political organising and campaigning in Wales. We can be that once again.
If I am elected as party leader the work will start immediately. I will transform our party into an election-winning machine to deliver a radical Plaid Cymru government in 2021.