Last week, a report from a former MP suggested that Welsh political party, Plaid Cymru, should consider changing its name to represent everyone in the country, including non-Welsh speakers.
The report has been compiled by previous Scottish National Party (SNP) member of parliament (MP), Angus Robertson, who says the party needs a more “inclusive brand” that “speaks to Wales as a whole”, reports the BBC.
Party “struggles to reach” English speakers
He adds that the party currently “struggles to reach out to non-Welsh speakers”, given that Welsh speakers are concentrated within certain parts of the country, such as North and Western areas like Gwynedd, Conwy and Glamorgan. The name currently being suggested is the New Wales Party.
According to the latest UK census, conducted in 2011, less than a fifth of people living in Wales speak Welsh. A new name for Plaid Cymru, which was first suggested by the party’s leader Adam Price during his leadership campaign last year, would look to appeal to the four-fifths of those who do not speak it.
Government push for Welsh language
Despite only a small proportion of the country being fluent in Welsh, the Welsh Government has pushed for the country to embrace its native language. Since 2000, it has been compulsory to teach Welsh in schools up to the age of 16, and Welsh translations appear all over the country, such as on road and motorway signs, and some shop signs.
The last few decades have also seen a rise in the number of Welsh language shows streamed on TV during peak viewing hours, such as the main evening BBC news being provided in Welsh, as well as radio station BBC Radio Cymru being introduced in the 1970s.
Currently, Wales is subject to Westminster and UK Parliament, but also has some devolved, individual power, in the form of its own Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, which can make certain laws and legislations. The Welsh Government is currently a coalition government, made up of Labour, one Liberal Democrat assembly member (AM) and one independent AM.
An independent Wales
Plaid Cymru and its leader Price are staunchly set on Welsh independence from the UK, with policies focused on devolving powers from Westminster so that Wales can take full control of its own country. It is interesting then that Price would advocate for a name change to English, which undoubtedly philosophically aligns the party more with England.
At the same time, if a new name enables the party to reach a wider population within Wales, perhaps then more Welsh people would feel better represented and identified by Plaid Cymru, encouraging a feeling of association with the Welsh party, rather than automatically opting for Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat parties based in Wales.
New Wales Party — accessible or ostracising?
Could a push for a more English-sounding name ironically help Plaid Cymru to create more patriotism within Wales? The double-edged sword is that, while an English name might be more all-encompassing and representative of the Welsh population as a whole, it could also ostracise those who feel their heritage is being shunned and replaced with a more “champagne socialist” rhetoric that appeases liberal, English-speaking voters, who may be more likely to move from Wales in the future.
While Plaid Cymru is currently the best-known name for the party, its full title (seen on its website and often marketing campaigns) is Plaid Cymru — Party of Wales, which seems to cover both bases. There is no debating that this is not the catchiest of party brands, and being so wordy, it has inevitably resulted in the general shortening of its name to “Plaid Cymru” when used colloquially.
We spoke to a range of Welsh and English designers about how changing Plaid Cymru’s name to the New Wales Party, or another English language title, might impact the political party in the future.
What do designers think?
“The crux of renaming focuses on switching from Welsh to English. The report is correct in saying that speaking the language is rare, but I disagree with its insinuation that using Welsh is alienating.
I’ve never met an unpatriotic Welsh person — they are unreservedly proud of their heritage and of a language that they (and many others) often don’t speak. I’m Welsh myself and learnt it up until GCSE level.
Having been taught it through school, bombarded with it on motorway signs on the M4, which runs from London to Wales, and rolling it out in the pub, anyone who’s Welsh has a basic understanding and love of its complexities. It’s good to be different and celebrate those differences, especially in an age where there’s so little differentiation between the political parties.
The recent Wales country rebrand by Smörgåsbord is a perfect example of this. The typeface lends itself to those double consonants and has a whole host of ligatures just for the language — it was designed to let Welsh shine, which is absolute magic. It is branding that stretches to celebrate the eccentricities rather than trying to strip them out and make it conform to English ritual.
