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Plaid’s caretaker since 2012
My criticism over Leanne Wood’s leadership has been no secret. Although, it hasn’t always been this way. I think it’s fair to say Leanne has served well as a caretaker of Plaid since 2012. The party was established in 1925 with the ambition of seeing Wales become an independent nation. But, that’s all her stewardship has delivered. Leanne’s stance on remaining within the EU has possibly been one contradiction too far for many within Wales. It’s certainly a contradiction that still leaves me perplexed to this very day. It could also go some of the way to explain just why the party’s flatlined during a time of opportunity. This combined with some erratic behaviour hasn’t shown her in a good light. Well, not in Wales, at least.
In previous articles I’ve not been too kind, giving her the label of “Lady Twp”. Under normal circumstances, and on reflection, I’d probably have some regrets. Things started getting personal between Mrs. Wood and me a few years ago when she tried to embarrass me in front of a full room during a question and answer session. I merely asked if her anti-Tory rhetoric, and refusing to work with them, could be alienating what was then the second largest proportion of the electorate here in Wales. The question was meant with the best intentions. I spoke as someone who felt politically homeless with the only real certainty being I couldn’t support Labour with a clear conscience based on Wales’s standing within the UK.
Although ridiculed at the time, I’ve been vindicated since Plaid MPs and AMs within her own Assembly group, have now echoed pretty much what was said by me at that time.
Then of course her erratic and sometimes dangerous behaviour during, and after the EU referendum, was like a red rag to a bull for me. Any faith I had in Plaid being a real contender in Welsh politics all but gone. This frustrated me immensely because I know just how hard the grassroots Plaid were working to win council seats, and with some success. I believe if it had not been for Leanne, results for Plaid would’ve been so much better.
Leanne is popular with the membership
Understandably, Leanne has a lot of loyalty within Plaid. I’ve no doubt she has inspired many activists who, today, place her on a pedestal. When I talk to such people it’s often the person they praise and not her politics. I do believe she’s hard-working and dedicated, yet she’s not been able to transition from megaphone politics into something of substance.
Her behaviour has bred a similar behaviour within the party. And slowly but surely I see these people becoming more and more marginalised. It’s a trend I’m confident will continue under her leadership. Bethan Sayed is the most notable for me. I often refer to her as Madame Tantrum. I like a woman with balls, but I fear arrogance has taken over, and now they’re just merely playing the political game and going through the motions.
Within my own borough I’ve seen some great Plaid gains at council level. But, sadly with the loss of Mam Plaid, there seems to be a total lack of direction or strategy and that will undermine some of the newly elected members. Their arrogance will become their Achille’s heel, I fear.
We now find a long overdue leadership contest, delayed only because of Leanne’s win in the Rhondda in 2016. Rumours are all but one of her Assembly group have expressed the need for the challenge.
Rhun ap Iorwerth
Adam Price and Rhun have both thrown their hats into the ring in the hope to lead the party.
Rhun, who studied politics at Cardiff University, went on to be a political journalist for the BBC. He later won his seat at the National Assembly for Wales after a by-election in 2013 where he secured more than three times the number of votes compared to second-placed Labour.
Rhun campaigned on a pro-nuclear platform and Plaid quietly ignored its anti-nuclear stance. This was the first sign I noticed Leanne’s grip slipping from Plaid. It became more obvious more recently when AMs and MPs have dared to say the party needs to change direction and should consider working with the Tories who Leanne still hates because of Thatcher. Yet she would have been happy to prop up Labour, a party that’s been just as disastrous for Wales.
Now I certainly believe Rhun has the ambition and drive to become a future leader for Plaid. He oozes charisma from every pore – all tits and teeth, all frill no knickers. Personally, I don’t believe his time is now. Despite having the well-trained media presence, he has some rough edges that may prove to be high risk for Plaid right now.
Adam Price is the only possible leader to shift the fortunes of Plaid, in my personal opinion. The fact members from opposition parties tell me he’d be a concern to them only serves to confirm these beliefs. He may not be all tits and teeth, but he is a great orator who’s been through the ranks. I first met Adam prior to him becoming an MP and he told me that’s what he was going to become. In those days I was more interested in dance clubs, blonde fringes and Celine Dion. So, it was very much over my head and I brushed it off. But, sure enough, within a couple of years and by 2001 he was indeed a Member of Parliament.
Adam’s achievements have been recognised throughout his career. He has a whole range of awards to his name: ITV MP of the Year, BBC Politician of the Year, and Communicator of the Year, to name a few.
He took some time out of politics and headed to America to study in Harvard. I saw a big difference when listening to his vision for Wales on his return.
Much of my time, while working at the National Assembly for Wales, was spent people-watching. In and out of the siambr, Adam was always the gentleman and treated everyone with respect. Totally unlike others within his group who just didn’t seem to grasp that having political differences doesn’t warrant dirty looks and cold shoulders in the corridors. He’s much more grown up and pragmatic about things. And this is why I believe, under his leadership, Plaid could be far more inclusive than it has been in recent years. The small pool it’s fishing in is getting much smaller thanks to Leanne polluting it with her bitterness.
Plaid more dysfunctional than UKIP
It seems the Assembly group has pretty much fallen apart. And I dare say, they’re more dysfunctional than UKIP – and that really is saying something!
Last week we saw Simon Thomas resign following arrest for having indecent images. Long-standing faithful, Dafydd Elis-Thomas left to become an independent and shamefully propping up Labour. A well orchestrated coup forced Neil McEvoy out. And that started even before he took his seat. But he’s still fighting the good fight for Plaid.
The party needs an urgent change of direction. The rot is now setting into the grassroots, with public opinion changing towards all things Plaid.
Rise of the indies
I predict Plaid eventually losing control of Glynneath Town Council where it’s been pretty strong in recent years. Slowly, but surely, there’s a march of independents winning seats. I believe this will filter through to the borough council, as the independents have brought much needed energy to the area and it’s not gone unnoticed. Will this be seen as a red flag and warning to the rest of Plaid? Or will arrogance keep them blind?
The underhanded behaviour previously coming from Glynneath Town Council has only served to empower real people, living real lives, to step up to the mark.
I predict Leanne will remain as leader, as it seems members don’t really have the confidence or the belief they can govern Wales. It seems being a nice lady is more important than being a strong leader capable of inspiring a nation. If my prediction is right, it’s going to be a boring few years while we watch Plaid become more and more irrelevant. A trend that will take the party years to recover from. There’ll be one more chance of a change of leadership before the next Assembly election. By then, the damage will be done and the party will have no time to recover and will come in third place behind the Tories.
I’m not party political. I believe a strong opposition is an important ingredient to having strong governance. And I take no glee in seeing the party head in the direction it is.
Adam Price, in my opinion, really is its last hope to see any positive gains for Plaid over the next decade.
External: Plaid Cymru Party of Wales