Labour offering ‘austerity painted red’, says Plaid Cymru at manifesto launch

Labour is offering “more austerity but painted red”, Plaid Cymru leaders have said as they launched the party’s manifesto.

Speaking in Cardiff, the Plaid Cymru Westminster leader and candidate for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Liz Saville Roberts, said Labour was offering no “radical manifesto”.

“They’re sticking to Tory fiscal rules, which means £18bn will have to be cut,” Saville Roberts said. “More austerity, but painted red.”

Plaid Cymru held four seats in Westminster in the last parliament and polling suggests it will take two or three seats on 4 July amid troubles for Welsh Labour in the Senedd after a vote of no confidence in the first minister, Vaughan Gething, last week.

In the Marble Hall of the Temple of Peace, none of Saville Roberts, the party leader, Rhun ap Iorwerth, and the Cardiff West candidate, Kiera Marshall, mentioned the party’s founding purpose of securing Welsh independence in their opening remarks.

The issue features on page 43 of the manifesto with the party pledging to prepare a green paper on the path to independence and create a national commission.

Otherwise, the focus was on the economic climate for Wales, focusing on the Conservative party’s record in Westminster and Labour’s in the Senedd.

Iorwerth, campaigning in his first general election as leader, said: “In three weeks’ time we can almost be certain that Sir Keir Starmer will be moving into No 10 Downing Street. The Tories are finished, but we can influence the change ahead of us, keeping the Labour government in check, not giving them a free pass to take Welsh votes but then cast Wales’s interests aside.”

He added: “It feels as if more people than ever are left utterly uninspired by what either Labour or the Conservatives have to offer.”

Plaid Cymru is pushing for “fair funding for Wales” with its manifesto pledging to overhaul the Barnett formula that determines levels of public spending for devolved nations.

Iorwerth said: “Plaid Cymru is the only party advocating for the abolition of the Barnett formula, which has seen Wales lose out to the tune of billions over the years. It’s not a begging bowl, it’s just what’s right, enabling investment in public services and the economy.

“Even Lord Barnett himself – the architect of the formula in 1978 – said that it passed its sell-by date many years ago, and scrapping it in favour of a needs-based model is essential if we are to be able to adequately fund our public services and should be the bare minimum of what the next UK government offers Wales.”

The party is also arguing that Wales is owed £4bn owing to the scrapping of part of the HS2 high-speed rail project, which it said it would invest into the Welsh public transport network.

Because it was classed as for England and Wales – despite the route being entirely in England – the project did not trigger the mechanism that would normally result in extra funding being given to the devolved administration.

Iorwerth said the party advocated rejoining the European single market and customs union, which he said was “vital in order to mitigate the impact of Brexit on Welsh business”.

Plaid Cymru also pledged in the manifesto to:

  • Invest in the NHS and recruit 500 GPs.

  • Launch a new cancer strategy.

  • Increase child benefit by £20 a week.

  • Increase windfall taxes and devolve the crown estate.

  • Equalise capital gains tax with income tax, raising between £12bn and £15bn.

  • Investigate increasing higher earners’ national insurance contributions.

  • Support introducing a wealth tax.

  • Assume control of Wales’s natural resources, waters and land.

Plaid Cymru launched its manifesto on the same day as poll favourites Labour launched its own, which Plaid said snubbed the whole of Wales.

Saville Roberts said: “The people of Wales are getting increasingly tired of Labour’s lack of ambition for our nation. ‘Exploring’ and ‘considering’ simply won’t cut it when the challenges facing our economy and public services are so huge.

“Plaid Cymru is pleased that our manifesto is being published on the same day as Labour’s. Putting both side by side, the gulf could hardly be greater when it comes to fighting for Wales’s best interests. I urge everyone to bear in mind Keir Starmer’s snub to Wales on 4 July and to vote for Plaid Cymru as the only party who truly cares about our communities.”