27 Jun 2024

Leader Interviews – Rhun ap Iorwerth of Plaid Cymru | Election 2024

Data Correspondent and Presenter

Earlier we spoke to the leader of Plaid Cymru, Rhun Ap Iorwerth. I started by asking why voters should opt for Plaid, given the small number of MPs they’ve previously returned to Westminster.

Rhun ap Iorwerth: Plaid Cymru MPs, though relatively small in number, have always punched well above their weight. I think in this election the reason to vote for Plaid Cymru is clearer than usual.

Ciaran Jenkins: You always say that. In 2010 Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Elfyn Llwyd said, ‘Vote for Plaid, we punched above our weight before and will punch above our weight again.; You’re recycling 14 year old soundbites in this election, did you know that?

Rhun ap Iorwerth: But some things are ageless – the needs of our communities to be heard at Westminster.

Ciaran Jenkins: I’ve heard you say that there’s little between the Conservatives and Labour on public spending. I don’t quite understand what would be different.

Rhun ap Iorwerth: The IFS agree with us, don’t they? Both of them wedded to £18 billion worth more cuts and you’re bound together to a conspiracy of silence, says the IFS.

Ciaran Jenkins: Your manifesto calls for income tax, specifically bands and thresholds, to be given to Wales – the power to set them. But you don’t say how you would change those income tax bands and thresholds?

Rhun ap Iorwerth: We make very clear that the thresholds should actually go higher. The freezing of thresholds in recent years have brought so many people into paying tax for the first time, have made people move up tax. It’s the stealth tax point by the Conservatives. We want to have those flexibilities here in Wales.

Ciaran Jenkins: That’s not in your manifesto, is it, raising tax thresholds in line with inflation?

Rhun ap Iorwerth: No, what’s in our manifesto is that we want to have those levers so that we can make decisions on the tax landscape in Wales. That’s as clear as it could be.

Ciaran Jenkins: You’ve just said you’d like to have income tax thresholds rise in line with inflation, which is not what the Conservatives are doing and not what Labour are doing. Do you know how much that would cost?

Rhun ap Iorwerth: But they should. This is exactly the kind of lack of honesty that we are seeing from the Conservatives.

Ciaran Jenkins: You haven’t got a concrete proposal to give our audience about what you’d actually do with the powers to change income tax.

Rhun ap Iorwerth: No. What we’re saying is we want those levers in Wales. When in government in Wales, you look at how you’re able to use that to your advantage. There have been taxation powers that were given to Scotland from the very start of devolution 25 years ago,  there have been some powers in Wales that we’ve had. But unless those powers are really usable, unless they’re really flexible, unless they can be used in nuanced ways, they don’t give you the power to make the kind of difference to succeed.

Ciaran Jenkins: We live in pretty uncertain times. Do you think an independent Wales should not be a part of Nato?

Rhun ap Iorwerth: I think an independent Wales would want to have a very close relationship with Nato that is an associate membership people have. Ireland, for example, with Nato. That would be a decision for an independent Wales.

Ciaran Jenkins: Hang on, you have a policy on this, don’t you, Plaid Cymru? Isn’t the policy that Wales should not be a member of Nato?

Rhun ap Iorwerth: But I’m talking about associate membership of Nato, which is something different. What I’m saying is Nato is important – and Wales’ relationship with Nato would be important, but that wouldn’t necessarily have to mean membership. The Republic of Ireland is a good example of that.

Ciaran Jenkins: So you’d like associate membership of Nato, but not full membership of Nato?

Rhun ap Iorwerth: That is where I am. But this would be a question for an independent Wales.

Ciaran Jenkins: What is it about Nato that gives you reservations about having full membership?

Rhun ap Iorwerth: This is about what relationship I believe an independent Wales would want with Nato. I think it should be a close one. I tend to look at things in politics as not necessarily being black and white, and we need to have that debate.


Ciaran Jenkins: One last question. Wales are not in the Euros this time. So who are you supporting, who do you want to win?

Rhun ap Iorwerth: I am supporting France, I am a big fan of Mbappe, but I can’t enjoy the Euros with Wales not there.

Ciaran Jenkins: This question comes up, doesn’t it, but why not England?

Rhun ap Iorwerth: They are our biggest football enemy, this is just sport.

Ciaran Jenkins: They’re our neighbours too, aren’t they?

Rhun ap Iorwerth: I am a supporter of Cardiff City and I think you are too, Ciaran, but the relationship between Cardiff and Swansea isn’t always the best. That’s just sport, nothing else. I am qualified to play for England because my mum was born in Liverpool, but Wales is my football team. The team that we enjoy beating most is England, that’s how sport works.

Ciaran Jenkins: No comment from me.