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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

An embarrassment of leaders

Having effectively installed Dafydd Wigley as their fifth leader a few days ago Plaid Cymru walked straight into a major crisis this morning with speculation that the Assembly Presiding Officer will shortly be assuming the role of Group Leader in place of the beleagured Ieuan Wyn Jones.

Whoever briefed the Western Mail is certainly an admirer of the qualities of Dafydd Elis-Thomas:

DAFYDD ELIS-THOMAS is being lined up to save his party through a spectacular comeback as leader within months.

Leading Plaid Cymru figures are now ready to embrace their former president as the Renaissance Man to lead them into the National Assembly election campaign against Labour in 2007.

The last three years have been disastrous for Plaid, and on current form it would be likely to lose its role as the main opposition party to the Conservatives.

Under the rescue plan, Ieuan Wyn Jones will step down as Plaid's Assembly leader next year, and Lord Elis-Thomas, left, will quit as Presiding Officer to stand for the vacant post.
One of the Plaid strategists behind the move said, "Dafydd is an excellent politician with an enormous amount of experience and popular appeal. He first entered the House of Commons over 30 years ago, he has been in the House of Lords since 1992, and for more than six years he has been presiding over the Assembly.

"He has chaired a major public body - the Welsh Language Board - and is a credible candidate for First Minister who is respected beyond Plaid Cymru. If, as is very likely, Labour fails to win an overall majority in 2007, Dafydd would be very well placed to lead a coalition government comprising the opposition parties.

This can only play badly for Plaid Cymru. As they start their annual conference it seems that they are on the verge of self-destruction. Nor is this the sort of publicity they will be seeking so close to the Assembly elections. The anonymous briefer is an expert in knowing which buttons to press to secure the maximum damage. The position of Ieuan Wyn Jones must now be in doubt:

"Ieuan Wyn Jones is a good number two, but he has not been a successful leader. He has good qualities as an organiser and negotiator, but in terms of public appeal he is not in the same league as Dafydd Elis-Thomas. By stepping down from the Assembly leadership, Ieuan would be able to concentrate on retaining his seat at Ynys Mon."

I suspect that a particularly hot curry was consumed by whoever formulated this character assasination.

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