Plaid Cymru's French Revolution

Ieuan Wyn Jones AM Image copyright bbc
Image caption Ieuan Wyn Jones is under increasing pressure from his party over his French holiday

Forty eight hours on from the moment it became clear that the Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones had chosen a holiday in France over attending the Royal Opening and the dust is far from settling.

People in the Bay and beyond are genuinely baffled at why Mr Jones has decided to do something so obviously political damaging and so public. Not one of those who stopped yesterday to talk to my colleagues in Llangefni offered a word of support, or just didn't mind very much. They were all quite clear that he'd got it wrong.

This isn't 20-20 hindsight either - he and his party would have been well aware that there would be several cameras trained on the Royal party as they were greeted by the four party leaders on the steps of the Senedd on Tuesday. His absence would hardly pass unnoticed.

Plaid's line is that Mr Jones is tired and needs a proper break after four gruelling years as a Minister and party leader, having fought referendum and election campaigns in the last six months. Add to that maintaining a constituency about as far from Cardiff Bay as it's possible to get and the fact that he's had to bear the brunt of some pretty nasty - and anonymous - Labour briefings against him and it's hard not to feel at least some sympathy.

But this is politics, and with only five weeks or so go before AMs go on their two month summer break, it's equally hard not to read more into this than just a holiday. Consciously or not, is Mr Jones trying to send a message? To his party - and to Welsh politics more generally?

It only adds to the mystery of his post-dated "resignation" in Beaumaris soon after the election.

The message awaiting him back in Wales is likely to be stark. His party looks in chaos from the outside, so goodness knows what is going on behind closed doors. Yesterday's public spat between Plaid AMs Simon Thomas and Lord Elis-Thomas in the chamber over the appointment of the Counsel General was ugly, and Jocelyn Davies' stumble into Carwyn Jones' big clunking fist at FMQs even uglier.

The suggestion from Westminster ( I'm on my way there now as it happens) is that the three Plaid Cymru MPs have been watching the events of the last 48 hours with a sense of mounting horror. The headline of a press release from the Plaid Westminster office relating to contacts between the new Welsh Government and the Wales Office wasn't even coded as far as I could see. It read: "CONFIRMATION OF LABOUR'S EMBARRASSING ABSENCE WITHOUT LEAVE"

Doesn't take much working out, does it? Labour wasn't the real target there.

The growing consensus in the Bay is that the long goodbye proposed in Beaumaris is no longer an option. Expect potential challengers to start laying out their stalls in a not-so-subtle way in the coming days. The most likely contest remains between Simon Thomas and Elin Jones (and never rule out Dafydd Elis-Thomas) - but there's a wider dimension where timing, not the successful candidate is key.

If the party go, as some are urging, for an autumn contest, then it would send the clearest possible signal to Labour that the party and its new leader are open for business as far as a coalition goes, most likely after the local and European elections next May. If Mr Jones stays on, then opposition it is.

Incidentally, look carefully at the line sent through from Mr Jones in France on Tuesday afternoon as the row broke: "I had already made arrangements to be away before the date for the official opening had been made and I had taken steps to inform the representatives of the Royal Family that I would be away during this week."

Several AMs have told me since that they were aware of the date for the Royal Opening "months ago" - well before the election. In which case, Mr Jones booked a two week holiday in June before he knew the outcome of the election - an election that could have seen him become First Minister or remain Deputy First Minister had the votes fallen differently.

Whatever happens in the coming weeks and months, the French holiday will hang around Ieuan Wyn Jones' neck, just as one decision to skip a D-Day commemoration in favour of a golf event did for Rhodri Morgan.