Adam Price speaking at Plaid Cymru conference. Photo: Plaid Cymru/CC
Adam Price speaking at Plaid Cymru conference. Photo: Plaid Cymru/CC

Socialist Party Wales

The resignation of Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price, in response to a damning report of misogyny and sexual harassment, has revealed a new crisis in the party.

The Prosiect Pawb report by Nerys Evans paints a repulsive picture of harassment, bullying and gender-based discrimination in Plaid that was unchallenged and allowed to fester for years, even before Price became party leader, but which he also failed to challenge. It is reported that women who joined Plaid Cymru were subjected to serious harassment and bullying, including sexual assaults, although this is hardly new. The toxic sexist culture in Plaid has been a feature in all the main capitalist parties including the Welsh Tories and Labour has also seen two allegations of sexual assault come to light recently, including against a Westminster shadow minister.

Price initially responded by refusing to resign following the report, but was forced to step down by the reaction. Llyr Gruffydd, the interim leader, has promised to implement the report’s recommendations, but it is very possible that, given the reported widespread nature of the harassment, new allegations will arise and deepen the crisis.

The leadership crisis comes at a time when Plaid’s progress has stalled. Despite a general increase in support for independence over the last decade, Plaid has failed to capitalise on or express the dissatisfaction with the capitalist status quo in Welsh and British politics.

Despite a different cause, the wider crisis in Plaid Cymru mirrors the crisis in the Scottish National Party (SNP). The nationalist parties have attempted to capitalise on the dissatisfaction with the social crises in British society, but when achieving positions of power have implemented capitalist austerity and failed to mobilise struggles for independence. Plaid councils and the SNP government have passed on cuts to public services on the austerity conveyor belt from Westminster.

Support for independence in Wales has risen from below 10% in polls ten years ago, to as high as 25% in 2021. Despite falling to 18% in a poll in March (55% opposed), polls regularly record double the level of support than in 2015. Significantly, over 40% of Labour voters and 40% of young voters have indicated some support for independence. The highest levels of support are no longer in the Welsh-speaking heartlands of Plaid Cymru in the north and west, but in Cardiff (with one poll showing 34% support), indicating that independence is now seen by new layers as a route out of austerity-riven Tory Britain.

But the growing marches for independence, with 10,000 in Cardiff last October, are in stark contrast to the stalled support for Plaid. It has not challenged the austerity orthodoxy of the main parties, or articulated the huge desire for change. Instead it has just been another of the establishment parties in Wales.

Despite growing support for independence, Plaid gained only one more seat in the 2021 Senedd elections, but agreed to support the Labour Welsh government in a ‘co-operation agreement’, in exchange for concessions on free school meals and vague promises for a national care service and a small sustainable-energy company.

The Labour Welsh government has faithfully implemented Tory austerity. It has implemented spending cuts to the NHS, which is on its knees in Wales; to education, with hundreds of teaching assistants facing redundancy this summer; and to council services. Its below-inflation pay offers to public sector workers have mirrored those of the Tories at Westminster. RCN nurses will be striking again on 6 June following the membership’s rejection of a new pay offer from the Welsh government below the rate of inflation for 2023-24. Both Labour and Plaid councils have passed on the cuts.

Understandably, many workers recoiling from Labour have checked out Plaid Cymru, but neither Plaid nor Labour offer a way forward out of the huge social crisis developing in Wales. The huge desire for change needs to find expression with a new workers’ party, dedicated to struggle against capitalist austerity, and for genuine national autonomy for Wales, which would break from the inequality of Tory-Starmer Britain and fight for socialist policies.