Whenever I make critical comments about Plaid Cymru I can almost guarantee two responses in the comments. One will suggest that I join Plaid Cymru and try to persuade the party, from within, towards a more tolerant view of non-socialist politics. The second will suggest that I join the Tories, presumably in order to persuade that party from within, towards a nationalist view of conservatism.
Thirty years ago both of these suggestions would have been practical.
When I joined the Liberal Party in 1975 (before the days of the Liberal Democrats) I was able to make suggestions at local level, which, if passed, could go up to Welsh level and then on to UK conference. Most of my silly teenage ideas were killed off at local level - but never without a proper discussion and a democratic vote of local members. A couple of my ideas (after much amending) actually made it to the party's election manifesto.
When I joined Plaid, the same was true. An individual member's idea could go through the party process and become national policy. I can recall a particularly pleasing experience when I made an argument in a constituency meeting and then heard the local MP make my case, almost word for word, a few days later on the radio programme Yesterday in Parliament.
Big kudos! I was part of the party!
Sadly those days, when one could influence party ideas as a party member, have long gone. Now half a dozen party strategists decide party policies. The basis of manifesto commitment is the view of focus groups, psephologists, experts, influential donors, media response analysts and such like. Motions backed by swathes of party members are refused conference time by political experts and analysts who advise conference organisers. The day of the individual member's influence is long dead.
Plaid Cymru will not allow a proper internal party debate on the topic of socialism v nationalism neither will the Welsh Conservatives allow a debate on unionism v nationalism, even if a majority of either party's members want to have that debate, unless or until external advisers tell them that such a debate will be advantageous.
I can't see the point of joining any political party in our days.
I am much happier blogging my political viewpoint independently of any party straitjacket. The party hacks might not like it, but it gives me the feeling of freedom, of honestly held opinion; similar to that I use to have within the party structure in the late seventies / early eighties.
And who knows? A member of a focus group or a media analysts might be reading!