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Two down ...

Betsan Powys | 14:00 UK time, Friday, 13 May 2011

For Nick Bourne, there was no choice. The blunt realities of the electoral system meant his years as party leader were at an end.

In essence, after a bad election, there was little choice for Ieuan Wyn Jones either. He is to give up the Plaid Cymru leadership, though not quite yet. Mr Jones plans to stay on while the party - the party he took from 82 years of opposition to government and back, for now at least, to opposition - has time to work out what went wrong on May 5th and what must change in terms of structure and strategy before it moves on.

In fact he gives it quite some time. He will go "some time in the first half of the Assembly term". That is two years and counting - quite some leeway and far too much for some, I suspect, though it is, I'm told, certainly "not a target".

He's on his feet now, in Anglesey, reading out a statement that, I'm told, will spell out his thinking.

It is absolutely no secret that Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas is one Plaid member who wants to see the party conduct a short, sharp review, elect a new leader and stike a deal that lets Plaid march back into government with Labour, all as soon as possible. Simon Thomas, brand new AM but old Plaid hand, is the leader of choice, or so it's whispered in Cardiff Bay. You never know, he might fancy it himself - "a last hurrah!" - suggests one Plaid source.

Others shake their heads and warn against a swift move back to the fifth floor. There would have to be "major sweeteners" said one, before Plaid should even contemplate any kind of deal. It must work out what it's about and until it knows exactly where it wants to go, then forget any deals along the way. Those voices say that the former Presiding Officer is "isolated" - but admit that he's a man who rarely, if ever, fails to build the bridges necessary to get to precisely where he wants.

Plaid will have heard Carwyn Jones dismiss the Liberal Democrats as "too toxic" and beyond the pale as far as any kind of deal goes. Truly "inedible" as Rhodri Morgan once put it. But Plaid? The First Minister talked of calling "Ieuan." He wouldn't elaborate but certainly didn't rule out a future deal. The difference in tone pointed to one door firmly shut and another - the only other one available to a man who doesn't want to lead a minority government for five years - more than ajar.

I know that many in the party have asked Mr Jones to stay on, to see them through this next phase. They - and no doubt many of us - suspect that no matter how Plaid had fared on May 5th, he was planning to give up the leadership during this term.

The question now is how long his party lets him stay.


  • Comment number 1.

    “Dafydd Elis-Thomas is one Plaid member who wants to see the party conduct a short, sharp review, elect a new leader and stike a deal that lets Plaid march back into government with Labour, all as soon as possible.”

    Thank god he’s only “one Plaid member”

    What on earth is the point of a “short, sharp review”? Plaid needs looking at root and branch, IMHO. IWJ can do one further job for the Party by overseeing it.

  • Comment number 2.

    How much damage has the £2.5 million Ieun Air done to Plaid. Having such an expensive private airline at Public expense means you can't take them seriously. Wonder of Labour has the guts to dump it!

  • Comment number 3.

    Could there be a transport minister in the wings, waiting, is that is what on offer from the Bay?

    Plenty of turmoil in that brief i.e. Violia pulling out!

  • Comment number 4.

    Well, that's the first step done. Now for a long and truly incisive review, no holds barred and no taboos beyond debating. Personally, I'd like to await the return of the he who is studying 'over the water' so to speak. We do need a leader who is seen as being a real leader, rather than a solid backroom operator.

  • Comment number 5.

    What is this obsession with a coalition? I am only aware of 2 Plaid members who have called for one and journalists talk as if it's inevitable. If neither party are interested, then it's hardly a runner, is it - however much you talk it up?

    IWJ was not going to stay for another election anyway and privately, he had made that clear well before the election. His timing and process of standing down will help the party do some re-assessment, but more in relation to primary powers than the election result. He has in terms of delivery been Plaid's most successful leader and not even the Welsh media can take that away from him.

  • Comment number 6.

    I would like to see the "Prince across the Water" walk back as well. Plaid is very hopeful that his keen mind and accomplished rhetoric coupled with the devious tactical skills he demonstrated as an MP will lead them to triumph.

