Leanne Wood

Mixed Results For Plaid Cymru In New Poll

Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru

A new poll of 1007 voters from across Wales by ITV Cymru / YouGov continues to reflect the so-so fortunes of Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Nationalist party. After a decade of mediocre election results, and an unexpectedly dire performance at the 2011 polls under charismatic new leader Leanne Wood, the Welsh Nationalists were seen as being very much on the back-foot, squeezed from Left and Right by the Labour Party and the Conservatives. Though the latest opinion poll (along with some recent local election results) offers some crumbs of comfort the party’s failure to connect with people outside of its core vote continues to hamper growth.

“Senedd Constituency Vote (change from 2011 vote)

Labour 46% (+4%)

Conservative 21% (-4%)

Plaid Cymru 17% (-2%)

Lib Dems 10% (-1%)

UKIP 5% (+5%)

Others 2% (-1%)

Senedd Regional Vote (change from 2011 vote)

Labour 26% (-11%)

Plaid Cymru 26% (+8%)

Conservative 14% (-9%)

UKIP 13% (+8%)

Lib Dems 11% (+3%)

Others 11% (+2%)

British Parliament Vote (change from 2010 vote)

Labour 51% (+15%)

Conservative 22% (-4%)

Plaid Cymru 10% (-1%)

Lib Dem 9% (-11%)

UKIP 7% (+5%)

Others 2% (-2%)”

In some slightly better news, Plaid has seen a surge in party funding. In 2011 it received a frankly paltry £27,067 from public donations. However 2012 saw a 262% jump to £97,917, a far more realistic “income” for a national political party in Wales. In part that may be down to Leanne Wood’s more progressively nationalist (and Left-leaning) leadership which seems to have a greater appeal with already convinced Nationalist voters. Notably the party has seen greater popularity amongst the under-25s in recent polling.

However Plaid Cymru’s inability to make much headway into prising apart the Labour Party’s seemingly iron grip on nearly half the Welsh electorate remains the single biggest stumbling block to future growth. Unless they can emulate the success of the SNP in taking away votes from Labour the party will remain in a position of relative weakness.

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Better Apart

Quick post on two articles. One is an interview in the British left-wing magazine Red Pepper with Plaid Cymru’s progressive new leader Leanne Wood. She gets a fair degree of space to discuss her vision for Plaid and Wales. Normally the British Left is every bit as nationalistic as its right-wing opponents and quite dismissive of the independence movements of the “Celtic Fringe” (as they view it), but Wood seems to be a bit of a Guardianista-style darling at the moment.

Meanwhile over in Québec another nationalist movement seems to be in resurgent form if media reports and predictions are to be believed (though how much that is down to renewed separatist feelings in Québec and how much to the recent student protests and a decade of lacklustre Liberal governance is debatable). The Montreal Gazette has more.

Leanne Wood And A Brave New World For Plaid Cymru

Very positive news for the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru, and in my opinion for Wales too, as Leanne Wood has been elected to the leadership of the party. From the Guardian:

“Leanne Wood, a former probation officer from the Welsh valleys, has become the new leader of the Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru.

Wood will take over from Ieuan Wyn Jones, who announced he would stand down following the party’s poor showing in last year’s assembly elections after 10 years in charge.

It means the party – once described as for “males” as much as for “Wales” – has a woman leader, chair, president and chief executive.

Wood beat fellow assembly members Elin Jones, a former minister in the One Wales government when Plaid ruled in coalition with Labour, and Dafydd Elis-Thomas, who has been the assembly’s presiding officer.

After her victory, 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.”

At 40 Wood, a mother-of-one, was the youngest and, in terms of party posts, the most junior of the three candidates. She is well-known for her anti-war stance and in 2004 was accused of insulting the Queen when she referred to the monarch during an official visit as “Mrs Windsor”. She later said: “I don’t recognise the Queen. I called her that because that’s her name.”

Wood still lives in the same street where she was brought up and has described the UK’s coalition as a “hyper-competitive, imperial/militaristic climate-change-ignoring and privatising government”.

She told the Guardian last month that independence for Wales was no longer an “impossible dream”. She said: “We’re in a position to be able to start talking about independence in a normalised way … I think now is a good time for the debate.”

Along with Wood and Richards, Plaid has two other women in very prominent roles. The Plaid MEP Jill Evans is president while Helen Mary Jones is chair.

However, Plaid has never had a woman MP and Jones has called for the party to discuss having all-woman shortlists for parliamentary elections to address this.”

Wales Online has an article taking a detailed look at the new Plaid leader. Where the SNP has gone will Plaid Cymru, under Leanne Wood, now follow?

Wales – Exit Stage Left?

Portrait of Leanne Wood

There is a surprisingly sympathetic article looking at Welsh nationalism, Plaid Cymru and the Plaid leadership candidate Leanne Wood in the Guardian newspaper:

Leanne Wood is rather different from most of the UK’s politicians. Forty years old and a mother of one, she still lives in the same street in the Rhondda Valley where she was born and brought up. She thinks the crash of 2008 should have “resulted in the rejection of capitalism and many of its basic economic and political assumptions”, and that the UK’s coalition amounts to a “hyper-competitive, imperial/militaristic, climate-change-ignoring and privatising government”. She is also a proud republican, who refuses to attend the kind of official events at which the Queen turns up, and was once thrown out of the Welsh Assembly for referring to the reigning monarch as “Mrs Windsor”. If any of this chimes with your general view of what’s wrong with the world, it’s fair to say that you’d like her.

If Wood pursued her political career in Westminster, her opinions might ensure she was kept safely on the fringes. But in her home country, she is a high-profile voice – and the current favourite to take over the leadership of Plaid Cymru, the nationalist party who, until 2011, shared power in Wales with Labour.

The prospect of life as party leader is not the only reason for her air of energised enthusiasm. Being a senior Plaid Cymru figure, Wood believes in Welsh independence. And with Scotland set to vote on whether to stay part of the UK in 2014 and the future of the union being argued over as never before, Wood and her fellow Welsh nationalists think there is an unprecedented opening for the most fundamental of their beliefs.

Membership of Plaid has gone up 23% in the past four months. And while its senior politicians once held that pointed talk about independence was a vote-loser, all four of the current leadership candidates are falling over themselves to underline their vision of a Wales finally free from the English yoke.”

Given the extreme hostility of the British media establishment to Alex Salmond and the SNP in Scotland (including most of the journalists and feature writers at the Guardian), this almost enthusiastic profile of Leanne Wood is decidedly odd. However the same tone has been picked up by other media, and the BBC is now reporting that her candidacy seems likely to win through to the leadership of Plaid Cymru:

“The bookies have Leanne Wood as a clear favourite now. She won the battle for nominations from branches and constituency parties hands down. Her ‘big names’ are bigger than anybody else’s. (Adam Price was no surprise. Dafydd Iwan rather more so, say the Elin Jones camp). What was seen as inexperience a few weeks ago, is now seen as a fresh approach, a politician whose time – to the surprise, even, of some of those who plan to vote for her – has come. In the world of online polls and twitter support, she is the runaway winner. They, at least, might be tempted to think it’s all over”

With the SNP in Scotland dominating politics north of the border, Plaid Cymru in Wales experiencing a revival in their fortunes, and even Mebyon Kernow in Cornwall beginning to gain new ground, it is, perhaps, not the only thing that is all over.