As 2016 comes to an end, it is worth reflecting on Plaid Cymru's achievements in this Assembly, and to consider what comes next.
The Party of Wales was the only party to take a seat from Labour in the 2016 Welsh election. Weeks later, we challenged Carwyn Jones’ nomination for the post of First Minister. This was a reflection on the fact that no party had won an Assembly majority.
With the sole Liberal Democrat AM joining the government, Plaid Cymru could block some aspects of Labour government business. We were not able to defeat them. It was this arithmetic that led to the “Compact” between the Labour government and The Party of Wales.
With its focus on promoting the Welsh national interest, the Compact has already borne fruit. The £119m deal secured by Plaid Cymru for the 2017/18 Assembly budget is the largest deal secured by an opposition party in the history of devolution.
The deal saw two parties work together to provide the basis of an alternative to stale Labour-only rule. It also provided a strong counter to the energised British nationalist agenda of the Conservatives and UKIP.
Plaid Cymru also has the scope to work with the government on legislation, on Brexit, and the development of the Welsh constitution, again whenever it is in the Welsh national interest to do so.
Implementation and spending of the actual budget remains in the hands of Labour Ministers. It is, after all a Labour government. But our agreement enables us to scrutinise and criticise constructively when that is needed. We remain an opposition party.
We believe that this is a healthy arrangement, one that bodes well for our democracy. We must properly question how Labour is spending public money. We can't leave scrutiny to the parties who want a Hard Brexit and who really want to give power back to Westminster. The deal is an alternative to coalition.
People in Wales will benefit from this deal and from this Compact.
One of our achievements is the agreement for a New Drugs and Treatments Fund. If implemented properly, this will reduce the need for patients with cancers and rare diseases to travel within Wales or into England to access the drugs they need. I championed this fund directly to the First Minister in June 2015. See more here: (https://www.partyof.wales/news/2015/06/09/first-minister-should-fix-unfairness-on-drugs-and-treatment/) He disagreed with it and said it couldn’t be done. A year later and they have moved to Plaid Cymru’s way of thinking.
We secured more money in the budget for mental health, for local authorities and the services they provide in our communities. There is extra for culture and arts, for Universities and a whole range of other squeezed services.
This co-operation hasn’t happened by accident, and it cannot be taken for granted. It is based on the existing arithmetic of the Assembly. In October I said that Plaid Cymru's votes for future budgets were not in the bag. If the arithmetic of the Assembly changes, for example if any new Assembly Member is brought into the government from outside, then Wales will have a majority government. In that case, the Welsh national interest would best be served by a strong opposition to Labour from Plaid Cymru. Under those circumstances, the Compact would come to an end.
Next year sees another opportunity for political change, this time at the community level. We are looking to the local elections next May. Plaid Cymru will be putting forward teams of dedicated community activists across the country. For many people, the local level is where a vote for Plaid Cymru makes the most sense. As Gwynfor Evans once said, 'Wales is a community of communities'. Let us now take the work of the Party of Wales in the National Assembly out to those communities.
If you share Leanne's vision for our communities in the Rhondda and want to help out in the local elections' campaign, please click this link.