Attacks on candidate 'deliberate smear', says leader

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood with candidate Mike Parker Image copyright Plaid Cymru
Image caption Leanne Wood says Mike Parker is "an excellent candidate"

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood was a guest on Jason Mohammad's Radio Wales show on Thursday.

She told listeners she had had "a staggering response" since last week's seven-way leaders' debate with tourists from England telling her they wished they could vote for a similar party.

Jason asked about newspaper coverage of her appearance in the debate, with Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail suggesting she had strayed from the cast of Gavin and Stacey. Ms Wood said she welcomed the fact Fleet Street papers were now writing about Plaid Cymru

She also defended her party's candidate in Ceredigion, Mike Parker, who has made headlines in the last 24 hours over comments he wrote in Planet magazine in 2001. The story was broken by the Cambrian News and followed up by, among others, Sky News, the Western Mail and the BBC.

Many Plaid members - at least, if you can judge from Twitter - think that comments made in 2001, before he contemplated a political career, are not news, despite yesterday's row. Editor Beverly Thomas said: "The Cambrian News stands by the story's newsworthiness and relevance."

Mr Parker wrote: "It is a sad truth that many English migrants into rural Wales are out-and-out racists.

"Their principal reason for leaving English cities was to get away from the multi-cultural society, from black and Asian people in particular, and they see rural Wales, with its largely white population as a safe haven."

He added: "To some extent, rural Wales has become the British equivalent of the American mountains, inhabited by a sprinkling of paranoid conspiracy theorists, gun-toting Final Solution crackpots and anti-government obsessives."

Today, Ms Wood said: "He's an excellent candidate. He's somebody who unites people, he abhors racism.

"He didn't use the word 'Nazi', he used two words he accepts are problematic which he accepts he wouldn't use now [Final Solution]. The article needs to be put in context it was written in 2001.

"Mike is an Englishman. He's from Kidderminster, he's moved into Wales and he was raising concerns that he had discovered after conversations with his fellow countrymen.

'Growing problem'

"The article was speaking out against racist attitudes that he had come across. It looks like a deliberate attempt to smear our candidate in Ceredigion. His campaign's going very well and he's proving to be a real threat to the Liberal Democrats there."

She added: Racism is a growing problem in Wales and it is right to speak out against racism....what Mike was saying in this article back in 2001 was a statement against racism. He should be commended for speaking out against racism in such a strong way."

"It's a deliberate attempt I do believe to smear Mike Parker....he will not apologise for being a strong anti racist. And I'm proud of him for that."

Suggestions about who was behind the sudden re-discovery of the article - which made news at the time - have ranged from MI5 to the more prosaic Google. Beverly Thomas said: "The story was born from a journalist doing a journalist's job - gathering information on all 7 of Ceredigion's candidates".

Ms Wood was also asked about Plaid's hopes for the election. "We're not making predictions, that's a fool's game but of course we're going all out as hard as we can."

(Plaid campaign co-ordinator Lord Wigley has suggested Plaid hope to win six seats)

The candidates so far declared to be standing in Ceredigion are: Henrietta Hensher (Conservative), Jack Huggins (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition), Gethin James (UKIP), Mike Parker (Plaid Cymru), Huw Thomas (Labour), Daniel Thompson (Green Party), and Mark Williams (Liberal Democrats).