Wales politics

Profile: Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood

Leanne Wood AM
Image caption Wales needs 'real independence', says Leanne Wood

As a Welsh learner from the Rhondda, some observers might have thought Leanne Wood an unlikely candidate to lead Plaid Cymru, whose traditional heartlands are in the Welsh-speaking west and north of Wales.

But she has tried to use her background to her advantage.

If Plaid is ever going to dislodge Labour as the biggest party in the assembly, she says, it must first dislodge Labour as the dominant party in places like the south Wales valleys.

"I think I'm able to speak to people in order to do that," she said.

A staunch republican, in 2004 she was ordered to leave the assembly chamber when she referred to the Queen as Mrs Windsor and refused to withdraw the remark.

But during the leadership campaign she said she would meet the Queen if it was part of her official duties as Plaid leader.

As an AM she also unearthed failings at the public spending watchdog, the Wales Audit Office, under former Auditor General Jeremy Colman.

'Resonates across Wales'

She was the last leadership candidate to throw her hat in the ring, but her campaign quickly gathered momentum, with a band of active young supporters who enthusiastically championed her cause online.

Her credentials as a potential leader were boosted by the support of one of the party's most prominent figures, former MP Adam Price.

She speaks, he said, "with a voice that resonates across Wales".

However, his own standing may have suffered somewhat when he called for Plaid members to vote tactically to stop Elin Jones getting the job. Ms Wood herself said she would be giving her second vote in the leadership election to Ms Jones.

So where next for Plaid under its new leader?

The party has successes to shout about after going into coalition with Labour in 2007. The coalition built the case for reforming the way the Welsh assembly is funded, secured primary law-making powers and passed legislation to protect the Welsh language - all key aims of Plaid Cymru.

But it failed to capitalise on them at last year's election. In her analysis of why Plaid lost seats, Ms Wood said that after ticking off so many of its short-term goals while in government, Plaid failed to offer voters a unique selling point.

Last year she gave an indication of where she thought the party should be heading when she published proposals torevitalise the former coalfields.

It is a vision that prioritises economic renewal and the creation of jobs as the basis for an independent Wales - what she calls "real independence for Wales so we can finally break the system that's keeping us down".

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