There’s a big conversation around this in the industry as major brands pull back on their heritage and seemingly default to a sans-serif, safe territory. Plaid Cymru shouldn’t do this. They could do with a shake-up, but it should move to a more exciting, more uncomfortable space, and carve out its niche even more. The other parties are not exactly doing a great job at being inclusive, so we really shouldn’t be using them as a benchmark.”
“This certainly is something worth considering. It is evident that there are many non-Welsh speakers across the country and executed correctly, the brand could reach out to those people.
I also personally think there could be a much bigger opportunity in appealing to young people. If indeed ‘Plaid Cymru Newydd/ New Wales Party’ is the direction the party wishes to take, used alongside a more dynamic visual identity and tone, it could attract a younger audience, crying out for something real to believe in.
It could also help to capture a wider general demographic of people across Wales who, like many people at this time, are struggling to find trust and unity in politics. Executed correctly, the timing could be just right.”
“The notion of rebranding to widen the appeal of Plaid Cymru is an interesting one, and one that throws up a number of important issues to consider. While the party may want to broaden its appeal among voters, it must avoid alienating its current grassroots support while seeking to modernise or update its image.
Plaid has quite a well-established logo and colour scheme by now; making any changes to these, especially the palette, could be tricky as there are already such clearly defined colours used by all the main parties within the UK political landscape.
I’m surprised at the mention of the word ‘new’ in the name originally mentioned by the party’s leader Adam Price in his leadership campaign and now proposed in a report conducted by former SNP MP, Angus Robertson. For me, it has connotations of nationalism (let alone aping Labour’s ‘New Labour’ strategy of the 1990s – successful though that was).
I personally always associate ‘new’ with less than favourable historical comparisons — for example, at the extreme end, The New Order, which was the regime Nazi Germany tried to impose on conquered countries. I also think it’s fine to incorporate ‘new’ into advertising or as part of a campaign, but in a brand name, the political party is stuck with it, long after it has stopped being ‘new’!
Nationalism and ‘only for the Welsh, Welsh’ is something I feel Plaid Cymru has strived to distance itself from over the years, in previous attempts to broaden its appeal within Wales to non-Welsh-speaking, centre-ground, liberally-minded voters.
Price’s agenda of putting independence front and centre of Plaid’s identity may reflect a nationalistic approach, and so seems to be at odds with the idea of broadening the party’s appeal. The stated aims of being more ’dynamic, positive and inclusive’ would not be achieved by simply adding the word ‘New’.
Although considering a change to the name and brand should be applauded as progressive, I think Adam Price and Plaid Cymru need to think long and hard before making those decisions, as they could define the party’s success, or lack thereof, for years to come.”
“As someone who isn’t Welsh, it’s difficult to comment on the national language, so I asked a Welshman, Nick Clement, who is a fellow designer and co-founder at design talks programme, Glug. He told me he thinks the change would help the party reach a wider demographic, given that only 19% of Wales’ population speak Welsh. Admittedly, this is based on the last UK census conducted in 2011, so the number could have grown since then.
So Welsh speakers are a minority, but for those who do use the language it’s important to them and their national identity. Changing the name to something like the suggested ’New Wales Party’ seems to miss a crucial point. The problem isn’t that the name needs to overtly say ’new’ – this approach feels a little bit ’New Labour’ — but that both languages need to be at the forefront so that non-Welsh speakers feel included.
The example I would refer to is the naming of Derry-Londonderry. To resolve the issue of dual names for the city – Derry and Londonderry — the decision was made to combine the names to create an official city name which is inclusive of both sides. Maybe the simple answer is to give both languages equal prominence, and to always refer to the party as ‘Plaid Cymru — Party of Wales’.”
“I can understand why Plaid Cymru is worried about people not understanding its name — though if you’re living in Wales and don’t know ‘plaid’ stands for ‘party’ in Welsh, you’re in trouble. Unfortunately, I can’t see how ‘New Wales’ helps much — for a lot of people there will be too many echoes of ‘New Labour’. Also, the use of ‘plaid’ or ‘party’ is really awful, whether that’s in English or Welsh — the political group should try to find a name that doesn’t need the word ‘party’ in it! When doing bilingual branding, it’s important to find words that work equally well in both languages — and words that help, not hinder.”
Do you think Plaid Cymru should change its name? Let us know in the comments below.