Where's the beef? Where's the salt?

  • 23 February 2012
  • From the section Wales
  • comments

Who will Plaid Cymru elect as a new leader?

Let's start with the numbers.

Four became three when Simon Thomas threw in his lot with Elin Jones. For Plaid Cymru read Plaid Ceredigion? Certainly not, they said. Read two politicians in agreement on who should win.

Most Assembly Members support Elin Jones.

Of the three MPs, one is keeping stumm, the other two are split: Jonathan Edwards is in the Leanne Wood camp, Hywel Williams is pro Elin Jones.

Local constituency parties? Of those who've endorsed any candidate at all, Leanne Wood wins it hands down.

The name not mentioned so far? Dafydd Elis Thomas.

Time for a reminder of a couple of things.

Firstly that in this race, it's one member one vote and all votes are worth exactly the same. If you're an AM or an A.N. Other, you have one vote, that's it. The former MP, current AM and Peer might be lagging behind in big name endorsements but it's ordinary members who'll decide this election.

He's struck some of those as 'sounding flippant' or 'just being grumpy' in television debates and party hustings. His team point out that relaxed and flippant sound much the same sometimes and that 'Dafydd' El's message goes down much better with the ordinary membership in Caernarfon and in Denbigh than in posh hotels in Cardiff'.

Secondly: I'm trying not to forget the words of the only bookie I know. Karl tells me that in a three horse race, every punter knows that you always put your money on the outside bet. I pass on his advice and keep my purse in my bag.

The two women? Each camp is warily eyeing the other. Both believe the leader will be a woman. Both believe second preferences will count in this election - and now? One camp looks distinctly happier than the other.

Those close to Leanne Wood are worried; I'd go as far as to say pessimistic. They think there's a chance she'll be out in front after round one - the first choice as leader of more Plaid members than the other two - but that when it comes to counting second preferences, Elin Jones will cross the finishing line with some ease - and that's what's worrying them. Nothing will change, said one. It'll be business as usual, nothing new will go into the mix. That, they were clear, would be a bad thing. "She'll be Ieuan Mark 2" was one verdict from a senior Plaid source.

In the other camp there's increasing optimism - that Elin Jones (in a three legged race with Simon Thomas I suppose we should say) will finish first. They think she should be ahead on round one, safe after round two.

She will win, partly, because of people like the long-time member who stopped for a chat after Tuesday night's national hustings at that posh hotel in Cardiff. "My heart says Leanne but my head says Elin" he said. Add people like him to Elin Jones' core support and she should - on paper - win.

If she doesn't, said one worried and senior supporter, then we'll be in big trouble. Leanne Wood sounds good, looks good on paper but where's the substance? Let the other parties at her and just watch her economic policies being exposed.

Then they turned all culinary and Reganesque. It's like fancying a burger - looks tasty but when you bite into it, you're left asking 'where's the beef?' His metaphor won't go down well with camp Wood. That he at least remains worried enough to use it, will.

Hustings have been for party members and party members only. That membership has grown to nearly 8000 and Plaid reckon some 2000 of them will been out to their local community centre or hall to listen to what the three contenders have to say. They are pleased - even more pleased when the three make it clear, as they do, that they would be more than happy to work under the eventual winner.

"What are your opponents' greatest strengths?" asked one member at the hustings in Cardiff a few days ago. The answer, from all three, amounted to 'too many to mention'.

The Chief Executive heaved a sigh of relief.