Politics

Interview with Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price AM

Adam Price: Interviewed by Aliraza Manji and Hallum Cowell. Source: Aliraza Manji

By Aliraza Manji and Hallum Cowell

Adam Price is the son of a miner and alumni of Cardiff University having read a degree in European Community Studies and graduating in 1991. He later attended Harvard University in the United States where he completed a master’s in public administration.

During his parliamentary career he was a vocal opponent of Tony Blair, being ejected from the House of Commons after accusing the Labour leader of “misleading” parliament. After standing down from Parliament in 2010 he was elected to represent Carmarthen East and Dinefwr for the Welsh Assembly in 2016. During his leadership bid Price proposed a number of new policies such as a publicly owned Welsh energy company and Welsh independence by 2030. Since becoming party leader he has spoken favourably of cooperation between the Celtic nations including a Celtic development bank.

What do you think of the current state of Parliament and British Politics?
Well I think It is difficult, we are running out of adjectives. We seem to be caught in this dark merry-go-round, and the system is paralysed and obviously democracy is dysfunctional. We do not have a written constitution and that’s probably part of the reasons for the crisis.
People’s trust in politics has collapsed and that includes public institutions, this has consequences that go way beyond Brexit because if people do not trust in the political system, how are we going to improve things? There is a wider backdrop, there are deeper questions and we cannot go on like this.
We have got an answer for that in Wales. The question is what is England going to do – hopefully this will also create a debate in England about how to do things differently.

Jo Swinson has acknowledged a potential election pact between the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru, a tactic used in the recent Brecon and Radnorshire by-election. Would this be a tactic you would be happy to implement during a possible general election? And how exactly would it work?
Yes, I think in principle, we said clearly that we want to work with all the pro-European parties at this particular time. We are obviously different to the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats, but at this particular time there is a single issue which is dominating in Westminster, consequently it’s right for us to find reasonable ground.
We did that obviously in the by-election very successfully and made a difference by dropping out in order to better compete against a Brexit supporting candidate. I think if we can extend that principle to other elections, particularly a general election, then let’s try and do that and see where we get in the next few days, weeks, and months.

Jonathan Edwards used the term ‘tin-pot dictator’ to describe the current government, do you think it is justified to use this language and do you think you need to be toning down the language you use to describe others in politics?
Well, look, he did say ‘tin-pot’ didn’t he? I think there is a balance to be struck because politics is an arena where people will passionately disagree and I think, in democratic politics there should be those disagreements expressed clearly. On the other hand, I think we have seen particularly in recent weeks the way that anger can take over in something much darker which, in extreme scenarios can turn into violence.

I think the distinction that I would draw is using colourful and expressive language is part of the necessary expressive culture of politics; but what I think we’ve seen recently is almost the kind of cynical, focus group, decision to use certain trigger words which maybe opinion poll data has suggested would resonate with a certain section of the population which are feeling very-very angry. I think particularly, the Prime Minister is the Prime Minister of everyone and should always be careful. We should all be mindful and we have got to make sure we differentiate between policy, political disagreement and the person as much as we can.

There are circumstances where you have to call it as is, for example, I was thrown out of the House of Commons for calling Tony Blair a liar over the Iraq War, and I did not do that because I hated him as a person, as I got on reasonably well with him as a person. I think there is a balancing act, but certainly what we say now is potentially very-very irresponsible, as we know Jo Cox tragically died as a result of this weaponizing of hate.

If there was a vote of no confidence in this government, how would your party vote in Westminster?
It depends on the consequences. It’s terrible to talk about what’s happening at the moment and it’s hard to make it sound as if people are not playing games; but there is a lot of game play despite the seriousness of the situation.
So, if traps are being set then you have to be careful not to fall into them. But, I think the most important thing is that we take no-deal completely off the table, we do not want to vote for a vote of no confidence and somehow by accident get no deal Brexit.
Our view, very strongly is to actually campaign for a referendum, a People’s Vote now before an election. The trouble is if we call a general election we have nothing to go on during the campaign. If you do not have a referendum first then what is the point of having a general election. In an election Brexit will dominate the election and all the other things we should be talking about will get mixed with this single issue and I do not think that is good for democracy. What we should do is consider Brexit on its own through a public vote then have general election.

Would your policy of revoking Article 50 overturn the will of the Welsh people which was to leave the European Union?
I think that our view very strongly is that we should have a referendum when we have a deal. That actually recognises the fact that there was a majority across the UK for leaving, in principle, and now we are a bit clearer on the details of that, people should be asked again; is this the version of Brexit you want because as we know there are nineteen different versions and many of them will please different segments of the electorate.
There is one circumstance where we would support revoking Article 50, we have said it now and we would be in the same position after a general election which is to reject no-deal. We think there should be a referendum, the only way to see the impact of one referendum is to surely have a new referendum. Despite all of this I think we should never allow no-deal to go through under any circumstances as trade is going off the cliff, so you have got to pull the emergency cord. If necessary, we will support revoking Article 50 to stop a catastrophe.

What is next on the agenda politically?
What we are trying to do is to re-inject hope back into politics. We are keen to improve politics; it is about fixing problems. We need to deal with all of the challenges and opportunities that we face whether it is climate change, reviving our economy here in Wales to make a successful future for Wales, invest in infrastructure, all of this new technology that is developing, how can we use that?
We must try and improve our society. I think we can start to see forward. Let’s try to move on from this period of despair in politics and start to talk about how we get from this to a better place. and start to talk about how we get from this to a better place.

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