Plaid Cymru elect Leanne Wood as new leader
- 15 March 2012
- From the section Wales politics
Plaid Cymru members have elected Leanne Wood as their new leader.
Ms Wood called for "real independence" for Wales after beating rivals Elin Jones and Lord Elis-Thomas.
Ms Wood, who is currently learning to speak Welsh, promised to be an "open, forward looking, positive and constructive" leader.
She inherits the leadership of the third-largest party in the Welsh assembly behind the Labour government and Conservative opposition.
Speaking after the result was announced in Cardiff on Thursday, she paid tribute to her fellow candidates for a campaign that was "positive, respectful, constructive, and in parts a good laugh".
"And that's how we do politics in this party and that is how I intend to lead," she said.
She also gave a special thanks to her young supporters, many of whom joined the party for the first time during the campaign, she said.
Her predecessor Ieuan Wyn Jones, who Ms Wood thanked in her acceptance speech, announced he would be standing down last year after disappointing election results that saw Plaid lose seats in the assembly.
She said: "We may be a small party and a small country but we can stand tall if we stand together and if we stand up for our principles.
"Real independence means collectively lifting our people out of poverty leaving no-one behind, building a future based on hope not on fear."
She added: "Together we can build a Wales that is fair, a new Wales that will flourish and a new Wales that will one day be free."
Aged 40, she is the ninth leader in Plaid Cymru's 87-year history, the first Welsh-learner in the role and the first woman. Her election means Plaid now has a female leader, chief executive, president and chair.
Her supporters hailed a decisive victory.
In the first round of voting, she won 2,879 votes to Ms Jones's 1,884 and Lord Elis-Thomas's 1,278.
As no candidate had more than half the votes, Lord Elis-Thomas was eliminated and the second-preference votes of his supporters were redistributed, giving Ms Wood 3,326 votes and Ms Jones 2,494.
Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards, Ms Wood's campaign manager, said she would lead "a far more aggressive strategy in taking on the Labour Party".
"I was extremely happy to see that it was a very strong result for Leanne - nearly winning on the first ballot and I think the strength of the result gives her a very strong mandate for the months ahead," he said.
Speaking before the result was declared, Mr Jones said: "It's our job now, all of us in this party, to unite behind the successful candidates so they can face the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead."
Fellow party leaders have sent messages of congratulations to Ms Wood, including First Minister Carwyn Jones.
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said that despite their differences on a range of issues, she hoped the two parties "can work constructively together in order to hold the Welsh government to account and grasp the opportunity to strengthen devolution through the Silk Commission established by the UK government".
The Conservatives' assembly leader, Andrew RT Davies, said he "looked forward" to working with Ms Wood in holding "lethargic Labour ministers to account".
"She succeeds Ieuan Wyn Jones, who led his party with distinction and played a pivotal role in the development of the National Assembly. I wish Ieuan well in his future endeavours," he added.