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Friday, August 05, 2005

A crisis of leadership?

Radio Wales reported this morning that Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas will not be celebrating today's 80th anniversary of Plaid Cymru. He believes that the party is stuck in a cycle of permanent opposition and needs to buck up its ideas if it is to become more than a political protest group. In particular he wants them to take the idea of a coalition with the other opposition parties seriously.

His views are echoed by Party historian and former Plaid Cymru candidate, Professor Laura McAllister. She is quoted by the BBC as saying that the party is still struggling between the tension of being a political party and being a campaigning or pressure group.

"The stark electoral facts are that Plaid Cymru is very, very unlikely to form a government in Cardiff Bay on its own," she said.

"I don't see there's any way the party can avoid this issue because if it's really serious about shedding its pressure group past and moving to becoming a serious political party and a party of government it has to think about its relationship with the other parties."

The issue of leadership in the party continues to be a moot one. One letter writer in the Western Mail on Tuesday asked "How can any political party be taken seriously when it has three leaders that don't even agree?

Plaid is rather like a car with three steering wheels, one for each leader, with each leader heading off in different directions at different speeds. Such a car would never feature on Top Gear. However, it would go down a treat with clowns in a circus."

It is a fair point but not, in my opinion, the real leadership issue for Plaid Cymru. That seems to be their choice of President. Dafydd Iwan does come across as a leader, to most people he is a folk singer masquerading as a politician and because of that the party appears rudderless. There are many examples but the most recent was his inept handling of the boundary changes in Gwynedd. Equally, what other party would leave its most successful former leader hanging on to hear if he should make a come-back bid or not? According to the Western Mail, Dafydd Wigley asked his Party's Chair several weeks ago whether they would like him to stand for election to the Welsh Assembly or not. He has now been told that he will get an answer in "a week or so".

Plaid are not the only party facing a leadership crisis of course. It is said that not all Labour politicians are happy that the First Minister will be staying on until 2009, though the prospects of anybody doing anything about this is remote. In the Western Mail this morning it was reported that some senior Conservatives in Wales would like to see Nick Bourne challenged as leader of the party group at the National Assembly. These are mostly anti-devolutionists who are unhappy at the direction of the debate in their party. There is no indication that any AM is seriously contemplating such a move.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats group appears to be stable at the moment as well. According to our constitution there should be an election for leader after each Assembly election, so Mike German is secure in his role until then. It would take a curry house style plot and ten constituency parties to table a motion of no confidence to shake that position. That is unlikely to happen. Thus for all four of the major parties the position as it is now seems to be the one that will be presented to the voters in 2007. What they make of it has to be seen.
Peter thanks for this I have not laughed so much for ages......perhaps you should quote from my recent letter in the Western mail pointing out all the leaders the lib dems have...Leader of the welsh party, leader of the assembly group...party leader...oh and leaders in scotland etc....although as you rightly say having lots of leaders is not really a problem....

Why Dafydd Iwans perfectly reasonable private ...suggestions as to who should stand where (avoiding a pointless selection battle) is considered a talking point is beyond me but it is the silly season...

on the coalition issue the position was made clear at the national council meeting in June. The party fully accepts that there is little chance under a PR system of forming a majority government.....and is willing to enter into coalition with parties whose leadership at any level is not opposed to Welsh self government(by this we mean within the UK as we dont expect the unionist parties to see the light just yet) if an appropriate programme can be agreed.

National council decided that the issue of coalition was a distraction this side of an election. We accept that we need to communicate our ideas more effectively and that saying we were aiming for a coalition would simply confuse the "message".....

Both Laura and Lord Ellis Thomas are of course either just ill informed, misquoted, or re-cycling old stories from a year ago...
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