LEADER of Plaid Cymru Leanne Wood is facing a leadership challenge from two AMs in the party. It comes amid growing concern over the party’s impact in Wales, with several key figures saying a new leader and direction is needed for the party to grow.
The party has been in turmoil in Llanelli with long standing members resigning amid a bitter row over the deselction of local candidate Sean Rees at the 2017 general election. The row has continued to rage on social media. Mari Arthur became the preferred candidate and many questioned Leanne Wood’s involvement in the process.
Adam Price a former MP now AM is one of the contenders. He is a wily old fox with plenty of experience. Wasn’t he the man who had Tony Blair on the ropes? Change is the main focus of Adam Price, who said:
To change Wales we need to change the Government of Wales, and to change that Government, we need to change the party.
The other candidate, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM, expressed similar sentiments, with talks of “starting a new chapter” in the party. He said:
My commitment is to Wales, and to a fairer and more prosperous future for the country. Plaid Cymru has to lead the way to that new, confident Wales, and over the coming weeks we can discuss openly and democratically how best to deliver the most effective and most exciting leadership for the party and the nation.
With these two AMs declaring candidacy, it is expected to be a three horse race. While many in the party support Leanne Wood remaining as leader, unrest over Plaid Cymru’s direction has been mounting for quite some time. While the party gained a seat in the 2017 general election, their vote share has seen a steady decrease since 2015, even with UKIP’s total collapse in votes across Wales.
Following his suspension from Plaid Cymru in March, Neil McEvoy appeared to pitch his own manifesto at a talk in the Diplomat Hotel in Llanelli, talking about individual sovereignty and freedom of speech. It is unclear whether he will declare candidacy in the next few days or rally behind one of the challengers, but he could be a strong force in deciding the victor of this contest.
There has been much debate online and in the press regarding Leanne Wood’s leadership but the main contenders remained faithfully silent until now. The challenge appears to follow criticism of the state of the party made by some from the Plaid Cymru old guard.
Both Adam Price and Rhun Ap Iorwerth are credible candidates and aim to turn the party around from its disappointingly low representation in Westminster and at the Welsh Assembly. They will be hoping to replicate their success at the local council elections. Before its collapse, one of UKIP’s main pulls for voters was its desire for sovereignty and open debate on touchy subjects like immigration. A leader that takes note from Neil McEvoy’s script might gain the support of those who see the future of Wales as a sovereignty.
The rally call from Plaid Cymru during the last election sounded promising but the role of leader of a party which came third behind the Conservatives in Llanelli maybe one, which holds a poison chalice. Should any of the contenders overthrow the lady from the Rhondda one might ask how long it will be before the knives are out once more from within this party.
In the coming weeks and months we will be subjected to their pitches and rhetoric. It remains to be seen whether any of those will address issues affecting the people of Llanelli, like road pollution, developers running riot, perceived corruption in various departments, a decimated retail industry, a drugs and alcohol problem and yes, the simple things like having bins emptied, grass cut, roads cleaned and basic services like dentists and doctors surgeries.
Llanelli may just be the litmus paper the new leader of Plaid Cymru whoever he or she may be will use to make those changes to the party that Adam Price and others have been calling for. Llanelli is a Labour stronghold. How can Plaid appeal to that vast majority of voters Labour hold? Why did so many turn away from them? These are the questions the wannabe leaders need to address if they are ever to be in government in Wales.
Leanne Wood’s popularity may have waned in some quarters but there are those who believe that she may just put some egg on the face of the doubters this time round.