Lord Elis-Thomas starts Plaid Cymru leadership race

L-R: Elin Jones, Lord Elis-Thomas, Llyr Huws Gruffydd, Simon Thomas L-R: Could Elin Jones, Lord Elis-Thomas, Llyr Huws Gruffydd, and Simon Thomas all join the running to replace Ieuan Wyn Jones Plaid Cymru leader?

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The contest to lead Plaid Cymru has started after Ieuan Wyn Jones announced his plan to stand down.

Lord Elis-Thomas, who was the leader 20 years ago, has been nominated by his local party in Dwyfor Meirionnydd to run again for the top job.

Another candidate could be Elin Jones, the former rural affairs minister, who says she will "seriously consider" it.

Mr Jones says he will go in the first half of the assembly's five-year term after Plaid's poor election results.

Plaid says it will now focus on a fundamental review of what went wrong in the election, when it won 11 seats, its lowest total since the assembly was founded in 1999.

Ieuan Wyn Jones Ieuan Wyn Jones announces that he will leave at some time during the next two-and-a-half years

The party's national executive met in Aberystwyth on Saturday, and party chair Ellen ap Gwynn said: "We had to look back at the election and analyse where perhaps we went wrong this time but we also looked forward.

"It wasn't a negative meeting in any matter. Regarding the leadership, Ieuan has made his point clear - he wants to stand down before the end of this term. But at the moment, nominations haven't been opened.

"We will be reviewing the election and we will be looking forward. We have put processes in place under the supervision of the national executive committee."

Mr Jones has allowed himself up to two-and-a-half years to leave the job, meaning the race to succeed him could be a marathon.

POSSIBLE PLAID CYMRU LEADERSHIP CANDIDATES

  • Lord Elis Thomas, Dwyfor Meirionnydd AM since 1999, was party leader from 1984 - 1991, and assembly presiding officer from 1999-2011
  • Elin Jones, Ceredigion AM since 1999, was rural affairs minister from 2007 - 2011
  • Simon Thomas, new Mid and West Wales AM, was Ceredigion MP from 2000-2005
  • Llyr Huws Gruffydd, new North Wales AM, former party worker and National Trust employee

Lord Elis-Thomas was the assembly's presiding officer after a 12-year stint until this week, and party leader between 1984 and 1991.

Ceredigion AM Elin Jones said: "I'll seriously consider whether I have anything to contribute as a potential leader".

She said Lord Elis-Thomas had "pushed the pace" of the contest "and it probably means it needs to be sooner rather than later".

There is speculation that other potential candidates might include newly-elected AMs Llyr Huws Gruffydd and Simon Thomas, a former MP and adviser to Ieuan Wyn Jones when he was deputy first minister.

Mr Thomas said there was no vacancy at the top of Plaid at the moment and he did not see the need to replace the party's leader ahead of next year's local government elections.

Elin Jones says she will seriously considering running for the Plaid Cymru leadership

He said: "We've been in coalition with Labour and we could be in coalition again. But my ambition for Plaid Cymru is to be bigger than the constant sidekicks of the Labour Party.

"The piece of work that Plaid Cymru has to do in the next six months, whether we're in opposition or maybe in coalition, is get the budget right. The budget... that protects services in Wales and transfers that money down to local authorities.

"We can do that job in opposition, we can do that job in some sort of alliance with opposition parties, and we can do that job by talking to the Labour Party.

"But that job does not need a new leader."

Mr Huws Gruffydd said: "I think the party generally will be very pleased that there won't be any rash decisions, that Ieuan sees this as an orderly transition.

'Plenty of interest'

"Obviously we need as a party to reflect on the campaign, build on what worked, but obviously we need to address those issues that maybe weren't as successful as we'd hoped and having Ieuan as a steady hand to guide us through that process would be of great benefit to us."

Start Quote

It's not for me to say, but I'm always anxious to see the new generation taking control, and perhaps there is a tendency for us older people to hang on too long”

End Quote Dafydd Iwan Former Plaid president

Former party president Dafydd Iwan said: "I think there are very many young people coming along in the party, and there will be plenty of interest.

"It's not for me to say, but I'm always anxious to see the new generation taking control, and perhaps there is a tendency for us older people to hang on too long.

"I'm not saying that the new leader has to be very young or anything, but these are exciting times for Wales and Plaid has to be part of this new politics with a new leader."

The Plaid leader must be an AM, which rules out the likes of Adam Price, the former Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP who is currently pursuing a scholarship at Harvard University in the US.

Under the party's rules, the election is held under the alternative vote system.

Mr Jones revealed the timetable for his departure on Friday, saying an immediate leadership election would not be in the party's interest. Plaid needed time for an internal party review, he said.

There has been criticism that Plaid's election campaign was too negative. Despite being in coalition together for four years, Plaid attacked Labour heavily during the election campaign.

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