Plaid's Manefesto

Plaid Cymru launched its Assembly Manifesto yesterday, the first of the political parties to do so. As the parties launch their manifestos one would expect, in a mature democracy, for the political debate on the policies to begin. I have been rather disappointed by the reaction so far.

Nick Bourne for the Conservatives dismisses Plaid's manifesto as the Biggest Wish List in History. Professor Bourne, obviously, doesn't have children and doesn't know how long a letter to Father Christmas can be. Much longer than the 36 (illustrated) pages of the Plaid Manifesto I can assure him! Plaid's wish list actually only contains seven wishes, which comes to fewer than two wishes per year for the term of the next Assembly Government. I would have thought that a much more valid criticism of this manifesto is that it is too light.

Plaid's seven wishes cover a number of important points. Reducing energy use, affordable childcare, giving schoolchildren a technological advantage in a technological world market, student debt, housing, business taxes and community health services. I hope that the Conservatives too have wishes on all of these issues - if they don't they don't deserve a single Welsh vote.

Labour's response to Plaid's manifesto was typical. The sums don't add up. Coming from the Labour Party this is a bit rich. In their 2003 manifesto Labour promised free home care for every disabled person in Wales and free breakfasts for all children in Wales - they discovered that they were unable to afford these promises and reneged on both of them. Their 2003 manifesto didn't add up, so can their opinion on the sums on any party's policies (not least their own) be trusted?

The trouble with budgetary arguments is that national budgets deal in sums that the ordinary voter can't be expected to be familiar with. A million pounds for policy x seems like a hell of a lot to me in comparison to the price of tea bags. I don't know what a billion is - is it a thousand million or a million million? (My dictionaries give different definitions).

Wouldn't it be better to discuss what Wales needs? And if the Assembly budget can't meet those needs (such as the need for Labour's policy to support carers) to criticise those who leave Wales without the means to fulfil its needs - like the London Labour Government that left two of Welsh Labour's flagship policies of 2003 in the lurch?

The most damming condemnation of Plaid's Manifesto, born out of a deep political analysis of the needs of the people of Wales, however, comes from Liberal Democrat Jenny Randerson who says:

This is a manifesto without substance. It covers 36 pages, but many of those are pictures of models. Are they too embarrassed of their candidates to show people what they look like?

So the Lib Dem response to Plaid's Manifesto is we don't like the pictures

I am not a member of Plaid or any other party. Many of Plaid's seven keynote policies raise question of debate that I would like to see discussed before deciding how to cast my vote.

Will laptops give our children a technological advantage or will they put our children in danger of internet abuse?

Will the £5,000 grant for first time buyers enable more people to buy a house or just add £5K on house inflation?

Are long term targets for energy efficiency valid - wouldn't a guarantee of short term targets say 1% within 6 months 5% within two years be a better measurements by which to judge the efficiency of energy reduction policies? etc

Plaid's Manifesto raises a number of issues that need debating, sensibly, in Wales. As the other parties reveal their manifestos other worthwhile issues will be raised.

Wouldn't it be better if Wales could actually discus these issues sensibly, rather than continuing with petty party based slanging matches?

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