Wales Election 2016

Welsh election: Ask the Leader - Plaid Cymru

Leanne Wood and audience

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood faced questions from an audience in Aberystwyth in the fourth of a daily series of live TV election specials.

Who is she?

Leanne Wood was the outsider who broke the Plaid Cymru mould when she won the party's leadership election in 2012 to succeed Ieuan Wyn Jones.

She is Plaid's first female leader, the first to be a non-fluent Welsh speaker and the first from outside the party's heartlands in north and west Wales.

Quite simply, she embodies the kind of person Plaid needs to win over if it is ever to become Wales' largest party.

Born and raised in the Rhondda Valleys - where she still lives - her political awakening came during the miners' strikes of the 1980s.

But, unlike many of her peers, Ms Wood turned to Plaid Cymru rather than Labour.

The former probation officer and lecturer in social work was hired as a researcher by MEP Jill Evans.

In 2003, Ms Wood realised her own political ambitions as she entered the Welsh Assembly as a regional AM for South Wales Central.

Nine years later, the staunch republican - considered to be on the left of her party - was elected leader after promoting her economic vision for an independent Wales.

Ms Wood says her focus as Plaid leader has always been on May's Welsh Assembly election, but the 2015 general election debates put her in the spotlight.

Previous Plaid leaders could only dream of the media coverage she enjoyed, but a high public profile did not translate to any increase in seats at Westminster.

Party officials and members say the public like Leanne Wood and respond to her on the doorstep.

But questions remain as to whether they want her to lead the country.

Question 1: If Plaid Cymru were in power would we see badger culling to avoid TB?

Answer: Leanne Wood said Plaid Cymru had not ruled badger culling out, saying she would want to "see what the evidence tells us". The party had previously supported the idea of a cull when part of the One Wales coalition with Labour from 2007 to 2011, dropped by Labour when it governed alone. "I'm not someone whose going to go all out for a cull of badgers," she said, although she understood the concerns of farmers whose cattle herds had been devastated by bovine TB and noted that stocks of the vaccine used on badgers had run out.

Question 2: I feel it's unfair that some have to pay for care in a home - will you change the system?

Answer: Ms Wood said she would want to end the artificial divide which meant people received free care at home for conditions such as cancer but those with dementia, for example, have to pay. Ending this anomaly to provide free care for all would be expensive but fair, she added.

Question 3: Will you and your party commit to a nuclear-free Wales?

Answer: Ms Wood said Plaid Cymru was opposed to nuclear weapons, but nuclear power was "a little bit more difficult for us". She was not personally convinced nuclear power "stacks up financially", and would prefer to provide all Wales' energy needs from renewable sources. Ms Wood admitted it was a difficult issue on Anglesey, where 6,000 people worked at the Wylfa nuclear power plant which was being decommissioned. "We've put all our eggs in the nuclear basket", she said, adding that if a replacement for Wylfa was not built, an alternative source of jobs would have to be found.

Question 4: Public spending in Wales is so much higher than the total revenue that we receive. So why is Plaid Cymru hell bent on breaking up the United Kingdom for independence, and have you played it down for the election?

Answer: Ms Wood said she supported independence, but Plaid Cymru's immediate aim was to close the gap between Welsh revenue and spending, and said people should agree with that aim whether or not they supported independence. "I want to be in as much control of our economic levers as we possibly can, so we can get to that point where we close that tax gap - I want us to stand on our own two feet."

Question 5: How is Plaid Cymru preparing for the possibility of entering into a coalition government?

Answer: Ms Wood said the party was not preparing for coalition, and wanted a Plaid Cymru government. She claimed Labour had not done a good job leading the government in Wales for 17 years, and said few democracies had the same party in power for that length of time. Ms Wood said Plaid had already ruled out a deal with the Conservatives and could not see how it could work with UKIP - apart from that, all options were open. But she claimed it was "not helpful" to spend all the time before the election talking about what deals Plaid may or may not do - "let the people have their say".

Still to come

Friday 15 April - Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones in Llangollen

Shown previously

Monday 11 April - Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies in Swansea

Tuesday 12 April - UKIP Wales leader Nathan Gill in Swansea

Wednesday 13 April - Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams in Aberystwyth

Ask the Leader can be seen on BBC One Wales at 19:00 BST each day and on the BBC iPlayer.

You can also follow the programmes on Twitter - @walespolitics

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