Plaid Cymru: Ex-leader no longer friends with successor

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Leanne Wood said she has not been friends with Adam Price since his challenge to her leadership of the party in 2018

Former Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood says she and Adam Price "have not been friends for years" since he challenged her for the party leadership in 2018.

Ms Wood, Plaid leader for six years, said Mr Price's timing and the way it happened were "a bad judgement call".

She said the party had gone backwards since. In May's Senedd election, she lost her Rhondda seat.

Plaid Cymru praised her "invaluable contribution" to the party but said it was proud of being "member-led".

This, it said, gave "the leader a clear mandate through leadership elections".

Mr Price has previously described how the decision to challenge one of his "oldest friends in politics" was "the most difficult thing I've had to wrestle with in my political life".

Image source, WalesOnline
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Leanne Wood says she has not spoken to Adam Price, both pictured at an election event in 2016, for years

But he said deep friendships could survive "this kind of thing" and had felt the party was at an impasse.

Ms Wood was elected Plaid leader in 2012, before losing the position in the 2018 contest, where she came last behind Adam Price and fellow challenger Rhun ap Iorwerth.

She had won the seat of Rhondda from Labour in 2016 - a prized constituency for Plaid Cymru which has sought to expand its reach in the south Wales valleys.

But Plaid failed to make further inroads at May's Senedd election. It lost Rhondda and came third behind the Conservatives overall, though it gained an extra seat.

Mr Price was voted into the top job by Plaid Cymru members in the autumn of 2018.

Earlier that year he threatened to challenge Ms Wood for the post if she did not agree to share the job, accusing the party of "predictable, plodding politics" at the time.

Image source, Getty Images
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Leanne Wood was Plaid leader for six years

Speaking to the BBC's Walescast politics podcast, Ms Wood said the co-leadership proposal was "unconstitutional".

"I don't feel like it was done correctly really and probably that's part of why it's been quite difficult," she said.

"We're not friends now. We haven't been friends for years."

Asked if that had been difficult to deal with, she replied: "Losing a friendship is difficult isn't it?

"And losing a friendship under these political circumstances, when the project you believe in and is getting somewhere is stopped, that adds an extra layer of difficulty."

'Immense' pressure on Brexit

In the midst of the chaos that engulfed the political scene after the Brexit referendum of 2016, many supporters of the Remain campaign called for a second vote to be held.

As leader, Ms Wood initially accepted the leave result but she also told a special party conference that Plaid should "stand up for all those who voted to remain".

In October 2017 she said Plaid could support a second referendum if no exit deal was agreed by March 2019.

Ms Wood told Walescast the policy shift was not something she supported, and that she argued behind the scenes that the 2016 result - where Wales voted leave - should be respected.

"I always thought the idea of a second referendum was a really bad idea," she said.

Ms Wood said the "pressure was immense" from Mr Price and others within the party to back a new EU poll, support for which increased under him.

"I really felt very, very strongly that if you ask people a question in a democracy you have to accept the result, no matter how much you don't like it.

"I spent a lot of time internally within Plaid Cymru trying to persuade people that we needed to accept this result, trying to persuade people that the messages and the words we were using to describe what had happened were causing great anger amongst people in some places.

"But it was a debate that people couldn't face I think."

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Adam Price made independence a major plank of his 2021 election campaign

As party leader Mr Price made independence a cornerstone of his party's platform, setting up a commission to look at how the party should prepare for holding a referendum.

At the 2021 Senedd election, he promised an independence referendum within five years if Plaid won a majority of seats.

It was a significant contrast to Ms Wood's approach and she told Walescast not enough ground work had been done to give answers for "some of the very real questions" voters had.

"It's no good just saying 'let's do it, let's go' because the only people you're going to take with you there are the people who are already behind that idea."

Having lost her seat, Ms Wood said she had no plans to return to front-line politics.

"I've decided to take some time out now over the summer to relax and reflect," she said.

"I've not had time off for a long time where I've not had something to do or some case to be concerned about or somebody to watch out for behind you.

"So it's refreshing and good for my well-being to be able take this time out."

A Plaid spokesman said: "Leanne Wood has made an invaluable contribution to the work of Plaid Cymru and will undoubtedly continue to play an important role within wider Welsh public life in future.

"Plaid Cymru is proud of being a member-led party that empowers its membership to take key decisions, including granting the leader a clear mandate through leadership elections."