Page last updated at 13:33 GMT, Saturday, 23 September 2006 14:33 UK

Going back to the Plaid future

Guto Thomas
By Guto Thomas
BBC Wales political correspondent

Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas
Lord Elis-Thomas adressed the conference in Swansea

As the 2006 Plaid conference winds its way to an end, the retro feel to the proceedings is all-pervasive.

Earlier, the two-time ex-leader Dafydd Wigley returned to the charge on the state of the Welsh economy - the issue on which both he and the late Phil Williams made their mark in the late 1960s and 70s.

But more significantly perhaps, was the appearance on stage of the other ex big-chief, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, who hasn't made a key-note speech to conference since 1992.

Or at least that's what he thinks. He can't really remember.

He does recall however that the conference was in Porthmadog, and that he was late, having been delayed at an earlier engagement with the Queen, to open the Conwy Tunnel.

A cardinal sin - so far as many in the party are concerned - which may at least in part explain why it's taken another 14 years for "the Lord" to be allowed back to such an elevated conference position.

Showbiz entrance for Iwan speech

Shock tactics at the Brangwyn Hall on Saturday, as party president Dafydd Iwan propelled himself towards the conference platform.

With lights dimmed, and music blaring, he brought a touch of showbiz to the proceedings

He marched in from the back of the hall, to the surprise of the delegates who have become accustomed to a more traditional back-stage entrance.

However, the hardened hacks of the Welsh press pack were struck by the fact that Mr Iwan was led to the stage by two flanks of t-shirted "Cymru-X" young party workers, marching in a military style which was more than reminiscent of the presentational style of the politics of the 1930s.

Talking of presentational styles, it's noticeable that on this final day of the conference, party officials have acted with lightning speed, and have replaced the wine glasses spotted on the conference stage yesterday.

To avoid any further embarrassment and comment, these have now been replaced with regulation tall tumblers.

Perhaps after long two days and nights of what one might describe as "conference related activities", the party hierarchy have decided it's about time.

3D Conference

Despite all the headlines at the second day of Plaid Cymru's conference trailing the leader's speech, could this gathering become known as the 3D conference?

Because for the first time ever, we are assured, the party's three big beasts, the three Dafydds will all take to the stage to deliver "key-note" speeches.

Party officials have admitted that never before have Dafydd Wigley, Dafydd Iwan and Dafydd Elis-Thomas come together in such a public way.

The fact that Plaid Cymru's only Lord (Elis-Thomas) is to return to the fray is particularly of note, given that he has consciously avoided making party political conference speeches since the creation of the first National Assembly in 1999.

It's also of note that the 3D show will also be a tri-presidential event, with each one currently holding the posts of the party president, the party's honorary president, and the presiding officer of the National Assembly.

So where does that leave the party leader Ieuan Wyn Jones?

And more importantly, why have they all been given wine glasses rather than water tumblers to sip on stage, as they await their standing ovations?

Answers please in a bottle.

Greenhouse gas

The roots of Plaid Cymru's new "bold and radical" policies on the environment were revealed this morning by the Assembly Member for Caernarfon, Alun Ffred Jones.

He told delegates that the policy to cut household carbon emissions by 10% in 10 years, sprouted from a conversation with a gardener about a flower in a pot.

Mr Jones was concerned whether or not a bulb in a flower pot would survive the winter exposed to the elements.

The answer was that by leaving the pot against the side of the house, so much heat would escape through the walls, that the plant would be protected against the frost.

A clear illustration, according to Plaid's economic development and transport spokesman, that Welsh homes need far more insulation, to help save energy.

This is thought to be the first time that "Bill and Ben" has taken over from "Punch and Judy" in Welsh political debate.

Big claims

Plaid has issued a challenge to the other political parties in Wales, in a competition of "size matters."

Party officials have started a whispering campaign along the corridors of the Guildhall in Swansea, that it now has more full-time staff than any other party in Wales.

Between the staff that are employed by the party's 12 assembly members, three Members of Parliament and one solitary MEP, along with those contracted to party HQ and the districts, Plaid claim to employ 82 full timers.

That - they claim - is more than Labour, the Lib Dems or the Welsh Conservatives can muster.

They also claim they'll be able to out-muscle Welsh Labour in financial terms during the run-up to the Assembly elections in May.

Can it be true?

Clear way ahead at conference

And let there be light! Or not.

Yes, Plaid Cymru's conference began today in Swansea with a discussion about the threat to the sky at night, dark skies, and the all-pervasive impact of light pollution.

Hardly the most high-profile topic with which to kick off the party's election offensive, you might think?

But an audience of 50 hardy delegates heard how poorly designed street lights are wasting over 100m pounds per year in energy across the UK.

Persuaded by the eloquence of the argument, delegates were unanimous in voting for the belief that "Wales is not only beautiful on a clear day, it is also beautiful on a clear night."

But is this really a vote-winner? Is it worth incurring the ridicule of their political enemies, to elevate this issue to the top (quite literally) of the conference agenda?

Dafydd Iwan (top), Dafydd Wigley (left) and Dafydd Elis Thomas
The three Dafydds - a first for Plaid

Plaid Cymru's leadership has been briefing journalists all week that the key to the party's election campaign will be to present answers for people's everyday problems - the security of your job, the standard of your local school, or the investment in your local hospital.

But despite these statements of political intent, is the core of the party itself on the same wave-length?

Take note, free mugs available

Political conferences are great opportunities to stock up on your personalised stock of free political stationery.

For the anoraks among you, who could possibly pass the NUT stall without picking up the journalists' annual favourite - the free pen? (Although there's general disappointment among the press-pack that the free bath-salts the NUT gave to students earlier this month have failed to materialise.)

Who could walk-on-by the free bottle of "PoliticEAU" water or a heat-responsive magic mug from the Electoral Commission?

But at this conference at the Brangwyn Hall in Swansea, perhaps the burning issue is, how many delegates will seriously be able to reject the offer of a Jill Evans MEP notepad?

Answers please on the back of a "Wales Credit Unions" beer mat.

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