Elections 2021: Who is Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price?

By Vaughan Roderick
BBC Welsh Affairs Editor

Published
image captionAdam Price wants to lead Wales out of the United Kingdom

Adam Price was once embarrassed when a Plaid Cymru leaflet referred to him as the "mab darogan" or son of prophecy, a figure from Welsh mythology who it is said will redeem Wales in her hour of need.

While the Plaid Cymru leader was no doubt discomforted by being compared to previous sons of prophecy such as King Arthur and Owain Glyndwr, Mr Price does have something of a messianic air about him.

With his sheer physical presence, power of oratory and basso profundo voice, it's easy to imagine him raining down fire and brimstone from a Victorian pulpit or singing the praises of a medieval prince.

There's nothing grand about Adam Price's background though.

His father, Rufus, was one of the last generation of miners in the Amman valley, and Mr Price's own political views were formed by his experience growing up during the long miners' strike of the mid-1980s.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe party leader led his first major election campaign in 2019

Mr Price, who is 52, was educated at Amman Valley Comprehensive School and Cardiff University, and worked as an economist before entering parliament in 2001 as the MP for his home constituency of Carmarthen East and Dinefwr.

At Westminster Mr Price quickly made his mark as a fierce opponent of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and led an unsuccessful attempt to impeach the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, over claims that Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Clearly frustrated by Westminster, he stood down from parliament at the 2010 general election.

Taking a sabbatical from active politics, Mr Price studied at the prestigious Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in the USA where he was chosen to deliver 2011's graduate English address.

image captionA campaign leaflet in 2016 described Adam Price as the "Mab Darogan", or prophetic son

Four years later, after an unsuccessful attempt to found a financial software business, Mr Price was elected to the Senedd, again representing Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, and in 2018 he surprised many by challenging his close friend Leanne Wood for the leadership of the party.

Mr Price easily defeated both Ms Wood and Ynys Mon MS Rhun ap Iorwerth to secure the job.

But it remains to be seen how far his support extends beyond the party faithful.

On the plus side, no-one doubts the Plaid's leader's intelligence or eloquence but both those qualities have led Mr Price to stray off message on occasions, most notably when he called for Wales to receive reparations from the UK for being "ground down" into "poverty".

Mr Price later apologised to BAME communities campaigning for reparations for former British colonies in the Caribbean for his "poor choice of words", recognising that the Welsh experience differed fundamentally from those who had suffered under slavery.

image copyrightPA
image captionAdam Price, pictured in 2005 when he was an MP, made UK headlines for his anti-war campaigning

Mr Price endured less comeback following his admission on BBC TV's Question Time programme that he'd taken illegal drugs as a young man, telling the programme: "As a gay man who first went clubbing in the 1990s it would be a bit of a surprise if I hadn't taken drugs."

He said while he wasn't proud of his actions, he wasn't going to lie about them either.

Putting his leadership on the line

Entering the election campaign, Mr Price is hindered by the fact that his two great political skills - speech-making and face-to-face campaigning - are of little use in a pandemic.

Nevertheless he's set the bar high for himself saying that "anything less than being first minister after the election would be a failure". He's put independence at the front and centre of the campaign in a way that no Plaid Cymru leader has done before.

Having ruled out both a coalition with the Conservatives and joining a coalition with Labour as a junior partner, the Plaid leader has left himself little room for manoeuvre if the party has a disappointing election result.

By banking on an electoral breakthrough, Mr Price is probably putting himself and his leadership on the line.

It's the sort of thing a son of prophecy would do but Mr Price knows his history.

He will be well aware that the usual fate facing a prophetic son is to fail in his task and then slumber in a cave somewhere, waiting for a call that never comes.

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