Wales politics

Plaid Cymru leadership: Profiles of the three candidates

Elin Jones, Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Leanne Wood
Image caption (l-r) Elin Jones, Dafydd Elis-Thomas and Leanne Wood are in the running for the Plaid leadership

The race is on to become the next leader of Plaid Cymru.

Three Assembly Members have put themselves forward in the contest to succeed Ieuan Wyn Jones, after making it through the nomination procedure. A fourth candidate, Simon Thomas, withdrew.

They will now have until the middle of March to set out their stall. The winner will be elected by party members under the alternative vote system.

A new leader will be named on 15 March, allowing the victor to take up the reins before the party's spring conference the following week.


Lord Elis-Thomas can boast something that none of the other would-be leaders can - he has led the party once before.

His latest bid to become Plaid leader comes some 20 years after he vacated the role.

Soon after Ieuan Wyn Jones announced he was standing down, Lord Elis-Thomas let it be known that he was interested in running. It was a typically provocative move.

Dafydd Elis-Thomas also has the advantage of being one of the most prominent AMs, having sat in the presiding officer's chair in the assembly chamber from the institution's creation in 1999 until last year's election.

It was his local party's performance in that election that inspired him to run for the leadership, he says.

Under a banner of "sustainability" and "pragmatism", he says he wants to spread the success of his Dwyfor Meirionnydd constituency, an area he first represented when he became an MP in 1974, aged 27.


Raised on a farm and with a master's degree in rural economics, Elin Jones had the credentials for her job as the rural affairs minister in the previous Labour-Plaid Cymru assembly coalition government.

The appointment confirmed her status as one of her party's big hitters.

Almost as soon as she was given the job in summer 2007 she was put to the test when a foot and mouth outbreak forced her to cut short a holiday in New Zealand.

But her plans for a controversial badger cull were stopped by a legal challenge and she met fierce opposition from the farming industry over the Glastir scheme to reform agricultural subsidies.

Before being elected to the assembly as the AM for Ceredigion in 1999 she was a member of Aberystwyth Town Council, becoming its youngest mayor. She served as national chair of her party from 2000 to 2002.

She lives in Aberystwyth and lists music among her interests. She sings in the town's ABC Choir and was a member of the folk group Cwlwm.

A strong advocate of an independent Wales, she says Plaid would get a mandate for a referendum on Welsh independence if it can win two consecutive assembly elections.


Leanne Wood lives in the Rhondda village of Penygraig, where she grew up.

It is a background she has tried to stress in the leadership contest. She says that if Plaid is to dislodge Labour as the biggest party in the assembly it needs a breakthrough in Wales' industrial heartlands.

"I think I'm able to speak to people in order to do that," she said.

Her campaign has the support of one of the party's most prominent figures, former MP Adam Price who says she speaks "with a voice that resonates across Wales".

Both she and Ms Jones have each secured the public support of two fellow Plaid AMs - in Ms Wood's case, colleagues Lindsay Whittle and Bethan Jenkins are on board.

Elected to the assembly for South Wales Central in 2003, she was previously a probation officer and a councillor in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

She was expelled from the assembly's chamber in 2004 when she called the Queen "Mrs Windsor" and refused to withdraw the remark.

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