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An opportunity to affirm progressive politics

MEIC BIRTWISTLE reports on the political issues discussed at the annual National Eisteddfod

THIS year that great Welsh cultural festival, the National Eisteddfod, is in the tiny market town of Tregaron in Ceredigion.

The “Maes” or Eisteddfod field, is on the edge of the striking Cors Caron bog nature reserve, near the banks of the River Teifi and with the stunning backdrop of Elenydd or the Cambrian mountains behind it. 

And the name Tregaron has been picked out tastefully on a hillside above the town in white lettering, Hollywood-style.

Frustrating. That is always a key adjective in describing the Welsh National Eisteddfod. There’s just such a feast of events that one is constantly trying to juggle a packed timetable and yet knowing that you’re going to undoubtedly miss gems along the way.

Anyway, Monday saw a Plaid Cymru meeting on the Co-operation Agreement, now in operation for some nine months, between the Welsh Labour government and Plaid Cymru.

In the shadows of Covid and the effects of Brexit and with massive ecological and climate crises to contend with, co-operation was needed for a Welsh Labour government, holding exactly half the seats, that required support to securely achieve the delivery of its policy promises.

And indeed the Labour government sees this agreement as “another step forward in our collective effort to fullfill that promise of a new politics — radical in content and co-operative in approach.” 

This has seen the selection for discussion of some 46 points by joint panels of the two parties.

“The greatest success is that we are creating a new political culture, not one of squabbling but of co-operating,” said the Plaid member of the Senedd, Sian Gwenllian, “one which enables us to deliver for the people of Wales.”

As an example she cited the new deal which will allow free school meals , initially for younger children, in the face of the current deepening poverty crisis. 

And new powers to deal with the shocking housing crisis particularly hitting Welsh rural and coastal communities were also quoted as vital ongoing work.

Plaid Cymru MS Cefin Campbell spoke of the panels he was involved with, for example on the media.

“We need to ensure that we have a broadcasting system here in Wales that narrates our own story as a nation.”

But agriculture, it is clear, is a field that is already proving a tricky issue for the two to resolve. 

Finally, Plaid Cymru’s leader Adam Price accussed the Welsh Conservatives of having failed to make any real contribution to Welsh politics during a quarter of a century of devolution.

“Plaid Cymru, however, is not in the business of political theatre, we want to make a real contribution. We want to ensure that it is radicalism that carries the day here in Wales,” he stated.

A sign of the new political spirit was arguably exhibited by the presence of the Welsh Labour deputy minister for social services, Julie Morgan, in the audience for this Plaid event.

“It’s a positive process working together within this Co-operation Agreement,” she told the Star, “we’re making great progress.”

Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) held a meeting on the thorny issue of changes to many Welsh house-names and topographical features which are being replaced by English ones. 

Its campaign, entitled Diogelwn (We Will Protect), called for people to place a legal clause in sale documents forbidding the alteration of  house and property names. 

Howard Hughes, addressing the crowd demanded, in addition, government legislation to defend place-names.

“Ffos Clogwyn y Geifr (The Groove of the Goats’ Cliff) has become The Devil’s Appendix, Ynys Las (The Green Island) changed to Sausage Island and Aberogwen to The Spinnies. This is an attack on our heritage.”

Unite has a stall here at the Eisteddfod for the first time ever. Their Community officer Mark Turner stressed that the unions needed to engage more fully with Welsh-language communities and produce more Welsh language union literaure.

“I see the potential here and maybe the Wales TUC should book a large stall next time to be shared jointly by all the unions, enabling us to engage more effectively and widely with Welsh speakers,” he said.

Meanwhile his giant Welsh-language Snakes and Ladders board game on the cost-of-living crisis was certainly drawing attention. And the key ladder to get on to win of course?

“YMUNWCH AG UNDEB — JOIN A UNION!”

The National Eisteddfod is taking place in Tregaron, Ceredigion, this week July 30-August 6.

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