Centre ground or socialism?

Jonathan Edwards Image copyright House of Commons
Image caption Jonathan Edwards says he is offering a bit of "friendly advice" to his leader on where to position the party

Centre ground or socialism?

Those definitions will be considered crude by many but in a nutshell they encapsulate the debate currently underway in Plaid Cymru.

Jonathan Edwards has led the charge. Over our hotel bacon and eggs this morning, he insisted this was not a personal attack on Plaid leader Leanne Wood, who he considers a huge asset to the party.

After all, he was the chair of her leadership campaign and, as an MP who has never wanted the top job, he says he will never criticise the leader as a point of principle.

He may call it a bit of friendly advice but there is an uncomfortable edge to focus on the "intricacies of socialist theory" in the context of Leanne Wood's speech in January.

In that address she spoke about a form of "decentralist socialism" rather than the top-down undemocratic model of Labour.

MP Liz Saville Roberts contributed to the debate by talking about making a difference rather than ideology on the BBC's Good Morning Wales radio programme.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Leanne Wood has tried to position Plaid Cymru to the left of Labour

In the past, we have tended to talk about difficulties for Leanne Wood in the context of Carwyn Jones's soft-nationalism but the greater problem for her now appears to be another Labour leader - Jeremy Corbyn.

When Simon Thomas stood up at the conference in Caernarfon six months ago and said you cannot out-Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn, it was a line that clearly struck a nerve.

When we bandy around these slogans, what do we actually mean?

Jonathan Edwards says it is not necessarily about policy, but rhetoric.

I read into that a belief that there should be more of a focus on areas like the economy, rather than issues like social inequality which have become the kind of bread-and-butter territory of the Plaid leader.

This is nuanced stuff. There will be many who say you can have both, and there are others who clearly believe the pendulum has swung too much towards the almost academic differentiations of what kind of socialism you believe in.

And there are others who say this is the kind of discussion you should be able to have three years before the next assembly election, although the Plaid MPs are of the view we could see a general election well before that.

It also taps into a central question of what kind of politics Plaid represents. Leanne Wood has always been to the left of the party, rather than the centre ground, but that is where the party feels the votes are.

The question is that with Jeremy Corbyn so established as Labour leader, whether that calculation is still the right one for Plaid Cymru.

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