Adam Price’s Blog

The Blog of Adam Price AS/MP, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

Adam Price MP / AS - Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

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Archive for August 20th, 2009

20th August 2009

A design for plaid


Paolo Coelho, the author of The Alchemist,  argues that people come in two generic types – gardeners who invest in a lifelong passion, patiently pruning and planting and enjoying the slow, steady transformation  that creates a truly great garden.  Then there are the builders who work on projects, who love working to a plan with clear objectives and when the work’s completed – after a brief moment of satisfaction – it’s time to move on to the next project.  It’s quite important for your own sense of happiness to work out which camp you’re in:  I know classic ‘gardeners’ who get frustrated because they never have the time or the continuity to achieve their long-term vision.  Equally I know builders who sometimes get trapped in a rut – building the walls that then confine them. 

I am a builder – tthe fact that I don’t even have a garden is probably symptomatic – I have an intrinsic loathing of repetitive tasks.  I like to set goals, hopefully achieve them and then invest my energy in something new. 

It’s this with this in mind that I am standing down at our Annual Conference (in Llandudno this year from September 10 to 13th) as Director of Elections.  I have been on Plaid’s National Executive on and off continually for the last twenty years so hopefully  I’ve earned a break.  But I am particularly pleased to have been part of a team that has taken the party from the doldrums of the middle of this decade to being, not just a party of Government for the first time in its history, but the most dynamic force in Welsh politics today poised as I think we are to win a national election for the first time in 2011. 

When I agreed to stand for this post  back in the Summer of 2005 it was on condition that the party was prepared to back an agenda for radical change in the way that it organised and presented itself to the Welsh electorate. The combined ‘buy-in’ by the then Chief Executive Dafydd Trystan, Ieuan as Leader and Dafydd Iwan as President was absolutely crucial.    It was branded a ‘rebranding’ exercise – and the swapping of the ‘Welsh poppy” for the ‘Triban’ was an useful early indicator that something interesting was happening in Plaid.  The party’s new visual identity projected a new modern. inclusive image which has stayed with us ever since.

But the transformation of the party in just four years has been much more than just superficial.  Critical to the success that we have enjoyed (our share of the vote has risen in every set of elections compared to the previous round – the party is back on an upward curve) was the creation of a National Campaigns Unit headed by the tirelessly dedicated Geraint Day and staffed by an incredibly talented team.  The related decision to create a Director of Communications post (filled by the uber-talented Alun Shurmer and now the mega-bright Morgan Lloyd – an old management trick is always to appoint people under your leadership who are far more talented than yourself)  – helped us to create a new professionalism in our media, web presence and campaign communications.  The 2007 party political broadcasts were the pinnacle of a strategy that sought to position as having the most innovative and fresh of all the parties’ campaigns.  We won that battle…though little did we think that we’d be copied across the Atlantic (hat tip to Vaughan Roderick).

One of the other objectives we set was to inoculate the negatives that the party had faced at previous elections.  We needed to project Ieuan’s personality and take off some of the negative perceptions that had been a feature in 2003.  My seemingly off-the-cuff comment about the ‘good country solicitor’ was latched upon as a gaffe but was part of a deliberate attempt to emphasise Ieuan’s strengths :  dependability,  attention to detail, rootedness, approachability, a sense of leadership as service.  That strategy culminated in the Wales-wide-walk which didn’t just project the image of a party united behind its leader but cemented the reality. 

The idea of the permanent campaign is now at the heart of everything that Plaid does, not least at the grassroots level where Plaid has overtaken the Focus-leaflet fanatics of the Lib Dems as the most prolific leafleting organisation in Wales.  We telecanvass like the rest, but the continued importance of face-to-face contact has been drummed into a new generation of Plaid activists through the ‘five streets a week’ concept, which, incidentally, we borrowed from Sinn Fein.

The revolution that began in 2005 is now, to a large extent, self-sustaining.  We are a party of continual innovation – as Plaid supporters pre-eminence in the Welsh blogosphere proves (well done to Che Gravara, who is now officially the Capo di tutti Capi of Welsh bloggers).  A new National Development Unit has been formed to use the same underlying philosophy as the NCU but apply it to those parts of Wales, like Merthyr, where we have the potential but currently lack the base.  These are exciting times and I am glad to have helped lay the foundations.  But like every builder, I know when it’s time to move on.