Plaid – New beginnings or Old Hats?
Ieuan Wyn Jones , in relinquishing the leadership of Plaid Cymru, has potentially given the party its biggest boost since playing a key role in the referendum debate of 2011, potentially that is. Casting on eye over whose left of the Plaid core in the Assembly, the first name that would have been thrown at the leadership, Helen Mary Jones, is not present. That leaves Plaid with a stark choice that could lead the party in a highly positive forward thinking direction, or leave it languishing in its current state of self denial.
Leading the pack is the old warhorse, and first to show a willingness to take the helm, Dafydd Elis Thomas. DET is certainly looking at a quieter time in the Assembly than he’s used to, having lost his Presiding Officer seat. Having also been highly vocal in his criticism of the recent Assembly campaign, DET may well feel he has unfinished business with his party. However, as clearly angry as he was with the Wyn Jones campaign, many of his wider views feel dated, a Plaid that served its purpose 5, maybe 10 years ago, but not what the party needs now. Either DET needs to change, or his leadership will leave the Party where it was under Wyn Jones.
More of the same, and probably out of his depth, would be Alun Ffred Jones. As Heritage Minister, Alun Ffred was generally seen as somewhat of an overachiever, raising the profile of the role far and above that of his predecessors. However, notable in Wyn Jones’ resignation speech was the shape of Alun Ffred over his left shoulder, lurking in the background and generally looking sorry for himself. Without the faith shown by Wyn Jones, Alun Ffred would be a non entity. Close links to the old guard, same politics, little scope for change.
For something that would add a little spice to the fight, how about a return to centre stage for Rhodri Glyn Thomas? Also as Heritage Minister, Rhodri Glyn seemed to sink his own political future with a catalogue of gaffs that including flaunting the law on the smoking ban. However, as a man jettisoned by Wyn Jones, and as one of the more senior figure left in Plaid, Rhodri Glyn could well decide that he has unfinished business with the party as well.
Elin Jones would also bring Ministerial experience, and a proven track record of administering senior positions within the party. Certainly a solid candidate in terms of ability, and gaff-less compared to our previous candidate, but would suffer from a lack of profile outside the party boundaries.
As almost an exact opposite, Leanne Wood brings little in terms of experience (certainly when compared to her potential competitors), but a very clear profile. With a knack for drawing attention to herself on high profile issues, and a clear cut republican, Wood could well have the perfect combination of youth, profile and a new direction, all of which Plaid were weeping into their cereal for the day after the 2011 election results.
Beyond these figures, the offerings are slim. Profile, more than anything else should take the others out of the running, and come the next election, anyone outside of those named above, could well be disastrous were they to hold the leadership. Of those named above, Plaid’s members will have a clear choice. As other commentators have noted, certain names here would offer very little different to that provided by Wyn Jones. His departure offers a chance to break from the stale, and Wood and Glyn Thomas could provide it. Watching what the party decides it wants, and indeed needs to reclaim its position of 2005, and improve upon it, will be fascinating, or very down heartening.