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Leanne Wood elected leader of Plaid Cymru – a new challenge for Labour

Leanne Wood has been elected leader of Plaid Cymru with 3,326 votes compared to runner-up Elin Jones’s 2,494. Leanne is a socialist and a republican as well as a nationalist, and will unquestionably lead Plaid to the Left. In doing so she will pose a new challenge to Carwen Jones, Welsh First Minister, and Welsh Labour. Having successfully pursued a policy of putting ‘clear red water’ between Welsh Labour on the one hand and both the Tories and New Labour on the other, could Plaid’s shift to the Left cause the same problem the SNP had caused for Scottish Labour?

Leanne comes not from Plaid’s strongholds in West and rural Wales but from Labour’s heartlands in the South Wales valleys. She has an appeal to trade unionists and working class voters who remain somewhat alienated by the recent experience of New Labour in government, and by some of what the two Eds are saying on public sector pay and pensions, and on cuts in services. Welsh Labour, through its own record in government in Wales, has mitigated the disillusionment of Labour core voters, but doing so in the context of austerity, albeit austerity imposed from Westminster, will be harder.

Left Futures congratulates Leanne as a fellow socialist on her victory, and hopes that Welsh Labour will meet the challenge.

Following the result, Plaid Cymru’s new Leader, Leanne Wood, said;

This campaign has not been about individuals. It has been about a vision – a programme, a set of connected politics.  Our task now is to build on the work of all of those who have gone before us. We may be small, as a party and as a country, but we can stand tall if we stand together and we stand up for our principles.

The election is over, now the real work begins. I may not be the leader of the official opposition, but I intend to lead the Official Proposition. The proposition that another Wales is possible.  Our positive, ambitious alternative vision can only come from the party of Wales.

So here’s my message today to the people of Wales: we are your party. The People’s Party, of Wales, for Wales.  Join us. Help us to re-build your community. Help us to re-build our economy. Together we’ll build a new Wales that will be fair, a new Wales that will flourish and a new Wales that will be free.”

3 Comments

  1. Gwilym says:

    “She has an appeal to trade unionists and working class voters”. I’m afraid that’s an untested assertion. I suspect she will lead Plaid further into obscurity.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      Leanne’s appeal to working class voters is her espousal of class politics and her unequivocal support for trade unionism. As chair of the Welsh assembly’s cross-party group for the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), for example, she has been unequivocal in her support for the unions battle on public sector pensions:

      “While other political parties now shy away from publicly endorsing the rights of public sector workers, I believe Plaid Cymru can lead the way in showing workers that we are the party that will represent their interests and fight for their rights for a living wage and a retirement not in poverty.”

      That support earned her the backing of PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, in her campaign to be Plaid leader. I have no doubt her appeal to working class voters is real. How that will unfold in electoral terms, and whether there will be any adverse reaction from Plaid’s more conservative support in other areas remains to be seen. However, the SNP which relies much more heavily on a ‘tartan tory’ base and is much closer to big business has nevertheless managed quite sucessfully to eat heavily into Labour core support.

  2. Gareth Pratt says:

    Well Leanne Wood has won the Plaid Leadership contest. Naturally I wish her well in her new role, but I suspect that in the medium to long term, her victory may exacerbate existing divisions within Plaid and possibly lead to the party splitting in the future at some point. Why do I say this? Well Plaid are trying to constantly square an impossible circle. They need to keep their Welsh speaking, rural, conservative heartlands happy, yet at the same time if they wish to break into the heavily populated, English speaking South Wales region at a Westminster and Senedd level, they will need to tap into the radical political heritage of the area.

    This will I suspect prove very difficult for them. Recently Plaid themselves floated the idea of changing the name of the party to the Welsh National party, doubtless in an attempt to emulate the SNP in Scotland, and also no doubt to try to broaden the party’s appeal to the English speaking regions of the South. A noble idea one would think, but will it wash with the rural Welsh speaking heartlands of the North and West, since to change the Party name to the WNP is a major step away from Plaid’s unspoken and de facto position of being the party of Welsh speaking Wales. Further more how will the conservative rural heartlands cope with a radical left winger being elected as Party leader? For many people in rural areas, not just in Wales anything that smacks of Socialism is beyond the pale.

    Plaid therefore has taken a giant gamble in electing Leanne Wood as their leader. It is a definate statement of intent that Plaid are going to try and move away from their current status as the party of Welsh speaking Wales to being a more Anglo-Welsh party than they ever have been before. The question to ask is, will the rural heartlands accept this move? I suspect for as long as the strategy is being seen to work they will, but as soon as Plaid start to become more radical and Anglicised and it looks as if this movement is becoming a permanent thing, then there will be dissent, which if it becomes bad enough could lead to a split in the party.

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