    I predict that Wales will loath him. Whither Plaid? or should that be wither?

  • Comment number 7.

    The Price across the water. Copyright Dewi_H

  • Comment number 8.

    Noboplant, that is snide and untrue, the insinuation that it the north south air link was for private profit is patently untrue. I would suggest its also libellous. Can you prove your insinuation?

  • Comment number 9.

    Price-Wood could be a leadership dream team for Plaid, though any one would give a conservative nightmares, put together as a team they would give a liberal a hernia, from laughing so much.....

  • Comment number 10.

    The coalition with Labour was a strategic error for Plaid, although the slide in its fortune had already begun, seemingly coinciding with IWJs' period as leader. He should have announced his resignation sooner.

    DET would be the worst possible candidate. Plaid made little or no electoral progress when he was its president in the 80s. In my opinion he is an 'establishment' figure who has allowed his peerage and office as PO to swell his ego and a figure who suffers from the disease of self-importance to the extent that he sees himself as the guardian of Wales' 'constitution'. It might be described as a case of 'bayitis'. It appears he would welcome a further period in support of Labour, perhaps only so that he could have a cabinet post. It would be a disaster for Plaid.

    The party needs a change of leader sooner rather than later. A thorough review of its strategy and policies is required. Some fundamental questions need to be asked regarding its direction and purpose. It has been on the wrong track and its downhill progress all too predictable. Let's hope it has the courage and strength to address the issues head-on. It could do with some advice from the SNP.

    Even so, Plaid is the only political party able to offer Wales a real hope for the future - capable of putting the interests of the people of Wales first. Labour has been a disaster in government at Westminster and pretty incompetent as the lead party in the Assembly since its inception. I'm not galvanised by the prospect of five further years of Labour in charge of health and education, let alone Wales' economy. It will be an opportunity for Plaid to re-focus and regain its direction.

  • Comment number 11.

    Lets hope the "review" leads them to the conclusion that other than for their "heartlands",ie. welsh speaking/nationalist they have no future what so ever in the english only speaking "heartlands" along the english border.There also needs to be a "review" on the level of publicity they get on BBC CYMRU as for a really minority party they allways seem to be pontificating about something.

  • Comment number 12.

    #11 TellingmewhatIknowalready

    Plaid is a party for the whole of Wales, all of its people, regardless of language, ethnicity or religion.

    It has proven success in Labour heartlands and there is no doubt in my mind that a resurgent Plaid will become the leading force in the political life of Wales. Indeed, without it, Wales' future is bleak. The other parties, over decades, centuries even, have proved that Wales is low down on their list of priorities when in government. That can never change as the unionist focus lies outside of our country. To them Wales is a backwater.

  • Comment number 13.

    10. maen_tramgwydd

    No matter what you or anyone else may think of Lord Elis - Thomas.

    There is no getting away with the fact it is he and he alone that has guided the Welsh Assembly and devolution through the difficult and probably turbulent years to where we are today.

    His knowledge, determination, strength of character and astuteness has been the main essence in achieving our present position as a devolved Country.

    As for, ‘Plaid made little or no electoral progress when he was its president in the 80s’.

    We are talking about two different eras, you can not compare the two.

    As for him being an establishment figure.

    Isn't that the case of all Politicians, they are all part of the establishment, they have to be, or be an anarchist.

    Not that I am saying he is great or egotistical, but, all the great men and women of history have had to have egos and a 'disease' of self importance to be and who they were and do what they did.

    Let's also be honest, it is he, and only he, who has actually stood up and fought for the constitution of Wales, at great odds, opposition and abuse from many.

    So yes he is it's guardian and we owe him a big thank you for it.

  • Comment number 14.

    13 alfsplace1986

    Time will be the arbiter whether the party progresses should DET be elected leader. In my opinion, apart from the reasons given above, I think he would be an uninspired and uninspiring choice. Regrettably, Plaid's problem is that it doesn't have a wide field.

    I wouldn't go as far as you in crediting him with the achievement of the level of devolution Wales has today. We must bear in mind, that, although Plaid's existence has driven devolution forward since 1945, it has largely been Labour's project in terms of the 1997 and 2006 Acts.

