Plaid Cymru often faces a challenge in cutting through the news agenda, despite the apparent willingness of outlets like BBC Wales and the Western Mail to listen to them. During UK General Election periods, this can at least be partly explained (or excused) by the lack of chance to make an impact on what is becoming a contest which is ever more dominated by just two parties. On a Wales only level, the opportunities are much greater. The Assembly elections are therefore always their better option of making an impact, even if they have only properly done it in two of the five Assembly elections so far held.
What explains Plaid’s particular performance in those two successful elections of 1999 and 2007 is the energy and imagination that drove their campaigns. Some ideas like free laptops may have felt a bit gimmicky, but they did at least get people talking (a bit). This time round, as Plaid starts gearing up for 2021, they are already pushing forward with some ideas that are certainly big and eye catching. Their new year offering this week was scrapping both Council Tax and Business Rates, and replacing them with a new land based property tax which would actually also provide a potential 3p income tax cut and a promised extra £300m for education.
There is also another reason that Plaid needs to think big ideas in the forthcoming election. Without a doubt, a Labour government that has been in power for over twenty years looks and feels tired and dated. The challenge for Labour to renew and enthuse is considerable, especially since just a few months ago they were falling back on dull tropes like another twenty four hours to save the NHS, or the evocation of Margaret Thatcher, the patron saint of failing Labour campaigns. Labour often seems tired, tribal and a touch tedious, and Plaid knows this. With Adam Price at the helm, known for being a challenging thinker, they are playing to a strength when they set out big ideas compared to the innate caution of government.
Of course there is a much bigger challenge for Plaid than media cut through, and that is cutting through with the wider electorate. Their fear must surely be, no matter how big and fresh their ideas, the population will still remain largely unengaged.