Nominations open for Plaid Cymru leader role

Plaid Cymru chief executive Rhuanedd Richards said the contest would give an opportunity for debate and said it was an "exciting time" for the party.

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Nominations have opened for candidates hoping to succeed Ieuan Wyn Jones as leader of Plaid Cymru.

Mr Jones announced his intention to stand down after last May's disappointing assembly election result.

Four assembly members - Elin Jones, Lord Elis Thomas, Simon Thomas and Leanne Wood - have announced their intention to stand.

Nominations close on 26 January and the winner will be decided by the alternative vote system.

Mr Jones has led the party since 2000.

Lord Elis Thomas, AM for Dwyfor Meirionydd, will not comment formally until he has been nominated by his party locally but it is understood that he will discount any possibility of Plaid working with the Conservatives if he were to become leader.

Elin Jones, Lord Elis Thomas, Simon Thomas and Leanne Wood are vying to become Plaid Cymru leader Elin Jones, Lord Elis Thomas, Simon Thomas and Leanne Wood all hope to lead Plaid Cymru

Consensual leadership

The former agriculture minister, Ceredigion AM Elin Jones, says her focus is on opening the Plaid Cymru doors to every person in Wales.

"After four successful elections in Ceredigion I have widened the appeal of Plaid Cymru - broadened the base of electoral support.

"I want to make sure in Wales as a whole we are able to appeal to people of all backgrounds, people who haven't voted Plaid in the past but who share my ambition for change.

"Ultimately our ambition is to make Wales a successful independent nation."

Among backers for her campaign are fellow AMs Llyr Huws Gruffydd and Jocelyn Davies.

Mid and West Wales AM Simon Thomas is a former member of parliament and worked as a Plaid advisor in the One Wales government.

Analysis

Having lost ground in last May's election and with their leader stepping down, Plaid Cymru have spent the last few months reviewing what should be done differently.

Offering their solutions, four assembly members who want to lead the party: the early though not outright favourite, former Agriculture Minister Elin Jones; the favourite of the left, Leanne Wood; the former Presiding Officer Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas and former MP and party adviser Simon Thomas.

They'll need to spell out their positions on issues like future coalitions and independence, as well as the current economic challenges facing Wales.

There's an alternative element to the vote with second preferences involved - it means that prediction is a fool's game, as any Miliband brother will tell you.

Mr Thomas says he would develop a consensual style of leadership which would bring in all levels of the party.

"There is a feeling in the party that we haven't made the most of being in government," he said.

"Perhaps the party didn't celebrate enough the fact that we were in government and some of the things we achieved in government.

"We need to make sure the next leader is somebody who can work with a whole range of opinions and differences within the party and bring people together."

South Wales Central AM Leanne Wood was elected in 2003. She argues that independence should now be part of the mainstream political debate.

She said: "My first-hand experience of recession and its impact during the 1980s gives me a determination to make sure that we do not lose yet another generation to youth unemployment.

Ieuan Wyn Jones Ieuan Wyn Jones announced his intention to stand down after a disappointing 2011 assembly election

"Tackling those economic challenges goes hand in hand with our journey to independence."

On Tuesday, Ms Wood received the backing of fellow Plaid AMs Bethan Jenkins and Lindsay Whittle, as well as MP Jonathan Edwards.

Mr Whittle said under Ms Wood he believed the party could become "an effective fighting machine".

She will officially launch her leadership campaign in Ammanford on Thursday.

The election is open to party members and new members will also have a vote if they join before the close of nominations.

The new leader will be announced at special event in Cardiff on 15 March.

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