    Plaid and IWJs' achievement was of getting a referendum agreement with Labour. Though it's likely, in my opinion, that it would have been held during this current term in any case, as that would have provided a number of advantages for the UK Labour party as well as for Carwyn Jones and his administration in Cardiff. Whether the achievement was worth the electoral price paid is another matter. One which Plaid must face head-on, if it is to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

  • Comment number 15.

    14. maen_tramgwydd

    Point taken.

    What I was trying to point out was that, yes it was Labour who instigated the devolution acts.

    But, without Lord Elis - Thomas, would it have become constitutionaly stronger if he hadn't been there guiding it through.

    Yes, Plaid and Ieuan Wyn Jones has played a very important part I can not deny that. But, without Lord Elis-Thomas's interventions on the constituion and its laws would we be in the position we are today.

    I am afraid I have to disagree with you on Labours input in this.

    I believe, if it would be left to them, we would have the weakest system going.

    Remember Peter Hains interventions.

  • Comment number 16.

    15 alfsplace1986 wrote:

    "Remember Peter Hains interventions"

    At risk of going off the blog topic, I would point out that Hain represented a constituency of anti-devolutionist Labour MPs from Wales. Where Hain stood personally on the issues is not clear, as a Newport MP has pointed out, he is a character that metamorphoses into whichever shape best suits his career objectives.

    Moreover, as Hain stated during the referendum campaign, when he indicated his support, he was the architect of the Act which brought legislative powers incrementally, on Labour's terms, to Wales, and of Part 4, which paved the way for a referendum. Because of those divisions in the party Labour felt unable to move forward on Lord Richard's recommendations, which it and the LibDems in coalition had commissioned.

    Opposition to legislative powers from those Westminster MPs has weakened considerably for a number of reasons. They feared that they would lose their seats if Cardiff expanded its powers, as had happened in Scotland. That cut in seats is going to happen anyway. One MP prominent in his opposition has been elevated to the Lords. The existence of a ConDem coalition, but Tory driven, at Westminster, and a Labour dominated Assembly - the only governmental institution under Labour's control in the UK - leads one to ask why wouldn't Labour want legislative powers in those circumstances?

    Plaid would be wrong to exaggerate its direct contribution to devolution since 1997.

    To conduct a thorough review of strategy and policy under a leader partly responsible for the party's electoral misfortunes is dangerous. It risks coming to the wrong conclusions. That is why IWJ should step down sooner rather than later, even if it means appointing or electing an interim leader competent to lead or oversee an inquiry.

  • Comment number 17.

    I have the disadvantage of having him represent me in Westminster.

    Ever since he was parachuted into the ultra safe seat of Neath. I have not heard anyone say they like or respect him. The only comments I hear from people are, 'I can't stand him. 'But e's Labour see, my Father voted Labour and my Grandfather before him'. (the proverbial donkey) comes into mind.

    Not that I am saying Mr Hain is a donkey, perhapes a Chamelion is better suited.

  • Comment number 18.

    17 alfsplace1986

    Hain is just one example of how the two main unionist parties have exploited and used Wales over the decades. Mind you, I can think of a number of home-grown Labour MPs who were dreadful.

    I have the feeling that the Tories have treated Wales as a kind of colony, with a succession of imposed Secretaries of State. The current incumbent has tenuous links with Wales.

    It's one of the main reasons that I support Plaid. Unless we control our destiny, then we can really have no dignity, and certainly no prosperity.

    For me that is why Plaid must be clear on its objective and its direction, with no ambiguity, regardless of the perceived unpopularity of the notion at any given time. One has to know where the train is heading, before boarding. No sensible traveller embarks on a journey not knowing the destination.

    When I was a boy, the idea of Scottish independence, or self-government for Wales, seemed an impossibility. Yet in 2011 we have a Scottish Parliament with an SNP majority, and a legislative assembly and a Welsh government - I welcome the change in name, and the status it implies.

