New Leader Sets New Direction

The membership of Plaid Cymru voted for Leanne Wood AC/AM as their new party leader yesterday (16/03/12), heralding what could mark a new direction for the Welsh nationalist party.

Ms Wood is the first female leader of Plaid Cymru and is the first leader of the party who is not a native Welsh speaker. She is also a committed socialist and Republican who was once expelled from the Welsh Senedd by fellow leadership contestant rival, Lord Dafydd Ellis Thomas, who was then Presiding Officer, for referring to the Queen of England as ‘Mrs Windsor’.

Ms Wood said yesterday after hearing of her victory that her win would not sway her from her left wing beliefs, adding that:

“…clearly the membership of Plaid Cymru want the party to move in a different direction now and I’m looking forward to looking forward to working with people to take the party in that new direction.”
Traditionally the leadership of the party has been dominated by male native Welsh speakers, but with the win of Leanne Wood yesterday both the President (Jill Evans MEP) and Leader of the Party are female and second language learners of Welsh from the South Wales Valley’s area of Wales. Ms Wood said:

“People have voted for a set of politics that is different to what we’re used to, and they’ve voted for it with quite a large majority.

“I’ve always said that, you know, you can throw these labels and stereotypes and characterise me and use these terms, but really I reflect the politics that the grassroots members of Plaid Cymru support in annual conferences year after year.

“We’re a party of the left, we reflect the Welsh radical tradition and we will continue to do that under my leadership.”

Two of the main issues that Ms Wood campaigned on during the leadership contest were the economy and independence. A long term advocate of independence Ms Wood was responsible for bringing this particular issue into the debate first, which was then quickly jumped on by her rival contestants. Ms Wood argued:
“We’ve got deep structural problems in the Welsh economy and so I think that Plaid Cymru needs to put together a long-term economic plan to turn around the situation, and that does involve, over the long-term, working towards independence for Wales because I’m convinced that our problems are structural and as long as we are in tied to an economy that treats us as a periphery then we’re not able to reach our full potential.”

With regard to the Welsh language and the fact that Ms Wood is a Welsh learner only, concern was raised that it would undermine her support among the more conservative older Welsh speaking supporters of Plaid. However support for her campaign by Plaid stalwarts like former Plaid President and Welsh language activist Dafydd Iwan and the large majority of the vote that was gained by Ms Wood in the contest, showed that this was not the case. Ms Wood said that even though she was not a native Welsh language speaker she was “…proud of the language that we have in Wales and it is a really important part of my politics,” adding:

“We’re not going to downgrade our position on the language in any way, shape or form under my leadership. It will continue to be a strong part of our politics, as will matters of equality in all fields.”

The Celtic League wishes Leanne Wood success in her new leadership role.

For comment or clarification on this news item in the first instance contact:

Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, General Secretary, Celtic League:

Tel: 0044 (0)1209 319912
M: 0044 (0)7787318666

gensec@celticleague.net

The General Secretary will determine the appropriate branch or General Council Officer to respond to your query.

ISSUED BY THE CELTIC LEAGUE INFORMATION SERVICE.

16/03/12

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