Wales politics

Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood in 'real independence' call

Leanne Wood has used her first big speech as Plaid Cymru leader to set her party on a path towards what she called "real independence" for Wales.

She said it was a journey that begins "here and now - not some distant date on which we will all gather and salute a flag post," she said.

She addressed her party's spring conference a week into her leadership.

She told delegates at Ffos Las Racecourse in Carmarthenshire that it was time to "build a new Wales".

The speech came in the wake of disappointing EU figures on the economic performance of the least affluent parts of the country.

"We will not accept that our poverty is inevitable," she said.

"We are finished with putting up with things as they are because that's how it has always been."

With a heavy focus on the economy, the speech sought to build on her leadership campaign slogan of "real independence".

Ms Wood said "too much money was leaving our local economies, leaving Wales".

"We have to develop a plan to stop this. We have to develop a plan to defend our communities."

She beat rivals Elin Jones and Dafydd Elis-Thomas in a vote of party members, making her the first female leader of Plaid.

She takes over from Ieuan Wyn Jones, who announced he was standing down following a disappointing result for the party at last May's assembly election.

After four years of governing in coalition with Labour, Plaid lost ground and slipped to third place behind the Conservatives.

Speaking to journalists before the speech, she said she would use the occasion to introduce herself to voters.

As a Welsh learner from the Rhondda, her supporters say she will be able to take on Labour in its stronghold areas of the South Wales valleys.

'Radical politics'

In her speech, she pointed out that she lives in the village where she grew up, down the road from her parents.

Earlier, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, Ms Wood was asked about her political values, and agreed she could be considered radical, feminist and republican.

She said: "I believe in equality. I think steps should be taken to reduce the imbalance we have in society, so I favour the redistribution of wealth for example.

"But what I do say is that the bar is quite low. What's considered to be radical politics today was seen as mainstream 20 years ago.

"Plaid Cymru is a left party and I would argue that the views that I hold reflect the views of the members of Plaid Cymru."

Artificial measures

Ms Wood was also questioned about party chair Helen Mary Jones's recent comments that Plaid should consider all-women shortlists for parliamentary elections to ensure women are better represented.

"I do support equalisation measures. I firmly believe in representative democracy, and our politics should reflect the population they serve and that doesn't happen naturally, so artificial measures do sometimes have to be put in place," she said.

"That said, on this question, I think this would be a matter for the party to decide.

"We have attempted to introduce equalisation measures before and they've been very controversial in the past.

"But Helen Mary has pointed to the fact we have never had a woman MP and that is a situation that's unsustainable in the long run and something we should really do something about."

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