    People are open to persuasion. In Wales Plaid, and those of us who have the same objective, has a greater task in overcoming the centuries of propaganda instilled into us, that we are incapable of running our own affairs - that Wales is too small, too poor, too weak, its people too stupid, even. None of which is true. Its culture, language, history and traditions sidelined in its schools in favour of those of another land.

    Many believe it still, and the result is we live in a country largely dependent on handouts from the state, with no hope of prosperity, bound by the fetters of unionism, which has sucked the lifeblood out of the nations and regions of these islands into one prosperous and privileged corner.

    I see the danger of Plaid becoming bogged down in the minutiae of assembly politics and/or government, losing sight of its ultimate goal. My perception of the last four years is that it had begun to happen. That was one of Labour’s objectives in designing its devolution project – to thwart the national movements. Accordingly and unsurprisingly Plaid’s policy platform for the election could have been held by any of the three unionist parties. Salmond and the SNP avoided that pitfall.

    Plaid needs a charismatic, visionary and enthusiastic leader. DET is the wrong person, probably the worst possible choice. His appointment would be divisive, and the outcome catastrophic for the party's hope of progress. I doubt that he would even be suitable for an interim role, as he has preconceived notions of a further deal with Labour.

    I wish the Plaid well, and hope that it will have addressed its shortcomings and reversed its fortunes by 2016 and be well on the road to a dominant position in the politics of Wales.

  • Comment number 19.

    @10. maen_tramgwydd
    " It could do with some advice from the SNP."
    The SNP took advice from Plaid before. There was an element in the SNP of "Independence or nothing" - and "nothing" would have been the result of that!

    Gradualism does work. You now have law making powers without a veto in Westminster. We are about to see a huge step forward in Scotland with a referendum which will (almost certainly) at least include "Devo Max".

    As previously, when we manage to force Westminster to cede greater autonomy to Scotland, it makes it much more difficult for them to resist a similar demand from Wales - whatever the party(ies) in power in Cardiff.

  • Comment number 20.


    I am not advocating 'independence or nothing', if you read my comment carefully. Nevertheless the party must have clearly defined goals, and a strategy for achieving them. Plaid historically has had an element of ambiguity in its policy objectives, perhaps for good reasons. I think a detected a greater blurring in that respect in recent years.

    I agree that what happens in Scotland will have much relevance for Wales, and have stated that in a previous comment on this blog. The devolution movement creates its own momentum. Plaid's existence has had much to do with it. The three unionist parties have already modified their stance, particularly the Tories in Wales once opposed, but now in favour.

    Wales' legislative powers are not as straightforward as those of the Scottish Parliament. In Wales the twenty devolved areas of responsibility are listed, but there is an ill-defined overlap with those reserved for Westminster. Plenty of potential scope for conflict between the two legislatures. To what extent that happens remains to be seen. As yet there is no parity with your Parliament in that respect.

    I wouldn't be surprised if further areas of responsibilty are devolved quite soon, probably policing, and maybe criminal justice. Borrowing powers are needed too, and are likely to come. Plaid has all to play for.

    I wish the SNP well in its forthcoming endeavours.


  • Comment number 21.

    @20. maen_tramgwydd
    "I am not advocating 'independence or nothing',"

    Sorry. I expressed that badly. What I meant was that the SNP learned from the more measured approach of Plaid.

  • Comment number 22.

    18. maen_tramgwydd

    I agree with your analysis 100%.

    Perhaps I should explain my 'sticking up’ for Lord Elis-Thomas was not advocating him for leader, I agree with you what say on that, about him being divisive .

    looking at the BBC Wales News Website on the Plaid leadership race starting.

    I am afraid none of those mentioned seem charismatic enough to stir the country away from Labour domination.

    The ones that come to my mind are Dafydd Wigley who attracted a great deal of support outside of Plaid. I don't know if he is eligible now or even wants it

    The other, is the one whom the anti Plaid Cymru people seem more afraid of than anyone, judging by the strong rhetoric against him, is of course Adam Price. Perhaps that is why Ieuan Wyn Jones is hoping to wait before finishing. So that AP is back home from America.

