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Saturday, March 21, 2009

More Plaid Cymru on Top-up Fees - on the record

This morning's Western Mail contains more details of the unease that exists within the ranks of Plaid Cymru about the decision of their Assembly Members to abandon the party's opposition to top-up fees and sell-out students. They reveal the existence of an internal discussion paper that sets out the consequences for the party of abandoning their policies and their principles:

The Plaid discussion group paper states: “Plaid candidates and activists are lobbying AMs to vote against the Labour motion.

“Falling in behind director of elections Adam Price, they are fearful that target seats will be lost.

“Prime fear is that Ceredigion, with the large student vote in Aberystwyth, will be retained by the Liberals as the issue of top-up fees is already being used by Liberal activists against Plaid. If minister Elin Jones, the local AM, votes for the motion, activists believe they will lose the seat.

“In Ynys Môn, the attempt to regain that seat will be hampered by the fact that Ieuan Wyn Jones, the local AM, will be seen as anti-student and willing to sacrifice his principles for power. Local Conservatives will make full use of the embarrassment and with the strong swing towards them are now hopeful of taking the seat from Labour.

“In Neath, Plaid is hopeful of unseating former minister Peter Hain. Activists want the moral high ground, not having to apologise for AMs willing to flout party policy to keep power in Cardiff.

“In Llanelli, Plaid’s candidate Myfanwy Davies hopes to be Plaid’s first woman MP. However, the strong stance of her patron, mentor and close friend Helen Mary Jones in favour of scrapping the top-up fees grant could scupper her chances.

“This issue has been an elephant trap for Plaid. Ieuan Wyn Jones has made it a ‘confidence’ issue but members are beginning to fear the true cost of keeping Ieuan as Deputy First Minister could be disaster at the European and General elections with electoral stagnation rather than the gains which seemed likely only a few weeks ago.

“Ieuan Wyn Jones wants to portray this disagreement as a ‘leadership challenge’ from Adam Price. Most members realise Mr Price is just doing his job to try to get Plaid candidates elected!

“Plaid’s April spring conference in Cardiff is held on a university campus and has the theme of ‘young people’. All-comers under 30, members or not, will have free entrance to the main conference sessions on Saturday and opportunities to meet leading Plaid figures. Main speakers are Adam Price and Ieuan Wyn Jones.”

Assessments such as these are always debatable and in any case there is some question as to the document's authenticity but far more damaging for Plaid Cymru is the publication of a letter from a sixth form member, Arainwen Caiach-Taylor to the Party leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones:

Her letter to Mr Jones states: “I’ve been a teenage member of this party for years now, and things have changed considerably. I never thought I’d live to see so much power in the Assembly, and I never thought we could get so many seats and so much trust from the people.

“Not all good news though. In the last two years party power has become more important then helping the people of Wales, a disturbing turn which keeps getting worse just when you begin to think that it can’t possibly. But I stuck it out the same, getting by writing and editing any letters or leaflets sent to my desk by way of contributing. I have always believed that this was just a phase, that we are the most moral and most trustworthy party out there and my confidence has been unshakeable.

“But having read your e-mail on your so-called reasons for supporting the ‘student milking’ regulation, I can’t decide whether to laugh, or cry, or beat myself to death with my laptop. I would like to say that there are no words for what an awful plan this abomination does to Wales’ future.

“The rich will make it, but if they’re going to pay anyway they’re not going to send their kids to Wales. The middle class will have a lot more trouble, they won’t qualify and the recession will bite hard. The lower class will have no hope at all even with handouts because unfortunately we’re in a recession.

“You’ve sold out our students for the sake of squeezing them for cash.”
This is getting boring now, the government is scrapping tuition fees grants, and there slight unease by Plaid members about it, that's the story.

And is that the best western mail can do, publish a letter from 17 year old schoolgirl who thrown a little tantrum about the issue that somehow got into a hack's grubby little hands. Whoopee do! Hardly Watergate is it? I don't think Ieuan Wyn Jones or Rhodri Morgan will loose much sleep over it to be honest. If I were you I'd be more worried about Nick Clegg's abysmal performance as Lib Dem leader. And you failed to mention Lib Dems in Scotland voted against support grants for Scottish Students. You can't have it both ways.
Oh dear you are scraping the barrel to cover up this embarrassment for your party. Scottish Liberal Democrats voted against the SNP's proposal because it did not go far enough. In fact it did not go as far as the SNP had promised. Another nationalist party that drops its promises once it is in power.

The SNP promised to wipe out student debt. It would have cost £2 billion but instead they allocated £30 million to start the process of switching from loans to grants which won’t put a single penny into student’s pockets right now.

That money does nothing to help students struggling with the economic downturn. Rising fuel prices, part time job losses and in some cases loss of parental income are all having an impact. We know university and college hardship funds are coming under real pressure. The majority of them have had to ask for emergency in year funds to cope with students’ pleas for help.

Scottish Liberal Democrats argued instead that a better use of that cash would be to start the process of introducing a minimum income guarantee of £7,000 a year for full-time students beginning with the poorest young students. This would make an immediate difference to thousands of students struggling with financial hardship.
I just find it strange you support student grants in Wales, however the Lib Dems voted against them in Scotland.
No the Scottish Lib Dems voted against a completly inadequate package of support that would not have benefited a single student. The fact is that the SNP have reneged on their promises in the same way as Plaid Cymru and it is only the Liberal Democrats who are holding the two parties to account.
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