A manifesto launch is a key moment in any party’s election campaign and an opportunity to set the tone while laying out its pledges to the people.

The launch of Plaid Cymru’s ‘Vote for Wales’ certainly catches the eye.

Described by the party as ‘radical and ambitious’, the manifesto offers a wealth of promises, from the creation of 60,000 new jobs and bringing Wales’ carbon zero target forward, to a work guarantee for all 16 to 24-year-olds and the hiring of 4,500 new teachers.

Supporters of independence will rejoice at the commitment to a referendum within the next five years.

But beyond the headline pledges, what does it tell us about how the party and its leader view their chances come polling day?

It is left wing and it is going straight after Labour voters

Plaid has made no secret of the fact that they are courting the support of Labour voters.

The manifesto, with commitments to a green deal, affordable housing and the creation of a National Health and Care Service, is a clear extension of a branch to people who may traditionally vote Labour.

When asked at the launch whether the manifesto makes Plaid the most left-wing party in Wales, leader Adam Price told The National: "I certainly think we are considerably to the left of Labour, that is pretty clear.

"Labour is moving back to the right, while we are planting our flag firmly in the ground of social justice and economic progress.”

Plaid and Labour shared around 55 per cent of constituency votes and over half of regional votes in the 2016 election, occupying 41 seats between them.

Plaid’s desire to position itself firmly on the left of Wales’ political spectrum reaffirms the view that they believe their best chance of success lies with courting people who would usually vote Labour.

A reliance on new-found energy and ‘indy-curiosity’

Plaid’s best Senedd result came in Wales’ first devolution election in 1999 when it won 17 seats under the leadership of Dafydd Wigley.

For this manifesto to be delivered, the party must outdo any of its previous performances.

This time around, it has an additional weapon in its armoury: independence.

For Price, the all-time high polling of Welsh independence and the Senedd’s heightened status during the pandemic provides a real opportunity for a historic election result.

"Moments like 1999 are pivot points, they are the hinge points in history, and I just get a sense that something is brewing,” said Mr Price.

“People are often ahead of politicians, and people in Wales have moved quickly on the question of independence. The question in the next four weeks is will the politics catch up with where the people already are.

"My appeal to all those new independence supporters, many of whom may have surprised themselves, is we need you.

“There is an attraction to hope, and people do not want to go back to the old Wales.

"The opportunity for us now is to not choose the same old political leadership and get the same old result."

The price of sharing power

There are two ways in which pledges laid out in Plaid’s manifesto can be delivered after May 6: by winning enough seats to form a majority government, unlikely looking at most recent polling, or by forming a coalition, most likely with Labour.

When asked what in the manifesto is negotiable if Plaid were to enter coalition talks after May 6, Mr Price pointed to red lines drawn on pages throughout his copy.

"We anticipated these kinds of questions,” he sighed. “I am giving up on this discussion.”

“I am not accepting the inevitability there will be another Labour administration. It is really important that there is a real choice here.

“I genuinely feel something is happening, Labour voters are shifting, and they are coming over to us."

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When pushed on whether the referendum on independence was non-negotiable, and what voters can be assured will be carried forward by any government Plaid form part of, Mr Price conceded that a referendum is dependent on winning a majority.

However, a move towards having a deep and meaningful conversation about Wales’ future is certainly not up for negotiation.

Price told The National the pledge to introduce a self-determination bill and a statutory commission to oversee the processes leading up to a referendum, including consultation with citizens’ assemblies, "will form a core part of any program for government" Plaid Cymru are a part of.

Relationship with Westminster and its impact on delivering and funding the manifesto

Relations between the Welsh and UK Governments have been strained following Brexit and the pandemic.

In delivering his manifesto launch speech, Mr Price showed no sign of scaling back on the rhetoric, as he claimed the UK Government stole Covid tests from Wales last year, while continuing to “leave just the crumbs from someone else’s table”.

Those crumbs are the majority of Welsh Government funds, that come in the form of the block grant, the sum of money received from the UK Treasury.

In their costing of Plaid’s manifesto, Professors Brian Morgan and Gerry Holtham of Cardiff Metropolitan University, point to “optimistic” assumptions about the block grant from Westminster over the next five years.  

When asked whether such optimism would mean a Plaid government would seek to thaw frosty relations with Westminster, Price refused to row back on his previous comments.

"There is a lesson from Scotland in that Westminster takes you seriously if you have a pro-independence government, because that is what they fear the most,” he continued.

"It is because of the growth of the independence movement in Wales that we are now on the radar of the political and media establishments in the UK, not because of anything this Labour Government has done in terms of assertive devolution.

"The election of a Plaid Cymru government would be the ultimate jolt of electricity into the British body politic, it would electrify Wales domestically, but it would also make them [UK Government] sit up and listen like never before.”

Plaid head toward the final four weeks of the campaign having now committed to somewhat of a gamble, producing a manifesto that plants its flag on the left of the political spectrum and in the ground of independence.

Whether that gamble pays off seemingly depends on whether there are enough traditional Labour voters sympathetic enough to Plaid and the independence movement.

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