    The same reason also perhaps, why Lord D, E-T and the others want a quick leadership contest done and dusted, before he does come back.

  • Comment number 23.

    @6, @7, @9

    Perhaps you don’t understand. In order to be the leader of Plaid Cymru you have to be in the Assembly. So “Prince” or “Price” over the water doesn’t qualify. Someone would have to give up their seat, list not counted because replacements are already in place, then AP would have to win that seat as a “parachuted in” candidate. Not likely is it, even if a sacrificial lamb could be found. Naagh, not going to happen.

  • Comment number 24.

    23. Glyndo

    Never say never.

    Always expect the unexpected.

    Any way who says he has to become an Assembly Member to be president of Plaid.

  • Comment number 25.

    24. At 20:38pm 14th May 2011, alfsplace1986 wrote:

    “Never say never. ...... Any way who says he has to become an Assembly Member to be president of Plaid.”

    1 - I didn’t say “never”, I thought we were discussing the present situation.

    2 – You don’t, but the President is not the Leader, and it is a position that is becoming more and more marginalised and less and less influential. A process that is likely to continue.

  • Comment number 26.

    I think Plaid was right to go into coalition with Labour. Wales needed a government that could govern and there were two choices, a Plaid led rainbow coalition or a Labour led coalition with Plaid. Labour offered the chance to advance the devolution project - the Rainbow coalition would have frozen the constitutional development of Wales. It took leadership to chose to become a junior partner to Labour and advance devolution, that can't be taken from Ieuan. History will be kind.

    As to direction, well the party has to reassert its reason for existence, independence for Wales. We all know how the union has done us no favours, not out of of spite, out of neglect. To Westminster we are an insignificant peripheral area of no importance. But it is not good enough to say that we are done down by the union, we need to emphasise the advantages of independence, what benefits it will bring and how we can bridge the finance gap (which is the main card in the unionist hand).

    We need a leader in Plaid that can inspire, and there is talent in the Plaid Group. Myself a good leader could be Simon Thomas, but he would be in danger of decapitation, as happened to the Tories. The Good Lord, was certainly an excellent Presiding Officer. He helped secure the independence of the legislature from the domination of the executive in the first Assembly, he helped mature the institution and was a fierce supporter of the rights of minorities and backbenchers in the Assembly. His place in history is assured. A party leader I don't think so though.

  • Comment number 27.

    23. Glyndo

    Yeh I know, I was just trying to be clever.

    Though if you are talking about the present, why did you comment as if you were talking about the future.

    Quote. Someone 'would' have to give up their seat, list not counted because replacements are already in place, then AP 'would' have to win that seat as a “parachuted in” candidate. Unquote

    If that was the case it 'would' be in the future as A P is in America for the foreseeable future.

    Some funny things have happened in Politics.

    As Harold Wilson once said... "A week, is a long time in politics".

    As I said, never say never.

  • Comment number 28.

    26 LDT

    I agree with just about everything you say in your comment, other than that the coalition with Labour was the correct course. Plaid had the third option of remaining in opposition, which I believe would have been for the best, for the party and, more importantly, for Wales. I don't believe it was ready for government, certainly not with IWJ at the helm as a junior partner.

    My analysis is that legislative devolution would have happened anyway in the medium term. The circumstances as they stand today would have made it almost a certainty. To what extent that was predictable in 2007 is another matter, but Labour could not have remained in power at Westminster indefinitely, despite a Brown 'bounce' in 2007.

    When it was replaced by a Tory government, Labour would have availed itself of the provision made in Part 4 of the 2006 Act, if it found itself in control of the Assembly. After all it was Labour who initiated the devolution project, the Richard Commission (with some input from the LibDems), and the 2006 Act. Plaid had no direct input into the process.

    What we have today is a Labour-dominated Assembly, with legislative powers, which Plaid flogged its guts to achieve in the referendum campaign. One need only ask, who was the winner, and who was the loser?

    Plaid has to face that. If it doesn't then it will repeat the same mistake(s). Honesty and truth is painful, but it's a lesson which has to be learnt.

