Is Carwyn out-foxing Plaid's USP?

There is only one place in Wales, or so I'm told, that you'll find red squirrels - and that's on Anglesey.

I haven't spotted one yet. Perhaps the leisure centre in Beaumaris where Plaid Cymru is holding its spring conference isn't its natural home - but the island is apparently the last place in Wales where the grey variety hasn't squeezed and crowded out the red.

But it was the health of another creature that was bothering one Plaid delegate - the fox, or at least the fate of one particular fox. We were talking about the Welsh government's submission, a few weeks ago, to the Silk Commission and Carwyn Jones' call for the devolution of policing ('When do we want it? Now!') and powers of criminal justice ('When do we want it? Not quite yet but we'll let you know when we're ready!'). It was clear Mr Jones had gone further than many in this party had expected. They may have claimed on the day that he'd not gone far enough but as I reported then, privately they accept his demands for a new devolution settlement has gone quite a long way.

"He's rather shot our fox really" said the thoughtful delegate, already working out how best to respond.

Others disagree. One senior Plaid source told me they were "relaxed" about the content of the Welsh government's Silk submission. "Just look at how far we've pushed Labour" was the line. "If he delivers, he'll be delivering things we've been wanting for years. Good."

On stage former leader Ieuan Wyn Jones asked the audience whether they could believe just how much of Plaid's ground Labour had now adopted. They couldn't, or could - they weren't sure, but they felt pretty good about it. But as the thoughtful delegate knows very well, when voters are uncertain what Plaid Cymru's USP is - their unique selling point - they fare badly in elections. They can applaud his 'conversion' as they put it on issues like the devolution of policing but they know too that if 'standing up for Wales' works for Carwyn Jones as his party's USP, that's not good news for Plaid.

Then there's the other take. Ah yes, well, he's riding high now, he may seem to be standing up for Wales in just the spot where we alone used to stand up for Wales, squeezing us out, crowding us out ... but what happens if too little of what Carwyn Jones called for is actually included in Labour's manifesto ahead of the general election in 2015? What then? Won't the 'standing up for Wales' line suddenly sound rather hollow?

So the discussion goes.

On stage Ieuan Wyn Jones asked delegates what they made of the Presiding Officer's call today to scrap the term 'Assembly' in favour of 'Parliament'. All those in favour of her call were told to put up their hands. Up they went. Anyone against? Just two hands were raised, one belonging to Plaid AM Lindsay Whittle. Why, I asked him was he going against the party flow on this one? Because he was afraid that if the name was changed, people would think it really was a proper parliament, that the battle was won. The momentum towards what Mr Whittle would accept as a full and "proper parliament" would be lost. "And you can quote me on that!"

Then off he went - the warm up act before Leanne Wood's speech, the man given the unenviable task of squeezing out as much cash as he could from the party faithful. He squeezed, squeezed some more then hit them with this one: "Go on, dig deep. It's March the 1st. You know St David would want you to!" The patron saint of cheek.

If I spot a squirrel between here and the hotel, I'll let you know.

Betsan Powys Article written by Betsan Powys Betsan Powys Former political editor, Wales

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