Wales politics

Plaid leadership candidates set out priorities at open hustings

Plaid Cymru leadership candidates: L-R: Dafydd Elis Thomas, Elin Jones, Leanne Wood
Image caption Plaid Cymru leadership candidates: L-R: Dafydd Elis Thomas, Elin Jones, Leanne Wood at a hustings meeting in Cardiff

Plaid Cymru leadership candidates have spelled out their priorities for Wales over the next five years at a hustings meeting open to the public in Cardiff.

Leanne Wood said her main objective was jobs, with an economic plan to transform Wales.

Elin Jones said Plaid needed to define a road map towards Welsh independence.

Lord Elis-Thomas said Wales had to invest in low-carbon energy, including nuclear power, which many in his party oppose.

The three AMs were speaking in Cardiff Bay on Tuesday at the first such leadership event to be open to all voters, as well as to party members and supporters.

South Wales Central AM Ms Wood said: "I have advocated real independence for Wales so we can finally break the system that's keeping us down.

"We have learned to be too weak, we have learned to be poor and it's time we learned to be prosperous and strong."

She added: "I hope to lead Plaid Cymru to lead Wales down the prosperous path that we deserve."

If successful she said she would prioritise the connection between the leadership and the party's members.

'Map towards independence'

Although the three candidates agreed with the idea of banning smoking in cars carrying children, Ms Wood - a former probation officer - questioned whether it should be the top priority in child protection.

The Welsh government has said it will consider an outright ban depending on the success of a publicity campaign to dissuade people from smoking in cars with children.

Ceredigion AM Ms Jones said Plaid had to "define and agree democratically within our party our own route map towards independence".

It was then up to the party to "inspire the rest of Wales with that route map".

Plaid should not be "deceived" into thinking that what happens in Scotland - where the SNP government has offered a referendum on the question - would follow in Wales.

She said she had built consensus between people from different backgrounds to win a tight marginal seat.

But Ms Jones, rural affairs minister in the previous coalition assembly government, said she did not want to be seen as merely a "safe pair of hands", but as "a bold and ambitious politician".

Alternative vote system

Lord Elis-Thomas, who is campaigning under the banner of "Sustainable Leadership", emphasised the importance of policies to mitigate climate change and the renewable energy industry.

He said Plaid could win four Westminster seats - up from its current three - when parliamentary boundaries are re-drawn.

But he added there was a "leadership failure" after devolution in 1999, since when the party has been led by Dafydd Wigley and current leader Ieuan Wyn Jones.

"For some reason Plaid succeeded in winning devolution and didn't realise what to do with it. There was a leadership failure," he said.

Referring to the nearby Senedd building in Cardiff Bay, he said: "The future of Wales isn't over the water in Avalon, it's in that building."

Party members will elect their next leader through the alternative vote system, with candidates ranked in order of preference.

The result will be announced on 15 March.

Current leader Ieuan Wyn Jones announced he would stand down after disappointing results for Plaid at last year's assembly elections.

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