    If I had to choose a leader for Plaid, bearing in mind that he/she has to be an AM, then I would choose Simon Thomas.

    However, by far the best choice would have been Dafydd Wigley, who should, but for Plaid's insistence on a gender equality policy in choosing list candidates, have been selected and elected as an Assembly Member. It was, imo, a serious misjudgement. There were plenty of opportunities for rectifying it later, but the party didn't avail itself, for whatever reasons. Had it done so, it could well have found itself with a measure of success which the SNP is enjoying. No use crying over spilt milk, though.

  • Comment number 29.

    The main criticism from the other parties of Carwyn Jones’ cabinet, is having no Rural Affairs Minister. Any idea why Carwyn has chosen to split the roll between Alun Davies and John Griffiths with Alun not even reporting to JG?

  • Comment number 30.

    Plaid "could well have found itself with a measure of success which the SNP is enjoying. No use crying over spilt milk, though"

    Plaid could never have united Wales....."It's the Language, stupid."

  • Comment number 31.

    I like Simon Thomas, but the risk of him loosing the list seat is problematic. He is capable, intelligent and hard working. I suspect that the referendum would have been held eventually and I suspect you are right that the catalyst would have been the change of government at Westminster. However I think that vote would then have been run entirely on an anti Westminster line - which I think would have not been healthy for Welsh democracy.

    Plaid's reason for existing is to provide better government for Wales, not being in government with an unstable Labour minority government would probably have been a tragedy.

  • Comment number 32.

    #31 ... Plaid's reason for existing is to gain independence for Wales ... the rest is an illusion Lyn, a dishonest illusion.

  • Comment number 33.

    32 Plaid's long term goal is indepence for Wales, but that is not on the immediate agenda, simply because we are not ready for it yet. But there are plenty of shorter term objectives that must be achieved first and it is only these that the next election will be fought.

  • Comment number 34.


    Plaid flogged its guts to achieve in the referendum campaign

    Even some Tories worked hard for this result----some Plaid, including my local councillor did nothing. Plaid cannot claim credit ---politicions from all parties worked for this.

  • Comment number 35.

    Plaid does exist to gain independence for Wales, but that is not an end in its self, it wishes full self government so that Wales can be run better. As part of that wish for self government expanding the powers of the people of Wales is good. And clearly you don't go from no autonomous government in Wales to independence in one bound and in the interim you want the best government possible. Its clear that the Union hasn't provided that for Wales, we are to insignificant to matter for the UK. There is nothing dishonest in what Plaid wants, perhaps you could expand and explain how Plaid is dishonest?

  • Comment number 36.


    The two are not incompatible. The fact that Plaid invested a lot of effort in the campaign doesn't mean that others didn't.

    If you notice, I give Labour much of the credit for the devolution project since 1997, pathetically weak, and ill-devised, though it was.

    Even with the devolved legislative powers in twenty areas, Wales has the lowest level of devolution. England, of course has its own Parliament, with all the fiscal and monetary powers at its disposal, and a majority of 533 to 177 over the other nations and NI.

    I forecast a further relative decline in Wales' economic fortunes during the next five years, based on past performance. The track record of the Tories and Labour in government at Westminster delivering on Wales' needs has been abysmally poor. Labour's control of the Assembly since 1999 has seen a steady decline in most areas of devolved responsibilty. A double whammy for Wales.

  • Comment number 37.

    @36. maen_tramgwydd

    I agree with what you write but I think the figures you meant to give are 533 to 117, a ratio of 82% : 18%.

    Under the ConDem's proposals to reduce the size of the House of Commons, England's representation in relation to the UK's smaller nations will be increased even further, i.e. 502 to 98, a ratio of 83.7% to 16.3%.

  • Comment number 38.

    37 cerea

    Quite right, thanks. It was a typo which I hadn't noticed.

  • Comment number 39.


    Agreed re being an AM - I was thinking long term.

    A good debate in this thread. I like the observations about how Plaid and the SNP have at different times shown each other the way forward. Right now 'look north' seems to be the order of the day.


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