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Thursday, 20 September, 2001, 09:34 GMT 10:34 UK
Troubled Plaid conference under way
By BBC Wales political correspondent Simon Morris

The Florentine political theorist Niccolo Machiavelli wrote: "Gold doesn't always buy you good soldiers, but good soldiers will always find you gold."

He was writing about the advisability or otherwise of using mercenaries in the wars of 15th Century Italy, but his words ring true today.

At least for Plaid Cymru, it seems.

St David's Hall, Cardiff
The two-day conference is held at St David's Hall

As they approach their annual conference they are struggling to fill a 180,000 financial hole.

But they do not want to raise their modest 12 annual fee because, in the words of Chief Executive Karl Davies: "People power is our great strength."

Having committed troops on the ground is more important to them than using their membership as a cash cow. Machiavelli would have approved.

A bit more Machiavellianism might have served them well in recent months as they have been forced on to the defensive over comments about English incomers, the future of Welsh language communities and attacks on the leadership of their President Ieuan Wyn Jones.

For all those reasons his speech to the conference on Friday will be the focus of even more attention than usual.

The financial and other problems the party's faced are in many ways the result of its partially successful attempt to expand out of its Welsh speaking rural heartland into English-speaking south east Wales.

South Wales Valleys street
Plaid have tried to gain support in the valleys

That is expected to be reflected in the central theme of Mr Jones's speech: the growing pains that come with the process of nationbuilding; Plaid's programme of government as part of that process; the way in which the changing role and perception of the party has created an unsettled period.

Unusually, he is expected to make a point of using English phrases during the Welsh part of his speech and Welsh during the English part.

Plaid officials have said it is about using precisely the right phrase rather than attempt to symbolise the party's ability to straddle Wales's split personality, but it is hard not to see that in it.

Plaid is crowing about having its first ever address from a Welsh TUC leader.

We can also expect some Labour bashing in debates on the economy, the health service and the south Wales valleys.

But there will be awkwardness in a debate on constitutional aims - some members arguing that against the leadership's wishes, the party should aim for an independent Wales.

There is also likely to be sniping from the new Welsh language pressure group, Cymuned.

As he rises to speak, Mr Jones should bear in mind another piece of advice from Machiavelli: "It's great for a leader to be loved, but in the end it's more important for him to be feared and respected."

See also:

08 Sep 01 | Wales
03 Sep 01 | Wales
13 Aug 01 | Wales
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