Wales politics

Plaid Cymru Llanelli Town branch suspended in candidate row

Mari Arthur election poster
Image caption Mari Arthur came third in Llanelli in June, behind Labour and the Tories

Plaid Cymru has suspended a party branch in an escalating row over a 2017 general election candidate.

Llanelli Town branch had demanded an inquiry into complaints about alleged rule breaches by the Llanelli candidate, Mari Arthur, who had been selected by the party despite coming third in a local hustings.

Plaid said the branch's actions were damaging to the party's reputation.

One party source called the decision a "shambles".

Party chair Alun Ffred Jones, together with a "task-force" formed to resolve the breakdown in relations between local members and the party machine, is to hold a meeting with members on Monday.

A number of members - possibly as many as 25 - are thought to have resigned over the ongoing row.

The public call for an inquiry is understood to have been a major factor in the decision by the party to suspend the branch, which is now prohibited from making statements to the media or holding meetings.

"Suspending the branch isn't going to help matters", a local party source said. "Members are very, very angry down here."

The source suggested that the party should be asking why the party came third in last year's general election in Llanelli.

Image caption Sean Rees speaking at the Plaid Cymru conference last Saturday

Last year Plaid ruled centrally that the winner of a local hustings vote - Sean Rees - was not eligible to be the party's candidate for Llanelli because it was a target seat. Ms Arthur was selected instead.

In August 2017, 26 local members complained that Ms Arthur had breached rules, including withholding a set of office keys.

Two of those who complained - Gwyn Hopkins and Meilyr Hughes - were suspended last year.

Members say that those complaints still have not been addressed.

A statement issued by Llanelli Town branch earlier in February called for an independent investigation into the process for the selection of the candidate, the complaints and the suspension of the two members "without due process".

It said local political activities had become "impossible" and that the branch had passed a no-confidence vote in the chair of the constituency party, Deris Williams, and the secretary, who is Ms Arthur.

Image caption Alun Ffred Jones is holding a meeting in Llanelli on Monday

"Every member of the town branch wants to see the party moving forward and winning in our target seat of Llanelli once again," the statement from the branch said.

"But we could not be further away from that as things stand."

Members had complained that Sean Rees, the party's local press officer, had been blocked from a Plaid Twitter account and forced to work from a library.

They also claimed that a "secret" Facebook group was set up by Ms Arthur's campaign group calling for the "getting rid of the dead wood" from Llanelli's constituency committee.

'Angry'

Howell Williams, secretary of the Llanelli Town branch, said: "All we want is natural justice and a proper independent investigation."

"It appears that we don't have a level playing field."

A Plaid spokeswoman said: "The Llanelli Town branch has been temporarily suspended for breaching the party's standing orders.

"The branch's actions were deemed damaging to the public reputation of the Party and breached the confidentiality provisions of the complaints process.

"We are continuously working to resolve matters in the area and determined to arrive at a swift resolution in which all parties involved cooperate in a respectful and effective manner."

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