Nationalist parties will be election ‘kingmakers’

WELSH nationalist leader Leanne Wood insists her party, the SNP and the Greens could be kingmakers at the next general election.

Votes are counted in last month's independence referendum. Nationalist parties could hold the key to next year's General Election, according to Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood. Picture: John Devlin

Over the past year much has been said about Ukip’s sudden rise and whether it could play a key role in keeping the Conservatives in power at Westminster.

But Plaid chief Ms Wood believes it is not those on the right who have made the forthcoming UK general election a multi-party affair.

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The former probation officer is to address delegates at her party’s conference in Llangollen, north Wales, today.

She will say: “It’s little wonder really that for so many people that not voting is now seen as the best expression democratic preference than participation.

“The options for people are from four subtly different shades of Westminster grey and four party leaders which look alike, sound alike and act alike. It’s a false choice.

“But ironically it isn’t the right that has made the forthcoming UK general election a multi-party affair, it’s in the unprecedented earthquake that erupted in Scotland through the inspiring grassroots Yes campaign.

“There is every chance of a hung parliament after the next election. We said that would be the case ahead of the 2010 election. People are more likely to listen to us next time.

“Plaid Cymru will maximise for the people of Wales the opportunities that could come from holding the balance of power along with our colleagues in the SNP and the Greens.

“People across the British state are looking for an alternative for the broken Westminster system. Plaid’s alternative to more of the same centres upon our determination to rebalance power and wealth through the British state.”

At present, Plaid occupies three of Wales’ 40 Westminster seats and 11 of the 60 places in the Welsh Assembly.

However, the Welsh nationalists are hoping to transform their fortunes at the UK and Welsh elections in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Since the non-fluent Welsh speaker and staunch anti-republican Ms Wood was appointed as leader two years ago, the party has been trying to broaden its appeal in Wales.

Key issues Ms Wood plans to address in her speech today include the calls for criminal justice and policing to be devolved to Wales as well as an end to what she calls “Wales’ historic underfunding”.

She is also planning to attack the UK-coalition government for its austerity measures - which she said had ended up rewarding the rich while further penalising the poor.

“What has that austerity experiment actually delivered? Record numbers of people relying on food banks, people who are ill and those with disabilities terrified into humiliating back-to-work tests,” she will say.

“Years of pay cuts or freezes putting pressures on people’s budgets, the closure of community assets like libraries and leisure centres and the withdrawal of other front line services - and yet the government’s books are still not balanced.

“The UK’s debt is over £1.45 trillion and it’s rising. Among the few things that are back to pre-recession levels are the bonuses and the growth in the financial sector, which are rewards for the very people who caused the problems in the first place.”

Ms Wood pledged her party would rebalance power and wealth in a “permanent restricting of democracy and economy”.

She also said Plaid wanted to bring governance home to Wales, to the country could have the powers that would put it “at least put on par” with its neighbours.

She will say: “Wales must have the powers over our own natural resources, criminal justice and policing system and our government must be accountable to the people for the money that it spends on their behalf so transferring significant fiscal powers to Cardiff.

“Much has been said about Wales’ historic underfunding and it’s time for the chatter ended now and give way to delivery.

“We can only imagine the scale of difference that could be made to the day-to-day lives of our people, hospitals and classrooms if we were funded to the same level per head as people are in Scotland.”

As well as criticising the Conservatives, she also stuck the boot into Welsh Labour - accusing First Minister Carwyn Jones’ party as being “contented” to let problems in Wales fester because she believes it helps their “wider Westminster election fight with the Tories”.

Plaid Cymru’s two day conference starts in Llangollen today.

Other speakers include MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Jonathan Edwards as well as SNP member of the Scottish parliament Kenneth Gibson.