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Plaid Cymru Leadership Tracker

Today we’ve launched the latest version of our online tools to keep you up to date with Plaid Cymru Leadership Election – and the third, for the Welsh Conservatives, is on its way!

It seems that all the parties at the Assembly (apart from Kirsty Williams in her role as sole Liberal Democrat) have reached the same point at the same time, but for different reasons.

Plaid Cymru rules say that every two years, nominations open for the leadership of the party. In previous years, no other candidates have come forward and therefore means no leadership elections have followed. This year though, following a series of less than stellar electoral results, at least two other AMs have decided the time is right to put their hat in the ring.

It was long assumed that there would be a leadership election between Rhun ap Iorwerth and Adam Price when Leanne Wood stepped down. It seems the calculation has been that it is better to challenge now, so that the new leader has three years ahead of the next Assembly Election to reshape the party and get them ready for the campaign. It seems likely that both Rhun ap Iorwerth and Adam Price will complete their nomination papers before the deadline, midnight on 4thof July.

But there is a spanner in the works. Leanne has decided she is not ready to go. She has calculated that her much higher media profile, built up over 6 years as Leader and following her great electoral success in the Rhondda, she stands a good chance of being re-elected.

The recent ITV poll shows that amongst the public, she is much better known than the two other candidates. But that poll is of the public. The electorate in this instance is the Plaid Cymru membership, and it is fair to say that no one really has any idea what they think.

The membership of around 8000 really is a broad church, representing all types of people with different priorities, including far left socialists, rural voters who may lean further to the right, independence activists, environmental campaigners, farmers and Welsh-language purists. There are various factions, some on the left who don’t think Welsh Labour is left-wing enough, some of whom would welcome a soft-left alliance with a Welsh and devolutionist version of Welsh Labour, some who would happily work with the Conservatives to oust a Labour Government, and everything in between.

Plaid Cymru have a big decision to make, of course. It is unlikely that they will make so much progress that in 2021 they become the largest party at the Assembly. Do they, as with the SNP in Scotland, work with the Conservatives to provide an alternative to the Labour Welsh Government, betting that if you take out Labour once, they could remain in opposition for some time, and Plaid Cymru can be reframed as the party of government in Wales. Or, working with or taking the Conservatives into government in Wales, do they pay a massive price at the next election as the Liberal Democrats did in 2015. A significant reward, at significant risk.

Both Rhun ap Iorwerth and Adam Price would likely seek a coalition or alternative agreement with the Conservatives in 2021. Only Leanne has ruled this working with the Conservatives, sticking to her long-held socialist principles.

A leadership election can be an opportunity to showcase new ideas and debate wider policy, but it is likely that the risk v reward strategy could be the main talking point in this election.

Whatever the focus, it is very difficult to predict the outcome, and it may only become clear over coming months which cohorts of members are backing which candidates. 

For a bird's eye view.
Am olwg oddi uchod.

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