Wales politics

The state of the parties in Wales: Plaid Cymru

Leanne Wood
Image caption Leanne Wood had considered standing in Rhondda but changed her mind before the election

In the second of our pieces on the state of the political parties in Wales, political correspondent Aled ap Dafydd takes a look at Plaid Cymru.


In the early hours of 9 June - as results from the general election came in across Wales - Leanne Wood was considering resigning.

The party has declined to comment, but the story comes from a reliable source who says Ms Wood changed her mind when Ben Lake - "an outstanding candidate" - won Ceredigion.

If true, it would not be the first time she agonised over an important decision during the election - originally dithering over whether to stand in Rhondda.

As it turned out, Plaid Cymru, according to its press release, celebrated a "historic election result".

The question asked by some senior members of the party is, 'was it really'?

Context is important. In the weeks leading up to polling day, the campaign co-ordinator Adam Price described the Labour vote as "soft as jelly".

Plaid identified the supposedly wobbly Labour Westminster seats of Blaenau Gwent and Rhondda as winnable constituencies.

Both were lost to a combined Labour majority of over 25,000.

In Rhondda, the Plaid vote went down despite an exceptional result by Leanne Wood in the assembly election last year.

Plaid, says one of its former elected politicians, is "in denial about the election". The source was "shocked" that these seats were identified as targets.

If this was a Plaid election pitched towards the south Wales valleys, then "Leanne Wood failed", the source said.

Image caption "Defending Wales" was too negative a slogan, said one party insider

Others are far less gloomy, but they are also realistic.

There is no doubt that this was an election of two halves. Before the launch of the Tory manifesto Plaid, were polling very well in Rhondda, the data was said to be "off the scale". Ynys Mon was as safe as could be.

Then came the Corbyn bounce.

Doorstep conversations were not going well, as Plaid supporters said they were voting Labour.

Yet the party gained a seat and insiders make this very valid point - the electorate does not talk about vote share; the only thing that counts in elections is winning seats.

But whether Plaid was "sophisticated enough" to respond to the changing nature of the election is a question one AM would like to see on the debrief agenda.

Having increased its overdraft facility to £100,000, some are arguing money should be spent now at ground level in readiness for the next election.

Another senior member of the party is highly critical of the messaging.

Trying to outflank Corbyn on the left gave Carwyn Jones an open door to campaign on a nationalist ticket. "Defending Wales" was a negative slogan, he said.

This "historic election result" also included 14 lost deposits and a bitterly disappointing result in Ynys Mon.

No blame is attached internally to the candidate Ieuan Wyn Jones, described as "the right choice at the time".

There is however a recognition that candidates are important and that the party is not good enough at succession planning.

It could explain why so little was seen of candidates in the media, something many in the party want addressed.

Image caption Ben Lake took Ceredigion from the Lib Dems at the June election

And what of Leanne Wood?

"People like her but do they see her as a leader of a Government? She doesn't have the clout, she's not authoritative enough or confident".

Opinion is split on whether she should have put her name forward in Rhondda but less divided on whether taking days to come to a decision reflected badly.

The view of the leader is that people would not take kindly to her giving up the assembly seat so soon after winning.

"The boys," as Leanne Wood refers to them, could be waiting in the wings. Adam Price and Rhun ap Iorwerth are often talked up as future leaders.

It is hard to see how this will play out.

There is, I am told, "a great deal of support for Leanne but it is also natural that people will look at the leader. On the whole there is no big push against her".

It might have gone under the radar but Plaid does have a new leader - at Westminster. Liz Saville-Roberts actually increased her share of the vote in Dwyfor Meirionnydd.

If Plaid rules allowed it, she would, as one well-placed party member put it, "be head and shoulders above anyone else".

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