Despite the traditional dominance of the Labour Party in valleys, joining them was never an option for Leanne Wood.
Leanne explains how she found a home in Plaid Cymru and was given the opportunity to have her voice heard and influence policy and political direction.
Leanne said: “It would have been so much easier to have become involved with the Labour Party that was dominant in the valleys. That was my dad’s view. He frequently asked me in the early days why I was wasting my time with a small party like Plaid Cymru, as he put it. I told him he was wrong. He accepts that now.
“In the Rhondda, the political scene mainly consisted of old men. Despite being members of Labour they had right wing views on questions like feminism and homophobia, even racism. Some of the views expressed by some of Labour representatives locally weren’t in line with my views and values at all, so joining them was never an option for me.
“Plaid Cymru was more youthful in its approach and more open to listening to the voices of people like me, a young woman from a working class background in the valleys.
“I was given plenty of opportunities to have my say in Plaid Cymru from the very beginning and I remain very grateful for that. It helped build confidence – something key for kids from working class backgrounds. I joined Plaid Cymru in 1991 when I was 20 and never regretted it. It was the right move and it is a place I feel very comfortable.”
Leanne accepts that there is no 100% match fit between a political party and an individual. “Parties are a mish-mash of different people and different ideas but there is nothing in Plaid Cymru policy platform that I can’t stand-by.
“I’ve contributed to the shaping of much of the party’s policy agenda over the years. I’ve been able to represent my branch and my constituency at conference and being able to argue and get policies passed that myself and my colleagues have drafted and potentially to get those policies enacted in government gives you a good feeling. It’s a good motivator.”
Leanne dismisses the idea that had she joined the Labour Party she might now have been a Minister in a Labour government.
“For me it is not about seats in a Cabinet or chauffeur driven cars or ministerial salaries. I want Plaid Cymru to be in government so we can implement our programme so we can build a better country for everyone living here, but it is not because I want to be a Minister.
“I’ve been disappointed that the Party of Wales has not yet had an opportunity in the devolved administration to form a government in its own right and I hope we can do something about that in the future.”
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