Plaid should set out to close 'Offa's Gap'

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Image caption Adam Price - it's time to close Offa's Gap

It was the party, Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones made very clear on his return from France this week, that wanted him to stay on as leader after the election, long enough to sort themselves out.

The Conservatives had no choice. Their leadership race (watch both of the contenders go head to head on Dragon's Eye tomorrow night) was on the moment Nick Bourne lost his seat.

By saying he'd stand down 'in the first half of this Assembly' it was fair to say Mr Jones 'could' be around for another few years. But was that his target? Those around him have always said no - and after the defiant round of interviews on his return from holiday, Mr Jones looked ready to move on. He knew his party had taken a hit because of him and sincerely wished it hadn't but to me, seemed equally sincerely to feel that his reputation hadn't deserved the hit it had taken either.

Time to move on say Plaid - and in today's Western Mail two of the party's leading figures have set out their views on where Plaid should go now.

Mr Jones can breathe easy - neither Adam Price nor Elin Jones would appear to be sharpening the knife publicly. But their subtly competing views of the party's future do throw fascinating light on what Plaid Cymru's future could look like.

Writing from Harvard, the former Plaid MP accepts that the party has lost momentum and "slipped into reverse gear". Bad but not disastrous is his analysis of the Assembly election. Quite how that will go down with the Plaid footsoldiers who actually fought the election on the ground is a debatable point perhaps but they can't argue with the final scores on the Assembly chamber doors.

Adam Price's main point is that that party's focus on cultural issues, as well as social and environmental is not going to win them the mainstream support they need to break through. A laser-like focus on economic issues is his prescription - and he has a phrase which I think will soon enter the Welsh political lexicon - "closing Offa's gap" - that is the wealth gap between Wales and England.

He's critical of the new Enterprise Minister Edwina Hart's attempts to lower expectations of what the Welsh Government can achieve in relation to the economy and warns that a focus on delivery is a recipe for "the worst kind of micro-managerialism, a vacuum of inspiration and ideas".

However, a few paragraphs later he's talking about the prospects of a deal with Labour. His price? "A commitment to a commission to consider the constitutional impact for Wales of a Yes vote in the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum, including a pledge to consult the Welsh people on Wales' future in the wake of Scottish independence".

Now setting aside the, shall we say, interesting tactic of simultaneously decrying Labour as "a vacuum of inspiration and ideas" while openly discussing terms for a "One Wales Two" coalition deal - the key demand couldn't be less palatable to Labour. Adam Price says "our dream is Welsh independence". You suspect Carwyn Jones' response to a coalition bid on these terms would be pithier - "dream on".

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Image caption Elin Jones: time for Plaid to define its role

Elin Jones is less given to hyperbole but doesn't mean she has less to say. Her goal is simpler - that there should be a Plaid First Minister sooner rather than later. How many Labour First Ministers, she asks, will it take before Wales becomes known as a one-party state?

She, too is both looking back and thinking ahead - "I was asked myself, on the day after the referendum, whether there was any real role left for Plaid Cymru. I laughed off the question.

"As members of Plaid Cymru, we know that there's an obvious role for Plaid - but it may not be obvious to everyone else. Either it was not obvious to Welsh voters on May 5 or, if it was obvious, they were not overly enamoured of it. I think it was, probably, the former."

If, as is likely, she stands as a leadership contender, it will be her job to make it obvious to the Welsh people just what role Plaid Cymru should play in Wales. What is the USP?

Off to write an essay for Good Morning Wales on Nick Ramsay v Andrew R T Davies ... v those Welsh Conservative MPs who never fail to remind you that whoever wins, they will 'only' be the leader of the Conservative group in the Assembly.