Climate set for modernising Plaid Cymru leaders to seize the Welsh political agenda

Welsh nationalism is on a roll. Last week's referendum result has boosted Plaid Cymru. Its annual conference begins today and the party is in an optimistic mood, says Tony Heath.
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The time is right for Plaid Cymru to seize the Welsh political agenda, the party's leadership said yesterday.

Plaid Cymru's part in securing a "yes" vote in last week's devolution referendum - when voters in traditional nationalist areas and Labour strongholds in the valleys combined to deliver a slim majority for an elected assembly - is cited with satisfaction by Marc Phillips, the party chairman.

Speaking on the eve of the conference in Aberystwyth, Mr Phillips, 43, a moderniser and pragmatist looked forward to a change in the political weather. "Plaid Cymru is now operating in a different atmosphere. The script is about an assembly taking office in Cardiff in a couple of years' time. This is our opportunity to seize the Welsh political agenda," he declared yesterday.

Some of the conference's own agenda would find approval with the Labour left. There are calls for a minimum wage of pounds 4.26 an hour, the decommissioning of Trident and a revision of immigration laws.

None of the 39 resolutions for debate at the mid-Wales resort in the next 48 hours mentions the Welsh language. That is an admission that with the setting up by the Tory government of the Welsh Language Board chaired by Lord Elis-Thomas, a former nationalist MP, cultural peace has broken out.

None of this distracts the nationalists from concentrating on 1999 when elections to both the Welsh Assembly and the European Parliament are due.

Dafydd Wigley MP, the party president, is optimistic: "We start from a good performance at the general election when against the huge Labour tidal wave sweeping Wales we held our four seats and increased our vote in target constituencies."